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Dandavats! All Glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga!

Respecting Our Women In Iskcon

Saturday, 12 May 2018 / Published in Articles, Kesava Krsna Dasa / 19,694 views

By Kesava Krsna Dasa

For some reason the subject of womanhood and the roles they play within our midst has raised strong feelings, usually centred on celibacy and the potential for victimisation. This shows that women are not really the problem – our inordinate fixation on matters ‘celibate’ is the problem.

On one hand, a section of us wants a ‘purity’ of spiritual existence based on strict traditional chastity roles for our women – though various interpretations of them differ, and on the other hand, another section appeals for adaptation to the modern realities of our men and women roles in service to the Lord.

These realities can become unreal when our artificial impositions of keeping the sexes ‘apart’ are based on the fear of victimisation. Was there ever an indirect historic Islamic influence somewhere in this, as some surmise?

Each time a male devotee interacts with a female; must it always be tinged with this fear? Where can this fear lead us to?

To be kept ‘apart’ on the basis of victimisation pressures entails having to focus our energy and thoughts on that which distracts us from our ultimate spiritual goals in life. It can also disrupt the family unity so essential for us – as an Iskcon family, and in our biological families.

The very notion that the sexes stay apart is not always due to avoiding just the ‘Maya factor,’ but to the issue of celibacy itself that often wedges in between healthy and respectful dealings between the sexes.

How often have we observed how boys and girls used to Western influences try to adapt to rules of celibacy, and in so doing work out how to relate to the one another in service to the Lord?

The girls, knowing they are potential ‘Maya-devis’ have to bashfully conceal their faces from celibate males, whereas the celibate males try to communicate with ‘Maya-devis’ whilst looking the other way. Are there hints of awkwardness?

In normal cultured family living, these same boys and girls do not have to behave in ‘celibate’ ways with their own sisters and brothers – there is no need to. Yet these celibacy issues can cause awkwardness and misunderstanding between us because the male and female equation is reduced to a potential for fall down.

What is the result of this? It is usually brief, cautious interactions tinged with fear of a illicit liaison, or fear that others might see the interaction suspiciously. Is this fear necessary to keep us apart? Is this fear the ‘love’ we optimistically speak of?

Does this celibacy dynamic infringe on our ability to live and serve as brothers and sisters, uncles and aunties, fathers and mothers within an Iskcon family?

Have we ever noticed how in recent Iskcon times, we have our Congregational set-up which consist mostly of families? When males and females from these families interact, we often see normal, healthy relationships without artificial celibacy uncertainties affecting them. Is there something we can learn from?

No matter what our renunciates say about the need to get away from family life, the mature among them urge of the necessity for healthy and normal family living that contributes towards a sane and balanced society.

If we are affected with on-going issues concerning the sexes and their roles, does this indicate an imbalance somewhere in our own Iskcon family? Or is it our biases that misinterpret them?

The fact that we are either male or female means we all have a definite role to play. There might be some overlapping as in the case of ladies giving class in front of renunciates.

It could be that a male temple president thinks he is running ‘his’ temple very nicely, when in fact it is the humble ladies who are doing so, in the background. He gets the credit.

It could be that a brahmacari is chanting japa somewhere, and out of necessity, a Mataji has to be in his presence for service to the Lord. The brahmacari, thinking of his sacred celibacy status may deem her presence an intrusion into his space.

Then we have to ask, is the space of Iskcon for all of us, or is it to be partitioned with anti-family values? While acknowledging that celibacy values apply for all of us, we have a tendency to politicise them, or over-react.

Perhaps there is justification for this in some cases. Do any of us think that if in normal society, if all women were treated with due respect and protection, they would have begun all these women empowerment and equality movements that have increased in influence worldwide?

If our devotee ladies were also treated with deserving respect over the years, would we not see some of the movement towards women empowerment within our ranks as well?

The men have to admit, that their sense of supposed superiority over women is not always deserved. When a woman marries a male devotee, she sometimes sees his true worth, quite different from the one portrayed in public.

In other words, the protection and assurance sought by a woman in marriage is not always met. Those strong arms of a protective husband that Srila Prabhupada sometimes referred mean not only physical protection, but also all round assurance. Understandably, an unprotected woman is not very happy. We can compound this unhappiness by our distant dealings based on the same ‘illicit’ fear.

When supposed superiority mixes with the penchant for purist avoidance, and if any problems arise there, we more or less know who will come off worse in those situations.

This is the time of the year when Mother’s Day is observed, and the sooner we realise the importance of our sisters and mothers in service to Iskcon, the better. And one does not have to be a ‘liberal’ to agree on this.

Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa

Ananda Vrindavaneshwari Devi Dasi - Interview
A Tribute to our Mothers

127 Responses to “Respecting Our Women In Iskcon”

  1. Murari Das says :

    Dear Kesava Krsna Prabhu, PAMHO AGTSP

    There is nothing wrong with women or men. But the two of them just do not go together, as Srila Prabhupada stressed many times that they should not mingle and if so then very cautiously. This is basic civilization and sets us apart from Animals;

    “If a butter pot and fire are kept together, the butter within the pot will certainly melt. Woman is compared to fire, and man is compared to a butter pot. However advanced one may be in restraining the senses, it is almost impossible for a man to keep himself controlled in the presence of a woman, even if she is his own daughter, mother or sister. Indeed, his mind is agitated even if one is in the renounced order of life. Therefore, Vedic civilization carefully restricts mingling between men and women. If one cannot understand the basic principle of restraining association between man and woman, he is to be considered an animal.”
    >>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 7.12.9

    The senses are too strong and fear of maya and falldown is very healthy and should be inculcated by anyone who is serious about spiritual life. We have seen too many devotees become complacent in their dealings, only to succumb to maya in time.

    “As long as a living entity is not completely self-realized — as long as he is not independent of the misconception of identifying with his body, which is nothing but a reflection of the original body and senses — he cannot be relieved of the conception of duality, which is epitomized by the duality between man and woman. Thus there is every chance that he will fall down because his intelligence is bewildered.”
    >>>Ref. Vedabase=> SB 7.12.10, text

    In our Krsna consciousness movement it is advised that the sannyasis and brahmacaris keep strictly aloof from the association of women so that there will be no chance of their falling down again as victims of lusty desires.”
    >>>Ref. Vedabase=> SB 7.15.36, text

    Your conception of family is based on the materialistic, western model; with men and women having ‘normal healthy relationships’ even across different families (“..When males and females from these families interact, we often see normal, healthy relationships without artificial celibacy uncertainties affecting them”….). Yet Srila Prabhupada always stressed repeatedly that in Vedic culture there was restriction of free mixing even WITHIN FAMILIES (see 1st quote above; and SB 9.19.7 which SP would quote repeatedly).

    Ys, MD

  2. vishnujanadasa says :

    A devotee once asked Srila Prabhupada “(paraphrased) despite the fact that we have the perfect philosophy, the perfect guru, and the perfect society, why are we having so many problems in ISKCON?” Srila Prabhupada replied, “because the sannyasis and brahmacaris are associating too closely with the women.”

    About associating with women, Chanakya Pandit says, “One should not even sit next to one’s mother, sister, or daughter.” Srila Prabhupada would quote this in regards to the power of maya. I think most people in ISKCON (and I imagine most Gaudiyas) know this quote.

    Every culture, not just Islam, separates men and women. Churches used to do this world wide, including America, up to about 60 years ago. Last time I went to Greece to my father’s old village people were still doing this. The Athenians, Spartans, and other Greek city-states did this from ancient times, as did the Persians, Babylonians, Chinese, and other cultures as well. Even horse trainers separate the stallions from the mares for peak performance.

  3. Murari Das says :

    Also, regarding “Women’s empowerment”, Srila Prabhupada mentioned in a conversation (Room Conversation with writer, Sandy Nixon — July 13, 1975, Philadelphia) that it was started and propagated by lusty men who wanted to lure chaste and protected women out of their protected situations to exploit them.

    This article is titled “Respecting our Women In Iskcon”. If we really want to show respect for the women in ISKCON we should rather be encouraging a return to traditional Vedic (Varnasrama) values as a role for women who would then be better cared for in a family and allowed to engage in activities more suited to their nature and not sent out to ‘earn a living’ and be exploited by unscrupulous men.

    One of the ways you advocate for us to ‘respect’ women is to more freely interact with them and not be so restricted in our communication with them. Yet respect as defined in Vedic terms is to not just be able to approach any woman and start a conversation with her (this is actually an insult). Rather one should not deal with her directly, and in case of services deal with her through her husband or male relatives. It may be that this is not completely possible at present due to societal setup, but at least we should understand the ideal and work towards it.

    These restrictions are very essential as free mixing of the sexes will most certainly lead to degradation of society [again; see SB 7.12.9 text and purport]

    Srila Prabhupada writes in BG 16.7 purport how the social position of women should be, and this is repeated in His Divine Grace’s lectures, purport and conversations etc. The modern egalitarian influences that have permeated ISKCON in recent times have no place in its vaikuntha spiritual culture carefully handed down to us by Srila Prabhupada, which is supposed to be the panacea for this demonic suicidal civilization which is progressively causing moral decadence on an unprecedented level.

    Srila Prabhupada also states in BG 16.7,purport how due to neglect of these rules;
    “…marriage is practically now an imagination in human society. Nor is the moral condition of woman very good now. The demons, therefore, do not accept any instruction which is good for society, and because they do not follow the experience of great sages and the rules and regulations laid down by the sages, the social condition of the demoniac people is very miserable.”
    >>> Ref. VedaBase => Bg 16.7

    Thank you,

  4. Sita Rama 108 says :

    Kesava Krsna Prabhu,
    You make some very inspiring points here. I particularly appreciate your point that for Mother’s Day we should show some honor to our spiritual mothers in ISKCON. I am going to make a point of at least wishing a happy Mother’s Day to female Vaisnava’s who I am acquainted with. Thank you,
    Your servant,
    Sita Rama das

  5. pustakrishna says :

    It is very interesting to hear the comments above, which mostly consist of very conservative brahmachary values. Really, I was surprised to see this, given the history of ISKCON. When ISKCON was first established, nearly everyone was about 20 years old, more or less. For men, pretty much at their physiologic peak of sexual agitation. The practice of controlling the senses involved praying to Krishna for shelter, chanting Japa, praying to Krishna for shelter, going out on sankirtan, praying to Krishna for shelter, going to sleep at night, praying to Krishna for shelter, praying to Krishna to remind one of praying to Krishna for shelter….In other words, the practice of Krishna consciousness in one’s youth is a battlefield internally.

    I do not think that it was any easier for the brahmacharinis. They not only had to remain engaged in service, but they had to counteract the normal desire to get married and have a family. Frankly, I remember how travelling in Africa to stay in homes of the Indian families was a challenge. One would see how well-adjusted they seemed. Really, we would compare this to the turmoil we often saw in the temples, and we would wonder if we lived in an ashram or an asylum sometimes. It was a challenge.

    Srila Prabhupad was often asked by brahmacharies that it was difficult to chant their rounds in the temple room because they would hear the voices of the ladies chanting the holy names. Srila Prabhupad never took the side of the brahmacharies. He would say that you need to tolerate. We had a great experiment of interaction between the men and women in their early days of practice in the West. They were often tumultuous days. The men and women who came to live in the temples had various backgrounds, sometimes not too savory.

    Finally, we are left with the ultimate reality that Lord Chaitanya and His representative Srila Prabhupad are patita-pavana, deliver-ers of the most fallen souls. Indeed. The one thing I can say from experience is that Srila Prabhupad had full confidence in the process of Krishna consciousness. But why men and women together, given the topics above…I can only conclude that Srila Prabhupad wanted us to see everyone as spirit-souls, and not men nor women. Big challenge for newcomers, but I guarantee you this, those who lived in the temples those days feel they learned the great lesson that we are not these bodies, and are Krishna’s devotees. I will continue this comment in #2PustaKrishnadas

  6. pustakrishna says :

    #2 continued:
    Now, enter the later era of the temples and the sankirtan movement. Few westerners frequent the temples in most places. Mostly East Indian families, wherever they may be. They are very good people, no doubt. Parents encourage their infant children and young children to place their hands together, “make Jai, Jai” and to engage in the sankirtan movement. It is a good thing that the future of ISKCON will perhaps go on like that. But, the revolution to save the world has receded into the back, and the effort to maintain the temples has come to the foreground. (Perhaps too much of a generalization, I realize) For a brahmachary to live in the temple in these circumstances is very difficult indeed, especially when so much praise may be going to householder donors, and less to stalwart practitioners who are at war with Maya, struggling to control their senses, and less interested in becoming part of the Hindu religion and more to delve deeply into the eternal spiritual culture of Krishna consciousness. Really, we must be honest. The monastery life in ISKCON in many places has been pushed down in favor of the religious function that ISKCON now plays to the Indian community. There can be no doubt that the very survival of many western temples depends on the support of their local Indian community, and I have been impressed that while we used to think that if you “scratch an Indian long enough you will find a mayavadi beneath” has been replaced by the fact that the Indian communities throughout the world have become sincere vaishnavas in many, many places…miracle of Srila Prabhupad. He always said that if the Indians saw the westerners taking up Krishna consciousness, it would help them to revive their own. I really am not opposed to this…a soul is a soul…but the revolution of Krishna consciousness to transform the social, political, and religious fabric of society? Time will tell. We must believe that if Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is casting a merciful glance upon ISKCON, everything will be all right in the end. Still, the practice of brahmacharya is a constant challenge, and know that Krishna is within and always witnessing, and helping…pray to Krishna for shelter.

    Hare Krishna, Pusta Krishna das

  7. Part One:

    Murari and Visnujana Prabhus,

    Whatever Srila Prabhupada quotes you aim at me, I’ll take them all upon my head, because I have no issue with any of them.

    The issue at hand is whether one wants to be ‘Celibate’ conscious, or ‘Krishna conscious. If one is Krishna conscious, one will automatically be celibate, aside from engaging the ladies in meaningful services according to their abilities earned through years of educational study.

    All the quotes from Srila Prabhupada made so far come in the category of – in your cases – Don’ts or prohibitions. These, along with the Do’s should help us to remember Krishna, not be fixated on our celibate status.

    The impression is sometimes generated that Iskcon has to evolve around the ‘celibate’ ones, although even good householders are celibate in between precreation, what to speak of our brahmacarinis.

    Murari wrote: “One of the ways you advocate for us to ‘respect’ women is to more freely interact with them and not be so restricted in our communication with them.”

    This is a speculative accusation. Far from encouraging lax mixing of the sexes, this is intended to show how Fear intrudes upon our relationships.

    Visnujana mentioned how many ancient societies kept the sexes apart, but Iskcon is meant to be different from any materialistic society. The separation of the sexes should be done with a Vaikuntha (Without Fear) mood.

    Murari mentioned: “…your conception of family is based on the materialistic, western model; with men and women having ‘normal healthy relationships’ even across different families…”

    This is an Incorrect assumption.

    I wrote that the family standards that we can learn from, was from our devotee and Congregational families, many of whom have high spiritual family standards. If you call these “materialistic,” I say that is an insult to them.

    I am not surprised at these type of responses because I have heard them repeatedly, over the years. Dwelling on the Don’ts or negatives often equals being averse, not only to our own spiritual well being, but to our society of devotees.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  8. Part Two:

    Let us suppose that a ‘celibate’ conscious devotee has issues with our lot in Iskcon and wishes to address them at a meeting, but will not attend the meeting because there are females there.

    Now, whose fault is it that the ‘celibate’ devotee did not attend? Is it that the meeting must conform to his ‘celibate’ conditions? He might have had some good advice to give. Is this being Krishna conscious, which is unlimitedly broad, or is this being ‘celibate’ conscious?

    Because he chose not to attend, does this shows that he is more concerned with the ‘celibacy’ issue than to possibly benefit our society by attending?

    This example shows how our Iskcon family unity can be disrupted by celibacy Fear. This is not Vaikuntha.

    Murari wrote: “we should rather be encouraging a return to traditional Vedic (Varnasrama) values as a role for women…”

    Are we there yet? Do we have VAD in place? No. Under the circumstances we have to utilise what we have now, and that includes educated ladies. The fact that our female devotees went to colleges and universities means they have some expertise or experience to offer our society of devotees. Why should that be wasted on the pretext of celibacy issues?

    If we are all born as Sudras, doesn’t this mean that we all, both male and female, start off in life on an equal footing?

    It can feed the male sense of inadequacy to Fear our female Vaisnavis, as if to be constantly melting with butter consistency.

    It has already been mentioned in the article that women are unhappy without protection. I am all for the need for celibacy, but not for our immature and selfish application of it.

    Visnujana wrote: “A devotee once asked Srila Prabhupada “(paraphrased) despite the fact that we have the perfect philosophy, the perfect guru, and the perfect society, why are we having so many problems in ISKCON?” Srila Prabhupada replied, “because the sannyasis and brahmacaris are associating too closely with the women.”

    I agree. This underscores my point. Fearful and selfish celibacy Will lead to fall down.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  9. Puskaraksa das says :

    Without willing to get involved in this type of controversy, I would just like to highlight the fact that in my humble opinion, both presentations and approaches are valid. It just depends from which angle of vision one places oneself from…

    Brahmacaris and brahmacarinis, as openly and honestly explained by our dear Pusta Krishna Prabhu are generally struggling to drive their mind and senses away from the object of the senses, i.e. the opposite sex.

    However, Srila Prabhupada once stated that all of his female disciples should marry and that all his male disciples should remain celibate… Thereby, we have an intrinseque contradiction!

    Hence, the grihasta ashrama is to be understood to be a compromise, in which the husband is meant to be a brahmacari grihasta.

    In this way, relationships between men and women, besides the natural relationship between husband and wife, still have to be restricted. Therefore, a married man should, for instance, still refrain from talking to any woman privately, besides his own wife.

    However, one should understand that the goal is to transcend this duality in between attraction and aversion, which is often the syndrom of a neophite devotee. The goal is to establish oneself on the transcendental platform:

    brahma-bhutah prasannatma
    na socati na kankshati
    samah sarveshu bhuteshu
    mad-bhaktim labhate param

    One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman and becomes fully joyful. He never laments or desires to have anything. He is equally disposed toward every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me. (B.g. 18.54)

    In his purport, Srila Prabhupada states:

    “In the material concept of life, when one works for sense gratification, there is misery, but in the absolute world, when one is engaged in pure devotional service, there is no misery. The devotee in Krishna consciousness has nothing for which to lament or desire. Since God is full, a living entity who is engaged in God’s service, in Krishna consciousness, becomes also full in himself. He is just like a river cleansed of all dirty water. Because a pure devotee has no thought other than Krishna, he is naturally always joyful. He does not lament for any material loss or aspire for gain, because he is full in the service of the Lord. He has no desire for material enjoyment, because he knows that every living entity is a fragmental part and parcel of the Supreme Lord and therefore eternally a servant.” …/….

  10. Puskaraksa das says :


    “He does not see, in the material world, someone as higher and someone as lower; higher and lower positions are ephemeral, and a devotee has nothing to do with ephemeral appearances or disappearances. For him stone and gold are of equal value. This is the brahma-bhuta stage, and this stage is attained very easily by the pure devotee. In that stage of existence, the idea of becoming one with the Supreme Brahman and annihilating one’s individuality becomes hellish, the idea of attaining the heavenly kingdom becomes phantasmagoria, and the senses are like serpents’ teeth that are broken. As there is no fear of a serpent with broken teeth, there is no fear from the senses when they are automatically controlled. The world is miserable for the materially infected person, but for a devotee the entire world is as good as Vaikuntha, or the spiritual sky. ” S.P. Purport

    Similarly, Sri Krishna states in Bhagavad-gītā 5.18:

    brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
    śuni caiva śva-pāke ca
    paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśinaḥ

    The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brāhmaṇa, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].

    “A Kṛṣṇa conscious person does not make any distinction between species or castes. The brāhmaṇa and the outcaste may be different from the social point of view, or a dog, a cow, and an elephant may be different from the point of view of species, but these differences of body are meaningless from the viewpoint of a learned transcendentalist. This is due to their relationship to the Supreme, for the Supreme Lord, by His plenary portion as Paramātmā, is present in everyone’s heart. Such an understanding of the Supreme is real knowledge. As far as the bodies are concerned in different castes or different species of life, the Lord is equally kind to everyone because He treats every living being as a friend yet maintains Himself as Paramātmā regardless of the circumstances of the living entities. The Lord as Paramātmā is present both in the outcaste and in the brāhmaṇa, although the body of a brāhmaṇa and that of an outcaste are not the same. The bodies are material productions of different modes of material nature, but the soul and the Supersoul within the body are of the same spiritual quality.” …/….

  11. Puskaraksa das says :


    “The similarity in the quality of the soul and the Supersoul, however, does not make them equal in quantity, for the individual soul is present only in that particular body whereas the Paramātmā is present in each and every body. A Kṛṣṇa conscious person has full knowledge of this, and therefore he is truly learned and has equal vision. The similar characteristics of the soul and Supersoul are that they are both conscious, eternal and blissful. But the difference is that the individual soul is conscious within the limited jurisdiction of the body whereas the Supersoul is conscious of all bodies. The Supersoul is present in all bodies without distinction.” S.P. Purport

    This tends to establish the fact that, on the transcendental platform, one is not agitated anymore by the opposite sex, as one is established in one’s siddha deha and nitya svarupa…

    The lilas of Ramananda Raya are a good example of that. Yet, Lord Caitanya said:

    “Although I am in the renounced order of life, still My mind is sometimes disturbed even upon seeing a wooden form of a woman. But Ramananda Raya is greater than Me. For he always remains undisturbed even when he touches a young woman.”

    Of course, even in dreams, no one should attempt to imitate the extraordinary behavior of Sri Ramananda Raya. He was teaching young girls, the devi-dasis, to portray his dramas by dancing in the temple for Lord Jagannatha’s pleasure. He would also bathe, massage, and dress the bodies of the beautiful girls. In all of creation, only Ramananda Raya possesses this quality of total self-control and absolute detachment.”

    Therefore, one shouldn’t become over optimistic and infatuated while witnessing the premises of detachment rise within himself and should remain on his guard.

    As it is:

    śarat-padmotsavaḿ vaktraḿ
    vacaś ca śravaṇāmṛtam
    hṛdayaḿ kṣura-dhārābhaḿ
    strīṇāḿ ko veda ceṣṭitam

    A woman’s face is as attractive and beautiful as a blossoming lotus flower during autumn. Her words are very sweet, and they give pleasure to the ear, but if we study a woman’s heart, we can understand it to be extremely sharp, like the blade of a razor. Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 6.18

    Even though one should establish a distinction in between a materialistic woman and a lady devotee, still Srila Prabhupada warns us while commenting this verse:

  12. Puskaraksa das says :

    Woman is now depicted very well from the materialistic point of view by Kaśyapa Muni. Women are generally known as the fair sex, and especially in youth, at the age of sixteen or seventeen, women are very attractive to men. Therefore a woman’s face is compared to a blooming lotus flower in autumn. Just as a lotus is extremely beautiful in autumn, a woman at the threshold of youthful beauty is extremely attractive. In Sanskrit a woman’s voice is called nārī-svara because women generally sing and their singing is very attractive. At the present moment, cinema artists, especially female singers, are especially welcome. Some of them earn fabulous amounts of money simply by singing. Therefore, as taught by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, a woman’s singing is dangerous because it can make a sannyāsī fall a victim to the woman. Sannyāsa means giving up the company of women, but if a sannyāsī hears the voice of a woman and sees her beautiful face, he certainly becomes attracted and is sure to fall down. There have been many examples. Even the great sage Viśvāmitra fell a victim to Menakā. Therefore a person desiring to advance in spiritual consciousness must be especially careful not to see a woman’s face or hear a woman’s voice. To see a woman’s face and appreciate its beauty or to hear a woman’s voice and appreciate her singing as very nice is a subtle falldown for a brahmacārī or sannyāsī. Thus the description of a woman’s features by Kaśyapa Muni is very instructive.

    When a woman’s bodily features are attractive, when her face is beautiful and when her voice is sweet, she is naturally a trap for a man. The śāstras advise that when such a woman comes to serve a man, she should be considered to be like a dark well covered by grass. In the fields there are many such wells, and a man who does not know about them drops through the grass and falls down. Thus there are many such instructions. Since the attraction of the material world is based on attraction for women, Kaśyapa Muni thought, “Under the circumstances, who can understand the heart of a woman?” Cāṇakya Paṇḍita has also advised, viśvāso naiva kartavyaḥ strīṣu rāja-kuleṣu ca: “There are two persons one should not trust — a politician and a woman.” These, of course, are authoritative śāstric injunctions, and we should therefore be very careful in our dealings with women. …/…

  13. Puskaraksa das says :


    “Sometimes our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is criticized for mingling men and women, but Kṛṣṇa consciousness is meant for anyone. Whether one is a man or woman does not matter. Lord Kṛṣṇa personally says, striyo vaiśyās tathā śūdrās te ‘pi yānti parāḿ gatim: whether one is a woman, śūdra or vaiśya, not to speak of being a brāhmaṇa or kṣatriya, everyone is fit to return home, back to Godhead, if he strictly follows the instructions of the spiritual master and śāstra. We therefore request all the members of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement — both men and women — not to be attracted by bodily features but only to be attracted by Kṛṣṇa. Then everything will be all right. Otherwise there will be danger.”

