Comments Posted By vishnujanadasa

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Bill Clinton Gets a Bhagavad-gita

This story has inspired me to share a part of an e-mail I’ve received from His Grace Jambavan Prabhu in Michigan, who’s 12 year old son always dresses in dhoti and kurta:

“…As always, I would like to leave on a positive note so here is a nice story for you. I sent Hanuman out the other day to look at one building that was for sale near to our house. As usual, Hanuman wears a dhoti and kurta everyday (He is a preacher you know and wearing devotional clothes are still the cheapest advertisement we have). And while he was out a man approached him and asked: “Excuse me, but are you a Hare Krishna?” A discussion then ensued and the man revealed that he had been to a temple when he visited India and would like to go to one again. He asked Hanuman where a temple is located here and he informed him of the temple down in Detroit. The man mentioned then replied that he didn’t want to drive all the way down there and suggested “you guys really need to get a temple out here”. When Hanuman informed him of our home programs, he requested that we send him an invitation the next time one comes around. Hopefully we will see this nice man the next time around. Good work Hanuman! We are proud of you.”

Jambavan Prabhu is a sanskrit scholar who studied under his Grace Gopiparanadhana Prabhu. He is working on the Ramayana right now.

Jambavan is currently looking to start a preaching center, and if anyone would like to offer help or donations, please feel free to contact me at and I will get you in touch with him.

Comment Posted By vishnujanadasa On 05.07.2012 @ 02:09

To Comment 2

Amen Shyamasundara Prabhu.

While there is nothing wrong in wearing karmi clothes while preaching or distributing books, my own experience and that of many of my God-brothers and fellow sankirtana brothers and sisters in North America is that the dhoti and sari are very congenial for distributing Krishna Consciousness. Just the other day my God-brother Baladeva Prabhu from RVC distributed 60-80 big books a day in Chicago for many days while wearing a dhoti and flower garland. People loved it.

Also, when we do Harinam in devotional clothes (Srila Prabhupada’s and Bhaktivinode Thakur’s words), people turn their heads smiling and many cameras start flashing and filming. Who wouldn’t be attracted to such a bright and beautiful scene?

Comment Posted By vishnujanadasa On 05.07.2012 @ 02:00

Respecting Our Women In Iskcon

Comment 83

Thank you for double checking that definition. I was actually using the definition used in the Webster-Mirriam dictionary:

Definition of SARI

: a garment of southern Asian women that consists of several yards of lightweight cloth draped so that one end forms a skirt and the other a head or shoulder covering

Hindi & Urdu sārī, from Sanskrit śātī strip of cloth

First Known Use: 1785

I did not cross-reference Webster’s sources however.

I also understand that many women in India also probably did not completely cover themselves up. I am just saying that it seems, according to the Vedic literature, that women generally dressed modestly. Indeed Srila Prabhupada said men were also expected to be modest in public, for instance, by covering their chests in public (as told by HH Bhakti Vikasa Swami).

The royal courts or devas were certainly allowed to be exceptions to the rule. Srila Prabhupada said Kshatriyas were allowed to enjoy intoxication and sexual relations more than other varnas, just as Greco-Roman aristocracy was often much more sensual than the general public; Greek and later Roman society highly valued modesty (especially during the Roman Republican days. Certain Emperors, such as Caesar Octavianus Augustus, tried to bring back the virtues of the Republican era during their reigns).

Consequently, Greco-Roman (and later Renaissance and Neo-Classical) art often depicted men and women in the nude, but this was in contrast to the social norms of the day. It seems that this may have been the case in India as well.

As you pointed out, in traditional Vedic culture, women were held in much higher esteem and given more respect, just as the other varnas were given more respect. As time progressed however, the iniquities of Kali-Yuga found their way into the hearts of men and women, not just in India, but all over the world. Women were viewed with great respect in traditional western culture, as seen by the esteem given to the head priestess’ of the ancient oracles and temples (see, the Vestal Virgins). This respect similarly declined, as did respect for all sorts of life forms in general.

Comment Posted By vishnujanadasa On 04.07.2012 @ 00:02


“This says nothing about Draupadi wearing a “sari”. The problem, or confusion, is derived from the interpolation and condraditions of the dharmasastras… Because the Ramayana deals with lots of social duties, it has over 300 versions.”

I am not saying the Mahabharata is mentioning a sari per say. I am just making the point that women dressed moderately and covered themselves, even before the Muslim and Christian influences.

