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A sober reply to Mother Govinda Dasi ACBSP

Tuesday, 04 December 2012 / Published in Articles / 6,807 views

By Govindacharan Dasi BTS

This essay is a humble response to an article posted at

Mataji Govinda Dasi ACBSP is one of the seniormost ISKCON members and thus worthy of respect by all. She has feelingfully expressed her views on the female guru issue, citing her perception of Srila Prabhupada as she knew him among the hippies in the late 1960s. However, a more complete and unambiguous understanding of Srila Prabhupada can be had only by studying his overall teachings, and particularly, as he much emphasized, by reading his books. SP’s instructions recorded within his books need no adjustments, confirmation, and interpretation from the perceptive evidence quoted by many of SP’s senior disciples who got lot of direct association of SP’s vapu and vani. If SP’s written instructions in his classical works are interpreted according to the personal experiences of these SP disciples esp. like H.G. Govindadasi Mataji (who received ample direct association of SP when she served as His Divine Grace’s secretary for about six months), then the autonomous nature of SP’s written instructions in his books become subservient to the observation and interpretation by his direct disciples, which will create total chaos because even SP’s direct disciples are seen in mutual discord on several issues. This is corroborated due to the below mentioned analysis:

“The most imperatively erroneous ideology to be addressed herein, is the one which mistakenly promulgates the rather autonomous and self-sufficient nature of SP’s precepts i.e. guru-vāṇī as complementary to and dependant on the so-called ‘vaiduṣa-pratakṣa’ i.e. sensually perceptive testimony of SP’s direct disciples. Factually deliberating, the practical experiences of SP’s direct disciples should be counted as supplementary to SP’s direct precepts found in his writings and not as complementary. And only when those realizations of SP’s disciples are found in full harmony to SP’s direct literary compositions esp. books, should they be reckoned as complementary to SP’s mood and instructions. Otherwise, the grave fault of marking SP’s direct sermons as incomplete, dependant, and complementary will arise and thereby destroy self-sufficient autocratic status of SP’s gospels.If SP’s precepts are labelled as complementary to the practical realizations of his direct pupils, then, since (i) those revelations of all SP disciples are mutually contrary as seen on numerous occasions; (ii) not all revelations of his disciples are available in a recorded form and many of his direct disciples have attained demise; (iii) if there are present many disciples who are fostering valuable revelations in the core of their hearts, their comprehensions are subject to possible flaws on the basis of the uncertainty of their existence on the bhāva-bhakti level and hence cannot be appropriately designated as ‘vaiduṣa-pratyakṣa’; – conclusively, such a dependant exposition of SP’s direct teachings would also become subject to the same triple flawed limiting adjuncts as enumerated above. And as a secondary outcome, SP’s direct tuitions would not be fully grasped without the accompaniment of his direct disciples’ revelations and since, those full revelations will not be available to all in the future generation of devotees to come, they (i.e. future generation of devotees) will be left wholly bereft of self-realization. If the same fallacious argument is applied to the medieval literature of the six gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana, then even the full import of that cannot be apprehended by us i.e. in the contemporary age, because not all the direct revelations of the contemporary associates of the six gosvāmīs are obtainable to us; what to speak of that, even the names of all the direct disciples and associates of the six gosvāmīs are not accessible to us. Therefore, pursuing the said mistaken doctrine proclaiming the deficient and complementary nature of SP’s direct instructions, would in end produce no beneficial everlasting consequence; hence, we are impelled to admit the absolutely sovereign stature of SP’s legacy. For the same reason, any pro-FDG interpretation done by SP’s any direct disciple based on his/her sensual perception of SP’s dealings during his manifest pastimes, and necessitating SP’s directly written and spoken affirmations to be alignment to his/her ‘vaiduṣa-pratyakṣa’, shall constitute a fundamentally momentous blunder in approach totally unforgiveable. Also, the sensually perceptive testimony of certain SP’s disciples cannot be given preferential recognition either excelling or equalling to the actual hierarchically evaluated conclusion derived from the multifariously categorised sermons of SP i.e. the testimony of SP’s direct apostles can only be accepted as supplementary to the recorded sermons of SP and vice versa i.e. not as complementary. Hence, only compatible and congruent testimony of SP’s direct disciples can be acknowledged to favour the precise interpretation of SP’s teachings and legacy; or else, the incompatible testimony to the conclusive interpretation of SP’s gospels should be utterly abandoned, as also proven during the analysis of the above conversation; it can’t be permitted to supersede the paramount rank of SP’s directly issued precepts i.e. ‘guru-vāṇī’. It is as so, due to the imperfections and/or absence of an equivalent perfected position to that of SP, found characterising his direct disciples. “

Since, SP’s directly composed instructions found within the celebrated Bhaktivedanta Purports to S.B. 4.12.32 (which is considered the highest hierarchically based evidence superseding SP’s precepts found in evidences of inferior category like informal conversations, lectures and private letters etc. – this excludes formal documents and ordinances given through official letters addressed to TPs and GBCs) strictly, uncompromisingly, and specifically prohibit the allowance of FDGs within ISKCON, Mother Govinda Dasi’s faulty interpretation of SP’s desires (based on the strength of her direct association of SP’s vapu) in connection to the FDG issue is exposed. The excerpt from S.B. 4.12.32 is again quoted below:

“Dhruva had a feeling of obligation to his mother, Suniti. It was Suniti who had given him the clue which had now enabled him to be personally carried to the Vaikuntha planet by the associates of Lord Visnu. He now remembered her and wanted to take her with him. Actually, Dhruva Maharaja’s mother, Suniti, was his patha-pradarsaka-guru. Patha-pradarsaka-guru means “the guru, or the spiritual master, who shows the way.” Such a guru is sometimes called siksa-guru. Although Narada Muni was his diksa-guru (initiating spiritual master), Suniti, his mother, was the first who gave him instruction on how to achieve the favor of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is the duty of the siksa-guru or diksa-guru to instruct the disciple in the right way, and it depends on the disciple to execute the process. According to sastric injunctions, there is no difference between siksa-guru and diksa-guru, and generally the siksa-guru later on becomes the diksa-guru. Suniti, however, being a woman, and specifically his mother, could not become Dhruva Maharaja’s diksa-guru.

>>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 4.12.32

Note: It is interesting to consider the fact that all other instructions superficially supporting FDG ideology are not found within such first-class evidence as Puports to S.B. or any other classical literature commented upon by SP. Hence, those pro-FDG instructions are weakened during confrontation with S.B. 4.12.32’s purport.

Another evidence can be cited to substantiate our point presented above. The hierarchically superlative rank of the July 9th, 1977 directive letter of SP, addressed to all T.P.s and G.B.C.s. The said ordinance letter is the last officially given direction by SP in regards to the future method of initiation to be followed by the coming generations in ISKCON.

Though the contemporary exponents of the deviated PSPT ideology (misnamed as the current so-called ritviks as represented by IRM & other related groups), have a different interpretation to that of the ISKCON G.B.C.’s Z.A.S. & M.A.S.S. ideologies, nonetheless, the common ground (i.e. that which both the parties viz., IRM & ISKCON G.B.C. accept on a general basis) affirming the proxy nature of the said eleven apostles of SP at least till the duration of SP’s mortal demise, have to be accepted. Since, the currently existing G.B.C. law accepts the proxy nature of the said eleven apostles of SP at least till SP’s demise, hence, the analysis will commence henceforward.

As legitimately illustrated in the very ordinance letter, SP had himself given the list of eleven disciples who shall be acting in that capacity. Since, the said ordinance is the last directive in the matter of initiation process to be continued in ISKCON even after the physical demise of SP, the enumeration of the eleven disciples has been done by SP under a sound mind and with a long term vision in focus. Therefore, SP even mentions the nomenclatures of two house-holder apostles who would be working in that direction, keeping in mind that future dīkṣā-gurus in ISKCON should include the grihastha ācāryas as well. If SP truly, practically, and ultimately had a desire of including some of his selected senior female disciples like Malatidasi, Govindadasi, Jadurani Dasi, and Jamunadasi etc., then he would have certainly mentioned them. If SP didn’t deem proper even the appointment of female disciples to work in that capacity (as a mere proxy till his demise), how can the future implementation of the FDG ideology be considered as full in harmony with SP’s lastly expressed intentions?