    Hoping this finds you all well,
    I remain

    Yours in the service of Srila Prabbhupada and of his faithful servants

    Das dasanudasa
    Puskaraksa das

  14. Payonidhi Das says :

    lets look at the section in Bhagavatam about Puranjana:

    SB 4.25.32, Translation and Purport:

    Nārada continued: My dear King, when Purañjana became so attracted and impatient to touch the girl and enjoy her, the girl also became attracted by his words and accepted his request by smiling. By this time she was certainly attracted by the King.

    By this incident we can understand that when a man is aggressive and begins to woo a woman, the woman becomes attracted to the man. This process is described in the Bhāgavatam (5.5.8) as puṁsaḥ striyā mithunī-bhāvam etam. This attraction is enacted on the platform of sexual life. Thus the sex impulse is the platform of material engagement. This conditional life, the platform of material sense enjoyment, is the cause of forgetfulness of spiritual life. In this way a living entity’s original Kṛṣṇa consciousness becomes covered or converted into material consciousness. Thus one engages in the business of sense gratification.

  15. If we analyse this section of King Puranjana’s story, we’ll notice how natural male aggression, when propelled by lust, sparks the descent into forgetfulness of Krishna, and losing one’s purpose in Krishna consciousness.

    This natural aggression leads the male to think he is superior to females, or, if he is a struggling celibate student, to think he is superior to grhasthas. When one is observing celibacy without experiencing a ‘higher taste,’ then one has to rely on the same primal aggression to try to keep the senses in check.

    In order to defend one’s celibate status (without true taste), it requires aggression – self-defence = aggression. This aggression then becomes misdirected and is often aimed at the object of abnegation (aversion). In order to hopefully ensure comfort or security, one will pursue or try to arrange for more stringent or extreme barriers to safeguard one’s insecurity.

    More often than not, these barriers intrude into other areas of community life. We know the usual frictions that ensue. These aggressive barriers are not the answer to keeping one’s senses in check.

    A natural barrier is formed by ‘higher taste.’ With this higher taste, one’s aggression is then directed for higher pursuits in Krishna consciousness, and a secure friendly disposition finds agreeable acceptance for all community members.

    Such a secure feeling frees one from the fear of insecurity, which translates into disrespect for others. The holy name is there for the taking…

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  16. Murari Das says :

    Dear Kesava Krsna Prabhu, PAMHO AGTSP

    Regarding the comment you wrote above in post #15; I have never read anything like that or close to that in Srila Prahupada’s books and neither have I heard it in any lecture of Srila Prabhupada. In fact, it looked really strange to me and almost mathematical.

    It looks to me like you got the info above from some mundane psychologist book or source. This means the knowledge is tainted by the three modes of material nature and thus not ‘apauruseya’.

    Please can you include proper Pramana for your comment as this will show us that it is really bonafide and from an inffallible source. But if it is something coming from your own opinion, then why should we accept it as we are all in Maya (BG 7.27) and thus have imperfect senses, are prone to commit mistakes, have a cheating propensity and are illusioned.

    Why don’t we all base our spiritual lives on Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. That way we remain safe. When we start speculating like this, who knows where or how we will end up? Probably not in Goloka.

    Normally when devotees write we can easily see whether they are reading and studying Srila Prabhupada’s books or not. Alot of ideas floating around and ‘opinions’ will not have come about if devotees just regularly read Srila Prabhupada’s books. If we decide to start having alternative ideas to Srila PRabhupada about how things should be done then best not to do them in ISKCON as this was a society setup with Srila PRabhupada’s books and teachings as its basis.


  17. Visakha Priya dasi says :

    Very nicely put, Kesava Krsna Prabhu!

    And best regards to your good wife.

    your servant,
    Visakha Priya dasi

  18. Murari Prabhu,

    Nah! I don’t read psychology manuals. Don’t have time for them.

    Oh, but I do read one psychology manual. That is Bhagavad-Gita As It Is. This is a psychology manual par-excellence.

    The verses from there helped shaped the few sentences I wrote that you found ‘strange.’

    If one is already familiar with its teachings, then one should be able to suss out verses to match each paragraph or sentence.

    For your information, the aggressive descent beginning with lust in the first paragraph, comes from BG verses 2.62-63.

    The ‘higher taste’ is “param drstva nivartate” from BG 2.59.

    The ‘insecurity barriers’ stem from BG 3.34: “There are principles to regulate attachment and aversion pertaining to the senses and their objects. One should not come under the control of such attachment and aversion, because they are stumbling blocks on the path of self-realization.”

    This is where our ‘mudha’ ego, (BG 3.27) thinking itself the ‘doer,’ tries to act on one’s aversion/attachment in order to protect – in this context – a struggling celibacy status with arrangements that infringe on community affairs.

    The fact that you said the comment seemed to be taken out of a psychology book, is a glowing tribute to Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, and to Srila Prabhupada for writing it for us, and whose teachings are my life and soul.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  19. pustakrishna says :

    Devotees are very nice souls, and their are always seeking Krishna and devotion for Krishna. I want to offer another perspective since I probably fouled up the air with my comments in #5 and #6. It is true that in the beginning, controlling the senses is a very difficult thing to achieve. It is like a boxing match (you see a punch coming at you and you move aside to avoid getting hit, then you punch when you see an opening to move closer to Krishna). However, hopefully, and with age and natural quelling of the senses, one can visualize all this in a much more contemplative manner. Detachment allows one to see the mind and desires separate from the self. Choices still come from the deeper plane of consciousness when the mode of goodness predominate. Srila Prabhupad, in perhaps his last video while ill, reclining, and speaking on the hearing the Srimad Bhagavatam, His Divine Grace expresses that by hearing the topics of Srimad Bhagavatam, one becomes elevated to the mode of goodness. This is necessary in order to cultivate knowledge.

    Also, in expressing the topic of “Respecting our Women in ISKCON”, one must realize that this is not simply a problem of men respecting women, but also women respecting women. It is common for people to look for an advantage in social dealings.

    Given all of this, I would like to propose a solution to all these duplicitous dealings. When encountering others, simply try to engage others in service. Who can find fault with that?

    Pusta Krishna das

  20. Murari Das says :

    “Another mataji, Candravali, who was one of Prabhupada’s senior disciples and who had pioneered ISKCON’s preaching in Mexico with her husband, voiced a complaint.
    Candravali: Prabhupada, we hear that in our philosophy the men should treat the women as mothers. But actually, the men, especially the sannyasis, don’t treat the women as mothers. Instead they treat them as maya. Their attitude, not the women, seems more like maya! It doesn’t seem proper.
    Prabhupada heard her complaint carefully. He smiled softly and began to reply. His words dropped from his mouth as if they were sweet ripe fruits falling from a tree.
    Prabhupada: Yes, the men do not treat the women as mothers. Nor do the women act like mothers. Neither do they dress as mothers.
    Prabhupada answered this delicate question with directness, acknowledging the “butter and fire” nature in the dealings between men and women. Vedic culture compares men to butter and women to fire, not vice versa. In Kali-yuga, women seem determined to break from their traditional roles in social dealing. They seem to be thinking, “If the butter-like men are disturbed, then that’s their problem, not ours. Why should we be penalized and our position restricted or minimized?” Prabhupada, however, was not inclined to compromise the Vedic standard.
    It is true that our bodily identity as male or female is illusory, but we still have to deal practically with the temporary nature of that illusion. ISKCON’s men and women, therefore, need to conscientiously adopt the activities, restrictions, and responsibilities of their temporary, bodily roles and become sympathetic, not antagonistic, to the position and needs of others.”

    >>> Ref. VedaBase => MGM 18-10: A Darsana

  21. Sita Rama 108 says :

    In The Science of Self Realization (7d) we find a letter by Srila Prabhupada to a person who felt insulted by a couple of devotees negative attitude towards people:
    “…..kindly forgive my beloved disciples for any unkindness or indiscretion on their part. After all, to give up one’s life completely for serving the Lord is not an easy thing, and mäyä, or the illusory, material energy, tries especially hard to again entrap those who have left her service to become devotees. Therefore, in order to withstand the attack of mäyä and remain strong under all conditions of temptation, young or inexperienced devotees in the neophyte stage of devotional service will sometimes adopt an attitude against those things or persons which may possibly be harmful or threatening to their tender devotional creepers. They may even overindulge in such feelings just to protect themselves, and thus they will appear to some nondevotees, who are perhaps themselves still very much enamored by the material energy of mäyä, to be negative or pessimistic”
    I think even a civilized non devotee will overlook a minor indiscretion of a person (especially a young person) who, in order to protest themselves, overindulges in negative attitudes toward people who engage in habits they are trying to overcome. As devotees we should also forgive such indiscretions. But it should be understood that there is a limit to overlooking this negativity. Ones attitude should not rise to the level of harming another person, and it should be understood that we expect devotees to outgrow this excessive negativity.
    In the beginning of the movement devotees were all young and inexperienced, thus over negativity may have been institutionalized; we need to correct that without overindulging in negative attitudes towards our inexperienced members (past or present). We need not condemn justifiable standards for a respectable distance between the sexes, such as men on one side, women on the other during kirtana, because these standards do not imply an overly negative attitude despite the fact that such attitudes can be connected to them. Also I am not saying that every discrepancy in the past falls into this category some were more serious.
    It is not maya to be a gentleman!

  22. Murari Das says :

    Dear Kesava Krsna Das,

    Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

    In answer to #18;

    Two of the quotes whose sources I wanted clarification on:

    “..This natural aggression leads the male to think he is superior to females”

    “… aggression – self-defence = aggression”

    Also you said;

    “A natural barrier is formed by ‘higher taste.’ With this higher taste, one’s aggression is then directed for higher pursuits in Krishna consciousness, and a secure friendly disposition finds agreeable acceptance for all community members.”

    However, even if one acquires a higher taste and thinks he has ‘natural barriers’, he should still not freely interact with the object of the senses, Srila Prabhupada was an example of one who refused to remain alone with his septaganarian sister. Does this mean he did not have a higher taste?

    Separation of the genders is required for any civilized society, even if they are paramahamsas as long as we have these material bodies, the reason is given below:

    “If a butter pot and fire are kept together, the butter within the pot will certainly melt. Woman is compared to fire, and man is compared to a butter pot. However advanced one may be in restraining the senses, it is almost impossible for a man to keep himself controlled in the presence of a woman, even if she is his own daughter, mother or sister. Indeed, his mind is agitated even if one is in the renounced order of life. Therefore, Vedic civilization carefully restricts mingling between men and women.”
    >>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 7.12.9, text

    Again, although your argument seems to be directed at renunciates the quote above shows that Srila Prabhupada maintained that this separation should also be within families not only among renunciates!

    “However advanced one may be..”, ; therefore your argument that only the less advanced with ‘no higher taste’ show this tendency is not valid since even if one is very advanced he should still continue this practice as recommended by our sampradaya acarya Narada Muni.

    These quotes are repeated by Srila Prabhupada, time and again. Therefore it behooves us to try to take these practices up even if they don’t make sense to us, as they will lead to a greater good for one and all. Indeed if we can’t understand their benefit one can try to find out the reason for their importance.

    Your servant,

  23. Murari Das says :

    Dear Kesava Krsna Prabhu,

    The ‘descent into forgetfulness of Krishna’ applies to all persons not only renunciates as you are portraying it. Material desires are there and if not controlled by engagement in Krishna consciousness lead one to go astray and thus fall away from the proper practise of his Ashrama; Grhastha, Vanaprastha, Brahmacarya or Sannyasi. How can one learn to control these material desires and be aloof from them?

    Importance of the Brahmacarya Ashram
    The importance of the Brahmacari ashram for training one to control the senses cannot be overstated. It is the foundation for success in other ashramas. If one was a good brahmacarya, he would be an excellent Grhastha, vanaprastha and Sannyasi. If we do not properly institute systems for facilitating the proper practice of Brahmacaris then what kind of Grhasthas, Vanaprasthas or Sannyasis will we have in the future? Indeed the present commotion and standards of the ISKCON grhastha ashram (higher than average divorce rate, difficulty in following the ‘regs’ etc) and sannyasa ashram, can be attributed a lack of training for sense control at an earlier age. Although anyone in any ashram can preach; we see that when it comes to full-time preaching and book distribution in any community those who are not married or taking care of family and business (brahmacaris) are best suited for it. Therefore Brahmacaries are not anti-social elements in our Krishna conscious societies or parasites but in fact future (and present) pillars of stable members of other ashramas and a source of free volunteers for helping us to preach and run our temples.

    Proper social systems and etiquette
    Now in order for one to practise Brahmacarya there has to be a certain constraints and restrictions in-built which exists in any civilized (Aryan) society. We find how in India even today when a renunciate enters a bus or any public place they are treated differently compared to just any person especially in interactions with the opposite gender. The reason being that other persons also know that it is in their interest and that of the whole society that brahmacaris are able to practice and for some section of society to even remain brahmacaris.

    Although it is not expected that everyone will remain a renunciate, at least one should be able to properly practice while in that ashram and society should be sensitive to its importance and purpose otherwise what is the whole point of it?


  24. Murari Das says :


    Anti-renunciate mentality
    The atmosphere in this whole material world especially in Kali-yuga is antithetical to renunciation. Add to that an anti-renunciant mentality among some of our dear ISKCON members and one can begin to see why our renunciates are sometimes mistaken as being ‘self-centred’ in their endeavour to maintain a conducive situation or environment for their practice. Again this is something that should be there; in-built in society, yet it is not and so renunciates are sometimes placed into an awkward situation of trying to adjust situations to guard against high risk situations. Srila Prabhupada actually mentioned many times how it is best for someone to remain a brahmacarya (if he is able to) and how it was a simpler life for cultivation Krishna consciousness. So he did encourage it.

    By trying to break the barriers and controls so necessary for cultivation of a renunciate mentality (even among grhasthas!) in our societies by encouraging free mixing, we are actually harming the fabric of our future spiritual societies.

    Srila Prabhupada said in the text for SB 7.12.9 (see#1 above) that separation of the sexes was was basic human civilization.

    Thus all our expert erudition of sastra, sloka quoting, expert in logic and argument are not put to proper use if they are used for destroying our society instead of trying to sow seeds for a powerful spiritual society to herald in the golden age.

    Brahmacaris, Sannyasis and vanaprasthas are not separate members of another society but integral members of ISKCON and instituting systems for their proper practice will have an effect on the whole society. Having come from degraded societies based on sense-gratification, we sometimes see such controls and systems as fanaticism, but they are in fact the basis of any advanced civilization. But if these principles help to lead us to a higher, purer civilization and a society free from lust then why not accept them? Anukulyasya sankalpah !

    Your servant,

  25. Sita Rama 108 says :

    I think I could have stated my position more clearly in comment 21.
    It is a slippery slope towards inhumanity for men to blame their own lust on souls in women’s bodies. The living entities entrapment in material existence is due to no force other than its own desire to be the supreme enjoyer.
    We must not be so dull brained that we can’t: Have a cultural ethic that places a limit on how much we overlook the indiscretions of neophyte devotees, at the same time we must take reasonable steps to void inflaming a neophytes inner conflict.
    We have to be nuanced enough to see that although ones inner conflict is due to lust, we should concentrate on a devotees uphill battle to overcome that lust and honor their devotional attempt; as opposed to landing only on their diseased area. At the same time we have to be sensitive to the fact that we need to prohibit neophytes from open hostility which overemphasizes the illusory external forms and scapegoats those in a particular gender.
    It is not maya to act like a gentleman!

  26. Part One:

    Murari Prabhu,

    In your first two comments you tried to quote Srila Prabhupada to justify your ‘strict’ stance. In your third comment you thought you could read my mind. In the fourth comment, you now bring up an incident from Srila Prabhupada’s pastimes.

    What would you like me and our readers to do? Give up everything and hinge our lives on this one incident? To make it the be-all and end-all pramana on how to deal with women? Believe me, if you look around more thoroughly you will find how Srila Prabhupada differed in his advice for different situations. There were times when brahmacaris complained about women to him, and he would liken the ladies to being Gopis, doing essential service.

    You are being selective in your searches. Such selectivity does not represent the entirety of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings.

    It is not difficult to be selective. Extremists, apa-sampradayis, Jehove Witnesses and any biased grouping can quote Srila Prabhupada, and furthermore, make that quote the basis for an invented philosophy or deviation.

    Again, you are sticking with the ‘don’ts’ side of things. Where is the biggest ‘DO,’ which is to remember Krishna and not to forget Him? To be Krishna conscious and not just celibate conscious…

    When Krishna says not to eat too much, or eat too little, and not to sleep too much… then what is He hinting at? Moderation perhaps? The middle road…? How about balance?

    I have seen the worse of ‘staunchness.’ I lived through the days of austere travelling sankirtana. I also saw how the most respected, the most strict, and the most staunch, crumbled down in nervous breakdowns. One of those happened to be my party leader (A Prabhupada disciple). There were others too.

    The one psychological dilemma for them was, the celibacy issue. Not very long ago, I helped refer this Prabhupada disciple for psychological help, who happened to be a woman initiated devotee. To illustrate how the celibacy problem stayed with him, he even asked me, “This clinical psychologist I am going to see… she’s a devotee, but is she attractive? If she is, I won’t see her.”

    These sorts of devotees live with a deep type of trauma. If one asks them about those sankirtana days when they were especially heavy and staunch, they remember very little. Some of the on-going torment blocks out those memories.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  27. Part Two:

    These things happen if we defy our true nature. They can increase if such behaviour causes misery and offence for other devotees in the name of being ‘pure,’ and ‘renounced.’

    Having witnessed such bizarre outcomes, I urge the balanced way of celibacy that is neither too extreme, or too lax. To be a balanced human being is not very common. To be a balanced devotee or vaisnava is more rare among the rarity of devotees and pure devotion.

    In this regard, I rather like Sita-pati Prabhu’s “It is not Maya to be a gentleman.”

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  28. Narada Priya devi d says :

    The only women I’ve ever seen disrespected in Iskcon are those who act like men so really, what is the problem? I don’t even consider them real women.

    You men who support free mixing between the sexes in the name of so-called love and caring for others, shame on you. Don’t expect the majority of people to be on the platform of paramahamsa Srila Prabhupada. This is minimizing his position. Secondly, stop trying to impress the ladies; stick up for your brothers instead if you want real women to respect YOU.

    Prabhupada has repeatedly warned us about men overattached to women. In positions of leadership, they are the real cause of all society’s present troubles.

    Women should earn respect by behaving properly, not because its politically correct or the above mentioned men want to appear better than others or to get subtle sex out from female associates. Women have been artificially respected for over 40 years now and look at the result!

    These same men are the ones who say Prabhupada was influenced by Islam. They are the faithless mentioned in “Prabhupada on Trial” by Rochford. Yet, with much foresight, Prabhupada clearly warned us against such accusations in SB purport 1.10.16:

    “It is only the less intelligent persons not well versed in the history of the world who say that observance of separation of female from male is an introduction of the Mohammedan period in India.”

    Sure, we are all sudra, but show enough love for Prabhupada by transcending this nature enough to set the right example for future generations and the world.

  29. Vrindavanchandra says :

    A very relevant and instructive section from Brahmacarya in Krishna Consciousness, a book by HH Bhakti Vikasa Maharaj.

    Dealing with Women Devotees

    There is a great difference between ordinary materialistic women and those who have come to take shelter of Krishna. Women in ISKCON are all devotees and therefore glorious. Some of them are clearly advanced from their previous lives. They should be regarded with all due respect—from a distance. If they are serious devotees, they will respect your strictness.

    Due to lack of training or attachment to women’s lib ideas, women devotees may sometimes act improperly with you. Better let it pass, and not make a scene out of it. Women are supposed to be trained in chastity, but modern women aren’t. We men also may still be influenced by the lusty exploitative mentality in our dealings with women. So we may also be at fault. If it becomes necessary, have a word with the temple authorities.

    In these beginning days of ISKCON we have to be strict but also tolerant, understanding that most Westerners can’t adjust their social behavior overnight to resemble that of traditional Indian Vaisnavas. Srila Prabhupada was sensitive about this point and therefore was successful in establishing Krishna consciousness in the West.

    Brahmacaris often have a tendency to reject women, but Srila Prabhupada never did that because he was above attraction and repulsion and simply wanted to engage everyone in Krishna’s service. When a devotee complained to Prabhupada that the presence of women in our movement caused too many problems and suggested that we no longer accept women as full time devotees, Srila Prabhupada replied, “They have come to take shelter of Krishna. We cannot turn them away.” (-Told by Danavira dasa Gosvami)


  30. Vrindavanchandra says :


    “Regarding the disturbance made by woman devotees, they are also living beings. They also come to Krishna. So consciously I cannot deny them. If our male members, the brahmacaris and the sannyasis, become steady in Krishna consciousness, there is no problem. It is the duty of the male members to be very steady and cautious. This can be done by regular chanting like Haridasa Thakura did. Whenever there is a young woman, we should remember Haridasa Thakura and beg his mercy to protect us, and we should think that these beautiful gopis are meant for the enjoyment of Krishna. It is a dilemma for our society that we cannot deny these girls, and at the same time they are a great dangerous allurement to the young boys.” (Letter, 29/09/75)

    On being informed that some brahmacaris felt disturbed by the presence of women in the temple, Srila Prabhupada sarcastically suggested that the brahmacaris go to the forest. (Letter, 03/12/72) Previously, brahmacaris used to live in the forest, far away from the agitation of the cities. But that is not possible in the modern age. Indeed, as a consequence of preaching, at least as many women as men will be attracted to Krishna consciousness, and we cannot deny their existence, or their right to serve Krishna. Rather, anyone who comes to Krishna consciousness must be encouraged. However, as long as one is not completely pure, if a male devotee begins with the best intentions to encourage a woman to take to Krishna consciousness, the tendency is to become attracted on the emotional and physical levels. Therefore, even though brahmacaris may preach to anyone, it is better that women preach to women.

    In 1967, at the 2nd Avenue temple in New York City, Srila Prabhupada announced in one class, “Don’t see these girls as objects of sense gratification. See them as associates of Krishna.” (Told by Jadurani-devi dasi) And in the mid-1970’s in America, a party of sannyasis and brahmacaris became overly righteous about the attachments of grhasthas and women. Tension developed and reached exploding point at the Mayapura Festival of 1976. In the course of setting everything straight (the way he always did—by preaching Krishna consciousness) Srila Prabhupada said that male devotees should address the women as “My dear mother” and the women should see the men as “My dear son.” (Told by Jadurani-devi dasi)


  31. Vrindavanchandra says :


    In a conversation in Seattle in 1968, Srila Prabhupada said, “Now, another thing: Girls should not be taken as inferior. Sometimes, of course, in scripture we say that woman is the cause of bondage. So, that should not be aggravated that women are inferior. The girls who come, we should treat them nicely. After all, anyone who is coming to Krishna consciousness, man or woman, is very fortunate. The idea of addressing each other as Prabhu means, ‘You are my master.’ Prabhu means ‘master.’ So everyone shall treat others as ‘my master.’ This is Vaisnava understanding. In spiritual life there is nothing like this sexism. The more we forget sex life means we are advancing in spiritual life. So this should be the attitude: women, godsisters, should be nicely treated.”

    There is an amusing story from Brazil, where in one temple all the brahmacaris became so “fired-up” that they wanted to send all the women away. When the GBC, H.H. Hridayananda Gosvami, found out, he joked, “Don’t be ridiculous. Then the brahmacaris wouldn’t have anyone to perform for.”

    There are certain points in Prabhupada’s books concerning women which unless one is a very self-controlled devotee and expert preacher, one should be cautious about repeating in public and in classes, especially if women devotees or guests are present (e.g., quotes stating women to be less intelligent than men, or nine times as lusty, etc.). After all, mam hi partha vyapasritya, and kalau sudra-sambhavah. Everyone in this age is low born. Men or women, we are all running on Lord Caitanya’s and Srila Prabhupäda’s mercy. We don’t want to discourage women who are already devotees, nor those who are potential devotees. Nor do we want to make the brahmacaris artificially proud. Sensitive topics need to be handled by competent devotees.

    The Vedic social philosophy states that women are to be protected by men, but that duty is for the grhasthas, not for brahmacaris or sannyasis. For a brahmacari, young women mean trouble. However sincere young women devotees may be, when in contact with brahmacaris a kind of energy is produced that is not conducive for devotional advancement. Those who have regular contact with young women devotees, even innocently or for the sake of service, are almost certain to get worn down. They may not even notice the effect of such association, but nevertheless it is like radioactivity: slow, subtle, and irreversible.


  32. Vrindavanchandra says :


    A brahmacari should be very cautious if a woman is being “too nice” to him (e.g. keeps giving him maha-prasada). Service by a woman is a trap for a man. (SB 3.31.40) It is women’s nature to seek shelter and protection from a man, because it is generally both spiritually and materially beneficial for them to be married. But brahmacaris should know that although men generally improve materially if married, that so-called improvement simply means entanglement in sense gratification; therefore for a man’s spiritual progress it is intrinsically better to live without a woman. Acting on the platform of this knowledge, a brahmacari who wants to stay brahmacari has to be free from material compassion for women looking for husbands.

    Srila Prabhupada: “The managers of our society should see that all the brahmacaris stay brahmacari, and all the women get married.” Devotees: “How is that possible, Srila Prabhupada?” Srila Prabhupada: “That is your management.” (Told by Giriraja Swami)

    Srila Prabhupada noted, “These girls generally come to our society to find out a suitable husband.” (Letter, 06/10/68) Naturally, women devotees want to marry the best men devotees. They tend to be more attracted to brahmacaris who are steady, committed, mature, and responsible. Almost perversely, brahmacaris who are serious to stay brahmacaris usually become targets of anxious brahmacarinis. For a women to “hunt down” a man who wants to remain committed to brahmacari life could be considered an act of violence against his progressive spiritual development. On the other hand, it can be considered a test that even great sages have to undergo.

