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“I do not want to be a woman in varnashrama”

Thursday, 07 July 2011 / Published in Articles / 5,615 views

    By Vrndavanlila dd (Dr Vrinda Baxi)

“I do not want to be a woman in varnasrama” – This fear like many other fears of say being branded a shudra or of a non-brahmana varna, or being permanently moved to not so luxurious or physically comfortable setting of a villages is one of the many primary reasons which have hamstrung the acceptability of varnasrama dharma even in devotee circles. Let me address the first fear here – being a woman in varnasrama set up.

The varnasrama context immediately conjures the image of a woman in traditional roles to the extent of duty sans right, tireless provider of incessant unconditional services to everybody in the family. Any kind of non-observance on account of some inability or reason is sufficient to negate her years of service and she being branded as a non-cooperative power-hungry feminist modern women.

My own journey was marked by jeer at the hands of devotees, all in the name of varnashrama. A woman’s body is a disqualification enough to not even be considered for any service even in the face of non-experienced male devotees. I am aware that I am still somewhere very down in the process of self-realization, but is not service an opportunity to cleanse? If a woman is good and experienced at any service (managerial or non-managerial), it benefits both, the organization in developing further and woman in cleansing and utilizing her talents in the service of the Lord. There are several conversations by Srila Prabhupada, in which he considered protected status of a woman and management service of a woman to be compatible. After having served at senior positions in different organisations, I had decided to be fully involved in the varnashrama mission and render my services here. I rejected several lucrative offers to realize little late that I was unwanted in the spiritual circle. ‘Afterall woman is just a sex object and thus has to be kept away from the sight of men and positions.’ With these thoughts playing, my understanding of varnashrama as a set up which has place for everybody was challenged and I had only three options:

  • Stay on and fight for the right to serve according to my nature and skills.

  • Flee from the varnasrama scene and accept a regular good paying job while privately practicing at home with my husband (who had been in the movement since his childhood)

  • Stay on with perseverance and faith, waiting for things to improve on their own

The first option was not for me as in my life I had never experienced belligerence even in the remotest way. My mother had been a very virtuous village lady with all her simplicity.

Now for the second option, ‘fleeing’ from the scene is not in my temperament. Further, I was not sufficiently materially inspired to quit the preaching mission of Srila Prabhupada and violate the desire of my gurudev.

I was left with only third option, which was very difficult to practice. I was reminded of my Guru Maharaj’s (His Holiness Bhakti Raghava Swami) one instruction that in situations when we think that the other person has wronged us, one must always humbly and even sincerely think that one is one self responsible for the unfortunate development and forgive the bitterness that it entails. Its implementation was very difficult. But as I prayed for little insight into understanding his instruction, its true import revealed itself in its true glory with its profundity of karma and phala.

Now it was interesting and even testy. Externally things were same, no change in my situation or in others’ perception, still so much had changed. The dirt and conditioning of life times has accumulated on our consciousness – sad+cit+ananda – attribute of soul. How could I present myself with all its ugliness to Him? Naturally they were helping me clean my self before I stood in front of Him and I still do not know how much more is required for attaining that final goal.

What difference does it make if one is treated as a king or a beggar, a brahmana or a sudra, a man or a woman in the cleansing process as long as the result remains the same, as envisioned by Srila Prabhupada?

Many people go to Vrindavan by flight, a few by train in different classes- AC 2 Tier, AC 3 Tier, Sleeper or even unreserved bogie but as long as the transport takes me to Goloka dhama, what difference does it make as to how I reach?

My spiritual master is so merciful that he wishes to accommodate all the varnas with all their guna-deficiencies in them on the road to Back to Godhead by adopting to daiva-varnashrama set up; my grand spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada too was so merciful that he would not rest till the last tiniest of the ant went back home, and here we have forgotten that ultimate purpose of life and would not be compassionate to a woman. The Lord is so merciful that He accepted service from Hanuman as well as from a tiny squirrel.

My services may be similar to a few grains of sand that the squirrel had brought to build the bridge for Sri Ram compared to huge rocks and mountains brought by others but if it pleases the guru and the Lord, it is worth persevering. Afterall what all is happening is His desire and Varnasrama is His creation:

cātur-varṇyaḿ mayā sṛṣṭaḿ / guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ

tasya kartāram api māḿ / viddhy akartāram avyayam [BG 4.13]

[According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me. And although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the nondoer, being unchangeable.]

Whatever teething problems it may be giving in implementing because of our wide departure from the ideal norm or misunderstanding of the concept by a few, it will still yield result if we are sincere, simply because it is His creation – perfect and complete, just like Him.

oḿ pūrṇam adaḥ pūrṇam idaḿ / pūrṇāt pūrṇam udacyate

pūrṇasya pūrṇam ādāya/ pūrṇam evāvaśiṣyate [Isopanishad, Invocation]

[The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes. Whatever is produced of the Complete Whole is also complete in itself. Because He is the Complete Whole, even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance.]

At the same time, the Lord instructs in the conclusive chapter of Bhagavad-Gita as:

śreyān sva-dharmo viguṇaḥ / para-dharmāt sv-anuṣṭhitāt

svabhāva-niyataḿ karma / kurvan nāpnoti kilbiṣam [BG 18.47]

It is better to engage in one’s own occupation, even though one may perform it imperfectly, than to accept another’s occupation and perform it perfectly. Duties prescribed according to one’s nature are never affected by sinful reactions.” We are here to prepare ourselves to go back home and not waste our human birth in asserting our “right”. This birth is meant for higher purpose rather than settling the gender equation ‘right’.

Taking the role of women further as a wife, Chyavan Muni who was fit to be Sukanya’s grandfather in age and was irritable in nature was lovingly served by his wife. Being Manu’s granddaughter, any young king would have felt honored to have Sukanya as his wife, still married to him, she was totally surrendered to her husband in service. First of course is the Vedic training that the parents impart to their children and second is the husband himself. Respect and love is something which cannot be enforced, Chyavan muni though irritable in temperament was spiritually a very exalted soul. This attribute makes the process of respect and loving service to the husband come naturally to wife.

Husband is a worshipable demigod for the wife or His representative belonging to the class of guru, king, and parent for the wife and has more responsibility to follow his dharma and lead his dependents back home, Back to Godhead.

gurur na sa syāt sva-jano na sa syāt / pitā na sa syāj jananī na sā syāt

daivaḿ na tat syān na patiś ca sa syān / na mocayed yaḥ samupeta-mṛtyum [SB 5.5.18]

[One who cannot deliver his own dependants from the path of repeated birth and death by his devotional instructions, should never become a spiritual master, a father, a mother, a husband or a worshipable demigod.]

No organization can function successfully without cooperation between a leader and his followers. Grhastha, the only ashrama that allows association of both the sexes cannot function unless there is cooperation between the two. In view of the natural ‘gunas’ it is effective (materially and even spiritually) to have ‘husband’ lead the organization of home and woman accepts the position of follower and support him in his spiritual endeavors. Afterall the only objective of our birth and follow our dharma is to go back to Him. It is so beautiful that daiva varnasrama dharma allows just not Brahmana, but even non-brahmanas and woman to go back to the Lord through a simple method – service. Distortion of the original model and our conditioning (more so in Kali-yuga) may have strewn this simple path with difficulties and complexities. It is only our Arjun like concentration on the ultimate goal with surrender, sincerity, focus and humility can help melt all the hindrances.

