Hearing this statement from Ramananda Raya, Lord Chaitanya replied that the system of varnashrama-dharma was external and thus it was not acceptable. Lord Chaitanya also rejected the statement of Ramananda because the system of varnashrama-dharma is now jeopardized by the influence of the present age of Kali, the age of quarrel and fighting.
In the Bhagavad-gita, the Personality of Godhead declares that the varnashrama system is created by Him, although He is aloof from such a system. Because the varnashrama system is a creation of the Personality of Godhead, it is not possible to do away with it. However, the nefarious activities of the people of the age of Kali can jeopardize the varnashrama system. We have purposely used the word jeopardized because the whole system still exists but in a reflected form.
In the varnashrama system of social management, the aim of life is to attain the favor of Lord Vishnu, the all-pervading Personality of Godhead. Unfortunately, at the present moment the aim of life is to displease the all-pervading Godhead and thereby suffer perpetually under the laws of material nature. The goal of the varnashrama system is to peacefully perform the prescribed duties of humanity and thereby achieve the highest success, namely the favor of Lord Vishnu. But when the aim of life is the planned exploitation of material nature, all life is jeopardized on account of the human race fighting with the laws of nature.
The arrangement of nature is so strict that even a slight violation of the laws of nature can do great harm to a conditioned human being. Human beings must always consider themselves to be living under the stringent laws of nature. They must always remember that their plans for breaking nature's laws will bring about tremendous hardship. Regrettably, human beings under the deluding influence of material nature want to lord it over the laws of nature, and, as such, they are more and more entangled in conditioned life. Foolish human beings do not see the defect of their so-called advancement of knowledge. The most difficult problems of life are birth, death, old age, and disease. These four problems are a permanent settlement for the conditioned soul. Human beings want to lord it over the laws of nature but their so-called advancement of scientific knowledge cannot solve these problems.
A continuous increase of world population to the proportion of three births in every second has puzzled the brains of the leaders of society. To solve the problem of birth, they put forward rascal plans of birth control under the name of family planning, yet the problem is unsolved. By the laws of nature, the population is ever-increasing in spite of all their scientific plans and schemes. On the whole, the problem of birth has remained unsolved.
Mother Nature's Atom Bomb
The death problem is also not solved. None of the scientific knowledge of the human being has solved the death problem. The advancement of material knowledge can simply accelerate the problem of dying; nobody can save a person from the cruel hands of death. The discovery of the atom bomb and similar other great inventions of the fertile brain of the scientist has simply increased the death problem. The foolish scientists do not know that the atom bomb is actually the scheme of Mother Nature, who is sure to kill the demoniac population when it increases disproportionately.
Modern economists also believe in the laws of nature and confirm that unrestricted birth increases in the human population will certainly result in famine, pestilence, epidemics, and war. So, the so-called civilized states' plan of killing human beings by atomic and hydrogen bombs is actually the plan of Mother Nature to punish the foolish miscreants.
Everything is automatically executed by Mother Nature as soon as the human being is in violation of her laws. However, foolish people, out of their undue vanity, think that the plan is made by them. To execute her stringent punishment, Mother Nature dictates to the human brain the ability to invent the atomic bomb. Foolishly, the human being wants to take the credit for such inventions, which are meant only for punishment. We learn this fact from the Bhagavad-gita (3.27), wherein it is said that everything is done by prakriti or Mother Nature. But the foolish living entity, puffed up by the vanity of learning, falsely considers himself the Creator.
The Problem Remains the Same
Without going further into the details of birth and death in terms of modernized scientific plans, it can safely be said that the problem of birth and death remains in its original proportion. Nothing has been done to increase or decrease the problem. The problem of old age and disease is also not solved. The more the inventions of modernized science are made, the more relative diseases increase proportionately.
