“Women are less intelligent”

One female devotee volunteered a comment on this statement. She said she carefully considered it from different angles of vision and her conclusion is that it doesn’t make sense. Umm. This by itself is proof that women are less intelligent, sorry to say. She doesn’t have enough intelligence to understand how this shastric statement is correct. What more needs to be proven?

Seriously, though, first she looked at modern day women and concluded that they are no less intelligent then men. Because there are female devotees in GBC now, was the argument. Okay, but getting on GBC is not a big intellectual achievement and it doesn’t speak about average intelligence anyway. I thought of another test – how many female Sanskrit scholars are in our movement? How many female devotees bother to learn Sanskrit? How many can give in-depth explanations of slokas and words and demonstrate different shades of meanings? I can’t think of any. I’m sure there are female students of Sanskrit somewhere but no one has noticed them and their intelligence so that their names become known throughout our society. Rupa Goswami wrote about a hundred thousand Sanskrit verses – comparable to the size of Mahabharata. Do we know of any female devotees who achieved anything close to that? This is taking us into history, however, which was the second argument.

Draupadi and Kunti Devi were undoubtedly very intelligent women and they were used as the examples in the video. Who is going to argue that they were lacking intelligence? That would be suicidal. And yet we can compare their intelligence with that Maharaja Yudhisthira, who was ruling the entire world. With the help of his younger brothers. I’m sure he occasionally received wise council from Draupadi, too, and most certainly from his mother Kunti, but I don’t remember anyone suggesting that these women were as qualified to make decisions as Maharaya Yudhisthira himself. We can also remember a couple of episodes, like Kunti Devi getting pregnant with Karna – where was her intelligence then? Of course it was an easy and a natural mistake but I would guess that on average male students were not as careless with invoking mantras. There is, of course, a famous incident of the son of Samika Rishi cursing Maharaja Pariksit but he was a young boy and his lack of intelligence in this matter was exceptional, too.

Another episode we can consider is punishment of Asvatthama when Draupadi suddenly brought up the plight of Asvatthama’s mother. For men who just emerged from the war in which millions perished that should not have been a consideration at all (meaning not intelligent) but eventually her suggestion was incorporated into punishment. Which brings us to a different point – there are different kinds of intelligence. Men excel at some, women excel at others.

Okay, let’s consider that. Usually by intelligence we mean something that can be measured by IQ, but there is also EQ testing and let’s agree with studies that show women, on average, have higher EQ scores. What should concern us more, however, is definition of intelligence used by shastra and Srila Prabhupada. EQ did not exist back then. I think we can agree with the basic premise of intelligence as the ability to make spiritual progress and for that one needs to see the difference between matter and spirit and, more importantly, control his mind. Women are not very good at that. They are better at getting what they want but it’s the opposite of mind control, actually.

Ideally, strong intelligence means one understands things as they are, understand their relative values, and so the mind does not get attracted to that which has no value. In other words, strong intelligence means no anarthas – literally things of no value. By definition women are “stri” – those who expand the field of enjoyment, and that is anartha by itself, a not so intelligent thing to do.

This is not to say that men are free from this anartha – far from it.  In our psyche both male and female natures are mixed in different proportions at different levels, that’s why we usually alternate male and female births when gross body grows out of the subtle one, allowing for these changes, so there are plenty of “stri” elements in men’s mental make ups, too, they just haven’t become “gross” yet. On average, however, there are less there in men just as there are less pillows on bachelor’s beds. Some women have less than some men and for every man there is always a woman who is more intelligent than him in any aspect of intelligence, but, on average, women don’t do renunciation very well. Neither do modern men, of course, but the innate capacity is there and we better find the way to use it. Otherwise what’s the point of being a man?

At the same time we should be honest with ourselves and not try to pretend to be better then we really are. There is no place for pretense in devotional service.

Here is the video again. I haven’t watched it until the end, perhaps I’ll modify my opinion once I hear more. I just found it ironic how a female declares that she honestly can’t understand how she has lesser capacity for understanding things.

Srila Prabhupada was very liberal towards women… or was he?

Prabhupada, Malati, and Gurukripa(?)

Let’s look at this small collection of Prabhupada’s quotes, some of which are instantly recognizable:

  • If one becomes Kṛṣṇa conscious, then he doesn’t require husband. He does not require. He . . . She knows that “Kṛṣṇa is my protector. Why shall I artificially seek after father or . . .?” And what protection, for a few days, either the father or the son or the husband may give? Real protection is Kṛṣṇa.
  • Such natural instincts of a woman or a man are manifested only in the bodily conception of life. When either a man or a woman is advanced in spiritual consciousness, the bodily conception of life practically vanishes. We should see all women as spiritual units (ahaṁ brahmāsmi), whose only duty is to satisfy Kṛṣṇa.
  • if the wife can bring her husband into practicing this process, then it is all right that the husband accepts wife as Spiritual Master.
  • – Could a woman be a temple president? Prabhupāda: Yes, why not?

Obviously, they display Prabhupada’s liberal thinking towards modern women.

