By Kaunteya das
I read Devaki Mataji’s article “The Hot Issue – Female Diksa Guru”; I didn’t agree with her generalizations and her conclusions; in fact I found the article rife with contradictions and inaccuracies.
But let me take a step back and provide a premise: I have deep respect for Devaki Mataji; she is a courageous fighter in Lord Caitanya’s army; a determined devotee and a very austere preacher. She is active and dynamic; an example of dedication and self-sacrifice; and I offer her my respectful obeisances. What I am writing in this article is not an attack on her person but only on some of her ideas, and I believe she is a much better person than her ideas on this topic.
She states that “the female nature is more emotional” and that “this emotional nature can also become an impediment and obstacle, especially since emotions tend to cloudy our vision and intelligence to such extend that we cannot see things as they really are.”
And therefore I – and perhaps other readers of both genders – find myself scratching my head and asking myself: “If according to Devaki Mataji this is a hot issue and if women’s vision is clouded by emotions and ‘they cannot see things as they really are,’ why on earth she attempted to write this article and provide clarity? If she is clouded, why does she try to instruct the whole world?”
If what she writes is right, this article must be “clouded by emotions” and therefore unfit for consumption by the assembly of Vaisnavas.
She says that “the female vision and intelligence is always inferior to the man’s.” But then how to explain, for instance, that generally 91 to 98 percent of all the people in the world’s prison are male? (More details at: http://chartsbin.com/view/t5b or http://www.prisonstudies.org/news/all/155-more-than-625,000-women-and-girls-in-prison-around-the-world,-new-report-shows.html)
I certainly know that men’s rationality can also (and often is) “clouded by emotions.” I am also often “clouded by emotions.”
Therefore I suggest that in connection with this topic (women diksa-gurus) we all, men and women, defer to the wisdom of the Founder-Acarya and of the previous acaryas.
When I was requested by a devotee senior to me to delve into this topic, I did some research and learned a few things; for instance, I discovered three facts (and these are facts, not opinions based on emotions):
Srila Prabhupada ***always*** spoke positively about the idea of having women diksa-gurus in ISKCON. That is, in all circumstances in which he brought up the subject or the subject was brought up by others.
Srila Prabhupada ***never*** spoke negatively about the idea of having women diksa-gurus in ISKCON. There is simply no evidence that he ever expressed himself against women diksa-gurus in ISKCON.
There have been dozens of examples of women-diksa gurus in Gaudiya Vaisnavism. In other words, it is traditional and it’s accepted by the previous acaryas. If anyone disagrees, please request that person to produce a quote from any Gaudiya Vaisnava acarya in the last 500 years, a quote speaking against women diksa-gurus.
There is also the fact that the Governing Body Commission (GBC) of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in two separate occasions (2005 and 2009) established that “a mature, qualified, female devotee may accept the role of initiating spiritual master.”
And that’s why I entitled this article “The Not-so-hot issue – Women Diksa-gurus”; because Vaisnava acaryas and authorized leaders have consistently upheld the same principle: Women can initiate disciples (when qualified, of course).
And we shouldn’t assume (as Devaki Mataji seems to imply in her article) that women who are willing to accept this service do so because of “running after recognition and fame.”
Anyway, people will have to decide for themselves if to embrace Srila Prabhupada’s vision or not. I only humbly suggest that his followers read the book “Did Srila Prabhupada Want Women Diksa Gurus?” – which is available for free here:
The book addresses virtually all arguments and smokescreens that have been raised (the varnasrama argument, the siksa-guru argument, the Suniti argument, and so on and on).
And, just for the record, this is not my book: I did play a small role in producing the book, but the text is full of the words of Srila Prabhupada and of the words of many ISKCON gurus, sannyasis and Srila Prabhupada’s disciples.
So far many senior devotees appreciated the book:
Bir Krishna Goswami (ACBSP): “I suggest the GBC members peruse this book, which is a pretty definitive study with a lot of good insights about the FDG issue.”
Adarsi das (ACBSP): “I have studied it cover to cover . . . For those philosophically inclined, it’s a pleasure to see learned devotees exchanging philosophical views with proper reference to guru, shastra, and sadhu.”
Akruranatha Das (ACBSP): “Wow, that is quite a thorough refutation of those opposed to women becoming diksa gurus in ISKCON . . . such a carefully researched and cogently expressed presentation . . . I think that any truly open-minded devotee curious about this subject will conclude that this book has resolved the issue once and for all . . . I myself found the book to be very well written and I appreciated that it bent over backwards to understand and sympathize with the mentality and concerns of those who very strongly oppose the GBC’s decision that qualified women can serve as diksa gurus in ISKCON.”
Some of those who liked the books are women; if you think that women – to use Devaki Mataj’s expression – “cannot see things as they really are,” you can skip their comments. Or perhaps you might want to read them anyway, since they agree with the men quoted above:
Urmila devi dasi (ACBSP): “What an incredible book. I believe this answers just about everything and considers every angle about women being gurus.”
Ragatmika-devi dasi (ACBSP, Mayapur): “I must say, I was extremely impressed by your conviction to support Srila Prabhupada’s vani and mood and, consequently, to identify so many contrived concoctions born of prejudice and fear. I read the book in almost one sitting. . . . It’s clear to me that you won the debate in support of the GBC resolution. Congratulations!”
Krsnanandini Devi Dasi (ACBSP) “This book is such a systematic, balanced presentation, solidly based on sastric references . . . I really appreciated the specific examples of “con” statements and their logical refutations based on guru, sadhu and sastra. You expertly demonstrated “Samanvaya”= the reconciliation of the various statements within an overall harmonious understanding.”
Visakha Priya dasi (GRS, Vrindavana): “I was extremely impressed by your masterful presentation. It is not just powerful but humorous as well. I just could not put it down . . . both the innocent readers and those willing to be educated will certainly benefit from your selfless efforts in compiling this elegantly written thesis.”
In conclusion: According to Srila Prabhupada, the previous acaryas, a number of Srila Prabhupada disciples and a number of Srila Prabhupada grandisciples, having women diksa-guru is not an issue. A saintly lady like Devaki Mataji is humbly invited to wholeheartedly join them. As she admits in her article, in connection with Srila Prabhupada’s teachings on men and women: “I have to be honest, it took me many years to not only swallow Prabhupada’s comments, but actually deeply within my heart accept them.” Let’s pray that she and her admirers can soon come to deeply accept within their heart also Srila Prabhupada’s teachings on women diksa-gurus.