Srila Prabhupada was very liberal with the hippies and did not introduce many rules, not because the hippies were highly advanced, but because they were highly undisciplined. Loose mixing of the sexes was the norm, and Srila Prabhupada did not try to much restrict them, although he did get his disciples married rather than let them live in sin.

As a great paramahamsa, Srila Prabhupada was certainly above all gender distinctions. But seeing many of his disciples unable to rise above hippie mentality, he became more strict, and gradually introduced structured sadhana and various prohibitions. Of course, these do not constitute the essence of Krsna consciousness, but they are necessary for all but fully liberated devotees (who also generally follow such sastric injunctions, to set an example for others).

In accord with statements in Srila Prabhupada’s books condemning “unrestricted mixing” between the sexes, his leaders started to implement gender segregation and distinction, as are necessary for actual human civilization. Unfortunately an old wives’ tale has gained currency, that gender distinctions became prominent in ISKCON due to the machinations of some macho sannyasis, and that Srila Prabhupada was either unaware of everything that was going on around him, or that he was incapable of educating and disciplining his leading disciples.

Some of Mataji Govinda Dasi’s arguments adopt the standard feminist rhetoric that everything bad comes from men and that women are morally superior. However, this contention is neither according to sastra or Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, nor does it match observable reality (just now a German female bishop is in the news, having been arrested for drunken driving).

Again, all respect is due to Mataji Govinda Dasi. Yet her views in this article may have serious problems in both premises and reasoning.


Govindacharandasi BTS


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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I am curious as to whom Govindacharan is quoting in the Original Post above regarding the hierarchy of authority of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions. It is an interesting issue. I think the author makes good points but takes an overly formal and legalistic approach. I agree that Srila Prabhupada’s books are the “gold standard” of pramana in understanding his teachings, but his own example is also important.

    There are many factors to be considered, including the reliability of testimony (did Srila Prabhupada really say/do that?), the provenance or authenticity of documents (was that letter actually composed by Srila Prabhupada?), the ambiguity of the evidence (even a given passage from Srila Prabhupada’s books often may be reasonably interpreted in different ways), considerations of context (was this instruction given due to exigencies of place, time or circumstance?)

    Mainly, we understand Srila Prabhupada through devotional service to him and purification of our intelligence, mind and senses. It is not exactly an analytical or forensic enterprise, although the result should be clear understanding of Srila Prabhupada’s words and exemplary acts.

    Also, there is something to be said for approaching Srila Prabhupada’s teachings through disciplic succession. Srila Prabhupada will live forever through his books, but those who approach his books merely academically, without taking up the process of devotional service described in the books, will not develop the proper receptivity of heart to understand his writings clearly.

    “Srila Prabhupada was very liberal with the hippies and did not introduce many rules, not because the hippies were highly advanced, but because they were highly undisciplined.”

    Sure, but not only hippies are undisciplined. Pretty much everybody these days is highly undisciplined measured by pre-kali yuga standards or even by standards of brahminical culture of recent memory. Srila Prabhupada succeeded in spreading Krishna consciousness in the west, where others had failed. Desa, kala and patra are still with us.

    Yes, Srila Prabhupada began leniently and gradually introduced more social restrictions, we should not discount the continued need for the right amount of leniency and flexibility in preaching Lord Caitanya’s message. I also believe there is some truth to the idea that “macho sannyasis” tried to impose restrictions on women’s participation in ISKCON that were not approved by him.

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Regarding the passage about Suniti, it does say that she was his siksa guru and that there is no difference between siksa and diksa gurus.

    It also says she could not become Dhruva Maharaja’s diksa guru because she was a woman and his mother. It does not say directly that no women can ever under any circumstances be anyone’s diksa guru, but it does indicate that there are social considerations regarding who can act as diksa guru. For example, in more recent times, Bhaktivinode Thakur did not initiate his son, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur Prabhupada, considering that one should not become the diksa guru of one’s child.

    We know that considerations of caste are not absolute prohibitions on who may serve as diksa gurus. Many believe that a guru must be born in a brahmana family, or a family of caste goswamis, or of seminal descendants from some particular avatara, but in ISKCON it is clear that such rigid considerations do not apply. Great devotees like Narottama Das Thakur and Srila Prabhupada himself were not born in brahmana families and yet are accepted by our acaryas as bona fide diksa gurus.

    It seems that the main, universal principle is that whoever actually knows the science of Krishna is a guru. This is the pronouncement of Lord Caitanya, which Srila Prabhupada often quoted. The important consideration is spiritual, internal. Can this person actually connect me to the parampara and grant me entrance into the understanding and divine service of Krishna?

    But social considerations are also there for proper functioning of society. It is better for the morals of humanity if men and women do not mix freely, if we are very careful about the proximity between butter and fire

    Yet, the international preacher understands that not every culture has the same customs regarding restricted interaction between men and women. Also, as with caste by birth, economic class, race, nationality, political connections, etc., increasingly throughout the world, strictly assigned social roles for women are suspect. Modern egalitarian sensibilities are very attuned to the dangers of injustice and exploitation of the weak by the strong. Part of being a tolerant preacher is to know when and how to explain the compartmentalized social rules of varnasrama dharma without offending such sensibilities, and to appreciate and properly adjust internal and external considerations, as Srila Prabhupada did.

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    For some reason the issue of whether women can serve as initiating gurus seems to have become the big, controversial topic of the day.

    Those opposed raise two main concerns:

    The first seems to be that it will be rare for a woman to actually have the necessary qualifications. When Srila Prabhupada told Prof. O’Connell, “Yes, but not so many,” he seemed to be saying that the actual qualifications of having the necessary realization, knowledge, detachment, etc. for serving as guru are rarely found even in men, and much more rarely in women.

    The second concern seems to be that women serving as gurus in ISKCON will not set a good example of woman’s dharma, will cause ISKCON to be held in disrepute by those who favor promotion of Vedic dharma by violating traditional roles of women in conservative Hindu society, and may even cause scandals by bringing the women gurus into contact with the corrupting influences of fame, power, wealth and honor.

    Yet Srila Prabhupada’s most direct statements on the subject indicate that it is possible for women to serve as initiating gurus, and that he wanted his female disciples to do so.

    As for the first concern, it is an embarrassing fact that even among the men serving as gurus in ISKCON there have been scandals, suggesting that higher qualifications of those serving as initiating gurus is needed. Those having the actual qualifications of being humble, faithful, honest and pure devotees, capable of keeping themselves safe from corrupting influences, are rare even among men. That does not mean, however, that no women will be up to the task. Because many qualified gurus are needed, if some women are found who are actually qualified and can serve successfully, we should not artificially restrict them.

    The second concern is strenuously asserted by those opposed to women gurus, and should be taken seriously. These may be external, social considerations, but such considerations are important. Still, it seems (e.g., from Srila Prabhupada’s letter to Malati) that if we are careful we can have women gurus without destroying morality. I expect they will have mostly female disciples, and they will teach Vedic dharma in accordance with Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, and they will have practical experience of practicing bhakti yoga as women in the modern world, with all that entails.

    Being too socially rigid can hurt preaching efforts by falsely making us appear aligned with conservative materialists.

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    Patita Pavana ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Frankly. I cannot fathom from which corner of the Universe this article has originated. First the author writes that she is replying to “Govinda Dasi ACBSP”. For the kind information of the author, Shrimati Govinda dasi Mataji never writes her name with the initials of the exalted spiritual master following her name. The divine name of the pure devotee His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is not meant to be worn as a title or degree as one may tack PhD after one’s name to increase one’s profile, rank and prestige. Next, the author refers to Shrila Prabhupada with a casualness that can only be regarded as shocking or even offensive. A genuine disciple or in this case grand-disciple never refers to his spiritual master by his initials as this writer has with her repeated use of “SP”. When did Shrila Prabhupada ever refer to the Six Goswamis as the 6G’s or his own spiritual master by his initials.? Never. I do not know how such violations of Vaishnava etiquette make it beyond the respected team of Dandavats editors. For a genuine disciple this casual initial business just isn’t done.

    Next the author appears to have some sort of crystal ball and can see the past because the author somehow knows that Govinda Dasi was some mere hippie for whom Shrila Prabhupada had to bend the rules of the sampradaya. That is another blunder because Govinda Dasi as Bonnie McElroy was never a hippie. She was a pious young lady as straight-laced as they come who went off to college in Texas. She may have meditated later in Golden Gate Park in 67, but that does not qualify one as a hippie. There may have been many hippies who became devotees, but she came from a different demographic. Mother Govinda Dasi was a skilled and accomplished artist who had spent years of discipline perfecting her rare abilities. Shrila Prabhupada appreciated her abilities and by his divine order her excellent and captivating pen and inks adorned the covers of the earliest Back To Godhead magazines in America. as well as the first edition of Teachings of Lord Chaitanya.

