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Comments Posted By sita-pati

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Cow milk’s qualities varies according to the color of the cow

O sage, please tell me: Is this presentation based on scripture? Or is it based on the empirical investigation of the asuras, which can verify whether scriptural injunction that are based on time, place, and circumstance are still applicable? Or is it simply a custom of ordinary society?

» Posted By sita-pati On Jan 25, 2013 @ 12:40 am

On the Subject of Female Diksha Gurus

I think there are valid points, and limitations, on both sides of this issue. Either way there will be problems, because this is the material world and all endeavours here are coloured by *some* fault. Rather than promoting one way or the other way as “the one true way”, I think it’s important and valuable to be clear about what the drawbacks are, to acknowledge them, and take them into account while moving forward.

» Posted By sita-pati On Dec 14, 2012 @ 12:36 am

“Women used to be satisfied remaining out of the spotlight.”

Yes! And black people used to know their place too. What is the world coming to? Kali Yuga!

» Posted By sita-pati On Dec 12, 2012 @ 1:13 am

“Karmi clothes” and “devotional clothes” – Getting the definitions right

Sarvopama: that’s a nice idea, but wearing clothes that are flown in from another country (as dhotis, kurtas, and saris are for non-Indian dwellers) goes against that idea. Wearing locally-produced, hand-made clothes would fit that; and those clothes here in Australia are not dhotis and kurtas.

» Posted By sita-pati On Sep 16, 2011 @ 9:13 pm

Wearing clothes that are *different* from everyone else is Prabhupada’s point. The dress that ISKCON devotees wore in the 70s in the West was different from everyone else. Prabhupada’s analogy is instructive. Police uniforms are not objective – they change in different countries, and change at different times. One thing remains the same, however, they are unique and distinctive in their particular time and place. They serve to separate and identify the wearer.

So the argument that millions of people wear dhoti, kurta, and sari in India and are not devotees is tangential. The point is that in the West it is a distinctive garb that is useful for creating a corporate identity (both for the public and the devotees). It’s a tactic.

» Posted By sita-pati On Sep 16, 2011 @ 9:11 pm

Once a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati insisted to the Math editors that the dictionary by changed rather than a word be corrected in an article written by his spiritual master. His spiritual master appreciated his sentiment, but had the word corrected to the standard spelling.

» Posted By sita-pati On Sep 7, 2011 @ 12:44 am

Double-voice amplification kirtans in Iskcon Mayapur

… or is it?

This verse seems to describe the 16th century equivalent of “amplified response”:
“Svarūpa Dāmodara was chosen as the leader of the first party and was given five assistants to respond to his chanting.”

» Posted By sita-pati On May 4, 2011 @ 3:45 am

Nowhere in Caitanya-caritamrita do we read of double-voice amplification kirtans. This is clearly a modern concoction and no doubt a product and promoter of sex life.

» Posted By sita-pati On May 2, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

My Brief Against Feminism

Very thought-provoking and well-written article. It makes many good, strong arguments.

One small thing though, at the end it switches focus to start to address “feminization of boys”, to put a label on it. The argument there is not as well-developed or considered as the earlier argument the promoting the adoption of men’s roles is inextricable from devaluing women’s roles.

In the last paragraph you say:”Feminist history answers a lot of questions…like…why teacher’s guides refer to the student as a “she” and no longer a “he””.

As a professional writer, my understanding is that has evolved in recent times because pronouns in English are gender specific (the vast majority of our other nouns, whether inherited from German or Latin both gendered languages, have lost gender). When writing generically about a group of people of both sexes and referring to one specific, representative individual, a choice has to be made about the gender pronoun to use (he or she). A sometimes compromise is to use “they”, which is the English gender-neutral plural third person pronoun, used in this sense as a gender neutral singular pronoun.

This compromise is unsatisfactory because it is grammatically incorrect (prescriptively, although descriptive grammars might have to recognize its use in this way); but also because it creates a state of mental abstraction. Usually a writer talks about a representative ndividual in the group as a means of “making it real” and practically applicable for the reader – talking about specifics, practice, and example.

In that case, your choice is either to compromise on your goal of going from the theoretical, abstract, and general to the practical, concrete, and specific; or you have to choose a gender for your pronoun.

