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Dandavats! All Glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga!


Thursday, 31 August 2006 / Published in Articles, Braja Sevaki Devi Dasi / 21,836 views

By Braja Sevaki devi dasi

When the subject of this article was proposed to me, I found myself reacting in several ways over the course of a few short minutes. It was presented thus: “write an article about men and women hugging.” Without specific details, I was left to ponder what that meant, and myriad images came to mind. My intellectual responses were as many and varied. They ranged from “definitely shouldn’;t be happening,” to “hang on, what exactly is the problem?”, and finally to, “okay, we have to define this a little more-what are we talking about here?”

So what are we talking about here? Firstly, let’s establish one thing: we are approaching subjects from a Vaisnava point of view, and whatever is written has to build on that. That’s easy enough-I can take any number of quotes from Srila Prabhupada’s books and present a nice, neat article that propounds a certain angle of the philosophy. But obviously there’s a problem within the society of Vaisnavas, otherwise why address it? It seems, then, that what we’re really talking about here is how our daily practices and rituals can be infected with the insidious disease of liberalism.

Certainly in non-devotee society this practice of greeting each other with a hug is considered a display of open, loving exchange-a non-sexual yet intimate embrace that speaks volumes; an exchange between two people who understand that yes, men and women can be friends. So why are we getting all het up about it? What’s wrong with “displays of affection” and “emotional outreach?”

If I refer to the Gaudiya Vaisnava theology on this delicate subject matter, I find so many examples of “loving embraces” between devotees, and between the Lord and His devotees. I found myself thinking that there wasn’t much of a problem. I mean, seriously: what’s the big deal? Surely devotees can only benefit from displays of affection towards each other, and if it’s done in the Bhagavatam, well, we have ourselves a precedent.

In Srila Prabhupada’s own words, “those who are attracted by the Hare Krsna mantra, they are not very much attracted with the bodily features of the women.” Within this sentence, I’ve found the essence of this article: differentiating between the actions of a person who sees everyone with transcendental vision-and who is therefore qualified to engage in loving, transcendental exchanges that engage the physical body-and one whose actions are tainted with lust and body consciousness.

Bodily attachment-the greatest barrier to transcending the material realm and entering the spiritual abode of Lord Sri Krsna-is embedded so deep in our psyche that we are mostly unaware of the stealth with which it dogs our every move. A most commonly repeated phrase fromSrila Prabhupada’s books and lectures was “you are not this body.” While it may appear to be the most simplistic and fundamental aspect of our philosophy-and nowhere near as “advanced” as raganuga-bhakti and discourses on the rasa-lila-still it is the most difficult hurdle to conquer in the pursuit of Krsna-prema. It is not a “motto'” of ISKCON, but a very real philosophical precept that very few-one out of thousands, according to Krsna Himself-will ever understand. Adherence to Vaisnava teachings and scripture to conquer our material attachments is not an option to the serious transcendentalist, but a very real driving force behind the sincere desire to extricate oneself from the clutches of material nature. The anomaly of behaving in a manner dictated by the gross material senses and maintaining one’s attachment to the demands of the “body culture”, while externally donning the dress of a Vaisnava, chanting Hare Krsna, and executing all the apparent duties of a devotee merely waters the weeds that grow around the delicate creeper of devotion that has sprouted within the heart by the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, His eternal associates, the disciplic succession, our merciful param-guru Srila Prabhupada, and his representatives.

Therefore, atau sri-Krsna-namadi na bhaved…These present senses, these impure senses, contaminated senses, cannot understand Krsna; therefore we should follow this principle: sevonmukhe hi jihvadau.*

What we are aspiring for, of course, is entrance into the transcendental loving exchanges of the Lord and His devotees. While that is not restricted to Krsna and the gopis, and outraged cries of “Gopi Bhava Club!!” need not be broadcast from the temple rooftop every time loving exchanges are displayed, we ought to know, as Vaisnava devotees of the Lord, the difference between “loving exchanges” and “mundane social behavior.”

There is, firstly, the sanction of marriage.Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura writes that for those who are married according to religious principles, there is no sin involved in their talking and touching. He says, in fact, that “rather, this touching and talking is beneficial because of the scriptural sanction.” Naturally, etiquette surrounding this behavior exists, and he elaborates: “There is, however, no provision for illusory activities other than the execution of reciprocal duties. If they are illusioned by each other and they engage in activities other than prescribed duties, then that is called stri-sanga and puruna-sanga, or association with the opposite sex. For those who are engaged in worshiping Krsna, such association yields inauspicious results. If either one is guilty of such association, then they become an obstacle for the other party.” Nowhere does our esteemed Thakura mention embracing in public, and certainly not between the opposite sexes.

Then there are the references to loving exchanges which I mentioned were found in the Srimad-Bhagavatam and other scriptures. Perhaps the most significant-if it’s possible to separate one significant text from another in the bottomless well of nectar which these scriptures represent-is this one:

All the residents of Vrindavana were overwhelmed with ecstatic love, and they came forward and greeted Sri Krsna according to their individual relationships with Him-some embracing Him, others bowing down to Him, and so forth.

The significance of this verse lies in the words, “according to their individual relationships with Him.” The residents of Vrindavana were all eager to display their affection for Krsna, overwhelmed with symptoms of ecstatic love, desperate to come forward and engage in loving exchanges with Him. Yet their methods varied from person to person, relationship to relationship, rasa to rasa. Some embraced Krsna; some bowed down, and the words “so forth” indicate a wealth of exchanges: offering of flowers; expressions of loving affection; words of praise; poetry and recitations glorifying Krsna and His wondrous qualities. All according to their individual relationships. These words indicate clearly that such behavior deemed appropriate for one relationship is not necessarily and automatically replicated in another, an understanding supported by the philosophical precepts of madhurya-rasa, sakhya-rasa, and so on.

Unfortunately, this philosophy is not adhered to by the proponents of liberalism. In an effort to display “open-minded, inclusive, loving” personae, we are subject to public displays of misplaced “affection” by those who believe that men and women greeting each other with embraces is a loving exchange. So let’s take another look at scripture to see where this behavior is supported by the exalted personalities whom we aspire to follow:

The inhabitants of Vrindavana were well-wishers and intimate friends of the Yadu dynasty. This meeting of the two parties after long separation was a very touching incident. All the Yadus and the residents of Vri felt such great pleasure in meeting and talking together that it was a unique scene. Meeting after long separation, they were all jubilant their hearts throbbed, and their faces appeared like freshly bloomed lotus flowers. Drops of tears fell from their eyes, the hair on their bodies stood on end, and because of their extreme ecstasy, they were temporarily speechless. In other words, they dove into the ocean of happiness.

These words capture beautifully a scene of intense joy after a period of separation. We can all feel a little of what the residents of Vri and the members of the Yadu dynasty were experiencing-we, too, suffer separation from close friends, from our spiritual masters and mentors, from godsisters and godbrothers, from school friends, and former temple and ashram members with whom we have served. As an international society, our lives are constantly taking separate paths due to different services and personal situations (marriage, family, etc.), yet coming together again during festivals and celebrations. And shouldn’t there be loving exchanges at this time? No one is asking that we attain a state of “pure loving devotion” before we engage in displays of affection and love for the family of devotees that exists under Srila Prabhupada, surely? Of course not. Yet the paragraph above continues in a telling way:
While the men were meeting in that way, the women also met one another in the same manner. They embraced one another in great friendship, smiling very mildly, and looked at one another with much affection. When they were embracing one another in their arms, the saffron and kuìkuma spread on their breasts was exchanged from one person to another, and they all felt heavenly ecstasy. Due to such heart-to-heart embracing, torrents of tears glided down their cheeks. The juniors were offering obeisances to the elders, and the elders were offering their blessings to the juniors. They thus welcomed one another and asked after one another’s welfare. Ultimately, however, all their talk was only of Krsna.

What a beautiful, transcendental, joyful, loving exchange of affection and respect this description gives us. Who wouldn’t be attracted by this scene occurring every time we separate and again come together? How can we consider comparing it to the mundane exchanges that we are exposed to these days, with men and women hugging each other and imposing their liberal mindset on those who wish to remain loyal to the Vaisnava principles of loving exchanges?

Indeed, we should encourage and assist each other in transcending the bodily concept which binds us to this material world, rather than reinforcing it each time we meet. What may appear to be a harmless hug can actually bind one further to the material platform in subtle ways. The attraction between men and women is powerful and is only increased by engaging the senses, one by one. Srila Prabhupada told of how, even in his day, women were very shy to see men, and his mother would go from place to place in a covered palanquin. While advocates of liberalism and feminism will tell us that this is “oppression” of women, it is actually protection of women-that no man other than her close family members look upon a woman is a display of loving affection by the husband and family; not that she is free to be looked at, touched, and enjoyed by every man who happens to pass her by. No one is advocating, of course, that we women are locked up. Society prevails, and unfortunately cultural customs are swept away in the rush to create an environment of so-called equality. Yet seeing a woman is just the beginning-when the other senses follow suit, the binding is complete:

Actually, women have the power to attract men through all of the material senses. Men become lusty by seeing the body of a woman, by smelling her fragrance, by hearing her voice, by tasting her lips and by touching her body.

With a subject matter of this nature, however, it is not only the protection of women we are discussing, or the influence of woman over man. The opposite is always applicable. While we can learn via these scriptural references and the teachings of Srila Prabhupada what our behavior should be based on, it is through association that we gain strength to exercise sensual restraint and re-educate ourselves about genuine loving exchanges, as opposed to the false versions that society would have us follow.

“My dear son, association is very important. It acts just like a crystal stone, which will reflect anything which is put before it.” Similarly, if we associate with the flowerlike devotees of the Lord, and if our hearts are crystal clear, then certainly the same action will be there.

When we associate with genuine devotees of the Lord and take shelter in their exemplary behavior, we are encouraged to nurture our own sense of purity in dealings with others. This need not be restricted to what we consider “lofty” association that is so “rare.” We can take advantage of the culture of Vaisnava association within the daily exchanges we conduct with devotees. While intimate exchanges will certainly take place with those whom we are close to, still it is a rare and wonderful thing to experience the embrace of the pure devotee of the Lord.

Still, cultural restrictions are observed by the pure of heart: we see from the examples included here that there is an observance of etiquette, that the women embrace the women, and the men embrace the men. Does that mean we are “missing something?” Are we to understand that the exalted personalities described in these pastimes had “emotional issues” or weren’t “inclusive” enough? Hardly. We seek to emulate their example and find the highest form of association with each other. Ultimately our goal is Krsna, and senses that are dulled by, and attached to, mundane sensual satisfaction cannot take us to the lotus feet of Krsna. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura pleads with Krsna,

O Gopinatha! How shall I reach the goal? My mind is overwhelmed by the powerful senses. I cannot shake off attachment to worldly pleasures…Destroy these dangerous obstacles, correct my mind and guide me to Your own true path…I am helpless, but You are Harikesa, the Lord of the senses. Please control my senses and pull me out of this world of dangers. Bhaktivinoda Thakura prays: O Gopinatha! My voice is faltering. I must throw off these shackles and catch hold of Your mercy.

A worthy conclusion to a touchy subject…

So Much Service
A nice meditation for distributing Srila Prabhupada's books

86 Responses to “A “TOUCHY” SUBJECT…”

  1. n.r. dasa says :

    “Unfortunately, this philosophy is not adhered to by the proponents of liberalism. In an effort to display “open-minded, inclusive, loving” personae, we are subject to public displays of misplaced “affection” by those who believe that men and women greeting each other with embraces is a loving exchange.”

    What a ridiculous statement.
    Seeing someone hug someone is not a disgusting thing! The Sastra you quote does not say it is terrible or bad. People hug according to their relationship. Just like it says.
    By being “subject” to it are you going to fall down? are you going to die or become ill?
    Someone that hugs someone is now blasted as a “proponent of liberalism”? Nonsense.
    If you weren’t on the bodily platform yourself this wouldn’t be a problem for you. Chant Hare Krsna and this fixation on bodily concepts will clear up for you and you won’t have to write a long article about the evils of hugging.

    “it is actually protection of women-that no man other than her close family members look upon a woman is a display of loving affection by the husband and family; not that she is free to be looked at, touched, and enjoyed by every man who happens to pass her by”

    Will your next article be about the virtues of wearing a Burqa or maybe ISKCON starting up a vice & virtue squad?

  2. Gadadhar Dasa says :

    Dear Prabhus:

    PAMHO, AGTSP, and Hare Krishna.

    Brah Sevaki Devi Dasi bought out some very good points in her article.

    (1) we see from the examples included here that there is an observance of etiquette,
    that the women embrace the women, and the men embrace the men.

    Thsi is the real Vedic Culture. Even to day, Hindus observe this culture to some extent. However, it is disapearing very fast due to advent of Movies and now TVs.

    I want to give personal example of how this worked. I grew up in a small village in Gujarat, India with my mother, 3 elder sisters, 2 younger sisters, and 1 younger bother. My father lived in Ahmedabad – far away from our village.

    This situation of my family was ideal for the women and girls of the village to come to our house and associate with each other in the absence of any men.

    Generally speaking boys will associate among themselves and girls will associate among themselves. That was the village culture. Hardly they will mix and talk except for some need to communicate.

    Some times boys will be asked to go out and play or whatever so that the girls and women can freely associate in our house.

    They may be sewing some thing, combing hairs of each other, may bring their vegetables to get it cut up, and gossip etc. But they felt great relief coming to our house. As such our house was always full with women and girls – particularly during noon and evenings in Summer.

    When relatives came from other village then greetings will be offered – men to men, and women to women, not by hugging but by words, gestures, by hodling hands, by saying Rama Rama and men holding each other’s hand with both hands. Men and women may great both boys and girls. Once greeting part is over, men will be given a place to sit down far away from ladies – ladies may sit inside the room and men may sit outside in porch area.

    Srila Prabhupada often quotes that once should not sit with one’s mother, sister, or daughter in a solitary place.

    (2) Srila Prabhupada told of how, even in his day, women were very shy to see men

    So in our village – conversation between men and women will be very short and for a need. The area I come from, generally a girl was not married in the same village. That kept the atmoshere in the village pure – generally no one will even think of marrying some boy or girl in the same village. So relationship among boys and girls was that of brother and sister.

    However, my mother was married in the same village due to some special situation. In a villages of 300 families there were couple of exceptions like that. So many times men and boys of the village wil come to our house also. In that case ladies may disperse and go home and some times men will disperse and go home and ladies will stay.

    (3) All marriages were arranged marriages:

    So boy or girl had nothing to say – they were not even shown to each other – neither were they asked their opinion. It was not their freedom to find wife or husband. It was parents duty to get their children married as they saw fit.

    So this also prevented even thought process of finding girl or boy and getting married. Such atmoshere is hard to imagine for those who grew up in Western Culture – where mixing of men and women starts from day one.

    (4) Srimad Bhagavatam says – smaya, sanga, madaihi, anratehi – price, mxing of men and women, intoxication, and false propaganda destroy four legs of religion namely – austerity, purety, mercy, and truth respectively.

    So how can we be unaffected if we mix all the time among men and women and girls and boys?

    (5) Have doubts – read story of Ajamil – and all lectures given by HDG Srila Prabhupada

    Here is one lecture – it should be more than sufficient to understand this matter:

    I can be contacted at –

    Wishing You All Well,
    YHS- Gadadhar Dasa

  3. narottama dasanudasa says :

    I wonder why you critique liberalism as “insidious” and speak of it in such a derisive tone. The opposite of liberal is conservative. Someone who is conservative believes in preserving the way things have been done, tradition, etc. It could be argued that a conservative would always disagree with the changes implemented by an acarya; who we often define as someone who adjusts things according to time, place and circumstance. Our Srila Prabhupada was considered wildly liberal, especially socially, for his revolutionary steps towards including women in his preaching mission.

    My point is that you may want to consider if liberal=bad. I would suggest that we must be liberal – willing to change; in order to successfully spread bhakti in our times.

    You have quoted Srila Bhaktivinoda, another revolutionary for his time and a very liberal acarya. Despite his liberal presentation of Krsna bhakti, we live in a different time also. The tall order for us is to become acaryas and successfully present Krsna bhakti in our time.

    You say: “Indeed, we should encourage and assist each other in transcending the bodily concept which binds us to this material world, rather than reinforcing it each time we meet.”

    It was almost humorous to me when I read this statement because I was agreeing with you whole-heartedly until I read the next sentence: “What may appear to be a harmless hug can actually bind one further to the material platform in subtle ways.”

    Can I suggest that the constant reinforcement of bodily consciousness also occurs by the repeated emphasis of “you are not the body” and the dangers of men and women associating? I am not suggesting a lack of social etiquette between men and women, but rather that as mature, hopefully spiritually progressive people, we should aim for the loving exchanges (bhakti) to dwarf our absorption in “not the body” consciousness (vedanta). We don’t want to focus too much on vedanta at the expense of bhakti.

    I may be a liberal, but I know I feel great joy in hugging my mother’s on this path and I pray for their continued affection.

  4. Braja Sevaki says :

    nrdasa: “Will your next article be about the virtues of wearing a Burqa or maybe ISKCON starting up a vice & virtue squad?”

    No, but I’d like to see them perhaps start a “philosophy and Vedic culture for dummys” to deal with responses like yours :)

  5. Gadadhar Dasa says :

    Dear Prabhus:

    PAMHO, AGTSP, and Hare Krishna.

    When I was writing my comments above – Mr. N. R. Das’ comments were not there. As soon as I completed my comments and screen was refreshed – I read Mr. Das’s “RIDICULOUS” comments ridiculing Braj Sevaki Dasi.

    Mr. Das does not quote any scripture – does not seem to read, comprehend, or accept the scriptural conclusions and points made by HDG Srila Prabhupada.

    First thing one has to understand and accept scriptural conclusions even one may not be able to follow them.

    As for Burqa culture – it is not only part of the Muslim culture – it has been part of Hindu culture as well – in different form – in at least Northern India – Gujarat, Rajasthan, UP etc. where married ladies used to cover their face completely (not just head) when going out in public – my all relatives lived that way including my 5 sisters.

    Srila Prabhupada says “women’s liberation” movement is promoted by men because they want to enjoy them. Divorce rate is at 45% in USA among first time married. Mixing of men and women must have some effect for such dramatic rate of divorce.

    I can be reached at

    Wishing You All Well,
    YHS- Gadadhar Dasa

  6. Jan Ardan says :

    Hare Krishna,
    imho, it’s a matter of individual consciousness. i would tend to agree that male and female devotees shouldn’t indulged in hugging/embracing. however, when i see a mataji that i have known for some time, i feel a simple discreet hug isn’t inappropriate in a manner similar to an exchange between family members.

    on the other hand, paying obeisances is also very satisfying and uplifting as a sign of endearment and respect.

    in general, i believe devotees shouldn’t feel inhibited showing affection towards each other, as long as the affection reflects our appreciation for their service and devotion.

  7. ekendra das says :

    haribol. I was trying to bring an alienated yet cultured Gujarati family into an ISKCON community in New Zealand. They started coming to the festivals and sunday feast. After seeing so many men and women hugging each other publicly they were pretty disgusted. In their tradition (pretty much what ours is meant to be) even for a husband and wife to embrace in public is considered low class. It was really hard to get them to develop confidence in the ISKCON scene there although they happily embraced Srila Prabhupada’s books and as a family read from them daily.