Now, let’s look at this other selection of quotes

  • And the Western countries, they have been taught to become independent. That is artificial. That is all artificial. So woman by nature . . . Manu-saṁhitā (9.3) says, na striyaṁ svatantram arhati: “Women should not be given independence.” They must be protected by the father, by husband, and by elderly sons. They are not independent. No independence.
  • Similarly woman. Live with one husband fastidiously, with children.
  • A man should be trained to be a first-class devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa, and a woman should be trained to be a very chaste follower of her husband.
  • if you can show the women of the community how to help their husbands and children to perfect their home life, and all aspects of life, in Krishna Consciousness by chanting, aratrik ceremonies, and eating Krishna prasadam, then you will improve the conditions of the neighboring communities to an incalculable extent.
  • actual system is that the husband is Spiritual Master to his wife
  • because women are less intelligent, they should remain dependent on first-class father, first-class husband and first-class son. Then she is first class. That is the injunction. Woman should remain dependent in childhood upon first-class father, in youthhood upon first-class husband and in old age upon first-class son. Woman is never independent. If she becomes independent, her life is not very good. She must agree to remain dependent on first-class father, first-class husband and first-class son—three stages
  • – Can a woman be first class? Prabhupāda: Woman can become first class if she is chaste and very much attached to husband. And if the husband is first class, she becomes first class. Because woman’s duty is to follow husband. So if the husband is first class, the wife is first class, if she sticks to the husband.
  • – But she can never be first class unless she has a first-class husband. Prabhupāda: No, she is first class by following faithfully husband. And if the husband is first class, then woman is first class.

Obviously, these quotes create a very different impression. “So what,” you might think, “we have known the power of selective quoting before, what’s new here?” Well, the interesting feature of all these quotes is that they come from the same letters and conversations (and one purport). These things have been said to the same people on the same occasion, and almost immediately one after another. To illustrate this once again, consider these two letters written on the same day and on the same subject, but to different recipients:

  • My Dear Yamuna and Dinatarine, … You can attract the fair sex community. Most of them are frustrated being without any home or husband. If you can organize all these girls they will get a transcendental engagement and may not be allured to the frustration of life. Your engagement should be chanting and worship of the Deity Jiva Goswami advises that in the Kali-yuga sankirtana is the principle worship. Even if one chants many mantras it must be preceded by glorious sankirtana. Sankirtana is the maha-mantra.
  • My dear Jayatirtha, … Regarding Yamuna and Dinatarine, they want to live independently, that is the defect. A woman cannot live independent. According the the Vedic culture a woman is always to be protected by a man. Why they should purchase a house? We already have Los Angeles…

How to make sense of all of this and how to reconcile these contradictory quotes? Make you own conclusions, I don’t want to force any particular mode of thinking here, but I might add that conservative statements are far more extensive and even after I clipped them down in half they still take more space (and more time for Srila Prabhupada to articulate). This fact might not matter much but it’s worth noting anyway. Overall, I’d say that contradictions appear when we start hunting for quotes instead of studying Srila Prabhupada’s books systematically, verse by verse and purport by purport. Then we see big picture and all little facts fit into it perfectly.

In a similar way we, as the “owners” of our bodies, feel whole, complete, and well adjusted, but if somebody took a foot and a hand separately they might wonder how these parts can possibly fit together. This is a kind of acintya-bheda-abheda tattva available for us to ponder – how can Srila Prabhupada encourage and seemingly reject something at the same time? He himself did not see it as contradictory, however. The same principle is applied differently in different circumstances just like same trunk produces different branches, some extending north and some extending south, and all reaching for the Sun. Somehow it’s possible and I don’t want to boggle down in details of each case.

References:

https://vanisource.org/wiki/770107_-_Conversation_A_-_Bombay

https://vedabase.io/en/library/sb/6/18/42/

https://vanisource.org/wiki/690614_-_Letter_to_Silavati_written_from_New_Vrindaban,_USA

https://vanisource.org/wiki/750705_-_Conversation_A_-_Chicago

https://vanisource.org/wiki/760113_-_Letter_to_Yamuna_and_Dinatarine_written_from_Calcutta

https://vanisource.org/wiki/760113_-_Letter_to_Jayatirtha_written_from_Calcutta

Actual legwork of searching for different sounding quotes in the same sources was done by one reviewer of one recent book and was posted on social media. He made a similar observation but as part of a review and he provided extensive commentary on each case. I tried to keep it short and to the point instead. For those who want to read the whole thing (in Russian), here’s the source.

 

Vanity thought #1621. OMG OMG OMG

I’ve checked with vaiṣṇava news over the weekend and found that currently hot topic there is the reaction to HH Bhakti Vikāsa Swami’s latest book Women: Masters or Mothers. There’s a letter sent out by North American GBC to their temples and there’s a Facebook post that generated a lot of discussion on the subject.

First, the book – I have not read it and have no intention of doing so. Mostly because the question is rhetorical – of course women should be mothers and not masters. I don’t think I need to be convinced of this and no one is asking for my opinion anyway so there’s no immediate reason for me to get involved and read the material.

I trust Bhakti Vikāsa Swami’s judgment on this and I also know that he might rub some people the wrong way, the long list of complaints about this book in the GBC letter is a perfect testament to that and that’s what I want to address today. It’s rather sad that his book was effectively banned from being sold at several ISKCON temples but I don’t want to step in the middle of this controversy just yet. Publicly taking sides at this point is unwarranted, I believe, and Dandavats would probably not allow a discussion on the matter. Why add fuel to the fire? There’s some acrimony between Dandavats and BVKS already, this needs to be dealt with tactfully and diplomatically.

There’s also a sad fact of life that opinions expressed by BVKS are taken up by some disturbing ISKCON radicals who take his advice on speaking strongly in a “leave no prisoners” way. Fire and brimstone are not my favorite environment and I’d rather stay as far away from them as possible. I’m afraid any public address on this book would immediately attract their attention and I don’t want to appear neither for nor against when these people show up, I’d rather not be there at all. Maybe one day we’d all feel like it’s our duty to stand up and say something regardless of personal comfort but this time hasn’t come yet.

