4. Caste System Cast Out
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: Next question, Śrīla Prabhupāda. “Will the fundamental values of the Vedic religion be in any way affected by the eradication of the caste system, toward which a concerted effort is now being made at all levels?”
Śrīla Prabhupāda: The Vedic system of religion we have been describing – the varṇāśrama system created by Kṛṣṇa – is not to be confused with the present-day caste system – determination of social divisions by birth. But as to eradication of all social divisions, it cannot be done. This is still more foolishness, because Kṛṣṇa Himself says, cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭam guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ: “This system of four social divisions, according to quality and work, is ordained by Me.” But the difficulty is that this so-called caste system has come in, on account of the false notion that in order to be a brāhmaṇa, one must be the son of a brāhmaṇa. That is the caste system. But Kṛṣṇa does not say that. He says “according to quality and work.” He never says “according to birth.” So this so-called caste system in India is a false notion of cātur-varṇyam, the system of four social divisions. The real system of cātur-varṇyam means guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ, determination of the four social divisions according to quality and work. One must be qualified.
And how does one become qualified? That is also described. For instance, in Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa describes the qualities of a brāhmaṇa as follows: śamo damas tapaḥ śaucaṁ kṣāntir ārjavam eva ca jñānam vijñānam āstikyam. “Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom, and religiousness.” So people who want to become brāhmaṇas must be educated to acquire these qualities. It is not enough simply to abolish the caste system, which is contaminated by the false conception of qualification by birthright. Certainly, this wrong caste system should be abolished. Also, educational centers should be opened for teaching people how to become genuine brāhmaṇas and kṣatriyas. Guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ: according to their qualities and work, people naturally belong to different social groupings. So you cannot avoid it, but because you have created a false caste system, that should be abolished, and the system recommended by Kṛṣṇa – that should be adopted.
In any event, you cannot avoid the natural occurrence of various social divisions. Nature’s caste system will remain. Take, for example, the brahminical quality of truthfulness. All over the world, wherever you go, you’ll find at least one person who is truthful. Does anyone say, “Oh, his father was truthful – therefore he is truthful”? This is nonsense. Kṛṣṇa never says anything like this. The father may be Hiraṇyakaśipu, a big demon, but his son can still be Prahlāda, a great devotee of the Lord. It is not that one will inevitably become exactly like one’s father. Of course, it may be; there is every possibility. But still it is not a fact that the son unavoidably becomes like the father.
Our point is, wherever you go, you’ll find a first-class man who is truthful. Now, wherever you find a truthful man, you can classify him as a brāhmaṇa and train him to serve the social body in that capacity, as a spiritual teacher and advisor. That is wanted. Why assume, “Here is the son of a truthful man; therefore he is truthful, a brāhmaṇa”? That is a misconception. You have to find the truthful men all over the world and train them as brāhmaṇas. That we are doing. “If you follow these principles – no illicit sex, no intoxication, no gambling, no meat-eating – you are a brāhmaṇa. Come on and receive further training.” The fellow’s father may be a meat-eater or a gambler or a drunkard, but if he himself is truthful and agreeable to the brahminical life, then tell him, “All right, come on – you are welcome.” Then everything will be all right.
You could not abolish the truthful class of men even if you wanted to. You’ll find truthful men everywhere. You simply have to train them. So Kṛṣṇa says, cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭam guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ: according to their qualities and work, you take some men and put them in the brahminical class, others in the kṣatriya class, still others in the vaiśya class, and the rest in the śūdra class. But you cannot abolish that system. That is a false attempt.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: You’re saying the natural system is to classify a person and train him for a particular duty, according to his particular inner qualities and his particular propensity to act.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. That classification is wanted. That must be there.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: And what will be the benefit of classifying and training people according to their own qualities and propensities?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: The benefit will be that the whole social body will function harmoniously. The social body must have a brain and arms and a belly and legs to be complete. If there is no brain, no head, then what is the use of these arms and legs and belly? It is all dead. So in human society, if there is not a class of learned, truthful, and honest men – men with all the brahminical qualifications – then society is ruined. That is why people are perplexed. Today almost everyone is trained to be a śūdra, a laborer: “Go to the factory.” That’s all. “Go to the factory and get money.” And when the man gets some money, he immediately purchases wine and women. So if you try to make society classless, you’ll produce such men – useless men, disturbing to the social body. You cannot make society classless. If you try to make it classless, naturally people will all be śūdras, fourth-class men, and worse. Then there will be social chaos.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: But can all people take an equal interest in religion, despite their belonging to different social classifications?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. This I have already explained, that any civilized human being – he has got some religion. Now, the basic principles of religion are the statements made by God. So here in the Vedic system is what God says. If you take to this system, then the social body will be perfect not only for Hindus but also for Christians, for Muhammadans, for everyone. And that is being practically realized in our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. We have got devotees from all groups of human society, and they are taking to this Vedic system. It is practical. There is no difficulty. So Hindus, Muslims, Christians – everyone should take to this Kṛṣṇa religion and become “Krishnites,” “Krishnians.” [Laughter.] The Greek word Christo comes from the Sanskrit Krishna. In fact, another spelling of Krishna is Krishta. So actually, if we take the root meaning,“Christian” means “Krishtian” or “Krishnian.” So that is a controversial point, but everyone can take to Kṛṣṇa. Then everything will be settled up.