    – btw – this idea of ‘liberalism’ as pushed on us by those who feel that they know better than Srila Prabhupada how we should conduct ourselves is contrary to Vaisnavism. I’m a bit shocked that this type of thinking is prevelant in some circles.

  8. simonkitty says :

    nrdasa: “Will your next article be about the virtues of wearing a Burqa or maybe ISKCON starting up a vice & virtue squad?”

    Braj Sevak: No, but I’d like to see them perhaps start a “philosophy and Vedic culture for dummys” to deal with responses like yours :)

    Not encouraging language.
    Devotees do practice at different levels, fact.
    One should be very grateful for every soul that visits the temple,
    and not be so overly concerned with what level they choose
    to practice KC – either strictly or liberally.
    What about – becoming such an incredibly likeable person that
    devotees will naturally WANT to do what you do …
    you won’t need to bewilder them with an overload of input.

    I think certainly that yes – the author is correct in her view that physical
    contact between the sexs is something special that is only amongst family.
    This is actual civilization. It is a good diea.
    Not that we want impersonalism or bad marriages, but displays of affection
    are something sacred & special – for family & in a little privacy.
    In these evil times – nothing is sacred & there are no rules.

    As for the head covering – amongst muslims, hindus & catholic nuns
    it is a long-standing tradition. It does not lessen any woman, it actually
    elevates women. A woman who dresses like this is sending out a signal
    that she has strong moral values & she demands to be treated with great respect.
    A woman who dresses in a revealing & attention-getting way – should not be
    surprised when she attracts the attention of the very lowest men.

  9. mahavidya das says :

    Well spoken mother Braja sevaki,we are not hippies.

  10. madhava gosh says :

    Accepting, for the sake of argument, your premise that hugging is bad unless it’s man on man or woman on woman, I am wondering how illicit hugging affects seniority? I have gathered elsewhere that you consider the date of initiation as the start date for calculating seniority. I am wondering if someone does perform illicit hugging, should we subtract the time spent in such hugging from their seniority calculation, or do they have to start the seniority clock over again from the time they stopped hugging?

    Rest assured, to respect your values, I vow to never hug you, and suspect most others feel the same way.

    Madhava Gosh…das (see, I am coachable, though it is too late to add it to the name I registered with, which displays at the bottom of every comment I make, just as it does for everyone)

  11. Braja Sevaki says :

    Simon Kitty: I’m a little bewildered: perhaps you can explain to me how this:

    “What a ridiculous statement.”
    “If you werent’ so fixed on the bodily platform”

    and other similar statements constitute “encouraging” language, yet you pounced on a comment that I made in a joking mood? I’d like you to explain how you see one as “not encouraging” and the other as “acceptable.” Because that seems to me like a double standard. I see a lot of that on this website, and in ISKCON in general, so I’m curious to hear your explanation. I’ve seen your explanation for other things and find it very balanced, so I thought to ask you this in an unchallenging mood.

    Braja Sevaki dd

  12. Braja Sevaki says :

    Narottama prabhu: you say that Bhaktivinode Thakura and others were liberal for their times, and that Srila Prabhupada broke all the boundaries. These things are true, but not in terms of their personal behavior. I think there’s a difference in how you’re using the term “liberal” and how I’m using it. The Oxford dictionary gives one meaning of liberal as: ” open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values.” We’re not interested in that translation of liberal, I think you would agree. Yet it also states as another one of it’s many translations: “broadly construed or understood; not strictly literal or exact.” So in that sense, yes, Srila Prabhupada and Bhaktivinode Thakura were liberal. If we are careful to define which meaning of liberal we are referring to, there’s no confusion. With the first meaning, such trends lead to loose behavior. The Catholic Church’s debate over contraception is one example of liberalism infecting the Christian values that object to the unnatural control of childbirth simply to indulge more in sex life. Bhaktivinode Thakura didn’t do anything to change the teachings of the acaryas, nor did Srila Prabhupada, though Prabhupada definitely opened up more in terms of an international, non-restrictive Society than before. He even said he had allowed women into the ashrams, and that was his success, that was why other maths weren’t successful and he was. He did so many things. Still he didn’t advocate men and women living together, and certainly didn’t advocate hugging or touching of men and women who weren’t related by marriage or family. We see even in the example I gave from the Bhagavatam, the Vrajavasis observed social etiquettes. So we are obliged to, and not introduce detrimental liberal practices under the guise of copying Srila Prabhupada and being more “open.”

  13. visnu das says :

    Geez. I really ENJOY hugging my 75 year old god-sister. This article condemns a rare and irrelevant hypothetical situation. If this is intended as some sort of admonishment to teenagers, perhaps it might be considered a miniscule part of a valuable discourse; otherwise it seems like yet another over-zealous prudish attempt to create more fanatacism.

    In the Nectar of Devotion, Rupa Goswami describes being ‘liberal’ as the 36th quality of the Lord. This is elaborated upon thus:

    35. Liberal
    Any person who is by his natural behavior very mild is called liberal.
    A statement by Uddhava after the Syamantaka jewel plundering confirms that
    Krsna is so kind and favorable that if a servitor is accused even of great
    offenses, Krsna does not take this into consideration. He simply considers the
    service that is rendered by His devotee.

    I posit that liberality is a quality that devotees should emulate, which should be differentiated from imitatation. Cetainly the so-called ‘liberals’ of our society have more in common with pure devotees than the so-called ‘conservatives.’ After all, ‘liberals’ are the ones calling for better education, compassion for the weak, respect of the Lord’s resources (ecology), etc. This condemnation of ‘liberality’ is antithetical to devotion and smacks of the sort of mentality condemned by our archaryas, namely that of the smarta brahmins.

    Rather than condemning the activities of thoughtful, consenting, adult vaishnavas, Braja Sevaka should strive to become more mild. Hugging among friends is largely a cultural phenomenon, with few detrimental effects. (Is this really turning anyone into a sex crazed maniac? If it is; there are more profound forces at play.) Contrived social engineering has only hurt ISKCON and Mahaprabhu’s movement. I don’t know who ‘proposed’ this topic be written, but I suggest that devotees have much better things to do than critiquing such trivialities.

  14. simonkitty says :

    Dear Braja Sevaki Mataji,

    You seem to be requesting that I reply,
    so I will be brief and to the point.

    The above comment was due to what I thought was a little bit of an
    offensive exchange – on both sides. It is a real big turn-off
    for newcomers. I well remember a farm retreat that I witnessed my
    siksha-guru & the TP having a 120 decibel exchange.
    It was not nice.

    I don’t make any claim to be a devotee of Krishna & I certainly
    disclaim any consistency or logic in anything I say or do.

    I didn’t mean to comment that any part of the exchange was good or bad,
    I just made a general observation that it seemed offensive.
    ( no, it did not come across as a joke – more like an insult hurled )

    Maybe it is beyond my realisation to be posting comments & I should
    just observe the discussions without putting my foot in my mouth.

    Yours Simon Kitty

  15. Braja Sevaki says :

    Visnu das: I am striving to become more mild. Does that mean I should let every man hug me? Your “logic” doesn’t make sense, and is somewhat over-defensive. Also, I reject your point that it’s the liberals who are striving for (basically) all the good things in ISKCON. What, so the conservatives are a crowd of people who, according to your estimation, don’t want better education, have no compassion for the with, and don’t respect the Lord’s resources? Talk about faulty logic.

    I also reject your statement that hugging in public between men and women is the behavior of a “thoughtful, consenting, adult vaishnavas.” It is the behavior of someone who doesn’t respect a cultural etiquette, but wants to argue about their “rights.” You can reject it if you want, but don’t try and tell me it’s part of our culture as Vaishnavas. It simply isn’t. Show me where Prabhupada encouraged it, show me where it says it in the Bhagavatam, anything. Just show me. Read the two postings by Gadadhara prabhu above: a cultured Gujarati boy who tells us that this indeed is the culture. Despite your objections, there’s no denying it.

    Nor is your statement that this is a “rare and irrelevant hypothetical situation” a valid one. Nor is it directed at teenagers. Surprisingly enough, I’ve seen better behavior from them in public than the devotees who have been around twice as long. This situation is relevant, it’s not rare, and it’s not hypothetical. Just out of curiosity, where are you from?

  16. Lalita Madhava d.d. says :

    A few thoughts on the hugging issue:

    Here in Alachua, we have an ecstatic community with gorgeous Deities and a wonderful temple. In this extraordinary community, there is truly a place for everyone. A rich spiritual life and deeply-rooted sense of family is available to every generation: first, second and now a burgeoning third generation of effulgent Vaisnava children. And in this loving, accepting, supportive and tolerant community, full of senior devotees (who I simply can not imagine think they “know better than Srila Prabhupada,” as one commentator stated), hugging does seem to be the “norm.” But I don’t think we’re any the worse for it. Indeed, I think as devotees we may even be more authentic, more real and more personal than we were in our more artificially-repressed, pre-hugging days (I guess I just gave myself away as a flaming liberal, didn’t I?!?). And, as a woman, I can honestly say that I have never once felt disrespected or exploited in any way by being hugged by friends of the opposite gender whom I have known for 25 or 30 years.

    These observations are not intended to disrespect the “conservative” viewpoint, but rather to share the perspective from which many others see this issue.

  17. visnu das says :

    Dear Braja Sevka Mataji,

    First let me offer you my respectful obeisances. I hope you will forgive me if my last post was somewhat curt. I was at work, on break, and did not have much time. I thoroughly respect the fact that you have written this article as an attempt to serve the devotees and do not want you to feel attacked. I disagree with you, but I honor you within my heart. I hope that this discourse can represent a form of loving exchange more than a debate or argument. I believe that dialog is a form of service, especially in a public forum like this. Although I still wish you were milder in spirit, I beg you to forgive me for not saying so in a more respectful way. Thank you for participating and giving me the opportunity to hear your devotional thoughts.

    The next thing I need to do is clarify my comments. When I made a comparison between ‘liberals’ and conservatives, I did so thinking of the more broad society in which ISKCON is situated. Obviously you misunderstood me. Vaishnavism is not an independent ‘culture,’ especially in the West. It is a sub-culture. That is to say, there are norms and mores specific to ISKCON but these are related to and are in a dialectic relationship with the cultural milieu that surrounds this small organization. In fact, many of the things that have hurt ISKCON in the past have been reactionary responses to the prevailing society rather than healthy manifestations of Vaishnava etiquette. This reality has long been denied within the movement and has only hurt us.

    I posit that the Vaishnava etiquette described in books such as Jaiva Dharma, has very little to do with the externals of how we greet one another. ( I would like to refer readers to the first chapter of this text for a simple description of how devotees should treat one another.)

    A platonic hug is innocuous. As I said, I respect and honor you Braja Sevaka but at this time I must break the backbone of your entire argument. You assert that hugging represents “the anomaly of behaving in a manner dictated by the gross material senses and maintaining one’s attachment to the demands of the ‘body culture’,” but in fact you present no evidence that hugs are motivated by lusty desire. In fact, in this instance it is only the conservative element that is nurturing the so-called “body culture’ by being obsessed with other people’s bodily activities. I am 32 years old and have dedicated my life to following a spiritual path that requires I diminish my lusty desires. When I hug a female friend only I can gauge my feelings. If my lusty desires were excited in any way, I would not do it. In reality, sex is the farthest thing from my mind when I see an old friend at Ratha Yatra or say goodbye to someone. I am not the pervert your article implies.

    Your motives are clear and full of devotion: you hope to affect social change based on the fear that “what may appear to be a harmless hug can actually bind one further to the material platform in subtle ways.” This concern is even supported by sastric conclusions, which you articulate well when you point out, “The attraction between men and women is powerful and is only increased by engaging the senses, one by one.” Nonetheless, you have failed to adequately demonstrate to me that hugging is somehow impacting my consciousness in a manner that I am not aware of. You are not condemning watching Britney Spears gyrate on TV, which is undoubtedly antithetical to celibacy. Rather you seem to think that adults do not know when they are sexual aroused or that there is a widespread tendency to covertly engage in illicit sexual activity, in public, at ISKCON festivals. In truth, hugging is simply a harmless part of the prevailing culture.

    If hugging disturbs you, don’t engage in it. If witnessing others hugging arouses sexual desire in devotees, then I would like to hear about that. In other words, if seeing men and women hug disturbs your mind, then perhaps you should just say that. I am more than willing to discuss making accommodations if a significant number of devotees feel sexual agitation when I hug a female friend. However, you did not say that in your article but instead chose to comment on my feelings as a hugger, which you obviously know little about. I suspect that you are not going to write an article describing your own agitation when you see men and women embrace, and thus I feel that you are being condescending, prudish, and rude by telling me how I feel. Please, forgive me if this sounds offensive. I am simply revealing my mind in the hope that you will be more self-reflective. I suggest that this dialog will be greatly enhanced if all of us talk more about our own feelings, rather than projecting speculative ideas about what we think others are experiencing.

    The problem before us in this discussion is how to adapt the bhakti-yoga process to an existing culture. Srila Prabhupada was an expert at this and his general mood should be examined. My interpretation of our Founding Archarya’s views in this regard has been profoundly shaped by HG Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu (RSVP), although I confess that I have no evidence that his conclusions regarding hugging are consistent with mine. RSVP, an elevated disciple of Srila Prabhupada, has pointed out on more than one occasion that essentially Srila Prabhupada was not interested in learning about or reacting to Western society or culture, but that does not mean he was not concerned with or denied its relevant affect on ISKCON. Rather, the tactic adopted by our (param) guru was essentially, “Just add Krsna.” He recognized that the externals of Vaishnava behavior might change but that the important thing was the spirit of our behavior. (Actually that is the key to Bhakti Yoga: devotees eat, sleep, mate, and defend just like everyone else, but they do so with a particular mentality that is distinct from non-devotees.) I am not convinced that hugging represents an insidious ‘liberal’ agenda. Lalita Madhava’s comments above are evidence that hugging can be a part of a healthy devotional community. The Sankirtan movement has come to the west and it may look a little different here, but it is still alive and well.

    (PS I like to hug trees, too.)

  18. Braja Sevaki says :

    Dear Visnu prabhu, I appreciated your letter very much. It was a breath of fresh air.

    I don’t agree with you that an article of this nature means someone — or some group — is “obsessed” with someone else’s behavior. Nor do I agree that we are a “sub culture” as opposed to a “culture.” Some things stand. I haven’t seen Prabhupada encouraging men and women to hug; he allowed women to do so many things within the framework of ISKCON and broke many boundaries in that sense, and in many ways was liberal in his application of the culture and philosophy. But he maintained strict standards between men and women. And his favorite, most oft-repeated phrase was “you are not this body.” No one would accuse him of being obsessed or on the bodily platform for doing so. But because I don’t have his purity, apparently those things do apply to me :) This doesn’t make sense, and in fact, speaking of backbone, it removes the entire backbone from Prabhupada’s preaching mission, claiming that one must be pure to repeat his teachings. Doesn’t make sense.

    As for hugging: no, I’m not, as you say, “agitated” when I see men and women hugging :) I do, however, feel uncomfortable when a man tries to hug me, thinking that this is some open, free form of “greeting.” It’s inappropriate. I don’t have to explain any further than that: I gave an example from the Bhagavatam of the behavior of Vrajavasis. If you are trying to be anything other than a Vrajavasi, then you’ll accept that behavior that is different or separate to theirs is ok. You say it’s “part of the prevailing culture.” I thought it was clear from Srila Prabhupada’s teachings that we reject prevailing culture, and instead embrace Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s culture? And that is the culture of the Vrajavasis. And we can see from the Bhagavatam how they act. I’m not interested in your prevailing culture. Imposing that on devotees is unnatural. I find that a lot of Americans, if you’ll forgive me for being so blunt, often try to impose their prevailing culture on others; they become aggressive when their prevailing culture is challenged; they are very attached to their prevailing culture. So perhaps that might be the issue here: not that the Vaisnava culture is “inappropriate,” but is only not appropriate within the context of an unnatural American culture.

    You say Ravindra Svarup prabhu states, “Srila Prabhupada was not interested in learning about or reacting to Western society or culture.” I would agree. But he carried that further: he was definitely not interested in elements of that culture being introduced into ISKCON and accepted as “the norm.” I think it’s clear to anyone what Srila Prabhupada’s view on this would be: it just requires that we sit down and honestly ask ourselves what Srila Prabhupada would say if he saw the men and women in Alachua hugging each other on greeting… it really doesn’t require much more discussion or “defense” than that.

    (Glad to hear about the trees….)

  19. Alex says :

    Dear Prabhus,

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

    I’m finding it interesting to read these various comments from various perspectives.

    I wanted to share four excerpts from two articles that I read over the past while. Both articles “touch” on the subject of touch. Each article was written by a woman from an Orthodox Jewish religious tradition, but I feel that some of the authors’ insights might also be interesting for aspiring Vaisnavas. Here are the first two excerpts, from the first article:

    Imagine yourself at a checkout counter. You have never liked shopping at this store because of its less-than-wonderful service. Today is no exception you have been waiting to pay for what seems like an eternity. Finally your turn comes. You hand the slow-moving cashier your money. Usually you have to pick up your change off the counter, but today the cashier places it in your hand, and for a brief moment you feel the warmth of his or her hand on yours. Outside, afterward, you sense something strange. For some reason, you’re feeling more warmly toward this store than before.

    Another scene: You have just finished dining at a restaurant. The service is exceedingly slow. Your waiter, David, finally brings the bill. Hope you enjoyed your meal, he says with a smile and a parting pat on the shoulder. Watching him return to the kitchen, you suddenly feel a surge of generosity and leave a far bigger tip than you had intended. On your way out, you comment to the manager about how little waiters earn for working so hard. ‘It all depends,’ he replies. ‘Take this new guy, Dave. We don’t know how he does it, but he pulls in at least thirty percent more in tips than anyone else.’

    In each of the above incidents, both based on true stories, you have fallen prey to one of the most subtle yet powerful forces in human relations: touch.

    Notice, incidentally, that in neither case was the touch sensual or even affectionate. Still, it had an undeniable effect, opening up new feelings of warmth and receptivity. Even when not fueled by desire, touch can leave people feeling distinctly warmer and more connected to each other. Touch works like SuperGlue: take two people who aren’t opposed to connecting to each other, and touch will make them feel closer. And, like SuperGlue, it must be handled very carefully, or it will end up sticking things together that would be better off not stuck.

    Touching another person (in Hebrew, negiah), as casually as its regarded in many circles, is far more powerful than most of us appreciate. Traditional Judaism, always an astute observer of the human scene, stipulates that men and women who are not close relatives should exercise extreme caution and sensitivity in expressing affection for one another through touch. In short, Judaism says, Unless you’re close relatives or married to each other, don’t.

    Understandably, this strikes some people as extreme.


    Touch is a powerful force in making people feel closer. And, like any force, it can be harnessed constructively or destructively. Touch can be used to comfort — or to manipulate. It can foster group friendship — or cult-like attachment. Touch can increase intimacy between two people who truly love each other. But it can also create illusory feelings of intimacy and make you feel close to a person even when you are not really so close after all, creating many serious problems.

    The first problem is with objectivity. Touch is powerful enough to blur reality to the point where it seems that the closeness you feel is real. Once this happens, that all-too-familiar rose-colored cloud descends, enveloping everything in warm and glowing feelings of intimacy.