Srila Prabhupada wanted the second part of his preaching to be radically different from the first one and focused on revival of varnashrama dharma. He knew that in kaliyuga it will be very difficult for devotees to even follow the four regulatives. Our food is contaminated to the extent that even without our knowledge we are taking things for which we have vowed not to touch; we vowed not to indulge in illicit sex but what are we fed in the name of advertisements or co-education or adult education? It is omnipresent in cities in both the subtle and obvious form, we vowed not to intake intoxicants or gamble but what are we taking in the name of allopathy medicines, we work for companies which thrive on stock market. We are a part of an economy that sustains itself on abominable products like liquor and cow slaughter. How is it possible to sever ourselves from this unwanted conditioning getting thicker as long as we are in a city set up? This is just a beginning of our spiritual journey. Isn’t it a good enough reason to move back to simple village life style and engage in occupations that are based on land and cows with Krsna at the center? Ugra karma, whether on the part of men or women is the cause of many gender role confusions? The fears and insecurities in both the sexes exist as long as one has not moved to villages. Confusion, protest, and oppression, exist only in the transitory phase or when we have not taken to the rural life. Village life is a great leveler in itself. One bold decision to bring overall change and revert with firm faith in His creation and words like Arjun –

naṣṭo mohaḥ smṛtir labdhā / tvat-prasādān mayācyuta

sthito ‘smi gata-sandehaḥ / kariṣye vacanaḿ tava [BG 18.73]

[Arjuna said: My dear Kṛṣṇa, O infallible one, my illusion is now gone. I have regained my memory by Your mercy. I am now firm and free from doubt and am prepared to act according to Your instructions.]

In the same spirit we have to accept His word and follow our dharma. Men have daiva varnasrama dharma and women have – the stri dharma. Men being given the responsibility of protecting the women as a father, husband, and a son have more responsibility as the ‘leader’, their natural inclination to serve the Guru and Gauranga will elicit a natural ‘follower’ in a woman. A very very few women attain the stature of Jahnava mataji (Lord Nityananda’s wife). It is better to follow the sva-dharma, the stri dharma for women and varnasrama dharma for men not just because we are still on the material platoform but even if it is otherwise, still we have to follow the dharma simply because:

yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhas / tat tad evetaro janaḥ

sa yat pramāṇaḿ kurute / lokas tad anuvartate [BG 3.21]

Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.

Hare Krsna!

[The article originally appeared in the 18th issue of “The Eight Petals”, and the author can be contacted:]


  1. 0
    Urmila says:

    Please accept my obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

    Thank you for this article. I have personally concluded that a woman’s place in varnasrama is not well understood. A philosophy and social organization that are true, that come from the Absolute Truth, must be one that provides each individual with authentic personal expression both material and spiritual. If we understand a social system to mandate that a person’s nature is repressed (which Krishna advises against) then such a system must not be fully true. Because I believe varnasrama to be a system of truth, I also believe it must be a system where both men and women can authentically express both their ashrama and varna natures and to do so in such a way as to nourish and allow full expression of their spiritual nature.

    I have found that those who say women do not need such expression cannot live what they preach and end up being who they are anyway. Such is what Krishna predicts in the third and eighteenth chapter of the Gita–our choice is not to repress our nature, nor to artificially do another nature. Our choice is to use our nature properly in devotional service, or improperly for maya. We each–yes, women, too–have three aspects to our nature. One is spiritual and eternal. One is varna and for this life. It changes from one life to the next. The other is ashrama that changes as we age in life. All three need authentic expression in Krishna’s service, whether one is male or female, black, white, brown or otherwise.

    Your servant, Urmila devi dasi

  2. 0
    Prabhava Vigraha das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    At a certain point in KC there are some barriers that the mundane logic and ordinary intellect cannot cross. There is a curtain that one can break trough on the basis of purity due to accumulated devotional service. Then things become revealed to the devotee. The devotee knows this is slow but it is so satisfying. This is the way Krishna does everything in the natural order of things. Everything slowly but surely in order to respect the free will of individuals and their slowness to understand spiritual matters. Impatience is out of place for such understanding.

    The mercy of the spiritual master is the ingredient by excellence to have one’s eyes opened on spiritual reality just beyond the external features of the material energy. Without such predisposition of purity (practical Bg. 7.28; SI 7) no such vision is allowed. If a devotee is blessed in this way, he/she is peaceful and assured of the reality of KC as being absolutely relevant and true for anyone and everyone provided one follows the standard, scientific process of true, bona fide practice of KC.

    Without purity, it is so easy to be misled even on spiritual grounds that one may think he/she has understood but actually he/she has mostly misunderstood. That is why satam prasangam is so important. To see and realize where we stand in the association of devotees who by their association will protect us from what we need to be protected from.

    In Krishna book there is a pastime of males and females splashing water on each other. Srila Prabhupada writes that those who were not pure were experiencing lusty thoughts at such event. That is the test of our KC. How much we stand absorbed in the sincere loving mood of serving Krishna, undisturbed by the dualities of temporary delusions offered incessantly by the illusory energy of the Lord. KC can be understood, or should I write, misunderstood through the prism of personal attachment. Otherwise, when Krishna has been made for real the center and goal of our life, sacrificing personal attachment by the way, Krishna reveals Himself slowly but surely to a devotee. Then KC can be understood in its most satisfying light. And this is the gift a true devotee may want absolutely to share with anyone and everyone he may elect to make that fortunate as well. That is the bliss of the sankirtan movement. We need and there is room for all kinds of devotees in the waves of the ocean of transcendental bliss of Lord Caitanya’s movement. Yhs.

    Srila Prabhupada, ki jaya!

  3. 0
    gaurakeshavadas ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I’m sorry but I did not find anything enlightening in this article. Nothing that I thought would more the ball forward even an inch. The conclusion is to just wait and see if Varnasrama manifests itself. Many people are caught up in the externals of Varnasrama and not understanding basic principles or how things may have to be adjusted in a modern global (not just western) context. I agree with Urmila devi’s analysis that at it’s basis Varnasrama is about engaging people according to their tendencies not repression. I would add the comment to hers that ashram is actually determined by varna and may not change throughout one’s life. One of the biggest problems in implementing Varnashram is that we already have an improper Ashram system. An actual Ashram system cannot be independent of a Varna system. The basic misunderstanding is that there are four varnas and four ashrams and you can mix them any which ways. That is not correct. For example for sudras there is ONLY one ashram permissible, Grhastha. For Sannyasa that is ONLY one Varna that permits it, Brahmin. It is more difficult in ISKCON to introduce Varnashram principles because we already have wrong notions of the ashram part of it. It is more difficult because we have to UNLEARN the wrong notions we now practice. The first step is to realize that not all bachelors (or bachelorettes) are brahmacharies (or dare I say brahmacharinis). Not all devotees will or should move beyond the Grhastha ashram. If we really want to introduce some Varnashrama principles then we have to be prepared to put many of our previously unquestioned beliefs on the table for discussion. Acceptance and Legitimization of four (legitimate) goals of human life (not just one Krishna Prema) is essential to the institution of Varnashrama principles. I personally do not think there are many ISKCON devotees mature enough yet to accept some of those changes. Thus unless and until there is such guidance coming from the top it will not gain much traction in the coming years.

  4. 0
    pustakrishna ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    In the United States, about half of the doctors graduating from medical school are women. They fill the ranks of every specialty, medical and surgical. They demonstrate competency and extremely good intelligence. Certainly, many men, including myself, consider that if all of the political leaders in the world were women, we would have far fewer, if any, wars.
    In the Kali yuga, kalau sudra sambhava, everyone is of the quality of shudra in this Kali yuga. Therefore, when men exhibit pride, it is a Shudra’s pride. Brahmanas should by nature be humble, if they are qualified by quality (guna). Abuse of women is not ever acceptable. In Vedic culture, women and children are meant to be protected, at the very least. We realize that the culture of sense gratification is pervasive all over the world, but it is a defect in both men and women. Women, and even the proximity of men and women, is not the cause of a man’s lust. Srila Prabhupad never accepted that men and women should be separated in the temple room when chanting japa in the morning. So, we need to make adjustments to the environment, rather than running away from the environment.
    Years ago, when I studied karate with my young children, my karate sensei or teacher used to tell a story. It goes as follows: Two monks were walking down a path when they encountered a young woman who was trying to unsuccessfully cross a stream. One of the monks picked her up and carried her across the stream then placed her down to go on her way. Later, the other monk remarked, ‘is it not improper for a monk to associate with a woman physically?’ The other monk, the one who carried the woman across the stream, replied: “I placed her down a long time ago. You, it seems, are still carrying her around.”
    Pusta Krishna das

  5. 0

    Very interesting indeed and well written.Lets look for the instructions in Srimad Bhagavatam for women:

    SB 7.11.25: To render service to the husband, to be always favorably disposed toward the husband, to be equally well disposed toward the husband’s relatives and friends, and to follow the vows of the husband — these are the four principles to be followed by women described as chaste.

