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