In reference to the Mahabharata being composed of varying layers interpolated over time, it is a very good point supported by Madhvacharya himself no less. It is, however pointed out by scholars that the latest layer of the Mahabharata was added around 400 CE, which stills puts the text well before any Muslim influence, and even predates the caves of Ajanta(1)

Similarly, while the Ramayana by some estimations has over 300 hundred versions, scholars still consider Valmiki’s as the original, and if we take the latest estimates of some of those scholars we still get a date of around the 5th to 4th century B.C. E. The other editions are considered regional versions, such as Tamil, Telugu, Indonesian, Cambodian, Malai, and also versions from the Philippines, Laos, Vietnam, and Maldives. Also there are sectarian versions such as Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, etc. Finally, there are the contemporary novels and comic versions.

“As for SB 10.12.19, it is obvious that Krishna is mischievously joking with the gopis. “

Certainly Krishna is joking when he is with the gopis by the river. The main point illustrated here is that a woman was only to be seen by her husband naked, and so Krishna wanted to see them naked in order to fulfill their desire and recognize them as his wives.

“Saris, as we know them today, came into being specifically to hide women’s bodies because of the Islamic and then British attitudes.”

As you mentioned, there were varieties of clothing worn by Vedic women (antariya, uttariya, kayabandh, dresses, skirts, shawls, shirts, blouses, cholis, types of bras, etc.). Some of these would be draped on the body similar to a sari. As I mentioned in the original comment (62), sari is derived from “sati”, meaning long cloth or drapery, which would fit into or refer to one or more of the categories of Vedic clothing you mentioned. Hence, they are antecedents to the modern-day sari.

1. Van Buitenen; The Mahabharata – 1; The Book of the Beginning. Introduction (Authorship and Date).

Comment Posted By vishnujanadasa On 22.06.2012 @ 01:01

To comments 72-73

Wonderful references, thank you. Women in Vedic culture are indeed misunderstood. They did have more liberties than is often depicted by modern-day society, and as mentioned in the Manu Smriti website you posted, women, according to Manu, are to be given charge of domestic affairs, respected and given right of way when passing in the streets, etc. and should all be generally revered by the society as at large. Indeed, as Srila Prabhupada said, women are the representatives of the Goddess of fortune herself. In the words of the website you linked to above, “Even the modern feminist books would have to seek further amendments to match up to Manu Smriti.”

“All these devatās, the demigods, they also enjoy. In higher planetary system, like Indra, he is prostitute hunter number one, Indra. (laughter) But he is a great devotee at the same time.”

Indeed the demigods may be prostitute hunters and sense enjoyers and still be great devotees and servants of Krishna (although Srila Prabhupada also mentioned that the more one becomes detached the more Godly or deva-like he becomes; thus there are levels of devatas, just like there are levels of lokas). Within deva societies however we can see that there are still certain reservations about revealing the body to certain persons, like when Narada was traveling through the heavenly abodes and Nalakuvara and Manigriva were sporting naked drunk with the heavenly damsels. It is recounted that the women covered themselves up when they saw Narada, but the two demigods were so intoxicated that they didn’t cover themselves up.

Similarly, when Vyasa passed by the women bathing in the beginning of the Srimad Bhagavatam, they covered themselves up (although, as most devotees know, they didn’t do so when Sukadeva passed by, because they could understand that he was beyond attachment and aversion).

Comment Posted By vishnujanadasa On 22.06.2012 @ 00:55


These examples were not woven into the Puranas after the Islamic invasions of India but actually predate them.

In fact, the tradition of women being covered up predates Islam. In Babylon, Purdah was practiced. Purdah is a strict set of rules governing the way women interacted with the society. The Babylonians, Persians, classical Greeks, and many others followed similar moral practices.

Regarding the caves of Ajanta and Ellora, which depict topless women: The peculiarity of these paintings, as pointed out by Buddhist scholars and Indologists, is that by depicting sensual and topless women, the paintings are contradicting Buddhist morals and principles (the paintings are Buddhist). The Buddha himself preached against worldly sensuality as an obstacle to nirvana, and yet these paintings show him surrounded by half-naked women.

The explanation offered by the scholars is that these women actually represent the temptations and allurements of the world, meant to be overcome by those seeking enlightenment. The same theory is postulated regarding similar depictions on temple facades around South India, such as Khajuraho and Konark. It should also be noted that those temples are exceptions, and are thought by scholars to be influenced by tantra. Also, they are depicting divinities (apsaras) and royalty.

Naked Greek statues similarly do not depict common life in classical Greece. In fact, those statues were painted and ancient writers describe them as having been dressed with real clothing. However, without the few references from ancient literature, and without the use of modern-day technology, we would have never known that, and our conception of the past would have mirrored this lack of knowledge.

Comment Posted By vishnujanadasa On 16.06.2012 @ 02:47

To Comment # 57

Although there seems to be no mention of the word “sari” in ancient Vedic literature, the word is still believed to be derived from the Sanskrit word “sati” meaning “long cloth or drapery (in other words, a sari essentially)”. As scanty as the archeological evidence may be in regards to Vedic dress, we can still nonetheless turn to the Vedic body of literature itself for evidence.