    SB 7.11.26-27: A chaste woman must dress nicely and decorate herself with golden ornaments for the pleasure of her husband. Always wearing clean and attractive garments, she should sweep and clean the household with water and other liquids so that the entire house is always pure and clean. She should collect the household paraphernalia and keep the house always aromatic with incense and flowers and must be ready to execute the desires of her husband. Being modest and truthful, controlling her senses, and speaking in sweet words, a chaste woman should engage in the service of her husband with love, according to time and circumstances.

    SB 7.11.28: A chaste woman should not be greedy, but satisfied in all circumstances. She must be very expert in handling household affairs and should be fully conversant with religious principles. She should speak pleasingly and truthfully and should be very careful and always clean and pure. Thus a chaste woman should engage with affection in the service of a husband who is not fallen.

    SB 7.11.29: The woman who engages in the service of her husband, following strictly in the footsteps of the goddess of fortune, surely returns home, back to Godhead, with her devotee husband, and lives very happily in the Vaikuṇṭha planets.

  6. 0
    kavicandra swami ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Gaura Keshava Prabhu’s comments are interesting.

    “Not all devotees will or should move beyond the Grhastha ashram. ”

    And not not ment should move into the grhastha ashram since they have no proper training and so many misconceptions.

    We need to have more “barn” ashrams. That is devotees working in agriculture and cow protection.

  7. 0

    Kavicandra Maharaja I do not believe you are saying that all grhasthas are fallen and should be working in a barn?
    And those in grhastha life is not recomended to stay there “forever”.Sri Prahlada Maharaja has advised;

    SB 5.18.13: Just as aquatics always desire to remain in the vast mass of water, all conditioned living entities naturally desire to remain in the vast existence of the Supreme Lord. Therefore if someone very great by material calculations fails to take shelter of the Supreme Soul but instead becomes attached to material household life, his greatness is like that of a young, low-class couple. One who is too attached to material life loses all good spiritual qualities.

    SB 5.18.14: Therefore, O demons, give up the so-called happiness of family life and simply take shelter of the lotus feet of Lord Nṛsiḿhadeva, which are the actual shelter of fearlessness. Entanglement in family life is the root cause of material attachment, indefatigable desires, moroseness, anger, despair, fear and the desire for false prestige, all of which result in the repetition of birth and death.

    There is a difference between grhasthas and grhamedhis..this has to be made very clear

  8. 0
    scooty.ram says:

    “Acceptance and Legitimization of four (legitimate) goals of human life (not just one Krishna Prema) is essential to the institution of Varnashrama principles.” — Very Profound.

    Accepting the need for dharma artha kama in a society is a must and inevitable.

  9. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: -11 ) says:

    “We need to have more ‘barn’ ashrams. That is devotees working in agriculture and cow protection.”

    It would be nice to see more devotees working in agriculture and cow protection, but we still need many devotees working in nagar sankirtan and book distribution and gurukulas and university preaching and other outreach programs.

    I guess I always worry that devotees doing important activities like book distribution and organizing and supporting urban temples should not be deviated to rural services. Otherwise, where will new devotees come from?

    The only solution is to have thousands and thousands more devotees, and then naturally many of them will find they have the aptitude to be farmers, but we will still have centers in highly populated areas.

  10. 0
    pustakrishna ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Regarding the comments in #6 and #3, we don’t want to go to a condescending level, but rather, in my opinion, to continue to dissect these matters out with an aim to find deeper truth. Srila Prabhupad took mlecchas, people outside of the varnashrama system, and created many good vaishnavas. A vaishnava is better than a brahmana, and is already understood to have some realization of what is Brahman and what is Parambrahman. The four varnas are created by Krishna Himself (chatur varnyam maya sristam…) and the various designations are to be understood, not by birth, but rather by guna (quality) and karma (work). When Srila Prabhupad gave second initiations (brahamana initiations) to westerners, there were many Gaudiya Vaishnavas in India who did not accept this action of Srila Prabhupad. Gradually, most came to accept. Even within the Gaudiya Math, there was controversy over whether a non-brahmana “born” vaishnava could become a leader in the vaishnava society. These considerations are against the teachings and example of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, whose Nama-Acharya was Haridas Thakur. You know the rest.
    So, we do not want to see that mis-conception entertained here in any way, shape or form. Birth is never the grantor of any varna designation, but rather the quality of the individual and the quality of their work. That is Krishna’s decree, and it should be the message that ISKCON presents in the world.
    Also, keep in mind, that Krishna appeared as a cowherd Boy, a vaishya. Practically all of the inhabitants of Vrindaban are vaishyas, with the exception of Madhumangala and Gargamuni. Certainly, if the pride of brahmanism enters one’s consciousness, I would place out there, that it may be a disqualification to entering the sweet environment of Sri Vrindaban Dham. This is not a curse, as I have no such quality to curse any thing or any one, but if one gets what they desire (eko bahunam yo vidhadhati kaman), then Krishna prefers those of simple “melted” hearts, rather than proud harder hearted souls to play with…forever. Pusta Krishna das

  11. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: -11 ) says:

    I thought it was a beautiful article, by the way, giving personal history and realizations. Although Vrndavanalila learned to respond to the discrimination and mistreatment of certain devotees with humility and tolerance and a broader philosophical outlook, that still does not condone the behavior and reaction of those who opposed this qualified devotee doctor in a female body.

    I have heard stories that H.H. Bhakti Tirtha Swami also was instructed by Srila Prabhupada to approach the racism of certain devotees in this tolerant and humble way, but that should not encourage anyone to become racist.

    One point I question is, “Srila Prabhupada wanted the second part of his preaching to be radically different from the first one and focused on revival of varnashrama dharma.”

    I hear statements like this often, but I am not convinced that Srila Prabhupada actually made such a distinction between a “first part” and a radically different “second part” of his preaching.

    I read an article some time ago by Satsvarupa Maharaja in which he recounted a story about how Srila Prabhupada, in Vrndavan shortly before his final trip to the U.K., was fighting his illness. He said he still had much to accomplish. Much of his work was not finished. Brahmananda then suggested that perhaps 50% of Srila Prabhupada’s work was not finished, and Srila Prabhupada rejected the suggestion, saying it was not that much that was not finished. There was no mention in the conversation about varnasrama dharma.

    If that conversation is the source of the oft-repeated “quotation” that “Fifty-percent of my work is not finished, the other 50% is to establish varnasrama dharma,” it is a distortion of the conversation, as Satsvarupa Maharaja pointed out.

    There is plenty of evidence that Srila Prabhupada wanted things to continue going on as they were, with harinama, book distribution, study of his books, establishment of temples, schools, farm projects, restaurants, etc.

    Yes, he also gave the instruction on Feb. 14, 1977, that he wanted our ISKCON devotees to be divided up into four varnas. He wanted us to understand, assimilate and implement his many instructions about varnasrama that are given throughout his books and lectures. He did not want us to initiate unqualified people as brahmanas and sannyasis and have them falling down, making a mockery.

    But…did he really want a radical new phase of ISKCON to focus on varnasrama as distinct from sankirtan?

  12. 0
    sitadasi ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Vrndavanlila wrote:

    “There are several conversations by Srila Prabhupada, in which he considered protected status of a woman and management service of a woman to be compatible.”

    The idea is that women manage “internally” and men manage “externally”. Otherwise, wheneven spiritually advanced women manage externally and independently, it is artificial and socially disruptive.

    “What difference does it make if one is treated as a king or a beggar, a brahmana or a sudra, a man or a woman in the cleansing process as long as the result remains the same, as envisioned by Srila Prabhupada?”

    This is a very nice realization.

    [BG 4.13]
    [According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me. And although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the nondoer, being unchangeable.]

    It needs to be clarified that women are not considered independent members of these four divisions.

    BG 18.47]
    “It is better to engage in one’s own occupation, even though one may perform it imperfectly, than to accept another’s occupation and perform it perfectly. Duties prescribed according to one’s nature are never affected by sinful reactions.” We are here to prepare ourselves to go back home and not waste our human birth in asserting our “right”. This birth is meant for higher purpose rather than settling the gender equation ‘right’.

