Out of the Woman Comes the Man, Spends the Rest of His Life Getting Back When he Can

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Photo by Madhva Muni das

By Praghosa dasa

“Out of the Woman Comes the Man, Spends the Rest of His Life Getting Back When he Can”

This is a line from a song I listened to during my misspent youth. Indeed now it is clear to me that I not only had a misspent youth but unlimited misspent previous lives. I cannot say for sure what the author of these lines intended them to mean but prior to me having the privilege of receiving Srila Prabhupada’s books my only interpretation of these lines was the glorious, enjoyable, laddish, responsibility shy and decadent pursuit of unlimited sexual activity.

It would appear that little has changed in the last 25 years, indeed it has almost certainly become worse given all the horrendous statistics of teenage pregnancies, abortions, sexual diseases and all the other unfortunate results of sensually driven exploits.

On reflection me taking shelter of such a one dimensional and gross interpretation of that song line, while a little embarrassing, does indicate all the shallowness, selfishness, temporary and smutty identity of material consciousness.

kamam asritya duspuram dambha-mana-madanvitah
mohad grhitvasad-grahan pravartante ’suci-vratah

“Taking shelter of insatiable lust and absorbed in the conceit of pride and false prestige, the demoniac, thus illusioned, are always sworn to unclean work, attracted by the impermanent” Bg 16.10

I use the term glorious pursuit above because young males pride themselves on ‘getting off’ with girls and they become even more proud once they had had their ‘wicked way’ with them. There is literally zero understanding that far from sexual relations being a conquest, something that takes charm, planning and skill to achieve, it is actually the reverse and the conqueror is in reality conquered by maya’s lure - and not without consequences.

“Conceding to a life of sex, he agrees to suffer all kinds of material miseries. Due to ignorance, one is thus bound by the chain of material laws” SB 5.5.7 Purport

I vividly remember when I first read Srila Prabhupada’s books how struck I was to learn that controlling sex desire, as opposed to being able to satisfy it by ‘pulling the birds’, was the real challenge. Aside from the obvious sense of liberation this gave me, it also relieved me from the burden of having to compete in the bird pulling stakes that I was not so good at anyway :)

On a more serious note, convincing the general population and the younger generation in particular, that the rabid pursuit of satisfying the insatiable senses is not the goal of life, is a huge task. Furthermore getting ourselves to the point where attraction for Krsna’s holy name is more appealing than the temptations that maya makes available to us is arguably a greater challenge again.

The chanting of the holy name is initially undertaken on the basis of duty, vows and jnana etc., but until it happens on the basis of taste, with our hearts sufficiently purified to the point that the chanting of the holy name is something that is more or less spontaneous, then the possibility, if not probability of fall down will always be with us.

Hence until we reach these higher levels of taste and realisation we need the assistance of a proper social structure in the form of the varnasrama system. Being situated properly in the varnasrama system will greatly protect us from our lower natures. This protection comes directly to women and indirectly to men via the culture of protection and respect of the fair sex.

When women are protected they are automatically not exposed to the mercenary nature of material life in the form of lusty men. One aspect of that protection is security, both material and spiritual. If such security is not there then women are more or less forced to ‘make their own way’ in the world and this can have tragic consequences.

Recently in the UK there was a report suggesting that something like 60% of ‘unwanted’ teenage pregnancies were actually planned. Planned in the sense that the girls wanted to get pregnant because then either the husband/partner would be forced by the state to support them or they would get increased benefits from the government if the husband/partner failed to do so.

The general mood of the people toward such girls is very hostile and they consider them parasites etc. However if we consider that it is every woman’s inalienable right to be protected (which according to the varnasrama system it is) then how can we blame them if their motive for getting pregnant is essentially protection/security?

In essence these girls are lost and do not know a better way to feel protected and secure. The varnasrama system leaves little opportunity for young women to find themselves in such a difficult predicament and arrangements are made from before birth to ensure as best a possible arrangement for all children.

“According to the Vedic system, therefore, the garbhadhana-samskara, or the ceremony for giving birth to a child, is observed. Before begetting a child, one has to sanctify his perplexed mind. When the parents engage their minds in the lotus feet of the Lord and in such a state the child is born, naturally good devotee children come; when the society is full of such good population, there is no trouble from demoniac mentalities” SB 3.20.28

And once born the parents do all they can to ensure their children ultimately find a suitable partner that they can share their life with in a loving and secure environment. Srila Prabhupada eloquently describes the difference between the vedic system for finding a loving and secure partner and the western system that too often produces the results I have described above.

“The selection of a good husband for a good girl was always entrusted to the parents. Here it is clearly stated that Manu and his wife were coming to see Kardama Muni to offer their daughter because the daughter was well qualified and the parents were searching out a similarly qualified man. This is the duty of parents. Girls are never thrown into the public street to search out their husband, for when girls are grown up and are searching after a boy, they forget to consider whether the boy they select is actually suitable for them. Out of the urge of sex desire, a girl may accept anyone, but if the husband is chosen by the parents, they can consider who is to be selected and who is not. According to the Vedic system, therefore, the girl is given over to a suitable boy by the parents; she is never allowed to select her own husband independently” SB 3.21.27 purport

Such a loving and supportive environment that begins from before conception right to the time of leaving one’s body is the best protection for all of society from the destructive elements of this material world. From the Mahabharata we have many examples of how protected (and thus chaste women) can have a powerful influence. Here we find Gandhari making clear to Duryodhana what she thinks of his motives and makes clear to him that his uncontrolled senses are his greatest enemy:

“My dear son, listen as I offer advice meant only for your benefit. It is my most earnest wish that you make peace with the Pandavas. Follow your elders’ guidance, my son, and reap the fruits of virtue. You want to control the earth only because you are full of sense desire and anger. You do not know that only by overcoming those two impulses can a man attain success in life. One who is controlled by his senses cannot control a kingdom. Only after conquering ourselves can we conquer the earth. Otherwise, it is not possible. The uncontrolled senses are powerful enough to kill a man, just as untrained horses can kill an incompetent driver. Prosperity always attends the king who has mastered his passions and who stands ready to chastise offenders, acting only after careful consideration. He who gives in to desire and wrath will lose everything in the end. Such a man cannot even attain heaven. Therefore, strive to control your senses, for in this lies your greatest good.” Mahabharata – translated by Krishna Dharma das

So the more we create an environment where women are protected and respected, the more men will be protected from themselves and the negative interpretation of the words of this song will not have any influence. If we can create such a supportive and stable environment it will become so much easier and peaceful for us to practice spiritual life.

Your servant
Praghosa dasa

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1 Akruranatha

What an excellent and auspicious invitation to a positive and enlightening discussion of varnashram dharma and protection of women for the benefit of the entire society!

This is a controversial topic, for a number of reasons, but I sincerely hope the discussion will be as unifying and pleasing to all devotees as this nice article is.

We judge a thing by the results, and if the protection and respect of women in ISKCON is going on nicely we should expect to see that women in ISKCON are actually feeling happy and secure. The men will also be happy, and the entire atmosphere will be peaceful and satisfying.

I do from time to time talk to various American female disciples of Srila Prabhupada (as I did this weekend) who report that in the name of Vedic culture they were made to feel uncomfortable by male ISKCON leaders, as if we developed our own particular brand of ISKCON machismo that sometimes made them feel despised and oppressed, rather than respected and protected.

These ladies are nice devotees and I am convinced they cannot all be just in maya or influenced by feminist, anti-Vedic propaganda. Most of them want to practice devotional service in a peaceful and protected environment, not that they are looking for “independence” and unrestricted sense-gratification. Some reported they had particular skills and talents they wanted to use in Krishna’s service but they were denied opportunities due to unnecessary enforcement of rigid social roles for women.

I would especially like to hear from such women devotees about how they think ISKCON could improve in its treatment of and attitudes toward women. We need to make progress in this area.

On the other hand, if these problems are going to be discussed in a positive and progressive way, we need to make sure they are done faithfully, in light of Srila Prabhupada’s many instructions on the subject, and without divisive quarreling and faultfinding. We should all be prepared to acknowledge we could have some modern, non-Vedic cultural convictions, biases and prejudices which could obscure the truth and the way of dharma.

Fanially, we need to address some of the challenges of preaching in countries which have strong egalitarian values and are inclined to look on distinct gender roles as quaint and backward at best, or even as evil, cruel, oppressive, and unlawful. For devotees traveling and preaching internationally (we are an “international society” after all), are there specific “cultural sensitivity” lessons we need to learn?

I see so many thoughtful and articulate devotees here on Dandavats, I am sure we are up to the challenge.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on November 21st, 2006
2 Unregistered

Thank you Praghosa Prabhu for bringing up yet another important and interesting topic for discussion.

In the varnashram system, one of the basic instructions is for ladies to never be given independence.
In their childhood they are to be protected by the father. After that they are given in charity to a suitable husband, chosen by the parents, and in old age they are protected by the eldest son. So in every sphere of life, women are to be protected. In this way, a varnashram system can function peacefully. This is civilized life.
When Srila Prabhupada began preaching in the West, he was faced with the challenge of engaging both men and women in service hence the introduction of the bramhacharini ashram. In actual fact, there is no brahmacharini ashram in the varnashram system. So this begs the question; why did Srila Prabhupada introduce this?
Srila Prabhupada came to the West knowing he had limited time to spread Krishna Consciousness and therefore in order to spread the mission quickly, he made adjustments accordingly. The Acharya preaches according to time place and circumstance, and therefore what Srila Prabhupada did was perfect. We were introduced to these vedic principals like babies. We didn’t even know how to clean ourselves properly, or how to eat…just like babies. Just as babies wear nappies (dipers) when they are young…does it mean that as they grow up they have to continue to wear them?
Loose, independent women have and will continue to cause many of the problems our society faces. It is not the women’s fault, but it is the ISKCON society’s fault in not following the varnashram system.
Varnashram doesn’t mean farming, it means following vedic principals of varna and ashram of which one of the most important principals is that men and women should not mix freely. This is the basis of a civilized society. Now in ISKCON we even see discussions back and forward debating whether or not we should allow men and women to hug each other in our society! How far away can we get from what Srila Prabhupada wanted in establishing varnashram?

We see in almost all the temples today, so much interaction between men and women (bramacharis and ‘bramacharinis’) especially in the West…and we are surprised that, as a society, we are facing so many problems? It is time for ISKCON to grow up and not sink back into hippy life once again.

Comment posted by Sanjaya Das on November 21st, 2006
3 Unregistered

Hare Krishna, Praghosa Prabhu:

I appreciate the motives and content of your article. I would like to suggest that you consider the possibility that a crude song lyric makes for a crude headline that does an injustice to the devotee whose photo accompanies it. I’m sure that this rasa bhasa was not your intention, but it is the affect you achieved, at least in my case.

Your servant, Hari-kirtana dasa

Comment posted by Hari-kirtana dasa on November 21st, 2006
4 Unregistered

Thanks you put things very elequantly.
As I am studying counselling we did a small exercise, we had to write the first thing that came into our heads to certain words.
Of note was when the word young man was said, all the ladies put freedom.
They noted that the men were free to have sexual relations with little or no consequence. This in fact to me demonstrated that maya uses mens lusty, and men are ill trained to understand or realise this.
I also noted the stress of very young girls being admitted onto the childrens wards with young babies, I noted that in most cases they would say “If only my boyfriend was like you”, with heavyness of heart.
I remember the temple president in Wales talk about the young woman at the temple, he would pick her partner when the time is right, as he felt it would be right, I was delighted to hear he has chosen a lovely partner for her, I am sure she will be well protected.
But one thing I did find a little disturbing was that most woman on the course wished they could be like the men, Indead I worrying thought.

Comment posted by DJH on November 21st, 2006
5 tulasi-priya

Your words are wise. From the ladies side, I think we ought not to wait until all the men are completely sense-controlled. We can foster such an environment, which does not necessitate wearing a burqua or traveling by covered palanquin, but by inculcating the virtues of modesty and chastity in ourselves and our daughters. We women have more power and control than we give ourselves credit for; that’s why there’s so much fuss about what we are to do and be.

Compared to cultures like radical Islam and even fundamentalist Christanity, Vedic culture in the modern world is very liberal. We should take advantage of that liberality by exemplary behavior, and not wait for the rise of a Taliban-like faction within ISKCON to make overly-restrictive rules for us.

If we are sense-controlled ourselves, depend first on Krishna for protection, we will not, in a desperate bid for protection, attract men who seek to exploit us, but men who actually represent the Lord we depend on, not just as husbands, but as leaders and members of our society. They’re out there, they just might not like what they see right now.

Manu, 9.12

Comment posted by tulasi-priya on November 21st, 2006
6 tulasi-priya

Kudos, also, on the beautiful photo.

Comment posted by tulasi-priya on November 21st, 2006
7 Praghosa

For comment # 3

Thank you for pointing this out Hari-kirtana prabhu, as you say that was not the intention. As we have now discussed this I guess it has been clarified for all our readers.

The picture of the lady and the cow was in the mood that our society should be protecting women, cows, the elderly and children etc.

Praghosa dasa

Comment posted by Praghosa on November 21st, 2006
8 Unregistered

Devotees those want to follow Varnashram Dharma based on Prabhupada’s teaching, one needs to follow the example of Prabhupada’s life. Prabhupada was one family person who successfully raised His own family and children until they became independent. He was a faithful father as well as faithful husband. Again He is one successful spiritual master who had founded ISKCON. The key point to His all successful and meaningful family and spiritual life is because He was completely Krsna conscious person through out His life. All Krsna conscious person need not be in the order of Brahmachari or Brahmacharini through out their life if they do not take renounce order of life. Those who had taken renounce order they must follow all regulative principles as told by Prabhupada. But those who are in family life they must follow the example of family life which Prabhupada Himself had established.

If you are in family life it is first your spiritual duty to raise your family with wife and children such that they become independent of you and become Krsna conscious like you, if it is not possible better than you. You must be faithful to your wife and your wife must be faithful to you. Both wife and husband should cooperate each other such that they both can follow all regulative principles of family life to become true Vaisanava. Those couples who are completely adhere to the Ksna Consciousness even living in family life is most dearer to Krsna as well as Prabhupada. Living in family and becoming Krsna Conscious is the hardest part of one’s material life that Krsna also understands.

So those couples who can live in single married life and can raise their family including children to Krsna Consciousness must be exemplified within ISKCON and devotees should take advantage of their experiences how they co-operate within their family each other to move together to Krsna Consciousness becoming Vaisanava. If one husband and wife performing all household activities able to get initiated and also do all rounds of chanting and performing all religious duties to Krsna by worshipping personal deity, serving other Vaisanava etc. as prescribed by their Guru Moharaj, then they are not only fortunate Vaisanava but they are very advanced Vaisnavas. Such family should be glorified within devotees circles. Other devotees may learn from this kind of examples and also they can try to move in better way into their Krsna Consciousness life. In Bhagavatam there are so many examples that those family satisfied Lord by following all regulative principles of Varnasharam Dharma, they are always rewarded by Supreme Personality Of Godhead Krsna.

If Mohaprabhu’s mission to be fulfilled then it must that all house holders must get opportunity to hear and follow Krsna Consciousness. So where can one live in this material world without woman and sex becming householder? That’s why Prabhupada always preached against illicit sex before or after married life. And that must be followed strictly. Secondly once devotees join in ISKCON they should not give up their wife or husband unless they take renounce order of life. If one marry multiple times after becoming devotee than that person is materially attached for sense gratification. That person is definitely one fallen soul and such soul do not get mercy of Krsna so easily. Isolating woman from Prabhupada’s Krsna Consciousness movement is not a solution but following His personal example of His family life is only solution. Reamaining in Family life if one can control senses completely He is a real vaisanava. It is like remaining in fire, fire can not touch one’s body. So Varnasharm should be followed the way Prabhupada exemplified Himself and that is true Varnasham.

Comment posted by srimanta on November 22nd, 2006
9 krishna-kirti

Praghoshji, Hare Krishna. Nice picture with the article. Where was it taken?

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on November 22nd, 2006
10 Praghosa

Krishna-kirtiji, if you go to http://www.flickr.com/ and do a search for Krishna or ISKCON or Prabhupada etc….. you will get a huge selection of photos and that is where we picked this photo from.

Your servant, Praghosa dasa.

Comment posted by Praghosa on November 22nd, 2006
11 tulasi-priya

The photo was taken by Madhva Muni Prabhu. HIs wife is Kisori devi dasi. The URL for his Flickr website is:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/9...../71125244/

The photo is listed as copyrighted, “All Rights Reserved,” which means it should be used only with permission. If permission is given, then the photo should be credited to the photographer.

Comment posted by tulasi-priya on November 23rd, 2006
12 Gaurav Mittal

How many girls become pregnant in teens if they are raised with proper love and care? Even if in some exceptional cases, few girls who are loved by their family become pregnant then the trauma to the girl and baby can be reduced by loving and supportive parents. Not only girls but also boys need protection atleast in terms of love, care and support.

There are more important social issues than above issue like providing environment of love, care and support for children and loving relationship in marriage between spouses. Varnasrama systems starts with proper family values e.g. mutual respect between husband and wife, love and care towards children and proper respect by children.

Most people who make big deal about protection of women and who want to ban hugging etc are themselves suffering lustful desires and these lustful desires manifest with desire to control women. Such people should look inwards and they should introspect if their lustful tendencies are making them focus their minds women issues.

Comment posted by Gaurav Mittal on November 23rd, 2006
13 Praghosa

Regarding comment #11 while I’m sure there are some who raise the issue of protection of women while harbouring ulterior motives, we cannot assume everyone (or indeed most people) are in that category. Given that both Lord Krsna and Srila Prabhupada talk about this subject extensively means that we cannot make such a generalisation.

It would be a great shame that well intentioned people would be forced to silent on such subjects simply because some may have ulterior motives.

Your servant,

Praghosa dasa.

Comment posted by Praghosa on November 23rd, 2006
14 Praghosa

Regarding comment #11

Thank you Tulasi-priya we have the permission of Madhva Muni prabhu and have credited him with the photo.

Your servant, Praghosa dasa.

Comment posted by Praghosa on November 23rd, 2006
15 Unregistered

Regarding Comment #11, it is obvious to me that when the two Vaisnava gentlemen Praghosa Prabhu and Akruranatha Prabhu write about “protecting women,” they are doing so in a loving, respectful way out of genuine concern for the well-being of women and for society in general. These kind of men clearly have the right intentions and we applaud their balanced approach to the issue.

Instead of impugning their motives, I think the people we rather have to be wary of are the “Taliban-like” faction (to quote Tulasi-priya’s excellent analogy) within ISKCON that seeks to oppress women for other, darker motives.

Whether these men are impelled by uncontrolled lust, as Gaurav Prabhu here suggests, or by deeply-rooted insecurity and other psychological issues which cause them to feel threatened by women who are intelligent, strong and capable, this faction seeks to oppress and disempower women for the wrong motives.

Thus we have to be discerning. We must carefully distinguish one group from the other, because while having some surface similarities and while even quoting some of the same verses, the two are actually worlds apart.

While we offer all respect to the kind and decent men who sincerely seek to protect women and thus lead our Society in the right direction, we must at the same time not be misled by pathology masquerading as philosophy.

Indeed, we have seen that the pathological oppression of women in the name of a so-called “Vedic standard” has been a cancer within ISKCON, the diseased and infectious remnants of which must be eradicated once and for all if our Society is ever to become a healthy and vibrant entity.

Comment posted by Lalita Madhava d.d. on November 23rd, 2006
16 Unregistered

A beautiful picture, indeed. Even in our Society, founded on the philosophy that “we are not this body,” youth and beauty are idolized. But in the noble quest to establish varnasrama, and thus insure that our daughters and future generations are afforded proper protection, let us not forget the present generation of women who gave their youth to Prabhupada’s mission, only to find themselves, for myriad reasons, without protection from ISKCON in later life.

Comment posted by Lalita Madhava d.d. on November 23rd, 2006
17 Unregistered

first of all, i would like to thank gaurav mittal for his comment #12. i was thinking the same thing.
i also thought it was interesting that the photo of a beautiful lady devottee got so much attention. if it had been an old woman or a not so beautiful woman, would it still get kudos?
it is obvious that the appreciation for the photo shows a that women add beauty and grace to life. thats why they are needed and should be honored and respected.
i am shocked and depressed at how the men and women in iskcon ( or at least on this website) see a woman’s role. it seems that when the men here talk about protecting women, it really just means not having illicit sex with a woman. nothing about actual emotional and physical protection. a posting in another thread had one mataji speaking only how she does not quarrel with her husband. that was praised up and down by the men who posted their responces. i just kept on thinking, what kind of man is she married to, that she is having to constantly hold her tounge so that she doesn’t have to quarrel in front of her children.? if that was all i had to live up to in life i would not care to continue.
girls should use their passion to cultivate the 64 arts of radharani. from a young age our daughters should be trained in music singing, or dancing, cooking ,painting, tending tulasi, sewing, yoga, poetry, rangoli ,puja, ayurveda,etc
it is the parents duty to establish their daughter proclivities and guide them in that direction. without practicing an art to satisfy a passion, our passion will want to turn to lust.
in south india, where remnants of vedic culture remain, every girl is taught some vedic art. from chanting the vishnu sahasra nam and tirrupavai to bharata natyam or carnatic vocal. practically a parent cannot even find a husband for a daughter who doesn’t know the tirrupavai (vaisnava hymms of andal) if a woman comes to the temple to get darshan or sing devotional songs or decorate with rangoli or flowers, are the men agitated?
NO. if they are, that is their problem. any gentleman from our society or elseware would welcome the stunning beauty of their devotion.
i study and teach carnatic vocal music .i am not a professional but i get great satisfaction from learning and absorbing myself in the differant ragas and beautiful devotional sahityam (lyrics). my daughters all learn intensivly the vedic arts of music and dancing. i am shocked sometimes when some devottees ask me “what is the point of learning music? what do you do with your music? how do you use it? you should preach, it is not our sampradaya”ect. why is it ok to have a devotee rock band, but ancient vedic music is “not our sampradaya” vedic music is seva, it is meditation, it is japa.
last of all, and i am sure this wont be taken too well by most, but, i don’t need the protection of a man.i also gave my youth to srila prabhupada’s misson, having recieved diksha at 17 years of age. (i am now in my 50’s) but frankly, if it was a man like the man who wrote the comment #2 who was an iskcon temple leader in a temple i wanted to take shelter in, uh, thanks but no thanks,
i have protection of sri sri radha and krsna. and my music. i also work two jobs.

Comment posted by cinmayi on November 24th, 2006
18 krishna-kirti

Comment #2, which advocates the status of women within a varnashrama society as never being independent, appears to be the object of remarks that say such an understanding is held to only be devotees who should rather be refered to as the “Taliban”. As unpallatable as a society with social roles strongly demarcated according to gender, this is still what the shastras recommend, and it is what Srila Prabhupada often and consistently upheld as a feature of an ideal society. In other words, if we actually implement varnashram-dharma as Srila Prabhupada has described it, starting within ISKCON and gradually exporting it to the rest of society, occupational roles will be divided by gender.

Certainly, there will be many women won’t become members of a society with such a social structure, and many men also will not want to become members of such a society. Some comments here have said as much. However there are two empirical facts that the religious who believe that a gender-egalitarian society is God’s wish have never adequately answered:

1) People (men and women) join religious societies that favor patriarchy more than they do religious societies that favor gender-egalitarianism.

2) Religious societies that favor gender egalitarianism tend to lose members because of a higher incidence of illicit sex.

In the West the two outstanding examples of strongly patriarchial religions that are gaining converts, more than almost any other religion, are the Mormons and the Catholic Church. According to the distinguished sociologist Rodney Stark, the Mormons have steadily increased their membership by 43% per decade for the last 100 years. (Stark. The Rise of Christianity. pg. 7)

The Catholic Church has also been gaining members. Furthermore, many of its gains have been at the expense of mainstream Protestant religions like the Anglican Church, the Methodist Church, the Presbyterians, and more liberal strains of Lutheranism such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. All of these mainstream Protestant denominations have embraced gender egalitarinism and for the last 30 or more years since doing so have been steadily losing members.

As far as sexual scandals go, studies have shown that eight out of ten Catholic priests caught in the scandals were homosexual. This is correlated with changes ushered in by Vatican II that opened up Catholic seminaries to homosexual candidates for the priesthood.

What this strongly suggests is that just as important as the question “who will join us?” is the question “who will stay with us?” Srila Prabhupada was undoubtedly open to those who were compelled by social custom to mix freely with the opposite sex. Yet at the same time it has been sexual infidelity that has driven most of trouble we have witnessed as a society, and that in turn has caused a crisis of faith that has led further to splintering and schism. In the beginning, Srila Prabhupada did not recommend varnashrama-dharma as strongly as he did in his latter days. More than 70% of his instructions on varnasrama were given between 1975 and 1977.

The question “who will stay?” is directly linked to our ability to control infidelity, and controlling infidelity will be directly a function of whether we can sufficiently implement varnasrama-dharma. Like it or not, varnasrama-dharma means social and occupational roles divided by gender.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on November 25th, 2006
19 Unregistered

Krishna-kirti Prabhu, somehow you have misunderstood my entire point. Praghosa Prabhu and Akruranatha Prabhu have written much about implementing varnasrama and the protection of women, and I praised their writings. I have also openly stated (in another discussion) that I - though I am just speaking for myself personally here and would not presume to speak for women in general - actually prefer in many ways traditional gender roles. The “Taliban” analogy, as I explained, is directed toward those men who seek to oppress and disempower women for the wrong reasons.

Comment posted by Lalita Madhava d.d. on November 25th, 2006
20 krishna-kirti

Dear Mother Lalita Madhava, Hare Krishna. Although my remark about the Taliban was not the main point of my comment, and to be fair, you weren’t the only commentator in this thread to use “Taliban”. I didn’t have your comment specifically in mind when I made my remark. Furthermore, I’ve seen “Taliban” casually used in many a “discussion” to simply exclude an opposing point of view. Using Taliban to refer to a devotee–even an unnamed devotee–is like calling someone a Nazi. If you make the label stick, his arguments need not be considered. After all, he’s a “Nazi”, a “Talibani”–a social pariah who needs to be ignored or driven out of society. Right? By my remark, all I had asked is that for the sake of reasoned discussion we not use slur words like “Taliban” to describe points of view we object to and especially to describe the devotees who hold them.

If that is behind us, then I would like to address an interesting phrase in your last comment (#19):

“men who seek to oppress and disempower women for the wrong reasons.”

I find this interesting because of two implicit presumptions: 1) women should be “empowered”, and 2) that “disempowerment” is not necessarily objectionable. The first presumption appears to be the notion that “empowered” women should be the social norm. If you’re using the word “empowered” in the conventionally understood sense, then that means women should have now what they didn’t have before–”service” opportunities no different from those of men. Is this first presumption correct?

The second presumption seems to imply that “disempowerment” when allowable is more like an extraordinary circumstance, such as in a natural disaster, a war, or an invasion, where the male propesenity for agressiveness and risk-taking may make all the difference in survival. Is this second presumption also correct? (If you have in mind some less extreme examples of what legitimate “disempowerment” might look like, I think we would all be obliged if you described them.)

Here is an hypothetical example of disempowerment:

The president of a temple has taken up another service somewhere else in the world, leaving the position of president in his former temple open. A panel of devotees has been designated to solicit applications for the post and from those applications decide who the next temple president will be. They receive a number of applications, and after examining all the resumes, conducting interviews with the candidates, and checking references, they find two candidates who they feel are competent to take over as temple president. One is a man and the other a woman.

The man is competent–he has the required expertise in all areas that one would expect a temple president to be expert in. He has a record of service and behavior that no one can object to. While equaling the man in all his areas of expertise and also having a similarly stellar record of service and behavior, the woman has excelled the man in some areas. In her career, she has distributed considerably more books than him, often beating him in book marathons. She has also bested him in straight fundraising, such as in selling paintings and life membership. She is also a more experienced pujari.

After comparing the two devotees, the panel finally decides that the man should be the next temple president. To explain their decision, they make this statement:

“X Prabhu and Mother Y both have stellar service records and are equally qualified in many areas. In fact, although X Prabhu is an expert book distributor, fund-raiser, and pujari, Mother Y excelled him in these areas. However, because temple president is also a leadership role in society, and as such requires a role model, we feel that in deference to the law that a woman should not be independent–either in childhood, youth, or old age–X Prabhu should be the temple president. If Mother Y had been a man, then we surely would have made her temple president. We thank all the devotees who applied for the position, and we encourage all to carry on in their service.”

Here is the question: Is this a case of legitimate disempowerment, or is this a case of illegitimate disempowerment?

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on November 25th, 2006
21 Unregistered

why cant a woman be temple president and still be dependant on her husband?

Comment posted by cinmayi on November 25th, 2006
22 Urmila Devi Dasi

Thank you, Praghosa Prabhu, for writing that women should be protected. I am presently seeing here in India how the people are gradually emulating the worst aspects of Western culture in regards to women. In the cities, it may be with the upcoming generation that close to complete degregation in this regard takes place. In the villages, it will take longer, but many of the signs are there. It is interesting, though, that in the villages it is common–practically pervading–that men and women share much of the household chores and child care. For example, I regularly see husband and wife cooking together (as is mentioned in the Caitanya Caritamrita), fathers and grandfathers taking care of very young children, and so forth. Sometimes it seems that our Western ideal of varnasrama gender roles may not comport with the reality of what occured in Vedic society.

The mention of women as temple presidents in the comments is interesting. I am not herein expressing an opinion pro or con regarding women as temple presidents. There are solid scriptural and common-sense arguments that can be made on both sides of the issue. Certainly, women in our tradition have been spiritual leaders, and Prabhupada encouraged all his “boys and girls” to take up positions of spiritual leadership both inside and outside of ISKCON. Spiritual leadership is outside of varnasrama. Whether spiritual leadership would or would not include being a temple president is an interesting discussion.

Applying the vanasrama gender roles to situations outside of varnasrama is as dangerous as applying principles of spiritual equality to roles within varnasrama. Varnasrama designations are based on body and mind. As long as one identifies with the body and mind (which is most of us), corresponding varnasrama designations should be followed for duties that are within the jurisdiction of varnasrama. Such following makes for individual and societal peace as a foundation for spiritual life. But, even a beginning sadaka in bhakti can perform any and all of the nine processes of devotional service, regardless of the nature of the body and mind.

Much confusion in ISKCON about gender roles has resulted from three main problems, in my estimation. The first is firm assertions of what is correct according to varnasrma despite confusion about what gender roles would be/were in Vedic society. The second is applying spiritual principles of equality to the delegation of duties in the category of varnasrama. The third is applying varnasrama principles of inequality to the delegation of duties in the category of the nine processes of bhakti.

As far as Prabhupada’s opinion about women being temple presidents, Rukmini tells of how Prabhupada asked a group of disciples to each open a temple. She asked, “Even the girls?” and Prabhupada responded in the affirmative. The following letter is also of interest, as Prabhupada states that the only disqualification of his female disciple under discussion is that she is not following the principles:

“I am enclosing herewith a letter from Krishna devi which speaks for itself. Please reply her that she cannot take charge of one of our centers because she has violated the regulations of our society. In spite of having her duly married husband, she indulged in illicit sex life, so this is willful violation of our rules and regulations. So far her Krishna Consciousness activities are concerned, she can execute nicely wherever she lives, and I have all blessings for her, because the door of Krishna Consciousness is open for everyone, but when one has to take charge of a center, he has to become completely above suspicion.” Letter to: Brahmananda — San Francisco 12 March, 1968

Your servant, Urmila devi dasi

Comment posted by Urmila Devi Dasi on November 26th, 2006
23 tulasi-priya

Is there a reason no one has addressed my points about women being the guardians of their own virtue? Is it because it is too touchy a subject? I included a quote (see below) from Manu (of all people). It says definitively that no matter how well women are protected, if they don’t guard themselves, they are not well-protected for them. Somehow it never made it into my previous post. Is this a taboo subject? Generally, the women in these forums (that I am acquainted with) have exemplary behavior, so it’s a moot point. The ones who should be reading these discussions (but aren’t) are off getting themselves into trouble.

As for my reference to the Taliban: in case anyone thinks I was making innuendos, I was not. All I meant was that it is better to get your act together before someone forces you to do so. I know of no Taliban-like factions in ISKCON, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.

Here’s the quote from Manu-samhita. Enjoy.

Manu, 9.12: Women, confined in the house under trustworthy and obedient servants, are not (well) guarded; but those who of their own accord keep guard over themselves, are well guarded.

Comment posted by tulasi-priya on November 26th, 2006
24 Unregistered

Krishna-kirti Prabhu, pardon my ambiguity. I did not mean to imply that there are any legitimate reasons to disempower women. There are not. My point was that while there are many wonderful men who sincerely wish to see women protected, there are, unfortunately, a few who seek to oppress and disempower them for reasons which have nothing whatsoever to do with spirituality.

And Urmila Prabhu, thank you for your many wonderful points. Could you please explain what you mean by “applying principles of spiritual equality to to roles within varnasrama”?

Comment posted by Lalita Madhava d.d. on November 26th, 2006
25 Unregistered

Dear Tulasi-priya: There is, in fact, a “Taliban-like” faction within ISKCON. Consider yourself fortunate if you have never crossed paths with any of them. When I publicized my email address in another discussion and said I welcomed correspondence from Dandavats readers, I received several wacko letters, one stating that women were meant to be “subservient” to men and another referring to the saintly senior women Prabhupada disciples in a particular community as “feminist terrorists.” When I reported these letters, along with their senders, to a representative from the Women’s Ministry, I was told that, thankfully, their numbers are few and that they are not taken seriously by the GBC.

Comment posted by Lalita Madhava d.d. on November 26th, 2006
26 krishna-kirti

Dear Mother Tulasi-priya, Hare Krishna. As regards to your previous comment not being answered, the “Taliban” reference was the likely showstopper.

As regards to your remark in comment #5, “I think we ought not to wait until all the men are completely sense-controlled,” it seems varnashram presumes that people in general (the unliberated) are never completely self controlled. All of our scriptures seem to agree that conditioned human nature is basically unpleasant. Since we’re discussing Manu-smriti, this statement captures that pessimism:

sa rAjA puruSo daNDaH sa netA zAsitA c saH
caturNAmASrmANAm ca dharmasya pratibhUH smRtaH

daNDaH zAsti prajAH sarva daNDaH evAbhirakSati
daNDaH supteSu jAgarti daNDaM dharmaM vidurbudhAH

yAdi na praNayed rAjA daNDam daNDyeSvatindritaH
zUle matsyAnivApakSyan durbalAn balavattarAH

sarvo daNDajito loko durlabho hi zucirnaraH
daNDasya hi bhayAtsarvam jagadbhogAya kalpate

“Punishment is (in reality) the king (and) the male, that the manager of affairs, that the ruler, and that is called the surety for the four orders’ obedience to the law. Punishment alone governs all created beings, punishment alone protects them, punishment watches over them while they sleep. The wise declare punishment to be no different than the law. If the king did not without tiring, inflict punishment on those worthy to be punished, the stronger would roast the weaker, like fish on a spit. The whole world is kept in order by punishment, for a guiltless man is hard to find. Through fear of punishment, the whole world becomes fit for happiness.”

(Manu-Samhita 7.18 - 7.22 - trans. G Buhler)

This statement comes at the beginning of Manu’s exposition on civil and criminal law and forms their basis. For a Western hook into Manu’s line of thinking, his statement that “the whole world is kept in order by punishment, for a guiltless man is hard to find” is similar to that of Thomas Hobbes’s “war against all,” with civil society being an outcome of weariness from war fought for the sake of securing contested goods. Hobbes presumed an extremely dark view of human nature and, apparently, so does Manu.

Compare this to more modern political philosophies such as the utilitarianism of John Stuart Mill, who had a much brighter view of human nature. His view was that human beings are basically good, and that if you remove their circumstantial impediments (and give them the right education), then they will naturally try to fully develop their human potential, just as a flowering plant under optimal conditions will fully blossom. There are many statements Mill has made that demonstrate this view; in particular, here is one: “Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental or spiritual. Mankind are the greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest. . . .” (Mill. “On Liberty” 1859)

Mill’s social philosophy is considerably more individualistic than either Hobbes or Manu, and Mill’s individualism requires a basically benign view of (conditioned) human nature, which Hobbes and Manu do not share. Thinking in modern Western society is much closer to Mill’s presumptions about human nature than Hobbes’s, which is why Manu is so hard for most Western-educated devotees to accept. Manu goes against their notion of (conditioned) human nature.

If Manu is right about human nature yet we still try to follow Mill, then that’s a setup for a massive social train wreck. That’s why I think that self-restraint, while there must be some, requires more social enforcement than we are used to. This is true both for men and women.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on November 26th, 2006
27 krishna-kirti

Dear Mother Lalita-madhava, Hare Krishna. So your previous statement, “men who seek to oppress and disempower women for the wrong reasons,” should really read “men who seek to oppress and disempower women.” At least we are clear on this point. I think we can count that as progress.

But then if there are no legitimate reasons to “disempower” women, or not “empower” them, then how would you square this belief of yours with Srila Prabhupada’s own statements on the matter? In no description of an ideal society has Srila Prabhupada ever said that women should have equal occupational opportunity with men. On the contrary he has frequently stated quite the opposite.

If “Taliban” is in play (it got published), then so is “feminism”. Just consider this statement by a scholar:

The church becomes feminized in this sense when women exercise their right and ability to join in the human and religious activities of symbol-making, becoming not only consumers but creators of religious culture. It becomes feminized when women add their voices to the discourse on Christian ethics and claim their authority as responsible moral agents. Church language becomes feminized when it recognizes women’s existence, experience, history and value; and ministry undergoes a feminization when every form of it is open to women. Finally, leadership in the church becomes feminized when it values relationship, inclusiveness, participation and flexibility, qualities that women’s social experience has prepared them to value.

(Kaye Asha. “The Feminization of the Church?” Sheed & Ward, Kansas City, 1997. Page xiii.)

As per Asha’s description, ISKCON has also undergone or is undergoing every single transformation she ascribes to the terms feminized and feminization. So would it not be appropriate to describe ISKCON’s present stance on women’s roles and rights as feminist? It would be difficult to argue that it isn’t.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on November 26th, 2006
28 krishna-kirti

In my six years living and working in India, and not in Vrindavan or Mayapur, where if you desire you can stay relatively aloof from the local culture, I visited quite a different India than the one Mother Urmila describes. It is not that I didn’t see anything bad while I was there, nor do I think that means she did not see anything good. I’ve also seen many of the things she has described. Yet what we each tend to focus on is decidedly different. It was in India where my appreciation for varnashrama grew and developed. Srila Prabhupada’s statements about varnasrham made much more sense after my time there.

I’ll attribute our differences in point of view mainly to our differing desires to see varnashram in one way or another.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on November 26th, 2006
29 Akruranatha

Dear Mother Tulasi-Priya:

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

I very much appreciated your post #5. I wanted to comment, but I have been busy and traveling. (Actually I am still traveling and I do not have an ideal environment to write in, with a TV blaring right beside me at the moment — very distracting).

Please rest assured that your comments are not going unappreciated, and that goes for so many other good comments of devotees, here and elsewhere.

I suspect it is mostly women who will teach girls the virtues, and street smarts, necessary to be moral women in today’s world and in the ISKCON subculture.

As a practical matter, there is only so much most of us actually learn by attending classes. Most learning, good and bad, seems to comes by osmosis from those we associate with and emulate in society, and the prevalent gunas they are acting in. (karanam guna sango ’sya sad asad yoni janmasu)

Of course, attending Srimad Bhagavatam class is a different story. That is devotional service, putting us directly in touch with the spiritual world, through transcendental sound, like chanting our rounds or dancing in kirtan. It is in a whole other category, a revolutionary type of literature, and it should have a naturally purifying and uplifting effect on the audience and even on the entire human society.

But mundane ethics classes and discussions on moral behavior, though not without value, are probably not the way most of us actually learn to be good moral people. We learn through numerous social interactions, similar to the way babies learn a language. Therefore, living in a truly virtuous society is a great opportunity if we aspire to become truly virtuous people.

Having virtuous parents and other family members is most important, and having virtuous teachers, writers, bosses, co-workers, political leaders, etc. are all obviously beneficial. Women will learn womanly virtues mostly from other women, and various workers will learn the virtues of their respective trades and walks of life from those who’ve walked before them. That is only to be expected.

Not that we should not speak or teach each other about moral behavior. Our boys and girls, and even the young men and women who join the movement later in life, need to be taught how to be dharmic and well-mannered people, both by pedagogy and by good examples of healthy, moral social interactions. We all need to know Vaisnava etiquette and also how to act as perfect ladies and gentlemen whom the world will look up to. Krishna’s devotees should be famous as the paragons of virtue.

Srila Prabhupada sometimes indicated that if we can actually become devotees of Krishna, we will naturally become moral people (just like we do not have to separately teach devotees to be vegetarians or to rise before sunrise–if they eat only prasadam and go to mangal aratik, the subordinate material moral behavior will already be included).

Nevertheless, as parents and teachers, we obviously cannot neglect giving instructions about right and wrong, proper behavior and improper behavior. The boys should be taught how to be nice brahmacaris, but it should be understood that nearly all of them will get married and they should be trained how to become good husbands and fathers, just as the girls should be trained how to be good wives and mothers. All this training requires not only good instructions but good behavior that they can emulate.

Srila Prabhupada was mainly teaching us to somehow or other become devotees of Krishna. That is the only ultimate virtue, inasmuch as someone who lives an exemplary moral life by mundane estimation but does not become attracted to Srimad Bhagavatam and the Holy Name has simply wasted his time. However, we should not become negligent in being good people because we know that Krishna will protect us from sinful reactions — we must remember and carefully avoid the seventh offense to the Holy Name.

Srila Prabhupada created many young sannyas disciples, because the urgent need of modern society demanded it, even though he knew he was taking a big risk. What Srila Prabhupada did in 12 years with us is unbelievable. It is not surprising that we disciples have made mistakes, even huge ones, in establishing our gurukulas, farm communities, and ISKCON ashram life in general. Still, we cannot lose hope or give up the duties Srila Prabhupada assigned us, and we can easily find inspiring, encouraging news of ISKCON’s success in giving thousands of people a real connection with the ultimate highest good and goal of life every day.

In the 1970s, some American brahmacaris in ISKCON developed an attitude that women were to be despised. Perhaps this aversion is some sort of natural reverse-side of lust that sometimes develops in immature renunciates (as Gaurav Mittal wisely alluded to). I heard stories of “renouced” men actually spitting on female devotees in those days, and I personally remember one incident where my bus leader (who happens to be a very nice devotee) actually chastised Jayananda Prabhu for having allowed the ladies in the Chicago temple on to Sri Sri Radha-Damodar’s bus to get darshan, when no men were present, (as if the mere presence of women physically on the bus somehow contaminated it). I know we have grown a lot in ISKCON since those days.

