Brahmanical Initiation Ceremony


Bhaktivedanta Lives In Sound Society


A person who happens to be born in the family of the dog eaters becomes eligible for performing sacrifices at once even by occasional meditating upon, hearing and chanting or remembering the holy name of Him (the Lord) then what to speak of him who has actually met Him?




This is a stanza forming the part of conversation that took place between Devahuti and the Personality of Godhead Kapila. This is the version of Mother Devahuti. This is a very important sloka in the matter of caste distinction. According to the law of Karma a vicious living being has to take birth in the body of lower animals or in the body of man who indulges in the eating of dog. The dog eaters are called Chandala. The chandala come in the fifth or sixth grade of human being. The first grade man is the Brahmin. The Brahmin by birth is eligible to conduct the ceremonies of scriptural sacrifices and other religious performances while a Chandala cannot even enter the arena of such sacrificial site. The chandala cannot enter the arena because by his birth he is untouchable on account of his low grade habits and social atmosphere. A higher caste-born man is allowed to undergo penances if by chance he is obliged to eat the flesh of a dog. But for a chandala born man there is no such allowance even for undergoing prescribed penances as it is done in the case of higher caste men. But even such a man on the level of the chandala is also purified by chanting or hearing or remembering the holy name of God. He becomes so much purified as he becomes at once an eligible person to act as priest in the religious ceremonies. This confirms the power of devotional service how it can at once neutralise the effects of infectious vices by execution of devotional activities.

To be born of chandala family is certainly the result of past vicious life. And because such a man is also at once elevated to the position of a qualified Brahmin it proves definitely the neutralising effect of devotion. Srila Jiva Goswami says that to take birth in the family of a Brahmin is undoubtedly the result of past pious deeds but the chandala even surpasses him simply by chanting the holy name of the Lord. To take part in the ceremonial sacrifices is not an ordinary thing. Even a man who is born in the family of a Brahmin cannot take part in the ceremonial sacrifices until he gets the authority of sacred thread ceremony. The sacred thread of a man is a sort of certificate for him declaring thereby that the man has properly been initiated by an Acharya who has taught him the Vedas with paraphernalia and has given him the right to perform the religious rites. But the Chandala has no chance of undergoing such purificatory processes from the bonafide Acharya and because he adopts the first step of devotional service namely hearing and chanting the holy name of the Lord, he at once becomes more than the person born in the family of a Brahmin. This promotion of the chandala to the stage of a qualified Brahmin certainly supports the maxim that devotional service of the Lord purifies even the chandalas.

It may not be our place herein that the present movement of a casteless society is possible only by the propagation of this movement of devotional service of the Lord. Everyone even the Chandala has got the right to chant the holy name of the Lord or remember His holy pastimes and if those things are done in the prescribed ways the question of Harijan movement or a casteless society is automatically achieved.

Text No. 22

Durjati eba sabna ayogyatwe karanam matam durjati arambhakam papam yat syat prarabdham eba tat.

English Synonyms

Durjati-low caste, eba-only, sabana-sacrifice, ayogyatwe-in the matter of disqualification, karanam-cause, malam-concluded, durjati-low caste, arambhakam-beginning of, eba-alone, papam-vice, yat-that which is, prarabdham-current, tat-that.


Low caste birth is the concluded cause only for disqualification in the matter of taking part in the execution of sacrifices. Therefore the low caste is the beginning of current result of past vices.




The rigidity of caste system according to the law of Karma is undoubtedly very scientific and the Vedic shastras which accept this divisions of castes are right in that scientific estimation. It does not however mean that a low caste born man cannot rise up to the standard of a qualified Brahmin. It depends on the undaunted desire of the candidate for rising up to that standard. Those who are supporters of the caste system by birth right only are as much mistaken as those who fight to dismantle the scientific institution of caste system without being qualified for the purpose. Here is a right adjustment for the two opposite schools in the matter of supporting and breaking the caste system respectively.