    Yes, Vrindavanlila’s conclusion is very nice, that a wife serves her husband as per stri dharma, and her husband takes the lead in the family unit. If the husband is a brahmana, the wife is a brahmani. If the husband takes vanaprastha, the wife follows him, etc. If the husband is the Supreme Lord, Nityananda, the wife (ie. Jahnava Devi) can become acarya and continue to instruct her husband’s disciples after his departure.

    The idea that women have independent varna and asrama is false and as dangerous to our movement’s implementation of varnasrama as Kirtanananda’s idea that women can be given sannyasa.

    Is it repression to be a chaste wife, remain dependant on male authority, and follow stri dharma? In some ways yes, but then so is rising early and following the practices of bhakti yoga. It is evil to change the philosophy to suit our inability to follow scriptural injunctions.

  13. 0
    sitadasi ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “So the Vedic, according to the Vedic system, there is no equal right of the man and woman. The woman is always subordinate. That is the Manu-samhita law. Na stri svatantryam arhati. A woman does not require, does not deserve, to get independence. That is good for them. If the woman remains under the protection—in young age under father, when he (she) is child; when he (she) is young, under the protection of husband; and when she is old, under the protection of elderly children—that is their very safe position.” 3.26.8 Lecture, December 20, 1974

    Even Queen Kunti and Lord Siva’s wife, Sati, did not think themselves above this law (see SB 4.4.17 and 1.6.18, 1.8.22).

    Our sastra does restrict women’s expression of their individuality in a way similar to parents restricting and guiding a child. We don’t give unlimited freedom to children because they would tend to “manifest their natural tendency for gross selfishness” in the same way a woman would do if given independence (6.12.42). Just because one is subordinate doesn’t mean s/he loses individuality as a spirit soul. One’s material circumstance is not an impediment to devotional service. See SB 1.7.36-37 Lecture Sept. 29, 1976, Vrindavana.

  14. 0
    Balakrsna das ( User Karma: 23 ) says:

    In #4 Pustakrsna Prabhu wrote:

    “In the United States, about half of the doctors graduating from medical school are women. They fill the ranks of every specialty, medical and surgical. They demonstrate competency and extremely good intelligence.”

    It may come as a surprise to you but physcians are considered sudras in Vedic culture:

    Although the Asvini-kumaras were only physicians and were therefore excluded from drinking soma-rasa in sacrifices, the demigods agreed to allow them henceforward to drink it. SB 9.3.27

    In his commentary on Brhadaranyaka Upanishad Madhvacarya mentions that in Svarga there is also Varnashrama DHarma and teh Asvini Kumars are considered sudras. After all being a doctor is the same as being a mechanic.

    Then you wrote:

    Certainly, many men, including myself, consider that if all of the political leaders in the world were women, we would have far fewer, if any, wars.

    I’m not one of them. This is just feminist mythology. Margret Thatcher was involved in the Falklands war, Indira Gandhi was involved in at least two in 1970-71 with Pakistan first in what is now Bangladesh and then wit h Pakistan itself. And of course there were numerous internal wars such as with Khalistan, which led to the attack on the Golden temple of Amritsar the most holy Sikh shrine. She was then killed by her Sikh body gaurds.

    Sirimavo Bandaranaike was the world’s first female political leader in modern times as Prime Minister of Ceylon/Sri Lanka. She was involved in endless civil wars and even fought with another female politician Chandrika Kumaratunga who was her own daughter. And, Kumaratunga reign was one consecutive war with the Tamil Tigers.

    Then of course we have Benazir Bhutto who while she was leader of Pakistan among other things helped North Korea in its nuclear weapons program and helped start and supported the Taliban who later assassinated her. Arthur Herman, a U.S. historian described her as “One of the most incompetent leaders in the history of South Asia,”

    The only reason women have not been doing evil on a greater scale is because they didn’t have an opportunity, but once given the opportunity they are more ruthless than men. Now with women in power in different places they are equally or more corrupt that the men.

  15. 0
    Balakrsna das ( User Karma: 23 ) says:

    In #1 Urmila Mataji says below that women have a varna just like men do:

    “Because I believe varnasrama to be a system of truth, I also believe it must be a system where both men and women can authentically express both their ashrama and varna natures and to do so in such a way as to nourish and allow full expression of their spiritual nature.”

    This is exactly opposite of what Srila Prabhupada says:

    Prabhupada: In, actually, in Bengal, Bengal has lost its original culture. In other provinces the brahmana class, they are keeping very strictly the original culture. Even a brahmana would not accept foodstuff prepared by his wife, because woman is considered sudra. The woman, when she becomes the wife of a brahmana, then she is called brahmani, but she’s not offered brahminical culture. She remains as sudra. So therefore a strict brahmana does not accept foodstuff prepared by his wife. Still there are in U.P. The wife will arrange for cooking, and he’ll sit down and cook dal, capatis. Then he will eat, and whatever remains, that is there, that will be taken by her. But he will not take foodstuff cooked by his wife even.” Room Conversation–August 2, 1976, New Mayapur (French farm)

  16. 0
    bhaktinlis ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Vrindavanalila Devi Dasi. Your artcle says you want to work in spiritual service in temples but then I think but I’m not sure, you say you are a woman. is it best not to do what we want to do in service in the way she feels inspired to serve her Guru Maharaj? I’m doubtful in that I have outside job I go sometimes to visit temples but I think I have better spiritual consciousness this way! I gradually do more spiritual things and when I find guru I do more surrendering to find Krsna in my heart. My varna is not woman it is spirit soul

  17. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: -11 ) says:

    We should be careful not to become too lost in all the theory about the rules of varnasrama dharma without practical insight.

    Bhaktin Lisanne asks a practical question and I think the obvious answer is that she should not give up her job unless and until she is certain that is what Krishna wants her to do. One of the main points Srila Prabhupada makes over and over again is that we do not have to change our occupations, but rather we have to learn how to make them perfect by doing what we do as service to Krishna.

    Srila Prabhupada said at Neuvelle Mayapur that some strict brahmanas in U.P. do not eat food cooked by women, even their own wives, as quoted in comment #15. However, that was certainly not a standard he sought to establish in ISKCON. Srila Prabhupada often ate the prasadam that had been prepared and offered by his female disciples, and the standard he established was that those who received second initiation are permitted to cook for the Deities, regardless of gender, class, creed race, etc.

    Our main message continues to be that we want to engage everyone in chanting Hare Krishna and hearing Krishna’s instructions from authorized sources (especially Srila Prabhupada’s books and the faithful devotees who discuss them).

    A secondary message is Srila Prabhupada’s critique of modern social and economic arrangements, based on Vedic authority, but Srila Prabhupada did not expect these to change overnight. He wanted the Vedic science of social interaction understood, as this science is part of Lord Krishna’s teachings and is very beneficial to society, but our main program is Sri Krishna Sankirtan.

    The varnasrama arrangement is practical: “Since one has to work even for simple maintenance of the body, the prescribed duties for a particular social position and quality are so made that that purpose can be fulfilled.” (B.G. 3.9, Purport)

    The whole point is to develop Krsna consciousness — to always remember Krsna and never forget Him — and the rules and regulations are all servants of this principle.

    Our teachings about varnasrama dharma have to be practical. Actually the Bhagavat dharma of hearing, chanting, remembering, etc. are essential, and the arrangement of different varnas and asramas is just the natural way of peaceful, civilized life that enables us to prosecute such bhakti yoga without disturbance.

    If we disturb people by overly insisting they conform to Vedic minutae, we could inadvertently undermine the Sankirtan mission.

