Varnashram and Vaishnav- Secure Process of Advancement in Krsna consciousness

“A Vaishnav is beyond all material conception. Varnashram is a social structure. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu rejected it and to become a devotee only chanting of holy name is the qualification.”

The above statement is the most common philosophical argument given by devotees regarding the purpose of establishing the Varnashram Community, which is the desire of Srila Prabhupada. Devotees try to give weight to this argument by quoting the Srimad Bhagwatam verse which was spoken by Vallabhacharya to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu when Chaitanya Mahaprabhu suggested Vallabhacharya to not to touch the feet of Rupa Goswami and his brother Anupam. 


But this proof does not prove that the Varnashram system is not required. This same question was raised by Hari Sauri Maharaj in a room conversation with Srila Prabhupada on 14th February 1977. 

Srila Prabhupada conversation

Let us understand Srila Prabhupad’s answer.


Srila Prabhupada used these words ‘sthāne sthitaḥ’. Prabhupad said that one should be ‘sthāne sthitaḥ’. These two words are used in Srimad Bhagwatam verse 10.14.3 and this verse was spoken by Ramanan Ray to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Srila Prabhupada explained this verse in various places but for proper understanding, I am taking the explanation of this verse from the purport of SB 4.24.53

Srila Prabhupada writes, “We find this conclusion also in Caitanya-caritämrta in a discussion between Lord Caitanya and Rämänanda Räya regarding a human being’s liberation from this material world. In that discussion Rämänanda Räya referred to the execution of varnäśrama-dharma, and Lord Caitanya indicated that the varnäśrama-dharma was simply external (eho bähya). Lord Caitanya wanted to impress upon Rämänanda Räya that simply by executing the duties of varnäśrama-dharma one is not guaranteed liberation. Finally Rämänanda Räya referred to the process of bhakti-yoga: sthäne sthitäù śruti-gatäṁ tanu-väì-manobhir (SB 10.14.3). Regardless of one’s condition of life, if he practices bhakti-yoga, which begins with hearing (śruti-gatäm) the transcendental messages of the Lord through the mouths of devotees, he gradually conquers the unconquerable God.

God is known to be unconquerable, but one who submissively hears the words of a self-realized soul conquers the unconquerable. The conclusion is that if one is serious about liberation, he not only should execute the occupational duties of varnäśrama-dharma but should also engage in bhakti-yoga by beginning hearing from a realized soul. This process will help the devotee conquer the unconquerable Supreme Personality of Godhead and become His associate after giving up the material body”


Now take a look at the translation of verse SB 10.14.3.

jñāne prayāsam udapāsya namanta eva

jīvanti san-mukharitāṁ bhavadīya-vārtām

sthāne sthitāḥ śruti-gatāṁ tanu-vāṅ-manobhir

ye prāyaśo ’jita jito ’py asi tais tri-lokyām


Translation-Those who, even while remaining situated in their established social positions, throw away the process of speculative knowledge and with their body, words and mind offer all respects to descriptions of Your personality and activities, dedicating their lives to these narrations, which are vibrated by You personally and by Your pure devotees, certainly conquer Your Lordship, although You are otherwise unconquerable by anyone within the three worlds.


The verse doesn’t suggest leaving the duties prescribed by Varnashram system. The verse simply says that one can advance in Krishna consciousness in any social position ie. in any Varnashram, a person can advance in Krishna consciousness. Also, we should not forget the verse which is written below-                                             



purusena param pumän

visnur ärädhyate panthä


Translation-The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Visnu, is worshiped by the proper execution of prescribed duties in the system of varna and äsrama. There is no other way to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One must be situated in the institution of the four varnas and äsramas. (Visnu Purana 3.8.8)

Srila Prabhupada also confirms that the Varnashram system is not the goal. In the purport of Sb.4.24.53 Srila Prabhupada writes that when Ramanand Ray said that by following the Varnashram system one can achieve the highest goal of life but Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said that is external (eho bhaya).  Varnashram system is not the goal but it is a requirement for advancing in Krishna Consciousness easily without fall down.


