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Prabhupada’s Genius: Understanding his Fourth Canto “rape purports” (Part 1)

Saturday, 17 January 2009 / Published in Articles / 8,595 views

By Bhaktin Rita Gupta

In Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Four, chapters twenty-five and twenty-six, Prabhupada wrote purports that are considered “controversial” by some commentators. The supposedly controversial purports are simply another manifestation of Prabhupada’s transcendental genius. “Genius” is explained in Nectar of Devotion as being able to “refute any kind of opposing element with newer and newer arguments.” [1]

Prabhupada’s desire to reveal to us the inner meanings of his purports are far greater than our own desire to understand. Interpreting his purports requires only one thing — unalloyed faith in Prabhupada. “The lotus feet of our spiritual master are the only way by which we can attain pure devotional service. I bow to his lotus feet with great awe and reverence.” [2] All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

I. Context

In Chapters twenty-five and twenty-six, Maitreya was speaking to Vidura. Maitreya was repeating a story told previously by Narada Muni to King Pracinabarhisat.

King Pracinabarhisat submissively inquired from Narada Muni about the ultimate goal of life. King Pracinabarhisat was attached to material life, including animal killing and sex life. In order to instruct the king about spiritual life, Narada Muni told him the story of King Puranjana, an allegorical account of King Pracinabarhisat’s own life.

The story takes place, and was told, at a time when society was organized according to varnasrama-dharma. Under varnasrama-dharma, a woman is always protected by the elder male members of her family. First, she is protected by her father. Later, she is protected by her husband. Finally, she is protected by her grown sons. “[A] woman, in childhood, should be taken care of by the father; when she’s young, she should be taken care of by the husband; and when she’s old, she should be taken care of by elderly sons. You’ll find in the Vedic literature, the father’s responsibility is until she’s handed over to a suitable young man. And the husband’s responsibility is so long she hasn’t got elderly children. At that time, when she has got elderly children, he can leave home and take sannyasa. So the process is a woman is kept under protection always. There is no independence for woman.” [3]

In his lectures and purports, Prabhupada explains what “protection” means. He explains how Lord Rama gave protection to his wife Sita when She was kidnapped by the demon Ravana. “That is the ideal given by Lord Ramacandra, how woman is given protection by the husband. Sitadevi was kidnapped. Ramacandra is the Supreme Lord. He could have married many thousands of Sita, but as the dutiful husband, to rescue one wife He killed the whole family of Ravana. This is protection. He killed the whole family of him.” [4] Prabhupada further explains the protection Lord Narayana gives to the Goddess of Fortune. “Actually the woman must always be protected by her husband. We always speak of the goddess of fortune as being placed on the chest of Narayana. In other words, the wife must remain embraced by her husband. Thus she becomes beloved and well protected. Just as one saves his money and places it under his own personal protection, one should similarly protect his wife by his own personal supervision. Just as intelligence is always within the heart, so a beloved chaste wife should always have her place on the chest of a good husband. This is the proper relationship between husband and wife. ” [5]

Under varnasrama-dharma, the father’s duty of protection includes the responsibility for finding a suitable husband for his daughter. “It is the duty of the father to protect his daughter until she attains puberty and is married to a suitable young man. The husband then takes care of the wife. Generally a man should marry at around twenty-five years of age, and a girl should marry no later than sixteen. If this is the case, when the man is fifty years old, his eldest son should be around twenty-five, old enough to take charge of the mother.” [6] Thus, under varnasrama-dharma, a father must find a suitable husband for his daughter and arrange her marriage by the time she attains puberty.

Prabhupada explains the difficulty a woman experiences if she is not married by the time she attains puberty. “As soon as a woman attains the age of puberty, she immediately becomes very much agitated by sexual desire. It is therefore the duty of the father to get his daughter married before she attains puberty. Otherwise she will be very much mortified by not having a husband.” [7] A woman who is agitated by sex desire, but has no husband, is prone to losing her chastity and thus becoming polluted. “The varnasrama religion’s principles were so designed that the good population would prevail in society for the general spiritual progress of state and community. Such population depends on the chastity and faithfulness of its womanhood. . . . On the failure of such varnasrama-dharma, naturally the women become free to act and mix with men, and thus adultery is indulged in at the risk of unwanted population. Irresponsible men also provoke adultery in society, and thus unwanted children flood the human race at the risk of war and pestilence.” [8] Thus, in Vedic culture, if a father fails to arrange his daughter’s marriage by the time she reaches puberty, she risks becoming polluted.

