Devotees over at the Sun finally offered their perspective on the ban of Women: Masters or Mothers and their reaction was predictable – GBC bad, feminists bad, stalwart followers of Śrīla Prabhupāda like HH Bhakti Vikāsa Svami are unfairly prosecuted and so on.
This article was written by Krishna Dasa but at the end it starts the paragraph with “We are proposing…” which means the author is speaking not only for himself but representing a group, or it might be a royal We, or it might be “we” as “me acting under the direction of my guru and paramparā” but most likely he is just speaking after consultation with like minded individuals and Sun’s editorial team.
The proposal itself is clearly made on behalf of the Sun itself promising to publish articles on a certain topic, and any individual devotee would not be able to make such a promise so it’s clearly backed by Sun editors. It’s this proposal that is tempting – I wrote so many posts on NA GBC response to that book that I should have no problem with content and I clearly want something to say.
That streak ended two weeks ago, however, and by now I’m all talked out. Should I still respond to the request and try to write a critique of that letter in a suitable format? It’s tempting, or rather it was tempting for the first five minutes but by now I’ve decided against it.
The problem is with the Sun itself – I don’t want to be seen in the company of their serial offenders. I don’t think I’ll ever get over their endless posts heavily criticizing Prabhupāda Līlāmṛta, for example. Whatever imperfections they might have seen in that book they should never be an excuse to denigrate a huge devotional effort of HH Satsvarūpa Dāsa Gosvāmī. This was mean an unbecoming a vaiṣṇava.
Right now they are onto BBC edits and it’s another topic where they place no restrains on themselves at all. The way they present these attacks should make any devotee cringe and run for cover. Of course the relentless criticism is written by a devotee, too, and published by devotees as well, but that only speaks for the quality of saṅga on that site. I don’t want to be there.
It’s a dilemma, though – they are asking for help in what I see as a legitimate case, and over a month has passed without any relevant submissions. They feel the matter is important enough to publicly ask for articles and promise to put them on their site. No matter what else they did, a call for help cannot be ignored. What should I do?
First thing is to curb my ego. I might have typed many posts on the subject but that does not qualify me to be published elsewhere. They’d probably look at my submission and decide it’s not worth it, never mind the promises. No one should be sending submissions with the hope of getting name recognition, too. I should have no personal agenda whatsoever and this is my issue that I have to honestly address first.
Secondly, even if one does not have any personal ambitions it’s still not a permission to write something – we should act only on the orders of the guru. In this case, as in many others, there aren’t any direct orders and so we have to interpret general instructions. So far I’m not sure that submitting articles to the Sun would be approved, it’s far safer to avoid that site altogether.
Otoh, there are many respected devotees who get published there, including Bhakti Vikāsa Svami himself. That happens on rare occasions, however, and only when the matter is urgent and needs to reach a wide audience. Sometimes devotees turn to the Sun when they want to discuss topics usually unwelcome on Dandavats, too. Precedents are there but I’m still not convinced that this case warrants sending a submission to the Sun.
Knowing their readers whatever is said in opposition to GBC could be picked up and trumpeted on all internet corners, what would one do if his words were used in most vicious attacks on our spiritual authorities even if that was never his intention? Once the arguments are out there anyone can reuse them and I don’t want to be mentioned as a source in some nasty attacks on other vaiṣṇavas.
Having thought about it I came up with an idea for a submission – “we should treat women as mothers”.
Criticizing that particular letter is easy, I’ve done it myself, and I think any devotee can see huge holes in reasoning for that ban if he puts his mind to it. Right now I hope that no one refuted it so far not because people have nothing to say but because this is a case where you’d better say nothing at all. We all know the score already, the challenge is to keep our minds under control and not say things we’d eventually regret.
This letter was written by one of the seniormost devotees in our movement whose allegiance to Śrīla Prabhupāda and our mission is unquestionable. It was also written by a woman and responding to a woman in the same way we’d respond to a man would be, well, feminist. That would go against the very principle we/I want to uphold – we should treat women as mothers, not as equals.
In everyone’s life there are plenty of moments when his or her mother does or says something embarrassing. Usually mothers embarrass us, not themselves, but it’s the same thing – it needs to be overlooked and forgiven. Mothers are always right and if they are wrong we just have to close our mouths and wait it out. Speaking against our mothers would be inappropriate even by material standards and as aspiring devotees we should know better than that.
You just don’t tell your mother how outdated or ignorant she is, and you certainly don’t tell these things about your mother to others, it’s that simple.
After all said and done, Mātājī Malatī has only our best interests at heart, she would never willingly jeopardize our mission, and we should remember this first and foremost. All other things like confused mind, wounded ego, sloppy presentation, unclear thoughts, unjustified attacks etc should be tolerated. It’s not worth offending your mother over such trivialities.
If I send a submission like this to the Sun it would not be what they expect, however, so I won’t bother. It just won’t jive with the usual content on that site. It would also make me look saintlier than their celebrated regulars and I don’t want that either. Of course I’m not saintlier and not more mature than them, and that’s why I suspect that their regulars avoid this topic for the same reason – do not say anything bad about your mother in public, or even to her face, it’s just not cool.
And that, I hope, is my last thought on this matter.