Women, ISKCON, and Varnashram

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By Sita Pati Das

It has become fashionable to accuse Srila Prabhupada, and by extension the entire Gaudiya Vaisnava Guru parampara, of being socially conditioned. Of course, if we want to separate Srila Prabhupada’s presentation from that of the previous acaryas it is pointless to talk about him at all because he loses all relevance. His claim to fame is the presentation of Gaudiya Vaisnava Siddhanta according to parampara. Here I attempt to demonstrate that what Srila Prabhupada presents in terms of proposed social arrangement for advancement of Krishna Consciousness on a mass scale is on authorised and enjoined by the Lord and the acaryas. Further to that I wish to examine on the basis of logic and reasoning the implications of the instructions given by the Lord and the Guru parampara. I also wish to humbly offer my realizations on why this backlash is taking place, and how the issues that give rise to it may be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties.

The accusation leveled against Srila Prabhupada is that he is socially conditioned by Indian culture, especially with reference to the role of women in society and their social relations. We are faced with the fact that there are significant psycho-physical differences between men and women. To try to artificially make men and women equivalent is to deny the variegatedness that reflects the impetus of rasa in the spiritual world. At the same time, to view men and women as unequal is to fail to view all living entities as Brahman, spirit-soul. So simultaneously we have quality and non-equivalence. Therefore, men and women must exist in a social setting where they play different roles according to their psycho-physical condition, and both are equally catered for in terms of their spiritual needs. Many different possible social arrangements exist, each with its own merits and demerits depending on one’s angle of vision, and the goal of society.

We should never forget what Srila Prabhupada taught us - your life has a goal, and society by extension also has a goal. What is that goal? Well, for different people it is different things. According to the different conceptions of the self, people conceive of different duties in relation to that conception of self. For us in Srila Prabhupada’s house, our goal is to go back home, back to Godhead. Actually our goal is not even that. Our goal is to send everyone else back home, back to Godhead. Therefore we need a social arrangment that reflects that goal and facilitates achieving it.

Srila Prabhupada accepted, upon the instruction of his guru Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, the social arrangement of daivi varnashrama-dharma. In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna states that He creates the four divisions of human society, according to the mixture of modes a particular person is born under. There is no mention made of the division of the human society into male and female, because it is quite obvious to the reader that this has been done, whereas the division according to modal quality is less apparent to the blunt senses. No instructions are given as to the specific duties of women.

Where then does Srila Prabhupada get his ideas about the nature and duties of women and men? Many examples of the manifestation of the relationship between male and female in varnashram-dharma are found in the Srimad Bhagavatam. The essence of this social relationship was still reflected in the social organization of the India of Srila Prabhupada’s youth, and thus he would often make reference to it as a contemporary example of varnashram-dharma in action. This is quite different from being socially conditioned to accept it. Many others were unable to spread Krishna Consciousness in the West precisely because they were socially conditioned in that they were unable to adjust the program according to time, place, and circumstances. Srila Prabhupada’s expert implementation of Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition in the West showed that while he was aware of the benefits of the social arrangement of varnashram-dharma, he was also not attached to it.

The individual can go home without varnashram-dharma. You can go back to Godhead without adopting the gender roles of varnashram-dharma in this lifetime. It is possible. At the same time, if we really want everyone to go back to Godhead, then a varnashram society is the way to facilitate that. The acaryas have been quite clear in this matter. So many other social arrangements are possible, but what is the widescale effect of them? What the implications of a given social arrangement on a mass scale for the spiritual life of the individual? How will it affect their inclination and ability to engage in spiritual cultivation? These things are unknown, and unknowable for minute living entities in advance of the mass adoption of a given structure. Therefore, a working structure has been given that facilitates return to Godhead for the general society. As Srila Prabhupada would say to people: Yes, there may be other ways, but why don’t you just take this? If you are sincere, we are offering this - why not take it?

One should perform one’s own duty without attachment. It is better to face destruction in the course of performance of one’s own duty than to follow the path of another. Why? Because following the path of another does not guarantee progressive purification of material conditioning. That is the purpose of varnashram-dharma. Other social arrangements encode within them the central goal of satisfying the material desires of the participants. Varnashram-dharma recognises this as a valid goal, but places it in a subordinate role to the central purpose of purifying participants of their material desires, and material identification. Under this perfect material arrangement the course of one’s own purification also contributes to the purification of others. Other systems may purify the individual, but they do not contribute to widespread social purification in the same way that varnashram-dharma does.

I submit that our present problems arise from an incomplete understanding of the real nature of the male-female roles and relationship in varnashram-dharma, and a dishonesty about our own qualifications. Without a deep understanding of the actual essence of this relationship and the necessary qualifications we have attempted to ape the external appearance and found it unsatisfactory. The varnashram-dharma model that Srila Prabhupada advocated should not be abandoned for other unproven model that we may concoct. We should not use our intelligence in a demonic fashion to oppose theh Lord’s agents, to find fault in them. We should try to understand how our implementation is faulty. A Vaisnava sees no faults in others, only in oneself.

One of the problems we encounter in presenting Prabhupada’s books are his statements that women are generally less intelligent than men. One thing we should bear in mind is that Prabhupada intended his books to be the standard for human society for the next ten thousand years. Prabhupada is stating the conditions in an ideal varnashram soceity, which we don’t have at the present point in time. To see where this society fails to meet the Vedic standard, it is not to the women that we should look, but to the men.

In Vedic society men control their senses according to a regulated program. This does not happen today. Therefore men have less intelligence than they have the potential to manifest. Although Prabhupada states that women are generally less intelligent, this may not be the case at the moment, hence Prabhupada’s qualification of the statement with the modifier generally. Or else he is referring to the “woman class” as less intelligent. Prabhupada is speaking in broad sociological terms about the general material society of conditioned living entities over a long period of time. We shouldn’t confuse our limited sense perceptions with the vision of a maha-bhagavat. When we try to put our perceptions into context with the statements of a maha-bhagavat then we are actually using our intelligence and our limited independence correctly.

That women are generally less intelligent does not translate into all women are less intelligent than all men, and I submit that at this point in time the exception can sometimes approach the rule. While recognising the limitations of our present circumstances, we should not lose sight of the proposed goal of varnashram-dharma implementation in society. We need to have faith that Prabhupada’s vision for the world is coming from Krishna. If we don’t, then what is the point in hearing anything from him? Prabhupada made that very clear - you cannot pick and choose. Either accept it all or reject it all. The mind is imperfect and when it attempts to discriminate amongst knowledge in that way it will do so according to its conditioning. Therefore one surrenders totally to a bona-fide system of transcendental knowledge, and is therefore given protection from this tendency of the mind. Either we accept Prabhupada as the captain of the ship or not. Let’s not try to have some half-way house - hot or cold, not an attempt to remain in a luke warm mix of Prabhupada’s instruction and our own imperfect speculation by claiming that in some respects he is “socially conditioned”, while in others he is speaking the absolute truth. We are the ones who are socially conditioned.

This controversy has arisen out of a lack of faith that what Prabhupada has said in this regard is true, when it clashes with our limited sense perceptions. We can accept information that is contrary to our sense perceptions when we have faith in the source. The lack of faith in Prabhupada has arisen through our miscomprehension and misapplication of his instructions. This miscomprehension, applied under the justification that “Prabhupada has said!” has caused a negative association to arise in the hearts of many. Not only in this regard, but in many other issues as well. We should not, however, mistake the baby for the bathwater and throw both out together.

We should never have made the mistake of thinking that women are inferior to men in the varnashram system. This is a conception from our social conditioning that we have imposed on Srila Prabhupada’s description. As soon as we hear “less intelligent” we automatically think and act: “inferior”. Intelligence means the ability to discriminate. If it is the case that women have a less developed ability to discriminate than men how does that make them inferior? It is our tendency to use this as a mechanism to lord it over that gives rise to the association. Even in Vedic civilisation where it is the case that women are generally less intelligent than the men they are never inferior. Women appear as subordinate to men, but at the same time men are reliant on women for everything. Actually, women are worshiped in Vedic society. Every women is regarded as one’s mother, and one’s mother is worshipable. What to speak of the current manifestation of maya where the reverse can often be the case, where men can be less intelligent than women. We find that many women are more receptive to Krishna Consciousness because they have more humility and less propensity to be the enjoyer. Intelligence means the ability to discriminate, and real intelligence means discriminating between spirit and matter. Therefore, according to Srila Prabhupada’s standard, by their actions they are among the most intelligent.

Women on the other hand are more compassionate. Witness Draupadi’s treatment of Asvattama. They generally have less intelligence and they generally have more compassion. A pita constituted body, according to Ayurveda, has less water and more fire. Why is it that we impose no conception of inferior in that case, but automatically do so when we hear that “women have less intelligence”? The answer lies in the same explanation that Prabhupada gave of the interaction between the varnas. It is not that brahmanas are superior to to the other social roles. They are all equally necessary, but the brahmanas are especially respected because they provide spiritual guidance to society. At the same time, a real brahmana offers all respects to others and expects no respect in return. This is not always the case, as we see in many historical examples in the Bhagavatam, but nonetheless it remains the ideal standard. Due to the deterioration of the Kali yuga the caste brahmanas began to develop a superiority comples and thus they lost all their good qualities. The brahmanas are reliant on the other social classes. They all exist in a mutually beneficial relationship.

Similarly, have to a large degree lost the good quality of their greater capacity for intelligence, men have retained a superiority complex through social conditioning. Along with this is a concomitant lack of humility that characterises all interactions in Kali Yuga. This is the age of quarrel and misunderstanding. Amongst all this, men have insisted that women live up to the Vedic standard of submission, chastity, and obedience, without insisting that they themselves live up to the terms of their varnashram contract: providing protection, well informed level-headed guidance and support. Varnashram is a social contract - all parties have to fulfill their obligations under the terms of the agreeement.

A woman’s traditional role, not just under varnashram-dharma but in the majority of societies, is to be submissive. This comes from the fact that women generally have more humility than men. Someone has to be humble. Actually, both husband and wife should be humble. That is the standard of the spiritual platform. However, on the way to the spiritual platform there needs to be an arrangement whereby disturbance can be minimised. Therefore, in society traditionally women have utilized their greater forbearance. humility, and tolerance to provide this peaceful social situation. Without this social chaos would have precipitated long ago. A woman’s applying her greater natural humility in submissiveness should never be mistaken for inferiority. Doing that has lead us to the mess we are in now. Actually she is serving a greater goal than her husband, who due to his conditioning has a body that mimics that of the Supreme Enjoyer. By her humility and submissiveness she actually trains him in service. First he is taught by his mother, and then by his wife. But he should be receptive to learning from this. He should be brought up to recognise it for what it is.

Srila Prabhupada’s sister, Srimati Bhavatarini, although herself an initiated Vaisnava, cooked fish for her husband for fifty years. After all this time he finally realised her greatness and accepted her as his spiritual master. She was qualified as his spiritual master as she had the humility and forbearance to do that activity without attachment or aversion. She was situated on the spiritual platform, performing her duty as a matter of course, just as Krishna instructs in the Bhagavad-gita.