In the Bhagwat Geeta it is admitted that the caste system is a scientific plan made by the Personality of Godhead Himself. He does not however give much stress on the point of birth right because for a devotee of the Personality of Godhead the birth right of caste system is quite immaterial. What is the difference between a born Brahmin and born Chandala? It is the difference of the material semen only. The body is made out of the semen of the father and in the case of a born Brahmin it is taken for acceptance that the semen is pure while in the case of the chandala the semen is impure. Purity and impurity of the semen depend also on the purity of the father in respect of his daily habits in life. It depends on the quality of the foodstuffs the father takes. Dr. Barnard Shaw said that you are what you eat. Therefore even to the modern man it depends on the eating of a man to constitute the different secretion of the bodily glands. This is a vast subject however not to be dealt with here but our point of discussion is that a man even born of a Chandala semen it does not make any barrier for his rising up to the plane of pure Brahmin provided he has adopted the devotional services of the Lord under bonafide guidance of the spiritual master. As stated in the stanza 20 the devotional service is like the blazing fire and therefore it is able to purify even impure birth semen of the Chandala if he is in the line. One may argue that in order to change the impure blood in the body of Chandala it will be necessary for him to wait for the change of the body. But Srila Jiva Goswami who is one of the authorised Acharya by Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu answers this question very saliently as follows:-

"Children of the Brahmin family may be freed from the vice which causes the low caste birth but to become qualified for the office of performing sacrifices such children have to undergo the process of pious actions like the second birth by initiation from an Acharya generally known as the sacred thread ceremony. This means that the Chandala has to wait for the next birth in the family of a Brahmin as much as the Brahmin boy has to wait for the thread ceremony for the particular office. It may be an argumentative point that even though a Chandala on account of his pure devotional service is freed from the vice which caused his birth in the Chandala family yet according to social custom a Chandala born man cannot be allowed to have the facility of second birth by thread ceremony. But that sort of argument is invalid in the presence of evidence of the Shastras. It is clearly mentioned that such devotee becomes at once eligible for the purpose."

He becomes at once pure and cleansed of all vices of his previous birth and thereby he becomes at once venerable as much as a qualified Brahmin. By dint of his actual activities in the devotional line under the guidance of a bonafide Acharya he is at once washed of all sins and therefore this example is quite appropriate with reference to the context that a devotee of Vasudeva has nothing like inauspicity. He is transcendental to all the bodily reactions of birth, death, old age and diseases.

Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur a powerful Acharya as Srila Jiva Goswami in the recent years (1918-1936) reformed the Goudiya Vaishnava association by establishment of the Goudiya Math establishment which institute initiates all persons without any caste and creed distinction and gives them the right of a qualified Brahmin by initiation in terms of the Haribhaktivilas an authorised law book compiled by Srila Sanatan Goswami. Lord Chaitanya wanted that everybody from all corners of the world shall be initiated in the cult of Bhakti as it is propounded by Him and the Gaudiya Math institution has taken up the initiative action on this behalf very timely. Solution of all problems like the dissolution of the caste system and other similar social movement can actually take a valid form only under the auspicious direction of the Goswamins. All contending elements of the world problems can be easily mitigated by the blessings of Lord Chaitanya if the path is followed strictly under direction of the Goswamins headed by Srila Rupa Goswami the author of the Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu.


BTGPY25a: Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu


1. The meaning of this initiation is that the devotees are formally recognized as bona fide brãhmanas. Brahmana can worship the Deity and perform sacrifices and are formally eligible to become rtviks and officiate on behalf of Srila Prabhupada initiation ceremonies for other devotees just like I am doing.

2. Actually, even without this ceremony they are eligible to do so. Chanters of the holy name guided by a bona fide spiritual master are immediately qualifed to act as priests.



yat-prahvaṇād yat-smaraṇād api kvacit

śvādo 'pi sadyaḥ savanāya kalpate

kutaḥ punas te bhagavan nu darśanāt


To say nothing of the spiritual advancement of persons who see the Supreme Person face to face, even a person born in a family of dog-eaters immediately becomes eligible to perform Vedic sacrifices if he once utters the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead or chants about Him, hears about His pastimes, offers Him obeisances or even remembers Him.


SB 3.33.6



After chanting process for the six months or one year, it is supposed that he has already become purified. Now he should be recognized that he is purified. So this sacred thread means recognition. Sacred thread means one should understand... Just like one understands a man (is) learned by the degrees M.A., B.A., or Ph.D., similarly, when there is sacred thread, it is understood that he has undergone the purificatory process under superior management, or guidance of spiritual master. This is called upanayana, upanayana, in Sanskrit. Upanayana: bringing him more near. The initiation is the beginning of purification, and offering the sacred thread means bringing him more nearer. Therefore the principle is those who are ordinarily initiated, they should not touch the Deity. Only those who are in sacred thread, they should touch. This is the system.