  18. 0

    dear mother Vrindavan lila devi dasi
    Please accept my humble obaisences
    All glories to Srila Prabhupada
    First I want to remind us about the statement by Srila Rupa Goswami:

    naham vipro na ca nara-patir napi vaisyo na sudro
    naham varni na ca grha-patir no vanastho yatir va
    kintu prodyan-nikhila-paramananda-purnamrtabdher
    gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah

    “I am not a brahmana; I am not a ksatriya; I am not a vaisya or a sudra. Nor am I a brahmacari, a householder, a vanaprastha, or a sannyasi. I identify myself only as the servant of the servant of the servant of the lotus feet of Lord Sri Krsna, the maintainer of the gopis. He is like an ocean of nectar, and he is the cause of universal transcendental bliss. He is always existing with brilliance.” (Padyavali 74)

    And of course you are not a woman but a pure spirit soul.There has been several Goswaminis in our line so women are not excluded, but Srila Prabhupada has also made varnasrama statements about women in general.They should not be overlooked or ignored.
    Actually many women find it “hurtful” to their egoes to be called mothers and mataji and wants to be called Prabhus. This was done by Srila Prabhupada on a few occasions, but in general this was not his standard, nor is it the general Gaudiya vaisnava standard.Actually in many Gaudiya maths, women are often addressed as Didi, sister.
    In his conversation with Ramananda Raya, Lord Caitanya asked him to go beyond the discussion of varna and asrama.Sometimes nowadays female devotees become leaders, GBC’s and TP’s ,some believe it is a transgression of Srila Prabhupadas instruction.I do not agree, if our godsister is qualified to be a manager.Surely if she is qualified.If the standards set by Srila Prabhupada are met why not? Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura also mentioned
    to his son Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada in one of his last instructions to him that varna asrama must be set up.This was also the desire of Srila Prabhupada.Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura emphasized in his many writting to go beyond varnasrama by realizing Krsna through the chanting of the Mahamanta, and avoiding 10 offences.
    He instructed even grhastha disciples to chant 64 rounds daily as this is the instruction of Lord Caitanya.Srila Prabhupada made it minimum 16 ,and encouraged devotees to chant more and serve more.
    I hope this is of some value to the vaisnavas.
    your servant
    Payonidhi das

  19. 0
    pustakrishna ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    In response to #14 above, Balakrishna’s comment that doctor is just a “mechanic”, it is incorrect. Physicians are highly educated in the western sense, and have demonstrated a tremendous degree of determination and capacity both to problem solve and to help others. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had Murari Gupta as one of his close associates. In the grand scheme of things, a person is to be judged by their quality and work. Dr. Vrina Baxi (Srimati Vrindavanlila dd) is a vaishnava, therefore better than a mechanic, and also better than a brahmana. The point I am trying to make in establishing the near predominance of educated women in the western university systems is to state the obvious: You cannot look at women as nbeing second rate people in the Kali Yuga. They are distinguishing themselves as disciplined and determined. If you have compassion and if, in fact, you want to present Krishna consciousness to the educated class of people, then women must be included in the equation. One does not make themselves higher, or better, by demeaning women, and one does not help their argument by called the profession of the author of this article, Vrindabanlila dd, Dr. Baxi, as having the profession like a “mechanic”. Amanina manadena. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu tried to give the formula for success in remembering the Holy Names constantly. The Asvini-kumaras may have merely been physicians by work. Drinking of Soma rasa, is a material phenomenon. Would you drink soma rasa if offered it? This is below the realm of Krishna consciousness. The self-enjoying nature pervades the demons and the devatas, otherwise, they would be in Vaikuntha and not in the material world. What vision we have, we must check and balance with our Gurudeva, externally and caitya Guru as well. If we present Krishna consciousness as anything less than Sanatan Dharma, we will find so many considerations that prevent us from saving the innocent souls of the Kali Yuga. Pusta Krishna das

  20. 0
    gauranitai1 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This certainly is a very complex issue. There a lot of nuances to the varnashrama problem.
    For the most part varna is birth based. Therefore, by the logic, people not born in brahman families should not be given brahman threads. Women should not be the only ones following the varnashrama dharma then. There is some evidence from the sruti that women like Gargi could debate with her husband Yajnavalkya on philosophical matters, but traditional schools consider women like Gargi to be rishi patnis with special veda-adhikara not meant for other women. I feel all these factors will be needed if we really want to implement the varna-ashrama dharma completely. I think it won’t be that easy to do. Therefore, it maybe better to focus on ecologically sound agrarian communities rather than adopting the varna system. Will kshatriyas be allowed to gamble, drink wine, marry multiple wives and eat meat in a devotee community? There were allowed to do so in traditional varnashrama. Part I
    Though the Chandogya Upanishad does present a quality-based ascertainment of caste via Satyakama Jabala’s story, even in that story, Gautama first asks Satyakama for his gotra, indicating that this was the general test. Satyakama goes back to his mother, who says she doesn’t know his gotra since she was busy in “paricharya”, which could be interpreted as “I was so busy in serving my in-laws that I did not get the time to ask your father about the gotra, and he is no more now to ask him” (Shankara’s interpretation, if I remember) or “I was serving or having sex with so many men that I don’t know who conceived you, and so I don’t know your gotra”. In any case, Gautama then is pleased by the boy’s honesty and takes him as his student. Now, *if* birth was not the criterion in that time, then it makes no sense for Gautama to first ask the boy about his gotra. Also, if upanayana is to be done by 8 yrs, it is difficult to believe that at such a young age, there could be a reliable test of the child’s qualities. It was probably because of the Brahma Sutras’ authoritative influence that the differing strands in the Upanishads were reconciled in favor of birth-based system (which was probably the dominant system, although by no means the only system, as references from Chandogya, Mahabharata, etc

  21. 0
    gauranitai1 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    PART 2
    I think such issues are always difficult to tackle, because of variation in time and place.

    In my opinion, even the chAturvarNyam verse in Gita is not undermining birth-based system. Rather, it can be taken as saying that the 4 varNas (which are implicitly assumed to be birth-based, recall my reference from chapter 1 of Gita) were created based on guNa and karma divisions. i.e, the brahmana varNa is endowed with sattva guNa and paThana-pAThana-yajana-etc karma and so on. So as long as there is absence of sa~Nkara or admixture between the birth-based varNas, these guNas and karmas will remain intrinsically with such birth-based lineages. guNa and karma is not independent of janma. The three were seen as going together.

    What the Bhagavata religion did was to open the doors to mokSha for all varNas by saying that devotion to Krishna can make one transcend the guNas and karmas.

    There are three different criteria that one could hypothetically use
    to divide the society into 4 varNas. Depending on what criterion you look at, the 4 sets
    you get may be composed of different individuals.
    1) Janma: This uses birth as the criterion to classify the 4 varNas.
    A jAti-brAhmaNa is one who is born in a brAhmaNa family.
    A jAti-kShatriya is one who is born in a kShatriya family.
    A jAti-vaishya is one who is born in a vaishya family, and so on.

    2) Karma: This uses work or the type of profession to classify the 4 varNas.
    A karma-brAhmaNa is one who does the brahminical duties of teaching
    the scriptures, conducting yaj~nas, etc.
    A karma-kShatriya is one who performs military and administrative duties.
    A karma-vaishya does agriculture, business, etc.
    A karma-shUdra does service.

    3) Guna: This uses qualities to classify the 4 varNas:
    A guNa-brAhmaNa is one in whom sattva-guNa is prominent – he is
    interested in knowledge, reflection, solitary living, relatively
    inactive lifestyle conducive for study and meditation.
    A guNa-kShatriya is one in whom “shuddha” rajas is prominent – who
    wants to live an active lifestyle, but who is generous towards others
    (not selfish)
    A guNa-vaishya is one in whom “ashuddha” rajas is prominent – who
    wants to live an active lifestyle but who is selfish.
    A guNa-shUdra is one in whom tamas is prominent – who is lazy,
    lethargic, ignorance-dwelling, etc.

    Now, the question is – are janma, karma and guNa independent criteria?

  22. 0
    gauranitai1 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Now, the question is – are janma, karma and guNa independent criteria?
    If so, the same person could be a jAti-brAhmaNa, karma-shUdra, and
    guNa-vaishya. Any of the 4^3 = 64 possible combinations should be

    On the other hand, if we say that guNa and karma are not independent
    criteria, that would mean that the same person who is a guNa-brAhmaNa
    is also likely to be a karma-brAhmaNa, the same person who is a
    guNa-vaishya is also likely to be a karma-vaishya, etc.

