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Not Ksama-Buddhi
by Bhaktine Shirley Goode

Ksamabuddhi prabhu wrote to say that debate between sannyasis and women violates Vaisnava etiquette. Perhaps it is, but it struck me as ludicrous; but then he went on to say they should be ignored in the devotee community. Wow. I mean, wow.

I’m a newcomer, and I really like to see the openness that the debate signifies. Never mind the pros and cons, who is right or wrong, just to have the openness that this debate implies, I was really appreciating that. I could be part of a society like that. And I was thinking of writing something to this effect, when I say that Radhavallabha dd practically took the words right out of my mouth.

Then I saw this piece by Ksamabuddhi prabhu and there were a few others that had me wondering about how open the ISKCON society really is. Some of the pieces struck me as very closed. I was surprised that devotees have such narrow thinking when I heard a tape by Prabhupada where he is emphasizing that "brahmana means broad-minded." I’m beginning to have mixed feelings about all this.

Also, Radhavallabha devi dasi mentioned how the author of the Chaitanya Charitamrita says we should not avoid controversy "because it strengthens the mind in Krishna consciousness." And then Ksamabuddhi prabhu says this is not bhakti.

So, which one should I believe? I mean, Radhavallabha makes sense, and so does Krishnadas Kaviraja, but Ksamabuddhi says it is not bhakti. Does he know some thing they don’t know, or is this a case of going unrecognized until one speaks?

I’m not very experienced yet in this philosophy, been around just over one year, but my impression was that bhakti was about clearing away illusions, except here I get the feeling it is more about etiquette as interpreted by Ksamabuddhi prabhu. So in short, women should keep their doubts, illusions, misgivings, and even their realizations to themselves, and even if they do speak out, sannyasis should not attempt to dispel the clouds. Maybe, but my instinctive response to this was "Duh."

Ksamabuddhi prabhu: A public debate between the two is offensive to any and all people who come to Chakra for good news about events and activities of the Krishna conciousness movement.

Me: Are you saying that it is better etiquette for a sannyasi to debate a woman in private??? Well, forgive me for speaking plainly prabhu, but once again, "duh" is the best I can do. I’m sorry, but I can’t do something more intelligible than that. What does "ksamabuddhi" mean anyway, something to do with "intelligence" but I don’t know where to find the meaning of "ksama," but I would like to know. Whatever it means, you say the debate is not bhakti, but I suspect your piece was not ksama-buddhi.

KB: It just so happens that the sannyasi involved in the debate is also the editor of Chakra and is therefore not subject to the censoring that most devotees would deem suitable in this foolish debate.

Me: Do devotees really advocate censorship? That’s scary. I thought devotees were educated people and stood for the idea that people can stand or fall on their own merit in the courtroom of public opinion, as Ksamabuddhi prabhu is doing. Please, somebody, tell me there is no censorship in ISKCON. Can’t imagine a brahminical society where some people have the power to gag other people. This really troubles me.

KB: Srila Prabhupada does not need to be defended by some insignificant woman who is challenging the Vedic wisdom.

Me: What or who is a "significant" woman, or are you saying that all women are "insignificant"? And as Radhavallabha pointed out, prabhu, it should be a simple thing to refute any challenge to the Vedic wisdom, by bringing light, ie. wisdom, but I didn’t find any in your effort. And it is not that I didn’t look.

KB: There are many fools and critics out there and it should not be the policy of Chakra to publish blasphemy and offensive slander of Srila Prabhupada.

Me: But if slander and blasphemy has been published, what about showing why and how it is slander and blasphemy, or one could be guilty of the very thing if one wrongly accuses. Or, could it be that once we are insignificant women, then we can’t be villified enough and whatever is heaped upon us is automatically deserved?

KB: As a reader of Chakra, I am fed up with this ridiculous debate and would hope that it can be left to the dustbin of history so we can go on with interesting and enlivening issues pertaining to the Krsna conciousness movement.

Me: I was in a conversation with a devotee here some months back. He was telling me about a devotee in India who wrote some books doing a socio-psychological critique on ISKCON. One of the things my friend mentioned was that this devotee author roundly criticized the ISKCON practice of wanting only to talk about "good news" rather than deal with practical problem solving, so that the quality of life for devotees would factually improve. I really want to get those books, but I can’t remember that devotee’s name.

Anyway, I don’t know a whole lot about all these matters, but I think I see what my friend was talking about. I think some devotees should read a bit of sociology so they can become informed about the kinds of things that historically impact on flegling social systems, because this strikes me as a very naive idea, "let’s talk only the good news." As if there isn’t enough of such talk already. BTG and so many other sources I have seen talk about enlivening things and minimize the issues that concern people who are living, breathing members of the society.

The movement is made up of people, so if you reduce them and their concerns to "insignificance" what do you have left? Walls? Cheerful robots? What? What is the aim of this whole idea Prabhupada called "a positive alternative," surely not living with blinders? I thought it was all about greater awareness, but I’m beginning to think "escapism." What’s the story there?

KB: Following this debate is like eating sawdust, it has no juice, no flavor and no value. Can we please get beyond this petty bickering? There are always critics and fools out there who would love to take up all our time debating this issue, but I really think it is useless, offensive, and inappropriate.

Me: Ok, that’s one opinion. I can respect your opinion, and I do, even the parts that make me think, "duh." What has me confused is that I see so many things to read on CHAKRA, so if you find a debate uninteresting, why read it? Read other stuff, or the Bhagavatam or Chaitanya Charitamrita, where it explains about not avoiding controversy. And what about those who find it interesting and enlivening and real, and even edifying?

Shirley Goode
Columbia, MD.

["Ksama" means patience, tolerance, forgiveness. —Ed.]

© CHAKRA 6 November 2001

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