Hare Krishna! This page was last updated on January 15, 2004.
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. All glories to Srila Prabhupada's ISKCON.
All glories to you, for trying to follow Srila Prabhupada. A lot more details are required from your side to really assess your case and make any suggestions. Details of your family, your current status of engagement (attending school or college), which country, town, and yatra you belong to, your current guides in devotional service (that is the devotees with whom you are associating now), your level of spiritual commitments (level of sadhana, like number of rounds, regulative principles, initiated or aspiring initiation if so, from whom)— all these details and much more are required to give you any valuable advice. However, with the little bit of information you have provided, I would like to make a comment that may be useful. If you think I can be of some further help, please write to me with all the above details, and we can discuss this further.
College Just a
Dear CHAKRA and friends,
All glories to Srila Prabhupada. Please accept my humble obeisances, and forgive my offenses.
I couldn't agree more with Mother Subhadra-mayi...she is absolutely correct. I beg all of the devotees to please take this advice from someone who waited until age 31 to start college. I am a senior, and with my responsibilities of job, wife, child, household, aging mother, etc., I am having a very difficult time continuing in school. All my classmates are in their early twenties, none have jobs, they all have so much time to study, relax, enjoy, etc. (I could use this time for spiritual advancement.)
and the Vedic Woman
Judging from the angry, unprintable letters I have been receiving, it seems there is a misunderstanding about the education of women in Vedic times. Srila Prabhupada, people say, is teaching a conception of the Vedic society where women remain ignorant. It makes me wonder how many people actually read Srila Prabhupada’s books. It is true that Vedic women did not get degrees in business administration or sociology, but still, they were more educated than the most learned scholars in universities today.
What about Queen Kunti? Was she uneducated? People are still studying and poring over her words 5,000 years after they were spoken. And it is all in Srila Prabhupada’s books.
Blame Srila Prabhupada
I'm sorry that Ms. Mishra feels that Prabhupada gave wrong instructions about women. Actually, since I had my letter posted on CHAKRA, I have received many emails of differing opinions, but one thing that has been consistent through most of them is that the ideals of women described by Prabhupada are just that: ideals. And ideals in Vedic Society at that. We are by no means anywhere close to being a Vedic society. This is Kali yuga, after all.
And just because we have not been successful in becoming the Vedic society Prabhupada envisioned does not fault him. Maybe we should be looking at why it is we are not able to follow his simple instructions.
a Degree and Serve Krsna
I just read your post on Chakra. I can say that I deeply regret not finishing school to join the temple because life can give you things that you may never expect. I lived in the temple for nine years before I married, and I never expected that my marriage would be what it was, with the result that I packed up and left being six weeks pregnant.
And now? I'm a single mum without a degree, on welfare. I started going to school again last year, but my baby ended up in the hospital over and over again because every little cold he got from other children turned really bad. Now he can soon go to school, and hopefully, my school will work out this time and we will get out of this situation, a situation that wouldn't have been like this if I had a degree.
I have heard and read Srila Prabhupada's statements about karmi education (mainstream society's universities and colleges), both in terms of devotees generally receiving education from these institutions and also in terms of females being highly educated.
I accept that in Vedic culture, there is no need for women to have a high education because their main roles are as wife, mother, and servant of Krsna. But....
Hare Krishna. I have been following the women’s issues’ debates/comments from time to time. Frankly, most of the articles seem to drag one’s consciousness to the bodily platform, in my opinion, which is the antithesis of what attracted me to come to the Krishna Consciousness Movement in the mid-seventies.
However, whenever I read articles by devotees such as Mother Urmila, I feel my consciousness immediately getting in touch with "spirituality" and consequently feel spiritual satisfaction. It is the same feeling of having resolution of all doubts that I used to experience after reaching the temple and associating with devotees when I first started coming to the temple.
I'm not sure who is editing or filtering the letters on Chakra, but allowing such a vindictive and spiteful response from Sudama das doesn't do much credit to Chakra — it serves only to turn Chakra into a low-class slanging match, and an open field for Vaisnava aparadha. Such indelicate dealings in a public forum won't do Sudama any good either — if he finds the need to prop himself up by condescending to the female devotees of this movement, then little wonder there is a 'gender issue'. And of course we all know — or should know — that wherever women are respected, all good fortune exists. Where they are disrespected...well, we've seen the results of that.
Incidentally, I've seen the most brilliant minds make spelling errors...male and female alilke. Pointing out such an error does not immediately qualify one as "more intelligent". Think about it....