    When I was initiated in 68 Shrimati Govinda Dasi was Shrila Prabhupada’s secretary. His Divine Grace gave her a saffron / yellowish sari of solid colour that spoke of devotion. To me, an observant disciple, the message was obvious. His Divine Grace wanted women to give their lives to preaching Krishna consciousness. And that is what a guru does, he or she preaches.


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    Patita Pavana ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Govinda Dasi tells of an instance wherein the devotees wrote a glorification of Shrila Prabhupada that didn’t exactly hit the mark. They wrote “This man has saved the world.” Shrila Prabhupada did not like this characterization. After all, the first thing devotees tell outsiders is “You are not your man or woman body.” So how can someone who thinks he is a man save the world? Similarly, and this is my spin, there can be no woman guru since a guru is transcendental to this body. However, if a spiritually realized personality appears in a body of a man, woman or even child, then that position is absolute. Guru is not created by a body of legislatures. Guru is self realized and that means that a spiritual master is understand his position as Krishna dasa dasa dasanaudasa. I do not know why there is so much misunderstanding over this issue as it seems very plain and simple to me. There will come a time very soon when qualified women who are spiritually-conscious step forward and take this huge burden on their shoulders by the grace and order of Shrila Prabhupada. I simply pray that the GBC recognizes those devotees in both male and female bodies who are actually qualified through realization and tapasya and nothing else. This movement simply cannot weather any more individuals who seek the post due to a sense of self-prestige which contradicts everything a humble Vaishnava preceptor stands for. One who sits upon the Vyasa Asan must be the representative of Shri Vyasa both in learning and in character. A guru’s post is not dependent upon his disciples. His Divine Grace Shrila Gaura Kishore das Babaji Maharaja had one disciple and he was certainly a guru long before he gave the lovely name Varasvanabidebidayitayadasa to Shri Shrimad Bimala Prasad Dutt, later the Acharya of the entire Gaudiya Sampradaya for the first half of the Twentieth Century His Divine Grace Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur.

    I will close by offering my thanks to Mother Govinda Dasi for her thoughtful and well-considered article.

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    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Part One:

    It is usually accepted that Srila Prabhupada’s books are our primary source of evidence or pramana. The often quoted, “Suniti, however, being a woman, and specifically his mother, could not become Dhruva Maharaja’s diksa-guru,” cannot be dismissed. When this is put into context of:

    “I want that all of my spiritual sons and DAUGHTERS will inherit this title of Bhaktivedanta, so that the family transcendental diploma will continue through the generations. Those possessing the title of Bhaktivedanta will be allowed to INITIATE disciples. Maybe by 1975, all of my disciples will be allowed to INITIATE and increase the numbers of the generations. That is my program” (Letter to Hamsaduta on Jan 3, 1969), then the relevance to modern times opens up possibilities.

    Clearly, the possibilities exist while citing the former and latter quotes. Those possibilities can be stretched or pursued according to traditional or progressive views. If we were to attribute ‘absolute’ status to one or other of these quotes, which one shall it be? Obviously, the former quote is general, intended for the millions who read that passage. The latter, although specific to one disciple, also had a general intent.

    That optimistic general intent of the latter quote did not manifest, and it may still be a matter of time before this ideal institutionalises. It was a plan yet to fully manifest. Here we have an authoritative quotation which is more liquid, subjected to circumstantial feasibility. Would this carry the same weight as the former quotation? Clearly not…

    The problem we have is that both sides of the lady guruship argument quote valid arguments. We can imagine the difficulty for the GBC when reaching a conclusion on the matter. Their decision will also be swayed eventually by the strongest case in view of multi-strata considerations.

    If indecision is delaying final implementation of FDG policy, what recourse do we take? To err on the side of caution, which means sticking to tradition – at least the strength of history can ensure some safety. Or to oblige persistent pressure to accede to FDG demands, which entails risk on social and PR levels, because we have never ventured this far yet.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

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    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Part Two:

    Weighing up the two options – which would be more pleasing to Srila Prabhupada and our previous acaryas? Have we considered where such pressure is coming from? Is our collective tendency to ‘change’ things responsible? Does this ‘change’ compare favourably with proven historic veracity?

    Is it not worth knowing, that historical veracity also has futuristic possibilities? History becomes the future. The messages of Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-Gita are, far from being antiquated metaphors and intransigent rigidity, are future messages of divine stability for society and the self.

    Can this stability be compromised because we are a ‘preaching’ mission? Are we not cool enough with our present range of preaching strategies to attract the world? Will it be extra chic to make that ‘change’ to lady guruship to cause mind numbing sensations for an indifferent public?

    Can we not also consider that Iskcon has certain strengths that people are attracted to. Our minimum is 16 rounds and not 4 rounds as found in other groupings. Our 4 regs are awe inspiring and admired by appreciative people. Our comparative adherence to tradition is general admired. Is there a possibility of ‘changing’ to FDG’s weakening these strengths?

    I am posing numerous questions precisely because both sides of the FDG issue present them. Numerous questions will complicate matters when homing in on final decisions. Whether we allow FDG’s to function, or not, we will still be left with embitterment from either side. Faced with this inevitability, it would be safer to retain time-tested solidity as revealed in the former quotation, as opposed to a potentially movable, liquid situation brought about by motivated change.

    Again, I am open to persuasion…

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

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    Sita Rama 108 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    In the above article we read:

    [Suniti, however, being a woman, and specifically his mother, could not become Dhruva Maharaja’s diksa-guru.”
    >>> Ref. VedaBase => SB 4.12.32
    Note: It is interesting to consider the fact that all other instructions superficially supporting FDG ideology are not found within such first-class evidence as Puports to S.B. or any other classical literature commented upon by SP. Hence, those pro-FDG instructions are weakened during confrontation with S.B. 4.12.32’s purport.]
    The best evidence we have regarding whether women can be Guru’s, or any other issue, is Srila Prabhupada’s direct answer to the question. Which is:
    “Yei krsna-tattva-vetta sei guru haya [Cc. Madhya 8.128]. The qualification of guru is that he must be fully cognizant of the science of Krsna. Then he or she can become guru. Yei krsna-tattva-vetta, sei guru haya” See:
    Srila Prabhupada quotes Cc Madhya 8,128 numerous times in his purports. And, in case there is any confusion, he explains here that it indicates women can be Guru’s. I see Srila Prabhupada’s spoken comments about the meaning of a verse to be valid, and not superficial. As claimed in the article above.
    When asked the question Srila Prabhupada had the choice of referring to the standard during previous ages or to the Avatara for this age. He choose to refer to Lord Catianya’s instruction on this issue and I will follow his, and the Lords footsteps. The instructions of the Yuga Avatara and the Acharya are to be given more weight than external social/political traditions.
    ISKCON is an preaching movement,we can offer people the highest thing, eternal bliss. When we emphasize external ethics we fail to distinguish ourselves from social organizations. We can all be quite sure that we have no ability to compete with social clubs in external things.. Emphasizing the external is the beginning of the end.

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    chaturatma ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I am continually intrigued by the pages and pages of redundant conversation about this issue. Two simple points clarify the whole issue.

    1) We are not the bodies but are given/receive services according to our qualifications
    2) Does anyone bother to look at our sampradaya? Chaitanya literature shows repeated examples of female gurus.

    These would seem to end the debate.

    Your servant,
    Chaturatma dasa

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    acyutadasa.nrs ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    My respectful obeisances to the (virtually) assembled Vaishnavas. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. All glories to Sri Gaudiya Vaishnava Guru-parampara.

    I don’t believe it has yet been mentioned that the GBC’s Sastric Advisory Council has already (nearly ten years past) completed an investigation of this issue. It is available here:

    I urge all devotees interested in this topic to take the time to read it.

    Among the many interesting points (including their cautious but clear support of female diksa-gurus in ISKCON), I would like to highlight two:

    (1) “Furthermore, in order to ensure that all sides of the topic were properly represented, SAC accepted a temporary member representing Vaishnavas raised in Bharata where one might question the propriety of female devotees as gurus due to cultural background.”