Should we expect the women to be on that platform, performing their duties in accordance with varnashram-dhara while men are neglectful of theirs? Why should men expect women to be maha-bhagavats while they are not? There needs to be compromise, and understanding. We do not live in a perfect varnashram society and we are not all pure devotees. At the same time our compromise should be directed toward attaining the ideal varnashram society and pure devotion. It should be one of practical necessity in achieving the goal rather than one of expendiency in lowering or changing the standards whimsically to suit our present conditioning. In other words, it should be a working strategy that carries us forward, preserving and approaching the ideal while acknowledging and taking into account how our present reality does not meet with that ideal.

In varnashram society women are amply rewarded for their service in playing a submissive role, and that is what they are - spiritual beings playing a material role. They are given the facility to raise a family in a peaceful setting and to play a vital role in the socialization of children. The unique contribution they give in imparting the feminine qualities and values that predominate in their character to the future generation is recognised as the indispensable service to society that it is, and thus they are considered as one of the seven worshipable mothers. In fact, the seven worshipable mothers are named so after them. They have a strong sense of identity and self-worth as their contribution to society is acknowledged as equal to that of men. Without this input, society cannot go on.

Can society provide this for women today. within ISKCON or without? Obviously not. We have brought our social conditioning into the society from outside and in some instances interpreted Srila Prabhupada’s teachings according to it. When women’s unique contribution to society is acknowledged and valued and honored and reciprocated, then there can be equality of the sexes. Then there can be some form of material social stability. Women’s contribution to society should not be marginalized, undervalued, or denigrated under any pretext. These things do not come from Prabhupada or his teachings, they come from a socially conditioned conception of Prabhupada and his teachings.

The backlash has been against our misunderstanding of Prabhupada’s teachings and it has reflected badly on his character. Prabhupada was always a perfect gentleman, and no lady has come forward to complain about her treatment by him personally. The actions of the sons are to the credit or the disgrace of the father. Now the women do not want to help establish varnashram-dharma by taking up the roles and trying to apply them. Renunciation means performance of duties without attachment to results. It does not mean neglect of duty.

This has all come about due to a simplistic understanding of the nature of renunciation. Prabhupada gave us what we could take at the time and encouraged us to go as far as we could in the short time allotted to us. However we need to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the sublime and profound philosophy and culture that is his legacy to us.

Devotees are transcendental to varnashram-dharma. They adopt the roles in order to demonstrate to the general mass of people how to live. Everyone wants to be a hero though. We want to be a brahmacari or a sannyasi because these are the “glory ashrams”. The grhastas are fallen and inferior. In order to encourage marginally materially attached people to take up these ashrams, or stay in the case of brahmacarya, this aspect is there. Prabhupada spoke against attachment to family life, he never spoke against family life itself. Family life is also necessary, and therefore demonstration of family life without attachment is also necessary. Without this the movement cannot be successful. People will not take part in a movement that can only demonstrate what is for the majority of people extreme renunciation (that sometimes ends spectacularly), or dysfunctional family life. An artificial emphasis on renunciation leads to artificial renunciation. Whatever ashram we are manifesting for the benefit of the general mass of people, brahmacari, sannyasi, grhasta, or vanaprastha, we cannot be attached to it. We have to do it as a service to Krishna. As a conditioned living entity we can also benefit from the adoption of a particular ashram, but we need to become attached to doing it as a necessary service to Prabhupada and Krishna, rather than as something that we want to do. On the spiritual platform there is no difference between a brahmacari, a sannyasi, or a grhasta who is attached to the service of the Lord. Playing as a devotee Lord Caitanya adopted the role of a sannyasi in order to benefit the general populace, not because He desired some material gain, subtle or gross, for himself.

We need to recognise the important role that grhasta life plays in society, for it is here that the women’s contribution is in effect. Society means grhasta life. Without children and families and socialisation there is no society. Without renunciation and travelling preachers there is no Krishna Consciousness missionary work. We need both. Because family life and socialisation have been de-emphasized in the endeavour to introduce renunciation into a society that has only a dim historical recollection of it, the vital importance of women and their unique role has also been de-emphasized. Now we need to mature in our understanding of how a proper Krishna conscious balance between both, existing in a harmonious relationship, is needed for proper human society. The children are our future. In order to ensure the well-being of that future, as well as the renounced orders of life, we need to understand the roles we need to adopt in order to facilitate Krishna Conscious family life. These roles, for both men and women, need to be recognised by society at large as a valid and important service for pushing on this movement, without detracting from the importance of perceived prestige of the renounced orders. Women will not be happy as long as their unique contribution to society is marginalized. Without their input and active co-operation this movement has no future.

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1 Unregistered

Dear Sitapati prabhu, Thank you for your bravity in presenting the strong viewpoints that are current in the society. Although I am not sure if the grahastha ashram is looked down upon these days. Devotees have matured in last ten years and have been appreciating the duties of grahastha ashram.

The reason women are called less intelligent is because they are usually over powered by emotions whereas men have the faculty of higher discrimanatory judgements. In the same example of Draupadi, Srila Prabhupada also describes Draupadi over powered by emotions therefore asks Arjuna to make his manly decision of satisfying Draupadi and also rightfully punishing Aswasthama.
Another example Srila Prabhupada sites is how India is unfortunate that it was ruled by a women (meaning you know who). There again Srila Prabhupada notes that there were great women in the Vedic Past who were very capable and even pure devotees of Krsna but they never took up the managerial positions even though some were trained in the Kshatriya families.
So as you mentioned, materially we should act our roles according to the bodies that we are given but spiritually men and women are equal B.G 9.31 These roles are for social harmony and peace in the society.
Yes, Srila Prabhupada has specifically mentioned that it is very easy for women to take to Krsna Conciousness because by nature they are submissive.

I also want to comment on this particular point -
“Amongst all this, men have insisted that women live up to the Vedic standard of submission, chastity, and obedience, without insisting that they themselves live up to the terms of their varnashram contract: providing protection, well informed level-headed guidance and support. Varnashram is a social contract all parties have to fulfill their obligations under the terms of the agreeement.

This also very true in many East Indian families presently because of the kali-yuga. In the 11th canto in the section of Vedic Path, it is mentioned that husband is called pati-parmesvar because he is supposed to be representative of the Supreme Lord for the wife (therefore the word pati-guru). Same as the king and spiritual master are representative of the Supreme Lord. Therefore if the husband develops all the wonderful qualities of the Supreme Lord starting with kindness, then there will be no need for a women to take initiation from another guru. Pati Guru will suffice. But in the early days of Iskcon, Srila Pra

Comment posted by Mother Gandharidasi on February 26th, 2008
2 Unregistered

continuation - Srila Prabhupada created a brahamacharini ashram because in the west, it was normal for women to remain single, just as the women are used to having equal job oppertunities as men, so he did not mind them going out on book distribution on the streets etc. (brahmacharini ashram is unheard of in the vedic culture.

Even though I am from a Gujarati family, I was also personally preaching and doing so many duties in taking care of a small preaching center along with my husband including giving Sunday lectures in the ‘8Os. But as more qualified male devotees came forward to take up those roles, I am happy in taking on other duties like cooking and dressing the deities at the temple. But since I am a preacher, I cannot refrain, therefore by Krsna’s mercy, I am still teaching and preaching in subdued methods by internet etc.

So if we understand Prabupada’s mission and the stages of ISKCON’s growth, then we should wisely, in a mature and sober way, be happy to take on our traditional roles of women. We have many advantages in doing that because it is natural, pleasing to all including gurus, Krsna, Srila Prabhupada and the parampara, will be excellent example for our future generations expecially young girls. Moreover we want to follow in the footsteps of the gopies so we should meditate on Srimati Radharani’s 25 wonderful qualities which are:
sweet,
freshly youthful.
eyes are restless.
smiles brightly.
beautiful, auspicious lines.
makes Krishna happy with Her bodily aroma.
expert in singing.
speech is charming.
expert in joking and speaking pleasantly.
humble and meek.
full of mercy.
cunning.
executing Her duties.
shy
respectful
calm grave
enjoying life.
topmost level of ecstatic love.
reservoir of loving affairs in Gokula.
submissive
affectionate to elderly people.
submissive to the love of Her friends.
chief gopi.
keeps Krishna under Her control.

As women, the advice of Draupadi to the Queens of Dwarka is very eye opener. That advice is also possible to execute, if we have husbands following their roles as Sitapati has rightly stated. Thank you very much. YS Mother Gandhari dasi

Comment posted by Mother Gandharidasi on February 26th, 2008
3 Ajita Krishna Dasa

Pamho, agtSP! Wow! I can’t find anything I disagree with in this very important article. Thank you very much prabhu! Brilliant work! Ys, AKD

Comment posted by Ajita Krishna Dasa on February 26th, 2008
4 Madhava Ghosh dasa

One request — please use more paragraph breaks for online publication because it is harder to read on the screen than in print. My mind starts freaking out and wants to skip on when the paragraphs are big, because the eye gets lost.

Other than that, you make some subtle but very important distinctions that make a huge difference in how to understand what the guru was trying to accomplish.

Those who prefer black and white 25 word or less sound bite social formulas might have to reread what you are saying to understand how it impacts varna ashram in the 21st century.

Comment posted by Madhava Ghosh dasa on February 26th, 2008
5 sita-pati

I actually wrote this article 9 years ago, in 1999, so times were changing then and have continued to change since then…. Although some aspects of it are dated, when I found it in a box of old papers I thought enough of it was still relevant to feel inspired to share it. :-)

Comment posted by sita-pati on February 27th, 2008
6 Unregistered

PART 1

Dear Sita Pati Prabhu,

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

You provide no sastra to support the assertions that you make:

“The process of speaking in spiritual circles is to say something upheld by the scriptures. One should at once quote from scriptural authority to back up what he is saying. At the same time, such talk should be very pleasurable to the ear. By such discussions, one may derive the highest benefit and elevate human society. There is a limitless stock of Vedic literature, and one should study this. This is called penance of speech.” BG 17.15 p

We implore that the editors of Dandavats request writers of such essays to provide pramana for their assertions.

You state:

“The individual can go home without varnashram-dharma. You can go back to Godhead without adopting the gender roles of varnashram-dharma in this lifetime. It is possible. At the same time, if we really want everyone to go back to Godhead, then a varnashram society is the way to facilitate that. The acaryas have been quite clear in this matter.”

In the Feb 14, 1977 Varnashrama conversation in Mayapura, Srila Prabhupada specifically stated that he wanted to introduce Daivi Varnashrama in ISKCON basically because his disciples were falling down (a specific fall down of a sannyasi precipitated this) and he saw that his disciples needed to be elevated to kanistha adhikaries (first class brahmanas) by the process of daivi Varnashrama. So while anything is possible it doesn’t look like it is probable when even in the presence of SP disciples regularly fell down because they didn’t know how to properly behave and fulfill their prescribed duties or even know what their prescribed duties were.

Also in Goloka Vrndavana Krsna and His associate all practice Varnashrama Dharma, so one can NOT go back home until one gets training in how to live in Krsna’s culture otherwise you will simply not fit in. Hence it is mentioned in 10th canto that before going to Goloka the devotee must take birth in Gokula for more training in how to live in Krsna’s civilization.

continued…

Comment posted by Atmavidya Dasa on February 27th, 2008
7 Unregistered

PART 2

You wrote:

“In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna states that He creates the four divisions of human society, according to the mixture of modes a particular person is born under. There is no mention made of the division of the human society into male and female, because it is quite obvious to the reader that this has been done, whereas the division according to modal quality is less apparent to the blunt senses. No instructions are given as to the specific duties of women.”