In the story told by Narada Muni to King Pracinabarhisat, King Puranjana met a beautiful young woman. Upon inquiry, King Puranjana learned that she was unprotected by any male family member. The young woman had no father. “She cannot tell Puranjana her father’s name because she does not know from where she has come.” [9] Nor did she have a husband or a prospective husband. “[He] was asking her whether she was thinking of her prospective husband or whether she was married.” [10] Because the woman had no father, husband, or grown sons, she was without the protection prescribed by varnasrama-dharma.

In this unprotected condition, the young woman was vulnerable and could possibly meet the fate of becoming polluted. According to Vedic wisdom, the young woman must have been unhappy without father, husband, and grown sons. “A woman cannot be happy if she is independent. That is a fact. In Western countries we have seen many women very unhappy simply for the sake of independence. That independence is not recommended by the Vedic civilization or by the varnasrama-dharma.” [11] Consequently, the woman was searching for a husband. “She was very beautiful and young, and she appeared very anxious to find a suitable husband.” [12]

King Puranjana became more and more physically attracted to the young woman. He desired to marry her in order to enjoy sexual relations with her. “He was actually thinking of becoming her husband . . . ” [13] Therefore, he flattered her by speaking to her about her beauty and shyness, and by expressing his attraction. “Certainly your glancing upon me today has very much agitated my mind. Your smile, which is full of shyness but at the same time lusty, is agitating the most powerful cupid within me. Therefore, O most beautiful, I ask you to be merciful upon me.” [14]

In response to King Puranjana’s advances, the young woman became attracted to him as well. Narada Muni tells King Pracinabarhisat, “My dear King, when Puranjana became so attracted and impatient to touch the girl and enjoy her, the girl also became attracted by his words and accepted his request by smiling. By this time she was certainly attracted by the King.” [15] The young woman expressed her attraction to him. She offered herself to him as a sexual partner. “My dear lord, I have just arranged this city of nine gates for you so that you can have all kinds of sense gratification. You may live here for one hundred years, and everything for your sense gratification will be supplied.” [16] The “city of nine gates” is the human body. [17] She also offered herself to him as his wife. “The woman continued: In this material world, a householder’s life brings all kinds of happiness in religion, economic development, sense gratification and the begetting of children, sons and grandsons.” [18]

II. “By this incident we can understand that when a man is aggressive and begins to woo a woman, the woman becomes attracted to the man.”

Regarding King Puranjana and the young woman, Prabhupada writes in a purport, “By this incident we can understand that when a man is aggressive and begins to woo a woman, the woman becomes attracted to the man.” [19] When every word of this statement is interpreted in relation to Krsna consciousness and in the context of the story by Narada Muni, this statement is completely accurate.

To summarize the story told by Narada Muni to King Pracinabarhisat, a ksatriya male meets a beautiful unmarried young woman. He becomes sexually attracted to her, and decides to marry her in order to enjoy sexual relations with her. He expresses his attraction for her. She reciprocates by expressing her mutual attraction and desire to marry him.

Although not stated explicitly, it is implied that King Puranjana married the young woman through kidnap. The young woman had no elder male relatives with whom King Puranjana could negotiate her hand in marriage. “In the first-class marriage system, the parents of the bride and bridegroom arrange the marriage date.” [20] Thus, King Puranjana was forced to marry her by some other means. Like Rukmini described below, the young woman was by eleven bodyguards. [21] It is likely that King Puranjana married the young woman according to the ksatriya code of kidnap. Therefore, King Puranjana is considered an aggressor under the rules of varnasrama-dharma.

