Why is ISKCON giving upanayana samskara to shudras and mlecchas?

Isn't it against Ramanujacharya's teachings?

In his Brahma sutra (Vedanta sutra) bhashya, Ramanujacharya says (1:3:36) that Shudras are not fit for upanayana.

ISKCON says they follow Ramanujacharya and yet they seem to be going against his teachings.

So on what basis does ISKCON perform the upanayana samskara for shudras and mlecchas?

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    Where did you come across ISKCON's claim that they follow Ramanujacharya ? Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 11:26
  • The reason given is the lack of sin (presumably of a specific kind), which makes the ceremony pointless. There is no implication of a downside of doing so. Thus making an effort to avoid teaching Śūdra is pointless, so why should Iskon bother? Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 18:46
  • @AupakaranaAbhibhaa, by definition, doing takes effort. avoiding doesn't take effort. going out of the way to do upanayana for non-dwijas seems a bit fishy.
    – ram
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 21:45
  • @ram The effort to explain the concept to people would, in many situations, be more difficult than just doing the extra upanayanas. Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 22:01
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    ISKCON is one of the Gaudiya Vaishnava organisations, and Ramanuja belongs to another Vaishnava lineage/ tradition, ie sampradaya. Thus Iskcon are not followers of Ramanuja. As far as I know in Iskcon they never give initiation (upanayana) to people who are Shudras or mlecchas. So the assumption of the question is wrong and opinion based. Commented Oct 16, 2020 at 10:03

2 Answers 2


As ISKCON's Governing Body Commission (GBC) clarified recently while appointing female dīkṣā gurus, they rely on the teachings of Swami Prabhupada and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and not that of Ramanujacharya:

The primary bases for this decision are the expressed desires and instructions on guru qualifications of ISKCON's Founder-acarya His Divine Grace Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.


We recognize that some members and friends of ISKCON may object to this resolution based on their own reading of sastra, their own social experiences, or deeply held Vaisnava convictions.


In the meantime, we humbly request ISKCON devotees to see this resolution in the light of the inclusiveness of Lord Chaitanya and our previous acaryas, and as facilitating senior, mature and exemplary followers of Srila Prabhupada in their dedicated service to him and his ISKCON. Please bless them in this new important spiritual responsibility.

So one who is spreading krsna-upadesa, simply repeat what is said by Krsna, then you become acarya. (...) Suppose you have got now ten thousand. We shall expand to hundred thousand. That is required. Then hundred thousand to million, and million to ten million. So there will be no scarcity of acarya, and people will understand Krsna consciousness very easily.

(Lecture on Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 1.13 – April 6, 1975, Mayapur)

As for upanayana or brāhmaṇa initiation performed for "śūdra" and "mleccha" disciples, this is what Prabhupada has stated:

Similarly, a disciple's qualifications must be observed by the spiritual master before he is accepted as a disciple. In our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, the requirement is that one must be prepared to give up the four pillars of sinful life — illicit sex, meat-eating, intoxication and gambling. In Western countries especially, we first observe whether a potential disciple is prepared to follow the regulative principles. Then he is given the name of a Vaiṣṇava servant and initiated to chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, at least sixteen rounds daily. In this way the disciple renders devotional service under the guidance of the spiritual master or his representative for at least six months to a year. He is then recommended for a second initiation, during which a sacred thread is offered and the disciple is accepted as a bona fide brāhmaṇa. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura introduced the system of giving the sacred thread to a bona fide Vaiṣṇava, and we are following in his footsteps.

The qualifications of a bona fide disciple are described in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.10.6) as follows:

amānya-matsaro dakṣo nirmamo dṛḍha-sauhṛdaḥ
asatvaro ’rtha-jijñāsur anasūyur amogha-vāk ॥ 11.10.6 ॥

The disciple must have the following qualifications. He must give up interest in the material bodily conception. He must give up material lust, anger, greed, illusion, madness and envy. He should be interested only in understanding the science of God, and he should be ready to consider all points in this matter. He should no longer think, “I am this body,” or, “This thing belongs to me.” One must love the spiritual master with unflinching faith, and one must be very steady and fixed. The bona fide disciple should be inquisitive to understand transcendental subject matter. He must not search out faults among good qualities, and he should no longer be interested in material topics. His only interest should be Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

He states the same in a letter dated January 23, 1974:

We are criticizing the caste brahmanas for saying that the Americans and Europeans cannot be awarded brahmana initiation, because according to Vedic sastra, anyone who is properly trained up under a bonafide spiritual master, can become twice born.

  • chaitanya mahaprabhu followed ramanujacharya Commented Oct 16, 2020 at 18:24
  • I appreciate your effort to answer the question asked, but it's a bit unappreciative to write an answer to a question which is about to get closed :) Commented Oct 16, 2020 at 20:36
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    @PashamVishnuVardhanGoud If what you say is true, why did Chaitanya Mahaprabhu found a separate sect/philosophy? Commented Oct 17, 2020 at 13:34
  • @brahmajijnasa I'm not one of the close-voters and I edited the question to make it a little more objective so the issue can be properly addressed. So I don't see why I cannot answer the question. If I may ask why do you want to the close the question even after the edit? You want it to remain unanswered? Commented Oct 17, 2020 at 13:37
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    If OP makes a wrong claim, it needs to be clarified in an answer. 'Opinion-based' means asking for opinions of users on any subject - in this case he's not seeking opinions, he's simply asserting that ISKCON follows Ramanujacharya & asking a follow up question. @brahmajijnasa Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 13:48

In this age of kalliyuga everyone is a born shudra. So, the beautiful part of this age is that so-called shudra and malechha will be ruling the world.

जन्मना जायते शूद्रः संस्कारात् द्विज उच्यते | वेद–पाठात् भवेत् विप्रः ब्रह्म जानाती ब्राह्मणः ||

Janmana jayate sudrah, samskarat dwij uchchte,

Veda pathnat bhavet viprah, brahma janati brahmanah

Meaning: In Vedic culture by birth everyone is Sudra(lower caste), by accepting Samskara (Purificatory process) one becomes a Dvija(Twice Born), By study of Veda one becomes Vipra, Knower of Brahman is Brahmana. It means a true brahmin has the divine vision, knowledge and powers.

The upnayana samskara is the next birth or revelation to start Brahman Jijnyasa. Lord Srikrishna Chaitanya pioneered this open system and allowed everyone to get God realization.

Ref/source: skanda purana vol 18 book vi , nagar kanda , chapter 239 verse 31-34

  • Please also quote exact verses if possible
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 16:46

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