What you have overlooked is that 1) Krsna is giving a condensed explanation of VAD to Arjuna who has a vast learning in Vedic literature hence such detail is not required 2) the Gita is a part of the Mahabharata which contains many instructions regarding VAD and the prescribed duties of women. If one only reads the Gita without reading the rest of the Mahabharata one may make so many speculations (as has been done) on what is the prescribed duty of women.

continued…

Comment posted by Atmavidya Dasa on February 27th, 2008
8 Unregistered

PART 3

You state:

“In Vedic society men control their senses according to a regulated program. This does not happen today. Therefore men have less intelligence than they have the potential to manifest. Although Prabhupada states that women are generally less intelligent, this may not be the case at the moment, hence Prabhupada’s qualification of the statement with the modifier generally.”

You imply that in the eternal Vedic society only men controlled their senses but not women. That it was because of this men were more intelligent, but now that they don’t there is no distinction and that women MAY be more intelligent than men. This is simply not so. In Vedic culture women as well as men are expected to practice sense control, it is not that the ladies of Vedic culture are characterized as having uncontrolled senses rather it is just the opposite. So if the men of kali yuga have less sense control then so do the women. Women in Kali yuga engage in just as much if not more nonsense than men. Hence your logic fails. In fact with the socalled women’s movement we have seen the steady increase of women taking to vices that previously was solely the male domain—women now smoke, drink, take drugs and engage in illicit sex as much as men. There are specific advertising campaigns that target women as in the Virginia Slims cigarette ad “you’ve come a long way baby” “long way” referring that before she was shackled by the patriarchy but is now “liberated” enough to smoke. (Brahmananda explained this add to Srila Prabhupada in a conversation.)

Please prove by sastra that kali yuga is gender specific in its effect. That somehow it only affects males and makes them degraded but doesn’t effect women who are miraculously impervious to it and hence in Kali yuga women become equal to and even superior to men.

All in all I found your presentation unsatisfying for too many reasons to list here. A much better explanation was done by Hari Sauri Prabhu in 2006 on this forum in the following two texts:

“Srila Prabhupada said that women are less-intelligent than men. Can we support this?”

http://www.dandavats.com/?p=600

And

“A response to Hari-kirtana prabhu regarding my article”

http://www.dandavats.com/?p=740

Your humble servant

Atmavidya Dasa

Comment posted by Atmavidya Dasa on February 27th, 2008
9 Akruranatha

Thanks for a very fine article Sita Pati Prabhu. You mention that you feel some of it has become “dated” since you wrote it in 1999, but it still seems pretty relevant to me. I am curious about what you feel has become dated.

One thing is, I could probably count on one hand the number of devotees who would say that Srila Prabhupada’s teaching about Varnasrama dharma are influenced by “social conditioning” and therefore faulty. I think almost all devotees in ISKCON agree that Srila Prabhupada was delivering Krishna’s message intact through the parampara, and would find the suggestion that his teachings about varnasrama were defective to be shocking.

On the other hand, Prabhupada himself stated (sorry I cannot provide the exact quote) that his work was not finished, or was only 50% finished, and indicated that establishment of varnasrama was something that he had not yet accomplished. He has left a good deal of work for us to do in this connection.

To do that work, it is good for faithful devotees to be able to discuss these things in a way that can unify and enlighten us. You are doing a good job. (I used to see Hare Krishna Dasi writing a lot about Varnasrama, but sadly it has been a while).

Atmavidya is concerned that you have not quoted a lot of sastric support for many of your statements. I felt that what you said seems to be supported by realization which you could back up by sastra if put to the test. And I also felt that you would be willing to reassess your views if someone with superior command and realization of sastra presented you with convincing counter-arguments.

I appreciate Atmavidya’s concern that we avoid speculation and deviation from received authoritative statements, and that there is a certain kind of discourse that involves quoting our sastric lawbooks to back up every proposition. (It reminds me of appellate legal briefs, where every factual statement must be supported by a citation to record evidence, and every legal point should be supported by a citation to legal authority.)

However, I respectfully disagree with Atmavidya’s suggestion that Dandavats should only publish such arguments. We should trust and encourage devotees to relate naturally and speak from their own realizations, so long as they recognize the proper mode of resolving disagreements.

Not every discussion is a debate. Debating tends to divide us. Your article affirmed Prabhupada’s authority in a unifying way.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on February 27th, 2008
10 sarvo

What it really all comes back around to is whether or not the men are willing to manage ojas shakti properly. Seminal continence is not a very popular topic but if understood and implemented can make a world of difference. Do you need scriptural references for this? If so, you can google “discharge semen” in the VedaBase and you’ll find fourteen convincing sections in the Srimad Bhagavatam where Srila Prabhupada is very clear about this.

Comment posted by sarvo on February 27th, 2008
11 Akruranatha

Varnasrama dharma can be viewed from different angles.

As theists and devotees of Krishna, we understand the world is running under the control of God. Nature is working under His supervision. He has established an order in the world, in the interaction of living beings. Through His agents, the demigods, He is supplying the necessities of a peaceful, prosperous way of life in which everyone can live righteously and make gradual progress toward spiritual perfection.

The animals are pretty much forced by nature to act in certain ways. There is a kind of Lion King “Circle of Life” going on, ordained by nature under the supervision of Krishna (mayadhyaksena prakrti).

Humans are also forced to act by their nature, but they have scope for deviation from their natural path. They are moral agents (unlike animals) and have to choose to act in accordance with their dharma, or suffer the consequences of vikarma.

As theistic devotees we fundamentally understand that an ideal society is possible, that because there is a God in control there is also a natural order of things, including a natural arrangement for righteous human civilization.

More than that, we understand that before the present Age of Quarrel, even at its outset during the reigns of Yudhisthira and Pariksit and Janmejaya, that ideal of righteous civilization was existing among the Aryans of India on this earth.

Materialist communists, or at least Marxian communists, look to primitive tribes as an example of ideal society free from the tyrannies of oppressive classes. They see nature’s law as impelling human society, through a history of class struggle, to an ideal of true communism in the future, without tyranny of feudal lords or capitalist robber-barrons, where each person “gives according to his means and takes according to his needs.”

However, devotees understand that the ideal of spiritual communism includes a natural division of society into basic social classes and spiritual orders, where everyone works according to his or her nature in cooperation for the satisfaction of Krishna, but there is no tyranny or oppression.

Saintly kings use force of arms to keep all the unrighteous from misbehaving, and the good mass of people can progress on the path of dharma, artha, kama, moksha, and, above all the fifth purushartha, devotional service.

One way to look at Varnasrama is as our social ideal according to the way God has manufactured the world.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on February 27th, 2008
12 Akruranatha

Sita-Pati writes:

>>We should never forget what Srila Prabhupada taught us - your life has a goal, and society by extension also has a goal.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on February 27th, 2008
13 Akruranatha

>>There is no mention made of the division of the human society into male and female, because it is quite obvious to the reader that this has been done, whereas the division according to modal quality is less apparent to the blunt senses. . .

Comment posted by Akruranatha on February 27th, 2008
14 sita-pati

Dear Atmavidya prabhu,

Thanks for your comments.

Jayananda Thakura, the first ISKCON saint, has his picture displayed on the Ratha carts of ISKCON Ratha yatras, and Srila Prabhupada asked that his disappearance day be observed on our Vaisnava calendar. He went back home, back to Godhead without varnashrama.

In the first canto Srila Prabhupada states:

“Taking into consideration the fallen condition of the people in general in this age of Kali, the sages of Naimisaranya suggested that Sri Suta Goswami relate the essence of all such scriptures because in this age it is not possible for the fallen souls to understand and undergo all the lessons of all these various scriptures in a varna and asrama system.” - Srimad Bhagavatam 1.1.11

So it is possible to go back home, back to Godhead without going through the varnasrama system.

At the same time, as you say, part of that process is training in Krishna’s lila, and the external organization of the spiritual world is varnashrama. That training can take place in another life.

Srila Prabhupada did want us to establish varnasrama, to make the way easier and the road broader, and I have supported this point in my presentation. I feel my point still stands.

Comment posted by sita-pati on February 27th, 2008
15 sita-pati

Atmavidya prabhu said:

“You imply that in the eternal Vedic society only men controlled their senses but not women. ”

No I do not - I explicitly state that in Vedic society men control their senses, and that outside ISKCON today they do not do so. Inside ISKCON inasmuch as they don’t do that they disqualify themselves from the traditional varnashram roles that require it.

You may draw some conclusion about women from this, but it is not something that I have said.

Comment posted by sita-pati on February 27th, 2008
16 sita-pati

Atmavidya dasa said:

“What you have overlooked is that 1) Krsna is giving a condensed explanation of VAD to Arjuna who has a vast learning in Vedic literature hence such detail is not required 2) the Gita is a part of the Mahabharata which contains many instructions regarding VAD and the prescribed duties of women. If one only reads the Gita without reading the rest of the Mahabharata one may make so many speculations (as has been done) on what is the prescribed duty of women.”

Directly following my statement that the Bhagavad-gita does not contain details of the prescribed duties of women I said:

“Many examples of the manifestation of the relationship between male and female in varnashram-dharma are found in the Srimad Bhagavatam. The essence of this social relationship was still reflected in the social organization of the India of Srila Prabhupada’s youth, and thus he would often make reference to it as a contemporary example of varnashram-dharma in action.”

So I think this echoes your point, although I prefer Bhagavatam as pramana over Mahabharata, on the recommendation of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Jiva Goswami.

Atmavidya prabhu, I feel that you are missing the point of the presentation. In Vedic discussion it is customary that before attempting to refute a presentation you first summarize it to the satisfaction of the presenter, to be sure that everyone is on the same page. Would you like to do that?

Comment posted by sita-pati on February 27th, 2008
17 Akruranatha

>>Devotees are transcendental to varnashram-dharma. They adopt the roles in order to demonstrate to the general mass of people how to live.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on February 27th, 2008
18 Akruranatha

Regarding Atmavidya Prabhu’s request for sastric evidence that an individual can go back to Godhead without varnasrama dharma, I can offer the following from the Purport to S.B. 2.4.18 (”kirata hunandhra paulinda . . .”)

“The system of caste, or varnasrama-dharma, is no longer regular even amongst the so-called followers of the system. Nor is it now possible to reestablish the institutional function in the present context of social, political and economic revolution. Without any reference to the particular custom of a country, one can be accepted to the Vaisnava cult spiritually, and there is no hindrance in the transcendental process. So by the order of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the cult of Srimad-Bhagavatam or the Bhagavad-gita can be preached all over the world, reclaiming all persons willing to accept the transcendental cult. Such cultural propaganda by the devotees will certainly be accepted by all persons who are reasonable and inquisitive, without any particular bias for the custom of the country.

* * *

“The conclusion is that the Lord, being all-powerful, can, under any and every circumstance, accept anyone from any part of the world, either personally or through His bona fide manifestation as the spiritual master. Lord Caitanya accepted many devotees from communities other than the varnasramites, and He Himself declared, to teach us, that He does not belong to any caste or social order of life, but that He is the eternal servant of the servant of the Lord who maintains the damsels of Vrndavana (Lord Krishna) [Cc. Madhya 13.80]. That is the way of self-realization.”

There are probably many such statements in Srila Prabhupada’s books. Of course Prabhupada did instruct us that he wanted to establish Daivi Varnasrama in ISKCON. I think Sita-Pati’s point is to help us try to do it correctly.

