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Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of Iskcon’s GBC – Mayapur 2008

Tuesday, 29 April 2008 / Published in GBC / 13,585 views

By the GBC

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15 Responses to “Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of Iskcon’s GBC – Mayapur 2008”

  1. Damana Krishna dasa says :

    I think that this is very good idea to put footnotes in regarding to Srila Prabhupada statements in regards to “woman that like to be raped”. I had doubt when I first read this statement. But this made me very thoughtful. I was never into what my generation people following sexual liberation were into. But I observed that what Srila Prabhupada said it was right. Ladies got drunk in bars and they knew in this condition they will be easily exploited by man. They didnt even remmember next day what happened and with how many man they had sexual relationship. This can not be taken to represent the whole population of ladies in the world, although this behavior is clearly visible in society. Sometimes they even show ideas of man being raped by woman that in other side represent the completely degraded state of the modern civilization. The only hope we have is to make them correctly to understand Srila Prabhupada’s statements without us trying to water them down and cover the reality.

  2. Locanananda dasa says :

    According to sastra, any vaisnava can be seen as guru. As stated by Caitanya Mahaprabhu, whether one is a brahmana, sannyasi or sudra, whoever is conversant with the science of Krishna can act as guru. I believe that brings into question the choice of words found in subject 308, point 504 (b) above, which speaks of “non-guru Srila Prabhupada disciples”. Perhaps a better description would be “those disciples of Srila Prabhupada who have not formally initiated disciples of their own.”

    Your servant,
    Locanananda dasa

  3. Locanananda dasa says :

    Congratulations to the GBC for expanding the commemoration of Srila Prabhupada’s
    great gift into World Holy Name Week! In addition to having ecstatic kirtana, let us also focus on distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books and samples of Krishna prasadam to whoever hears and sees the Sankirtana party. Perhaps the BBT could prepare a special
    publication explaining the event. Let’s also try to have the media cover World Holy Name Week and broadcast the transcendental message of the Krishna consciousness movement from every major city in the world. And, when the time comes, don’t forget to post a video of your temple’s kirtana program on the Internet.

    May the entire world be blessed by the chanting of the Holy Name of the Lord!

  4. Lalita Madhava d.d. says :

    All glories to the GBC for Resolution 311! While the three quotes cited are among the most extremely damaging (to Srila Prabhupada’s image, to our preaching and even to the faith of our own members), there are, as the Resolution states, many “other such statements” that will also have to be addressed. But this is certainly a monumental step in the right direction.

  5. sita-pati says :

    Noam Chomsky, the famous American intellectual, once observed that defending free speech doesn’t mean sticking up for ideas that you agree with – it means sticking up for someone else’s right to espouse ideas that you don’t agree with.

    The real test of commitment to free speech is not when you agree with what is being said, but precisely when you disagree with it.

    Similarly, the real test of support for “annotations as a strategy” is not when you agree with the proposed annotations, but precisely when you don’t.

    Try this as a thought experiment – if you agree with the content and intent of the proposed annotations, imagine a hypothetical set of future annotations that you strongly disagree with. They are going to be put into Srila Prabhupada’s books even though you are certain that His Divine Grace would not approve of them. Still in favor of allowing annotations to Srila Prabhupada’s books?

    This is the kind of consideration that you should make before supporting annotations. It’s not about these particular annotations. At this point it’s about allowing annotations as a strategy.

    I disagree with it.

    ISKCON in its widest sense consists of people who accept Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, especially those in his books, as authoritative pramana. It is not a good idea to give the power to modify those books to any group within ISKCON who will invariably represent one or another interest within the wider society. Although the intention is good, and it always will be from the perspective of those wielding the power, the effect of doing this will be to further divide and fragment the society.

    Let there be tikas and “smrti-sastra” equivalents explaining things in a time, place, and circumstance-relevant fashion. Let there be a canonical work produced by the BBT to sit alongside the Bhagavatam commentary of His Divine Grace. Let there be works bringing together the different perspectives on his works by representatives of the various schools of thought of the members of ISKCON; but don’t let any one group rewrite the book “as they say it is”.

  6. Praghosa says :

    The decision to allow for endnotes was always likely to generate debate. Needless to say this decision was not taken lightly, and while there may be downsides to this decision, on balance it was felt there were more benefits than negatives.

    One of the main arguments voiced against endnotes goes something like this – “Is Krsna consciousness not imparted via the heart rather than the mind or intellect? Isn’t it that the pure devotee gives his mercy to the conditioned soul without the need of contextualization or endnotes?