    As has been repeatedly mentioned, devotees born and raised in Western cultures should be cautious that their position on this issue is not influenced by the cultural norms to which they have grown accustomed – we should be careful that the cultural prevalence of “feminism” and social equality does not prejudice us toward emotionally favoring the possibility of women gurus. At the same time, devotees born and raised in more “traditional” cultures should be equally cautious that their specific cultural conditioning does not keep them from soberly and dispassionately exploring the possibility of female diksa-gurus. Cultural conditioning is never transcendental.

    (2) To echo Chaturatma Prabhu’s comment above, and to respond to another frequent objection against women gurus, please note that the SAC paper gives five examples of female diksa-gurus from the time of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. While some object that Jahnava-devi is the lone example of a woman guru in our line, it stands to reason that if there are at least four more of her female contemporaries that also gave diksa, then there are likely more that have not been recorded in the scriptures. That is to say, for every male guru on the level of a Madhavendra Puri or a Lokanatha Goswami, are there not hundreds more whose names have been lost to history? Why should we not expect that the same is true in the case of women gurus?

    Your servant,

    Acyuta Dasa

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    acyutadasa.nrs ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    It is also worth noting the GBC’s official response to the findings of the Sastric Advisory Council:

    “425. Female Diksa Guru
    The GBC accepts the basic philosophical conclusion presented in the SAC’s Female Diksa Guru Paper, i.e. that a mature, qualified, female devotee may accept the role of an initiating spiritual master. The implementation thereof is pending further GBC consideration.”

    (Cited from the GBC resolutions for 2005:

  12. 0
    acyutadasa.nrs ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    And again in 2009 (

    “305. Female Diksa Gurus

    [Action Order]

    Whereas there is a factual need for more diksa-gurus in ISKCON to accommodate the worldwide preaching;

    Whereas there are mature female preachers qualified to take on diksa-guru responsibilities;

    Whereas there are a number of such qualified women who already have siksa disciples;

    Whereas the GBC Body previously issued the following statement in 2005, which has now been given further consideration:

    425. Female Diksa Guru

    The GBC accepts the basic philosophical conclusion presented in the SAC’s Female Diksa Guru Paper, i.e. that a mature, qualified, female devotee may accept the role of an initiating spiritual master. The implementation thereof is pending further GBC consideration.


    1. That resolution 425/2005 – Female Diksa Guru is amended to read as follows:

    The GBC accepts the philosophical conclusion presented in the SAC’s Female Diksa Guru Paper that a mature, qualified, female devotee may accept the role of an initiating spiritual master.

    2. The GBC Body authorizes local area committees to put forward for approval as initiating guru any devotee in their area, male or female, who is qualified according to existing GBC Law.”

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Does anyone know why there is such a flurry of articles and debates about women becoming diksa gurus in ISKCON at this time? It seems as though this issue was already decided by the GBC back in 2005. Has something happened to stir this pot up lately? It is not just on Dandavats, but in other blog sites, all of a sudden people are talking and arguing about this issue. What gives?

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    kavicandra swami ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Both read the Bible day and night, but thou read black where I read white.
    William Blake

    I was angry with my friend: I told my wrath, my wrath did end. I was angry with my foe: I told it not, my wrath did grow.
    William Blake

    ” The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind. ”

    ” Great things are done when men and mountains meet. This is not done by jostling in the street. ”

    I mean these just to stimulate some thinking “outside of the box”., niot as absolute truths

    Of he said many things which we cannot agree with, but taking good advice from a fool is OK.

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    yuga_avatar_das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    So yes there was female gurus in one of our” feeder ” caste brahmana lines,however in reality Saraswati Takura maharaja do not include them in our siksa bhagavata parampara.So yes amongst the hundreds of diksa gurus there were a few females whom carried the mantra,but were unimportant.Since I found this rather technical information within our Sri Chaitanya Saraswati Matha ,His divine grace Srila Sridhar maharaja also comments that they were unimportant,because they did not add to our siksa bhagavata line.

    However my concern is not that wether they should be guru or not,but that when they become gurus ,we allow keeping stri dharma …in the forefront for women.

    VEDIC CULTURE means women are never given independence….So female gurus need to serve through a male,husband,oldest son,or temple president,never independent,if iskcon offers or allows independent mendicant widows to parade around the world ,a sad facsimilie of sanyasini in essence ,well we enter the sahajiya /imitationist spectre,a fatal deviation in my humble opinion.

  16. 0
    Bhaktilata dasi ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Re: #9

    Chaturatma Prabhu wrote:

    2) Does anyone bother to look at our sampradaya? Chaitanya literature shows repeated examples of female gurus.

    These would seem to end the debate.

    Could you please provide with some examples Prabhu. When Srila Prabhupada was asked about female gurus he was hard pressed to even think of one, Jahnavamata. So I am wondering who all these female diksa gurus are that you are referring to.

    Bhaktilata dd

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    Somayaji ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Acyuta Prabhu wrote:

    I don’t believe it has yet been mentioned that the GBC’s Sastric Advisory Council has already (nearly ten years past) completed an investigation of this issue.

    Dear Prabhu,

    Though not available as a download there is a paper commissioned by the Indian RGB that resoundingly rebuts the SAC paper. It is widely distributed on the net in different locations. If you google “A Reply to the GBC Action Order 305 (2009)” including the “” you get about 900 results on the SERP.

    To quote you “I urge all devotees interested in this topic to take the time to read it.”


  18. 0
    Shyamasundara Dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    In #2

    Akrurarnatha Prabhu said:

    For example, in more recent times, Bhaktivinode Thakur did not initiate his son, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur Prabhupada, considering that one should not become the diksa guru of one’s child.

    There is no sastra pramana that says a father cannot initiate his son. This is simply an assumption. I know of several members of Sri Sampradaya, very orthodox vaisnava brahmanas, who were initiated by their fathers. In Krsna’s Vedic civilization this system is called svayam acarya. I just got off the phone with Muralidhar Bhattar one of the chief archakas in Srirangam and he told me just now that he got his panca samskara (vaisnava diksha) from his own father Sriman Rangaraja Bhattar who was chief archaka of Srirangam (and a great friend of ISKCON). Aside from this living tradition there is statement in Srimad Bhagavatam about Jada Bharata’s father teaching his son the gayatri mantra.

    “Jada Bharata behaved before his father like a fool, despite his father’s adequately instructing him in Vedic knowledge. He behaved in that way so that his father would know that he was unfit for instruction and would abandon the attempt to instruct him further. He would behave in a completely opposite way. Although instructed to wash his hands after evacuating, he would wash them before. Nonetheless, his father wanted to give him Vedic instructions during the spring and summer. He tried to teach him the Gayatri mantra along with omkara and vyahrti, but after four months, his father still was not successful in instructing him. Srima Bhagavatam 5.9.6

    This clearly shows that his father was his guru. It is the diksa guru who teaches the gayatri mantra.

    Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura had his own reasons for wanting BSST to take initiation from Gaura Kishore Dasa babaji. But it is purely a (wrong) speculation that he didn’t initiate his son because of the father-son relationship. Perhaps he wanted to teach BSST humility for in BSST’s own words his rejection by Gaura Kishore dasa babaji had a profound effect on him. Here he was a great scholar rejected by an illiterate man who could not even sign his own name. But this also is speculation on my part. We will never really know why BVT didn’t initiate BSST personally, but one thing is certain it was not because BSST was his son.

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Yes, Syamasundara, now that you mention it there is the verse by Suta Goswami (S.B. 1.2.2) which depicts Vyasadeva running after his son Sukadeva, who had gone to the forest without having undergone purificatory rights such as diksa (yam pravrajanam anapetam apeta-krtyam), as he was already liberated from birth. I always had the impression (though it is not specifically mentioned in the Purport) that Vyasadeva wanted to personally perform for him the diksa ceremony. I do not remember from where I got that impression, so it might be wrong.

    It is such a lovely verse. It says that Vyasadeva was feeling separation for his son and calling out “putra”, “O my son”, but only the trees, absorbed in the same mood, echoed in response.

    I do not know where I heard that Bhaktivinode Thakur would not initiate Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati because of the father-son relationship. I am sure I didn’t just make it up, but I must have heard from an unreliable source.

    With respect to 4.12.32, Srila Prabhupada writes that Suniti could not initiate Dhruva because she was a woman, and specifically his mother. This raises the question, “What if she was not his mother?”

