Vanity thought #708. Debating the 4th

Recently a devotee posted a quote from one of our leading sannyasis about following the fourth regulative principle. The gist of it was that there’s a big difference between sex inside and outside of marriage. Sex outside of marriage is sinful and ruinous for spiritual life while recreational sex between married people is simply unfavorable for spiritual progress.

I thought that was very odd because Srila Prabhupada has never made such a distinction. There are tons of quotes on this and these two sound very convincing: the Vedic civilization sex life is allowed only in a restricted way; it is for the married couple and only for begetting children. But when sex life is indulged in for sense gratification illegally and illicitly, both the man and the woman await severe punishment in this world or after death.

SB 3.30.28, purport


These laws and scriptures are meant for human beings. As such, if one violates these laws, he becomes sinful. The conclusion is that unrestricted sense enjoyment means sinful activities. Illicit sex is sex that violates the laws given in the scriptures. When one violates the laws of the scriptures, or the Vedas, he commits sinful activities.

SB 4.27.5, purport

So my first reflex was to point how maharaj clearly diverges from Srila Prabhupada on this. Thinking about it some more, however, I realized that this was a reply to a question, and if the question was “What to do if ..?” then one certainly has to make distinctions between husband and wife slipping into a bit of sense enjoyment and a sannyasi sexually abusing children.

Maharaj also called devotees who don’t see the difference “foolish and fanatical”. I don’t know about that – there’s no difference in principle, but if the question was “Should I drown in Ganges like Chota Haridas?” then the comment would be totally appropriate.

This question of in and out of marriage sex made me think of what a marriage is, too. From a karmic/devotional point of view – what constitutes marriage? Registration with civil authorities? Performing vivaha? Declaring their status publicly? That doesn’t seem to be definitive enough for marriage as it is accepted in “heaven”. What if a devotee performing the yajna made a mistake? What if all our yajnas are useless and no demigod/higher power ever recognizes them as a proper sacrifice?

Perhaps the most important part is the commitment to raising Krishna conscious children. Traditionally it’s the commitment to stay together until death but from devotional point of view the purpose of marriage is procreation, not the commitment to enjoy/annoy each other no matter what.

Perhaps we should define marriage as an arrangement for producing and raising Krishna conscious children, and everything else consider only as a tribute to society. Devotees aren’t meant to stay together until death anyway, after their procreational duties are over they should leave the family and devote themselves solely to spiritual practices.

Anyway, after submitting some of these arguments in hope to clarify maharaja’s statement it turned out that the question was about some other gurus who openly declare that any sex within marriage is okay and are not demanding abstaining from it neither for the first nor for the second initiation.

I don’t know what to say to that. Here I thought this particular guru was very liberal in his interpretation of how to follow the fourth reg but now he turns out to be the “strict” one!

There’s a confusion about what Prabhupada meant by establishing this fourth requirement for ISKCON devotees, the argument goes. I don’t know about that. To me it can’t be any clearer – no illicit sex, and illicit sex is sex outside of marriage, and in marriage it’s sex not for creating children.

What is there to be confused about?

Never mind the rules, there’s no surprise that some guys come along with easier versions, but rewriting the rules can’t change the fundamental principle – those who are attached to sex life, illicit or otherwise, will never become devotees. As long as attraction to sex enjoyment is there we can’t even dream of going back to Krishna. Pure, spiritual sex desire will not manifest itself as long as we cling to our base, material lust.

We can’t have the cake and eat it, too.

6 comments on “Vanity thought #708. Debating the 4th

  1. No, these purports by Prabhupada are not crystal clear, not even close. In the first purport he speaks about Vedic culture which is a projection. Even if there existed such culture where the sex by married couples was restricted only for begetting children (which I really doubt), there is no explicit instruction that we should emulate that culture in every aspect. Although for some devotees may think that restoring “Vedic culture” is our goal, it really isn’t the goal of gaudiya vaishnavism (hint: krishna-prema is).

    In the second case it is even less clear what specific laws of the scriptures we are supposed to follow? For example, Manu laws which are not applicable today. Having a thought of having several wifes? Forget about it. Wasn’t it Prabhupada’s idea that cherry picking (ardha-kukuti-nyaya) is doomed to failure?

    ISKCON devotees (not me) solve this controversy by accepting Prabhupada’s words as the highest truth regardless what sastra says or does not say. My point is that there are no clear instructions from Prabhupada that the 4th principle means having sex only for begetting children. All we have are these vague references which can have various interpretations. The distinction should be made between the highest spiritual ideal and practical acceptance of our level. Nowhere Prabhupada writes that one cannot be his disciple if he is having or going to have sex in a marriage not for begetting children.

  2. Similarly some ISKCON gurus do not subscribe to the interpretation that illicit sex includes sex within marriage not for begetting children. They usually try to avoid the issue for political expediency and due to fear of raising this controversy again which should have died long time ago. One of them is Rohini Suta Prabhu. I can imagine that his disciples are similarly avoiding this issue because then they would have to chose between their guru’s teachings and general ISKCON dogma.

    • Really, Rohini Suta Prabhu is preaching that now? Can you point where?

      Generally, gurus who are playing acharyas, meaning feeling ready to modify the rules without any effect on spiritual progress of their disciples, are on a dangerous path. We live in the age where they (aren’t we all?) struggle to follow Prabhupada, what to speak of boldly hacking their own path.

      As Ravindra Svarupa once said – we don’t have a problem of fallen gurus in ISKCON, we have a problem of fallen disciples. Our fallen gurus haven’t failed as spiritual masters, they failed in following Srila Prabhupada, and almost always failed with the fourth reg. So, if somebody claims to have found an easy solution it’s too good to be true.

  3. It doesn`t surpriese the falldown of Rohini Suta. Unfortunately, I was part of his Sankirtan-group in Switzerland, when he still was bramachary. A cool-bloded, perverted, vindictive, sneaky and, above all, dark poor and ignorant soul who didn´t understood anything in his live.

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