[See "Less Intelligent Women" Chakra May 29, 2002]
Why don't you stop it! You are not authorized to give your opinion on what Prabhupada said. He said so many things. Why not refer people to the congregational chanting of the Holy Names? Why not show them how Prabhupada came to the lower east side of Manhattan, where all kinds of people were gathered, and chanted the Holy Names without condemning anyone? Why must you insist on taking Prabhupada quotes out of context?
You have not been in the movement long enough to give your opinion of the movement and the philosophy. First try to understand that you are not this body. Then you will realize that there is no need for you to put women, homosexuals, etc. in their place. Nobody cares what you think.
Please accept my most humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I'm very touched but not surprised by this debate about discrimination regarding the intelligence of the sexes. I firmly believe that ISKCON's disastrous social relationships and consideration have and will always suffer to due to this type of mentality. I spent some years in the ISKCON Communication Leadership Team, and we worked hard trying to build public relations with society, academic institutions, churches, etc., but all our efforts were destroyed by issues like sex discrimination undertaken and debated in a very superficial manner, often utilizing the Vedic Scriptures out of context.
Now, more than ever, ISKCON must determine its true identity and establish a stable and mature internal line of conduct unless it intends to be considered an insignificant sect outside of any religious and philosophical context.
I normally don't enter into these polemics, but given the subject matter and the manner in which it is handled, I could not help myself.
by Popular Demand
Thank you, Sudama, for reminding me how much work there is still left to do in ISKCON. I think I was starting to become complacent, but your letter really energized several of us old-timers and served as a warning and wake up call for bhaktins and young women who are thinking of joining. You have shown us all that there are still ISKCON men who have not yet understood what it means when we say "we’re not these bodies." Fortunately, many of the male leaders have matured and moved beyond the immature stage where you still sit, so I’m not particularly worried about the institution. You are not going to be able to reverse any progress that has been made. Just like with your views on ritvik initiation, you have completely misunderstood Prabhupada when it comes to how he taught us to treat Vaisnavis. To help you gain a better understanding, I’m attaching a wonderful article below. It was written by a Vaishnavi who had extensive association with Prabhupada and who can report — first hand — how things were when he was around and when and why some began to deviate from his instructions. I only pray that you can read it with an open mind and not simply with your spellchecker.
We can all relax now, knowing that Georgina Prabhu can spell and is capable of defending herself. That being said, in her recent post, she asks about answers to the Real Issues. Okay... I'll give it a try.
In her original post she says: "Yet it remains a fact that the daughters of ISKCON need education — most have to leave ISKCON to get it."
You are talking about an academic education, I assume? A lot women and men in ISKCON go to other sources for higher education. It’s not just a women issue or a knock on ISKCON. The fact that there is a lack of education in ISKCON is regrettable, but not exclusive to women. There are wonderful academic programs available within the society see: Girl's Vaishnava Academy Alachua (Florida) and ISKCON School Hillsborough (North Carolina) — http://www.supersoul.com/newgoloka/school — for a start. The need will always be there for more, but the reality is, devotees attracted to advancing in academics have to go where that's being provided. Again, this is reality for both women and men in ISKCON.
I meant no offense in my criticism of Georgina's spelling. I was merely trying to point out that women are less intelligent than men, as stated by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada said that women are less intelligent, and he always backed up his statements with evidence from Vedic scriptures as well as practical examples. If we disagree with this, then we cannot claim to be bonafide followers of Srila Prabhupada.
My wife and I find it quite discouraging that CHAKRA has become a platform for so-called women's rights and other deviations from the pure teachings that Srila Prabhupada gave us. Many devotees nowadays choose to sugarcoat Srila Prabhupada's teachings in a way that is more appealing to homosexuals, independent women, and other groups who may feel offended by his pure teachings, but we prefer to take Srila Prabhupada's word as it is, not as we would like it to be.
What about the Real Issues?
I am now most amazed to read the host of letters in regard to Sudama's "criticism" of my recent posting. I can assure you all that I am not in the least "hurt" by Sudama's reply. In fact I found it highly amusing. His comments were immature and ill considered and had nothing to say on the issue I raised.
There seems to be concern over my ability to spell. There is no need. In fact, I can spell most brilliantly, most magnificently. No... seriously Prabhus, I spell just about as well as everyone else. Big deal. I just typed pretty quick and rushed off the e-mail without checking it properly. That's all there is to it.
His Snide Retort
Dear Chakra et al.,
I have just seen the piece posted on Chakra from Sudama dasa ["RVC: Watch Your Spelling!" Chakra May 23, 2002], deploring Georgina's spelling. Whether or not Sudama's tone is sexist or not, I beg to ask: if the editor normally spell-checks such things and knows that men also make spelling mistakes, why, pray tell, did he even post Sudama's article? Would it not have been better to silently edit Georgina's piece, and send Sudama a note of thanks?
