Doctors are available in every country and society; similarly, the four classes of men are also present in every country and society. A son born to a doctor is not necessarily sure to grow up to be a doctor; similarly, the progeny of the four classes of society do not automatically fix their future career according to that of their parents. The scriptures describe in detail the divisions of society, with their inherent characteristics. Therefore we commit a serious mistake when we regard the different classes of men as belonging to particular countries or races. The Indian culture of today is restricted by the hereditary caste system and kept in the custody of narrow-minded people who are like frogs in a well. If instead India had spread the transcendental message of Bhagavad-gītā in the generous manner befitting a noble brāhmaṇa, then peace and tranquillity in this world would not be in such acutely short supply. By the propagation of brahminical culture, the world would have greatly prospered. Instead, the Vedic culture has been seriously maimed by the imposition of the hereditary caste system, and this has had grievously adverse effects on the world. The Supreme Lord in His incarnation as Lord Caitanya has opened many avenues to peaceful living by propagating the brahminical culture, which He calls the religion of the soul. Those who are fortunate can emulate His life, follow His divine teachings, and perfect their lives.
Varṇāśrama-dharma, the system of four spiritual orders and four social orders of life, is of two kinds: demoniac and transcendental. They have nothing in common. The divisions of society mentioned in the scriptures are present at all times and in all lands. If one with knowledge of the scriptures scrutinizes the different societies, he can easily discern the four classes. Persons possessing brahminical or priestly qualities in varying degrees are seen in practically every society. In modern terms they are called intellectuals. All the other classes are also present. Therefore it is an established fact that the four divisions of society, according to merit, are, were, and will be present everywhere.
Those who think that brāhmaṇas and the other three castes exist only in Indian society are sadly mistaken. The scriptures have declared that in Kali-yuga everyone is born a śūdra, or a menial laborer, a member of the fourth class. Still, India has many persons endowed with high, brahminical characteristics, and without doubt such persons are also seen in every other country. Every country has these four classes of men, determined according merit. As a matter of a fact, even those who are less than śūdras—the caṇḍālas or dog-eaters—are eligible to perform devotional service. If a caṇḍāla becomes an elevated devotee of the Lord, then on the basis of his merit he should be respected by all other classes. There is much scriptural evidence in this regard: The Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (10.91) states, "A devotee caṇḍāla achieves the same spiritual success as the devotee brāhmaṇa." And in the Bhāgavatam (7.9.10), Prahlāda Mahārāja says, "A devotee caṇḍāla is many times more elevated than an ordinary ritualistic brāhmaṇa." Indeed, such a devotee caṇḍāla can be the guru of the brāhmaṇas; this has been shown throughout history by many spiritual preceptors who were born in a low caste but who initiated persons of higher castes. So, the castes are classified according to merit and activity, but a pure devotee of the Lord is beyond all these classifications. He is transcendental to everything material. How can a person who is elevated beyond all castes, a saint, be adequately worshiped if he is worshiped only as a brāhmaṇa? Therefore one who has taken shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the recipient of all good fortune in all countries and at all times. The Bhagavad-gītā mentions this in several places.
Whatever part of this world a person belongs to, if he follows the instructions of the Supreme Lord in the Bhagavad-gītā, then he attains the transcendental platform and can become even more elevated than a brāhmaṇa. As Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Gītā (4.24),
A person who is fully absorbed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is sure to attain the spiritual kingdom because of his full contribution to spiritual activities, in which the consummation is absolute and that which is offered is of the same spiritual nature.
This verse explains how one can attain spiritual knowledge by performing activities that please the Supreme Lord.
Śrīpāda Śaṅkarācārya propounded the impersonal theory, citing phrases like sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma: "By nature everything is Brahman, spirit." Śaṅkarācārya's theory has caused great confusion about established scriptural conclusions, but this phrase clearly supports the the Gītā verse quoted above.
At this point it is urgent that we discuss how one can perform devotional service for the Supreme Lord's pleasure. In this regard it is also noteworthy how saintly leaders like King Janaka executed karma-yoga, or devotional service, by performing sacrifice. The aim of all sacrifices should be to please the Supreme Lord, Viṣṇu or Kṛṣṇa. Contact with matter is unavoidable in our present conditioned state, because while performing activities to sustain the body and to accomplish other purposes, we become intimate with material nature. But if we can spiritualize these activities by performing every one of them as a service to Brahman, the Supreme Absolute Truth, then these activities become yajña, or sacrifice. When the Vedic phrase sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma is interpreted in this way, it is acceptable. In other words, when one invokes the spiritual or transcendental or absolute in everything, then matter loses its mundaneness, and then only can one realize the perfect meaning of the phrase sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma. The Vaiṣṇavas say that anything connected with the Lord in devotional service is transcendental. In other words, it is nondifferent from the Supreme Lord Himself, Mādhava. Just as iron in long and constant touch with fire loses the characteristics of iron and becomes fiery, so everything offered in sacrifice to the Absolute, or the Transcendence, becomes absolute, or transcendental.
In the Bhagavad-gītā (14.27) Lord Kṛṣṇa says, "And I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness." This verse unequivocally declares that Brahman is Lord Kṛṣṇa's bodily effulgence. Since Lord Kṛṣṇa is the source of Brahman, devotional service to Lord Kṛṣṇa establishes the true meaning of sarvaṁ khalv idaṁ brahma. A sacrifice is properly performed only when all the sacrificial ingredients—the offerings, the fire, the ghee, and so on—become spiritualized, or reach the stage of Brahman, by their contact with Lord Kṛṣṇa. And since the performance of sacrifice culminates in the manifestation of real love for Lord Viṣṇu, loving devotional service to Lord Viṣṇu is the very best form of sacrifice. Such a stage can be also described as total absorption in Brahman.