The letter starts with a timeline and from this we learn the extent of the opposition – no sales in all of UK, for example, or forcing BVKS to change the topic of his speeches. The official North American GBC decision is the first to list the reasons, however, which means that for nearly a year the book was censored arbitrarily. Maybe it deserved it, maybe not. Ban first and talk later is not a good sign anyway – something somewhere must have gone terribly wrong.

Next is a declaration that this GBC letter has no personal agenda. I can’t find the actual letter, only what is posted on Sun, but the exact line is: “Regarding WMM: There is no personal agenda on our (on the part of Vaishnavi’s & others)”.

Who is “Vaishnavi” and why it’s Vaishnavi‘S? It’s just bad English and the meaning is unclear. Maybe “vaishnavi” is the author of the letter, who is reported to be Mātājī Mālati. Even if that is the case the declaration of no personal agenda doesn’t sound very credible considering that Mālati is one of the leaders of the alleged feminist movement in ISKCON and so a target of the criticism raised in the book. For the GBC it’s a bad taste to let the subject of the criticism to play a role of a censor and level some serious accusations in the process, too.

Next we have the actual complaints about the book but they are strangely numbered, reverting back to “1” half a dozen times. It’s hard to say how many points are there in total, about fifty, I’d guess. Maybe their grouping make some sense but not obviously. Almost every point starts with “whereas” which is common for official ISKCON verdicts but here such formal use contrasts sharply with sloppy, sometimes incomprehensible content. It does not lend the letter any credibility here, rather the opposite.

The very first point is a killer – mahārāja’s conclusions are contrary to KC philosophy and teachings of Śrīla Prabhupāda. That alone could be grounds for stripping him of his position and banning him from speaking anywhere in ISKCON. The letter does not go as far but it’s still a very serious accusation that should not be leveled lightly, and it’s not up to GBC of one particular zone to issue such verdicts. It does, however, point to some very serious disagreements within our movement which need to be properly mediated. Otherwise such letters look like Islamic fatwas that sound serious to outsiders but have no authority outside a circle of that particular imam’s followers.

The second point is an objection to the cover, it’s deemed inflammatory and “sends a negative image” – link. What’s wrong with it? I was expecting something far more provocative because the woman that’s supposed to represent the master is not that impressive. We’ve seen plenty of female soldiers or fighters and this one, in these huge pants striking that pose, reminds me of some comic character instead. Personally, I wouldn’t imagine neither a female master nor a mother looking like those on the cover and so take the presented images with interest, as a message of how we are invited to see the differences.

After all, the title and the book clearly want to stress contrast between two approaches to womanhood and the cover should reflect that. Who’d expect otherwise? Obviously there are billions of women in the world who look nothing like either of these two and so I see no reason to take offense here, not unless someone feels personally targeted, but the letter already declared that there’s no personal bias in it so there must be some other explanation for the outrage. I don’t see it, however.

This kind of reaction is going to become a norm for the rest of the letter – picking up on something fairly innocent and blowing it up out of proportion. This strongly reminds me of the “microagressions” and the rest of PC culture. Last time I heard about it was when someone asked why these microagressions can’t be dealt with microreactions. In this case the letter looks like a clear overreaction caused by personal offense, not a quality we should expect from GBC or even from a single vaiṣṇava or a vaiṣṇavī.

More to follow.

Vanity thought #1475. Sexism?

Yesterday I mentioned that sometimes Prabhupāda appeared as sexist, when he was apparently prejudiced against a female reporter. This is somehow a big issue for our detractors – sexism, and so they dig up and trot out various quotes from Prabhupāda to justify their accusations of misogyny. I don’t think I’m willing to answer them point by point, it would be a waste of time because they won’t listen and I don’t need convincing myself, so just a few thoughts that come to mind.

First, the reporter – Prabhupāda simply made a prediction based on previous experience. Female reporters usually beat about the bush and ask irrelevant questions. As I said yesterday, they see it as their job, and actually this is exactly what this particular woman said (here the transcript and the audio as well). Prabhupāda wasn’t having it – job or not job, all human beings must ask pertinent questions about their nature and the nature of the world around them.

A week before this interview Prabhupāda talked to another female reporter and questions were about meeting political leaders, devotees wearing wigs, alleged relocation of Dallas gurukula etc. News, basically, not spiritual truth and not Kṛṣṇa consciousness.

A year earlier another woman was pestering Prabhupāda about when he realized the “highest truth” himself, I think I mentioned it about a month ago. On that occasion Prabhupāda seemed to be ignoring her for a while after patiently explaining the difference between men and women. That was also the time when he mentioned difference in brain weight and he got it wrong, now we know. He got his numbers either from the news or from his college days, however, and the reporter didn’t know the correct data herself so everybody let it pass.

Female brains are, indeed, smaller, but not by as much as Prabhupāda claimed, and they have other features in which they appear to be superior to men, but none of that was known at that time. Prabhupāda never claimed Vedic sources for this anyway, just passed along whatever he knew about science.

He also had to answer questions like “What do you do for fun?”, which he simply didn’t. There was also that famous conversation where they discussed why women bare their legs while devotees bare their heads. The point is that there were a lot of previous experiences to teach Prabhupāda not to expect much from female interviewers. And, just to confirm, the next interview (after the first I mentioned), on the same day, was with a man who jumped straight to the point.

“Yes, I know your books.” “How did you start your movement, with no money?” “Did you really just sit and chant in the park?” “What did you have to offer?” “How is the spiritual dimension of life realized?” “Is this internal process or external?” “What is the ultimate knowledge?” – Do you see the difference? Prabhupāda was very, very satisfied with that interview. Why couldn’t women ask similar questions? Beats me, technically they can, but it’s perfectly normal not to expect them to, and there’s nothing sexist about that, just recognizing patterns in human nature.

