Vanity thought #1639. Nowhere is safe

This week had brought as a great deal of turmoil in the unlikeliest of places – Māyāpura itself. I won’t even pretend I know what’s going on there, all I have is what was released on hostile news sites. Our trusted Dandavats decided not to report anything. I don’t know if it’s a wise decision in the long run but not agitating devotees who are far away from the problem seems like a good idea when tensions are still high.

Details are scarce, all we know is that one Indian devotee was in charge of collecting funds for TOVP and now he isn’t, though there also was an announcement that it’s his “adversary” who is out and the Indian devotee got a promotion for his troubles. At this point I don’t know what the facts are and how to separate them from rumors. There are letters presenting each side of the story but I’m not sure we can trust anything even it’s got a letterhead on, not after that NA GBC letter on banning Bhakti Vikāsa Svami’s book.

Access to official stationery gives one appearance of power and authority but it’s just an appearance until all the facts are in and judgement has been passed. This gives people a window of opportunity to push their own agenda under official cover and hope that when dust settles no one would care very much about misuse of letterheads and stamps. Politically it’s a shrewd move but why should we care about politics unless it’s our duty? If someone gets this apparently unfair advantage why should we be envious? Kṛṣṇa fulfills all desires, especially for those who are dear to Him, so no one would be able to actually abuse his position without Kṛṣṇa’s permission. Somehow or other the Lord lets it happen, who are we to demand amendments or justice? Law of karma is just enough, we can’t improve on it.

Anyway, it appears that it was a clash of two egos, each devotee thinking that he does a great service for Lord Caitanya and Prabhupāda, certainly greater than “that other guy”. When devotees openly try to cut down each other’s egos it’s a sad sight and an argument no one can ever win, no matter the outcome. Then other people got involved and it was all downhill from there.

Apparently one female devotee felt strongly about injustice, got a stick in her hand and set out for the temple. By the time she arrived she cooled off and posed no threats to anyone whatsoever, she just went inside and did her worship. Those who have heard of her approach, however, were already out looking for blood, or to defend what is right – depending on your perspective.

A large crowd gathered, people were giving angry speeches, some devotees needed to be whisked away for safety, some were rough handed, no one was injured, though. Temple security was there, then the police showed up, and that’s when we should all realize that we screwed up and put shame on Prabhupāda’s legacy – in the spiritual heart of our movement we need outside police to come and separate feuding parties. Have we forgotten how to behave like vaiṣṇavas?

One could say that it’s Kṛṣṇa līlā, that He did a similar thing with his own Yadu dynasty. Maybe so, but Yadus were completely wiped out and Dvārakā sank to the bottom of the ocean – we are not ready to go down that road yet, our TOVP is not even finished.

So far the only reasonable explanation I have is that it’s Kali Yuga (duh!). What’s unusual about it is that Māyāpura is supposed to be safe with all the chanting that goes on there but turns out that it isn’t and the influence of Kali penetrated it just fine.

Instead of talking about people and events we can contemplate the background situation and how it eventually allowed for lower guṇas to spill out. It’s my personal opinion that does not do justice to the entire Māyāpur project but I think it captures at least some of its aspects that we can try to avoid in our own lives.

Māyāpuya has become too big and too comfortable for its own good. For decades devotees flocked there not so much in search of peaceful chanting but to prove that they “made it”. Earning yourself a place there is a major devotional achievement, a sign of recognition by higher powers, it doesn’t come easy and people would make huge sacrifices to secure themselves a position there.

Our management got ideas from materialists and their business practices and made everyone in Māyāpura earn their own upkeep. On one hand it was a right idea – Māyāpura is not meant for idling about and we had no shortage of wannabe renunciates who’d be very happy to avoid any service AND live in the holy dhāma. They should have been weeded out, no doubt about that. The downside was that people could only stay if they made money. No money, no honey.

The whole project was compartmentalized and each department had to prove its own worth. If they couldn’t they were out. They could collect donations, they could provide services, they could sell stuff, they could charge for match making and horoscopes, they could develop real estate, but if they didn’t make money no one was gong to maintain them. It did wonders for the bottom lines and made the entire temple very very rich but it also made people invest too much sweat into building their nests and when their income comes under threat they are not going to take it with humility. We just can’t expect them to be aloof and detached after all they had to do and with all their responsibilities. Their egos grow proportionally, too.

The devotee in the center of the scandal claims to have collected tens of millions of dollars for Māyāpura. We are not talking rice and dhotis here, we are talking serious business. It would have been nice if he and everyone who depended on him took it in stride but we can’t really expect that to happen.

Sad to say, but Māyāpura has become too materially advanced for letting things go, it’s not for simple living and high thinking anymore. Should it even be? With TOVP we are not even aiming for simple living, we want to impress the hell out of everyone who goes there. It’s the eternal problem with preaching – devotees have to walk the edge, constantly under threat of developing attachments for the things that are meant only to impress others. It’s not an easy job and someone has to do it, so what if they fail? We should appreciate the effort instead.

Having said that, I don’t want this particular kind of aggravation in my life, I’m more into simple living right now. Maybe I’m misusing my body but I just don’t feel capable of getting too closely involved with things that bring temptations. Other people’s situations are different, to each his own.

Vanity thought #1638. Prabhu for all

In yesterday’s post I just got to the point where general discussion on gender roles in Kṛṣṇa consciousness turned to the long standing Prabhu vs Mātājī debate. To reiterate, on fresh reading the discourse participants barely listened to each other and instead valiantly fought for what they thought was right, ascribing their desired features to their opponents instead of trying to hear what they actually say.

It’s typical of exchanges in Kali yuga, on or off the internet, and it’s sad to see that devotees are not immune either. We are trying to make sense of the world we want to control and we are trying to make sense of Kṛṣṇa consciousness at the same time. We expect everything to be logical and we expect to feel safe in our knowledge. We also know that spiritual knowledge must be right and must always prevail so when we conflate it with impressions in our intelligence we become very defensive. Instead of spiritual knowledge being right we assume that whatever we have in our heads must be protected at all costs. Not standing up for our own interpretations is considered false humility, and so off we go telling others that they are wrong.

Sometimes they are, sometimes it’s us who are at fault, but it doesn’t matter because we are protecting our own desire to be in control and acting on this desire will always bring trouble, being right or wrong will not stop karma from working. Imagine what position we put Kṛṣṇa in by our constant appeals. He has to satisfy everybody who takes shelter in Him regardless of their misconceptions. He also has to uphold dharma. How does He manage keeping His devotees happy and content even when they are dead wrong? How does He stop falsehoods from affecting the innocents? I don’t know, that’s why He is God. How many lifetimes does it take for us to become mature and stop creating unnecessary disturbances for everybody? Kṛṣṇa is obviously very patient, too.

So, it was Govinda Dāsī herself who brought the subject of Prabhu vs Mātājī, and, in the heat of the moment, she didn’t do it very diplomatically. She said that this chapter in the book (Women: Masters or Mothers) was all wrong, Hari Śauri Prabhu, whose statement is quoted in support of “Mātājī”, wasn’t around in the early days and didn’t know much himself. If she’d just found the way to be less assertive, less dismissive and less offensive maybe the discourse would have reached an amicable resolution. As it was, however, people reacted with equal force and reconciliation had become impossible.