I want to say to Gaurav, though, that the debate on Dandavats about hugging, silly as it seems, involved the issue of how Srila Prabhupada wants us to behave with each other within ISKCON, so we should not ridicule devotees for their concern (although I agree with you there are more serious things that we should concern ourselves with.)

Srila Prabhupada asked the men to address the women as “Mataji,” in order to teach us to respect all women. An ideal gentleman should consider all women except his own wife as his mother. If we are thinking of a woman as our “mataji”, how could we spit on her or direspect or hurt her? We should always remember how respectful and devoted Lord Caitanya was to Sacimata.

As Cinmayi has pointed out, ultimately we are all responsible for achieving real success in human life (going back to Godhead). Unless it is really something we have been delegated to do something about, we men should probably not be too interested in pointing out the moral disqualifications of women in ISKCON generally, or of specific women. Most of us have our own moral disqualifications to worry about, and the culture of faultfinding will not benefit us.

I am happy to see senior devotees like Mother Urmila grace our discussions here in Dandavats. Urmila warns us about three problems which are sources of confusion (1) not properly understanding actual Vedic social roles, (2) applying spiritual principles of equality in delegating duties in the realm of varnasrama dharma and (3) applying varnasrama principles of inequality in the delegation of spiritual duties which belong to bhakti proper. I hope I can induce her to elaborate on these problems, as well as potential solutions.

One question for Urmila is, how do we properly distinguish between delegation of varnasram duties and delegation of duties within the nine limbs of bhakti? Can you give some guidance how to avoid confusing the two?

Comment posted by Akruranatha on November 26th, 2006
30 Unregistered

Krishna-kirti Prabhu,

Regarding Comment #27, could you please explain what you mean by saying that “Srila Prabhupada said that women should not have equal occupational opportunity with men” to women such as myself, who work full time to support their entire households and who also perform other assorted duties, such as household repairs involving carpentry and contstruction as well as automotive maintenance?

Cinmayi admitted to feeling “shocked and depressed” by some of the comments on this website. I have similarly heard other women express those same sentiments and make comments like, “I think I might be in the wrong religion.” I find this particular comment of yours to be extremely alienating and discouraging.

Comment posted by Lalita Madhava d.d. on November 26th, 2006
31 krishna-kirti

Mother Lalita Madhava said, “I find this particular comment of yours [#27] to be extremely alienating and discouraging.” This remark typifies what is meant by “political correctness”. Instead of engaging the substance of an argument, an interlocutor may sometimes instead appeal to the emotions of an audience. This is a logical fallacy because how we feel about any particular subject or statement is irrelevant to its truth or falsity.

Truth is not always pleasant; it has no obligation to appeal to our emotions. Even if we do feel “extremely alienated” or “discouraged”, if we are actually interested in the truth we should nevertheless be prepared to consider the substance of an argument we don’t agree with. After all, it is possible that no matter how strongly we might feel about the certainty of a particular idea, we may nevertheless be wrong. Emotions are a poor, misguided standard by which to discover the truth.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on November 26th, 2006
32 krishna-kirti

To be fair to Mother Lalita Madhava’s request for further explanation in comment #30, here is some elaboration on my remark in comment #27.

I wrote, “Srila Prabhupada said that women should not have equal occupational opportunity with men”, and Mother Lalita Madhava points out that she herself works full-time, perhaps side-by-side with other gainfully employed males, and, like them supports a household, and performs various other traditionally male tasks that include carpentry, construction, and auto-maintenance. How then can Srila Prabhupada, in anything he says, repudiate her way of life? It’s a fair objection.

The answer: An “is” is not necessarily a “should”. If we are in maya, that does not mean we should be in maya. In the same way, because we may find ourselves out of necessity living in a particular way does not mean that the way we live should be a template for the kind of society we should be building.

Gender egalitarian societies achieve “equal occupational opportunity” at the expense of proliferating illicit sex. Just recently in the news it was reported by the federal Center for Disease Control that nowadays 4 out of every 10 children in the United States are born to single mothers, and this illegitimacy rate has been steadily growing since the 1990s. Without going into the details as to how this growing trend in illegitimacy has even liberal policy makers worried, it’s enough for us to know that the example of America, and pretty much the rest of the affluent West, demonstrates that women becoming free to mix in society is the cause for illicit sex. At least in the first chapter of the Gita, that’s how Arjuna describes the causal relationship between free intermingling and illicit sex.

My reference to what Srila Prabhupada said was in reference to his explanations of what society should be like, not what it is presently like. In order to get from the is to the should, we have a lot of work to do. The first step is to at least be convinced ourselves that perserving the is, including its supporting precepts, is not in our best of interests and the the should is indeed what we ought to be gradually working towards establishing.

In the meantime, devotees like Mother Lalita Madhava may have to endure for a long time in their present circumstances–perhaps to the ends of their lives. I also live and work under less-than-ideal social conditions, so I’m in pretty much the same boat with her. Still, there is the future to look forward to. Even if we ourselves never live to see the future society we helped build, the gratitude of future generations should be a more than adequate reward.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on November 26th, 2006
33 Urmila Devi Dasi

Thank you, Krishna-kirti Prabhu, for reminding us both that we may have to happily accept less than ideal social conditions during our lifetime, and that we can help to create a future more in line with Prabhupada’s instructions.

Answers to things brought up about my post:
I am in Govardhana, not Vrindavana, and it is impossible to be “aloof from the local culture.” The men I see regularly helping with cooking, child care (and I had forgotten to mention, laundry) are totally seeped in the local, traditional culture. I did not expect to see this, and found it to be quite a surprise, actually.

As for elaborating on solutions to social problems, I hope to write something more extensive than a short comment on a text. I do know that cultural norms can change dramatically in a relatively short period of time. So, creating new cultural and social norms (or reviving ancient ones, to be more accurate) is entirely possible if we are empowered by Krishna and working to please Prabhupada.

To explain–briefly!!–the three problems I have found in devotees in regards to social issues….
1) not understanding Vedic/varnasrama roles: We may impose some stereotype and think that is the system, or try to overly simplify things. The sastra gives us general guidelines about the duties in the varnas and ashramas, as well as the duties for women. At the same time, sastra is full of historical accounts that indicate a greater richness and depth than is sometimes attributed to the social system in a simple explanation. Simplifying often distorts.
2) applying spiritual principles of equality to varnasrama duties: This is fairly simple. On the spiritual platform we are all equal, yet we do not ask children to drive a truck to pick up bhoga for the Lord. Yet, in the name of spiritual equality, there were times in our movement when, for one example, married women with young children were almost constantly on the road collecting money. Things that under varnasrama might come in the category of “emergency duties” became standard practice in the name of spiritual equality
3) applying varnasrama principles to the nine processes: Although a child shouldn’t drive a truck, that same child can hear, chant, remember Krishna, and so forth without restriction. Worship of the Lord, preaching, serving the Lord, etc. are open to everyone, no matter what the body and mind. We do have considerations of spiritual realization, initiation, etc. but that is not in relation to the body and mind. Even an animal such as Jatayu or Hanuman is not disqualified due to the body. But, sometimes we may think that because someone is not suited for a particular varnasrama-category service due to the body and mind, such should also apply to spiritual processes.

#2 and #3 especially can get confusing because some brahminical occupations under varnasrama are very similar to the nine processes of bhakti.

I hope this is more clear.

Your servant, Urmila devi dasi

Comment posted by Urmila Devi Dasi on November 27th, 2006
34 Unregistered

As a father to 2 grown up daughters and a grandfather to a granddaughter ,it is an ongoing education to watch them grow up and see how they relate with the world around them.
To watch them continuosly have to struggle ,and struggle.
My perception of members of the opposite sex now is seriously different than when i was a younger man.
I used to see them as objects for my gratification,
Now all my old girlfriends must be in their 50s ,and getting older and closer to death every day,
My belated apologies to all of them,for simply using them.
I see the way other men look at my family members,and can see the wisdom of protecting those weaker than ourselves.
It seems we all choose to become involved in household life.
I often ask myself ,why do we get involved in this business in the first place?
ys mvdas

Comment posted by mahavidya das on November 27th, 2006
35 krishna-kirti

Mother Urmila, Hare Krishna. When you have given your first bribe, then you will know that you have also have become a participant in the local culture–warts and all. :-)

Where is your term “principles of spiritual equality” (as applied to varnashram) coming from? What is its shastric pramana? The term appears to be a neologism.

As a preliminary observation, the perspective of shastra and tradition you advocate seems to be considerably more abstract than the one I have advocated. These differing perspectives have have distinct and important implications.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on November 27th, 2006
36 Akruranatha

I have no problem seeing what Mother Urmila means by the principles of spiritual equality. It is just so fundamental to our philosophy: we are not these bodies, but are rather eternal spirit-souls whose actual eternal occupation is service to Krishna on the transcendental platform.

Knowledge by which we see one undivided spiritual nature in all beings is knowledge in the mode of goodness. (BG, Chpt. 18)

Vidya vinaya sampanne brahmane gavi hastini suni caiva svapake ca pandita sama darsinah. (BG 5.18) That “sama darshina” or equal vision is an essential part of our philosophy.

In addition to the fact that we are all eternal spiritual souls, in spite of our being conditioned with different types of bodily and mental coverings, there is also the important principle that a Vaisnava who does not identify with the material body should never be seen in terms of his or her material condition. (See, Upadesamrta Text Six.)

If we were seen in terms of our material bodies (the way some smarta brahmanas would see us), none of Srila Prabhupada’s non-Indian disciples could be qualified to worship the Deities or even study the sastras. Fortunately for us, Srila Prabhupada did not view us that way. He came out of India to save us, and he fought for us to be given the opportunity to enter Lord Jagannatha’s temple. He tried to make us *qualified* to enter the spiritual world.

Bhakti yoga is so powerful that even yavanas, hunas etc. can be purified (kirata hunandra paulinda pulkasa…Second Canto S.B.)

Haridas Thakur in ecstatic humility considered himself unqualified due to his having been born in a Muslim family. Sri Rupa and Sanatana Goswamis also felt humility due to their having been in service to the Muslim king. Still, Lord Caitanya accepted these devotees as topmost. Haridas would not enter Lord Jagannath’s temple, but the Lord personally came to visit him at his bhajan kutir.

The principle of spiritual equality is pretty obvious to us. I would say that this principle is primary and is fundamental to our movement.

Mundane history is often presented as a succession of power struggles between different factions based on material designations: popes against kings, monarchs against aristocrats, landed aristocracy against wealthy factory owners, urban workers against management, indigenous populations against colonial powers, struggling ethnic groups looking for an economic or political foothold in a dominant economic and social system trying to keep them down, etc. etc.

Material life is characterized by a hard struggle. The big fish eats the little fish and those with two legs eat those with four legs (jiva jivasya jivanam) (First Canto S.B.)

Krishna consciousness presents a welcome alternative to this dog eat dog world. When we recognize that Krishna is the supreme lord, the enjoyer of all sacrifices, and the dearmost intimate friend of all beings, we attain peace. (BG 5.29)

That has always been a big and attractive part of our preaching. Krishna consciousness presents a means by all people from all nations and walks of life to live peacefully and happily together.

We do not go to the Rainbow gathering and tell the hippies, “You are all low class people. You need to go get a job as menial servant to some successful yuppie.” (Of course not!) We say, “chant Hare Krishna and be happy,” “recognize the true oneness of all living beings as eternally individual loving servants of Krishna, in a world beyond time, where no one has to get old and die.” If they come to the temple and are willing to follow the four rules, we accept them and engage them in some service according to their practical qualifications, with the goal of teaching them how to enter that spiritual environment of pure peace and harmony (where every gait is a dance and every word is a song).

So it should be easy for all of us to understand what Mother Urmila means by the principle of spiritual equality.

Even in the realm of varnasrama dharma, Srila Prabhupada always emphasized that we have our varnas based on our qualities and work, as Krishna says (B.G. 4.13), not by birth. The conservative tendency is to always try to establish social privilege on the basis of birthright, so even in discussing varnasram dharma there was something egalitarian or “meritocratic” in the way Srila Prabhupada presented it.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on November 27th, 2006
37 trivikramaswami

Even the principle of spiritual equality also has gradation as Srila Prabhupada has stated clearly here:
Therefore on I don’t see how Akruranath Prabhu has answered Krishna Kirti’s question to Mother Urmila.

Devotee (1): Srila Prabhupäda, in that story, the cobbler actually was more advanced than the brähmana, and yet in Bhagavad-gitä Krsña explains that “Anyone can approach Me, even the stri südra dvija bandhu,” they can all approach the supreme destination. Then in the next verse he says “How much greater, then, are the brähmanas, the righteous, the devotees, the saintly kings.” I was wondering how are they greater?
Prabhupäda: You do not understand it?
Devotee (1): I do not understand how they are greater than the lower person who surrenders.
Prabhupäda: Suppose you have got your spiritual master and you, if somebody says that you can come into the…, any one of you can come in this car. So spiritual master goes, you also go. Does it mean that spiritual master is not greater than you? Do you think like that?
Devotee (1): No.
Prabhupäda: Then? It is the same thing. Suppose Kirtanänanda Mahäräja has brought this car, so he says, “All of you can come.” So I go, you go, does it mean that you and your spiritual master is equal? Do you think like that? It is same thing. Everyone can go to Godhead, there is no doubt, but still there is difference between brähmanas, ksatriyas, südras. So far going into the car, the equal right is there, but it does not mean that your spiritual master or the next group, they are not greater than you. Don’t think like that. The same car, Kirtanänanda Mahäräja is driving, I am also there, you are also there. Does it mean that we are all equal? There must be gradation. The right is given to everyone. It does not mean that immediately they become all one. It is Krsña’s mercy that He accepted everyone, “Come on.” But the distinction is there. We are inviting everyone to partake Krsña prasädam. That does not mean that immediately all of them have become of the equal rank. Caitanya Mahäprabhu, He was so kind, but still there was distinction. When He was taking prasädam, personal associates, they were sitting with Him. Is it not? So this is called maryädä. Maryädä means honor. That must… Varieties must be there. Otherwise we become Mäyävädis—everything is equal, all one. This is Mäyäväda philosophy. No varieties. There must be variety. That is Vasñava philosophy. And as soon as you make it varietyless, all equal, that is Mäyäväda. Just see even in this flower, this is also flower and this is also flower. Does it mean they are of the same rank? This is understanding. Together they look very beautiful, but if you take separate value, then it is valuable than this flower. That distinction must be there. If somebody says “I am accepting even the leaf in this garland,” then what to speak of rose? It is like that. Krsña says that. That does not mean leaf and rose have the same value. One is making a beautiful garland, “I am accepting everything.” Mixed together it looks very nice, but individually the leaf has value, the rose has value, the flower has value. Not that because they are put together they have equal value. This is Vaisnava philosophy.
Kulädri: In democracy they say everyone is…
Prabhupäda: Nonsense democracy. What is…? Don’t talk of this nonsense talk. (laughter). Democracy, communism, still there are varieties. But you make a president. Let everyone become president.
Kulädri: That’s what they’ve done, now the südras…
Prabhupäda: They have not done. Has everyone got the president’s power? How do they say that you have done. Everyone equal? That is not possible…..

(June 27 ‘76 New Vrndaban)

Comment posted by trivikramaswami on November 28th, 2006
38 Akruranatha

Srila Prabhupada reminded us that one who is chanting Hare Krishna has surpassed all Vedic rituals, austerities and sacrifices, and is better than a brahmana (tepus tapas te juhuvuh sasnur arya brahmanucur nama grhnanti ye te).

Still, must of us cannot chant constantly and without offense, and as Urmila pointed out, for those who still identify with our bodies and minds (most of us) we are supposed to follow varnasrama designation for duties within the realm of varnasrama, based on our guna and karma. (We can expect that even those who have attained perfection will also follow, in order to set a good example.) But how do we really do that? What does it really mean for me in my daily life? If I work in a modern society, which of my duties are in the realm of varnasrama? How are they in the realm of varnasrama? Are there any non-spiritual duties that are outside of the varnasrama realm?

Krishna told Arjuna that according to his own duty as a ksatriya, if he did not fight the battle he would incur sin and lose his good name. (B.G. 2.31-37) It seems that to be a properly moral person one must interact with one’s society in a moral way, including by performing the work (karma) that is prescribed for one’s particular nature (guna). You cannot shirk your prescribed material occupation without incurring sin. Even if you do your own duty faultily, you are not permitted to abandon your own duty and do a different duty, not your own, even if you can do that duty perfectly. Instead, you can perfect your life by doing your own duty as a devotee and worshiping Krishna with the fruits.

The sense I get from these passages in the sastras is that there is something seamless about varnasrama dharma. It is the entire regime of morality (or at least material morality), of good and bad karma and the resultant material reaction. The extent to which we are sinful or pious people is the extent to which we are properly executing our duties according to our proper position in society.

However, these instructions have always been a little confusing to me in terms of how they apply to me and the society I live in. I have very little idea what my own material duties according to my varna are. I do not live in the kind of society that Arjuna lived in where these things were generally understood and explained by the qualified brahmanas and ksatriyas.

How do I know I am not incurring sin because instead of being a lawyer I am really supposed to be working as a janitor or teacher or farmer? It seems like almost an irrelevant question to me. Rather, I feel that it is more imporant for me to privately prosecute sadhana bhakti to the best of my ability and interact with my society in a way that causes no disturbance or agitation to others. Sometimes I stand on a street corner and try to sell Prabhupada’s books to the public, which is purely spiritual and wonderful beneficial work for everyone. Otherwise, I try to blend in as a solid citizen and good neighbor, an honest lawyer who produces good results for his clients.

Mostly, Srila Prabhupada gave us spiritual occupations (direct preaching or temple service), whereas for the devotees who had some material occupations (Jayananda was driving a cab, Rupanuga and Satsvarupa were working for the welfare office) he simply encouraged us to purify whatever we were doing by donating the money we earned.

Srila Prabhupada did not seem to bother too much with what material occupations we had. Jayananda was a qualified engineer, but Srila Prabhupada did not tell him to stop driving hack and go get an engineering job. Even when some devotee had an occupation that might seem to involve breaking the four regs (e.g., owning a grocery store where meat was sold), I am not aware of Srila Prabhupada directly intervening in those material affairs.

In practical application, we have not yet developed a system of recognizing different varnas in ISKCON (although there is a system of gayatri initiation by which one gets a chance to be a brahmana.)

Srila Prabhupada wrote a lot about Varnasrama dharma and spoke about it, but he did not emphasize the different varnas much in how he organized his disciples in practical service. He did indicate that it was something he wanted to do that was left undone, and our leaders are now left with the task of figuring out what he wants us to do in this regard.

It is safe to say that whatever we do, it has to be done nicely so that all devotees feel they are being properly engaged in doing service to Krishna just suitable to their bodily and mental natures. It should not be something wacky, or ugly, that makes ISKCON seem unattractive or cult-like and drives everyone away. Whatever we do, we cannot mess up what Srila Prabhupada worked so hard to establish.

It may well be that it is done differently in India than in other countries. I don’t pretend to know much about it. I look forward to learning from those who do.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on November 28th, 2006
39 Akruranatha

Please, wonderful devotees, forgive me for my continued lengthy discussion. I think these things are important for us to talk about, but I do not have time to write well-organized or carefully-researched and considered papers or articles. This internet format gives us the opportunity to associate with devotees by just conversing about these things a little more informally. I am sure I will make some mistakes, and I hope we can just discuss all these things as friends.

Although we have not yet seen much in terms of relations between different varnas in ISKCON, it is natural that the intersection between spiritual equality and material social differences Urmila has been talking about presents itself most immediately and directly when it comes to the different social roles of men and women.

Women obviously do have many differences in terms of body and mind from men (like the ability to bear and nurse children), and therefore virtually all human societies have distinct gender roles, even today.

There is also a history of feminism which corresponds to the many other political struggles in kali yuga, where weak or exploited social groups felt a need (in the absence of strong philosopher kings) to protect women’s interests against abuse by those with power over them. What women have been forced to resort to in this regard seems similar to what workers or American Blacks or Russian serfs or Mexican peons or various colonized nations have had to do to avoid being exploited by powerful miscreants.

Some feminists have taken up the popular and successful rhetoric of “equal rights,” while others have accepted innate differences between men and women and have emphasized the important civilizing influence of women on society. American (and British) women suffragists in the early 20th century used to argue that if women voted we would have no more wars, because of their superior, motherly moral instincts (it has not actually worked out that way, but generally American women voters have tended generally to be more dovish). Certain radical feminists even argue the moral superiority of women to such an the extent that they advance the idea of living separately from men.

Srila Prabhupada’s books often glorify women as being naturally soft-hearted and inclined to be faithful, which is evidenced by the fact that women are seen more regularly attending churches and other places of worship. Often those same passages in Prabhupada’s books remind us that because of their soft-hearted and faithful nature women can be easily misled by men and therefore in a good society they are protected by being married to nice suitable husbands and are never given independence as is done in western or modern society (where they are expected to select their own husbands after dating).

We can see how even in the last 100 years in America the interaction between men and women in “dating” has become very degraded, very rapidly. What was once supposed to be only a system of courtship aimed at achieving happy, stable lifelong marriages, has devolved into a lot of promiscuous behavior aimed mainly at sexual gratification. Nevertheless, somehow or another men and women are still getting married eventually, and society generally (with notable exceptions) still expects people to enter into (hopefully) lifelong (hopefully) monogamous marriages after a period of youthful promiscuity.

As much as we can lament the decline in sexual morality, we have to recognize that educated modern people everywhere strongly believe women should have equal access to jobs, education, the ability to own property and conduct business, sign contracts, get divorces, etc.

We have lots of laws recognizing and protecting those freedoms. If we are preaching that women in an ideal society wouldn’t have those freedoms, we probably have to assure people that we are not advocating doing anything so drastic as repealing all those laws immediately, before something else is changed in the dynamic of human interactions to soften the blow. Most people would think (and I would agree), that most of those laws are needed, and if they were just somehow immediately withdrawn women would surely be terribly mistreated and much injustice would result.

How is the modern preacher to deal with the intersection between varnasram dharma and the modern social and political landscape? (I would add this issue of modern politics and local culture as a fourth cause of confusion to Urmila’s three other problems).

The question of how women should be treated within ISKCON recalls to us the former discussion Krishna Kirti was having with Shiva about the evidentiary value of Srila Prabhupada’s practical instructions and example in running ISKCON as opposed to the general instructions in his books (in response to the last lead editorial, “Krishna give us guidance, oh Lord we need that now”).

The principle we follow in Anglo-American law is that a more specific provision of a statute or written instrument takes precedence over a more general statement. Another principle is that a single provision should be construed in light of the overall statutory purpose, and a single provision in a contract, will or other written instrument must be read to harmonize it with the rest of the document.

I would say that Srila Prabhupada’s specific instructions and methods of preaching in different times and circumstances are very powerful evidence about how to preach in the same or similar places and circumstances (but they should be properly understood in terms of the more general statements of philosophy in his books.)

In practice, Srila Prabhupada accepted all kinds of service from his female disciples. He was kind and cared about all of his disciples, both men and women, our “ever well wisher.”

I do not know the history so well about how the three problems Urmila mentioned caused or are causing trouble in ISKCON. I do know that when I joined in 1976, there was already a prevalent view and mode of operation in ISKCON that was causing many women devotees to feel uncomfortable or mistreated.

I have heard older female disciples say that leading sannyasis were always lobbying Srila Prabhupada to be more restrictive of women’s roles in ISKCON, but that Srila Prabhupada himself was very liberal about what they could do in ISKCON. I do not know that history, but I hope ISKCON historians will learn it and teach it to us accurately.

Mother Urmila brought up a historical letter demonstrating Srila Prabhupada had no objection to a qualified woman acting as temple president. We can accept this as strong evidence that Srila Prabhupada accepted the principle of women temple presidents, unless we see some other evidence where he said women should not be temple presidents.

We know Srila Prabhupada encouraged Yamuna devi to sing and even lecture to public audiences in India. By the time I joined in 1976, the general rule (at the temples I was in) was that all of the kirtans were led and all the classes were given by male devotees. This could be a concrete example of an instance where we should not misapply poorly understood varnashram principles to interfere with a devotee’s practice of some of the nine items of bhakti (i.e., chanting). Nowadays, at least some ISKCON temples do have women leading kirtans and giving classes. It seems to be a positive thing, at least to me.

I have heard a lot of stories. A senior woman devotee from France (I forget her name) described how she was doing important publishing service with Srila Prabhupada’s approval and then, as times in ISKCON changed, senior men pushed her out of the service on the plea of it not being proper for a woman. I personally know many other women with similar stories.

Each story has its own details. My training as a lawyer suggests there could be another side to each story (but when so many stories pile up, it seems clear there was a pervading problem).

I know Srila Prabhupada sometimes ridiculed the idea of gender nuetrality in the workplace (I remember him criticizing the idea of female police officers, that if a big strong man can overpower her and take her gun, what will she do?), but I do not know of a single occasion when he made a female disciple feel a sense of being oppressed because of her sex, or discouraged a woman from using her talents and abilities in service to Krishna.

Is there any evidence of Srila Prabhupada specifically forbidding women as a class to take up any specific kind of service in ISKCON? If so, it might be instructive to see what those instances were.

Srila Prabhupada did warn male renunciates to be wary of feminine charms and wiles. (E.g., “She has a beautiful sweet face but her heart is like a razor blade”). In so doing he may have said things that somehow became the seeds of a culture of disrespect for women in the name of Varnasram dharma in ISKCON. Of course, he never intended such a culture to arise, I think everyone agrees.

I remember on another occasion Srila Prabhupada puckishly said, “I have a new philosophy: women are good, and men are good, but together they are horrible” (or words to that effect). Can anybody explain the context or elaborate on the meaning of his statement?

We need to remember as preachers in a growing spiritual movement that our position on social and economic relations, if we start taking specific sides in specific current political debates, could diminish the effectiveness of our preaching and negatively affect the reputation of ISKCON. Naturally as ISKCON grows certain devotees will become more involved in political and cultural debates, and maybe just as naturally there will be different devotees with different opinions or emphases.

We should be careful not to automatically try to line ISKCON up with nondevotees who for non-spiritual motives arrogate power to themselves in the name of conservative morality (any more than we should line ourselves up with other materialists who advocate loose morality). If we do that we will not only misrepresent our sampradaya, but we may alienate many potentially receptive (and influential) people whom we are supposed to attract to Krishna consciousness.

I am not advocating that anyone should ignore or water down Srila Prabhupada’s many instructions on the ideal dharmic civilization–not in the slightest. We have to get the pure message of Krishna out there, completely intact, without adding or subtracting anything. “We do not care for vox populi.” We are not trying to distort the philosophy to win any election. But if we cannot make our audience understand the message, we need to know why they are having trouble and maybe we can explain it in a different way.

If we make any changes in our society at all, we should proceed with caution. If our social preaching and the way we incorporate those statements into our personal social dealings among devotees is making people feel hurt, mistreated and oppressed, we have a problem. We must not have properly understood the correct application. It can’t all be just that the people who are complaining are too contaminated by maya or by modern values. Wee need to reexamine and go back to the way Srila Prabhupada personally dealt with us.

People have good b.s. detectors, and if we are going to preach that we have a happier, better way of life, we really have to *have* a happier, better way of life. We should not be like Stalinist propagandists trying to convince people our members are really happy, and then later have the “real story” of mistreatment and crimes and misery exposed by some dissident defectors.

That should not happen to ISKCON because Krishna consciousness really is blissful (but it kind of did happen with some gurukulis and some women). We do not need phony spokespeople to get up and *pretend* to be happy.

If we are really not becoming happy in our personal lives as devotees in ISKCON, we should figure out how to fix it, because Krishna consciousness really is blissful. Similarly, if a whole class of people in ISKCON is finding they are unhappy even after trying and approaching the authorities, then there must be something we need to do to somehow promptly address and fix the problem. Maybe this kind of internet discussion could help?

I am glad some intelligent devotees are reading Manu and Parasara Smrtis and considering how and to what extent they apply in the modern world (and in ISKCON) according to Srila Prabhupada’s instructions. I have never been assigned that service and it is probably way beyond my competence. I have been advised by devotees I respect to stick to Srila Prabhupada’s books. I hope that those devotees who have taken up that service are very sensitive and do it nicely under the guidance of Srila Prabhupada and the GBC and their own spiritual masters.

I am sure that truth and justice will ultimately prevail as long as we keep chanting Hare Krishna. Wherever there is Krishna and Arjuna there will be opulence, victory, power and morality.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on November 28th, 2006
40 Unregistered

Hare Krishna, please accept my obeisances prabhus and matajis.

I’ll keep my comments very short. Basically, I’d like to add my own view, a view that is not heard from very often, especially over the internet, of the brahmachari.

Let us look at the role that renunciates play in our movement. Renunciates do not have the obligations of family life, and thus their sole obligation is preaching to the fallen souls.

As a society, we are all supposed to work together. Let us look at what that means. Householders responsibilities are to raise responsible, mature devotee children. Renunciates responsibilities are to create responsible, mature devotees.

So, what happens when these two ashrams start fighting? Society no longer works, new devotees are no longer made, and basically the movement grinds to a halt.

Renunciates are like children, they are meant to be PROTECTED by the householders, as women are similarily supposed to be protected.

Now, an unbiased observer cannot help but notice a general trend in our movement (also observed in a few comments above) is that certain individuals have developed an anti-renunciate mentality. Let us simply face this fact honestly.

So the simple question is this- How do we expect our movement to grow, if the people who are fully dedicated to expanding the movement no longer feel that they are being protected?

This question will no doubt draw much criticism. But until we all begin facing these serious questions, we will make progress neither individually nor collectively.

Comment posted by bhakta_corey on November 28th, 2006
41 Akruranatha

Jai Maharaja! Thanks for returning here to comment.

Of course we are not mayavadis. We do not say there is no hierarchy in the spiritual world. But that hierarchy is different from material hierarchies, because in one very important sense there is no duality in the spiritual world. Isn’t that right?

There is a kind of duality. We do not say “nirvisesa”. There is a real distinction between the Supreme Lord and an individual jiva. We say there are five features — pancha tattva — of Lord Caitanya, His expansion, His incarnation, His shakti and His jiva devotee. All these are real distinctions, but they are also all on the absolute spiritual platform.

Among the numerous jiva devotees and shaktis, there may be subordinate cowherd boys serving superior cowherd boys, subordinate manjaris serving older gopis, etc. In that way there is a kind of hierarchy in the spiritual world, but there is still an important kind of oneness and unity because it all takes place in the absolute brahma bhuta existence. Right?

I mean, the basic idea of a principle of spiritual equality is really fundamental, isn’t it?

On the material platform, a brahmana, dog eater, cow, elephant and dog are not on the same level. However, one whose eyes are trained in knowledge can see that the undivided supersoul exists in each body, alongside a jiva soul which is transmigrating from one body to the next, carrying different conceptions of life “as the air carries aromas,” and thus accepting different kinds of gross body with different senses grouped around the mind, to enjoy different sets of sense objects (B.G. 15.8-10)

The individual jiva soul in each body is part of the Lord’s superior, internal energy (para prakrti) (B.G. 7.5) She is “part and parcel” of the Lord and thus, though never equal in quantity, being atomic or infinitessimal (anu), she is equal to the Lord in spiritual quality.

Someone may be a brahmana in this life and a dog eater in the next life. That is just a material distinction that he is a brahmana, a man, a woman, and Indian, and American.

These are such fundamental ABC things that we explain every day. Isn’t that all Urmila meant when she said “principle of spiritual equality”?

“I am not a brahmana, Ksatriya, Vaishya or Sudra, but the servant of the servant of the servant of the gopis.”

Of course, in the society of pure devotees, a devotee may act as brahmana and a devotee may act as a sudra, but it is lila, isn’t it?

For example, someone may treat the Lord’s friend Madhumangala deferentially because he is a brahmana. Even Krishna will do so. Krishna will treat His parents as if He is dependent on them, because He enjoys that exchange of rasa. He becomes subordinate to the pure bhaktas. But that is only possible on the spiritual platform within the Lord’s internal energy, when the jiva no longer tries to be a false enjoyer of material nature, but has attained the highest state of pure love of Krishna.

Arjuna acted as a Ksatriya, killing on the battlefield, but that killing was pure devotional service. He was angry, as Srila Prabhupada often pointed out, but that anger was a spiritual emotion that can be analyzed in terms of primary and secondary rasas. It was not within the three modes (whereas his lamentation in Chapter One was actually a material illusion that Krishna had put him into for our benefit as hearers of Bhagavad Gita).

When Arjuna is in the presence of a brahmana devotee, say Narada Muni, he acts according to proper etiquette and moral duty according to varnasrama dharma, but he is not really necessarily lower in terms of his perfect relationship with Krishna.

On the platform of spontaneous love sometimes devotees violate the rules of material dharma and that pleases the Lord. For example, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya immediately ate maha prasadam when Lord Caitanya brought it in the morning, before the Bhattacarya had even rinsed his mouth, and the Lord was pleased.

There is even another kind of spiritual hierarchy in terms of rasa described by great devotees like Rupa Goswami (See, Nectar of Instruction, Texts 9-11) The gopis, although by varnasrama consideration are of relatively lower social stature (compared with, say, the wives of the brahmanas), were accepted as the greatest devotees by Lord Caitanya. The brahmana’s wives could not stay and dance with Krishna — their higher social rank actually disqualified them from that kind of intimacy, and they felt envious of the gopis.

The gopis broke all the rules of ordinary morality and yet are the greatest devotees.

But those differences are appreciated only by very advanced devotees. For me, all the perfected devotees who have attained prema, regardless of their particular relationship with Krishna in terms of different rasas, are still on the absolute, worshipable platform as totally spiritual without any material contamination. They are far better than qualified non-Vaisnava brahmanas.

Have I understood you correctly, Maharaja?

How did I start talking about these things that are way over my head? I just got back this evening from a 3.5-hour seminar in San Francisco on the latest developments in California insurance litigation. Yesterday I flew back from New York. I am just wired because I cannot afford to be jet lagged.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on November 28th, 2006
42 krishna-kirti

Mother Urmila, Hare Krishna. If you intend to respond further in this discussion, here are a few points regarding your comment (#33) you may want to keep in mind.

Regarding point 1), shastra and especially Srila Prabhupada gets into specifics, too. In one sense, that could be said to be its own imposition on its own self. For example, in the CC Srila Prabhupada quotes the aphorism “asurya pashyat”, that a respectable woman cannot be seen even by the sun, and notes that his mother would hire a vehicle to go even to a neighbor’s house next door. I’m not asking for that example to be discussed, I’m just pointing it out that Srila Prabhupada often provides such examples to illustrate what is meant by a general principle.

Regarding points 2) and 3), there is no controversy over not letting someone who is physically or mentally incapable to take up an occupation he (or she) is unfit for. The controversy is over someone who is mentally and physically capable of taking up an occupation being prevented from taking up that occupation on account of her gender. That’s why I don’t think the child driving a truck analogy sheds much light on what you’re trying to say. Of course a child shouldn’t be allowed to drive a truck, he’s mentally or physically incapable of doing it. Unless you intended that the limitation is indeed only mental or physical capability (in which case we would let a grown woman drive a truck), what you need to do is find an analogy that better models the controversy.

And yes, I would still like to hear more specifically the shastric pramanas behind your phrase “principles of spiritual equality”.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on November 28th, 2006
43 krishna-kirti

Dear Akruranath Prabhu, Hare Krishna. Knowing that you are a lawyer really helps me in understanding how you are probably thinking about this issue and your likely methodological approach.

In a nutshell, this is where I see the locus of the controversy. It is fundamentally not over time, place, and circumstance adjustments, which from my perspective I agree could allow, for example, a woman to be a temple president. You’re right that a specific application in case law should override a more general law and that it is also the same for varnashram. Instead, the controversy is over ethics and, by extension, politics. In other words, the real problem is within the domain of ethical and political philosophies, of which your profession, law, is a practical extension.

Ethics, of course, is a major branch of philosophy that tries to answer the question, “What is the good life?”; and political philosophy, which itself is based on ethics, tries to questions like, “What are our rights, duties, and social obligations?” Once you’re fairly clear about the answers to these questions, from there notions of right and wrong action develop, including a legal system and all its laws–great and small.

That’s why I’ve been trying treat varnashram not as a collection of discrete laws but as a political philosophy. That implies that on the one hand, there is a system of ethics that varnashram is grounded in and on the other hand, once we accept varnashram as a political philosophy and the premises of its supporting system of ethics, then we have a rational basis for determining both general laws and specific, exceptional time, place, and circumstance adjustments. So, time, place, and circumstance is not the locus of the controversy.

If you will review my previous comment #26, I have compared three political philophies: Manu’s and Hobbes’s on the one side and John Stuart Mill’s on the other side. The point of contention between them is their conception of (conditioned) human nature. Hobbes has a dark view of human nature whereas Mill has a decidely brighter view of human nature. I argue that Manu is similar to Hobbes as regards to his presumptions about conditioned human nature–that human nature is basically unpleasant and untrustwothy. Mill, on the other hand, reposes considerably more faith in the (fallen) human condition. These two notions of human nature are incompatible.

It is from these differing persumptions about human nature that we get remarkably different laws and even systems of government. And that is why the kinds of laws that Hobbes and Manu will generate from their notions of human nature will look repugnant to people who, for example, follow Mills. Under Hobbes and Manu, you get monarchy as the system of governance. But under Mill we get democracy as the recommended system of governance. Westerners basically have a Millsean view of human nature and, naturally, are deeply troubled by an ethics and corresponding political philosophy as we find in varnashram (Manu). Manu basically repudiates a number of their core beliefs about the human condition and, by extension, their core beliefs about themselves. That’s why Westerners, who viscerally find monarchy repugnant, will probably not like Manu.

The practical outcome within ISKCON has been an immense amout of controversy over varnashrama. It has been my observation that the devotees on the Millsean side are trying to construct a Millsean-like understanding of varnashram–making it something that is more pallatable to a liberal-humanist mindset. In order to do so, because it is not an easy fit, they have to talk about varnashram in more abstract terms than, say, how the more Hobessian of our devotees (myself included) would talk about it.

My objection in principle to the Millsean-side’s attempts to reimagine varnashram on the liberal-humanist template is that Hobbes and Manu are basically right about human nature. From that point of view, a Millsean view of human nature presumes that human nature is much better than it really is. It is something like putting a criminal with a long rap sheet in charge of a bank. It’s nice that he said “sorry” to the judge on all the 20 times he was hauled up in court, and maybe he meant it on all those occaisions, but he has his nature. A liberal-humanist reimagination of varnashram dharma will lead to the kind of train wreck we’re seeing unfolding before us in affluent Western countries. It will lead to a proliferation of illicit sex and illegitimacy. Basically, it will cripple if not undermine ISKCON’s social structure if it comes to pass. (It could be argued that it already has come to pass and we’re just waiting for the train wreck to unfold.)

Perhaps a lighter analogy will help explain the differences. Not long ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that colleges may continue to use race-based criteria in admitting students to their programs. However, outgoing justice Sandra Day O’Connor put a 25 year limit on it. The reason, of course, is that as a society, they cannot indefinitely entertain racial preference and at the same time be true to the dictum that “all men are created equal”. As regards to the people contesting this law, there are two kinds of people: those who think the race-based criteria should remain a permanent fixture and those who think it should be abandoned if not now then 25 years hence.

In a like way, there are two kinds of people in ISKCON–those who would like to see gender equality made a permanent fixture and those who think we should eventually get around to following the dictum that women should not be independent. The former side doesn’t actually see the “inclusion of women” in ISKCON’s top political positions as a time, place, and circumstance adjustment–even if they use time, place, and circumstance as their spoken justification. Instead, they see it as a logical manifestation of Vaisnava philosophy that, for some reason or another, no one ever got around to implementing.

You many not agree with much or any of what I say, but I think that at least what I’ve presented here is a good start in understanding what our differences are and why we differ.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on November 28th, 2006
44 Unregistered

Akruranatha Prabhu, how could you possibly suggest in Comment #39 such an outrageous thing as repealing the laws which allow women equal access to jobs, education, the ability to own property and conduct business? Do you have any idea how many people could just choose to disassociate themselves from ISKCON entirely over such an incredibly disturbing comment from a senior member of our Society?

Comment posted by Lalita Madhava d.d. on November 28th, 2006
45 Unregistered

Srila Prabhupada said (San Diego 6.29.72) that women can act as acaryas, and stated that Jahnava devi “was controlling the whole Vaisnava community.”

If women are competent to accept the grave responsibility of delivering disciples back to Godhead, I think they can probably manage to sign contracts and own land.

Regarding Akruranatha Prabhu’s comment about repealing the legal rights of women to have equal access to jobs, education, owning land, conducting business and signing contracts, I fear that any serious consideration or discussion of this idea would surely be the death knell for our Society.

Comment posted by Lalita Madhava d.d. on November 28th, 2006
46 Akruranatha

Dear Lalita Madhava,

Please accept my obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Please rest assured, I did not mean to suggest that we should repeal all the laws that protect women’s rights. Not now, not in 50 years, not in 150 years.

It is not going to happen, and unless something very unusual occurs that makes us not need those laws, it definitely should not happen. I thought that’s what I said.

What I was *trying* to say was that as preachers we need to be sensitive to the bad impression that we might be making when we discuss varnasrama dharma too carelessly without considering the political convictions of our audience.

It seems I have unwittingly proven my point by making a bad impression on you. I will try to be more careful about what I post in the future. I am enjoying the lively discussion, but I really do not have the time to do it justice. Hence I tend to ramble and fail to edit myself as I should.