There was a time when ISKCON brahmacārīs suddenly realized that women pose danger to their spiritual health. Trouble was brewing all over the society, letters were written, pressure was applied to GBC, temple presidents, in turn, were becoming antagonistic towards travelling saṅkīrtana parties, which were all men. It wasn’t such a big deal in the early days but then suddenly it was. I don’t know why, it just happened. Some say that things changed after devotees went to India and had to adjust to local customs there, which didn’t favor gender equality at all. I can see that, but there must have been other reasons, too. Sometimes it clearly went over the top.

ISKCON had an “official” photographer, for example, Viśākha mātājī, and, as a photographer, she had to get close to Prabhupāda when others had to sit in their assigned places. Once she was trying to take a picture with Prabhupāda’s eyes open and, preferably, with a smile, but Prabhupāda was singing Jaya Rādhā-Mādhava and his eyes were closed. Viśākha patiently waited, with camera ready, but that meant she was standing in front of all the sannyāsīs sitting in the front row. One of them prodded her in the behind with his daṇḍa. Somehow Prabhupāda caught this exact moment and his eyes nearly shot a lightning at that man, but Viśākha got her kind glance and a smile. One simple moment, no one noticed it, but it’s still memorable and rather telling. No one should interfere with devotee’s service even if she is a woman.

On another occasion devotees accompanied Prabhupāda on a morning walk and all the way they were bitching about women not covering their heads, dancing “provocatively”, and how women are the bondage than keeps men in illusion and so on. They were clearly baiting Prabhupāda to put those women in place but he just wouldn’t give in.

When they returned and entered the temple room there were plenty of women there, preparing the place for the program ahead. As soon as Prabhupāda stepped in they all dropped on the floor in obeisances and started chanting his praṇāma mantra. Finally, Prabhupāda turned to the brahmacārīs accompanying him and said: “But if you associate with THESE women you will go back to Godhead.”

What more do we need to know about our female devotees? We need their mercy just as we need the mercy of the men, they are all vaiṣṇavas, there’s no difference. Yeah, sure, we have to behave differently around them but we still absolutely need to serve them and hope for their devotion to rob off on us, too. Their feet are as lotus as anybody else’s (meaning devotees, of course). We should think that it’s better to die serving a devotee woman than to die in the company of someone who doesn’t appreciate their exalted spiritual position.

Of course serving means doing whatever it is we are supposed to do. A husband serves his wife as a husband, as a protector and a provider, not as a menial servant, though a bit of menial service never hurt anybody either. It might not be appropriate to offer obeisances to female devotees in public just because we feel they deserve them, or to one’s wife, but nothing should stop us from doing it in our hearts and minds. Just as guru’s service is still service – one does not become a master by becoming a guru.

Frankly, if we develop this kind of appreciation for our female devotees then all the talk about sexism, misogyny, etc, would go straight pass us as it comes from people who haven’t got a clue. Maybe sometimes somebody has to respond to them, just not me and not today.

Vanity thought #1453. Oh women..

I think I haven’t paid enough attention to problems of women devotees. Personally, I didn’t know they had any, every time I had a chance to check they were doing fine, often visibly better than me, so when I hear talk about women abuse in our society I just draw blank. I really have no idea what they are talking about.

Sure, I’ve heard stories of personal mistreatment and bruised egos but, while being sympathetic, I thought to myself that it was a par for the course, everybody suffered from this and I got my fair share, too, or at least I feel like I do/did. I don’t think it qualifies as institutional mistreatment and subversion of our siddhānta, no more than all the other things that we did wrong but somehow managed to survive.

First thing that comes to my mind is how female devotees were pushed back after Prabhupāda took them to India and they had to behave appropriately for that culture. It was a sudden let down for them, I understand, but I also think they were understanding back then, too. No one revolted against it, afaik. It’s much much later that those old wounds were reopened and suddenly they wanted “prabhu” title back, just as they were called in the 60s.

They were also literally pushed back in our temple rooms so that they didn’t “bother” male devotees. I guess that was rather painful but in my temple they weren’t in the back, they had half the temple room to themselves, they were seated back only during the class. Bhāgavatam speaker is not a deity, though, he is not supposed to treat all people equally but follow etiquette. Women should not sit right in front of the sannnyāsīs or brahmacārīs, I think that’s obvious.

Even if they were told to stand in the back during deity darśana I, personally, don’t see it as a problem. It’s where I stood most of the time, too, and by choice – it’s good for the ego and develops humility. Or maybe our female devotees didn’t understand that part – how humility might get more appreciation from the Lord so if somebody shuts you down and you learn not to take it personally is actually a good thing. Women might not understand that, the are less intelligent, after all (sarcasm).

That’s another thing – about women’s intelligence. We frame this discussion in such a way that it doesn’t answer questions or solve problems anymore, perhaps we should try another tack.

In general, females have smaller heads which necessarily host smaller brains, which means there are less neuron connections (though it might not be true), and neuron connections are a sign of higher intelligence. Science should be on the side of Prabhupāda in this case but, as with everything female, facts don’t matter when feelings get hurt (another stereotype).

Judging by actual measurements of intelligence women are doing just fine and can often wipe floors with their men competitors if it comes to IQ battle. They have proven themselves just as capable in many fields of human endeavor, including science, so stereotypes might have some basis behind them but when dealing with each particular woman personally they are often useless. Well, not entirely useless, ‘cos if you want to manipulate women you can play on stereotypes, too, and trick them into following traditional women’s roles, but I’m talking about honest estimate of women’s abilities.

