Srila Prabhupada said that women are less-intelligent than men. Can we support this?

Session Two of a seminar on Sri Isopanishad given in Mayapur on 31.01.06 at MIHET

Hari sauri dasa: Who asked the question yesterday? That we were going to answer later on? Repeat the question please. Identify yourself so the tape recorder can record who you are! (everyone laughing).

Doyal Nitai dasa: In the introduction of Sri Isopanishad there is a statement by Srila Prabhupada that says that women are less-intelligent. So I distribute books. I sometimes meet ladies and they ask what actually, you know, sometimes they are immediately intimidated and they start to argue, that you say we are less-intelligent. So what would be the best way to address such issues?

Hsd: Ok, so I am going to deal with this first thing, before we get onto the Invocation because its an important question. It does come up in preaching a lot, it was, as you say, mentioned in the Introduction to the Sri Isopanishad.

It is problematic–supporting it. At least, a lot of devotees feel so; ladies especially, because they don’t like to be considered less-intelligent. And many men, many of our leaders in the Society, sannyasis and gurus, have a hard time dealing with this particular issue.

Over the last few years, there has been another approach to explaining this, which purports to try to preserve Srila Prabhupada’s integrity, while at the same time denying the truth of this statement. It’s a tricky balancing act, but people are doing it because they are affected by the criticisms our Society has to undergo, or we as preachers, that “Why are you discriminating against women and saying that women are less-intelligent.” And that there are many women that don’t join this movement–at least some people say–because we are prejudiced against women, or because Srila Prabhupada was prejudiced against women.

So how do we deal with this?

Yesterday we were talking about axiomatic truths. What is an axiomatic truth? Someone?

Student: Something which is not requiring proof.

Hsd: Something that doesn’t require proof, it is self-evident. It means, in other words, it’s a reality. Right? It doesn’t change. It’s a fact, it’s a fact of life and you either accept it or you don’t, but there it stands and you can’t demolish it.

Now, as far as some of the statements that Srila Prabhupada has made, some people say these are not axiomatic truths, they are not sastric. But rather they are products of the cultural milieu that Srila Prabhupada was brought up in–nineteenth century Bengal, early twentieth century morals and values, India society that suppresses women, keeps them in the home, makes them cook and wash and keep their mouths shut. Yes? Whereas in the west we have a different situation. That women are actually intelligent. They take on jobs–judges, high court judges, professors in universities–they have intelligence and they do the same jobs that men can do.

So therefore how do we deal with Srila Prabhupada’s statement, especially when we are preaching to the intelligent class of people in the universities? How do we deal with Prabhupada’s statement that women are less-intelligent? Its become a big problem. There’s no doubt about it.

But there is an answer.

First of all we have to not take the approach that there are two Prabhupadas. This is the approach that many are taking, that there is the scriptural Prabhupada and then there is the old Bengali gentleman Prabhupada; there is a spiritual Prabhupada and there is a material Prabhupada; there is a liberated Prabhupada and there is a conditioned soul Prabhupada. Or there is a Prabhupada that repeats certain things that the conditioned souls say, prejudices that the conditioned souls have, because of his upbringing. Because of where he was born and the age that he was born in. Limited by time, place and circumstance. So this kind of preaching is going on in our Society right now. Amongst some of the top people in our Society–they are affected by this.

My approach is that everything Srila Prabhupada said is true. That’s the first thing. That if Prabhupada said something, it is a fact, from a transcendental perspective, not from a material perspective.

If you look at everything that Prabhupada said, and particularly there are certain points that Prabhupada was adamant about and would not change–one of them was about the relative intelligence of women compared to men. He even underwent great public criticism in 1975, when he was visiting Chicago. He made this statement and it was actually put out on the news, that the old swami thinks that women are less-intelligent. You know, he’s a throw-back to a hundred years ago. And actually there was one TV crew that came to interview him as a result of this statement being publicized. And everyone on that TV crew were all women (laughter). The interviewer was a woman, the cameraman was a woman, all the technical team, they were all women. So they were trying to make a statement. And then they challenged him, “Do you actually think that women are less-intelligent?” They were thinking that now, by the force of their presence, they could make Prabhupada back off. And Prabhupada said “Yes.” (more laughter) They said “Why are you discriminating against women?” And Prabhupada said, “I am not discriminating. Nature has discriminated.”

