– Lecture by H.H. Jayadvaita Swami on Srimad Bhagavatam 3.31.40 given in Mayapur on 7.1.2010
yopayati sanair maya
tam iksetatmano mrtyum
trnaih kupam ivavrtam
ya — she who; upayati — approaches; sanaih — slowly; maya — representation of maya; yosit — woman; deva — by the Lord; vinirmita — created; tam — her; ikseta — one must regard; atmanah — of the soul; mrtyum — death; trnaih — with grass; kupam — a well; iva — like; avrtam — covered.
The woman, created by the Lord, is the representation of maya, and one who associates with such maya by accepting services must certainly know that this is the way of death, just like a blind well covered with grass.
Sometimes it happens that a rejected well is covered by grass, and an unwary traveler who does not know of the existence of the well falls down, and his death is assured. Similarly, association with a woman begins when one accepts service from her, because woman is especially created by the Lord to give service to man. By accepting her service, a man is entrapped. If he is not intelligent enough to know that she is the gateway to hellish life, he may indulge in her association very liberally. This is restricted for those who aspire to ascend to the transcendental platform. Even fifty years ago in Hindu society, such association was restricted. A wife could not see her husband during the daytime. Householders even had different residential quarters. The internal quarters of a residential house were for the woman, and the external quarters were for the man. Acceptance of service rendered by a woman may appear very pleasing, but one should be very cautious in accepting such service because it is clearly said that woman is the gateway to death, or forgetfulness of one’s self. She blocks the path of spiritual realization.
Jayadvaita Swami: Yopayäti means “she”, the woman described in the previous verse, the attractive woman who is described as “pramadha”, “pramadha” means one who is creating craziness. One who drives a man mad. Beautiful women, attractive woman. Sanair, she approaches slowly. Sanair means slowly. It’s not that she sees you, she throws her arms around you and she says, “let’s have an affair, and then you can marry me and work for the rest of your life”. Slowly, slowly. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura says, “first she pretends she is not interested”. According to an authoritative book on body language there is one device: you are not looking at her but while you are not looking at her she looks at you and keeps looking at you, and keeps looking at you until you get the creeping creepy feeling that someone is looking at you. Then, because you get this feeling that she is looking at you, you turn toward her. And that’s when she turns away. And it is done with a certain gesture – what are you looking at me for??! And that of course creates further interest. Now, that she has turned away, he is totally confused, this is what is called in the hypnosis the “confusion technique”. Now he is confused, was she looking at me, or was she not looking at me? I thought she was looking at me but now I was looking at her. He is completely bewildered and he does not know what’s going on except that his mind is drown drawn in thinking about the women woman – was she looking at me, or was she not looking at me? Was I looking at her?
So sanair, slowly the woman attracts the man. One of our ISKCON teachers of young ladies confided with me that at a certain age the girls discover that if they move in certain way, dress in certain way, they can melt the guy down. And that power becomes a kind of fascination for the girl, she has to use it.
So women all over the world would act in a way that’s attractive, it’s just their nature. They are constructed by the world’s great expert, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He says, “mama maya durataya”, my illusory energy is practically unsurpassable because I did a really good job in constructing it. Particularly in the form of woman. Some place in the second canto, I think, it is said that Lord Brahma after creating so many things saw that the material energy was not sufficiently manifest, and therefore he created the form of the woman to finish the job.
So the woman is naturally made in such a way that she will be attractive to man and she will act in a way that will be attractive to man. Even if she is chaste and she is shy, that will be attractive to man. How chaste and shy that girl is! That will be attractive. Women are by nature attractive because Krsna made them in that way.
So sanair maya, maya means that what it’s not what you think it is. Yopayati sanair maya yosid deva-vinirmita. The woman who slowly attracts one tam ikseta, one should see in this way – atmano mrtyum, as death. And not just an ordinary death but atmano mrtyum, death for the soul. Death of this body, that’s inevitable. For one who is born death is certain. But this is atmano mrtyum, death for the soul. The killer of the soul is mentioned in Isopanisad. How does one kill the soul? The soul is described as eternal, everlasting. So how do you kill the soul? You kill the soul by identifying it with material energy. You kill spirit by identifying with matter. Soul is sat cid ananda but matter is temporary. Matter is a source of misery and covers knowledge. So when the soul is identifying with matter then it is practically killing himself. Or if you get the soul to identify with matter you are killing the soul.