    Likewise, if we say that janma and karma are not independent criteria,
    that would mean that the same person who is a jAti-brAhmaNa is also
    likely to be a karma-brAhmaNa, and so on.

    So the overarching question here is – what is the Bhagavad Gita’s
    views about these three criteria? Are all of them independent
    criteria? If so, which criterion is the varNa system based on? Are two
    of them linked and independent of the third? If so, which two? Do all
    three of them go together?

    According to some interpretations, the Bhagavad Gita’s classification of varNas is
    based on guNa and karma and NOT janma. This is supported by them based
    on verse 4.13 – . This means that they
    think guNa and karma go together, and have nothing to do with janma.
    The implication of a varNa-system based on guNa-karma vibhAga that is
    independent of janma is that terms like shUdra would have a derogatory
    connotation. No one would like to be called a shUdra, and everyone
    would scramble to argue how he is a brAhmaNa. It would be kind of
    self-contradictory to say that a shUdra has good qualities. Because
    someone who has good qualities would be called a brAhmaNa, not a

    I feel that it is correct to say that guNa and karma are
    not independent criteria, as 4.13 says. This is also supported by
    verses 18.41-44 where the karmas for the 4 varNas are described to be
    ‘svabhAva-jam guNas’ :

    But does this automatically imply that janma is totally irrelevant?
    The Gita does not say explicitly that janma does not matter in
    determining varNas. It is silent about janma in the above verses. This
    could either mean that janma doesn’t matter, or it could mean that
    janma is somehow automatically incorporated.

  23. 0
    gauranitai1 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    PART 4
    I think that the Gita doesn’t intend to toss away janma as a criterion
    for varNa-vibhAga. There are other verses which do seem to assume
    janma as important:
    1. In chapter 1, the notion of jAti-dharma doesn’t make sense based on
    a purely guNa-karma-based varNa-vibhAga.
    ( Why would jAti-based dharma be
    mentioned as important to be preserved if birth doesn’t matter?
    2. What does it mean for there to be varNa-sa~Nkara when birth is
    irrelevant? In a birth-based varNa system, inter-caste marriage can
    clearly cause confusion about the child’s varNa. But why would there
    be confusion about the identity of a child’s varNa in a purely
    guNa-karma based varNa system? His guNas should determine his karmas
    and the identity of his varNa.
    3. (verse 9.32) refers to women, vaishyas
    and shUdras as pApa-yonayaH. There is a clear connection here between
    the lower varNas (vaishyas and shUdras) and birth/yoni (caused by
    pApa). While I am aware that Sri Ramanujacharya has interpreted
    pApa-yonayaH as a 4th category, Shankaracharya, Bhaskaracharya and
    Madhvacharya have all applied the pApa-yonayaH to women, vaishyas and
    shUdras. Even if one ignores the word pApa-yonayaH, it is notable that
    women, vaishyas and shudras are decidedly considered as less likely to
    attain the parAm gatim, since the “how much more so” applied to
    brahmanas and kShatriyas in the next verse wouldn’t otherwise make
    sense. Now for women, one can’t say that it is just their guNa and
    karma that makes them inferior. The main difference between a woman
    and a man originates from birth. Likewise the word pApa-yonayaH
    applies to someone’s birth (caused by previous pApa). In a similar
    way, shudras and vaishyas are also probably meant by birth.

    But if this is so, how to reconcile the guNa-karma criteria with the
    janma criterion? We can do so by saying that janma is determined by
    guNa and karma. In fact, that is how the word pApa-yonayaH makes
    sense. Previous pApa causes birth in a particular yoni. So it is not
    contradictory to say that guNa and karma determine the varNas, and
    that janma decides one’s varNa, because one can always say (as the
    Gita does appear to say in 9.32-33 and 6.41) that one’s janma in a
    particular varNa is determined by previous guNas and karmas. So varNa
    being determined by birth is the same as varNa being determined by
    previous guNas and karmas. In turn, one’s varNa by birth determines
    the karmas one should perform in this life.

  24. 0
    gauranitai1 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Why do guNas and karmas in the previous birth matter in determining
    the varNa? Why can’t guNas and karmas in the current birth determine
    one’s varNa? The answer seems to be that guNas and karmas in this
    birth will determine the kind of family one is born into in the next
    birth (as 6.41 says) assuming that one does not complete one’s sAdhanA
    in this life. Birth in a particular family in turn means that one is
    likely to imbibe the guNas and karmas of those family members. The
    saMskAras that are performed for a person are done so even before the
    person attains maturity – at that time, it is anyway impossible to say
    what the guNas of a person are. The saMskAras are performed based on
    birth. Thus, one’s svadharma in this life is determined by one’s
    varNa. By performance of svadharma in the right spirit (the
    description of “yoga” in the Gita), one can actually transcend the
    three guNas completely, as Krishna recommends – traiguNya-vishayA
    vedAH, niShtraiguNyo bhavArjuna (2.45).

    It is notable that giving up of one’s karma is mentioned in the Gita
    only in the context of a change in the Ashrama, not in the context of
    a change in varNa. Arjuna simply does not have the option to change
    his varNa. Being a kShatriya, he must fight. (2.31, 2.33)

    Moreover, a purely guNa-karma based varNa-vibhAga does not explain the
    historical fact of the varNa system being birth-based. Even today, the
    orthodox traditions advocate a birth-based varNa system. There is no
    record in our scriptures of people freely changing their varNas by
    changing their guNas or karmas (barring a few exceptions). On the
    contrary, even those who changed their karmas (like Drona, by fighting
    in the battle) are still called brahmanas. It is only when janma plays
    an important role in determining the varNa that it becomes very hard
    to change one’s varNa. Modern groups are trying to interpret the
    varNa-vibhAga as having nothing to do with janma, but this appears to
    be a modern trend, not the historical view of the BG.

  25. 0
    pustakrishna ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Oh Gauranitai1, Gauranitai1, Gauranitai1…You are lucky that you have not made your statements in the presence of Srila Prabhupad. Srila Prabhupad strongly rejected the notion that varna is janma or birth related. Many who came to Srila Prabhupad to propose that birth was the issue, were forcefully rejected by Srila Prabhupad. While it is possible and even likely to be the case, it is not the rule, and more importantly is not what Krishna (the Creator of the 4 varnas) has stated in the Bhagavad gita. One must try to remain in line with the Parampara if they want their sound vibration or writing to enter into the hearts of vaishnavas.

    There were many in the Gaudiya Math who said that only those born in brahman families could become Guru or leader of the mission. This was not accepted by Srila Prabhupad One or Two. It runs counter to the design of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Movement as well. Certainly, Arjuna was a ksatriya by quality and by work. That also was the Dvapara Yuga. In the Kali Yuga, all are considered Shudra, unless they distinguish themselves by quality and work of the nature of a brahman, ksatriya or vaishya. And, the qualities and work of these different varnas are detailed in the Bhagavad Gita by Krishna.

    Pusta Krishna das

  26. 0
    bhaktinlis ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Akruranatha Dasa Prabhu. Thank you for this answer that I agree with your understanding. I don’t take guru yet after 10 years because I am also not sure this is what Krsna wants for me or to see husband as guru. He is born in Indian family and the Krsna culture is all his life to him. Then we both get initiated or just him when he is ready.


  27. 0
    sitadasi ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    So, if a woman is very, very highly intellectual by qualification, can she be a brahmana, because she will understand Brahman?

    No. Because she doesn’t get the sacred thread. But she can still worship Krsna and in a sense be better than a brahmana who is a nondevotee.

    Is Devahuti also of papa-yoni class? How about Mother Yasoda?

    Yes in that they took birth in women’s bodies; that’s what our scriptures say. But we don’t go around calling them or women papa yoni, that would be disrespectful. Queen Kunti and Sati, did not think themselves above this (see SB 4.4.17 and 1.6.18, 1.8.22).