Bhakta Matt writes:
"The biggest thing keeping my heart from surrender is a statement in a purport on page 19 of the Gita that says women are less intelligent and therefore not trustworthy. I am not a woman myself, but still this statement troubled me, and I can understand how women might get mistreated now and then in a society whose purport seems to state such an unfair view of women."
Reply: I have a suggestion about how to understand this from the point of view of Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medicine.
First, intelligence here doesn’t refer to particular brain functions as such. It is to be understood in terms of the mode of goodness, characterized by the ability to control emotions.
I have been following, the RVC gender debate with great interest as a devotee completing a post-graduate Diploma of Education and currently writing a major piece of work on the contemporary Vedic education system.
In response to John Nolan, women understand that men have difficulty conceptualising females in ways other than ultimately sexual temptation. We can only hope that men one day can evolve beyond these notions of women as such objects and understand that their fear of temptation is pure psychology.
The point being made by Palika dasi and Georgina, I would suggest, has more to with the complete lack of a women’s program and the exclusive discourse which headlines like "Give your son the highest education" perpetuates. Inherent in such a statement is "give your daughter the lowest... or nothing."
Hare Krishna! Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I really don't understand why you even uploaded Sudama's response to Georgina. His only intention was to make her look stupid and it really isn't newsworthy. I feel a little disappointed you would put such a letter on your website. It only served to hurt someone.
Thank you for your comment that all devotees make spelling errors and it is not just our unintelligent female brains. I can't help but to be offended by Sudama's letter and I don't even know the girl he was referring to. I feel it was done in a vindictive spirit.
[See "RVC: Watch Your Spelling!" Chakra May 23, 2002]
Who Is Qualified
Dear Bhaktin Millie,
Please accept my dandavat pranams and my best wishes. Sri Sri Guru Gaurangau jayatah!
It was with some concern and some distress that I saw your April letter to Chakra ["The Women: A Greater Inspiration" Chakra April 25, 2002]. You raise very valid points that ought to be addressed. Indeed, I am surprised that there has not been a reply to your letter on Chakra so far.
It is very unfortunate that brahmacari men are increasingly becoming ignorant of the proper respect they should give women. The answer "I'm a brahmacari" is hardly a gentlemanly one, smacking of one person being better than another. It is therefore understandable that you derive more inspiration and solace from the ladies. Whilst physical disposition should not be the primary grounds of choosing a guru, given your circumstances it is understandable why you question that there are not lady gurus to choose from.
I have received articles and private e-mails asking why I would post something like Sudama’s critique of Georgina’s spelling ("RVC: Watch Your Spelling!" May 23, 2002). Actually, my first thought was to reject the article, as it is simply a criticism based on gender, but then I had a second thought: If one person is saying this, surely many others are thinking it.
Dear Bhakta Matt,
Please accept my obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
It is good to question and examine before surrendering. Such submissive, honest questions are not only welcome, but required according to the Lord Himself. At the same time, we will not be able to understand everything immediately. Most of us have learned to put various questions in a mental "holding place" until we find the answers, or until we mature enough to understand the answers we find. Otherwise, will you desert your guru at the next point you cannot immediately understand?
Prabhupada is quoting Canakya Pandit, a famous moralist. Canakya states that one should not trust rivers, animals with horns or claws, women, or political rulers. Does this mean that we don't keep and milk cows because they have horns, or that we don't live near and use rivers? Canakya himself spent his life as a government advisor. The nature of all that Canakya mentions is that these people, things, and animals can (and do) suddenly change, and can be dangerous when they do so.
Nowadays it is common to hear the word "discrimination" in ISKCON society. When the word "discrimination" is used, it is often done to accuse one or more persons of being unfair to another person or group of persons, and this unfairness happens to almost always have something to do with gender. If women do not have political representation, that is called "discrimination," or that "the men" are oppressing women. If a guru-kula happens to take only male students, and not female students, then there are complaints and accusations that the heads of the guru-kula are "discriminating"—or that they are oppressing women and venting their hate on them. Or if we are feeling a little benevolent, we can dismiss them as merely ignorant and in want of a better understanding. So there is a women’s movement in ISKCON to right these wrongs, so to speak. But the so-called oppression of women that we are trying to rectify are things we will find all over the Vedas, and specifically in Srila Prabhupada’s books.
I am relatively new to Krishna consciousness, and admire your website. I have come across a question that has been haunting me and your site discusses, to some degree: the role of women in ISKCON.
