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Female Diksa Guru – Evidence

Wednesday, 05 December 2012 / Published in Blog thoughts / 3,473 views

Bhadra Govinda Dasa: Dear Devotees,

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

I have been going through all the comments on the Female Diksa Guru, ‘For’ and ‘Against’. I am not writing here ‘For’ or ‘Against’. I have some query on the evidence given from Srimad Bhagavatam. SB 4.12.32 “Suniti, however, being a woman, and specifically his mother, could not become Dhruva Maharaja’s diksa-guru”.

I do not understand how this pramana can be given against ‘Female Diksa Guru’. This is just talking about Suniti the great mother of Dhruva Maharaj, under her situation could not become a diksa guru. That does not imply that no woman can be a diksa guru.

There is this false logic “half closed door is half open and so full closed door is full open”. “Suniti being a woman, and specifically a mother, could not become Dhruva Maharaja’s diksa guru, so no woman in the eternal time, could become a diksa guru” is similar logic.

Just because Suniti could not become a diksa guru of Dhruva Maharaj because of her situation, does not imply that no woman can become a diksa guru?

Bhadra Govinda Dasa, being a man, and specifically his sons’ father, could not become Diksa guru of Ananda Goura Dasa, does not imply no man could become a diksa guru.

Again I have not still accepted for or against Female Diksa Guru, but I have my doubts about the pramana above. I humbly seek clarification. Hare Krishna !

Your humble servant,
Bhadra Govinda Dasa.


  1. 0
    Sitalatma Das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    There are two reasons for “could not become .. diksa-guru” in this quote – “being a woman”, which is a general injunction, and the additional – “specifically his mother”.

    The way editors presented it, enclosed with commas, the clause “and specifically his mother” can be omitted entirely without affecting the meaning of the sentence. Suniti, being a woman, could not become a diksa guru.

    From a legalistic point of view this sentence can be dissected in numerous ways leading to numerous implications but the direct meaning is actually pretty straightforward.

    “If Suniti could not become his diksa guru, maybe some other woman could. If Suniti could not become Dhruva Maharaja’s guru, she could give diksa to someone else. Sunitu could not become diksa guru in Satya yuga but maybe she could become a guru in present day. The editors could have inadvertently changed the original meaning so old transcripts must be dug up. What if it was an intentional, what if it was a conspiracy?”

    This can go on and on.

    The fact is that if someone really wants to prove his point or make someone into FDG, there’s no stopping them, Krishna fulfills all desires if one wants it badly enough.

    Whether we would also be fulfilling desires of Krishna and our acharyas is another matter.

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Sitalatma writes: “The fact is that if someone really wants to prove his point or make someone into FDG, there’s no stopping them, Krishna fulfills all desires if one wants it badly enough.”

    Well, if Srila Prabhupada had directly said, “Women should never serve as diksa gurus”, that would be an end to it.

    But he didn’t say that. Not only did he not expressly ban women from becoming diksa gurus, but he specifically said that they could (“but, not so many”). He said and wrote directly that he wanted both his male and female disciples to initiate disciples.

    Over and above that is the general principle, expressed by Lord Caitanya Himself, that “kiba vipra kiba nyasi sudra kena naya yei krsna tattva vetta sei guru haya”. Srila Prabhupada often repeated that dictum, including directly when Prof. O’Connell asked him about whether a woman could become a guru. The principle is that the external formalities of what kind of body one has is subordinate to the reality of whether one actually knows and can explain Krsna tattva.

    So we should reject Sitalatma’s insinuation that those who speak in favor of women giving diksa (now curiously abbreviated as FDG) are just bent on twisting and misinterpreting Srila Prabhupada’s teachings like sophists.

    In ISKCON we have a healthy allergy to fanciful interpretations and word-juggling, such as that done by mayavadis who say that when Krishna says “think of Me’ He really does not mean Himself but of some impersonal, “unborn” within Him.