    If a brahmacari who wants to stay a brahmacari finds that a young woman is becoming friendly towards him, alarm bells should go off in his head and he should extricate himself from that situation. If that is not possible, the next best response is not to respond. To remain polite but cold in the face of advances, and to consistently show disinterest, soon convinces women to direct their conjugal aspirations elsewhere. There is no room for sentiment in such dealings. If the brahmacari allows his heart to flutter and reciprocates with even a little interest, the huntress, being encouraged, will not stop until the quarry’s heart is fully pierced with Cupid’s arrows.


  33. Vrindavanchandra says :


    If, however, a woman remains persistent in her desire for an unwilling brahmacari, the latter may frankly say to her, “Mataji I already gave many lifetimes to many women like yourself. Please give me your blessings that I can give this life fully to Krishna, without unnecessary disturbances or entanglements.” If the brahmacari is serious about his commitment, only a shameless woman would continue to pursue him further.

    However, in our temples it is often a practical necessity that men and women engage in devotional service side by side. We can’t avoid such situations, although temple authorities should arrange that male and female devotees are kept apart as much as possible. Brahmacaris should maintain Vaisnava respect towards devotee women, without becoming overly familiar or loose, or developing friendships with them. Srila Prabhupada: “Sannyasis should have ‘Keep in a cool place’ stamped on their foreheads, just like on the butter package.” (Told by Srutakirti dasa)

    End of Quote

  34. Here is a thought provoking consideration for all of us: If Iskcon is a patriarchal society, as many think, even in the absence of functional VAD, is the drive to ensure traditional male dominance, earned through the strength of spiritual purity, or was it gained through insecure weakness?

    It is natural for males to feel superior to our female counterparts, and to expect such subordination, whatever the male spiritual status. If the male is spiritually weak and struggles to earn respect from a subordinate, different attempts from argument to physical force is used to enforce respect. Troubled marriages endure these difficulties. But what about a developing family or community like ours?

    Is there not a risk that if too much community power is invested in the ‘celibate’ section, that this might give imbalance to our sense of order. Ordinarily, in traditional Vedic society the renunciates do not run society. In Iskcon, we have the extraordinary situation where renunciates do govern our worldwide community in most cases. This is not quite traditional in the Vedic sense of running society.

    When our celibate friends wish to implement traditional values, is it the continuation of what we have at present? What we have now is clearly far too liberal for our conservatives, although we are already functioning in a conservative mode comparatively speaking.

    And what we have at present, is a relic of the formation made during the 70’s that helped to weaken the Iskcon family spirit that was prevalent in earlier times, as many of our earlier devotees attest. Many a women devotee felt marginalised. During those earlier times, Srila Prabhupada had female secretaries, helpers and editors for example. Many look fondly at those days now gone.

    Were those times of close proximity to Srila Prabhupada more primitive from a societal point of view? Have we really progressed since then?

    Again, the question should be raised, that was the transformation of power reflecting our institutional growth gained through the force of purity, or otherwise? In either case, the respect has not been earned as we would expect.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  35. Part One:

    I appreciated the comments submitted by Vrndavana Candra Prabhu because they addressed both sides of our averse/attachment issue.

    To help clarify Murari Prabhu’s ‘higher taste’ mention, perhaps I can try to illustrate with the example of the Six Goswamis.

    Their elevated state of renunciation came naturally for them. Why? They “kicked off all association of aristocracy as insignificant. In order to deliver the poor conditioned souls, they accepted loincloths, treating themselves as mendicants, but they are always merged in the ecstatic ocean of the gopis’ love for Krsna and bathe always and repeatedly in the waves of that ocean.”

    Their renunciation was very easy for them, because it was commensurate with their higher taste of being merged in the ecstatic ocean of bliss.

    I referred earlier to this natural barrier. Experiencing such good fortune, one will place oneself in an advantageous position to practice Krishna consciousness. And yes, the precautions are there, as you said.

    But when one tries to become renounced without commensurate taste, and one struggles against one’s nature, then we’ll often see that such attempts prove counterproductive, both to oneself and to others, because the renunciation shield or barrier has to unnaturally be acted on with self-aggression or effort.

    What is unnatural? Remember I used “self-defence = aggression?” Aggression is a constituent of the mode of passion, along with heroism and so on. As we should know, passion has no lasting endurance. So renunciation or celibacy enacted from raja-guna will not last.

    Even so, some self-effort has to be there. This is where Lord Balarama or Sri Nityananda come in. If we are sincere, we can get mercy from them. If however, with our self passionate attempts, we affect other devotees in negative ways with our space, and cause offence, the mercy will not come.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  36. Part Two:

    Just now, I mentioned heroism. We have a tendency to glamourize renunciation. From a raja perspective this seems an attractive option to perk up one spiritual life. If this is the case, then one is operating on the subtle sex level of so-called renunciation. One can seemingly remain in such a position for many years, but Sri Nityananda’s mercy will never descend.

    In these situations some scapegoats emerge which tend to be the object of abnegation. Yet we often see that renunciates allow themselves to be in positions of power, with ksatriya roles, that require passion. And what are the constituents of passion?

    The avoidance of threats to one’s celibacy status can be achieved if one inclines more to pursuits that aid the development of commensurate higher taste.

    We all need our space for personal sadhana practices. But sometimes one’s space intrudes into other’s space as well, and can cause friction and misery. This is my contention in this context. Without proper VAD in place, there is no proper place either for our renunciates or our community based projects to be done in family spirits.

    Murari Prabhu wrote: “…therefore your argument that only the less advanced with ‘no higher taste’ show this tendency is not valid since even if one is very advanced he should still continue this practice as recommended by our sampradaya acarya Narada Muni.”

    The answer to this is twofold: You are both correct and incorrect.

    What is your definition of “very advanced?” Srila Prabhupada’s ensuring male company in the presence of Mother Prishima was for setting an example, not that he needed to to protect himself. This example sought to:

    (1) Protect the sannyasa order
    (2) Protect the image of Iskcon
    (3) To help keep his integrity
    (4) For preaching purposes

    If however, we say that he needed to do this out of insecurity, then we attribute ordinariness to him, which is an offence, as the “Acaryam mam vijaniyan…” verse states.

    Otherwise, for the less advanced this is necessary. Even one who has attained bhava falls into this category. Remember Bharata Maharaja? By Iskcon standards, most will be doing well if they reach nishta, which is quite an achievement. By our estimation, that would be generally “advanced.”

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  37. Part Three:

    It appears you are a brahmacari, and I wish you well in your spiritual endeavours. My words written in apparent opposition to brahmacarya and renunciation are borne out of the abuse and casualties I have witnessed, and which cheapen the sacred need for such. Therefore I am an ardent supporter of it, and I hope you are one of the genuine few.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  38. Puskaraksa das says :

    This is a very subtle and complex subject matter.

    I personally support all that has been said in favor of favorizing one’s disentenglement from this material world and appreciate all the useful quotes provided in that respect.

    To these, amongst many more, we could add this famous one, from S.B. 5.5.8:

    pumsah striya mithuni-bhavam etam
    tayor mitho hrdaya-granthim ahuh
    ato grha-ksetra-sutapta-vittair
    janasya moho ‘yam aham mameti

    “The attraction between male and female is the basic principle of material existence. On the basis of this misconception, which ties together the hearts of the male and female, one becomes attracted to his body, home, property, children, relatives and wealth. In this way, one increases life’s illusions and thinks in terms of “I” and “mine.”

    Please read the class Srila Prabhupada gave on this topic on October 30, 1976 in Vrindavana at:

    From this, we understand that both men and women are trapped by this attraction, which operates both on the gross and the subtle platform.

    Narada Priya devi dasi’s intervention on Post 28# speaks in favor of this shared interest that devotees trapped either in a man’s or a woman’s body have to transcend their material conditioning and become established on the eternal platform, in their siddha deha and in their nitya rasa, which is far more relishable than this maithuni rasa which, in the beginning tastes like nectar, but ends up tasting like poison!

    Yet, having been a grihasta for 25 years (now vanaprastha, preparing for sannyasa), I understand where our friend Kesava Krishna Prabhu is coming from.

    As a matter of fact, I would like to state and confirm that the grihasta ashram, even if it may be seem to be a paradox to some brahmacaris, still is conducive for one to become established beyond this erroneous identification to the body!

    Indeed, once one has gone beyond the mutual allurement phasis, what remains is the appreciation for each others’ spiritual qualities, nurtured by the capacity to together serve Krishna and Krishna’s servants who are likely to have taken birth in such a Krishna conscious family, so that they may in their turn bless and enlighten further the suffering humanity.

    Therefore, we have to learn to become tolerant with each other. One may remain brahmacari throughout his life and become an accomplished devotee, thanks to the purifying effect of seva, Krishna katha, Mathura bhasa and saddhu sanga…

  39. Puskaraksa das says :

    Yet, the world is in need of mahatmas, who will have learned to develop this equal vision acclaimed by all scriptures, beyond the duality generated by different material bodies, which are nothing but a reflection of the spiritual variety…

    Prabhupada: “That is going on. When I meet you I say, “Yes sir.” You say, “Yes sir.” That is all right. That is social etiquette. But real unity is on the platform of spirit soul. Panditah sama-darshinah [Bg. 5.18]. Pandita, he is sama-darshina. So panditah means

    brahmane gavi hastini
    shuni caiva shva-pake ca
    panditah sama-darshinah
    [Bg. 5.18]

    “A very learned brahmana and a dog and an elephant, a cow, a candala—all of them, to a pandita, really learned person, sama-darshinah.” You see? So now how a learned scholar brahmana and a dog can be seen on equal level? But it can be seen. Panditah sama-darshinah [Bg. 5.18]. It is on the spiritual platform, that every one of us is spirit soul. We are, by different karma, we are covered with different material dress. A dog is also a soul, and a learned brahmana is also a soul. But he is covered with different body, and he is covered with different body. So one who does not see the body, he can see on the same level. But one who sees the body, he cannot see. This is the basic principle of equality. I am seeing you are Sikh, you are seeing I am Hindu, he is seeing he is Christian, he is Mohammedan, and so on, so on. And nobody is seeing that nobody is brahmana. Nobody is seeing nobody is Hindu, nobody is Christian—he is pure soul. So that vision, unless one attains, how there can be equality? There is no possibility.

    Yogi Bhajan: Yeah, that’s agreed.

    Prabhupada: So that requires education. Brahma-bhutah prasannatma na shocati na ka… samah sarveshu bhuteshu [Bg. 18.54]. When one is Brahman realized, then he can see equally. But that requires education, how to become brahma-bhutah. But everyone is sharira-bhutah. Everyone is thinking, “I am this body.” So how it can be possible? So we may attempt, but it is not possible.

    Yogi Bhajan: There are a lot of misunderstanding and misconceptions given against each other.

    Prabhupada: No, no. Misconception… Just like you have got a body; I have got a body. If I say, “No, I don’t like you “… If I say, “I don’t like you”… Naturally, when we see superficially, then this tendency will go on. When you see inside, introspectively, then there will be equality. That requires education.” (Honolulu, June 7, 1975)

  40. I wish for Iskcon to succeed on all fronts. Several major reforms are still required before we can see a semblance of a Vedic Society, with VAD in place. Until such a time, we continue to adjust and develop towards that end.

    For all those who misunderstand my intentions with this article, it is to show how misplaced renunciation has caused social problems for our society of devotees. Addressing them does not make me anti-celibate or anti-renunciation. It may appear so. Indeed, I would like to highlight problems that occur on the other side of the aversion/attachment divide, and that is feminism.

    These are subjects that deeply affect the way we live among fellow devotees. It is easy to shut off everything and simply try to be Krishna conscious, but this might mean neglecting to act for the betterment of our society. It is part of our responsibility to help in service to Srila Prabhupada and fellow devotees.

    In this spirit, our observations can hopefully make us think beyond average acceptance of things, and to sometimes re-evaluate. Out of this, we see strongly held views strenuously expressed, as well as generalised biasness, all reacting to exposed raw nerves of particular topics, and women issues are one of them.

    It hurts me to see how the sacred renounced order has be held to scrutiny, just as all other fronts of Iskcon have to be. I want the renounced order to be blame free and without suspicion, and to have a healthy brahmacari asrama. We want renunciation and celibacy with a SMILE. We can only practice Krishna consciousness properly if we are “happily situated.”

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  41. pustakrishna says :

    It is very interesting that in a blog about “Respecting Women in Iskcon” , there have been very few comments by women bhaktas. The discussion has revolved mostly around the practice of sense control and celibacy. Let us agree on one thing…from experience. The challenges of life are dynamic. We do not get ourselves into a “safe space” without any challenge to that position. Mostly, we have seen in the discussions that viewing life through the scripture, especially the Bhagavad Gita, we may come to the higher plane of thinking, a better eyeglass through which to see reality. We know that Arjuna was not personally fighting lust on the battlefield, but rather mourning the heart-breaking task before him. Still, we must adjust to the environment, because the environment may not adjust to us. Remember: WE MUST ADJUST TO THE ENVIRONMENT, BECAUSE THE ENVIRONMENT MAY NOT ADJUST TO US. Srila Prabhupad often used the example of seeing the rope in the corner and mistaking it to be a snake. Similarly, if a man sees an attractive woman, or a woman sees an attractive man, if we mistake them to be the physical body, then we are not seeing things as they are, and we become victims of exploiting matter through the material senses. Believe me…the practice of sense control does not stop when one becomes a grihastha. It is a challenge, dynamically, in all walks of life. What kind of human being do you want to become?
    We have heard the story of the two monks walking along a path. A stream obstructed the way and a woman was unable to pass along due to the obstruction. One of the monks lifted the woman and carried her across the stream placing her safely on the other side. Some time later, the other monk commented: “you are a monk. Was it proper for you to contact and carry the woman in this way?” The other monk replied: “I let her down a long time ago. It seems that you are still carrying her.” What we do in life as aspiring transcendentalists is a profound and dynamic art. We see many people judging others mentally and in print. By doing so, we too may be carrying that burden around rather than letting it go.
    Be kind to each other. Harshness will create attachment and aversion. Guaranteed. A kind heart will be rewarded, as our Lord is an ocean of mercy. If you cut someone off, then you may be cut off your self. Try not to think so much about your self. Krishna will protect you. Pusta Krishna das

  42. Narada Priya devi d says :

    Kesava Krsna prabhu: I tried to post an apology explaining my harsh words, but Praghosa prabhu says he does not wish to bring up past controversy at this time. The unpublished comment was a major breakthrough for me anyway, to come to grips with a problem my family and I have been struggling with since 1985.

    Puskaraksa prabhu: As for the line about sudras that I wrote, what I meant was that it appears to be a common excuse to mingle etc., since a sastric verse says we are all born that way in Kali (or lower). Sort of how the Christians say, “I’m a sinner” and so…I’ll just stay that way.

    But students of Srila Prabhupada have been given knowledge and mercy to transcend our lower natures to act in better capacities. For example, an ordinary hippie girl can be elevated by Krishna consciousness to good behavior, etc. Lord Vishnu says:

    “Such women whose early life was spent with nonmeritorious and vicious indulgences and in their later period become pativrata, also attain My abode.” (Padma Purana)

    Another example is the sudra -like vaisya or ksatriya of Kali, but as the “Varnasram- Why Now” article noted, people can be raised to devic vaisyas, devic sudras and so on. Krishna says the qualities of the brahamana are what attract Him.

    “The stage of a devotee, which attracts the transcendental affection of the Lord, does not develop unless one has developed the qualities of a brähmana… Those who are less than a brähmana by qualification cannot establish any relation with the Lord. “ SB 1.14.34

    At any time, of course, like the mouse that changed into a lion and back again, one can fall back due to offenses.

    The definition of “sudra” is another topic.

    Further thoughts for everyone: It may be difficult to live with the opposite sex in the same temple, but it seems the real test would be whether we could live in a temple without the opposite sex, only seeing them as daily visitors and guests. I find it interesting that grhastha disciples of Ramanujacarya lived in the temple with other celibate men, while their wives lived on the outside. It would seem that such situations would nourish real comaradie between men. The gopis also demonstrate how social restrictions facilitate true love.

    I for one am fascinated by the idea of parda, which still exists in India to some degree for “high class” ladies. I got a chance to play around with the idea while living there (It’s easy to live like the rich in India) and wrote about it on Google.

  43. Narada Priya devi d says :

    In a new comment I wrote:
    “I understand the point of this post regarding maturity in devotional service, that we should not make renunciation our aim rather than love for Krishna, but the title threw me off……”

    But whatever I had to say at that point was once again censored by Dandavats staff, I suppose, because I do not see it posted and it has been at least 3 days ago. So to make it very indirect, let’s just say we have to be careful not to show favor to special interest groups, because then we alienate others OR we will have to include others and that gets complicated and so many artificial demands arise. Better to remain neutral and stick to the standards given by Srila Prabhupada. Also was included this quote:

    Hari-sauri: So we have to give allowances to such people. We have to give allowance?
    Prabhupäda: Allowance? It is not allowance, but give him instruction. It is up to him to follow or not to follow.
    Hari-sauri: But we cannot give any compromise.
    Prabhupäda: No. This is the way. “But you are not able? All right, take little more time.”
    Hari-sauri: So, say like one point now that’s coming up more and more is that these married couples, the women want a divorce or get another husband.
    Prabhupäda: But we should not implicate.
    Hari-sauri: So we cannot encourage divorce.
    Prabhupäda: No. We do not meddle matters in that way very much. That is a sideline.
    (Room conversation, 1/21/77, Bhuvanesvara)

  44. pustakrishna says :

    Regarding Narada Priya dd’s comments in #43, I would like to suggest that one try to keep things simple. We do not want to become entangled in the convolutions of the mind. We will chase that for many, many lifetimes. Remember, one is neither man nor women, but rather spirit soul. And, the spirit soul is prakriti, para-prakriti really, and meant to be dominated by Krishna. That is true whether the soul is encased in a male or a female body. It is important not to be a victim of the conditioned ego. Politics should never enter into the consideration, but Vedic common sense is important. Actually, all religious scriptures describe chastity. That is recommended for men and for women. But, we are very fortunate because a transcendental rope or life-preserver has been extended to us. The Holy Names are non-different from Krishna Himself. By simply remembering the Holy Names anytime or anywhere we can take shelter of Krishna.
    Atah Sri Krishna namadi na bhaved grahyam indriyaih
    sevon mukhe hi jivadau svayam eva spurati adah (forgive misspelling)

    Taking the Holy Name of Krishna, service with the tongue (sound vibration), Krishna will hear your calls if you are sincere, and He will come to you, personally. Believe it.

    Not to worry about receiving respect, better to give love to Krishna. He will give you the fulfillment of joy, love, and association that the soul is searching for. The whole issue of man or woman, respect in ISKCON, is one that Srila Prabhupad addressed once to Jadurani. She questioned the issue of man or woman, and Srila Prabhupad said that if you think you are a woman, then you have problem. Identify your self as who you are, a spirit soul, part of Krishna, then all these external issues remain below in the realm of religiousity, a lower plane than Krishna consciousness. Pusta Krishna das

  45. Akruranatha says :

    The title of the article rather drew me in, but then reading the article and comments I did not want to comment further down the well-worn paths of “culture wars” in ISKCON.

    Respecting devotees is important. Women devotees, men devotees, children devotees, all living entities should be properly respected. “Offering all respect to others and expecting none in return”. This is our creed as followers of Lord Caitanya.

    Genuine respect for others is something that can be universally appreciated without regard to culture or language.

    Of course we are a cultural movement, dedicated to spreading Krishna culture. Srimad Bhagavatam is a “cultural presentation for the re-spiritualization of society.” A spiritual culture has spiritual standards of behavior for people in different social positions or roles. Vedic culture is designed very nicely (by Krishna) to minimize sex as far as possible by adhering to scriptural regulations such as “no sex outside of marriage” (which is natural and pretty much observed in all civilized cultures). We favor that Vedic culture, in ISKCON, though different devotees may alter their generally modern modes of living in differing degrees.

    Yet respect for all is a kind of higher commandment. Especially devotees should be respected.

    It can be tricky, because part of being a good moral person involves discriminating between conduct which is good, just and righteous, and conduct which is improper. Krishna “respected” wicked demons by killing them and granting them the boon of liberation. Those who actually do harmful, violent crimes should be “respected” by being duly convicted and sentenced. But we are a law-abiding movement (we recognize the state’s basic monopoly on lawful use of violence in modern society).

    Mainly, in our missionary work, we are ambassadors of Krishna consciousness or Vaisnava culture to people from different countries who do not follow or even know all the rules of Vedic dharma. Even among our own members, not all of us have completely adopted a pre-modern, Indian mode of living and interacting. Most of us were not born and raised in an Indian, Vedic culture, and even modern Indian culture has had so many influences.

    Respect means in part appreciating the good in others and overlooking minor faults. According to social position, people are entitled to due deference in certain spheres.

    “R E S P E C T”, sings Aretha Franklin. Maybe we can talk more about what it means.

  46. Akruranatha says :

    People generally crave respect. Movie Mafia dons kill each other over it. “You will respect me”, says Tony Soprano, by which he means that due deference to his position should be paid, or else punishment will follow.

    Sankirtan devotees know instinctively that by respecting the people they interact with they become more attractive and likable. They sell more books that way. “You attract more flies with honey…” the saying goes, and the honey of respect is most attractive when it is sincere rather than some diplomatic flattery for manipulative purpose.

    This is not a “sales” technique to be used on book distribution but abandoned back at the temple or asram. It can become a way of life, learning how to give proper respect to everyone, and especially to devotees.

    “The six goswamis were popular with both the dhiras and the adhiras because they were never envious of anyone.”

    “Manners” may prescribe certain formal gestures of respect, such as bowing or using honorific titles of address. “Mataji” was supposed to be such an honorific, as all people recognize a duty of filial respect to their own mothers. Manners may be outwardly observed without real feeling, or those with genuine respect may not know the formal manners but show it in other ways. (Sabari tasted berries to make sure she offered only sweet ones to Rama…and He liked it!)

    In one sense respect involves recognizing how Krishna resides in everyone’s heart. “Panditah sama darsna” does not mean that we will invite a dog or elephant to give the Bhagavad-gita lecture, but it means we recognize that they have a spiritual identity and Supersoul within their hearts, as do all living beings, and each has a role to play in the divine scheme of things.

    If we respected each other better, I think the nature of our discussions about how to properly adopt Vedic standards of social interactions within ISKCON would be more harmonious, less quarrelsome. I am not saying there would be no differences of opinion. As long as we are individuals we will have our own different takes on things. I just think we would listen better and make more progress in understanding our differences and “respecting” them.

    Even though we are individuals with different opinions, the fact that we chant Hare Krishna and accept the authority of Vaisnava acaryas and scriptures makes all devotees very respectable.

    Respect, what it is and how we demonstrate it, is a very interesting, worthwhile topic.

  47. Nitai dasa says :

    Pustakrishna Prabhu says:

    Regarding Narada Priya dd’s comments in 43, I would like to suggest that one try to keep things simple. We do not want to become entangled in the convolutions of the mind.

    And then he preaches to her as if she was a new devotee and he advises her that politics should not enter into the consideration. So what is he doing reading these political articles and commenting?

    Mother Narada Priya described her concerns and life experiences elsewhere on the internet – and one can see she has much practical experience and is concerned for the welfare of other devotee children growing up now.

    She says that through the years, she tried to raise her children as best she could but along the way, there were many obstacles in the form of discouragement and she felt the clamouring for equal rights by the Vaishnavi Ministry had something to do with it.

    She says she brought up her children in the aftermath of what she calls the most disturbing time in the history of ISKCON, and she cannot even begin to explain the psychological effect the transition has put on her family – and she says it was not easy being told that the many things you were taught over thirty years ago just didn’t apply anymore.

    So she has much practical experience than many of you commenting here and therefore I can understand her anger.

  48. I take the blame for writing such an article, loaded as it is with high emotions. In fact, I regret having done so. Did anyone benefit from this exchange of comments? I doubt it.

    Predictable input came from different sides of the “cultural wars” as Akruranatha Prabhu put it. If I have learnt anything, I’ll steer clear of these types of topics.

    They do not satisfy the self. Because the mode of passion predominated, there is dissatisfaction. Nor is this pleasing, however ‘interesting’ the subject is. Too late now.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  49. pustakrishna says :

    Respect means respect for the soul. We have witnessed the exploitation of women for money and sex that have taken place in the name of devotion in the past. May those days never resurface, and may such unqualified men never again surface in this spiritual movement. But, we must be able to learn from lessons past, both good and bad. Favorable association is to be accepted, and unfavorable association is to be rejected. We have learned that disappointment is certainly a possibility, and if we have taken shelter of the Holy Name, Sri Krishna Himself, then disappointment will not be possible. We have all known disappointment. Even His Grace Keshava Krishna Prabhu was confronted with disappointment again and again by mentors who proved unqualified. And, even my dear wife was on such a “women’s Sankirtan” party in the early to mid 1970s. (I hate to use that term “sankirtan” in this context here) where such obvious incongruities existed. She left that party of her own volition, but never left Krishna, as we can see Narada Priya dd also has maintained the determination to go on in Krishna consciousness. Who can criticize such a saintly character in the face of incongruities witnessed in the name of devotion? More like Prahlad they are, and worthy of our deepest respect. But, how will YOU help such souls to reconcile these mistreatments? Will psychological or psychiatric counselling, or medication, bring about spiritual health? I think not!
    I shall count those who remind me to take shelter of the Holy Names to be my well-wishers, extensions of my Gurudeva. Even with 43 years of experience in Krishna consciousness, those who will remind me, I do not count as condescending, but rather as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s servants.
    Prabhu, Nitai das, please do not think that I am trying to rub salt into the wound of anyone, and please do not misconstrue that I am speaking down to anyone with my advice. You will note how I presented Srila Prabhupad’s discussion with Jadurani dd in my comments. If one wants to go beyond the illusory designations that are a cause for suffering in this world, then we must approach the Holy Name for His shelter. That, in my opinion, is showing respect, whether to a soul encased in male or female body.
    More than discussion, we are touching the raw nerve of the title of this article. Hare Krishna. Pusta Krishna das

  50. mayapur108 says :

    I grew up in an Arab Country although I am raised in a Hindu family. When the Muslim families meet for a get together, the men are together in one place and the women are together in another place. The venue is the same but still there is separation and the men and women don’t interact with each other. That is normal in an Arab country.