    Here are the next two excerpts, from the second article:

    To some, Orthodox women will always be repressed and Orthodox men will always be sexist. To be sure, Orthodox men do not ‘objectify’ women with the ‘male gaze’, but on the other hand, they don’t touch other women besides family and their own wives, and that really stretches the limits of tolerance. The ‘Ethicist’ of the New York Times infamously counseled a woman not to do business with an Orthodox realtor who could not shake her hand, though he was ‘courteous and competent.’ Decreed the Ethicist: ‘Sexism is sexism, even when motivated by religious convictions. I believe you should tear up your contract.’


    Most of us recognize that being desensitized to the power of sexuality is sad…Yet instituting concrete boundaries to preserve sensitivity – such as not hugging people of the opposite sex outside of one’s family – is still seen as absurd.

    The authors touch on how some people within the surrounding culture seem to respond to how Orthodox Jewish men and women relate to each other. It seems to be different from how men and women interact in the surrounding culture.

    From what I’ve read in Srila Prabhupada’s books, he doesn’t seem to me to praise all aspects or our modern Western culture. Some things that might be viewed as being OK within the surrounding culture, were perhaps less appealing to Srila Prabhupada.

    For example, in some places, he seems to criticize “mixing” between the genders. I understand that devotees might have various perspectives on how to understand those types of statements.

    I am open to the possibility that hugging between male and female devotees, who are not each other’s family or spouse, might be healthy, healing, positive and/or conducive to Krsna consciousness, but I think I would be dishonest if I said that I’m 100% convinced that this is so. Perhaps it’s not necessary, or perhaps it’s not for everyone.

    It may be that some devotees don’t experience inter-gender hugging as a big deal, but I guess I sort of do, at least for myself, and also I’m not sure if it’s what Srila Prabhupada envisioned for how his male and female followers would interact with each other.

    Thanks for listening to what I wanted to share. Hare Krsna. Your servant, Alex

  20. Suresh das says :

    In addressing this “Hugging Issue”, I feel this is a really petty topic. It seems truly surprising to have been written by a woman, who subconsciously may be trying to be accepted as “one of the boys”. Judging from the heavy, uptight posts that have been printed elsewhere on this site, by the same author, everyone would almost certainly be giving her a very wide berth anyway, so she needn’t worry about being touched by anyone.

    To address some of the issues though, the author is assuming that women in general are really stupid, and that they desire as a group to be touched by men. This is completely contrary to all experience, as well as everything I have read in relationship-style books which are current today. There may have been a time, decades ago, during the “Free Love” era, where women may have been more open for a time, although I never experienced it to happen for myself, but it is hardly so today, in our super-stressed out, and ultra-paranoid society.

    We have discussed and argued the concept of women being less-intelligent, and that may be so, compared to the topmost realizations of spiritual life, but on the material platform women tend to be experts. While most men can barely change a light bulb, most women run complete households and families, while at the same time juggle complex and demanding careers. Women may hug their family members and long-time close friends, but in general don’t go around hugging men, and don’t appreciate being touched at any time by strangers, what to speak of men. If any man tries to touch them they are slapped with lawsuits, and restraining orders, or sprayed with Mace, at least here in the U.S.

    I would like to propose that this fear of hugging, which has been voiced by the author, might be caused more by deep psychological issues springing from childhood, more than from a concern for upholding Vedic Culture. Fears of being touched, fear of intimacy, fear of men, etc., are issues which often evolve from lack of love and support in childhood by parents, according to many psychologists.

    There are many different types of people and customs spread all over the world. In India, where social rules are very strict, absolute restraint from touching can be understood, but customs vary by location, and not everyone follows the same standards everywhere. I have Indian friends, for example, who often hug me when they see me. When I try to treat them as “mothers”, or offer respect Vedic-style, they look at me like I am totally bizarre.

    There are many gradations of devotees too. To try to pass a new regulation against hugging seems ridiculous. It makes us look even more uptight than say the Roman Catholic Church, or the Born-Again-Christians, and would almost guarantee to drive away new membership, as well as our younger generation. We want people to approach Krishna Consciousness as a science. We should not be perceived as just another old-fashioned, organized religion. Our main constituency of new members has always been younger people.

    We have seen time and again too what happens when human emotions are restricted and restrained to ridiculous degrees. For instance, 60-Minutes aired a program a few years ago about a girl who grew up in an extremely repressive Mormon household. Her father was a Bishop in the church. She admitted that there was little love, warmth or hugging going on in her family, and those things were restricted. What was the result? She grew up to become one of the top Porn stars in the movie industry. Maybe a little healthy kindness, love, and support from her parents, might have saved her, but she admitted she had no where to run, but into the arms of male Porn stars for the love she craved.

    We all know what happened, in the Catholic Church, to priests who are not allowed to marry and are required by strict rules and regulations to be celibate for life. There are hundreds of cases of child abuse and rape by priests who have gone nuts, due to artificial standards which the church attempted to enforce on them.

    In our own society we have also paid a dear price for overly restrictive rules and standards that are uniformly applied to all members, but are not actually followed by everyone, to the point of hypocrisy and cheating by many individuals who have held the highest positions in our society.

  21. Samba das says :

    This is indeed a ‘touchy’ subject. We have people with many different mentalities and views within ISKCON. About 15 years ago I was shocked when one devotee told me that ‘every devotee has a different idea of what Krishna Consciousness is’. His statement took me by surprise, but then I began to reflect on what that meant. Lord Chaitanya is distributing the holy name freely to all souls. We know that embodied souls in this world are on many levels. Some may be coming to Krishna Consciousness for the first time — others may have already been on this path for many lives. Yet here we are, all together in this one movement, ISKCON. So it’s not surprising that we all see things so differently. The process of realisation is gradual. William Blake said — “we read the Bible day and night, but you read black where I read white.” According to our advancement in knowledge we see things in different ways.

    Does this mean that all ways of seeing things are equally valid? Does it mean that we should all act according to our individual belief? The norm today is — just do it — and people do! They may act within ‘acceptable’ boundaries, but a look at history shows that those boundaries tend to dissolve, Kali yuga degrades everything.

    Rather than just breezily accept any new social trend or behavior that gradually crops up in our society, we should be very wary of the long term effects that may arise. The nature of illusion is that you don’t recognize when you are in it. The principle is that the elders set the standards for the youngsters. If the elders don’t visibly demonstrate appropriate etiquette, even though they could well be above any kind of immorality, the youngsters will copy them. Using the argument that we should not appear to be fanatical — a seemingly ‘innocuous’ hug with a member of the opposite sex can result in huge negative consequences not only on a family level, but society wide. Our level of divorce in ISKCON is something to be ashamed of. Stories of devotees running off with other devotees spouses are common. What message does this send to our youngsters, what to speak of the emotional damage it causes to those directly affected?

    Sometimes it seems that we forget that the International Society for Krishna Consciousness was founded to help us get out of this dangerous world. Srila Prabhupada emphasizes those dangers, and activities that can result in illicit sex life should be avoided at all costs. What can we gain by being a little more restrictive in our social life — an eternal life of bliss and happiness with Krishna and His eternal associates! This is where the focus needs to be, so surely it’s worth a little ‘tapasya’, to set a mood that is conducive to spiritual happiness. What is the great loss if we appear to be a little ‘stuffy’ in the eyes of the world, all in the name of ‘fitting in’.

    Srila Prabhupada writes in the Srimad Bhagavatam 3.12..28 in regards to an incident with Lord Brahma: “One should, however, take serious note of this incident. The human being is a social animal, and his unrestricted mixing with the fair sex leads to downfall. Such social freedom of man and woman, especially among the younger section, is certainly a great stumbling block on the path of spiritual progress. Material bondage is due only to sexual bondage, and therefore unrestricted association of man and woman is surely a great impediment. Maitreya cited this example on the part of Brahmä just to bring to our notice this great danger.”

  22. visnu das says :

    Dear Braja Sevaki Mataji,
    Thank you for your insights. I agree with you in spirit.
    It is unfortunate if someone feels uncomfortable with hugging members of the opposite sex but also feels expected to participate in such behavior. This is a conflict of acculturation that is not easily resolved. I don’t normally initiate hugging, partly because I find many devotees to be unsure about it but also because I’m not really attached to it. It arises spontaneously in some relationships and I rarely give it a second thought. I’m sorry you do.

    I am not writing in defense of hugging. I am trying to point out a serious problem that has plagued ISKCON for decades: devotees are often overly critical of one another and try to dictate every aspect of each other’s lives, based on an erroneous vision of how things ‘should be’ or speculative interpretations of how things were thousands of years ago. Here is the solution to this problem: devotees should use the intelligence God has given to interact healthily with the world as it is, rather than trying to make everything fit into a utopian vision of how things should be. Not long ago a prominent ISKCON sanyasi wrote an article condemning Alachua for having a temple in which no devotees actually live. Denying the reality of the dire need for a new temple model in North America, this writer basically asserted that Srila Prabhupada didn’t establish temples without residents so it should not be done. But in Srila Prabhupada’s life time, there had not been the institutional failures that many of the Aluchua residents have experienced. Basically, just as you are doing Braja Sevaki, the aforementioned sanyasi claimed we should imitate people of the past rather than making our own decisions today. Such behavior contradicts the spirit of a living spiritual tradition. Srila Prabhupada has given us a lot, but if we do not combine it with what we have actually learned in the world, we are destined to repeat the mistakes of the past. We must put Krishna Consciousness into practice in a manner that makes sense according to this time, place and circumstance.

    Convoluted cultural engineering is not going to be fruitful. For a glimpse of the result it will produce, look at Sri Lanka, a country devastated by the effects of people who thought they knew exactly how real Buddhist culture should look, based on a religious idea of how things were in the remote past. It is Maya Prabhu. We must let devotion reign and stop trying to be the controllers.

    If varnashrama dharma is a natural part of healthy human society, as ISKCON asserts, then it will arise on its own as we purify ourselves. Whether we shake hands, prostrate ourselves on the ground, or hug when greeting one another is really irrelevant. The only thing that really matters is what takes place in our hearts. It is similar to using a different sort of drum in kirtan. The associates of Lord Chaitanya used a mrdanga but kirtan accompanied by djembe is no less efficacious. My japa is no better when I wear pants than when I wear a dhoti. You may argue that a clay mrdanga is more bona fide and perhaps you are right, but I’m not going to allow the fact that clay mrdangas are hard to come by and don’t last in the North American climate divert me from having kirtan. In fact, I don’t even pay attention. My djembe is fine. It is what I have and it is not obstructing anything. If you find the deep bass too sensual I’m sorry. Perhaps you shouldn’t come to my home program.

    Srila Prabhupada let women worship on the altar because he knew that they hold a different sort of social position in Western society than they do in India. He understood that he had to respect the cultural environment in which he had entered, especially if he wanted to offer any protection to women. I am conditioned to see women as my equals, and I think it is a healthy conditioning. It is certainly much better than the situation for women in India right now. According to a recent report by the United Nations Conference on Human rights, “In India, an average of five women a day are burned in dowry-related disputes — and many more cases are never reported.” Such behavior is a direct result of patriarchy and an unhealthy seperation of the sexes, seeing women as inferior to men and as mere objects for sexual enjoyment.

    Hugging is a wonderful way of interacting. It does not represent a form of American cultural hegemony. It’s a fairly universal phenomenon. In fact, some Hindus practice it as a form of devotion. Physicality is a legitimate way of being communicative and comforting to fellow human beings. There is much more involved than sex or bodily attachment. In fact, I would say that anyone who can’t hug is probably just a little uptight and overly attached to the bodily platform. Again, my argument should not be construed as simply a discussion of hugging but as a general critique of the so-called conservative position. What I’m saying is that many times we have undervalued the nature of our humanity and discounted Krishna’s words. The Lord says, “To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.” Such souls don’t need me to tell them how to interact with one another. Krishna will guide them from within. We just need to have faith. In the name of conservatism, maintaining a status quo that never actually existed, we are denying the fact that the Lord will guide surrendered souls to behave in the proper way. Intelligence is something in an individual’s mind, not something in an essay. We have no right to say that the devotees who hug are not surrendered, and thus we have no right to say that Krishna has not guided them to take shelter of a loving embrace. Some of the coldest people I have ever met are devotees. An obsession with non-attachment and rules and regulations can strangle relationships. Perhaps, there is no mention of men and women hugging in the Bhagavatam, but the world described therein is no where near as sad and sick as the world today. If you want to know the absolute truth, I need a hug.

    I find it somewhat ironic that you deem same-sex hugging acceptable. After all, some of the biggest issues facing Gaudiya Vaishnavas today are gender issues. I am friends with many homosexual and bisexual devotees. (I find a higher percentage of non-heterosexuals in ISKCON than in society at large.) I wonder if you think it better for me, a male, to hug a lesbian rather than a homosexual male. Personally, I like to hug everyone but given the current state of the world, perhaps you might like to change your position and say no one should hug anyone. (?) The reason I point this out is because I recognize that many people agree with you, Braja Sevaki; and I think your opinion is indicative of an unhealthy desire to control, to dictate the way bhakti is manifest in the world. Bhakti is spontaneous and its effects will purify our actions. There is no need to judge everyone else’s relationships and how they express affection and devotion.

    I am tired of devotees saying, “Please accept my obeisances,” and then condemning one another, constantly claiming moral superiority over the rest of the world. These attitudes simply drive the intelligent class of people away from our movement, which I suspect is one of the reasons we find so many devotees burnt-out after five years. May the cultish mentality perish with the rest of our anarthas! Let us focus on encouraging one another, meditating on the Lotus Feet of the Lord, and raising loving families. Let’s stop being concerned with whether some mataji wears too much make-up or hugs her god-brother. For God’s sake, we belong to a spiritual institution that has offered no definitive response to the Bush regime’s demonic War on Terror and here we are debating such ridiculous topics as this. Where is our relevancy to what is happening in the world?
    Jiv Jago Prabhu!

    Srila Prabhupada and Mahaprabhu have some extremely provocative things to contribute to all facets of political and social thought, but I must point out that they especially have something to say about sexuality and gender issues. This is an entire religious tradition premised on the idea that everyone in the world is actually a feminine being meant to engage in serving the Eros of the one Supreme Male. All our relevant acharyas have envisioned themselves as young pre-pubescent girls, but now we are conservative?@?@@??!#!?! How can we be so rigid as to actually comment on people hugging?

    Braja Sevaki, you and I disagree on some fundamental issues and I would like to take this discussion to a deeper level but commenting on something you said:

    “I think it’s clear to anyone what Srila Prabhupada’s view on this would be: it just requires that we sit down and honestly ask ourselves what Srila Prabhupada would say if he saw the men and women in Alachua hugging each other on greeting… it really doesn’t require much more discussion or “defense” than that.”

    Personally, I am always surprised by the way Srila Prabhupada reacted in any given situation. Sometimes he was much more ‘conservative’ than I would have expected and other times he was more ‘liberal’ than I would have guessed. For instance, in the first Canto he says that an ideal ruler should create and protect a place for prostitutes, because that is a normal part of human society at this time. Perhaps prostitution is not ideal, but Srila Prabhupada recognized it as inevitable and implied that it should be done in a sane way to prevent disturbance, disease, etc. When I read this I was shocked. Srila Prabhupada always surprises me. Furthermore, I have learned that all devotees have their own relationship with him. We all have a different vision of him. You assume that you know what he would say today, but there are many of us who don’t think you are right. I suggest we stop speculating about it.

    I have seen devotees prove anything they wanted by quoting Srila Prabhupada’s books–but none of that was vijnana. It wasn’t realized knowledge–it was legalistic wrangling. If someone thinks they know what Srila Prabhupada would say that’s great, but I don’t believe it. Therefore, I don’t speculate about ‘what Srila Prabhupada would say.’ Instead, I take what I have learned from him and put it into practice in my own life. Then I make decisions based on my own feelings and opinion, receiving guidance and input from Senior Vaishnava’s and other elevated souls. Lets face it, Srila Prabhupada was a dynamic person, who reacted differently based on the circumstances. He was not afraid to learn and grow. He adjusted his tactics of preaching based on what was effective and what was not so effective. In my relationship with him I have learned that the best way to please him is to think for myself. None of us knows what he would say today because we do not have his vani at this time.

    The Gurukula system is great example of this reality. Surely we can assume that Srila Prabhupada was completely unaware that some of the devotees running ISKCON schools had tendencies toward pedophilia. I am sure that if he had learned of the actual situation he would have altered his policy; but I don’t have the slightest idea of what his remedy would have been. Would he have closed the Gurukulas down? Would he have tried to start day schools? Would he have authorized psychological evaluations for all the teachers? Who knows? No one. All we can do is our best, based on what we have learned. We must use our intelligence; not by guessing what a man whose mortal frame is now dust would have done, but by following his teachings and looking in our own hearts for the answers to the questions facing us today.
    We must strive to please Srila Prabhupada by honoring our own consciences. In other words, we should explore our own hearts, which have been informed by sastra. Anyone can find a quote from Prabhupada’s books to support almost anything, but again, that is not vijnana. We must nurture realized knowledge and not be allured by the tendency to become smarta brahmanas, caught in the letter of the laws without understanding their import.

    Given the way ISKCON has grown and stagnated, struggled and survived, winding its way through the past 39 years, I think anyone who says they know what Srila Prabhupada would do right now is illusioned and presumptuous. The actions of a pure devotee are unpredictable, especially in conditions that are completely different from the ones he or she actually faced.

    Can anyone actually say that Srila Prabhupada would frown on the behavior of the glorious community in Alachua, which is providing a devotional home for devotees of all different levels of development?

    If you think you can then I am at a complete loss for words. I can’t imagine anything more ridiculous.

  23. Nitai dasa says :

    Lalita Madhava says that in her Alachua devotee community, hugging is the norm and she thinks they are not the worse for it.

    She is wrong. Below is a paragraph of an article that appeared in PAMHO free forum.

    “Recently, in our ISKCON Alachua community, another nefarious, nasty and sad episode of marriage break-up occurred. Everyone is talking about it, pouring their opinions, racking their brains, rationalizing or trying to explain the causes that led the man to break up his own marriage and the marriage of the woman he went to bed with. Prior to this debacle, another one occurred: a man hung himself from a tree, located in front of the residence wherein lived the woman he couldn’t have. Needless to say, she was married to another man, who in turn, had managed to convince someone else’s wife to go bed with him.”

    So this is just “another” nasty and sad episode – just like a soap opera. This is what hugging and loosely associating between male and female leads to. The proponents of loose association between the sexes are short sighted. They cannot understand the subtle effect this seemingly harmless act of loose association causes. Srila Prabhupada was not a fool.

    Your servant
    Nitai dasa

  24. Suresh das says :

    The proposed enforcement of non-hugging is likely to cause yet another schism within our movement, with yet another break off of even more members and more splinter groups, leaving ISKCON’s base of devotees ever smaller.

    I personally find reading Srila Prabhupada’s books very fulfilling. I find his philosophy deep and profound. I keep up my chanting, and the worship of my Deities. I consider Krishna Consciousness my religion.

    But emotionally, I find it rather difficult to go to the temples or associate with devotees. My heart says I can expect little kindness, little support, or love, and certainly no hugs in our temples. For this reason, I find it impossible to associate with devotees at this time.

    And that’s my big problem with Krishna Consciousness as it is today.