I don’t think the situation was very different in Vedic times, too, though it could be that modern women advantages are due to men degrading faster in Kali yuga rather then women getting smarter. I mean girls who do better at school are also better in every aspect of their personalities, they don’t lie or cheat, they work hard, never give themselves any slack, and are usually morally upstanding children. Those who fail at that are not very good with grades either, at least in my limited experience.

But let’s say that women were just as smart as men even in Vedic history, how does that square up with limits on their traditional roles? If they were equal or better, why did they always have to be subservient to their husbands?

That’s where I think feminist liberals are wrong – when they assume that strong, intelligent women were put in service to weak, not so smart men who didn’t deserve their position.

The phrase that I can’t get out of my mind is “rectification of names”. It’s a Confucian concept and at its heart it means that people should follow their dharma. Rulers must act like rulers, teachers like teachers, fathers like fathers, husbands like husbands, and wives like wives. Somebody must wear pants in a marriage and it should be a man.

A woman, therefore, can be as strong as she can be, but she must be paired with a stronger man. Arranged marriages should never put them with men of inferior quality, it would simply not work. That’s why there are rules that allow a higher varna man to take lower varna woman as a wife but not vice versa. Afaik, a woman must never under any circumstances be put in service to someone inferior to her.

That’s where the rule than grooms must be older helps, too – to give men at least the advantage in years and experience, which can hopefully translate into wisdom so that his wife sees him as her superior.

Personally, I’ve met plenty of women who are “way out of my league”, though nowadays this phrase means mostly sexual attractiveness. They come from a better backgrounds, have better education, better jobs, have always been richer and so on. We just won’t match in the long run no matter what or how we feel towards each other, it won’t work and I’ve always been fine with that, but that’s might be due to lessons in humility I mentioned above. These lessons are hard when they come but they do bring benefits later on.

I can’t even count how many times I worked for female bosses so when somebody accuses me of patriarchal misogyny or something I don’t accept it at all. What I am saying is that these bosses, brilliant as they are, must be married to someone even better than them.

If they don’t then their husbands would play female role in their relationship and while there’s nothing particularly wrong with that it might complicate things in a number of unpredictable ways because those men have to cleanse their male propensity to control and be in charge and if they don’t do that then they get to keep those anarthas.

I can also understand that some women develop so much power than finding suitable men for them is next to impossible but that’s the problem entirely of their own making, they are the ones who declare “self-fulfillment” as the ultimate goal and want to compete with men in every area. So they won, what next? It’s a Pyrrhic victory.

These problems with women are no different from problems with science – people invent new things, don’t have a clue what they are really doing, accept first signs of success as proof of concept, and then get buried by side effects later on. When global warning finally gets us some might realize that inventing the internal combustion engine wasn’t such a good idea but back then, in the 19th century, they were too shortsighted to see where it would all lead. Same happens to feminists – at first it feels great and liberating but then the whole thing collapses, just in a few decades of practicing.

And then they all frantically scramble to patch the problems and give themselves hope that it will all work out in the end but, as with global warming, all those solutions are too little too late.

Unlike with car engines, feminists have been warned from the start – don’t do it, it will ruin social fabric of the society, but they didn’t listen. Perhaps women do have lesser intelligence after all.

Vanity thought #1106. Su-medhasah part 3

So let’s say I proved that our medium to long term planning in the current conditions require us to surrender to Kṛṣṇa before the world catches us in its downward spiral. Let’s say it has become fairly clear that for our own safety we need to invest in Kṛṣṇa consciousness now, to get ourselves ready before it’s too late to pick up the beads.

That would be great but it’s only solving a part of our problem. We can compare it to choosing a university for our pre-school children and starting a fund to pay for it when the time comes in the next fifteen years, or to starting a saving plan for our retirement. It’s great, it’s a responsible thing to do, it puts us into the right mood vis-à-vis our spending urges, but it still can’t hold against daily distractions.

Splashing on less than necessary items like new phones or computers won’t kill our long term plans but it will make us regret our decisions every time the credit card bill comes. Translating back into chanting – daily temptations of the mind won’t probably affect our end of life destination but they would ruin our today’s experience.

First, we need to approach our chanting as an investment project. We need to be in the right frame of mind when we start – from now for the next two hours I will be taking care of my future. I will not be simply moving my mouth, I will be preparing my spiritual “retirement”. It’s an important thing to do, it’s like a job, it requires voluntary effort and concentration.

Yet even if we manage to prepare ourselves for chanting this way it doesn’t stop our minds from dwelling on short term distractions. We still need to learn how to deal with those, too, just as we need to learn to postpone personal stuff when we are busy at work. We’d still get paid but it just won’t feel right.

Let’s take another example.

A few days ago I met a woman that caught my attention. I could say that we “clicked” and there was a certain chemistry between us. The attraction is there but I can’t afford to do anything about it. It would ruin my own life and my family, too. Now, every time she comes into my mind I have to look at a bigger picture to mitigate the agitation, so far it works.

I think not only how I would feel in her presence but also how I would have to sneak away to meet her, how I would have to hide her texts and calls on my phone, how I would have to invent lies to my family, and how it would all ruin my experience.

When I add all those fears and inconveniences to the initial attraction it doesn’t sound very attractive anymore. Just not worth the trouble. I think this could be called a victory of intelligence over the senses, a smart thing to do. Then I can continue chanting in peace.

