In Dona Brahmana Sutta, a Buddhist scripture, Buddha reminds a Brahmin named Dona about five types of Brahmins as described by Vedic Seers.

The blessed one said, "Dona, those ancient sages the makers, those handing down the tradition of the scriptures, which at present are sung, handed down, collected and are re -sung and recited now, are the following. Such as Aṭṭhaka, Vāmaka, Vāmadeva, Vessāmitta, Yamtaggi, Angīrasa, Bhāradvāja, Vāseṭṭha, Kassapa and Bhagu. They specify these five kinds of Brahmins :-

  • The one similar to Brahma (brahmasamaṃ),
  • The one similar to Deva (devasamaṃ),
  • The one on the boundary (mariyādaṃ),
  • The one who has split the boundary (sambhinnamariyādaṃ) and
  • The Brahmin outcaste (brāhmaṇacaṇḍālaṃ, Chandala as a Brahmin)

Buddha then goes on to explain each of those types. Since the discourse is very long I am not quoting it here.

My question is, which Hindu scripture mentions these five kinds of Brahmins?

1 Answer 1


The closest description of the brāhmaṇa types I could find is from Śānti-parva of Mahābhārata:


Yudhishthira said, 'O grandsire, amongst Brahmanas some are engaged in the duties proper to their order, while others are engaged in other duties. Tell me the difference between these two classes!'

Bhishma said, 'Those Brahmanas, O king, that are possessed of learning and beneficent features, and that look upon all creatures with an equal eye, are said to be equal to Brahma. They that are conversant with the Riches, the Yajuses and the Samans, and who are devoted to the practices of their order, are, O king, equal to the very gods. Those, however, amongst them that are not well-born and not devoted to the duties of their order, and are, besides wedded to evil practices, are like Sudras. A virtuous king should realise tribute from and impress without pay into the public service those Brahmanas that are not possessed of Vedic lore and that have not their own fires to worship.

They that are employed in courts of justice for summoning people, they that perform worship for others for a fee, they that perform the sacrifices of Vaisyas and Sudras, they that officiate in sacrifices on behalf of a whole village, and they that make voyages on the ocean,--these five are regarded as Chandalas among Brahmanas.

They amongst them that become Ritwikas, Purohitas, counsellors, envoys, and messengers, become, O king, equal to Kshatriyas. They amongst them that ride horses or elephants or cars or become foot-soldiers, become, O king, equal to Vaisyas....'

$ In the Critical Edition of Mahābhārata, this is Chapter 77.

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