viprad dvi-sad-guna-yutad aravinda-nabha-
padaravinda-vimukhat svapacam varistham
pranam punati sa kulam na tu bhurimanah
Translation by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
If a brahmana has all twelve of the brahminical qualifications [as they are stated in the book called Sanat-sujata] but is not a devotee and is averse to the lotus feet of the Lord, he is certainly lower than a devotee who is a dog-eater but who has dedicated everything — mind, words, activities, wealth and life — to the Supreme Lord. Such a devotee is better than such a brahmana because the devotee can purify his whole family, whereas the so-called brahmana in a position of false prestige cannot purify even himself.
Purport by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
Here is a statement by Prahlada Maharaja, one of the twelve authorities, regarding the distinction between a devotee and a brahmana expert in karma-kanda, or Vedic ritualistic ceremonies. There are four varnas and four asramas, which divide human society, but the central principle is to become a first-class pure devotee. It is said in the Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya:
jatih sastram japas tapah
“If one is born in a high family like that of a brahmana, ksatriya or vaisya but is not a devotee of the Lord, all his good qualifications as a brahmana, ksatriya or vaisya are null and void. Indeed, they are considered decorations of a dead body.”
In this verse Prahlada Maharaja speaks of the vipras, the learned brahmanas. The learned brahmana is considered best among the divisions of brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra, but a devotee born in a low candala family is better than such brahmanas, not to speak of the ksatriyas, vaisyas and others. A devotee is better than anyone, for he is in the transcendental position on the Brahman platform.
mam ca yo vyabhicarena
sa gunan samatityaitan
“One who engages in full devotional service, who does not fall down in any circumstance, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman.” (Bg. 14.26) The twelve qualities of a first-class brahmana, as stated in the book called Sanat-sujata, are as follows:
jñanam ca satyam ca damah srutam ca
hy amatsaryam hris titiksanasuya
yajñas ca danam ca dhrtih samas ca
maha-vrata dvadasa brahmanasya
The European and American devotees in the Krsna consciousness movement are sometimes accepted as brahmanas, but the so-called caste brahmanas are very much envious of them. In answer to such envy, Prahlada Maharaja says that one who has been born in a brahmana family but is falsely proud of his prestigious position cannot even purify himself, not to speak of his family, whereas if a candala, a lowborn person, is a devotee and has fully surrendered unto the lotus feet of the Lord, he can purify his entire family. We have had actual experience of how Americans and Europeans, because of their full Krsna consciousness, have purified their whole families, so much so that a mother of a devotee, at the time of her death, inquired about Krsna with her last breath. Therefore it is theoretically true and has been practically proven that a devotee can give the best service to his family, his community, his society and his nation. The foolish accuse a devotee of following the principle of escapism, but actually the fact is that a devotee is the right person to elevate his family. A devotee engages everything in the service of the Lord, and therefore he is always exalted.