We can again conclude that birth, death, old age, and disease are the sum total of all the problems of material existence and can never be solved by any plan made by human beings. If a human being wants to solve all the problems of material existence, he must abide by the advice of Godhead that only by full surrender unto Him can one be saved from the stringent conditions of the material laws of nature.
The system of varnashrama-dharma as it is mentioned in the scriptures aims at achieving the favor of Lord Vishnu. This is the only solution to the problem of birth and death. The jeopardized system of varnashrama-dharma has produced a perverted form, commonly known as the caste system. The caste system is now represented by the political diplomats, the soldiers, the capitalists, and the laborers. The politicians or the best planning brains of the human race have taken the position of brahmanas. Surely the brahmana possesses the best brain for solving the problems of human life, but the politicians are simply using the best part of their brains for executing their own selfish plans. Avoiding the orders of the Supreme Godhead, they only bring disorder to the society.
The military arrangement is a false representation of the kshatriyas, who are meant to give protection to the public at large. However, the military leaders of every country are sucking the blood of the masses by imposing heavy, unbearable taxes, instead of giving any actual protection.
The capitalists, who represent vaishyas, instead of accumulating wealth for carrying out the will of Lord Vishnu, are amassing huge wealth for their own sense gratification. As a result of this, many problems, such as political policies that exploit the masses, have sprung up in all parts of the world.
The laborers are a perverted representation of the shudras, who are serving the capitalists under the pressure of many obligations. They are always groaning to make an adjustment to the labor problem by raising political issues.
The system of varnashrama-dharma has not been ostracized as some may wish, but the whole system has now been pervertedly represented by politicians in the position of brahmanas; military men in the position of the kshatriyas; individual capitalists in the position of the vaishyas; and the ordinary laborers in the position of the shudras. The whole system is perverted by the lawbreaking attitude of mankind. This is spoiling the atmosphere of peaceful progress in human life. At present, the system of perverted varnashrama-dharma cannot in any way please the Supreme Godhead Vishnu. Thus no one can escape the police action of Mother Nature, regardless of how expert one may be in material science.
Real Varna and Ashrama
The varnashrama system, originated by the Personality of Godhead, is spiritually significant because when all the varnas and ashramas cooperate, society facilitates deliverance from the clutches of maya or illusion. This is done by all varnas and ashramas carrying out the plan of Godhead. The brahmana is considered the mouth of the Virat-Purusha (the cosmophysical feature of the Personality of Godhead). The kshatriyas are the arms, the vaishyas are the stomach, and the shudras are the legs. The functioning of the mouth is recognized by sound. Therefore, the function of the brahmanas or sannyasis is to transmit the transcendental sound of the Vedas so that every human being can know what is what in relation to the Supreme. By transmission of transcendental sound, human beings will know their actual identities as superior in nature to matter. Thus they will know their eternal relationship with Godhead. Knowing this, they will be engaged in carrying out the plan of Godhead, instead of serving the deluding energy with a false notion of lording it over her. Carrying out the plan of Godhead will help the conditioned soul get out of the clutches of the deluding energy and enter into the kingdom of God for an eternal life of bliss and knowledge.
Every living being is struggling in this material world for eternal life, knowledge, and bliss, but is bewildered by the deluding energy. The plan of Godhead is so designed that in the human form of life one can get out of the entanglement of material existence. Because the kshatriyas are the arms of the Virat-Purusha, it is their duty to protect the whole body and cooperate with the mouth, stomach, and legs. The system of varnashrama is a spiritual plan of cooperation for mutual benefit, and therefore it is essential that it be maintained in its original dignity. As it stands now, it is perverted and diseased.
The so-called brahmanas have become detached from the body of the Virat-Purusha because they do not transmit the transcendental sounds of the Vedas. A head that is cut off from the body certainly cannot produce any sound. Such a dead head, although called a brahmana, has no real value as a head. Similarly, those brahmanas who simply claim to be so by a custom of hereditary right also have no value as brahmanas, because they have no power to function as the mouth of Godhead. In the same manner, whoever fails to carry out the plan of Godhead as part and parcel of the virat-purusha must be considered fallen and detached from his position. Such separated parts are of no value as mouths, arms, stomachs, or legs.