But Kṛṣṇa-kīrtana is so nice that even without sacred thread, because he is regularly chanting, he is to be supposed to be purified. That is the recommendation given by Jīva Gosvāmī. Anyone who is chanting regularly Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra... Śvādo 'pi sadyaḥ savanāya kalpate. Śvādaḥ. Śvā means dog, and adaḥ, adaḥ means eating. Dog-eaters. The dog-eaters are considered to be the lowest of the mankind. But in the Bhāgavata says that śvādo 'pi sadyaḥ savanāya kalpate. Even if he is dog-eater, but by this process he immediately becomes qualified to offer sacrifice. Savanāya. This fire sacrifice is called savanāya. And Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī gives notes on this line that a person born in the family of a brāhmaṇa awaits the sacred thread ceremony. But one who has become surely (?) purified by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, he immediately becomes a highly qualified brāhmaṇa.


Initiation Lecture -- Boston, December 26, 1969



3. The value of the ceremony is that those who are not able to recognize a bona fide Vaisnava is given an aid to save him from committing Vaisnava apharada.


In the other, other feature of this sacred ceremony, is that one may not commit offense at the feet of a Vaiṣṇava by thinking him, "Oh, he's a mleccha, he's a yavana, or he's lower class, he's higher class," like that. Therefore this is offered. No, he's brāhmaṇa. He's brāhmaṇa. Otherwise, still in India, a person born in a brāhmaṇa family, the most wretched condition and most abominable habits, and he claims to be a brāhmaṇa. And a person who is highly elevated in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he's not accepted. So in order to save one from the injustice, this ceremony is required that it is bona fide. He's a bona fide brāhmaṇa. As it is prescribed and ordered in the Nārada-paṣcarātra or Vaiṣṇava smṛti. So my Guru Mahārāja, His Holiness Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, he introduced this, and we are following


Gāyatrī Mantra Initiation -- Boston, May 9, 1968


Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu then finally advised, "One who is chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra is understood to be a Vaiṣṇava; therefore you should offer all respects to him."




In his Upadeśāmṛta, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī states: kṛṣṇeti yasya giri taṁ manasādriyeta dīkṣāsti cet. An advanced devotee should respect a person who has been initiated by a bona fide spiritual master and who is situated on the transcendental platform, chanting the holy name with faith and obeisances and following the instructions of the spiritual master. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura comments that serving Vaiṣṇavas is most important for householders. Whether a Vaiṣṇava is properly initiated or not is not a subject for consideration. One may be initiated and yet contaminated by the Māyāvāda philosophy, but a person who chants the holy name of the Lord offenselessly will not be so contaminated. A properly initiated Vaiṣṇava may be imperfect, but one who chants the holy name of the Lord offenselessly is all-perfect. Although he may apparently be a neophyte, he still has to be considered a pure unalloyed Vaiṣṇava. It is the duty of the householder to offer respects to such an unalloyed Vaiṣṇava. This is Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu's instruction.


Madhya 15.111



Actually one who takes to chanting Hare Krsna Mantra offenselessly immediately becomes situated transcendentally and therefore he has no need of being initiated with sacred thread, but Guru Maharaja introduced this sacred thread because a Vaisnava was being mistaken as belonging to the material caste. To accept a Vaisnava in material caste system is hellish consideration (naraki buddhi). Therefore, to save the general populace from being offender to a Vaisnava, He persistently introduced this sacred thread ceremony and we must follow His footsteps.


Letter to: Acyutananda — Bombay 14 November, 1970



So this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is so nice that we can accept anyone—it doesn't matter wherefrom he's coming—and make him a pure Vaiṣṇava. And following the footsteps of Advaita Prabhu, Caitanya Mahāprabhu, these Vaiṣṇavas from foreign countries, those who are actually purified by the process of initiation, they should be accepted. They should not be neglected. Unfortunately, there is some silent protest that I am ruining the Hindu religion because I am initiating the Europeans and Americans. Therefore I am ruining Hindu religion. There is a grudge against me. But you can just consider these points that I am going strictly according to the regulation given by the Gosvāmīs and the śāstras. Śāstra allows. Kṛṣṇa says, māṁ hi pārtha vyapāśritya ye 'pi syuḥ pāpa-yonayaḥ [Bg. 9.32]. Pāpa-yoni, it doesn't matter, if he takes regularly the shelter of Kṛṣṇa, lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa... And Caitanya Mahāprabhu ordered that

pṛthivīte āche yata nagarādi grāma

sarvatra pracāra haibe mora nāma

He predicted. Practically we are trying to carry out the order of Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Caitanya Mahāprabhu ordered that anyone who has taken birth as human being in Bhārata-varṣa, he should engage his life for paropakāra. And he said also, pṛthivīte āche yata nagarādi grāma: "All over the town, all over the world, as many towns and villages are there, My name will be established there." So we are trying to do that. So His name should be established does not mean that they should remain as yavanas or mlecchas, and simply they should simply know Lord Caitanya. No. Actually the fact is that everyone should be elevated to the position of Vaiṣṇava, purified Vaiṣṇava, as it is recommended in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavata, Bhagavad-gītā. Cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ [Bg. 4.13]. They, they should be made into brāhmaṇas by qualifying them as brāhmaṇa.