  25. Shrutadev says :

    Dear Prabhus,

    Here are some quotes from Srila Prabhupada that may shed some light on this subject:

    “So strongly do the senses adhere to the objects of their enjoyment that indeed a wooden statue of a woman attracts the mind of even a great saintly person.
    The senses and the sense objects are so intimately connected that the mind of even a great saintly person is attracted to a wooden doll if it is attractively shaped like a young woman. The sense objects, namely form, sound, smell, taste and touch, are always attractive for the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin. Since the senses and sense objects are naturally intimately related, sometimes even a person claiming control over his senses remains always subject to the control of sense objects. The senses are impossible to control unless purified and engaged in the service of the Lord. Thus even though a saintly person vows to control his senses, the senses are still sometimes perturbed by sense objects.
    Antya 2.118

    Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said, “Although it is correct that the King is a great devotee, he is still to be considered a venomous snake. Similarly, even though a woman be made of wood, one becomes agitated simply by touching her form.
    Even though a woman be made of wood or stone, she becomes attractive when decorated. One becomes sexually agitated even by touching the form. Therefore one should not trust his mind, which is so fickle that it can give way to enemies at any moment. The mind is always accompanied by six enemies—namely, käma, krodha, mada, moha, mätsarya and bhaya—that is, lust, anger, intoxication, illusion, envy and fear. Although the mind may be merged in spiritual consciousness, one should always be very careful in dealing with it, just as one is careful in dealing with a snake. One should never think that his mind is trained and that he can do whatever he likes. One interested in spiritual life should always engage his mind in the service of the Lord so that the enemies of the mind, who always accompany the mind, will be subdued. If the mind is not engaged in Krsna consciousness at every moment, there is a chance that it will give way to its enemies. In this way we become victims of the mind.
    Chanting the Hare Krsna mantra engages the mind at the lotus feet of Krsna constantly; thus the mind’s enemies do not have a chance to strike. Following Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s example in these verses, we should be very careful in dealing with the mind, which should not be indulged in any circumstance. Once we indulge the mind, it can create havoc in this life, even though we may be spiritually advanced.
    Madhya 11.10

    In a letter, Srila Prabhupada wrote:

    “Even Lord Caitanya Himself said that sometimes when I see a wooden form of a woman, my mind becomes agitated but that does not mean that we should give it practical shape, that is intelligence. One must be convinced that sex-life without exception means trouble, therefore he is able to stop it at the thinking stage by not allowing it to be felt, much less willed and acted.”

    And in a lecture Srila Prabhupada said:

    “So one may be surprised, that “Nobody becomes agitated, sitting before mother, sister or daughter.” But sastra says, “No, no. They are agitated.” Then you can say, “Maybe agitates some fool rascal.” “No.” Vidvaàsam api karñati: “Even though one is very advanced, learned, they also become agitated.” Therefore you should be very, very careful. Very, very careful. And another place is, another… Just like in our society, compulsorily we have to mix with women—not only women, very beautiful young girls. But if one is not agitated even in this association of beautiful women and girls, then he is to be considered paramahamsa. He is very advanced. Those who are not… Paramahamsa means he’s above all these material qualities.”

    It seems that this topic could also include women in ISKCON not covering their heads with saris anymore. I don’t know the exact history of how it started. I would imagine that Srila Prabhupada made a comment that covering the head is nice and from there on all the women were instructed by the senior devotees (like Malati, Yamuna etc.). But there is no doubt that when Srila Prabhupada was present ALL the devotee women covered their heads. In any case, on the one hand we do have much more important work to discuss – how to distribute more books; how to increase sankirtana; how to improve Deity worship and personal sadhana. There are so many things. But still, these points do have importance both for us personally and for our movement. Hare Krishna.

    Your humble servant,
    Srutadeva das

  26. Madhavananda Das (Orissa) says :

    Pranams to the Vaishnavas! I don’t generally comment on the web, but I would like to offer a few paisa worth of thoughts to this discussion. I’ll try to be brief.

    As some devotees above have pointed out, intersexual hugging is a common expression of platonic affection found in various cultures today. My impression is that our acaryas were not so worried about changing peoples various cultural backgrounds (at least not immediately). Rather, their concern was to somehow or other get people to chant Hare Krishna. In the 80s in the states, we used to preach at Rainbow Gatherings and Greatful Dead concerts. In those places hugging is a popular way to greet one another. While interacting with them I sometimes exchanged (accepted is a better word) hugs, yes — even with ladies sometimes. Although I didn’t share their appreciation for that type of exchange, I could understand it, and it never occurred to me to discourage them. If I would have preached to them against hugging, it certainly would have dampened their interest in Krishna consciousness. Why bother over such a trivial thing if we can get them to take up chanting Hare Krishna?

    That having been said, there is another valid consideration: Hippies and friendly Western liberals are not the only people we have to preach to. I can sympathize with Mother Braja Sevaki’s heartfelt concern. Like her — being born and raised in the West, but living in India for many years has given me another perspective on this topic. Although the big cities in India are changing and following the West, still for the most part the social norms here are very different from the US and other Western countries. To this day, traditional Vaishnavas, and high class Indians (both in India and in the West) would never consider as much as holding hands with their wife in public, much less embracing her. And to embrace someone other than your spouse (in public or private) is unthinkable to them. Certainly, that is not easy for Westerners to understand or appreciate. However, in my 13 years in India, I’ve never felt the traditional Indian mood to be fanatical or repressive. Just the opposite, in my experience I’ve found Indian people much more affectionate than Westerners. They just have other ways to show affection that they consider more dignified and meaningful.

    While no one even thinks to question such behavior in the West; in cultured Indian society it’s considered very low class. We could cite many examples of this, here is one: About a year ago a Western couple (not Hare Krishna devotees) decided to have a Vedic wedding ceremony at a Hindu temple in Puskar, Rajasthan. At the end of the ceremony they exchanged a brief kiss (They were getting married right, what’s the problem?). Unfortunately it turned out to be a big problem. That little kiss became front page news all over India. Aside from considering it to be low class; devoted people throughout India considered it to be disrespectful and offensive behavior in a temple. Much could be said about the philosophical and scriptural reasons for men and women to be separate. However, without getting into all of that, I would just like to point out that traditionally, such free mixing is not done in Indian culture, where it is looked down upon to this day. While the dead heads, hippies, new age people, and other liberal Westerners won’t mind seeing such public embraces, there are others who come to our temples and watch our behavior – and some of them know about traditional Vaishnava and Vedic culture.

    In conclusion, I’m certainly not going to lose any sleep worrying about how many times the devotee men and women hug each other in Alachua. My only humble request is please consider that any cultured people who see us behaving in that way at the temple won’t appreciate it. Many of them will (and already have) walk(ed) away with a bad impression of our society. This is even more so in India, and especially in the holy dham. I understand that the happy huggers in our society don’t necessarily mean anything bad by their chosen expression of affection. However, as Gadadhar Prabhu (see comment #2 above) and others have correctly pointed out, it’s not appreciated by sadhus or cultured Indians and is not a good reflection on our movement. For the pleasure and reputation of Srila Prabhupada and our exalted acaryas; at our temples and in public we should set an example of high class behavior.

    Thanks for considering our humble words. It’s nice to see some thoughtful and respectful discussions. I would be interested to hear from some senior devotees about Srila Prabhupada’s attitude towards men and women hugging. A large number of devotees before coming to Srila Prabhupada were hippies and must have been accustomed to hugging.

    Vaishnava kripa prarthi,
    Madhavananda Das, Bhubaneswar, Orissa

  27. Lalita Madhava d.d. says :

    A very brief reply to Nitai Prabhu in the five minutes I have in between returning from work and attending to household responsibilities (in other words, more to come on this topic in the future):

    I very much appreciate your good intentions and mean no disrespect, but since you know neither the particular personalities you cited in your examples, nor the details of their unfortunate situations, I humbly suggest that you not comment on them or use them as examples to support your point.

    The first man had a sordid history going back more than 20 years and spanning two continents. He had serious problems long before he ever lived in Alachua. And in the 20 years that I personally knew him, I can say definitively that he was not a “hugger.”

    The second person, who committed suicide, was a deeply emotionally troubled bhakta. He was not an initiated devotee, and this incident was a function of his extreme psychological ill-health rather than the causes you attribute it to.

    Thus it is inappropriate of you to use these two examples.

    Your servant, Lalita Madhava d.d.

  28. ekendra das says :

    Visnu Prabhu,


    I really liked reading your thoughts. I suppose I’d be what many would call a member of the ‘conservative camp’ but I like to hear from those with varying outlooks so as not to become stale in my perceptions. At least I can more understand where people are coming from even if I can’t wholeheartedly agree with their opinions.

    I do agree that it is silly to waste time on an issue like this. I hope that we don’t end up with different schisms and breakaway groups based on being a ‘hugger’ or a ‘non-hugger’. It sounds laughable but I spent some time in a community where there was a tangible division between the ‘chocolate eaters’ and ‘non-chocs’. Its funny how in our devotional naivety we can take things to such extremes.

    I don’t think that Mataji or anyone else is here is that silly though. While I also agree that hugging the opposite gender isn’t an expression of affection that is supportive of sadhana-bhakti I don’t think that debate over this point is the underlying reason for this article having 23 responses thus far. I think this discussion between ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ is the crux of the polarization we’re experiencing here.

    Personally I feel that the terms ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ relativize two vastly different outlooks far too conveniently. My perceptions are that those who hold to a ‘liberal’ view on what Krishna Consciousness is all about tend to see things more according to their reasoning capacity. To them the consideration of ‘time, place and circumstance’ is often paramount to how we conduct ourselves. Those deemed as ‘conservatives’ are often accused of following the letter of the law and neglecting the spirit of its message. Certainly both outlooks have fearful consequences if taken to extremes.

    My assertion here is that both ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ outlooks fall short of the mark. Krishna is famous for resolving all heterogenous views. I find it notable how difficult it is to stereotype his pure representative His Divine Grace as either ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’. For example, those advocating homosexual marraige often portray Srila Prabhupada in an extremely liberal light. Are they COMPLETELY wrong in how they see Srila Prabhupada? I don’t advocate homosex marraige at all but I don’t think they are totally illusioned about Srila Prabhupada’s magnamity, tolerance and compassion. Surely Srila Prabhupada was all of those things. He was also disciplined, philosophically uncompromising and cultured. Does that make him a ‘conservative’? Its hard to really steroetype him isn’t it? I’m starting to realise that its best to let Srila Prabhupada be Srila Prabhupada despite that he may contradict our limited purview.

    Here’s something I read recently from HG Bhurijana’s book My Glorious Master:

    Once, on the Hyderabad farm during a morning walk, Srila Prabhupada was asked whether a particular mantra could be chanted within the temple. Srila Prabhupada’s reply was that there was nothing wrong with the mantra, but our principle should be not to change anything. Yet, on another occasion, while he was taking his massage in Melbourne during 1975, I heard Srila Prabhupada explain the reason for his success in preaching in the West as allowing women to live within the temples of the Krsna consciousness movement. He then laughed and said that his Godbrothers criticised him for the change, but that they were unsuccessful. ‘And the only time they have some attendance is during parikramas on Gaura-purnima in Mayapura. And who attends? Women. Old widows in white.’ He laughed. ‘And because I made this adjustment,’ Srila Prabhupada continued, ‘I was successful’.

    Srila Prabhupada’s servant then asked an intelligent question. ‘Prabhupada’, he inquired, ‘how to know the difference between making an adjustment and changing the principles?’ On hearing this, Prabhupada closed his eyes in concentration for several moments. When his eyes opened, Prabhupada gravely answered, ‘That requires a little intelligence’. (Bhurijana Dasa, p. 50)

    In Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvami has given us a warning:

    śruti-smṛti-purāṇādi-pañcarātra-vidhiṁ vinā
    aikāntikī harer bhaktir utpātāyaiva kalpate

    “The rules and regulations of devotional service, as given in all scriptures, are absolutely essential. If one tries to perform hari-bhakti without following these rules, his so-called devotion will simply cause disturbance.”

    You wrote: “Bhakti is spontaneous and its effects will purify our actions. ” You aren’t completely wrong here yet those who’ve had some vijnana of the above scriptural quotation are wary of those who define their own practices according to their reasoning capacity. Does that mean they are backwards intellectually lazy blind-followers of rigid and impractical cultural codes? Does their lack of interest in ‘hugging-sanga’ mean they they are emotionally cold disciplinarians who look for discrepencies in others’ behaviour to fill their boring lives? I really don’t think that this is always the case and I really don’t think this was mataji’s underlying motivation.

    Rather I think she has some concern that some cultural standards are upheld for the progress of our society. I hope we can agree that this principle is essentially good. Personally I would have never chosen the hugging issue as a platform to launch a cultural reform movement as it is too easily dismissed as pedantic meddling. Does that mean she should be completely dismissed and not heard?

    I think that for these kinds of discussions to be worthwhile there has to be a willingness for all parties to hear one another. Some initial respect is required for such a forum to develop but that shouldn’t be hard for devotees to generate. Isn’t trinad api sunicena meant to be our guiding directive? So with a little bit of humility these ‘debates’ can turn into mutually uplifting sanga. Add a little prayerfulness to this atmosphere and everyone can leave the discussion with a far deeper understanding than can be achieved by intellectual or emotional wrangling.

    So my prayer here is that Krishna enlightens us all. I hope I haven’t muddled the discussion through my attempts at being a do-gooding ‘peacemaker’.

    your fallen servant,
    ekendra das

  29. devi dasi says :

    Devotee men and women hugging each other is beyond me. I guess this in a very unattractive westernized ISKCON that is trying to be justified by some. I dread to think what will come next.

  30. Braja Sevaki says :

    It’s nice to see some people contributing who don’t normally do so, and to see some different perspectives on the sanctity of our cultural heritage, despite some others thinking that this is “petty,” or the result of the author being either abused in childhood or the product of a loveless family….Suresh prabhu, I’m sorry to shatter your theory, but neither is true — and I hope that’s something that makes you happy, not upset to be told you’re wrong :) I can understand your comparisons, but they are not the sole reason for someone objecting to this kind of thing. I don’t think it’s unreasonable that you accept there are so many reasons why I — and others here — think this is a practice that is wrong for many reasons. You can’t possibly claim that everyone who agrees here has been abused or is from a loveless family background!

    Visnu prabhu, you wrote: “Can anyone actually say that Srila Prabhupada would frown on the behavior of the glorious community in Alachua, which is providing a devotional home for devotees of all different levels of development?”

    No one has said that, that I’m aware of. Of course, we see from other postings by Lalita Madhava that the community might be “glorious” in some respects, but boy it sure has it’s problems. Prabhupada would no doubt be happy with the progress of Alachua in many respects. However, I’m very sure he wouldn’t approve of a lot of the things that go on there, including men and women hugging. An uneducated speculation? No. I know Prabhupada’s teachings. I don’t have to be a disciple who was sitting next to him to know how he would react to this. Your claim that anyone who comments on what Prabhupada would say today is speculating is strange: what happens to the next ten thousand years, then? It might make you feel better to have been able to ask HH Tamal Krishna Goswami what he thought Prabhupada would say, since Maharaja spent so much time with Prabhupada and, by Prabhupada’s own admission, was his “right hand.” But Maharaja is no longer present either. We might as Srutakirti prabhu, or Hari Sauri prabhu, both of whom spent so much time as his servants and could easily say what they believe Srila Prabhupada would think of such practices. But what about when they are no longer here? Are we to be stunned into uncomprehending silence? This is an absurd theory.

    We are required to utilize our intelligence and maintain the purity of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. Not adapt them to “prevailing cultures.”

  31. mahavidya das says :

    Thank you for raising this issue mother Braja sevaki, judging the amount of comments posted,you hit a winner.

    Bringing these sort of issues into the open is very healthy, I may or may not agree with you personaly, but I appreciate the forum for debate and the courage neccesary to touch on and present topical and sometimes controversial subject matter.

    ys mvdas

  32. visnu das says :

    Dear Ekendra Prabhu,
    Thank you for your comments and realizations. I hope to imbibe the spirit of everything you have said and become more humble.

    I would also like to apologize to anyone,, who I may have offended in this discussion, especially Braja Sevaki.

  33. Braja Sevaki says :

    Ekendra prabhu, you wrote: “I don’t advocate homosex marraige at all but I don’t think they are totally illusioned about Srila Prabhupada’s magnamity, tolerance and compassion. Surely Srila Prabhupada was all of those things. He was also disciplined, philosophically uncompromising and cultured. Does that make him a ‘conservative’? Its hard to really steroetype him isn’t it? I’m starting to realise that its best to let Srila Prabhupada be Srila Prabhupada despite that he may contradict our limited purview.”

    I like the point you’re making. I find the same thing in discussions with others about certain issues; just because Srila Prabhupada possessed the qualities of compassion, tolerance, and mercy in their perfected and absolute state doesn’t mean he abandoned the culture or watered down the philosophy to accommodate skewed western values on what constitutes those qualities. This is an important point: Prabhupada can be those things, and simultaneously purely present the philosophy and culture.

    And personally, in the many discussions I’ve had with devotees, I’ve always been disappointed to learn what their understanding of compassion is. It rarely matches the Vedic version….

  34. Nitai dasa says :

    Dear Mother Lalita Madhava,

    From that paragraph, there are seven devotees involved, three men and four women. Why are you making excuses for and putting the blame only on two men. The ultra-liberal attitude between the male and female in your Alachua community must have played a part in those devotees fall down. Even if as you say one of those devotees wasn’t a hugger, just being around a community with unrestricted association affects the senses. And what about the women involved?

    You say there is more to come from you on this subject. There will always be the need to defend your ideas. Eventually, this defensive mentality will turn to offensive insults – look at Suresh dasa’s unprovoked attack on the author of this article.

    Mother, in one of your previous comments, you mention how long you have been around as a devotee and I respect your seniority of age. The younger devotees should look up to you for spiritual guidance. You should teach them properly how to advance in spiritual life and not get more entangled in material life.

    I will not send any more comments on this subject.

    Your servant
    Nitai dasa

  35. mark says :

    Danadavats to the assembled Vaisnavas.

    All Glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.

    Whenever a topic generates this much heat, there are gems being unearthed.

    HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was so liberally acommodating that he accepted anyone with any form of conditioned habits as an aspiring Bhakta as long as they were sincere about seeing where they were not acting in the ways that equate to a pure devoted servant of Sri Krsna, and sincere about purifying themselves to get to that point some day.

    So those of us coming from the conditioned culture of America in all its variety of conditions are given a chance to gradually change our current behaviors into those which support us understanding and realizing our transcendental nature.

    So if we are used to hugging the opposite sex, liberally, to get common human affection due to whatever shortcomings our selfish and backwards culture includes that cause us to seek affection in this way instead of feeling more self fulfilled most of the time due to a cultural heritage more rooted in the mode of goodness, that is what it is.

    But if we are admonished that our behavior is a symptom of our lack of spiritual progress, what to do?

    If one is already habituated to receiving emotional value through any form of exchange which is less than ideal, then practicing hearing and chanting of the Lord and his pastimes, and other positive engagements in devotional activities will eventually replace our need or tendency to engage in any of our past behaviors which were a sign of our ignorant conditioning, and we may even see ourselves engaging in forms of social behavior which reflect some of the ideal forms we have been hearing about.

    It seems that it would behoove us to try adjust our social behaviors if at all possible without strangling repression, if not for our own advancement, but then for the sake of the children who are growing up and emulating us.