Varna and Ashrama Rejected
Thus Lord Chaitanya rejected Ramananda's proposal, because in the age of Kali the varnashrama-dharma is so degraded that any attempt to restore it to its original position will be hopeless. He also rejected varnashrama-dharma because it has no value in relation to pure devotional service.
The second, more important consideration is that even if the varnashrama system is observed strictly, it still cannot help one to rise to the highest plane of transcendental service to Godhead. The Virat-Purusha is a material conception of the Personality of Godhead and is just the beginning of spiritual realization. The topmost spiritual realization is attraction for devotional service to the Personality of Godhead. Such attraction for devotional service is the only necessity for the living being and it automatically brings a sense of detachment from all other activities.
The Personality of Godhead is worshiped by pure devotional service and He becomes available to His devotees through such devotion. Pure devotional service is produced by cultivation of pure knowledge and activities under the regulative principles of the scriptures. Thus the varnashrama system is explained in relation to pure devotion by Bhagavan Purusha, the Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna, who descended to this material world for the deliverance of all fallen souls. The Bhagavad-gita (18.45-46) states:
sve sve karmany abhiratah
samsiddhim labhate narah
yatha vindati tac chrinu
yatah pravrittir bhutanam
yena sarvam idam tatam
sva-karmana tam abhyarcya
siddhim vindati manavah
"Every human being will attain the highest goal of life simply by worshiping the Personality of Godhead, from whom all the living entities have come into being and by whom the whole cosmos is generated and again withdrawn."
Worshiping Godhead by prescribed duties is the beginning of devotional service, and all the great sages like Tanka, Dramida, Bharuci, Bodhayana, Guhadeva, and Kapardi have approved of this system of gradual progress. All the ancient authorities have commented upon the Vedas in accordance with this principle. The authorities of the Ramanuja sect of Vaishnavas also affirm the above:
The easiest way of attaining the Absolute Truth is to culture knowledge about the Absolute Truth as it is described in the scriptures while simultaneously performing one's prescribed duty. This process is almost direct realization of the path of devotional service. Realization of the Absolute Truth by proper observance of the varnashrama system does not mean to accept only the renounced order of life sannyasa, but it means that everyone can attain the highest goal by the performance of his own duties. Proper performance does not necessarily mean to take sannyasa.
Ramananda Raya, after being asked by Lord Chaitanya to define the highest standard of perfection in human life, had taken up the cause of ordinary people and supported the utility of varnashrama-dharma by quoting the Vishnu Purana. He said that the performance of duties according to varnashrama-dharma should be taken as the highest perfection of life.
Yet because the varnashrama-dharma system is a problem within the material world in the age of Kali, Lord Chaitanya wanted to distinguish it from the devotional activities, which are transcendental by nature. Taking into consideration the transcendental nature of devotional service, which is the highest perfection of life, Lord Chaitanya declared the system of varnashrama-dharma to be external. Lord Chaitanya wanted human beings to make further advancement in the process of spiritual realization than what is possible by the performance of varnashrama-dharma.
Although the aim of varnashrama-dharma is to satisfy the all-pervading Godhead Vishnu, it does not explicitly mention devotional service rendered directly to the Personality of Godhead. Without being specifically engaged in devotional service, even the proper performance of varnashrama-dharma may lead one to accept either the impersonal or personal feature of Godhead. Impersonal realization of the Absolute Truth will mar the progress of devotional service. Therefore, Lord Chaitanya did not wish to risk the human life in that way, and thus He rejected varnashrama-dharma as external.
Lord Chaitanya's rejection of the value of varnashrama-dharma indicated that Ramananda should suggest a more comprehensive process of self-realization.