[The same Purport talks a great deal about how if the politicians would be guided by devotees of the Lord there would be a thorough change of heart in human beings all over the world.]

If we can really establish Daivi Varnasrama within ISKCON’s society and get a good understanding of how it works throughout the world, people will be very attracted and will desire to live in such a nice society, even at the cost of some so-called material opulence.

But in the mean time everyone in every condition should humbly be encouraged to chant Hare Krishna, worship Krishna, and read Prabhupada’s books, without prerequisites.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on February 27th, 2008
19 Unregistered

Atmavidya Prabhu, though you perfunctorily begin with “please accept my humble obeisances” and end with “your humble servant,” the tone of your letter is anything but humble. Following the instruction in the reference you yourself provided, which states that “quoting from scripture should be pleasurable to the ear,” could you not have addressed the points you disagree with and directed the reader to Hari Sauri Prabhu’s excellent articles in a manner that was more gracious and less demeaning and insulting? And, while demanding “pramana,” you yourself make the unsubstantiated, subjective statement that “women in Kali yuga engage in just as much if not more nonsense than men.” With rape and child abuse statistics being what they are, that is hardly the case. Overall, the unpalatable tone of your comment alienates the reader and undermines whatever points you are attempting to make.

Comment posted by Lalita Madhava d.d. on February 28th, 2008
20 Madhava Ghosh dasa

Atmavidya: “Please prove by sastra that kali yuga is gender specific in its effect. That somehow it only affects males and makes them degraded but doesn’t effect women who are miraculously impervious to it and hence in Kali yuga women become equal to and even superior to men.”

“But the present age of Kali is full of ignorant men. Even those who are born by a brahmana father are, in the present age, no better than the sudras or the women. ”

SB 1.3.21

Comment posted by Madhava Ghosh dasa on February 28th, 2008
21 sita-pati

To Akruranatha Prabhu in comment 9:

As to what has dated and how, I wrote it at a time that there was vocal criticism of Srila Prabhupada as being socially conditioned. There may only have been a handful of people who leveled this criticism at that time too, but they were very loud. :-)

Also, as Mother Gandharidasi points out in comment 1: I am not sure if the grhastha ashram is looked down upon these days.

Comment posted by sita-pati on February 28th, 2008
22 Kulapavana

Sita-pati Prabhu writes: “Devotees are transcendental to varnashram-dharma”. I have heard that sentence many, many times but in my almost 30 years of practice I have never met in person a single devotee whom I could consider to be truly above all varnas and all asramas. Perhaps this phrase need to be explained a little bit more clearly to make sense.

The article raises a lot of good points but since we are talking about a relative subject matter (social order according to time, place, and circumstances), there are many possible opinions. Ultimately things need to be judged by the results they produce. Utopian social models may be nice, but if they do not work in real life, they are essentially worthless. Instead of arguing about how we “devotees are transcendental to varnashram-dharma”, we should focus on our real duty: “adopt the proper social roles in order to demonstrate to the general mass of people how to live “. Are we - the society of devotees -an example for others to follow in the social sense? That is very, very debatable. Btw. that is another proof we devotees are NOT transcendental to varnashrama dharma. We have not even reached the level of varnashrama dharma, let alone the level of being transcendental to it.

Let’s be humble, let’s be realistic, and let’s not base our activities on fairytales and wishful thinking. The “woman issue” in our movement is just one part of our social pseudo-transcendence. Lets focus on giving society in general a proper example to follow. Lets start with having stable (no divorce), happy families, earning a living in socially responsible ways, raising and educating their children to be happy, well adjusted, and productive members of society. That is our duty. Transcendence will come later, when we actually fullfil our obligations. Work now, samadhi later.

y.s.

Comment posted by Kulapavana on February 28th, 2008
23 sita-pati

To Kulapavana prabhu in comment 22:

Thank you for addressing this common misconception.

Devotees are transcendental to varnashram-dharma” - this is a fact.

At the same time it is balanced by my statement: “As a conditioned living entity we can also benefit from the adoption of a particular ashram, but we need to become attached to doing it as a necessary service to Prabhupada and Krishna, rather than as something that we want to do.

A devotee is considered in terms of their potential. Just as a prince may be considered as “the most powerful man in the Kingdom” although only a child, or a seed or sprout may be called “the most powerful tree”, similarly a devotee in practice may also benefit from the adoption of varnashram roles to manage their residual material conditioning, but it is residual material conditioning and because the devotee is practicing varnashram as a service very soon he will be cured.

It is Srila Prabhupada’s mercy that he has given us the instruction to implement varnashram. This makes it direct devotional service, rather than just a roundabout route to perfection. So we can benefit from it while we do it, but if we do it with the pioneering consciousness of establishing it for the benefit of others we are not “descending” to the level of varnashram, but rather rising to the challenge that Srila Prabhupada has set for us.

That’s what is meant by being transcendental to varnashram-dharma.

I hope this goes some way to elaborating on this subtle point.

Otherwise your point is well taken - this statement should not be misunderstood to mean that simply by “signing up” somehow we have become perfect in this moment and have no need to advance further or take advantage of every little bit of mercy that we can get in our present fallen condition!

Comment posted by sita-pati on February 28th, 2008
24 Kulapavana

Sita-pati Prabhu. Let me see if I understand you correctly. You say that “Devotees are transcendental to varnashram-dharma” is true in the sense of dormant potential of any devotee to elevate themselves above the varnashrama system. I have no problem with that, but why use such complicated language which is bound to be misunderstood by many people? Why not simply say: “Devotees have the potential to transcendend varnashram-dharma”?

Another small point. You write: “As a conditioned living entity we can also benefit from the adoption of a particular ashram, but we need to become attached to doing it as a necessary service to Prabhupada and Krishna, rather than as something that we want to do.” Seems to me you are avoiding raising the issue of varna. There is no varnashram without addressing the issue of varnas. Is it? Do you think that just like adopting a particular ashram is part of a necessary service to Prabhupada and Krsna, adopting a particular varna is a necessary service as well?

Can someone be both a sannyasi and a householder? Can someone be both a brahmana and a kshatriya? We would not dream of allowing the first option in our society, but the second option is an every day practice in ISKCON, contrary to all we know about the Vedic society. These are actually some of the most basic (foundational) elements of varnashrama dharma. Without addressing them fully there is little point getting into the more secondary aspects of varnashram system.

Comment posted by Kulapavana on February 29th, 2008
25 Akruranatha

This discussion of how and to what extent even immature devotees are “transcendental to varnashrama dharma” in comments 22 and 23 seems very important.

In comment 17, I had written something along the lines of what Kulapavana said in #22, but not as clearly as Kulapavana did, and the merciful editors saved me embarrassment by not publishing it. :-)

Daivi varnasrama is itself a trancendental system, so transcendental devotees should not be so quick or arrogant to think themselves above all the rules. If we think “I am a devotee, I am better than a brahmana”, aren’t we being silly? Is that the mood of a humble devotee? Do we really have the powers of a brahmana?

On the other hand, we should see that devotional service is so glorious that the principle of devotional service is far above the rules and regulations governing human interaction.

The aboriginal woman fruit seller in Vrndavana is another example for Atmavidya of a person outside the system of Varnasrama who nevertheless surpassed Varnasrama ideals by a simple act of love of Krishna. Similarly, Lord Rama had His devotees among the non-Aryan tribes and even among the non-human forest dwellers.

So we should on the one hand understand how glorious devotional service is, that it is the goal of all moral conduct and itself transcends mundane morality. But we should not be so arrogant as to think that our own baby steps in devotional service absolve us moral responsibility.

We should not think, “I am a devotee. Why should I worry about varnasrama and moral conduct? I have surpassed such concerns.” We should think, as Kulapavana says, that to conduct ourselves as devotees we should set a good example of honest, righteous behavior, not for its own sake, not to be proud of our righteousness, but because Srila Prabhupada wants us to set a good example, and because such behavior is pleasing to Krishna.

The goal of varnasrama dharma is “hari tosanam”, to please Krishna. Sankirtan yajna works best when there is smooth social intercourse according to four varnas and four asramas.

Sure Krishna only accepts the love, but we nevertheless try to cook nicely for Him (or where is the love?) Similarly, if we think of our lives as sort of a preparation we are cooking for Him, we have to try to exemplify righteous behavior according to our particular qualities and stage of life, to make it palatable for Him.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on February 29th, 2008
26 Akruranatha

If we in ISKCON expect to become teachers of varnasrama dharma to the world, we have to be able to exemplify it in our own society and in our own dealings both within and without the society.

I, for one, remain a little bewildered about how this is to be done. There is a lot of theory in Srila Prabhupada’s books, which is purifying to hear and to try to assimilate, but I always tend to fall short when trying to implement it in practice.

We should expect to see, in practical varnasrama:

That everyone is happy
That things are accomplished in an organized way
That the goals we hope to accomplish as a society for pleasing Krishna are more easily being met due to the superior organization
That people remain steady in their occupations (not falling down), because they are properly situated, doing work that is suited to their own natures
That the relationships of domination and submissiveness are carried out with spontaneous emotional reciprocation and not with a sensse of exploitation or oppression
That there is no scarcity of the wealth necessary for a peaceful happy life in devotional service (In the parlance of modern American presidential campaigns, “It’s the economy, stupid”)

[Regarding the economy, Prabhupada sometimes spoke of the “lame man and the blind man”. Real varnasrama would, it seems, somehow incorporate the organizational and technological skills of the West. (?)]

There is a kind of exuberance in having discovered devotional service that sometimes makes us think arrogantly that we have more powers or are more advanced than we really are. Prabhupada was once teasing his leading disciples, “Big big monkey, big big belly, Ceylon jumping melancholy.”

Do we really have the power and wisdom to save the world by giving guidance in varnasrama dharma? We certainly have the favorable instructions of Prabhupada’s books, and perhaps we are gradually developing the knowhow, but we have to show by example and check the cheating propensity to dominate others for material gain. Only a real hero like Hanuman can save the world. It is no simple thing.

Devotional service has the power to make people transcendental to their own natures, but most of us are not yet so advanced that we can withdraw or utilize our senses at will, like a tortoise. We are forced by nature to breathe, drink, eat, sleep, mate, work, and through devotional service we can regulate and dovetail these propensities and actually engage in some practical service.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on February 29th, 2008
27 Akruranatha

We haven’t really transcended our natures yet, most of us. That is the position of the great paramahamsas, very advanced devotees. They can play any social role, because they are completely surrendered to Krishna. They are resolute in purpose and have one-pointed intelligence. Indeed they have all mystic powers and are superior to sages and demigods.

Our position is that we have to work according to our nature (we have to gratify our bodies with air, water, food, sleep) under the guidance of the spiritual master, so we can offer our actions, thoughts, words, wealth and families to Krishna.

Because we have material bodies, we must work under regulations that gradually purify us, according to our bodies’ natures. “What can repression accomplish?”

In the famous Vrndavana conversation, Hari Sauri and Satsvarupa were surprised that Srila Prabhupada said we should implement social divisions according to four varnas within ISKCON. Weren’t Vaisnavas above such divisions?

It seems to me (from memory, we could go back and look at the conversation closely) that Prabhupada was saying that we should understand that it is no ordinary thing to be a truly transcendental Vaisnava. We are trying to become Vaisnavas. Vaisnavas are so exalted. We should not think, “I have become Vaisnava, I am above the social rules and regulations.”