Nature has discriminated–this is an important statement, because Prabhupada is not talking as a conditioned soul.

We mentioned yesterday about the statement Prabhupada made about the varnasrama, the position of soul as seen from the varnasrama perspective, rather than being seen as ‘Hindus’ , that actually the real situation is varnasrama. Why varnasrama?

From Sri Isopanishad Introduction:

“You may call the Vedas Hindu, but “Hindu” is a foreign name. We are not Hindus. Our real identification is varnasrama. Varnasrama denotes the followers of the Vedas, those who accept the human society in eight divisions of varna and asrama. There are four divisions of society and four divisions of spiritual life. This is called varnasrama. It is stated in the Bhagavad-gita (4.13), “These divisions are everywhere because they are created by God.” The divisions of society are brahmana, kshatriya, vaisya, sudra. Brahmana refers to the very intelligent class of men, those who know what is Brahman. Similarly, the kshatriyas, the administrator group, are the next intelligent class of men. Then the vaisyas, the mercantile group. These natural classifications are found everywhere. This is the Vedic principle, and we accept it. Vedic principles are accepted as axiomatic truth, for there cannot be any mistake.”

Because varnasrama is divine. It is in the material world–there is no varnasrama system in the spiritual world–but, the material world is a creation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

It works according to the divine law. And the kinds of bodies that the soul gets are specifically designated, they work in specific ways, according to the plan of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, according to His creation.

So Prabhupada’s stance was that there are differences between the bodies of men and women. This is how he explained it.

Now I will just give you an example of this. We were on a morning walk, this was on December 10th, 1975 in Vrindavana, I had only been with Srila Prabhupada two weeks at that time, and there was a discussion about men and women:

(Quote from TD 1): “When Harikesa mentioned that nowadays there are women senators and ambassadors, Prabhupada still did not concede that this means equality.” (end quote)

You see, this is the big thing: men and women are equal. In the modern age everybody has to be equal. This is the great want. That if there is inequality, that means there is suppression and it means abuse. So you have to make everybody equal and then everyone will be peaceful.

Prabhupada went against the political correctness that has emerged in the last forty years by saying that women are less-intelligent than men. He didn’t say that they have no intelligence, but comparatively he said, (continue quote): “He did not concede that this means equality.” Why? Because “That simply requires education,” (end quote) to do these jobs.

In other words, Prabhupada’s estimation of intelligence is different from what the ordinary calculation of intelligence means. Intelligence, yes some intelligence is there to do all these different kinds of jobs–to be a politician, to be an ambassador, to be a senator, or to be in the legal profession or to be a business person etc. That requires a certain kind of intelligence. But that’s not the criteria that Prabhupada was using when he makes this comparison between the intelligence of men and women.

Does anybody know what the criteria is? Who can say?

Student: Understanding of the spirit soul.

Hsd: Yes, Prabhupada defines intelligence in the Bhagavad-gita. What does he say? “Intelligence means the ability to discriminate between spirit and matter.” That is intelligence. This other, ordinary functioning, this is just education. You learn things, so on the strength of your memory, your experience, and you do things. Of course, how you judge the quality of what you are doing, that is another thing. Just because someone is a high court judge doesn’t mean that the quality of their judgements is going to be very beneficial. The American High court in 1973 in the Roe vs. Wade litigation decided that it was legal to have abortion. In other words, that children within the womb are actually just lumps of matter. They are just ‘tissue’ that can be removed if the parent doesn’t require their presence. So that is a high court judge nowadays. That is not intelligence. That is not intelligence according to our standard.