The custom of women covering themselves for the sake of modesty is illustrated by the episode in the Mahabharata where the Kauravas try to disrobe Draupadi in order to dishonor her. Everyone is familiar with this episode. Men were not allowed into the women’s quarters of the palace and yet Dussasana flagrantly violates this rule and drags Draupadi out by force (The practice of women maintaining private quarters barring the presence of men within the household is a tradition practiced by many pre-Islamic cultures, but more on that later).

Another example is from the Ramayana. Lakshmana is only able to identify Sita Devi’s foot ornaments and not others because out of respect for her modesty he would never look at the rest of Sita’s body.

From the Srimad Bhagavatam also, the Apsara Urvasi vows to leave king Pururava if she ever sees him naked (This shows that the Vedic standards of modesty apply to both men and women):

It appears from the words of Urvasi that the standard of living, eating, behavior and speech are all different on the heavenly planets from the standards on this planet earth….Nor do they like to see either men or women naked, except at the time of sexual intercourse. To live naked or almost naked is uncivilized, but on this planet earth it has now become fashionable to dress half naked…The inhabitants of the heavenly planets, aside from being very beautiful, both in complexion and bodily features, are well behaved and long-living, and they eat first-class food in goodness. These are some of the distinctions between the inhabitants of the heavenly planets and the inhabitants of earth.
Srimad Bhagavatam 9.14.23 purport

Furthermore, Lord Krishna tells the gopis in Srimad Bhagavatam 10.22.19, “You girls bathed naked while executing your vow, and that is certainly an offense against the demigods. To counteract your sin you should offer obeisances while placing your joined palms above your heads. Then you should take back your lower garments.”

Comment Posted By vishnujanadasa On 16.06.2012 @ 02:44

A devotee once asked Srila Prabhupada “(paraphrased) despite the fact that we have the perfect philosophy, the perfect guru, and the perfect society, why are we having so many problems in ISKCON?” Srila Prabhupada replied, “because the sannyasis and brahmacaris are associating too closely with the women.”

About associating with women, Chanakya Pandit says, “One should not even sit next to one’s mother, sister, or daughter.” Srila Prabhupada would quote this in regards to the power of maya. I think most people in ISKCON (and I imagine most Gaudiyas) know this quote.

Every culture, not just Islam, separates men and women. Churches used to do this world wide, including America, up to about 60 years ago. Last time I went to Greece to my father’s old village people were still doing this. The Athenians, Spartans, and other Greek city-states did this from ancient times, as did the Persians, Babylonians, Chinese, and other cultures as well. Even horse trainers separate the stallions from the mares for peak performance.

Comment Posted By vishnujanadasa On 09.05.2012 @ 21:30

The Art Of Negative Preaching

Dear Keshava Krishna Dasa,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

The point this article is addressing is a good one, namely using discrimination when preaching. You’ve made a “straw-man” out of your fictional heavy preacher however. You may have done so to emphasize your points, but it would have been more thought-provoking if the conversation were more realistic.

A final note: Srila Prabhupada asked some of his disciples on a morning walk in Dallas how they would preach to wealthy oil tycoons in the area. The disciples said they would tell them they are destroying the environment and community and creating bad karma (I’m paraphrasing). Srila Prabhupada said the disciples should tell the oil tycoons they are thieves stealing God’s property. How would you classify such an exchange?

Comment Posted By vishnujanadasa On 10.01.2012 @ 17:36

What Does Too Much Democracy Look Like?

Dandavts Sita Rama Prabhu. This article hits right on the mark. Very realistic and perceptive. Thank you for sharing your insights and realizations.

Due to the manipulation of today’s democratic governments, the rights and laws governing the world’s democracies, particularly America’s, are being stripped away. A bill was just signed into law by the president to indefinitely detain citizens without trial, which directly abrogates the U.S. constitution. That constitution is what made America prosperous. It is why other countries looked to the U.S. as a constitutional role-model, and it is what allowed us to preach so widely and freely.

Of course Lord Krishna is the ultimate permitter and controller.

The proposal that ISKCON devotees should attain to educational positions is a very good idea. Considering the currant uncertain and declining political and economic climate though, the time window proposed may be too long. It reminds one of the example of Christianity’s long and slow progressive spread and influence, and this may be the case with Krishna Consciousness. Or, one could also give the example of Islam, which, contrary to Christianity, spread extremely rapidly within only a few generations.

We, however, need not resort to the sword, but to the simple grass-roots method used by Lord Chaitanya and Srila Prabhupada: Harinama Sankirtana and transcendental book distribution. These are simple, practical, and able to be performed by anyone.

Comment Posted By vishnujanadasa On 22.12.2011 @ 18:38


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