Whatever position one may have, if he is fully conversant with the science of Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he can become a bona fide spiritual master—an initiator or a teacher of the science. In other words, one can become a bona fide spiritual master if he has sufficient knowledge of the science of Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Becoming such a spiritual master does not depend on a particular position in society or on birth. This is the conclusion of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu, and it is in accordance with the Vedic injunctions. On the strength of this conclusion, Lord Caitanya, previously known as Viśvambhara, accepted a spiritual master, Īśvara Purī, who was a sannyāsī. Similarly, Lord Nityānanda Prabhu and Śrī Advaita Ācārya also accepted a sannyāsī as their spiritual master, namely Mādhavendra Purī, who was a disciple of Lakṣmīpati Tīrtha. Similarly, another great ācārya, Śrī Rasikānanda, accepted Śrī Śyāmānanda as his spiritual master, although Śyāmānanda was not born in a brāhmaṇa family. So also did Gaṅgānārāyaṇa Cakravartī accept Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākura as his spiritual master. In ancient days there was even a hunter named Dharma who became a spiritual master for many people. There are clear instructions in the Mahābhārata and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (7.11.32) stating that a person should be accepted as a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya or śūdra according to his personal qualifications and not his birth. For example, if a man is born in a brāhmaṇa family but his personal qualifications are those of a śūdra, he should be accepted as a śūdra. Similarly, if a person is born in a śūdra family but has the qualifications of a brāhmaṇa, he should be accepted as a brāhmaṇa. All śāstric injunctions, as well as the versions of great sages and authorities, establish that a bona fide spiritual master is not necessarily a brāhmaṇa by caste. The only qualification is that he be conversant with the science of Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That alone makes one perfectly eligible to become a spiritual master. This is the conclusion of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu in His discussions with Rāmānanda Rāya.
In the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa it is stated that if one bona fide spiritual master is born in a brāhmaṇa family and another qualified spiritual master is born in a śūdra family, one should accept the one who is born in a brāhmaṇa family. This statement serves as a social compromise, but it has nothing to do with spiritual understanding. This injunction is applicable only for those who consider social status more important than spiritual status. It is not for people who are spiritually serious. A serious person would accept Caitanya Mahāprabhu's instruction that anyone conversant with the science of Kṛṣṇa must be accepted as the spiritual master, regardless of his social position. There is an injunction in the Padma Purāṇa which states that though a highly elevated, spiritually advanced devotee of the Lord may have been born in a family of dog-eaters, he can be a spiritual master, but that a highly elevated person born in a brāhmaṇa family cannot be a spiritual master unless he is a devotee of the Lord. A person born in a brāhmaṇa family may be conversant with all of the rituals of the Vedic scriptures, but if he is not a pure devotee he cannot be a spiritual master. In all śāstras the chief qualification of a bona fide spiritual master is that he be conversant in the science of Kṛṣṇa.