    What about Vedic Culture? After I was married, I attended a summer family gathering in my husband’s ancesteral home in Kerala, India in the year 2008. This ancesteral home is a large one, more than 100 years old where several generations have lived. The structure of the house is exactly as Srila Prabhupada has described in his SB 3.31.40 purport, with separate interior quarters for women and exterior quarters for men. There were 11(eleven) families (all my father-in-law’s brothers, sisters, cousins along with wives/husbands and their children) who had converged there for a get together. All of us stayed in the same house but the men remained in the exterior quarters and had their own things going on while we women remained in the interior quarters and had our own things going on. The men and women never interacted with each other including the teenagers. The only time everybody was together was during breakfast, lunch and dinner at the dining table but a customary silence was expected to be maintained on these occasions. Furthermore about 8 of those families were not living in Kerala but were settled elsewhere in different cities and had come down just for this gathering. We stayed for about 1 4 days or slightly less and it was great fun. Ofcourse I took the opportunity to preach and learn some cooking skills. The whole thing was a completely new experience for me and yet it was an unforgettable one. I saw a very interesting element of the Vedic Culture in action, separation of the sexes even within the context of families. It seemed most natural and elegant.

    Rigid separation of sexes even within families is thus an intrinsic part of vedic culture and not an isolated phenomenon found only among Muslims.

    What Kesava Krsna Pr refers to as “normal cultured family living” is thus debatable. Normal and cultured according to what standard? What is the point of reference here? He has assumed that normal cultured family living is universally the same. It is not. I have demonstrated that from my own life’s experience.

    Your servant,
    Shiromani dd

  51. mayapur108 says :

    In post 15, Kesava Krsna Pr has come up with conclusions that need careful scrutiny. He has pieced together his understanding of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings from various places in the Bhagavad-gita to come up with a conclusion that Srila Prabhupada himself has not come up with. I have great respect for Kesava Krsna Pr but he is setting a dangerous precedent here. Jayadvaita Maharaja’s rule of thumb may perhaps be applied to post 15. I don’t remember its exact wording but it goes something like this: If Srila Prabhupada did not explicitly state it and if it first came up after 1977, whatever it is, doubt it.

    In post 26, Kesava Krsna Pr brings up the topic of selective quoting but he is completely off the mark while applying it to the incident that he refers. Here is what selective quoting means: Let’s say that Srila Prabhupada has given four different opinions, opinion A, opinion B, opinion C and opinion D on a particular topic and if an author while writing an article presents only opinion A while omitting opinion B, C and D then we can say that the author is guilty of selectively quoting Srila Prabhupada. As far the present incident is concerned, Srila Prabhupada consistently had only one opinion that both his men and women should dress simply. He clearly writes that a woman can dress attractively only in front of her husband. Else a woman is not expected to dress attractively. If anybody can show me at least one instance where Srila Prabhupada said something different on this topic even implicitly I would be interested to see it. In the absence of such an instance, we have to accept that the incident we are referring to is indeed representative and not selective. I am well aware that Srila Prabhupada said different things about brahmacaris and women but nowhere did he sanction that women can dress attractively. To dress elegantly is one thing. Mothers dress elegantly but the other kind of dressing as Srila Prabhupada refers to in this incident is not for mothers.

    Your servant,
    Shiromani devi dasi

  52. pustakrishna says :

    Dear Keshava Krishna das,
    Dandavats and Hare Krishna. One of the classic criticisms of the Hare Krishna Movement in the West is that we tend to separate men and women, and women seem to be ruled by the men. In the East (India), we are criticized for allowing too much intermingling between men and women. You are criticized either way. A no win situation? Remember, what Srila Prabhupad has endevoured to do is to save a Godless civilization through the mercy of the Holy Name. I want to be very clear. I do not think that Indian ways are necessarily the beacon of light that we are lauding them to be (#50 & 51). We have heard that female infanticide may still exist in some parts of India and perhaps China. Families in rural areas cannot utilize girls for agriculture and the need to give dowry for marriage can be very difficult for some. Let us not mistake the incongruities that exist in India. There are some remnants of Vedic culture, but there are also some strong indications that Kali yuga is well established there as well. Some merchants will hoard grain to drive the prices up, even if people may be starving!
    Hence, I applaud Keshava Krishna das for bringing up this topic regarding the honorable treatment of ladies. I think that some of the comments have been very thought-provoking, and even heart transforming. You may want to place everything neatly into a folder with every topic, and close the drawer on it, but it will not relieve one of needing to look deep within one’s heart, and also to look through the shastra as well as through the example of saintly persons, and proceed forward. Remember that Krishna has warned us that all endeavours in this world are covered by some fault, like smoke covers fire. However, He also states (BG 3.16) that the Vedic recommendations for sacrifice help one to avoid sin, and avoid a self-centered life of sense gratification. We cannot equate modern day India with Vedic culture. So much greed and power craving exists there, as elsewhere. We have been given the Sankirtan Yajna as the remedy for this age and its inhabitants. Ultimately, Krishna advises to give up all religiosity and to surrender to Him only. Then, will such a soul mistreat anything or anyone? If it is structure you want, be prepared to also adapt to change. Haribol. Pusta Krishna das
    In the final analysis, we cannot abandon common sense when dealing with the difficult issues which we are confronted by.

  53. Mother Shiromani,

    First off, comment 15 was substantiated in comment 18, with the aid of first-hand experience of ashrama life. There is an allowance to give personal experiences.

    Selective quoting of Srila Prabhupada can be done by any extremist or fanatic. It is true.

    May I ask you, have you lived full time in an ashrama for a good number of years? Perhaps during the late 70’s or early 80’s? Because these years helped shape, and unravel the Iskcon we have today. If you haven’t, then your experience is limited.

    Your family situation sounds quite ‘normal’ in the traditional sense. Happy to hear you are comfortable with it. In temples in Western countries, the adoption of comfortable normal family ties with separated genders, has not always been as comfortable as your experience.

    I’m sure you didn’t have to artificially cover your face every time you encountered a male member of the extended family, or did you? Did the males have to be in anxiety in your personal presence? If the answers to these questions are no, then we have a normal situation. The tradition has helped the genders know their places and so every family member went about their daily business.

    Translate this normalcy to an ashrama situation and you’ll see a different story. Brahmacaris and bramhacarinis, both with ideological outcomes (celibacy or marriage), do not always produce a perceived normality as in your family situation.

    I need not enumerate the abnormalities as have been experienced by many. These are Iskcon social issues. With the rise of congregation based devotee membership of Iskcon comes increasing numbers of families like yours. I hinted in the article that “isn’t there something we can learn from ‘normal’ family situations like yours?” Perhaps you can teach us a thing or two.

    That is the normality I refer to. My contention is merely about how these were not adopted very well within Iskcon, with resulting problems. That’s all.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  54. If I may give a material example to illustrate how matters ‘gender’ really does raise the emotional stakes, and creates ideological battle lines between ourselves.

    In ‘normal’ society Muslims, Christians, Jews and Hindus easily fraternise, either in the workplace or during sports activities and family get-togethers. This peaceful fraternising remains in place only so long as matters of contentious religion are kept at bay. Of course, a few mature friends will overcome deep religious divides, but this is rare.

    If religion does rear its head, say a Middle-East or Kashmir dispute, then we know the ramifications on a killing scale.

    For us, this gender issue has a similar effect, minus the killing. It literally pits one side against another while demoting respect simultaneously. This is not very healthy. Yet it is something we all have to deal with and confront, until a ‘normal’ social situation is created.

    It seems as if, if we want to remain good friends and to be co-inhabitants of our Iskcon home, then keep ‘gender’ out of it.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  55. Visakha Priya dasi says :

    The letter which follows in my next post is not meant to challenge Siromani devi’s views, which I very much respect and appreciate. But I thought that the letter is interesting enough to share with devotees who are striving toward a full understanding of Prabhupada’s teachings. I also very much appreciate Pusta Krsna Prabhu’s outputs, which reflect his Krsna conscious maturity. I would also like to urge my dear and longtime godbrother Kesava Krsna dasa to not get discouraged in his attempts to stimulate discussions on important topics. Yesterday, while reading Nitai dasa’s comment, I felt hurt by his insulting tone toward a respectable senior, and my first reaction was to fire back an answer. But then I considered that it would have no effect, and so I refrained from doing so. Kesava Krsna Prabhu, there are enough mature devotees on this thread who are genuinely trying to understand the situation in proper context for you to persevere. It is a delicate subject matter and it requires a cool head to deal with it. But we must persevere. My humble obeisances to all of you. Your servant, Visakha Priya dasi

  56. Visakha Priya dasi says :

    Los Angeles
    15 June, 1972
    My Dear Himavati,
    Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated May 30, 1972, and I have noted the contents. I don’t know who has given you this idea of shaving your head and wearing white garments. In India only the widows are allowed to shave head. I have never suggested your husband to take to Sannyas, but we can discuss this matter further when we shall meet again in London for Rathayatra.
    You remain the beautiful maid servant of Krishna. That is your business, and you should dress yourself always very nicely so that Krishna by seeing you will be pleased. Don’t try to be ugly before Krishna. Krishna does not like ugly gopis. We are transcendental artists, musicians, writers, so everything should be beautiful for Krishna. After all we are members of Krishna’s family, just like Krishna had 16,000 wives and each wife has thousands of servants and maid-servants and all of them are very beautiful for serving Krishna and His Queens. So the servants of the gopis and queens cannot be ugly, they are as beautiful as the queens. In the Vaikuntha world there is no need of serving anything because everything is already clean and beautiful. It is so clean that just like a mirror when the maid-servants would sweep the floor they could see the reflections of their bodies. So remain always compact in Vaikuntha yajna, simply by thinking of the Glories of the Lord. Don’t try to do anything artificially. That is sahajiya, which means a class of men that take everything very cheap. You want to perform sacrifice so continuously read our Vedic scriptures and perform the Vaikuntha yajna.
    Hoping this will meet you and your good husband in the best of health,
    Your ever well-wisher,
    A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

  57. bbd says :

    Comment #50
    “What about Vedic Culture?”

    So much misconception of what truly is “Vedic” from a historical point of view. If devotees actually did their homework and did not blindly accept things on face value, there would be less disagreement when it comes to these topics.

    For example, a good portion of devotees today still believe that a woman should have her head covered with almost every square inch of her body covered with cloth, especially in the presence of men. They believe that this practice is truly representative of “Vedic” culture when it is really the exact opposite. The sari, that we know of today, is a post Islamic form of dress that largely differs from the Vedic kayabandh, uttariya, antariya, etc… One will not find the term “sari” mentioned in sastra or see the modern “sari” in any pre-Islamic art, for the sari of today was specifically created to hide women’s bodies due to Islamic and British societal codes. If one wishes to truly see how “Vedic” women dressed, were viewed, and inter-acted with men in more Vedic times, one only needs to look at the artwork of the Ajanta Caves, or the temple scultures at Khajuraho, Konark, and the realism depicted by early European artists who traveled to India.

    The fact is that modern India and it’s social and cultural norms have been largely influenced by the invading Muslims and British. There is a big difference between Hindu and Vedic social norms.

    Here is just a couple examples of realism before British Raj saturated India.

  58. Thank you both Pusta Krishna Prabhu and Vishaka Priya Mataji for your encouraging words. If “Every endeavour is covered by some fault,” and “Utility is the principle,” then, although passionate feelings proliferate, why can’t we use the same passion guided by common sense and experience?

    I suppose we expect reasonable exchanges of comments, but occasionally someone’s past experiences can be aimed in a generalised way. What is really interesting is how the words of Srila Prabhupada can be used to justify the many diverse perspectives we read of. Whether we call it being selective or biased there is always some benefit to be gained, but this is dependent on time and circumstance, what to speak of relevance.

    Now a comment has been submitted on possible Islamic influences on the dress code of women. Vishaka Priya Mataji’s revealing letter of Srila Prabhupada (@56) on the need to always be “beautiful” points to the fact that Iskcon is primarily a preaching movement, albeit in the throes of social change and development.

    Srila Prabhupada is hinting at representing Iskcon in an attractive way – Krishna is All-Attractive, and His sincere devotees are too. People are attracted to Hollywood or Bollywood stars, but devotees should be attractive by dint of purity, sincerity, honesty and so on. This has little bearing on whether Iskcon should adopt Indian, ancient or Moral societal codes per say. This is where Pusta Krishna Prabhu exposed the downside of modern untraditional Indian norms.

    Do we really want an Iskcon to be based on worldly traditional societies, however moral and strict? Or can we forge our own identity, a Vaikuntha identity, truly representative of all that is attractive?

    The word ‘attractive’ is deeply meaningful, since the word ‘traction’ means to pull. Since every living entity knowingly or unknowingly is ‘pulled’ towards the attraction of self-improvement, self-preservation, involving sleeping, mating, eating and defending, we as Iskcon should induce a ‘pulling’ power to attract, or to use purity ‘traction’ to pull souls back to where they belong. Iskcon can be the Home.

    Unless we sort out our social orientation with a moderation consistent with all that is attractive coming from pure sources, our different definitions of purity of purpose based on suspect historical, traditional, moral and mundane religious standards, will keep us ordinarily unattractive with little pulling power.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  59. Nitai dasa says :

    I had a look at the links to pictures of supposedly ancient Indian paintings in post 57. Surely bbd does not want our devotee mothers to go topless.

    Those pictures, whether one or two hundred years old, are probably painted by karmis, most likely westerners who choose to see in their paintings whatever they desired. Surely devotee painters of those times would never depict their mothers like that.

    In some parts of India, some tribal women do dress with their breasts exposed, but cultured women don’t. Surely devotees are cultured – or they should try to be.

    This is another instance of not just putting Srila Prabhupada on trial but all our acaryas as well. They gave us our dress code.

    Most devotees, getting on in spiritual advancement steadily and with some genuine taste for the holy name would probably look on scantily clad women, sensuous to the materialist and less advanced neophyte, as being very unattractive. On the other hand, just as Srila Prabhupada said his female disciples with saris look attractive, like vaikuntha residents – more advanced devotees would also see the attraction – the vaikuntha attraction.

    Regarding Srila Prabhupada’s letter to Mother Himavati in post 56, this is not just selective quoting – most of all, it is not understanding Srila Prabhupada’s mood – the vaikunta mood. Mother Himavati wanted to shave her head and wear white – Srila Prabhupada said this is only for widows and not to do so. He said devotees should look attractive for Krsna. So in Srila Prabhupada’s eyes, to be attractive for Krsna means to dress as he recommended, and not women scantily dressed or dressed in white with shaved head. Devotee women with saris look most attractive in a vaikunta way, and more advanced devotees will see this vaikunta attraction – with the understanding that this is for Krsna’s eyes only.

    Srila Prabhupada simply encouraged Mother Himavati to remain as she was and not change anything. This letter was mainly for her benefit.

  60. bbd says :

    Nitai dasa

    In no way did I say how and how not women “should” dress. What I set to show is that what many people believe to be representations of historical Vedic culture, are simply not. The way most modern Indian or devotee women dress is simply not Vedic, or even close. Nor are the artificial barriers placed between the genders. They are more Islamic than anything. Those paintings I provided links for are examples of realism seen by early European travelers to India before British Raj. They traveled to India and brought back real scenery of what was observed in India for the eager European audiences to see what this exotic land was like. 2 of the example paintings are of what was seen in Bengal & Kanchipuram, hardly uncultured areas of India. Let’s not try to dismiss historical fact with some biased spin. You can’t change history my friend.

    You’re idea of topless women in India as being uncultured is exactly the vision the Muslims and British had…not of the people living by Vedic social norms. Just “Google” Ajanta Cave art, Konark temple, Khajuraho temples, or any pre-Islamic art. You’ll clearly see a different, yet true reality of Vedic or more Vedic cultural acceptance of women and their liberty. According to sastra, even the gopis publicly bathed in the nude. To the contrary, most modern Indian and devotee women bath FULLY clothed. Does that make the gopis uncultured or less cultured than the Indian and devotee women of today?

    The point here is that the people living in more Vedic times did not seem to see women as the cause of original sin, temptresses of “spiritual” men, less intelligent creatures to be governed by men, etc…as the Muslims and Christians did/do. Please provide some quotes from previous Gaudiya acharyas that speak to the contrary. FYI – Chanakya Pandit was not a Gaudiya acharya.

  61. Nitai Prabhu,

    I think twice now there has been mention of Srila Prabhupada and our acaryas being on ‘trial.’ I disagree. Our own interpretations of Srila Prabhupada and previous acaryas teachings are on trial.

    In comment 46 you spoke on behalf of Narada Priya Mataji. Is what she went through, with the troubled social circumstances thereof, indicative of a pure application of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings? Clearly not. So how we apply Srila Prabhupada’s teachings is on trial. Otherwise upon what and whose basis is this so, considering how diverse we all are?

    Srila Prabhupada’s teachings have a Vaikuntha origin, and most of us have a conditioned origin. When conditioned origins try applying Vaikuntha teachings and the applications cause disagreement or difference, we should analyse how and why we struggle to do so on many levels. This is a healthy form of communication meant for improvement – not “political” as you said.

    It becomes political when taking sides occurs and that there is some expectation of material reward. Sri Prahlada’s talks to Shanda and Amarka emphasise this. Inevitably, left and right persuasions will see differently.

    Since you have joined in the discussion, we are sure you also want our social development to succeed. All are entitled to opinions and when presented in reasonable ways there is useful dialogue. Generalisations and emotion-laden comments are not worth responding to, except if there is philosophical or meaningful content.

    Sometimes we can post a comment thinking that we represent Srila Prabhupada in his entirety. To do this when there is such a wide diversity of Prabhupada quotes, life incidents, specific and general instructions, apparent contradictions and the rest, we reveal our ignorance – even more so on gender and social matters.

    In this respect, Vishaka Priya Mataji’s comment 56 is one such example. True, it is a specific, not general, but it nonetheless teaches us how widely diverse Srila Prabhupada was. He was not a blinkered extremist or fanatic. He was not even truly conservative in his own Iskcon social applications. Perhaps history will reveal that our version of renunciation turned the tide towards conservatism.

    With all these variables available for us, it would be of form of arrogance for anyone to claim that they have Srila Prabhupada and our previous acaryas under their thumb.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  62. vishnujanadasa says :

    To Comment # 57

    Although there seems to be no mention of the word “sari” in ancient Vedic literature, the word is still believed to be derived from the Sanskrit word “sati” meaning “long cloth or drapery (in other words, a sari essentially)”. As scanty as the archeological evidence may be in regards to Vedic dress, we can still nonetheless turn to the Vedic body of literature itself for evidence.

    The custom of women covering themselves for the sake of modesty is illustrated by the episode in the Mahabharata where the Kauravas try to disrobe Draupadi in order to dishonor her. Everyone is familiar with this episode. Men were not allowed into the women’s quarters of the palace and yet Dussasana flagrantly violates this rule and drags Draupadi out by force (The practice of women maintaining private quarters barring the presence of men within the household is a tradition practiced by many pre-Islamic cultures, but more on that later).

    Another example is from the Ramayana. Lakshmana is only able to identify Sita Devi’s foot ornaments and not others because out of respect for her modesty he would never look at the rest of Sita’s body.

    From the Srimad Bhagavatam also, the Apsara Urvasi vows to leave king Pururava if she ever sees him naked (This shows that the Vedic standards of modesty apply to both men and women):

    It appears from the words of Urvasi that the standard of living, eating, behavior and speech are all different on the heavenly planets from the standards on this planet earth….Nor do they like to see either men or women naked, except at the time of sexual intercourse. To live naked or almost naked is uncivilized, but on this planet earth it has now become fashionable to dress half naked…The inhabitants of the heavenly planets, aside from being very beautiful, both in complexion and bodily features, are well behaved and long-living, and they eat first-class food in goodness. These are some of the distinctions between the inhabitants of the heavenly planets and the inhabitants of earth.
    Srimad Bhagavatam 9.14.23 purport

    Furthermore, Lord Krishna tells the gopis in Srimad Bhagavatam 10.22.19, “You girls bathed naked while executing your vow, and that is certainly an offense against the demigods. To counteract your sin you should offer obeisances while placing your joined palms above your heads. Then you should take back your lower garments.”

  63. vishnujanadasa says :


    These examples were not woven into the Puranas after the Islamic invasions of India but actually predate them.

    In fact, the tradition of women being covered up predates Islam. In Babylon, Purdah was practiced. Purdah is a strict set of rules governing the way women interacted with the society. The Babylonians, Persians, classical Greeks, and many others followed similar moral practices.

    Regarding the caves of Ajanta and Ellora, which depict topless women: The peculiarity of these paintings, as pointed out by Buddhist scholars and Indologists, is that by depicting sensual and topless women, the paintings are contradicting Buddhist morals and principles (the paintings are Buddhist). The Buddha himself preached against worldly sensuality as an obstacle to nirvana, and yet these paintings show him surrounded by half-naked women.

    The explanation offered by the scholars is that these women actually represent the temptations and allurements of the world, meant to be overcome by those seeking enlightenment. The same theory is postulated regarding similar depictions on temple facades around South India, such as Khajuraho and Konark. It should also be noted that those temples are exceptions, and are thought by scholars to be influenced by tantra. Also, they are depicting divinities (apsaras) and royalty.

    Naked Greek statues similarly do not depict common life in classical Greece. In fact, those statues were painted and ancient writers describe them as having been dressed with real clothing. However, without the few references from ancient literature, and without the use of modern-day technology, we would have never known that, and our conception of the past would have mirrored this lack of knowledge.

  64. pustakrishna says :

    I wanted to offer an angle of vision to help decipher Srila Prabhupad’s comments to Her Grace Himavati dd so many years ago (comment 56). Srila Prabhupad often commented that preaching is done according to desa-kala-patra…time, place, and circumstance. Having lived so many years in Sri Vrindaban Dham, His Divine Grace was surely quite familiar that many elderly women, mostly widows, would take shelter in Vrindaban at the end of their lives. They are so pious and simple hearted. In the early morning hours of brahma-muhurta in Vrindaban, a wave of vraja-vasis, mostly such ladies, go to arotika at the main temples in Vrindaban, one after another. They often have unique songs that they sing in front of the different altars reminescent of their unique Names and lila. They complete their morning worship at Seva Kunj where Srimati Radharani has her temple. They sing many songs and often welcome western bhaktas warmly. They are the real deal when it comes to renunciation and simplicity. In the early days of ISKCON, in 1971, I was a brahmachary with one sannyasi and we lived in Brahma-kunda area of Vrindaban in a small place given to Srila Prabhupad. One morning while walking through the small lanes there, one such elderly lady in white, sitting to the side of the alley with her aluminum begging bowl handed me several paise with her hand that had no fingers due to leprosy. She lifted the coins up to me and smiled beautifully pleading for me to take this gift. I felt that I had experienced a depth of humility in this devotee that I could never hope to experience in my life.

    Srila Prabhupad did not like for his disciples to display false renunciation, or imitation of such women. I believe that he was protecting Himavati dd from bhoga-tyaga since she was attached to her husband and she would express her loss of him, were he to take sanyas, by also demonstrating profound detachment, through change of dress herself (of course, we cannot know the depth of determination of Himavati dd who I knew in 1971 as we travelled to Ahmedabad (Gujarat) to do a sankirtan program there with others in the summer of 1971. She was a formidable and strong devotee woman, without a doubt. She was a young lady at that time.
    As Keshava Krishna Prabhu has pointed out, we can always find some quote of Srila Prabhupad to support a position or its antithesis. We have to try to think things through and realize the underlying love of Sri Sri Guru Gauranga. Pusta Krishna das

  65. Nitai dasa says :

    Hare Krsna – Krishna Keshava Prabhu. Since you directly prompted me to respond to your last comment, I will do so just this once. I don’t want to get caught up in this discussion after this, because as shown in another article, these issues just harden stances.

    First I want to respond to some statements you made in your article and this one below in particular seems to be what your article is based on.

    our inordinate fixation on matters ‘celibate’ is the problem.

    I don’t know of any devotee, brahmacaris included who are inordinately fixed on matters of celibacy. Could be in years gone by but not in present day Iskcon.

    We have to understand that the majority of devotees around the world are not brahmacari celibates but conservative and family orientated and come from close knit extended family backgrounds. This feminism issue and most other controversial issues within Iskcon is a Western obsession only affecting a very small minority. Therefore it is unfair to make policy suggestions on these issues without looking at how the majority live.