The Sanskrit word for “aggressor” is “atatayi.” “Atatayi means the enemy aggressor.” [22] Under varnasrama-dharma, there are various categories of “aggressors.” One category of aggressor is the person “who kidnaps your wife or somebody in the family.” [23] “Kidnap” means “to steal, carry off, or abduct (a person) by force or fraud, [especially] for use as a hostage or to extract ransom.” [24]

Under varnasrama-dharma, marriage by kidnap is acceptable for ksatriyas. “There are eight forms of marriage mentioned in the scripture Manu-smrti, but only one process of marriage, brahma or rajasika marriage, is now current. Other kinds of marriage — by love, by exchange of garlands or by kidnapping the bride — are now forbidden in this Kali age. Formerly, ksatriyas would, at their pleasure, kidnap a princess from another royal house, and there would be a fight between the ksatriya and the girl’s family; then, if the kidnapper was the winner, the girl would be offered to him for marriage. . . . Such marriages were current in bygone ages, but at the present moment they are impossible because the strict principles of ksatriya life have practically been abolished.” [25] Thus, kidnap is a form of aggression that is part of the ksatriya code. A ksatriya woman would naturally be attracted to an aggressive male who woos her and kidnaps her.

Prabhupada explicitly states that Arjuna, Krsna, and Samba married their wives through kidnap. Thus, these three ksatriya men are “aggressors.”

Arjuna married Subhadra by kidnap. Arjuna was a ksatriya, ruling over Hastinapura with his brothers. Subhadra’s brother Balarama was negotiating Subhadra’s hand in marriage with another man. Therefore, Arjuna was required to marry Subhadra by different means. Subhadra also desired to marry Arjuna. “Arjuna, however, desired to gain Subhadra’s hand himself. As he thought of Subhadra and her beauty, Arjuna became more and more captivated with the idea of marrying her, . . . While eating at the home of Balaramaji, Arjuna was simply looking at beautiful Subhadra, who was very enchanting to great heroes and kings. Out of love for her, Arjuna’s eyes brightened, and he looked at her with glittering eyes. Arjuna decided that somehow or other he would achieve Subhadra as his wife, and his mind became agitated on account of this strong desire. Arjuna, the grandfather of Maharaja Pariksit, was himself extraordinarily beautiful, and his bodily structure was very attractive to Subhadra, who decided within her mind that she would accept only Arjuna as her husband. As a simple girl, she was smiling with great pleasure, looking at Arjuna. Thus Arjuna also became more and more attracted by her. In this way, Subhadra dedicated herself to Arjuna, and he resolved to marry her by any means.”..[26]

Neither Subhadra’s father Vasudeva, nor her brother Lord Krsna, were in favor of the marriage being negotiated by Balarama. Thus, Lord Krsna instigated the kidnapping, and Subhadra’s parents gave permission for it. “Once upon a time, Subhadra, seated on a chariot, came out of the palace fort to see the gods in the temple. Arjuna took this opportunity, and with the permission of Vasudeva and Devaki he kidnapped her.” [27] Thus, when Arjuna first began to woo Subhadra, Subhadra became attracted to Arjuna and desired to marry him. When he became aggressive and kidnapped her according to the ksatriya code, he did so with the permission of Lord Krsna and her parents.

Lord Krsna also married Rukmini through kidnap. When Krsna heard of Rukmini, He became attracted to her transcendental qualities and decided to marry her. “Krsna had also heard of Rukmini. She was the reservoir of all transcendental qualities: intelligence, auspicious physical features, liberal-mindedness, exquisite beauty and righteous behavior. Krsna therefore decided that she was fit to be His wife.” [28] Rukmini was attracted to Lord Krsna when He played the part of a ksatriya king. She heard about His transcendental qualities when saints and sages visited her father’s palace. She thus became attracted to His opulences and desired to become His wife. “These are the words of Princess Rukmini: ‘My dear Krsna, O infallible and most beautiful one, . . . I have selected Your Lordship as my husband, and I therefore request You to accept me as Your wife.'”[29]