We say ‘veda’ means ‘knowledge’, so Prabhupada was talking from the point of view of real knowledge–what is the living entity, what is his purpose in life, and what is the goal. So the first thing, the first item of intelligence is to discriminate between spirit and matter. It was on that basis that Prabhupada made relative judgements. Just as in the varnasrama system we say that a brahmana is more intelligent than a kshatriya, a kshatriya is more intelligent than a vaisya, and a vaisya is more intelligent than a sudra. There are differences. Differences in the way the brain works, the capacity to understand. In a sudra and a brahmana there is a vast difference. The occupational duty therefore is different. It is tailored to fit the developed consciousness or the development of the consciousness of that particular living being in that particular body.

There are differences between bodies. Nobody can deny it; so the idea of equality is bogus on the material platform. There is no such thing as equality on the material platform. There are differences everywhere you look. In general, in the varnasrama system, Krishna says there are four differences; brahmana, kshatriya, vaisya and sudra. And He classifies women along with sudras.

There was an attempt by these people that claim that Prabhupada was just talking from an ordinary material point of view, to say that ‘maybe Prabhupada was just talking because of his upbringing and that we should find out now if Krishna actually says that women are less-intelligent.’ They were hoping that they wouldn’t find anything where Krishna says that women are less-intelligent, because that would substantiate their idea that there is a material old Bengali gentleman Prabhupada. Unfortunately–for them–there are statements where Krishna says ‘stri, sudra and dvija-bandhu’–these classes are all less-intelligent. Why? Because they have a difficulty to understand the difference between spirit and matter.

So that’s the statement; now that’s from a sastric point of view. This is our beginning point for upholding Prabhupada’s statement that there are differences between men and women.

However, we have to be careful:

(quote continues from Dec. 10, 1975 MW): “However, when Caitya-guru took his comments to imply that this difference means that women are subordinate, Prabhupada corrected him. “Not subordinate, actually. Their occupations are different… That is another mistake.” (end quote)

To use that discrimination in a way to subordinate someone, to control them, manipulate them–subordination implies abuse of some kind or another and taking advantage of them–no, that’s not what its for. You have to recognize there are differences but its not so that you can be a manipulator and a controller with the knowledge that you have, that if you see or you think that someone is less-intelligent than you. This was the mistake Prabhupada said, how the varnasrama system broke down into what became known as the ‘caste system’. The caste system was notorious for the brahmanas using their position or births to manipulate the so-called lower classes. To make them serve them. It’s a misuse of their position, and it’s the same idea here, that women are subordinate. No. It just means that their occupational duty is different, that’s all.

If you don’t put a person in the occupational duty that they are fit for then there will be so many problems. You try to make a sudra sit down for eight hours a day and study sastra and see what happens. He should be out digging ditches, cultivating the fields, fixing things with his hands; that’s what he is good at, that’s what he knows. He doesn’t need to sit down in a school for six–eight hours a day and have to learn so many different things; he can’t do that. Similarly, you put a brahmana in the field with a plow and see what will happen to him. The communists tried to do this–-‘get rid of all the intellectuals because they are the guys that can expose us.’ So get rid of them all, put them all out in the fields–-re-education. That re-education means let them work until they drop dead. And that’s what happened in many cases, in Cambodia, in all of these different places where communism came in, in Korea–-they tried to subdue them all. ‘Level playing field’—that means bring everybody down to the lowest common denominator. But what happens is, the whole country suffers.

Firs of all you can’t suppress that which is there by nature’s order. If a person is born with intellect, you can’t suppress that. If a person is born to go out and make money, you can’t suppress that. Hm? Capitalism. It’s a natural system, capitalism. Going out making money, doing economic endeavor. It is necessary for human society to live. Some people have to be good at economics. Providers. That means taking resources and providing for the rest of human society. Essentially Krishna says, providing food. Agriculture, Krishna says this is the first business, krishi and go-raksha, looking after the cows. Why? Because the cows are vital for the health of human society–-milk, it’s a vital element for keeping everybody healthy and happy. So you live according to nature’s way, not artificially. This is a vaisya, he has that propensity. You can’t stop it. Therefore the communists, they couldn’t stop people from making money and after sometime, seventy years, the whole system collapsed, because they had to finally admit that these guys are not going to go away. ‘It doesn’t matter what we do, they are there.’