    “The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they has seen the truth” Bg 4.34

    This is certainly the experience of the vast majority of us, as we all took to devotional service without certain statements in Srila Prabhupada’s books being ‘unpacked’ for us. However that process will not change if endnotes are put in place, those of us fortunate enough not to be distracted or diverted by certain references in Srila Prabhupada’s books will similarly not be distracted or diverted by any endnotes that are published putting those statements into context. However the endnotes might be helpful for those who are confused by certain references in Srila Prabhupada’s books, and they will certainly be helpful in making it that bit harder for those who choose to deliberately use such statements to undermine the Krishna conscious philosophy, Srila Prabhupada and ISKCON.

    It would seem entirely appropriate for sincere followers of Srila Prabhupada to be the ones who give the definitive explanation on any statements that might, or are being misconstrued by others. And in our heart of hearts we all know that there are some statements in Srila Prabhupada’s books that lend themselves to being misconstrued more than others. A simple way to confirm this is to ask yourself “When was the last time I sat down to give a public talk on the subject of how much women like to be raped?

    Your servant, Praghosa dasa.

  7. sita-pati says :

    Thank you for your reply Praghosa prabhu.

    I could give a public talk on this (it’s practically Srila Prabhupada’s nod to the Kama Sutra), but it’s a side issue really. Generally people need to hear about the contents of Bhagavad-gita in public talks. I haven’t had anyone in the public ask me about it either. I asked Kaisori dd to send me the kind of inquiries that the BBT gets on this issue in order to write something to it. For the most part they consisted of ISKCON devotees wringing their hands and saying: “What will people think of this?”

    Is it really that big an issue, from an external public relations perspective?

    Are there any references, like published articles by outsiders referencing these quotes? Or is it just, again, “people may be offended”.

    As Krishna-kirti pointed out, SB 4 is not distributed on its own, so it’s mainly devotees reading this. Having these statements unfootnoted for 30 years hasn’t slowed things down, and I don’t think that footnoting them is going to increase book distribution or recruitment / retention.

    I get the feeling that this is really more about the ‘Whereas some ISKCON devotees may have used these statements out of context as an excuse to offend, neglect and abuse women;”, and a pendulum swing to try to address misbehaviour of individuals within the ISKCON organizational structure.

  8. Akruranatha says :

    I do not agree with Sita Pati that the test for whether we agree with the principle of annotation of Prabhupada’s books is whether we would agree with including annotations we do not agree with.

    “Freedom of speech” does not enter into it. Obviously no one agrees with including bad annotations that are not in line with parampara. We are not speaking of the “right” to annotate, but of whether it ought to be done to serve Srila Prabhupada’s desires.

    We have yet to see what the proposed annotations will say. That will be the test.

    Is it true that when Srila Prabhupada says “rape” and “attack”, he is really talking about something more akin to “seduction”? What does he really mean by these words?

    Do we have to understand his words in the context of a more restricted society, where an unmarried woman has no scope for sexual gratification unless some Errol Flynn-type comes and breaks down the social barriers of morality?

    Or is it that even in sexually “liberated” society girls are still excited by that kind of “Zorro fantasy”?

    Or does Prabhupada really mean to include being jumped in a parking lot by some ugly, stinky, violent predator who attacks with intent to injure? Or even a date rape scenario where a boy physically forces a girl who has made it clear she is really unwilling?

    (The context of these comments in the Fourth Canto do not seem to support this view. King Puranjana is clearly attractive to the girl and she wants him. He marries her and makes her his Queen).

    Or is our attitude toward sex similar to that of radical feminist philosopher Andrea Dworkin, who sees a kind of malevolent agression in virtually all male sexual behavior?

    (But if so, then why does Krishna say that sex life in accordance with religious principles is Himself? B.G. 7.11)

    Of course the story of King Puranjana is an allegory, as made clear in the purports, and the psychology of sexual attraction is being used as a metaphor for the interaction of the (male) spirit soul with the (female) subtle body. Anyone reading and understanding thus far into the Fourth Canto probably should not be too confused by the statements in question.

    Who is the audience for the annotations? A casual reader who happens across these passages and loses faith? Or a foolish neophyte who takes these statements as an excuse for abusing women? Or both?

    I think the BBT is up to the task, but I am curious to see the text of the proposed annotations.

  9. ccd says :

    Im sure there are reasons to do something, and there are reasons not to do something.

