In the material world, the three modes are goodness, passion and ignorance, and all of these are simply different gradations of contamination
"Therefore, Amogha, get up and chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra! If you do so, Kṛṣṇa will unfailingly bestow mercy upon you."
The Absolute Truth is realized in three phases—impersonal Brahman, Paramātmā and the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavān. All of these are one and the same truth, but Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagavān constitute three different features. Whoever understands Brahman is called a brāhmaṇa, and when a brāhmaṇa engages in the Lord's devotional service, he is called a Vaiṣṇava. Unless one comes to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his realization of impersonal Brahman is imperfect. A brāhmaṇa can chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra on the platform of nāmābhāsa, but not on the platform of pure vibration. When a brāhmaṇa engages in the Lord's service, fully understanding his eternal relationship, his devotional service is called abhidheya. When one attains that stage, he is called a bhāgavata, or Vaiṣṇava. This indicates that he is free from contamination and material attachment. Lord Kṛṣṇa confirms this in the Bhagavad-gītā (7.28):
- yeṣāṁ tv anta-gataṁ pāpaṁ janānāṁ puṇya-karmaṇām
- te dvandva-moha-nirmuktā bhajante māṁ dṛḍha-vratāḥ
"Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life and whose sinful actions are completely eradicated are freed from the duality of delusion, and they engage themselves in My service with determination."
A brāhmaṇa may be a very learned scholar, but this does not mean that he is free from material contamination. A brāhmaṇa's contamination, however, is in the mode of goodness. In the material world, the three modes are goodness, passion and ignorance, and all of these are simply different gradations of contamination. Unless a brāhmaṇa transcends such contamination and approaches the platform of unalloyed devotional service, he cannot be accepted as a Vaiṣṇava. An impersonalist may be aware of the impersonal Brahman feature of the Absolute Truth, but his activities are on the impersonal platform. Sometimes he imagines a form of the Lord (saguṇa-upāsanā), but such an attempt is never successful in helping one attain complete realization. The impersonalist may consider himself a brāhmaṇa and may be situated in the mode of goodness, but nonetheless he is conditioned by one of the modes of material nature. This means that he is not yet liberated, for liberation cannot be attained unless one is completely free from the modes. In any case, the Māyāvāda philosophy keeps one conditioned. If one becomes a Vaiṣṇava through proper initiation, he automatically becomes a brāhmaṇa. There is no doubt about it. The Garuḍa Purāṇa confirms this:
- brāhmaṇānāṁ sahasrebhyaḥ satra-yājī viśiṣyate
- satra-yāji-sahasrebhyaḥ sarva-vedānta-pāragaḥ
- sarva-vedānta-vit-koṭyā viṣṇu-bhakto viśiṣyate
"Out of many thousands of brāhmaṇas, one may become qualified to perform yajña. Out of many thousands of such qualified brāhmaṇas, one may be fully aware of the Vedānta philosophy. Out of many millions of learned Vedānta scholars, there may be one viṣṇu-bhakta, or devotee of Lord Viṣṇu. It is he who is most exalted."
Unless one is a fully qualified brāhmaṇa, he cannot advance in the spiritual science. A real brāhmaṇa is never envious of Vaiṣṇavas. If he is, he is considered an imperfect neophyte. Impersonalist brāhmaṇas are always opposed to Vaiṣṇava principles. They are envious of Vaiṣṇavas because they do not know the goal of life. Na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇum (SB 7.5.31). However, when a brāhmaṇa becomes a Vaiṣṇava, there is no duality. If a brāhmaṇa does not become a Vaiṣṇava, he certainly falls down from the brāhmaṇa platform. This is confirmed by Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.5.3): na bhajanty avajānanti sthānād bhraṣṭāḥ patanty adhaḥ.
We can actually see that in this Age of Kali many so-called brāhmaṇas are envious of Vaiṣṇavas. The Kali-contaminated brāhmaṇas consider Deity worship to be imaginative: arcye viṣṇau śilā-dhīr guruṣu nara-matir vaiṣṇave jāti-buddhiḥ. Such a contaminated brāhmaṇa may superficially imagine a form of the Lord, but actually he considers the Deity in the temple to be made of stone or wood. Similarly, such a contaminated brāhmaṇa considers the guru to be an ordinary human being, and he objects when a Vaiṣṇava is created by the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. Many so-called brāhmaṇas attempt to fight us, saying, "How can you create a brāhmaṇa out of a European or American? A brāhmaṇa can be born only in a brāhmaṇa family." They do not consider that this is never stated in any revealed scripture. Lord Kṛṣṇa specifically states in the Bhagavad-gītā (4.13), cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ: "According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me."
Thus a brāhmaṇa is not a result of the caste system. He becomes a brāhmaṇa only by qualification. Similarly, a Vaiṣṇava does not belong to a particular caste; rather, his designation is determined by the rendering of devotional service.