And of course, despite their idea that there is a classless society, there were the ‘haves’, and the ‘have-nots’. Everybody knows that. I read a thing about Stalin, it was a report by someone who was working in one of the big bureaucratic buildings, government buildings in Russia and this person was describing how Stalin came, and ‘he had walked down this passage way, he had stepped on this piece of marble; we should get down and bow down and touch our heads to the holy imprints of Stalin.’ This was an actual statement. So Stalin, although he was equal with everyone–-he was the first amongst equals, as they say. Right? He was the ‘equal’ that was being worshiped by all the other equals. (laughter)

So you can’t do away with these four orders of society, its not possible. You can’t artificially make everyone equal. You can only make people equal when you separate them from matter and bring them to the position of spirit souls. Everybody on the spiritual platform is equal; but on the material platform these differences are there.

So, women and men, there are differences. And I will give you one example why those differences made Srila Prabhupada say that women are less-intelligent than men, as he said that sudras are less-intelligent than brahmanas.

In modern science–-you can utilize the information that comes from their studies, Srila Prabhupada did that, he wasn’t against the use of science per se, he was against the misuse of science to deny the existence of God, but science itself can be helpful sometimes–-there have been some studies done in recent times, especially in medicine, which suggest that not all medicines work the same way for everyone. There is actually a new branch of medicine that is coming out that is gender-orientated. That some medicines work better for men than they do for women, and vice-versa; some medicines work better for women than they do for men. Although they are treating apparently the same disease, but because there are biological differences the medicines don’t have the same effect.

In other words, its not ‘one size fits all’, you actually have to tailor-make everything according to the biological and psychological constitution of the person that you are dealing with. Women and men actually have different biological constitutions, and as a result of that they have different psychological constitutions also. Some things are the same, but some things are different.

They are starting to discover now that there are literally hundreds of ways which the human brain, male and female, process information that are different from each other. You give the same information, the same stimulus through the senses but different parts of a woman’s brain deal with it than a man’s. Different parts. They have a different way of perceiving things, they have a different way of dealing with things.

So one of those ways is for stress. Everybody is under stress right? Practically. Especially in the modern age living in the cities. Everybody is totally stressed out running from pillar to post as they say, just trying to earn a bread. So everybody is totally stressed out. How do we deal with stress? Well as it turns out, men and women deal with stress completely differently.

When women get stressed out they sit down together and they talk, that’s all. They talk, and they talk, and they talk (laughter). I am not saying that just because we are all men in this room. I have said this in class in temples and all the women agree, they all know it–-they like to talk. You put a group of women together, they love to talk. Why do they love to talk? It’s not just because the comedians have made jokes about it. It’s because there are biological reasons why. When women get stressed out and then talk, they produce a chemical in their bodies–-or a chemical is produced, it’s not like they are consciously manufacturing it, but the body works this way–-they produce a chemical called oxytocin. Its an interesting chemical because this substance is produced when a woman breast feeds a baby.

Now Prabhupada always mentioned, one of the things he always used to say was that “Men and women are different, why? Because a man can’t become pregnant and a woman does.” It seems like a simplistic statement but when you get right into the details its actually a sutra. Its very, very meaningful. It means biologically there are differences.

What happens when a woman breast feeds a child is that her body gets flooded with oxytocin. O-x-y-t-o-c-i-n. Oxytocin. It gets flooded with oxytocin. And what does oxytocin do? It makes you feel really good. Its like being doped up. It makes you feel really happy. So this is one reason why women like to breast feed. Why? Because they feel really happy themselves. Its not a burden that their kid is sucking all their milk out. No, it’s a pleasure. Because the oxytocin is convincing the mind that this is really pleasurable. The mind is affected by this.

In the same way, when women talk, they get stressed, they talk–-oxytocin. Relief. It’s like being doped up. You are being doped up actually, by nature’s arrangement. Oxytocin begins to flow as soon as they start talking, and they feel very good.