Prabhupada often told us that we were primarily trying to create a class of first class men who could fulfill the role of brahmanas in society.

But in this conversation Prabhupada was acknowledging that not all the people who came and “surrendered” and got initiated really had the natural ability to function as brahmanas. Their surrender was not complete. Their intelligence was still many branched. They were falling down even from the four regs, which is a minimum human requirement, and yet in Kali Yuga seems very difficult (Lord Zetland thought it was impossible).

Therefore they should be employed in some other way, according to their own natures and according to the natural social organization of four varnas created by Krishna.

Now how exactly to do that, ISKCON is still working out. Our farm communities have mostly not flourished, but we are not going to give up on them. We are also developing faithful congregations with “outside jobs” who nevertheless are serious devotees. With sincerity and patience and humilty we will gradually learn how better to put Prabhupada’s instructions into practice.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on February 29th, 2008
28 sita-pati

Kulapavana prabhu, thanks for the discussion. To your first point: We are not these bodies. Varnashrama-dharma is the intrinsic quality of the material body. Since we are spirit-soul, transcendental to the body, we are also transcendental to varnashram-dharma. Therefore I would say: “The living entities, what to speak of devotees, are transcendental to varnashram-dharma; as devotees they have the opportunity to realize that.”

To your second point, I said something about ashram, as the piece is about “Women, ISKCON, and Varnashram”. Varna is a whole other thing, and thanks for bringing it up.

As far as varna is concerned, it refers to the “color” (varna) of your mind. The color of the mind falls on a spectrum. Can someone be a brahmana and a ksatriya at the same time? Yes. I will give you two examples: Dronacarya, born in a brahmana family but with a coloration of mind on the border between the two (married a princess, died on a battlefield), and Yuddhisthira Maharaja, born in a ksatriya family with a similarly borderline disposition (spent his time in the woods with sages rather than training like his brothers).

Nanda Maharaja is both a vaisya and a ksatriya (the King amongst the Vaisyas)

So there is infinite variety. Each person has a mixture of the qualities of all four of the varnas. Here are a sample of them: strategic analysis, thought leadership, and desire to know (brahmana), tactical execution, desire to make things happen (ksatriya), desire to create collaborative endeavours for profit and negotiation skills (vaisya) and desire to participate and excel in individual contribution (sudra). So the individual’s profile in terms of the mixture of these different qualities qualifies him or her for a particular role in a group effort.

Varna is about how you participate in a group or organization. Where you feel most comfortable and how you contribute the best. It’s not about “what we call people”. To situate ourselves and others we need to focus on the guna and karma, the actual qualities and activities, rather than labels. You can have varnashram without the names of the varnas. Focusing too much on the names leads to casteism - an external imposition rather than a recognition of your (in terms of your body and mind) intrinsic identity (dharma). You are suited to doing it in a certain way because you have a particular mind with certain strengths. At the same time you are not the body or the mind - you are transcendental to them

Comment posted by sita-pati on February 29th, 2008
29 sita-pati

To Akruranatha Prabhu’s comment #25, the problem is this:

I am transcendental to my body, because I am the spirit soul. Does this mean that my body does not exist, has no reality, or I have no responsibility for using it in Krishna’s service?

No.

Now please bear in mind that body also means mind.

Varnashram-dharma is the intrinsic quality (dharma) arising from the fact that my body has a specific identity that makes it distinct from other bodies (qualification). It is the manifestation (and recognition) that my body and mind are suited for a particular activity and role in relation to other bodies.

I am obviously transcendental to this because I am not the body.

At the same time I am a spiritual being having a human experience. Atma refers to body, mind, and soul. All three are aspects of my identity. One is eternal (soul), two are temporary (body / mind) - and all three are real.

So although I am transcendental to my body I don’t neglect the body. The body is temporary, it is real, and it should be used in Krishna’s service.

So Varnashram-dharma is something that arises from the temporary body and mind that I have. It changes in each life so it is temporary - as the eternal spirit-soul I am transcendental to it, but it is still real.

So jagat is not mithyā, but it is temporary. We do not say mithyā. Vaiṣṇava philosophers, they do not accept the jagat as mithyā. Why? If it is emanation from the Absolute Truth, it must be true. It is not mithyā, but we accept it as temporary. We do not accept as permanent. The permanent jagat is the spiritual world. Paras tasmāt tu bhāvaḥ anyaḥ [Bg. 8.20]. There is another spiritual world; that is sanātana, that is permanent. This world is not permanent. So even though it is not permanent, it can be utilized for the service of the Lord. Nirbandhe kṛṣṇa-sambandhe yukta-vairāgyam ucyate. That is our philosophy. We don’t take the jagat as mithyā; we take it as fact, because it is emanation from the supreme fact.

- NOD Lecture, 1972

To be factually transcendental, in a realized sense, to varnashram-dharma does not mean to renounce or negate it. This is a jnani idea. It means to dedicate it - this is bhakti. To enjoy your body and mind and its abilities as they are designed to operate is karma. To do it in a improper fashion is vikarma. To renounce it is jnana, and to do it as a service, especially fulfilling Prabhupada’s order to organize the human society properly, is bhakti.

Comment posted by sita-pati on February 29th, 2008
30 Unregistered

In #9 Akruranatha said:

“I appreciate Atmavidya’s concern that we avoid speculation and deviation from received authoritative statements, and that there is a certain kind of discourse that involves quoting our sastric lawbooks to back up every proposition. (It reminds me of appellate legal briefs, where every factual statement must be supported by a citation to record evidence, and every legal point should be supported by a citation to legal authority.)

However, I respectfully disagree with Atmavidya’s suggestion that Dandavats should only publish such arguments. We should trust and encourage devotees to relate naturally and speak from their own realizations, so long as they recognize the proper mode of resolving disagreements.

Not every discussion is a debate. Debating tends to divide us. Your article affirmed Prabhupada’s authority in a unifying way.”

I respectfully disagree with Akruranatha Prabhu; in the text that I quoted by Srila Prabhupada in #6:

““The process of speaking in spiritual circles is to say something upheld by the scriptures. One should at once quote from scriptural authority to back up what he is saying. At the same time, such talk should be very pleasurable to the ear. By such discussions, one may derive the highest benefit and elevate human society. There is a limitless stock of Vedic literature, and one should study this. This is called penance of speech.” BG 17.15 p

SP did not limit quoting shastra to debates or polemics, but rather whenever a devotee is speaking philosophy in spiritual circles, that is, to other devotees. SP would quote sastra in, his classes, his books, on morning walks, and room conversations. So it is not that only when we debate must we quote sastra but when ever we speak on philosophy. On the one hand you support what SP advocated but in the next paragraph you advocate the opposite. This will lead to sloppy thinking and sentimentality.

Being that you live in the world of litigious legal polemics you may be averse to having to support all your premises, that is your choice. But as followers of Srila Prabhupada we should always support our positions in this way. Sitapati’s was a philosophical essay intended for devotees so he should have supported his statements by appropriate sastra if not full quotes he could have at least provided citation of chapter and verse. That will keep us all honest and on our toes.

Comment posted by Atmavidya Dasa on March 2nd, 2008
31 Unregistered

In #14

Sitapati states:

“At the same time, as you say, part of that process is training in Krishna’s lila, and the external organization of the spiritual world is varnashrama. That training can take place in another life.”

Can you please clarify what you mean by “external organization of the spiritual world?”

Comment posted by Atmavidya Dasa on March 2nd, 2008
32 Unregistered

#16 Sitapati said:

“Directly following my statement that the Bhagavad-gita does not contain details of the prescribed duties of women I said:”

“So I think this echoes your point, although I prefer Bhagavatam as pramana over Mahabharata, on the recommendation of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Jiva Goswami.”

Yes it does but considering that the Bhagavad-gita is contained in the Mahabharata this makes the Mahabharata very relevant. The Mahabharata and the Ramayana are the two literatures responsible for the maintenance of Vedic culture in India because they are read by the masses. And we note that when BSST entered into the Brahmana Vaisnava debate he quoted heavily from the Mahabharata. Of course if there is a contradiction between Mahabharata and Srimad Bhagavatam we cleave to the Bhagavatam.

“Atmavidya prabhu, I feel that you are missing the point of the presentation. In Vedic discussion it is customary that before attempting to refute a presentation you first summarize it to the satisfaction of the presenter, to be sure that everyone is on the same page. Would you like to do that?”

First of all Dandavatas is not comment friendly limiting text length. Secondly in a Vedic discussion pramanas are given. So perhaps you would like to re-write your essay with supporting pramana. Who knows I might agree with you when I see your pramanas. (-:

Comment posted by Atmavidya Dasa on March 2nd, 2008
33 Unregistered

Referring to #20 by Madhava Ghosha Prabhu,

Atmavidya: “Please prove by sastra that kali yuga is gender specific in its effect. That somehow it only affects males and makes them degraded but doesn’t effect women who are miraculously impervious to it and hence in Kali yuga women become equal to and even superior to men.”

“But the present age of Kali is full of ignorant men. Even those who are born by a brahmana father are, in the present age, no better than the sudras or the women. ” SB 1.3.21

This doesn’t prove it is gender specific and that women are not affected by Kali yuga. Here are a few verses from Srimad Bhagavatam, Mahabharata and Vayu Purana that indicate what the effect of kali will be on women.

Because of the bad qualities of the age of Kali, human beings will become shortsighted, unfortunate, gluttonous, lustful and poverty-stricken. The WOMEN, becoming unchaste, will freely wander from one man to the next. SB 12.3.31

WOMEN will become much smaller in size, and they will eat too much, have more children than they can properly take care of, and lose all shyness. They will always speak harshly and will exhibit qualities of thievery, deceit and unrestrained audacity. SB 12.3.34

In Kali-yuga men will be wretched and controlled by WOMEN. They will reject their fathers, brothers, other relatives and friends and will instead associate with the sisters and brothers of their wives. Thus their conception of friendship will be based exclusively on sexual ties. SB 12.3.37

“Kings are mainly Sudras propagating heretic ideas. People never hesitate to kill a child in the womb. Longevity, intellect, strength, beauty and family prestige decline. WOMEN become unchaste and disinterested in holy rites. They become fond of wine and meat. When Kali-yuga sets in, they resort to deceptive means. In Kali-yuga beasts of prey become more numerous and powerful. Cattle die and dwindle. Saintly men withdraw and keep aloof.” Vayu Purana 2.58.34–44

“O king, at the termination of the yugas, WOMEN have many children. They are devoid of good conduct and moral behavior and have sexual dalliance in the mouth.” Mahabharata Vanaparva 186.35

“At that time the WOMEN are perverse and ill-behaved. Having gone secretly to a private place, they commit adultery against their husbands with servants and even animals.” Mahabharata Vanaparva 186.55

Comment posted by Atmavidya Dasa on March 2nd, 2008
34 Unregistered

Comment on #19 Part 1

Lalita Madhava d.d. wrote:

“Atmavidya Prabhu, though you perfunctorily begin with “please accept my humble obeisances” and end with “your humble servant,” the tone of your letter is anything but humble. Following the instruction in the reference you yourself provided, which states that “quoting from scripture should be pleasurable to the ear,” could you not have addressed the points you disagree with and directed the reader to Hari Sauri Prabhu’s excellent articles in a manner that was more gracious and less demeaning and insulting? And, while demanding “pramana,” you yourself make the unsubstantiated, subjective statement that “women in Kali yuga engage in just as much if not more nonsense than men.” With rape and child abuse statistics being what they are, that is hardly the case. Overall, the unpalatable tone of your comment alienates the reader and undermines whatever points you are attempting to make.”

