Only he who, through firm jnana, is freed from the ‘I am the body’ ego is a true Brahmin and a true sannyasin. However, the ego borne on their heads by Brahmins who are proud of their caste and by sannyasins who are proud of their asrama is extremely difficult indeed to get rid of completely.
Guru Vachaka Kovai v. 162
The asramas are the four stages of life: brahmacharya (celibate student), grihastha (householder) vanaprastha (one who has retired with his wife to the forest to lead a meditative life) and sannyasa (renunciate monk). Bhagavan often pointed out that those who choose to be sannyasins carry in their mind the idea ‘I am a sannyasin’. True sannyasa, he said, can be compared to a ripe fruit dropping from a tree. It is something that happens when one is ready for it, not when one makes a conscious choice to follow that particular lifestyle.
Bhagavan: Only those who, as enquirers, have realized their true nature shining within their hearts, are Brahmins, possessors of jnana.
A Brahmin is one who has a heart that possesses the true jnana experience and cool compassion in his mind.
[Padamalai p 136, vv. 55, 56.]
One does not become a Brahmin merely by the comprehensive mastery of chanting the four Vedas so long as one continues to perceive objects as separate from oneself. Only he who has known the destruction of the ego that has learned the Vedas is, in truth, a Brahmin who has known the purport of the Vedas. He who has not seen this destruction will fall from his Self-state, as a hair falls from the head; he will be censured by others and swelter mentally.
Guru Vachaka Kovai v. 163
Question: Are not the Brahmins considered to be the priests or intermediaries between God and others?
Bhagavan: Yes. But who is a Brahmin? A Brahmin is one who has realized Brahman. Such a one has no sense of individuality in him. He cannot think that he acts as an intermediary.
[Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no. 594.]