    Because if there is an ideal way to act amongst the sexes which will make for a swifter and more effective practice of Bhakti Yoga, we can teach it to the children before they have the chance to form the gross material habituations which we older folks find ourselves entrenched in due to our low western samskara.

    What I have seen in my short time in Alachua is something of a healthy balance compared to many other devotee communities that I have participated in. As if people are taking to heart that purification is a process, and that for most of us westerners, our ENTIRE lifestyle was contradictory to that which is most conducive to develop attachment, taste and more in relation to devotionally serving the Lord’s pleasure. The whole thing is regretable and needs repentance!

    So we take all of the injunctions to heart but with a sense of priority, and try to replace one or two major bad habits first, and maybe some of the less grave will come in time.

    Thus I find the devotees here to be more emotionally balanced and well adjusted, and well more HUMAN and personal due to a realistic and broadminded understanding of our current fallen position, and the struggle to relieve it.

    May this razor’s edge be maintained towards the positive. Else it could easily degrade into Sahajyism and complacency. But I do sense it to be the best attitude all things considered.

    Hari Bol



  36. Lalita Madhava d.d. says :

    Dear Nitai Prabhu,

    When I said “more to come,” I simply meant a more in-depth reply (out of respect for the points you were making) than the superficial one I posted due to time constraints. I do not feel compelled to “defend my ideas,” as you suggested. I am comfortable in my own interpersonal relationships with devotees (including members of the opposite gender with whom I am on hugging terms) and at the same time have all respect for the more conservative viewpoints of others.

    Nor do I agree with you that Suresh Prabhu’s comments (and, for clarification, is that the senior Prabhupada disciple Suresh, formerly of Prabhupada Village in N.C., or another?) constitued an “unprovoked attack” on the author. My impression was that he was simply straightforwardly stating his viewpoints – something that the author herself freely does with regularity on this website. If you do not consider her calling one devotee “stupid,” accusing the moderator of “still being stuck in Heathrow,” and telling yet another commentator that he needs a “philosophy for dummies” course, why are you categorizing Suresh Prabhu’s comments as an “unprovoked attack.” I find that inconsistent.

    As far as my own example (or the lack thereof, as you suggest) to younger devotees is concerned, I can say in all honesty that my entire life for the past 20+ years has been about sincerely trying to set the proper example in Krishna Consciousness for my children. And I’m sorry, I just simply do not see innocuous hugs amongst friends as some horrible example that will lead younger devotees to “become more entangled in material life.” Perhaps, on the contrary, the more loved and nurtured people feel, the more likely they will be to stay within the family of devotees.

    And regarding recent events in the Alachua community…..while there were undoubtedly a couple of scoundrels involved in the situation you originally alluded to, there are also a number of “victims,” family members who are still in a great deal of pain over all of those events. I do not think this situation should continue to be a matter of public discussion.

    But about the community in general, the points you made are relevant to our Society in general and should definitely be discussed. But I guess one big thing that I don’t understand is why people who do not even live here, and possibly who have never even visited here, are commenting authoritatively on our community. First let’s resolve this issue, and then we can proceed to an informed discussion on the standards of the Alachua community.

    Your servant,
    Lalita Madhava

  37. Suresh das says :

    I have read the Nectar of Devotion over 50 times, so I too am familiar with the teachings of Srila Rupa Goswami, just like the author of this article.

    I would not feel comfortable hugging a woman or anyone in front of the Deity, as it seems like it might be an offense.

    At the same time I feel all of us as devotees have a history of being very harsh and heavy with each other, in trying to control and monitor each other’s behavior, in judging each other, harshness in our dealings with each other, as well as our speech. We all need to foster ways of increasing our kindness and compassion for each other. That’s what I really meant to say.

    Srila Prabhupada stated that we live in a world of envy and hate. We envy God and hate His service. As long as we maintain this mentality of envy and hate, how can we possibly love each other, or even love ourselves?

  38. Lalita Madhava d.d. says :

    Dear Suresh Prabhu,

    Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. I felt really saddened by a comment you made in an earlier posting about being “unable to associate with devotees at this time.” I was wondering if you were the old Prabhupada disciple Suresh who used to write for BTG and who formerly lived in Prabhupada Village. (You may not recall, but a bunch of us (formerly) from Hillsborough, sat with you on the subway on the way back to the Brooklyn temple from NY Ratha-yatra a few years ago). Your latest comment about having read the NOD more than 50 times assures me that you probably are that Suresh.

    With a straw between my teeth, and with no intention of minimizing what you are presently experiencing, I humbly suggest that you come spend some time in Alachua. (Hridayananda Maharaja used to jokingly call it the “People’s Republic of Alachua.”) Yes, the weather’s hellish (at least in the summer – though we do have the almost-transcendental springs!) and there’s not a lot of “cultcha” in North Florida…..but the the community of devotees here is amazing and ecstatic. There are, admittedly, a few dying remnants of the harshness and the heaviness you describe, but most of the devotees here are here because they simply do not want that in their lives anymore. In this community you will truly find a loving, accepting, tolerant and nurturing group of like-minded devotees. So don’t give up on associating with devotees…..just come to Alachua! All glories to Sri Sri Radha-Syamasundara! All glories to Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai!

    Your servant,
    Lalita Madhava

  39. Babhru says :

    I guess most folks here and elsewhere would count me among the liberals. However, I’m just not comfortable with hugging women. It has become more common in many places, I suppose. I remember that several years ago I encountered the daughter of a GBC I know well, a young woman who had been a student in Sanskrit classes I taught at Bhaktivedanta Village and who was a good friend of my older daughter’s. She saw me (we hadn’t seen each other in a few years) and ran up and gave me a big hug. I was a little uncomfortable, even though I appreciated her sentiment. Where I live, on the Big Island of Hawaii, it’s common for people to greet each other with a hug and a kiss on the cheek, and devotees have adopted the hug part somewhat liberally. My wife and I don’t act freaked out, and we always respond when hugged, even by members of the opposite sex, but we’re not comfortable. We never even express such affection between ourselves in public, or even among family, except with our daughters. And, as liberal as I am, I do find it hard to imagine Srila Prabhupada being please at seeing men and women embracing in public.

    That said, while I think discussing it may be useful, I think the harsh judgment and name calling, from either side of this discussion, only sap it of whatever value it may have. Someone complained about unprovoked attacks on Braja Sevaki. Anyone who has read her posts over the years should be aware that she’s not thin-skinned. She dishes it out, and she can take it. She and I have mixed it up a couple of times, but we still respect each other. I’ve even had to calm down devotees who got upset because her attitude seems disrespectful of a “senior man.” Still, I think more civility in our discussions is more likely to yield the kind of results we really want, and much more likely to please our spiritual masters and the Lord of Vrindavan.

  40. Suresh das says :

    Lalita Madhava Prabhu,

    Thank you for your kind words of encouragement and the invite to visit the Peoples Republic of Alachua. Sounds very appealing, and my type of place.

    Hare Krishna!

  41. trivikramaswami says :

    I have read with interest the on going exchange on this issue. I have a question for Mother Lalita Madhava and Suresh Prabhu. Both of you are senior devotees and must be asked to give Srimad Bhavatam class on occasion. What do you say if you have to speak on this verse?
    SB. 7.12.9

    Woman is compared to fire, and man is compared to a butter pot. Therefore a man should avoid associating even with his own daughter in a secluded place. Similarly, he should also avoid association with other women. One should associate with women only for important business and not otherwise.
    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. That is the purport of this verse.

    In the previous purport Srila Prabhupada had mentioned. ” In Kali-yuga, people are extremely liberal, but mixing with women and talking with them as equals actually constitues an uncivilized way of life.”

  42. Madhava Ghosh dasa says :

    How quaint your thinking is, Trivikrama Swami. I guess the verse implies you should do your hugging in public and not in a secluded place. Of course, the risk with public hugging is the inevitable chorus of disapproval from the misogynists, eager to keep same sex hugging the norm.

    FYI, I don’t hug women in public, personally, due to my social conditioning and bodily concept, but I try not to let my limitations bind the realizations of others.

  43. Suresh das says :


    I accept your judgement of me as an animal.

  44. Krishnadas says :

    Hare Krishna!

    I’m an observer to this discussion, and I would like to respect everyone here. However, I’m pained and dismayed at the attitude here of Madhava Gosh and Suresh Prabhus. Please read Trivikram Maharaja’s text again. He is not judging anyone as an “animal”, nor is it “his thinking”. He is quoting Srimad Bhagavatam and Srila Prabhupada. Is reading and quoting the Bhagavatam, misogynist mentality? What is our society coming to if we are not willing to accept Srimad Bhagavatam as evidence?

    As a bystander reader it doesn’t seem to me that you are criticizing Trivikram Maharaja, it seems you are criticizing Srila Prabhupada and the Srimad Bhagavatam. How sad! You are both learned and gentle devotees as well as respected disciples of Srila Prabhupada, would you dare to go before Srila Prabhupada and make such criticisms of his purport and the words of the Bhagavatam.

    Please follow the principles of noble discussion and either explain to us how this verse and purport does not apply to your position or beg apology from Maharaja and accept his position. But please don’t do violence to us by slandering the Bhagavatam and Srila Prabhupada. We want to respect you

    Your hurt and disappointed servant,


  45. Tamoharadasa says :

    Dear Devotees; Where did this hugging by the opposite sex come from? This was never part of Prabhupadsa’s Iskcon. It is a sentimental concotion. It is a deviation, as expressed appropriately by HH Trivikrama Swami. Srila Prabhupada called this changing business a Western disease. Don’t change anything, please ! We want to follow the founder acarya’s directions, not make it up as we go along. Deviate at your own risk, but when a learned renunciant gives good advice, one should please listen respectfully and carefully. That is the recommended process.

    My obeisances
    Tamoharadasa, MS, Aud. ( C ), (ACBSP)

  46. tulasi-priya says :

    I’m not going to argue either side of the issue in this comment. Rather, I’d like to ask a question. Trivikrama Swami is quoting Srila Prabhupada. He’s not stating his own opinion, even to concur with the verse and purport he quoted, although we can certainly understand where he stands on the issue.

    My question is why label Maharaja’s thinking “quaint,” or infer that that he is judging anyone? He’s just repeating the words of his spiritual master. I’ve noticed several times in these forums that, when faced with reasonable (but unpalatable) facts or arguments, those who disagree with the statements resort to nit-picking, aurgumentum ad hominem, or logical fallacies, such as emotional appeals to guilt and fear. And don’t get me started on the sloppy grammar, purple prose, and spelling errors that make reading such arguments a strain on the eyes and brain.

    I’d really love to see the MIHE and other educational departments in ISKCON start offering courses in logical reasoning and debating skills. Brahmanas are meant to be more than just parrots; they should be able to convince and persuade people of the truth of the acarya’s instructions logically, at least as far as logic can take you in understanding the absolute truth. I love a battle of wits, but it’s no fun (what to speak of intellectually useless) when the combatants are not properly armed.

  47. Madhava Ghosh dasa says :

    Dear Krishnadas,

    First, a clarification: I am neither learned nor gentle, and I think you may have gotten the respected part wrong, also.

    Second, if you want to accuse me of “slandering the Bhagavatam and Srila Prabhupada” and then give me instructions on how I need to proceed, don’t call yourself my servant, at least be honest. Actions speak louder than labels.

    Third, if you think my comment was slander, I feel any possibility of a meaningful dialogue with you is essentially nonexistent.

    Fourth, how did my statement “FYI, I don’t hug women in public” contradict the purport? I thought it echoed it to a degree.

    Fifth, you clearly misread my statement, as I did not equate reading the purport with misogyny.

    Sixth, misogynists are well represented amongst devotees. The first and only swami in ISKCON for three years, and thus the role model for younger up and coming devotees at the time, was Kirtanananda (aka Bhaktipada). I think his misogyny is obvious to everyone by now; the long-term effects of it are still skewing perceptions amongst devotees.

    Last, but not least, I think use of the verb “dare” (“would you dare to go before Srila Prabhupada”) is inappropriate. Yes, I would discuss this with Srila Prabhupada, were he here. I don’t think “daring” would be part of the process.

    Madhava Ghosh dasa

  48. Suresh das says :

    Dear Maharaj,

    I have always admired you as a devotee and have always respected you as a spiritual authority. At the same time I know you have not come here as my friend, and that your desire is to chastise me.

    I weighed what you were saying to me very carefully, I studied Srila Prabhupada’s purport, and realized that he is correct, but at the same time I can’t, at this time, follow his instructions, so for that reason I accepted that I am an animal.

    The Art of War states “if a battle can’t be won, don’t fight it.” I know I can bring out all kinds of scripture to try to defend my case and you will bring out yours. After a very short debate you will defeat me, and come out victorious. I read the purport, realized you’re a right, and accepted defeat, so as not to waste your time and mine haggling over this issue.

    I realize there is no answer I can actually give to you or anyone else here, that will ever satisfy anyone, because all my answers and all my conclusions will be judged as wrong, no matter what I say. It’s like if my wife asks “do I look fat in these pants?” It’s a loaded question and all answers I might give are going to be judged as wrong.

    There is nothing I can do. I can’t follow his instructions at this time. I’m stuck, so I accept, I am an animal. What more do you want from me?

    I am sorry that other devotees here believe that I have somehow blasphemed Srila Prabhupada or you by my conclusion, but people read into things what they want to regardless of what is the truth.

  49. Mithila das says :

    Dadarsa kaminam kancic chudram. Sudram. This business on the public way, kissing, embracing, this is meant for the sudras. Therefore it is said, kalau sudra-sambhavah: “In the Kali-yuga the population is all sudra.” There is no brahminical culture. Brahminical culture means sama, dama, controlling the mind, controlling the senses. A real brahmana will never agree to embrace the opposite sex in public way.
    Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.61 — Vrndavana, August 28, 1975

    Similarly, the sudras, they embrace the opposite sex in the public street,…
    Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.61 — Vrndavana, August 28, 1975

    Nowadays, not so much in India, but in the Western countries it is very usual thing — a young man is embracing another young woman or kissing. So there is no fault. But according to Vedic civilization, this is fault because it will give chance to others.
    Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.56-57 — Bombay, August 14, 1975

    Sometimes the conditioned soul is attracted by illusion personified (his wife or girl friend) and becomes eager to be embraced by a woman. Thus he loses his intelligence as well as knowledge of life’s goal.
    SB 5.14.28 – Translation

    When the conditioned soul is embraced by his beloved wife, he forgets everything about Krsna consciousness.
    SB 5.14.28

    Ordinary conditioned persons generally embrace their wives and enjoy their company in solitary places.
    SB 6.17.8

    If somebody goes, “Oh, here is nice beautiful woman. Let me embrace,” that is foolishness.
    Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.9.2 — Melbourne, April 4, 1972

    That this sudra was embracing another sudrani, woman sudra. So nowadays it has become a fashion — young man is kissing another young woman on the street. So this embracing of young man and young woman on the public street was strictly prohibited, especially for the higher castes.
    Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.55 — Paris, August 11, 1975

    Embracing woman or man, this is kama, lust.
    Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.61 — Vrndavana, August 28, 1975

  50. Krishnadas says :

    Dear Madhava Ghosh Prabhu,

    Could you please clarify exactly what was “misogynistic” in Trivikram Maharaja’s text?

    Thank you.

  51. Krishnadas says :

    Dear Madhava Gosh Prabhu,

    Please forgive me if I’m a little slow, I’m trying to understand. After looking again more carefully at your first comment, it seems that when you spoke of misogynism, you were referring to some misunderstandings of certain individuals in our society and were not actually addressing the verse or purport Maharaja quoted. If that is correct, then I agree with you: misogynists have a misunderstanding. Still two questions come to my mind: 1) What does the misunderstanding of these misogynists have to do with the principle of men and women hugging? Ie: Does their misunderstanding somehow make such hugging right or wrong? 2) Since Maharaja has simply quoted a Bhagavatam verse and purport of Srila Prabhupada, what exactly is it that you find, “your quaint thinking” in his post?

    My above questions are meant to explain what it was that I found confusing. No need to address them unless my above implied understanding about what you meant is incorrect.

    My apologies to you and Suresh Prabhu if I made you unhappy in any way. For many reasons, I’m also in the animal category. Fortunately, Krishna consciousness has a place for everyone, even wild beasts like myself. Lord Ramacandra engaged monkeys and bears, and Caitanya Mahaprabhu engaged Sivananda Sen’s dog as well as the creatures in the Jarikhanda Forest. I saw your blog, Madhava Gosh Prabhu and appreciate your frank natural spirit. If we met, I’m sure we would get along really well. (I hope your health is better.) I also appreciate Suresh Prabhu’s kind heartedness.

    From all of the above examples cited, it seems clear that hugging between men and women is considered low class in Vedic culture and was not appreciated by Srila Prabhupada. Nor am I personally comfortable with hugging women. In spite of that, I hope that our movement is broad enough that it can allow a corner somewhere were even huggers can be happy.

  52. mark says :

    Hari Bol!

    All Glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga!

    As a follow up to Tulsi Priya’s question about why a person replies to a stated conclusion based on siddhanta in an emotionally reactive way, it is because that person was not fully committed to discovering the truth about their potential shortcomings.

    Many people enter into spiritual discussions to do one or combination of the following.

    1. Attempt to persuade and justify to a group that their behavior should be accepted and not condemned.

    2. Hoping to gain a sense of pride and prestige as being one who can state knowledge.

    Such a person is not seeking to find where they are falling short of ideal behavior which can assist their progress in realizing their spiritual identity. They are not approaching anyone submissively in a mood to POSSIBLY be shown where their next improvement could be made. They are looking to be recognized and included for who they are, as they are, with the caveat that their status quo remain the same and they are willing to defend their right to not seek advancement.

    So actually it is an offense to the Holy Name and to that person to criticize their expression and even to neutrally put forth the Siddhantic conclusion regarding their comments, once they have made it clear that they are unwilling to accept the possibility of being in error. Unfortunately, it is usually only after they are preached to that their true posture is revealled. Nevertheless it is never to late to walk away, or wish them well after politely requesting they go home.

    Or if you are a very advanced devotee, your compassion for them may be so profound and your skills so honed, that you can preach to them anyway and break their defenses.

    For someone of such defenses, this seems to require a very personal commitment to get to know them and a deeper understanding of their samskaras and hangups, so that one can feed the poisonous truth with just the right amount of sugar to slip it down their throat.

    I was so emotionally bereft at one point in my life that I would take a hug from almost anyone at anytime. It took very careful preaching from a great soul, that allowed me to consider that I might be able to have my needs supplied via other suppposedly more ideal methods of interaction, for me to let go of what already seemed to be working and give something new a try.

    Hare Krsna



  53. Tulasi-priya dasi says :

    Tulasi-priya dasi
    Location:alachua, United States

    Braja Sevaki dasi’s “hugging” article, “A Touchy Subject” is still generating controversy and comments. As far as I can tell, there are more comments on that article than on any other. I find it ironic, personally, because I have recently taken it upon myself to become more of a hugger. I don’t really like hugging, but there are some people–male and female–that I feel so much affection for, that I force myself to show it in that fashion. Other times, the hug is just a social formality, or even a kind of preaching.