Whereas with men–-testosterone. Yes, the newspapers all like this ‘Oh men–testosterone! BRRRaghh!’ Yes, it’s a fact. Testosterone inhibits the production of oxytocin. Its stops it from being produced. That’s why when men sit and talk, they are not satisfied with just talk. They want solutions.

They all say, ‘men like to fix things.’ ‘Women like to talk and men like to fix things.’ If you have ever read ‘Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus’, John Gray, he is a practicing psychologist and psycho-therapist, so after twenty years experience, he wrote this book. What’s the premise of it? That men and women are different. That this idea that men and women are all the same, it’s bogus. And the first example that he gives is that women like to talk and men like to fix things. That when a woman comes to a man when she is stressed out, and she immediately wants to talk, and the man listens and he says, after a couple of minutes, “Well, why don’t you do this?” Or, “If you do that, then that will fix it.” And then she yells at him, “You’re not listening to me!” (laughter) Right? Why? Because he’s trying to fix it, the problem, but she’s not, she just wants empathy, that’s all. Women get together, they empathize with each other. It doesn’t matter what the problem is, they empathize with each other and then they all feel happy. It doesn’t matter if they don’t get a solution to the problem–they don’t want a solution to the problem in a lot of cases–they just want the release. They want the release–-oxytocin. Men–-testosterone. They want to fix things. They are not satisfied unless they actually come to a solution to the problem.

Men are introverted by nature. John Gray describes in his book how the American Indians they have this thing that when a man goes into his ‘cave’ he should be allowed to stay there for some time, don’t disturb him, when he is in his cave. When he comes out from the cave, then you can talk. So he is using these analogies and he is explaining that men and women are different and they should learn how to interact properly by understanding the differences in their natures. Men should be a bit more empathetic to their ladies when they want to talk–-hear them, don’t try to fix things, just hear them that’s all, they want that release. And women should be a bit more respectful and not demand from the men that they sit and just talk when the man is actually in his cave, when he is in his more introspective or introverted period.

So this is a simple difference. But it also has implications in our understanding of how intelligence works. Because, real intelligence as Prabhupada says is the ability to discriminate between spirit and matter. Why would you want to do that? Anybody? Why would you want to do that? Why would you want to discriminate between spirit and matter?

Student: To come to a solution?

Hsd: To come to a solution. To fix the problems of material existence. To recognize that we are all under the stress of janma-mrityu-jara-vyadhi-duhkha-doshanudarsanam. To see that this material existence is one stress after another, one stressful situation after another. To be born; to get diseased; to grow old; to die–-this is stress. Fix it! Any intelligent person would want to fix it. How do you fix it? By discriminating between spirit and matter. By understanding that we are not this body, we are spirit souls and then, vairagya-vidya-nija-bhakti-yoga. Vairagya, detachment, due to knowledge. Due to this ability to discriminate between spirit and matter, see the dukha, the suffering of material existence and get out. Find out what is beyond matter and then aim yourself towards liberating yourself from the suffering of material existence. This is the sum and substance of human life.

So what Krishna is saying, what Prabhupada was saying, is that ‘men’ or the male form, lends itself, the biological and psychological structure of the male form is more suited to fixing those problems than the female. The female has to actually battle against her own body and mind to be able to become detached. She has to fight against the ‘oxytocin’ and whatever else, this is just one thing, there are many, many differences in the bodies but this is one example–-that soul has to fight against the ‘feel good’ reactions of her body and mind which don’t produce solutions. She has to fight against the tendency to just be happy in just talking and come to the platform of actually solving the problems. So women in general don’t like to do that.

They don’t mind religion. A lot of them have, as Prabhupada said, a simple faith that God exists because they feel a need for shelter. Not that they don’t want any solutions but by nature they don’t generally like to come to the solutions themselves and they tend to take shelter of a man to do that. A man is a provider and a woman is a nurturer. A woman is empathetic with the children. There are biological and psychological reasons for that. But she still has to solve the problems of eating, sleeping, mating and defending, and so she looks to a man to do that. He goes out, he earns the money, he provides the house, he does so many different things–-these are solutions to temporary problems, immediate problems. But the man, by nature, biologically and psychologically is more capable of solving the ultimate problems of life. The male form lends itself more easily to that. To become fully detached.