I really do want to respond to Krishna-Kirti as well. I beg your patience as I am digging myself out of piles of work.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on November 28th, 2006
47 Unregistered

Yes, women can be acharyas and the topmost devotees of the Lord are the gopis headed by Srimati Radharani, women, but we are not on that level. In this material sphere under the regulations of varnashram (meant for conditioned souls like us) we should take our guidance from the previous acharyas and shastra as to our roles in society. Faith in Srila Prabhupada and the vedic literatures should be the base of discussions, not sentiment and emotion.
This truth may be unpalatable but just because we don’t like it, that is no justification to twist the conclusions. The death knell of our ISKCON society will be when we lose our faith in Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and the conclusions of the Vedic literatures and start concocting ideas based on the bodily concept of life. Here are a few quotes, out of hundreds, from Srila Prabhupada regarding what should be the role of women in society:

Los Angeles, September 22, 1972

Women, they are generally equipped with the qualities of passion and ignorance, and men may also be, but man can be elevated to the platform of goodness, women cannot be, women cannot be. Therefore if the man is nice and the woman follows, woman becomes faithful and chaste, then their both life becomes successful. There are three qualities of nature: sattva, rajas and tamas. So rajas and tamas, that is the quality of woman. And man can become to the platform of goodness. Therefore initiation, brahminical symbolic representation is given to man, not to woman. This is the theory. Therefore the combination should be that the husband should be first-class devotee, Krsna conscious, and woman should be, woman should be devoted to the husband, faithful, so that she would help the husband to make progress in Krsna consciousness. Then their both life will be successful.
—————————-
Television Interview July 9, 1975, Chicago 750709iv.chi

Woman reporter: But you say women are subordinate to men?

Prabhupäda: Yes, that is also natural. Because when the husband and wife are there or the father and daughter is there, so the daughter is subordinate to the father and the wife is subordinate to the husband.

Woman reporter: What happens when women are not subordinate to men?

Prabhupäda: Then there is disruption. There is disruption, social disruption. If the woman does not become subordinate to man, then there is social disruption. Therefore, in the western countries there are so many divorce cases because the woman does not agree to become subordinate to
man. That is the cause.

Woman reporter: What advice do you have to women who do not want to be subordinate to men?

Prabhupäda: It is not my advice, but it is the advice of the Vedic knowledge that woman should be chaste and faithful to man.

Woman reporter: What should we do in the United States? We’re trying to make women equal with men.

Prabhupäda: I am not trying. You are already not equal with the man because in so many respects, your functions are different and man’s functions are different. Why do you say artificially they are equal?

Woman reporter: Is the social unrest in this country caused because…

Prabhupäda: Because of these things. They do not know that.

Woman reporter: And if women were subordinate to men, it would solve all of our problems?

Prabhupäda: Yes. Man wants that woman should be subordinate, faithful to him. Then he is ready to take charge. The man’s mentality, woman’s mentality different. So if the woman agrees to remain faithful and subordinate to man, then the family life will be peaceful.

Woman reporter: You have different schools for men and women, is that correct?

Prabhupäda: Yes. Man is regulated to become a first-class man, and woman is regulated to become very chaste and faithful wife. Then the life will be very successful. And marriage, compulsory. Marriage, compulsory.

Woman reporter: Everyone should marry?

Prabhupäda: Yes. Every woman, at least, should be married. Therefore, according to Vedic conception, polygamy is allowed.

Woman reporter: Is allowed?

Prabhupäda: Yes. Because every woman must be married. But every man may not be married. Therefore man has to accept more than one wife.
—————————-
Room Conversation after Press Conference July 9, 1975, Chicago

Women’s dependence is described in Manu-samhita. There are many examples cited in the sastra. Kunit was not an ordinary woman. She was very exalted and learned, but she still remained dependent upon her sons. Sita is another example. She was not obliged to follow Rama. But her attitiude was, “Wherever my husband shall go, I must go.” This is Vedic culture. According to our culture, unless the husband is crazy, in every case the wife must be faithful and subservient to the husband. That is the Vedic culture. Gandhari, voluntarily blinding herself and Damayanti accepting the poverty stricken position of her husband are other examples. This is a woman’s perfection. The Americans may not like this idea but we are speaking of the Vedic culture.

Comment posted by Sanjaya Das on November 28th, 2006
48 ananda devi dasi

Hare Krishna. I was really excited when I saw the first part of this quote “Out of a woman comes a man.” I think that is one of the keys to understanding the value of putting a lot of energy into protecting and caring for women. And I think it could be potentially very empowering to women. Why? Because this gives room to highlight the fact that when saints are born, they are born through woman. So then what a sacred to duty it can be to put energy into protecting women, through the right care and nourishment, education and protection! Also, one of the ‘down sides of a woman’ her soft side, and sentimentality is also a blessing in this context. It is an important aspect that can make her a good mother and this softness can be learned through experience by sons, in her lap, tempering them. This is a wonderful way for men to experience and then become compassionate themselves.

Comment posted by ananda devi dasi on November 28th, 2006
49 trivikramaswami

Akruranatha Prabhu has stated:

“I have heard older female disciples say that leading sannyasis were always lobbying Srila Prabhupada to be more restrictive of women’s roles in ISKCON, but that Srila Prabhupada himself was very liberal about what they could do in ISKCON. I do not know that history, but I hope ISKCON historians will learn it and teach it to us accurately.”

Here is one thing that Srila Prabhupada said that is pertinent to this discussion:

Prabhupäda: Put problems. I’ll solve.
Yogesvara: Here’s a problem. The women today want the same rights as men. How can they be satisfied?
Prabhupäda: Everything will be satisfied. Just like our women, Krsña conscious, they are working. They don’t want equal rights with men. It is due to Krsña consciousness. They are cleansing the temple, they are cooking very nicely. They are satisfied. They never say that “I have to go to Japan for preaching like Prabhupäda.” They never say. This is artificial. So Krsña consciousness means work in his constitutional position. The women, men, when they remain in their constitutional position, there will be no artificial (indistinct) (loud traffic noises)

Again Akruranatha has stated:

“Mother Urmila brought up a historical letter demonstrating Srila Prabhupada had no objection to a qualified woman acting as temple president. We can accept this as strong evidence that Srila Prabhupada accepted the principle of women temple presidents, unless we see some other evidence where he said women should not be temple presidents.”

This is the letter that you consider strong evidence?

“I am enclosing herewith a letter from Krishna devi which speaks for itself. Please reply her that she cannot take charge of one of our centers because she has violated the regulations of our society. In spite of having her duly married husband, she indulged in illicit sex life, so this is willful violation of our rules and regulations. So far her Krishna Consciousness activities are concerned, she can execute nicely wherever she lives, and I have all blessings for her, because the door of Krishna Consciousness is open for everyone, but when one has to take charge of a center, he has to become completely above suspicion.” Letter to: Brahmananda — San Francisco 12 March, 1968

I can’t presume to know the mind of my spiritual master but I don’t see here that he is explicitly saying if she wasn’t breaking the principles he would have allowed her to be TP. As I can’t presume to know his mind, you also can not make this presumtion. He may have not allowed her to become TP even if she was not breaking principles. When he left the planet he had over 108 temple presidents throughout Iskcon and exactly none of them were women. In any case I don’t see how you can say that. “We can accept this as strong evidence that Srila Prabhupada accepted the principle of women temple presidents.”

In other places he clearly said that a man’s psychology is such that he dosen’t like to be posted under a female. The temples are mainly, at least they were in Srila Prabhupada’s time, a place for training up renunciates. Is a women suited for this service? Is this her “constitutional position” that Srila Prabhupada talks about above? I think not.

Of course in emergency we can do anything, but as a policy it is a sign that the institution has become weak. And who can deny that it has become weakened in North America, but do we want to remain weak?

We think that this policy makes us more diverse and thus more attractive but the two fastest growing religions in North America are the Mormons and the Muslims. No I am not saying we should treat our women like the Muslims do, but neither should we fall victim to the host culture’s view of the role of women, which simply leads to their exploitation and degradation.

Comment posted by trivikramaswami on November 28th, 2006
50 krishna-kirti

Mother Lalita Madha wrote: “If women are competent to accept the grave responsibility of delivering disciples back to Godhead, I think they can probably manage to sign contracts and own land.”

The problem with this is that the women we read about in the Puranas and who were superlatively competent to go back to Godhead and deliver their dependents didn’t sign contracts and didn’t own land. The weren’t independant; they were always under the control of their father, husband, or son.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on November 29th, 2006
51 krishna-kirti

Akruranath Prabhu said: “Please rest assured, I did not mean to suggest that we should repeal all the laws that protect women’s rights. Not now, not in 50 years, not in 150 years. It is not going to happen, and unless something very unusual occurs that makes us not need those laws, it definitely should not happen.”

So, then how did it happen in societies controlled by great Vaisnavas like Yuddhisthira, or under the guidance of perfect kings like Lord Rama?

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on November 29th, 2006
52 krishna-kirti

One time, one of our swamis went for a preaching visit to China, and there he went to take prasadam at the home of an aspiring couple. Although they were not yet initiated, they had been coached as to what foodstuffs could be used and what could not when cooking prasadam. The swami arrived, the couple greeted him, and he sat down to eat. On the table, before the swami were many tasty looking Chinese dishes. Before taking prasadam, he asked them, “You only cooked vegetarian foods?”

“Yes,” said the couple as they smiled and vigorously nodded their heads.
The swami asked, “You didn’t use any meat?”.
Shaking their heads, the husband and wife said, “No.”
“You didn’t use any fish?” Again, they said, “No.”
“You didn’t use any eggs?”
“No.”
“OK,” said the swami, “Let’s take prasadam,” and he proceeded to eat what the couple had prepared.

Just as the swami was about to finish his meal, the husband served the swami a slice of pie that his wife had made just for the occaision. The swami put a big piece in his mouth, bit down, but stopped in mid bite. The filling tasted very strange and crunchy. The swami asked, “What is this pie made of?”

Swelling with pride, the wife smiled and said, “Grasshoppers!”

What this anecdote shows is how the concepts a language represents can be mismapped from one culture to another. For the western Swami, “vegetarian” stood for a specific concept, but for the Chinese couple, the same word referred to a slightly different concept. Even among people of the same culture, the potential exists for a word or phrase to be misunderstood on account of differing notions of what the word or phrase stands for. And, as in this anecdote, the differences need only be slight.

What this means is that with regard to the meaning of some word, phrase, or especially a more complex linguistic construct, we may think we have the right understanding when our understanding is actually wrong. Again, just as in the “vegetarian” anecdote, being even slightly mistaken about the meaning of something can have significant, real-world consequences.

“Equality,” for example, is an English word that happens to be heavily laden with all sorts of high-minded concepts. Among many other concepts “equality” represents, it also stands for the notion of non-discrimination between genders. If someone is discriminated against only on account of her gender and for no other reason (say at work or school), that is an instance of inequality, and expressions of inequality are considered immoral and punnishable. “Equality,” then, is a symbol that signifies a set of ethics which an entire society reasons with and lives by.

Since there are an awful lot of big, lofty concepts riding on that one little word, we should expect that what we understand “equality” to signify may not mean what we think it means in another culture. For example, in 1776, when the United States’s founding fathers penned the Declaration of Independence and wrote “all men are created equal,” by “equal” they did not have our present-day notion of “equality” in mind. Only by 1920, when the 19th Ammendment was added to the U.S. Constitution, did women have the right to vote. Before then, women had very little in the way of what today we understand as “equality”. “Equality” today does not mean exactly what it meant to America’s founders, and the difference is significant.

The same is also true of our notion of “equality” and what “equality” signified in the culture that existed in the place and time when Vyasadeva penned the Bhagavatam. Did “equality” mean the same thing to Vyasadeva that “equality” today means to us–gender equality and all? Not if we take Vyasadeva’s writing “As It Is”. Certainly, “gender equality” was not what he had in mind when he elaborated on equality as it pertains to the soul. That is why the men and women Vyasadeva wrote about had significantly different duties, according to their gender. Everyone could worship Krishna although their worldly duties were quite different. The societies Vyasadeva wrote about and glorified had spiritual equality but not gender equality. Vrindavan, Dvaraka, Ayodhya, and Indraprastha did not have equal opportunity employment.

Why would Vyasadeva praise a culture and way of life that in a few thousand years would all but cease to exist? He praised it because it mattered to him. He could see into the future. He knew all about our condoms and abortion clinics–things required to effeciently control pregnancy in order to make a gender-egalitarian work force even possible. In other words, the kind of society that Vyasavadeva glorifies is the kind of society he wants us to create. It’s his intention, and this brings us to the importance of something called “intentionalism” in interpretation.

“Intentionalism” is basically this: the true meaning of the text is best arrived at by understanding the intentions of its author. To ascribe some other intention to a text the author did not intend is to have a wrong meaning. To dismiss an author’s intention is also to arrive at a wrong meaning, and, in essence, is impersonalism since it ignores the person who wrote the text.

Practically what this means in the context of this discussion is this: If a phrase like “principles of spritual equality” is supposed to signify the intentions of Vyasadeva and at the same time is to be used as the basis for equal opportunity employment, then the problem with it is it doesn’t account for the patriarchial societies Srila Vyasadeva glorified. The phrase “principles of spiritual equality” would signify a concept that Vyasadeva and other acharyas like our Srila Prabhupada never endorsed. Otherwise, why would Srila Prabhupada write something like this?

As we learn from the history of the Mahabharata, or “Greater India,” the wives and daughters of the ruling class, the ksatriyas, knew the political game, but we never find that a woman was given the post of chief executive. This is in accordance with the injunctions of Manu-samhita, but unfortunately Manu-samhita is now being insulted, and the Aryans, the members of Vedic society, cannot do anything.

(Prabhuapda. Srimad-Bhagavatam. 10.4.5 purport)

To make plausible the more recent notion of equality (which includes gender equality), statements like the one above and elsewhere would have to be dismissed as irrelevant or out of hand. The point here is that a more “old-fashioned” notion of “equality” brings us closer to the intended meaning of the shastras simply because it accounts for more of the shastra and more of the words of the previous acharyas. It better represents the intentions of Vyasadeva.

Certainly, some of us will have a preference for the newer meaning of “equality”, but to indulge that preference is to ask for a trade off, and that trade off may be something like trading a pie with apple filling for a pie with insect filling. They are both pies, but between them there is a slight but important difference.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on November 29th, 2006
53 trivikramaswami

Ananda devi dasi’s post #48 is very inspiring. It is not that the women in Vedic culture weren’t important or didn’t have powerful influence in society. They were very powerful, but they exerted that power indirectly via their chastity and shyness.

Comment posted by trivikramaswami on November 29th, 2006
54 Kula-pavana

As a movement, IMO we will achieve “gender equality” only if we expend the same amount of energy and attention on training both men and women in their social roles, and expect the same level of proper behavior from each gender. Actually, a smart thing would be to expect a lot more from those whose role is to lead, than from those whose role is to follow, but I could settle for “gender equality” if I have to.

Comment posted by Kula-pavana on November 29th, 2006
55 Unregistered

Krishna-kirti Prabhu and Sanjaya Prabhu, you have both claimed in your postings to be the exclusive emissaries of “truth.” I find that very assertion to be both troubling and suspect.

A couple of points…..

First of all, you have both quoted statements from Srila Prabhupada in support of your arguments. I admit that I have done the same. But the teachings of Srila Prabhupada are extremely complex and must be approached as the amalgam of what he did, what he wrote and what he said. Only then can we derive the essence of the teachings of His Divine Grace. I find your (both of your) approach to this issue to be one-sided and unbalanced, and very much lacking in depth and sensitivity.

Secondly, you are both quite fond of quoting what you consider, in your analysis of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, to be the proper position of women, without regard for the understanding of others, and of stating that women in this age are not “up to the standard.” But, even theoretically accepting your arguments, neither are men, quite obviously. Men have been responsible for almost 100% of the abuse (child abuse and mistreatment of women) and 100% of the philosophical deviation (the zonal acarya debacle, ritvikism, etc., etc., etc.) within ISKCON. So it is obvious that men are, neither, up to the so-called “Vedic” standard that you espouse.

So how about being a bit more sensitive, both to the women who are already devotees and to those who aspire to become devotees, and lightening up on this “extremist” preaching? It is not attractive or inspiring.

Comment posted by Lalita Madhava d.d. on November 29th, 2006
56 ananda devi dasi

I really appreciate everyones interest in this topic, since it is such an important and far reaching one. As an aspiring Vaisnavi, I seek out information from the Vedas and from Srila Prabhupada’s example, that motivates me and gives me the knowledge I need to live in grace, in Faith and from an empowered place under sadhu and shastra. The politics involved (like statements of our subordinate position and the emphasis on shyness) sometimes helps but not always. To be properly situated and protected is a major way to help these qualities arise, as they are considered to be natural feminine traits. But also, I find more is needed. What I really seek is positive example. I like the image of powerful women, (nurturers and inspirers) who appreciate protection and understand scientifically how to live in a way that maximizes their benefit to society.

Right now I am teaching Yoga and meditation to inner city preteen age girls from rough backgrounds and for them I am seeking a way to translate Vedic knowledge to help them find their grace, gain self esteem as women that is based on the real (rather than the superficial body image) and come to a place of strength and even leadership (helping other girls) in such a dangerous world. Some Yoga groups emphasize the image of the sacred feminine. This has helped women and I think even men.

If a man doesn’t really understand the value of a womens qualities when turned in a devic way, how can he really respect, cherish and protect from a deeper heartfelt place the females in his life . And also, if we as women don’t understand this, then how can we who are in the world, fight with grace to live and work from a devic place as the pressure of kali yoga around us tries to convince us to do otherwise.

What I mean by devic qualities are the female qualities that bind us to this world but also make us strong stable adults, and motivate us to achieve (also to create a stable and balanced society of KC), also the broad vision women tend to have where we may get lost in forest where men tend to see the trees, but sometimes these details give important imformation to dicision makers (especially in terms of looking at the human aspect of things). For instance women who are in touch with their instincts and have that confidence are better able to protect and nurture their children…

Comment posted by ananda devi dasi on November 29th, 2006
57 Urmila Devi Dasi

I suspect Krishna-kirti has set up a false dichotomy in saying we must choose the philosophical assumptions of Manu or Mill. He says that Manu assumes we are inherently sinful unless tightly controlled, and Mill assumes we are inherently good and only need the proper environment to flourish. He further equates Manu with conservatives and Mill with liberals. But, we followers of Prabhupada and bhakti agree and disagree with both positions. Krishna tells us in the gita that we are all eternal beings, His parts and parcels, and have the same nature of pure goodness as He. He also tells us that we are born into delusion and overcome by desire and hatred. So, we are intrinsically good, but in conditional life appear as intrinsically bad. Perhaps the Manu-samhita deals mostly or wholly with the conditioned side without a direct attempt at spiritual elevation. From that perspective, the main process will be rules, fear, and punishment. Negative regulations and punishments are also part of the process of bhakti. We have lists of offenses to avoid, and sins we must give up, or face dire consequences. But the process of bhakti, and the way in which Prabhupada dealt with his followers, is based on the idea that pure love of God is our natural position and needs the nourishment of sunlight, water, and fertilizer to bring that creeper of love to the full fruit of prema. The fence of rules around that creeper is also necessary, but is not the process itself.

Your servant, Urmila devi dasi

Comment posted by Urmila Devi Dasi on November 30th, 2006
58 Urmila Devi Dasi

This is in response to comments by Krishna-kirti Prabhu and Trivikrama Maharaja. Sorry it is long, but I was asked for more clarity. I hope this suffices as I doubt I have time to write further on this topic.

The first problem I mentioned is a wrong or distorted view of varnasrama roles so that the way that women’s (or other’s) roles is defined has more to do with some experience in our personal lives or some experience in modern times than it has to do with sastra and history. Krishna-kirti responds by quoting Prabhupada saying that women should not be seen by the sun and gives this as a specific example of how we can understand what varnasrama roles actually are. Fair enough. But, we also have Prabhupada’s descriptions of the women of Vrindavana going to the Yamuna for water, running through the village to catch their naughty children, and so forth. Clearly, they were not in palanquins and the sun saw them. Things are not so clear. So much time and energy is wasted when we insist that people should follow a tradition, but we cannot with clear authority describe that tradition which we should follow! Some quotes here and there do not suffice when there is also contrary evidence.

The second problem is that of applying varnasrama distinctions to spiritual duties of the nine processes. I wrote of “the principle of spiritual equality”. I am surprised to be asked the praman for a principle of spiritual equality. But, here’s a nice quote that sums up what I mean:
Madhya 25.121, purport:
The devotional activities of the Krsna consciousness movement are completely transcendental to material considerations. As far as different faiths are concerned, religions may be of different types, but on the spiritual platform, everyone has an equal right to execute devotional service. That is the platform of oneness and the basis for a classless society.

And:
Adi 7.115 purport:
The Padma Purana states, arcye visnau sila-dhir gurusu nara-matir vaisnave jati-buddhih . . yasya va naraki sah: “One who considers the arca-murti, the worshipable Deity of Lord Visnu, to be stone, the spiritual master to be an ordinary human being, and a Vaisnava to belong to a particular caste or creed is possessed of hellish intelligence.” One who follows such conclusions is doomed.

Trivikrama Maharaja pointed out that there are differences on the spiritual platform, also. I had written that distinctions in spiritual service (the nine processes) can be made on the basis of things such as realization and initiation. Those distinctions have nothing to do with the body and mind. For example, if we say that someone who does sudra work (or someone of European birth, or a woman) cannot lead kirtanas or preach Bhagavatam, although such a person is initiated and strictly following, we impose varnasrama distinctions onto the nine processes.

To sum, regarding the process of devotional service, everyone has an equal right, and distinctions are made on the basis of things such as strictness of following, realization, initiation, and so forth.

The third problem is of applying the fact of our equal nature as souls, or the principle of spiritual equality, to duties related to the body and mind. In this sphere of varnasrama the differentiation is made according to the body and mind, rather than on the basis of the soul or an individual’s realization of spiritual truth. Here’s a suitable quote in this regard:
Morning Walk — December 10, 1975, Vrndavana:
Prabhupada: No, no, I don’t say that I don’t like women, but I cannot say that equal rights. How can I say? First of all show that you equal rights — your husband becomes sometimes pregnant and then you become pregnant, alternately.
Aksayananda: That doesn’t mean you don’t like them.
Prabhupada: No, it is truth. I am speaking the truth, that “If you have equal right, then let your husband become pregnant. Make some arrangement.”
Harikesa: Visakha was preaching to her. She said that “Actually we are less intelligent.” (laughter) That started a big scandal…
Prabhupada: Yes. And that is Krsna consciousness. [break] They are in equal right, then… Nowadays, of course, they are thinking like that, that man should remain independent, and they’ll have homosex, and the woman also independent and they will make some… This is most immoral things.
Indian man: If only people think that they have equal right…
Prabhupada: Where is equal right? Even in Russia there is no equal rights. They have created some of them are managers, and some of them are workers. Why? If equal rights, then everyone should be manager.
Harikesa: Well, in America they have women senators now.
Prabhupada: Huh?
Harikesa: Women senators, women are in charge of companies sometimes.
Indian man: No, in India there are two women. They are high commissioners of India to the foreign countries.
Prabhupada: No, that is possible. That it requires education. That is another… By nature the woman’s body is different from man’s.
Indian man: Women are subordinate.
Prabhupada: Not subordinate actually. The occupations are different. It does not mean… That is another mistake. Just like the leg is walking, and the head is directing, so although the occupation is different, both of them are important. We require the head and leg also. If simply head is there, if there is no leg, then who’ll walk? This is the understanding, not equal.

To sum, regarding duties of this world, whether or not they are dovetailed with devotional life, the right to perform a duty depends on the suitability of that duty according to the individual’s psychophysical nature as prescribed by sastra. These duties are differentiated not only by a person’s brute ability or desire to do something, but also by a holistic approach to the welfare both of individuals and society. To give a better example than a child driving a truck….Suppose that a man is very capable of giving good instructions to a misbehaving child, but that child is not under his authority. He is not the child’s parent, teacher, nor a general authority such as a police officer. Unless there is some emergency, that man should not instruct that child, although he has the physical and mental capacity to do so, his instructions might be superior to those of the child’s authorities, and the man may have a position where he is the instructor of many children. Varnasrama duties according to sastra are not only what we are good at, but what is good for us and help us have the peace both to dovetail those duties and to engage in the process of bhakti.

Your servant, Urmila devi dasi

Comment posted by Urmila Devi Dasi on November 30th, 2006
59 krishna-kirti

Mother Urmila, Hare Krishna.

Your point about varnashrama’s relationship bhakti is well taken. I agree with that. Varnashrama is not the process for spiritual advancment. It’s the fence, not the process of watering and sunshine.

However, your reading of my comparison of political philosophies has been uncharitable.

For the sake of comparison, I wanted to be sure that I was comparing “apples” with other “apples” and not with “oranges”. Hobbes and Mill don’t have a conception of “conditioned” and “liberated” human nature. For them, there is just human nature, which for purposes of comparison is the equivalent of what we call “conditioned human nature”. When I compared the (political) philosophies of Manu, Hobbes, and Mill, I was very careful to indicate that the comparison was between conceptions of conditioned human nature. After writing that, I thought I had used the word “conditioned” too many times, but now it seems I hadn’t used it enough.

My comparison was also limited to a single point between them, namely their differing presumptions about human nature. Every philosophy has a set of irreducible presumptions, and I only compared the darker view of conditioned human nature of Hobbes and Manu on one side to Mill’s brighter view of conditioned human nature. Certainly there are other points on which we agree with Mill, and I’ll probably be using some soon enough. However, from a Krishna conscious perspective, we significantly differ with Mill as to the relative goodness of conditioned life.

To believe I have made a “false dichotomy” would require a very imprecise reading of what was written.

At this point, however, there is this particular statement of yours which I believe sums up the fundamental differences between us:

Krishna-kirti responds by quoting Prabhupada saying that women should not be seen by the sun and gives this as a specific example of how we can understand what varnasrama roles actually are. Fair enough. But, we also have Prabhupada’s descriptions of the women of Vrindavana going to the Yamuna for water, running through the village to catch their naughty children, and so forth. Clearly, they were not in palanquins and the sun saw them. Things are not so clear. So much time and energy is wasted when we insist that people should follow a tradition, but we cannot with clear authority describe that tradition which we should follow!”

A minor point: you are likely addressing something no one has said, a “straw man” perhaps. Have I said that there weren’t women running through Vrindavan to catch naughty children, or other such examples? The fact that I mention a particular example doesn’t mean I’m ignorant of other seemingly contradictory examples, including the one you mentioned. In one of my posted comments, which it seems you specifically responded to a part of, I quite plainly wrote, “time, place, and circumstance adjustments. . . . I agree could allow, for example, a woman to be a temple president.” In the light of such a statement, to suggest that I have an unbalanced view of Vedic culture is, shall we say, a little “wonderful”.

The main point I want to make, however, is that your approach to understanding Vedic culture seems to produce an abstraction that comes to no definite conclusion about what Vedic culture actually is. Your approach appears similar to “neti neti” (not this, not that) or, as you say, “things are not so clear”. The effect is that data goes missing.

For example, if, as you say, “things are not so clear”, then what is to be made of statements like these?

“The Sanskrit word asurya-pasya indicates that a respectable lady could not be seen even by the sun. In the oriental culture this system was very much prevalent and was strictly observed by respectable ladies, both Hindu and Muslim. We have actual experience in our childhood that our mother would not go next door to her house to observe an invitation by walking; she would go in either a carriage or a palanquin carried by four men.” (Cc Adi 13.114)

“Don’t allow this miniskirt or minishirt. According to Vedic civilization, respectable woman cannot be seen even by the sun. Asuryam pasyat. How can you avoid sun? But it is said like that. The sun will find difficulty to see one man’s woman. Yes. Asuryam pasyat. Asuryam. Surya means the sun. Sun cannot. Sun will also hanker after her: ‘How can I see that woman?’ (chuckles) So woman should be always in privacy.” (690506WE.BOS)

“The high-class society, a woman cannot mix with any man–especially unmarried. The fathers, parents, will not allow.” (760612SB.DET)

In these quotes, here is the consistent assertion: in ‘high-class’ Vedic society, women were well concealed–asuryam pashyat. Perhaps there were remarkable circumstances where they weren’t, like Rukmini driving Krishna’s chariot in a combat situation. Yet exceptions prove the rule–high-class women were well concealed, and to the extent we find in examples that describe the general rule. Therefore, if in the future we in ISKCON were to succeed in implementing varnashram both within ISKCON and in society at large, society would be such that its higher class women would, in general, scrupulously follow these customs or follow customs that closely resemble them.

Yet your approach to the notion of culture would appear to respond with something like, “Because ‘asuryam pashyat’ meant one thing in the culture described, they will not necessarily mean the same thing in present or future Vedic culture.” Perhaps, ‘asuryam pashyat’ might mean little more than “knee-length skirt” and not shaking hands with men.

But when applying this kind of relativistic notion of culture, what happens to the examples we read about in Srila Prabhupada’s books? By seeing their value as mainly abstract, a reference to a general rule that in particulars differs from culture to culture, they lose much of their instructive force. It’s like the difference between telling a child to “be polite” and telling him to say “‘thank you’”. The former is abstract and far more prone to misunderstanding. What, exactly, does “be polite” mean to a child? If told merely to be “polite” when the situation demands, he won’t know what to do or say when the time comes. But if he’s taught to say “thank you” when someone gives him something or does something for him, then there is no confusion, and he learns to be “polite”. In the same way, by seeing these examples chiefly as abstractions they lose much of their potential for instruction. Data goes missing, and the “instruction” becomes more of a vehicle for our own preferences.

Your notion of culture seems to be fundamentally relativistic because you eventually end up presenting a notion of varnashrama that appears to be radically utilitarian (consequentialist). You wrote:

the right to perform a duty depends on the suitability of that duty according to the individual’s psychophysical nature as prescribed by sastra. These duties are differentiated not only by a person’s brute ability or desire to do something, but also by a holistic approach to the welfare both of individuals and society…. Varnasrama duties according to sastra are not only what we are good at, but what is good for us and help us have the peace both to dovetail those duties and to engage in the process of bhakti.

What if some duty prescribed in shastra appears not to be helpful to an individual, or even helpful to society? Is that not varnashram, or, alternatively, a misapplication of varnashram? The problem here seems to be a non-recognition of the possibility that varnashram, both in precept and application, has an objective existence independent of what we may think or feel about it either as individuals or as a society. I may be wrong, but I’ve found nothing in anything you’ve said so far that would go against a statement like this: “Why am I stuck in this kitchen in the middle of June when I, xyz dasi, could be going to Japan like Srila Prabhupada?”

To be fair, I find satisfactory the example you gave of someone not who is not a child’s instructor having no authority to instruct him. The general application is that it if something is not our duty, then we don’t do it even if we are more capable of doing it than someone else. But in that example, we already know what our duty is, and that is its shortcoming. It still doesn’t get us to the point of knowing what our duties are in the first place, and determining what those duties are was the overall point of the paragraph in which the example was located.

Specifically, your notion of varnashram doesn’t explain the general occurance in our shastras of someone having the psychophysical capacity to perform a certain duty and (by any reasonable utilitarian, consequentialist calculation) be of benefit to society yet ends up being prevented from doing that duty anyway. I’ve quoted this already, but I’ll repeat it again:

As we learn from the history of the Mahabharata, or “Greater India,” the wives and daughters of the ruling class, the ksatriyas, knew the political game, but we never find that a woman was given the post of chief executive.

(Prabhuapda. Srimad-Bhagavatam. 10.4.5 purport)

Well, why not? Why shouldn’t women back then have been given the opportunity to occupy the post of “chief executive”? How come so many qualified women were, as a class, prevented from taking up such “service”? It could be said that such occupations were not spiritual, but not if taken up in a spirit of yukta-vairagya. Was the admnistration of Yuddhisthira Maharaja a material or a spiritual affair? (Did Arjuna end up fighting for material reasons or spiritual reasons?) Why were qualified Vaisnavis categorically denied access to those “services”? So far, your explanation of culture and varnashrama would not explain why “we never find that a woman was given the post of chief executive”–even in the case of vaisnavis. Hence, my assertion that when applying your notion of varnasram, we lose data; knowledge is lost.

I may, of course, be wrong, and I would be happy to be shown how. Yet unless you are able to vindicate statements like this (and there are more) with your conception of varnashram, there is good reason to believe that the conception of varnashram you are advocating is probably too far from what Srila Prabhupada intended.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 1st, 2006
60 Unregistered

Haribols prabhus and matas, pls accept my obeisances.

I wanted to further elaborate on the previous point I made about there being a general trend in our movement towards this “anti-renunciate” mentality.

Out of the different devotees I have spoken to, who either subvertly, or directly, espoused this “anti-renunciate” mentality, I have noticed three general characteristics. Of course, they are all wonderful devotees doing wonderful service, but still, I could not help but notice the following three characteristics in 90% of them.

1. They themselves never went through the training period of brahmacharya, so in general, they have no solid foundation for sadhana.

2. They do not do any direct preaching, except for maybe once a month, but certainly not every week, or every day, for that matter.

3. They also tend to fall under the category of “modernists”, who believe that Srila Prabhupada’s books are no longer relevant to the “modern day age” and believe that certain points should be edited out of his books and purports. Now, I can understand the need to EDIT Prabhupada’s books to bring them closer to what He originally said.

But, I, and many other devotees, just can’t seem to grasp the logic of CHANGING, or deleting, certain points in Prabhupada’s books that certain devotees do not seem to agree with, or feel are “politically correct”.

No massive social changes have occured in the past 40 years, if anything, people are more open spiritually now than ever before. So this idea that we need to change the books, and our ISKCON society, to change with the “new times” just doesn’t seem to have any rational foundation.

Just some thoughts.

Comment posted by bhakta_corey on December 1st, 2006
61 Unregistered

I’ve been following this discussion with interest and what I see happening is a discussion between those who are pushing forth with a propaganda effort to establish a new social paradigm for ISKCON based upon some ideal of vedic society, and then a rebuttal by who wish to see the current status remain in place. While both sides have their strong points I feel that what is really required when trying to understand how ISKCON should proceed is to acquire true understanding of the purpose of ISKCON. What ISKCON is meant for in these times is to spread the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. If the purpose of ISKCON was to create some kind of imitation of vedic society then we would have seen that spoken of, or shown by example, by the example of Srila Prabhupada.

The people who want to change ISKCON into a replica of vedic society use the words of Srila Prabhupada to back up their point of view. Srila Prabhupada said he wanted varnashrama to be introduced into ISKCON. That is believed by some to back up their contention that ISKCON should morph into a replica of what they consider to be vedic society. In a conversation with ISKCON leaders in Mayapura, February 14, 1977 Srila Prabhupada discussed how he wanted varnashrama in ISKCON.

Prabhupada: Chanting will go on. That is not stopped. But at the same time the varnasrama-dharma must be established to make the way easy.

Satsvarupa: We tell them go on with your job but chant also.

Prabhupada: Yes. Caitanya Mahaprabhu recommended, sthane sthitah. Therefore varnasrama-dharma is required. Simply show-bottle will not do. So the varnasrama-dharma should be introduced all over the world, and…

Satsvarupa: Introduced starting with ISKCON community?

Prabhupada: Yes. Yes. Brahmana, ksatriyas. There must be regular education. So we are stressing on the point of education. You educate certain section as brahmana, certain section as ksatriya, certain section as vaisya. In that education we don’t discriminate because he’s coming of a sudra family. Take education. Be qualified.

Hari-Sauri: But in our community as it is, we are training up as Vaisnavas…

Prabhupada: Vaisnava is not so easy. The varnasrama-dharma should be established to become a Vaisnava. It is not so easy to become Vaisnava.

Hari-Sauri: No, it’s not a cheap thing.

Prabhupada: Yes. Vaisnava, to become Vaisnava, is not so easy. If to become Vaisnava is so easy, why so many fall down? It is not easy.

Hari-Sauri: Varnasrama system is beneficial. Where will we introduce the varnasrama system, then?

Prabhupada: In our society, amongst our members.

Hari-Sauri: But then if everybody’s being raised to the brahminical platform…

Prabhupada: Not everybody. Why you are misunderstanding? Varnasrama, not everybody should become brahmana.

Hari-Sauri: No, but in our society practically everyone is being raised to that platform. So then one might ask what is…

Prabhupada: Everybody is being raised, but they’re falling down.

Hari-Sauri: So then we should make it more difficult to get brahminical initiation. After four or five years.

Prabhupada: Not necessary. You remain as a ksatriya. You’ll be happy.

Hari-Sauri: No need for even any brahmana initiation, then…

Prabhupada: No, no.

Hari-Sauri: Unless one is particularly inclined.

Prabhupada: Not that a sudra man is by force become a brahmana. You cannot improve. That is not possible. But even if he remains a sudra and does accordingly, he will get the same position as devotee. Sva-karmana tam abhyarcya sam… He’ll get the perfection. At the present moment the idea is: if one remains a sudra, then he cannot get perfection. No. Even a sudra can get perfection provided he does the work of a sudra perfectly.

Hari-Sauri: For Krsna.

Prabhupada: Therefore why a sudra artificially should be a brahmana? Let him remain a sudra, and if he follows strictly the rules and regulation of sudra, he’ll also be as good as a brahmana. The same example: Just like head is as important as my leg. It is not that because it is leg, it is less important than my head. And if you ask the head, “Do the work of a leg,” it is impossible. And if you ask the leg to work as a brain, that is impossible. Let him remain brain, let him remain leg, and do your duty and you become perfect.

Satsvarupa: Today you’ve been saying that the Vaisnava is the highest, above the brahmana. But then we’ve also understood that everyone in ISKCON is a Vaisnava.

Prabhupada: Yes. Vaisnava everyone, even if he’s not brahmana. Jivera svarupa haya nitya-krsna-dasa. But you have to gradually bring him to that pure consciousness that “I am servant of Krsna.” Here the bodily conception is going on, “I am American,” “I am Indian,” “I am this,” “I am that.”

Satsvarupa: If in our society we say, “Srila Prabhupada wants some to be sudra…”

Prabhupada: No, no, no. I don’t want. I want everyone to become Vaisnava. But because he’s a sudra, it is not possible to bring him immediately to the platform of brahmana, or Vaisnava. Therefore falling down. Therefore the system must be present. But even if he remains a sudra, he’s a Vaisnava.

Hari-Sauri: So we’d have to completely revise the whole system that we have now.

Prabhupada: No. Whatever we have, that is all right. But we see by experience that they’re falling down. Why falling down? Because he was not fit for the position, therefore he has fallen. Better remain in his position and become perfect. Why artificially bring them? There is no need. Krsna says. Bring that Bhagavad-gita. Sve sve karmany abhiratah?

My understanding of the above is that Srila Prabhupada was interested in educating people about the roles of brahamans, ksatriyas, vaisyas, and sudras in order to aide them in their advancement towards becoming vaisnavas. I don’t see the idea put forth that ISKCON should be transformed into a replica of vedic society. Later in that coversation we find

Satsvarupa: So we can ideally organize ourselves and then for the rest of the people all we can do is hope that they’ll follow it.

Prabhupada: Yes. In order to serve the mass of people, to bring them to the ideal position, we should try to introduce this varnasrama, not that we are going to be candidates of varnasrama. It is not our business. But to teach them how the world will be in peaceful position we have to introduce.

Sri Krishna spoke the following to Uddhava:

Srimad Bhagavatam 11.17.15: The various occupational and social divisions of human society appeared according to inferior and superior natures manifest in the situation of the individual’s birth.

A person’s varna is inherent and natural. As Krishna says it is manifest in the situations of one’s birth. That means that according to a person’s past life his birth situation or nature in this life is a product of destiny. What this is all about is a person doing what he is good at, his or her natural inclination, and then doing that in conjunction with the instructions of Sri Krishna. What that means is that you do what you do according to the tenets given by Sri Krishna. Varnashrama is not about doing testing to try and figure out where people should be in the social order or what occupation they should be engaged in. It is about doing what comes naturally and then following the prescribed activities for that varna.

The varnashrama system is not about identifying a person’s varna. It is about following prescribed ethical, moral and spiritual activities given in the sastra for each varna, collectively that is known as Dharma. Most important is the service to the brahmanas. Krishna mentions that the duty of every varna is to serve the brahmanas. This is because real qualified brahmanas should not have to work at making money. Their role in society is in dispensing wisdom. Ideally they should not charge a fee for that. So in the ideal varnashrama society it is the duty of everyone in the other 3 varnas to donate money or other things to brahmanas.

So the purpose of varnashrama is about the elevation of people to the transcendental plane by creating a social milieu which will elevate them. The purpose of varnashrama is to have people take part in transcendental activities. Hearing and serving brahmanas, deity worship, putting on festivals, Kirtan, Bhajan, hearing from sastra, etc. It is all about creating a social order where everyone is facilitated and encouraged to take part in transcendental life.

SB 11.29.7-28:

Sukadeva Gosvami said: Thus questioned by the most affectionate Uddhava, Lord Krsna, the supreme controller of all controllers, who takes the entire universe as His plaything and assumes the three forms of Brahma, Visnu and Siva, began to reply, lovingly displaying His all-attractive smile.

The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Yes, I shall describe to you the principles of devotion to Me, by executing which a mortal human being will conquer unconquerable death.

Always remembering Me, one should perform all his duties for Me without becoming impetuous. With mind and intelligence offered to Me, one should fix his mind in attraction to My devotional service.

One should take shelter of holy places where My saintly devotees reside, and one should be guided by the exemplary activities of My devotees, who appear among the demigods, demons and human beings.

Either alone or in public gatherings, with singing, dancing and other exhibitions of royal opulence, one should arrange to celebrate those holy days, ceremonies and festivals set aside specially for My worship.

With a pure heart one should see Me, the Supreme Soul within all beings and also within oneself, to be both unblemished by anything material and also present everywhere, both externally and internally, just like the omnipresent sky.

O brilliant Uddhava, one who thus views all living entities with the idea that I am present within each of them, and who by taking shelter of this divine knowledge offers due respect to everyone, is considered actually wise. Such a man sees equally the brahmana and the outcaste, the thief and the charitable promoter of brahminical culture, the sun and the tiny sparks of fire, the gentle and the cruel.

For him who constantly meditates upon My presence within all persons, the bad tendencies of rivalry, envy and abusiveness, along with false ego, are very quickly destroyed.

Disregarding the ridicule of one’s companions, one should give up the bodily conception and its accompanying embarrassment. One should offer obeisances before all — even the dogs, outcastes, cows and asses — falling flat upon the ground like a rod.

Until one has fully developed the ability to see Me within all living beings, one must continue to worship Me by this process with the activities of his speech, mind and body.

By such transcendental knowledge of the all-pervading Personality of Godhead, one is able to see the Absolute Truth everywhere. Freed thus from all doubts, one gives up fruitive activities.

Indeed, I consider this process — using one’s mind, words and bodily functions for realizing Me within all living beings — to be the best possible method of spiritual enlightenment.

My dear Uddhava, because I have personally established it, this process of devotional service unto Me is transcendental and free from any material motivation. Certainly a devotee never suffers even the slightest loss by adopting this process.

O Uddhava, greatest of saints, in a dangerous situation an ordinary person cries, becomes fearful and laments, although such useless emotions do not change the situation. But activities offered to Me without personal motivation, even if they are externally useless, amount to the actual process of religion.