Devotees quickly rolled out quotes where Prabhupāda tells that women should be seen as mātājīs but Govinda Dāsī wasn’t finished. She referred to a 1968 meeting where it was decided to upgrade “Svamiji” to “Prabhupāda” for the first time because he was the chief Prabhu among many. This was defining moment as far as Govinda Dāsī’s memory is concerned. She was there and she remembers clearly that devotees were all Prabhu to one another and Prabhupāda was the one for all Prabhus to take shelter of. It wasn’t about being male or female, it was about our relationships with Prabhupāda, she said. We are all prabhus and he is our shelter Prabhu. “Mātājī” came later, Hari Śauri came later, and so he shouldn’t talk about something he wasn’t a witness to.

It so happens that we don’t have records of that actual meeting to check Govinda Dāsī’s recollection. I, personally, think that Prabhupāda was speaking of humanity as men, and women were included as a subset that didn’t deserve a separate consideration at the moment. No one thought of gender etiquette at the time and, besides, technically Govinda Dāsī’s interpretation is correct – we are all Prabhus and we all should treat each other as Prabhus. We should all see ourselves as servants and all other devotees as our masters.

I would also add that spiritually we don’t know what our gender are and male or female are only external forms. Externalities aside, we are all trying to be masters in this world and so we are all “Prabhus” in our delusion. It doesn’t matter what type of body we posses, we try to control the world in puruṣa bhāva all the same. So, either materially or spiritually, we all appear as masters either to ourselves or to others.

However, material considerations need to be observed, too, if only because we don’t see anything but material forms and material hierarchies, and material etiquette taught by Prabhupāda later on was that we should see all women except our wives as mothers. I don’t think he ever said that daughters should also be seen as daughters but it’s just common sense. You can’t look at your daughter as your mother, that would be crazy. The idea behind seeing women as mothers is to look at them as our masters rather than our subordinates or objects of our enjoyment. When we address women as Mātājī we accept her superiority and declare ourselves her eternally obliged servants. It’s the same as addressing them as Prabhus but with a suitable gender word.

I thought these things are pretty obvious but no one raised them on either side of the debate. It was all about whether books should be more important or whether we should respect the opinion of a senior female devotee (I’m not sure Govinda Dāsī would accept calling her Mātājī). Whether it’s about Indian culture or spiritual relationships, whether Prabhupāda meant what he said or just went alone with his disciples without disturbing their nascent devotion. I don’t think anyone actually changed his mind, that’s how these debates usually go.

What I want to stress once again is that there’s no end goal for either side in this argument. What do those who insist on Prabhu being legitimate address for a woman want? For all the ink spilled arguing about this I have been unable to find a clear statement of what is it they plan to achieve. They just go straight to proving themselves right instead.

Do they want all women to be addressed only as Prabhus? But there are clear instructions in our books that Mātājī is acceptable and desirable. Devotees who use Mātājī are not doing anything wrong. I haven’t seen anyone being chastised for using Mātājī either, so what’s the problem? Likewise, those who insist on using Mātājī only miss the occasions when Prabhupāda himself addressed his female disciples as Prabhus. So, if, for example, Mālati used to be called Prabhu by Prabhupāda himself, how can we tell her that she is wrong?

Just go and have a look at what appears to be an official ISKCON site – Srila Prabhupada on the Use of the Address “Prabhu”. There IS a precedent for it, we can’t ignore it and nothing good will come out of trying to ram our way through and declare a total defeat of the other position.

What’s interesting on that page is the concluding paragraph taken from one of Prabhupāda’s lectures. It’s meant to conclusively prove that we should all address each other as Prabhu regardless of gender. I suppose it’s meant to prove that, nowhere on the page it is clearly stated what they want, as I said earlier. Anyway, right in the middle of that “conclusive” paragraph there’s this declaration:

    Therefore our system is to call another Vaishnava as prabhu. “Sir, you are prabhu, you are master.”

I don’t know what women who put that page together were thinking but, far from being genderless, there’s “SIR” right in that sentence. Prabhupāda was clearly talking about men there, not women. If our female devotees of the highest caliber couldn’t spot this “Sir” in their key evidence I don’t think we should give a lot of weight to the recollection from 1968 that Prabhupāda he didn’t mean “Prabhu” as an address for men but for women, too. It is just general practice to talk about humanity as “mankind” and do not separate women into a special category so that the speaker doesn’t get bogged in details and in selecting pronouns, or in that he/she nonsense demanded by modern PC culture.

Oh, and by the way – according to letters available online Prabhupāda never ever addressed his female disciples as mātājīs. This title was almost exclusively reserved for Indian benefactors of our movement. Only once or twice did Prabhupāda use “mataji” and only when referring to a third person, both times to Hansadutta’s wife. Here and here, both letters written on the same day. I don’t know if it changes anything but it’s an interesting tidbit anyway.

Vanity thought #1637. Mataji or Prabhu?

This is another popular debate related to women issues. I thought about addressing it for such long time that I forgot what I wanted to say or why it even matters. Well, one thing I remember – there seem to be no point to this debate at all.

Who started it and for what purpose? What do these people want? Nothing in particular, they just want to argue and feel the rash of the online battle. I’m speaking about both sides now. Of course they might answer exactly what they want if you ask them directly but after wading through hundreds and hundreds of opinions I came to the conclusion that they are not “goal oriented”, so to speak, they just want to talk about it.

When I started writing about Women: Masters or Mothers I read the Sun article with a Facebook review of it that quickly turned into “Prabhu or Mātājī” exchange and that was my starting point. It feels like a month has passed, I’ve read maybe a dozen of similar articles arguing for both sides, but that first one is probably the best case study of all. So, let’s see what it’s all about.

Here it is as it appeared on the Sun. The original can be looked up on Facebook, too, and it has slightly more comments, but Sun’s version is easier to read because Facebook requires you to click to unfold comment trees. Nothing substantial is missing, as far as I remember. It starts with a favorable review. “Govinda Dāsī” was the first to comment and for a while it wasn’t clear what she wanted to say exactly – she was just pulling the rank reminding the author, Phalinī Devi Dāsī, of her seniority and telling her that she is too young to know what it was really like in Prabhupāda’s time. That’s not a good start by any measure.

Govinda Dāsī’s second comment made it clearer – women turned to feminism in the 70s because men were abandoning them and couldn’t or didn’t want to support them. Young girls were consequently encouraged to get education because depending on their husbands was no longer a certainty. Women need safety, if it doesn’t come from men they’ll make their own arrangements, as I understand. Hard to argue with that because this was probably the biggest reason behind rise of feminism. The problem, however, is that every action in this world has its reasons, even Hitler had his reasons, but that doesn’t mean that all actions are beneficial. It’s useful to remember these reasons when assigning the blame but not very useful when contemplating our own choices in life.

Somebody jumped in with statistics that most divorces are initiated by women and many of them are “no fault” cases – when there’s nothing to blame the husband for but a woman simply says “I don’t want to be married to him any longer”. The stats were questioned initially but they are apparently correct, plus Śrīla Prabhupāda himself said that it’s women who are responsible for divorces. I remember reading it but I’m too lazy to look it up. Eventually everybody accepted it and someone moved on – by starting a personal attack on Govinda Dāsī. She said she wasn’t a feminist but some said that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck…

Govinda Dāsī kept her temper and said that women in ISKCON had the same problems – being left on their own without support and therefore needing to make their own arrangement. I’m sure it was very true in many cases but, as above, having reasons doesn’t make an action into a beneficial one. We should rather remember that in Kali yuga frictions appears out of the blue with no particular cause so blaming anyone in particular won’t be helpful.