    But along with that distrust of word jugglery we sometimes have a pretty unsophisticated understanding of rhetoric and textual analysis and criticism, which seems out of step with the very sophisticated and subtle approach of our acaryas such as Sanatan Goswami or Jiva Goswami or Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur.

    When we read the BBT publication of Brhad-Bhagavatamrta we can see how in his commentary Sanatana Goswami examined various potential ambiguities and shades of meaning in the same text. We know that Lord Caitanya explained the “atmarama” verse in many different ways.

    Yes, we should not be prey to mental speculation and fanciful interpretations. We are bhaktas not jnana-yogis, and the simple and direct meanings are wonderful for those who have received the mercy of Vaisnavas.

    Still, we come in the line of great intellectuals and philosophers like Jiva Goswami. We should not emulate anti-intellectual fundamentalist Christians and Muslims who fear education.

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    Prabhava Vigraha das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    There are individuals who really believe that whatever goes through their minds is as solid as the Absolute Truth. This is the same mentality as artists who believe as so valuable whatever imagined twist in the name of Art for the sake of Art. Manifestation/expression of some thing but no substance for the soul there. Empty bubbles of forgetfulness in comparison with real absorption in KC.

    I sincerely appreciate Akrunanatha’s comment. Bravo!

  4. 0
    Sitalatma Das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Srila Prabhupada’s meaning in this particular sentence is as clear as day. Whether it’s enough to resolve FDG issue one way or another is another matter.

    The OP question was about purport to this particular verse, not about the rest of FDG arguments.

    “Suniti, however, being a woman, and specifically his mother, could not become Dhruva Maharaja’s diksa-guru.”

    This is nothing like atmarama verse and there’s no ambiguity in its meaning, and it’s already a purport. Trying to extract something opposite of its direct meaning would indeed be sophism.

    In its 2004 paper SAC cited this verse as “anti” argument so I don’t know what is meant by insinuation and what should be rejected here. This sentence is evidence against FDG in the eyes of very mature and knowledgeable devotees who serve on Shastric Advisory Committee. “Pro” arguments exist elsewhere and can be found in that same paper, too.

    This sentence does not contradict other Prabhupada’s statements either – women giving diksha should be an exception, an exception to the rule expressed here.

    It also doesn’t contradict Lord Chaitanya’s kiba vipra verse as Lord Chaitanya doesn’t talk about diksha duties there, just about guru in general. In this same purport Srila Prabhupada writes: “Actually, Dhruva Mahārāja’s mother, Sunīti, was his patha-pradarśaka-guru.” Again, the meaning is pretty clear – she WAS a guru, just not diksha one.

    My head is indeed filled with bubbles of forgetfulness masquerading as solid Absolute Truth but clarity in this purport is undeniable.

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Sitalatma prabhu writes:

    “It also doesn’t contradict Lord Chaitanya’s kiba vipra verse as Lord Chaitanya doesn’t talk about diksha duties there, just about guru in general.”

    I happened to be reading Cc. Madhya Lila Chapter 8 yesterday and the “kiba vipra” verse is Text 128 in that Chapter. In the Purport, Srila Prabhupada writes:

    “Sometimes a caste guru says that ‘ye krsna-tattva-vetta, sei guru haya’ means that one who is not a brahmana may become a siksa-guru or a vartma-pradarsaka-guru but not an initiator guru. According to such caste gurus, birth and family ties are considered foremost. However, the hereditary consideration is not acceptable to Vaisnavas. The word ‘guru’ is equally applicable to the vartma-pradarsaka-guru, siksa-guru and diksa-guru. Unless we accept the principle enunciated by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, this Krsna consciousness movement cannot spread all over the world…”

    It is true that in this context Srila Prabhupada is talking about whether one must be brahmana by birth (he is not directly addressing the issue of diksu gurus in female bodies). However, when he says here, “The word ‘guru’ is equally applicable to the vartma-pradarsaka-guru, siksa-guru and diksa-guru,” he is clearly expressing that in the “kiba vipra” verse, Lord Caitanya is indeed talking about diksa-guru as well as siksa-guru and vartma-pradarsaka-guru. Therefore, the statement above by Sitalatma is wrong.