    Just as Sita Pati said, free speech is when you allow some people to say what you may not want to say. It is an interesting question, do we have a free speech in ISKCON? Can we say what we want to say or are we moderated? Srila Prabhupada seems to show an example that he could say what he wanted to say, even if it offend less intelligent or a picking person. It is also looks like GBC allowed some freedom to BBT to put footnotes to the passages, that otherwise I would not have noticed as much as when they are taken out of the context and published in this format all over the internet and repeated… Is it what Prabhupada intended when he exercised his (Absolute) free speech? If you want my five cents at least this discussion should actually link them to a page or a full purport, as not to take them out of context. There are so many statements by great souls that when taken out of context offend you basic fundamentalist or liberal Joe. G. K. Chesterton said: You could compile the worst book in the world entirely out of selected quotations from the greatest writers in the world. So in this case when these were pulled out of context they ( for an ordinary guy) are hardly the highest compliment you can pay to the author.

    Was it intentional? Could not have we refer to the Purport by numbers instead? Well its not too late to fix – just link them to the actual text of the purport, please. Misinterpretation and taking out of context go hand in hand, and the intention of the resolution was to NOT misinterpret the text, or am I wrong? Most people do not read books, but they quote and judge books on quotations – an offensive attitude which should not be perpetuated to any author, especially to ones spiritual master.

    Of course, we love everything that our spiritual master said, moreover we are opposed to censorship and at the same time do not like selective quotations.

  10. Lalita Madhava d.d. says :

    The Resolution states, “Whereas some ISKCON devotees may have used these statements out of context as an excuse to offend, neglect and abuse women…”

    Regarding “offending” and “abusing,” please consider the misogynistic vitriol of the new “Hare Krishna Diary,” www.sankirtandiary.blogspot.com , which purports to represent Srila Prabhupada and ISKCON and is one of the first 5 sites to prominently come up in a Google search (as of yesterday at least) in which the words “Prabhupada, women” are entered. (I discovered it after receiving 4 distraught emails and a phone call from a bhaktin who is a cultured, college-educated professional, who said it was one of the reasons she was considering having nothing further to do with ISKCON.)

    More shocking than even the author’s (a 2-year devotee just newly initiated a few weeks ago) own disturbing statements against women are his proud inclusion of quotes of and even links ( www.vnn.org/world/WD9811/WD18-2521.html ) to 10-year-old texts from the infamous “GHQ” debacle, the leaked private conference in which leading devotees were using these and other quotes from Srila Prabhupada in some extremely destructive ways, which makes the issue of “using statements out of context” not just a distasteful and unfortunate episode in our history that we can quietly recover from and put in the past, but a present-day, in-your-face, 5-slots-down-from-the-top-in-a-Google-search ignominy that is still causing people to leave ISKCON.

    Therefore, Praghosa Prabhu is exactly right when he says, “However the endnotes…will certainly be helpful in making it that bit harder for those who choose to deliberately use such statements to undermine the Krishna conscious philosophy, Srila Prabhupada and ISKCON.”

  11. Praghosa says :

    Dear Sita Pati prabhu,

    You write:

    “Is it really that big an issue, from an external public relations perspective”?

    Well how big and issue it is, I guess that is a judgement call and it maybe that more attention will be focused on this issue as a result of the resolution but for sure it is not exclusively, as you write:

    “a pendulum swing to try to address misbehaviour of individuals within the ISKCON organizational structure”

    I have 2 examples from my own experience as a devotee. One was on a radio discussion panel where the subject was the cultural influence of different religious traditions and the other was during a formal debate in a university in front of a 400 strong audience. In both situations a participant had done their homework and referred to a number of the ‘controversial’ quotes we are talking about.

    Then of course there is the famous court case in the US some years ago where an ex-member had highlighted all of these controversial quotes and had his lawyer read them out one after another in open court.

    So how big the issue is, and what audience needs most to be addressed is, I suppose debatable, but there is an issue to be addressed.

    Your servant, Praghosa dasa

  12. Madan Gopal das says :

    Sita-pati – “I haven’t had anyone in the public ask me about it either. I asked Kaisori dd to send me the kind of inquiries that the BBT gets on this issue in order to write something to it. For the most part they consisted of ISKCON devotees wringing their hands and saying: “What will people think of this?”
    Is it really that big an issue, from an external public relations perspective?”