The chatter then went on about this and that and Govinda Dāsī kept her cool. All she talked about was how everyone was preaching in whatever body they had and out of their love for Prabhupāda. Discrimination between men and women was introduced later when we got a number of sannyāsīs who suddenly couldn’t associate with female devotees anymore. I can understand why women didn’t welcome this development but what could have been done? Free mingling of men and women for the sake of preaching was not sustainable anyway.

Then a devotee (who publicly ditched his guru and continues criticizing him) came in and questioned Govinda Dāsī qualifications and told her straight that she is misrepresenting Śrīla Prabhupāda. Telling others how they don’t know philosophy is apparently his thing now. That’s when the hell starting breaking loose. Some said this was uncalled for, others took his side, and the post owner threatened to remove a woman who defended Govinda Dāsī from discussion. Suddenly it was assumed that Govinda Dāsī was against varṇāśrama. She said that in ten years of service in Prabhupāda’s presence there was absolutely not talk of women being fit only for cooking, cleaning, and making flower garlands and they all were encouraged to preach but the target was already painted – she was against varṇāśrama.

Preaching is more important than varṇāśrama, there’s nothing to argue with here, but it was too late and everyone opposing her transferred all his assumptions on her already. The post owner mentioned that Prabhupāda always sent women to preach along with their husbands as couples, not as traveling single females, but, as Govinda Dāsī said – when men left their wives women continued to preach as best as they could. What else could have happened? They didn’t have any choice, did they? If they had kids they had to raise on their own it still wouldn’t be a valid reason not to preach (and men’s fault). This set of female devotees didn’t start new careers, didn’t start businesses, didn’t join the army, didn’t do any of the things we reject feminism for. Too late, no one in that discussion listened.

These women didn’t know varṇāśrama, they didn’t grow in varṇāśrama, they lived in the western world where their first service to guru and Kṛṣṇa was preaching. The fact that we can read about ideal society in the books doesn’t change their reality. The critics somehow think that it should but all they want to is to hear their own voice. It’s nice and easy to pontificate on the importance of varṇāśrama but these female devotees had their lives to live and service to perform. Even from varṇāśrama’s own perspective it’s not women’s responsibility to set it up. It’s the men who failed to make proper arrangements, for their own valid reasons, but it’s the women who get all the blame for not living as ideal wives in an ideal society that doesn’t even exist.

As battle went on things were said and picked on. Someone said that female devotees taking on projects, meaning preaching projects, or leadership positions in ISKCON is against varṇāśrama and desires of Śrīla Prabhupāda. Seriously? Does it mean women can’t write books, arrange festivals or meetings, can’t speak to the public, can’t have male devotees as subordinates? I suppose it’s a very narrow reading of what women can and cannot do under varṇāśrama, especially if they are clearly capable.

On the other hand, Tulsi Gabbard is not an example of perfect preaching either. She is from a family of devotees but they were from a splinter group and her father publicly turned to Christianity since. In her public service she has to act as a congresswoman first and that means supporting issues like abortion if that’s what’s politically expedient. Apart from paying occasional tributes to Kṛṣṇa or Prabhupāda in her spare time there’s nothing that distinguishes her from her colleagues. By all counts she shouldn’t even be considered a preacher, just a politician who happens to be a devotee.

They talked a little more about Tulsi and Govinda Dāsī was forced to retreat to the safety of saṅkīrtana to diffuse tensions but it wasn’t accepted. Apparently the “house is on fire, put it out first, then take care of everything else” concept does not work anymore. Someone basically said that we can’t preach until we get varṇāśrama going. Hmm, just as yesterday the other side said they can’t preach until they get female gurus.

These are not real obstacles to preaching, of course, but everyone refers to it because it’s still the most common denominator in our society, the golden standard everyone accepts but hardly anyone follows. As I said, people just want to prove themselves right by any means necessary.

And what about Prabhu vs Mātājī? This was the point where this matter was finally brought up but I’m going to leave it for tomorrow.

Vanity thought #1636. “It’s for preaching”

Another common argument in favor of FDG is that it’s needed for preaching. In that “She can become guru” video it’s what they started from and what they repeated at the end again to make sure we don’t forget.

From the very first speaker we learn that refusal by the GBC to let female devotees initiate disciples is the crown jewel of women abuse in our society. Move over domestic violence and rape – first world problems being discussed here. The speaker openly acknowledges that being a guru is a the most powerful spiritual position without even noticing the dissonance between the high value of this post and casual demand for it, and that it’s abusive not to give it to women.

Then we learn about some community in Florida where there are two hundred interested people who can’t take Kṛṣṇa consciousness seriously until we show that women can become gurus, too. This needs to be addressed, we are led to believe, we can’t allow these people lose interest in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, we need to keep them and we need to attract hundreds and thousands of other potential candidates, too, but we can’t do it unless we don’t have women gurus.

I’m sorry, I’m not buying it and, judging by other responses to this video, other people don’t buy it, too. They say that the fastest growing religions in the world are even more conservative than us and it means that social conservatism is not an issue. I’m more cynical than that and I think that these two hundred interested souls have been taught what to protests by FDG promoters themselves. I bet they wouldn’t even care whether we have female gurus or not unless someone explicitly raised this issue and demanded its resolution. It’s not something that comes up if you read Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books at all. In fact, the more you read them the more absurd the FDG demand appears – it’s all about males being gurus, never females.

Someone noticed in this regard that if we make FDG existence normal we would have to edit lots of pronouns in our books that refer to gurus as males, and sentences like “spiritual fathers”, too, because they’d appear gender discriminatory according to the new siddhānta that guru cannot be gender specific.

At around 8 min mark another devotee comes in and starts talking about the need to give the power of the holy name to the masses. I tried following him but it’s just emotionally surcharged words that don’t really connect to each other – “… the power of the transformation of the heart of the holy name..,” for example. What does it even mean? All words seem important when taken separately but together they don’t make sense at all.

After giving this long list of all the good things we need to bring to people he concludes with rather weak “if we artificially restrict women [then] it’s so dangerous”. The Gītā says, he continues, that we must act on our own nature and he makes it the central point of his argument – because of some artificial social constructs we tell women that they can’t act on their own nature and it’s a contradiction he can’t explain.

Why is thousands and millions of years of Vedic culture is dismissed as artificial social constructs? We did not invent them, our ācāryas did not invent them, this varṇāśrama dharma is the creation of the Lord Himself. How can anyone say that varṇāśrama duties, which include strī dharma, are artificial?

And who gets to decide what is one’s nature, one’s sva-dharma? According to Śrīla Prabhupāda sva-dharma means one’s prescribed duties, not whatever one feels like doing himself, it means one’s duties under varṇāśrama so that brāhmaṇas do not act like śūdras or sūdras act like brāhmaṇas. I mean it’s entirely possible that someone comes up and says: “I’m going to do this job now because it’s clearly needed in varṇāśrama, someone has to do it anyway and I think it should be me.” In this case people might point out that this person sva-dharma doesn’t fit his coveted occupation and so he should get lost.

In a modern society people tend to think that sva-dharma is what they want and what they think is necessary for them. Here’s the first quote that came up (Lecture on BG):

    Sva-dharmam: “one’s own occupation.” So according to Vedic civilization, everyone has his own sva-dharma. This has been misinterpreted by the rascals: “Sva-dharma means anyone can discover his own religious principle. Yato mata tato patha. Whatever you think is religious principle, that’s all right.” This is going on. But that is not the meaning.