Traditionally the gender for the pronoun has been masculine (“he”), whatever the composition of the group. Some authors now use the feminine (“she”) with the understanding that if the group is of mixed gender then any insistence that the pronoun used by of masculine gender represents a bias against the identity and participation of female members of the group.

So if the students are both “he” and “she” in real life, then what’s the problem with choosing “she” if you have to choose one or the other in specific writing? Why does it have to be “he”?

(Having presented this argument, I confess that in my own writing I prefer “he”, but whenever I write it I am conscious of my own mental biases that make me prefer it).

» Posted By sita-pati On Apr 9, 2011 @ 11:06 pm

No man can run a family the way a commander runs an army

Seems to me to be something that is easily settled empirically – study successful marriages and see what they are doing; rather than trying to do it through speculative interpretation of scriptures and statements by Srila Prabhupada.

I asked John Maxwell who “leads” in his marriage. He replied: “In areas where my wife is strong, she leads and I follow. In areas where I’m strong, I lead and she follows.”

It’s kind of obvious when you think about it. And it will be different for each couple, because every person is a unique individual with a unique strength profile – but the principle is universal.

Mutual submission – lead in areas of your strength; defer to your partner’s leadership in areas of their strength.

» Posted By sita-pati On Nov 6, 2010 @ 12:08 am

Is Astrology Useful in Krishna Consciousness? Part One – The Panchang

I love Akruranath’s peacemaking mood, but I have to say that I find Varnadi’s (WillemV) arguments to be more compelling.

In discussing vyavaharika reality (mundane, phenomenal reality) the pramanas of pratyaksha (sensory perception) and anuman (logic) – the two main pramanas of the scientific method, have their place. I don’t think that you can do away with them in favor of narrative only. Although, if you get to the same siddhanta, then Haribol! Each to his own…

» Posted By sita-pati On Feb 9, 2010 @ 11:51 pm

Say NO! to vaccines

Akruranatha, good question, and quite humorous, although maybe unintentionally….

Allow me to pose a question or two in reply to this:

What does it do to a person’s internal epsitemology, their pramana, if you make alignment with your organization contingent on believing that the moon landings are quite possibly, if not definitely, faked by NASA and other accomplices? That the media is complicit in this cover up?

That the actual structure of the solar system is completely different from that accepted and taught by the authorities of the day?

That the method of knowing through verification is second class at best when compared to knowing by hearing?

That people who seek verification through pratyaksha (direct perception) are in fact bad devotees, in the sense that they are “contaminated by science” or “do not have strong faith”.

That ghosts and goblins and fairies and mountains in the sky and oceans of milk and oil exist, and the fact that you can’t see them indicates that the problem lies with your continued reliance on perception?

I’m not saying anything about these things, I’m just asking about their aggregate effect on the internal worldview of individuals.

My observation is that after a while you can create a superstitious group of people who are conditioned to believe pretty much anything they hear, without requiring verification, as long as it reinforces the above mentioned points.

Since we know that the government is lying to us about the moon landings and the distance from the Earth to the moon, and that they are all demons who are out to put us into illusion, that they are lying about vaccines is simply reinforcement of that view.

Verification is not really needed because empiricism is evil. Submissive hearing is the way.

That’s my take on your question “Is there something about being a devotee that makes us particularly susceptible to outrageous conspiracy theories?”

Disclosure: our son was not vaccinated. When the nurse and doctor were unable to explain to my wife what they were injecting him with in the Peruvian hospital where he was born, she refused to allow them to do it.

There are economic pressures at work that distort the otherwise benevolent intentions of individual physicians, and trial and error is also in play. That’s not to write off the benefits of Western medicine – just something to bear in mind.

» Posted By sita-pati On Aug 10, 2009 @ 6:07 am

New Book Reveals Fundamental Flaw in Darwin’s Theory

He Prabhu,

My comment is on the review, and obviously not on the book, which I haven’t read yet.

Thanks for taking the time to address my concerns. I am looking for a strong counter-narrative to the evolutionary one.

These statements of yours seem the most promising to me:

The annihilations at the end of long cosmic time periods can be seen as “mass extinctions”. At the same time the existence of “living fossils” shows, that the forms of species have not changed in the last tens of millions of years.