    It seems everyone tends to comment on this issue from the perspective of “how will Prabhupada’s controversial statements effect the preaching”. I think the answer to this hinges on what you consider preaching to be. Yes, it is quite unlikely that someone on the streets will receive Prabhupada’s 4th canto, open it up to the rape quote and right then and there resolve never to follow this path because we are socially backwards religious sect. However, I would argue from the evidence coming back in response to this resolution that DEVOTEES are uncomfortable with this, DEVOTEES need this explained, DEVOTEES need to be reassured as to what Prabhupada’s perspective on this is… The proof of this is that the issue of Prabhupada’s statements about women continues to linger without resolve for decades. I will say that I am offended by these statements and several of Prabhupada’s statements about women, minority groups, even sometimes general comments about non-devotees. How did I get over it? The continuation of parampara; inquiry from a devotee who could put Prabhupada’s statements in perspective, guide me to the essentials of the philosophy of bhakti, and offer his own social commentary that was up to date.

  13. Akruranatha says :

    Sita Pati Prabhu, I *would* like to hear your talk on what Srila Prabhupada meant in these passages, and what you mean by “Prabhupada’s nod to the Kama Sutra”.

    Maybe rather than endnotes (or in addition to endnotes) what we need is devotees who have actual spiritual understanding write articles disclosing their realizations about Prabhupada’s words.

    Personally I do not understand these passages, but I know I have the capacity to receive enlightenment about Prabhupada’s books from his sincere followers.

    One thing I do know is that Prabhupada did not mean that women actually like being raped or “attacked” as those terms are generally understood today. I have represented a rape victim client and have gotten to know some rape trauma counselors. Even though I am no expert, it is clear that rape is an ugly, horrible thing, and that while victims react differently it leaves terrible scars on the psyche. Prabhupada was not talking about that kind of “rape” or attack. We can all be sure of that.

    Now, as for Vedic knowledge about the psychology of eroticism, maybe it is a subject that devotees are generally uncomfortable with. We are struggling to minimize or completely renounce sex in our own lives, and discussing erotic topics, even scientifically, might agitate or embarrass us. At least speaking for myself, it makes me uncomfortable.

    I am confident, however, that Srila Prabhupada was fully conversant with the perfect Vedic knowledge on the subject, and that these statements somehow relate to the mysteries of the psychology of sexual attraction. Also, I am confident Prabhupada would not be discussing these things unless they were relevant to the science of how to go back to Godhead.

    So, Sita Pati, I am eager for any light you can shed.

    I am reminded of the story about Sripad Sankaracarya. He was conquering the ten directions with his debating skills, but he was challenged by one queen to debate about erotic principles. Having been a lifelong celibate who had vowed to have nothing to do with women (I think he took sannyas while still barely a teenager), he was in a dilemma. How could he debate on this subject?

    He solved the dilemma by mystically entering the body of a king who had recently died. The king appeared to come back to life (sort of like the movie “Heaven Can Wait”), and Sankaracarya was able to experience erotic life through that body without disturbing his vows. Then he rentered his own body and won the debate.

  14. Locanananda dasa says :

    I was just reading the transcript of a conversation that took place in Perth on 5-11-75.
    The subject of rape was being discussed. Srila Prabhupada referred to a Calcutta court case
    in which a trial lawyer induced a rape victim to admit that she felt some happiness during the course of the rape. The lawyer used this admission of pleasure as proof of consent, which meant there was no rape, and his client was aquitted.

    Srila Prabhupada discusses the psychology involved, saying that sometimes the rape victim is experiencing pleasure because lusty desire is present and the sex act is “scratching the itch.” He states further that the woman being raped may actually be submitting willingly due to psychological factors.

    I would recommend that devotees study this conversation on Vedabase to get a more clear picture of Srila Prabhupada’s perspective on the issue. Just a humble suggestion.

    Your servant,
    Locanananda dasa

  15. Administrator says :

    From Jayadvaita Swami’s blog, on May 26, 2007 – 9:39am.

    Commenting on a verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.25.41), in which a young woman accepts the sexual advances of a king, Srila Prabhupada says, “A man is always famous for his aggression toward a beautiful woman, and such aggression is sometimes considered rape. Although rape is not legally allowed, it is a fact that a woman likes a man who is very expert at rape.”

    Understandably, this comment has raised questions. What is Srila Prabhupada saying? In 1999 a woman in the Hare Krishna community wrote me about this. Here is the reply I gave.

    http://www.jswami.info/rape

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