Srila Prabhupada asks a question that if to become Vaishnav is so easy then why so many downfalls? Srila Prabhupada says that Varnashram dharma protects the jiva from downfall and helps the jiva to advance in Krishna consciousness and become a Vaishnav.

Srila Prabhupada says that to become Vaishnav is not a cheap thing.

In one lecture, the title ‘You are in Maya, Prabhu’ H.H BhaktiVikas Swami said that Krishna consciousness is not a cheap thing that you dress like Vaishnav and after some time you go for a long holiday with Maya. Every second we have to be serious.

 After the above point, Srila Prabhupada explains the process of the Varnashram system.

Srila Prabhupada starts with a unique point that Kanishtha Adhikari is a Brahmin. The question arises how?

Srila Prabhupada answered by quoting the verses of Srimad Bhagwatam 1.2.17-18-19

Translation1 -Śri Krśṇa, the Personality of Godhead, who is the Paramätmä [Supersoul] in everyone’s heart and the benefactor of the truthful devotee, cleanses desire for material enjoyment from the heart of the devotee who has developed the urge to hear His messages, which are in themselves virtuous when properly heard and chanted.


Translation2-By regular attendance in classes on the Bhägavatam and by rendering of service to the pure devotee, all that is troublesome to the heart is almost completely destroyed, and loving service unto the Personality of Godhead, who is praised with transcendental songs, is established as an irrevocable fact.


Translation3-As soon as irrevocable loving service is established in the heart, the effects of nature’s modes of passion and ignorance, such as lust, desire and hankering, disappear from the heart. Then the devotee is established in goodness, and he becomes completely happy.


From these verses, we get the understanding that first, we have to inculcate the desire of listening about transcendental activities of Lord and Srila Prabhupada explained using these verses that until unless one is not situated in Satva guna he/she will not be attracted to hearing which is the first step in devotional service(devotee who has developed the urge to hear His messages translation Sb 1.2.17). The devotee who has the urge of hearing and chanting then effects of rajas and tamas are over.


{Below are verses from Bhagavad Gita describing effect Rajo guna and Tamo guna binding us to this material world 

BG 14.7 Translation- The mode of passion is born of unlimited desires and longings, O son of Kunté, and because of this the embodied living entity is bound to material fruitive actions.

BG 14.8 Translation- O son of Bharata, know that the mode of darkness, born of ignorance, is the delusion of all embodied living entities. The results of this mode are madness, indolence and sleep, which bind the conditioned soul.}


And the effect of rajas and tamas are over by hearing and chanting. (By regular attendance in classes on the Bhägavatam and by rendering of service to the pure devotee, all that is troublesome to the heart is almost completely destroyed, Sb 1.2.18 translation). 


And by this process, irrevocable loving service is established then all material desires due to rajo guna and tamo guna is removed (soon as irrevocable loving service is established in the heart, the effects of nature’s modes of passion and ignorance, such as lust, desire and hankering, disappear from the heart. Sb 1.2.19 translation).


This is the beginning of becoming a Vaishnav.

And what is the stage of becoming Vaishnav, BG 14.20 – When the embodied being is able to transcend these three modes associated with the material body, he can become free from birth, death, old age and their distresses and can enjoy nectar even in this life.


One may ask a question that why to transcend Satvguna when it is so important?

Because the goal is not to attain Satva guna but to attain service of lord. And for that one has to be free from all material positions.


Sarvopadhi vinirmuktam tat partvena nirmalam hrishikesha hrishikena sevanam bhaktir ucyate


We have to become sarvopadhi vinirmuktam then we are situated in loving service.

Satva guna helps us to advance to the level of Vaishnav. That is the point of Srila Prabhupada.


Srila Prabhupada says that the varnashram system helps you in gradual advancement. There is no need for artificially becoming Brahman. Let the person remain in whatever varnashram system he/she is and gradually makes advancement to become Vaishnav. In this way person following the rules and regulations of varnashram prescribed to him, one can remain protected as well as advance safely. Even remaining on whatever varnashram system then also we can develop pure love of Godhead.