Checking up on Dina Sarana’s mataji situation it turned out that the original letter was pulled off dandavats. Did it contain factual mistakes? Was it at the request of the mataji herself? Maybe it was because a commentary on that letter accusing GBC of spreading feminism has been reposted at multiple sites and elicited a number of responses. It’s a war out there.
As expected, ISKCON’s perennial adversaries couldn’t miss a chance to have another go at GBC and how they ruin everybody’s lives both spiritually and materially. That’s an old horse, however – boring.
The new development is the emergence of anti-feminist community whose allegiance to ISKCON is unquestionable, so far, they just want to clean the house from the inside.
These guys and gals are on the mission, they are on a warpath, they are primed and ready and they shoot from the hip. Should they be engaged? Umm, no, I think it’s better to get out of their way because all they will achieve is havoc and destruction. Here is why.
They justify they campaign by saying that we are at war with maya, that all misconceptions and deviations must be smashed, that it’s Srila Prabhupada’s mission and feminism is a legitimate target. That may be so, but there’s a difference between the war on feminism and the war on feminist devotees, if such even exist. Once you start fighting devotees your game is over, it’s just a matter of time.
“War on maya” cannot be used as an excuse to pick up a fight whenever you feel like it. It’s not even a real thing, per se, it’s a figure of speech. Mayadevi is Krishna’s trusted servant, we don’t fight His servants. We see her as our enemy because of our immaturity, on an advanced level of devotion one does not see her actions as separate from Krishna’s desires. Besides, if you think about what it is exactly that we are supposed to be fighting in the war on maya we would see that it’s actually a war with our own desires, not anything external. There’s a nice analogy in this regard – it’s like embracing a tree with all your strength and at the same time blaming it for not letting your go.
If we use this phrase when talking about preaching then “war on maya” is a war for people’s hearts. We want them to appreciate Krishna’s message more than maya’s allurements. In this sense of a term there’s no scope for fighting devotees either.
But what about real deviants? Aren’t they a legitimate target for our righteous outrage? Maybe so, but are devotees in the cross-hair of this group legitimate targets? For that we need to step back and put things in perspective.
There’s one often quoted conversation in defense of our varnashrama mission but look for Prabhupada’s reasoning for it:
Hari-sauri: But in Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s practical preaching He only induced them to chant.
Prabhupada: That is not possible for ordinary man.
Hari-sauri: What, to simply induce people to chant?
Hari-sauri: He only introduced just the chanting.
Prabhupada: But who will chant? Who’ll chant?
Satsvarupa: But if they won’t chant, then neither will they train up in the varnasrama. That’s the easiest.
Prabhupada: The chanting will be there, but you cannot expect that people will chant like Caitanya Mahaprabhu. They cannot even chant sixteen rounds. (And) these rascals are going to be Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Satsvarupa: No. But if they at least will chant and take some prasada…
Prabhupada: Chanting will go on. That is not stopped. But at the same time the varnasrama-dharma must be established to make the way easy.
Hari-sauri: Well, at least my own understanding was that the chanting was introduced in the age of Kali because varnasrama is not possible.
Prabhupada: Because it will cleanse the mind. Chanting will not stop.
Hari-sauri: So therefore the chanting was introduced to replace all of the systems of varnasrama and like that.
Prabhupada: Yes, it can replace, but who is going to replace it? The… People are not so advanced. If you imitate Haridasa Thakura to chant, it is not possible.
More to follow.
To me it looks like Srila Prabhupada wanted varnashrama to help us with chanting and all our other vaishnava duties. We need proper, regulated life in order to become vaishnavas and stay as vaisnhavas. On it’s own varnashrama is of no use to us at all.
When Ramandanda Raya famously started with performing varnashrama duties as a goal of life Lord Chaitanya cut him down – it’s external. In that same conversation Srila Prabhupada elaborated on this further:
Prabhupāda: No. Our position is different. We are trying to implement Kṛṣṇa consciousness in everything. And Caitanya Mahāprabhu personally took sannyāsa. He rejected completely material. Niṣkiñcana. But we are not going to be niṣkiñcana. We are trying to cement the troubled position of the… That is also in the prescription of Bhagavad-gītā. We are not rejecting the whole society. Caitanya Mahāprabhu rejected everything, ihā bāhya. Rejected meaning, “I do not take much interest in this.” Bāhya. “It is external.” He was simply interested in the internal, the spiritual. But our duty is that we shall arrange the external affairs all so nicely that one day they will come to the spiritual platform very easily, paving the way. And Caitanya Mahāprabhu, personality like that, they have nothing to do with this material world. But we are preaching. We are preaching. Therefore we must pave the situation in such a way that gradually they will be promoted to the spiritual plane, which is not required.
