Sanātana Gosvāmī wrote his Vaiṣṇava smṛti, Hari-bhakti-vilāsa, which was specifically meant for India. In those days, India was more or less following the principle of smārta-vidhi. Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī had to keep pace with this, and his Hari-bhakti-vilāsa was compiled with this in mind. According to smārta-brāhmaṇas, a person not born in a brāhmaṇa family could not be elevated to the position of a brāhmaṇa. Sanātana Gosvāmī, however, says in the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (2.12) that anyone can be elevated to the position of a brāhmaṇa by the process of initiation.
yathā kāñcanatāṁ yāti kāṁsyaṁ rasa-vidhānataḥtathā dīkṣā-vidhānena dvijatvaṁ jāyate nṛṇām“As bell metal is turned to gold when mixed with mercury in an alchemical process, so one who is properly trained and initiated by a bona fide spiritual master immediately becomes a brāhmaṇa.”There is a difference between the smārta process and the gosvāmī process. According to the smārta process, one cannot be accepted as a brāhmaṇa unless he is born in a brāhmaṇa family. According to the gosvāmī process, the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa and the Nārada-pañcarātra, anyone can be a brāhmaṇa if he is properly initiated by a bona fide spiritual master. This is also the verdict of Śukadeva Gosvāmī 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 who are 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.”A Vaiṣṇava is immediately purified, provided he follows the rules and regulations of his bona fide spiritual master. It is not necessary that the rules and regulations followed in India be exactly the same as those in Europe, America and other Western countries. Simply imitating without effect is called niyamāgraha. Not following the regulative principles but instead living extravagantly is also called niyamāgraha. The word niyama means “regulative principles,” and āgraha means “eagerness.” The word agraha means “not to accept.” We should not follow regulative principles without an effect, nor should we fail to accept the regulative principles. What is required is a special technique according to country, time and candidate. Without the sanction of the spiritual master, we should not try to imitate. This principle is recommended here: śuṣka-vairāgya-jñāna saba niṣedhila. This is Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s liberal demonstration of the bhakti cult. We should not introduce anything whimsically, without the sanction of the bona fide spiritual master. In this connection, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura comments on these points by quoting two verses by Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.255-256).
anāsaktasya viṣayān yathārham upayuñjataḥnirbandhaḥ kṛṣṇa-sambandhe yuktaṁ vairāgyam ucyateprāpañcikatayā buddhyā hari-sambandhi-vastunaḥmumukṣubhiḥ parityāgo vairāgyaṁ phalgu kathyate“When one is not attached to anything but at the same time accepts everything in relation to Kṛṣṇa, one is rightly situated above possessiveness. On the other hand, one who rejects everything without knowledge of its relationship to Kṛṣṇa is not as complete in his renunciation.” To preach the bhakti cult, one should seriously consider these verses.