Prabhupāda was clearly referring to Ramakrishna here but otherwise the gist of his point is relevant to anyone thinking that he’s got the permission to do his own thing.

And who says that it’s in women’s nature to be gurus? Bossing men around – yes, lecturing others how to do everything right – yes, but that’s not enough to be a guru and these are only external exressions of guru’s service.

Perhaps I should remind the reader that we are talking about dīkṣa gurus here, otherwise female devotees can give instructions in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and be accepted as gurus without any official confirmations of their status. The act of dīkṣa is over in a few minutes, the ritual is short and by a large measure not very important. Come to think of it, in its essense dīkṣa is not conferred through sacrificial fire, not by giving a name to a disciple, not by passing him his new beads, it’s the act of acceptance into the paramparā, that’s all. It could literally be lava-matra, one eleventh of the second, we can’t do anything physical in this short time as our muscle reaction is too slow for that. Then there’s brāhmaṇical initiation which requires specific rituals but let’s leave that out for the moment – I can’t think of women giving out brāhmaṇa threads right now, it’s too unusual.

I don’t know why some women are after this ability to give dīkṣa at all. Why can’t they let someone else do it? All I can think of is external fame and other perks that come with guru status. They can’t be a justification for becoming a guru, however. I hope our FDG proponents understand that and I hope they are honest about their intentions (provided they know themselves what they really want).

The first speaker from the video comes up again at the end and says that by simply lifting the moratorium on FDG the GBC can make tremendous strides towards spreading this movement amongst westerners the way it was done in the very early days of ISKCON. Wait a second – there were no female gurus in our early days at all, no demand from our female devotees to become gurus, no sign that anyone joined because women could become gurus – nothing. Maybe that’s the difference between then and now? Maybe there’d be more preaching if we didn’t worry about our own recognition or waste our energy on this non-issue. Maybe this is sort of blackmail – “we can’t preach until you pass a resolution”. I hope not.

The video ends with self-defeating quote from Prabhupāda that there could be women gurus in our tradition but we can’t expect many. There’s no moratorium for GBC to lift either – there are simply no convincing candidates around. We know our women and we know what they are capable of, and there’s a tacit agreement that, in general, no one really qualifies and so no names should be brought forward. Maybe the politics of this decision making are slightly more complicated but it’s the gist of it anyway – we don’t have self-effulgent female ācāryas yet.

Last words – the video is produced for an emotional appeal, it doesn’t make any sense and doesn’t offer any actual arguments, only personal speculations why it might be a good idea to institute a practice of FDG. As I said yesterday – speculations are not enough, when Kṛṣṇa actually wants something He says so directly through guru and śāstra. Until such direct statements can be found it would remain on the level of personal desires and they would bring nothing but disturbance – see Nectar of Devotion (NOD 7).

Vanity thought #1635. FDragon’s tail

The head on approach in that Youtube video promoting FDG issue doesn’t have any fangs. Some talk on vaguely relevant topics and how they make people feel, without a single direct argument in support of women giving out dīkṣas (save for the opening quote). I’ve covered it yesterday, of course.

The second part appeals to intelligence, suggesting that we need to allow FDG because logic, not just feelings so let’s look at the arguments themselves. Spoiler alert – they are unbelievably weak and I don’t know how any devotee familiar with ISKCON and our issues can take them seriously.

At around 6 min mark an initiated female devotee (Master of Education, University of Florida) says that not having female gurus in ISKCON is disturbing to her because what she always read in Prabhupāda’s books is that one needs a spiritual qualification to become a guru and that one’s material body shouldn’t be taken into account. What do you say to that? Connecting people to paramparā and Kṛṣṇa is a spiritual act, not material. Who could argue with that?

True, but it’s only a trick question, a kind of you know is wrong, like a proof that 2+2=5, but it’s not immediately clear where the logic went astray. Well, for one thing, in our fifty years of history we have tried acting transcendentally plenty of times, usually with regrettable results. Sooner or later but the material nature forces even the strongest of us to act according to our svabhāva. Those whose svabhāva was suitable for anything but renunciation didn’t survive, historically speaking, so if she proposes that we should stop respecting restrictions placed on us by the material nature it’s a recipe for disaster.

Secondly, what exactly is material and what is spiritual here? When we talk about devotees on the level where we consider them advanced enough to act as gurus there’s not much “material” left anymore. Their devotion is manifesting through their seemingly material bodies but it’s still devotion and they are engaged in devotional service every moment of their lives. They are not in their true spiritual forms yet but their position and their service is determined by Kṛṣṇa already. If He wants them to serve as women or as mothers and not as gurus then that’s what He wants and that’s what they should happily do. Gopīs don’t one day decide that they want to be boys, flowers in Goloka don’t one day decide that they want to serve as Kṛṣṇa’s mother, monkeys don’t serve as calves and so on. Such changes, if possible at all, should come by mutual agreement with Kṛṣṇa and with one’s superiors.

Similarly, we can’t just one day decide that we want to take up another service without orders or at least blessings from our authorities. I can’t serve as a mother of Kṛṣṇa’s devotee, for example. I can’t give birth, obviously, but being a mother is a lot more than that. I could, theoretically, adopt a baby and nurse it like a real mother would and it’s possible that when this child grows up he or she wouldn’t even know he was adopted, and I could perform all other motherly duties perfectly, but I’m not asking for it and I can’t imagine Kṛṣṇa, through His representatives, would ever offer such a service to me. I’m certainly not thinking of taking it up myself without asking anyone, or of demanding others to provide it for me.

There are lots of other services that no one expects me to do and that I’m not qualified for and I’m not usually making plans for them just because I like them.

So, the argument that advanced devotees are transcendental and therefore they can do anything they want is wrong – they still do what Kṛṣṇa wants them to do and He communicates His desires through guru and śāstra. If He says, effectively, that those who are born in female bodies are meant to serve Him as mothers of other devotees then this is what we should all accept. Kṛṣṇa consciousness is not an equal opportunity movement – we do strictly what Kṛṣṇa wants and however He wants it.

Next is a very respectable mātājī telling a story how Śrīla Prabhupāda put down some South Indian smartas who said that we can’t make mlecchas into brāhmaṇas. “Using the scriptures he vehemently defeated them”, she said, “saying that it’s by quality and work that one is designated as a brāhmaṇa, not due to birth.” By the same logic we can’t tell our female devotee that because of their birth they can’t do this or they can’t do that.

Same trick, just a bit different. My knee jerk answer to this – when did Prabhupāda ever argued that by quality and work a woman can become an initiating guru? He didn’t, so why speculate? And secondly, there’s no theoretical restriction for a female devotee to qualify herself for being a dīkṣa guru, by work or by mercy. The qualification is that she has to become a male, however. If they can do that no one is ever going to question their suitability.

It’s not like we just declare mlecchas to be brāhmaṇas, they have to display all brāhmaṇical qualities first. The work and the transformation must be there. Similarly, if one wants to go from female to dīkṣa guru the qualification is known, how they achieve it is not a particular concern right now but if they do achieve it they can go ahead and initiate as many disciples as they want.

I’m being facetious here, of course, but it’s the same old trick proposing that we don’t have to pay attention to our material qualifications and act transcendentally. There’s another good answer to this – we might not be our bodies but our bodies ARE bodies, they are not souls. What they ask is for our bodies to act as if they are souls but it’s impossible.