There’s another aspect to it, too – if the attraction is too strong than all the sacrifices to keep illicit association going will feel justified even to a strong intelligence. We need to learn to avoid that trap because there will be no way out of it, once we are caught we are done for.

The key here is to anticipate the attraction and avoid fanning it as early as possible. More time spent in the presence of the subject strengthens the argument presented by the senses. From hope of enjoyment it would gradually become a taste and then a habit. At that point it would become irreversible and too painful to fix.

We need to see the future before senses experience it for real. We need to learn how senses work before they get a trial run and get hooked. This is how brahmacarya works – by avoiding women altogether and keeping one’s nose clean.

Some devotees think that brahmacarya means staying strong in the face of attraction but they are wrong – it means avoiding attractions altogether.

I think there’s a point in criticism of our ISKCON leaders when they are accused of freely mingling with women. Sannyāsīs and brahmacārīs are, reportedly, often seen sitting next to women like people do at ordinary conferences and meetings. The argument goes that men must control their senses and if materialists don’t feel agitated in the presence of females than our devotees shouldn’t either.

I disagree. Ordinary men not getting horny every time they see a female is not a sign of control of their senses, it only shows that currently their sex drive is relatively low, most likely due to overindulgence.

If we want to draw parallel with devotees here then we should compare them to gṛhasthas who have their fill of female company at home, and even then their wives should monitor their behavior in presence of other females rather closely. Trust but verify, as they say. One thing is sure – it’s not a business of either sannyāsīs or brahmacārīs.

Brahmacārī is not someone who doesn’t feel agitated in presence of women, it’s someone who avoids women altogether to avoid unnecessary agitation.

Back to the topic – once you feel that your senses smell potential gratification, stay away from the source of the “fragrance” before they lock in onto their target. Senses are mechanical objects, they don’t have a mind of their own (they use ours instead), so they can be easily manipulated. They are like magnets this way – keep them away from iron and they won’t bother you. Bring them close to iron made objects and they will be impossible to resist. For that kind of engagement they should have a docking station at home, pardon the pun.

Anyway, talking about that woman – when she comes back into my mind I overwhelm my memories with images of all the troubles I will get, and I don’t allow my mind to dwell on good memories either, nipping the attraction in the bud. I’m not planning on meeting her again and it happens I will try to avoid talking to her.

So far this works. I decided to write about it now because I feel pretty confident I got this under control. Three four days ago it was still work in progress but by now I don’t even remember what her company felt like. It works.

It isn’t my first time with this either and, by God’s grace, I always had a presence of mind to extricate myself from potentially troubling relationships before inflicting any actual damage. I’ve met women a lot more attractive than this latest one and it worked on them, too. After a while I only remember the facts, not the feelings, and I don’t dig around my memories to remind myself how warm it felt at the time.

To sum it up – this was an example of dealing with a short term disturbance, complementing a long term commitment to chanting. The only thing I forget to mention is that the other, prescribed method of dealing with it is to chant the Holy Names very loudly, it helps to drown the memories that float up to the surface of our minds. This really works, too, confirming that chanting is the best answer to everything.

It’s not an alternative method, btw, it’s just a way to achieve all I discussed above, how to actually withdraw our minds from thinking about women. I described what we need to achieve and loud chanting, as prescribed in the śāstra, is how to do it in practice.

Vanity thought #556. And what of women?

Yesterday’s episode with Amogha has another interesting dimension to it – the possibility of divorce. That’s what Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya demanded of his daughter right away – abandon her husband, Amogha, and become a widow.

All in all I think Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya was a little bit hot-hearted in this story, even Lord Chaitanya said as such – Amogha is very young, he is your dependant, he is practically your child, you can’t take his offences seriously. There was even talk about how punishment of Amogha would tarnish Sarvabhauma’s own reputation, too.

Still, the recommendation to Sathi to abandon her husband was there. In the comments Srila Prabhupada cites the verse from Bhagavatam where it’s said that unless one can deliver his wife or children from material existence one should not become a husband or a father, and that such fallen husbands can be abandoned for the sake of service to Krishna.

By criticizing Lord Chaitanya Amogha certainly could have been considered the most fallen. Even Sarvabhauma’s wife couldn’t accept his behavior, quite unlike Draupadi who saved Ashvatthama from death (both Amogha and Ashvatthama were brahmanas).

I guess people can interpret this episode in a way that suits them as we don’t have a final verdict from Srila Prabhupada.

Personally I prefer the mood of Draupadi in her instructions to Satyabhama in Mahabharata, but I’m not the one who has to follow them, of course. Still, they appear perfect to me, though certainly not easy.

The entire Draupadi-Satyabhama Samvada can be found here, scroll down to page 473.

I don’t know what they mean by “wiked” females, I guess it’s women who get what they want by playing on men’s weaknesses towards the fair sex. Draupadi rejects such attitude altogether. In her mind there’s no place for exploiting her husbands in any way, and she had five of them!

Her attitude of completely selfless service is remarkable. There’s simply no time in her life where she would think “I deserved the rest, a down time, some me-time”, or that she thought she could ask her husbands for any kind of presents or gifts or anything.

Today’s women have absolutely no qualms about asking men to provide them with this or with that but Draupadi’s outlook is completely opposite. She doesn’t see her husbands as the source of her pleasure, all she thinks about in her life is the pleasure and convenience of her husbands, service to them is the source of her happiness. I don’t think I can even say “satisfaction” here because it appears there’s no place for satisfaction in her outlook whatsoever.

This is how we should serve Krishna, too – without as much as a thought of getting anything in return. Unfortunately it’s not so easy to find examples of devotees behaving just like that. There’s Srimad Bhagavatam, of course, but Draupadi provides a much more detailed description of her service in such a way that it’s very easy to relate to.