    The thousands upon thousands of devotees in more conservative countries such as Italy and Spain within Western Europe, the flood of devotees in Russia and other Eastern European countries, Asia including India, Africa and even South America do not care about these issues. English is not even their first language and if we look at the number of views these articles on Dandavats get, we know how insignificant these issues are to the broader devotee community worldwide. Therefore it is unfair for the handful of devotees involved with feminism and other issues to cause a disturbance and influence the innocent majority of devotees worldwide who should be encouraged to build on their close family culture within a devotee lifestyle and not get influenced the other way. I mentioned in my “Varnasrama – Why Now!” article how more easily Varnasrama can be introduced within these countries.


  66. Nitai dasa says :

    Most of us are grhasthas. Actually, I have heard that Srila Prabhupada said ninety or ninety nine percent of us will be grhastas, I cannot find this quote. And we see that most devotees are living on the outside and not many in temples.

    Even most of the brahamacaris living in temples will take up grhastha at some point; hardly many will remain lifelong celibates. Now instead of changing the status quo by trying to fix the women abuse issue, we rather do as advised by our tradition and make qualified devotee husbands. How do we do that? Let our male children attend gurukula from five years onwards. After gurukula, they can be encouraged to live in temples for proper brahmacari training until twenty five years and then take up grhastha. So parents will feel confident that here are qualified husbands for their daughters. Going to mundane school and university slaughterhouses teaches our children to abuse and disrespect one another. There is the anxiety amongst parents about careers for devotee children, they could be trained with varnasrama and self sufficiency in mind.

    So fixation on celibacy is not the problem and neither is feminism in a majority of cases. The majority also don’t have your experience as you mentioned – when you lived in a temple. So if there is a majority of a favourable tide sweeping Iskcon, why not encourage that. It will be a great disservice to Srila Prabhupada to do otherwise.

    Also, to mention Mother Visaka Priya, she normally comments on matters related to feminism. She lives as a renunciate in Vrindavan and not all women devotees will have the great fortune to cut their hair, put on a white sari and live in the holy dharma. Most will be grhastas. So Mother Visaka Priya does not speak for the majority – even within a western context, as she has no practical experience in grhasta and family life as a parent or wife. My humble opinion is that she should take this great fortune and immerse herself in the ways of Vrindavana as a renunciate.


  67. Nitai dasa says :

    The quote below is taken from comments to a similar thread discussing the women issue on Dandavats. It encapsulates my thoughts and experience as well – I spend lots of time in India.

    What is even sadder is that these “leading” women want to train the next generation of young women. My Indian friends tell me that when their wives, or god-sisters attend classes/seminars by these senior ladies they come out confused. A common complaint from the Indian women is “they may know the philosophy—that Krsna is God and we are the servants, but they do not know how to apply it in their daily lives as women. They do not know the religion (dharma) of how to be a woman in Krsna’s service. They mix in Western ideas about feminism and call this Women’s role in KC.”

    Another complaint I heard is that they discourage the Indian girls from getting married, which causes a lot of distress to their parents. They don’t want their daughters mixing freely with men the way the Western women do, a habit that historically has led to many scandals. Rather they want them to get married and settle down and do their seva at home in the grhasta ashrama. This has been the way women have successfully served Lord Krsna since time immemorial. Not traveling around the world mixing with strange men outside of their family–a formula for disaster.

    So why don’t we encourage preaching in a more conservative way in countries that still have family culture since it will be accepted without much question. It is a great disservice to Srila Prabhupada to do otherwise.

  68. Nitai dasa says :

    continued from previous comment

    These realities can become unreal when our artificial impositions of keeping the sexes ‘apart’ are based on the fear of victimisation. Was there ever an indirect historic Islamic influence somewhere in this, as some surmise?

    This quote by Srila Prabhupada was already posted in comments: “It is only the less intelligent persons not well versed in the history of the world who say that observance of separation of female from male is an introduction of the Mohammedan period in India.”

    This could be one example of putting Srila Prabhupada on trial. Srila Prabhupada knows that in vedic references and in a cultured society, separation of sexes is necessary. The Mohammedan period came only recently, our culture goes back more than 5000 years, even millions of years through the different ages. We should take it on faith that Srila Prabhupada is guided by Krsna and he knows better than us how things were before the invasions of India.

    On the other hand, Islam was created with influences from other religions and it is more likely that after they invaded India, they took some vedic concepts such as an adaptation of the dress. In Arab countries, Muslims don’t wear saris or clothing as worn in India. Even in India, most Muslim women don’t wear saris but a gown like outfit so how can we conclude that the sari was taken from the Islamic tradition.

  69. Nitai dasa says :

    Here, I will try to answer questions you asked me.

    If our devotee ladies were also treated with deserving respect over the years, would we not see some of the movement towards women empowerment within our ranks as well?

    While it is sad that devotee women were mistreated in the past, we cannot build our future on the understanding that the majority of devotee women are mistreated now. In most grhastha families I know, the women actually control the husbands and their household, with subtly. Their chastity gives them shakti and Krsna reciprocates with protection. This is a more elegant form of equal rights, as opposed to the women exploitation we see now. This also gives the women proper happiness than endeavoring to act in a way which is against their nature.

    In comment 46 you spoke on behalf of Narada Priya Mataji. Is what she went through, with the troubled social circumstances thereof, indicative of a pure application of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings?

    If you mean her troubled social circumstances was as a result of devotees not following the pure application of Srila Prabhupada’s teaching and encouraging her not to follow strictly as well due to the influence of feminism, the answer is Yes. She was looked down upon and sometimes ridiculed for trying to follow his original teachings – she simply wanted to give her children a chance in spiritual life.

    I contacted her through her blog and we started a correspondence. She related her experiences to me. It is not for me to discuss this here, it is her private family matter. But I can tell you that the turmoil she and other devotee families went through was because of deviations from Prabhupada’s teachings.

    This is a healthy form of communication meant for improvement – not “political” as you said.

    When you deal with issues, it is political in a sense. Different sides are formed, just as there are different political parties in a government. Devotees are for one side or the other. Strictly speaking, politics about liberal issues are not about how to make advancement. There is only one way to do that – to act favorably and boil the milk – or as I would like to say, to be conservative.


  70. Nitai dasa says :

    Since you have joined in the discussion, we are sure you also want our social development to succeed.

    Very much so. But my approach may be different from yours. I mentioned above how most of the devotees in the world would actually be conservative so why not build on this. More of my ideas on this are in the article I wrote:

    In this respect, Vishaka Priya Mataji’s comment 56 is one such example. True, it is a specific, not general, but it nonetheless teaches us how widely diverse Srila Prabhupada was. He was not a blinkered extremist or fanatic. He was not even truly conservative in his own Iskcon social applications. Perhaps history will reveal that our version of renunciation turned the tide towards conservatism.

    Srila Prabhupada was not a blinked extremist or fanatic as you say and therefore if we choose to follow him strictly, neither are we. What was liberal for Srila Prabhupada is actually very conservative for us. What was liberal for Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu who gave even the casteless the holy name was actually very conservative in relation to the process as Srila Prabhupada gave us. He dealt with women as opposed to Lord Caitanya who did not even look at them. If you look at Srila Prabhupada’s rules as given to us, how you can say that it is not conservative when there are groups trying to adjust even these rules which could be considered liberal by previous standards. So if we want to simply follow Srila Prabhupada’s rules which are conservative according to our standards, are we blinked or extremist.

    And in regards to the letter in 56, you can’t use that to say that Srila Prabhupada was widely diverse when he spoke to a specific devotee in a specific way. Also, how did I not understand and comment on that letter in its proper context – or “as it is” as opposed to this comment by Pusta Krishna Prabhu “I want to offer an angle of vision to help decipher Srila Prabhupad’s comments to Her Grace Himavati dd so many years ago (comment 56)”Why does he need to offer an angle of vision to decipher Srila Prabhupada’s words to this letter when it is clear. Perhaps this is our disease; we try to twist everything Srila Prabhupada said to suit our own vision. Scrutinize the letter and my reference to it and show me how my comments to this letter is different from what Srila Prabhupada intended – as opposed to Mother Visaka Priya’s intent for using the letter.

  71. bbd says :

    To comments 62 & 63:

    “Although there seems to be no mention of the word “sari” in ancient Vedic literature, the word is still believed to be derived from the Sanskrit word “sati” meaning “long cloth or drapery (in other words, a sari essentially)”. As scanty as the archeological evidence may be in regards to Vedic dress, we can still nonetheless turn to the Vedic body of literature itself for evidence.”

    The most commonplace fashion in Vedic times was the antariya — similar to a dhoti but tied between the legs, usually thin, or sheer, could be very short or long — you see them all the time on ancient sculptures of women; also an uttariya was commonplace — they are various types of scarfs used to wrap around the arms or body or even head; and the kayabandh — which are various types of sashes around the waist. That wasn’t the only clothing, just very common in the heat. There were also dresses, skirts, shawls, shirts, blouses, cholis, types of bras, etc. The paintings at Ajanta and elsewhere show lifestyles of royalty), or at least they were not shamed into hiding their bodies. There was no stigma for showing the body. Saris, as we know them today, came into being specifically to hide women’s bodies because of the Islamic and then British attitudes.

    “The custom of women covering themselves for the sake of modesty is illustrated by the episode in the Mahabharata where the Kauravas try to disrobe Draupadi in order to dishonor her. Everyone is familiar with this episode.”

    “And, O monarch as the attire of Draupadi was being dragged, after one was taken off, another of the same kind, appeared covering her. And thus did it continue till many clothes were seen. And, O exalted one, owing to the protection of Dharma, hundreds upon hundreds of robes of many hues came off Draupadi’s person.”

    This says nothing about Draupadi wearing a “sari”. The problem, or confusion, is derived from the interpolation and condraditions of the dharmasastras. The dharmasastras were written over a long period of time by various commentators and authors. These writing were abused because they were used to control people, or society at large. Because they were used to control society, they are the most widely abused of all Hindu literature. Because the Ramayana deals with lots of social duties, it has over 300 versions.

  72. bbd says :

    Madhvacarya’s “Mahabharata-Tatparya-Nirnaya” talks about extensive interpolation of the Mahabharata in Ch. 2.

    kvacid granthan prakshipanti kvacidantaritanapi |
kuryuh kvacicca vyatyasam pramadat kvacidanyatha || 2.3

    3. In some places (of the Mahabharatha) verses have been interpolated and in others verses have been omitted in some places, the verses have been transposed and in others, different readings have been given out of ignorance or otherwise.

    anutsanna api grantha vyakula iti sarvasah |
utsannah prayasah sarve kotyamso’pi na vartate || 2.4

    4. Though the works are really indestructible, they must be deemed to be mostly altered. Mostly all of them have disappeared and not even one crore (out of several crores of slokas) now exists.

    grantho’pyevam viluLitah kimvartho devadurgamah |
kalavevam vyakulite nirnayaya pracoditah || 2.5
harina nirnayan vacmi vijanamstatprasadatah || 2.6
sastrantarani sanjanan vedamscasya prasadatah |
dese dese tatha granthan drishtva caiva prithagvidhan || 2.7

    5 – 7. When the original work itself is so altered, What is there to say of its meaning which is intelligible (even) to the Devas only with difficulty. When the work had thus become altered in the Kali age, under the direction of Hari for its clear understanding, I shall state the settled truths having known them through His grace, and also having well known the other (extinct) works and all the Vedas through His grace, and also having examined the various editions existing in several places.

    Islamic invaders went right to the Dharmasastras as a means to control India. Here is a great link dealing with interpolations.

    As for your reference to Srimad Bhagavatam 9.14.23 purport, Sukadeva Goswami, Jada Bharata, etc… come to mind. How about Lecture on SB 2.9.9 — Tokyo, April 25, 1972, Informal Class in Room:

    Prabhupāda: Well, spiritual advancement is going on. They are taking advice from great saintly persons, they are observing, they are performing big sacrifices, spending money, treasury. That is their spiritual advancement. You are satisfying Kṛṣṇa in spite of… All these devatās, the demigods, they also enjoy. In higher planetary system, like Indra, he is prostitute hunter number one, Indra. (laughter) But he is a great devotee at the same time.

  73. bbd says :

    As for SB 10.12.19, it is obvious that Krishna is mischievously joking with the gopis. He tricked them so that they had to exit the waters with their hands over their heads exposing their naked bodies. If He truly thought they were acting “uncivilized” or sinful then wouldn’t He have had them exit the water covering their private parts? The truth is that He was lovingly joking with His most intimate loving devotees. Otherwise, as you are suggesting, the gopis (the epitome of loving devotion) were acting “uncivilized”, immoral, and doing something offensive to the Lord’s divine will…something abominable to “modern devotional standards”. That conclusion makes no sense. The fable of Adam and Eve (women being inherently immoral and dragging men down from spiritual perfection) has no place in Vaisnava siddhanta. Apparantly, Christian and Islamic dogma permeates modern social norms, and many devotee perceptions on Vedic norms.

    Furthermore, if you look into the GitaGovind by Jayadeva Goswami and the writings of the six Goswamis, you will see an entirely different reality of the gopis and their loving relations with Krishna than what you may be imposing.

    What evidence shows is that in Vedic and more Vedic times, women had more social liberties than even today (equal rights, education opportunities, and choosing their own mate). These depictions of women were not seen as “uncivilized” or “sinful”. The life and social freedoms of women in Vedic times is just an opposite reflection of women’s position in India today.

    In summary, any modern painting of women in Vedic times wearing what we know of as a “sari” is an inaccurate historical representation. If you’d like to see for yourself, just look at any style of pre-Islamic art (like Satavahana style) vs. post-Islamic invasion art (like art from the Hampi Empire). You will see an entirely different portrayal of women.

  74. vishnujanadasa says :

    To comments 72-73

    Wonderful references, thank you. Women in Vedic culture are indeed misunderstood. They did have more liberties than is often depicted by modern-day society, and as mentioned in the Manu Smriti website you posted, women, according to Manu, are to be given charge of domestic affairs, respected and given right of way when passing in the streets, etc. and should all be generally revered by the society as at large. Indeed, as Srila Prabhupada said, women are the representatives of the Goddess of fortune herself. In the words of the website you linked to above, “Even the modern feminist books would have to seek further amendments to match up to Manu Smriti.”

    “All these devatās, the demigods, they also enjoy. In higher planetary system, like Indra, he is prostitute hunter number one, Indra. (laughter) But he is a great devotee at the same time.”

    Indeed the demigods may be prostitute hunters and sense enjoyers and still be great devotees and servants of Krishna (although Srila Prabhupada also mentioned that the more one becomes detached the more Godly or deva-like he becomes; thus there are levels of devatas, just like there are levels of lokas). Within deva societies however we can see that there are still certain reservations about revealing the body to certain persons, like when Narada was traveling through the heavenly abodes and Nalakuvara and Manigriva were sporting naked drunk with the heavenly damsels. It is recounted that the women covered themselves up when they saw Narada, but the two demigods were so intoxicated that they didn’t cover themselves up.

    Similarly, when Vyasa passed by the women bathing in the beginning of the Srimad Bhagavatam, they covered themselves up (although, as most devotees know, they didn’t do so when Sukadeva passed by, because they could understand that he was beyond attachment and aversion).

  75. vishnujanadasa says :


    “This says nothing about Draupadi wearing a “sari”. The problem, or confusion, is derived from the interpolation and condraditions of the dharmasastras… Because the Ramayana deals with lots of social duties, it has over 300 versions.”

    I am not saying the Mahabharata is mentioning a sari per say. I am just making the point that women dressed moderately and covered themselves, even before the Muslim and Christian influences.

    In reference to the Mahabharata being composed of varying layers interpolated over time, it is a very good point supported by Madhvacharya himself no less. It is, however pointed out by scholars that the latest layer of the Mahabharata was added around 400 CE, which stills puts the text well before any Muslim influence, and even predates the caves of Ajanta(1)

    Similarly, while the Ramayana by some estimations has over 300 hundred versions, scholars still consider Valmiki’s as the original, and if we take the latest estimates of some of those scholars we still get a date of around the 5th to 4th century B.C. E. The other editions are considered regional versions, such as Tamil, Telugu, Indonesian, Cambodian, Malai, and also versions from the Philippines, Laos, Vietnam, and Maldives. Also there are sectarian versions such as Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, etc. Finally, there are the contemporary novels and comic versions.

    “As for SB 10.12.19, it is obvious that Krishna is mischievously joking with the gopis. ”

    Certainly Krishna is joking when he is with the gopis by the river. The main point illustrated here is that a woman was only to be seen by her husband naked, and so Krishna wanted to see them naked in order to fulfill their desire and recognize them as his wives.

    “Saris, as we know them today, came into being specifically to hide women’s bodies because of the Islamic and then British attitudes.”

    As you mentioned, there were varieties of clothing worn by Vedic women (antariya, uttariya, kayabandh, dresses, skirts, shawls, shirts, blouses, cholis, types of bras, etc.). Some of these would be draped on the body similar to a sari. As I mentioned in the original comment (62), sari is derived from “sati”, meaning long cloth or drapery, which would fit into or refer to one or more of the categories of Vedic clothing you mentioned. Hence, they are antecedents to the modern-day sari.

    1. Van Buitenen; The Mahabharata – 1; The Book of the Beginning. Introduction (Authorship and Date).

  76. pustakrishna says :

    So much energy is being expended in recent comments on the topic of what dress women use, as if that is somehow related to showing respect for women who have approached Krishna for His shelter. Really, I do not consider that the women who have left the larger society to take shelter of Krishna should be minimized by considering that the dress they wear is of great importance. They have come to Krishna. They therefore must be given spiritual nourishment in hearing and chanting in order to realize their spiritual destiny. That is the respect that they deserve.

    We may find ourselves in many different circumstances in life at different times. The common thread is that hearing about Krishna cuts the material knot that binds the soul to the illusory energy…the hrdaya-granthi spoken of in the Srimad Bhagavatam. We do honor to souls when we promote hearing and chanting, and we do dishonor when we do not. It is not essential that women adopt the dress of a sari or whatever. If we want to demonstrate respect to the souls whom we can effect a change of heart in, then the principle of hearing and chanting is essential.

    The issue of celibacy has been raised. It is important to recognize that Srila Prabhupad time and again noted that sex desire is the shackle that binds one to the illusory energy. I think that it is important to establish that the Acharya is showing the way back Home, back to Godhead. It is important to recognize his and Lord Chaitanya’s standard. If one cannot live up to that practice, then they should not try to dilute the standard to suit one’s individual or community material standard. One can be saved if one accepts the high standard, but is culpable of yoga-nasta (destruction of yoga) if one adopts their own material standards. This is very important. We do not want to justify our own maya, but rather aspire for the highest standard, even if we are unable.

    Please try to consider these principles. I do not mind that Nitai das may criticize me. After all, I was once a sannyasi, a GBC, a personal and confidential secretary to Srila Prabhupad, and given delegated responsibilities personally by Srila Prabhupad. He was a friend as well as my Guru. I have not lived up to all of those responsibilities, but I have not made a standard separate from that which Srila Prabhupad gave me. I have his beacon in sight as he has my heart in his sight. Pusta Krishna das

  77. Visakha Priya dasi says :

    Dear Nitai dasa Prabhu, you are right when you say that I do not speak for the majority. Is that a fault? Actually, I remember reading–most probably in the Lilamrita–that Churches Scottish College would maintain teachers who had practically no students in their classes. The rationale behind it was that the disciplines they taught were so important that one couldn’t afford to lose them just because there were only one or two students attending. Perhaps this doesn’t make sense to you but it makes sense to some.

    It may be that those of us who joined ISKCON in the late seventies and gave up everything–freedom, money, etc.–to surrender to the temple authorities are an almost extinct species. But we still exist and we do have a right to continue living according to our convictions, which are based on the teachings of Srimad-Bhagavatam.

    Although I fully agree with you that the majority of women is not meant for celibate life, I can assure you that there is a minority who wants to live like that. And it is not against the principles of the Bhagavatam to tell them that they may do so.

    I do not agree with your opinion that those of us who live that way are hell bent on converting other women to our way of life. There are passages in the Bhagavatam that discourage women from taking shelter of men, and if someone takes that kind of advice to heart, why should we discourage them from doing so?

    As for my quoting Srila Prabhupada’s letter to Himavati, I was especially impressed by his statement that “We are transcendental artists, musicians, writers, so everything should be beautiful for Krsna,” and I wanted to share that with you all. I wasn’t trying to insinuate anything else. What to do? Our Judeo-Christian-Islamic conditioning is not very helpful for understanding Vedic culture, and fanaticism always seems to rear its ugly head.

    I wish you well in your endeavors to turn the future generations into pakka varnasramites. I say this without irony. I only pray that you will kindly allow those who want to use the elevator to do so rather than climb the stairs. (This metaphor was often used when I was “a new devotee.”)

    Your servant,
    Visakha Priya dasi

  78. Part One:

    Nitai Prabhu,

    We all like to think we can “take Srila Prabhupada straight,” but from whose conditioned or liberated perspective? You picked out Pusta Krishna Prabhu for his sharing of his perspective on a point of discussion. In case you didn’t know, we are encouraged to analyse and discuss matters from “different angles of vision,” as Srila Prabhupada would say. Pusta Krishna Prabhu has a lot more experience than you do, don’t you think?

    “Taking Srila Prabhupada straight” can mean different things to different mentalities. A renunciate will see differently from a grhastha and so forth. So again there are no absolutes here particularly on social applications of tradition or philosophy. Since you have identified with a preference for conservatism, I’m not sure that this places you in the majority.

    If we were to banish deciphering from different angles of vision, I’d say we’d have a very bleak and miserable “no questions asked” formality reminiscent of fearful versions of extremist religion.

    Conservatism has nothing to do with trying to establish a Vaikuntha Iskcon home for all, just as much as liberality or ‘feminism’ has nothing to do wiith it.

    Since most of us are grhasthas – I agree – then we should find those ‘normal’ family situations – with absence of fear, awkwardness, shame, loathing – and have them help normalise our greater family and communal development. Didn’t I cite Shiromani’s situation, traditional as it is, to be ‘normal?’

    Inordinate fixation on celibacy is an issue. If renunciates govern and run a society mostly consisting of families, they do so while simultaneously maximising their own protection from family influence. If your claim for conservatism is based on this, then I say you are espousing non-Vedic ideals, because Vedic societies are not run by renunciates. There is a bigger picture to envision on this issue.

    The point raised on ‘possible’ Islamic influence was raised as a question in the article, “as some say”, not as a certified fact. There is no record of myself condoning this.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  79. Part Two:

    You refer repeatedly to VAD and how it can solve our problems. This is probably true. But rather than waiting for implementation – the ideas are there – we still have to address our communal and society needs as they stand at present. We don’t have VAD – just theory.

    Relying on theory does not make our present situation right, unless we await that “post-dated cheque” with bated breath. Most devotees came to Iskcon with good hearts. Aside from practicing Krishna consciousness, which stands above all social and conventional needs, we still have to provide stable and balanced purposes of membership. Iskcon does not owe anybody anything, but the rest of us owe in terms of “manadena” and selfless service.

    Identifying as a conservative or liberal might actually increase our selfishness. This belongs to a realm lower than ‘manadena’ with Vaikuntha outcomes. These sorts of allegiances do not foster a transcendental Vaikuntha atmosphere. Simply by being aligned one side or another does help to increase our politicisation of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  80. Part One:

    For those of us who align ourselves either with the conservative or liberal cause in furthering Iskcon, and pursuing agendas along these ideological lines, risk missing the essence of Krishna consciousness.

    Do we want to live in Krishna consciousness, or are we happy simply to exist in Krishna consciousness? There is something called “treadmill” yoga. One can walk and run for miles on a treadmill and sweat until one drops, but one is going nowhere in particular. Is there any wonder why the path of devotion appears to be an immense slog?

    Perhaps we set ourselves some conservative/liberal goals in spiritual life, and having attained them, we rest on our laurels a little bit. If so, we could be viewing these goals as the end of the line, rather than as new starting points each time. We could also be struggling to uphold some basic principles and dwelling on them, as if we belong to the “International Society for Celibate Consciousness”.

    If we think we have joined the wrong mission, or are somewhat disorientated, this is understandable. “If, however, you do not work in such consciousness but act through false ego, not hearing Me, you will be lost” (BG 18.58). ISKCON is the ‘lost and found’ department of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

    We all want to be victorious in our devotional endeavours. But without spiritual strength all our sweet little victories of self-effort will turn to defeat, or at most, keep us hovering over the battleground of our lower passions. “Unless providence is in our favour, we shall not be able to gain victory” (SB 8.21-24). We have often been told we have to fight or defeat Maya, but there is a way to consider this proposal very carefully.

    “This human life is meant for victorious, to become victorious over the laws of material nature. Actually, we are trying for that purpose. The whole struggle is how to counteract the onslaught of material nature…but what is the ultimate victory? The ultimate victory is how to conquer over birth, death, disease, and old age. That is the outcome, victory” (SB 6.1.8 lecture, New York, July 22, 1971).

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  81. Part Two:

    While on our victory quests, we may have difficulty finding out which of our actions are caused by our own self-efforts, or by spiritual strength. Our gritty stamina alone could be the endurance factor, but it can only take us so far, for a certain amount of time. If this is so, then we have the wrong idea of how to fight for victory. Krishna consciousness is not about fighting this material world, but about using this world to our advantage.

    If we continue the self-effort fighting spirit, even for many years, the blissful path of devotion will remain a fearful avoidance complex producing little or no happiness.

    Fearful spiritual life can make us irritable, uptight, edgy, and ready to react to the slightest provocation, extra alert, and so on. We often sleep less to the point of going about in a daze, and nod off at important times of the day.