Perhaps you could show me how to do it better. I had some one read the text before I sent it to make sure it was not offensive and they said it was “neutral” in tone. It is not always easy to present disagreeable points as people in general are more interested in priyam bruyat (sweet words) rather than satyam bruyat (truthful words). For example how would Vidura sweetly tell Dhrtarastra the unpalatable truth that Duryodhana should be killed and that he should order Arjuna to do it? Similarly in Udyoga parva and other places Ghandhari directly stated the unpleasant truth that her own son should be killed to save the Kurus. How to do that in a way that is pleasurable to the ear? Both Srila Prabhupada and BSST were accused of using the “chopping” technique. SP said that he was accused of “having Gita in one hand and chopper in the other.”

Anyway as I said I had someone else read it and they did not find it offensive, it appears that their sensibilities are not as finely tuned as yours are.

continued…

Comment posted by Atmavidya Dasa on March 2nd, 2008
35 Unregistered

comment on #19 part 2

Lalita Madhava d.d. wrote:

“And, while demanding “pramana,” you yourself make the unsubstantiated, subjective statement that “women in Kali yuga engage in just as much if not more nonsense than men.” With rape and child abuse statistics being what they are, that is hardly the case.”

Okay you want pramana. First remember that the first demon that Krsna killed was a baby killer – Putana. I found 125 hits for abortion in the VedaBase here was a typical quote:

“In this verse the word bala-hatya-hata-prabhah is to be particularly noted. The practice of killing children has existed in human society for a long time-since time immemorial-but in the days of yore it was very rarely performed. At the present moment, however, in this age of Kali, abortion-killing of the child within the womb-has become very common, and sometimes a child is even killed after birth. If a woman performs such an abominable act, she gradually loses all her bodily luster (bala-hatya-hata-prabhah).” SB 6.16.14p

According to the CENTER FOR BIO-ETHICAL REFORM here are some statistics regarding abortion – baby killing:

WORLDWIDE
Number of abortions per year: Approximately 46 Million
Number of abortions per day: Approximately 126,000
UNITED STATES
Number of abortions per year: 1.37 Million (1996)
Number of abortions per day: Approximately 3,700

Approximately 40 million abortions in USA since Roe vs Wade (1973).

These are mind boggling figures that completely dwarf the death tolls of both world wars.

According to wikipedia “World War I casualties:”

“The number of World War I casualties, both military and civilian, was over 40 million — 20 million deaths and 21 million wounded. This includes 9.7 million military deaths and about 10 million civilian deaths. The Entente Powers (also known as the Allies) lost more than 5 million soldiers and the Central Powers about 4 million.”

And for World War II casualties (this doesn’t included wounded):

“The total estimated human loss of life caused by World War II was roughly 72 million people. The civilian toll was around 47 million, including 20 million deaths due to war related famine and disease. The military toll was about 25 million, including the deaths of about 4 million prisoners of war in captivity. The Allies lost about 61 million people, and the Axis lost 11 million.”

continued…

Comment posted by Atmavidya Dasa on March 2nd, 2008
36 Unregistered

comment on #19 part 3

So this gives a total of deaths (not wounded) for both wars of approximately 92 million (WWI 20m + WWII 72m). This is equal to just two years worth of abortions at a global rate of 46m abortions/year.

Except in China where many women are forced to have abortions these abortions are voluntarily chosen by the women:

WHY WOMEN HAVE ABORTIONS
1% of all abortions occur because of rape or incest; 6% of abortions occur because of potential health problems regarding either the mother or child, and 93% of all abortions occur for social reasons (i.e. the child is unwanted or inconvenient). [source: Center for Bio-Ethical Reform]

And while I most certainly agree that rape and child abuse are horrendous crimes the statistics on them completely pale compared to the ultimate child abuse of baby killing. Google “rape statistics” “murder statistics”, “child abuse statistics” and see what you get. Nothing even remotely compares in sheer numbers to the astronomical scale of evil that is baby killing.

Just for comparison see the murder stats for 1997 in the USA

“According to FBI statistics, over 18,000 people were murdered in 1997. The 1997 figure was down 7 percent from 1996, and 26 percent from 1993.

“According to data about 15,289 of the estimated 18,209 murders in 1997: 77 percent of the victims were males and 88 percent were persons 18 years of age or older. Forty-four percent were ages 20 through 34. The percentage of whites murdered was 48 percent, blacks 49 percent, and other races accounted for the remainder.” [source: MurderVictims.com]

It would take less than five days at 3700 abortions/day to surpass the 18,209 murders committed in one year in the USA.

To get a visual idea of the number of murdered babies go to htmlbible.com/abortstats.htm where they compare US war dead in all wars compared to murdered US babies.

continued…

Comment posted by Atmavidya Dasa on March 2nd, 2008
37 Unregistered

comment on #19 part 4

The main if not sole promoters of abortion in the world are women, specifically feminists and their male supporters. If you go to the website of NOW — National Organization of Women — the top issue on their agenda is Abortion on Demand — “Abortion and Reproductive Rights” followed closely by “Lesbian Rights.”

While you are googling put the following terms in the search field “abusive wives” “abusive women” “abusive females” “abusive lesbians” and see what you get. Then substitute “abusive” with “violent” for more fun.

Now I certainly do not in any way want to portray that women are as a class evil but I think that I have given sufficient pramana to support my contention that “women in Kali yuga engage in just as much if not more nonsense than men.” QED.

Comment posted by Atmavidya Dasa on March 2nd, 2008
38 Unregistered

Comment on #15 part 1

Sitapati said:

Atmavidya prabhu said:

““You imply that in the eternal Vedic society only men controlled their senses but not women.”

“No I do not - I explicitly state that in Vedic society men control their senses, and that outside ISKCON today they do not do so. Inside ISKCON inasmuch as they don’t do that they disqualify themselves from the traditional varnashram roles that require it.

“You may draw some conclusion about women from this, but it is not something that I have said.”

My comment:

“You imply that in the eternal Vedic society only men controlled their senses but not women.”

Was in reference to your statement:

“In Vedic society men control their senses according to a regulated program. This does not happen today. Therefore men have less intelligence than they have the potential to manifest. Although Prabhupada states that women are generally less intelligent, this may not be the case at the moment, hence Prabhupada’s qualification of the statement with the modifier generally.”

where you have connected intelligence to sense control.

You state:

“In Vedic society men control their senses according to a regulated program. This does not happen today.”

In the second sentence you use the demonstrative pronoun “this” and according to the OED the usage of “this” is defined as “Referring to a fact, act, or occurrence, or a statement or question, mentioned or implied in the preceding context.”

Hence in the context of your statement “this” refers to the previous sentence:

“In Vedic society men control their senses according to a regulated program.”

You then say:

“This does not happen today.”

We are then forced to conclude that what you are saying is that now men in Vedic society do not control their senses.

You then state that because men do not control their senses the following occurs:

“Therefore men have less intelligence than they have the potential to manifest.”

So you have connected men’s intelligence as directly proportional to sense control.

continued…

Comment posted by Atmavidya Dasa on March 2nd, 2008
39 Unregistered

comment on #15 part 2

You then divide by zero, in your very next statement you now refer to the intelligence of women.

“Although Prabhupada states that women are generally less intelligent, this may not be the case at the moment.”

The reader wonders how has this come to pass? How is it that in the past men may have been more intelligent than women but now are not?

If the men’s intelligence decreased because of lack of sense control it would seem obvious that women’s intelligence would also decrease for the same reason –that they no longer practiced sense control. But if women’s intelligence has not decreased and is now equal to men’s then this suggests that their intelligence is not based on sense control but on some other factor which is impervious to kali yuga.

It is for this reason that I said that you imply that Vedic women did not practice sense control.

However as stated in BG 2.67 the connection of intelligence and sense control is applicable to both genders because even though it say’s “man’s” intelligence this is pre-political correctness usage where the noun “man” refers to all members of humanity.

So if the men have lost intelligence because of lack of sense control then so have the women for we see no evidence that women have maintained sense control over the ages but like the men have also degraded. For women sense control is very much related to their pativrata – chastity as described in SB 7.11.25-29 but in Srimad Bhagavatam it clearly states that in kali they lose this, see SB 12.3.31,34. And since women have also degraded then so has their intelligence so that in general women as a class will still be less intelligent than men as a class.

Comment posted by Atmavidya Dasa on March 2nd, 2008
40 Kulapavana

Sita-pati Prabhu,

You are right: we are only transcendental to varnashrama dharma when we actually realize our spiritual nature and act accordingly. How many of us are on that platform?

As to examples of Drona and Yudhisthira acting as both brahmanas and kshatriyas it is not quite that simple. Yudhisthira never performed the duties of a brahmana inthe social sense, and once Drona adopted the position of a martial arts teacher he had to do the needful. In the varnashrama society brahmanas teach, and kshatriyas manage the affairs of the society. The spiritual and the material power is never combined because it inevitably leads to abuse of power, at least in most cases.

Comment posted by Kulapavana on March 2nd, 2008
41 Unregistered

Atmavidya Prabhu, obviously abortion is an atrocity. But one point regarding baby-killing is that India right now has the highest rate of gender-specific abortions and female infanticide in the world. These wicked, abhorrent and demoniac practices are clearly a DIRECT RESULT of offensive and corrupted so-called “Vedic” ideas on the alleged “position of women” which have evolved in a grossly distorted way. We as a Society must guard against these and other distortions and be wary of such incorrect interpretations.

Comment posted by Lalita Madhava d.d. on March 2nd, 2008
42 sita-pati

Atmavidya Prabhu, you obviously have a point that you wish to make, beyond: “Sita-pati is wrong and I am right.”

My humble suggestion is : why not take the time to write an article about it, rather than approaching it in this piecemeal fashion? That way your contribution stands more solidly supported, and accessible to others.

My only request is that if you wish to refer to my article you avoid using strawman versions of my arguments by first representing them to my satisfaction. I am quite happy to help you by reading the versions of my arguments that you wish to refute and saying: “Yes, this is the point I am making.” Then you can be sure that you are tilting in the right direction, and go to town.

Comment posted by sita-pati on March 2nd, 2008
43 sita-pati

Kulapavana prabhu, you want to make this point, I believe:

The spiritual and the material power is never combined because it inevitably leads to abuse of power, at least in most cases.

This is from a macro perspective (top-down) and it is a commonly discussed theme. To get another view on the situation, I would like to approach it from the bottom up, with your permission.

What does a person who has a nature in which both the “ksatriya” nature (action-bias, charismatic leadership, drive to expand and conquer) and the “brahman” nature (analysis-bias, standards-based leadership, drive to know and explain) are strong do in contemporary ISKCON?

How do we guide such a person to act in relation to others such that their contribution is maximized?

Because they won’t be satisfied doing one or the other; their psychology drives them to do both.

I’m not referring to someone theoretical person in the GBC here, I’m talking talking about any average person in the movement. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that I’m talking about me. What should I do?