And our spiritual lineage takes the opposite side and describes the complete design and complete creation of species in their presently known form.

Most attempts to show the glorious superiority of the sastra seem to consist of trying to poke holes in evolutionary narrative, rather than presenting a complete, comprehensive and coherent alternative. Some of the points that you make here look like they could be the basis for this, if further developed. I’ll read your book with the hope that this approach, and further development of these ideas is in there.

Either way, thanks for your opinions and assessment.

» Posted By sita-pati On Jul 17, 2009 @ 6:18 am

A theory is not perse a dogma, and casting the conversation as one dogma versus another, to me, seems to fall into a stereotypical “science vs (Judeo-Christian) religion” argument.

I would like to read something that is not a reactionary “Darwin is dogma, we reject it“, and something that is more contributive to human understanding. How do you explain the development of different species of life?

A magical one-off event of interventionist creation by the intelligent designer is the Judeo-Christian idea. However, a fossil record that demonstrates multiple mass extinctions and the appearance of new species renders that insufficient as an explanation.

Without another mechanism it seems that magical intervention creationist will have to postulate multiple magical interventions.

The Srimad Bhagavatam does not describe multiple magical interventions. And by magical I mean an event that suspends the ordinary operating laws and procedures of nature – the birth of any living entity is in one sense a “magical” moment, but it is within the ordinary operating parameters of nature. The Bhagavatam speaks of a single magical creation event by the Supreme Being who afterwards remains aloof from the creation, which then carries on under the influence of His energies. Evolution of a species by natural selection is an explanation for species development that places it within the operation of nature. In that sense it seems more in tune with both observable phenomena (the fossil record) and the scriptural version of a single magical event followed by the operation of natural forces.

Arguing that only magical interventionism can be theistic, and that any attempt to explain development of species through natural forces is a priori atheistic, to me, seems incorrect. The origin and nature of life (as in consciousness) is a different issue, and theories of evolutionary development of species should be examined separately from explanations of “consciousness from matter”.

This isn’t to say that “Darwin’s theory is right!”, but rather that I want to see another alternative explanation that tallies with the observed facts (and doesn’t rely on the “well, science is wrong anyway because it’s based on sense perception” get-out-of-jail-free card) and also tallies with philosophy of the Bhagavatam.

I don’t find fundamentalist Christian explanations do this, and I don’t find that neo-Christian-fundamentalist-Vaisnava mash-ups do either.

Am I the only one?

» Posted By sita-pati On Jun 20, 2009 @ 1:38 am

Reforming the reformer

Thank you for your insight Praghosa Prabhu – and also for the hard work that you do here at

» Posted By sita-pati On May 25, 2008 @ 6:41 pm

The call to revolution is there:

On the other hand, that literature which is full of descriptions of the transcendental glories of the name, fame, forms, pastimes, etc., of the unlimited Supreme Lord is a different creation, full of transcendental words directed toward bringing about a revolution in the impious lives of this world’s misdirected civilization. Such transcendental literatures, even though imperfectly composed, are heard, sung and accepted by purified men who are thoroughly honest.

Srimad Bhagavatam 1.5.11

This discussion thread is interesting. I get the feeling that the question of adhikara may be involved.

Madhavananda prabhu says:

If we found out that some temple presidents were stealing money, how many devotees would respect them? What if we discovered they were also having illicit sex with others wives? What if we found out they had killed brahmanas, killed cows, and broken deities and temples? Who would respect such persons?

But what if these rascals were eternal associates of the Lord, and those heinous acts were their service to the Lord? What if their names were Jaya/Vijaya-Hiranyakasipu/Hiranyaksa-Ravana/Kumbhakarna?

What about someone who supported Duryodhan and tried to kill Krishna, Arjuna and the pandavas? Could we accept him as a leader, a great devotee, a mahajana?

What if his name was Bhishmadev?

We are not the seers.

In the case of all these people, the example is that devotees do actively oppose them. Arjuna never personally disrespected Bhismadeva or Duryodhana, but he did do his duty with respect to them. In a similar way, would it not be the case that a devotee would do something if he found a temple president or other authority stealing money, or say, abusing children in the gurukula?

Or would he be inactive in the name of a higher level of vision?