This process is the supreme intelligence of the intelligent and the cleverness of the most clever, for by following it one can in this very life make use of the temporary and unreal to achieve Me, the eternal reality.

Thus have I related to you — both in brief and in detail — a complete survey of the science of the Absolute Truth. Even for the demigods, this science is very difficult to comprehend.

I have repeatedly spoken this knowledge to you with clear reasoning. Anyone who properly understands it will become free from all doubts and attain liberation.

Anyone who fixes his attention on these clear answers to your questions will attain to the eternal, confidential goal of the Vedas — the Supreme Absolute Truth.

One who liberally disseminates this knowledge among My devotees is the bestower of the Absolute Truth, and to him I give My very own self.

He who loudly recites this supreme knowledge, which is the most lucid and purifying, becomes purified day by day, for he reveals Me to others with the lamp of transcendental knowledge.

Anyone who regularly listens to this knowledge with faith and attention, all the while engaging in My pure devotional service, will never become bound by the reactions of material work.

The above is the type of varnashrama ISKCON should be edcuating people about and implementing. The idea that ISKCON should try to become copy of some vision of vedic society is simply not practical if ISKCON wants to retain the ability to reach as many people as possible. Srila Prabhupada knew that and that was why he made ISKCON the way it is with the inclusion of women into the social milieu. ISKCON is seen as too strict and patriarchal by most people in westernized countries and therefore automatically rejected as credible purveyors of the word of God. To change ISKCON into an even more strictly patriarchal social milieu in the name of vedic society or varnashrama would simply lessen ISKCON’S ability to be taken as a credible spiritual guide by those ISKCON preaches to.

Sri Caitanya Caritamrita Madhya 23.105

yukta-vairagya-sthiti saba sikhaila
sushka-vairagya-jnana saba nishedhila

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu then told Sanatana Gosvami about proper renunciation according to a particular situation, and the Lord forbade dry renunciation and speculative knowledge in all respects.

PURPORT

This is the technique for understanding sushka-vairagya and yukta-vairagya. In the Bhagavad-gita (6.17) it is said:

yuktahara-viharasya yukta-ceshtasya karmasu
yukta-svapnavabodhasya yogo bhavati duhkha-ha

A Vaisnava is immediately purified, provided he follows the rules and regulations of his bona fide spiritual master. It is not necessary that the rules and regulations followed in India be exactly the same as those in Europe, America and other Western countries.

Simply imitating without effect is called niyamagraha. Not following the regulative principles but instead living extravagantly is also called niyamagraha. The word niyama means “regulative principles,” and agraha means “eagerness.” The word agraha means “not to accept.” We should not follow regulative principles without an effect, nor should we fail to accept the regulative principles.

What is required is a special technique according to country, time and candidate. In this connection, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura comments on these points by quoting two verses by Sri Rupa Gosvami (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.255-256).

anasaktasya visayan
yatharham upayunjatah
nirbandhah krsna-sambandhe
yuktam vairagyam ucyate
prapancikataya buddhya
hari-sambandhi-vastunah
mumuksubhih parityago
vairagyam phalgu kathyate

When one is not attached to anything but at the same time accepts everything in relation to Krsna, one is rightly situated above possessiveness. On the other hand, one who rejects everything without knowledge of its relationship to Krsna is not as complete in his renunciation.

To preach the bhakti cult, one should seriously consider these verses.

Krishna Kirti prabhu you wrote:

Certainly, there will be many women won’t become members of a society with such a social structure, and many men also will not want to become members of such a society. Some comments here have said as much. However there are two empirical facts that the religious who believe that a gender-egalitarian society is God’s wish have never adequately answered:

1) People (men and women) join religious societies that favor patriarchy more than they do religious societies that favor gender-egalitarianism.

2) Religious societies that favor gender egalitarianism tend to lose members because of a higher incidence of illicit sex.

In the West the two outstanding examples of strongly patriarchial religions that are gaining converts, more than almost any other religion, are the Mormons and the Catholic Church. According to the distinguished sociologist Rodney Stark, the Mormons have steadily increased their membership by 43% per decade for the last 100 years. (Stark. The Rise of Christianity. pg. 7)

The Catholic Church has also been gaining members. Furthermore, many of its gains have been at the expense of mainstream Protestant religions like the Anglican Church, the Methodist Church, the Presbyterians, and more liberal strains of Lutheranism such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. All of these mainstream Protestant denominations have embraced gender egalitarinism and for the last 30 or more years since doing so have been steadily losing members.

Those are faulty interpretations of statistics. The increase in mormon and catholic population has not come from conversion and in fact has come from high birth rates. Mormons generally have large families as do catholics in latin america. In fact as many people leave mormonism as join and they have been on a downward trend for some time.

From http://www.sltrib.com/lds/ci_2890645

“When the Graduate Center of the City University of New York conducted an American Religious Identification Survey in 2001, it discovered that about the same number of people said they had joined the LDS Church as said they had left it. The CUNY survey reported the church’s net growth was zero percent”

Also because of the use of birth control the more liberal churches have seen a decline, not due to to actual conversions.

http://www.prospect-magazine.c.....hp?id=7913
http://www.baptiststandard.com.....p;pid=4064

The idea that people are generally more attracted to join a patriarchal religion is one I find to be suspect simply because almost all religions are patriarchal to one extent or another. Therefore they have little choice in the matter. It’s like saying that the starving whom you are feeding only rice people would rather eat rice then bread when rice is the only choice they have, they simply want to be fed, it’s not the rice that is inspiring their eating. It’s not like people have faith in a religion based on patriarchy, and in fact if anything is true it’s that patriarchy is what probably turns more people off to religion then it would be something which attracts them. I am sure if you take a poll of the general public you would find that to be the case.

Comment posted by shiva on December 2nd, 2006
62 Suresh das

“Out of the Woman Comes the Man, Spends the Rest of His Life Getting into Another Womb, again and again”

Comment posted by Suresh das on December 2nd, 2006
63 krishna-kirti

Dear Shivaji, Hare Krishna.

Of course you are right that ISKCON is for spreading the sankirtan movement of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. And our overreaching objective is not to simply reestablish varnashram. Briefly, the relationship of varnashram and bhakti is something like this: When a person has a high fever, we have to cool him down by putting water or icepacks on him. Otherwise, the heat of the fever itself might kill him before the real medicine can start to act. Varnashram is just like the ice-pack. Many, many devotees within ISKCON have left on account of some difficulty or another over relationships between the sexes. That has included everything from just straight out being caught red-handed in an illicit relationship with a female devotee to acrimonious marriages. Devotees who have had to endure reinitiation multiple times (on account of having a guru fall down) have had a particularly hard time bouying their faith in the process of bhakti. Varnashram could have made a big difference in the strength and overall effectiveness of our society, because had it been more closely followed we could have retained many more of the talent that has left. Hence, my assertion in previous comments that the question “Who will stay?” is just as important as “Who will join?”

As regards to the increase in Mormon and Catholic populations, although it is true that higher birth rates can account for much of the growth, most of it still comes through conversion–at least in areas where these two religions are not dominant. In this regard, I’ll refer you to distinguished sociologist Rodney Stark’s well-known book “The Rise of Christianity”, from which I have quoted already. His review of Mormon growth over the last 100 years he attributed mostly to conversion, which was behind his statement early in his book that the difference between religions like the Mormons, who count their membership in the millions, and others like, for example, “us”, who count them in the thousands, is that the Mormons were able to keep what he calls “open networks” of relationships between insiders and outsiders. In this regard, he cites statistics compiled by Mormon missionaries that on cold calls (going around the neighborhood and knocking on doors), they make one convert out of one thousand. But if they visit a non-member while visiting the home of a friend who is a member, the conversion rate goes up to 1 in 2, or 50%. Those numbers and their affiliated causes cannot be ignored if we’re serious about preaching.

Nevertheless, even if birth is given as a reason for growth, it is a growth of people. More people means more people out in society, which means more chance for outsiders to interact with the faithful. In other words, higher birth rates also mean higher conversion rates. Recruitment and bearing KC children are not independent. If we can connect birth to our overall preaching strategy, then we have made significant inroads in successfully dovetailing the grihastha ashram in our overall missionary objectives. Otherwise, in a society such as ours that is nowadays overwhelmingly comprised of married people, indifference to childbearing is a peculiar strategy to pursue. That strategy didn’t work out so well for the Shakers, did it?

An interesting read, in this regard, comes from liberal scholar Philip Longman, who cautions members of the American Democratic party that their culture of indifference to childbearing will probably cost them dearly in the long run. The article can be found here at the Democratic Legislative Convention’s Blueprint Magazine (online): http://www.dlc.org/ndol_ci.cfm.....tid=253870

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 2nd, 2006
64 Unregistered

Krishna Kirti wrote:

All of these mainstream Protestant denominations have embraced gender egalitarinism and for the last 30 or more years since doing so have been steadily losing members.

You want to use the above as some kind of lesson we should learn from. But if we look at the current evangelical movement we will find nothing like what we find in ISKCON. ISKCON is far more patriarchal and conservative then the evangelical religions. We can find women preachers with huge congregations and who are also famous televangelists amongst them, women who are leaders . Those christian organizations are far more egalitarian then ISKCON. Have you heard their sermons on what should be the godly relationship between men and women? The women in those religions are not taught to behave as if their husbands are their link to god like women in ISKCON are taught to behave. I think you have a conception of those people and their views on women which is based on their religiously motivated politics, not by their actual views on women roles in society or the family.

The “mainline protestant” churches tend to be more liberal on political or social issues, but as far as how women are treated and the leadership of women in their religion, in both mainline and the evangelicals you will find little difference. While there is a certain amount of patriarchal teaching in popular christianity it is hardly stressed and hardly followed except by the smaller sects. Your inference that it is the patriarchal nature of a christian sect which is what attracts converts seems to me and common sense not in the least a likely cause of conversion or of staying with a religion. People convert to christianity for a number of reasons but I am sure you will find none who do so because of patriarchal teachings. On the contrary that will be a major cause of people leaving a faith. Mormons are one of if not the most patriarchal of christian sects and they also have the highest dropout rate. Most of their conversions are made in very poor countries where they come in with a lot of money and then the local people hope to gain what the rich americans have. They are not converting because of mormon patriarchal attitudes. As for the catholic church recent polls show that over 60% of catholics want women to be able to be priests.

And besides that those religions are not appropriate examples for ISKCON even if what you infer is correct i.e that people are more likely to be attracted to a patriarchal religion. What kind of people convert to christianity? What kind of people convert to some form of hinduism or bhakti or yoga? If you have gone to any sunday feast in the western world in an ISKCON temple or other yoga society what kind of people will you find who are being converted? My experience tells me that our main source of conversion is from what could be called the culturally liberal (besides indians), and those types of persons always have been the main source of conversions to gaudiya vaishnavism. It’s not just gaudiya vaishnavism which experiences that demographic, it is across the board for all yoga groups, hindu groups, and also buddhist groups outside of India. Generally those people have a hard time with the patriarchal nature of ISKCON but they are still attracted by kirtan, prasadam and the teachings of the sampradaya. What we don’t find is a lot of people who have a religiously conservative view who are coming to ISKCON temples and becoming congregational members and who join.

Krishna Kirti also wrote

What this strongly suggests is that just as important as the question “who will join us?” is the question “who will stay with us?” Srila Prabhupada was undoubtedly open to those who were compelled by social custom to mix freely with the opposite sex. Yet at the same time it has been sexual infidelity that has driven most of trouble we have witnessed as a society, and that in turn has caused a crisis of faith that has led further to splintering and schism.

Infidelity “has driven most of trouble we have witnessed as a society”? Not from my vantage point. ISKCON’s problems have been externally caused by a variety of things i.e. material desires, pride, disrespect, as well as a lack of sufficient foresight and insight due to spiritual immaturity. These have been the external cause of ISKCON’s problems. Infidelity was an effect of those causes, not the cause itself. The internal cause is the same cause of what causes everything to be as is it is. Krishna is guiding everyone to fulfill their destiny and receive what they need and deserve.

Srimad Bhagavatam 11.13.30-31

yavan nanartha-dhih pumso
na nivarteta yuktibhih
jagarty api svapann ajnah
svapne jagaranam yatha

According to My instructions, one should fix the mind on Me alone. If, however, one continues to see many different values and goals in life rather than seeing everything within Me, then although apparently awake, one is actually dreaming due to incomplete knowledge, just as one may dream that one has wakened from a dream.

asattvad atmano ‘nyesham
bhavanam tat-krita bhida
gatayo hetavas casya
mrisha svapna-driso yatha

Those states of existence that are conceived of as separate from the Supreme Personality of Godhead have no actual existence, although they create a sense of separation from the Absolute Truth. Just as the seer of a dream imagines many different activities and rewards, similarly, because of the sense of an existence separate from the Lord’s existence, the living entity falsely performs fruitive activities, thinking them to be the cause of future rewards and destinations.

Comment posted by shiva on December 2nd, 2006
65 trivikramaswami

Krishna Kirti has said:

“When a person has a high fever, we have to cool him down by putting water or icepacks on him. Otherwise, the heat of the fever itself might kill him before the real medicine can start to act. Varnashram is just like the ice-pack.”

Thank you KK, I think this is a useful analogy.

Shiva Prabhu has stated:

“The internal cause is the same cause of what causes everything to be as is it is. Krishna is guiding everyone to fulfill their destiny and receive what they need and deserve. ”

This is incorrect. Krishna is guiding everyone according to what they “desire” and “deserve”, not what they “need” and “deserve”. It is “desire”, kama, or lust only Arjuna which is the all devouring sinful enemy of the conditioned soul and which burns like fire and is never satisfied. (Bg 3.37) And it is our own personal desire which has brought us into this material world. (Bg 7.27)

Without understanding this point one will lose the impetus to preach, for one’s compassion will decrease by thinking that everyone is suffering in the hands of Maya because that is what they “need”. Nor will there be any impetus to avoid occasion of sin, for one can easily rationalize every personal indulgence as something that Krishna saw that I “needed”.

Back to the point of our discussion, we should accept anything that is favorable and that will enhancing our desire and determination to follow the principles of sadhana bhakti. It seems as though that Srila Prabhupada felt that Varnashram would be helpful to Iskcon devotees in this regard, as per the quotation provide by Shivaji above.

Ys TS

Comment posted by trivikramaswami on December 3rd, 2006
66 krishna-kirti

One casualty of this debate is that “time, place, and circumstance” can no longer be used as a justification for allowing women “equal opportunity” within ISKCON’s top managerial positions.

Some examples to note:

I did not mean to imply that there are any legitimate reasons to disempower women. There are not. [comment #24]

XYZ, how could you possibly suggest in Comment #39 such an outrageous thing as repealing the laws which allow women equal access to jobs, education, the ability to own property and conduct business? [comment #44]

[a response to comment #44] Please rest assured, I did not mean to suggest that we should repeal all the laws that protect women’s rights. Not now, not in 50 years, not in 150 years. It is not going to happen, and unless something very unusual occurs that makes us not need those laws, it definitely should not happen. [comment #46]

Pretty absolutist, these statements. Only if something “very unusual occurs” should women not have “equal rights”. I’ll point out the obvious: “time, place, and circumstance” is generally applicable to unusual circumstances. If the “unusual” circumstance is not to have them, then the intention of such “rights” was never meant to be a “time, place, circustance” adjustment but a permanent establishment.

Behind the spoken justification of “time, place, and circumstance”, the real objection has been mainly to some authoritative descriptions of Vedic culture itself. That is why whenever someone quotes a verse or statement that describes women as being generally not allowed in some particular occupations, someone else accuses him of blind following or quoting out of context. That is usually followed by an accusation of being biased or biggotted. (Usually both.)

But let’s offer up a gambit. Let’s say “yours truly” accepts the label of “misogynist” or “boogeyman” or whatever pejorative label you might like to plaster on me. Now that pejorative labelling is over with, what do you do with the quoted statements? They still havent’ gone away. You still have to ascertain their meaning, which none of those offering rebukes actually ever attempt. The rebukes and pejorative labeling are really a dodge for having to deal with the statements at all.

The closest they come to dealing with these “black” statements is an argued agnosticism. Some examples:

the teachings of Srila Prabhupada are extremely complex and must be approached as the amalgam of what he did, what he wrote and what he said. Only then can we derive the essence of the teachings of His Divine Grace. I find your (both of your) approach to this issue to be one-sided and unbalanced, and very much lacking in depth and sensitivity. [comment #55]

Things are not so clear. So much time and energy is wasted when we insist that people should follow a tradition, but we cannot with clear authority describe that tradition which we should follow! Some quotes here and there do not suffice when there is also contrary evidence. [comment #58]

There is a pattern here: An accusation of bias coupled with a claim that we cannot adequately know one way or another. Despite saying we need a “balanced” view of Vedic culture, their claim of not being able to know systematically filters out statements designated as unknowable.

How is it, for example, that an awkward phrase like “applying spiritual principles of equality to varnashram duties” seems clear-as-day yet wives and daughters of the kshatriyas in the Mahabharata never occupying the post of “chief executive” remains more or less inexplicable? The effect is that counterbalancing statements are designated as “unknowable” and consequently split off from the “knowable” statements. Instead of mitigating bias, such selective agnosticism in effect reinforces it. The irony is that a position of bias is reached in the name of repudiating bias.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 3rd, 2006
67 Akruranatha

I am still following this discussion with interest. I have become too busy to contribute lately, but I promise I will at least try to answer some of the questions directed to me.

Right now just I want to say, I really welcome Shiva’s contribution to the discussion. He writes clearly and seems to have clear insights into the mysterious question of what Srila Prabhupada meant in specifically discussing practical implementation of Varnasrama Dharma in ISKCON. I was just wondering, “Where is Shiva?”, and then he appeared. :-)

Although it is not really fair for me to ask a question before I have answered the questions I have been asked, I am curious about Srila Prabhupada’s statement, in text #61, that Lord Caitanya recommended, “sthane sthita.”

Obviously this is a reference to the famour verse from Lord Brahma’s prayers in Chapter 14 of the Tenth Canto (S.B. 10.14.3): “Those who, even while remaining situated in their established social positions, throw away the process of speculative knowledge and with their body, words and mind offer all respects to descriptions of Your personality and activities, dedicating their lives to these narrations, which are vibrated by You personally and by Your pure devotees, certainly conquer Your Lordship, although You are otherwise unconquerable by anyone within the three worlds.”

I was looking briefly in Caitanya Caritamrta for where Lord Caitanya recommended this. I thought immediately that it might have been in connection with His instructions to the Kurma brahmana, who wanted to leave his family and go with the Lord. Lord Caitanya advised him (and many others throughout the Lord’s tour of South India),

“Don’t speak like that again. Better to remain at home and chant the holy name of Krishna always. Instruct everyone to follow the instructions of Lord Sri Krishna as they are given in Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam. In this way become a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in this land. . . . If you follow this instruction, your materialistic life at home will not obstruct your spiritual advancement. Indeed, if you follow these regulative principles, we will again meat here, or, rather, you will never lose My company.” (CC, Madhya 7.127-129)

But Lord Caitanya did not quote the “sthane sthita” verse to the Kurma brahmana. It must have been to someone else on the South India tour. Can anyone provide the reference? Was it the leper Vasudeva?

I did find the “sthane stitha” verse mentioned in the Lord’s talks with Ramananda Raya (Madhya-Lila, Chapter 8, text 67) It was the first verse Raya Ramananda quoted that the Lord did not reject. Srila Prabhupada gives a slightly different translation of the verse in the CC, specifically stating:

” . . . those devotees who have thrown away the impersonal conception of the Absolute Truth and have therefore abandoned discussing empiric philosophical truths should hear from self-realized devotees about Your holy name, form, pastimes, and qualities. They should completely follow the principles of devotional service and remain free from illicit sex, gambling, intoxication and animal slaughter. Surrendering themselves fully with body, words and mind, they can live in any ashrama or social status.. . ”

Can anyone indicate where specifically Lord Caitanya recommended “sthane sthita”, and share some realizations about what Lord Caitanya’s recommendation means in terms of how we should think about organization/administration of ISKCON?

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 3rd, 2006
68 Unregistered

Hare Krsna Prabhu and Matajis,

Dandavath Pranams. I have gone through many comments and discussions going on about the subject matter and it is a great learning to see such diverse views on this subject.

I wish to add my humble realizations on this subject matter. Varnasrama System does not deliberately put down or sub-due any body, either male or female. Rather it allows every body to act in a civilised way within their sphere of Guna and Karma. This is the key working principle of Varnashrama. With this in mind the different classes of human beings are given different duties and with different sets of do’s and don’ts. Again, the level of control depends on their Guna and Karma. This has to be understood as the basis of working.

The role of Women in the Varnashrama system is as equally important as men. They are the essence of a good society as they bear the progeny. So in that status they are awarded special status in all varnas but in different degrees. So the rules for brahmanical society women are different from the rules for the other class. This is holds good for all other classes also.

It is naturally found in India, the cradle of varnashrama (I am born in that blessed land) that such distinctions still exists even though the effect of Kali is fast taking over.
So the level of protection acceptable for an individual will be according to their Guna and Karma. However, for devotees who have surrendered fully themselves to the service of the Lord, (each of us know about our level of surrender) irrespective of their gender, varnashrama doesnot apply.They are beyound the dualities. It is not my intention to say that those who donot accept a particular position of protection at conditioned level due their higher realization of their consitiutional level should be rejected or ridiculed. Each one of us is the best judge for that and should be respected for such decision.

Now remains the question with the setting of correct understanding of varnashrama and the position of women. When the women accept the protection offered by varnashram as their advantage and when men accept the protection of the women folk and giving due respect to them as their DUTY (not their superior right by way of gender) in their capacities of father, brother and husband then there is no clash of ideas. The tendency to Lord it over, causes the clash and the tug of war for supremacy. In fact, a care ful study of varnashrama system would reveal that even the men folk are protected upto a certain age in the Gurukulas, by carefully gaurding them with love and affection and preparing them for their duties and responsibilities.

Again within the realms of Varnashrama system, women folk are not merely a protected lot without a voice of opinion of their own. Vedic history is full of examples of intelligent and learned women (education of women is very important in Varnashrama) who remaining with the limits of varnashrama steered their husbands, sons in the path of righteousness and they opinion was always well heard and fully respected.
So it is very clear that accepting protection does not mean accepting to be supressed and giving protection does not mean the license to dominate.
Unfortunately, many in western world have not understood this subtle balance of varnashrama. I am not very learned pandit or an authority in sastras. But we have lived in this system for generations and we are still living. Personally for me and my wife, reading Srila Prabhupad’s books gave us the assurance that the path we considered as outdated is actually the path of homogeny and happiness. We are practicing it with renewed faith, understading the essence of it. Thanks to ISKCON and Prabhupad, otherwise we were about to be sold to “so called western Ideals”.
Lastly to summarise, We all know that we follow the tattva of acintya beda abeda. This tattva allows for contradictions to co-exist simultaneously. This is the true path inbetween. It applies to all spheres of life including varnshrama. In varnashrama women are protected but they are also simultaneously free. They are in sub-ordinate position but they are also simultaneously superior and equal. How it is possible, it is acintaya, because the Maker of this system is also Acintiya. But a sincere practioner will experience this. I did not mean to pass a judgement or criticise or hurt anyone. If I have done so unkowningly, please forgive this fallen soul and save me from the great crime of vaishnava aparadha. Koti Koti dandavats to all.
Your humble servant - Harilila das.

Comment posted by harililadas on December 3rd, 2006
69 Unregistered

We also need to understand that this debate about women’s “liberation” in our society is not a game of “man vs. woman”. It is a matter of Vedic culture vs. Western civilization.

To keep the point simple, let’s look at the following quote from Bhaktisiddhanta.
“Western civilization must be crushed”.

Why is it that we as a society can not seem to grasp our founder acharya’s purports, which in Srila Prabhupada says time and time again that this Western civilization is demoniac. We should be working to crush it (through preaching), not encouraging it by trying to “westernize” our movement.

It goes back to the point about how our movement has developed an anti renunciate mentality, and thus we no longer see the need to give protection to the renounced ashrams “brahmacharis and sannyasis”. Because of this, the preaching has died, and our movement (in America, at least) is very weak. Until we learn once again the importance to give protection to this most vital part of our movement, we will not grow. And instead of trying to then justify changing things simply because the movement is no longer working, why not go back to the basics, e.i. brahmacharya and book distribution? This is what built the movement. I do not understand why this point is so difficult to understand. If you want this movement to expand, you must once again start giving support to renunciates, not being envious of them and subconsciously wanting them to fall down.

So what it comes down to is, what are our true ambitions? Is it to become preachers and deliver fallen souls, or is it to live a life of comfortable sense gratification?

Comment posted by bhakta_corey on December 3rd, 2006
70 Akruranatha

I agree with Trivikram Maharaja that the letter Urmila quoted (telling a woman she could not be temple president because she had broken the principles) is not “strong evidence” that Srila Prabhupada accepted women as temple presidents in ISKCON.

I was wrong to say it was “strong” evidence. It is evidence, though, inasmuch as Srila Prabhupada could just as easily have said: “Please tell __ dasi she cannot take charge of a center, because in ISKCON women can never be temple presidents.” He did not say that, as far as I know, to anyone, ever.

Maharaja is quite right that I cannot presume to know what Srila Prabhupada thought about having women temple presidents based on this one letter from 1968.

He may very well have been being diplomatic, not wanting to hurt this particular woman’s feelings. Or, he may have not said directly “women cannot be temple presidents” because it would interfere with preaching in the west to say that.

But then, shouldn’t we also, following his example, be careful not to say things that will interfere with preaching in the west? If Srila Prabhupada never said “women cannot be temple presidents”, why should we say it?

(This gets back to the important discussion of whether and how ISKCON should adapt to different changing conditions, and whether and how the conditions are really changing.)

If Srila Prabhupada never permitted a single woman disciple to be temple president, I agree that is also evidence he may not have wanted women to be temple presidents. Again, it is not particularly “strong” evidence.

Srila Prabhupada might well have been responding to the mentality of his male disciples that, as Maharaja suggests, they would not like to posted under a female authority. Such a mentality is not particularly humble, and at least from a modern western perspective it does not seem very enlightened, but it may be that Srila Prabhupada found it convenient to accommodate that mentality of his male disciples at that particular time.

Or it may be, as I think Maharaja implies, that reluctance to be governed by a female authority is such a fundamental and universal feature of male psychology that for the sake of achieving smooth, peaceful social interaction, women should rarely, if ever, occupy posts in which they wield authority over male subordinates, not just in ISKCON but in human society at large.

Trivikram Maharaja’s position may be that Srila Prabhupada wanted the greater society to adopt a form of social organization in which women would rarely have administrative authority, and that he wanted this kind of social organization to prevail in ISKCON, so as to make ISKCON more peaceful and to set an example for what Maharaja calls the “host culture.”

I admit one can find support for the above position in many of Srila Prabhupada’s writings and instructions. Nevertheless I believe many ISKCON devotees who are vocally advocating that position and similar positions, reacting against what they see as too much freedom of women in today’s ISKCON, are really not in line with Srila Prabhupada’s mood.

Srila Prabhupada did not emphasize subordination of women in his preaching, at least not in the same way some of his disciples are doing. He was frank about the different psychologies of male and female, and he wrote and spoke extensively about how scientific knowledge of those differences were employed in Vedic culture to make the population peaceful, prosperous, and happy, as they made spiritual progress by cooperating together effectively in worshiping Krishna.

However, to me Srila Prabhupada never seemed to be a campaigner in the “gender wars,” or any other mundane political cause. He was far above the fray. His real emphasis, even when he talked about politics or culture, was always on Krishna consciousness. Everything was subordinate to that.

It reminds me of his first question to Srila Bhaktisiddhata Saraswati Prabhupada, when he challenged (advocating Indian independence from British rule), “Who will listen to Lord Caitanya’s message while we are still a dependent nation?” When Srila Bhaktisiddhanta responded that the real immediate necessity was to spread Krishna consciousness, which is not dependent on any material political situation, Srila Prabhupada thought, “here is my guru”.

We have to judge a thing by its results. If the purpose of our cultural preaching is to make ISKCON more peaceful internally and thus more attractive to outsiders, it does not seem to be working. The more aggressive form of cultural preaching seems to turn off even many of our own devotees, and it certainly does not play well in the “host culture” in 21st century U.S.A.

Some of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples, in emphasizing a subordinate role of women in Vedic culture, make women devotees feel discouraged, as if they would rather subjugate the women than see them happily engaged in devotional service. It may just be a question of mood and emphasis, but it is important.

For example, in Maharaja’s quotation in the same text (#49) of a conversation with Yogesvara, Srila Prabhupada’s comments were actually *encouraging* to his female followers. He was saying that by introducing Krishna consciousness in society, everyone will be satisfied, and women will be satisfied with their feminine roles, just like his girl disciples are. He was holding those girls up as a positive example. He was pleased with them, was praising them.

When Sanjaya said, in text #2, “Loose, independent women have and will continue to cause many of the problems our society faces,” it seemed like he was criticizing the lady devotees. Even though I am sure it was not his intention, and he immediately added that he did not blame the women, his words had the effect of discouraging some of the women.

Lalita Madhava and Cinmayi and others pointed that out here. We need to listen to them and so many other women devotees who are saying things like this. They are our “matajis”, and another important aspect of Vedic culture (often not given much emphasis by our cultural preachers) is how respectful and obedient we all must be to our mothers and fathers.

It is hard enough, preaching among modern, educated people — who by and large, for many valid historical reasons, are attracted to the kind of libertarian views associated with John Stuart Mill (yes, Krishna-Kirti Prabhu, I’ll get to your questions eventually) — that we have to explain that they are wrong, that an ideal society is not liberal or egalitarean in the modern sense.

[Just as an aside: I have found that when I gave Srila Prabhupada’s discussion of varnasrama in his commentaries on the passing away of Bhismadeva in the First Canto to various people — political science professors, republican businessmen, communist intellectuals, etc. — I have often gotten surprisingly positive feedback.]

It makes our task in presenting this philosophy that much harder if we cannot even have our own house in order, if we have devotees feeling that they are being mistreated or “lorded over” by other devotees. It plays right into the hands of those who would argue against the validity of our philosophy.

Maybe we need to be more Krishna conscious before we can adopt more distinct Vedic cultural attributes in ISKCON. Maybe we first need to show that Krishna consciousness is actually powerful enough to exist even without rejecting many of the trappings of the “host culture.” Maybe a saintly devotee householder man ought to be able to function perfectly well with a woman as his boss, his colleague, his head of state.

(No, I am not campaigning for Hillary in 2008). :-)

(But now that I mention it, I may well end up voting for her, as I have always voted Democrat in presidential elections, and I did vote for the Mondale-Geraldine Ferraro ticket in, when was it, 1984?)

I mean, I believe high court judges will be wearing tilak long before American society does away with the U.S. constitution.

(And no, Lalita Madhava, I am not advocating doing away with the Constitution). :-)

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 3rd, 2006
71 Akruranatha

Trivikram Swami states, “The temples are mainly, at least they were in Srila Prabhupada’s time, a place for training up renunciates.”

The statement is a serious one and bears serious consideration.

Renunciation is certainly the lifeblood of our movement. “vairagya vidya nija bhakti yoga.” Becoming attached to Krishna consciousness means becoming detached from material sense gratification. “visaya chadiya se rase majiya mukhe bolo hari hari”

Renunciation does not necessarily mean immediately adopting the renounced order of life, but rather renouncing the spirit of material enjoyment in whatever social position we are actually in.

Srila Prabhupada did not limit his preaching to creating sannyasis. He did not just create monasteries for renounced men. Why did he get his disciples married, and violate the rule that a sannyasi should not do so, if he was only interested in training renunciates?

Srila Prabhupada did say that he was most interested in producing even one pure devotee, rather than opening lots of temples and acquiring lots of cheap followers. We do not want to make a big, wealthy “church” without being able to deliver the real, pure thing. But that does not mean there is no place for family life in ISKCON. Many pure devotees, and even incarnations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, were grhasthas.

ISKCON’s temples and ashrams do seek to train those who are serious about bhakti yoga, although part and parcel of that training is that we distribute Krishna consciousness far and wide on Lord Caitanya’s order to everyone. Yes, everyone, everywhere, in every walk of life. That’s why Srila Prabhupada came to New York, and why he made us translate his books into all languages. Our temples are centers for spreading Krishna consciousness, primarily through book distribution, to everyone.

“Generally it is said that the bhakti cult is meant for the sudras, vaisyas and the less intelligent woman class. But that is not the actual fact. The bhakti cult is the topmost of all transcendental activities, and therefore it is simultaneously sublime and easy. It is sublime for the pure devotees who are serious about getting in contact with the Supreme Lord, and it is easy for the neophytes who are just on the threshold of the house of bhakti. To achieve contact of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna is a great science, and it is open for all living beings, including the sudras, vaisyas, women and even those lower than the lowborn sudras, so what to speak of high-class men like the qualified brahmanas ad the great self-realized kings. The other high-grade activities designated as sacrifice, charity, austerity, etc., are all corrolary factors following the pure and scientific bhakti cult.” (S.B. 1.2.7 Purport)

Srila Prabhupada did promote congregational preaching. He established the life membership program, for example. It wasn’t just a scam to make money (sometimes we mistakenly thought it was). It is one way to engage people who are not ready to be more fully committed, and gradually bring them closer to ISKCON according to their capacity.

ISKCON is led by sannyasis (spiritual leadership, not administration), but it isn’t only for sannyasis. Having lots of householders and their kids living in the temple as we did in the 70s was probably an historical abberation, but how the grhastas are to be engaged in ISKCON is a very important part of varnasrama development. There are always going to be more grhastas in ISKCON than sannyasis.

bhakta_corey warns that we have developed an “anti-rununciate mentality” and we need to go back to the basics of brahmacarya and book distribution.

I hope we do not have an “anti renunciate” mentality.

I hope everyone agrees, at least, that we need to increase book distribution. If this can be done by getting members of the householder congregations out, at least on weekends, who is going to argue with that?

(I do not really agree with Corey’s statement that we need to “protect” our sannyasis–they have already adopted the fearless stage of life, so what can we protect them from? But we do for our own good need to give charity to them and assist their preaching and learn from them and worship them, so that someday we can become renounced and fearless as they are.)

I would hope to see that eventually our gurukulas are training lots of first-class brahmacaris. I do know some wonderful brahmacari gurukulis, and I don’t mean to sound negative, but that is one area in which we have not been as successful as we can be. We are not meant to be a society of only converts. Our householders should creating a whole class of “Krishna people” wherever we go, and the first of the four spiritual orders (chronologically) is brahmacari.

I am excited to talk about congregational development and how ISKCON is going to grow and exert more and more influence on society. Are we going to be like Mormons (who have a really fascinating history of how they started on the American frontier in the 19th century), or Amish, or Hassidic Jews, or the Catholic Church, or the Nation of Islam, or the Korean Baptists?

Obviously, we are not going to be exactly like any of those groups, but I can hardly contain myself when we start comparing and contrasting. Somehow Lord Caitanya is making this work, in spite of our many missteps, and I cannot wait to see how ISKCON eventually changes the world.

Srila Prabhupada said once that we could “take over the world in 18 days” (just like the battle of Kurukshetra was fought in 18 days). I never thought that meant we, the existing ISKCON devotees, were somehow going to actually take over and become the authorities over all other people. I always thought it meant that those who are already doing things, the politicians, professors, poets, writers, architects, musicians, film producers, doctors, engineers, police, firemen, garbage collectors and the rest, will all become devotees of Krishna. It could happen.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 3rd, 2006
72 Unregistered

(editors note - this is the same as the last comment by me but has typos removed)

Trivikrama Maharaja you wrote

Shiva Prabhu has stated:

“The internal cause is the same cause of what causes everything to be as is it is. Krishna is guiding everyone to fulfill their destiny and receive what they need and deserve. ”

This is incorrect. Krishna is guiding everyone according to what they “desire” and “deserve”, not what they “need” and “deserve”. It is “desire”, kama, or lust only Arjuna which is the all devouring sinful enemy of the conditioned soul and which burns like fire and is never satisfied. (Bg 3.37) And it is our own personal desire which has brought us into this material world. (Bg 7.27)

Maybe I was unclear in what I meant. When I said deserve that was meant as the reaction to one’s desires. For example if someone desires to be wealthy and sets about to make that desire come into fruition then that person will become wealthy if he deserves that, if his desire is strong enough he will do what is necessary to gain wealth. It’s not that if you simply desire that you will get what you want. You can desire to be wealthy or desire to be healthy or desire to be king of the world or any other type of desire, but unless you deserve then those desires will remain unfulfilled. If you are poor with no chance of becoming welathy in this life but you are very pious then you can generate enough good karma so that in your next life you will get what you desired. But if the same person is very impious then he will not get that desire fulfilled. You will get what you deserve. If you desire to go back to godhead then you must first deserve, you cannot be a sinful conditioned soul who simply desires to live the good life with Krishna and the gopis and then whoosh there you are. Desire and then deserve.

When I said need I meant that as you needing things in order to have your karma, your desire, what you deserve, fulfilled. If you are destined or deserve to be a rich man in this life due to your karma and desire then you will need a human body, you will need to have so many things arranged to fulfill that karmic destiny. If you desired to go back to godhead but didn’t finish the process in the last life then in this life you will need certain arrangements made for you in order to come in contact with Krishna, devotees, sastra, etc.

Comment posted by shiva on December 3rd, 2006
73 Akruranatha

Okay, Krishna-Kirti, let me try to respond to your questions. It may be long and untidy, but I hope you find some nuggets here.

Regarding how things were done when Yudhisthira Maharaja and Lord Rama reigned, I would just say that the whole atmosphere is currently much different in Kali Yuga. Lord Caitanya recognized that it was different, for example in His discussion with Chand Kazi.

When Parikshit Maharaja punished the personality of Kaliyuga, there was no meat eating, illicit sex, gambling or intoxication in his whole kingdom. Just imagine!

If we get to a point where there is no meat eating, intoxication, gambling or illicit sex in the U.S., at that point we probably won’t need laws against race and sex discrimination, we won’t need antitrust laws, or a regime to govern the collective bargaining process, or laws against unfair debt collection practices. We probably could tolerate having hereditary monarchs without fear of being tyrannized long before we even got to that point. The whole legal and political landscape would be entirely different.

But Kaliyuga can even stay where gold is hoarded, so it seems that the hoarding of gold and the use of paper currency may even outlast the four pillars of sin.

The kingdom of Maharaja Yudhisthir, who was dharma personified, did not need a lot of complicated lawbooks, or legislative sessions and lobbyists and and regulatory agencies. The eternal codes of religion or righteous conduct were basically understood and internalized by the people, with the help of good guidance by enlightened brahmanas, backed up, as you say, by the executive power of punishment for the wicked to protect the innocent.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 4th, 2006
74 Akruranatha

In one of my first college classes after years of being a temple devotee, we had to read “Anarchy, State and Utopia” by Robert Nozick, a contemporary libertarian social thinker (decidedly more like J.S. Mill than Hobbes).

I am sure I did not understand the book, and I remember little about it. (It was a very tough adjustment for me in those days, in 1979, going back to “karmi” school. I did not really want to be “blooped”, but that was the only way to look at it then, before ISKCON authorities allowed devotees to go to college, so my psyche was terribly divided and shattered. A little while later, Bir Krishna Maharaja approved it for me).

One thing I do remember about reading Nozick, though, is I kept thinking, “These philosophers speculate about the ‘best form of government’ as if there is only one, static kind of human nature.” I felt that different governments might be appropriate for different kinds human societies, depending on the quality of the population.

[They also seemed completely in the dark about the purpose of human life (ne te viduh svarta gatim hi visnuh). They were very well read, learned, gifted thinkers and writers, but they had a “poor fund of knowledge” because they had not appreciated Prabhupada’s books.]

Then, just a little while later, I heard Srila Hrdayananda Maharaja observe: “anarchy is the best form of government for brahmanas, feudalism for kshatriyas, capitalism for vaisyas, and communism for sudras.” It made sense to me, confirming my intuition that there is not just one human nature and no one-size-fits all political philosophy.

Along the same lines, in a Kali yuga environment, when we may not have sufficient actually qualified brahmanas and kshatriyas, a liberal form of government may be preferable to living under a dictatorship of demons who have no knowledge of or respect for dharma. Uday Hussein could make anyone rethink the meaning of “demon crazy”.

(BTW, I was amazed to read, in the Lilamrta, that Srila Prabhupada at one time planned to propose to Indira Gandhi that she should establish a monarchy in India, and name her son Sanjay as king. I thought, “Wasn’t Sanjay was such a big rascal?” Who can understand the mind of a pure Vaisnava?)

At least, with American religious freedom, we can worship Krishna and even preach to our heart’s content, and Srila Prabhupada did remark favorably about America in that sense. I honestly count my blessings that I was born in the U.S. rather than, say, North Korea (but I am ready to go anywhere for preaching on Prabhupada’s order).

Krishna Kirti, I think you were correct to select J.S. Mill as an archetypal liberal thinker. However, your selection of a “dark” versus “rosy” view of human nature in comparing liberal democratic to Vedic political philosophy (or, for that matter, in comparing Mill to Hobbes) is kind of one-dimensional and really misses the mark, IMHO.

Moreover, comparing Hobbes to Manu is terribly unfair to Lord Manu (who, as we know, learned the Bhagavad Gita from Vivasvan millions of years ago and is a manvantara incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead).

I actually agree with you that fear of punishment is what keeps people in line and that a strong executive is required in an ideal society to ensure that dharma is properly being followed. Krishna is the “rod of chastisement”, and among dispenser of law He is Yamaraja. Nevertheless, I am troubled by aspects of the Patriot Act. Go figure.

There is a lot more to liberalism than a rosy view of human nature – fear of tyrants and a breakdown of the authority of the church in Europe (the need for peace after the struggles of the Reformation) had a lot to do with it. Skeptical or cynical men (e.g., Oliver Wendell Holmes) have often been staunch libertarians. Winston Churchill is credited with saying what a lot of cynics before him probably felt: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for every other form of government.”

[Your comparison of “light” and “dark” views of human nature does remind me of the Lilamrta story, though, where Bhakta Bruce (Brahmananda) went to Srila Prabhupada and told him his lit prof. was a Freudian and analyzed everything in terms of the sex urge (what Hobbes called man’s “concupiscible nature”). Bruce thought Srila Prabhupada would be more favorable to a Jungian view of people primarily motivated by religious impulses, but Srila Prabhupada flatly told him that his professor was right.]