    Also, although Srila Prabhupada in the passage quoted above was refuting caste-by-birth gurus, we know that he elsewhere quoted Lord Caitanya’s ‘kiba vipra’ verse in endorsing that qualified women can also serve as gurus, and also indicated that he wanted his female disciples to initiate their own disciples.

    The basic principle of the ‘kiba vipra’ verse is that one who is actually qualified by dint of genuine knowledge of krsna-tattva is factually a guru, regardless of external, physical or social consideration.

    Now, it may be true that few women are really so qualified. It may be true that few men are qualified. It may even be that the GBC can consider social and ecclesiastical concerns in deciding who should serve as initiating guru in ISKCON.

    But Lord Caitanya’s teaching is that a person who is qualified, regardless of what he or she is externally, is a guru, and may serve as diksa guru. It is a question of effectiveness, who can get the job done, actually linking and transforming a disciple into a bona fide Vaisnava.

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    Sitalatma Das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    That same purport has this sentence, too:

    “Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura also states that although one is situated as a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya, śūdra, brahmacārī, vānaprastha, gṛhastha or sannyāsī, if he is conversant in the science of Kṛṣṇa he can become a spiritual master as vartma-pradarśaka-guru, dīkṣā-guru or śikṣā-guru.”

    As you can see the list is pretty long but it doesn’t include women. We can, of course, interpolate that women should be on this list, too, but then what stops us from interpolating that women can also act as a sannyasa guru? I mean if we say that they should be equal in all respects and act as any kind of guru without any restrictions.

    Interpolations is a shaky business and better be left to the acharyas who have the authority to introduce necessary changes (interpolation in the mathematical meaning of the word – projecting values for which there’s no data).

    Thousands and thousands of vaishnavis in our sampradaya didn’t initiate disciples and so far no one accused them of contradicting Mahaprabhu’s instructions.

    We should be careful in judging that Srila Prabhupada’s sentence “being a woman she could not become a diksha guru” contradicts “kiba vipra” verse and therefore should be dismissed or interpreted differently from it’s clearly intended meaning.

    I’d take a safe bet that Srila Prabhupada never contradicted Lord Chaitanya even though other people might see it differently.

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    Visakha Priya dasi ( User Karma: 4 ) says:

    Dear Sitalatma Prabhu,

    From what I have learned, we can understand sastra only through guru. Your safe bet is that Srila Prabhupada never contradicted Lord Caitanya and I agree. But where did Lord Caitanya say that women cannot be qualified to teach the science of devotion to Krsna? Kiba vipra … is a spiritual statement, an asexual statement.

    And what about the conversation first quoted by Ajamila Prabhu? Why do you choose to ignore it–and other similar statements made by our founder-acarya?


    Prabhupäda: Yes. Jähnavä devé was—Nityänanda’s wife. She became. If she is able to go to the highest perfection of life, why it is not possible to become guru? But, not so many. Actually one who has attained the perfection, she can become guru. But man or woman, unless one has attained the perfection…. Yei kåñëa-tattva-vettä sei guru haya [Cc. Madhya 8.128]. The qualification of guru is that he must be fully cognizant of the science of Kåñëa. Then he or she can become guru. Yei kåñëa-tattva-vettä, sei guru haya. [break] In our material world, is it any prohibition that woman cannot become professor? If she is qualified, she can become professor. What is the wrong there? She must be qualified. That is the position. So similarly, if the woman understands Kåñëa consciousness perfectly, she can become guru.

    >>> Ref. VedaBase => Interview with Professors O’Connell, Motilal and Shivaram — June 18, 1976, Toronto

    Now, you may object that no ISKCON woman is on the level of Jahnava devi. But how many ISKCON men are on the level of Nityananda Prabhu? Srila Prabhupada clearly says that if Jahnava devi “is able to got to the highest perfection of life, why it is not possible to become guru?” Here, Srila Prabhupada takes the example of Jahnava devi specifically because she is in a woman’s body–to show that there is no bar. He is not saying that she could be guru only because she was the internal energy of Lord Nityananda. Furthermore, he is saying that either man or woman, unless one has attained perfection, one should not be guru.