The woman, it is very difficult for a woman to become detached from the material world; its not an easy thing. Its not an easy thing for anyone, but its even more difficult for a woman. You can see, I was just reading something on the airplane, some quotes about having children. So one woman she made this comment, “Imagine taking your heart out of your body and having it outside you for the rest of your life–-that’s what its like to have a child.” Right? Take your heart outside and have it outside you for the rest of your life. That’s your kid. In other words, they have a very extreme attachment to their children. Their kid was developed in their womb; the kid’s body is part of their body, part of the mother’s body. And then when the kid comes out, there’s that immediate empathy between mother and child, the breast feeding thing and there’s many different ways that women become entangled and attached and emotionally absorbed into the lives of their kids. And its very, very difficult to retract that. Biologically its difficult, psychologically its difficult.

Therefore Prabhupada said, women are less-intelligent than men. Because the real business in life is going back home, back to Godhead.

Now, as a footnote, Prabhupada did say on quite a lot of occasions that “Yes, women are not as intelligent as the men, but when a woman becomes a devotee, then she becomes as intelligent as the man.” Now, is he just fobbing us off with some platitudes, that “Oh well, I don’t want to upset them.” That Prabhupada didn’t want to upset his own disciples so, “All the other women are less-intelligent but you are not, because you are my disciples.” Is that what Prabhupada is doing? No. What is he doing? He is recognizing that here is a woman–here is a soul–who has in one sense, a bigger handicap, just like in golf, they give you a handicap—Anyone seen the movie ‘Bagger Vance’? There is a movie called Bagger Vance. Its from ‘Bhaga-van’. Its based on the Bhagavad-gita. Its an analogy using the golf course as a kind of a comparative, but anyway, in golf there are different handicaps. So if you like, although there is the same playing field, but not everyone is the same. There are different handicaps. The brahmana has maybe a one, and a sudra has maybe a twenty, or whatever it may be, so in the same way, in the playing field of life, the bodies that we have, give us different handicaps. So ladies handicap is higher than a man’s. That’s the point.

But if one can overcome the handicap and actually come to the point of practicing Krishna consciousness, understanding that this is the real necessity of life, to come to a solution of the problems of old age, birth, death and disease, then that person becomes equally as intelligent.

So Prabhupada is not just giving some platitudes. He is speaking the truth. He is saying “Yes, there are these differences, there are these handicaps that women have that men don’t have–-of course, men have their own handicap, but its not as big as a woman’s. We are all conditioned souls, we are all handicapped by the fact that we have a material body, but within those bodies there are different levels of handicap. But still, if you take up Krishna consciousness seriously, then you have every chance, whether you are a man or a woman, of going back home, back to Godhead in this life. If you do it seriously. Therefore Prabhupada said that men and women in Krishna consciousness, their intelligence is the same.

Ok, does that answer your question?

Doyal Nitai: Yes.

Hsd: He asked the question, so let him answer. Let’s have a bit of follow up.

Student: It’s not always that we can give such a convincing or long talk to (unclear). What is the best way to address it immediately, just a couple of words to relieve the person on this point.

Hsd: Well, if they are challenging the first thing you can say is “Actually from our point of view, everybody is a spirit soul. So we are all equal from that point of view. But at the same time we recognize that there are differences in bodies, that’s all. So we make some adjustment for that. That’s all.” If they don’t like that, then what can you do?

I once gave a Sunday feast lecture in Christchurch, NZ. As soon as I sat down this woman yelled out “Are you going to talk about women’s problems? Are you going to talk about women’s equality?” So everyone was, it was a packed house, there were a lot of people there, 100-120 people, and I sat down, and I said, “I am going to talk about everybody’s problems. Why just women? I am going to talk about not just women’s liberation, I am going to talk about everybody’s liberation.”