I do appreciate and agree with you that one of the reasons we cannot even seem to talk about how to practice varnasrama dharma in the modern world, without stirring up controversy even among faithful devotees, is that modern people have, deep down, a very different set of assumptions, values and expectations. Varnasrama social organization does presuppose an entire ethical, political and metaphysical view of the world (politics is only a small part of it) that is entirely different from that of the 21st century industrialized world.

Even Hobbes’s world was very different from Vedic times. In the 17th century, modern European philosophy was busy throwing off the assumptions of medieval scholasticism. Hobbes, influenced by the new mechanical philosophy of Galileo, was trying to come up with a systematic political philosophy on the model of the new philosophy of physical nature (i.e. the beginnings of modern materialistic science).

[I had to read Leviathan for at least three different classes in college and law school, but I have to admit I never really got into it and probably never gave it sufficient attention. Hobbes kind of bored me, whereas his contemporary, Descartes, who moved in the same Parisian circles and disliked him, fascinated me.]

One observation I have about all these “state of nature” and social contract theories like those of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, (and Nozick, who tried to improve on Locke), is that in our Bhagavat tradition the “natural” state of mankind is actually civilized.

We are more like the medieval Platonists who saw a divine or ideal world, reflected in a celestial hierarchy, which in turn is reflected in a hierarchical government on earth, with the monarch as the representative of God. Hobbes was attacking the “divine right” view of monarchy, but the varnashrama view is a kind of “divine right” view, isn’t it? Still, the medieval European or even Greco-Roman classical world was far different from the classical society at the end of the Dvapara Yuga, or – imagine! – Krishna’s own Yadu dynasty family in Dwaraka.

[I seem to recall even Plato had a “social contract” justification for obeying the law (was it in the Crito?), but it was more mythological and did not have the same materialist flavor as the 17th and 18th century quasi-historical theories.]

Materialistic modern thinkers cannot wrap their minds around how the “natural” state of human society is varnasram civilization. They think the natural state of man has to be like apes or cavemen given their view of history. They also have no idea that the whole subtle body is part of material nature. They always try to think of “nature” as opposed to “nurture”, as if anyone in nature could ever exist without having been nurtured. Thus they can hardly begin to see that how we are continually being nurtured and shaped by our activities within the gunas is very much part of our conditioned nature.

Simone De Beauvoir starts “The Second Sex” with the famous line, “One is not born, rather one becomes, a woman.” What she does not realize is she started becoming a woman *before* she was born.

She was awarded a woman’s body because it was suited to the subtle body she had acquired through her past life conditioning. She was even awarded a brilliant 20th century French philosopher woman’s body, due to her karma. Still, her private letters reveal that, as a woman, in spite of all that philosophical brilliance, she was terribly emotionally dependent on Jean-Paul Sartre.

We conditioned souls are really all caught up in the various innumerable reactions to innumerable good and bad works, like flies caught in honey.

[BTW, they say its easier to catch them with honey. :-)]

Yes, varnasrama dharma is essentially about ethics. Dharma is ethics, right and wrong action, how to respond righteously and justly in any situation and to avoid sinful reactions. It can be very subtle and it is never mechanical or inflexible, inasmuch as human affairs are very intricate and complicated.

“The good life” is generally lived in “the good society,” but we were born and work and preach in whatever kali yuga society we find ourselves in. We have to do what is right for us according to our own nature in the society and times we do live in.

I am not saying the principles of dharma change or they are not eternal. I am certainly not trying to construct some kind of “Millsean” version of varnasram, as you put it. But knowing how to explain and apply the eternal principles in a modern, “Millsean” world, can be a great challenge, to say the least.

I usually confine myself to explaining an ideal ancient past, and I interact in American culture pretty much as a basic, law abiding, good American citizen. Over and above that, the four regs is about as much dharma as most people I talk to can really swallow.

[BTW, have you seen Satyaraja’s book on the four regs?]

For a contemporary man to think, “I am a Kshatriya, so in order to be a good person I must learn to shoot arrows on a horse drawn chariot,” seems like a ludicrous anachronism to me. I suppose a modern Ksatriya must to something to develop physical courage and leadership qualities, but I do not pretend to know what he should do, or how. Even going to hunt tigers in the jungle doesn’t cut it. Tigers are an endangered species. :-)

Because the “natural” state of human society is varnashrama dharma, it can always be easily revived (if your population is at least a little bit human). That is how it is “natural” – not that it was man’s historical, pre-civilized state (we do not accept that view of history), but that no matter how you try to train people away from it they can snap right back into it. Humans have a sense of wanting to follow a heroic king like Lord Rama, which cannot be bred out of them.

Americans think of George Washington in that sense, even though he favored limited government with separation of powers, and voluntarily limited his presidency to two terms. Soviet communists, for all their Marxian ideology, ended up making a kind of worshipable deity out of the ruthless, murderous Stalin. As Srila Prabhupada says, you cannot make it “classless”. Four classes are naturally there.

Hare Krishna dasi used to write a lot about this stuff. I have not heard from her in a long time…

What does all this have to do with “Out of the Woman Comes the Man?” I guess its only my feeling that, just as varnasrama dharma doesn’t mean just “farming”, it also does not mean just trying to conform ISKCON devotees to rigid sex-based social roles. It is much bigger than that. As Krishna Kirti says, it is about ethics, which means it primarily is about being good people.

“He for whom no one is put into difficulty and who is not disturbed by anyone, who is equipoised in happiness and dirstress, fear and anxiety, is very dear to Me.” (B.G. 12.15)

“Fearlessness, purification of one’s existence, cultivation of spiritual knowledge, charity, self-control, performance of sacrifice, study of the Vedas, austerity, simplicity, nonviolence, truthfulness, freedom from anger, renunciation, tranquility, aversion to faultfinding, compassion for all living entities, freedom from covetousness, gentleness, modesty, steady determination, vigor, forgiveness, fortitude, cleanliness, and freedom from envy and of the passion for honor — these transcendental qualities, O son of Bharata, belong to godly men endowed with divine nature.” (B.G. 16.1-3)

Hey, Krishna Kirti, you can email me at bernsteinlaw@earthlink.net if you want to take it off line. There are tons of things I want to read and write and talk about, once you get me started, but it all probably is too dry and lengthy to subject the Dandavats readers to.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 4th, 2006
75 Akruranatha

Krishna Kirti, one last thought:

I might just be contaminated by mundane education, but it seems to me the difference between liberal democratic society and Varnasrama society is not just a matter of philosophy, either. It is deeper in our bones than that.

The sociological legal historians like Sir Henry Maine (1822-1888) (who worked in the British administration in India and was a vigorous opponent of democracy, by the way), point out that a whole series of material changes accompanied society’s move from status-based relations to what Maine called a contract-based society where people were seen as autonomous individuals free to form associations of their own choosing.

The economy has changed, we have greater division of labor, with many more different kinds of jobs, and are accordingly more interdependent in a way, than, say, Europe in the middle ages.

The 19th c. German sociologist Tonneis spoke of the change from “gemeinschaft” (community-based, spontaneous social relations) to “gesselschaft” (industrial, marketplace societies).

Today, I do not even know the guy at the gas station that I buy a bottle of water from, much less have a personal relationship with him based on our different social roles and accompanying understood customs of behavior.

I know we are supposed to somehow “establish varnasrama” in ISKCON. It seems to me, though, that a true varnasrama society probably is more of a “gemeinschaft” or status-based society than what we are used to in modern industrial societies. Maybe varnasrama will be mainly established first within our own ISKCON communities like our farm communities or the Mayapur project. It may be less relevant for those who work in offices and hospitals and other so-called “karmi jobs.”

The sociologists and anthropologists, though not devotees, seem to have some real insights about the field of “Law and Society,” as it was taught to me at U of Michigan Law School.

The Durkheims, Webers, and Malinowskis of the world (and their 21st century heirs) have some insights that may be useful in trying to understand the modern world and its relation to varnasram dharma of ancient times.

Of course, they are not our authorities. They are not devotees of Krishna and they have no spiritual insight. I do keep hoping that they become devotees of Krishna, though. There is no reason they can’t, if we can induce them to chant and feed them tons of prasadam. They have some knowledge waiting to be Krishna-ized.

Hare Krishna dasi used to be working on that, I recall, trying to understand varnasrama dharma from closely studying Srila Prabhupadas books, but in light of modern social scientific thought.

Srila Prabhupada reportedly said that Bhaktivedanta Institute was the most important project. (At least, the BI devotees always tell me that). While BI focuses mainly on physical sciences and philosophy of mind (and let’s not forget Drutakarma’s physical anthropology and Sadaputa’s UFOlogy), I can imagine a future where the historians and social scientists also become devotees.

As some of our devotees go to the “slaughterhouses” that are modern colleges and universities (and they are going, whether we like it or not), my hope is that their professors and intelligent classmates will also take up chanting and studying Prabhupada’s books very carefully.

Srila Prabhupada wrote my wife, in her initiation letter (May 19, 1973):

“Now you execute this Krishna Consciousness very expertly and diligently. We have to establish this movement as the real alternative to the suffering and anxiety that pervades the whole human population. The scientists and politicians and other leaders are dragging everyone down to hell. Please study my books very carefully.”

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 4th, 2006
76 Unregistered

I am still following this discussion…..just taking a tiny breather while, thankfully, Krishna-kirti Prabhu has turned his laser-vision on Shiva Prabhu and Mother Urmila instead of me :-)

Shiva Prabhu, thank you for your inspiring contributions. And Akruranatha Prabhu, thank you, as always, for the same, and for your final parenthetical comment in Comment #70.

I’m just popping in here for a minute, because, to me, Harilila Prabhu expressed the very essence of this entire discussion in Comment #68. His words bear repeating and their importance can not be over-emphasized. He said:

“So it is very clear that accepting protection does not mean accepting to be supressed and giving protection does not mean the license to dominate. Unfortunately, many in western world have not understood this subtle balance of varnashrama…In varnashrama women are protected but they are also simultaneously free.”

Comment posted by Lalita Madhava d.d. on December 4th, 2006
77 krishna-kirti

Mother Lalita Madhava wrote: “just taking a tiny breather while, thankfully, Krishna-kirti Prabhu has turned his laser-vision on Shiva Prabhu and Mother Urmila instead of me :-)”

Why, thank you, Mataji! That was an awfully charitable reference to me, I guess. Maybe comment #66 escaped your attention. It has both you and Mother Urmila “firmly in the cross-hairs”–and Akruranath, too, if he is so inclined to rescue some “damsels in distress” :-)

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 5th, 2006
78 krishna-kirti

Dear Akruranath Prabhu. Hare Krishna.

Your last few comments were well worth the wait. I think that devotees will really appreciate this kind of approach to discussing these issues. As much as possible I feel they should be held in public, not off line. (I will, however, take you up on your invitation to email you personally.)

You wrote:

“Krishna Kirti, I think you were correct to select J.S. Mill as an archetypal liberal thinker. However, your selection of a “dark” versus “rosy” view of human nature in comparing liberal democratic to Vedic political philosophy (or, for that matter, in comparing Mill to Hobbes) is kind of one-dimensional and really misses the mark, IMHO.”

Just to clarify my comparison between Hobbes and Manu, I had only intended to use Hobbes as a point of reference, just as, for example, saying “the sun is in the tree” in order to point someone in the direction of the sun. You’ll notice that my argument doesn’t depend at all on Hobbes. Without Hobbes, we can still compare Manu with Mills and easily arrive at the same conclusion. I used Hobbes because, a number of us may be more familiar with Hobbes than Manu.

My comparison doesn’t even depend on Manu. Through a broad survey of the Gita, the Bhagavatam, and other authorized Vaisnava literature (with or without Srila Prabhuapda’s commentaries), we can still surmize that conditioned human nature is basically an unpleasant thing, can we not? Yet Manu is useful to quote becuase he directly addresses some of these issues. Srila Prabhupada, after all, quoted Manu-smriti from time-to-time and cited Manu-smriti as authoritative. The point I was making is that Vedic literature is pretty much unanimous in its view that conditioned human nature is something relatively unpleasant, as compared with how Mill seems to view it. That was the intended extent of my comparison.

As regards to my choice of Hobbes over other philosophers, such as medeval Platonists you mentioned, I think it is useful to note that the argument advanced in verses from Manu-smriti I quoted doesn’t depend on theism. It doesn’t actually require God in the picture to work. It’s like a lot of other sets of verses that we might find, for example, in the later chapters of the Gita, where Krishna talks about the three modes of nature. Many of those descriptions also aren’t theistic. Perhaps another Western philosopher would have been a better choice, but since in this particular instance Manu’s argument wasn’t theistic, I thought Hobbes was a good choice.

I think you’re on to something about varnashram as “natural state of human society.” My own doubt, however, is that if varnashram is “natural”, why do we need to implement something we do naturally anyway? (And why is it so hard to implement?) Nevertheless, I would appreciate hearing you further develop your intuition on this point.

I am not saying the principles of dharma change or they are not eternal. I am certainly not trying to construct some kind of “Millsean” version of varnasram, as you put it. But knowing how to explain and apply the eternal principles in a modern, “Millsean” world, can be a great challenge, to say the least.

I don’t think constructing a “Millsean” varnashram is anyone’s intention, least of all yours. Yet don’t you think that the belief that a Millsean society can accommodate varnashram, to some extent, presumes that there can be such a thing as a Millsean varnashram? (If that is possible, and we are inclined to Mills, then what’s to stop us from trying?) Yet what if they aren’t actually compatible on certain precepts which act as key supports for their respective ideological superstructures? Take for example the idea of democracy. By the measure of history, democracy requires that the populace in general have a relatively high standard of education and interest in the affairs of the state. Otherwise, as a teleological act, what value does their vote have? But according varnashram, most people in any given society will be shudras, who are by definition unintelligent and therefore unfit to give direction or govern. Varnashram therefore presumes that a society’s upper classes have the duty to guide and direct society, not the majority of the population, who are shudras. What might happen to the rest of Mill’s philosophy if we replaced his brighter presumptions about individuals with varnashram’s more elitist presumptions, and vice versa? Just as removing a supporting wall from a house will probably “bring the house down”, removing or changing a non-trivial presumption in a philosophy will probably make the philosophy unintelligible. Could a liberal society accommodate varnashram? For the reasons mentioned, I’m highly skeptical.

What does all this have to do with “Out of the Woman Comes the Man?” I guess its only my feeling that, just as varnasrama dharma doesn’t mean just “farming”, it also does not mean just trying to conform ISKCON devotees to rigid sex-based social roles. It is much bigger than that.

I think we are in whole-hearted agreement on this. If I may suggest, I think the right direction is that instead of viewing varnashram fundamentally as a set of discrete “dos” and “don’ts” that we begin with trying to understand varnashram as an ethical system.

I think your overall observations in comment #75 are spot on. As you say, varnashram being not just a matter of philosophy, but of our own conception of our very selves. I would say that what you are getting at it’s a matter of “false ego”. Just to be clear, I’m using “false ego” (ahankara) in the technial sense of illusory self conception. Liberation is not a cheap thing, and it is likely that most of us–even the more advanced among us–are not free from it. If that is true, then we probably bring a lot more “maya” with us to Krishna consciousness than we give ourselves credit for. As a crude example this, after first moving into the temple, getting shaved up, etc., I worked in the temple’s restaurant kitchen. One day while in the kitchen, I opened the door of the oven and out jumped this big cockroach onto the ground. Before it could flip itself back onto its legs and scuttle away, I dispatched the poor creature with my Birkenstock-clad foot. After killing it, and realizing what I had done, I said to myself, “Oh my God! I’m not non-violent after all! I haven’t really changed!” (If it’s any consolation to the cockroaches, I’m better about that kind of thing, now.)

I think you are also right is that there will probably have to be a lot of accommodation with modernity no matter what we do. For example, if India were to give up building and maintaining nukes, very soon the capital of India would relocate from Delhi to Islamabad. Just so that doesn’t happen, India needs to maintain its nuclear program, which requires an impressive military-industrial complex, which in turn requires producing people highly educated in a vast array of scientific, technical, medical, industrial, economic, and military arts. That kind of society in turn will require a socio-economic system which is decidedly caustic to the objectives of varnashram. If there is to be a highly developed varnashram society at all, it may for the forseable future have to have its own, protected social strata. It would mean some people (most people) would have to live with a persistent inability to refrain from illicit sex so that another section of society can do so with relative ease and make spiritual advancement. However, if the varnashram strata is to have any positive influence on society at all, it would have to also be in control of the other social stratas. I don’t say I have any answers as to how this would likely develop. I don’t have them. But noting these issues to begin with is what we need to do in order to fathom what varnashram might really look like.

All in all, I’ll count this particular exchange between us as considerable progress in the matter of understanding each other. Thank you very much for your enlightened comments, and I look forward to hearing more of the same.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 5th, 2006
79 krishna-kirti

Dear Akruranath. Hare Krishna. This is in reference to your response in comment #73.

One problem with saying that Lord Rama and Maharaja Yuddhisthira lived in different times and just leaving it at that is that this argument doesn’t distinguish between things they did that were factually circumstantial and things they did that reflected objective standards. As regards to how society was structured, if we apply your argument and say, “Social and occupational roles were strictly segregated by gender in those societies because those were the times they lived in,” then that begs the question as to whether that kind of social organization was circumstantial or intended to be an objective standard. It presumes that women’s roles in those societies were circumstantial when that is the very question posed–were they circumstantial customs or were they objective standards? This particular response of yours begs that question.

Nevertheless, I agree with your point about not needing certain laws if society is in the right way. This is a very important point too, and that brings to mind the example of the Comstock Act of the 1873. Before that act and similar local laws came into being, there were very few laws against contraception in American law books. In a society that had always revered the command “be fruitful and multiply”, contraception was to the people of the late 18th century what sexually molesting children is today. Hence, the draconian character of the Comstock laws, which were swiftly enacted to counter what Anthony Comstock himself termed America’s “national vice.”

The significance of the rise of these laws, and later their total withdrawal to the mounting demand for that “national vice” and its subsequent legalization shows us that the rise of laws (especially the draconian type) regulating behavior where they were not needed before is a likely indication of some profound change (or decay) in an older social order. The reaction is something like that of a wounded animal. A wounded animal is very ferocious, but he is still wounded–perhaps mortally so. And so it came to pass with the Comstock laws.

(If today’s similarly draconian anti-child-molestation laws are symptoms of a similar trajectory, I shudder to think about the future moral condition that America is headed for.)

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 5th, 2006
80 trivikramaswami

Krishna-kirti Prabhu has stated:
“The point I was making is that Vedic literature is pretty much unanimous in its view that conditioned human nature is something relatively unpleasant, as compared with how Mill seems to view it.”

I have experience to support this point. I am regularly meeting and talking with students here at the University in Orlando. This seems to be the main point of contention that they have with us. According to their understanding they are in a very favorable situation. The are young, intelligent, coming from a good family and country, with a very bright future. They question how we can imply or state that we are in a miserable condition? However sastra is very clear on this point, “duhkalayam”, Krishna says; it is a certified place of misery.

Comment posted by trivikramaswami on December 5th, 2006
81 Unregistered

“Out of the Woman Comes the Man,…”
Well, not everybody makes it!
According to the statistics in 2002 only in USA 1,310,000 children didn’t make it. These unborn children died from legal abortions. Since Roe vs. Wade abortion legalization in 22.1.1973 - 1,410,600,000 children died in their mother’s womb worldwide.
Please check these sites:
www.silentscream.org and www.abort73.com
Krsna-kirti Prabhu wrote:
“The point I was making is that Vedic literature is pretty much unanimous in its view that conditioned human nature is something relatively unpleasant, as compared with how Mill seems to view it. That was the intended extent of my comparison.” #78

After coming to know about this “womb holocaust” facts I am 100% sure that Krsna-kirti’s observations are valid.
Conditioned human nature is darkest then Hobess or Kafka could possibly imagine!
dasanudasa
Divya-prabandha das

Comment posted by Divya-prabandha das on December 6th, 2006
82 Krishna Dharma

. This seems to be the main point of contention that they have with us. According to their understanding they are in a very favorable situation. The are young, intelligent, coming from a good family and country, with a very bright future. They question how we can imply or state that we are in a miserable condition?

Madness, for sure. Every endeavour we make is about fighting against some unwanted condition — ignorance, hunger, thirst, heat, cold, disease, old age, etc, and finally death. Nor do we ever succeed in winning that fight (until we surrender to Krishna).

But let’s not be morbid, eh? You have to take the rough with the smooth, keep your chin up and smile. We’re getting there. Scientists will have it all worked out soon - won’t they?

Comment posted by Krishna Dharma on December 6th, 2006
83 Unregistered

The words of Srila Prabhupada can shed much light on this subject.

SB 2.7.6

If one wants to get freedom from the material bondage of conditional life, he must get free from the attraction for the form of woman. Woman, or the fair sex, is the enchanting principle for the living entities, and the male form, especially in the human being, is meant for self-realization. The whole world is moving under the spell of womanly attraction, and as soon as a man becomes united with a woman, he at once becomes a victim of material bondage under a tight knot. The desires for lording it over the material world, under the intoxication of a false sense of lordship, specifically begin just after the man’s unification with a woman. & Studying the whole scheme of disassociation from women, it appears that a woman is a stumbling block for self-realization, and the Lord appeared as Nārāyaṇa to teach the principle of womanly disassociation with a vow in life.

SB 3.31.39

The association of woman is very much restricted in the Vedic civilization. Out of the four social divisions, the brahmacārī, vānaprastha and the sannyāsī — three orders — are strictly prohibited from the association of women; only the gṛhasthas, or householders, are given license to have an intimate relationship with a woman, and that relationship is also restricted for begetting nice children. If, however, one wants to stick to continued existence in the material world, he may indulge in female association unrestrictedly.

SB 4.31.3

The basic flaw in modern civilization is that boys and girls are given freedom during school and college to enjoy sex life.

SB 6.18.42

Women are self-interested by nature, and therefore they should be protected by all means so that their natural inclination to be too self-interested will not be manifested. Women need to be protected by men. A woman should be cared for by her father in her childhood, by her husband in her youth and by her grown sons in her old age. This is the injunction of Manu, who says that a woman should not be given independence at any stage. Women must be cared for so that they will not be free to manifest their natural tendency for gross selfishness. There have been many cases, even in the present day, in which women have killed their husbands to take advantage of their insurance policies. This is not a criticism of women but a practical study of their nature.

How much clearer can Srila Prabhupada make it?

For those who are not willing to accept Srila Prabhupada as their authority, no amount of his teachings can help them.

Comment posted by bhakta_corey on December 6th, 2006
84 Akruranatha

Krishna Kirti Prabhu:

In some of your previous posts (#18, 20, 26, 27), you suggested it was inflammatory to raise the issue of “Taliban.”

It seems we are all in agreement that that former (and future?) political regime in Afghanistan has attitudes and has taken actions towards the female population that are wrong. To even suggest there are “Taliban-like” devotees is offensive.

So, I would like to hear your specific views on exactly what is wrong with the Taliban. Maybe you should turn your “laser vision” on some nondevotees, and clarify your position in this regard.

I hope you do not mind my asking.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 6th, 2006
85 Unregistered

Dear Bhakta Corey,

In the course of reading your comments, particularly the last one, I have become concerned that you seem to be developing an extremely unbalanced perspective on the position of women. I do not know what your background is or who your authorities are, but your mood seems to be quite extreme and I would suggest taking counsel from mature Vaisnavas who can help you develop a healthier and more balanced perspective on this issue.

Regarding the quotes which you have provided, His Holiness Jayadvaita Swami gives the following caution regarding the prudent use of the VedaBase which I think very much applies to the way you have taken random quotes out of context in Comment # 83 and appear to be drawing quite a faulty conclusion:

“The Bhaktivedanta VedaBase…is a powerful tool, and like all tools it may be used either well or badly. Used well, it can help us discover, gather, and bring to light many teachings the scriptures and Srila Prabhupada give us. Used badly, it can help in assembling false evidence, fallacious arguments, and wrong conclusions.”

I would say that the manner in which you have taken these quotes out of the complete context of everything Srila Prabhupada did, everything he wrote and everything he said is a clear example of “assembling false evidence, fallacious arguments and wrong conclusions.”

Comment posted by Lalita Madhava d.d. on December 6th, 2006
86 Akruranatha

Shivaji:

I want to enquire further about the topic of different varnas in ISKCON.

BTW, I did some further research and I did not find any other place in Caitanya Caritamrta that Lord Caitanya recommended “sthane sthita.” Srila Prabhupada must have been referring to the conversation between Lord Caitanya and Ramamanda Raya.

I am still puzzled by the following instruction from the quotation you provided of the February 14, 1977 conversation:

“You educate certain section as brahmana, certain section as ksatriya, certain section as vaisya. In that education we don’t discriminate because he’s coming of a sudra family. Take education. Be qualified.”

It does sound, at least to my unqualified intelligence, that Srila Prabhupada is actually saying that some ISKCON devotees are to be trained as ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras.

But I have no idea where they are doing that in ISKCON, or how they are supposed to do it. I am sure that very intelligent, senior devotees must have considered these things, but I do not know the results of their mature consideration.

You say (text 61): “The varnashrama system is not about identifying a person’s varna. ”

I certainly *hope* that is true, because as I expressed earlier, I have not got a clue about mine.

I know I am not in the pure conception, “I am servant of Krishna.” I have some theoretical faith in that, maybe even some dim flashes of realization, but mostly I am identifying as this overweight, middle-aged, American lawyer.

Where does *that* guy fit in to the varnasrama scheme of things, either in ISKCON proper, or in the 21st century larger society I work and operate in? Beats me. I am prepared to be educated, but who will educate me? [Besides Krishna Kirti :-)]

I mean, if I try to realistically imagine being transported back to Hastinapura 5,000 years ago in some kind of Peabody and Sherman “way back machine”, and try to realistically imagine what kind of work I could do, after I learned enough Sanskrt to communicate, I am completely at a loss as to what that might be.

I agree with what I *think* you are saying, that that should not be even be a relevant inquiry, that that is not what Srila Prabhupada meant when he said, “You educate certain section” as brahmana, ksatriya, etc.

What you say (forgive me for trying to rephrase, I am only trying to make sure I understand you), is that instead of knowing exactly where I fit and what the appropriate rules and regulations for me are, I can get a sense that I should serve and give charity to the brahmanas in ISKCON and try to understand basically the concept of . . . what?

Of how there is an ideal economic and social system with four varnas working cooperatively to please Krishna (atah pumbhir dvija sresthas . . . samsiddhir hari tosanam), and that basically those four varnas are as krishna describes them in Chapter 18?

What Hare Krishna dasi used to say, as I recall (I hope I am not getting it wrong), is that there were two parallel but distinctly different ways Srila Prabhupada talked about varnasrama dharma.

One was when he was talking about the actual qualities and rules pertaining to actual brahmanas, ksatriyas etc. in a real ancient or archetypal Vedic society, and another when he was describing that in any society there are these four basic types of work and their associated qualities. When he spoke of the latter, it was clear that those occupying the posts of brahmanas, ksatriyas did not really exhibit all the qualities or follow all the rules.

Eventually, the idea is, if society improves (as it could miraculously do very quickly, as Urmila reminds us, or could do through an historic process extending hundreds of years which, BTW, is all I meant by something “unusual” happening so we would not need all the laws and lawyers and legislatures we currently do need–that is, I can dimly imagine a future where a qualified King like Lord Rama could just someday hold court and expertly mete out appropriate punishments and rewards on an ad hoc basis in accordance with codes of dharma and the advice of qualified ministers, but it still seems like something that belongs in the Science Fiction section, if you know what I mean), then the two tracks would eventually converge: those who do the work of ksatriyas will eventually start to more clearly be identified as such and to act as such, etc.

But I am still left with the problem that when Srila Prabhupada said, “You educate certain section. . . ” he was giving a directive to be carried out in the short run by ISKCON’s leadership, to actually start identifying certain sections and give different education.

To me that is a scary thought, because I know of cases where ISKCON leaders (all blooped by now, BTW) were telling certain American ISKCON parents that their small kids had the aptitude of sudras (because maybe they were fidgety in class), and therefore they were not going to teach them to read but would instead send them to a farm to plow and do menial work.

[Fortunately, the parents that I know said “No way!”]

Any thoughts?

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 7th, 2006
87 krishna-kirti

Akruranath Prabhu, Hare Krishna. Because you are a professional in an area that requires the presentation of strong and cogent arguments, what follows is not directed at you. I’m taking this opportunity to make a general statement about how we should and should not conduct discussions like this one among ourselves.

In comment #84, you wrote: “In some of your previous posts . . . you suggested it was inflammatory to raise the issue of ‘Taliban.’”

That is incorrect. I objected to the use of “Taliban” not because it was “inflamatory” but because it was being used as a pejorative expression, a slur. Cogent arguments no matter how sweetly put can also can be “inflamatory.” A cogent argument can upset people because it leads to a conclusion they personally find dreadful. On the other hand, a slur adds nothing to an argument and attempts to defeat an opponent’s argument by attacking his character.

By its very nature, a slur is unwelcome because it contributes nothing to an argument’s cogency. The proof for this is that you can substitute another slur word and the sentence’s meaning remains unchanged. In one comment, for example, a devotee wrote, “[We should] not wait for the rise of a Taliban-like faction within ISKCON to make overly-restrictive rules for us.” Now substitute “Nazi”: “[We should] not wait for the rise of a Nazi-like faction within ISKCON to make overly-restrictive rules for us.” The meaning of the sentence didn’t change, did it? Because slurs contribute nothing to an argument, they should also have no place in a debate.

What is more, slurs like “Nazi” (and its 21st century equivalent “Taliban”) distracts from the substance of an argument by attacking the character of the person making the argument. As I explained in comment #20, “Taliban” was being used just as “Nazi,” “misogynist,” and “male-chauvanist-pig” have been used when maligning an opponent. The casual use of pejorative expressions in philosophical discussions should be unanimously condemned by all participants and all observers. There is something very wrong if their casual use continues to be tolerated.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 7th, 2006
88 krishna-kirti

Mother Lalatia Madhava’s response in comment #85 to Bhakta Corey is a “textbook example” of what I had described in comment #66: her objection is not actually to Bhakta Corey but to the actual quotes themselves. Her reaction is something like being mad at someone but exacting one’s revenge instead by kicking his dog. After all the dust settles, however, she has no explanation for these quotes themselves. They have no place in her conception of what Srila Prabhupada’s position on women’s roles and duties are. Hence, instead of addressing the substance of the references themselves, she attacks the person of Bhakta Corey, suggesting that he is in some way mentally unballanced and in need of “counseling”.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 7th, 2006
89 Unregistered

Krishna-kirti Prabhu,

For one who is such an aficionado of deductive reasoning and the logical process, you somehow manage, in a way that I frankly find to be incomprehensible, to completely misunderstand almost every single thing I say in this discussion.

I do NOT object to “the actual quotes themselves.” Rather, I understand them as part of a larger picture. I think I’ve already said this around 8,400,000 times, but, since you’ve repeatedly missed it, I’ll say it yet again: Srila Prabhupada’s teachings MUST be taken as the amalgam of what he did (in this case, his actions and dealings in relation to his female disciples), what he wrote (in his books, letters, etc.) and what he said (in conversations, etc.). One has to take the whole picture into account in order to derive an accurate and balanced understanding of His Divine Grace’s position on this (or any) issue. I deeply regret the fact that the learned scholar and exalted Vaisnava Sriman Garuda Prabhu does not participate in website discussions such as this one, because he could explain this crucial point much better than I can.

Neither am I “kicking the dog” Bhakta Corey, or “attacking the person Bhakta Corey.” I am genuinely, sincerely concerned that, as a new devotee, he is taking quotes out of context and thus seems to be developing an unhealthy and distorted perspective on this issue.

Thus I suggested to Bhakta Corey that he “take counsel from mature Vaisnavas” in order to properly understand this issue - that’s our philosophy, isn’t is Prabhu? - and that is quite a dramatically different thing from saying he’s “mentally unbalanced and in need of counseling,” as YOU said. Don’t put words in my mouth, Krishna-kirti. It is extremely irresponsible of you to twist my words around in this way and thus be so purposefully inflammatory and divisive. What is your motive here?

Comment posted by Lalita Madhava d.d. on December 7th, 2006
90 Unregistered

Akruranatha prabhu you wrote

I am still puzzled by the following instruction from the quotation you provided of the February 14, 1977 conversation:

“You educate certain section as brahmana, certain section as ksatriya, certain section as vaisya. In that education we don’t discriminate because he’s coming of a sudra family. Take education. Be qualified.”

It does sound, at least to my unqualified intelligence, that Srila Prabhupada is actually saying that some ISKCON devotees are to be trained as ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras.

There are 2 ways to look at what is being said. Either educating people in actual trades and crafts and professions, or educating people in dharma. Can ISKCON train people in the former? ISKCON would need to radically be altered into a series of colleges and trade schools if it were to train people in occupations. ISKCON has been training people to some degree or another to be brahmanas, but that is more in the sense of brahminical rather then the occupation of which a brahmana might engage in e.g. priests, teachers, etc. Some devotees do take seriously the occupation of a brahmana and you see them learning to become expert priests. They learn how to perform samskara ceremonies, yajnas, etc. Mostly though devotees in ISKCON are being trained to be teachers of Bhagavat philosophy and whatever else they learn is learned through their own instigation in wanting to learn something e.g. cooking, flower arranging, musician, etc.

The other meaning of what Srila Prabhupada said would be that ISKCON would teach the congregation about their duties, their dharma, according to varnashrama. Back when Srila Prabhupada spoke those words ISKCON devotees would generally preach to the congregation and others that everyone should utterly surrender their lives to Krishna and the spiritual master, that they should give up all other pursuits, give up their position in society, their friends, their jobs, and join ISKCON as a fully surrendered devotee. Those in the congregation who were not fully surrendered to ISKCON were preached to as if they were insincere or less intelligent. So many people joined ISKCON giving up everything and tried to live life as brahmanas. Most ended up leaving after a short time. Usually they were told they were blooping into maya, falling down into the material world etc.

So my feeling is that what Srila Prabhupada was saying is that instead of trying to convince everyone to join ISKCON as a full time devotee, that we should educate people about their duties according to Krishna’s teaching and varnashrama dharma. Most people do not have brahminical natures and cannot live in ISKCON for any length of time because ISKCON is run on strictly brahminical regulations e.g. up at 4 a.m. for mangal aratik, 4 regulative principles, 16 rounds of japa. For most people those regulated activities are too difficult to maintain. They can do it for a short period of time as many have who joined ISKCON over the years and then left, and many try outside of ISKCON to live that regulated lifestyle as well. But the reality is that few people are brahmincally inclined and most are too passionate to live that lifestyle regularly. So my understanding is that Srila Prabhupada wanted ISKCON to treat the congregation differently. To try to educate people about their respective dharma, their duties, that they can be Krishna conscious even though they may not be brahminically inclined.

Comment posted by shiva on December 7th, 2006
91 Akruranatha

Krishna Kirti Prabhu:

Haribol. I understood Lalita Madhava’s reactions to Bhakta Corey’s quotes in comment #83. I had a similar reaction. It was not the quotes themselves, but the choice of those specific quotes in the context of this discussion that bothered me.

These are some excerpts from a private email I sent you which I think are pertinent to both the substance and tone of the present discussion:

********************
I personally think that neither an organized “revisionist campaign” nor an organized “reaction” are particularly useful. What we need is more hearing, chanting, book distribution, engaging everyone according to their propensity.

Good leadership means, primarily, that all devotees (male and female) can be encouraged to add more and more Krishna consciousness in their life and be encouraged to do some steady service that they can *sustain,* beginning with 16 rounds of japa every day.

We have to remember that we are dealing with devotees, and if we get our egos too invested in defeating each other in debates it will not be beneficial for either side or for ISKCON. If we could use the same energy for really understanding each other’s concerns, and primarily for increasing the positive hearing and chanting, ISKCON will always no doubt be victorious.

I understand and appreciate your concern for preserving the purity of Srila Prabhupada’s message. Who could possibly disagree? Our conviction should always be: guru mukha padma vakya citete koriya aikya.

However, so long as we have Srila Prabhupada’s books, and our movement is based on distributing and studying these amazing books, where is the question of losing the message?

… I am concerned that some American, former hippy men in ISKCON (and I think we all can agree, as Hobbes would, that hippy life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”) :-), in embracing selected aspects of “varnasrama dharma” culture (dimly understood), have at times made . . . women devotees’ lives miserable, in a way that is not really Vedic, or dharmic, at all.

I am equally concerned, as you apparently are, that some of our . . . ISKCON women, in reacting to such mistakes, and from their own practical experience, might feel impelled to lose faith in ISKCON and in Srila Prabhupada’s books.

To avoid such calamity, we should resist the impulse to imagine ourselves as “defenders of the faith” and browbeat them with those passages from Srila Prabhupada’s books that seem to show their instincts as wrong.

Rather, we should always help our godsisters (and godbrothers) “in distress,” by finding the explanations in Srila Prabhupada’s books that really tally with their own experiences, solve their actual problems, and increase their faith in Krishna consciousness. I am sure we can do that if we try, because the solution to all problems is really found in Srila Prabhupada’s books.

**********************

As for Bhakta Corey’s quotes themselves, I would respond that the first two are statements from the perspective of preaching to men. The principle in Vedic society is that men, or at least qualified men, are encouraged to give up the association of women altogether. The world is under the sway of Cupid, but Krishna is the enchanter of Cupid. The guru is advising men to avoid entanglement in material sense gratification, which is based on association with women.

To say that the male form is especially meant for self-realization is not to say that women cannot achieve self-realization. If anyone thinks that women cannot become devotees or make spiritual advancement, they have very little knowledge or understanding of Srila Prabhupada’s books or Srila Prabhupada’s life.

Krishna definitely says that women can achieve the highest destination. (BG 9.32)Moreover, Srila Prabhupada’s mood was always to distribute Krishna Consciousness very freely to everyone without regard to caste, creed, color or sex. “Even a child can do it, and even a dog can do it.” If he did not have that mood, he would not have bothered to save any of us non-Indian mlecchas.

If someone asks me about a verse that says that “woman is the enchanting principle”, I usually say something like, “woman is the enchanting principle for men, and man is the enchanting principle for women.” That might be an over simplification, but it gets the essential point across. Srila Prabhupada himself preached like that on some occasions.

The third quote is not controversial. Everyone knows illicit sex is bad, and that boys and girls should not mix unrestrictedly in school and college. Of course, if devotees are in college or in the workplace, there will be members of the opposite sex mixing according to the custom of the time and country. What can they do? If they are serious devotees they will be up to the challenge, just as, when we go out for book distribution, we often approach many members of the opposite sex.

The fourth quote contains some unflattering observations about the “nature” of women in general. To talk about the nature of women in general is not to say there are not exceptions to the general rule.

Besides, Krishna Kirti, you were recently spending a lot of effort here to establish that, not only “woman’s nature”, but “human nature” in general is quite selfish and mean. Just as there are many examples of women killing their husbands, there are many similar examples of men killing their wives for money (e.g., Scott Peterson) That does not mean that no one is capable of rising above such lower nature.

Jagai and Madhai were actually big murderers, thieves, rapists and sinners of every description. Therefore Lord Nityananda specifically decided to save them. Srila Prabhupada also saved many gross sinners, both men and women.

The effect of Bhakta Corey’s having selected those particular quotes in this discussion, especially without any explanation of why he had selected those quotes or how it fit into the rest of the discussion, [other than to ominously suggest that some (unnamed) contributors will never really accept Srila Prabhupada as their authority], had an unpleasant effect.

I asked myself, “What is he trying to say about how women devotees should be viewed and treated in ISKCON?” and “Why does he question the faith of so many wonderful devotees contributing to this discussion?”

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 8th, 2006
92 krishna-kirti

Dear Mother Lalita Madhava, Hare Krishna.

You wrote: “you somehow manage, in a way that I frankly find to be incomprehensible, to completely misunderstand almost every single thing I say in this discussion.”

My main objection to your presentation so far has been to your use of slurs. Perhaps you don’t think words like “extremist” and “Taliban” are inappropriate, what to speak of being slurs. Maybe most devotees who read Dandavats believe that it is OK to characterize arguments they dislike and the people who make them as “extremists” and “Talibanis.” If that is the case, you could at least say that using these words is socially acceptable. Fair enough.

However, even if you believe words like these are accurate, tell-it-like-it-is characterizations, that still doesn’t change the fact that you have used these words to distract others from considering the substance of arguments whose conclusions you dislike. Indeed, in comment #45 you plainly state that there must not be “any serious consideration or discussion” of the ideas you have objected to. That would explain why you insist on using slurs. They are hostile and are obviously meant to limit if not outright prevent discussion.

But then if your objective is to prevent “any serious consideration or discussion,” then don’t complain if you get characterized as irrational. As demonstrated previously, you can easily switch “Taliban” with “misogynist”, “Nazi”, or other slur-word and meaning is neither lost nor gained. And even if one really happens to be a “Taliban” or a “Nazi”, the fact of his “being” is irrelevant to his argument’s cogency. That is why the use of slurs is widely recognized as a logical fallacy. Words like “extremist” and “Taliban” appeal not to logic but to the emotions–they are irrational. Just as there cannot be a “square circle”, you cannot outright try to prevent “any serious consideration or discussion” and still believe your response to have been rational.

And if it is you who is being irrational, then it really doesn’t help your cause to accuse others you disagree with of “completely misunderstanding” you.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 8th, 2006
93 Akruranatha

Thank you, Shiva, for your explanation in post #90.

Perhaps someday ISKCON may have trade schools and colleges. Perhaps its gurukulas will someday become famous for turning out boys and girls of ideal character who are first-class preachers of Bhagavat philosophy, regardless of their various occupations.

Maybe those gurukulas and trade schools and colleges will educate students in their respective roles as brahmanas, ksatriyas and vaisyas as part of a functioning economy where those skills are practically utilized.

On the other hand, if we think that brahmanas generally subsist on charity (and provide spiritual guidance and education), ksatriyas on taxing the vaisyas (and provide administration, justice and welfare), vaisyas on primarily agricultural activities and trade (as the primary producers of wealth), and sudras are basically just maintained as servants of the other varnas, (in the Seventh Canto Narada Muni gives a more detailed description, but in broad strokes it works that way), the whole scheme does not seem to fit well in the modern world and industrial economy.

You have hit on an important point about this February 14, 1977 discussion, though, pertinent to the practical experience of ISKCON at that time. Srila Prabhupada did seem to be emphasizing that ISKCON should not reject people who for one reason or another could not or would not give up their jobs and move into a temple (or who, after living in a temple for some time were leaving).

