Still on the NA GBC letter but today I’m interested only in the views expressed in the book as seen by its opponents. I don’t think there’s anything else left to say about this letter and politics involved but the book does raise quite a few unexpected points.
Is this the time for me to admit that I should probably read the book first? Nope, still not buying it. I just can’t picture the situation where this book would be important to me. I’m reasonably healthy and have plenty of years left in my body but I don’t think I’ll ever get to ponder questions raised in this book in my real life. Nor am I interested in having correct views on these topics because they would always spark a controversy and I don’t need this aggravation. I’m too lazy to even argue it online, I have enough hangups of my own and don’t need any extra. Putting people straight does not have the same appeal as it did for me even a few years ago and no one is going to ask for my opinion so why push it? I’m not the target audience and it has nothing to do with me.
How many times did I use “I” in the paragraph above? Shame, really, and all I wanted to say “leave me out of it”. Does this book matter to Kṛṣṇa? Yes, but it should be taken up by someone else, not me. This reaction, btw, is to a specific set of OMG moments, not to its overall philosophical position. Let’s see what I mean.
“6. Wherein on page 86 we are informed about that a big problem on a battlefield should women be deployed, would be that they can’t urinate standing up and would require a toilet;”
Do I have to have an opinion on this? Do any of us? Without a book I’m just trying to figure out possible context for this quote and I’m coming up empty. Is this an argument against deploying women in armed combat in modern time? The way the sentence is construed it looks so but it makes no sense – I don’t believe Bhakti Vikāsa Svami’s would seriously cite inability to pass urine standing up as an objection to women joining the army. It’s already been done – I mean female soldiers, not urinating, and no one complained about toilet facilities so far. Is this an argument against women fighting battles in Vedic times? Same argument – they probably had plenty of other arguments besides urinating.
But yes, for argument’s sake, we can imagine women in armor, in the heat of the battle, having to answer the calls of nature. They can’t just turn around and relieve themselves, true. It would be a major inconvenience and would look totally out of place, so mahārāja is right but he was probably only joking.
“7. Whereas on page 91 we are informed that women going through menopause clearly require a husband;”
If it means helping them control their mind and temper through this challenging time then yes, why not? They can, of course, rely on their own intelligence and try to stay level headed but the whole premise of the book is that women are generally less intelligent than men and during menopausal period perhaps this handicap is even more pronounced. Intelligence here doesn’t mean IQ or the ability to think, it means ability to control one’s mind and desires, ability to say no to oneself no matter what.
Maybe these days men are just as weak as women but that should not be the case in the ideal society as envisioned by Bhakti Vikāsa Svami or Prabhupāda himself. Another point is that if women loudly object to being called less intelligent then it’s probably their ego talking and it probably means they don’t have enough intelligence to control its outbursts. In the letter riddled with grammatical mistakes even women’s ability to function professionally is under serious question, and mastering one’s mind is a lot more difficult than mastering letter writing. What is it that they can legitimately defend here? Nothing, only their egos.
“8. Whereas on page 92 he mentions seeing women on the streets at midnight is very bad, which begs the question what was a Sannyasis doing out on the streets a midnight;”
Should be “at midnight”, should not be “a Sannyasis”, the first part of the sentence is awkward, too – seeing women is not very bad, women being out on the streets is, so if it’s corrected to “he mentions seeing women on the streets at midnight as very bad” then it would be agreeing with the objection – looking at women is bad, what was he doing? Constructing a grammatically correct sentence shouldn’t be very difficult for a woman but somehow it is.
I don’t know the exact quote, maybe Mahārāja meant regular news reports of women binge drinking, vomiting, urinating and worse on the streets of UK. You don’t need to observe it yourself to form an opinion. I don’t think Bhakti Vikāsa Svami went on a fact finding trip personally here.
Once again – do we really have to argue about this? It’s nitpicking and fishing and throwing things at a wall to see what sticks.
“9. Whereas on page 96 and on another page he accuses that some ISKCON Sannyasis’ have de facto wives because they engage female disciples (if this is a concern, he should personally approach the sannyasi’s or the Sannyas Ministry instead of declaring it as a so called fact in a book;”
I don’t know if it’s a so called fact or just a fact – I thought the practice of having female secretaries and servants was fairly widespread and I can easily find examples of it. Why can’t it be mentioned in the book? Why can’t our devotees write about problems? Not everyone is cut off for getting GBC to change or enforce its rules, which is a political process.
Is it a real concern – our sannyāsīs using female disciples as surrogate wives? I don’t know, possibly – having a wife is not only about sex but dynamics in a relationship. Work spouse is a real thing and it isn’t covered in our literature so it’s up to us how to interpret it when sannyāsīs get involved. Why can’t we raise this issue in public? Why can’t we write about it in our books? Why does it have to be dealt with hush hush at the highest levels of our society? It’s not how our feminists deal with what they think are the problems in our society. Is this the case of self appointed liberals demanding different rules for their opponents?
“10. Whereas on page 101 there is an unsubstantiated assertion that women “wannabe” men;”
It’s impossible to say what the assertion really is. In general – women seeking parity and power does make them “wannabe men”, but who knows, the way quotation marks are used in this sentence “wannabe” functions as a verb.
It’s unholy mess, that’s what it is. I’d love to give the letter writer a benefit of doubt but I’ve given up – the language is unclear, the thoughts are unclear, the objections are spurious. It’s beyond redemption.
Having said that, I once again need to remind myself that, regardless of the presentation, the main purpose behind this letter is to make all of us into better devotees. Women are still our mothers and you don’t argue with your mother no matter how silly and embarrassing she is. We are not teenagers anymore, we need to appreciate the care and sacrifices mothers (and women) have done for us and for our movement and we need to forgive minor displays of foolishness. It’s not worth the trouble, we should not hold the grudge and we should not fight with them in public – it would be ungentlemanly.