Varnasrama: Protection or Exploitation!
By Sita Rama das
Maharaja Rahugana thought that the pure devotee, Jada Bharata, was a sudra. The King forced Jada Bharata to carry him in a palanquin. The King explained his reasoning, “…if one is engaged in his occupational duty by force, he benefits because he can vanquish all his sinful activities in that way” (SB, 5, 10 23). In the purport Srila Prabhupada says, “This argument by Maharaja Rahugana is certainly very effective” Srila Prabhupada further explains that the aim of ISCKON is to, “somehow or other” engage people in Krishna Consciousness and this will help them become free from material contamination. However in this instance the King was in error because he was engaging. Jada Bharata in his own sense gratification. Srila Prabhupada says, “…such activities are certainly not beneficial for anyone.”
Jada Bharata answered the King thus:
It is a fact, however, that these innocent people carrying your palanquin without payment are certainly suffering due to this injustice. Their condition is very lamentable because you have forcibly engaged them in carrying your palanquin. This proves that you are cruel and unkind, yet due to false prestige you were thinking that you were protecting the citizens. This is ludicrous. You were such a fool that you could not have been adored as a great man in an assembly of persons advanced in knowledge (SB, 5, 12, 7).
The King was thinking he was a protector of the citizens but was factually exploiting them by forcing them to engage in his sense gratification. Srila Prabhupada explains, “…when a King thinks that because he is the head of the state, he can utilize the citizens for his sense gratification, he is in error.” The King must act under the advice of brahmanas and, “Learned circles do not appreciate the king’s utilizing public endeavor for his own benefit.” In his purport to SB, 5, 10, 23 Srila Prabhupada explains that if the King had engaged citizens as palanquin carriers in the Lord’s service-that would have been beneficial for all.
It is not the king only, but anyone who claims to be a protector in VAD must serve the spiritual interest of those they are supposed to protect. Several devotees who are against female diksha gurus have correctly noted that in modern society an attempt to nullify the male/female divisions (in the name of equality) has actually increased mutual exploitation. They say that the distinction of the husband being the protector and the woman being the protected must be maintained. This is not denied. However the man is to protect the woman by engaging her as much as possible in service to Krishna. Some devotees say the woman is not capable of spiritual service: she has to serve the senses of her husband and the husband alone can serve Krishna. This is directly opposed to what Krishna says in the Bhagavada Gita. All humans can come to the level of spiritual perfection and anyone who knows the science of Krishna can become guru.
There are basically two possibilities; the wife is engaged in serving Krishna or engaged in serving the senses of her husband. If the husband is actually protecting his wife, rather than exploiting her, he will engage her as much as possible in Krishna’s service. That is real protection. And it is that very protection that will bring her to the level of being bona fide guru. Anyone who knows the science of serving Krishna can, and should, become a guru.
Krishna has created this material world for the jiva’s that want to be the supreme controllers and supreme enjoyers: He also makes arrangements for us to become free from this disease. In virtually every human society we see divisions; there are intellectuals, administrators, producers of wealth, and servants; and of course male/female. VAD does not create these divisions; rather it establishes the correct relationships between them which minimize the tendency for some groups to exploit others.
VAD does not condone false equality; rather, it establishes real equality in various ways. First of all we understand that everyone takes birth according to the law of Karma which is applied equally to all. Secondly VAD bring to light the fact that our attempts to be controllers in the material world are overshadow by the ontological fact that in either the material or spiritual world the jiva must be a servant. In VAD the level of control one has is proportionate with the level of responsibility one takes for serving the best interest of others.
When qualified people provide education, law and order, economic production, and manual labor, the material need of all society are easily met. Beyond occupational duties, there are duties within the family unit which are distinct for husband and wife. When these relationships are not regulated by VAD individuals form different sexes and the different classes simple try to use whatever means they have to exploit all others for their sense enjoyment. The only conclusion is to actually protect a wife the husband must engage her as much as possible in service to Krishna through her natural occupation. In that way the husband serves the best interest of the wife and the wife will be engaged in such a way that the husband will be most free from sense gratification. The external, “inequalities” remain but mutually beneficial service/protection is given and received in equal proportions.
To claim that the function of a woman is to engage exclusively in serving the senses of the husband who alone is capable of spiritual service is not supported by the Bhagavada Gita. Krishna clearly says all can achieve spiritual perfection regardless of sex or caste. Lord Caitnaya says anyone who knows the Science of Krishna can be Guru. So if the husbands are performing their VAD duty and engaging their wives as much as possible in Krishna’s service, it is not possible to say woman are unable to know Krishna and be Gurus.