The model of all devotees living in the temple, which was not working even 30 years ago, is no longer what we see in today’s ISKCON.

In fact we are now finding that many congregational members can chant 16 rounds and follow four regulative principles without actually giving up their jobs and moving into a temple. They may have non-brahminical jobs, but they are definitely devotees of Krishna. They come to the temple regularly for classes, kirtan, and prasadam, and they go out from the temple on weekend book distribution.

I agree with Trivikram Swami that we should always have ashrams where devotees can get the intensive training in 24-hour direct devotional activities. We should emphasize that getting a good foundation in such ashram life at a young age (brahmacari ashram) is essential.

However, Srila Prabhupada was definitely saying in this discussion that we should not fail to accommodate those who cannot sustain a brahminical lifestyle. If they are not suited by quality to have brahminical occupations, they should be engaged according to their propensity, taking guidance from the many teachings in Srila Prabhupada’s books about varnasrama dharma, and of course they should be encouraged to remain devotees of Krishna whatever they do.

In the grhastha stage, the majority of ISKCON devotees have felt the need to have jobs in the greater economy. ISKCON does not currently have its own internal economy large enough to provide occupations for all householders with sufficient scope for the economic development they need to provide adequate security for their families, let alone for giving charity as is their duty.

(We also need to be realistic about the fact that, at least in the U.S., the “farm community” model has not succeeded. We hope it will someday work, because Srila Prabhupada wanted us to make it work, but in the mean time we have to face the fact that the majority of ISKCON devotees are getting jobs in the greater economy, and very few are moving to ISKCON farm communities.)

For grhasthas with outside jobs or businesses, rather than imagining ourselves to be in one or another specific varna (or perhaps remembering, as Gaurav Mittal pointed out, that in Kali yuga our actual quality is not more than sudra), maybe the best we can do at the moment is recognize that we have occupations which are not brahminical, and that therefore it is our duty to worship and give charity to the full time ISKCON devotees in the other orders, and to the brahminical ISKCON projects.

In the mean time, as we read the descriptions of varnasram dharma in Srila Prabhupada’s books, that will shed light on how to be good, dharmic people in our various social interactions, as well as give us some insight into an ideal God-centered civilization that may not currently exist anywhere on earth but is the natural state of human society.

If some enlightened devotees can teach me more about my specific varna and what it means practically in terms of how I should live my life and interact with others, I am always willing to listen and try to understand. However, Shiva’s approach makes a lot of sense and sounds right to me.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 8th, 2006
94 krishna-kirti

Dear Mother Lalita Madhava, Hare Krishna.

In response to comment #89, I have always shared your “big picture” approach to understanding Srila Prabhupada. My objection is that you selectively apply it. Verses or statements that support a position you wholeheartedly agree with never get the “big picture” treatment. In comment #45, for example, you write:

Srila Prabhupada said (San Diego 6.29.72) that women can act as acaryas, and stated that Jahnava devi “was controlling the whole Vaisnava community.”

If women are competent to accept the grave responsibility of delivering disciples back to Godhead, I think they can probably manage to sign contracts and own land.

To conclude from just this tiny reference that potential for spiritual advancement generally entitles women to “sign contracts” and “own land” (and by no means do you limit your notion of women’s rights to that) without need to explain the other, contrary quotes demonstrates that you inconsistently apply the big picture. Statements like this one are conspicuously absent in your version of the “big picture”:

As we learn from the history of the Mahabharata, or “Greater India,” the wives and daughters of the ruling class, the ksatriyas, knew the political game, but we never find that a woman was given the post of chief executive. This is in accordance with the injunctions of Manu-samhita, but unfortunately Manu-samhita is now being insulted, and the Aryans, the members of Vedic society, cannot do anything. Such is the nature of Kali-yuga. (SB 10.4.5 purport)

How come we never find you using such statements to balance the verses and statements that, on their own, you have no disagreements with? Your selective use of the “big picture” causes me to believe that your version is not so big after all.

Another reason I doubt that your “big picture” really is the big picture is that whenever you have accused someone of quoting a statement out of context, you have never followed through with an explanation of how the “quoted out of context” reference fits into the context.

A straightfoward example of this involved your clarification of your statement in comment #19: “men who seek to oppress and disempower women for the wrong reasons”. If women can be disempowered for “the wrong reasons,” then that implied that you might have believed there could also be “right reasons”, which is how I read it. However, when confronted with this reading, it seems you noticed that your choice of words did not reflect what you hand intended to say and offered this correction: “I did not mean to imply that there are any legitimate reasons to disempower women. There are not.” If that’s what you believe, then fair enough. But then such an absolutist position leaves no room in your version of the “big picture” for quotes like the “no chief-executive” one from SB 10.4.5, does it?

Indeed, in not a single instance where you have complained about someone violating the big picture have you ever followed through to show how the allegedly misused statement is a) true, and b) fits in with the big picture. If, for example, you stick with your absolutist position that “there are no legitimate reasons to disempower women”, then it follows that the “no chief-executive” reference must be false, or at the very least represented the mores of a backward civilization. Otherwise, if true, then you will have to give up your belief that “there are no illegitimate reasons to disempower women.” Yet at the same time you realize that repudiating the statement in SB 10.4.5 has serious consequences, which is why you have so far consistently failed to offer any tangible explanation for such statements at all.

That is why, as I explained in comment #66, that your “big picture” as an explanation is fundamentally an appeal to agnosticism. It professes a position of not knowing. This does not have to be the case, and it wouldn’t be if you would affirm that the statement whose use you objected to is true, show how it fits with the big picture, and explain how it either supports or does not contradict your overall position. I would then agree that your understanding is better. However, without following through with these, then your position is fundamentally agnostic.

Since your appeals to the “big picture” thus far have not improved our understanding of the big picture (and agnosticism never really has), all that’s left to consider is its rhetorical effect. Instead of improving our knowledge, shouting “big picture” without further explanation merely give us the appearance of knowing better. Appealing to the “big picture” without trying to improve our understanding of the big picture is as meaningful as a “Save the Planet” bumper sticker on the back of an SUV. It is style without substance.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 8th, 2006
95 Akruranatha

Krishna Kirti Prabhuji:

In your comments (#87 and #92), you say that “Taliban” is interchangeable with “Nazi” and that it was only raised to demonize the opposing point of view.

“Taliban” is not interchangeable with “Nazi”. The reason “Taliban” was brought up here, rather than “Nazi”, is that the Taliban is known for denying women opportunities for education, expression, and positions of authority in society, among other things, on the basis of fundamentalist adherence to religious dogma.

[The Taliban is also germane to other aspects of our discussion because they do see themselves as defending a traditional, God-centered society against encroaching modernism and materialistic liberal secularism (but they don’t think twice about persecuting Hindus or defacing ancient, sacred, gigantic murtis of Lord Buddha).]

In my text #84, I asked you to specifically share your views of what is wrong with the Taliban. I was not being facetious or sarcastic. I really thought you agreed we do not want ISKCON to be like “Taliban”, specifically in its view and treatment of women, and I was honestly hoping that if we turned the discussion to criticizing the Taliban we might find some common ground here.

Of course, you do not have to answer my question — i.e., “What, specifically, do you find wrong with the Taliban in its view and treatment of women?” — if you do not want to. Still, I would love to hear your views and others’ on this relevant subject if anyone is so inclined.

I can say that in preaching I have been asked, on a number of occasions, not only about ISKCON’s treatment of women generally, but also specifically whether we are like the Taliban. It is a real question that comes up often in real preaching situations.

Personally, I would say that even though Srila Prabhupada observed with approval the practice of purdah in some societies, he never imposed it anywhere in ISKCON as far as I know.

In fact, Srila Prabhupada encouraged his girl disciples to engage their natural propensity to adorn and decorate their bodies for Krishna’s devotional service (as Cinmayi and others have referred to). (If they can be inspired to dress like Queen Rukmini they will never want to dress like Christina Aguillera). Srila Prabhupada encouraged husbands to buy bangles and other jewelry for their wives.

We should not ignore or gloss over Srila Prabhupada’s teachings about women’s education, but I know I want my own granddaughters to get as much education as they can aspire for. I only hope that they can find fulfillment and spiritual happiness in Krishna consciousness. I do not want to restrict them in the fields of education or occupation, but to encourage them in their attraction to Lord Krishna and His culture.

Maybe my understanding is faulty in this regard. I am always willing to be further enlightened through relevant inquiry and authoritative statements, but I cannot artificially deny what I feel about this.

[We have a little South Indian girl in ISKCON San Jose (about 10 or 11 years old), who sits very attentively in Bhagavatam class and knows numerous slokas. She loves to chant and goes out offering books to passers-by on harinama with a beautiful, devotional smile. She is like a little demigoddess. It would seem cruel and misguided to deprive her and others like her of an education.]

I thought Tulasi Priya’s remarks in post #5 (which was the inception of the “Taliban” discussion) were extremely welcome and insightful. She said that women have a great deal of power to inculcate feminine Vedic virtues in other women.

One problem with Taliban is that men who do not understand women well or know how to properly encourage them in devotional service start imposing unnecessary restrictions, by force, and it gets ugly. I think Tulasi Priya’s reference to Taliban was therefore right on the money.

ISKCON should never have to be tyrannical like Taliban. Lord Caitanya did not kill the demons’ bodies, but killed their demoniac mentality by giving Love of Krishna very freely.

ISKCON can compete with materialistic fantasmagoria because Krishna consciousness is extremely attractive. Of course, not everyone is going to capable of accepting the discipline, and when you are selling diamonds you cannot expect many customers, but we do not have to feel that ISKCON cannot survive until all vestiges of nondevotional society are wiped out by force. We can win in a fair competition, as long as the nondevotees leave us alone to practice freely.

We should not indulge in stoning women to death for adultery or beating them for wearing blue jeans. There are just so many ways we are different from Taliban, a discussion of these differences could be helpful.

I would like to think that if ISKCON took over the government in a country somewhere, it would become a country I would like to live in, not just for me but for my whole family. Therefore, I have to believe ISKCON is far different from the Taliban. I would not take my family to a Taliban country unless I really had to.

Any thoughts?

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 8th, 2006
96 krishna-kirti

Dear Akruranatha Prabhu, Hare Krishna.

As regards to the reaction you expressed in comment #91, it seems you have overlooked the fact that the “context” you refer to has been quite a hostile one to begin with, and such hostility has been created by devotees you basically agree with. As early as comment #5 we find the use of slurs such as “Taliban-like” to refer to devotees who favor a more traditional understanding of varnashram.

This could have been forgiven and forgotten but for the fact that after I raised an objection, some devotees started to defend its usage. That is why I find it rather quaint that in comment #84 you questioned my objection to the use of “Taliban” yet here you are waxing eloquent about the need to be more considerate.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 8th, 2006
97 krishna-kirti

Akruranath Prabhu, Hare Krishna. In Comment #91, you wrote:

The effect of Bhakta Corey’s having selected those particular quotes in this discussion, especially without any explanation of why he had selected those quotes or how it fit into the rest of the discussion, [other than to ominously suggest that some (unnamed) contributors will never really accept Srila Prabhupada as their authority], had an unpleasant effect.

Fair enough. That is also my complaint with devotees you basically agree with when they make absolutists statements about how women under no circumstances should be disempowered and fail to provide counterbalancing references. For devotees who basically agree with me, it is particularly upsetting when slurs like “Taliban” are used to characterize us and our views, just as I’m sure that you and others who agree with you object to being referred to as “feminists”. It could be that Bhakta Corey was responding to statements that were radically gender-egalitarian, and which in the same way failed to provide missing context. In that sense it could be said he was providing reminders of that missing context.

Nevertheless, your point is well taken that the views and beliefs (whether right or wrong) of the audience we address should be taken into consideration when writing or speaking. In this regard there is much room for improvement from all sides, don’t you agree?

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 8th, 2006
98 Akruranatha

I would like to relate an experience of mine.

One service I am fortunate to do is help make sure the question and answer booths are properly equipped and manned at the L.A. and San Francisco Ratha Yatras each year.

In 2005 at L.A. Ratha Yatra (it could have been 2004), a sannyasi whom I deeply respect as one of the leading devotees in ISKCON fielded a question about whether women in ISKCON are mistreated like women under the Taliban (an all too common question).

I was surprised at this sannyasi’s response. He basically said, “Don’t believe the American hype. The Taliban’s treatment of women is not bad. I have traveled throughout conservative Islamic societies and the women are generally happier than their American counterparts. They do not have to compete with men, but are more satisfied with their specific roles in Islamic society.”

I understand this sannyasi is expert at verbal judo, challenging the audience, going on the offensive and making everyone pay attention with surprise angles on things. As I say, he is a great devotee. Still, as hard as I tried, I could not be satisfied with his answer, and I could see that the audience was a little shocked as well.

Not that I expect everyone here to be experts on Taliban, but I am sure we differ in so many ways from Taliban. Why not comment on that?

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 8th, 2006
99 Unregistered

Krishna-kirti Prabhu,

Webster’s Dictionary defines “extremism” as “advocacy of extreme political measures.” Certainly discussion or serious consideration of repealing women’s rights to have equal access to jobs and education and to vote, sign contracts and own land would fall into the category of “extreme political measures.” Thus my use of the word “extremist” is not a “slur,” as you say, but simply an adjective used accurately according to its definition.

Your calling me “irrational,” however, is definitely a slur. It’s the old argumentum ad hominem method of attempting to discredit what a person is saying by discrediting (or “slurring,” since you’re so fond of that word) the person saying it.

Akruranatha Prabhu gave you some good advice in Comment #91 and wisely suggested to you that “[men] should resist the impulse to imagine [themselves] as “defenders of the faith” and browbeat [women] with those passages from Srila Prabhupada’s books that seem to show their instincts as wrong.” Yet somehow you seem utterly unable to “resist that impulse” and thus your relentless browbeating and your increasingly attacking mood have, in my opinion, become toxic. You and I are obviously not getting anywhere and I am withdrawing from any further discussion with you on this topic.

Your servant,
Lalita Madhava

Comment posted by Lalita Madhava d.d. on December 8th, 2006
100 Akruranatha

I know I am writing too much here, maybe I am getting boring or sounding like a crank. I can imagine the “meta-discussion” that Krishna Kirti and I keep having about how we should properly carry out the discussion is probably a real drag for most readers.

Mainly, I really want to listen to the women devotees, because they have experiences with Krishna consciousness and ISKCON that I have not had and do not understand.

I can relate to Cinmayi when she says “I don’t need to be protected.” I don’t think I ever met her [I have seen one of her daughters dance–a great artist], but I can imagine in her 35 years as a devotee she has had experiences with male authorities that make working two jobs seem a better alternative than that kind of “protection”.

I do not want to dwell on the negative, either. The women are actually giving nice, positive perspectives. Cinmayi and Tulasi-Priya and Ananda and Lalita Madhava have made great contributions. (Cinmayi did not have to take a swipe at Phalini’s article, although I guess she was really swiping at the male reaction to it). Mostly I hope we didn’t chase Urmila away–she has been a little quiet lately.

All these lady devotees are certainly worth listening to and we men devotees need to figure out how to hear what they are saying and not pick arguments with them.

I do not think should question their faith in the sastras. If they can quote Prabhupada’s books to back up their points (as I am sure they can), so much the better. If not, I am sure we can find for ourselves the references in Prabhupada’s books that will back up what they are saying.

Mostly I want to ask Urmila to please forgive me for jumping in and aswering Krishna Kirti’s question directed to her. I am just enthusiastic and did not at all mean to try to upstage her. (I expected her to further elaborate).

I am not sure I even understood the question, because it seemed like such a no brainer, and yet Trivikram Swami said I answered incorrectly. Please, Urmila, forgive me and let me hear your own answers.

I’ll try to shut up for awhile (if I can.)

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 8th, 2006
101 krishna-kirti

Mother Lalita Madhava, Hare Krishna.

In comment #99, you wrote:

Webster’s Dictionary defines “extremism” as “advocacy of extreme political measures.” Certainly discussion or serious consideration of repealing women’s rights to have equal access to jobs and education and to vote, sign contracts and own land would fall into the category of “extreme political measures.” Thus my use of the word “extremist” is not a “slur,” as you say, but simply an adjective used accurately according to its definition.

Your use of it has most definitely been a slur because you apply it selectively. You seem perfectly happy designating others you disagree with as “extremists” yet don’t seem to think of yourself as one despite also having extreme views. In comment #24, you wrote, “I did not mean to imply that there are any legitimate reasons to disempower women. There are not.” By any measure that is also an extreme view. It is uncompromising, universalist, and absolute–no room for compromise. To apply the dictionary definition evenly, you would also have to be called an extremist. However, the difference is that you agree with your own views despite them also being extreme. People who agree with you are “moderate”, and people who disagree with you are “extremists”. Since your application is selective, your intention in using it was as pejorative label–a slur.

It is also amazing to see you characterize a principled disagreement as “irrational”. There really is such a thing as a rational argument, and there really is such a thing as an irrational argument. To point out that an opponent is making an irrational appeal is not a slur. If pointing out that an argument has logical defects is also to be regarded as a slur, then we could never have a rational discussion! What is more, we could never even defend with reason your own position! If you believed my argument was mistaken, just simply point out the logical defect, and we could have happily moved on from there. You can’t, so now you try to banish all logic and reason now that they are used against you.

And, may I ask, have you not also “defending” a particular faith? Have you not been arguing vehemently in favor for particular understanding–to the point of using slurs to “brow beat” opponents into silence? Of course you have, but you don’t see your “slurs” as slurs. That is kind of like how one nation state sees their own nukes as “peaceful nukes” and sees opponent states as having them only for the sake of oppression. Evidently, you too are unable to “utterly ‘resist this impulse’” to “defend” your own faith. You are the pot calling the kettle black.

Hare Krishna.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 9th, 2006
102 Unregistered

Dear Akruranath Prabhu,

Hare Krsna. You ask for views on what is wrong with the Taliban in a mood of comparing ISKCON to the Taliban. This is an insult to Srila Prabhupada.

It is possible that there may be some devotees with so called fundalmentalistic tendencies but you have to understand that the term “devotees” generally means nonvolence, tolerance, patience, humility and all other good qualities in the mode of goodness.

The Taliban and the rest of the world slaughter cows, kill innocient people in the name of religion or country, do so much of nonsence things and they have no idea of what goodness is. Devotees of Krsna follow principles in the mode of goodness, althouth many of them may do so forcefully in the beginning.

So how can you ask for comparison of ISKCON and Taliban.

Your servant
Nitai dasa

Comment posted by Nitai dasa on December 9th, 2006
103 Unregistered

Bhakta Corey wrote (quoted from Srila Prabhupada)

Women are self-interested by nature, and therefore they should be protected by all means so that their natural inclination to be too self-interested will not be manifested. Women need to be protected by men. A woman should be cared for by her father in her childhood, by her husband in her youth and by her grown sons in her old age. This is the injunction of Manu, who says that a woman should not be given independence at any stage. Women must be cared for so that they will not be free to manifest their natural tendency for gross selfishness. There have been many cases, even in the present day, in which women have killed their husbands to take advantage of their insurance policies. This is not a criticism of women but a practical study of their nature. Such natural instincts of a woman or a man are manifested only in the bodily conception of life.

That quote seems to showcase a certain mentality that some may have when it comes to vaisnavis. What the problem is though is that the above quote is only a partial part of a paragraph. Here is the rest

Such natural instincts of a woman or a man are manifested only in the bodily conception of life. When either a man or a woman is advanced in spiritual consciousness, the bodily conception of life practically vanishes. We should see all women as spiritual units (aham brahmasmi), whose only duty is to satisfy Krishna. Then the influences of the different modes of material nature, which result from one’s possessing a material body, will not act.

What I often see happening when people discuss or think about this topic is that some people do not distinguish between vaishnavis and ordinary conditioned souls. The statements by Srila Prabhupada and sastra about women are not about women who have taken to the path of bhakti yoga. They are talking about women who are living under the spell of Mahamaya, women who have materialistic goals and motivations as the guiding desire in their lives, women under the bodily conception of life. Those jivas in women’s bodies who take to Krishna bhakti are great souls. A women’s bodily conception of life is more difficult to overcome then it is for a man because of the nature of their bodies and of the accompanying feminine nature. A women’s body causes more lust then a man’s body. Therefore those souls in women’s bodies who take to the path of bhakti are very strong and dedicated souls. Those women who reject materialistic self centered life for the path of bhakti are not ordinary women and they should not be treated as if they are. We can read or maybe we can quote countless verses from the sastras about how great and special vaisnavas are, how they are more dear to the Lord then his very life, how offending a vaisnava is the greatest offense, how the mercy of the vaisnava is the greatest benediction, yet when it comes to female vaisnavas these teachings are often forgotten in the name of vedic society. Mahaprabhus movement is not vedic society, it is the spiritual world. In the spiritual world the women are goddesses of fortune. Sometimes it seems devotees forget these things.

Comment posted by shiva on December 9th, 2006
104 Unregistered

heh heh akruranath PLEASE don’t leave. you are not a crank. you are balanced and intelligent.
i was actually getting shocked and depressed again and i didn’t want to add to anymore discussions.
the only thing i want to say now is, i wasn’t really making a swipe at phalini’s article as such but just like you said, it was the mens reactions, the “put up and shut up ” attitude was glorified by the men who added comments. somewhere in her article she wrote that a friend was counsiling her and telling her “do you want to be right or be married?” its like, if a women is seen and not heard, that is going to make or brake a marriage no opinions or disagreements or your marriage is at stake. that was scarey to me.
lalita madhava made a comment and was told that she was jealous. OMG. jealous that she could possibly have an opinion.
when i said that i don’t need protection, i don’t want to insult my husband who happens to be a great vaisnava (imho) but if he were to be taken away from me i would be able to support myself because i know that iskcon would not. and i have to work two jobs because you know its hard to make ends meet in this day and age.
i am glad you made some comment on my posting because i thought that i was adding practically to the question of protection of women. it seems that the discussion has just become a wordy debate and i don’t really see how it helps anything. i’ll be the first to admit my less intelligence though.
also, i’ll just throw this in , everybody keeps saying women need to be protected, yada yada by the father, husband son…ect. so, if your father is a karmi and says “if you can’t eat meat in my house you can’t stay in my house” (my father actually said that to me once. humph. lucky for him, i still put his ashes in the kaveri) and your husband is a rascal (not my husband) and your son is like 7 years old. what position do you have? the temple is NOT going to support you. really why should the temple support you anyway? so really there is no point in going on talking about varnashram. obviously its not being executed. these days i haven’t even seen any brahmacharini ashrams at any temples anyway and most of the single mothers and women are supporting themselves. so what is all this talk about women have to be protected? its not happening. women are not being protected. it is not happening.
its just some talk on an internet website.

Comment posted by cinmayi on December 9th, 2006
105 krishna-kirti

Dear Akruranath Prabhu, Hare Krishna.

Here is the answer to your question as to why in the context of this thread the use of “Taliban” has been unacceptable:

We should not indulge in stoning women to death for adultery or beating them for wearing blue jeans. [comment #95]

By your own admission, here is an egregious association with the word “Taliban”. If “stoning women to death” for adultery or wearing bluejeans characterizes the Taliban–and for you it apparently does–then it is more likely than not that you want to use it because of this characterization.

Furthermore, the fact that in this context its use has been objected to points to a lack of consideration. In comment #91, you wrote, “It was not the quotes themselves, but the choice of those specific quotes in the context of this discussion that bothered me.” If for you that was a valid reaction (and I had agreed), then why won’t you extend to others the same consideration you demand for yourself?

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 9th, 2006
106 krishna-kirti

In comment #100, Akruranath Prabhu wrote:

Mostly I want to ask Urmila to please forgive me for jumping in and aswering Krishna Kirti’s question directed to her. I am just enthusiastic and did not at all mean to try to upstage her.

If this includes your answer in comment #73, the response in comment #77 charges that your answer used circular reasoning. If you don’t want to leave Mother Urmila hanging out to dry, you might want to review the question and rework your answer.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 9th, 2006
107 Akruranatha

Ooops, Mother Urmila. I see now that my comments above completely overlooked your post #57 and #58. Now I am doubly ashamed. :-0

I read them before, but must have forgotten them and so I am going back over them again.

BTW, I found another nice quote about “freedom” (from SB 1.2.8, purport):

“The need of the spirit soul is that he wants to get out of the limited sphere of material bondage and fulfil his complete desire for complete freedom. He wants to get out of the covered walls of the greater universe. He wants to see the free light and the spirit. That complete freedom is achieved when he meets the complete spirit, the Personality of Godhead.”

Srila Prabhupada’s purports are so ecstatic, and I especially relish the First Canto purports that he brought with him on the Jaladuta. Chapter 2 of the First Canto is just amazing. Even Chapter Two alone would be sufficient to change the face of civilization, if we did not have so many other wonderful Bhaktivedanta Purports to dive and surface in.

(Sorry, I guess I really cannot shut up) :-0

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 10th, 2006
108 Akruranatha

Well, I am utterly incapable of controlling the urge to speak. Krishna Kirti has specifically addressed me in posts # 96 and #97, and he deserves an answer. I only hope that my speech will not be like that of bullfrogs, who draw death near by their croaking.

First of all, let me offer my respectful obeisances unto all the devotees here, to Bhakta Corey and Krishna Kirti and especially to Trivikram Swami who is like our father and is the most senior member of our little cyber discussion group.

The last thing I want to do is be drawn into a “debate” with any of them. I am afraid that by “debating” we will obscure the realizations that we would get by sincerely trying to learn from one another.

As I said in another private email to Krishna Kirti:

“I am not a politician in ISKCON, nor do I aspire to be. I do not even really want to debate these things. I want to discuss like friendly devotees do, with respect and sincerity, hoping that Supersoul will drop some enlightenment on us if we can get our false egos to quiet down enough for us to hear it.”

In response to your #96, Krishna Kirti Prabhu, I would just say that I did not find the discussion very hostile, and ask you to consider whether you were unnecessarily reading hostility into it. Maybe you overreacted to things you could have easily overlooked?

Mother Tulasi Priya did not call anyone a Taliban, as she explained later (she should not have even have had to explain). She originally said (#5) that if women taught women’s dharma to each other no Taliban faction would ever have to arise. I thought that was brilliant, actually. Please go back and read what she actually said.

Forgive me for being so bold, but it seems you may be so accustomed to “debating” women’s issues in ISKCON that you wanted to steer the discussion into the well-worn ruts of former debates, where you already identify with a particular side or group.

Maybe you found a foil in Lalita Madhava, who fit the profile of the debating opponent you expected. When she said there are Taliban-like devotees, you may have unnecessarily thought she was talking about “devotees who basically agree with” you (#97). (What makes you so sure she hasn’t encountered real “Taliban-like” devotees, quite different from you?)

I might have risen to the bait a bit, too, but I hope I have been able to avoid taking the hook. :-)

I really do appreciate your active intelligence and commitment to understanding all of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. I do find it tiresome to have to talk so much about how we should talk, though. (There I go again) :-)

What I loved about Praghosa’s lead article was its novelty, its genuineness, its telling-it-like-it-is about men and women and illicit sex, about varnasrama dharma’s emphasis on separating the sexes, without going back over the well-traveled path of “women’s issues” debates in ISKCON.

I was hoping, and still hope, the discussion can continue to move into new territory. I am probably as guilty as anyone in revisiting some of our old ruts. I’ll try to behave. . .

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 10th, 2006
109 Urmila Devi Dasi

Akuranantha Prabhu, since you answered the question so well, there was no need for me to respond. I do not plan to take further part in this discussion, but I might submit a separate article on this topic a bit later on.

Your servant, Urmila devi dasi

Comment posted by Urmila Devi Dasi on December 10th, 2006
110 trivikramaswami

Akruranatha Prabhu is requesting a comparison between the Taliban culture and the Vedic culture in regard to the interaction between men and women. In a nutshell the difference is that the leaders of the Taliban, who happen to be men, are envious demons, and the leaders of the Vedic culture, who also happen to be male, are sincere devotees.

In the sixteenth chapter of Bhagavada Gita it is discribed how the demonic are envious of the Lord in their own heart, and how they sometimes perform austerity in name only. Such class of men abuse everyone, including themselves. Although the Koran forbids suicide and killing of innocent people, they don’t hesitate to send send their young men into suicide missions where innocent victims are often the target.

On the other hand the the twelfth chapter of the Gita describes the devotees as those who never put anyone into difficulty.

Comment posted by trivikramaswami on December 10th, 2006
111 krishna-kirti

Dear Akruranath Prabhu, Hare Krishna and please accept my humble obeisances.

In comment #108 you wrote:

In response to your #96, Krishna Kirti Prabhu, I would just say that I did not find the discussion very hostile, and ask you to consider whether you were unnecessarily reading hostility into it. Maybe you overreacted to things you could have easily overlooked?

The point here is that it is not all about you and what you perceive. It is just as much about what others perceive, too. That was the basis of your complaint about Bhakta Corey, that he did not consider how other devotees might react to the references he posted. We could also be willfully obtuse on this point and charge you and others with “reading hostility” into his posting, but as I indicated in comment #97, I took the more charitable route and agreed with your concern. Now that some others here have also raised objections, I hope you will acknowledge that all we are asking for is that you show us the same consideration you insist on for yourself.

Is that too much for us to ask?

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 10th, 2006
112 krishna-kirti

I have this correction to my comment (#106), which said:

If this includes your answer in comment #73, the response in comment #77 charges that your answer used circular reasoning.

This should read:

If this includes your answer in comment #73, the response in comment #79 charges that your answer used circular reasoning.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 10th, 2006
113 Akruranatha

Haribol everyone.

I do not really have much time today to invest in this discussion (I have some serious work deadlines), but I hope to come back to it later where I can try to say things that will please and encourage everyone.

I am sorry, Urmila, that you have decided not to contribute further to this discussion. I hope you reconsider (I hope we can make the discussion better so we will inspire you more). At any rate, I look forward to reading whatever future articles you write.

Krishna Kirti, in response to your #111, when you say it is not about what I perceive but about what others perceive, I am not sure which others you are talking about. Does it mean you?

You apparently have some sensitivity to the word Taliban, so if we talk about Taliban you think we are speaking of you. I don’t understand that, but I respect it. Maybe some one called you Taliban in the past and it made you sensitive about it.

I hope I have made myself clear and PLEASE do not think I am calling you names, or standing up for those who do.

What I was *trying* to do was invite you to join in a discussion of how we are different from Taliban. But if it has caused you some distress, I apologize. As Trivikram Maharaja pointed out, devotees never put anyone into difficulty.

I am alarmed that Nitai das thinks I am insulting Srila Prabhupada. I simply cannot imagine why he thinks that. Maybe it has to do with the nature of these internet discussions. I try to be good, but we have to be extra careful to say things clearly here or someone will misunderstand us. (Today I do not have time to be careful–oh oh, yikes!)

One thing is, as I have said, I have personally been specifically questioned by the public when preaching about whether we are like the Taliban. It is unfortunate that people even ask us this question, but we should think of ways of answering them.

It could also be worthwhile for us to think deeply about how we are not like Taliban and similar religious fundamentalists, and even question whether there are good things we could do to make it so people would not even be asking.

To have a high livel discussion of how specifically we are not like the Taliban, especially in regards to their attitutes toward sex roles in society, might entail a lot more specific knowledge about Islam in general and Taliban in particular than most of us have, but I want to make it clear to Nitai, Krishna Kirti and others that I agree we in ISKCON are not like them. I thought I had made that crystal clear, but evidently I goofed somehow.

I keep having ideas about what makes us different, which perhaps I’ll share later when I can write them better.

(One thing I was thinking about is this conception that “martyrs” will enjoy women in heaven. It is so different from our view of the kingdom of God as a place of devotional service without material contamination. Please, everyone, if you have not already, read Romapada Swami’s fantastic article about hierarchical gradations in the spiritual world.)

I see Taliban and other fundamentalists as reactionaries who are trying to hold back creeping modernity by force and repression. They want to “push” people back into the middle ages, whereas we want to “pull” people into a new age of Krishna consciousness. They are more like conservative smartas than liberal sankirtan devotees.

Meanwhile, American-style materialism which is busy conquering the world is “pulling” people to enjoy unrestricted sense gratification and to forget about God.

Krishna consciousness is so powerful, because we can engage all the senses in service to Krishna. We have powerful “pull” factors and we do not need so much to “push.”

We do not have to go up into the secluded mountains and holy places to avoid distractions like impersonalist yogis, who must be strictly celibate and very determined from the outset. Their system of self realization is impractical in this age.

We have a simple and sublime method that is practical for modern people. It has lots of nice engagements for the senses in Krishna consciousness. We get to offer nice things to Krishna and take prasadam. Our senses can become like serpents whose fangs are broken, if we can really keep engaging them always in spiritual engagements (like preaching via primarily book distribution).

Not that we don’t have to be careful to keep away from sensual distractions. We must. We cannot imitate great devotees like Ramananda Raya or Maharaja Citraketu, who were able to deal intimately with beautiful women without being agitated, or Haridas Thakur, who was tempted by Mayadevi herself.

But it is nice to understand we have such a powerful process, that has such powerful effects if we can practice it correctly. Even new bhaktas can be dropped all day at the mall during Christmas time and they remain absorbed in preaching without getting deviated by all the things tugging at the senses, because there is a higher taste, a higher “pull” factor.

Srila Prabhupada was never reactionary or conservative. He was a powerful revolutionary emissary from the spiritual world.

He spoke favorably about the higher morals of our grandparents and great grandparents and the India of his youth, but his method was not to campaign for political or cultural changes.

He never made alliances with self-righteous mundane moralists. (If he had, most of us would not have been attracted). He was purely introducing Krishna consciousness. Very revolutionary.

He even could introduce Krishna amoung the musicians and dropouts and stoners of the Bowery and Lower East Side, and in Haight Ashbury. But if even they could take it, how nice it will be when the intellectual and political leaders will take it.

Krishna Kirti was right that the varnasrama system is like an ice pack that brings the fever down so that the medicine will work. Fortunately, the medicine Srila Prabhupada gave us (and engaged us in dispensing) is so powerful that it has remarkable effects even before the ice pack is properly in place.

We cannot be like Daksha, overly concerned with adjusting the ice pack without realizing that the whole purpose is to assist the real medicine. We are followers of Narada Muni, who knows the paramount importance of the real medicine, chanting Hare Krishna, which is not just the cure but also the natural healthy state of life.

Not that we should overlook the ice pack either. We need to understand it theoretically, and we also need to know how to practically apply it as best we can. Srila Prabhupada did not find a lot of followers who, like the sons of Daksha, could just immediately become paramahamsas. We need to keep the fever down, as far as possible.

In the practical application though, I think we in ISKCON have made some mistakes and have not quite figured out how to practically adopt many aspects of varnasram social order in modern life in different countries. How could we? It is a big challenge. Hopefully we are up to it. Without a hard struggle there cannot be a glorious victory.

I do not mean to bag unnecessarily on Islam, either. They do believe in God and they are preaching and growing their numbers daily. Their whole system seems to have a kind of built-in, neophyte, “us versus them” mentality, though, and they have a history of being very offensive to Krishna’s devotees in India.

The Christians, Jews, Moslems, etc. have been trying in their own way to understand God, but Srimad Bhagavatam clarifies everything, if they could only see.
Srila Prabhupada has entrusted us this mission of introducing the world to Krishna, to Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam and the Maha Mantra and Lord Caitanya. We have something so important to tell everyone: “Here is God!”

I get so excited sometimes. This is what the world is really waiting for, and society’s political and intellectual leaders only need some more sukriti, and then ….Bam! One day they are going to get it. Srimad Bhagavatam will be #1 on Amazon and Borders lists.

So we have to do that in a nice way and cannot afford to be too distracted with trying to imitate ancient varnasrama society, especially if we don’t know how to do it correctly. Our main job is to distribute books and practice what Prabhupada specifically gave us. (He gave us simple principles, simple Deity worship–when the brahmanas were installing Krishna Balarama he said for us the real installation is chanting Hare Krishna.)

Not that we disregard sruti, smrti, purana, pancaratra, but Srila Prabhupada gave us already enough rules and regulations. Like someone quoted elsewhere (in Krishna Kirti’s “Water” article thread), he wrote to a disciple “Don’t touch Manu Samhita.”

Regarding Krishna Kirti’s #112, I am not sure what you mean by my having used circular reasoning, Krishna Kirti Prabhu. As I said, I have little time today. Maybe you can “dumb it down” for me so I can respond to your specific point.

I can well imagine I am contaminated by working in the contemporary American courts. I would rather be working in the court where Lord Rama is punishing brahmanas for wrongly striking talking dogs (please, everyone, see the great Dandavats article “Curse of the Dog”). If I could sweep the floor in that assembly I would never see birth or death again.

But meanwhile, back in the world I really do work and try to serve Srila Prabhupada in, we have a different kind of legal and political system that is not going to change overnight. I think the main thing for now is to focus on reading and distributing Prabhupada’s books, rather than focusing too much changing politics and culture, which could be too much of a distraction. Purity is the force.

Part of reading Prabhupada’s books entails learning something about Vedic society, which is the natural state of human civilization.

Lord Krishna instructs Arjuna about varnasram society in Bhagavad Gita. We cannot understand Krishna’s teachings in the Gita unless we properly understand those teachings, at least theoretically.

Krishna’s pastimes take place in a different time and culture. Rama’s pastimes are in a still different time and culture, and Lord Caitanya’s pastimes in yet another time and culture, but there are Vedic social rules involved in all those lila. We can become sensitive to those things by hearing and remembering, even if we have not wholly absorbed all those modes of living.

We can be like the insect who meditates on how the wasp will come kill it, and then becomes a wasp in its next life. As we get absorbed in hearing about how Varnasrama society operated in Krishna’s lila, how He behaved in the Sudharma assembly, how He received Sudama Brahmana and so on, we can take part in remembering those lila more fully and maybe we can enter Krishna’s pastimes in a future life.

Lord Caitanya’s pastimes are in a culture and time closest to our own. Srila Prabhupada’s pastimes, which are part of Lord Caitanya’s pastimes, took place in our own time and country. They involve specific aspects of preaching outside of India in the modern world, which has changed somewhat since 1977 (personal computers, cell phones, internet) but not all that much.

To the extent we can really get absorbed in ISKCON’s mission, we in ISKCON are already here in Lord Caitanya’s pastimes!

ISKCON itself is changing. It has grown much bigger and we expect it to grow much bigger still.

ISKCON has seen good success preaching in India and with Indian emigres around the world, which is a very positive step. The Indian devotees are likely to understand varnasrama culture better than Americans like myself, because to a certain extent it still may exist, or vestiges of it still exist anyway, in modern India.

I would say, to keep people from asking us whether we are like the Taliban, one positive step would be for people to more often see (as they already do), some happy Krishna conscious devotees living and working alongside them, raising families as good citizens who have a deep and pure faith.

What’s more, they should see smart, bright faced, happy women at all our ISKCON preaching functions. They should more often hear (as they already do) courageous, learned and enlightened women preachers explain Srila Prabhupada’s books.

I hate to use a new age word like “empowering”, but I see that empowered women book distributors and public speakers will help us spread Krishna consciusness in the modern world.

Okay I’ve really rattled off a lot of stuff very quickly. I have to sign off now.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 11th, 2006
114 Unregistered

Hare Krsna Bhakta Corey,

PAMHO AGTSP

I would like to comment on a couple of your comments if I may. In comment #40 you wrote:

“How do we expect our movement to grow, if the people who are fully dedicated to expanding the movement no longer feel that they are being protected?”

My question is, are brahmacaris and sannyasis the only devotees who are “fully dedicated to expanding the movement?” I would certainly like to think not. Are householder devotees like Ravindra Svarup Prabhu and Virabahu Prabhu not “fully dedicated”? There are also many acaryas in our line who were householders, Bhaktivinoda Thakur being the most obvious example. Srivas Thakur being another. There are numerous other examples. Can we question their dedication? I would like think there are a least a couple of householders in our movement that are “fully dedicated.”You point out that “an unbiased observer cannot help but notice a general trend in our movement (also observed in a few comments above) is that certain individuals have developed an anti-renunciate mentality.” But I can’t understand how you could make that comment considering that since you are in the bramhacari ashram, it is only natural that YOU would have a biased opinion. As would I since I am a householder. Who is this unbiased observer that you reference?

In comment #60 you state:

“They themselves never went through the training period of brahmacharya, so in general, they have no solid foundation for sadhana.”

Perhaps you can elaborate on this. Are you saying that one MUST be a brahmacari in order to have a steady sadhana? This is clearly refuted by Prabhupada in his purport to BG 3.7: “A householder can reach his desitination by regulated service in Krishna consciousness. For self-realization, one can live a controlled life, as prescribed in the sastras, and continue carrying out his business without attachment, and in that way make progress.” He discusses this point in numerous places in chapter 3.

You also wrote:

“They also tend to fall under the category of “modernists”, who believe that Srila Prabhupada’s books are no longer relevant to the “modern day age” and believe that certain points should be edited out of his books and purports.”

Personally I don’t feel that Prabhupada’s books should be edited and I don’t know many householders that do. Some people will either respond positively to his books or they won’t. I do feel that from a preaching standpoint, some people don’t “have the ears” to hear some of Prabhupada’s more “controversial” (for lack of a better word) statements right away. They will just commit offences or be turned off. But that doesn’t mean they should be edited, hidden, or watered down. Prabhupada himself gave devotional service in small doses in the beginning. I am strongly opposed to changing Prabhupada’s books.

You disagree with our society changing with “the new times.” I suppose this means different things to different people. For some, it means removing things from Srila Prabhupada’s books so people don’t get offended. For me, (and many of our leaders like Devamrita Swami, Hridayanda Maharaja) it means understanding who we are preaching to and their mindset. It means being innovative in our preaching endeavors (without watering down the philosophy) to reach the maximum number of possible people. Everyone deserves a chance to become a devotee. And as Akruranatha Prabhu stated, many who come to Krishna consciousness will not be quitting school or job to move into a temple. Our movement is mostly grhasthas. Are you suggesting the vast majority of the householders are destined to fail? If so, what’s the point in preaching? Most people aren’t going to become brahmacaris, particularly a 40 year old couple with two kids. At least this is the case in North America.

In comment #69 you wrote:

“It goes back to the point about how our movement has developed an anti renunciate mentality, and thus we no longer see the need to give protection to the renounced ashrams “brahmacharis and sannyasis”. Because of this, the preaching has died, and our movement (in America, at least) is very weak. If you want this movement to expand, you must once again start giving support to renunciates, not being envious of them and subconsciously wanting them to fall down.”