And how is the soul identifying with matter? By association, attraction between man and woman.
pumsah striya mithuni-bhavam etam
tayor mitho hrdaya-granthim ahuh
janasya moho ‘yam aham mameti
The attraction between male and female is the basic principle of material existence. On the basis of this misconception, which ties together the hearts of the male and female, one becomes attracted to his body, home, property, children, relatives and wealth. In this way one increases life’s illusions and thinks in terms of “I and mine.” (Bhagavatam 5.5.8)
Therefore in the “Transcendental teachings of Prahlad Maharaja” Prabhupada says that maya begins when you see a girl and you think – she is nice. Sex attraction. This sex attraction is the cause, or the binding force of this material existence. And therefore Lord Kapiladev is advising, see with this vision, when you see an attractive girl slowly coming forward to offer service, see your own death approaching you, your spiritual death. Ikseta, one should see in that way – maya is approaching me, trying to kill my spiritual life.
“Tånaiù kupam ivavrtam”, the attractive woman is described as a blind well. A blind well is a well that is out there in the field and is covered with grass. An ordinary well is dangerous, you might fall into the well, but a blind well is super dangerous because you don’t know it is there. You think that’s just ground but actually it’s a well. And real wells are deep. And if it’s out in the field and you fell into it no one knows you fell in the well. They go looking for you hours late and you are gone by then. You cry for help but nobody is hearing you and you are lost. So this is the blind well, the unsuspecting person falls there, there is only grass, there is nothing substantial there, just little bit of grass.
So Lord Kapiladev very graphically and strongly says that this is what you are thinking you are going to enjoy. You are naive, you are fool. You are fool, you are naive, you think, here is something for my enjoyment. You don’t know what’s there. Here it is it what is really there. You are totally in maya, you are thinking there is ground there, but it is a well. Just like Duryodhana became bewildered when he went to the palace of the Pandavas and he mistook the water for the land. So Kapiladev says you are naive, you think here is a nice, attractive girl who is coming to do some service to me, how nice. And you don’t see that it is your spiritual death that is approaching you.
Prabhupada explains, it is through service, this is a particular danger that the woman is made in such a way as to serve. And when she comes forward to do a little innocent service, the man becomes attracted but now there is a death. When there is a service offered or service rendered there is a debt incurred. I will do something for you, but now you feel, or I will make you feel, although you should not feel, that now you have to do something for me. Human relationships are full of this. There is a service account; I have done that much service for you and now you have a debt, you owe me a favor. I have done something for you, so it is understood, though might not be written down, that you should do something for me. The more favors I have done for you the more favors you owe me. And that’s how it works in politics, in friendship. Anyone who receives service owes a debt to the person who rendered the service. That’s natural and that’s what makes human relationships.
So here the woman comes sanair sanair, slowly, slowly. Just to offer a little service. And the man thinks well, that’s nice. But he does not put into account that by offering the service she is offering you the opportunity to become indebted to her. Just like the banks, they offer you credit cards, preauthorized, because by taking advantage of their service you become indebted to the point where eventually they take over your house, they take over your life. And it all started with a free offer of a preapproved credit card.
So the man unsuspectingly accepts the service. And now there is a debt, now he feels she did something for me. If it is slow and subtle enough he thinks, this is a nice girls, she did some nice service for me. He may not even think about it, but it’s there, in his consciousness. Amongst so many girls, she is a nice girl because she did some service. And now he feels that he wants to reciprocate, or that he owes to reciprocate, in some small way. And now that he reciprocates in a small way she also reciprocates in a small but slightly bigger way. And then he reciprocates and she reciprocates and it builds on like that, gradually increasing the size and velocity until the relationship becomes active, or should we say, manifestly active.
So one should be very careful about that. Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura saissays:
“Knowing the man’s detachment the women shows her lack of desire and approaches him with the guise of service. She then becomes a source of trouble. The well is thinking: let the man fall into me. Therefore no one should go near that blind well.”
If you know that out in the field there is a blind well you stay away from the whole field. You stay away from the whole area.
“No one should go near that blind well, whether one is completely indifferent, having bhakti, jnana or vairagya, whether one is unconscious because of eating or sleeping, or even death. One should avoid women completely.”
This is the implication of the blind well. One should be so careful. Even in married life, Prabhupada mentions, that one should not liberally associate even with one’s wife, so that life becomes only about you and your wife. This is one of the advantages of the joint family system when several brothers are living together with their wives, 2-3 generations together. You get parallel societies – one male and one female, so that the men associate with men and the women with women. And it is not just about two people living in constant juncture, dealing all the time with their minds, their desires, counter desires, in relationship which is bewildering and entangling. It’s restricted. The men had their section, the women had their section. And they did not spend all their time in association with one another, the family did not mean husband and wife and children, it meant a larger circle of people so that it was not just about the man and the woman.
