Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad introduced the West to the four regulative principles: no meat-eating, no intoxication, no illicit sex, and no gambling. He showed that in order to purify our consciousness and make progress in spiritual life, it is necessary to abstain from these four bad habits.
As you can imagine, it is very difficult to give up these sinful activities. For most people, especially in the West, these four basic bad habits are the four primary necessities of life.
In an amusing but telling anecdote, Srila Prabhupad relates how one of his godbrothers, Sri Goswami Bannerjee, had the opportunity to meet the Marquis of Zetland in London in 1935. The marquis — the Earl of Ronaldshay, the former MP for Hornsey (1907-1916), the former Governor of Bengal (1917-1922), and Secretary of State for India (1935-1940) — asked:
"Can you make me brahmana?"
The Vedic varnasrama-dharma system is divided into four social orders or classes, with the brahmana (intellectual) class on the highest echelon. Lord Zetland, who would certainly have known about the varnasrama system from his colonial duties in India, was perhaps seeking to add one more noble title to his peerage...
"Yes, why not?" Sri Goswami Bannerjee replied. "We can make anyone a brahmana, provided they follow these four principles: no meat-eating, no intoxication, no illicit sex, and no gambling. If you can do this then you can become a brahmana."
Lord Zetland's retort was incredulous: "That's impossible!"