WHO IS A BRAHMIN?



According to Bhagvad Gita, Brahmanas must be established in Satv-gun. That is the essence of their qualities and values.

PRELUDE

ब्राह्मणक्षत्रियविशां शूद्राणां परन्तप
कर्माणि प्रविभक्तानि स्वभावप्रभवैर्गुणैः १८-४१॥

Bg 18.41 — Brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, vaiśyas and śūdras are distinguished by the qualities born of their own natures in accordance with the material modes, O chastiser of the enemy.



ExplanationIntelligent class of people technically called Brāhmaṇas are supposed to be situated in the mode of goodness or Satv-gun. Next is the administrative class, technically called the Kṣatriyas are situated in the mode of passion or Rajas-gun. The mercantile community called the Vaiśyas is situated in the mixed modes of passion and ignorance or Rajas-gun and Tamas-gun. Śūdras or the labourer class, are situated in the mode of ignorance or Tamas-gun.
Thus the tendency of a person towards work is determined by the modes of material nature which he has acquired. 
To know more about Satv, Rajas & Tamas-gun visit: Satv, Rajas & Tamas-gun.

QUALITIES OF A BRAHMAN – ACCORDING TO BG. GITA

शमो दमस्तपः शौचं क्षान्तिरार्जवमेव  
ज्ञानं विज्ञानमास्तिक्यं ब्रह्मकर्म स्वभावजम्  १८-४२॥

SYNONYMS
samah--peacefulness; damah--self-control; tapah--austerity; saucam-- purity; ksantih--tolerance; arjavam--honesty; eva--certainly; ca--and; jnanam--knowledge; vijnanam--wisdom; astikyam--religiousness; brahma-- of a brahmana; karma--duty; svabhava-jam--born of his own nature.
Bg 18.42 — Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness – these are the natural qualities by which the brāhmaṇas work.
According to Bh. Gita Brahmans manifest the following nine qualities.

SAMAH—PEACEFULNESS:  When the mind does not indulge in unnecessary thoughts; that is called samah, or calmness. Nor does one spend one's time pondering over earning money. That is a misuse of the thinking power. The mind should be used to understand the prime subject of human beings, spirituality and that should be presented authoritatively. The power of thought should be developed in association with persons who are authorities in the scriptures, saintly persons and spiritual masters and those whose thinking is highly developed.

DAMAH--SELF-CONTROL:  It means that the senses should not be used for unnecessary personal enjoyment. There is no prohibition against meeting the proper needs of the senses but unnecessary sense enjoyment is detrimental for spiritual advancement. Therefore the senses should be restrained from unnecessary use.

TAPAH—AUSTERITY:  It means austerity or penance. There are many rules and definitions in the Vedas which apply here, like rising early in the morning and taking a bath. Sometimes it is very troublesome to rise early in the morning, but whatever voluntary trouble one may suffer in this way is called penance. Similarly, there are prescriptions for fasting on certain days of the month. One may not be inclined to practice such fasting, but because of his determination to make advancement in spiritual, he should accept such bodily troubles which are recommended. However, one should not fast unnecessarily or against Vedic injunctions. One should not fast for some political purpose; that is described in Bhagavad Gita as fasting in ignorance or tamas-gun and anything done in ignorance or passion does not lead to spiritual advancement. Everything done in the mode of goodness or satv-gun and fasting done in terms of the Vedic injunctions enriches one in spiritual knowledge.
 
SAUCAM—PURITY: Cleanliness is next to Godliness. Shaucham is always envisioned as both internal and external. One complements the other. Taking bath, wearing lean clothes, having basic hygiene and practicing common sense civic cleanliness constitute the external element. Internal cleanliness involves cleansing the mind of bad traits & indulgence by implementing counter measures like Japadhyana, namsankirtan, svadhyaya amongst others.

KSANTIH—TOLERANCE: Patiently bearing the odds meted without an internal struggle is a much evolved trait.  Forbearance allows one to practice mercy, compassion, and self-restraint while overlooking other’s faults. When contrary stimulus is encountered, staying on values and principles manifests as kshanti.     Such a life enables cultivation and development of forgiveness.

ARJAVAM--HONESTY / STRAIGHT FORWARDNESS:  This is a factor of being fearless. Having innocence and frankness keeps the mind childlike. This enables the personality to interact with integrity in all its dealings. In the external world, one can have a poker face and yet hide their true colors. But in Spirituality where one understands the interconnectedness of everything, arjavam becomes default as the thoughts, words and deeds are aligned not only in relation to each other but also with dharma. This congruence manifests in the external world as an upright personality and in the internal world, sets the mind in an exalted state.