The biggest thing keeping my heart from surrender is a statement in a purport on page 19 of the Gita that says women are less intelligent and therefore not trustworthy.
Watch Your Spelling!
While espousing the glories of the female brain, you made some spelling errors:
arguement = argument
You may wish to run the spell checker in your email program before you make a post about women's intelligence.
[Editor's note: I usually run the spell checker before posting an article, but sometimes in the rush of things, one gets past me, as in Georgina’s case. But believe me, the men don’t do any better. I spend much more time correcting the articles than laying them out, and most of them are written by men, so I don’t think it’s fair to make fun of Georgina when hers just happened to be the one that slipped through, although Sudama most likely did not know this.]
[See "RVC: Why Only Your Son?" Chakra May 19, 2002]
Dear Palika Dasi
I don't agree with your criticism of the RVC. It appears to me that the principle of Danavir Goswami is that celibacy is made easier for those who wish to achieve it by not being in daily contact with members of the opposite sex. You should be aware that monasteries have always maintained this type of discipline, as they do to this day particularly in the Far East, i.e India. In years gone by this was also a principle of Christian monastic life.
Why Only Your Son?
As an ex-temple devotee, now a teacher (of psychology at sixth form) and currently also studing for my MSc in Psychology, I am disheartened by the "give your son the highest eduation" slogan. Once again ISKCON sidelines women.
As a teacher of psychology I can only laugh at such a fallacy as the "small brain" theory recently debated on CHAKRA. The weight of someone’s brain has nothing to do with levels of intelligence. Nor are women "naturally" interested in "mundane" concerns as opposed to philisophical debate. Such ideas are absurd!
Let's therefore leave aside such futile arguements.
Why the Discrimination?
Dear Danavir Gosvami,
I’d just like to comment on your article "Give Your Son the Highest Education." As soon as I saw the title I almost cried. For my whole life I’ve wanted to study at a Vaishnava gurukula but due to the gender bias present within ISKCON was forced to attend regular school.
Now, at the age of 18 and planning on going to university next year, seeing that the male youth have the opportunity to get a Vaishnava degree but that the matajis are sadly overlooked makes me really angry. I find this very disappointing due to the fact that ISKCON is actually losing out on the respect of the female youth as well as their services. It’s time that the leaders understood that spiritual intelligence is based not on the body but on the devotion of the practitioner.
An Appalling Situation
In response to Atmavani Dasi's letter on the Women's Page: "Apology Accepted and Thank You," all I can say is that while the GBC's historical apology to women is a welcome step, it is absolutely appalling that women in ISKCON have to "negotiate" their fundamental spiritual and human rights from essentially an all-male group that controls the Governing Commission of ISKCON.
Until ISKCON changes its gender-specific marginalization of women in the name of "honor, tradition, and religion," women will continue to be nothing more than the second sex.
[See "Apology Accepted and Thank You," Chakra, May 21, 2000]
Women: A Greater Inspiration
I have been around ISKCON for some time and would like to take the next step and search for a spiritual master. However, in many cases the ladies have been a much greater inspiration to me than the men.
It seems to me that only the ladies exhibit devotional qualities, even in terms of simple friendliness and greeting me and my friends when we visit the temple. No men have ever greeted us, asked if we had any questions. When I wanted to ask for advice on something, I got the answer "I'm a brahmacari." I always wondered if that meant that being a devotee meant that one cannot be a gentleman.
The Women Reappear
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
I would like to comment on Rasa Lila's letter regarding "Mayapur: Where are They?"
As the web administrator for www.mayapur.info, I would like to assure Rasa Lila prabhu and others that the omission of matajis from the website has been unintentional.
Mayapur: Where Are They?
By Rasalila devi dasi
As suggested, I just checked the Mayapur info site out. I am so happy! Looking at the pictures on the website and seeing there are no lady devotees anywhere to be seen, it must mean that they are somewhere all together, glorifying each other for the wonderful selfless services they all perform in Prabhupada's movement. I wish I could be there. Or am I just really naive? :-)
[Complete on this page. See "GBC Meetings Website" Chakra, Mar 4, 2002.]
Women: Brain Research
Comes to the Rescue!
by Nandarani dd
Recently spent some time in Borders Books Honolulu browsing a new book by a male author. Found the following information and conclusions from this author who reports the research recently done by some scientists who are men.
Even though we have seen much discussion on the subject of women, no one has forwarded any information like this. I showed this to a male Prabhupada devotee who replied showing how this research backs up what Srila Prabhupada said about women but in a way that was not offensive to me.
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