Again, the goal is clear – getting fixed in spiritual practice, and the tool is clear – having a regulated varnashrama life.
The “feminist” devotees who are under attack, however, have been chanting and serving Krishna and our society for decades, they don’t need fixing, they have already demonstrated their dedication and their abilities. It’s foolish to subject them to the neophyte boot camp just to satisfy our desire to have everyone following the same rules, in this case stri-dharma.
About that, stri-dharma, duties of women – there are plenty of quotes in our books in support of it but it’s also a fact that stri-dharma falls under external duties and so under sarva-dharman parityajya principle. We might follow these external duties but we don’t devote ourselves to them and we don’t lament if we don’t succeed in this entirely.
There’s also a question whether stri-dharma as it’s described in Manu Samhita and Srimad Bhagavatam is applicable to our “feminist” devotees. The idea that one’s nature is fixed simply by his birth had been successfully refuted a century ago. To determine someone svabhava we must look at the actual traits and qualities, and svabhava is not some theoretical concept either, we don’t need to look up ancient books to find out what it is for this or that person.
The material nature has already provided the answer – just look at that person’s body, their emotional and mental make up, at their situation in life, at their means of earning livelihood and so on. That’s how we determine what duties one should follow and where one is located in varnashrama system. Why should we reject this method when determining women’s duties?
It is also immature to think that women raised in career minded societies have no sense of duty and no sense of right and wrong. It might not be up to our standard but they know what they have to do. Not many of them raise children but they still fully accept responsibility for them just as they accept responsibility for supporting their husbands. They believe that they can manage being in three roles – mothers, husbands, and professionals, it’s never an “either or” situation for them.
Sometimes they manage just fine, sometimes they bite more than they can chew, but to say that they have no interest in performing their stri-duties whatsoever is just plain wrong, and it’s doubly wrong when we say that our female devotees are not interested in them, too, it’s downright offensive because no one is idling about here, everyone is engaged in Krishna’s service and everyone tries their best, especially women who have to juggle so many things in their hands.
The warriors then say that it’s better to put women back into their traditional roles where they will quickly rediscover their lost taste for proper motherhood. Sounds reasonable but it’s probably one of the stupidest arguments out there. It’s surely is not presentable to the general public – it resembles ridiculous gay reorientation camps that are folding like a house of cards all over the place.
There’s no provision for re-education camps in Krishna consciousness either. Just look at this part from that same conversation:
Satsvarūpa: We tell them, “Go on with your job, but chant also.”
Prabhupāda: Yes. Thākaha āpanāra kāje, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. Āpanāra kāja ki. Caitanya Mahāprabhu recommended, sthāne sthitaḥ. And if they do not remain in the sthāna, then the sahajiyā’s chanting will come. Just like the sahajiyās also have got the beads and…, but they have got three dozen women. This kind of chanting will go on. Just like our (indistinct). He was not fit for sannyāsa, but he was given sannyāsa. And five women he was attached, and he disclosed. Therefore varṇāśrama-dharma is required. Simply show-bottle will not do. So the varṇāśrama-dharma should be introduced all over the world, and…
Sthane sthitah means stay in your place, it’s a Bhagavatam verse from prayers of Lord Brahma which, among other things, tells us NOT to go to any kind of re-education camps, and Srila Prabhupada explains it further – suppose you put yourself in a new, “better” position, then sahajiya will come – you will think yourself more advanced than you really are and eventually you will fall.
What could be better proof that we should not force people to change their existing situations? And the irony of that proof coming from a conversation that our varnashrama warriors carry on their banners? Priceless.
There’s another angle to this sthane sthitah quote – it was given by Ramananda Raya in that same conversation with Lord Chaitanya (CC Madhya.8.67) five steps up from the verse prescribing following varnashrama and it’s the first verse where Lord Chaitanya, instead of rejecting Ramananda Raya’s proposals outhand, has said “This is alright.” Of course there were many more steps to follow but the fact is that serving Krishna while being sthane sthitah is a superior proposition to perfectly following duties of varnashrama.
It’s foolish to say “Oh no, you have to become a perfect stri first, then you can become a devotee” to someone who already IS an exemplary devotee in every other respect, but I digress.
There’s still so much ground to cover in relation to this fight on feminism but this post if getting way too long, maybe some other time.