    The problem with using this statement from the Purport of 4.12.32 as evidence that women can never give diksa is that it is not directly answering the question of whether women can give diksa. It refers indirectly to the issue, in passing, in the course of explaining why Suniti did not become diksa guru of Dhruva (although she was his siksa guru).

    The OP tries to establish a hierarchy of authority for construing Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, saying that his specific instructions in letters and conversations are merely “supplementary” and not “complimentary” to the sastric authority of his books (and may be ignored if they contradict the books). It lacks nuance. The quotation from one Purport that is supposed to govern over seemingly contradictory direct statements in letters and conversations is an indirect dictum, mentioned in passing, without a thorough discussion of circumstances, if any, in which a qualified woman might appropriately give diksa to a qualified disciple.

    It might be said that Srila Prabhupada’s books generally explain the siddhanta, but Srila Prabhupada’s example shows the application of that siddhanta by a realized acarya-preacher. There is something to be said for giving greater weight to a more specific instruction than to a general principle.

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    Visakha Priya dasi ( User Karma: -4 ) says:

    Dear Bhakti-lata dd, I don’t think Srila Prabhupada was “hard-pressed” to find examples of initiating gurus in female bodies. He just gave one example, which was sufficient for the professor to get the point.
    What about Gangamata Goswamini, whose appearance day is mentioned in our Gaudiya-vaisnava calendar? She was the initiating guru of the King of Jagannath Puri and has a well-documented biography. And what about Hemlata Thakurani, the daughter of Srinivas Acarya, whose samadhi is right here in Vrindavan? These are the two “women” gurus I am aware of. And there are probably more. But in those days there was no internet, so they may well have remained unknown.
    Your servant,
    visakha priya dasi

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    Govindacarandasi BTS ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Akruranātha Prabhu’s latest argument: “With respect to 4.12.32, Srila Prabhupada writes that Suniti could not initiate Dhruva because she was a woman, and specifically his mother. This raises the question, “What if she was not his mother?”

    The problem with using this statement from the Purport of 4.12.32 as evidence that women can never give diksa is that it is not directly answering the question of whether women can give diksa. It refers indirectly to the issue, in passing, in the course of explaining why Suniti did not become diksa guru of Dhruva (although she was his siksa guru).

    Our answer: Womanhood of Sunīti is the first and general reason given by SP as to why she is not able to initiate her son i.e. Dhruva. Motherhood of Sunīti is, however a more specific reason given. In this case, the general and specific reasons harmoniously complement each other and do not possess mutual contradiction; hence, womanhood of Sunīti was also considered to be an obstacle for her being dīksā-guru of Dhruva. When SP says that because she was a woman, it means that womanhood is also an obstacle in giving initiation; however, her being his mother adds on to the previous disqualification. They don’t contradict each other. Neither is former overriden by the later. We don’t get any sense of such while reading SP’s original statements. This puts to rest all of Akruranātha Prabhu’s arguments.

    Regarding Akruranātha Prabhu’s other argument as to the availability of numerous instructions on the allowance of women gurus given by SP, our answer is that in those pro-women guruship instructions, SP never specifically clarifies as to whether those women can be dīksā-gurus or not, since in our sampradāya, there are four categories of gurus according to Jīva Gosvāmī’s Bhakti Sandarbha. They are: 1) Vartma-pradarśaka-guru, 2) Dīkṣā-guru, 3) Sikṣā-guru, and 4) Bhajana or Śravaṇa-Guru. SP very clearly and specifically states that Suniti’s womanhood and motherhood was not an obstacle in her becoming Dhruva’s śikṣā-guru and vartma-pradarśaka-guru. This clarification by SP puts to rest all inconsistencies appearing in pro-woman-guruship and anti-woman-guruship statements found in SP’s overall teachings of various hierarchical categories. So, whenever and wherever SP indicates a possibility for a woman guru, he means only the roles of śikṣa and vartma-pradarśaka-gurus. Hare Kṛṣṇa.

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    pustakrishna ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    …”Srila Prabhupad among the hippies of the 1960s.” First, I would like to herald that the young people of the 1960s were an extraordinary group of people in our recent modern history. They gravitated toward spirituality in many forms because they had rejected the conditioned formula for life that their parents and leaders had presented them with. They were just as courageous as they were adventurous…and when Srila Prabhupad brought out Krishna consciousness in them, they fearlessly helped His Divine Grace to spread Krishna consciousness all over the globe in less than 10 years. I would venture to say that they had been deputized by Lord Chaitanya Himself to help Srila Prabhupad fulfill his mission. I did not personally see eye to eye with each and every dedicated servant of Srila Prabhupad, but they were on the whole a group of wonderful, loving human beings who nurtured one another in the science of Krishna consciousness. Yes, they were every bit Siksha Gurus to each other. Krishna consciousness could never have flourished otherwise. That is first to correct in my mind. Secondly, it is not surprising that there were deviations that followed. Srila Prabhupad was like a “sun”, spreading the warmth and security of Krishna consciousness. When he disappeared (although he left so many books, tapes, instructions), we learned that maya is very powerful indeed, and no one is immune to the illusory energy in this environment. That said,
    we must not define guru simply as one who initiates disciples and guides them personally. The principle of Guru is seen in many people, even inanimate things and nondevotees, when our “antennae” are tuned to seek out Krishna. Krishna is, after all, the unifying principle of everything (Om purnam adah purnam idam, mataparamtaram nanyat, and so many slokas). We are after all seeking Krishna, not fame and fortune in this world. We would always, in Vrindaban, observe the humility of the bhangi workers, ladies who sweep the street and wash down the filthy gutters. We would see the futility of hard work in the donkey asses which would carry such hugh loads for minimal if any sense enjoyment. We must be attuned to that which inspires our dedication for Krishna. I recall Mandakini dd in Paris who married a sole Russian bhakta simply so that she could deliver Srila Prabhupad’s books to him in Russia in the early 1970s. CONTINUED Pusta Krishna das

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    pustakrishna ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    2 continuation:

    Srila Prabhupad, Sri Gurudeva, is glorified as one who smeared the eyes of the once blind with the salve of transcendental knowledge. So many who I have known in the family of Krishna consciousness have played that role. Now, let me paint you a possible scenario. Perhaps such situation arose in the past or might arise in the future. We see it amongst “nuns”. Perhaps there are ladies who do not trust men, as they have been taken advantage of in their experience. They might want to study with, and take association with those who are ladies, ie a ladies ashram. What would the GBC do in such a situation? Would they be helpful to arange such an environment so that those souls could venture into Krishna consciousness in what these individuals perceive as a safe environment? And, perhaps in an area the best and most qualified preachers of Krishna consciousness are ladies. Should we deny their beneficial influence and association? Therefore, we must be more pragmatic about presenting Krishna consciousness. It is independent of the external physical body. Diksha (initiation) is a formality, but Siksha (instruction)is the life of Krishna consciousness! Overall, one should not seek to acquire disciples. Lord Chaitanya Himself said: na dhanam na janam na sundarim…Na Janam means that one should not look for followers. Rather, one should try to inspire people to look to Krishna. This is precisely what Srila Prabhupad did. He did not make a cult around himself, although many followers seem to have made him out to be this way, and some perhaps desirous of being the center of a mini-cult of their own, might use the knowledge of the Vedas, or the Bible, or the Koran to do just that. We have seen this happening time and time again. We all see it, and we must understand how this is a deviation from the ideals of Parampara spirituality. The external covering of the soul is just that…external. We are not that! And should we overlook vaishnava qualities in those of the opposite gender, we would be likely more guilty of mis-identification with the physical temporary body than not. Pusta Krishna das

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    Shyamasundara Dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    part 2

    As to why Srila Prabhupada changed his mind, I would say that based on the existing evidence is that as time went on Srila Prabhupada saw that his disciples were more heavily conditioned than he first thought. At first he thought that Bhagavat dharma (the highest) would be enough, then he introduced more pancaratrik dharma (deity worship) and finally heavily emphasized Daiva Varnashrama dharma.

