“Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was an ideal acharya. An acharya is an ideal teacher who knows the purpose of the revealed scriptures, behaves exactly according to their injunctions and teaches his students to adopt these principles also. As an ideal acharya, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu devised ways to capture all kinds of atheists and materialists.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 7.37 Purport)
In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that what a great man does, others follow. The example he sets is the one others look up to. In other words, the leader has the responsibility to behave in an exemplary manner. If they behave poorly, it is license for others to do the same. Some five hundred years ago in Mayapur, the Supreme Lord Himself appeared on earth to set the best example for the acknowledged leaders in society. On the occasion of Gaura Purnima we celebrate His life and pastimes.
yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhas
tat tad evetaro janaḥ
sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute
lokas tad anuvartate
“Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.21)
The head, the arms, the belly and the thighs – we know these to be important aspects of the body. Of these four the head is the most important, because the living being couldn’t continue without it. From the spiritual science that is Vedic philosophy we know that the essence of life, the spirit soul, actually resides within the heart. Nevertheless, the significance of the head is no secret.
These four parts are compared to the four varnas, or occupational divisions. The Sanskrit word varna also means “color.” It is a way to understand the variety in the human species. The four divisions are brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya and shudra. The brahmana translates to the head of society, the kshatriya the arms, the vaishya the belly and the shudra the thighs or legs. The head commands the other body parts, not the other way around. You need all the parts, but since everything starts at the head, it is relatively speaking the most important.
What exactly makes a brahmana? Is it determined by birth? The caste, or jati, is certainly by birth, and there are some scriptural statements to support this method of classification. On the other hand, the actual varna of brahmana, which is an occupation, is determined by guna and karma, which are quality and work respectively. Shri Krishna is the basis for this form of classification. Since He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He is the final word to settle any disputes on complex points in Vedic philosophy.
cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ
tasya kartāram api māṁ
viddhy akartāram avyayam
“According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me. And, although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.13)
Whichever way a person wants to determine the brahmana, it is undoubtedly true that the priestly class should set the best example. They should help the other three classes. We know that the brahmana typically has six different kinds of duties. They read the scriptures, teach them to others, perform sacrifices, teach others to do the same, accept charity and also distribute it. The word “brahmana” itself means one who knows Brahman, which is the impersonal spiritual energy. Everything that is living is Brahman. In the present world the sparks of Brahman enter a covering of matter, known as prakriti. It is not easy to see Brahman through the illusion of maya; therefore the genuine brahmana deserves a lot of respect.
According to the opinion of author Vrindavana Dasa Thakura, the crest-jewel of brahmanas is Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. This isn’t simply a way to flatter the famous saint from Bengal. It isn’t high praise borne of mere sentiment. The opinion is actually a fact since Lord Chaitanya showed the ideal behavior of a brahmana. More than anything, the role of the head in society is to elevate everyone else to the highest platform that is pure consciousness of God.
jñātvā māṁ śāntim ṛcchati
“The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.29)
In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that He is the best well-wishing friend of the living entities. By extension, this means that the person who helps others to reunite with their best friend residing within the heart is doing the best welfare work for society. Any person can lead in this way; they don’t necessarily have to belong to the brahmana class.
Yet those in the occupation that is equated with the head of society have a natural advantage due to the respect they get. Lord Chaitanya, who is actually a combined incarnation of Radha and Krishna, or the energy of God and God Himself, took advantage of this respected position to start the sankirtana movement. The movement wasn’t really introduced; it was more a revival of sorts. The Vedas themselves are sankirtana; they are praise of the glories of God the person.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu appeared in a brahmana family in an area reputed for its population of scholars. He also took to the ashrama of sannyasa at a young age. From the material point of view He was to be highly respected. Then His words and actions gave further proof of His divine nature. Not wanting respect for Himself, considering Himself lower than the blade of grass and more tolerant than the tree, He asked others around Him to simply chant the names of God: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
He was wildly successful in this mission. Since He is the Supreme Lord Himself, He could have completed everything during His time. Yet He was so kind that He left the work unfinished so that future generations could take up the cause and feel the bliss of devotion. On the day of Gaura Purnima we remember the crest jewel of brahmanas, who combined with His spiritual brother Nityananda is the life and soul of Vrindavana Dasa.
A sannyasi brahmana from home departed,
By Him the sankirtana movement started.
Bringing to others the precious gift,
Spirits with holy name to uplift.
In priestly family acting as the head,
Giving best example for society to be led.
Celebrating Him on Gaura Purnima day,
Follow Him in Kali Yuga, no other way.