Comment posted by sita-pati on March 2nd, 2008
44 sita-pati

Kulapavan Prabhu, on another angle - Dronacarya married Princess Krpi, and he had obtained half of Drupada’s kingdom. He may have been born in the family of a brahmana, but his son was born in the family of a ksatriya, by guna and karma. Dronacarya wasn’t simply “doing the needful” he was doing what he was suited to do. That’s why he was able to pull it off.

My point is not to make some direct parallel with ISKCON today, but rather to point out that varna is about guna and karma. It’s about social psychology - matching up people’s abilities and psychological drives with social needs that these abilities fulfill.

Comment posted by sita-pati on March 2nd, 2008
45 Kulapavana

Sita-pati: “What does a person who has a nature in which both the “ksatriya” nature (action-bias, charismatic leadership, drive to expand and conquer) and the “brahman” nature (analysis-bias, standards-based leadership, drive to know and explain) are strong do in contemporary ISKCON?”

The way I see it, if you want to act as a brahmana (for example by becoming a guru or a travelling preacher), do not try to manage temples, funds, and devotees. Live a simple, austere life, study shastra, travel and preach, inspire others in the spiritual sense.

If you want to directly manage projects, resources and people, use your “brahminical” side to do it with humility, compassion, and long term vision. But do not try to become a guru or a sannyasi.

Comment posted by Kulapavana on March 3rd, 2008
46 Unregistered

In reference to #41 Part 1

Atmavidya Prabhu, obviously abortion is an atrocity. But one point regarding baby-killing is that India right now has the highest rate of gender-specific abortions and female infanticide in the world. These wicked, abhorrent and demoniac practices are clearly a DIRECT RESULT of offensive and corrupted so-called “Vedic” ideas on the alleged “position of women” which have evolved in a grossly distorted way. We as a Society must guard against these and other distortions and be wary of such incorrect interpretations.

Dear Mataji,

Hari bol! You are right it is an atrocity and I didn’t realize how bad until I saw the numbers. Regarding gender specific abortions that is a conundrum for feminists, on the one hand they justify abortion that it is just tissue and not alive but then do a volte-face and start taking about the targeted abortions of female “tissue.” Like it is ok to kill the babies if you do it 50-50; strange is the logic of the demons.

But it is not only India but also China that targets females for abortion (though I should say that it is strictly illegal in India to even find out if the fetus is male or female—though many gynecologists – mostly women in conservative India — will tell you for a bribe and perform an abortion if the mother wants; there were several cases exposed in sting operations recently). India and China are the only countries in the world that have larger male than female populations because of female infanticide/abortion. This population imbalance is going to lead to major social problems.

The reasons for female infanticide/abortion in India are very complex; one part is as you say a corruption of Lord Krsna’s culture in India as well as the glaring ignorance that abortion is major bad karma – more corruption of the culture. Another is that in India there is a push for so-called family planning as a stipulation for India getting loans from the World Bank and the IMF and hence programs such as abortion, contraception, and forced sterilization are promoted by the government and funded by the UN. When this is mixed with corrupt ideas of Vedic culture (such as purchasing husbands in the name of dowry) it leads to real horrors.

continued…

Comment posted by Atmavidya Dasa on March 3rd, 2008
47 Unregistered

In reference to #41 part 2

But it is not only abortion; once many years ago in India a very concerned Western devotee came to me for advice late at night about his infant daughter who had pneumonia. He wanted to know if he should bring her for medical treatment. Why was he asking me a question that had what seemed to me an obvious answer? It seems that his Indian wife and mother-in-law were urging him to just let her die as he had 3 daughters and could not give his wife sons. I was very disturbed by this and told him that he was duty bound as her father to save her life and protect her. “Better to have 1 Draupadi that 100 Kauravas” I told him. Thankfully he did and she is now a healthy young woman in her late 20’s. I don’t know if she became a Draupadi but hopefully she is a devotee of sorts.

One thing though is that we should be extremely careful that, when in our enthusiasm to correct distortions of Vedic culture, we do not replace them with different distortions coming from our own cultural bias but rather put into place the original concepts. That means we have to learn from sastra what the real position is and thus avoid replacing one concoction with another.

The only way to stop these kinds of horrors (abortion) is to purify ourselves, distribute Prabhupada’s books on mass and preach strictly according to siddhanta without adding or subtracting anything.

Comment posted by Atmavidya Dasa on March 3rd, 2008
48 Unregistered

In reference to #42

Atmavidya Prabhu, you obviously have a point that you wish to make, beyond: “Sita-pati is wrong and I am right.”

I am sorry that you take it in that way. I was just commenting.

My humble suggestion is : why not take the time to write an article about it, rather than approaching it in this piecemeal fashion? That way your contribution stands more solidly supported, and accessible to others.

Thanks for the suggestion I will consider it if my duties permit.

My only request is that if you wish to refer to my article you avoid using strawman versions of my arguments by first representing them to my satisfaction. I am quite happy to help you by reading the versions of my arguments that you wish to refute and saying: “Yes, this is the point I am making.” Then you can be sure that you are tilting in the right direction, and go to town.

I doubt that I would refer to your article if I were to write anything but rather start with a tabula rasa. I hope that you are not implying that I used straw man arguments in my comments, if so please point them out.

Comment posted by Atmavidya Dasa on March 3rd, 2008
49 Akruranatha

One observation I have about varnasrama dharma is that every society has customs and mores which are internalized and naturally put into practice on a daily level, without having to refer to theory.

It is not too much of an oversimplification to say that as a society experiences a decrease in its internalized customs, it experiences an increase in laws and legal apparatus.

There is a kind of simplicity in the way Krishna held court in the Sudharma assembly, sometimes asking advice from wise Uddhava or from elderly Yadus, or the way Lord Rama held court for that matter, that shows there were a great deal of internalized codes of conduct in relation to the status of individuals.

In the wicked assembly of Kauravas, intelligent Draupadi could immediately point out that a gambler who had already lost himself could not legitimately wager his wife. There was no need to consult codes and precedents or hire expensive lawyers. Relationships of master and servant, husband and wife, etc., were emotional and spontaneously understood. People lived by them automatically, without normally having to consult rule books.

A good analogy is language. Native speakers of a language follow the rules of grammar without having to think about them or study them as such.

Somehow to do our work of establishing daivi varnasrama in ISKCON we are going to have to not only learn all of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, which are like the rules of grammar in the above analogy, but also to assimilate them and make them part of our everyday dealings and relationships.

We should be prepared to back up our conduct and statements with reference to scriptures and precedents, but we also need to assimilate them so thoroughly that we really live by them automatically, as part of the spontaneous way we relate to each other.

To a certain extent we can follow some of the Vedic traditions that are still extant in Hindu society, but as Lalita Madhava points out, many of those traditions have become distorted and corrupted over time, so we have to be careful.

Srila Prabhupada frequently criticized corruption of the modern caste system, and always insisted on a system based on guna and karma, rather than janma, for example. There are many things in modern Hindu society which are not to be emulated.

I suppose Krishna will show us the way from within our hearts. It will take time, and devotees will have to relate to each other naturally based on respect for Vaisnavas.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on March 3rd, 2008
50 Unregistered

Where mistaken ideas on the “position of women” have tragically lead…..

One disturbing case from Tamil Nadu:

Lakshmi already had one daughter, so when she gave birth to a second girl, she killed her. For the three days of her second child’s short life, Lakshmi admits, she refused to nurse her. To silence the infant’s famished cries, the impoverished village woman squeezed the milky sap from an oleander shrub, mixed it with castor oil, and forced the poisonous potion down the newborn’s throat. The baby bled from the nose, then died soon afterward. Female neighbors buried her in a small hole near Lakshmi’s square thatched hut of sunbaked mud. They sympathized with Lakshmi, and in the same circumstances, some would probably have done what she did. For despite the risk of execution by hanging and about 16 months of a much-ballyhooed government scheme to assist families with daughters, in some hamlets of … Tamil Nadu, murdering girls is still sometimes believed to be a wiser course than raising them. “A daughter is always liabilities. How can I bring up a second?” Lakshmi, 28, answered firmly when asked by a visitor how she could have taken her own child’s life eight years ago. “Instead of her suffering the way I do, I thought it was better to get rid of her.” (All quotes from Dahlburg, “Where killing baby girls ‘is no big sin’.”)

http://www.gendercide.org/case_infanticide.html

LMdd

Comment posted by Lalita Madhava d.d. on March 4th, 2008
51 Pandu das

Who gets the blame for the killing of infant girls? Is it the father who considers his duty to protect his daughter alongside the perceived burden, and chooses to kill her, thinking it will make his life easier? Is is the politically-motivated religious leaders who distort the Vedas with mundane and biased ideas inconsistent with any bona fide disciplic succession? Do we blame the Muslim and the British invaders for weakening India’s Vedic culture? Do we blame Krishna for having His external energy act this way, or do we blame the Vedas for confusing people and thereby making them sin? Do we blame Maya Devi for doing her job?

Based on what I’ve learned from Srila Prabhupada’s books, I thought we would say the baby girls’ fate is the fault of the girls themselves, for desiring to enjoy the results of actions that brought them to this birth. What might be in store for a father who kills his daughter to make his own life easier?

Doesn’t the philosophy we follow say that we are each responsible for our actions and reactions in this world? I do not know to what degree society factors into this, or if our personal experience of society is ultimately based on our individual past activities. If we consider the events of this lifetime and forget that there is a much larger context, we will inevitably perceive injustice and slide toward atheism.

I’m a little concerned about the the temptation to change the philosophy we’ve learned from Srila Prabhupada in an attempt to prevent the inevitable. The only way I’ve heard to stop sinful reactions is by engagement in devotional service. Hare Krishna.

Comment posted by Pandu das on March 4th, 2008
52 Praghosa

Regarding comment 51, for sure whatever condition we suffer in this material world is somehow or another what we deserve, however it is not the full picture. As advised in the Bhagavad-gita - The intricacies of karma are hard to understand even for the highly learned………

As devotees we understand that while someone may be getting their ‘just desserts’ as a result of their karma, we do not coldly, or even worse, take pleasure in their suffering, rather we should hopefully have great compassion for them. As for those who are instruments inflicting suffering on those who are getting their ‘just desserts’ - they are by no means innocent. Rather they are themselves immeasurably entangled in the stringent laws of karma and will be getting their ‘just desserts’ in due course of time, even though they were apparently doing a ’service’ by giving someone else their ‘just desserts’.

The only solution for all us us affected by the laws of karma is to step off the wheel of samsara by the process of bhakti-yoga.

Comment posted by Praghosa on March 6th, 2008
53 Unregistered

regarding comment 50

Dear Mataji,

Hari bol!

The material world is very cruel indeed, just as Krsna told us it was. We should have no doubt about it. There but for the grace of God go I.

But my question to you is what suggestions/ideas do you have to end these atrocities?

After some time words like “atrocity” or “horror” lose their impact when confronted continuously with such unspeakable things.

Comment posted by Atmavidya Dasa on March 6th, 2008
54 Pandu das

Dear Praghosa prabhu,

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

Thank you for that explanation. It confirms the understanding I had, and I’m glad because I’ve argued exactly like that in the past. Maybe my comment left too much room for misunderstanding. I do not like anyone’s suffering, nor to ‘rub it in’ by saying it’s their own fault. However, it seems that the pointing to abuse of women, girls, and female babies was partly looking for someone to blame.

The knowledge passed through the parampara is what it is. We may not like some aspect of it, based on our imperfect knowledge; but if we find fault with it, then it is an offense against the Holy Name. That will not help anyone.