    To illustrate, in the beginning Srila Prabhupada acted as match maker and blessed and performed marriages for his disciples, assuming (wrongly) that like him they had a sense of performing one’s prescribed duty even if the spouse was in some way not to their liking (Daiva Varnashrama). Instead his disciples disappointed him when their marriages quickly broke down ending in divorce and sometimes wife swapping to the extent that SP became disgusted and refused to get involved in his disciples marriages. By 1977 at the latest Srila Prabhupada was insisting that VAD be instituted in ISKCON. In the Feb 14, 1977 VAD conversation in Mayapura, SP strongly pushes for VAD despite opposing arguments from Satsvarupa Gosvami and Hari Sauri Prabhu who are using SP own previous statements saying that the Holy Name was enough etc. Srila Prabhupada just overruled all their objections (his own previous opinions) by saying “who is like Hari dasa Thakura—they cannot even chant 16 rounds” and “the sannyasis are falling down.” So already by 1974 sannyasis had fallen and numerous sexual peccadillos had occurred what to speak of by 1977. So in that length of time Srila Prabhupada was able to recalibrate what level his disciple were actually at. Hence none were initiating by 1975. And of course in Daiva Varnashrama Dharma, something that both Srila Prabhupada and Bhaktisiddhanta strongly pushed for, there is no scope for women being diksha gurus, because it is not consistent with stri-dharma (however being a siska guru and vartmana pradarshika guru is consistent with Stri-dharma).


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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Govindacarandasi writes:

    “Regarding Akruranātha Prabhu’s other argument as to the availability of numerous instructions on the allowance of women gurus given by SP, our answer is that in those pro-women guruship instructions, SP never specifically clarifies as to whether those women can be dīksā-gurus …”

    I have no interest in debating this topic. The GBC decided it already in 2005 and their decision makes sense to me. If they had decided the other way, I would probably support that too.

    I am mostly interested in Krishna katha. When devotees start debating and trying to support conclusion they have already committed to, it seems they become less receptive, less open to trying to understand what Srila Prabhupada meant, and more likely to disregard statements that do not support their “side”.

    In this particular instance, I think Govindacarandasi is incorrect. Ajamila pointed out the following:

    “I want that all of my spiritual sons and daughters will inherit this title of Bhaktivedanta, so that the family transcendental diploma will continue through the generations. Those possessing the title of Bhaktivedanta will be allowed to initiate disciples. Maybe by 1975, all of my disciples will be allowed to initiate and increase the numbers of the generations. That is my program.” (Letter to Hamsaduta on Jan 3, 1969)

    The letter to Hamsadutta specifically says “allowed to initiate disciples”, and “initiate” is the function performed by diksa gurus. The word we use for “diksa” is “initiation”.

    For those who argue that there is a hard and fast rule against women giving diksa, but not being siksa gurus, I would like to hear more explanation of the purpose behind this supposed rule. What is it about the function of diksa gurus that require these external bodily qualifications that do not exist for siksa gurus?

    I am already wary of the distinction made by ritviks who say that Srila Prabhupada’s disciples can be siksa but not diksa gurus. I think we should not conflate “diksa guru” with the position of famous world acarya with a big personality cult, rather than someone who gives a mantra and makes a formal commitment to train the disciple. A siksa guru also should be considered a direct manifestation of Krishna, and should not be considered less qualified, somehow a second-class and not a “real” guru.

    Srila Prabhupada often spoke about “guru” generally, without referring to diksa or siksa, because the qualifications are the same.

  26. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I continue to be baffled why this issue has become so much in the “news” lately, and why it is spoken about in these terms. Govindacaradasi did not answer who she was quoting in the OP. Her use of first person plural gives me a creepy feeling, as if she regards herself spokesman for some organized party. The way devotees talk about “FDG”, reminds me of “Jiva Fall” and other wedge issues, as if there is some need to choose up sides and expend energy defeating opponents.

    Can’t we all be part of the same party, that of devotees who are trying to follow Srila Prabhupada’s instructions according to our lights? The heavy feeling of party politics surrounding this issue makes me feel as if there is an unnecessary mood of separateness or schism.

    What if some devotees get initiated by women? Why should that make devotees who do not want to be initiated by women upset? Why is it their business? No one is making them get initiated by a woman. Why can’t they just say, “I believe in this instance the GBC made a mistake, but it does not really affect my life, so why should I fight about it?”

    I guess there is something in the sense of urgency and the tone of “religious certainty” of the opponents that turns me off. Srila Prabhupada was certain because he actually knew. Religious fanatics pose as certain because they are afraid to admit their lack of knowledge, are unwilling to accept anyone who has a different opinion as being a legitimate, honest, decent person. The atmosphere becomes caustic and full of quarrel and dissention.

    The mood of isthaghosti is friendly. We are honest devotee-seekers, studying Srila Prabhupada’s books together, trying to get enlightenment and resolve doubts by the mercy of Krishna, admitting our own finite, limited intelligence.

    The mood of debate is unfriendly. There are “pro” and “anti” sides, lines are already drawn, labels and epithets have been coined, and anyone who switches side is a traitor to his party’s cause.

    Maybe I am wrong, but I feel those opposed to women serving as diksa gurus have this kind of less friendly, less open mood, as if they would rather win than try to shed further light, maybe expose a further angle.

    I think it is valid for them to question the GBC’s wisdom on this issue and raise additional points for consideration. I just feel that the mood and tone seems to be one of entrenched party spirit rather than open seeking for truth. They are seeking to win not enlighten.

  27. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “There is no being existing, either here or among the demigods in the higher planetary systems, which is free from these three modes born of material nature. Brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras are distinguishes by the qualities born of their own natures in accordance with the material modes, O chastiser of the enemy.” [B.G. 18 40-41]

    Varnasrama dharma is of course a bigger subject than whether women may serve as diksa gurus. It is not a mere set of prescribed rules that people in society should be forced to conform to. Rather, it is a divine social arrangement based on a recognition that people cannot help acting and working in accordance with their own svabhavas that are born along with their bodies.

    Srila Prabhupada’s books are full of descriptions of the science of varnasrama dharma. Gita says much about working in accordance with nature.

    To incorporate such wisdom into our own lives and into the proper working of our spiritual society and preaching institution, we have to understand the spirit as well as the letter of the laws and see how those principles apply in a relevant and practical way under different circumstances in today’s world.

    I would be cautious not to make too much of the progression from harinama movement to deity worship movement to varnasrama movement that Syamasundara points out. It was not as if the emphasis on harinama sankirtan or deity worship was ever supposed to stop. We are still the “sankirtan movement.”

    But the reality that few of us are like Haridas Thakur, that we cannot so easily and quickly transcend our conditioning, and that bhakti yoga permits us to achieve perfection while following the modes of our own work and worshiping Krishna (without becoming artificial, imitation sannyasis) should be well understood and applied in how we organize and manage the society.

    We are born with different natures and accordingly with different jobs to do. It is not based on what families or races we are born in. The systems of slavery or serfdom in America and Russia of 200 years ago were full of injustice, as was the vitiated Indian caste system.

    We have to be able to present our movement as progressive rather than reactionary. It really is. Lord Caitanya’s movement is practical, it is just, it is kind, it is pleasing for everyone, and it goes hand in hand with real transcendental enlightenment and knowledge that eradicates all illusion. Param vijayate Sri Krishna Sankirtanam!

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “If you become conscious of Me, you will pass over all the obstacles of conditioned life by My grace. If, however, you do not work in such consciousness but act through false ego, not hearing Me, you will be lost.

    “If you do not act according to My direction and do not fight, then you will be falsely directed. By your nature, you will have to be engaged in warfare.

    “Under illusion you are now declining to act accrding to My direction. But, compelled by the work born of your own nature, you will act all the same, O son of Kunti.”

    [B.G. 18.58-60]

    In Bhagavad-Gita, it appears that varnasrama dharma is not presented as something we have to do, but more as something we cannot refrain from doing. If we could sit like Haridas Thakur and chant Hare Krishna 24 hours a day, barely eating and sleeping, that would be great, but we should not try to do that if our natures compel us otherwise (as they do). We can regulate ourselves and make our regular social lives into yoga by dedicating everything to Krishna. We can set a good example for others of this practical and holy way of life.

    We should not be “pretenders”. The world is so perfectly arranged that we can chant 16 rounds, go to work, drop the kids off for soccer practice, do the grocery shopping, have a little Gita class and puja before bed, and still be Krishna conscious. We do not have to wear saffron cloth or sleep in the jungle to be yogis. We do, of course, have to refrain from illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating and gambling, and frivolous behavior generally, and practice always thinking of Krishna.

    The precise social arrangements we read about from other ages in our ancient scriptures do not match our current social reality exactly. We have a different kind of technology, economy and society. For example, we do not have a class of peasants and servants who cannot read, as was the case even in the recent past of two or three hundred years ago. In our modern economy pretty much everyone has to read. Now we have to figure out how to get them to read and appreciate Srila Prabhupada’s books!

