When a man is greatly learned in the Vedānta-sūtras, he is known as a paṇḍita, or learned scholar. Generally this qualification is attributed to brāhmaṇas and sannyāsīs. Sannyāsa, the renounced order of life, is the topmost position for a brāhmaṇa, a member of the highest of the four varṇas (brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya and śūdra). According to public opinion, a person born in a brāhmaṇa family, duly reformed by the purificatory processes and properly initiated by a spiritual master, is an authority on Vedic literature. When such a person is offered the sannyāsa order, he comes to occupy the topmost position. The brāhmaṇa is supposed to be the spiritual master of the other three varṇas, namely kṣatriya, vaiśya and śūdra, and the sannyāsī is supposed to be the spiritual master even of the exalted brāhmaṇas.
Generally brāhmaṇas and sannyāsīs are very proud of their spiritual positions. Therefore, to cut down their false pride, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu preached Kṛṣṇa consciousness through Rāmānanda Rāya, who was neither a member of the renounced order nor a born brāhmaṇa. Indeed, Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya was a gṛhastha belonging to the śūdra class, yet Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu arranged for him to be the master who taught Pradyumna Miśra, a highly qualified brāhmaṇa born in a brāhmaṇa family. Even Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself, although belonging to the renounced order, took instruction from Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya. In this way Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu exhibited His opulence through Śrī Rāmānanda Rāya. That is the special significance of this incident.
According to Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s philosophy, yei kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā, sei ‘guru’ haya: (CC Madhya 8.128) anyone who knows the science of Kṛṣṇa can become a spiritual master, without reference to whether or not he is a brāhmaṇa or sannyāsī. Ordinary people cannot understand the essence of śāstra, nor can they understand the pure character, behavior and abilities of strict followers of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s principles. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is creating pure, exalted Vaiṣṇavas even from those born in families considered lower than those of śūdras. This is proof that a Vaiṣṇava may appear in any family, as confirmed in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (SB 2.4.18):
- ābhīra-śumbhā yavanāḥ khasādayaḥ
- ye ‘nye ca pāpā yad-apāśrayāśrayāḥ
- śudhyanti tasmai prabhaviṣṇave namaḥ
“Kirātas, Hūṇas, Āndhras, Pulindas, Pulkaśas, Ābhīras, Śumbhas, Yavanas and members of the Khasa races, and even others addicted to sinful acts, can be purified by taking shelter of the devotees of the Lord, due to His being the supreme power. I beg to offer my respectful obeisances unto Him.” (SB 2.4.18) By the grace of the Supreme Lord Viṣṇu, anyone can be completely purified, become a preacher of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and become the spiritual master of the entire world. This principle is accepted in all Vedic literature. Evidence can be quoted from authoritative śāstras showing how a lowborn person can become the spiritual master of the entire world. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is to be considered the most munificent personality, for He distributes the real essence of the Vedic śāstras to anyone who becomes qualified by becoming His sincere servant.