Everyone was satisfied with that but her. And because I wasn’t going to talk just specifically about women’s equality, then she jumped up and refused to stay. So I told the devotees, “Just give her some prasadam and let her go.” You can’t do anything with people like that. Because their intelligence is blocked. But if the person is a little open, if their inquiry is reasonable, not demanding or offensive, or challenging, then you can…

On the spot, you only have a minute, you can give them that kind of answer and if they actually start following up on it, you can sit down and start unpacking the whole thing. You can’t do everything on the street that’s not possible.

But you should at least know the truth of what Prabhupada is saying and not become an apologist for Srila Prabhupada; that is deadly for spiritual life.

People that are doing that are insulting Srila Prabhupada by saying that he was affected by mundane intelligence. I can tell you from living with Srila Prabhupada for a year and half Prabhupada was entirely transcendental all the time. Everything that he spoke was from the transcendental viewpoint.

If we don’t immediately understand it, or if we find that some of the things that he said to be difficult to deal with, it doesn’t mean that they are not true and it does not mean that we should therefore look for some ‘work-around’, some way of passing it off because we are too embarrassed to actually speak out and say “Yes, what Prabhupada said is true.” That means that then we are in material consciousness–-not Prabhupada.

So what these people are doing is that they are projecting their own material consciousness onto Srila Prabhupada. Then what is the use of saying that “Prabhupada is my guru.” If you actually don’t accept what Prabhupada said, then be honest and admit it. If you have some problem, “Oh, Prabhupada said women are less-intelligent, I can’t support this,” then be honest and admit it and then let’s talk about it. But don’t make excuses. Or say “Well that’s just because Prabhupada was born in Bengal and that’s the way they treated the women in the first half of the twentieth century.” This is offensive, to take that kind of approach.

We should be confident that Prabhupada was a transcendental, fully self-realized soul. And that he could see things that we can’t.

Another example I will just finish up with, because we are going to come onto this next in the course, is that when Prabhupada got Svarupa Damodara dasa, brahmacari at that time, now Bhakti Svarupa Damodara Swami, when he brought him into the fold, the ranks of the devotees, initiated him, he told him, he said “I wanted to defeat the scientists; now I am not a scientist, and I don’t know the scientific arguments,” but he said, “I am convinced I can defeat them, all of them, on the basis of the Vedas.” He had that conviction, and he knew the Veda is correct, its axiomatic, and that there is nothing in material science that can actually match it. He knew that, but he didn’t have the words, the methodology, that would convince a material scientist that, “Oh this is something worth hearing.” So he said, “Therefore, Krishna sent you along.” He is a scientist. “So you can defeat them.” So he told him, “You go out and challenge them all over the world. Challenge them and defeat them.”

Ok, so are you convinced? (laughter)

But you have to have this conviction and some understanding, so that you can support what Prabhupada is saying, that’s my point. Otherwise what are we doing here?

Student: I have one question about what is the distinction between what is emotional intelligence on the side of the ladies and the more rational intelligence on the side of the men? And sometimes it appears also on the higher spiritual realms its more about emotions. Actually it is all emotions, spiritual pure emotions. And sometimes it appears that this emotional intelligence of the women is even more capable to enter this realm of spiritual emotions because they are more used to it by nature, acting on this emotional level. Just to have this attachment to Krishna because they love him, not because “Oh I have to go through this varna (not clear) or because of such a rational approach.” So how can we understand this?

Hsd: Yes. So, how do you come to like Krishna? First of all you have to understand who Krishna is to know who it is that you are liking. Why did Sukadeva Gosvami in the Bhagavatam spend several cantos explaining about the creation of the material world? The creation according to Lord Brahma. Its because first of all you have to understand Krishna as the Supreme Lord. Awe and reverence is the first position. That requires a little logic if you like. Rational intelligence. To see the vastness of nature and understand that this is just a tiny fragment, this entire universe, and how it works–-many universes and how they work. This is just a tiny fragment of Krishna’s potency. And that also coming from a part of a part of Krishna. Maha-Vishnu. This whole universe, many billions of universes like this one are just a product from the breathing of Maha-Vishnu, and who is Maha-Vishnu? He is a portion of a portion of Krishna. He is an expansion of Sankarshana, Sankarshana is an expansion of Balarama, Balarama is an expansion of Krishna.