Is it an anti-renunciate mentality that caused the numerous fall-downs and scandals by those in the renounced order in the past? Did householders simply “make a wish” that sannyasis would fall? I only bring this up because I am not sure of what you are alluding to. Perhaps you can elaborate on the envy of which you speak since your point is a bit unclear to me. I think there are many reasons why “preaching has died” other than “giving protection to the bramhacaris and sannyasis.” And again, are you saying that ONLY those in the renounced order are able to spread Krishna consciousness? It seems as if you are pulling some of these statements out of thin air. This argument is weak at best.

I am not anti-renunciate nor pro-grhastha. I am pro-ISKCON and pro-sankirtan. We need BOTH ashrams working together to facilitate this. I have much respect for those in the renounced order and I actually regret not having formal training as a brahmacari. I know it is something that would be very difficult for me and I give credit to those that can remain steady in that ashram. It is unfortunate that you may have met householders that have given you negative impressions. I do not wish to engage in some heated argument but I do feel that your many of your statements are broad generalizations that are a bit distorted. Or they just may need more clarification for my eyes. I also wanted to express that I do not have such negative feelings toward the renounced order. Not all householders feel have this “anti-renunciate” mentality and some of us actually do have a lot to contribute to this movement, family and all.

Tamal Krsna dasa

Comment posted by tamal on December 12th, 2006
115 Akruranatha

Okay, Krishna Kirti, I got my briefs filed and served today on time (but tomorrow will be more of the same). Let me try to respond to your question in #112.

I do think, though, that we should try to keep the discussion down to earth, as we both may have a tendency to obscurantism and convoluted, byzantine arguments.

You refer me to comment #79, where you said:

>>One problem with saying that Lord Rama and Maharaja Yuddhisthira lived in different times and just leaving it at that is that this argument doesn’t distinguish between things they did that were factually circumstantial and things they did that reflected objective standards. . . . >Akruranath Prabhu said: “Please rest assured, I did not mean to suggest that we should repeal all the laws that protect women’s rights. Not now, not in 50 years, not in 150 years. It is not going to happen, and unless something very unusual occurs that makes us not need those laws, it definitely should not happen.”

So, then how did it happen in societies controlled by great Vaisnavas like Yuddhisthira, or under the guidance of perfect kings like Lord Rama?

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 12th, 2006
116 Phalini devi dasi

In response to Cinmayi’s post #104:
Haribol, Cinmayi! Thanks for clarifying your previous post. First of all, I want to say that it was a pleasure hosting your daughter this summer for a weekend at my home. She is a lovely, graceful young lady.
Toward the end of your post you wrote, “… so what is all this talk about women have to be protected? its not happening. women are not being protected. it is not happening.
its just some talk on an internet website.”
My dear Godsister, I beg to differ. I have been protected for twenty-five years by my good, responsible, capable husband. I know dozens of devotee women who are following Srila Prabhupada’s instructions on how to be good dharma-patnis, and their sincere, good devotee husbands are also following Srila Prabhupada’s instructions as well by guiding, protecting, and providing for their wives and children. So how can you say that women are not being protected? Were you unaware that there are actually responsible men in our Movement who are diligently performing their duties as husbands and fathers, with the aim of pleasing Srila Prabhupada and Lord Krsna?
Hoping this meets you in good health,
YS,
Phalini dd

Comment posted by Phalini devi dasi on December 12th, 2006
117 Akruranatha

My post # 115 got severely truncated. I did not save an extra copy of it so I suppose it is lost for good. :-(

I’ll try to remember some of it:

I recapped the discussion for sake of getting clarity as to Krishna Kirti’s question, as follows:

I had said laws protecting women’s rights (i.e., to protect them from harassment, discrimination, etc.) were needed today, and for the foreseeable future.

Krishna Kirti had asked why thaose laws weren’t imposed by Lord Rama and King Yudhisthir.

I had responded “Their pastimes took place under Treta Yuga and Dvapara Yuga conditions and were not needed then.”

Krishna Kirti accused this answer of using circular logic, and asked me to comment on his question about “factually circumstantial” versus “objective standards” in post #79.

I admitted I still needed help in understanding the question, but I ventured some responses.

I mentioned a number of differences, both in the process and the substance of administration of justice, between Lord Rama or Maharaja Yudhisthira’s time and today.

One point I made was, if Rama came today and punished the sinful, no one would escape punishment. When He came as Lord Caitanya, Lord Nityananda told Him not to kill Jagai (or was it Madhai?), because people in Kali Yuga are so wicked, He would have to kill everyone. (This was a point about substance)

I said alot of stuff about modern legal process, and why certain characteristics of modern legal systems are found to be necessary today. I mentioned that people can no longer always tell who is lying in court today (the way Rama or Yudhisthir could). I discussed the experiments of certain communist states (Cuba, China and Russia) with “revolutionary popular tribunals” and the fact that they still felt a need for legal formalism and professionalism. I discussed the way some very imperfect rules had evolved to try to ascertain the truth in court, and talked a little about the jury system.

I said a lot of stuff I do not remember, about modern history and politics, about how it involved struggles of different groups to protect their economic development and sense gratification (without very sophisticated understanding of dharma or moksha).

I said that the changes in laws and government were responding to lots of changes in society, and that even though the changes were not good, the way to remedy the situation is not through political action but through sankirtan.

but I ended with a question:

If Srila Prabhupada had a disciple who was a U.S. senator, governor, congressman, or even president, how much would Srila Prabhupada get involved in directing how that disciple did his or her job?

I know it is an invitation to speculation, but I ventured that Srila Prabhupada would focus mainly on the disciple’s spiritual progress (to set aside time for japa, study, etc.) and might not get very involved in the disciple’s actual political career (except as it might relate to key issues like abortion, animal rights and things directly related to devotees and the sankirtan mission).

I asked those who had more personal association with Srila Prabhupada, like Trivikram Maharaja, to comment on that.

In Lord Caitanya’s lila, the Lord resided at the end in a Hindu state (Orissa) and traveled through many Hindu kingdoms in the south, but He also lived and traveled in areas with Muslim governments (His early pastimes were all in Muslim Bengal).

Chand Kazi was a kind of powerful judicial officer, with authority to send soldiers to arrest people, to conduct investigations and to punish wrongdoers. He was a Muslim Kazi (or “Qadi”, for those who play Scrabble) :-)

Lord Caitanya converted Chand Kazi to a great Vaisnava devotee, but we do not hear that he afterwards forced all the Muslims to behave like Hindus. He no longer interfered with the Sankirtan movement, but how else did his administration change? (I do not claim to know, but it is a valid question for our devotee historians.)

It seems to me that Srila Prabhupada did not want his disciples too distracted by getting involved in trying to change the legal and social system through political action. (He allowed Balavanta and Amarendra to do some electoral politics with the “In God We Trust” party, but my impression is that they had some enthusiasm and he let them run with it, not that it was a pet project of Prabhupada’s)

Books are the basis. Purity is the force. Srila Prabhupada wanted to keep us focused on our own sadhana and our main strategy for spiritualizing society was through book distribution as opposed to direct political activity.

A for modern political affairs, devotees can have a variety of positions and still be faithful devotees. Some will be Republicans, some will be Democrats, all of this mundane politics is external to their real devotional life and not so important.

If we swim with these various crocodiles we have to be ready to tell them, “I left my heart in the tree.”

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 12th, 2006
118 Akruranatha

Regarding Bhakta Corey’s concern that people want to edit parts out of Srila Prabhupada’s books, who are these people? I do not think they really exist.

Maybe only a small handful of people who are not really ISKCON insiders could possibly fit that description.

Hyagriva edited out a part about mechanical moon travel being impossible, and Srila Prabhupada blasted him for it.

I heard something a number of years ago about some devotees involved in higher academic preaching discussing something about editing. I was not involved in that discussion and do not know any details, but from what I understand the issue raised was that certain colleges require gender neutral language in all books assigned for reading (e.g., you have to say “he or she” instead of just “he”.)

That means, pretty much all English books published before the 1980s would have to be edited before they could be assigned in such colleges. (It seems like a very impractical regulation by those colleges, considering the number of important English books published before the 1980s)

In that context, some academic preachers may have discussed making edited versions that could be assigned reading for students at those colleges, but I do not think anyone ever actually got very far in trying to conform Prabhupada’s books to those rules.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 12th, 2006
119 Akruranatha

I guess I should explain my last comment about the “heart in the tree,” in case it was too esoteric.

There is a famous pancatantra story (you know those Vedic stories that were the source of Aesop’s fables?), involving a wily monkey and slow-witted crocodile.

The crocodile swam in the river, and the monkey played in the branches above. One day, the crocodile said, “Dear monkey, every day we see each other, yet you have never come to my home and met my wife. Why dont you come now and we’ll have supper?”

So the monkey said, “Okay” and jumped into the river and began swimming with the crocodile back to his house, but then the monkey asked, “How is it that now, after all this time, you have decided to ask me to visit your home and meet your wife?”

The crocodile said, “I suppose that now you are in the water I can tell you. The truth is we are planning to cut out your heart and eat it.”

In that predicament the monkey kept a cool exterior and said, “Okay. But, darn! Come to think of it, I left my heart back in the tree. I’ll just go get it and come right back.”

In this way, the crocodile let the monkey go back into the tree and the monkey was able to escape.

Normally it might just be a story about how to not reveal your intentions to your emenies, about shrewd self-preservation through quick thinking and sly dissembling.

However, when Satsvarupa Maharaja told us the story in Vancouver (as he had heard it from Srila Prabhupada), it had another meaning for devotees. We could deal with the material world up to a certain point, as long as we were careful to protect our real heart in devotional service.

What I meant to say, in shorthand fashion, is there is no reason devotees cannot work as scientists, politicians, college professors, or whatever, while remaining true blue devotees within their hearts.

A devotee astronomer will be able to talk the language of astronomers and work in that field with the mutual respect of their nondevotee colleagues, and won’t have to be disturbed that modern astronomical knowledge differs markedly from the description of the universe given in Srimad Bhagavatam to Parikshit Maharaja.

The Bhagavatam will always be closest to his heart, but it does not disqualify him from being a professional astronomer or scientist externally. He comes home and studies Bhagavatam with faithful devotees, but at work he is able to do what astronomers do.

Similar, a devotee who is in the political or judicial arena does not have to demand that modern society conforms to the exact rules of ancient varnashram civilization as applied in a different time and culture. We can cultivate knowledge of those rules side by side with knowledge of how modern society really works.

Modern U.S. society really is a liberal society. Our legal system deals mainly with keeping the peace, preserving certain rules for the economic game, dealing with the lowest common denominator.

The “higher morality” an individual might aspire to is left to personal choice, depending on one’s own religious or moral convictions. It is a big marketplace society, in which people from different religions, ethnic groups and convictions can trade with each other as long as they follow the minimal rules of keeping order.

Of course, we know that the rules of varnasrama dharma, as I said before, are seamless, in the sense that they occupy the entire regime of human morality.

The way we behave and interact with people in any society may be the source of good or bad karmic reactions. Regardless of whether you are a Muslim or a Hindu brahmana, you are going to get a bad reaction for eating beef (but the brahmana, who should know better, might be more severely punished by Yamaraja)

If we are engaged in pure devotional service, of course, we are not involved in reactionary work, but otherwise there will be reactions for all our deeds, whether we live in a highly advanced Aryan civilization or we live among Polynesians, Hottentots, or Pennsylvanians.

In Bhagavad Gita Krishna explains that even by retiring from civilization and becoming physically inactive we cannot stop the reactions–we need to learn to act in yoga, in devotional service.

The ideal Rajarsi actually punishes people for their own good. By meting out proper punishments he mitigates the karmic reactions that otherwise would apply to those sinners.

An American judge cannot do that. Not that I could even know *how* to do that, but even if I did, I would be compelled to follow the rules adopted for our society by our actual political and legal system.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 12th, 2006
120 Akruranatha

I just remembered something I said in the lost text #115, in response to Krishna Kirti’s question about the difference from Lord Rama or Yudhisthira Maharaja’s administration and modern laws protecting women:

I referred to the “Curse of the Dog” story to point out that, under Lord Rama’s rule, even something so seemingly trivial as an ill-tempered brahman striking a dog for no good reason would not go unpunished.

(Srila Prabhupada often pointed out the Rajarsi’s duty to protect all of the praja, including the animals)

Thus, if women were being harassed and mistreated in Lord Rama’s time to the extent they are in Kali yuga on a daily basis, He would be punishing so many harassers and mistreaters of women.

I guess women did not work in offices and factories in Ayodhya, but if they had you can bet Rama would not have permitted quid-pro-quo sexual harassment by their supervisors, or other forms of harassment like subjecting them to catcalls and inappropriate sexual gestures, pictures or jokes, or inappropriate touching of their bodies and so on.

All workers would be treated fairly with a king like Rama in control. My understanding is that servants generally were not given salary in those times, but were maintained nicely and contentedly as if they were family members of their masters. (They were not split up from their families and “sold down river” or beaten within an inch of their lives like American slaves at times were)

However, if they had salaried workers in Ayodhya, they would probably have gotten equal pay for equal work. Rama would not permit the injustice of people being denied advancement or pay increases for improper reasons like race discrimination and so on.

I know it is an anachronism to imagine office or factory workers in Rama’s kingdom, let alone women workers, but the point is:

It can lead to big mistakes if you just take one feature of modern life (say, laws against sexual harassment or race discrimination) and say they should be abolished because they did not exist in Maharaja Yudhisthir’s or Lord Rama’s time.

Even though the principles of dharma are objective and eternal, there are *lots* of principles that all have to be considered in any given situation. Real justice involves considering all those factors and not just isolating a single social group, like women, and changing the social rules applicable to them without changing everything else.

Therefore, the real way for us to change society is not to try to just restore modern men to their former political and economic and social power. That would be like seeking “Ram Rajya without Rama.”

The solution is to remind everyone of Rama, of His great qualities, by doing sankirtan, while generally tolerating the inconveniences of modern life. Then the whole atmosphere will be changed and law and society will gradually improve as people’s hearts are freed from the effects of natures modes of passion and ignorance such as kama, lobha, etc.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 13th, 2006
121 krishna-kirti

Akruranath Prabhu, Hare Krishna.

Thank you for attempting a response in #117 to my comment #79. You wrote:

if Rama came today and punished the sinful, no one would escape punishment. When He came as Lord Caitanya, Lord Nityananda told Him not to kill Jagai (or was it Madhai?), because people in Kali Yuga are so wicked, He would have to kill everyone.

Just because in Kali yuga Lord Caitanya delivers the demons by Hari Nam, it does not follow that in Kali-yuga women’s rights should be one way or another. That is like saying “Because unlike a centuray ago we nowadays we have cars, people should have the right to vote.” Because this is a non-sequitor, analogy alone is sufficient to prove your point. In order to support your point, you have to get around to actually presenting some authoritative statements, like these presented by Mother Vishakha in her presentation “Prabhupada’s Ladies and Soul Concern”:

‘In the material world, is there any prohibition that a woman cannot become a professor? If she is qualified, she can become a professor. What is the wrong there? She must be qualified. That is the position. So similarly, if the woman understands Krsna consciousness perfectly, she can become guru.’ (Conversation: 18 June 1976)

Prabhupada was smiling and looking directly from one devotee to another. ‘I want each of you to go and start a center. What is the difficulty? Take one mrdanga. Then another person will come and join you - he will take karatalas …’ ‘The girls also?’ Rukmini asked. ‘There is no harm,’ Prabhupada said. ‘Krsna does not make distinction - female dress or male dress. I mean to say, the female body is weaker, but spiritually the body does not matter. In the absence of Lord Niyananda, His wife, Jahnava Devi, was preaching. First you must understand the philosophy. You must be prepared to answer questions. Krsna will give you intelligence. Just like I was not prepared to answer all these questions, but Krsna gives intelligence.’ (Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, 1991, pp. 146-7)

‘Our policy should be that at Dallas gurukula we shall create first-class men. And we shall teach the girls two things: how to become chaste and faithful to their husband and how to cook nicely.’ While Prabhupada and the group of devotees returned to the car, the topic changed to the political troubles in India. Prabhupada commented, ‘If Indira Gandhi takes my advice, then I can keep her on the post, and she can do greater service to India. Immediately the whole public will give her support … . But to remain the leader she requires spiritual knowledge, otherwise it will be another disaster. If she wants to remain leader then she must be a spiritual person. She must become a Vaisnavi.’ (Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, 1993, Vol. 6, p. 67)

With these references Mother Vishakha herself finds “Prabhupada’s stance equally liberal regarding women in bhakti yoga” and moves pretty quickly from “equally liberal” to coming squarely on the side of “liberal”.

Yet what Mother Vishakha, nor you, nor anyone else in this thread who has voiced a similar position has ever done is shown how statements like the ones above fit into the “big picture” of Krishna consciousness along side of statements like the one below:

“Unnecessary association with women … is strictly prohibited. This is human civilization. A civilization that allows men to mix unrestrictedly with women is an animal civilization. In Kali-yuga, people are extremely liberal, but mixing with women and talking with them as equals actually constitutes an uncivilized way of life.” (SB 7.12.8P)

Merely quoting statements like these yet not explaining how they interact with or limit each other gives us only the appearance of having a balanced view. From your side there is never any suggestion as to how such statements form a context for other statements you might prefer to quote. There is no suggestion as to how such remarks might practically limit, for example, Mother Vishakha’s assertion that “Srila Prabhupada offered qualified women, like qualified men, services commensurate with their abilities.” Yet, as Trivikrama Maharaja had pointed out, not one woman was a temple president at the time of Srila Prabhupada’s passing. Being agnostic about such statements as the one in the purport of SB 7.12.8 and being agnostic about such facts as there being no women TPs under Srila Prabhupada has the effect of filtering out the “incomprehensible” references and leaving the comprehensible ones. This creates a powerful bias, which leaves us with an understanding of the “big picture” that is “big” in name only. (See also comment #66.)

Lest I leave myself open to the same charge of being agnostic about the meaning of the more egalitarian statements, I think myself and other like-minded devotees can say what the big picture is without being agnostic about any of the statements. While it is a fact that Srila Prabhupada engaged his lady disciples in a wide variety of services, including the more riskier services like book distribution, the kind of society Srila Prabhupada would like us to build would resemble the ones that Lord Rama and Maharaja Yuddhisthira were in charge of. In the mean time, social customs that may be necessary in terms of time, place, and circumstance should help to move us toward a higher standard. That is what Srila Prabhupada intended when he wrote this:

An acarya should devise a means by which people may somehow or other come to Krsna consciousness. First they should become Krsna conscious, and all the prescribed rules and regulations may later gradually be introduced. In our Krsna consciousness movement we follow this policy of Lord SrI Caitanya Mahaprabhu. For example, since boys and girls in the Western countries freely intermingle, special concessions regarding their customs and habits are necessary to bring them to Krsna consciousness. (CC Adi 7.37 p)

I agree that sometimes that may include having a woman as temple president, or as prime minister or president of a country. Yet in our society building endeavors, we should be working towards the kind of society that great ladies like Kunti, Devahuti, Rukmini, and Mother Sita have appeared in. These societies were the best of societies ever.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 13th, 2006
122 krishna-kirti

In comment #120, Akruranath Prabhu wrote:

I guess women did not work in offices and factories in Ayodhya, but if they had you can bet Rama would not have permitted quid-pro-quo sexual harassment by their supervisors, or other forms of harassment like subjecting them to catcalls and inappropriate sexual gestures, pictures or jokes, or inappropriate touching of their bodies and so on.

That’s why they didn’t work in offices and factories in Ayodhya, because putting men and women so close together makes such an outcome inevitable. That is why Srila Prabhupada said that the “mixing with women and talking with them as equals actually constitutes an uncivilized way of life.”

I find it interesting that in your statement you chose lower-class worker imagery, as if people in the upper-class professions are exempt from such sexual misbehavior. The shastric response to this is SB 9.19.17:

One should not allow oneself to sit on the same seat even with one’s own mother, sister or daughter, for the senses are so strong that even though one is very advanced in knowledge, he may be attracted by sex.

In the purport, Srila Prabhupada comments as follows:

It may be said that one is liable to be attracted if he is not very advanced in civilized life; however, as specifically mentioned here, vidvamsam api karshati: even if one is highly advanced, materially or spiritually, he may be attracted by lusty desires.

Does anyone remember Bill Clinton’s tryst in office?

So here is another difference between Lord Rama’s Kingdom and our present day Kali-yuga. Back then the people understood that such mixing was uncivilized, but the “extremely liberal” people of today do not.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 13th, 2006
123 krishna-kirti

Correction to comment #121: “analogy alone is sufficient to prove your point.” should read “analogy alone is insufficient to prove your point.”

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 13th, 2006
124 Akruranatha

Haribol Krishna Kirti. Namaskar.

I am back from a little hiatus: my internet was down as I switched DSL providers, then I had to go up to Ukiah for business, then on the way home last night I was at a most excellent, ecstatic Harinama in Palo Alto, and a tremendous morning program in San Jose this morning and nice book distribution today in Santa Cruz.

Vaisesika dasa kijaya! (He is inspiring so much nice sankirtan here in the Bay Area)

I wanted to know, did I answer your question about “factually circumstantial” versus “objective standards”?

As I said before, I am not even sure I understood the question. I would like a little feedback from you about that before we get off onto new things.

May I ask you Prabhu (because I am not sure I understand where you are coming from), are you actually saying that today’s governments should immediately repeal all the laws protecting women’s rights?

Were you disagreeing with my statement that it would be wrong for government to do that in the current atmosphere?

I will write some more tomorrow about your more recent posts. (I am exhausted tonight)

I think that, as usual, a lot of things that should “go without saying” might just as well be said to clear the air. If you think that I am arguing that men and women should mix unrestrictedly, you have completely misunderstood me somehow. I have not read Vishakha’s article but I am 100% certain she had no such intention either.

Devotees know that we should separate the sexes and not mix very freely. We all know that Srila Prabhupada wanted us to be first class ladies and gentlemen. We already have a culture in ISKCON of formality between the sexes. Do you perceive me or someone else as arguing against that?

We agree that the kind of society Lord Rama lived in or King Yudhisthir lived in are better societies (except that Lord Caitanya’s sankirtan movement, which is especially sweet, is taking place now, in this Kali Yuga setting with society all topsy turvy).

Still, you seem to be disgreeing with me somehow. I am not sure what the disagreement is about. Maybe I am just tired.

Do you think we should try to get the U.S. government to impose laws to restrict the movement of women? Is that your point? (Surely that is not what you are saying, but what are you saying?)

You quote Srila Prabhupada:

>>In our Krsna consciousness movement we follow this policy of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. For example, since boys and girls in the Western countries freely intermingle, special concessions regarding their customs and habits are necessary to bring them to Krsna consciousness.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 17th, 2006
125 krishna-kirti

Dear Akruranath Prabhu, Hare Krishna.

In comment #124, you wrote:

I wanted to know, did I answer your question about “factually circumstantial” versus “objective standards”? As I said before, I am not even sure I understood the question. I would like a little feedback from you about that before we get off onto new things.

To review, in comment #51, I quoted you asserting that laws protecting women’s rights, as they are today, should never be repealed. In that comment, I responded that in societies directly controlled by Lord Rama and Maharaja Yuddhisthira, those societies did not have today’s laws that establish equal rights. My question was short and simple: “How come?”

Comment #73 was your response to this question, and here is what appeared to be the essence of your answer: “I would just say that the whole atmosphere is currently much different in Kali Yuga.” Yes, it is different, and my response in #79 is that your response implicitly relied on circular reasoning, or had the logical defect of “begging the question”. Since that apparently requires some further explanation, I will describe in more detail how your argument was circular.

To begin with, we can presume that some social conventions will change according to time, place, and circumstance, and that other conventions won’t. This is much like Srila Prabhupada’s discussion of sadhana-bhakti at the beginning of the sixth chapter of the Nectar of Devotion, where he briefly talks about the difference between a principle and a detail and how details may change but principles don’t. Prabhupada’s own example was that one should accept a spiritual master is a principle that doesn’t change, but how one accepts a spiritual master is a detail that may change. In the same way, and because our scriptures also treat at length the topic of social organization, at the level of social organization there are details that are subject to change and there are principles that aren’t subject to change. Hence, my terms “factually circumstantial” and “objective standards” could also be understood as the difference between “details” and “principles”. (From here on out, I will use these latter terms.)

As regards to your response in #73, I presumed that you had these differences in mind. Otherwise, if it were the case that you believe all aspects of society are relative to time, place, and circumstance, then that would make you a believer in cultural relativism. As a matter of charity, I presumed that you aren’t a cultural relativist. If that charity was warranted, namely that you aren’t a cultural relativist, then your response to #51 had to presume that between Lord Rama’s society (for example) and present day society, the difference in women’s roles and the laws that restricted or permitted specific activities was a matter of detail, not a matter of principle.

Yet that was the very presumption–that differences in women’s roles and laws between the ages is a detail, not a principle–was itself being questioned. The fact that in comment #73 you did not make the distinction between principle and detail and went ahead and presumed that it was a detail is what made your argument circular. Yes, we know there are significant differences between Lord Rama’s reign and today, but to just say there are differences and leave it at that litterally begs the question as to whether the rule, for example, that women should not be independent is a detail or a principle. You could of course have made the argument that the injunction that women should not be independent was a mere detail, but in that comment you seemed to have presumed that this was the case. Because this presumption itself was was being questioned, to presume that which is trying to be proved is circular reasoning, or “begging the question.”

However, I also recognized that your answer may have been incomplete, which is why in comment #106 I suggested that you might want to “rework your answer.” But to leave your answer in comment #73 “as is”, without making the case that the difference is a matter of detail and not of principle would be begging the question. Nevertheless, you have tried to clarify your answer further, and I appreciate that. On account of that, I now view your response in #73 as incomplete rather than circular. To your updated clarifications, I have responses in comments #121 - #123.

Your servant, Krishna-kirti das

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 17th, 2006
126 krishna-kirti

In comment #124, Akruranath Prabhu wrote:

May I ask you Prabhu (because I am not sure I understand where you are coming from), are you actually saying that today’s governments should immediately repeal all the laws protecting women’s rights?

I’m saying that it is these “laws protecting women’s rights” themselves which are responsible for perpetuating the abuse of women. According to the federal Ccenter for Disease Control, nowadays in America nearly 40% of all births are to unwed mothers. Prabhupada more pithily described “laws protecting women’s rights” as a choice between killing their babies and begging from the government.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 17th, 2006
127 krishna-kirti

In comment #124, Akruranath Prabhu wrote: “We already have a culture in ISKCON of formality between the sexes.” I disagree. Srila Prabhupada, apparently, also disagrees.

…there is no way out of it–you girls and boys will mix even if I say so they cannot avoid it. They sit separately in the temple and then outside mix again. (Letter to Govinda devi dasi, April 30, 1974)

Akruranatha Prabhu also wrote: “Do you perceive me or someone else as arguing against that?” No, but I do see you confusing the status quo social patterns of our host society regarding the proper and improper interaction of men and women for social patterns that are status quo for a society dedicated to spiritual advancement.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 17th, 2006
128 krishna-kirti

In comment #124, Akruranath Prabhu wrote: “Still, you seem to be disgreeing with me somehow. I am not sure what the disagreement is about.” And you seem to be disagreeing with me, too. The logical (and civilized) endpoint to this discussion is to at least identify one or more of the following points of differences in irreducible presumptions, patterns of reasoning, specific “leaps of faith”, or just plain old predilection. Any of these differences would be fundamental, and to decide which is right, which is not right, or if the differences are immaterial would necessarily have to be resolved by authority.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 17th, 2006
129 krishna-kirti

In comment #124, Akruranath Prabhu wrote:

Do you think we should try to get the U.S. government to impose laws to restrict the movement of women? Is that your point? (Surely that is not what you are saying, but what are you saying?)

You are right that I was not commenting on what the U.S. government should or should not do. It may be that the direction of the culture in Western civilization, and the movement of the U.S. government with it, is something like the path that leads off the edge of a cliff. If one takes that direction and jumps, there is little anyone can do to prevent the inevitable. In that case, we shouldn’t join America and its elected government in its suicide pact with the rest of Western civilization.

The direction of our host culture may likely be one of having already jumped off the cliff and its demise inevitable. Civilizations come and go. Rampant promiscuity, increased illegitimacy, and a rise in homosexuality have been historically associated with the end-times of civilizations. Already, a senior member of our society who has been well known as a champion of women’s rights has publically proposed that we also accommodate the homsexual lifestyle with what he euphamistically calls “gay monogamy”. This development is worrisome because a number of historical, mainline religious faiths within Western civilization have follwed a similar trajectory and have ended up as thoroughly secular and “religious” in name only. We can end up like them, too. Trying to accomodate the cultural differences of a particular society for the sake of preaching is a proven strategy, yet that strategy has its limits. If we’re trying to culturally “keep up with the Joneses”, and they drive their car off of a cliff, we shouldn’t follow them.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 17th, 2006
130 Akruranatha

Krishna Kirti Prabhu:

Please accept my obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

I see one of the reasons you and I seem to be talking past each other: When I said we should not repeal all the laws protecting women’s rights, (at least not unless social/cultural changes that would make those laws unnecessary somehow unexpectedly occurred), I *was* talking about what the government should actually do at this time. (I thought that was clear.)

I am talking about the world you and I live in, and how we should behave in *that* world. We were discussing at least the following two aspects of that question: (1) how should devotees treat each other in today’s ISKCON?; and (2) what is right or wrong about today’s social, political and legal system in the U.S.?

You say “we shouldn’t join America and its elected government in its suicide pact with the rest of Western civilization,” as if we can dissociate ourselves by simply declaring American society wrong.

I say, whether you like it or not, you and I both *have* joined America in some very real senses. We were both born here, educated here, we use the facilities available here, are protected by the laws and the police here, and we earn our living in the American economy, to name just a few of the ways we continue to be part of American society. We cannot ignore our many American qualities, and we should not be ungrateful for the good things we have received.

Perhaps if we can engage 100% in devotional service we can totally transcend our American-ness. (And if we satisfy Krishna, we satisfy all our other obligations: “O demigods, ancestors, morning bath” – how does Madhavendra Puri say it?– “I can only remember lotus-eyed Govinda at every moment, and for me that is sufficient”).

That still “begs the question” (to use your phrase) of how such transcendental American devotees should interact with American society in today’s world. Besides, I am nowhere near on that transcendental level.

When you objected to my statement that we should not repeal certain laws now, or in 50, or in 150 years (I did not say “never”), I was discussing the current American legal and political system. Now you say you were not commenting on what the U.S. government should or should not do, so we were not even talking about the same thing.

To have a social and political philosophy which has absolutely nothing to say about the current legal and political system is, at best, incomplete.

[It is an interesting question why we do have lots of instructions in Srila Prabhupada’s books about how an ideal society works, on a macro level, but few instructions about how we should intervene (if at all) in current political affairs. Even though we see around us the holocaust of abortion and of animal slaughter, to use two prominent examples, Srila Prabhupada did not engage us in direct political action to stop those things, as far as I know.]

I agree that sometimes Srila Prabhupada was very critical of the soul-killing modern civilization. I attended a Bhagavatam class in Mayapur this year (I think it was March 15, the day after Gaura Purnima) in which Makhanlal Prabhu related a morning walk conversation. He had asked Srila Prabhupada (paraphrasing), “In America they are killing so many cows and are engaged in so much sinful activity, so why is it so materially prosperous?” Srila Prabhupada replied, “Very soon, it will all be finished.”

But in the mean time, it is not finished. We are living in it, and it is our duty to try to make it a better society. (Just how we go about doing that seems to be another issue on which you and I disagree).

I say, primarily, we do that by book distribution, harinama sankirtan, direct preaching. (If we do that well enough, maybe American society will improve and won’t soon be “finished”)

We should also be good, polite people in the rest of our lives, at work, in the store, in the bank, in our dealings with the civil authorities. We should leave everyone with a good impression wherever we go. They should see, “These Hare Krishna people are nice, self controlled, truthful and pure people.”

There are aspects of our social philosophy that seem very foreign to modern Americans. I do not think we should hide such things, but as preachers we do not have to lead with our chin, either.

We should discuss these things amongst ourselves (as we are doing here) and try to understand them in light of all of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings.

When we preach in public we should not change the philosophy or water it down, but we do not have to always start out with explaining how “we didn’t go to the moon” or how “women are less intelligent” or that “Hitler was a great leader and a perfect gentleman” (as I recently heard one devotee preaching).

We have so many other, more important things to tell people, and dwelling on the things they are least likely to agree with may distract them and leave a bad impression, making us look silly, or subversively sinister. A lot of what you emphasize depends on who you are talking to.

Eventually we can explain everything nicely in a humble state of mind (Prabhodananda Saraswati recommends preachers to take straw in their teeth), but we can be careful about our initial or main emphasis. Mainly we should sell and study and discuss Srila Prabhupada’s books. A book distributor will seize on the positive impressions, if any, the customer may already have about the book.

You say the inevitable outcome of women and men working in close proximity will be sexual harassment, etc. That may be so, but our government should still curb the harassers and stop them, as it has been doing. Don’t you agree? Surely you are not standing up for sexual harassers?

Whether or not it is a natural tendency for men to misbehave in proximity of women, in modern American society men are in proximity of women, and government must demand that they not misbehave. Most American men do not misbehave, and those who do must be trained and/or punished to be brought into line.

I like to think that American devotee men are among the most well-behaved of American men. That may not be true of all devotees, but it is of many–they are developing ideal, godly qualities through chanting the holy names.

Although we accept that men should be segregated from women, and in our ISKCON society we do follow that (although perhaps not as well as we should, judging from the letter to Govinda dasi you quoted), those of us who do have jobs and inevitably interact among American nondevotees, in close proximity with women, should be able to do so without flirting or misbehaving. All the more so we should not misbehave with the devotee women in ISKCON, whom we respect as Vaisnavas with godly qualities of their own.

I hate to think that segregating men and women in ISKCON leads to men misbehaving when they somehow are forced by circumstances into “less civilized” modes of interacting with nondevotees. I do not really think that is true. If you live in the U.S., you will inevitably be put in U.S. situations and you have to learn to behave politely and decently at all times.

The dispute within ISKCON about treatment of women is not so much about whether to keep women and men separated (we mostly all agree on that), but about a sense that some ISKCON men are inimical and cruel to the women, or feel that women have to be kept “in their place” (i.e., in their subordinate social role) through intimidation and force, or to be treated with contempt and disrespect. That really is what I mainly see all the controversy to be about. Do you disagree?

I am concerned that we may not be properly understanding women’s “subordinate” role, as so many perceptive comments here by various devotees have pointed out.

If you really want to preserve the integrity of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings on how feminine nature really entails submissiveness (and masculine nature is enchanted by it), how there are essential psychophysical differences between men and women in general, how “purusha” means enjoyer and “prakrti” means enjoyed — not just in this world but among the demigods and in Vaikuntha as well — the best strategy should be to first establish trust that you are not trying to use those important teachings as an excuse for material domination or exploitation. People can smell that stuff a mile away, and they don’t like it.

You say laws protecting women’s rights to own property, sign contracts, etc. are really the cause of the perpetuation of the abuse of women. [You do seem to have some views on what the government should do, after all]. This proposition needs to be explored.

We know that without high-class men protecting civilization, varna sankara results. My impression of history is that the problems of Kali yuga started at the top, with brahmanas and kshatriyas becoming unqualified. [Think of Srngi, or Drona’s son Asvatthama, at the beginning of Kali yuga].

When the higher classes are unqualified, they exploit the weaker classes for sense gratification. When weaker groups are exploited instead of being supported and protected as they should be, they struggle for political and social power to protect themselves. Such struggles have been going on, both within and without India, for thousands of years now.

A lot of good people are naturally sympathetic to the underdogs, and with good reason. We should be careful not to paint ourselves as “Snidely Whiplash”

Consider this passage from the purport to SB 1.9.27: “The sudras must first of all be satisfied by sumptuous food and clothing before any sacrifice is performed. In this age so many functions are held by spending millions, but the poor laborer is not sumptuously fed or given charity, clothing, etc. The laborers are thus dissatisfied, and so they make agitation.”

The varnasrama dharma described by Srila Prabhupada in his books is not a civilization in which weaker sections of society have to be pushed down from the top when they get “uppity”. That is more a characteristic of Kali yuga when the unqualified leaders, occupying the posts of brahmanas and kshatriyas, are unable to keep the weaker classes satisfied.

In the current atmosphere the real need is for a sufficient quantity of qualified brahmanas and kshatriyas, but we are very poor in that respect. Our modern people are almost all sudra or lower, and thus law and society has changed, through various political revolutions and social revolutions in a long historical process, with the weak struggling to protect themselves from exploitation (although without the help of real spiritual knowledge).

We know that the idea of everyone being materially equal is a myth, and the democratic political system is inferior to varnasram rule by saintly rajarsis, but it still can be preferable to tyrannical rule by despots. Don’t you agree?

Our dealings with each other in ISKCON should become so nice that people will see that human nature is now changing by the influence of Lord Caitanya’s sankirtan movement: the chanting of Hare Krishna should eventually create people who can be trusted to be given powerful, responsible positions in society without exploiting or neglecting the care of subordinates. Then a lot of our current laws will be unnecessary, just as the Marxists say that under communism the state will “wither” (IMHO, we still have a long way to go in that regard, though)

From the same purport (SB 1.9.26), quoted above: “Bhismadeva advised for all human beings nine qualifications: (1) not to become angry, (2) not to lie, (3) to equally distribute wealth, (4) to forgive, (5) to beget children only by one’s legitimate wife, (6) to be pure in mind and hygienic in body, (7) not to be inimical toward anyone, (8) to be simple, and (9) to support servants and subordinates. One cannot be called a civilized person without acquiring the above-mentioned preliminary qualities.”

Those are just the preliminary qualifications. In addition to those, the four varnas have to acquire special qualities in terms of their separate occupational duties. Not only is “Vaisnava” not an easy thing, but even “varnasrama” is no easy thing. Even to be a good sudra requires all kinds of good qualities.

When Srila Prabhupada told Govinda dasi that devotee boys and girls were still mixing too much, in spite of his instructions, was he telling her in the mood that those boys and girls should be rejected from ISKCON, or was he telling her in the mood that therefore he was being especially lenient? (I do not have the context of the rest of the letter)

Of course, we should be ashamed and embarrassed to make Srila Prabhupada devise special concessions for us, but we have to be honest about what we really need. I can use all the leniency I can get. As Shiva was saying previously, if Srila Prabhupada made special concessions for preaching in the west or in modern times, shouldn’t we be careful not to hurt the preaching by abolishing those special concessions that the acaryas made?

Now you have brought up Srila Hrdayananda Maharaja and gay monogamy. I think you have misinterpreted Maharaja. He was not trying to secularize ISKCON or water down the rules against illicit sex. However, I fear that if we start talking about that topic, another firestorm will be unleashed. . . :-)

I have tried to disclose my mood and how I am thinking about these things. As I have said, I really do not want to “debate” (in the sense of winning an argument) but to discuss as friendly devotees who all have faith in Srila Prabhupada.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 19th, 2006
131 krishna-kirti

In comment #130, Akruranath Prabhu wrote:

You say the inevitable outcome of women and men working in close proximity will be sexual harassment, etc. That may be so, but our government should still curb the harassers and stop them, as it has been doing.

If you agree that women and men in such close proximity is a cause of sexual harassment, then you should also agree that someone who knows better has a duty to try to convince the government (and the people who swear allegiance to it) to keep men and women separate. Otherwise, inducing people to act sinfully and then punishing them when they do so seems like an odd notion of justice.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 20th, 2006
132 krishna-kirti

Dear Akruranath Prabhu, Hare Krishna. This is a partial response to your comment #130.

Most of what we do every day is for the future and not for the moment. When we do some work, it is for a future payment. And when finally we get paid, we budget the money for future uses, like for a monthly mortgage payment or a child’s college fund. We don’t buy groceries whenever we feel hungry, we buy for the next week or month. Chanting Hare Krishna and other devotional activities are also in preparation for the moment of death. In general, we live for the future, not for the moment.

Since we generally act for the future, why would you insist on discussing how we should act in the present without reference to the future? I’ve said a number of times previously in this discussion that on account of time, place, and circumstance, there could be lady temple presidents. And I really don’t see many other circumstantial arrangements that you and I couldn’t agree on. Yet we still disagree. Why?

The point of our disagreement seems not to be with the here-and-now but with the future I’ve been proposing. You seem to find it quite unpallatable. The kind of society Srila Prabhupada described as civilized is one wherein women were not independent, what to speak of being public administators. Despite the fact that Srila Prabhupada described such a society at length and glorified it, today there are many devotees who find such societies repugnant and are aghast at the thought that we should ever attempt to revive such a society. In this discussion, some of them have quite plainly said so. You also seem to generally share their sentiments.

Because ideas motivate action, an idea has intrinsic value. That is why even if you and I live like perfect, gentlemanly Americans, embracing a particular idea will significantly affect what we do in the course of our lives. If we are preachers in some capacity (and we all are), then we will eventually try to impart that idea to people who come to accept us as teachers. If not to all, then certainly to some. We will try to pass that idea on to our children–whether they like it or not. In politics, we will vote for candidates and initiatives that we believe gets us closer to actualizing that idea. And, within our own Vaisnava society, we will argue for policies that bring us closer to realizing that idea. Ideas matter because they motivate.

Because ideas themselves are powerful motivators, that is why some here have objected outright to even granting space to argue an idea they dislike. And, if you object to the possibility of its realization (which in the case of varnashram it seems you do), then that would explain why, although you express some “appreciation” for varnashram, it never seems to have a place in any future you have articulated. On the one hand, you have expressed a willingness to “transcend” your “American-ness” through 100% engagement in devotional service. If you accomplish that, then what need have your for varnashram–”morning bath”, rules regulating proper and improper behavior between men and women, etc? And then on the other hand, you say that because you are nowhere near the transcendental platform, you are still going have to act like a “good American”. Varnashram has no place in any future you imagine because, for you it seems not to have any legitimacy.

Otherwise, because we generally live for the future, to grant varnashram legitimacy as a future worth striving toward is to commit one’s self in the present to work toward implementing it. That would mean, even if we were to grant that some women can be temple presidents and circumstantially should be temple presidents, as we gradually implement our vision of the future we would expect there to be fewer of them. Same thing with education. If girls are married young and have children by the age of 10 or 12, as Srila Prabhupada has described in the Krishna Book, then that would have the effect of limiting their occupational options. I believe that the kind of society Srila Prabhupada described and glorified in his books is the kind of society we should be committed to implementing. And on this point, it seems we fundamentally disagree.