    There are natural modes of life. As the sun comes up, the birds start to sing. Rush hour hits and the highways fill up with cars. The world is a giant mechanism working according to the modes of nature, and Nature is working under Krishna’s direction. Human society need not and cannot become inactive, but it should dedicate its natural activity to glorifying Krishna.

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    acyutadasa.nrs ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    [Part 1] Speaking objectively, neither side on this issue can point to a definitive statement from Srila Prabhupada that settles all debate; Srila Prabhupada has not said “Women can be diksa-gurus in ISKCON,” but neither has he said “Women can not be diksa-gurus in ISKCON.” It appears from the discussion on this site that there are two references, one on either side, that are seen as particularly persuasive and which cannot be dismissed (though neither is definitive in the sense I’ve already mentioned).

    Those who oppose the possibility of female diksa-gurus in ISKCON cite Srila Prabhupada’s statement in the purport to SB 4.12.32: “Suniti, however, being a woman, and specifically his mother, could not become Dhruva Maharaja’s diksa-guru.” But this is not a definitive statement. It does not clearly deny the possibility that at some point in the future women in ISKCON will initiate disciples. Srila Prabhupada does not say that women cannot become initiating spiritual masters. He says that Suniti could not become Dhruva Maharaja’s diksa-guru, which does not categorically bar women from becoming diksa-gurus under other circumstances. It does not even bar Suniti from becoming the diksa-guru of some other prospective disciple.

    Srila Prabhupada gives two reasons why Suniti could not become Dhruva’s guru: (1) she was a woman and (2) “more specifically” she was his mother. Srila Prabhupada’s statement that, because she was a woman, Suniti could not become a diksa-guru under those circumstances gives no clear and incontrovertible indication that there exist no other circumstances (perhaps in a future in which the roles of women have changed) under which a woman like Suniti could feasibly initiate disciples. And the phrase “more specifically,” of which much has been made, can itself have a variety of interpretations, though an impartial reader should at least admit that the most common meaning is that this reason, this “more specific” reason, should be considered the more important of the two; Suniti was disqualified because she was a woman, but on top of that consideration there was another consideration that was considered an even stronger disqualification – she was his mother.


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    acyutadasa.nrs ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    [Part 2] Regardless of how we choose to interpret this statement, however, we should acknowledge the fact that Srila Prabhupada, given a clear opportunity to do so, did not choose to say “…and therefore, women shall never become diksa-gurus in ISKCON.” Nor did he choose to say “…but in the International Society for Kåñëa Consciousness women shall one day become diksa-gurus.” You can decide for yourself what you think Srila Prabhupada implies or means to say, but the fact remains that he did not say it.

    On the other side of the issue we have Srila Prabhupada’s conversation with Professor O’Connell from 1976. In reply to Prof. O’Connell’s question “Is it possible, Swamiji, for a woman to be a guru in the line of disciplic succession?” Srila Prabhupada says yes. There is much in this conversation that can be used to support the possibility of female diksa-gurus in ISKCON. Those who oppose this possibility give their reasons why Srila Prabhupada’s statements on this occasion should be dismissed or re-interpreted in a particular light, suggesting that conversations are a less reliable form of evidence than Srila Prabhupada’s books, or that Srila Prabhupada was pandering to his academic Western guests, or that Prabhupada did not have diksa-gurus in mind but rather siksa-gurus or just preachers, or that Jähnavä-devé cannot be considered an example for other women to follow as she was Lakñmé-tattva. And those who are in favor of ISKCON having women initiating spiritual masters will dismiss these arguments, saying that while Prabhupada’s books should be considered first we should not ignore his other recorded statements, or that Srila Prabhupada was not known to pander to anyone at all, or that by citing Jähnavä-devé as an example he was clearly referring to diksa-gurus as she was one, or that there are other examples of female diksa-gurus in our line whose examples can also be given if Jähnavä-devé is too exalted.

    And still, given the opportunity, Srila Prabhupada did not say “…and some day my female disciples will also become disciples and initiate disciples of their own.” Nor did he say “…but this is a special case, Jähnavä-devé, and while I encourage my female disciples to become siksa-gurus and preachers to inspire others, I forbid them from formally initiating disciples.”


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    acyutadasa.nrs ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    [Part 3] So, what can we make of this? It reminds me of something Ravindra-svarupa Prabhu has said about the ritviks. Over and above the many, many convincing arguments against the deviance of the ritvik philosophy, he suggests that the strongest evidence against the system of ritviks initiating disciples on Srila Prabhupada’s behalf after his physical departure is that if Srila Prabhupada had wanted such a system, he would have made it absolutely clear, given that it was a significant departure from tradition and from everything else he had to say on the subject of guru-parampara.

    I’d like to suggest that we have similar situation here. Srila Prabhupada was not naïve or unintelligent. It was clear that he realized the roles of women were changing, and though he had strong words to say about women’s position in society, he also yielded to the influence of time, place, and circumstance by allowing his female disciples to receive the Gäyatré mantras and to serve in his temples as püjärés. He also encouraged them to preach, even requesting them to speak about our philosophy on public forums (on at least one occasion even to his own godbrothers). I think it myopic at best to imagine Srila Prabhupada could not see far enough in the future to know that we might one day be having this discussion about the possibility of female devotees in his movement becoming diksa-gurus. And though he had ample opportunity to do so, he did not make it absolutely clear what his decision was about this issue. Again, either side can point to strong evidence and say that surely he meant this or obviously he meant that, but there is no occasion on which Srila Prabhupada said “My desire is that there shall never be female initiating gurus in ISKCON.” There is also no occasion on which he said “My desire is that women should take up the responsibility of becoming initiating gurus in ISKCON.”

    And so here we are, burdened by our various levels of cultural conditioning and our impurities and our material desires both acknowledged and concealed, and we have to come to some decision based on a dispassionate discussion of the evidence and the advantages and disadvantages of either possibility. Let us all, on either side and everywhere in between, do our best to give up our predispositions, to overcome our material conditioning, and to honestly and intelligently examine both possibilities, leaving ourselves open to yet another possibility – that we might just change our minds.

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    Shyamasundara Dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    In #24 Akruranatha asks the pertinent question:

    “I continue to be baffled why this issue has become so much in the “news” lately, and why it is spoken about in these terms.”

    Because while the GBC has a law in the books that allows for ladies to become diksa gurus they have not actually given their approval for any lady to become one. The previous candidate, Her Grace Urmila mataji, was refused permission at the AGM in 2010. But since then a new candidate, Her Grace Narayani mataji, has been brought forward. She is sponsored by HH Bir Krsna Gosvami who had also sponsored Urmila mataji.

    Why the flurry of debate? Because before a precedent is set by her confirmation, the whole Indian yatra has put a formal proposal to the GBC to rescind its Action order allowing for FDGs. For more details you can ask Bashu Ghosha Prabhu who posted the formal proposal on the net.

    Also I want to apologize that somehow my previous response to you was mangled and only part 2 of a multi-part text has seen the light of day. (That would be #24. )

    dasa dasa anu dasa

    Shyamasundara Dasa

    krsne matirastu

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    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I concur with Acyuta Prabhu. We can continue to argue for or against lady guruship, trying to decipher all that Srila Prabhupada has said – for and against – and cite additional historic examples as well. This is happening mostly on the jnana platform.

    In light of of apparent opposites competing for decisiveness – many of them valid and compelling – we need to apply our collective practical wisdom, which means vijnana. Given the diversity of the topic on hand, even this will not be as straight forward as we wish.

    Then we look to our definitive line of spiritual succession for answers. There is not one female name among our disciplic succession of acaryas going back to the dawn of creation. In between these ‘chosen’ acaryas as recognised by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, there are many contemporaries and regular gurus, as well as parallel lineages.

    It is often said that among contemporaries, a self-effulgent, obviously empowered individual will stand out, befitting a place in our definitive parampara. We currently have a collective GBC mandated to keep the parampara mercy flowing. Whether another self-effulegent individual will be recognised among a collective managerial body remains open for future consideration.

    Even though we have many initiating spiritual masters among our collective, our succession will inevitably become ‘many-branched.’ We see this happening with apa-sampradyic trends already in place.