    Fearful spiritual practice can make us so serious that we believe we are pure devotees. Being too serious can overtake our natural springtime flow to the point of being embarrassingly solemn and critically glum, and which causes us to fret and scowl at any innocent transgression of morality. We do need to laugh more. Call it fun, call it medicine, or call it a funny way of being serious.

    So passion power spiritual practice, and treadmill-yoga are going to make us retreat while going forward. The deceiving nature of the strong gravitational pull of our self-efforts to exist in Krishna consciousness will always fall short without the mercy of the Lord. A change in consciousness is required to lessen the slog.

    Our aim for victory can best be achieved if we acknowledge the words of Lord Krishna who says; “I am victory”. This means that any victory we seek is His victory, not ours. Lord Krishna also says, “I am morality”. If our serious fearful nature makes us unusually righteous in terms of morality, then any claims to morality are also Krishna’s, and not ours either, especially if we do this under the guise of conservatism.

    When Krishna says, “I am the ability in man”, it means that through the transparent via medium of the spiritual master, our ability to do anything in Krishna consciousness is given by Him. If our consciousness is raised to see that the Lord Himself is actually our effort in devotional service, and we become infinitely more dependent on Krishna, then perhaps the mercy will flow, and victory will be His, not ours.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  82. pustakrishna says :

    Regarding comment #70, I think you need to consider the desa-kala-patra (time place and circumstance) when hearing an instruction of Srila Prabhupad that is not a declaration of shastra, but rather an instruction to a disciple. I hope you will re-read my comment #64. If you take that Srila Prabhupad gave an instruction to a distraught young wife in her 20’s, then it makes perfect sense. I doubt that Srila Prabhupad would have made the same comment to her (#56) if she had been an elderly woman, less interested in worldly issues at that time. I had much experience in Srila Prabhupad’s presence as his personal secretary, and he would discuss things with me in that context on things relative related to the management of the society and devotees questions. I would read every letter to Srila Prabhupad, write out by hand his responses, and then type these out. He would then read the typed letters and make any final corrections before signing them personally. That was his style. My comment is not “off the cuff” as if I were criticizing His Divine Grace (as Nitai might imply) but rather to express that the instruction to Himavati dd was specific for a person at a very young stage in life. I doubt that Srila Prabhupad would want to have hundreds of young women with shaved heads dressed in white, showing that this is what the Krishna consciousness movement is all about. Think on it. Pusta Krishna das

  83. bbd says :

    Comments 74 & 75:

    “Sati” does not mean strip of cloth. Wikipedia may say so,but no Sanskrit dictionary I can find defines the term in that way. Here is how Sanskrit dictionary defines “sati”:

    “ satī 1 satī́ f. (fem. of sat • for 2. See P. 1138, col. 2) her ladyship, your ladyship (= bhavatī, sometimes = ‘you’) MBh • a good and virtuous or faithful wife (esp. applied in later use to the faithful wife [popularly called Suttee who burns herself with her husband’s corpse W • compar. satī-tarā, sati-t○ or sat-t○) Kāv. VarBS. Kathās. &c • a wife, female (of an animal) BhP • a female ascetic MW • a fragrant earth L • two kinds of metre Col • N. of the wife of Viśvāmitra RV • of the goddess Durgā or Umā (sometimes described as Truth personified or as a daughter of Daksha and wife of Bhava “iva, and sometimes represented as putting an end to herself by Yoga, or at a later period burning herself on the funeral pyre of her husband) Pur. Kum • of one of the wives of Agiras BhP • of various women of modern times (also -devii) Cat ”

    I never said that women in Vedic times did not at times wear more clothing than what the vast majority if ancient art and artifacts show. My point is that there are far and wide misconceptions of what is historically “Vedic”. The fact, what evidence shows, is that women in Vedic times were highly respected, had equal opportunities to men, were not viewed as less intelligent, and were not seen as evil temptresses detering men from spiritual advancement.

    Prior to Islamic influence and British Raj, women were not seen as being lesser nature than men. Women were not ashamed into covering their bodies any more than men.

  84. vishnujanadasa says :

    Comment 83

    Thank you for double checking that definition. I was actually using the definition used in the Webster-Mirriam dictionary:

    Definition of SARI

    : a garment of southern Asian women that consists of several yards of lightweight cloth draped so that one end forms a skirt and the other a head or shoulder covering

    Hindi & Urdu sārī, from Sanskrit śātī strip of cloth

    First Known Use: 1785

    I did not cross-reference Webster’s sources however.

    I also understand that many women in India also probably did not completely cover themselves up. I am just saying that it seems, according to the Vedic literature, that women generally dressed modestly. Indeed Srila Prabhupada said men were also expected to be modest in public, for instance, by covering their chests in public (as told by HH Bhakti Vikasa Swami).

    The royal courts or devas were certainly allowed to be exceptions to the rule. Srila Prabhupada said Kshatriyas were allowed to enjoy intoxication and sexual relations more than other varnas, just as Greco-Roman aristocracy was often much more sensual than the general public; Greek and later Roman society highly valued modesty (especially during the Roman Republican days. Certain Emperors, such as Caesar Octavianus Augustus, tried to bring back the virtues of the Republican era during their reigns).

    Consequently, Greco-Roman (and later Renaissance and Neo-Classical) art often depicted men and women in the nude, but this was in contrast to the social norms of the day. It seems that this may have been the case in India as well.

    As you pointed out, in traditional Vedic culture, women were held in much higher esteem and given more respect, just as the other varnas were given more respect. As time progressed however, the iniquities of Kali-Yuga found their way into the hearts of men and women, not just in India, but all over the world. Women were viewed with great respect in traditional western culture, as seen by the esteem given to the head priestess’ of the ancient oracles and temples (see, the Vestal Virgins). This respect similarly declined, as did respect for all sorts of life forms in general.

  85. mayapur108 says :

    In post #50, I simply tried to demonstrate that rigid separation of sexes is not a Muslim creation. It is actually an intrinsic part of Vedic culture. Nowhere did I discuss in my post about what we should do in ISKCON. Comments in response to my post talked of everything that I did not touch upon but missed my conclusion.

    In the first part of post #51, I tried to deal with a hermeneutical principle in relation to Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. It is this: If we put together various parts of Srila Prabhupada’s/Krsna’s teachings in the Bhagavad-gita, throw in a bit of our experience in ISKCON and come up with a certain conclusion, it does not necessarily mean that we are right. Rtvikism is an infamous example of that. In the same vein, I had doubts about the manner in which Kesava Krsna Prabhu had come up with his conclusions in post #15. He explained his rationale in post#18 which I was not convinced about. He further tried to counter by saying that I do not have enough experience in ISKCON in 1980s unlike him. Granted that I have only 13 years of experience in ISKCON. That is beside the point. Don’t the Rtviks (atleast some of them) have enough experience in ISKCON that matches Kesava Krsna Pr? They do. Don’t they also quote only from Srila Prabhupada’s teachings? They do. Does that make them right? No. The hermeneutical style employed by Kesava Krsna Pr is similar to that employed by rtviks in some ways. I did not say that his conclusions in post #15 were wrong but only asserted that his conclusions need to be subject to careful scrutiny. I stand by that. I am not yet convinced by the explanations that he gave for post #15 in post #18. I need to look at it more closely. As far as Kesava Krishna Pr’s views in the original article itself is concerened, I definitely do not agree with them and to avoid endless wrangling, never once in my earlier posts or in these ones have I touched upon the topic of what we should do in ISKCON. That is a big subject matter.

  86. mayapur108 says :

    Although post #50 may have conveyed the impression that I belong to some traditional Indian family, I am exactly the opposite of that. I grew up in an ultra modern family outside India although in an Arab country and heard for the first time in my life at age 20 through Srila Prabhupada’s books that in Vedic culture too, just like Muslim countries, a wife is meant to be submissive to her husband or that women are less intelligent. I am a medical doctor. I came to India to study medicine at Manipal University, famed for its academic excellence while simulteneously being a bastion of intermingling of the sexes. It a university of 50,000 students and a lot of these students are from the west. In short, the university is a microcosm of the west or even worse than the west in terms of the “advanced”, liberal, materialistic “campus culture”. The girls live by a simple norm “If you’ve got it, flaunt it” Dress plays the key role in this flaunting. This seductive dressing is not quite uncommon for women to adopt when they lack transcendental knowledge. It is a phenomenon found commonly in most parts of the world. Women can act like fire and indeed melt butter. Sastra and Prabhupada are accurate.

    Here in Sridham Mayapur where I live, two senior matajis, one from America and one from Brasil are trying to implement an appropriate dress code based on their observation that some untrained devotee women are dressing inappropriately. About a year ago, I read an article in a newspaper titled “100 ways of wearing a sari” In that, I read that there are many ways of wearing a sari in a chaste manner and there are as many or more ways of wearing a sari seductively. Vishaka Priya mataji brought to our attention a letter written by Srila Prabhupada to Himavati mataji where he writes that women can dress nicely. I had infact said in the second part of post #51 that there is nothing wrong in women dressing elgantly. So there is no lack of convergence between what I had said and what Vishaka Priya mataji has brought up.

  87. mayapur108 says :

    However, it is “not dressing like mothers” which is the precise and explicit subject matter of Srila Prabhupada’s conversation with Mother Candravali. He is obviously referring to inappropriate dressing or seductive dressing. As devotees, women are expected to give up “Flaunt it, if you’ve got it” attitude. But some women don’t, especially the neophytes although they may have been initiated or been around in the movement for a little while. So when Srila Prabhupada was not happy about the way in which some women were dressing, it was not an isolated quote, separate from his other teachings on that subject, rather Srila Prabhupada was trying to curb a tendency that is not surprising among untrained or stubborn women.

    Your servant,
    Shiromani dd

  88. Mother Shiromani,

    I can live with the fact that you disagree with the thrust of the main article. I knew it would create a ‘polarising’ reaction, and expected it.

    I can also live with the fact that you, like other other contributors, are sincerely participating in this glorious mission of ours.

    Yes, we are very diverse, and when we express according to our levels of experience and perspectives with reasonable and mature allowances, I can certainly live with that.

    I am simply just one of many varied opinions, complete with imperfections and the rest. Only due to Srila Prabhupada and the kindness of vaisnavas am I ever able to make any contribution. But more importantly, even this contentious gender issue has helped me to learn in different ways.

    The diverse opinions expressed on this article, and others like it, encourage me to appreciate our diversity. Vaisnavism is not a monotonous, mechanical process wherein we are all expected to think alike, agree alike or disagree alike on these sorts of subjects.

    So I thank you and all other commentators for helping. I hope and pray that you can all live with this one, who happens to be existing as a life learner. Go well and all the best.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  89. Akruranatha says :

    Regarding Kesava Krishna’s comment #15 about aversion, there is an instructive chapter in Science of Self Realization, an exchange of letters between Lynne Ludwig and Srila Prabhupada, from 1973. Ms. Ludwig’s letter is as follows:

    “Your Grace:

    “Please accept this letter with Love… K-Mart; San Fernando. We have talked with two of your boys at different times. Both had a very negative outlook toward the people they meet.

    “Do not believe this is in any way as it should be.

    “These boys happen to represent God. This comes from within. Their outlook must have mercy. We realize this; therefore handpick these little pieces of heaven to place in the middle of these people. Or else it will defeat your purpose.

    “Love Is. Let it be as it is; with Love or not at all.

    “My prayers be with you… and I beg yours with me.
    Yours in God, Blessed Be,
    Lynne Ludwig”

    Srila Prabhupada’s reply:

    “My dear Lynne Ludwig,

    “Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter from California, and I have noted the contents carefully, although due to extensively traveling and preaching in a tour in India I have not had the opportunity to reply to you at length until now. Your complaint is that you have met two of my young disciples in California and they appeared to you to have “a very negative outlook toward the people they meet.” Of course, I do not know the case and what the circumstances are, but kindly forgive my beloved disciples for any unkindness or indiscretion on their part. After all, to give up one’s life completely for serving the Lord is not an easy thing, and maya, or the illusory, material energy, tries especially hard to again entrap those who have left her service to become devotees. Therefore, in order to withstand the attack of mäyä and remain strong under all conditions of temptation, young or inexperienced devotees in the neophyte stage of devotional service will sometimes adopt an attitude against those things or persons which may possibly be harmful or threatening to their tender devotional creepers. …

    (to be continued…)

  90. Akruranatha says :

    (Srila Prabhupada’s reply to Lynne Ludwig, cont’d):

    “…They may even overindulge in such feelings just to protect themselves, and thus they will appear to some nondevotees, who are perhaps themselves still very much enamored by the material energy of maya, to be negative or pessimistic.

    “But the actual fact is that this material world is a miserable, negative place, full of danger at every step; it is duhkhalayam asasvatam [Bg. 8.15], a temporary abode of death, birth, disease, and old age, a home of suffering and pain only. To come to the platform of understanding these things as they are is not very common, and therefore persons who attain to it are described as ‘great souls.’

    “mäm upetya punar janma
    duhkhalayam asasvatam
    näpnuvanti mahätmänah
    samsiddhim paramäm gatäh
    [Bg. 8.15]

    “This means that those who have understood that the material worlds are places of misery and temporality (duhkhälayam asasvatam) never return here again, and because they are mahätmänah, the great souls, Krsna keeps them with Him because they have qualified themselves to escape this nasty place by becoming His pure devotees. This verse is spoken by Krsna, or God Himself, in the Bhagavad-gétä (8.15). Who can be a more final authority? The point is that to make advancement in spiritual life, one must view everything material with a pessimistic eye unless it is utilized to serve and please Krsna. We are not very much hopeful for any lasting pleasure or satisfaction for our deepest cravings within this realm of gross matter.

    “You refer to the word ‘love’ several times in your letter, but the actual fact is that there is no love in this material world. That is false propaganda. What they call love here is lust only, or desire for personal sense gratification:

    “käma esa krodha esa
    mahäsano mahä-päpmä
    viddhy enam iha vairinam

    “Krsna tells Arjuna, His disciple, that ‘It is lust only… which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.’ (Bg. 3.37) In the Vedic language there is no word for materialistic ‘love,’ as we call it in the present day. The word käma describes lust or material desire, not love, but the word that we find in the Vedas for actual love is premä, meaning one’s love of God only. Outside of loving God there is no possibility of loving. Rather, there is lusty desire only. …

    (to be continued…)

  91. Akruranatha says :

    (Srila Prabhupada’s reply, cont’d):

    “Within this atmosphere of matter, the entire range of human activities—and not only every activity of human beings but all living entities—is based upon, given impetus and thus polluted by sex desire, the attraction between male and female. For that sex life, the whole universe is spinning around—and suffering! That is the harsh truth. So-called love here means that you gratify my senses, I’ll gratify your senses, and as soon as that gratification stops, immediately there is divorce, separation, quarrel, and hatred. So many things are going on under this false conception of love. Actual love means love of God, Krsna.

    “Everyone wants to repose his loving tendency in some object which is in his opinion worthy. But the question is one of ignorance only, because people have a poor fund of knowledge about where to find that supreme lovable object who is actually worthy to accept and reciprocate their love. People simply do not know. There is no proper information. As soon as you have some attachment for anything material, it will kick you upon the face, deteriorate, and disappoint you. It’s bound to dissatisfy and frustrate you. That’s a fact. But these young boys in your country, and all over the world, are accepting, ‘Yes, that is a fact,’ and they are getting the right information from Krsna:

    “bahünäm janmanäm ante
    jnänavän mäm prapadyate
    väsudevah sarvam iti
    sa mahätmä sudurlabhah

    “‘After many births and deaths, he who is actually wise surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.’ (Bg. 7.19) Again Krsna uses that word mahätmä, great soul. Therefore our devotees that you have met are not ordinary boys and girls. No. They are to be considered actually wise, great souls because they have experienced in many births the miserable disease of material life and have become disgusted. Therefore they are seeking higher knowledge—they are seeking something better—and when they find Krsna and surrender unto Him, they become mahätmäs, who are actually situated in knowledge. This material world is just like a prison house; it is a punishing place meant to bring us to that point of becoming disgusted, surrendering at last to Krsna, and going back to our original nature of eternal life in bliss and complete knowledge. Therefore it is to the credit of these devotees that they have done what is sudurlabhah, very rare among all men in human society. …

  92. Akruranatha says :

    (Srila Prabhupada, cont’d):

    “…By surrendering to Krsna one will find the final object in which to invest his love: God. Love of God is present in everyone, just like fire in an unlit match, but it is covered over. But if one somehow or other develops his dormant love of God, and Krsna becomes his supreme adorable object, supreme friend, supreme master, or supreme lover, than he shall never again become disappointed or unhappy. Rather, because his loving propensity is rightfully placed:

    “mac-cittä mad-gata-pränä
    bodhayantah parasparam
    kathayantas ca mäm nityam
    tusyanti ca ramanti ca
    (Bg. 10.9)

    “‘The devotee whose life is surrendered to Krsna is always enjoying “great satisfaction and bliss,’ and he is constantly enlightened, always positive, not negative, as you say. The advanced devotee is the friend of everyone. The yoga-yukto visuddhätmä, purified soul engaged in loving devotional service to Krsna, is sarva-bhütätma-bhütätmä, dear to everyone, and everyone is dear to him.

    “In another place Krsna claims that yo mad-bhaktah sa me priyah, His devotee, who is very dear to Him, advesyä sarva-bhütänäm maitrah karuna eva ca, is not envious but is a kind friend to all living entities. The devotee is supposed to be, furthermore, equal to everyone (panditäh sama-darsinah [Bg. 5.18]). He never discriminates, saying, ‘This one is good, this one is bad.’ No.

    “These are descriptions of the more advanced stages of Krsna consciousness that devotees get by development of mature knowledge. At present many of our students are young boys. They are learning gradually, and the process is so effective, certain, and authorized that if they stick to it they will come to the right point, as you say, of loving. But that love is not material, so it should not be judged on the false, sentimental platform of ordinary, mundane dealings. That is our point. Therefore to say they are not loving may be true from the materialists’ point of view. They have given up affection for family, friends, wife, country, race, and so on, which is all based upon the bodily concept of life, or flickering sense gratification. They have become a little detached from mäyä’s love, or lust, and they want Krsna’s love, or endless, fully rewarding love, but they have not yet developed to that point, that’s all. …

    (to be continued…)

  93. Akruranatha says :

    Conclusion of Srila Prabhupada’s letter):

    “We cannot expect that all of a sudden your countrymen, who are addicted to so many bad habits, will give up eating flesh, taking intoxicants, having illicit sex life, and so many other nasty things, and overnight become great, self-realized souls. That is not possible. That is utopian. But just being initiated as Krsna’s devotee puts one in the topmost category of human society. Sa buddhimän manusyesu sa yuktah krtsna-karma-krt: [Bg. 4.18] ‘He is intelligent in human society. He is in the transcendental position, although engaged in all sorts of activities.’ And although such a devotee may not yet have advanced to the highest level of spiritual understanding, still he is to be considered the most exalted personality, regardless of any temporary frailties.

    “api cet su-duräcäro
    bhajate mäm ananya-bhäk
    sädhur eva sa mantavyah
    samyag vyavasito hi sah

    “‘Even if a devotee commits the most abominable actions, he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated.’ (Bg. 9.30) As you will say, ‘To err is human.’ Therefore in the neophyte stage we may always expect some discrepancies. Kindly see the thing in this light and forgive their small mistakes. The big thing is that they have given everything, even their lives, to Krsna-and that is never a mistake.

    “Your ever well-wisher,
    A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami”

    This is a fascinating letter. Srila Prabhupada defends his neophyte disciples, saying that they may be afflicted by the kind of aversion that Kesava Krsna was talking about, but this is a symptom of the early stage of living under regulation.

    The fact that they have taken up the process sincerely makes them great souls, even if they commit some mistakes in the beginning by being over-defensive, over-disgusted by things that attract them to breaking their strict vows. If they stick to the process, they will eventually display all the great qualities of saintly people, but in the beginning celibate young men do sometimes display an aversion to women, especially young attractive women who seem to them to be attacking them, trying to lure them away from the true path.

    In a society of devotees, we have to know that such things are going on, and adjust things accordingly. Separating the boys and girls helps, but the wise elders should also protect girls from such aversion by boys. We should not condone the mistake, though we might forgive it based on this understanding.

  94. As stated before, all who come to Krishna consciousness have good hearts. Whether we want to call this goodness great fortune, rare or extremely fortunate, all describe the uniqueness of involvement in Krishna consciousness.

    In relation to comment 15 and the letter of Srila Prabhupada shown by Akrurantha Prabhu, we understand that even struggling celibates or devotees in general are still glorious. However, this greatness need not be an excuse to cause hurt and unpleasantness to fellow devotees while trying to defend one’s aversion/attachment woes.

    If anything, this hurt and unpleasantness can help to dwindle whatever greatness or fortune was there in the beginning. It takes it’s toll and reduces the fortune of good determination to mere material craving.

    There was mention of the need for elder guidance. Such guidance can curb aversion excess and energise it correctly. If devotional service is meant to be “joyfully performed,” then celibacy itself should be observed joyfully. It is always a pleasure to see happy and cheerful brahmacaris, or sannyasis for that matter.

    This joyfulness can mean the difference during interactions with other devotees. A willing service attitude and respectful demeanour fends off the possibility of internal conflict manifesting as bad external self-defence. The same positive attitude will also deal with ‘melting butter’ and ‘Mayadevi fire,’ accordingly.

    These belong to neophyte stages of development, but caring and adroit guidance can quickly help raise up to maturity reflected in the guide or elder.

    Though Srila Prabhupada defended his ‘averse’ students, it is clearly apparent that had the same students displayed joyfulness, he would have nothing to apologise for. Could we call this “joyful aversion?”

    Are we aware that the ‘suffering’ people we preach to want to be attracted to ‘happies?’ And not just perky happiness, but a contentment borne of inner stability and assurance – these are convincing qualities.

    It is better to be an honest grhastha than to be a fallen hero.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  95. pustakrishna says :

    It is interesting to note that in this thread of comments, most of the concern has been for the men in their quest for Krishna consciousness, and relatively little has been written about the women who come to Krishna for shelter. Regardless of the challenges to “men” who are trying to control their libido and their minds in practicing Krishna consciousness, the women who approached Krishna are just as sincere and just as challenged. We can remember the story of Krishna walking through the forest of Vrindaban and the cowherd boys felt hunger. Knowing all, Krishna warned them that the brahmana men would not be sympathetic to their needs, but the wives of the brahmanas, devoted to Krishna, were not only sympathetic, these women did not want to leave Krishna, even to neglect their “pious” husband’s service.
    The modern women in Krishna consciousness have tolerated a good deal of brash behavior at the hands of the men in the movement…and that is, in my opinion, the underlying reason that His Grace Keshava Krishna wrote this article in the first place. It is not a matter of what they wear, or even how the men might feel threatened around women, but rather the correct understanding that aversion is just the flip-side of attachment, and that if you want to become rightly situated in Krishna consciousness, you must practice respect for everyone, whether man or woman. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s statement is that one should give honor to others, while also not lusting to exploit them. The point is that we perpetuate our attachments to material life by being on the plane of bhoga-tyaga. It is a knee-jerk reaction, and not a vision which is infused with transcendental knowledge and realization that all living beings are truly spiritual souls, and not the body. Women should thus be given respect and honor, and encouraged to engage in devotional service. We never want to see scandals where people in leadership positions abuse their apparent power by exploiting women who are under their protection. That kind of violence is as bad as child molesters in a tradition that elevates knowledge to such a high pedestal. I would venture to say that if one took a survey of Krishna bhaktas in the world today, there are likely more women than men in the category of Krishna faithful.
    Finally, we are all prakriti in relationship to the Enjoyer, Krishna. That is, we are all essentially female with respect to Krishna. Be nonenvious….Sincerely, Pusta Krishna das

  96. Narada Priya devi d says :

    In conclusion, this article appears to be just another attempt to make (the socially engineered) women nod, but reads (many of the comments, too) as a holier-than-thou mood against neophytes as well as women themselves. It implies that women need something. The same mistake is made by the feminists- that we are needy. We are victims, etc. Srila Prabhupada, on the other hand, has given back our dignity. He points out that women are already powerful, but like any other power, women must be carefully educated and properly encouraged, so not to misuse it. I feel this article has done the opposite, and the author has smartly regretted it.

  97. Naradiya Priya Mataji,

    Yes, I regretted writing this article, but not for the reasons you have given. If you had noticed the timing of that ‘regret’ comment, it came soon after your emotionally-laden submission and that of Nitai Prabhu, which I thought was disrespectful to elders. These comments lowered the bar on that score.

    Nitai Prabhu appeared to be writing on your behalf, who seemed to be a victim of kanistha negligence. One does not have to be ‘holier-than-thou’ to highlight the problems of kanistha behaviour – there is much sastric backing for this: Madhurya Kadambini, Lord Kapila’s teachings in the 3rd canto SB and so forth.

    You speak of Srila Prabhupada giving us, or women their dignity. So true… But if you want real dignity in devotee relationships that includes respect, care and love, then this occurs on the madhyama level of interaction, not on the kanisthas level.

    Pusta Krishna Prabhu’s assessment of why I wrote this article from an attachment/aversion angle with a little Iskcon history, is correct (comment 95). If the title of the article ‘threw you off,’ then it is your perception and reasoning.