Is not dutiful action without considering oneself the doer and with detachment from the results our ideal?

Personally if I became aware of a devotee abusing children, for example, I would act – understanding him to be eternal spirit soul and a sadhaka, but understanding nonetheless that both he and I have our roles to play in the drama of life.

» Posted By sita-pati On May 23, 2008 @ 9:00 pm

Free Speech In Krishna Consciousness

Dear Krishna Kesava Prabhu,

Having been the only one, to my knowledge, to mention Chomsky and free speech here lately I can’t help but think this is some way inspired, or directed at me.

I appreciate the general points you make in this article. I have some questions about the application of this understanding.

I think we can agree that ISKCON, a society with spiritual values and spiritual goals, is also a human society and is demonstrably made up of conditioned souls at all levels, including at the highest levels of formal leadership (Guru, Sannyasi, GBC).

This is a tangential but related point to the thrust of your article: given the above reality: what is the social dynamic by which the misuse of authority is protected against, or the conditioned tendency of the formal leadership is balanced? I assume that it is something as yet unmanifest, as we have experienced examples thus far in ISKCON where having such a mechanism of balance in place would have been to the benefit of all and it seems we have yet to fully develop the social dynamics needed to function as a human society.

Personally, my realization is that as leaders we must bear responsibility for the impact our leadership actions have on the people we lead. A workman shouldn’t blame his tools, and a leader shouldn’t blame his followers, demanding that they just “grin and bear it and simply eat their halava”, as someone once put it.

Each of us has our sphere of influence and our sphere of concern, and within that sphere, conditioned or otherwise, we have our responsibility to act. It is our dharma to act according to our nature in that area. For example, if mothers had spoken out more vigorously about the treatment of their children we might have avoided the tragedy that unfolded in our gurukulas. Philosophy was also employed at that time that obstructed that tragedy from been dealt with as it should have been.

What are your thoughts on balancing these considerations?

your servant,
Sita-pati das

» Posted By sita-pati On May 19, 2008 @ 9:37 pm

Happy Dolls

I remember reading that Srila Prabhupada called them “lucky dolls”. He was saying to distribute them to people, as some people collect dolls. They can put them on their mantlepiece and you tell the people to offer them incense each day, and they will bring good luck.

I searched the Vedabase but couldn’t find either happy dolls or lucky dolls, so it must have been in someone’s memoirs.

» Posted By sita-pati On May 14, 2008 @ 8:24 am

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

Thank you for your reply Praghosa prabhu.

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

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

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

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

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

» Posted By sita-pati On May 7, 2008 @ 2:23 pm

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

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

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

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

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

I disagree with it.

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

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

» Posted By sita-pati On May 7, 2008 @ 4:34 am

Learn to play Mrdanga

Pavamana prabhu, thank you very much for sharing your experience and realization. Are your drums available to purchase?

I am very interested to see how you put a leather head on in a key-tunable fashion. I am also interested to learn about the gob. Could you possibly contact me via email? My address is sitapati at

» Posted By sita-pati On May 19, 2008 @ 3:25 am

As you wish Makhanchor prabhu.

I’ll do small video podcasts of each of the mantras and make an online version of the book. This will take a little while to complete. In the meantime I have put up one podcast with accompanying mantras, here: Daadra taal mrdanga lesson.

I’ll get everything together and then let you know when it is ready.

» Posted By sita-pati On Apr 21, 2008 @ 3:30 am

Thank you for the clarification Babhru prabhu. I will modify the book according to your direction.

Dr Singh explained to me that using a cloth that is heated from the stove allows you to control the application of the heat more safely. Placing the mrdanga near the stove has the potential to damage the head through overheating and drying it out.

If tuning the mrdanga on the floor is disrespectful, it indicates that putting him down on the ground is also.

My personal realization is that the mrdanga does not mind being tuned on the floor if you have a personal relationship with him. If you consistently place him on an asana, and then during a kirtan you gently bump him on the ground to tune him, he’s ok with that service. You will also have a sensitivity to know what feels good to Him, and what is unfavorable to his pleasure. This is probably not something that should be imitated prematurely, and we should first learn to respect him as a manifestation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Not tuning him on the ground because it is disrespectful, but at the same time putting him down directly on the floor without a second thought, as is the norm in every ISKCON temple I’ve visited so far, appears inconsistent. The idea behind not tuning him on the ground should extend to not placing him on the ground at all.