    The men that I’ve hugged recently are very close friends of my husband, of both the devotee and non-devotee kind. One non-devotee friend, a loud Irish-American guy my husband has known since he was a kid, hugs me as a matter of custom, and rather than stand there like a tree, I hug him back. Why not? If that’s the best he can do to appreciate a Hare Krishna (which is how he sees me), I’m not going to act like some uptight little priss because I’m afraid I’ll fall down. No chance of that happening with Patrick, unless perhaps he was the very last man on earth and the human race needed to be perpetuated.

    The other men were very close devotee friends of my husband, and that’s precisely the reason why I hugged them, because they are so dear to him. In the past, I’ve been very reserved with them. But considering that my husband just went through the ordeal of cancer and chemotherapy, that these friends have been almost as distraught over him as I’ve been, that we’ve been apart for a year or more, what I feel in response to their love and friendship inspires me to hug them. As indifferent as I am to hugging, I can’t not hug them. They are like family to me, brothers. I may not hug male devotees, but I do hug my brothers.

    In thinking about the whole issue, I remembered the various accounts of Srila Prabhupada showing affection in a physical way to his disciples. The first time he left San Francisco for India, he embraced the boys and patted the girls on the head. When I first read that, it crossed my mind how totally unnecessary it was to do that. Prabhupada was a sannyasi; he could have kept a formal distance between himself and his girls and boys, but he touched them—physically and spiritually. Srila Prabhupada was heavy at times, but he was never cold. There was a very good chance (or so they thought) that they would never see each other again. How many of us, faced with the loss of a dear friend, would not long for the chance to physically connect with that person for what may be the last (or first) time?

    We reside in the body. We acquire knowledge through the senses and we act through them. Everything we know, everything we feel, and everything we are is expressed and achieved through the body, including love. Yes, the danger of lust is always present. But it won’t disappear by squelching expressions of real love.

    Real love is not expressed in the casual embraces between men and women just saying “hello” to one another at the Sunday feast. It seems a bit much to assume that such “hugs” (the word itself sounds trivial, unlike “embrace”) are fully focused and consciously exchanged. They may be chaste, but they’re also cheap. And the mind, being what it is, looks for any chink in our armor, so that sense gratification and Maya can trickle in, until they loosen and wash away our defenses in a torrent so strong that we can no longer remember how they found their way in in the first place.

    We have to remember also, that, whatever our own consciousness might be, we can’t control how others perceive our acts, and if we embrace publicly, we risk it’s being misinterpreted. We can argue that others’ agitation or sexual immaturity is not our problem, but that doesn’t reflect the mood of real, spiritual love. Real love is concerned with, and careful of, others’ weaknesses. That’s why I don’t hug in public, and I hug male friends rarely, always in my husband’s presence, and with his consent. It’s a standing precaution, because I can’t take it for granted that I’m infallible. On the other hand, I think I’ll likely be hugging my female friends more and more. My distaste for hugs is something less than transcendental in my character, and the change will do me good.

    I don’t think the issue is hugs/no hugs. There are so many ways for women and men to associate illicitly, way before it gets down to anything overtly scandalous, that hugs are just the tip of the iceberg. As a society of aspiring transcendentalists, we’ve been less than open and honest, with ourselves or each other, about the problem of sexual tension.* The body, as essential as it is while we’re still conditioned, is hard-wired to seek sexual enjoyment. Indulging is not the answer, but pretending we’re free of it isn’t either.

    The question is how to engage that energy in the cause of spiritual love, bhakti, in service to the Lord and to the devotees. We have the best process, we’re just not fully involved in it yet. It may be that age and the deterioration of the body are just as critical to the waning of lust for some of us as is the chanting of Hare Krishna. In the interim, treating each other with greater gentleness, respect, and gratitude would probably go farther to fulfill our desires for intimacy and affection than hugs. Kindness touches more than the body. It embraces the heart.

    Hare Krishna.

  54. Suresh das says :

    Dear Braja Sevaki Prabhu,

    I have been unnecessarily rude to you and offended you for no reason. I sense you are very serious about Krishna Consciousness, and demand absolute surrender, as the only way for yourself and others. This hasn’t worked for me, and it isn’t what I feel I need at this time. I feel I need to be loved and cared about to make it in Krishna Consciousness. It is totally incongruous and unreasonable then for me to send out hateful messages, thoughts or feelings to you or anyone else. Please forgive me.

  55. Suresh das says :

    I have been thinking about this Hugging Issue for a long time, with all its implications. Along with this is the problem I have of being unable to follow Srila Prabhupada’s instructions and orders as a disciple for many years now. I just accepted long ago, that I can’t follow everything. I practice as much as I can.

    There are volumes of instructions I personally can’t follow. There are many devotees who must have realized the same thing as me over the years, and have left altogether or are still following in a limited capacity, according to what they can do, and what they can accept. It is a real quandary? On one hand the disciple is supposed to do everything the spiritual master orders, but what if you can’t?

    I know of devotees who have accepted they couldn’t follow Srila Prabhupada’s instructions and orders, and committed spiritual suicide by eating beef, becoming drug addicts, becoming alcoholics, as well as joining other groups, or religions, etc., so they could forget Srila Prabhupada, and Krishna Consciousness, and drown it out of their lives forever. It seems devotees run headlong into dangerous and destructive habits, more aggressively than even the karmis themselves, to get Krishna Consciousness out of their minds and hearts. Maybe it’s out of guilt because they realized they can’t absolutely surrender. Srila Prabhupada stated that anyone who makes a promise before fire to surrender and follow regulative principles, and then reneges on his promise is no better than an animal. At the same time what is the place for people in our society who honestly can’t follow all his instructions?

    Even though reams and reams of scriptural quotes can be published on this subject to justify why absolute surrender is what is required and demanded of us, thousands of devotees are not following strict principles, even ones living in our temples at this time. So what are you going to do to care about us, and help us progress in Krishna Consciousness, besides labeling us as animals?

  56. trivikramaswami says :

    Dear Suresh Prabhu


    You have stated:

    “I have always admired you as a devotee and have always respected you as a spiritual authority.”

    From my side I have many fond memories of our serving together in the early 70’s, your congenial nature and ready smile were attractive to all.

    ” At the same time I know you have not come here as my friend, and that your desire is to chastise me.”

    I am sorry that you conclude that my preaching makes me your enemy. Bhagavada Gita instructs us to preach first of all to the devotees.

    “I weighed what you were saying to me very carefully, I studied Srila Prabhupada’s purport, and realized that he is correct, but at the same time I can’t, at this time, follow his instructions, so for that reason I accepted that I am an animal.”

    It is often not easy to follow. However as long as we are not envious of the principle, or the person stating the principle, then gradually we will come to be able to follow. So we don’t accept your conclusion that you are an animal, rather it pains us to hear you speak like that. You are an advanced Vaisnava , dear to Lord Sri Krishna and Srila Prabhupada.

    Looking forward to having the opportunity of joining with you in kirtan and honoring prasadam together.

    Your servant

    Trivikrama Swami

  57. Madhava Ghosh dasa says :

    From Krishnadas:

    “1) What does the misunderstanding of these misogynists have to do with the principle of men and women hugging? I.e.: Does their misunderstanding somehow make such hugging right or wrong?”

    2) Since Maharaja has simply quoted a Bhagavatam verse and purport of Srila Prabhupada, what exactly is it that you find, “your quaint thinking” in his post?”

    1) Their misunderstanding has little to do with whether it is right or wrong. It is a statement that some actions, regardless of their validity, will draw criticism, and that avoiding criticism should not be what we base our decisions on.
    2) Well, truthfully, I was trying to weave a little ”in joke” into the sentence, but the moderator, apparently seeing my miscapitalizations, and awkward phrasing as typos, proofread it and corrected it, leaving the “quaint” word hanging a bit. To rationalize it thus becomes problematic, but to try anyways: since the premise is that “hugging a member of the sex you are attracted to is wrong” is essentially based on an appeal to tradition, thinking that promoted something solely based on cultural tradition would be “quaint”. Yes, I stipulate that that rationalization is lame.

    To be fair, TS didn’t state any position on the issue, he merely quoted and asked for responses to a quote, and based on my predisposition, I apparently reacted as if he had taken a position. My remarks were aimed more at that position, than him, and if I was unclear about that, I do apologize. I was trying to be a little funny, truth be told. Probably the wrong crowd for that.

    As quoted by Mithila Das:

    “Nowadays, not so much in India, but in the Western countries it is very usual thing — a young man is embracing another young woman or kissing. So there is no fault. But according to Vedic civilization, this is fault because it will give chance to others.
    Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.56-57 — Bombay, August 14, 1975”

    Srila Prabhupada was a man of broad vision – while acknowledging the standards set by tradition, he also perceived that cultural norms were different in the Western countries and that the same offense was not to be taken for an action that didn’t have the same nuance as in India.

    Again, personally I am uncomfortable publicly hugging women I know only casually, due to my fallen nature. Further, due to my immune system being suppressed, I am under doctor’s orders to avoid direct physical contact with anyone, male or female, to limit the transmission of viruses and bacteria. I have grown to appreciate very much the custom of greeting someone with pranams, putting the two hands together over the heart chakra, instead of shaking hands. In the pre antibiotic and antiviral eras, this custom would have given a culture a biological advantage over cultures that shook hands or hugged, due to slowing the transmission of disease.

    Yes, Krishnadas, when we met in person, we very well might become friends. I look forward to it.

    Hare Krishna
    Madhava Ghosh dasa

  58. Lalita Madhava d.d. says :

    Actually, Maharaja, I do not give Bhagavatam classes. I have lived outside the temple for many, many years, and my work schedule does not permit me to even attend Bhagavatam class in the morning, what to speak of give it. (Though recently invited to, I declined on the grounds that I believe that anyone who does not regularly go to class themselves has no business giving it.)

    Thus, in general, when I read Srila Prabhupada’s books, I do not imagine how I might present or discuss a concept in Srimad Bhagavatam class at the temple. Rather I consider how to apply a principle to my own life, how to explain it to my children (which I suppose has in and of itself been a 20-years-and-counting Bhagavatam class), or possibly how to explain it to materially cultured and educated people in the secular world with whom I interact in the course of my business.

    That is my general approach to the philosophy. Regarding this verse in particular, and the context in which it has been quoted (a discussion on the evils of hugging, which I, frankly, find to be ridiculous in comparison to the infinitely more serious problems facing both ISKCON and the world around us today), I will proceed, but with a caveat or two.

    First of all, we all know that it is possible for anyone to pull out-of-context verses out of a hat to support almost any point or, conversely, to condemn almost any point. I think Jayadvaita Swami cautioned against this in his guide on the prudent use of the VedaBase. He states that, “Used badly…[randomly extracting quotes from the VedaBase]…can help in assembling false evidence, fallacious arguments and wrong conclusions.” When it comes to quoting verses, there is a difference between sincerely endeavoring to cultivate philosophically sound viewpoints according to the Vedic version, and “sloka-slinging,” using verses and “Prabhupada said” quotes to support a dogmatic and unyielding approach to the philosophy and to harshly cut down other devotees with a different understanding than one’s own, in a manner akin to the gun-slingers of the old west.

    Furthermore I think if one is going to take a fundamentalist approach to sastra and to all of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, they have to be consistent about that across the board.

    That said, as far as this verse is concerned, I would say that, as with all verses, we have to act on and preach from our own level of realization. If a sannyasi or brahmacari (or even householder) is disturbed by associating with women, then obviously he has to be self-regulated and self-disciplined and stringently avoid that association. But, on the other hand, if someone else is comfortable in his interpersonal relationships with women friends and is not disturbed or threatened by his interactions with them (interactions which may include an innocuous hug), then that is his own personal choice, and it is not anyone else’s prerogative to approve or disapprove. I do not believe that because some men may become agitated in the presence of women that they have the right to judge others or to legislate the behavior of everyone else around them. Everyone has to act on their own level of realization and allow others to do the same.

    Also, we have to apply instructions according to time, place and circumstance. One point made in this verse and purport is the one about a man not remaining in a secluded place with his mother, sister or daughter. So, while heeding the purport of that crucial warning, we also have to consider practicalities. My daughter spends time with her father. I spend time doing lots of things with my son. We even have a designated day where just the two of us go out and do things together in order to stay connected. And the pay-off for that, the extent to which my son feels able to tell me anything and everything that’s going on in his life, has been extraordinary. So how many householders in ISKCON could realistically apply this edict to their family lives? How many would want to? The verse you quoted is a caution that vividly illustrates the dangers of the material energy, but not one that most of us are able to apply literally to our lives. Yet in spite of that I’ve not seen an epidemic of fathers molesting their daughters or of grown sons attacking their mothers.

    Also, in response to another point made in the verse, we are not talking about men and women sneaking off to a secluded place to “associate.” Obviously that is not our culture or our standard. No one in this discussion has been advocating that.

    Nor is the kind of hugging we are talking about in this discussion the sort of “making out” that Srila Prabhupada is referring to in all of the quotes submitted by Mithila Prabhu.

    And as far as your implication that Vaisnavas who chant japa, follow the principles and serve the Lord are “animals” because of innocent and harmless greetings exchanged among friends…..I’ll just say that I find that implication extremely distasteful and offensive and leave it at that.

    So, in conclusion, I would say that, being thus warned about their innate tendency to melt like butter in the presence of women, men have to be careful and conduct themselves cautiously according to their own personal level of realization.

    (Looking back on this whole discussion, and now Maharaja’s challenge as to how my viewpoints could be defended in a Bhagavatam class, I am not sure how one simple comment I made about not making such a big deal of this issue has evolved to this point. I would actually consider myself a pretty loyal follower of Srila Prabhupada and am certainly not trying to minimize, disregard, disrespect or contradict any of His Divine Grace’s teachings in any way whatsoever. Nor I do not wish to be seen as a big proponent of “hugging.” (This has become truly ridiculous.) I am merely saying that many devotees (many very nice, sincere and serious older devotees) do not see hugging as some huge breach of appropriate behavior (apparently the author herself has been observed to be on “hugging terms” with Bhavananda prabhu?) and that they are not as threatened by it as others seem to be. The bottom line is that this is a personal matter that has to be decided by the individual.)

  59. Mithuna Das says :

    This article by Mother Braja Sevaki devi dasi certianly have generated a lot of debate in our devotee comunity. I would like to comment on this subject using my experience in Krishna Consciousness as reference. I grew up in a culture in which hugging of men and women in public was not a normal practice. I joined the Krishna consciousness Society ( ISKCON) about 17 years ago , and I have never felt the urge nor need to hug devotee women, as a way of expressing my friendship. I never felt that ,by not hugging members of the opposite sex that I have missed/ or is missing out on anything. The way in which we learn Krishna Consciousness have a lot to do with the manner in which we make progress, and consequently the road we choose to walk at any instant in time. From early in our devotional life we should strive to acquire a very stable and correct ( as per sambhanda tattva) motivation for engaging in devotional service. This correct motivation is , full acceptance of the inalienable fact that we are eternal servants of Krishna (despite the appearence of things in the phenomenal world). If our motivation is less than this, there is a high chance that devotional service can become a nominal( and possibly a “thick/thin” )activity in our life ; thus we loose the opportunity to experience the product of some significant steadiness in the execution of devotional service. If our devotionally “thin” times are frequent ( and this can exist on an instantaneous time scale), our experience of the phenomenal world becomes one in which our false ego is the prime beneficiary of our experience, and both subtle and gross materialism becomes part of our belief system. Thus when we engage in discussions about Krishna Consciousness , materialsim ( rather than Guru, Sadhu , and Sastra ) becomes a prominent reference of authority; one of my respected friends ( and siksha Guru) has suggested that the rise of modern intellectualism in Krishna Consciousness may be a case in point; Maybe this can be the next “Touchy Subject” on dandavats???. Acceptance of the fact that we are eternal servants of Krishna cannot be mechanically induced ,simply because we want to accept it. However, with sincere supplication to Hari , Guru, Vaisnava and the performance of service with the proper understanding of who is the real beneficiary , acceptance of the real sambhanda tattva can begin to become rooted in our hearts. Motivation to perform the activities of devotional service then becomes both eager, and steady. This motivation and steadiness can be helped along if the mainstay of our service performance consists of activities especially compatible with our extant psychophysical conditioning. The performance of devotional service under the aforementioned conditions, leads to a noticeably deep and increased satisfaction in our heart; of course this is a super subjective experience that cannot be externally evaluated by a third party. As a corollary occurence ,all the senses ( including the skin and the genitals ) also become noticeably quiet. Further, the mind also loses its proclivity to drag us “hither and tither”, and our attempt to focus on chanting the holy name is no longer a daunting prospect. In fact we increase our opportunity to enter into a deeper relationship with the Holy Name. If we can bring our devotional experience onto this stream , to hug or not to hug members of the opposite sex will not be an issue of contention. As the value of Krishna Consciousness enters the domain of our perception, the more we feel indebted to Srila Prabhupada, our Gurudev ( for those who are not Srila Prabhupada diksha disciples), and the Vaisnavas. Consequently , the more we want to focus in carrying out their orders.

  60. Gaurav Mittal says :

    I read few interesting comments and would like to comment on them. Personally, I have been raised in Indian society and therefore, I don’t hug opposite sex. But I have found western people hugging and I assume that they do it in a cultural way without sexual feelings. My comment is for especially Trivikrama Swami and Suresh Das.

    Main principle of bhakti is to always remember Krishna and never forget Him. Krishna consciousness means that being conscious of Krishna which means focussing thoughts on Krishna all the time. Focussing thoughts on Krishna or remembrance are same thing. If you would ask that what Srila Prabhupada wanted from his followers then I would say that he wanted them to focus all their thoughts on Krishna as much as they can. He wanted his followers to do that atleast 2 hours (16 rounds) but ultimately, do their best.

    Is hugging man/woman so important? If one truly focusses his mind upon Krishna, then he will most probably hug without wrong intentions. If one does not focusses his mind upon Krishna, then it does not matter whether one hugs or not. If hugging opposite sex distracts our mind from thoughts of Krishna or generate sexual thoughts then we should not do that. But if we are not agitated then it does not matter whether we do or not.

    SB 7.12.9 verse quoted by Trivikrama Swami refers to sannyasi and brahmacaris. SB is talking of brahmacaris in that section. Such people could even have sexual feelings towards their mother or daughters. But this verse does not refer to grhasthas or vanprasthas. It is huge misapplication of this verse if one thinks that Vedic literatures does not trust grhastha devotee father with his mother or daughter. May be some people are very fallen but hopefully most of us in Kali-yuga are still not so bad that they cannot be with their daughter or mother alone.

    PS: Srila Prabhupada often quotes that once should not sit with one’s mother, sister, or daughter in a solitary place. But it is important to understand what audience he was speaking to. One cannot apply vedic philosophy in bits and pieces. It is very important Vedic injunction that one should serve one’s mother and father. Position of mother is glorious. If son is serving his mother, he can be alone with his mother. I would be surprised if SP was never alone with his mother. Most probably, he was alone not just once but hundreds of times.

    In essence, one cannot blindly follow sastra even from one’s guru. One needs to use one’s own realization to understand even one’s own guru’s words.

  61. Suresh das says :

    Below are three groups of devotees who visit our temples and their possible motivations for hugging:

    Spontaneous Emotion:
    Imagine devotees who have traveled thousands of miles, after planning and saving for their spiritual journey sometimes for years to come to Mayapur, India. The trip is long and exhausting. Their hardship to reach the Holy Dham is arduous. But finally they enter the gorgeous Mayapur temple and grounds, take in all the sights, sounds, and scents, see the beautiful Deities, and hear a fabulous kirtan going on. Surely Mayapur is more beautiful than anyone could ever imagine. The experience for them might be emotionally overwhelming and in their happiness they might momentarily forget themselves and hug each other. Is this behavior really so abnormal that we have to get so uptight and wish to constrain or control such behavior, and thus destroy what was otherwise an innocent expression of joy and spiritual happiness in the moment?