One thing that I think will move us toward the kind of society Srila Prabhupada described and glorified is resurecting the feminine virtue of chastity. I believe that this will be immediately important to our success in preaching, and here is how I think it will work.

Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of women in our society: women who immediately believe that they should as a matter of principle be subordinate to a man and those who are more career-oriented, who see themselves as equals with men and are ready to compete with men in the career marketplace. We can find the former nice husbands within our own society, but the latter women will probably have to find a husband outside of our society–have an exogamous marriage. Because these latter women are still very much inclined to romance and marriage, their worldly ambitions and their inclination toward romance can, if channelled correctly, also realize the feminine virtue of chastity. They will accomplish this by successfully bringing higher class men to Krishna consciousness.

For one thing, women who aspire for a career are college-bound. In the college there is a relatively low opportunity cost for finding men with similar interests, and who, in many cases, are bound for high positions in society. For example, Hillary Clinton (before she was Mrs. Clinton) met Bill Clinton in law school at Yale. Later, of course, Bill Clinton became President of the United States. Now, if some of our own young lady devotees who go off to college also fall in love with men who are bound to be future leaders, then they can convert their mates to Vaisnavism and simultaneously bring Krishna consciousness to society’s upper classes.

Sounds far fecthed? It isn’t, because this was actually how early Christianity insinuated itself into upper-class Roman society. In his book The Rise of Christianity (1997), the distinguished sociologist Rodney Stark writes:

But how much intermarriage [between Christian women and pagan men] was there and how much did it matter in terms of producing secondary converts? What we do know is that secondary conversion was quite frequent among the Roman upper classes (Fox 1987; Chadwick 1967). This was partly because many married upper-class women became Christians and then managed to convert their spouses–this was especially common in the fourth century. But it also occurred because many upper-class Christian women did marry pagans, some of whom they subsequently were able to convert (Harnack 198, vol. 2). Indeed, Peter Brown wrote of Christian women as a “gateway” into pagan families where “they were the wives, servants, and nurses of unbelievers.” (Stark 114)

And since women have a tendency to marry up, to marry men who are better qualified than them, this strategy makes a lot of sense. And, as far as Christianity was concerned, nothing succeeds like success. In order to bring such high-class men to Christianity, we find Peter, the first Patriarch of Rome, advising women that an unbelieving husband might be won to faith “when they see your reverent and chaste behavior.” (1 Pet. 3:1 - 2). So as far as the early Christians were concerned, chastity was not a fuddy-duddy traditional thing they did for old-time’s sake. That was a time, place and circumstance strategy for spread and conversion.

One of the best descriptions of this as applied by one of our devotees is written by a lady named Satyavati devi dasi who followed this formula of being submissive. She wrote:

Patience is the most important virtue in this case. Be patient. Don’t push. Instead of viewing him as an obstacle to your spiritual progress, view yourself as a help to his spiritual progress. Krishna plans everything: isn’t it possible that you’re the tool He is going to use to bring your husband to Him? Just by having your association, your husband will be purified. Oh, it can take a very long time. You’re going to learn whole new meanings to the word patience. But it is happening.

. . .

If your husband is threatening to leave you because you won’t pay attention to him in “material physical ways”, I would go ahead and indulge him. For several reasons. Even Prabhupada’s sister cooked meat for her husband. Is it better to wreck your relationship and possibly through that turn someone away from Krishna (I can hear someone saying ‘that crazy cult ruined my marriage’) or to gently and slowly expose someone little by little to prasadam, kirtan, chanting.. with the eventual result that they become favourable and ultimately (in this life or the next) devotees? With your association, the stranglehold maya has on him is going to loosen up whether he likes it or even realises it.

My husband, who is the most independent minded, authority-resisting, self-willed person on this earth, announced three months ago that he was going to give up meat, poultry and fish. (He said “I’m keeping the eggs.”) I almost fell over. He decided on his own last June that he wouldn’t smoke in the house anymore, and when we bought a new car, he decided he wouldn’t smoke in it either. Although he continues to smoke, it’s much less, and he’s actually very happy with how the curtains, walls, and windshields stay cleaner without all the nicotine in the air. He’s built an altar for the Deities, although he swears it was “just another cabinet I built”. When he empties out the change from his pockets, he keeps the quarters for his change jar and gives me the rest to go in the donation jar on the altar. Last year there was $132 in the jar, almost all of it donated by him in the name of “cleaning out my pockets for the laundry”. He even allowed me to have my name legally changed, with the condition that I kept his last name. (He quit drinking long before we met, so that was never an issue.)

Read the whole thing.

If broadly adopted, this is a strategy that will win over important, high-class men. If our career-oriented women adopt this strategy, they will also come to appreciate the virtue (and power) of chastity, and that will result in both an advantage to our society in terms of power and influence as well as bringing us closer to the Vedic ideal. Browbeating the men and perpetually crying victim is not going to work.

Will such a strategy of chastity get us all the way to the kind of society that Srila Prabhupada describes in his books? Not necessarily. But will it get us part of the way there? Most definitely, yes.

That is why I believe that varnashram and its attendent virtues has immediate benefit to our preaching and moves us toward the kind of society Srila Prabhupada glorifies in his books. Moving toward varnashram is certainly much better than trying to make our peace with American society, which left unchanged is something quite uncivilized and caustic for our own material and spiritual welfare.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 20th, 2006
133 krishna-kirti

In comment #130, Akruranath Prabhu wrote:

first establish trust that you are not trying to use those important teachings as an excuse for material domination or exploitation. People can smell that stuff a mile away, and they don’t like it.

It seems you have some “trust issues” with me–issues that you don’t have with others like, for example, your own self. Surely, you believe yourself to be full of all the best intentions for women and believe yourself to be without any intention to exploit them. If this is the case, then surely you are the best person to promote and explain those teachings on feminine submissiveness, just as Srila Prabhupada himself has explained them. But unlike Srila Prabhupada you are neither promoting nor explaining them. Why?

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 20th, 2006
134 Akruranatha

John F. Kennedy used to say, “Politics is the art of the possible”

As I was trying to explain, with my innumerable faults, there are big, sweeping historical reasons why men and women work side by side in the American economy, sit side by side in the American colleges (and even share coed dorms).

There are *lots* of things that are sinful about American society, and if we tried to attack them all through direct political campaigns it would be a distraction from our actual mission.

There are limitations to what the government can do, as our experiment with the prohibition of alcoholic beverages 80 or so years ago demonstrated.

Therefore, while we should not shrink from telling it like it is, the best way to get from here (modern America) to there (varnasram dharma, Rama Rajya), is to increase Sankirtan, primarily through distributing and studying Srila Prabhupada’s books.

It might seem impossible, but I have hope that when large groups of people start reading Srila Prabhupada’s books and chanting Hare Krishna and trying to follow the four regs, gradually the various influences of Kali yuga will disappear and human society will take a more natural shape.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 20th, 2006
135 krishna-kirti

In comment #130, Akruranath Prabh wrote:

We know that the idea of everyone being materially equal is a myth, and the democratic political system is inferior to varnasram rule by saintly rajarsis, but it still can be preferable to tyrannical rule by despots. Don’t you agree?

In the Bhagavatam, we find that the Brahmanas enthroned Maharaja Vena despite knowing that he would be a cruel tyrant. They dethroned him only after he started opposing religion itself. From this incident it seems that the Vedic notion of a ruler is better a bad ruler than no ruler, but under no circumstances should he be opposed to religion.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 20th, 2006
136 Akruranatha

Dear Krishna Kirti Prabhu,

Please, once again, forgive me if my words have caused any disturbance to you. I am not an advanced devotee. If I come accross as arrogant that is due to my foolishness.

I do not have “trust issues” with you. I really don’t know you well enough to have any “issues” with you. I would love to meet you in person and chant and study and take prasadam and go on pilgrimage or book distribution together. I am sure we could be good friends.

What I meant to say is, if you are preaching that women should not own property, are to be considered like chattle, must always be treated as children, etc., a modern audience most anywhere at least in the industrialized world today will likely distrust you. At least, I believe that. (Not that *I* distrust your motives.)

I am not an authority. I am not saying I know how to preach better than you or anyone else. Please do not take it that way. I am just explaining my own admittedly imperfect perceptions. I cannot help thinking we have more important things to preach about, and that the kind of preaching you are suggesting might distract or even detract from our basic message, namely:

We are not the body, we are eternal spirit soul, servants of Lord Krishna. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The goal of life is to love Him. We can reawaken the love that is dormant in our hearts through chanting Hare Krishna. Lord Caitanya brought this special method for self-realization. We should follow the four regulative principles, chant japa, worship the Deity, study Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad Gita, we must accept a bona fide spiritual master, etc.

My conviction is, we need to stay “on message” with these kinds of simple things, and more drastic cultural changes should be stressed only if necessary (and I do not see any necessity).

Shiva was quoting, “sthane sthitah”. We do not need to emphasize so many external changes. A materialist and a devotee can appear to be doing the same thing, but the difference is internal. (Some devotees may want to drastically change externally, but they don’t have to)

It is not that I do not preach about submissiveness of women. I think that in the past I may have overdone it. I remember one devotee lady coming up to me after I spoke at a program at Santa Clara University (a nice Catholic school), and saying I blew it, I lost the students. Nowadays I generally play it down, but if it comes up I do try to answer seriously and carefully based on Srila Prabhupada’s books.

Sometimes it is all in the way it is presented. (Forgive me if I sound like I am instructing you–I am just sharing my own experiences). I used to own a house in San Francisco’s Castro district and my upstairs tenants were a lesbian couple, very active in the vibrant gay political and cultural movement of that city. One time they got around to asking about the four regs and “illicit sex”, and I explained that sex was only for procreation. One challenged, “Then you’re saying what we do is sinful?” and I had to admit that I was saying that, but something in the way it came up, in the way I stated it, I could tell they did not feel offended, because I was just honestly explaining the philosophy rather than feeling superior or going out of my way to criticize.

I have had lots of experiences like the above. I am sure you have, too.

When I hear you talk about girls getting pregnant at 10 or 12 years old, though, I have to admit I feel like running out of the room screaming. If Srila Prabhupada said something about that in the Krishna book (I don’t remember reading that), I still have to think he would not recommend ISKCON in America to implement such a thing.

Even if Srila Prabhupada directly instructed me to implement something drastic like that, I would go through a whole lot of submissive inquiry about it and would have a hard time accepting it. I mean, it is totally illegal. There could be headlines, scandals, TV exposes, lawsuits, arrests, bankruptcies and more bankruptcies.

Besides, it just seems really wrong to my (admittedly conditioned) sense of decency: 10 to 12 years old? (Those are very little children, many will not yet be in puberty and could not physically even get pregnant, let alone be psychologically prepared to act as parents)

You are right, that is something you and I fundamentally disagree about.

I understand many of us have failed to fully adopt certain cultural changes Srila Prabhupada wanted us to adopt. I also think some devotees tried to overdo it and made mistakes. We do not have to give up trying to be more “Vedic” than we are, but we need to be careful and not spoil the essential preaching which is dearest to Srila Prabhupada and more important.

Not everything Srila Prabhupada said about these cultural things were intended for us to implement. For example, at one time he considered allowing polygamy in ISKCON (he has written favorably about it in his books), but then soon afterward he changed his mind. Srila Prabhupada decided against polygamy in ISKCON.

Kaunteya’s examination of “cult” and “sect” may be useful here. We have both tendencies in ISKCON. In our “cult” mode, we may have been too apt to seize on things Srila Prabhupada said in praise of a culture very foreign from our native one, and try to unnecessarily overemphasize our differentness from the host culture.

I really do believe in varnasrama dharma as described in Srila Prabhupada’s books, both as a glorious past and an ideal future. I think you have gotten me wrong there. Again, my difference with you is probably more in the sense of how to get there from here, and also I probably am willing to be a lot more patient about it.

I think it has to be something that evolves naturally, without accidentally hurting innocent people, and we need to be careful not to do drastic, impetuous things that could harm ISKCON’s reputation.

I do remember some American ISKCON child marriages in the 70s–actually they were betrothals, and my understanding was there would be no sexual relations until the girls were older (thank God).

I do not know how they all worked out. (One I know about was a disaster–the girl went to live with her nondevotee father and the young man, my friend, committed suicide) Come to think of it, I know of some more disasters, and I cannot think of any successes.

Based on my experience, my own sense (I admit I could be wrong), is that we should just encourage people to accept as much Krishna consciousness as they can, according to their capacity, and not worry too much about changing them culturally. Following the four regs and doing morning program, learning Sanskrt and Bengali songs and scriptures, are already quite demanding changes for most people.

Just like we can offer Krishna nice palatable vegetarian food of different ethnic cuisines if prepared with pure ingredients and the right mood, similarly as long as people can follow the four regs and chant their rounds we do not have to demand they change too many other aspects of their culture. Maybe the holy name will teach them to make whatever cultural changes they need to in order to make more advancement.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 21st, 2006
137 krishna-kirti

Dear Akruranath Prabhu, Hare Krishna.

In comment #136, you wrote that you don’t have “trust-issues” with me. That is good to know, and likewise, I would also like to meet you in person some day. If anything, despite the polemical nature of our exchanges, I’ll count this last one as some significant progress. Overall, your responses could be enapsulated in these two remarks:

What I meant to say is, if you are preaching that women should not own property, are to be considered like chattle, must always be treated as children, etc., a modern audience most anywhere at least in the industrialized world today will likely distrust you. At least, I believe that. (Not that *I* distrust your motives.)

Certainly, I agree with you on this point. And I also generally do not make points that newcomers are likely to find unpallatable. However, what seems not to be clear is that even though we are devotees and have read all of Srila Prabhupada’s books, whenever we speak to devotees or write something for their consideration we also, in effect, “preach” to them, too. And as devotees, we do need to be preached to–especially those of us who know we aren’t the body but have not yet fully realized that.
What happens is that in discussions where the audience is comprised of seasoned hands, we do not clearly separate differing levels of message. Some devotees expect that what is discussed among devotees should be little different from what the casual Sunday feast visitor is prepared to accept. In one sense, that kind of expectation will be there because, as individuals, how surrendered are we–really?

When I hear you talk about girls getting pregnant at 10 or 12 years old, though, I have to admit I feel like running out of the room screaming. If Srila Prabhupada said something about that in the Krishna book (I don’t remember reading that), I still have to think he would not recommend ISKCON in America to implement such a thing.

Your reaction is not atypical even for devotees. I remember once at my home, while hosting an open preaching program where devotees and guests were welcome to come, we read from the Krishna book. In the chapter of the Krishna book on the gopis’ rasa dance with Krishna, there was this statement:

At that time, many of the gopis were married, because in India, especially in those days, girls were married at a very early age. There are even many instances of a girl giving birth to a child at the age of twelve. (Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Ch. 29)

As this was recited, one of our initiated devotees immediately gasped. She could hardly believe what had just been read. Just as you had expressed, she also had a “felt like running out of the room screaming” moment. And this is on account of reading from one of our big to-distribute-to-the-general-public books.

Likewise, in his commentary on the Gita, Srila Prabhupada had written some things that clearly rub even initiated devotees the wrong way. That is why, for example, some of our devotees who now teach at universities and get to use the Gita in their courses prefer to use other versions of the Gita instead of Srila Prabhupada’s. One I know of has said that on account of this he instead uses Tripurari Swami’s Gita commentary instead of Srila Prabhupada’s. What this shows is that not everything Srila Prabhupada himself said is pallatable to his own followers; some don’t accept all that he said and never will. At the very least, even among devotees, this shows that staying “on message” is easier said than done because not everyone agrees with the message itself.

You wrote:

I really do believe in varnasrama dharma as described in Srila Prabhupada’s books, both as a glorious past and an ideal future. I think you have gotten me wrong there. Again, my difference with you is probably more in the sense of how to get there from here, and also I probably am willing to be a lot more patient about it.

One place where we probably differ is in our sense of how successful devotees have been in the matter of transcending the modes of nature. It is likely that I don’t see our community in the West as having fared as well as you do. Even without considering the high-profile scandals that have rocked our movement, our devotees in the West have had a difficult time of maintaining a Krishna conscious way of life that is sufficient for them to make tangible spiritual progress. Sociologist, well-wisher, and long-time observer of ISKCON E Burke Rochford, Jr. had once written:

As we have seen, Prabhupada’s disciples, and those of his guru successors, only became further entangled in the outside culture during the 1980s and 1990s. As Prabhupada predicted, the absence of a functioning movement culture left ISKCON and its membership vulnerable to the influence of mainstream North American culture.

“Family Formation, Culture and Change in the Hare Krishna Movement.” ISKCON Communications Journal, 5.2 (Dec 1997)

What is happening nowadays is that devotees living in the West are trying to make their “peace” with with Western culture. That is why, for example, we find that among devotees who are Western by culture there is nowadays a huge demand for psychotherapy-based counseling. Formerly, bhakti was the only “cure” that would have been acceptable. Considering that much of psychotherapeutic counseling is based on various forms of existentialist philosophy, the movement toward Western culture also represents an imperceptible change to our core philosophical tenets. Overall, developments like this may “feel good” for the devotees jumping back into the Western way of life, perhaps in the same way that cocaine “feels good” to the fix-deprived junkie, but for both our movement itself and its core message, as intoned by Rochford, this is undesireable.

Devotees in the West are in a sense already conflicted to begin with. If we accept that culture is the external expression of ideology, then there is necessarily a set of powerful core beliefs, or ideas, that underlie Western culture. We may not be aware of what exactly those ideas are, but they are nevertheless there and they invisibly have our allegiance. They define how we look at the world, how we look at ourselves–they are at the core of what we believe to be our identity. In KC parlance, the technical term is ahankara, or false ego.

When we say, “I’m a Westerner,” or “I’m a Western devotee”, what does that really mean? Whenever we say “I am”, we are squarely in the realm of discussing false ego. Although false ego is a basic material substance, it nevertheless represents a set of “I am”-type core ideas and beliefs. when they come into contact with other, incompatible ideas and beliefs that are central to Krishna consciousness, for example, conflict arises. Although the conflict is phenomenally ideological, it is noumenally about our self identity (the “I am”), and that is why these online arguments sometimes seem a little more than figuratively like a life-or-death struggle. As seen here in this discussion, debates over issues of self-identity are often acrimonious because it is our very identity that is at stake.

In my opinion, it is because the ideological conflict is so deeply personal that we are prone to making some very profound logical errors and and persist in making them despite the errors being pointed out. One such common error is to mistake a principled objection with an objection in principle. A principled objection is where we object to something because of something incidental to it. For example, we object to throwing knives in public because someone might get hurt. If no one would get hurt on account of throwing knives, then we wouldn’t object to it. An objection in principle, on the other hand, is where the thing in question is itself objectionable. Under no circumstances is whatever it is we object to to be allowed. Srila Prabhupada’s objection to polygamy is an example of a principled objection. You wrote:

Not everything Srila Prabhupada said about these cultural things were intended for us to implement. For example, at one time he considered allowing polygamy in ISKCON (he has written favorably about it in his books), but then soon afterward he changed his mind. Srila Prabhupada decided against polygamy in ISKCON.

However, many devotees don’t actually share Srila Prabhupada’s reasoning on this point. Because they are Westerers, their objection to polygamy is instead an objection in principle. Although on both sides an objection exists, the difference becomes significant when circumstances change–and they will change.

For example, if the objection to polygamy is essentially a principled objection, then as a matter of achieving our preaching and social objectives, we should be moving toward creating a society and influencing society at large such that, eventually, this principled objection will no longer remain. However, if we object to polygamy in principle, then we will oppose the changes that get us to that end point.

In my opinion, that is why, for example, a number of devotees are opposed in principle to the notion of arranged marriages. The mentality required for an arranged marriage to succeed requires some greater personal distance between husband and wife than we might find in companionate marriage. The marriage is based more on “duty” than on “companionship”, and that kind of shared mentality is necessary for a polygamous marriage to work. (It also makes marriages that are between a single man and single woman more stable, too.) This greater emotional distance between husband and wife goes against the very Western notion of “soul mate”, or companionate marriage, and that is itself a very strike against notions of who we are. Therefore we find that a number of devotees not only oppose polygamy but they oppose anything that would actually make it unobjectionable. Consequently, they also openly oppose efforts to publically promote within our society arranged marriage as the superior form of marriage.

Conflict over ideas that are at the heart of our various self-conceptions, or egos, are bound to be acrimonious because such conflict is fundamentally an existential struggle, or a struggle for one’s very existence. If you change some idea by which you define yourself, then you yourself also change. Therefore the conflict is existential, and such existential debates are necessarily bitter. In a verbal existential conflict, “death” is when a devotee decides that on account of an idea he perceives as intrinsic to Krishna consciousness and which he can no longer accept, he decides he is no longer a devotee. So the stakes are high. Yet because such debates touch on ideas that are at the root of our own self-identity, they are necessarily among the most important kinds of philosophical discussions we will ever have.

Despite the fact these discussions are often bitter, laced with innuendo and name-calling, and contain the very real possibility that there will be some casualties in the form of people losing faith, we should nevertheless have them because they bring to light important facets about ourselves which we otherwise would be ignorant of. We therefore cannot afford to not have such debates.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 21st, 2006
138 Unregistered

Dear Akruranatha Prabhu,

Dandavats. Hare Krsna. Regarding some of your comments in post #136: I have to admit that I haven’t been reading the Krsna book very much as of late, but if my memory serves me correctly, Rukmini was around 13 or 14 years old when she requested Lord Krsna to kidnap and marry her. Also, I seem to recall that SP said girls should be married by at least age 16. (Our daughter was engaged at age 19 and was 20 at the time of her marriage and a pure, untouched virgin, a kumari.) Although your concern about publicly discussing early marriage for girls (or other similar cultural subjects) is on one level understandable, in that the Zeitgeist will undoubtedly howl loudly and cry foul at the notion of girls marrying young, say around the time of puberty, it amazes me how those same folks (primarily the liberal elite) remain almost as quiet as church mice about the fact that oral sex in junior high schools is common-place activity. They may complain about our ideas when presented to them but the behavior they have created and condone is abominable. Naturally the materialists won’t like our Vedic concepts of social interaction since they have arranged everything for maximum sense gratification whereas the social system given to us by Krsna is designed to reduce the deadly fever of material enjoyment. By the way, you made it common knowledge in an earlier post that you voted twice for President B. C., who is widely known to have popularized the sexual activities that have captivated youngsters in America as mentioned above. :) or :( Although James Dobson, one of the leaders of a conservative Christian group, Focus on the Family, makes efforts to bring a broad range of social maladies to light, I have gotten the impression from some of your previous comments that you are not fond of folks like him. Possibly I misunderstood you. STD’s (which routinely manifest in horrible symptoms like herpes sores in their throats) are at almost epidemic levels among 11, 12, and 13 year olds. These disgusting things are the totally understandable consequences of what young children are exposed to in our modern, secular, and highly sexually-charged society. This nearly all-pervading sexual permissiveness is precisely why the sexually suggestive clothing in the not- so-soft porn advertising brochures of stores like Abercrombie and Fitch appeal to ever younger audiences. It is no longer rare, especially among city-dwelling families, for parents to purchase thong underwear for their 8 and 9 year old daughters. SP describes this modern lifestyle that surrounds us as a “free mixing, lusty society.” To point out how degrading all this illicit sex is and to emphasize a far superior lifestyle is part of our preaching. It should not be all we talk about but we shouldn’t be afraid of pointing out the defects of modern society and directing the innocent to a better way of life.

The essence of what I hear Krsna Kirti Prabhu saying is “you can’t hit a target you can’t see.” I don’t disagree with you at all that we should continue to emphasize the basics that we all grew up with in Krsna consciousness. Of course that all has to be there. But at the same time I agree with Krsna Kirti Prabhu that we simultaneously need to point to Krsna’s way of doing things, His culture. The more we, as practicing Vaisnavas, can adopt in our own lives the behavior patterns that reflect how Krsna prefers humans to act and to interact, and pass them on to our children, the better. Srila Prabhupada gave us Bhagavat-dharma, Pancaratriki Vidhi, and varnasrama dharma. IMHO, we need to emphasize and work at applying all three of the above in our lives simultaneously and encourage others to do so.

SP describes the protection of women as a preliminary condition for spiritual progress. This is what I believe Krsna Kirti Prabhu is trying to say. Please consider the following statements from SP:

“So modern civilization is not strictly following the Vedic injunction. Therefore, especially I have seen in the Western countries, there is no home practically. There is no homely happiness, because women are allowed to mix freely and there is no protection. They are not married, there is no husband. The father also does not take care. As soon as the girl becomes fifteen, sixteen years, she goes away. Therefore I have practically seen there is no home, there is no peace in the Western countries. These are very important things, that soft-hearted woman, vama-svabhava, they should be given protection. They should be trained up how to become faithful wife, affectionate mother. Then the home will be very happy, and without happiness we cannot make any spiritual progress. We must be peaceful. This is the preliminary condition. Therefore, as far as possible, the Vedic injunction is there should be division in the society, varnasrama….Varnasramacaravata. Because the whole aim is to reach the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Visnu.”

Comment posted by Haripada dasa on December 22nd, 2006
139 Unregistered

Dear Krsna Kirti and Akruranath Prabhus,
Dandavats. Hare Krsna.
Now that the two of you are considering meeting in person some day I have a suggestion. Since North Carolina could be said to be, well, sort of between California and New Mexico, how about if we send each of you a round trip ticket at our expense, pick you up at the airport and arrange accommodations for both of you in our home? Heck, why not bring your wives as well?! I’m game to provide all four tickets. By the way, my wife, Phalini devi, is an excellent cook, and I have been known to make decent pallak paneer subji with unlimited puris and tasty fist-sized gulabjamons. If that menu doesn’t work, you two write up one and we’ll cook it. Also, Phalini knows many wonderful mahamantra melodies on harmonium so we’ll have tons of kirtan, lots of prasadam, and ecstatic discussions on how to expand this wonderful Sankirtan movement given to us by Srila Prabhupada. And of course we’ll invite plenty of devotees to join us and make it a grand festival. What do you say, fellas? We can work out the dates, no problem. Let’s do it. What do you say?

Comment posted by Haripada dasa on December 22nd, 2006
140 krishna-kirti

[Note to editor and/or readers: because of an improperly closed blockquote tag, the formatting of comment #137 is incorrect and has actually excluded some text. To the editor: please use this properly formatted text to replace #137 (and PLEASE get a preview button so the user can catch this!). To readers: If this appears as a separate comment, then this is instead of #137]

Dear Akruranath Prabhu, Hare Krishna.

In comment #136, you wrote that you don’t have “trust-issues” with me. That is good to know, and likewise, I would also like to meet you in person some day. If anything, despite the polemical nature of our exchanges, I’ll count this last one as some significant progress. Overall, your responses could be enapsulated in these two remarks:

What I meant to say is, if you are preaching that women should not own property, are to be considered like chattle, must always be treated as children, etc., a modern audience most anywhere at least in the industrialized world today will likely distrust you. At least, I believe that. (Not that *I* distrust your motives.)

. . .

My conviction is, we need to stay “on message” with these kinds of simple things, and more drastic cultural changes should be stressed only if necessary (and I do not see any necessity).

Certainly, I agree with you on this point. And I also generally do not make points that newcomers are likely to find unpallatable. However, what seems not to be clear is that even though we are devotees and have read all of Srila Prabhupada’s books, whenever we speak to devotees or write something for their consideration we also, in effect, “preach” to them, too. And as devotees, we do need to be preached to–especially those of us who know we aren’t the body but have not yet fully realized that.
What happens is that in discussions where the audience is comprised of seasoned hands, we do not clearly separate differing levels of message. Some devotees expect that what is discussed among devotees should be little different from what the casual Sunday feast visitor is prepared to accept. In one sense, that kind of expectation will be there because, as individuals, how surrendered are we–really?

When I hear you talk about girls getting pregnant at 10 or 12 years old, though, I have to admit I feel like running out of the room screaming. If Srila Prabhupada said something about that in the Krishna book (I don’t remember reading that), I still have to think he would not recommend ISKCON in America to implement such a thing.

Your reaction is not atypical even for devotees. I remember once at my home, while hosting an open preaching program where devotees and guests were welcome to come, we read from the Krishna book. In the chapter of the Krishna book on the gopis’ rasa dance with Krishna, there was this statement:

At that time, many of the gopis were married, because in India, especially in those days, girls were married at a very early age. There are even many instances of a girl giving birth to a child at the age of twelve. (Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Ch. 29)

As this was recited, one of our initiated devotees immediately gasped. She could hardly believe what had just been read. Just as you had expressed, she also had a “felt like running out of the room screaming” moment. And this is on account of reading from one of our big to-distribute-to-the-general-public books.

Likewise, in his commentary on the Gita, Srila Prabhupada had written some things that clearly rub even initiated devotees the wrong way. That is why, for example, some of our devotees who now teach at universities and get to use the Gita in their courses prefer to use other versions of the Gita instead of Srila Prabhupada’s. One I know of has said that on account of this he instead uses Tripurari Swami’s Gita commentary instead of Srila Prabhupada’s. What this shows is that not everything Srila Prabhupada himself said is pallatable to his own followers; some don’t accept all that he said and never will. At the very least, even among devotees, this shows that staying “on message” is easier said than done because not everyone agrees with the message itself.

You wrote:

I really do believe in varnasrama dharma as described in Srila Prabhupada’s books, both as a glorious past and an ideal future. I think you have gotten me wrong there. Again, my difference with you is probably more in the sense of how to get there from here, and also I probably am willing to be a lot more patient about it.

One place where we probably differ is in our sense of how successful devotees have been in the matter of transcending the modes of nature. It is likely that I don’t see our community in the West as having fared as well as you do. Even without considering the high-profile scandals that have rocked our movement, our devotees in the West have had a difficult time of maintaining a Krishna conscious way of life that is sufficient for them to make tangible spiritual progress. Sociologist, well-wisher, and long-time observer of ISKCON E Burke Rochford, Jr. had once written:

As we have seen, Prabhupada’s disciples, and those of his guru successors, only became further entangled in the outside culture during the 1980s and 1990s. As Prabhupada predicted, the absence of a functioning movement culture left ISKCON and its membership vulnerable to the influence of mainstream North American culture.

“Family Formation, Culture and Change in the Hare Krishna Movement.” ISKCON Communications Journal, 5.2 (Dec 1997)

What is happening nowadays is that devotees living in the West are trying to make their “peace” with with Western culture. That is why, for example, we find that among devotees who are Western by culture there is nowadays a huge demand for psychotherapy-based counseling. Formerly, bhakti was the only “cure” that would have been acceptable. Considering that much of psychotherapeutic counseling is based on various forms of existentialist philosophy, the movement toward Western culture also represents an imperceptible change to our core philosophical tenets. Overall, developments like this may “feel good” for the devotees jumping back into the Western way of life, perhaps in the same way that cocaine “feels good” to the fix-deprived junkie, but for both our movement itself and its core message, as intoned by Rochford, this is undesireable.

Devotees in the West are in a sense already conflicted to begin with. If we accept that culture is the external expression of ideology, then there is necessarily a set of powerful core beliefs, or ideas, that underlie Western culture. We may not be aware of what exactly those ideas are, but they are nevertheless there and they invisibly have our allegiance. They define how we look at the world, how we look at ourselves–they are at the core of what we believe to be our identity. In KC parlance, the technical term is ahankara, or false ego.

When we say, “I’m a Westerner,” or “I’m a Western devotee”, what does that really mean? Whenever we say “I am”, we are squarely in the realm of discussing false ego. Although false ego is a basic material substance, it nevertheless represents a set of “I am”-type core ideas and beliefs. when they come into contact with other, incompatible ideas and beliefs that are central to Krishna consciousness, for example, conflict arises. Although the conflict is phenomenally ideological, it is noumenally about our self identity (the “I am”), and that is why these online arguments sometimes seem a little more than figuratively like a life-or-death struggle. As seen here in this discussion, debates over issues of self-identity are often acrimonious because it is our very identity that is at stake.

In my opinion, it is because the ideological conflict is so deeply personal that we are prone to making some very profound logical errors and and persist in making them despite the errors being pointed out. One such common error is to mistake a principled objection with an objection in principle. A principled objection is where we object to something because of something incidental to it. For example, we object to throwing knives in public because someone might get hurt. If no one would get hurt on account of throwing knives, then we wouldn’t object to it. An objection in principle, on the other hand, is where the thing in question is itself objectionable. Under no circumstances is whatever it is we object to to be allowed. Srila Prabhupada’s objection to polygamy is an example of a principled objection. You wrote:

Not everything Srila Prabhupada said about these cultural things were intended for us to implement. For example, at one time he considered allowing polygamy in ISKCON (he has written favorably about it in his books), but then soon afterward he changed his mind. Srila Prabhupada decided against polygamy in ISKCON.

However, many devotees don’t actually share Srila Prabhupada’s reasoning on this point. Because they are Westerers, their objection to polygamy is instead an objection in principle. Although on both sides an objection exists, the difference becomes significant when circumstances change–and they will change.

For example, if the objection to polygamy is essentially a principled objection, then as a matter of achieving our preaching and social objectives, we should be moving toward creating a society and influencing society at large such that, eventually, this principled objection will no longer remain. However, if we object to polygamy in principle, then we will oppose the changes that get us to that end point.

In my opinion, that is why, for example, a number of devotees are opposed in principle to the notion of arranged marriages. The mentality required for an arranged marriage to succeed requires some greater personal distance between husband and wife than we might find in companionate marriage. The marriage is based more on “duty” than on “companionship”, and that kind of shared mentality is necessary for a polygamous marriage to work. (It also makes marriages that are between a single man and single woman more stable, too.) This greater emotional distance between husband and wife goes against the very Western notion of “soul mate”, or companionate marriage, and that is itself a very strike against notions of who we are. Therefore we find that a number of devotees not only oppose polygamy but they oppose anything that would actually make it unobjectionable. Consequently, they also openly oppose efforts to publically promote within our society arranged marriage as the superior form of marriage.

Conflict over ideas that are at the heart of our various self-conceptions, or egos, are bound to be acrimonious because such conflict is fundamentally an existential struggle, or a struggle for one’s very existence. If you change some idea by which you define yourself, then you yourself also change. Therefore the conflict is existential, and such existential debates are necessarily bitter. In a verbal existential conflict, “death” is when a devotee decides that on account of an idea he perceives as intrinsic to Krishna consciousness and which he can no longer accept, he decides he is no longer a devotee. So the stakes are high. Yet because such debates touch on ideas that are at the root of our own self-identity, they are necessarily among the most important kinds of philosophical discussions we will ever have.

Despite the fact these discussions are often bitter, laced with innuendo and name-calling, and contain the very real possibility that there will be some casualties in the form of people losing faith, we should nevertheless have them because they bring to light important facets about ourselves which we otherwise would be ignorant of. We therefore cannot afford to not have such debates.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 22nd, 2006
141 krishna-kirti

Haripada Prabhu’s remarks unmask some of the true nastiness of modern civilization and the duplicity of its more liberal members in accommodating it. They have no problem with a man having sex with two girlfriends. But having two wives? “Oh–sinful!” Just see the hypocrisy. And yes, in this society, girls around the age of 12 also get pregnant. The difference is nowadays they are generally unmarried, but in the Krishna book they were.

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 22nd, 2006
142 krishna-kirti

It is interesting to note how some want to “run out of the room screaming” when we bring up the notion that girls around 10 or 12 years old should be married, yet when some suggest that we should accommodate the homosexual lifestyle, under the label of phrases like “gay monogamy” for example, then that’s fine with them. They have a topsy-turvy notion of civilization.

Never mind that Srila Prabhupada himself on more than one occaision had something like a “running out of the room screaming” moment when he encountered the notion of accommodating homosexual behavior.

Prabhupada: Now the priestly order supporting homosex. I was surprised. They are going to pass resolution for getting married between man to man. The human society has come down to such a degraded position. It is astonishing. When I heard from Kirtanananda Maharaja there is a big conference for passing this resolution. In India still, if there somebody hears about homosex (makes sound of breathing out). Homosex is there but nobody will support publicly. (indistinct) People are going down and this is the subject matter for priestly order? It may be subject matter for the legislator, priestly order, they are discussing for one week. Just imagine. Phalena pariciyate, one has to study by the result. Not that superficially you show that ‘We are very much advanced.’ Phalena, what is the result? Phalena pariciyate, your, that is in English word also, end justifies the means. The end is this (indistinct) ‘We are going to support homosex.’ Getting married. There are many cases the priestly order has actually got married. I read it in that paper, Watch, what is called?

Devotees: Watchtower.

Prabhupada: Watchtower. They have complained (?). So we have nothing to (indistinct) them. The world is degrading to the lowest status, even less than animal. The animal also do not support homosex. They have never sex life between male to male. They are less than animal. People are becoming less than animal. This is all due to godlessness. Harav abhaktasya kuto mahad-guna, godless civilization cannot have any good qualities. Harav abhaktasya kuto mahad-guna mano rathena asato dhavato. They simply go to the untruth by mental speculation.

(Conversation with Srila Prabhupada and the GBC—Los Angeles, May 25, 1972)

Comment posted by krishna-kirti on December 22nd, 2006
143 Akruranatha

Dear Haripada Prabhu:

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

Thank you very much for your warm invitation for Jagarini and I (and Krishna Kirti) to visit with you and your good wife in North Carolina.

I am sure we will some day get to North Carolina and would love to come visit with you when we do (I am getting a little old for fist-sized gulabjamuns, though). :-)

As for arranging a special meeting in North Carolina with Krishna Kirti, I am sorry but I cannot make such a trip in the foreseeable future. :-(

It would be fun, and I wish I could do it. But my wife won’t let me. (Just kidding) :-) ROFL!

I am sure I will see you both together during a festival sometime in Mayapur or Vrndavana (which really in many ways have more in common to our homes in California and New Mexico than North Carolina does).

I do want to continue this conversation and I hope to respond to Krishna Kirti’s and your last few posts as time permits.

I have been traveling for business, traveling for holiday, entertaining out-of-town guests, and suffering from ill health and technical difficulties (power failure, backup generator failure). Please be patient.

Your servant, Akruranatha dasa

Comment posted by Akruranatha on December 29th, 2006
144 Unregistered

Haribol Akruranathji,
I hope you are feeling better these days. Just a couple of brief points. If I scared you off with the vision of huge gulabs, I can make them golf-ball size if that would work better for you, should you reconsider my offer to come visit us. I will just compensate by making the curd patties larger in the palak paneer subji. :) And if you still decline to come, well of course we would like very much to see you in the Holy Dhama one of these days.

Regarding your plan to respond to my post, please take it easy on me, ok? I’m obviously no intellectual titan like you and our Krsna Kirti Prabhu. :) Haribol.

Yours in the service of Srila Prabhupada,

Haripada dasa

Comment posted by Haripada dasa on January 3rd, 2007
145 Akruranatha

Jaya Haripada Prabhu,

Dandavats. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Jagarini and I do look forward to seeing you and Phalini in North Carolina someday. I cannot say when we will be there, but if we are going to be anywhere in the area we will definitely let you know. Also, please let us know if you are coming anywhere near the San Francisco Bay Area.

Please do not worry about me “taking it easy” on you. :-) I am always subordinate to you, even if we do not agree about everything.

Really, my intention was never to be contentious. I do not want to “defeat” anyone, and I am appreciating so many points of view. If I can write something that increases unity and cooperation while pleasing all the devotees, I will count it as very successful.

I seem to be mostly “talked out” for the time being anyway. I want to write something now just to “keep my hand in” and keep the conversation going, but I have not even begun trying to write many of the things I am thinking about. There is a lot of stuff marinating in my mind, but it seems I am taking a breather before I try to express them here.

Regarding “Focus on the Family” and similar groups, it is not that I really don’t like them, at least not in principle.

(I honestly do not know much about that particular group, but you are correct that there is something that makes me uncomfortable about most of the American religious right: Pat Robertson, Bob Jones University, even Jerry Fallwell creeps me out. There is something annoyingly self-righteous and hypocritical about so many of these meat-eating “Christians”. Don’t you find?)

I think it is natural and proper that many devotees, if they get involved at all in mundane politics, will gravitate toward promoting conservative morality. I hope they do a better job of it than the Pat Robertsons of the world.

I do not want to write too much about mundane U.S. politics, but I have long felt that the Democrats have foolishly conceded the high ground on many religious and “family values” issues to the Republicans and the religious right. As a Democrat I want my party to take some of that territory back.

But as devotees we are way above this Democrat/Republican, Labor/Tory business.

(I should say that, as a lawyer, what disturbed me most about Clinton and “Lewinsky-gate” was not his appalling inability to keep his zipper zipped, but his disgracefully untruthful testimony under oath in the Paula Jones case.)

We ISKCON devotees have so much more to offer the public than the politicians do. People in general need to know about Bhagavad Gita. They need to know about the Maha Mantra. The wholesome life of sense control and Krishna consciousness is something we will continue to offer primarily through direct preaching rather than through the political process. I think we all agree on that.

Many of the factors that have destroyed the American family are not things that could be checked by legislation or political policies, anyway. (I think Krishna Kirti recognized this earlier in his discussion of the Comstock Act regulating birth control: the laws were following social and cultural changes and not the other way around).

It used to be that devotees were so separate from “karmi” society that we were mostly apolitical. We never voted or were affiliated with any political parties. We hardly even read newspapers. Probably that is as it should be, at least in brahmacari life.

If we are going to have judges wearing tilak, though, they will have to be associated with political parties, in most countries. Someday, we may well have devotees running for congress, senate, president. We can have devotees serve as cabinet secretaries or chairmen of the Federal Reserve Board or the IMF. Why not?

Granted, when I say “I am an American, I am a lawyer, I am a Democrat, I am a man, I am 48 years old”, etc., etc. those discussions are all in the realm of false ego. These are external, temporary designations, and my real identity is “eternal servant of Krishna.”

When we talk about our different positions in varnasrama society, though, we are necessarily taking into account certain external, temporary designations. (In satya yuga there was only one varna.)

On the other hand, I guess certain categories like “American” or “Democrat” (or even “lawyer”) do not fit neatly into the designations according to varna and asrama.

Anyway, Haripada, it sounds from what you and Phalini have written that you have an outstanding marriage and have done a great job raising your daughter. You should be commended and I am already on record saying so.

I want to continue the discussion about ISKCON and Vedic culture, child marriages and child pregnancies, etc., later as time permits, but I am taking a hiatus for the time being. I am eager to take the matter up later in the spirit of friendship and respect for all followers of Srila Prabhupada.

Your servant, Akruranatha dasa

Comment posted by Akruranatha on January 4th, 2007

Comments are closed. Please check back later.

 
 
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