    SB 6.3.13 answers this. Here are some excerpts:

    “In this material world, everyone is conditioned, regardless of who he is” ie. human or demigod, animal or plant. Living entities in human bodies are “systematically controlled by the Vedic injunctions in terms of the divisions of varna and asrama. A human being is expected to follow the rules and regulations of varna and asrama; otherwise he cannot escape punishment by Yamaraja. “

    “The divisions of varna and asrama are necessary to insure the proper execution of duties and peaceful existence for everyone, but everyone is directed to worship the Supreme Lord, who is all-pervading”

    “therefore if one follows the Vedic injunctions by worshiping the Supreme Lord according to one’s ability, his life will be perfect. “

    “ The varṇāśrama institution offers the perfect process for making one eligible to return home, back to Godhead, because the aim of every varṇa and āśrama is to please the Supreme Lord. SB 1.2.13“

    How can a sudra-like woman give birth to a brahmana or a king? That defies logic and practical experience.

    Woman is the field and the seed is given by the father.

    The very reason why pratiloma and anuloma marriages are considered mixed is because the woman retains the varna of her birth and does not take on the varna of her husband.

    So now you are saying a woman’s varna is determined by birth?

  28. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: -11 ) says:

    Gauranitai1, the system of maintaining social status based on birth only, without developing the gurnas and performing the karmas associated with that status, is the hallmark of the kali-yuga system of irreligion.

    Actually in kali yuga everyone is already born with sudra qualities (or worse). In order to perform the work required for a healthy and pious society, we have to find means of training people to work with the qualities of real brahmanas and ksatriyas and vaisyas.

    It does not help to have people insist on privilege based on who their ancestors were. Your father may be a great surgeon, but I will not want you to perform surgery on me unless you have also got sufficient education, training and experience in surgery.

    Yes, in previous ages, brahmanas performed garbhodan samskara and the other samskaras were observed and maintained in families so that the children of brahmanas were born with brahminical qualities and tejas. Take the example of Srngi, the small son of a brahmana who was able to curse Maharaja Pariksit to die: even a young brahmana boy could kill the emperor of the world with his curse. But, he showed that already he did not have the proper qualities. He should not have cursed the saintly Emperor over so trivial a matter.

    In this age such powers would be misused, so it is better perhaps that our modern-day “brahmanas” cannot do such things.

    You say, “No one would like to be called a shUdra, and everyone would scramble to argue how he is a brAhmaNa.” It is interesting to note that in some Marxist circles, particularly in the 1930s, everyone was scrambling to be known as a worker, trying to hide the fact that they were actually qualified intellectuals and businessmen, or came from such families.

    Perhaps that is still the case in some communist countries. Privileged classes are viewed with suspicion as having latent tendency to become “enemies of the people”. In the film “Mao’s Last Dancer”, in order to have their son trained in ballet, a Chinese boy’s parents proudly represented to party officials that they had only peasants in their family for many generations.

    Today the standard of “knowledge” is associated with empirical science, and those who have scientific education and training occupy the status of society’s intellectuals, in a way. They ought to become devotees and develop the real qualities of samo damas tapah saucam ksantir arjavam, jnana, vijnana, etc. That will help establish true sanatan dharma.

  29. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: -11 ) says:

    It is a relevant question to consider whether, when Krishna says (B.G. 9.32) “ye ‘pi syuh papa-yonayah striyo vaisyas tatha sudras …”, He is identifying four classes of lower status people (as compared to the brahmanas and rajarsis mentioned in the next verse).

    That is, a question may arise as to whether the phrase “papa yonayah” is meant as a general category in which the three classes of women, vaisyas and sudras belong, or whether Krishna is identifying a forth class of people who can attain the supreme destination by taking shelter of Him: those (like myself) who are born totally outside the Aryan social system, the Pulinda Huna, Andhra, Kirata etc. It appears that Krishna is saying that women, vaisyas, sudras *and* papa-yonayah can approach the highest destination by taking shelter of Him.

    And then in the next verse, though He indicates it ought to be that much more achievable by the brahmana punyas and the bhakta rajasis, He reminds us that they too have attained birth in this anityam asukham lokam, so they should not congratulate themselves on their higher social status, but should worship Krishna.

    In the Purport to 9.32, Srila Prabhupada begins, “It is clearly described here by the Supreme Lord that in devotional service there is no distinction between the lower and the higher classes of people.”

    Later in the Purport he writes,

    “According to the different nmodes of material nature, men are classifies in the mode of goodness (brahmanas), the mode of passion (ksatriyas, or administrators), the mixed modes of passion and ignorance (vaisyas, or merchants), and the mode of ignorance (sudras, or workers). Those lower than them are called candalas, and they are born in sinful families. Generally the association of those born in sinful families is not accepted by the higher classes.”

    So it seems from the above passage that the phrase “papa-yonayah” actually is meant to include the candalas, rather than to indicate category into which the women, vaisyas and sudras fit. Women, vaisyas and sudras are not taken to be “born in sinful families”.

    Of course today, even people from the so-called brahmana and ksatriya families are often habituated to so many unclean and sinful habits. But it appears that Krishna is saying that women, vaisyas, sudras, and additionally, those born in candala or outcaste families, non-Aryan families, may also attain the supreme destination by taking shelter in Him in bhakti yoga.

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    scooty.ram says:

    Gauranitai1 ‘s post are sastrically sound and well presented.Appreciate if he can share his email id.His posts viz Part 4 and 5 is very well analysed.

    “What the Bhagavata religion did was to open the doors to mokSha for all varNas by saying that devotion to Krishna can make one transcend the guNas and karmas.” sums it all. I dont know why would one argue of jAti or any bodily designation.

    With the advancement in genetic sciencec, we will soon agree that jAti is driven by birth.
    We will have ability for people to choose the geners or partners based on genes.

    Infact I saw a TV program about ‘warrior gene’ and the doctors mentioned that one’s behavior is determined by the gene and the environment, something like a pistol where the loaded pistol is the gene and trigger is the environment.

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    Akruranatha ( User Karma: -11 ) says:

    In the typical materialistic debates one hears so often these days about “nature versus nurture” and whether “genetics is (or is not) destiny”, what often goes unnoticed is that environmental factors such as the association and education and opportunities one gets (or does not get) is also part of a grander destiny.

    That is, our materialistic, modern world view readily accepts that rules or “laws of nature” govern causes and effects that take place at the level of physics and chemistry and even biology, but the greater laws of karma and destiny are ignored or ridiculed as superstition or at best a matters of “faith.”

    Yes, our genes or biological makeup does have a great influence over our potential abilities: even a normal elephant, blue whale or giant sea lion is going to have much greater bodily strength than the greatest human athlete. Likewise, among humans, although a great deal can be accomplished through proper diet and exercise and training, some people are just going to have more innate physical or athletic abilities than others. The same goes for capacity for learning. or the so-called “emotional intelligence” needed for social success, not to mention physical beauty.

    But the way we are socialized, the kind of care and training we get from parents and relatives and friends, the kind of education we get and career opportunities and so on, and other social or “environmental” factors that contribute to development of personality, are also determined by our past deeds according to strict laws of karma. There really is such a thing as a person’s “destiny”, which goes way beyond genetics and includes all kinds of environmental factors, including the kind of family training one gets during impressionable youth.

    Once one gets the insight that there is a proper role to play for various different types of human beings, the idea of justice no longer involves trying to make everyone artificially equal, but treating each type of person with due respect and dignity according to their social position (no class or individual should ever be mistreated).

    Feminine nature is different from masculine nature, thank God, and the question is not to how much of this is dictated by biology as opposed to society (so that we can, like Prof. Higgins of “My Fair Lady”, figure out how to make a woman “more like a man”). The real question is how to properly respect women and the important role they play in human society, to insure they are treated well and justly.

  32. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: -11 ) says:

    Gauranitai1 argues: “The implication of a varNa-system based on guNa-karma vibhAga that is independent of janma is that terms like shUdra would have a derogatory

    I just do not see it that way. Where would we be without our sudras? Who would do all the work that needs to get done?

    The “isavasyam” idea of spiritual communism is that the entire world is going on under Krishna’s direction and is perfectly complete. Therefore, there is nothing degraded, as such, in working with one’s hands, being a clerk or a carpenter or a garbage collector. Somebody has to do it, and the important thing is, he does it for Krishna.