    Lack of Truth in Advertising (attracting the wrong type of crowd):
    Since the late Sixties (more than 3 decades) all of our temples have regularly advertised the “Sunday Love Feast”, mostly targeting hippies, young people, college students, etc. Our true motive really isn’t about material love at all, but to teach the Science of Self-Realization. “Love Feast” is really an outdated and misleading term anyway, borrowed from the Flower Children of the Sixties, so why not come up with something new, and more current, so as not to create confusion about our purpose and intentions?

    We can’t become so angry or indignant then, if ordinary people don’t understand Krishna Consciousness, and continue to act like hippies, since we have invited them to come and receive love from us, but instead change gears and demand that they surrender and accept Krishna Consciousness with all its heavy restrictions and commandments. But, if we continue to advertise “Love Feast” anyway, in spite of these facts, because it attracts more people to our temples than advertising “Self-Realization”, or “Bhakti Yoga”, then we have to be more tolerant of hugging by people coming and needing to be loved.

    Millions and millions of Srila Prabhupada’s books have been distributed. At one time there were more than 10,000 devotees in ISKCON. We all know the many negative things which have happened over the years, and driven so many sincere devotees away, breaking their spirits and their hearts. The remaining few devotees who are left are the “Survivors”. All of the Survivors have been through so much to help build Srila Prabhupada’s Movement. We have all tolerated so much hardship. We stayed, didn’t go away, or give up. Sometimes when Survivors meet each other we might briefly hug (remembering our mutual struggles) and this behavior has to be tolerated and understood through compassionate eyes, whether or not it seems to meet some people’s opinion of what is Vedic and what isn’t.

    Most of people will gladly follow your rules if they are happy. People though tend to despise and resent what they perceive may be overbearing authority.

    Imagine what might happen if the international press, and the many radical groups, who may be against our movement, and are just waiting for the chance to attack us on the slightest provocation, get wind that we are planning a ban on hugging? Even those who are normally supporters and friends might take part and object to our behavior, because they may believe we are being too fanatical. Many of us have seen the movie “Gandhi”. Imagine the embarrassment of seeing wave upon wave of non-violent protestors picketing our temples, demanding the end of your Non-Hugging Ordinance.

  62. tulasi-priya says :

    The term “Love Feast” was first suggested, to the best of my knowledge, by Kirtanananda Swami, and Srila Prabhupada accepted his suggestion. He likely picked it up from the southern Baptists, where it is still in usage in their churches today. It has nothing to do with material love, as far as they are concerned.

    Perhaps we should drop that tag, not so that the innocent public won’t think we’re hippies, but so that they won’t think we’re (horrors!) Baptist Christians.



    Since the late Sixties (more than 3 decades) all of our temples have regularly advertised the “Sunday Love Feast”, mostly targeting hippies, young people, college students, etc. Our true motive really isn’t about material love at all, but to teach the Science of Self-Realization. “Love Feast” is really an outdated and misleading term anyway, borrowed from the Flower Children of the Sixties, so why not come up with something new, and more current, so as not to create confusion about our purpose and intentions?

  63. Suresh das says :

    I’ve been basking in the glory of being considered a “Senior Prabhupada Disciple” for the last few days, and it felt good, but I feel it is a little dishonest of me, and is a case of mistaken identity.

    The devotee that Lalita Madhava Prabhu, and Trivikrama Swami is confusing me with, I believe, is Sureshvar Prabhu, a Brahmacari, whom I remember worked for BTG for many years (with his infectious smile). I don’t know where he is now, but I am sure he is still a wonderful devotee.

    If only I had thought of the future, some 35 years ago, when I was a young ISKCON devotee, that someday I might be looked up to, needed, and leaned on as a “Senior Prabhupada Disciple”. Then maybe I might have worked harder and cared more about my spiritual life than I did. I could write a book “How to succeed in Bhaktiyoga without really trying”. Whatever progress I made, was made in spite of myself.

    I am just little Suresh das: former pot washer, incense dipper, floor scrubber, vegetable chopper, book distributor, chanter, and avid reader of Srila Prabhupada’s books. I am nobody special, sorry.

  64. mahavidya das says :

    Haribol Suresh das ,let me have a copy of your book,I’ll send you one of mine,
    i was thinking of a similar title “How to go back to Godhead without realy trying”
    ys mvdas ACBSP

  65. Gaurav Mittal says :

    FYI: One does not become senior by wearing special clothes, external rituals, making followers, when one joined a organisation etc. One becomes senior by internal advancement which comes by focussing our mind and thoughts upon Krishna which can be done by chanting, smaran etc.

  66. Suresh das says :

    What I mean by “Senior Prabhupada Disciple” is not necessarily something external. There were many devotees who joined around the same time as me. All of us were following the same temple programs, and chanting the same japa. Many of those devotees became major leaders and managers within our society, whereas I always remained at the bottom. I have always been fascinated to learn what process they followed, which produced their advancement, so that they could accept and execute tremendous responsibility for Srila Prabhupada.

  67. Mithuna Das says :

    This is comment is directed at comment # 65 by G.Mittal concerning the aquisition of internal advancement. The living entity conditioned or not ,cannot help but think of krishna because nothing exists outside of Krishna; Consequently,those whose awareness is on the platform of nonduality always see that everyhthing is perfect. On the plane of discrimination ( duality ) the thoughts in mind of the conditioded soul tend to default away from thoughts about providing for Krishna’s pleasure; this is so because his/her underlying belief ( and corollay shradda) about himself/herself buttresses upon the idea that I AM THIS BODY ( as is apparent to the conditioned senses in the world of phenomena). As I mentioned in my comment # 59 , If somehow we can arrive at the position( in our KC ) of really accepting the (incontrovertible and inalienable ) fact that I AM SPIRIT SOUL , ETERNAL SERVANT OF KRISHNA,then our mind’s thoughts will start to default towards thoughts about how to serve Krishna ( under the mission of the spiritual master). There would be a significant positive change in our motivation to practice Krishna Consciousness. This new default tendency of our mind is symptomatic that genuine sambhanda tattva has begin to take root ( even if tiny) within our hearts. Ideas about whether or not we should leave the mission of the spiritual master will seem alien to us. And whether or not we are senior will not be important. Senior devotee is a designation based on practice in the stage of the sadhak form. Senior devotee has nothing to do with the real identity of the jiva.

  68. Gaurav Mittal says :

    Mithuna Das – very wonderful point. I agree with your views. Thank you for your comment.

    >>>>If somehow we can arrive at the position( in our KC ) of really accepting the (incontrovertible and inalienable ) fact that I AM SPIRIT SOUL , ETERNAL SERVANT OF KRISHNA

    I agree with you. It is cyclic. The more we realize our own svarupa and Krishna, the more our thoughts focus on Krishna. The more we focus our thougths on Krishna, more we realize these facts.

    Suresh Prabhu, I made that side point because it appears that you are making a philosophical mistake ( I guess but I might be wrong). You are fascinated by external activities (making disciples, converting people and so on) of your contemporary devotees. But ultimately, our external activies does not matter. What matters is our internal consciousness i.e our internal remembrance of Krishna, our internal focus upon Krishna, our internal connection with Krishna and guru when we chant the holy names, inner humility and so on.

    Sometimes, those people who take preaching roles get puffed up and start considering themselves as great devotees. That is start of their fall down. A humble pot washer who spends time in chanting and remembering Krishna is much more advanced the puffed up preacher.

  69. Braja Sevaki says :

    Suresh prabhu; I haven’t been following this discussion, nor have I had any intention of doing so beyond commnt # 30 or so; however someone told me you had addressed me directly, and what’s more, with an apology. So I wanted to acknowledge that and to thank you for writing. So far as I have seen, you are the only devotee here who has displayed the very attractive quality of humility, in admitting that while you accept these things are written in scripture and desired by Srila Prabhupada, you are as yet unable to observe them. As Trivikrama Swami has said, you are a Vaisnava; there is no fault in our inabilities. I could write a book on mine….

    What is distressing — and actually completely unacceptable — is when devotees try to justify their inability to follow Prabhupada’s teachings, and argue pointlessly their own “opinion.” If we have difficulty in understanding or accepting, then the first quality required is the humility to accept that and to enquire submissively from advanced souls how to overcome our inabilities. I’d like very much to see this site become a forum for such exchanges, rather than a free for all where those who are opposed to Prabhupada’s teachings have “their say.”

    As for your point about pure devotional service: yes, I am interested only in that. Saying so doesn’t make me pure, nor does it signify a level of advancement above the next person. I don’t possess the required adhikara to practice in such a way, but I don’t care: I’m still not giving up. My understanding is that my refusal to accept anything less — in myself more than (but also) in others — is the start. And that is what I’ve hung onto for many years. I am fully convinced I need nothing else but that faith, and in time, everything else will come.

    Again, thank you for your note.

    Braja Sevaki dd

  70. Mithuna Das says :

    This is a comment in response to Mother Braja Sevaki’s comment # 69. Ultimately, a lot of our problems in being able to practice KC has much to do with how we understand the process and the consequent foundation we have build over the years of our practice. The tendency of the mind’s content to default away from thinking about how to satisfy Hari, Guru, Vaisnava is underlain by the peculiar belief about ourself that WE ARE THIS BODY. The origin of this belief cannot be traced out historically, but it is a cumulative product of the living entity’s experience of the phenomenal world wherein the false ego is the prime beneficiary of his inevitable experience ( of the world). Even after we become a devotee( of various grades) it is possible that the practicioner can continue to allow himself to experience life in this way. The result is that materialism and many of its corollaries become mixed up with our practice of krishna Consciousness , and we inadvertantly accept these “isms” as references of authority. I have personally seen practicing devotees ( born in western cultures) who still use Abrahamic religious ideas to validate the Bhagavad Gita. In his Harinam Chintamani , Bhaktivinoda Thakur describes that ,in the beggining the Guru should exactingly explain sambhanda tattva to the disciple, and the latter should accept it properly. One of the major elements of this sambhanda tattva is the REAL identity of the jiva( despite what appears to be the self in the world of sensory phenomena). The negation of this real identity is that WE ARE NOT THIS BODY; the actual identity is that WE ARE SPIRIT SOULS ETERNAL SERVANT OF KRISHNA. Being originally constitutional , our real identity is both INCONTROVERTIBLE and INALIENABLE. It cannot be overturned , nor can we be alienated from it ( though we can forget it for some time). If we want to have stable, steady, and joyful KC it is imperative that we bind this understanding of our real identity within the core of our heart. This binding cannot be done mechanically or simply because we say we want to do so. If we very feelingly supplicate HARI, GURU, VAISNAVA to engrave this new acceptance ( of our REAL IDENTITY) in the core of our heart, and simultaneously serve in the mission of the spiritual master ( with the proper understanding of who we are and who is the real beneficiary of our servitude) , then we increase our deservedness( adhikara). In time the belief that we are SPIRIT SOUL , ETERNAL SERVANT OF KRISHNA will begin to take root in our heart. One of the major symptons that this new ( and REAL) belief about ourself has entered our heart is that OUR MIND WILL BEGIN TO DEFAULT TOWARDS THOUGHTS OF HOW TO SATISFY HARI,GURU, VAISNAVA. The more we act on these thoughts, and the more we will percieve the value of what Srila Prabhupada has given us ( KC) , and a reciprocal, albeit exponential dynamic relation ,will develop between these two states. Other symptons of proper embracing of sambhanda tattva will be a deepening experience of our KC which may manifest as streams of deeply joyful feelings,and other realizations( ie: certain things will become a REALITY to us , ex: a more than clear understanding that material life is nothing more than a progressive series of permuting and combining role plays assigned to the body( that is under the tight control of entropy)). As the deepening joyous feeling begin to steadily exceed regular sensory experience ,the senses ( including the genitals and skin ) will become quiet; the mind becomes curious about these experiences , and it loses the propensity to drag us ” hither”, and “tither” into the ” permuting” , and “combining” field, of the role play. Without external endeavor our motivation in KC becomes much improved, and with a more quietened mind it is possible to embark into a deeper relationship with Sri Nama Prabhu. Even though we should be prepared to do the needful, it is very helpful if we can ( deeply and meaningfully, and with proper understanding) steadily perform a service that is consistent with our extant psychophysical conditioning; this helps to make our service portfolio steady. The aforementioned conditions makes following the injunctions of KC much easier , and sets us up to cross over the impediment of anartha nrivitti, and open the door to nistha and beyond. I humbly submit that if we follow this process of KC properly, we will come to clearly see that this is the real SELF interest( the illusory role play is not ). There will be no need to continually lament, nor “hang on painfully for many years.”

  71. Suresh das says :

    We have to remember that unless devotees are professionals, that is they are being paid to look and act like devotees, every one else is a volunteer. You can’t be too hard on unpaid volunteers, or expect or demand too much, otherwise they might break, or leave if rules become too harsh and uncompromising. Devotees also deserve some leisure time too. When I was a Brahmacari (6 years), I was worked 7 days a week, week-after-week, with no breaks or time off. I often felt like nothing I ever did was good enough or appreciated. I was worked harder and harder. It always seemed odd to be me too that often Brahmacaris went out and collected money to support householders who stayed home and managed the temple. Eventually I burned out and gave up, at least on temple life, and found I needed to practice on my own, at my own pace, even if it meant not being able to maintain the same high standard as ISKCON.

    I found I had to pace myself too. There is a difference between having devotional sentiment, and being an actual practicing devotee 24/7/365, year-after-year, for the rest of your life. Sometimes newer devotees get frustrated and impatient when they observe older devotees following what they believe are too slow of a pace than what they believe should be the correct way to practice. Each of us is really responsible only for ourselves. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada was famous for saying if you wish to criticize – point the finger at yourself first (or something like that).

    I reread what Braja Sevaki was saying in this article and realized that she wasn’t really saying anything philosophically wrong. I tried to discover then why I got so upset and angry. I realized I possess a phobia that if I surrender to Krishna, I won’t be loved; and that I won’t be able to receive all the love I need. I realize that this is totally irrational, but still it holds me back, because I know it will be a long, long time before I can receive Krishna’s love, since I am only in the beginning stage of Bhaktiyoga. How will I survive the time spent I must spend in limbo?

    I feel a fear of being isolated and alone. For me, this stems from childhood when my mother left me alone. I discovered, through therapy, that my mother’s way of child-rearing was, if a child is crying – then let it cry and cry, until it realizes that no one is coming to comfort it. Consequently in adulthood I possess an irrational and compulsive fear of the dark, fear of isolation, fear of abandonment, and need to be hugged. These subconscious needs, and urges keep playing over and over, again-and-again like a recording, so I am endlessly plagued by these feelings. The feelings have to be tolerated by me, because I am after all a man, and I must be strong. No one will cry for me, and I am not asking for any pity. At the same time the feelings and needs never go away, or stop, no matter what I try to do to keep them from replaying. My therapist told me there was no cure either, because I can never be two again, so nothing can be done, either with conventional therapy or medication. This makes for lots of difficulties on my spiritual path.

    Hridayananda Swami stated that anyone who says they “can’t” follow Srila Prabhupada’s instructions is really only saying they “won’t”. That’s the truth, but the reality is, at the same time for me, that following the injunction which Trivikrama Swami quoted puts me in such great anxiety that I found I completely shut down and stopped chanting altogether. So, for me, I just need to keep chanting, and accept that there are many rules that I am unable to follow at this time.

  72. varahanarasimha says :

    Mother Braja Sevika has made many good points. If devotees had spend some time in India and gotten to know vedic culture a bit better, they would understand this is not done. Men dont embrace any women but their wife, and maybe mother and siters on a rare occasion.

    In the Krsna book we learn the ladies of Mathura did not just go and embrace Krsna and Balarama:

    For a very long time the women of Mathura had heard about Krsna Balarama and Their uncommon characteristics, and they were very much attracted and eager to see Them. Now when they actually saw Krsna and Balarama passing on the street and saw Them sweetly smiling, the ladies’ joy reached the point of ecstasy. When they actually saw Them with their eyes, they took Krsna and Balarama within their hearts and began to embrace Them to their fullest desire. Their bodily hairs stood up in ecstasy. They had heard of Krsna, but they had never seen Him, and now their longing was relieved. After going up on the roofs of the palaces of Mathurä, the ladies, their faces joyful, began to shower flowers upon Krsna and Balarama.

    your servant
    Payonidhi das

  73. ykd108 says :

    It was Dhira Govinda with his psychology seminars who introduced the ‘hugging business’ in Alachua, and then the world. People were paying USD $500 a pop, just to hear him emphatically how important hugging is… (helloooooo?)

    I hope this is the last post about this hugging business. The several quotes, directly from Srila Prabhupada (graciously provided by Mithila prabhu in his 09/13/06 post) provides the final answer: This hugging business is for sudras. ISKCON is meant to train sudras into brahmanas. The idea is to abandon our sudraic behavior and take up the brahmincial behavior. Why is so much energy wasted in belaboring the point?

    The many posts from this article by Mother Braja-sevaki reminds of a French saying: “Don’t seek to find 5 legs in a cat; for they only have 4.”

  74. Suresh das says :

    We might have to accept, as the size of Krishna Consciousness Movement grows and expands, that there may be many people who can’t rise higher than Sudra Vaishnavas. Not every person can be pushed into the same mold of strict Brahminical culture. There is no point in putting people down, or belittling those who are in the Sudra class, but still accept Krishna Consciousness as their religion and goal of life.

    We have to keep encouraging people to engage in devotional service with kindness, love and compassion. Being heavy, angry, uptight, and insulting won’t encourage anyone to join our mission, stay, or accept strict rules and restrictions. Worse, enforcing very strict discipline may make some people, who might otherwise be very loyal to our cause, break under pressure, and end up hating or becoming enemies of our movement.

    The only chance people might accept some restrictions is if they are convinced through deep faith and experience, that there is a reward of higher taste and pleasure.

    In the beginning Krishna Consciousness was supposed to be fun. We were supposed to be about chanting, dancing and feasting. Gradually over time things changed and progressively stricter and stricter rules were applied. Not everybody could go along with the changes which were made, so some accommodations have to be allowed for different types of people who wish to follow Krishna Consciousness in different varying degrees of surrender.

  75. mark says :

    Dear Devotees,

    Shocked by the Slander the Sudra contingent, I turned to Srila Prabhupada to let the chastisement be his.

    Vrindavan, March 12th, 1974

    “The varnasrama college has to be established immediately. Everywhere, wherever we have got our center, a varnasrama college should be established to train four divisions: one class, brahmana; one class, ksatriya; one class, vaisya; and one class, sudra. But everyone will be elevated to the spiritual platform by the spiritual activities which we have prescribed. There is no inconvenience, even for the sudras.”


