No man can run a family the way a commander runs an army
By Sita Rama das
I have been a follower of ISKCON for over thirty years; however I was just recently exposed to a peculiar interpretation of Srila Prabhupada’s teaching. An individual, (herein referred to as, the individual) who is initiated by Srila Prabhupada is propagating this interpretation on the internet. The individual explicitly claims that a man should have authority over his wife in the same manner that a military officer controls soldiers, or the way a CEO controls employees. He claims this is what Srila Prabhupada teaches and, based on the reality of the world; it is the only way for a family to function effectively. He believes that insubordination on the part of women is the main cause for divorce. He says that any devotee who preaches differently is stepping on Srila Prabhupada’s head by placing his own materially contaminated opinion over Srila Prabhupada’s absolute instructions.
Personally, I know of no devotee who would accept this interpretation. However I think this viewpoint should be official condemned by the leaders of ISKCON because it is both a gross perversion of Srila Prabhupada’s teaching and patently absurd.
I accept all of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. Srila Prabupada said, hundreds of times, things must be done according to time place and circumstances. I accept that as an absolute fact. But the principal that is pertinent to this subject is eternally true in all circumstances. I am talking about dharma. The eternal dharma of the soul is that it is always a servant. The soul must either directly serve Krishna or serve the material energy. Therefore; if we have material desires we should frankly acknowledge that we must become servants in the material world. That is the attitude of a pious person. An impious person denies they are a servant. This attitude is described in the Veda’s as iccha and dvesa. Iccha means desire to control. Dvesa means hate; the impious hate anything that threatens their control. One who has an extremely strong desire to control loathes to accept that they are a servant. Due to extreme ignorance such people think they are in control in spite of the fact that, in this world, everyone is subservient to the material energy.
The individual might agree with my assertion that a man must serve the material energy if he has material desires. Yet the individual would surely say that Srila Prbhupada, and common sense, tells us any group needs a leader and within a family the man must be the authority. The type of statement commonly cited by the individual is found in Srila Prabhupada’s purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 9:3:10 “However great a woman may be she must place herself before her husband in this way; that is to say she must be willing to carry out her husband’s orders and please him in all circumstances…. Westerners contend that this is slave mentality for the wife, but factually it is not; it is a tactic by which a woman can conquer the heart of her husband, however cruel he may be”. Here Srila Prabhupada says a woman must be ready to carry out the order of her husband. The individual’s argument is that this is comparable to a soldier who also carries out orders. But the comparison is not good because the solder does not “conquer the heart” of his commander. An obedient solder simply avoids the serious punishment that he would receive for insubordination.
Any man who thinks he can control his wife the way a military officer controls an army is living in a fantasy world. Check out chapter 51 of the Krishna the Supreme Personality of Godhead, it describes the deliverance of King Mucukunda. The king said to Krishna “…I may be a powerful king and yet when I come home after conquering the world I become subjected to many material conditions. When I come back victorious, all subordinate kings may come and offer their respects, but as soon as I enter the inner sections of the palace, I myself become an instrument in the hands of the Queens and for sense gratification I must fall down at the feet of a woman”. The pious king frankly admits he cannot control his family as he does his army. Of course the Queens will be subservient, but in this way they conquer the king and he becomes their servant. It is noteworthy that king says he is “conquered” by the Queens and Srila Prabhupada uses the exact same word; the submissive woman can “conquer” the heart of the husband.
If someone thinks that a chaste wife will always be submissive I have some advice. Get real! Check out a morning walk in Bombay on March 27,1974.
Srila Prabhupada: No. I did not like my wife but still I had to marry her. (Laughter)
Dr. Patel: And you had bad days all your life or were you quarreling? I am sorry to intrude.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
Dr. Patel: Were you?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes.
A little later
Quest (1): Tulasi dasa, also, the same thing happened. No? Everywhere.
The quest is referring to the great Vaisnava poet Tulasi dasa. In a room conversation –April 12, 1969, New York, Srila Prabhupada explains that Tualsi dasa,(before becoming a great Vaisnava poet) was overly attached to his young wife and she chastised him for it. Srila Prabupada also says Tulasi dasa“… in many passages of his poetry has not done much justice to women”.
Dr. Patel: I was attached to my wife. And we used to quarrel every day.
Srila Prabhupada: Quarreling between husband and wife, that is natural. That is explained by Chanakya Pundit… The quarreling will be humbug, big, but the result will be nothing.
A little later:
Srila Prabhupada:…quarrel, my wife never thought of another man; neither I thought of another woman.
Dr. Patel Why? Because of the background.
Srila Prabhupada: Although we fought, but there was no such thing. [break] Fighting is natural. This is fight of love. Therfore Chanakya pundit said “Neglect this fighting. Don’t take it seriously”. ……Quarrel between husband and wife should not be taken seriously. Let them fight. It will stop automatically. That’s all.
Unlike the quarrel between husband and wife, if an employee quarrels with their CEO it is a serious matter; such a person risks losing their job. If a soldier quarrels with his commanding officer he may be punished in a military court. But a wife and husband will regularly quarrel. According to Srila Prabhupada this is to be expected and not taken seriously.
The individual cited some places where Srila Prabupada’s said women always need protection from men. There are two sides to this. Check out the purport to Srimad Bhagavatam, 3:14:20 “A man who possesses a good wife does not create a disturbance in society by corrupting virgin girls. Without a fixed wife, a man becomes a debauchee of the first order and is a nuisance in society- unless he is trained as a brahmacari, vanaprastha or sannyasi. ….. A grhastha is saved, however because of his faithful wife”. Srila Prabhupada says women need the protection of a good husband so they do not become exploited. But most men also need the protection of a good wife so they do not become exploiters. The individual is married. He did not get married to protect a woman. Because of his material desire he could not remain a bramacari. Therefore; according to Srila Prabhupada, he needed the protection of a good wife to save him from becoming a “debauchee of the first order” and a “nuisance in society”.
The individual claims Srila Prabhupada teaches us that unsubmissive wives are to blame for the high divorce rate. For some reason he does not acknowledge this statement by Srila Prabhupada found in the purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 4:25:56. “In Bengali it is said that if one becomes the obedient servant of his wife, he loses all reputation. However: the difficulty is that unless one becomes a most obedient servant of his wife, family life becomes disturbed. In the Western countries this disturbance gives rise to divorce law and in the Eastern countries like India there is separation.”
The individual claims that those advocating equality in marriage are deviating from Srila Prabhupada’s instruction. In fact, it is he who is doing this by accepting some of Srila Prabhupada’s instruction and ignoring others. Specifically he emphasizes the duty of a wife to serve the husband and neglects the fact that it is also the duty of a husband to serve the wife.
The foundation of our philosophy is that we are eternally servants. If we have material desires we should not resent, and neurotically deny, the fact we must be subservient to the opposite sex. Devotees are supposed to have a clear understanding of the world but this individual’s perspective is clearly neurotic. Anyone can see that a man is deluded if he thinks he can rule his family the way a commander rules an army; and people will justifiably laugh at such a man. The leaders of ISKCON should make it clear that such delusions are not common in our society and they certainly are not consistent with the Absolute Truth.
Anyone who would like to talk with me about this subject can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sita Rama das