    I was in a class one time and someone asked the speaker (I think Hanumat Presaka Swami was giving class, but I don’t 100% remember) the perennial question, “How do I know what varna I am and what kind of work I should do?” His answer really hit home for me. He said the more important question is to know how to do whatever you do as devotional service for Krishna.

    The different “status” of different varnas, or of women and men under the partiarchal system, should not be seen as opportunity to enjoy lording it over others. That is not the mood of a Vaisnava. A Vaisnava does not enjoy lording it over anyone, but sees everyone as a part and parcel of Lord Krishna.

    So what is the purpose behind the sense of different statuses? They are just the natural emotional relationships that go along with different types of work and qualities. A sudra is honored for his good work ethic and service attitude, and is genuinely motivated to please his bosses. There is no shame in that.

    The bosses have to arrange that the sudras have sufficient material comforts: we do not expect to see struggles between labor and management in a varnasrama system, where the vaisyas are not capitalists reducing everyone to commodities and caring only about the bottom line.

    At least in the system we call “daivi” varnasrama, everyone is very respectable due to his or her devotion to Krishna, and the different kinds of work and qualities associated with them are part of Krishna’s creation, “maya srstam.” If Krishna’s janma and karma is divya (which it is), then His creation of the four varnas along with their gunas and karmas is also divya, and there is nothing abominable about it.

    Therefore, although Krishna commanded Arjuna to perform ghastly work — killing social superiors in battle — it was devotional service and not abominable.

  33. 0
    gauranitai1 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Akruranath ji and Pusta Krisna and Scooty Ram,

    What I am speaking is the opinion of the three acaryas: madhva, ramanuja and sankara. Even Jiva Goswami says that even though the vaisnava surpasses a brahmana, he needs to be born as a brahmana in the next life to perform the Vedic sacrifice.
    At the same time, I do not oppose the changes that Prabhupada made to this system.
    However, we need to be consistent. Bhakti Raghava Swami and others have spoken so much about women needing to be submissive etc without saying why people born in foreign lands can be brahmanas and women cannot function like that. Selectively applying the teaching sounds quite strange to me. If we use the scriptures he is talking about, he would not be qualified to be a brahmana and would need to support the upper castes. For men, the birth based consideration is waived (being born in foreign lands), but for women it is not strangely.

    Again there are two things
    1) What was the classical view of traditional schools on the caste system at least from Sankara onwards (addresses in the Vedanta Sutra)?
    2) What can function in today’s time?

    I have given the sastric backing for 1) and I don’t know what will work in 2). So if people oppose my stand on 1), they are basically blaspheming all the acaryas from before (while Pusta Krsna ji accuses me of being lucky to escape Prabhupada. You should say Ramanuja,Madhva and Jiva goswami are lucky to escape Prabhupada, not me because I am giving you their opinion, not mine). Akruranath ji, you are not disagreeing with my opinion, but the opinion of these acaryas. So disagree with them, not with me.

  34. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: -11 ) says:

    Gauranitai1 states: “Even Jiva Goswami says that even though the vaisnava surpasses a brahmana, he needs to be born as a brahmana in the next life to perform the Vedic sacrifice.

    “At the same time, I do not oppose the changes that Prabhupada made to this system.”

    Interesting points. I did not know this about Jiva Goswami.

    I think, though, that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur Prabhupada already had approved giving brahman threads to anyone who underwent the appropriate pancaratrika purification, regardless of birth (even to those born in mleccha families). This was not something originated by ISKCON’s Founder-Acararya Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

    Srila Prabhupada has several times mentioned that the six goswamis favored the pancaratrica system of initiation into gayatri mantra and deity worship over the system of Vedic sacrifices. (The latter may or may not depend on qualified priests who are born in upper-caste families). Sankirtan yajna is above any such considerations.

    One obvious point is that simply being born in a brahmana family is not sufficient. Unless one develops the proper qualities, training, jnana and vijnana, etc., one cannot be accepted as a qualified brahmana. Asvatthama, as just one example, was known as a dvija-bandhu. Even though he had presumably been initiated and trained, his crime in killing Draupadi’s sons clearly exposed him as unqualified.

    Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada sought to establish daivi varnasrama dharma within Gaudiya Vaisnavism by awarding sacred thread and initiating any qualified boy as a brahmana. (Sahajiyas falsely claimed to be above rules.)

    Many of our great acaryas came from non-brahmana families. Haridas Thakur came from a Muslim family. Raghunath Das Goswami and Narottama Das Thakur were both from wealthy kayastha families. In Bengal such kayasthas were considered ksatriyas, but in Orissa Ramananda Raya was from this class, the ‘karanas’, who were considered shudras. When Lord Caitanya met Raya Ramananda He embraced him in ecstasy, but the smarta brahmanas were shocked, so Lord Caitanya had to check Himself.

    Lord Caitanya’s servant Govinda Das was from a shudra family. He had been accepted as a disciple by Sri Isvara Puri and was accepted as a brahmana. When Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya queried about it, Lord Caitanya told him that His guru Isvara Puri, like the Supreme Personality of Godhead, was not bound by any Vedic restrictions on whom he could initiate.

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    scooty.ram says:


    Gaudiya acharyas do not show any difference to what you have stated from other acharyas.
    You can refer apasudradikarana in Govinda bhasya.

    Also refer Srila Vishvanatha’s commentary to 18.41 as follows.
    However, the living “body filled with the three gunas” becomes successful by worshipping the Supreme Lord by prescribed activities according to his nature. This is described in six verses. These activities or duties, designated precisely (pravibhaktani) by the gunas of sattva, rajas and tamas, which manifest by birth (svabhavena), are prescribed for the brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras.

    The gunas are tied to body and not soul.They are tightly integrated to gross and subtle body.

    Please refer Srila Baladevas commentary to 3.35 where he reconciles the case of change in varna by sri vishvamithra.

    So I do not think Gaudiya acharyas are in anway against these sastric code of varnashrama

    Akruranatha ji,
    Please refer slokas 18.45 onwards “By following his qualities of work, every man can become perfect. Now please hear from Me how this can be done.”It is very well explained how worship of lord and attaining the ultimate goal is possible by staying within varnashrama.

  36. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: -11 ) says:

    “It is very well explained how worship of lord and attaining the ultimate goal is possible by staying within varnashrama.”

    Staying within varnasrama is not the issue. The issue under consideration is whether one’s varna is determined by birth as opposed to qualities and work.

    Just because (for example) someone’s father was a brahmana, that does not mean that the gunas associated with his body are different from one whose father was a sudra.

    Nowadays pretty much everybody is born with bodies that are “tightly integrated” with tamoguna. It is only by the grace of the holy name and the purificatory process of pancaratrika initiation and viddhis pertaining to Deity worship, etc. that people can be purified. There are no more brahmanas by birth.

    You translate “svabhava” as “one’s birth,” but Srila Prabhupada repeatedly translates it as “one’s own nature”. “Birth” is “jati”, “janma”. “Bhava” means “nature”.

    Even one born with high-class brahminical nature will have to undergo the training and purification and learning and practical realization to actually do brahmana’s work. But nowadays who is there that is actually born with the nature of a brahmana?

    So our acaryas are emphasizing that the varnas are divided according to guna and karma, regardless of birth. Those who emphasize birth neglect the importance of real gunas.

    Yes, we should perform garbhodan samskara and try to bring about a race of people who are endowed with sattvik qualities, but if they do not have the qualities we should not pretend they are entitled to special privileges.

    There are social considerations, and there are transcendental considerations. The essential consideration is transcendental: “what will please Krishna?”

    The social consideration is also important, because we cannot please Krishna by disturbing the healthy situation of society. But those whose emphasis is too much on rules, rituals, and observance of hierarchy, without understanding the essence of devotional service, are missing the point, and cannot give the essential guidance.

    I have heard Radhanatha Swami explain it in this way: All our mantras, tantras, mudras and pujas are like a vessel, a cup, in which to bring the Lord some nice sweet, hot milk. The milk is the essence, the devotion.

    The cup is important: we cannot bring hot milk in our bare hands. But even if we have a fabulous gold and silver and jeweled cup, it will be useless without the substance, the milk, the love and devotion.

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