I thought I would give it a pass but a week later it still lingers in my mind – GBC recently had a special session dedicated specifically to female dīkṣā guru, and it was a very important event even if no conclusions were reached.
It was important because it wasn’t just some committee meeting but a full blown GBC with everyone who is anyone being there, and because it was probably the last step before issuing a final statement on the matter. Well, might not be the last but they wheel has turned, they WILL have to come up with something after all these preparations.
They started slowly, by going through a thousand pages of quotes from śāstra, Śrīla Prabhupāda, and previous ācāryas. Anything of any importance that has ever been said on the matter was there. They had a separate committee to collect these quotes for two months.
It’s a big task and they approached it systemically. First, they had to put everyone in the right mood, they didn’t want a slug fest between deeply entrenched opponents, then they limited the scope of discussion to certain non-controversial matters. They split participants in groups, no doubt perfectly selected, and put simple but thought provoking questions before them that didn’t require yes/no answers, like “what effect do you think…” Very clever.
Well, the actual list of question is on Dandavats but I’m not going for accuracy here. I’m not going to discuss what I think about the questions either, I just appreciate how they elicited people’s opinions in a way that let them justify their positions and had the opponents try to supplement rather than confront them.
We all know that there will be effects on our society, for example, and discussing the exact nature of these effects makes people collaborate rather than express their opposition to the causes. It won’t work every time in every debate but if the atmosphere is right it might do wonders.
They say the session was organized by a “professionally trained facilitator” and it showed. This is also the part where I think I mention things I didn’t like about this whole idea.
What does “professionally trained facilitator” mean, for example. It sounds as if he was a professional but actually it means he was *trained* by professionals. That is, he took some conflict resolution course somewhere, paid money for it, and came back to ISKCON to apply his newfound knowledge. There’s nothing wrong with it per se but it opens a possibility for abuse.
FDG is not a small issue, essentially it’s about ascribing God’s power to a person. Who can make such a judgment? Who can speak on God’s behalf here? Obvious answer is “nobody”. We might not like it just like we don’t like absence of “self-luminous ācārya” but it’s the truth. Still, we need a solution and GBC tried their best, I believe, but that might not be good enough.
Materialistic conflict resolution is meant to overcome ego-based differences. People’s identities and aspirations are repositioned in such a way that they don’t immediately clash. They all bring huge chips on their shoulders but they are not asked to talk about that but rather on neutral topics that at the same time are close enough to the subject to keep them interested. If such facilitation succeeds it’s great, it reduces conflicts and comes up with acceptable solutions, but it doesn’t produce spiritual truth.
The idea behind it is that everyone should negotiate, everyone should get something and give something in return. Absolute Truth is non-negotiable, however. We can’t arrive to it through compromises. In fact, in spiritual matters compromises are forbidden. You put an old man to a nice young lady, let him talk and display his wisdom and maturity, and he will probably agree on something in the end just to fulfill the expectations. He can’t come away from the workshop like this without some form of success, and success here is defined by the organizers, not by Kṛṣṇa. It doesn’t have to be a lady, btw, anyone who would be impressed will do.
I mean the whole GBC committed itself to solving this once and for all, they had a meeting, now they must come to a conclusion even if a truly spiritual answer is still not there.
I’d hate to see FDG issue decided through trickery like this. I’d hate to see people coming away and thinking “God, what did I just agree to? And for what? An opportunity for a nice chat? As an obligation to come up with something no matter what?” I’d rather have both sides remain uncompromising in their positions.
We can’t have that in our society, however, and that’s why we need politics. GBS approached this issue as a political, not spiritual one, as is their duty, but that also limits the effect and recognition given to would be female gurus. “Yes, yes, they wanted it, they convinced the council, but I still don’t see them as authorized by Kṛṣṇa” – future thoughts like this won’t help anyone.
Still, ISKCON is in Kṛṣṇa’s hands, whatever GBC decides won’t ever go against Kṛṣṇa’s will, so I’m not going to freak out about this. In the end they came to a very sensible solution anyway – most members feel positive about FDG if their concerns about negative effects are met. They had a straw vote like this – non-binding but nevertheless reflecting GBC’s opinion and future course of discussion. Good job.
Ironically, this answer was obvious right from the start, just as there was nothing new in the thousand pages they went through again in preparation for this discussion. It’s the same old “can, if they are qualified” that has been with us forever – if gurus are truly qualified then our current concerns will not be a problem.
Problem is – how do we decide who is qualified or not? Without self-luminous ācārya we can’t make such decisions on our own, no matter how many meetings we hold. I do not have the answer to this question either – how do we go from rule based assessment to proclaiming that this or that person has an overriding authority from Kṛṣṇa?
With male devotees it’s easy because simply following the rules is enough but giving dīkṣā guru duties to a woman requires extra proof of her qualifications because they are not in the rule book.
This comparison between men and women exposed an interesting point I’ve never heard before – potential male gurus need to show the proof of their financial stability. What? Seriously? Financial stability? Umm.. Really?
Here’s the exact quote: “Should a potential guru have to demonstrate financial, ashrama and personal stability (required in part of male gurus)?” It doesn’t give any details and I don’t think there’s anything like that in ISKCON law book either but it sounds plausible the way things have been going in our society.
I don’t know what to say, I hope it’s just a misunderstanding.
But before it gets cleared, if ever, I see MacBook Pros in front of every GBC member in this photo in a completely different way now. Not that I saw it any flattering way before.
Nah, just leave it, let them have their politics and their computers, it’s all for the good cause. I can’t afford to waste time on discussing this – Kṛṣṇa isn’t waiting.