So the first condition is that anyone who comes to Kṛṣṇa consciousness as a bona fide initiated member, he gives up all these abominable habits: no illicit sex, no meat-eating, no gambling, no intoxication. They have given up even smoking cigarette, even drinking tea, coffee. So they are all, after being qualified, they are accepted as Vaiṣṇava and properly initiated. So they cannot be neglected as other than brāhmaṇas. That is not very good proposition. They are, according to śāstra, they are qualified. It may be due to some past habits, they may commit some mistake, unconsciously. Consciously, no Vaiṣṇava commits any mistake, but maybe due to habit. That is also protected by Kṛṣṇa. Api cet su-durācāro bhajate mām ananya-bhāk, sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ [Bg. 9.30]. Even there are some discrepancies, but if the only one qualification is there, that he's sticking to Kṛṣṇa consciousness rigidly, he's sādhu. Sādhur eva sa mantavyaḥ [Bg. 9.30]. He's not to be neglected. So these Europeans, Americans devotees, according to the enunciation given by Rūpa Gosvāmī, as it is supported by Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself, as it is supported by Śukadeva Gosvāmī, as it is supported by Sanātana Gosvāmī, as it is ordered by Caitanya Mahāprabhu, they are regularly initiated Vaiṣṇavas. They should not be neglected. That will be vaiṣṇava-aparādha, offenses unto the Vaiṣṇava. Out of all kinds of aparādhas, offenses, vaiṣṇava-aparādha is the most dangerous. Most dangerous. So vaiṣṇava-aparādha is not excused by Viṣṇu.


The Nectar of Devotion -- Vṛndāvana, November 6, 1972



4.Srila Prabhupada had to very painstakingly fight with the Hindu caste mentality in order to establish the genuineness of his followers. We find ourselves again doing the same thing when unintelligent people are yet again challenging the genuineness of disciples Srila Prabhupada is creating after his physical departure. One should nto underestimate the potency of the spiritual sound. One who makes a distinction between the spiritual master and his instructions (through which the new disciples are being made) is making an offense. The new disciples of Srila Prabhupada are the most direct proof that Srila Prabhupada’s books are still sufficient and there is no need for a new acarya to come.  We don’t care for people who are envious of Srila Prabhupada and want to falsely assume the posts of gurus, whether diksa or siksa without the proper qualification.



The sacred thread inaugurated by my Guru Maharaja according to pancaratrika system and Hari-bhakti-vilasa by Srila Sanatana Goswami must continue. It does not matter whether the priestly class accepts it or not. When my Guru Maharaja Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Prabhupada introduced this system, it was protested even by His inner circle of Godbrothers or friends. Of course He had actually no Godbrothers, but there were many disciples of Bhaktivinode Thakura who were considered as Godbrothers who protested against this action of my Guru Maharaja, but He didn't care for it.


Letter to: Acyutananda — Bombay 14 November, 1970


5. Another reason is that for organized preaching an institution is required and for institution there is a need of administrators who will make sure the standards are being followed. Therefore we designate you are a TP, you are a brahmanicially initiated, etc. so Everyone knows this person is officially taking a responsibility for doing this service and for devotees who commit to our institution. Lord Caitanya wanted every town and village to chant His Holy name. In order to do this, the rtvik system of initiation is an absolute must and the understanding that provided the devotee follows the standards, he can become the rtvik even without undergoing the sacred thread ceremony will speed up the process.


According to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's intentions: prthivite ache yata nagaradi-grama sarvatra pracara haibe mora nama. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's cult must be preached all over the world. This does not mean that people should take to His teachings and remain sudras or candalas. As soon as one is trained as a pure Vaisnava, he must be accepted as a bona fide brahmana. This is the essence of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's instructions in this verse.


CC Madhya 8.128


Suppose you have got now ten thousand. We shall expand to hundred thousand. That is required. Then hundred thousand to million, and million to ten million. So there will be no scarcity of ācārya, and people will understand Kṛṣṇa consciousness very easily. So make that organization.


Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā 1.13 -- Māyāpur, April 6, 1975



6.The top most responsibility of brãhmanas is to preach this KC. From this point of view it is not a mere formality but he has to act as a Brahmana by keeping his sadhana intact and make more devotees. Without keeping his sadhana acara he cannot become acarya or preacher.


For six months, a candidate for initiation must first attend ārati and classes in the śāstras, practice the regulative principles and associate with other devotees. When one is actually advanced in the puraścaryā-vidhi, he is recommended by the local temple president for initiation. It is not that anyone can be suddenly initiated without meeting the requirements. When one is further advanced by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra sixteen rounds daily, following the regulative principles and attending classes, he receives the sacred thread (brahminical recognition) after the second six months.


Madhya 15.108



Professional preachers cannot create pure devotees. There are many professional preachers of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam who read this work to earn their livelihood. However, they cannot convert materialistic people to devotional service. Only a pure devotee can convert others to pure devotional service. It is therefore important for all the preachers in our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement to first become pure devotees and follow the regulative principles, refraining from illicit sex, meat-eating, gambling and intoxication. They should regularly chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra on their beads, follow the devotional process, rise early in the morning, attend maṅgala-ārati and recite Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and Bhagavad-gītā regularly. In this way, one can become purified and free from all material contamination.


tat-paratvena nirmalam

hṛṣīkeṇa hṛṣīkeśa-

sevanaṁ bhaktir ucyate


To make a show of devotional service will not help one. One must be a pure devotee following the devotional process; then one can convert others to devotional service. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu practiced devotional service and preached (āpani ācari' bhakti karila pracāra). If a preacher behaves properly in devotional service, he will be able to convert others. Otherwise, his preaching will have no effect.


Cc. Madhya 24.98


Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī has commented on this line, śvādo 'pi sadyaḥ, that a dog-eater, after becoming a devotee, immediately he becomes a qualified brāhmaṇa, so much so that he becomes competent to become a priest in the matter of offering sacrifices. But Jīva Gosvāmī says that even a person is born in brāhmaṇa family, he awaits the qualification of performing sacrifices. He has to be initiated. He has to be advanced in education, so many things. But one dog-eater, if he takes to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, immediately, without waiting for reformatory method, he becomes immediately competent to act as priest in performing sacrifices. But we should not take advantage of this. Actually, we should become on the platform of brāhmaṇa, qualified brāhmaṇa, qualification Vaiṣṇava so that others may not criticize. That is our special request. That chance is there, everyone. This path of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is open to everyone. It does not matter. My position is very precarious.


The Nectar of Devotion -- Vṛndāvana, October 24, 1972




7. Whether you have taken Srila Prabhupada message to your heart will be shown how well you will be able explain what you have learned to others.


Cleansing oneself as well as teaching others to be clean; these two things must be there simultaneously. None of us have perfect desires but we are trying to be perfect and teach others to be perfect as far as possible. They cannot be separated but must go together as parallel lines. Siksa and diksa. Siksa means learning. diksa, or initiation, means the beginning of spiritual realization. So every disciple must make his own spiritual progress positively and help others to do so.


Letter to: Nayanabhirama — Bombay 30 April, 1971


So one who is spreading kṛṣṇa-upadeśa, simply repeat what is said by Kṛṣṇa, then you become ācārya. Not difficult at all. Everything is stated there. We have to simply repeat like parrot. Not exactly parrot. Parrot does not understand the meaning; he simply vibrates. But you should understand the meaning also; otherwise how you can explain?


Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā 1.13 -- Māyāpur, April 6, 1975


"One who represents someone else must fully know that person's mission. The devotees in the Krsna consciousness movement must therefore be fully aware of the mission of Krsna and Lord Caitanya; otherwise they will be considered foolish. All devotees, especially preachers, must know the philosophy of Krsna consciousness so as not to be embarrassed and insulted when they preach."

(SB 6.1.38)



8. We have founded BLISS for this reason that when giving initiation on behalf of Srila Prabhupada, it is clear that we do not depend on the rtvik to connect us to Srila Prabhupada. Anyone who follows the disciplne is already a bona fide disciple of Srila Prabhupada. This should be clear to everyone, so those who will choose to receive initiation from us will do so not on the basis of some manufactured necessity of a living inter-guru to Srila Prabhupada, but on the basis of genuine appreciation of devotee association with the desire to cooperate in serving Srila Prabhupada together in an organized way. We are also opened to coopearate on equal level with other devotee associations with the same understanding. 




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