    If, in the future a self-effulgent soul is unanimously recognised, will he or she be at the helm of the GBC, yet subordinate to its policy making, like Srila Prabhupada was? These scenarios will develop some time or other, yet we remain indecisive about the issue of lady gurus.

    It appears that there has been a presentation of counter information presented by the India collective in opposition to the SAC one. This shows how we are still trying to solidify our young formative development of Iskcon, particularly in matters of philosophy and social building.

    We are usally good at weighing up matters on a jnana level – along with all the heat and tempers – and now we await how our vijnana will resolve them again, and yet again, into the future.

    Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Thank you Shyamasundara Prabhu,

    That is just the kind of explanation I was looking for. Such details give more of a flavor of what is really going on, what is driving and motivating the different parties.

    I have two observations:

    First, as a practical matter, if there have only been two women candidates since 2005, the fear that having Mother Narayani confirmed as initiating guru would open some kind of floodgate of women gurus seems unfounded. Probably there will always be a small number of women serving as initiating gurus in ISKCON compared to men, and very few candidates being put forward.

    BTW, Narayani is a learned and saintly devotee, an exceptional candidate. I am not sure Govinda Dasi is correct that grey-haired ladies are less likely to fall down and cause scandals than young male sannyasis are, but she has a point that our track record with male gurus has not been stellar (though it seems to be improving). It might be better for older men to be sannyasis and older devotees generally to be initiating spiritual masters, both because they may be less prone to be victims of lust, and because they will have longer track records the GBC can be more familiar with in deciding whether there are grounds for objection.

    A second observation: It is interesting that the objection seems to be mostly coming from India. This may be an issue in which regional and cultural sensibilities play a big role. There may be tensions between what it takes for ISKCON to grow and thrive in India as opposed to other countries.

    The whole idea of an international Vaisnava society is something novel. How can people from different cultures work together smoothly in such an organization? I have heard outsiders comment positively over the years on how we seem surprisingly successful at integrating members from India and Latin America and Russia and Eastern Europe alongside Americans in our American yatra. I suppose we should not expect it to be completely trouble-free.

    Devotees have legitimate concerns about what they have come to call “Hinduization of ISKCON.”

    I was pleased with myself for coining the phrase “ISKCON-ization of Hinduism”, reflecting optimism that Lord Caitanya’s movement would be embraced more widely by the world’s 1 billion + Hindus. A senior devotee warned me, however, that some might fear “ISKCON-ization” as importation of non-Vedic, questionable ideas and practices.

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    pustakrishna ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I found comment #34 by Akruranath das very interesting, even though the issue of Hindu-ization of ISKCON is not the specific topic here. One can see that when some temples become managed by the East Indian devotees, there are ads for various rituals to be performed as part of the service. These were never promoted by Srila Prabhupad in his vision of ISKCON. It is perhaps inevitable. However, we do not see many new American devotees flocking to the ISKCON temples since the Hindu population in the US has had a greater influence. The US temples (and perhaps temples elsewhere) have indeed been frequented more by those of East Indian origin that by others. Indeed, Akruranath das is correct in saying that there has been an ISKCON-ization of the Hindu population. But, the Hindu-ization of ISKCON also is taking place. It is a two-way street. I lament that ISKCON would become a center for Hindu ritual. Nonetheless, I have no doubts that our Indian godbrothers and godsisters sincerely are taking shelter of Gaura-Nitai. And, there is no doubt that the financial support of the congregations may have become a more dominant factor. The pendulum will swing as it may, and we cannot control the universe…that is Krishna’s place. Still, many may long for the days of ashram growth and “making new devotees or converts from amongst the western section”.

    It is interesting that many, many westerners have taken up an interest in “yoga”, ie hatha yoga and the like, and they have no objection to women teaching them these poses and forms of mostly mayavad meditation techniques. Westerners will find the exclusion of women from positions of leadership and teaching spiritual life in ISKCON to be strange. We have seen many political, academic and other women in prominent positions of leadership, even as ministers, throughout the world. Certainly, ISKCON leadership cannot be blind to this. Some pragmatic decisions will surely be necessary in the future. We can quote shastra and Srila Prabhupad to support diametrically opposed positions. We must encourage both men and women to study and practice, and to become qualified teachers of Krishna consciousness. You cannot place obstacles to this! Pusta Krishna das

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    sitadasi ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    According to sastric injunctions, there is no difference between siksa-guru and diksa-guru, and generally the siksa-guru later on becomes the diksa-guru.Suniti, however, being a woman, and specifically his mother, could not become Dhruva Maharaja’s diksa-guru.” SP’s SB Purport 4.12.32 (which he authorized the editing of)

    In other words, a siksa guru, if she is a woman, cannot give diksa. There is simply no direct sastric evidence in existence that shows the contrary. Pancaratrika standards do not allow for a woman to be the initiator because of her physical form which includes differences in the subtle as well as the gross body. Narada Muni, founding teacher of Pancaratrika, prescribed different fields of activity for the woman class as per daivi varnasrama. A woman’s physical body is itself a contraindication against VFDG (Vaisnava FDG).

    Spiritual equality does not equal material equality. A woman can become brahmana on the spiritual platform (see Morning Walk, November 2, 1975, Nairobi). However, since she does not have the authority in our parampara* to receive the sacred thread or sannyasa, we therefore understand she cannot be the initiator. Jahnava Mata’s “disciples” were simultaneously considered Lord Nityananda’s followers. Jahnava Devi herself was his primary follower yet her name is not included in our parampara, it is Nityananda’s.

    Unless a woman devotee’s husband is a brahmana vaisnava by his varna and his functional diksa acarya guru status, she cannot assist him in fire yajnas or initiations. That is not to say a woman cannot become acarya in the sense of an informal siksa guru status; even a child is so allowed. Our diksa and siksa gurus need to be living examples of the etiquette Srila Prabhupada wants us to move towards, not away from, adopting.

    “”Example is better than precept.” Our whole process is following the example of predecessors, nothing independent. So that principle should be followed. We do not accept any precept who is free from the predecessors. Do you follow?” Morning Walk,June 23, 1975, Los Angeles

    * our parampara includes Jagannatha Das Babaji as Acarya, not Bipin Bihari Goswami.

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    Sankarsana das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I know it could be considered as a booby prize (sorry for the pun, but that is an accurate phrase) by devotees in favor of women gurus, but there is a way to settle this issue which in no way categorizes women as inferior in spiritual status or achievement to men. Since giving diksa can be considered a formality, and since it’s still up to any disciple to ascertain who is their primary guide, whether siksa or diksa, let spiritually advanced women allow advanced men to continue performing diksa, and then in cases where women are the primary guides for initiates assume the role as the disciple’s primary guru. To argue against this seems to be arguing for a sense of status which is supposed to not be of great importance to devotees. In this way the western public can know there are women gurus in ISKCON, which could help preaching in the west, and the arguments for tradition of the east won’t be violated since the diksa function is still clearly reserved for men.

    I also liked the point Pusta Krishna prabhu elaborated on – that a devotee should be able to consider various elements and persons as gurus, if we are open to seeing the direction Krishna is placing us in. This goes along with although devotees have a primary guru, we can also be benefited by the association of many other gurus or devotees.

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    sitadasi ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “Jāhnavā-mātā is also within the list of Lord Nityānanda’s followers” and “all the devotees who are followers of Jāhnavā-mātā are counted within the list of Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu’s devotees.” Caitanya-caritamrta Adi 11:21 The Expansions of Lord Nityananda

    Where is the SAC’s proof that Jahnava Mata was Virabhadra’s diksa guru?

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    sitadasi ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The Sastric Advisory Council on Jahnava Mata:

    “Vasudha Devi, did not initiate her own son, Viracandra, but Sri Jahnava Devi did so” and “Virabhadra and Ramacandra, the sons (biological and adopted respectively) of Nityananda Prabhu, were two of the most famous among her initiated disciples.”

    In this regard, SAC cites:

    “Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s Anubhasya, ‘Virabhadra Gosani was the direct son of Srila Nityananda Prabhu and a disciple of Jahnava Devi.’” (Caitanya-caritamrta Adi-lila 11.8 purport)

    In the above CC reference, the SAC omits where Bhaktisiddhanta states Ramacandra was Virabhadra’s disciple, not Jahnava Mata’s:

    “Virabhadra Gosani had three disciples who are celebrated as his sons- Gopijana-vallabha, Ramakṛṣṇa and Ramacandra…”Caitanya-caritamrta Adi-lila 11.8 purport

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