So therefore the association between men and women in the Vedic system is restricted. Brahmacarya – no association, sannyasi – no association, vanaprastha – no sex, and grihasta life – restricted association. Not unlimited sex, not even unlimited association. Limited association. Because this association is such a cause of bewilderment. Prahlada Maharaja also uses the same example, the blind well which is killing one’s spiritual life. One should be very careful about this.
I had practical experience. The first book that I edited was the 3rd canto of Srimad Bhagavatam. So before the book was published I had the opportunity to read the 3 canto and especially the instructions of Kapiladev. So I was little informed. While I was working at ISKCON press doing typing and editorial work, there was one, at that time young lady, who was also sometimes working at the press and sometimes doing pujari work at the New York temple. And every day she came in the afternoon, she would have come from doing the four o’clock offering to the deities and she would bring me little cup of fruit, every day.…… Krsna prasädam, Krsna’s mercy.
Jayadvaita Swami: But because I was prepared from Lord Kapiladev, I graciously accepted that cup of fruit every day and gave it all away to the devotees and never touched it. Because if I have accepted it that meant accepting service. And accepting service means accepting indebtedness.
This is a practical, high-magnitude problem in our society, that sannyasis accept service from women, especially young women and they become indebted. There was one GBC man who wrote a letter to Srila Prabhupada concerned concerning about some advanced ladies who were proposed to serve the sannyasis. And Prabhupada said no. Prabhupada said, “it is not possible, Sannyasis may have no connection with women.” The sannyasis become leaders of the society or they become Gurus and then service is offered. We make spiritual advancement by serving the sannyasis or senior devotees, temple presidents, or Gurus. But one should be very careful when the service is offered by a woman because one becomes indebted.
And this is not theoretical; we have lost a lot of men. By this slow process, sanair sanair, it starts with little service, then little more service, then it becomes gratitude, then it becomes reciprocation, appreciation, then dependence, or feeling that if she is not there, why she is not there, if she is not serving me, why is she not serving me, and it grows and it grows and it becomes a disaster.
What intelligent person would say yes, I want to work hard my whole life so that we may buy curtains…and everything else. What person, seeing all the troubles that result of association of man and woman, would want to do that. What intelligent person who have having done it once and burned himself, would want to do it again, and a third time?! This is called maya. As far as possible one should avoid this maya completely. If one can, one should avoid it completely. If one is serious about crossing the ocean of material existence one should be very careful about association with women and with men who are too attached to women, because they are contaminated. If we associate with such men we will catch their disease.
So Lord Kapila is very strong here, there is an emphathic order for to those who are serious about spiritual life and we should not minimize the value of His instructions. We should avoid this tendency to mingle, men and women “innocently” mingle, that should be cut down as far as possible. That association should be restricted. It should be as little as possible. And one should associate with Krsna by serving Krsna and by chanting the Holly Name of Krsna, being always engaged in Krsna’s service.
Suresvara Prabhu: Maharaja, since elsewhere in Prabhupada’s books it is said that the men form is also a form of maya for the women. A woman may think, where are the warnings for us? The men are being warned about us but where are the warnings for us about the men?
Jayadvaita Swami: Because men and women are different, the warning for the women is: “One man”. For women to be without the association of a man would be more difficult because the woman is weaker and requires security and support. Men don’t require anyone to support them. They can go independent. But women are designed in such a way that security is very important to them, protection is required for them, and that means a man. The father in childhood, the son in old age, and in youth – a qualified husband. So the Vedic literature, being very pragmatic and realistic, does not instruct women, “stay away from men”. It says instead, “be married to one and then stay away from the rest”. Women are advised to be chaste and that chastity is a form of protection for them also. A woman who is unchaste unnecessary attracts the attention of any man on the block and all sorts of trouble comes. So as the man is advised to avoid the association of women, the women are advised to be chaste and also avoid the association of men. I was just reading, when Krsna entered Dvaraka the women went up to the roof tops to see Him. They did not go down to the street to elbow out the men and mix. That means they maintained their dignity and chastity.
Women are attractive. This arouses the attention and aggressiveness of the men. Therefore in the modern way of life women dress super attractively and act super friendly and so on and it works against them. They are thinking we are free, we are equal, but what is that actually, they are setting themselves up to become victimized. The men become more attracted and more aggressive and then they file a complaint that this man sexually harassed me. But in their unrestricted position they become eligible to be victimized. I go to the Middle East every year and I see that the Muslim ladies always travel in 2’s or-3’s on the street. They are covered and they maintain their dignity. And the western women come there also with their clothes and they basically announce to the world that “I am a prostitute and if you have the right amount of money I am available”. No dignity. And they are simply used. And they don’t become happy by being used; they go for therapy, for abortion, for this, for that, that’s not happiness. And in at the same time USA is making propaganda how the women in the Middle East are being oppressed. There may be some examples of oppression, but the basic principles are nondifferent from the Vedic principles, that the dignity of the women should be maintained. They themselves should maintain it themselves and the men who are responsible for them should also take care of this.