In case of dīkṣa gurus they want to give the title to a temporary material female form, not to the soul itself. They don’t even know what these souls’ actual identities are, they are concerned with bodies only – of a certain appearance and age, identified by passports and fingerprints, and preferably carrying licences to initiate, printed and recorded on material paper.

At this point I’m just giving absurd answers to absurd arguments. In any case, the logic here is that “because of this maybe there should be that, just think about it.” That’s not enough to start an FDG institution, there should be clear instructions, either in śāstra or from our ācāryas, preferably both, that FDG should be implemented. So far no one has found any and unless they do it’s all speculative and should be dismissed. And it’s not only speculative but reminiscent of reasons one thinks up to buy some thing he saw on Ebay but which was prohibited by his wife, like a racing motorbike or an outrageously expensive electric guitar or a set of drums. I hope FDG proponents are not acting out of such base desires betraying their human weaknesses, but sometimes it looks like the only explanation.

Vanity thought #1634. FDragon

Last time I mentioned that GBC might make a decision on Female Dīkṣa Guru issue at this year’s meetings, there’s an indication that something is afoot because last month FDG proponents published a supporting video (Youtube). I have absolutely no idea whether the topic will be actually raised but the timing is suspicious – just on the eve of GBC meetings and not only on Youtube but on Dandavats as well.

I don’t want to talk politics but Dandavats placement is curious because the video otherwise is critical of the GBC and wants the GBC to make a policy change. We don’t normally see this kind of appeals on GBC sponsored Dandavats so, perhaps, FDG proponents have some support there, too.

A couple of years ago they published a book and I wrote about it here but I don’t want to come back to it or search my archives. I only remember that they twisted quotes to support their agenda. At one point they argued that current BBT version of the purport about Dhruva Mahārāja’s mother is not faithful to Prabhupāda’s original dictation, for example, which is playing dangerously with a whole new can of worms – book changes. They don’t want to go down that road, no one does, but they made it their crucial point in refuting Prabhupāda’s clearest statement on FDG issue ever (SB 4.12.32):

    Sunīti, however, being a woman, and specifically his mother, could not become Dhruva Mahārāja’s dīkṣā-guru.

Anyway, forget the book itself, I mentioned it and the video because these are the kind of publications that get mentioned and referenced when actively canvassing for support. Video, perhaps, came out a bit too early because FDG opponents had just enough time to produce a rebuttal (Youtube), though I don’t want to speculate whether GBC members had a chance to watch it before leaving for Māyāpura meetings. Let’s talk the substance of this new call to let women initiate disciples.

It starts with showing perhaps the most convincing quote in support of FDG, from Prabhupāda’s letter written in January 1969:

    Another examination will be held sometimes in 1971 on the four books, Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, and Nectar of Devotion. One who will pass this examination will be awarded with the title of Bhaktivedanta. I want that all of my spiritual sons and daughters will inherit this title of Bhaktivedanta, so that the family transcendental diploma will continue through the generations. Those possessing the title of Bhaktivedanta will be allowed to initiate disciples. Maybe by 1975, all of my disciples will be allowed to initiate and increase the numbers of the generations. That is my program.

There are several reasons why this quote does not convince FDG proponents. One is that it’s a letter from the early days of ISKCON and by the order of priority Prabhupāda’s later statements in the books should override that. Another is that the talk here is clearly about examinations and the connection between getting the diploma and women becoming initiating gurus is an implied one. I’m certain Prabhupāda didn’t mean it that way at all, he was talking about “academic” qualification for becoming a guru, not a “gender” one. Also he wanted all his disciples to take those courses to become knowledgeable devotees, not only because they all would have become gurus by 1975, which we can’t take literally either. Another reason follows from that – 1975 came and went, Prabhupāda learned a lot more about his disciples and their abilities and made adjustments to his plans that did not allow for FDG anymore.

If he really wanted women to become dīkṣa gurus he would have mentioned it elsewhere and made a really strong case for it because we just don’t have this practice in our tradition, or in any respectable Vedic tradition at all. We can’t create this female guru institution willy nilly on the basis of a possible interpretation of one letter. Female gurus are an exception and not the rule, and so we can’t ask GBC to write a rule about exceptions. They’ve already allowed for it and that’s what caused Indian GBC to rebel, as I mentioned yesterday.

Still, this allowance is not enough for FDG proponents and they want more. So, what does their video have to say in support of it?

Nothing really. It’s a series of quotes from various people about how they feel and what they think, not what śāstra says. The second person up, an unitiated Bhaktin, worries how outsiders might perceive her and our movement and that she doesn’t want to tell them we don’t practice gender equality in appointing gurus. Who cares? Seriously?

Then there’s Ravindra Svarūpa Prabhu who say sthat Prabhupāda in his personal relations wasn’t sexist at all. Okay, but what has it got to do with FDG? If they interviewed him for this video why didn’t he say he supports it? Or did they just took a clip from another video and made Ravindra Svarūpa their “supporter”. Is he really? Being big on supporting women and making them into dīkṣa gurus are two different things. He is also big on varṇāśrama while FDG supporters typically aren’t – obviously because there’s no guruship in strī dharma.

Then there’s some professor talking about gender roles in early ISKCON and gave example of cooking. Okay, but what has it got to do with FDG? Is there no difference between female disciples cooking for Prabhupāda and female disciples becoming initiating gurus?

Then there’s Mātājī Rukmiṇī who spoke remarkably like Rādhānatha Svāmī, down to every little inflection in her voice, and she shared her memory how Prabhupāda wanted even the girls to open temples. Okay, but did he tell that the girls could become dīkṣa gurus? We have absolutely no problems in ISKCON with female devotees managing temples so we follow that instruction already, but what has it got to do with FDG?

Then there’s a man of Indian descent who says that Prabhupāda gave women more opportunities than they had in India (where he came from), and that he prioritized more universal, spiritual aspects of bhakti than the ritual ones. Okay, but why then women want to perform dīkṣa rituals? Also – he is not implying that Indian gender disparity is only a cultural, not a Vedic thing, is he? I can’t tell. It does sound like “if Indians were as advanced as we are now…” Hopefully not, but this man works as an assistant professor at an American university where this attitude is the default.

Then there’s another academic saying that Prabhupāda allowed women to make spiritual progress independently in their own right and not under the aegis of their husbands. Umm, that is not true at all, and even if it was it’s still not an argument for FDG.

Then there’s a devotee saying that in our tradition disciples of female gurus did not feel embarrassed or handicapped in any way and that they were very proud of their spiritual masters. Okay, but in our tradition we have only THREE female gurus we ever heard of and they were all liberated souls. Who would have been embarrassed by following them? It’s not an issue at all and so if this devotee solved it – good for him, but what has it got to do with current female devotees being qualified for dīkṣa guru status? If another expansion of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī appears among us there’d be no question of her being qualified to initiate disciples.

I’ve got through about half of the video so far and there are a couple of good, thought provoking arguments left coming up but I’d rather address them tomorrow.

Vanity thought #1633. Indians are on it, too

Feminism is traditionally a western invention but it’s on the rise in India, too, albeit in their own peculiar forms. Perhaps we can’t cite India as an example of proper attitudes to various female related issues any longer.

It was only a couple of years ago when Indian GBC strongly opposed female dīkṣa guru decision by Śāstric Advisory Committee. They practically threatened to ignore implementation of this particular rule in their zone. I don’t know how much effect their opposition had in the end, every year we can expect some new announcements from Māyāpura meetings but so far it has been quiet on FDG front. Maybe they’ll spring a surprise for us this time, who knows, there’s a new push for it I wanted to address separately.