When we think about serving Krishna we have no idea what it means. We have a better idea of serving our guru but that is not for everybody, most of us have to contend with serving guru’s instructions, and that’s where it gets fuzzy. Draupadi, on the other hand, describes uninterrupted, 24/7 service to her husbands, and for women that is supposed to be their main mission. From Draupadi’s example every woman can understand how to do it herself.

One could argue that Draupadi had Pandavas for husbands, best devotees in the three worlds ever, and Satyabhama was Krishna’s wife, so they both had no concerns about qualifications of their husbands. This implies that if our modern women were married to Krishna or Pandavas instead of fallen souls like us, modern men, then they could serve in the spirit of Draupadi. That is the same “If you want me to behave like Sita, behave like Rama yourself first” argument.

I believe it has little to no merit – it’s our own service we are talking about, we can’t justify slacking off because someone else does. Having husbands like Pandavas is a blessing, not a pre-condition. Nowhere in her speech Draupadi gave any indication that less exalted husbands deserve less dedicated service. In fact in one place she mentioned something that could be considered as her husbands faults and told Satyabhama to persevere with praising them regardless.

As a man I don’t have my service set out for me with such clarity, that’s unfortunate but at least I can try to imbibe the spirit. What I do have is an unassailable example of how women should behave in case someone starts arguing their “freedom”. There’s no such thing, not for them, not for me, not for anybody. Our own interests must be sacrificed fully and unconditionally and interests of our gurus or husbands must occupy not only central, but all available place in our hearts.

We ourselves might be fallen but our standards should not be compromised.

Vanity thought #511. Not in defense of rapists

But this needs to be argued – women frolicking at night take the potential male-female relationships to an entirely new level.

If a woman goes to a bar and drinks alone at midnight she will be stereotyped and let’s talk about what that stereotype implies. First of all it implies that she is sexually available for an intercourse with a complete stranger. Not only available, she desires it.

That realization changes the entire dynamic of how men look and relate to her. They do not see someone’s mother, daughter or wife, they do not see someone doing her job, they see a female looking for an intercourse and they estimate their own chances of “scoring”.

They realize that while on the surface the woman is likely to say “no” to any advance, it is nothing more than a puzzle box that needs to be opened. A man just needs to possess the right amount of charm, wit, chivalry, attitude, whatever works, and voila – Open Sesame! Potential suitors realize that this puzzle box was put out there to be opened, and they also realize that there’s no one right answer, whoever gets close enough before others will be granted access. They know that there’s a very little chance of that woman walking home alone, that she WILL have an intercourse with a stranger one way or another.

Now, that is not a defense of rapists, the decision to apply force is entirely their own and they need to answer for it, this entire rapist argument is a red herring.

The real problem is women looking for sex with strangers. Never forget that. Rape, date drugs, lies and all other kinds of abuse are unfortunate side effects, symptoms of a larger underlying disease, not the root problem.

Next question – is this stereotype true? Can a woman go out for a drink in the middle of the night without being expected to have sex? Can she go to a late night movie and walk home through deserted streets? Take a bus? Take a taxi?

Theoretically yes, and even practically so, but there’s still one big caveat – they all emulate behavior of women, mostly western, who are ALWAYS open to an intercourse with a stranger, if the stranger looks right. Obviously not right away in the first available alley but three dates should do it, more if they already have a partner.

Most of these women do not like to advertise it but the mindset is there – if a right man comes along, I will have sex, I’m always open for potential “business”.

This is miles and light years away from Vedic women who completely close themselves to any possibilities of having intimacy with anyone but their husbands.

Let me put it this way – Vedic woman – unobtainable, western woman – available for the right “price”.

There is the thing called chastity and you either have it or you don’t. It is a really a binary number. That is not to say that there are no degrees of slutiness, there are plenty of gray shades there, but there are definitely no degrees of chastity.

There’s this old Bernard Shaw’s joke – as a rich and famous man he once asked a woman to sleep with him for a million pounds, after she hesitated with an answer he asked if she would sleep with him for a hundred. “What kind of woman do you think I am!”, she protested. “Oh, I know what kind of woman you are, we are just negotiating the price”, answered Shaw.

There’s a lot of truth in this and we should always keep this in mind when women go to any kind of outing on their own or even with their girlfriends, who often are just a female equivalent of a wingman, helping each other to find a partner.

Can the traditional women engage in those kind of activities? Yes, for a while, but this kind of freedom is intoxicating and it does eventually go to their heads. Basically, this is bad association, only very lucky ones might remain untarnished and never succumb to temptations.

Better not start on this path at all.

Once again, this argument should be considered on its own, without emotional interference from the recent or any other rape cases, it’s not about men, it’s about women and their duties.

Hope it doesn’t offend anyone.

Vanity thought #502. Wrong lessons from the horrific rape tragedy

The story that grabbed India’s attention is over, the victim of a gang rape on a public bus has succumbed to her injuries and left this world. Her case provoked waves of public outrage and everybody has something to say about it.

I can’t pretend to know what all Indians think about it but several points that reached international press show that the lessons people are learning from this tragedy are all wrong. I hope organizations like BBC misrepresent what people actually think otherwise India has no hope left, too.

First and foremost lesson that I hear is that Indian women should have the right to wear skimpy outfits in the middle of the night and strut their stuff as much as they want. It seems that this is exactly what women of India want nowadays and this tragedy has finally supplied them with valid excuses.

They can’t be more wrong about it, we don’t even need to trace the faulty logic of their reasoning, if it arrives to an outcome like this it’s just a waste of time, rubbish from the beginning to the end.