    Why ignore Srila Prabhupada’s statements just because we think –erroneously– that they contradict sastra? Lord Caitanya never said that a woman could not know the science of Krsna. I personally am not among those women, but I do happen to know a few who know the science as well, if not better, than many of our present gurus.

    May this find you well.

    Your servant,
    Visakha Priya dasi

  8. 0
    Kulapavana ( User Karma: -10 ) says:

    We are situated in a lineage which ostensibly strives to develop madhurya rasa as the highest expression of love for God. And who is the ultimate guru in our line? The highest concept of guru-tattva revealed by Srila Rupa Goswami and other very close associates of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was that Srimati Radharani is our ultimate guru. Still, there are people in our sanga who think and argue that women are somehow inherently incapable of performing the role of spiritual masters in this disciplic succession. If anything, one could say that it is ‘unnatural’ to have male gurus teaching their disciples madhurya rasa. But of course we know that this knowledge and realization transcends such bodily concepts… so maybe it only transcends such concepts for male gurus? Hm… why would we think like that?

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    Sitalatma Das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Just to be clear – I’m not ignoring “pro” FDG evidence, I’m talking about one particular sentence about Suniti that is clearly an “anti” argument.

    It was accepted as such by Shastric Advisory Committee and it would always remain “anti” regardless of how GBC eventually resolves the issue.

    My argument is not about FDG per se, I’m more concerned that this particular sentence about Suniti is being presented as something else, this is not how we should try to resolve apparent contradictions.

    In Lord Nityananda’s time there were hundreds if not thousands of male gurus who were “lesser beings”, so our male devotees can use them as examples. Our female devotees, on the other hand, have only examples of exceptional vaisnhavis like Jahnava Mata and a few others. The argument that if women should be like Jahnava Mata then men should be like Lord Nityananda is not very logical.

    Also, being “qualified to teach the science of devotion to Krsna” is about siksha, not diksha, there are no restrictions on our female devotees giving siksha whatsoever.

    I don’t know anyone who argues that our women are inherently incapable of performing the role of spiritual masters, they can and they should, the argument is about only some guru duties that traditionally been gender specific.

    I’ve already mentioned sannyasa gurus – women obviously can’t do that, and what about Krishna’ instructions on duties of a brahmachari:

    “When the guru lies down to sleep, the servant should also lie down nearby, and when the guru has awakened, the servant should sit near him, massaging his lotus feet and rendering other, similar services.” SB 11.17.29

    Krishna is definitely not talking abour female gurus here and there clearly should be some gender considerations, the questions is whether these considerations should include diksha duty or not.

    Ultimately it shouldn’t be only about arguments. In our sampradaya the main consideration for things like that has always been the effect on preaching. That’s why Lord Chaitanya took sannyasa or Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati gave sacred threads to non-brahmanas, or re-introduced sannyasa.

    Also, Lord Chaitanya avoided meeting Maharaja Prataparudra for months just because it would give people reasons to criticize.

    Our western audience probably doesn’t care if our women give diksha or not but in India we might lose quite a few friends. We might also gain some friends so we should estimate if this switch of allies is worth it.

  10. 0
    Kulapavana ( User Karma: -10 ) says:

    Sitalatma Prabhu wrires: “and what about Krishna’ instructions on duties of a brahmachari:
    “When the guru lies down to sleep, the servant should also lie down nearby, and when the guru has awakened, the servant should sit near him, massaging his lotus feet and rendering other, similar services.” SB 11.17.29″
    1. How many disciples of Srila Prabhupada got a chance to perform this type of service? A very small minority. And those disciples who never got such service were not affected in their guru-disciple relationship. So why should that verse be a barrier for male disciples of female gurus?
    2. Wouldn’t that ‘requirement’ disqualify female disciples of the male gurus? So maybe brahmacarinis in our movement should only accept female gurus? In that sense this verse is an argument for FDG.

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