Qualities of the Best Human Beings – Spiritual merit, not wealth, distinguishes the most honored persons in Vedic society

( – Qualities of the Best Human Beings

By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Lecture given in Los Angeles, May 17, 1973

Spiritual merit, not wealth, distinguishes the most honored persons in Vedic society.

bhagavan api viprarshe
rathena sa-dhananjayah
sa tair vyarochata nripah
kuvera iva guhyakaih

“O sage amongst the brahmanas, Lord Sri Krishna, the Personality of Godhead, also followed, seated on a chariot with Arjuna. Thus King Yudhishthira appeared very aristocratic, like Kuvera surrounded by his companions, the Guhyakas.”
—Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.9.3

Suta Goswami is speaking to an assembly of learned brahmanas at Naimisharanya. The meeting took place at least five thousand years ago. All those assembled were very learned scholars and brahmanas. Therefore they are addressed as viprarshe—vipra and rishi. Not only were theybrahmanas, or vipras, but they were also rishis. Rishi means saintly person. Some were rajarshi—raja, or king, and rishi.

Anyone, even from the ruling class, can become a saintly person, provided he lives like a saintly person. It doesn’t matter whether one is a brahmana or a kshatriya. Kshatriyas are the rulers and soldiers. Generally brahmanas and kshatriyas, the first and second status of human society, can live as good at home as the saintly persons within the forest or the Himalayas.

Earlier in the Bhagavatam these brahmanas were addressed as dvija-shreshthah, “best of the brahmanas.” A brahmana is already the best person, but if he becomes a saintly person, then his qualities become still more magnified.

These brahmanas were addressed, atah pumbhir dvija-shreshtha varnashrama-vibhagashah: “You are all brahmanas, the topmost of human society.” In Vedic civilization there are divisions of human society: first-class men, second-class men, third-class men, and fourth-class men. Not only one class. No. Why? There must be divisions. That I have already explained.

The qualified brahmanas are first-class men, the topmost class. The kshatriyas are the second-class men. And the third-class men are the vaishyas, the mercantile community. They simply think, “Where to get money?” They are third-class men, but at the present moment those who acquire money somehow or other are considered first-class men. It doesn’t matter what their qualification is. If they have acquired some money some way or other, then they are considered first-class men.

This is a symptom of Kali-yuga, the current age of quarrel and hypocrisy. In Kali-yuga there is no honor for qualification. There is honor for money only. That’s all.

It is stated in the Bhagavatam that without money in Kali-yuga you cannot even get justice. In the court of justice, everyone is expected to get a proper judgment, but in Kali-yuga it is stated that even in the court of justice, you cannot get justice without money. That’s a fact. If you have no money, then you cannot hire a good lawyer. And sometimes, in some countries, you have to bribe the judge. This is the position now.

In your country so many big, big men have been arrested for their dishonesty. Kali-yuga is so polluted that the minister is dishonest, the judge is dishonest, and what to speak of ordinary men. So you must get money some way or other. Then you can pass as a nice, polished gentleman. You keep yourself always polished, and within you may be full with all dirty things. But if you have your pockets filled up with coins and notes, then you are nice.

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