Suresvara Prabhu: But it seems that if the men take these instructions of Kapiladev seriously there will be no men to protect the women…
Jayadvaita Swami: Everything will be over. If everyone takes this advice there will be no more marriage, there will be no more sex and no more humans, human civilization. But that’s not going to happen.
Question: What should be our attitude when we see temple presidents and sannyasis accepting service from women?
Jayadvaita Swami: Well, your attitude might be – better them than me. Those who are looking for spiritual master, for spiritual guidance, you might note it. You might note it that I like this person, he gives nice instructions, but he accepts a lot of service from women. You might take note of that. And you will not be unreasonable or foolish to take note of that. Before accepting a Guru one should observe him for one year, right? What do you observe? How he is dressing? One thing you should observe is; is this person intimately associating with women. Is he accepting service from women, if he does, under what conditions, under which circumstances, to what extent? Some sannyasi he has got a number one of his followers is a females, and a female is doing his laundry, and is his secretary… You might wonder and you might be justified. And if it really looks bad you might be justified to go to one of his friends and tell him I am concerned about this person. He is such an important person, responsible person, and looks like he is too close to Krsna dasi. You might be even concern to the point of raising the alarm which might be very kind think to do. What you should not do is to get to your computer and start typing messages on internet. Unless you really want to be an uncultured person who does not know how to act, what to do and what not to do.
We see that even advanced people sometime accept service but with great care. Srila Prabhupada accepted service from ladies but he was very careful about it.
Jayadvaita Swami: First thing is; is she is attractive. May be she is chaste. But she is attractive. She is not lusty, she is not doing anything. She is just attractive. That’s already a problem. That’s what Kapiladev is saying, he does not say that the lusty woman is a problem; He says that the attractive woman is a problem. For someone who is trying to get out of the material energy, it’s not anything wrong with her, it’s him! He has a mind and the mind is attracted to that beautiful woman, that’s a problem. It’s not that she is evil, lusty, unchaste, acting improperly, it’s just that she is attractive, that’s the problem.
Question: I appreciate the class but it seems that our movement is going through phases were we have conservatives and liberals. So in some areas of the world this kind of thinking is seen as backwards…
Jayadvaita Swami: So you think that Lord Kapiladev is backwards? What does this says about your thinking?
Question: That may be correct but I just saying, in some areas of the world…
Jayadvaita Swami: But if they think there that Lord Kapiladeva is backwards, that area must be very much backwards…
Question: But these people say that since our movement is growing we have to become more liberal in order to attract new more people.
Jayadvaita Swami: How many sannyasis we have we lost because they were too strict in their dealings with women? Lets be really open-mindeddoubted – name one. Name one sannyasi who has fallen down because he was overly restrictive in association with women. And if you wanted to go the other way, because we will go the other way, name those who have fallen down because they were careless. We will be up in the 30, 40, and 50 in about 10 minutes. Within 5 minutes. Right? So where is the problem then? Is the problem that we are too tight in association with women, we are avoiding them too much, we are not mixing enough with them, we are not free and liberal enough, is that why we have lost so many valuable men? Is that why many areas in the world have seen their book distribution going down from here to there? Because people were too restrictive about association with women? Or is it the other way?
Candramauli Swami: Is it true that if you accept service from anyone and if you don’t give it back then you have to take birth again?
Jayadvaita Swami: I never read a statement like this but service creates debt, no doubt. If you accept a service from anyone it creates debt. But if you are Krsna conschious all debts are paid. And if you keep the service that someone rendered to you for yourself not redirecting it to Krsna then you create debt for yourself. Because our job is to redirect all service we receive back to Krsna and we are not supposed to keep it for ourselves.
Question: The message of Lord Kapila is strong and transcendental, how can the women can use it for their benefit?
Jayadvaita Swami: They can reverse the information and understand that the material attachment to a man is also a source of trouble. Ultimately men and women have to be attracted to Krsna.
We have to understand what the material illusion really is, what sex life really is, and then only we can understand what is Radha-Krsna.
Question: This verse is so discouraging for us, women; how to overcome this material platform of low birth and to think of ourselves as spirit souls?
