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).

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