“It is extremely difficult to convert a mlechchha, or meat-eater, into a devotee of Lord Krishna. Therefore anyone who can do so is situated on the highest level of Vaishnavism.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 7.19 Purport)
Friend1: What exactly is a mlechchha?
Friend2: Someone call you that recently?
Friend1: [laughs] No, but I think I’ve heard the Hindi version.
Friend1: My dad used to call me that sometimes when I was a kid. Usually after I did something wrong.
Friend2: That’s funny. Now you’ve heard the Sanskrit word and you think it ties in?
Friend1: Right. Is it a specific race of people?
Friend2: It can be. It is usually paired with the word yavana. The two essentially mean the same thing.
Friend1: So there can be descendants of yavanas and mlechchhas?
Friend2: Yes, but it’s more of a trait. If you trace out the origin of a specific race, it started with people who had the same characteristics, namely negligence of Vedic principles.
Friend1: Which principles? There are so many.
Friend2: Basic uncleanliness. Essentially, if a person ate meat without regulation and engaged in intoxication, they became a mlechchha-yavana.
Friend1: What do you mean by eating meat without regulation?
Friend2: It’s not that every meat eater automatically becomes a mlechchha. Vedic culture sanctions meat eating, under special circumstances. You should know that any scriptural reference to eating and the like is meant for restriction. The human beings have the ability to control what they eat. The senses, indriya, should be under control. Then you can advance in consciousness.
Friend1: Based on that definition, you would have to say that the entire world is populated by such people.
Friend2: Even those descending from high castes, like the brahmanas. If they engage in intoxication and meat eating, they are to be considered mlechchhas.
Friend1: Interesting. So why is the word mentioned, then? Isn’t it kind of insulting?
Friend2: The idea is that it is very difficult to convert someone who eats meat onto the genuine spiritual path. The same goes for intoxication.
Friend1: Why is that?
Friend2: Both represent ignorance of the grossest kind. Think of it like trying to get someone to stop gambling while they are in a fever of wagers at the blackjack table. You’re talking sense to them, but they’re not listening. Their mind is totally focused on the next hand.
Friend1: So it’s like an addiction?
Friend2: Illusion. The spiritual path involves knowing the difference between matter and spirit. That is the foundation. From there you move on to higher topics like karma, the changing of bodies, birth and death, time, the material nature, and the Supreme Controller.
Friend1: A meat eater won’t be able to understand even the basic difference between body and spirit?
Friend2: Exactly. It’s almost pointless to talk to them.
Friend1: That begs the question, why is there preaching going on amongst such people? Isn’t that a waste of time?
Friend2: While it is difficult to get through to them, it is possible. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was able to. This is documented in the Chaitanya Charitamrita.
Friend1: Yeah, but that was five hundred years ago in India. The world is vastly different today.
Friend2: Precisely. That is why those who are empowered by Mahaprabhu can pull it off. Such folks have already turned so many meat-eaters and drunkards into Vaishnavas, or devotees of the personal God. Moreover, the focus is on chanting and hearing the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The potency of sound can take away illusion very quickly. Once out of illusion and desirous of knowing the true purpose of life, a person can elevate themselves to the higher platform of spiritual understanding.
Mlechchha unregulated in meat eating,
Yavana from Vedic principles retreating.
Since power of illusion so strong,
Difficult to be righted from wrong.
By Mahaprabhu’s potency can be done,
Healing from holy names’ sound to come.
Not determined by birth, any can fall,
When elevated a Vaishnava can call.