Actually, it’s very simple, in the varnashrama system the goal is to help everyone constantly remember about Krishna and minimize sensual distractions. Apparently this is not what people of India want nowadays and therefore it’s wrong and it will only bring trouble. Even Arjuna, whose reasoning was rejected by Krishna, knew that women should be protected or the society is doomed. If modern Indians don’t get that then, perhaps, we should rethink our preaching there. Normally we assume that they accept the authority of Bhagavad Gita but maybe this is not the case anymore.

Speaking of women protection, another thing that I read in the papers is the outrage that women now have to worry about their safety and safety of their daughters. This sounds like a genuine concern but it’s also complete rubbish, once you get past the emotional charge that they throw at you.

Traditionally safety of women should be main concern of fathers and husbands but I think that any sensible woman would also double check the arrangements anyway. What these women want, however, is having no concerns about safety whatsoever.

Well, this might come as a shocking news to them but this ain’t Vaikuntha – their demands don’t match their status and abilities. This world will never be safe, only if they fully surrender to Krishna, no one else can fully protect them.

Or maybe they want to outsource their protection to the state, thus officially becoming “public women”. Hmm, first the state will provide security, then jobs, then food and income, it’s only a matter of time before they demand that the state provides husbands as well. I think this has happened in Soviet Russia after their revolution – women were under complete protection of the state and were assigned mating partners they coudln’t refuse. Or maybe it wasn’t so bad, I haven’t checked the source of that story.

Anyway, once they start dreaming big they won’t stop, and this is the road to nowhere. Krishna is completely excluded form the equation and becomes just a quaint cultural relic, the stuff of lullabies and bed time stories.

Once again, it might be the international news media that misrepresents what is happening in India in reaction to this case but this is what I heard so far – not a single useful lesson that would make the society appreciate Krishna more, rather the opposite.

PS. I intentionally avoided discussing any particular arguments presented in public sphere as it would be time consuming and confusing. Just step back and look at the big picture, zoom out of the details.

Vanity thought #475. Gurudeviship

I don’t know if it’s a word, the concept itself is alien but in the modern times women are entitled to anything so someone might argue that a new word is desperately needed.

It’s a bit late to discuss implications of allowing women to become ISKCON diksha gurus, it’s not the news, but the matter is still pressing.

I don’t want to discuss whether some of our women are qualified to becomes gurus, that’s beside the point, I wonder why we need females to become gurus at all. Qualified vaishavis can dispense valuable spiritual advice without hindrance, why do they need formal responsibility as well?

Jahnavi Devi was an exceptional soul but she didn’t take any male disciples [correction, it was Sita Devi, wife of Advaita Acharya, and it’s a rather complicated story]. Are our modern day candidates going to discriminate on the basis of gender, too? It was expected four hundred years ago but modern day push for gender equality would fly in the face of such discrimination.

Even if that happened, in line with Vedic gender roles – why would female devotees seek protection of other females? Would we encourage them to ditch their husbands and take shelter of women authorities? Are they going to do a better job at that?

Of course we can say that male-female dichotomy has no place on the spiritual level but if gender rules were followed in Lord Chaitanya’s time why should they be discontinued now? Do we claim to be more advanced and more spiritually powerful than Mahaprabhu’s eternal associates?

I’m posing these questions because I want to see the pro- points in this debate. The anti- points are plentiful and would require a separate post.

When listening to women’s opinions on this there are some who argue generally in favor of the idea but they do it only on basis of qualifications, not whether there’s any real necessity for this.

Women arguing against it have a counterargument as well – they say that all that “denigrating” stuff about women in our books is true. They just laugh off suggestions that women devotees somehow are more strict, more disciplined, more devoted etc.

When I listen to lectures of one mataji candidate for gurudeviship I can’t help but notice that women in her narratives are always the ones who remind their husband to go to the temple. In my personal experience it’s quite the opposite and I’ve heard a couple of confessions from other women, too – they are not angels by any count.

So why? Why should the best women in our society, the most advanced vaishnavis desire to give up positions of mothers and take roles of fathers instead? What example does it set for their followers? That being the best wife or the best mother is not good enough, it’s all maya, real vaishnavis must transcend it and shoot for the stars?

It’s not like we have an excess of successful family stories. Our divorce rate is the same as the rest of the society, which is already at the all time high. We obviously failing at promoting family values, and now our female leaders decide to drop it altogether and play roles of men?

It looks like a great disservice to humanity. It’s going to hell quite nicely on its own, why should we help it along? I thought our goal was to reverse the degradation of Kali Yuga and create a society in the mode of goodness so that people can take to spiritual practice. We can’t have a society conducive to developing Krishna consciousness if we let our women roam free to do whatever they want.

Krishna might have disagreed with Arjuna on the need to fight but He never said “Don’t worry about leaving women unprotected, it’s all nonsense, tall tales invented by power hungry men who wish to keep women in eternal slavery.” Krishna never talked about “liberating” women and giving them an equal position.

Or let’s look at it this way – Krishna never advised it, neither in Bhgavad Gita nor in Uddhava Gita, shastras never advise it, Lord Chaitanya never advised it, our acharyas never advised it – why should it be done? Just because someone wants to? That’s ridiculous. And what about devotees following these “gurudevis” acting on their own whim? What kind of nonsense is this? Don’t we have enough apa-sampradayas already? Don’t we have enough deviations even in our short ISKCON history? Do we need another proof that following your own concoctions will always fail?

Having said that, I think there’s another angle to this, too, and I will try to explore it some other day.