Indian GBC might be strong in their convictions but not the Indian public. The most popular guru there at the moment is a woman, I’ve heard, the one that gives free hugs, so if we do have female gurus in ISKCON it won’t be seen as something outrageous by the public at large. We are obviously are not going to judge our decisions by public reactions but we can’t appeal to Indian masses any more either.

India is undergoing one of the biggest transformations in its history, perhaps on par with getting used to be part of a British Empire. They’ve been modernizing themselves for over a century but this is the first time when India is getting truly plugged into the global economy and global way of life. Up until twenty years or so ago they modernized at their own pace, they had their own industry, their own cars, their own entertainment etc. To westerners it all looked clownish, from their Ambassador cars to their obsession with “Number 1” proclamations in their advertising. Then came the internet and Windows 95, and the rest is history.

They had no western brands or supermarkets or shopping malls at all. No McDonalds, no Toyotas, only Coca-Cola and SevenUp. With the internet and with Indians getting thousands of jobs at western software companies they suddenly learned what they have been missing, government eased related regulations and westernization began in earnest, and with it came western values of rights and freedoms.

Newly minted middle class credit western attitudes as much as western economical model for their prosperity. If one wants to work in a multinational company, for example, one has to project a fitting image, has to have proper aspirations, pursue proper goals, share proper values, and, generally, appear non-different from job applicants in the west. If one plays the ball he gets rewards and so naturally feels validated in his beliefs so now we have half a billion people who think they are middle class and so have to stand by middle class values. The actual number of middle income people is about 2% there but I’m talking about self-perception and self-identification which is more important for my case.

Gender equality is one of the most fundamental of those values and “middle class” women there see their roles and duties differently from the tradition we in ISKCON expect from Indians. Nope, they want education, they want career opportunities, they want to be professionally successful, they want it all. I don’t want to look up stats on birth rates or marriage rates, they might not look so bad yet but the point is that women have become very assertive there.

Then we had a couple of bad rape stories that agitated public not only in India but around the world and women there thought they had to assert themselves even more. They demand safety, which should be provided, of course, but the problem is that they demand it and they demand it not from their traditional protectors – fathers and husbands, but from the government, from the society, from random men on the streets, or that it should simply be there. They demonstrate with banners, march up and down the streets, stage PR events, protest, make noise – all the kinds of things we’d expect from politicized western public pushing for their democratic rights. There’s nothing traditional about it at all. We can’t say “in India women…” any more. Maybe on some issues they still keep traditional attitudes but not on the issue of their power.

They tasted it, it tasted good and they want more of it, there’s no turning back. Everything they do is right and everything they want is righteous. Whoever or whatever gets in their sights needs to comply or cease and desist.

Just like with adopting western business models and western science they adopt western atheism, too. I mean they value their rational thinking and logic above śāstra and tradition even though they still go to the temples. That’s their peculiarity – they are too afraid to give up their “superstitions” but at the same time they want to be all rational about them.

A year ago I wrote several posts on the move PK, which I think is still the most popular Indian movie of all times, and the main message of that movie was that we should rationally re-examine our gurus and sādhus and weed out “wrong number” ones. Who would argue against expunging cheaters from the temples and positions of religious authorities they so clearly don’t deserve?

However noble goal that is, they are going about it the wrong way – on the basis of their own speculations of what “right” religion should be, not on the basis of śāstra or tradition. Driven by the mode of passion they will never achieve satisfactory results, however. In the beginning it feels great but only because they get what they want, not because what they want works.

BBC just gifted us this little gem of Indian feminism gone unhinged – they are demanding entrance to the temples that are traditionally closed to women. I don’t know the exact reasons why it is so, there must be more than cited in the article, but even a simple “This deity is a brahmacārī and He does not associate with women” should be enough to put restriction on what female worshipers can and cannot do in that temple. Some demanding the right to touch the deity, for example. Just look at their arguments:

“Ms Desai – who describes herself as a “practising, believing Hindu” – says it is her “constitutional right” to enter any temple and blames patriarchy for keeping women out.
“These are man-made traditions. God does not differentiate between man and woman. He was born of a woman too,” she says.”

Seriously? Constitutional right to enter any temple? What about that particular deity’s right not to allow women inside? Does the constitution cover that right, too? At least it’s put in quotation marks so this Ms Desai might no be really serious about constitution.

The rant about man-made traditions is incomprehensible, too. How does she know and why does she think that her current demand is what God wanted all along and not her man-made concoction. Oh, wait, maybe she means man-made as opposite to woman-made. In any case, whatever she wants is right and whoever stands in her way is wrong.

They want to worship God, okay, but they do not believe God had communicated the way He should be worshiped or that He controls His servants, or that He has His representatives, or that it’s God who ultimately enforces His rules. It’s atheism pure and simple, never mind that they want to practice it while going to the temples.

Sadly, we are losing an important ally in trying to either build varṇāśrama or preserve whatever is left of it. It looks like if anything will ever get better in this regard it will get a lot worse first.

Vanity thought #1632. Deciphering Prabhupada

Sometimes it’s difficult. We can hear a cohesive account of what Śrīla Prabhupāda said and what he meant but it’s just one person’s impression. Other people hearing the same conversation might walk away with different conclusions and recollect it differently.

Sometimes we have recordings and transcriptions and it seems pretty straightforward on the surface but only if we don’t pay attention to details and general atmosphere. We have to be especially careful about this when we take quotes out of context. Take this straightforward question followed by a straightforward answer (Lecture):

Devotee: When you address a woman do you use the word “Mātājī”? Is that the right, proper word for her?
Prabhupāda: Mātājī. Yes, very good. “Mother.” All right. Chant. (end)

If you think about it a little, however, it doesn’t address our current dispute on the use of prabhu or mātājī at all. I mean it failed to convince proponents of “prabhu” which means some people do not see it as very clear. For one thing, it doesn’t prohibit use of “prabhu” when addressing women. It also doesn’t explain why Prabhupāda himself used “prabhu” when referring to his female disciples.

What is worth noting in today’s context is that this question came right at the end of the lecture and was a follow up on a previous question by Brahmānanda on how women should see men which, in turn, was a follow up on the quote from Cāṇakya Paṇḍita used in the lecture itself. Prabhupāda just spent a few minutes explaining how sannyāsīs should be treated by the society in general and on the proper attitude of those collecting alms. When considering this whole dynamic it becomes clear that for Prabhupāda the question about mātājī was a bit out of line and, considering all he has said before, he couldn’t give any other answer and couldn’t be bothered to pursue this any further. The class was over and the same topic was raised for a third time.

So yes, there’s an instruction to address female devotees as mātājī, everybody knows that already, but it doesn’t answer the arguments brought in favor of using prabhu either. Maybe they are right, maybe they are wrong, Prabhupāda didn’t say, he had no time and no reason to discuss it any further and his mind was probably on the next thing on his schedule already.

Maybe my interpretation of his mental state is wrong but it’s possible. I’m not going to solve this dispute today, I’m just pointing out how even simple quotes can be seen in a different light and different conclusions drawn.

There was one occasion when Prabhupāda was giving send off insructions to Lokanātha, now Svāmī, on how to preach to Indian villagers. If I ever come back to the topic of “pristine Vedic culture” there was a lot said about it. What interests me today is the earlier conversation on the same day involving Harikeśa Svāmī. I read it in Hari Śauri’s Transcendental Diary and it’s often quoted on the internet.

