Brahmana

Also spelled brahmin or brahman ("possessor of Brahma"), highest ranking of the four varnas. The study and recitation of the sacred scriptures and scholarship is traditionally reserved for them.

Brahmanas act as advisors and ministers of ruling chiefs. Their traditional position is as priests, ministering both in temples and at domestic rites. The brahmana family priest (purohita) officiates at weddings, funerals, and other ceremonial occasions.

The purity of the brahmanas is maintained through the observance of numerous restrictions, many of which relate to diet and contact with lower castes. Most brahmanas are strictly vegetarian and must abstain from certain occupations. They may not plow or handle any impure material, such as leather or hides, but they may farm and do such agricultural work as does not violate these specific restrictions. They may also accept employment as domestic servants; many well-to-do Hindus have brahmana cooks, who are valued because members of all castes may eat the food that they prepare.
(Brittanica CD. Version 97. Encyclopaedia Brittanica Inc., 1997)

Quotes:

"Brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras are distinguished by the qualities born of their own natures in accordance with the material modes, O chastiser of the enemy."
(BG 18.41)

"Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness--these are the natural qualities by which the brahmanas work."
(BG 18.42)

"If the kingly administrative order, being unrestricted in sense control, offends the brahmana order and enrages them, then the fire of that rage burns up the whole body of the royal family and brings grief upon all."
(SB 1.7.48)

"Maharaja Yudhisthira, whose enemy was never born, performed his daily morning duties by praying, offering fire sacrifice to the sun-god, and offering obeisances, grains, cows, land and gold to the brahmanas. He then entered the palace to pay respects to the elderly. However, he could not find his uncles or aunt, the daughter of King Subala."
(SB 1.13.31)

"You [the king] are always the protector of the deserving living beings, such as brahmanas, children, cows, women and the diseased. Could you not give them protection when they approached you for shelter?"
(SB 1.14.41)

"Suta Gosvami said: O learned brahmanas, Maharaja Pariksit then began to rule over the world as a great devotee of the Lord under the instructions of the best of the twice-born brahmanas. He ruled by those great qualities which were foretold by expert astrologers at the time of his birth."
(SB 1.16.1)

"The brahmanas were not only given well-fed cows in charity, but also gold, gold coins, bedding, clothing, animal-skin seats, blankets, horses, elephants, girls and sufficient land for maintenance."
(SB 3.3.27)

"Thereafter they offered the brahmanas highly delicious foodstuffs first offered to the Personality of Godhead and offered their respectful obeisances by touching their heads to the ground. They lived perfectly by protecting the cows and the brahmanas."
(SB 3.3.28)

"When the doormen of Vaikunthaloka, who were certainly devotees of the Lord, found that they were going to be cursed by the brahmanas, they at once became very much afraid and fell down at the feet of the brahmanas in great anxiety, for a brahmana's curse cannot be counteracted by any kind of weapon."
(SB 3.15.35)

"O Lord, You are the supreme director of the brahminical culture. Your considering the brahmanas to be in the highest position is Your example for teaching others. Actually You are the supreme worshipable Deity, not only for the gods but for the brahmanas also."
(SB 3.16.17)

"Manu replied: To expand himself in Vedic knowledge, Lord Brahma, the personified Veda, from his face created you, the brahmanas, who are full of austerity, knowledge and mystic power and are averse to sense gratification."
(SB 3.22.2)

"Among human beings, the society which is divided according to quality and work is best, and in that society, the intelligent men, who are designated as brahmanas, are best. Among the brahmanas, one who has studied the Vedas is the best, and among the brahmanas who have studied the Vedas, one who knows the actual purport of Veda is the best.

"Better than the brahmana who knows the purpose of the Vedas is he who can dissipate all doubts, and better than him is one who strictly follows the brahminical principles. Better than him is one who is liberated from all material contamination, and better than him is a pure devotee, who executes devotional service without expectation of reward."
(SB 3.29.31-32)

"The great sages began to think that although a brahmana is peaceful and impartial because he is equal to everyone, it is still not his duty to neglect poor humans. By such neglect, a brahmana's spiritual power diminishes, just as water kept in a cracked pot leaks out."
(SB 4.14.41)

"Maharaja Prthu was an unrivaled king and possessed the scepter for ruling all the seven islands on the surface of the globe. No one could disobey his irrevocable orders but the saintly persons, the brahmanas and the descendants of the Supreme Personality of Godhead [the Vaisnavas]."
(SB 4.21.12)

"The brahmanas and Vaisnavas are personally glorified by their characteristic powers of tolerance, penance, knowledge and education. By dint of all these spiritual assets, Vaisnavas are more powerful than royalty. It is therefore advised that the princely order not exhibit its material prowess before these two communities and should avoid offending them."
(SB 4.21.37)

"By regular service to the brahmanas and Vaisnavas, one can clear the dirt from his heart and thus enjoy supreme peace and liberation from material attachment and be satisfied. In this world there is no fruitive activity superior to serving the brahmana class, for this can bring pleasure to the demigods, for whom the many sacrifices are recommended."
(SB 4.21.40)

"Although the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Ananta, eats through the fire sacrifices offered in the names of the different demigods, He does not take as much pleasure in eating through fire as He does in accepting offerings through the mouths of learned sages and devotees, for then He does not leave the association of devotees."
(SB 4.21.41)

"In brahminical culture a brahmana's transcendental position is eternally maintained because the injunctions of the Vedas are accepted with faith, austerity, scriptural conclusions, full sense and mind control, and meditation. In this way the real goal of life is illuminated, just as one's face is fully reflected in a clear mirror."
(SB 4.21.42)