JNANAM—KNOWLEDGE:  It refers to the power of analyzing things in proper perspective, and knowledge refers to understanding - what is spirit and what is matter? Ordinary knowledge obtained by a university education pertains only to matter, and it is not accepted here as knowledge. Knowledge means knowing the distinction between spirit and matter. In modern education there is no knowledge about the spirit; they are simply taking care of the material elements and bodily needs. Therefore academic knowledge is not complete.

VIJNANAM—WISDOM / APPLIED KNOWLEDGE: When the above theoretical knowledge gets assimilated and manifests as a practical experience, intuition and a deeper understanding borne out of internalization, it reflects wisdom. This wisdom can be imbibed from great masters and spiritualists by living with them and serving them. 



ASTIKYAM—RELIGIOUSNESS: It is belief in God as a creator or controller. He sees divinity in all things and existence of a omnipresent Supreme Being . It manifests itself in faith in scriptures – Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas & experiences of Mahatmas. 


HOW LORD SHIVA PRAISED MARKANDEY RISHI & DESCRIBED THE QUALITIES OF A BRAHMAN


  
Once, as Lord Śiva was traveling in the sky with his wife, Pārvatī, he came across Śrī Mārkaṇḍeya merged in meditative trance. At the request of Pārvatī, Lord Śiva presented himself before the sage to grant him the result of his austerities. Coming out of his trance, Śrī Mārkaṇḍeya saw Lord Śiva, the spiritual master of the three worlds, together with Pārvatī, and he worshiped them by offering them obeisance, words of greeting and a sitting place.

At that time Lord Shiva, before giving benediction to Markandey Rishi praised him by following words:

SB 12.10.24 — By meditating upon the Supreme Soul, performing austerities, engaging in Vedic study and following regulative principles, the brāhmaṇas sustain within themselves the three Vedas, which are nondifferent from Lord Viṣṇu, Lord Brahmā and me. Therefore I offer my obeisance unto the brāhmaṇas.






Five Pandavas



QUALITIES OF A BRAHMAN  ACCORDING TO YUDHISHTHIR (EXAMPLE 1)



 There is a famous story of a riddle contest between Yudhishthir and a Yaksha in Mahabharat. It appears in the Vana Parva of Mahabharata.
 [यक्ष]
     किं बराह्मणानां देवत्वं कश  धर्मः सताम इव
     
कश चैषां मानुषॊ भावः किम एषाम असताम इव
 [yakṣa]
kiṃ brāhmaṇānāṃ devatvaṃ kaś ca dharmaḥ satām iva
kaś caiṣāṃ mānuṣo bhāvaḥ kim eṣām asatām iva

Yaksha’s questions:
·        What instills 'divinity' in Brahmanas?
·        What is their eternal dharma?
·        What is the human like quality of a Brahmin?
·        What is impious action for a Brahmana?
  
[युधिष्ठिरः]
   स्वाध्याय एषां देवत्वं तप एषां सतामिव।
   
मरणं मानुषो भावः परिवादोऽसतामिव
[yudhishthir]
svādhyāya eṣāṃ devatvaṃ tapa eṣāṃ satām iva
     maraṇaṃ mānuṣo bhāvaḥ parivādo ‘satām iva

Yudhishthir responds: 

·        Svadhyaya (The study of Vedas) defines the divinity for a Brahmana
·        Tapas or penance is the essence of a Brahmana’s dharma.
·        Death is human-like quality in a Brahmin.
·        Criticising & talking ill about others is the impious act forbidden for a Brahamana.


Yaksh & Yudhishthir 

QUALITIES OF A BRAHMAN – ACCORDING TO YUDHISHTHIR (EXAMPLE 2)



In another story in  Vana Parva in the Mahabharata  Nahusha  asks Yudhishthir-
Who is a Brahmana?

Yudhishtra responds:
सत्यं दानं क्षमा शीलम आनृशंस्यं दमॊ घृणा
दृश्यन्ते यत्र नागेन्द्र बराह्मण इति समृतः
satyaṃ dānaṃ kṣamā śīlam ānṛśaṃsyaṃ damo ghṛṇā
 dṛśyante yatra nāgendra sa brāhmaṇa iti smṛtaḥ

Truthfulness, generosity, patience, good character, compassion, self-control, tenderness. One in whom these are seen, O King of Snakes, he is a Brahmana. Thus it is known.



CONCLUSION

Thus the Brahmanas develop nine qualities as mentioned in Bg Gita by being engaged in following ativities:
1.     meditating upon the Supreme Soul
2.     performing austerities
3.     engaging in Vedic study and
4.     following regulative principles.




To know more about what Bh. Gita says on different casts / varna visit: what Bh. Gita says on caste.?



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Rajeev Gupta
Delhi, India
Management teacher by profession, I follow the Vaishnav Tradition of Hinduism as a path to liberation. By blogging I try to develop interest in Indian spirituality & culture.