In Hari Śauri’s book Harikeśa Svāmī read out letters to Prabhupāda and to himself about preaching in Eastern Europe and how excited newly made devotees there were. Śrīla Prabhupāda was very appreciative and dictated replies to those letters. This is where the quote usually starts from but it’s the ending that draws everyone’s attention. Source.

    Harikesa began to explain that, apart from the risks involved, a big obstacle was a lack of funding. He said that even something as basic as finding something to eat was a major difficulty.

    “So if there is nothing else, you can eat meat if you have to,” Srila Prabhupada told him matter-of-factly.

    Harikesa’s mouth dropped open a little bit and his eyes widened. Not knowing if Prabhupada was serious or not, he tried to ignore what he had just heard and continued to say that even if he had money, there was nothing to buy.

    Completely serious, Prabhupada again told him, “So if there is difficulty, you can take meat.”

    Harikesa stopped. He appeared dazed as he contemplated the possible implications. “But Prabhupada, what about my consciousness?”

    Damn your consciousness,” Prabhupada replied. “You must go on preaching.

So much for varṇāśrama when preaching is at stake – damn you consciousness, damn your varṇāśrama, you must go on preaching.

Pretty straightforward, but it’s not how the same conversation is remembered by Harikeśa, now not Svāmī, himself. Here is his recollection of how it went. Source.

He was trying to get into Śrīla Prabhupāda’s circle of trust but failing again and again. He was jealous of Hari Śauri who joined Prabhupāda’s party later than him but quickly became Prabhupāda’s confidant. He was jealous or Tamāla Kṛṣṇa Gosvāmī and Brahmānanda who had long, personal, and very warm conversations with him while Harikeśa got only beatings, figuratively, of course. When he took sannyāsa he was sent away to Eastern Europe but rejoined Prabhupāda’s party in France and then followed it to Vṛndāvana where Prabhupāda again insisted that he stopped hanging out with him and went preaching instead.

Harikeṣa Svāmī was pretty edgy by that time and tried to find all sorts of excuses not to go but stay and transcribe Prabhupāda’s lectures and conversations and it’s at this moment where the dialog about eating meat took place. Prabhupāda would have said anything to get rid of him by then and so he did – if you say there’s nothing to eat there than you should go and eat meat, but preaching must go on. His final words were:

    Make my books. Distribute my books. Preach. That’s all. Don’t come back here crawling on the floor, wanting to sit in front of me and wave your fingers.

This line wasn’t reported by Hari Śauri at all, and the whole conversation in not on vanisource. Is it because of the controversial “eat meat” injunction? Or is it because it wasn’t recorded? We will never know, I guess.

My point is that the same talk looks very different to two people who where there, and Prabhupāda himself might have had a third opinion, too, and it’s pretty hard to guess what it was. Personally, I don’t think it could be used to justify eating meat for the sake of preaching at all. When Prabhupāda went to the US for the first time and later to Russia he was afraid there’d be no vegetables to eat there but he never said he’d eat meat himself. Here it was said for the sake of the argument to make his obstinate disciple finally agree to go and preach instead of seeking personal association.

In the end Harikeśa Svāmī went to Eastern Europe and made it into the most prosperous ISKCON zone in the eighties, all based on printing and distributing books, and then brought the Hare Kṛṣṇa revolution in former USSR. We should never underestimate the importance of following guru’s orders over our personal conceptions of what service we should do.

Vanity thought #1631. As it were

I’ve only got through about half of that NA GBC letter and the way things are going it won’t end any time soon. This can’t go on, obviously, but nothing else comes to my mind at this time. I’ve got some serious case of cold coming on and get feverish every time I strain myself. Chanting 25 rounds on ekādaśī – 0.5 spike in temperature. Regular 16 are less strenuous but have to be followed by a nap anyway. So no change of topic, I did, however, came across some relevant quotes from Prabhupāda and I want to discuss those instead.

First, the early marriage and importance of “pristine Vedic culture”. There’s a quote somewhere in the first Canto of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam that varṇāśrama is impossible in the modern industrial age but its exact location escapes me now. Interestingly, perhaps the biggest opponents of varṇāśrama are the followers of Aindra Prabhu who tirelessly preached for harināma to replace our misguided attempts to revive varṇāśrama:

“But I say, To hell with varnasrama-dharma!

There’s no time for cultivating varnasrama-dharma. People who think that there is time for cultivating varnasrama-dharma simply have not understood the philosophy of Krishna consciousness…”

and more:

“.. it is not Lord Caitanya’s social development movement, it’s not His varnasrama movement, it’s not his cow protection movement..”

Source

Powerful stuff, isn’t it? It’s very hard to disagree when presented this way, but it’s not the same angle of attack as deployed by our so called feminists. Aindra was upset that we try to fix our social problems at the expense of chanting but “feminists” say that we are fixing our social problems in the wrong way. “Traditionalists” like Bhakti Vikāsa Svami insist on varṇāśrama while “liberals” say we should adapt to the modern way of life instead. Aindra was saying “to hell with fixing, just chant and don’t worry about anything else”.

I don’t think our “liberals” are going to use Aindra in their support, though. One of the things also mentioned in that article is the “meet-mart” of Vṛndāvana. When I first heard it in audio recording I thought he meant “meat-mart”, and it was “on the steps of Kṛṣṇa Balarāma Mandira”, which would have been a much more vivid description of the hook-up crowd gathering there, but it became a bit milder in print. In any case, this meet-mart wasn’t made up of the followers of Bhakti Vikāsa Svami, that’s for sure. Are “liberals” responsible for this apparent problem? Well, not directly, but they do allow for single women in ISKCON and they do allow for separation in cases where men do not fulfill their duties. Unattached women who think they got a bad deal on their first try, tons of “mature” male devotees who might do better – the conditions for the meat-mart are certainly there.

Where was I? Ah, the varṇāśrama. When Śrīla Prabhupāda came to America he had the First Canto of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam with him and his purports there included a lot of talk on the topic. The text itself deals with the advent of Kali yuga extensively, after all. As time went by and Prabhupāda familiarized himself with western culture his views might have evolved. When ISKCON was born and grew exponentially his views might have been adapted again. As devotees started leaving their partners and flooding his inbox with their marital problems he might have adjusted his position, too. In fact, he most certainly has adjusted seeing how theoretically solid arrangements were falling left and right. That’s why some see a clear rise of importance of varṇāśrama in his later conversations and writings. The conversation I cited yesterday – “without varṇāśrama they can’t chant” is a perfect example.

In the First Canto, however, there’s a purport which outlines his program with numbered points (SB 1.17.38):

    The state which wants to eradicate corruption by majority may introduce the principles of religion in the following manner:

    1. Two compulsory fasting days in a month, if not more (austerity). Even from the economic point of view, such two fasting days in a month in the state will save tons of food, and the system will also act very favorably on the general health of the citizens.

    2. There must be compulsory marriage of young boys and girls attaining twenty-four years of age and sixteen years of age respectively. There is no harm in coeducation in the schools and colleges, provided the boys and girls are duly married, and in case there is any intimate connection between a male and female student, they should be married properly without illicit relation. The divorce act is encouraging prostitution, and this should be abolished.

    3. The citizens of the state must give in charity up to fifty percent of their income for the purpose of creating a spiritual atmosphere in the state or in human society, both individually and collectively. They should preach the principles of Bhāgavatam by (a) karma-yoga, or doing everything for the satisfaction of the Lord, (b) regular hearing of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam from authorized persons or realized souls, (c) chanting of the glories of the Lord congregationally at home or at places of worship, (d) rendering all kinds of service to bhāgavatas engaged in preaching Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and (e) residing in a place where the atmosphere is saturated with God consciousness. If the state is regulated by the above process, naturally there will be God consciousness everywhere.