Knowing that the only hope for actually stopping material afflictions is devotional service, we should carefully guard against contradicting Srila Prabhupada’s words with our own ideas based on the bodily conception of life. One of the most prominent features of Krishna’s devotees is compassion, but if our compassion is for the body, then it is maya. Is it not? Krishna told Arjuna as much in Bhagavad-gita Chapter 2. “It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable and immutable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body.” Real compassion is to awaken the intelligence to see that we are not these bodies, that we are spirit soul, and that the soul’s fulfillment is in Krishna’s service.

Although Krishna says we should not grieve for the body, I’m not up to that level of realization and do not really expect it of others. But if it looks like Srila Prabhupada’s teachings are coming into question because of false ego, as often happens with gender issues, then I begin to get concerned. Maybe that’s not happening. Just as I am sometimes misunderstood, I may have failed to properly understand others. If so, then I am sorry. Hare Krishna.

Comment posted by Pandu das on March 6th, 2008
55 Akruranatha

The wise lament neither for the living nor the dead. They see how everything is taking place under the sanction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, according to the interaction of the three modes and the stringent laws of action and reaction.

Still they feel compassion for all the victims of abortion, infanticide, cow killing, earth polluting, drug pushing, sex slaving, nuclear war mongering and all the other horrors of our times.

Lord Caitanya has brought the real medicine, and His sankirtan movement is distributing it. We have to study Srila Prabhupada’s books very carefully and distribute this knowledge of Krishna consciousness and the chanting of Hare Krishna all. That will be good for us and those around us.

It is the duty of real brahmanas to give the undistorted Vedic knowledge by which people can understand how and why to avoid the path of sin. (In the U.S. abortion debates, many people argue that the question of whether the fetus is alive or even whether there is such thing as a soul is simply a matter of “faith” and “religious belief.” They do not know the real facts about the soul and Krishna consciousness.)

It is the duty of righteous government to support the brahmanas in giving proper spiritual education, and to protect the victims, punish the criminals, and give everyone a chance to engage in his or her true occupation for the pleasure of the Lord.

These “broad strokes” are easy, but when it comes to the details devotees often disagree about how things should be done, even in our own temples, let alone in the realm of modern national and international politics.

The devotees need to find common ground regarding the simple things we all agree on (e.g., “abortion and infanticide are bad”). We can appreciate each other’s views on things we cannot agree on (e.g., “I can see how you may equate ‘feminism’ with permissiveness about abortion.” “I can see how you may equate conservative Hindu values with hypocrisy, mistreatment of women and lower birth castes, and distortion of the real Vedic system.”)

In our own temples we should see that the devotees are happy. We should not treat any group of devotees high-handedly. They are our “prabhus” and “matajis”, which entails a certain amount of respect and careful dealings. We cannot afford to mistreat and alienate one another.

This process of enlightening each other about Krishna is very pleasing. If it is not pleasing we must be doing it wrong.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on March 7th, 2008
56 Unregistered

Regarding the wowen’s issue which is being discussed I believe it is relevant to analise this under the following perpective as well:

Although the female body is certainly a more receptive receptacle for a feminine material intellectuality, which according to sastra tends to be less discriminatory in terms of real spirituality than men’s material intellectuality, according to sastra this same female material intelectuallity has more power to enjoy material life.

But this same feminine intellectuality, along with the masculine one, may also be found predominating over a man’s or woman’s subtle body respectively, to a greater or lesser degree.

It is also common knowledge that materially speaking a woman can control a man by the simple movements of her eyebrows. It is also common knowledge that behind many materially successful men stands a woman.

In a sense if this world is indeed and inverted reflection of the spiritual world the main principle here would then tend to be prakrti and not purusa. This we can perceive by observing how everything in this material world revolves around the female aspect. As the materialistic demon is described to say “The world turns due to sexual attachment.”

We can see that all of men’s endeavors in this world are focused on attracting or lording over the female aspect, be it in the form of a woman or in the form of nature (triguna) which he sees as superior, even if he doesn’t want to admit it.

After all why would one be struggling to lord over something he already lords over, wouldn’t make sense would it? The fact is that, in this world, the more mundane you go the more prakrti naturally lords over the purusa aspect.

This sense of lording over prakrti is the great hoax of this world, isn’t it. It reminds me of Matrix and the red and the blue pill. Take the red pill and be ready to buckle your seatbelt Dorothy because Kansas is going to go bye bye, or take the blue pill and go on believing you will lord it over one day. All there.

Comment posted by Karuna on March 8th, 2008
57 Unregistered

The good news of course are that there is another world or plane, where there is a Supreme Being, Krsna, the adi purusa, and everything there revolves around Him. (Which of course does not mean there are also relationships between the finite particles of consciousness such as us, in other words it´s not reasonable to believe that if Krsna is not present in His two armed or any other form we just become imanifest until He comes back from tending the cows or whatever other wonderful pastime He might be performing, in fact once we purify ourselves completely the sastras state that each and everyone of us becomes in one sense a transparent means to see Krsna for the other person, and certainly this relationship would have be totally absent of any speck of lust.). And Krsna is our dearmost friend, and in no way wants to exploit us. And we can all surrender to Him allow Him to lord over us and be happy. So simple, yet so difficult to grasp sometimes.

Just as a final note the paradox might be that in the spiritual world in the end prakrti also rules over purusa due to intense love, but it’s a topic we are recommended not to dwell in specially in our neophyte stage.

Comment posted by Karuna on March 8th, 2008
58 Akruranatha

There are different things accomplished by Varnasrama dharma. For one thing, it is the natural way to run things nicely and smoothly in the material world. It actually produces better social harmony and organization for all enterprises.

For another thing, it properly helps materialistic people gradually progress in making spiritual progress, elevating them to the mode of goodness where they can make better use of spiritual instructions.

But can it also be part of sadhana bhakti, in the sense of conforming our behavior (under regulation at first, but later from attraction and finally from spontaneous spiritual emotions) to the way advanced devotees behave (in the spiritual world)?

I don’t have any scriptural references but I have some inkling, so I am phrasing this as a question for those who have studied the sastras more deeply.

The phrase “Daivi Varnasrama” is often used to describe the situation where even pure devotees conduct themselves according to their varnas and asramas, despite their being fully liberated and transcendental.

In the material world, people undergo penances like Vanaprastha and Sannyasa in order to become purified so they may approach the liberated position. In Krishna’s lila, however, the ascetics there have no contaminations to purge themselves of. Vaisyas like Nanda Maharaja are no less spiritually perfect than Brahmanas like Madhumangala. Everyone has already attained the highest goal of associating directly with Krishna in full love, and yet they enact lila in accordance with the rules of civilized human society (sometimes breaking them out of love).

We should not think that Krishna’s unmanifest lila in the spiritual world is reflected the rules set forth for men under the control of the three modes of nature. Rather, we should understand that the rules for conditioned men somehow reflect the original behaviour in the eternal spiritual world.

It seems that part of sadhana (the first part, the vaidhi part) is that we conform our behaviors to those of the great devotees, we repeat their prayers and mimic their movements, whether we really feel attracted or not. Later we get a taste and we become addicted to acting and speaking that way.

Could it be that similarly, by acting according to human rules of Varnasrama morality, we are preparing ourselves to live amongst the advanced devotees in Goloka where Daivi Varnasrama is followed, not from any need for purification, but in pure Krishna prema?

Comment posted by Akruranatha on March 13th, 2008
59 Akruranatha

Arjuna’s question at the beginning of the Third Chapter is very important. If it is better to be intelligent, why shouldn’t everyone act like a brahmana?

If the mode of goodness is best, and devotional service appears in the state of completely pure goodness, why does Krishna arrange for some people to act like sudras, or vaisyas?

If pure devotees can do anything (and they can), why do they appear and disappear as if they had material bodies which are affected by the modes of nature? Why don’t they just stay forever in human society and never grow old or diseased, like Narada Muni?

Two things seem to be at work. For one thing, not everyone can act like a brahmana. Maybe in satya yuga everyone acted like a brahmana and there was no need for nonbrahminical work. In kali yuga hardly anyone can act like a brahmana. People really are conditioned by the modes of nature.

So we act according to the kinds of bodies we have because we are not completely transcendental. If we try to act in a way at odds with our nature, it will not be stable. It is dangerous for us. We have to act in accordance with the body, mind and intelligence acquired through our past karma, but learn to dedicate those acts in Krishna consciousness. Varnasrama is a perfect arrangement by Krishna for doing that.

But for another thing, Krishna really does want there to be different kind of workers in society. Even though He is transcendental, He acted like a Yadu prince. Similarly, Arjuna was transcendental, but Krishna wanted to engage him in killing the Kaurava heroes. So, He describes in the Third Chapter, even perfect workers continue to work to set examples as leaders of society.

The symptoms of a person who has transcended the modes and how such a person behaves are given in B.G. 14.22-25. In the Purport Srila Prabhupada explains:

“The qualities of the material modes in the body will act, but as spirit soul the self is aloof from such activities. How does he become aloof? He does not desire to enjoy the body, nor does he desire to get out of it. Thus transcendentally situated, the devotee becomes automatically free. He need not try to become free from the influence of the modes of material nature.”

To try to employ our body in some other material modes goes against nature. To act in Krishna consciousness, without trying to enjoy the body, we can allow the body to behave in accordance with its nature, while we transcend it.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on March 14th, 2008
60 Akruranatha

Elsewhere Prabhupada speaks of “material” and “spiritual” duties. In the purport to 9.30 he talks of “conditional” versus “constitutional” activities.

Even devotees can have “conditional” activities. Prabhupada generally did not require us to neglect our obligations to our families, communities or states.

Sometimes devotees heroically broke social requirements in spite of severe opposition, like those who were tortured and abused in the former USSR for preaching Krishna consciousness.

But generally in most societies today, a person who follows the four regulative principles and takes a few hours out of every day for intense private prayer and meditation, but does not neglect duties to family and community, will be respected as a good, clean, responsible, self-controlled, ideal citizen. The drunkards, adulterers, cruel and dishonest people cause trouble everywhere, but the gentle, self-controlled people (like devotees) are still usually respected in every country.

We need to learn how to properly execute our “conditional” activities in modern society according to varnas and asramas. For example, while our kids are young, we have to care for them very nicely and try to educate them in the ways of Krishna consciousness alongside of equipping them with whatever they will need to get along in life. In that stage of life, while we earn good money we use a sizeable portion (50%) for supporting Krishna consciousness preaching.

After the kids are grown and able to care for themselves, we can dedicate ourselves to more intense, full-time spiritual engagements. Its so natural and perfectly arranged that way.

I remember in the ’70s there was a great BTG back cover with a picture of an orange and/or a banana, and the headline “Perfectly Packaged by Krishna.”

Similar, our own spiritual lives are “Perfectly Packaged by Krishna” inside the coverings of our particular material bodies and minds, which have proper conditional activities according to our particular phases of life and types of body, talents, education, occupation, wealth etc.

We have to perform our spiritual duties (japa, class, deity worship, sankirtan) under the instructions of the guru, and we also can engage in our conditional activities inside our “perfectly packaged by Krishna” bodies, as so many oranges, bananas, apples or whatever.

Don’t try to act like a sannyasi-grhastha. Don’t compare apples and oranges. :-)

Comment posted by Akruranatha on March 14th, 2008

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