    I already mentioned in the main article that unprotected women are unhappy. It is for our society to ensure protection, care and love for all of its members – that is madhyama in action. This is the reasoning.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  98. pustakrishna says :

    For Her Grace NaradaPriya dd: Really, we are all victims, and indeed Srila Prabhupad gave the option of dignity to us all. We are genuinely all prakriti, meant to be enjoyed, by Krishna, the Supreme Enjoyer. Unfortunately for men, their ego generally tends to want to exploit indiscriminantly. Much can be learned from the feminine side of life, exhibited by women. We are reminded that there are many externally dressed men, like the Goswamis of Vrindaban, who are by identity gopis. It cannot be imitated but it is remarkable nonetheless.
    We must have the faith that as we go along, Krishna will give us the intelligence by which we can come to Him. tesam satata yutanam…dadami buddhi yogam tam, yena mam upayanti te. Externally what goes on in the world of exploitation is all illusion, maya. So, when we examine the plane of devotion, we can see practically that there are likely more women attracted to religion and to Krishna, than men are attracted. The male ego very likely gets in the way, having a propensity for being the center and the exploiter-enjoyer, even when it comes to religious traditions throughout the world.
    If there is something to learn from this discussion, in my humble opinion, it is that men’s efforts to dominate the female are a great cause of bondage to the illusory state. If on the other hand, we men and women can dedicate ourselves to the true Center, Sri Krishna, then it is possible for each of us to make progress conjointly on the path of Krishna consciousness. Krishna Centric, not man or woman centric. It is transformational to follow this path, as no other species but the human has the capacity to develop this option. And, it is rare. But, it is not merely “social engineering”. It is a “Change of Heart” that is necessary for each individual. And, not every religion, and perhaps no other religious process, delves into the delicate depths of these subjects like the Vaishnava. Steeped in knowledge and critical self-analysis, abundant in examples of transcendental love of God, the Vaishnava tradition practically turns material life on its head at times.
    I have been so happy, really, to hear your comments, as they are rich and balanced. Pusta Krishna das

  99. Narada Priya devi d says :

    But to the average reader, I’d like to explain my understanding just a little more (unless Dandavats censors me for the fourth time).

    First of all, I haven’t witnessed any of the “awkwardness” described (makes me wonder if anyone here lives in a temple). And I don’t know anyone who “keeps apart” artificially”. I think the real problem is when people lump all women into one group like the Vaishnavi Ministry does, or they lump all men together, expecting them to act and think the same (the way they want them to), when actually there are different natures. Like I said earlier, some of us like separation of the sexes. Maybe it is from bad experiences of the past, coming from dysfunctional families, or just that we prefer to avoid familiarity which breeds contempt, but I think it’d be “artificial” to force us to be something we are not. Also, many of the ladies in my temple seem to prefer standing at the back of the temple. It is only naturally because some young ladies happen to be very shy (as some men are actually modest). It is not fair to say they do this artificially. I greatly admire one girl in particular who is very soft spoken and shy at the temple, but does sankirtana service very enthusiastically. Her shy and gentle nature is very beautiful. The VM is good for old women who no longer have hormones or youthful desires to deal with. As women age, they naturally get more assertive and knowledgeable and with sagging faces and breasts, we shouldn’t have to worry too much if they give class in front of anyone, especially if they spent most of their lives as good devotees, chaste wives and loving mothers.

    Also it was asked, “Each time a male devotee interacts with a female, should it always be tinged with fear?” If it is a healthy fear, yes. Better if women and men mind their own business and interact when necessary for Krishna’s service. In BTG [Sept. Oct. 2012], Gunavatara prabhu wrote about this (“Religious Views Toward Women in the Public Sphere”). But like I said, the many types of men and women is what keeps things interesting. It seems that some women and men must interact with the opposite sex or they’ll go crazy and make agitation. As far as I know, the sudra class is given this facility for less restrictions. In other words, some people are more grossly sensual and emotional, while others more intellectual or self satisfied. For the latter, interacting with the opposite sex is a duty for spreading Krishna consciousness.

  100. Narada Priya devi d says :

    And I think the ISKCON family is a lot different than a normal family where brothers and sisters do not even think of illicit sex. That sort of purity between non family members that liberal devotees seek would be extraordinary. Those who want adaptations to the modern realities, therefore, are the ones who seem to expect instant “purity of existence”.

    The impositions for keeping the sexes apart are found in Srila Prabhupada’s books. The caution also. I never got that information anywhere else. True, a section of our society wants to adapt his instructions. Many of us do not, because it is also true, and we can see practically, that our congregational Indian women make the best mothers and wives. They exhibit a healthy balance we all wish for, but they come from countless generations of good training and role models.

    We all know that freedom from the bodily concept takes much time and our understanding of devotional service is an individual matter. That is why, I am sorry to say, I found this article nit picky.

    From the madhyama platform, women really are the biggest challenge for men (and vice versa). Prabhupada says that if you are lenient, women will be troublesome. It takes one to know one, so please believe me that many women are not so unconscious. Their hearts are sharp and sly and in their youthful, unmarried state bent on one thing only (not referring to the proliferation of homosexuals today). This is the sort of preaching that should be going. It is why many of us joined.

    I have never seen an article written about respecting men. Here I see the usual criticism. But we all know that in the ultimate sense, men are not the problem as vice versa. Lack of Krsna consciousness is, which is why the feminist movement began and men became free from responsibility. As a result, the grandsons of those men have even less an idea what that means and yet we blame everything on them and, being men, they just tolerate it and nothing gets done. A vicious cycle. In other words, how can men give women “the respect they deserve” when they themselves have had their positions usurped? Women are so capable today, they are not very much needed. And now, superwoman wants to give him his job back? So, of course their superiority over women is not deserved, they must feel that, too. Sadly, the majority have been reduced to almost women themselves. And from my point of view, distant dealings is not what compounds the problem.

  101. Narada Priya devi d says :

    It is because modern education has artificially devised a puffed—up concept of womanly life (Bg 16.7p). Women are taught to put themselves first. Even the so called “grhastha team” preaches that. And the men being overattached to them, they don’t get any chance for improvement. Also, worn out and overworked, there is less time for relationships.

    “Respect, care and love” sounds artificial to me, because feminists propagate this; it is superficial unless we love Krishna. For that, we need a lot of patience with each other and tolerance instead of rights. Then it is automatic; it need not be taught. When the service mood is there and everything works out. So, of course, the focus must be Krsna consciousness; then all these discrepancies can work out.

  102. Narada Priya devi d says :

    Pusta Krsna prabhu, thank you for your kind words. I truly feel undeserving and I am faulty in speaking harshly towards senior devotees, but you give back kind instruction instead.

    I find it impossible to remain angry at senior devotees. I am always indebted to you for your dedicated service to Srila Prabhupada’s mission. If it were not for you all, I would not be here today. Besides, the source of my anger is not from this article; the issue here is only minor. My real unhappiness comes from many events in the past, and I suppose I am deriving some sense gratification by lamenting and getting some negative attention over it. I think it is also a test that comes with old age; the older we are the more we want some recognition for all the hard labor and sacrifice we’ve made. As for me, I have nothing to show and therefore fall for maya’s distractions to argue with others over petty things.

    That said, I still find it interesting that you admit that a man’s ego is strongly aimed towards lording it over a woman. It confirms that caution is in order. And may I add that women are not perfect either; I have noticed you never said one word to criticize a woman. This is true in many of the men I know, my husband included. Very protective of women. I can safely guess that you’ve never suffered at the hands of a dysfunctional mother. Back in the 50’s, that word referring to family had not yet become common.

    In that sense, I am concerned that women may have a tendency to take advantage of that. Prabhupada said it in the Bg that today women have become very puffed up and quite frankly. I find it true, from much experience. Agreeable with the Puranas, I do not find many women to be angels beyond the surface. I have a lengthy history of discovering this not only in other women but in my own bodily nature. But you and Keshava prabhu can only see the good.

    I hope you will both forgive me for being so disagreeable. I have never had the chance of knowing either of you, so it is nothing personal. Lately, I’m just struggling to transcend all the damage a feminist mayavada upbringing has brought to my life.

    “Although the bull, or the personality of religion, and the cow, the personality of the earth, knew perfectly well that the personality of Kali was the direct cause of their sufferings, still, as devotees of the Lord, they knew well also that without the sanction of the Lord no one could inflict trouble upon them. ” (SB 1.17.18p)

  103. Narada Priya Mataji,

    My heart began to soften upon reading your words. All is forgiven.

    I came from a very close-knit family. Everything we did we did together – picnics, holidays, meals, cinemas and so on. I have a brother and sister. When my brother and I joined Iskcon during the ‘in or out’ days, it was extremely difficult for my parents, especially my mother. Because she was affected badly, I was also affected emotionally while trying to practice Krishna consciousness.

    I thought this closeness of family (along with protective mother) that I grew up with would be replicated within our Iskcon family I joined. How different my experience was. I could say that my previous family baggage was imposed in to the article I wrote. Now I have my own family, would I be happy for my child to live in an asrama?

    When I observe anti-family trends based on averse/attached versions of Srila Prabhupada’s social standards for us all, past experiences tell. To see many strong Krishna conscious families within our congregation who live with a normalcy – I am sure, Srila Prabhupada would not reject – can also help us to learn of member family spirit.

    The example you gave of that shy sankirtana girl fits the type requiring respect and protection. An impression is created that I am of liberal disposition. I already mentioned that I intended to write about the flip-side of womanhood, the feminist side. But after my ‘regret’ with this article, I don’t think I’ll venture on this topic again.

    The Olympics have just finished and I find it strangely repulsive to see women boxers compete. Women shot-putters and weight-lifters are not much different. For me, this takes the respect out of women. I hope this doesn’t get me in trouble.

    If you know American Football, then that is a variant of a game called Rugby. Whereas American footballers are padded up with helmets, rugby players are not. Women also play rugby as well.

    There are certainly big limits to my own perceptions of women’s rights from a Vedic angle. But even these were interpreted and modelled on averse/attachment versions within our ranks. They are what I wrote about.

    I hope your own past ‘negative’ experiences have made you a wiser and stronger devotee. I wish you well and all the best.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  104. pustakrishna says :

    You know, being a romantic at heart, when I was first introduced to Krishna consciousness at age 20, I learned that “here is a Person that you can love forever and never be disappointed.” That attracted me. The very temporary nature of relationships in the world was very frustrating to me. Likewise, I was hyper aware if I tried to exploit another person. That did not make me feel happy or triumphant. On the contrary, I felt less of a person. In other words, the nonpermanent and arbitrary nature of material life was not satisfying. Any negative experiences that we may have had were blessings. I think that all who come to God feel something of that also. It is the soul coming to its awakened state. I do think, and I have observed it, that seekers, whether man or womenly embodied, want the same thing. They want the lasting love and relationship that only God, Krishna, can offer.
    We all need a spiritual guide or Guru, regardless of one’s spiritual persuasion. And, if one enters into a family situation, then just make Krishna the center. It takes faith in that which is beyond our senses. Krishna is there, here, now. But, we cannot directly experience that, perhaps without some ability to see through transcendental knowledge. Srila Prabhupad used to lecture that women desire security. With all the uncertainty of marriages and relationships, it is a difficult lesson to learn that these temporary relationships can be a great source of pain and frustration. Thus, it is a wonderful thing to see both men and women creating a Krishna-centric life. Whether it is due to negative painful experiences, or positive romantic positions, or both….to make Krishna the Center of one’s existence is the hallmark of exceptionally good fortune. And, we see this taking place in virtually every culture in the world! It is not happening only in India. is a nice forum for personal and collective expression. You actually can sometimes work things out in your mind or heart in a way that brings deeper commitment to Krishna. This is especially true for people who are not living busy lives in the temples where there might not be much time to read and write on Still, I recall that when I first met Srila Prabhupad in Bombay in early 1971, I remember saying to him that “such and such a devotee was very nice.” He replied, “Yes, of course all the devotees are nice.” We hope his assessment lives true. Pusta Krishna das

  105. Narada Priya devi d says :

    So the awkwardness discussed could be accredited to what Canakya Pandit called the most painful time- youth or immaturity. In this way, ISKCON struggles. Prabhupada called it getting over the fear of being persons or the attraction for impersonal philosophies (Bg 4.10p). Instead of accepting distress in relationships as a fact of life, we try to make material, artificial adjustment. We may be so afraid of disagreement and dissension, we eventually want utopia, but we should understand that disagreement and discord are just another part of dealings in any genuine relationships. Meanwhile, ISKCON should become neutral to these special interest groups, such as equal rights for women, and promote Krishna consciousness instead. Then respect is natural.

    (Correction: the quote in the previous post is from Bg 16.7p)

  106. Here is the decisive punch for the theme of respecting our women in Iskcon, which has been misunderstood and taken for liberal persuasiveness. It was not yet delivered because an involved discussion is going on in the background.

    If all of our female devotees were to be properly honoured as Mothers, and given proper facility to fulfil their roles as Mothers, then there would be no need for claiming lady guruship. Our asramas and temples that reflect our undeveloped social inclusivity are not ideal places where devotee Mothers can function as gurus, nourishers, nurturers, emotional supporters and more, all rolled into one. Such is the exalted position of a Mother.

    Because if we do not facilitate, and where there is possible competitiveness with males becoming gurus, the pushing for lady gurus is pursued from the position of lack of general respect and honour, not necessarily on merit. Such merit has to be remarkably unique, as the rarity of past female gurus show. It would be a pity to impugn on this rarity as a response to lack of general respect.

    Should the position of guruship be a motivated cause, whether one is male or female? If undeveloped social circumstances are causing these urges, then where does merit figure in? It is the nature for all women to want protective security – emotional, spiritual and material. If our Iskcon can provide these assurances and enable female talent, learning and experience to flourish as respected Mothers and sisters, then perhaps the clamour for guruship will be minimised.

    Whatever discussions are going on about this, should rather focus on developing our social needs in which the respected Mother, as in any family situation, has an essential and central role to play. Without this, we can expect the discussion to go on.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  107. pustakrishna says :

    After a number of months, the topic is not dead. It is a source for constant concern. In reality, we are defining our selves as spirit souls, not the body. Yet, we see that there are certain cultural traditions that are established and which are not absolute, for example, that only men work on the altars in India. We have seen much beautiful Deity worship by female bhaktas. Srila Prabhupad only gave encouragement to this, but in India, because of the traditions, and in order not to create too much disturbance among the public, men were more or less exclusively given responsibility for this service. This is not due to any inferiority of women bhaktas, but rather simply because of the traditional accepted practices there. It is practical to avoid unnecessary conflict so that the essential teachings of Lord Chaitanya can be taught widely.

    We, each and every one of us, have a personal and unique relationship with the Supreme Lord. We are important to Krishna, and He must become increasingly important to us in our conditioned states. Keshava Krishna das seems to want to establish that desire for becoming a guru by a woman is ? unnatural and a sign of lack of respect by others. That would indicate that the main desire for becoming a formal teacher (guru) is based on pratishtha. That is not good for men, and it is not healthy for women either. Anyone who teaches Krishna consciousness should aspire to do so as a service to their Guru and Sri Chaitanya. It is a service, and both men and women can be and are teachers to others. Whether you call them siksha gurus, or diksha gurus, they are teachers. I recently attended a wedding in an Episcopal Church. The two Reverends were both women, and very dignified. Their lectures were inspiring and did not contain anything that one would identify as pratishtha. Can we not see such teachers in ISKCON who are women? The world is looking to see how women will be treated in various spiritual traditions. We have recently seen how a 14 year old girl in Pakistan was shot by Taliban who thought that her praise of education for girls was a positive thing. Men, lording over women and girls, by misuse of power, does not lead to order in society. Devotees should encourage that the gifts we can offer to Krishna must not be thwarted by men seeking power and control over others. What kind of ISKCON do we desire to project now and into the future? Pusta Krishna das

  108. Puskaraksa das says :

    Lecture on SB 5.6.4 — Vrndavana, November 26, 1976:

    Pradyumna: “An unchaste woman is very easily carried away by paramours, and it sometimes happens that her husband is violently killed by her paramours. If the yogi gives his mind a chance and does not restrain it, his mind will give facility to enemies like lust, anger and greed, and they will doubtlessly kill the yogi.” (SB 5.6.4)

    Prabhupāda: Purport?

    Pradyumna: “In this verse the word puṁścalī refers to a woman who is easily carried away by men. Such a woman is never to be trusted. Unfortunately, in the present age, women are never controlled. According to the directions of śāstras, women are never to be given freedom. When a child, a woman must be strictly controlled by her father. When she is young, she must be strictly controlled by her husband, and when she is old, she must be controlled by her elderly sons. If she is given independence and allowed to mingle unrestrictedly with men, she will be spoiled. A spoiled woman, being manipulated by paramours, might even kill her husband. This example is given here because a yogi desiring to get free from material conditions must always keep his mind under control. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura used to say that in the morning our first business should be to beat the mind with shoes a hundred times, and, before going to bed, to beat the mind a hundred times with a broomstick. In this way one’s mind can be kept under control. An uncontrolled mind and an unchaste wife are the same. An unchaste wife can kill her husband at any time, and an uncontrolled mind, followed by lust, anger, greed, madness, envy and illusion, can certainly kill the yogi. When the yogi is controlled by the mind, he falls down into the material condition. One should be very careful of the mind, just as a husband should be careful of an unchaste wife.”


  109. Puskaraksa das says :


    nityaṁ dadāti kāmasya
    cchidraṁ tam anu ye ‘rayaḥ
    yoginaḥ kṛta-maitrasya
    patyur jāyeva puṁścalī

    So Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, everything threadbare discussed, very practical, and Absolute Truth. There are social, political, religious. Everything is discussed very scientifically. So here the example is given of the woman, puṁścalī. There are three kinds of woman: kāminī, svairendrī and puṁścalī, according to śāstra. So they become, because… Just like children. They are innocent, and if they are given freedom they will be spoiled. Everyone knows it. If you don’t give proper training to the children and allow him to do independently whatever he likes, that means that child is spoiled. Prāpte tu ṣoḍaśa-varṣe…

    Cāṇakya Paṇḍita has advised,

    lālane bahavo doṣās
    tāḍane bahavo guṇāḥ
    tasmāt putraṁ ca śiṣyam ca
    tāḍayen na tu lālayet

    This is required. And Tulasī dāsa, he has also said… Tulasī dāsa is big poet in Hindi language. He has written the Rāma-carita-manas. His opinion… Not only his opinion, that is the Vedic opinion, that… He says, dhol gamar strī śūdra, paśu śūdra nārī, ei ei sab śāsana ke adhikārī (?). So this statement will not be very palatable to the Western girls. They want independence. In Chicago, when I was there, they talked about independence of the woman. They asked me question. So I replied, “No, woman cannot be given independence.” So there was a great agitation against me. In many papers I was very much criticized. But actually it is the fact, because they are innocent, not so intelligent and… These are all practical. We may avoid discussing, but Bhāgavata is very open for discussing all subject matter. That is fact. We should not hide anything artificially. We must discuss the fact. Not only here, the mention it is, the Manu-saṁhitā. Manu-saṁhitā recommends, “A woman should not be given independence.” For their interest they must be protected by father, husband, and sons, because if they are polluted, they become very dangerous.


  110. Puskaraksa das says :

    Cāṇakya Paṇḍita said that duṣṭā bhāryā.

    duṣṭā bhāryā śaṭhaṁ mitraṁ bhṛtyaś cottara-dāyakaḥ
    sa-sarpe ca gṛhe vāso mṛtyur eva na saṁśayaḥ

    “If the wife is not chaste and friend is cheater, or śaṭham…” Śaṭham means duplicity, not very sincere friend. Outwardly he’s showing he’s very good friend, but inwardly he has got some intention. Such friend, duplicity, and unchaste wife, duṣṭā bhāryā śaṭhaṁ mitraṁ and bhṛtyaś cottara-dāyakaḥ, and servant giving reply, and sa-sarpe ca grhe vasaḥ, and in your room if there is a snake… Of course in this big, big concrete building there is no question of snake, but in cottages, huts, made with mud, earth, there are sometimes snakes. So Cāṇakya Paṇḍita said, “If you live with a duṣṭā bhāryā and a duplicity friend and an answer-giving servant and a snake, then you are sure to die sometime. You’ll be cheated.”

    So these things are there. The purpose is that our mind is like that, puṁścalī, unchaste wife. Not that everyone is unchaste. We have got many example, the character of woman. It is not that. It is not generalization. But there is chance. If they are not controlled, not properly educated, there is chance of becoming puṁścalī, and there have been many instances that woman, for being attracted by paramour, has killed even one’s own son. There are cases. So Bhīṣmadeva also advised that the shyness of woman, lajja, is the control. If you break that shy, what is called, shyness, then there will be disaster. That is the control valve naturally given. And woman’s shyness is one beauty, beauty. We have got practical experience. And command also. We have practical experience in our life. You have seen that my friend came, Dinanath Mishra. They were our neighbor. So one day we were sitting on the corridor of the house. One sweeper woman, she wanted to come within, but very shyful, and with a covering of the head, although with broomstick and bucket, she was waiting because we were sitting both side. So she was feeling little shy not to enter the house. So we decided to move so that she may come. This example is given. She is a sweeper, not very respectable, maidservant or sweeper, but on account of her shyness we had to welcome, “Yes, we are moving. You come in.” Just see. This is psychology. Therefore Bhīṣmadeva, at his dying stage, he advised that woman’s shyness is the valve to control. If their shyness is broken, then it will create disaster. Puṁścalī. This is the psychology.


  111. Puskaraksa das says :

    SB 1.9.27, Purport: As far as the women class are concerned, they are accepted as a power of inspiration for men. As such, women are more powerful than men. Mighty Julius Caesar was controlled by a Cleopatra. Such powerful women are controlled by shyness. Therefore, shyness is important for women. Once this control valve is loosened, women can create havoc in society by adultery. Adultery means production of unwanted children known as varṇa-saṅkara, who disturb the world. The last item taught by Bhīṣmadeva was the process of pleasing the Lord. We are all eternal servants of the Lord, and when we forget this essential part of our nature we are put into material conditions of life. The simple process of pleasing the Lord (for the householders especially) is to install the Deity of the Lord at home. By concentrating on the Deity, one may progressively go on with the daily routine work. Worshiping the Deity at home, serving the devotee, hearing the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, residing in a holy place and chanting the holy name of the Lord are all inexpensive items by which one can please the Lord. Thus the subject matter was explained by the grandfather to his grandchildren.

  112. Akruranatha says :

    “In Chicago, when I was there, they talked about independence of the woman. They asked me question. So I replied, ‘No, woman cannot be given independence.’ So there was a great agitation against me. In many papers I was very much criticized. But actually it is the fact, because they are innocent, not so intelligent and… These are all practical. We may avoid discussing, but Bhāgavata is very open for discussing all subject matter. That is fact. We should not hide anything artificially. We must discuss the fact.”

    Srila Prabhupada is saying that we have to discuss this fact, but he is also saying “we may avoid discussing”. What does he mean in this passage?

    My impression is he means we should carefully discuss and understand these things scientifically as students of Srimad Bhagavatam, but we should not discuss them publicly unless we can do so without bringing harm and disrepute to the Krishna consciousness movement. We have to learn how to explain it nicely, without agitating people.

    Our business is to get the public in general to take to chanting Hare Krishna and reading Srila Prabhupada’s books, but if they get the idea that we are some kind of mean, misogynistic, reactionary bastion of male dominance and oppression of women, we will not be able to fulfill our mission. Besides, it would be a wrong idea.

    Protection of women as discussed in Bhagavatam is not meant for their exploitation by egotistic men. It is meant for women’s own welfare and the welfare of the whole society. It does not mean talented women should be forced to give up successful careers and stay in the kitchen because serving as a Judge or a President or a Professor (or spiritual master) will ruin the modesty and chastity of women everywhere.

    We have to understand what is meant by “shyness” and “chastity”. Yes, it does mean women should not become accustomed to having illicit sex with numerous men. They should ideally get a good husband and remain faithful to one man, who is kind and loving and supportive of their devotional service.

    The sweeper woman did not want to go into a room with men because they might see her as a sex object, so the men felt compelled to move, out of respect. This shows the natural psychology of how men respect modesty or “shyness” in women.

    People have had bad experiences with “male chauvinism” inside and outside ISKCON. Bhakti yoga, Bhagavatam, is all good for all people and should not cause such bad experiences for women or anyone.

  113. Pusta Krishna Prabhu advocates a mature and balanced way of socially dealing with the matter of womenhood within Iskcon. Witnessing “dignified” lady speakers or leaders of congregations in other denominations show how we can have similar dignity. Such dignity can exist among ourselves as well, so long as lady devotees can function as Mothers proper. There is no need for lady guruship to enable these sorts of comparative roles.

    I am not sure what the objective is of Puskaraksha Prabhu in posting all these quotes about women. Are these directed at our Vaisnavis? If so, they are not really applicable. The article and subsequent discussion has grown around our lady devotees, not women in general.

    The key to disassociating our Vaisnavas from women in general is this, from among his quotes submitted: So these things are there. The purpose is that our mind is like that, puṁścalī, unchaste wife. Not that everyone is unchaste. We have got many example, the character of woman. It is not that. It is not generalization. But there is chance. If they are not controlled, not properly educated, there is chance of becoming puṁścalī…

    The distinction between women in general and Vaisnavis is whether they are “…not properly educated…” or are. If our women are being educated through the holy names, Srila Prabhupada’s books and Vaisnava association, then we need not apply generalities.

    It can happen that insecure males can hide behind the insecurity of celibacy, an asrama status and superiority by trying to “put women in their right places” as it were, with generalised quotes, and yes, even if they come from Srila Prabhupada himself. This is not the way to solve social issues such as is being discussed.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  114. Akruranatha says :

    Generally, people are pretty good at detecting motivations and mood. If we actually speak as kind well-wishers, people can pick up on it, and if our motive is to dominate, exploit, belittle or conquer others they can pick up on that too (and usually do not like it).