Rukmini advised Krsna to kidnap her as she was either going to the Durga temple or returning home. “[Rukmini] explained that it was the custom of her family to visit the temple of goddess Durga, their family deity, before a marriage. . . . Rukmini suggested that it would be easiest for Him to kidnap her while she was either going from the palace to the temple or else returning home.” [30] Notably, Rukmini was “protected by bodyguards” at the time she was kidnapped by Krsna, just as the young woman in Narada Muni’s story was protected by eleven bodyguards. [31] Rukmini was kidnapped just before she was supposed to marry another man. The citizens were most certainly gladdened when Krsna kidnapped her. “[T]he people of Kundina assembled before Krsna and Balarama….They were very much pleased, considering Lord Krsna the suitable match for Rukmini. They were so eager to unite Krsna and Rukmini that they prayed to the Personality of Godhead: ‘Our dear Lord, if we have performed any pious activities with which You are satisfied, kindly be merciful upon us and accept the hand of Rukmini.’ It appears that Rukmini was a very popular princess, and all the citizens, out of intense love for her, prayed for her best fortune.” [32] Rukmini’s father organized the wedding as a matter of duty. But he was displeased with the arrangement that had been negotiated by his son. “King Bhismaka was not enthusiastic about handing his daughter over to Sisupala, but he was obliged to accept the marriage settlement due to his affectionate attachment for his eldest son, who had negotiated it.” [33] Therefore, we can only speculate that he might also have desired for Krsna to marry Rukmini, and that he might have been pleased when He married her through the aggressive tactic of kidnap.

Finally, Krsna’s grandson Samba married Laksmana through the aggressive tactic of kidnap. Laksmana “was a very highly qualified girl of the Kuru dynasty, and many princes wanted to marry her.” [34] Samba was determined to marry Laksmana. Laksmana, however, did not reciprocate his feelings of attraction. “Samba wanted Duryodhana’s daughter, Laksmana, although she was not inclined to have him.” [35] Samba kidnapped Laksmana from her svayamvara ceremony. “Samba kidnapped Laksmana by force from the svayamvara assembly.” [36] Although Laksmana’s elder relatives appeared to disapprove of the kidnap, in actuality they were pleased. “When Samba forcibly took away Laksmana, the elder members of the Kuru dynasty were pleased to see that he was actually the suitable match for her.” [37]

In conclusion, Prabhupada wrote, “By this incident we can understand that when a man is aggressive and begins to woo a woman, the woman becomes attracted to the man.” This statement is completely correct when interpreted in the context of varnasrama-dharma, and when the word “aggressive” is interpreted as the ksatriya marriage by kidnap.

_____________

Endnotes:
1. Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 21: Qualities of Sri Krsna
2. Sri Guru-vandana
3. Room Conversation with French Commander — Paris, August 3, 1976)
4. Lecture, Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.28.18 — Nairobi, October 27, 1975)
5. Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.26.17
6. Teachings of Lord Kapila, Verse 5
7. SB 4.25.42
8. Bhagavad-gita 1.40
9. SB 4.25.33
10. SB 4.25.28
11. TLK Vs 5
12. SB 4.25.21
13. SB 4.25.28
14. SB 4.25.30-31
15. SB 4.25.32
16. SB 4.25.37
17. SB 4.25.13
18. SB 4.25.39
19. SB 4.25.32
20. Krsna, Chapter 52: Krsna, the Ranacora
21. SB 4.25.27
22. Lecture SB 1.7.38-39 — Vrndavana, September 30, 1976
23. ibid.
24. Stein, Jess (ed.), Random House Dictionary of the English Language. Random House, NY, NY 1966
25. SB 3.22.16
26. KB 86: The Kidnapping of Subhadra, and Lord Krsna’s Visiting Srutadeva and Bahulasva
27. ibid.
28. KB 52
29. ibid.
30. ibid.
31. KB 53: Krsna Kidnaps Rukmini
32. ibid.
33. KB 52
34. KB 68: The Marriage of Samba
35. ibid.
36. ibid.
37. ibid.

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