    And if that is not enough to break the cycle of Sudra Bashing…

    Conversation with Governor
    Vrndavana 20 April 1975

    Prabhupada: Therefore, what I have written, that?
    Brahmananda: “As there are different sections of educational institutions, there must be one institution how to train up perfect brahmanas with ideal characters as above mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita. If there is a section of people of ideal character, say 5 percent, the other 95 percent, by seeing their example, will follow. In other words, a section of the society must be of ideal character. That is essential.”
    Prabhupada: So therefore this varnasrama college is very essential.
    Governor: Both intensive and extensive training.
    Prabhupada: Yes. Proper training. It may be extensive and intensive… Doesn’t matter.
    Governor: You said 5 percent and 95 percent.
    Prabhupada: Ninety-five percent may remain non-brahmana. But this 5 percent, if they are strongly brahminical, then others will follow.



    Please try to understand the mercy, broadmindedness and compassion of Srila Prabhupada’s plan for ALL VARNA TENDENCIES.


    Bh. Mark

  76. trivikramaswami says :

    Suresh Prabhu has said:

    “I reread what Braja Sevaki was saying in this article and realized that she wasn’t really saying anything philosophically wrong. I tried to discover then why I got so upset and angry. I realized I possess a phobia that if I surrender to Krishna, I won’t be loved; and that I won’t be able to receive all the love I need. I realize that this is totally irrational, but still it holds me back, because I know it will be a long, long time before I can receive Krishna’s love, since I am only in the beginning stage of Bhaktiyoga. How will I survive the time spent I must spend in limbo?”

    You say ;”it will be a long , long time before you can receive Krishna’s love.” However we understand that the devotee is even more mercyful that the Lord. When a devotee was having difficulty, like you are expressing here, then often Srila Prabhupada would allow that person to join with his party so he could get his personal association. Why not try to do that? There must be some leading devotee in Iskcon that you have faith in. If you humbly approach I am sure they will be happy to give you a chance to have their personal association.

    Then you go on to say:
    “I feel a fear of being isolated and alone. For me, this stems from childhood when my mother left me alone. I discovered, through therapy, that my mother’s way of child-rearing was, if a child is crying – then let it cry and cry, until it realizes that no one is coming to comfort it. Consequently in adulthood I possess an irrational and compulsive fear of the dark, fear of isolation, fear of abandonment, and need to be hugged. These subconscious needs, and urges keep playing over and over, again-and-again like a recording, so I am endlessly plagued by these feelings. The feelings have to be tolerated by me, because I am after all a man, and I must be strong. No one will cry for me, and I am not asking for any pity. At the same time the feelings and needs never go away, or stop, no matter what I try to do to keep them from replaying. My therapist told me there was no cure either, because I can never be two again, so nothing can be done, either with conventional therapy or medication. This makes for lots of difficulties on my spiritual path.”

    This kind of client centered therapy will never help, as the therapist himself is admitting. Simply he is giving you a rational for not surrendering. Better to go to an advanced Vaisnava for help who can convince you that your karma is not really an obstacle in your path of devotion. The only thing that can interfer with your surrendering is your own mind.

  77. Suresh das says :

    Trivikrama Maharaj Prabhu,

    Please accept my obeisance, all glories to Srila Prabhupada.

    I had been thinking more about what I had said, regarding my various phobias, and my reasons for not surrendering. I never conceived when the Vaishnava Acharyas were singing about Materialists being stuck in the shackles of Society, Friendship, and Love, as their reasons for not surrendering to Lord Krishna that they would be singing about me.

    I thought more deeply about the love issue, and realized that it is unreasonable for me to expect love within ISKCON, because it simply isn’t available, and is against our philosophy. At the same time it is not available for me in the Material World either. In order to be an enjoyer of love (lust) within the Material World a person must be very rich, and must possess a very strong body meant for sense enjoyment. I possess neither. My time in this world is short, so I am focusing more on my chanting and spiritual sadhana, and just trying to tolerate my unreasonable thoughts and desires.

    When it comes to the subject of Society, Friendship, and Love, I am basically a failure, because I am a follower of the Four Regulative Principles. These principles exclude me from fitting into mainstream society, and from building friendships with the non-devotees.

    At the same time I can’t at this time fit into the society of ISKCON devotees either. I truly appreciate your speaking with me Maharaj, through this article, and for the other points which all the devotees contributed. It cleared up doubts which I had been feeling lately about the process of Krishna Consciousness. I couldn’t understand why I am suffering so much, and why I could no longer feel the spiritual happiness and satisfaction as I had once felt. I thought there might be something wrong with the process.

    I now know it is due to my being in the Mode of Ignorance that I can’t feel the happiness of Krishna Consciousness. Although I appreciate that I am animalistic and a Sudra, these negative terms don’t really help me much. No one can beat me up better than myself. I have been doing it at every moment, all of my life. The self-beratement, and other negative self-talk don’t really work on me, because it’s what I do all the time anyway. I am numb to it and quite callous to these methods as well. In fact I rather enjoy hurting myself, and subconsciously find a type of pleasure in self-torture. It is very easy to call myself an animal or a Sudra, but what works best for me is to understand I am suffering due to being in the Mode of Ignorance. Any kind of encouraging words go a long way for me too, because it is something rarely experienced in my life.

    There is the chance, if I work hard enough, to lift myself up from the low Modes of Ignorance and Passion. The only obstacle, to my becoming Krishna Conscious, really then is laziness.

  78. Krishnadas says :

    A few thoughts on the dynamics of this “touch subject”:

    Suresh Prabhu has opened his soft heart and showed us something of the beautiful concern and affection contained therein. I hope that the kind readers of this discussion will thoughtfully consider what he is saying and not just blindly throw opinions back at him. Srila Prabhupada captured his followers with a net of deep affection and mercy. It’s important for us, as his followers to keep such compassion in the center and not allow this movement to degrade into mechanical shows of religiosity.

    Mark has nicely cited a few statements from Srila Prabhupada illustrating the point of how Mahaprabhu’s movement is for everyone, sudras, and brahmanas alike. He has a good point: Rather then banning hugging, and setting up hidden cameras to capture offenders, we would be better off emphasizing the chanting of Hare Krishna.

    However, we should also listen to the voices of other devotees in this discussion: Aside from varnasram, there is another separate but also important consideration: What was the standard of behavior that Srila Prabhupada wanted for his disciples and followers living in the temples? For his institution of temples, book distribution, deity worship, and preaching; Srila Prabhupada wanted to a society of first-class brahmanas.

    As Suresh and Mark have pointed out, we should not hate devotees who may exhibit sudra like tendencies. At the same time surely Srila Prabhupada did not want our public behavior to be sudra like. A number of devotees in this discussion have pointed out that even married (what to speak of unmarried) men and women in high-class Indian society will not as much as hold hands in public. They have described how in Indian and Vaishnava society, for unmarried men and women to hug is considered very low-class and scandalous. This discussion will go nowhere if this later, valid concern, is also not given due consideration.

    To support the “conservative side”: Scratching our bottoms, picking our nose, or eating with the left hand is not good public behavior in our temples or in India. It would be considered offensive by many people and would bring a bad name to Srila Prabhupada. Yet free hugging between men and women is considered much more low class in Indian society than eating with your left hand etc.

    Srila Prabhupada was very compassionate and wanted to accommodate everyone, but at the same time he wanted his representatives to maintain strict standards of behavior. I suggest that he would be most pleased if we try to balance both of these considerations not neglecting one or the other. For the sake of our society I pray that we can carefully and respectfully consider each others opinions. There are valid points on both sides.

    Thank you. Hare Krishna.

  79. dayananda says :

    Whether to hug or not to hug is now 31,000 words long. Is hugging an important issue? I’m reminded of the Iranian revolution in 1979. The Iranian people had a litany of grievances, among them was that the Shah’s secret police had been torturing political opponents for years. The country was in turmoil and every member of the Shah’s family was in danger. Then, to my surprise I was told by a friend of the family that a couple members of the family had gone to Japan to a save-the-whales conference. I’ve always felt this was the height of irony.

    O.K. 500-1000, or 2000 words maximum, but 31,000?

  80. Mithuna Das says :

    This is a response to the collective comments after comment # 60. I am a little bit surprised that few of the devotees posting here are not advocating that the many problems we face in Krishna Consciousness at any instant in time is largely a function of how we have understood, and subsequently practiced Krishna Consciousness. At the beginning of our devotional life the Guru ( or His representative) should exactingly explain sambandha tattva to the prospective disciple and the latter should accept this with proper faith. The origin of materialism as a way of life and belief sytem cannot be traced out historically, but it is the product of our sensory experience of the world of phenomena in which false ego is the prime beneficiary. The cumulative experience of this modality over many lifetimes produces deep conditioning, and activities of asat trsna. The mind’s tendency to drag us in a direction opposite to krishna is underlain by the belief that we are this body, another product of materialism. The experience of problems associated with our wandering and disatisfied mind while even practicing KC is testimony to the fact that we are deeply bound by materialism. It is an erroneous idea that the mind is an independent agent ” bent on giving us trouble”. The mind is simply dragging us in the direction of asat trsna, making it difficult for us to chant the Holy Name or follow the basic injunctions of Vaishnava Dharma. Another very important part of this sambandha tattva is our real identity; despite what things look like in the world sensory phenomena , WE ARE REALLLY SPIRIT SOULS , ETERNAL SERVANT OF KRISHNA. In previous posts I mentioned that this eternal identity of ours is both INCONTROVERTIBLE and INALEINABLE. It cannot be overturned , nor can we be made fundamentally aleina to it. It is our inviolable right of our existence. We should take this understanding and LOCK IT AWAY WITHIN THE CORE OF OUR HEART ( NEVER, NEVER, NEVER LET IT OUT). However , acceptance of our real identity cannot be mechanically induced. We should qualify ourself by serving with the proper understanding of who we are and who is the real beneficiary of our servitude. We should also pray to Hari, Guru, Vaishnava to allow this acceptance to enter deeply within our hearts because we have no power to do it ourselves. The Lord will mercifully grant this. Although we should be prepared to do the needful it helps very much to meaningfully perform a service that is consistent with our psychophysical nature; this gives us a good opportunity to develop some steadiness in devotional service, and to experience the product of this steadiness. We should perform this service will all sincerity, because at anytime we sit down to chant the Holy Name we come before the Lord with a certain stock of love for the lord or lack of it, and we will chant with that adhikara; we cannot trick the Lord simply by some external adjustment at the time of chanting. After sometime, (especially if the false ego is not the prime beneficiary of the devotional endeavors) WE WILL NOTICE SEVERAL DISTINCT CHANGES IN OUR DEVOTIONAL SERVICE, AND LIFE. I can name a few here :1. there is a deepening joy within the heart which can last for days on end, 2.because the heart is becoming deeply satisfied THE SENSES ( INCLUDING THE SKIN AND GENITALS) become quiet. 3.The mind becomes extremely cooperative , and IT IS MUCH EASIER TO CHANT THE HOLY NAME , AND FOLLOW THE INJUNCTIONS OF THE SASTRA ( including no hugging , illicit sex, gambling, etc); infact we may impatiently anticipate spending time with Nama Prabhu. 4. There is a deeper appreciation of the value of Krishna Consciousness 5. More importantly , our thoughts begin to default towards to how to please ( by service Hari, Guru, Vaishnava). 6. Our motivation to perform the activities of devotional service becomes keen. This is the road out of anartha nivritti , and it leads to nishta and beyond.

    Again I submit that most of these problems we are referring can be traced back to improper understanding and susequent practice of Krishna Consciousness.
    For Suresh Prabhu, as fas as faith in the Holy Name I can tell of two persons whose lives was completely transformed by the Holy Name. I will mention only one because my post has been lengthy. There is this devotee now in his late thirties , who joined the Hre krishna Movement( ISKCON) in his early twenties. In his adolescence he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. he had two personalities that we both objective to him. One was that of a young girl, and the other was an adolesent male. He would dress as both persons, and would spontaneously switch personality. His family took him to therapy for many years with no success. A few years after joining the Hare Krishna movement the male person gradually became stable and primary. The implimentation of KC was the only major change he made in his life. I have asked him what happened , and He told me he was cured by Krishna ; neither does he have any flashbacks. Today , he is married devotee and he practices the brahminical culture.

    Hare Krishna

  81. Suresh das says :

    I have always sensed I needed soul food, maybe more desperately than the common man.

    Unfortunately for me a hug, although desired by me, would really satisfy me no more than a drop of water in the desert. There are many types of comfort foods of course, such as chocolate, but those foods still don’t bring me the kind of joy I hanker for, or alleviate despair. Jayananda Prabhu’s solution for all my problems was always “eat more Prasadam”, but when you get old, and have to live on a restricted diet, it isn’t possible just to eat your way out of sadness and despair anymore.

    I never knew there was anything abnormal about me, because I was insulated from mental suffering by the strength of the Krishna Conscious process and youth. A few years ago though, the misery I was enduring became unbearable, and I could no longer function normally. I went through psychological testing and therapy for several years to find out what I had. According to my doctor I have the severest case he has ever encountered. I can’t actually be treated by conventional drugs, and there isn’t anything they can do for me. For that reason I returned to Krishna Consciousness and took it more seriously than I had in the past. I remembered Srila Prabhupada said if you have a headache, instead of taking aspirin, chant Hare Krishna, so I thought I might try his advice and see if it could help me, since I had run out of options.

    Now I accept there are some things that chanting Hare Krishna probably won’t cure. No matter how much one chants there is little likelihood the blind will see, or a severed limb will ever grow back. I also don’t ever expect to be cured of mental illness from chanting. I have also found from experience that just because I know why I am suffering, that doesn’t mean that now all my suffering is magically gone, or that I can make it go away, or that I am now permanently cured. But I have increased my chanting and I feel much more peace thankfully. If there were no peace from the chanting of Hare Krishna though, then all would be lost.

    I also really savor the few moments I enjoy of happiness and peace now. My doctor told me my condition would worsen with each passing year, and that I could expect to suffer to greater and greater degrees. It is like having a terminal illness. You know there is no cure, so you have to use the moments of peace, between the episodes, to do the most important thing at every moment. The type of condition I have makes me repeat things over and over incessantly – perfect for chanting Hare Krishna. The problem for me though is I really don’t want to be a devotee. I am only surrendering because I am forced. As soon as I feel better, I go back to material consciousness, and immediately forget Krishna. Probably for me then, because I am such a rebel, I get additional and constant suffering.

    I remember back when I was in Sunday school around age 6. At that time they were teaching us about the life of Jesus. I thought at that time how when I grew up I wanted to be just like Jesus (a traveling mendicant and preacher). I got my wish when I met Srila Prabhupada. Unfortunately his conception of “just like Jesus” meant being Jesus-like 24/7/365, at every moment, for the rest of my life – whoa too much Jesus for me!

    All of us should desire and aspire to be hugged though, but in the proper way – hugged by God:

  82. Mithuna Das says :

    This is response to comment # 81 by HG Suresh Das. Thank you for sharing so much about yourself, and I wish somehow I can help you. You do have some significant realizations; you said “I have also found from experience that just because I know why I am suffering, that doesn’t mean that now all my suffering is magically gone, or that I can make it go away, or that I am now permanently cured.” This remind s me of my own pre Kc days when I belonged to an academic community that accepted the philosophic conclusions of theoretical physics. According to that community, our identity is that of ” the most probabilistic fluctuation in a quantum mechanical field.” But there was no objective standard of what that entity was , and what to do to attain it, and what does attaining it mean. While all foolishly thinking we had the highest knowledge ,in the actual disposition of life we just suffering condition souls.
    However , there is something in your understanding of KC that is worth examining; you said”The problem for me though is I really don’t want to be a devotee. I am only surrendering because I am forced. As soon as I feel better, I go back to material consciousness, and immediately forget Krishna.” Real sambhanda tattva means accepting that the living entity is an eternal servant of Krishna. If we IN FACT ACCEPT this inviolable vedic axion , how can we ” ..really dont want to be a devotee..”?
    If you try to understand KC properly , and you continue chanting and serving your happiness will increase; But the motivation for serving should not just be because we want to be happy, but it should be based knowledge of our real identity. When this knowledge becomes a little rooted in us we will easily rise above the duality of happiness ( or its opposite) , and we will remain steady in krishna Consciousness.

  83. Suresh das says :

    All of us should desire and aspire to be hugged though, but in the proper way – hugged by God:

    “The heart of King Yudhisthira melted with affection when he saw his dear most friend, Lord Krishna, after such a long separation, and he embraced the Lord again and again. The eternal form of Lord Krishna is the everlasting residence of the goddess of fortune. As soon as King Yudhisthira embraced Him, the King became free of all the contamination of material existence. He immediately felt transcendental bliss and merged in an ocean of happiness. There were tears in his eyes, and his body shook due to ecstasy. He completely forgot that he was living in this material world.” Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.71.25-26

  84. Mithuna Das says :

    Thank You for that wonderful post in comment #83. However , our aspiration should match our adhikara for the thing we are desiring. Those who FACTUALLY DESIRE to have such intimate contact with Krishna are situated at the stage of Bhava and beyond. Those of us who are struggling with the feeling of ” not wanting to be a devotee” would do well to focus on getting the basics right. Like I mentioned in previous posts we should try our utmost best ( supplicating Hari, Guru, Vaisnava as well) to fully accept that I AM spirit soul , eternal servant of krishna.To the extent that this becomes rooted in our heart, to that extent also this idea of ” not really wanting to be a devotee” will go away. The we will progressively climb from anartha nrivitti, to nishta, ruci, asakti,and bhava. From the platform of bhava it is appropriate to desire to hug krishna( which is the privy of the premi bhakta). In our Rupanuga line, the immature desire to touch or be touched by the Lord is not advocated.

  85. Suresh das says :

    The original purpose of this article was to encourage a ban on hugging or touching of the opposite sex in public by devotees. I regret if I have committed an offense by displaying an incident where Krishna hugged one of His pure devotees, from Srimad Bhagavatam.

    My only purpose was to encourage devotees to, instead of hugging or touching each other, aspire to one day be touched by God. This touching of Lord Krishna might be millions of lifetimes away for me. I didn’t mean it had to happen tomorrow or next week. But, if we can’t ever hope to be touched by Krishna, or be in a relationship with Him at any time in the future, it might be difficult for people in general, and devotees in particular, to ever accept the Bhakti Yoga process.

  86. Mithuna Das says :

    Thank You Suresh Das. One point repeated in my previous posts was that if KC is properly understood( and subsequently practiced), some obvious effects included a very deep satisfaction with our heart( and a corollary quietening of the senses , including the skin and the genitals). In such a state the need to be hugged by a member of the opposite sex ( or any person ) is not at all an issue. I thus advocated that devotees ( and new comers as well) should practice at a level consistent with their adikhara. So for all of us beginners we should be concentrating on getting the basics right. Aspiring for an exalted thing such as touching the Lord is the perogative for someone at the level of bhava; the actual hugging takes place on the platform of prema.
    There is some danger in aspiring for such intimacy in the immature stage. I personally know of a few devotees who have given up our Rupanuga line, and has taken up the path of traditional Vaisnavism. The emphasis of the practice here is on Lila smaranam , a teaching coming down from Gopal Guru Goswami through Vrakeshwar Pandita ( associate of Lord Chaitanya); in their system the practicing devotees have already been given the 11 points of their spiritual identity ( including name). However, it is highly questionable whether or not these persons are qualified to enter the Lord’s lila in the preliminary stage. Those who have a tendency to take things cheaply or ( be escapist) may be easily led away from the path given by Srila Prabhupada. This self deception may originate with the simple desire to hug the Lord, while we are still very much tainted by materialsim.