    Srila Prabhupada spoke to the feminist reporters in Chicago in a mood of kind compassion (as he always did), but in that case they could not pick up on it because they were part of an ideological realignment going on in American culture at the time that made what Srila Prabhupada was saying seem outrageous to them (and to liberal Americans elsewhere).

    It seems to me that Srila Prabhupada was reflecting that, though it is a preacher’s duty to speak the scientific truth without compromise or modification, it might have been better to avoid the bad publicity if possible: “We may avoid discussing, but Bhāgavata is very open for discussing all subject matter.” A preacher can be sensitive to hot buttons and try to find palatable ways to explain the truth without losing the audience’s goodwill, if possible, though it may not always be possible. Srila Prabhupada seemed genuinely surprised at the reaction he got in the American press to his comments against giving independence to women.

    A friend of mine told me that while working on translating Srila Prabhupada’s books into Turkish, some passages where Srila Prabhupada criticizes democracy and secularism could not be published in Turkey at that time. Some sensitivity for local culture and intelligence had to be applied in order to avoid the books being banned and despised. Not that there is anything wrong with the eternal truths in the books, but because a particular audience may sometimes have strong feelings and associations according to time, place and circumstance, an expert preacher familiar with the local culture may decide to pick his battles carefully and not emphasize a minor point that will have the effect of insuring that no one in the whole country will get to consider even the more general, basic points.

    We need to become expert in explaining all these things carefully, properly, with due regard for the local cultural forces, and in a genuine mood of benevolent, unselfish preachers interested in the welfare of all humanity and of all living beings everywhere.

  115. Akruranatha says :

    The psychology of men and women and sexual attraction and alliances based on so-called romantic love (which we know to be lust), and all the myriad related social and economic implications, is a very deep and big subject, touching all aspects of human interaction.

    Academic critics have tried to discuss these issues (dark, powerful Freudian motives, etc.) dispassionately, without agitating people about political implications. Sometimes they have been successful to a degree, sometimes they have encountered opposition from the less philosophical segment of society.

    Unfortunately the Freudians were big atheists and tried to explain religious experience from an atheistic and psycho-sexual point of view, but aside from that their willingness to look at sex as an enormous and all-pervading force in human life and all aspects of culture is laudable (even though they may get details wrong).

    I remember a story in the Lilamrta (I hope I get it right), where Brahmananda complained to Srila Prabhupada at 26 2nd Avenue that one college professor was expressing everything in Freudian, sexual terms, but that he (Brahmananda), being more “Jungian”, thought that the drive know God was the more basic, underlying motive. Srila Prabhupada agreed with the professor. :-)

    Devotees have to learn to speak of these things scientifically, as dispassionate philosophers concerned with getting to the real truth of the matter about the psychology of sex as explained in the Vedas, without threatening people that we are trying to establish some moral order that they strictly and rigidly and strongly do not agree with.

    People are so apt to wear their ideological commitments and fashions on their sleeves, as integral parts of their false identities (“I am a nationalist”, “I am a Republican”, “I am a feminist”, “I am a socialist”, “I am a pacifist”, “I am a Presbyterian”, “I am a vegetarian”, “I am a homeopathist”, “I am a Buddhist”, “I am a ‘free thinker'”, “I am an atheist”, “I am a pagan”, “I dig jazz”, “I am a martial artist”) that it sometimes takes some skill, tact, and sensitivity to cut through all that static and reach what they really are, what all of us really are down deep, which is eternal, loving servants of Krishna.

    And if we get too caught up in fighting about the static, telling them what is wrong with homeopathy or socialism or jazz, we can lose them at the get go, before they can begin to remember how much they really like serving Krishna.

  116. servantoftheservant says :

    Dear Devotees
    Please accept my humble obeisances
    All glories to Srila Prabhupada

    Taking the foot dust of all devotees upon my head – i am taking the liberty to make a couple of points related to some of the posts above.

    In comment #107 HG Pusta Krsna Prabhu wrote:

    The world is looking to see how women will be treated in various spiritual traditions.

    I have to respectfully disagree with the above statement. As followers of Srila Prabhupada and the parampara our first objective is to try to please Srila Prabhupada and our predecessors with our activities. Adjusting the preaching technique (hopefully not the siddhanta) to cater to the whims of “the world” is of secondary importance. If Srila Prabhupada and Krsna are pleased they will send the right persons for us to preach (& teach) to. However, this is not a license to antagonize the masses.

    An example comes to mind – in the early years (I think in LA) Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati’s avirbhava (or tirobhava) tithi was being celebrated. Tamal Krsna Maharaja was in-charge. Srila Prabhupada came out around noon (or a little before) for the program. At some point he asked Tamal Krsna Maharaj if the feast is ready – to which Maharaj replied that since it is Sunday he planned for the feast in the evening so that many more people could participate and benefit. Srila Prabhupada became furious upon hearing this and personally went into the kitchen and prepared a huge feast (aided only by few devotees) in about 1.5 hrs. Eventually Srila Prabhupada remarked that pleasing the congregation members is not our task – but honoring and pleasing our predecessor acharyas is.

    This example may not have perfect relevance to the current context – however, the principle remains. It is not that we should not be bothered about public opinion – but not at the cost of diverting our attention from the main task of pleasing our predecessors acharyas. We don’t have to go out of our way to find opportunities to openly flaunt our siddhanta on such issues – however, if and when the subject comes up – we should be prepared to properly and nicely present and articulate our siddhanta and explain the same. If we are sincere in the effort Srila Prabhupada and Lord Krsna will reciprocate and send sincere souls to us.

    dasa ‘nu dasa
    Servant of the servant

  117. pustakrishna says :

    I do agree with the statement of “Servant of the Servant” above. That does not infer however that we must be blind to the world around us. My mother used to tell me when I was young, “God help me to see my self as others see me.” I do accept this piece of advice. In my statement, you have taken that “line” out of context. I am not trying to defend my self, but rather express obvious “relative” truths. First, we do find sensitivity of Srila Prabhupad to the circumstances. If His Divine Grace did not care about the social pressures, he would have allowed women to be pujaris on the ISKCON altars in India. But, he did not want to have our society be criticized by the Indian critics. It is a fact. That does not mean that we are trying to please society at the expense of serving our acharyas…it simply means that we do not abandon common sense. His strategy is clear. On the other hand, he gave brahmana initiation to westerners who became vaishnavas to make several important points: First, that the vaishnava is already a brahmana and more. Second, he did not want Indians to continue to express their caste based on birth. Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita expresses that the varnas are based upon Guna (quality) and Karma (work). This is siddhanta.

    I welcome further comments, as these are issues vital to understand. At a time when we see sometimes horrible discrimination against women merely because they are women (like the young Pakistani girl shot by Taliban against the advancement of women through education), we need to be competent to analyze the winds of society to convince the ignorant that Krishna’s philosophy and culture can indeed save humanity. Srila Prabhupad, I think, expects that we can debate these issues through our philosophy and be capable to lead human society forward. That is what brahmanas are expected to do. Thank you. Pusta Krishna das

  118. Akruranatha says :

    “Adjusting the preaching technique (hopefully not the siddhanta) to cater to the whims of ‘the world’ is of secondary importance.”

    Pusta Krishna agrees and welcomes further comment.

    I think everyone will agree that we must not adjust the siddhanta. I just wonder, how well have we actually understood and realized the siddhanta, and become able to practically apply it in our own lives as well as in interactions within the society of devotees and in our preaching mission to “the world”.

    Pusta Krishna had said, “The world is looking to see how women will be treated in various spiritual traditions.”

    I do not think he was suggesting we have to adjust things to cater to the whims of “the world”. He statement was based on a realization that we should take very much to heart:

    Krishna consciousness is really good and beneficial for people. When we tell people to chant Hare Krishna and their lives will be sublime, it is not some clever sales pitch cooked up by some manipulative, exploitative advertising firm. It is the truth.

    Nitaiyer carana satya. Narottama Das Thakur tells his mind: “Don’t think the lotus feet of Lord Nityananda are illusory, they are a fact!”

    The fact is that if people take up Krishna consciousness they will become happy, peaceful, their lives will improve. If that is not happening within our society of devotees, it is because we are misunderstanding or misapplying the “siddhanta”.

    What is our siddhanta? Primarily, we conclude that (a) we are not these bodies (man, woman, old, young, Indian, American, black, white, professor, laborer, infirm, healthy) but we are eternal, spiritual souls; (b) as jivas, or small spirits, it is our duty to serve the Supreme Spirit, who is the source of all energies; (c) that Supreme Personality of Godhead is Krishna, who appears in different avataras in different ages as revealed in Srimad Bhagavatam and other Vedic literature; (d) His service can be performed by always remembering Him, becoming His devotee, worshiping Him, bowing down to Him and taking exclusive shelter in Him alone, giving up mundane acts; (e) most recently He appeared on earth in His most merciful Avatar as Lord Caitanya, taking the form of His own devotee and showing how this process of bhakti yoga can very easily be practiced by constantly chanting the Hare Krishna maha mantra, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.

    At least those are the basics.

  119. Akruranatha says :

    The process that Lord Caitanya brought for achieving spiritual perfection is simple and pleasing. Locan Das Thakur says it is “kevala ananda kanda”. Yes, it involves “visaye chariya”, giving up material sense gratification, but that is also easy and pleasing when one gets a higher taste by the grace of the Lord.

    So “the world” ought to see that those who take up the process of chanting Hare Krishna sincerely are the most happy, peaceful, kind, learned, successful, admirable people on earth.

    If they don’t see us this way, if we are not actually manifesting these qualities, it may be due to some misunderstanding of the siddhanta, and how to apply it.

    To chant Hare Krishna constantly, we should be humble and tolerant and be always ready to respect all others. We should see all living beings as Krishna’s parts and parcels and know full well that their highest and best interest is to revive their forgotten relationship with Krishna.

    Yes, we should also understand that our various different bodies work under different modes of nature. This part of Krishna’s teachings, that we should perform our own duty, even imperfectly rather than perform that of another, is not meant as some kind of tool for political oppression.

    It is His kindness: we do not have to do something that is unnatural or difficult for us. Not everyone can live as a penniless, mendicant, celibate in the forest. Narottama Das Thakur sings, “grhe ba banete thake ha gauranga bo’le dake”: “One can remain wherever he finds it suitable … formerly, those who were in spiritual consciousness used to live in the forest to become free of the turmoil of city life. But that is not possible now. … Therefore, generally one is recommended to live with his friends, wife, and children. That doesn’t matter, but he must take to the process of Krishna consciousness as introduced by Lord Caitanya. It is not difficult.”

    You see? Some sense control is required in any civilized society. Sex must be confined to family life, if not given up altogether. But this is not “bitter medicine” we want to force on the public, confining them to some unnatural domination by a stern theocracy. We have come to give the nectar of Krishna consciousness for which everyone is anxious. We have come to remind them of their great fortune!

    Most women quite naturally like to have nice husbands, children — not to be austere nuns. We are not trying to force some difficult thing on anyone.

  120. Akruranatha says :

    People are inclined to enjoy. Our duty is to show them how their real enjoyment, their highest, best interest, lies in reviving their dormant Krishna consciousness.

    Krishna teaches that happiness derived from contacting the senses with their objects is in the mode of passion and may taste like nectar in the beginning but becomes like poison in the end.

    On the other hand, happiness in the mode of goodness may take a little discipline and taste a little bitter at first, but it tastes like nectar later on, and is conducive to atma-buddhi, or spiritual self-realization.

    This path of Krishna consciousness, chanting, dancing and eating Krishna prasadam, really is very pleasing all the way along, and it leads to the end of all distress, and to real, transcendental happiness that is much better than any material happiness and is unlimited and eternal.

    These are not empty promises but are real facts. There is not too much austerity. Following four regs is just wholesome and clean: we don’t lay on beds of nails.

    We should not expect to see strife and quarrels and complaints of oppression and exploitation within the Krishna consciousness movement. If we see these things, it is because we are doing something wrong.

    Yes, we should be inspired to turn away from illicit sex and intoxication and other nasty things; we should be inspired to voluntarily make some sacrifices or exert some effort for distributing books and preaching Krishna consciousness. But these things are really the basis of happiness in our lives and something very positive we would like to share with others in a spirit of friendship.

    Our mood should never be “I am miserable but at least I am following the rules demanded by God, and others must be brought under the control of those (like me) who know these true rules of religion.” If we try to “preach” in this way, not only will our preaching be unsuccessful, but it will be less pleasing to Srila Prabhupada and Sri Sri Nitai-Gaura. This is not our “siddhanta”.

    It is a secondary purpose of ISKCON to show people a more natural and peaceful way of life in agrarian varnasrama villages, but they have to be attractive villages where people are happy and successful.

    It is not our “siddhanta” to force people to obey us, nor is it the proper use of our “siddhanta” to bring people under our control. We just want people to serve Krishna happily and peacefully, according to their natural tendencies.

  121. Part One:

    I appreciated Akruranatha Prabhu’s comments. I liked the term “dispassionate.” To be ‘dispassionate’ while discussing such sensitive matters as womanhood and all related subjects, that deeply play on the male psyche, has to be done with detachment.

    To be dispassionate can mean conducting discussions or preaching with a sense of aloofness, calm, composure, unemotional objectivity and so on. Of course, we cannot be like clinical emotionless mechanistic artificial intelligence operatives. Neither can we allow our pre-conditioning to influence our direction of emphasis that can compromise our Iskcon integrity.

    It is difficult to keep emotion out of these types of discussions when vested interest in the asramas, and loyalty to one’s fervent dogmas and opinions are touted as correct. But we do need to keep generalities at bay. It would also be useful to curb energetic and unyielding one-sided versions of philosophy or Prabhupada quotes, when in fact there are two sides or more.

    When multi-arguments are expressed by differing viewpoints, we next have to consider what is best for Iskcon taking into account our lessons learned from history, practicalities, public opinion, devotee and gender inclusivity, and much, much more. The power of persuasion can help gain a sense of realism, and for that, our experienced persona should carry the day, not inexperienced or disguised hyper enthusiasm.

    To disassociate from passion in a positive way means to analyse from the mode of goodness, backed with sastric reality. This would have more impact and acceptance if this is congruous with practical and mature awareness of social realities. For us, this presents difficulties while simultaneously spreading through preaching and consolidating. Consolidating our social structures which enhance inclusivity for us all, yet innovating and adapting in a fast changing world, presents challenges. At least we can try…

    It has been mentioned that aside from upholding siddhanta, the means to present siddhanta is secondary. If Srila Prabhupada had not differed or adjusted his preaching for our sake – from purely Gaudiya traditions – then perhaps far fewer people would have taken up the eternal messages of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. I think many would agree that it was extremely important for Srila Prabhupada to do this. He made the message attractive with Suka relish.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  122. Part Two:

    It is our duty to also make Krishna consciousness attractive, and for that we need some Suka ability, although the message of Bhagavatam is already relishable for all. This is a sign that devotees should present Krishna consciousness with, and as su-sukham. I agree with Akruranatha Prabhu that wherever there is unhappiness within our ranks, then the siddhanta is off course – individually or collectively.

    In some traditional cultures there is a variable on “If you strike a woman, you strike a rock…” Many of us do not realise the importance of the correct position of a Mother within Iskcon. Unhappy Mothers do not bode well for any family, least of all our Iskcon societal family. When vested interest of over-detached and defensive celibacy claims contribute towards relegating our women to generalised social ‘inferiority,’ there is little scope for our ladies to function as Mothers proper, taking into account their qualifications, abilities and experience.

    The result of this is the seeking of Motherly outlets through guruship and so on. As recorded in earlier comments, our Iskcon is not operating as a Vedic model, because renunciates do notor are not supposed to control society. This imbalance does not enable us to create a stable Iskcon society.

    When this imbalance is in place and we encourage inexperienced devotees to go out and preach, the imbalance can be replicated outwards to the people we meet or avoid. People in general or ladies in particular will not be attracted to be a part of such imbalance, as they will perceive it. If charity begins at home, then it us who have to rearrange structures so that they more closely resemble a Vedic model. Even so, we not only want our ‘celibates’ to present a smiling face, but our Mothers too must be genuinely happy. Unhappy Mothers and cows is a sign of nonconformity somewhere.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

  123. Akruranatha says :

    So, as I alluded to in comment #115 above, it is not that we should revise or misunderstand the tattva or scientific knowledge about the psychology of sex and the different material qualities under which men and women work. We do not want to “dumb down” the conclusions of Srimad Bhagavatam to avoid controversy. Srila Prabhupada’s books are full of all kinds of valuable knowledge about various fields of study, including politics, sociology, cosmology, medicine, astrology, ethics and everything.

    But we do not need to court controversy either, especially if it gets in the way of transmitting our basic message about reviving our dormant love of Krishna by chanting the maha mantra.

    Also, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. We may think we know everything there is to know about Vedic morality and varnasram dharma, but in our personal interactions we may not apply it very well. Our only hope is to take shelter of Krishna’s internal energy.

    Our acaryas say that the process of bhakti yoga is so nice, we can “run with our eyes closed” and still not get hurt. “Running with our eyes closed” means, we may not know all the ins and outs of advanced Vedic knowledge. Nowadays that whole civilization has already been practically overrun by “modernity”. Srila Prabhupada’s disciples in the west had no knowledge or training in such a culture anyway. Nevertheless, by chanting Hare Krishna we are able to make tangible progress in spiritual life without having developed a fine intelligence about the intricacies of the actions and reactions of the modes of nature and all the rules and customary understandings of Vedic culture.

    Yes, we are meant to revive Vedic culture, if possible. Meanwhile, our main purpose is to spread the Sankirtan movement of hearing Srimad Bhagavatam, chanting Hare Krishna and cultivating devotional service. We are not the society for Vedic morality or for Varnasrama social organization. Those may be secondary benefits of our preaching work, but we are the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, first, foremost, and completely.

    Bhagavatam teaches that even if we perform all our duties correctly according to varna and asrama, if we do not achieve attraction to Krishna consciousness we have simply wasted our time. Conversely, if we have achieved even a little advancement in Krishna consciousness, whatever we have achieved is eternal and will carry us along so that complete success in the near future is assured.

  124. Akruranatha says :

    The material world is going on under the sway of Cupid. Practically everyone is dancing to the tune of sex desire, and all the literature, films, popular music tend to focus on this “boy meets girl, boy loses girl” stuff.

    Naturally, in this world dominated by lust, there will always be some war between the sexes going on.

    In the 19th century we saw people’s political imagination fired up by ideas of national identity, race and economic class interests. The women’s suffrage movement (which in the US was associated with the movement to abolish slavery and to restrict or prohibit alcohol) finally succeeded in the early 20th century. Later in the 20th century, alongside the continued movement against racial segregation (and anti-colonialism), a political consciousness of women as a distinct group with distinct political interests naturally came into its own as a dominant cultural force.

    It would be a mistake for people to mistake the Hare Krishna movement as aligned with one side or another in the ongoing war of the sexes. The Hare Krishna movement is much more important than that. It is the movement of pure devotional service for the good of all people, showing the world the real face of true love — Krishna prema — which is the highest goal of life and is far beyond the sway of lust, Cupid, or biological imperative.

    In this material world, demigods war with demons, but Krishna only appears to favor demigods. He is supremely impartial, completely above the fray. He is only actually attracted to ananya bhakti, not to material piety. We are the party of Krishna, not of the pious materialists.

    It seems common in this Kali yuga that even those who take the side of traditional morality and piety are often corrupt, hypocritical, misguided. We can and should explain morality from the Vedic perspective, given the right opportunity, but our real business is to promote unalloyed bhakti.

    A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. In Kali yuga, religionists notoriously use the authority of God and scriptures to promote their own wealth, power and sense enjoyment. The common people mistrust religion, because it is hard to find genuine bhaktas anywhere, and hypocrites abound. Even in the Hare Krishna movement, we are not immune from these corrupting influences, but we can stay protected by constantly chanting Hare Krishna, in a humble state of mind.

  125. Akruranatha says :

    Sorry for being so verbose. I hope the readers can see the relevance of what I am talking about to the discussion. I am not sure if I have succeeded in making it clear.

    “Party spirit is the enemy of truth.” It is so easy to choose up sides and disregard the truth spoken by “opponents”. The world is going on that way. Everyone’s sense of identity is wrapped up in various alliances to different parties and ideologies. A successful preacher has to be aware of these things. To avoid being dismissed at the outset, make a good first impression.

    The Hare Krishna movement is above all material ideologies. We can find devotees among the Adityas and the Daityas, among the Democrats and the Republicans, Conservatives and Liberals, Feminists and Traditionalists. But really devotees are above all these different party affiliations and ideologies. Their true, overriding loyalty and commitment is to pure devotional service to Krishna.

    Nevertheless, devotee preachers should be aware of the effect of their presentation on their audience. There is no point wearing love beads to a NASCAR race, or top hat and tails to a labor demonstration. We are not aiming to alienate people by opposing what they value.

    Not that we alter our core message to suit the room — we are not weather vanes who shift with every breeze — but we should use a little tact and discrimination in deciding what points to emphasize and what impression we really want to make. Our real purpose is to get people to chant Hare Krishna and appreciate Srila Prabhupada’s books.

    Over and above that, we can and should acknowledge that we have a history in ISKCON of “room for improvement” when it comes to training our members for good, peaceful and stable family life. At times our partial understanding of woman’s natural submission and chastity has led, in practical terms, to making excuses for unrealistic and overbearing husbands.

    What should be a road map for domestic harmony in service of Krishna has at times (to our embarrassment) been used as a justification for male tyranny and domestic abuse. The public should see Hare Krishna devotees as ideal, happy, wise and successful citizens, but we have sometimes come across as a problem group who are prone to mistreating women and children. This is a tragedy. We cannot pretend it is just because we are being scrutinized by “karmis” who do not share our values: we have violated our own values as well. We need to improve.

  126. pustakrishna says :

    Akruranath Prabhu’s comments are always interesting and worthwhile. His comment #125 is vital to this article. When incongruities have taken place, when abuse of women or children has occurred, indeed theistic people have violated the values of their scriptures and examples of their holy men and women. It must be guarded against, and as it has happened in the past, it is possible it can happen in the present and in the future. The society’s management wing, the GBC, has been trying to rectify this, and the vigilance must go on in order to protect the purpose of ISKCON. Many of these things happened while Srila Prabhupad was present with us, so do not think that it is so easy to catch deviations. The Catholic Church also has had to deal with these phenomena, and it is not enough to simply pay fines for misbehavior. The misbehavior needs to be watched for. Yes, this will change the desired relaxed comfortable environment of practicing devotional service, but it is vitally important to be on guard for immoral acts.

    When we come to Krishna consciousness, we learn that Krishna is the Supreme Enjoyer and that everything He created is meant for His pleasure. As such, everyone and everything has a subordinated position to Him. When the fallen souls are envious of the Lord, then they want to be the enjoyer, and they exploit others for their illusory pleasure. We must educate society, indeed, of these facts, and we must try to present our society as an example of a healthy God-centric society. ISKCON can suffer from the same frailties that other religious movements and societies experience. When there are incongruities, the faithful must go on, continue to live according to high ideals morally and spiritually. We must not throw out the baby with the bathwater, that is to say, when difficulties are encountered, we must carry on. That is Srila Prabhupad’s desire for all of us. And, with sympathy and hope, give encouragement to practitioners. It is a great challenge, and one which is ever before the ISKCON management.

    As for the ladies, they must be respected by men and by women alike. There is far too much concern about who is “advanced” or not. We are all conditioned souls trying to practice Krishna consciousness for our immediate and future benefits. Hare Krishna. Pusta Krishna das

  127. Mohana Mohini dd says :

    I am a little late to this party, I avoided reading the article because as other commentators mentioned it was just another futile walk down the path of the “culture wars” which makes maya smile while we grab the iron like stalks of grass like the Yadus did and club each other to death with offenses.

    On reading the comments I found #28 by Mother Narada Priya to be the most stinging because it woke me up with its painful and brutal honesty. Note that I didn’t call it offensive. It was just the bald face truth.

    BBD texts were entertaining excursions into fantasy. By studying a few pictures he sets out to disprove all of the sastra. We note that none of the pictures he linked to showed any higher class Vedic families as none of the men are wearing brahmana threads. His conclusions based on how labourers and low class people lived and projecting that onto the whole of society would be like making conclusions about the dress codes of Western society based on pictures of the sartorial tastes of the Hell’s Angels or Goths

    When Draupadi was first introduced to Narada Muni she is said to have been very modestly dressed and wearing a veil across her face. In the Iliad it is said that when Andromache, wife of Hector, heard that her husband had been killed she fainted and the veil fell off her face. Respectable Roman women covered their heads. Ancient Chinese women also wore very modest clothes

    This was well before the rise of Islam. Cultured Japanese ladies were also modestly dressed

    Returning to Vedic culture we rely not on BBD faulty vision but on the revalations of the sastras and our acaryas. Rupa and Sanatana gosvami personaly saw how Radha and Krsna and their associates dressed. So did Srila Prabhupada and Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati thakura. I have faith in their descriptions of how the denizens of the spiritual world dressed. As well as followers of Vedic culture. When BSST visited South India he pointed out to his disciples that the way the men and women of the higher classes dressed was the traditional Vedic style. Thus BST’s opinion is exactly opposite to that of BBD. So who do I choose to put my faith in BSST a self realized soul who has direct access to Lord Krsna, or to BBD who is a conditioned soul?