And just one sentence later:

    Allowing young boys and girls to remain unmarried more than the above-mentioned ages and licensing animal slaughterhouses of all description should be at once prohibited.

Emphasis is mine, but the point is very clear – early marriage is a must.

Should we use these ages, 24 and 16, as absolute? Of course not – there are plenty of times where Prabhupāda advocated even earlier marriage. The first google result gives this page. That site is run by some conspiracy nuts but the page itself gives quote after quote after quote, which is what I’m currently after. The earliest age mentioned there is nine years old for one of Prabhupāda’s sisters. There’s also the famous injunction for the father to eat his daughter’s menstrual discharge if she is not yet married when it comes. Interestingly, he did not know where this injunction came from: “I do not know exactly what is that sastra, but they say that if the girl before marriage has menstruation, then the father has to eat that menstrual liquid. Means it is, mean, very strict. And if the father is not living, then the elder brother has to eat.”

Does it mean we absolutely must marry off devotees’ daughters when they are 9-12 years old? Of course, not, under current conditions it’s still impossible and it was a prescription for governments, not for our GBC, but due consideration must be given. For one thing it’s plain illegal but we might make some arrangements where this early “marriages” have only our own, ISKCON internal value and do not look like forced cohabitation and sex, and without any illegal stuff going on. Sixteen, as mentioned in that Bhāgavatam purport, is the age of consent in most countries, afaik, so we can allow “spouses” to finally move in and try for a child. This is manageable even by modern standards. Of course holding boys off sex until twenty four is another challenge but the way we are supposed to raise ours it shouldn’t be the problem – they’d be such nerds that “scoring” outside would be impossible anyway.

It’s time to wrap it up, sorry for incoherence, I had some other topics in mind but didn’t have a chance to get to them. Another time.

Vanity thought #1630. Divergence

I got to the point in the NA GBC letter where I fail to understand the grounds for criticism of the book Women: Masters or Mothers completely. I just can’t find any KC justification for it here. See for yourself:

“16. Whereas on page 114, he discusses how career minded women panic by age thirty and want to get married but “no one want to marry them because the men want beautiful young girls, not worn out thirty-year olds who have already been used so many times.”**”

The asterisk points to the following footnote:

“2. **pg. 114 statement about 30 year old women his is such a slanderous statement that along with the statement on page 15 regarding ‘pristine Vedic culture’ as being Srila Prabhupada’s primary objective and along with advocating child marriage from age five years, should be regarded as sufficient cause to prevent this book from sale or distribution in or around any NA ISKCON center, project, or ISKCON sponsored program.)”

And the statement on page 15, which I discussed in the beginning of this series, is this:

“5. Whereas beginning on page 15 it is stated:

“But a major objective of Srila Prabhupada’s misson was to, as far as possible, reestablish pristine Vedic culture-including early marriage), polygamy and a non-egalitarian social system. (*which he later establishes as age five years for female children);

There’s no closing quotation marks and so we can only guess that Bhakti Vikāsa Svami’s sentence end on “social system” but then why there’s a closing “)” between early marriage and polygamy? Who put it there and where is it’s opening counterpart? Emphasis is also probably not from the book itself.

Anyway, the main gripe here seems to be the word “major” qualifying priority of establishing varṇāśrama, and “pristine Vedic culture” here is certainly varṇāśrama and nothing else. I guess there are still holdouts somewhere in ISKCON who don’t think varṇāśrama is important but after all Prahhupāda wrote and said about it, after all our experiments with Hare Kṛṣṇa farms including New Vrindavana or French New Mayapur, I just don’t understand where these people are coming from and why they forbid to speak for varṇāśrama with such vigor.

The “major” in the text became “primary” in the call for the ban of the book, btw – “‘pristine Vedic culture’ as being Srila Prabhupada’s primary objective”. This makes it sound that for Bhakti Vikāsa Svami chanting and saṅkīrtana are less important than varṇāśrama but he said no such thing. We need varṇāśrama so that we can chant in peace and without deviation – that’s what any proponent of it would say here. They often refer to the famous conversation with Satsvarūpa Dāsa Gosvāmī and Hari Śauri:

Hari-śauri: But in Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s practical preaching He only induced them to chant.
Prabhupāda: That is not possible for ordinary man.

Prabhupāda: Chanting will go on. That is not stopped. But at the same time the varṇāśrama-dharma must be established to make the way easy.
Hari-śauri: Well, at least my own understanding was that the chanting was introduced in the age of Kali because varṇāśrama is not possible.
..
Hari-śauri: So therefore the chanting was introduced to replace all of the systems of varṇāśrama and like that.
Prabhupāda: Yes, it can replace, but who is going to replace it? The… People are not so advanced. If you imitate Haridāsa Ṭhākura to chant, it is not possible.

That’s all there is to it, really. We can’t have high thinking without simple living and we need regulated life in the mode of goodness to concentrate our minds on chanting. Who would argue against that? That’s where I just can’t follow the letter writer at all, she must have read this conversation a thousand times, varṇāśrama proponents never fail to bring it up.

Another reason for banning the book mentioned in the footnote is the discussion about panicking thirty year old women who want to get married but no one would take them because men want younger girls, not worn-outs who have been used so many times.

What’s the outrage here? It’s common knowledge that it’s nearly impossible for women in their thirties to get married. Helpful google offers an answer to the suggested query “odds of getting married after 30”:

“The Marriage Crunch” was based on a study by Harvard and Yale researchers that projected college-educated women had a 20 percent chance of getting married if they were still single at 30, a 5 percent chance at age 35, and just a 2.6 percent chance at age 40.

What’s there to argue? Maybe that these women don’t panic? Other google results are filled with enticements from match making sites specifically targeting people in their thirties so the need is clearly there. If women of 35 with only 5% chance to get married are not panicking then it’s only due to the cover of illusion or reluctance to admit severity of their situation.

What’s Mahārāja’s fault in all this anyway? Part of his statement is an indictment of men who don’t want to marry worn out thirty year olds, btw. Maybe the objection is to women being called worn out and used but how else can you describe them if you are being honest? How many sexual partners have they had by the age of thirty? Google tells four and it probably means serious relationships. Of course “experienced” would be a more diplomatic word but men are not looking for this kind of experience in their wives, maybe in prostitutes but definitely not wives.

To be fair, I don’t think Mahārāja’s statement describes men correctly there but that is of no concern to his critics and he is not chastised for that.

Another thing is that this statement sounds like something Prabhupāda would have said himself but I’m not in the mood to search for a suitable quote right now. He didn’t have many kind words for the modern society and it’s sexual freedoms, that’s for sure. When his disciples continuing this line of attack they are continuing his legacy and they hardly ever overdo it, imo. Even if they occasionally do it’s at least clear where they are coming from while I’m absolutely puzzled how their criticism can be supported by anything taught in our books. It’s not supported even by Google.

The only explanation I have is the wounded ego. Then every little thing starts to be taken personally and as greatly offensive. I’m not a thirty year old woman with heavy sexual baggage trying to find one true love and maintaining the image of chastity. If I were I might have been offended, too, so I can’t criticize those who are. What is clear to me is that while the reaction might be justified from material point of view it doesn’t have any spiritually solid reasons for it.