The best idea is to develop an initial aisvarya-tinged relationship with Lord Balarama in his form as the mrdanga. The mrdangas in ISKCON temple are constantly in a bad state of repair because devotees often do not realize that this is the Supreme Personality of Servitorship to Godhead, and should be honored as such. Books, japa beads, deity worship paraphenalia, and other sacred items are never placed on the floor. Lord Balarama in his form as the mrdanga should also never be placed on the floor.

I think if you follow the pathway I have set out in the book, that of worshiping the mrdanga with flowers and incense, and constantly placing him on an asana, you will develop to the point of being able to gently bump him on the floor. When you feel reflexive physical dis-ease at the sight on Lord Balarama on the floor you will have the sensitivity to serve him by bumping him on the floor.

However, I will take that recommendation out of the book, because I would not like to see people justify bumping him on the floor based on my book, when they do not consistently worship him as the incarnation of the Supreme based on the same.

» Posted By sita-pati On Apr 12, 2008 @ 11:00 pm

Thanks for the feedback Babhru prabhu.

It’s difficult to extrapolate a policy based on just this one incident. Definitely you should not tune the mrdanga this way if you don’t know what you are doing, especially if it’s not your mrdanga.

When I studied tabla with Dr Talochan Singh he would tune his tablas with a small hammer, and would tune my khol the same way. He also added wooden rollers under the leather straps on my khol to make it more easily tunable.

These two things – inserting wooden rollers and using a small hammer to tune the mrdanga – are better to use than bumping it on the floor.

My feeling is that Srila Prabhupada’s instruction was more a practical one designed to stop a sudden trend of slap happy devotees weakening and breaking mrdangas by over-enthusiastically “tuning” them on the floor, rather than based on an esoteric consideration.

If, on the other hand, it is based on an esoteric consideration, then this is all the more reason why mrdanga prabhu should never be placed on the floor, but should also be offered an asana. This is a very common seva aparadha in ISKCON temples and centers – placing the mrdanga on the floor.

I will add a note incorporating this in the next edition.

» Posted By sita-pati On Apr 12, 2008 @ 6:42 am

COMPROMISE – Modern Secularism Vs Vaisnava Dharma

Krishna-kirti prabhu, I think I am beginning to understand your point. I think some of the fault also lies in attempting to mimic certain aspects of the Vedic culture, especially external ones, without other supporting details.

For example: demanding that women be surrendered and dependent, but without ensuring that men are dependable (for example: abusing children in the gurukula system).

Developing the whole Vedic culture is an organic process more akin to gardening than to house construction. At different times in the life of a devotee different measures are needed, and an expert gardener can help them to apply that. Trying to artificially jump to higher stages of development, either personally or collectively, is unhealthy and counter productive.

Virtue is indeed relative, as the Bhagavatam declares:

“Steadiness in one’s own position is declared to be actual piety, whereas deviation from one’s position is considered impiety. In this way the two are definitely ascertained.” SB. 11.21.2

We need expert gardeners to help individuals and communities to grow organically and healthily, without niyamagraha in either direction – either imposing inappropriate arrangements which while valid in their own right are not progressive for the people who adopt them at this point in their development, or else whimsically transforming the standard rather than progressively transforming ourselves to meet the standard.

I don’t think there is another solution apart from persons who will fulfill this role. These are the brahmanas that Srila Prabhupada wanted to create as the first order of action in establishing varnasrama-dharma.

» Posted By sita-pati On Mar 11, 2008 @ 9:29 am

Women, ISKCON, and Varnashram

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

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

» Posted By sita-pati On Mar 2, 2008 @ 6:56 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» Posted By sita-pati On Mar 2, 2008 @ 6:32 pm

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

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

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

» Posted By sita-pati On Mar 2, 2008 @ 6:23 pm

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

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


Now please bear in mind that body also means mind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

– NOD Lecture, 1972

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

» Posted By sita-pati On Feb 29, 2008 @ 10:08 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

» Posted By sita-pati On Feb 29, 2008 @ 9:56 pm

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