"O respectable personalities present here, I beg the blessings of all of you that I may perpetually carry on my crown the dust of the lotus feet of such brahmanas and Vaisnavas until the end of my life. He who can carry such dust on his head is very soon relieved of all the reactions which arise from sinful life, and eventually he develops all good and desirable qualities."
(SB 4.21.43)

"Whoever acquires the brahminical qualifications--whose only wealth is good behavior, who is grateful and who takes shelter of experienced persons--gets all the opulence of the world. I therefore wish that the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His associates be pleased with the brahmana class, with the cows and with me."
(SB 4.21.44)

"Any person upon whom the brahmanas and Vaisnavas are pleased can achieve anything which is very rare to obtain in this world as well as after death. Not only that, but one also receives the favor of the auspicious Lord Siva and Lord Visnu, who accompany the brahmanas and Vaisnavas."
(SB 4.22.8)

"The Vedas are My eternal transcendental sound incarnation. Therefore the Vedas are sabda-brahma. In this world, the brahmanas thoroughly study all the Vedas, and because they assimilate the Vedic conclusions, they are also to be considered the Vedas personified. The brahmanas are situated in the supreme transcendental mode of nature--sattva-guna. Because of this, they are fixed in mind control [sama], sense control [dama], and truthfulness [satya]. They describe the Vedas in their original sense, and out of mercy [anugraha] they preach the purpose of the Vedas to all conditioned souls. They practice penance [tapasya] and tolerance [titiksa], and they realize the position of the living entity and the Supreme Lord [anubhava]. These are the eight qualifications of the brahmanas. Therefore among all living entities, no one is superior to the brahmanas."
(SB 5.5.24)

"I am fully opulent, almighty and superior to Lord Brahma and Indra, the King of the heavenly planets. I am also the bestower of all happiness obtained in the heavenly kingdom and by liberation. Nonetheless, the brahmanas do not seek material comforts from Me. They are very pure and do not want to possess anything. They simply engage in My devotional service. What is the need of their asking for material benefits from anyone else?"
(SB 5.5.25)

"In the beginning this brahmana named Ajamila studied all the Vedic literatures. He was a reservoir of good character, good conduct and good qualities. Firmly established in executing all the Vedic injunctions, he was very mild and gentle, and he kept his mind and senses under control. Furthermore, he was always truthful, he knew how to chant the Vedic mantras, and he was also very pure. Ajamila was very respectful to his spiritual master, the fire-god, guests, and the elderly members of his household. Indeed, he was free from false prestige. He was upright, benevolent to all living entities, and well behaved. He would never speak nonsense or envy anyone."
(SB 6.1.56-57)

"O exalted governors of various planets, the true brahmana, who has no material possessions, maintains himself by the profession of accepting silonchana. In other words, he picks up grains left in the field and on the ground in the wholesale marketplace. By this means, householder brahmanas who actually abide by the principles of austerity and penance maintain themselves and their families and perform all necessary pious activities. A brahmana who desires to achieve happiness by gaining wealth through professional priesthood must certainly have a very low mind. How shall I accept such priesthood?"
(SB 6.7.36)

"When one is envious of the demigods, who represent the Supreme Personality of Godhead, of the Vedas, which give all knowledge, of the cows, brahmanas, Vaisnavas and religious principles, and ultimately of Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he and his civilization will be vanquished without delay."
(SB 7.4.27)

"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."
(SB 7.9.10)

"As an alternative, a brahmana may also take to the vaisya's occupational duty of agriculture, cow protection, or trade. He may depend on that which he has received without begging, he may beg in the paddy field every day, he may collect paddy left in a field by its proprietor, or he may collect food grains left here and there in the shops of grain dealers. These are four means of livelihood that may also be adopted by brahmanas. Among these four, each of them in succession is better than the one preceding it."
(SB 7.11.16)

"The symptoms of a brahmana are control of the mind, control of the senses, austerity and penance, cleanliness, satisfaction, forgiveness, simplicity, knowledge, mercy, truthfulness, and complete surrender to the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
(SB 7.11.21)

"A twice-born brahmana [dvija] gains his life by the grace of his parents through the process of purification known as garbhadhana. There are also other processes of purification, until the end of life, when the funeral ceremony [antyesti-kriya] is performed. Thus in due course a qualified brahmana becomes uninterested in materialistic activities and sacrifices, but he offers the sensual sacrifices, in full knowledge, into the working senses, which are illuminated by the fire of knowledge."
(SB 7.15.52)

"Bali Maharaja has now become extremely powerful because of the benedictions given him by the brahmanas, but when he later insults the brahmanas, he will be vanquished, along with his friends and assistants."
(SB 8.15.31)

"For a brahmana, austerity and learning are certainly auspicious, but when acquired by a person who is not gentle, such austerity and learning are most dangerous."
(SB 9.4.70)

"Maharaja Khatvanga thought: Not even my life is dearer to me than the brahminical culture and the brahmanas, who are worshiped by my family. What then is to be said of my kingdom, land, wife, children and opulence? Nothing is dearer to me than the brahmanas."
(SB 9.9.43)

"My dear son, we are all brahmanas and have become worshipable for the people in general because of our quality of forgiveness. It is because of this quality that Lord Brahma, the supreme spiritual master of this universe, has achieved his post. "The duty of a brahmana is to culture the quality of forgiveness, which is illuminating like the sun. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari, is pleased with those who are forgiving."
(SB 9.15.39-40)