Jayadvaita Swami: Women should not think I am a woman, she should think I am a servant of Krsna. This warning is given to men, it is not given to women so that they start thinking I am terrible, incompetent to serve Krsna, everyone should think I am a spirit soul, a servant of Krsna. But women should know that they can serve their society, community, family, by chastity. Women should know that this modern society is not good for them. Materialistic society encourages this, you are expressing yourself, you are expressing your femininity, your womanhood. We have a different culture where women become exalted by self restrain, by dignity, in that way they help the men in the society and they help themselves. There is an article in a feminist Indian magazine called “Restrain as a feminine strategy” which is available on internet. And although we might not agree with everything the author says, she has pointed out that by sexual restrain women get power. Women should know that by self restrain they get a position of power. And the lady who wrote the article gives examples about the life in a community or in the family where women opted for self restrain and how they obtained a position of power. And you can think of Sita, how empowered she was that armies were mobilized for her. Chastity has power, it is a power position. And women don’t want to be powerless; women want to be empowered. By sexual looseness one disempoweres himself whether you are a man or you are a woman. So if you want to be powerful, like the question, o”oh, I don’t want to be discouraged”, no, take it as opportunity to become powerful. How do you become powerful? By serving the Supreme Powerful. Krsna says everybody is eligible for devotional service, it is not only the men, everybody. Take it as a power position.
Question: If I was a young lady interested in Krsna conschiousness and I came across to this verse as my introduction to Krsna conschiousness that would not be nice, I could only hope to take birth as a man. How would you present this verse to a newcomer, a female?
Jayadvaita Swami: Well, I just did. This might not be our introductory verse when we go out to preach, but everyone should understand the basic principles that we are not this body, that we are spirit soul, so if someone is discouraged that you are talking about me in this way, but no, I am not talking about you, I am talking about someone’s body. The first point is that you are not this body, man or a woman. I have to act in a certain manner because my body is there, I have to take it into account, but I don’t think I am this body. And what it is said for the body does not pertain to me, I am spirit soul, part and parcel of Krsna, what’s this have to do with me? So I am not a man, I am not a woman. And if the newcomer stays around long enough around she will find out that actually the a woman is more empowered first, on the platform of chastity, and second on the platform of Krsna consciousness. Women who are chaste are more powerful than those who are not chaste. A revolutionary concept for the West.
But even modern women who are not Krsna conscious, who are not Christian, who are not religious, this is another article, that in the best colleges of USA there are societies of women who want to be chaste. Because they see it as a power position. As a feminist platform. Not as a religious platform, not as a traditional platform, as a feminist platform. We are sick and tired of being exploited, and we are exploited because we are loose. And these guys want us to be loose so that they can victimize us. And we are sick and tired of it, we are going chaste. These are women who are not religious, who do not belong to a Muslim or Hindu culture, who are just smart. So for the women chastity is the power platform and the best chastity is Krsna consciousness, so if you are a woman and you want to be empowered, chant Hare Krsna.
Devotees: Jaya! Haribol!
Question: Prabhupada advised the devotees to see women as mothers and as mothers, can we serve Vaisnava men?
Jayadvaita Swami: The example is Sacidevi, the mother of Caintanya Mahaprabhu. When He took sannyasa she was grief-stricken, that now my Nimai will leave. But she thought that, for my own happiness I would like to keep you here, but I can’t do that because I have to consider your happiness, your purpose in life. So she said you please stay in Puri. She did not say you please stay at home. So that means she considered what is the best for the spiritual advancement of her son. So if the mothers of the sannyasis and the brahmacharis think in this way, what would be the best for the spiritual advancement of my son, that will be good.
Question: On what stage in Krsna consciousness can one can become free from the perverted love?
Jayadvaita Swami: On the stage of Krsna prema. Then one is immuned against the influence of the perverted love. Like Haridas Thakur, when the prostitute came, after same some time she just fell on the ground because nothing worked. Because he was situated on the platform of perfection. Everyone who is situated on a lower platform should be careful. And even those who are situated on that platform are careful, to set a good example for others. We have the example of Srila Prabhupada who chastised his servant for allowing him to be alone with his 70 years old sister. Prabhupada was that careful. “Why did you leave me alone with that woman??” That very old sister of his. “Why did you allow me to be alone with that woman”? That’s how careful Srila Prabhupada was; and we are not on the level of Srila Prabhupada, so how careful should we be if we are serious about spiritual life and going back to Godhead.
All right, thank you very much. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Devotees: Haribol! His Holiness Jayadvaita Swami Maharaja ki-Jaya!