So when you talk about loving Krishna you had better know who Krishna is first. Otherwise, your sentiments towards Krishna, without first knowing the capability of Krishna, without first knowing the vastness and the power of Krishna, then it will be that you will have material sentiments that you will try to impose onto Krishna. And then you will become a sahajiya. They don’t know who Krishna is, they don’t have any interest in Bhagavad-gita, they don’t have any interest in the Isopanishad.

When Srila Bhaktisiddhanta went to Radha-kunda in 1935 then the word went out that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati is coming, he is going to be speaking. So all the Radha-kunda babas, they all came to hear him talk. And then as soon as they understood he was talking on the Upanishads, they never came back. “Oh, he is not talking about Krishna. These Gaudiya Vaishnavas they are not elevated. They are talking on the Isopanishad, the Upanishads.” That is their mentality. And at the same time they are going off, smoking bidis, three dozen widows they are keeping–‘seva-dasis’. Prabhupada was very critical of them.

That is all emotion. So Prabhupada said, “First deserve, then desire.” You can read the section about the gopi-bhava club in Los Angeles [June 1976], how Prabhupada dealt with that. I have written about that in the second volume of my [book] Transcendental Diary. Where Prabhupada explains there, because they were saying, “Oh we just want to develop the emotion, or the desire of the gopis in serving Krishna, because they had the highest emotions and desire towards Krishna.” Prabhupada banged the table, he said “First deserve, then desire.” He said there is no question of spiritual desire unless you are freed from material desires.

So that rationality has to be applied. When you get to the spontaneous platform of devotional life, then you can start talking about emotions. So its not enough just to be emotional. Men also have emotions, it’s not just women, but women tend to be more emotional, that’s the problem. The problem is that many times the ladies get carried away with their emotions, they get overwhelmed with their emotions, so they are always crying. That’s one of the releases that they have. When they get overwhelmed they burst out crying, then afterwards they feel better. Its just another biological, psychological release for them. But just becoming emotional is not a qualification for becoming a lover of Krishna.There is a lot more to it than just emotion. If you want real emotion, it has to be based on real knowledge, vairagya-vidya, then bhakti-yoga.

So just that simple feeling, “Oh I like to dance, I like to chant,” alright, that will help you, but read the Bhagavad-gita, read the Isopanishad, read all the other books, read the First Canto, then the Second Canto, then the Third, then the Fourth, and when you get to the end of the Ninth Canto, if you have understood all of that, then you can read the Tenth Canto. Then you can see the smiling face of Krishna. Otherwise it will just be some sentiment. Any sentiment is nice, but it can easily mislead you, that is the point. Without knowledge.

So there is a lot to be said for being rational. When you have been through the stage of rationality, and you come to the transcendental platform, then you can become irrational. Like the gopis of Vrindavana or the gopas; they become completely irrational. Because the only rationale they have is Krishna, and their attachment for Him. And if there is any threat to that attachment and that relationship with Krishna they become completely irrational. That madness is there, that is one of the transcendental symptoms. But you can’t imitate that on the material platform.

Therefore you can’t use this as an argument: that women have this emotion, so they are more suited to bhakti. This is one of the arguments that the Mayavadis use. More suited; yes, this bhakti is for the women and the less-intelligent. That is the accusation that was made against Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Right? When He went to Prayag, and He was dancing and chanting, all the Mayavadis, Prakasananda and his followers, they were all criticizing. “Oh, He is just some sentimentalist. That’s all. He is supposed to be a sannyasi and He is dancing and chanting.” “We are the real transcendentalists,”–yeah, dry. (laughter) These are the Mayavadis sannyasis–“We sleep on the concrete, we only wear kaupina, we never smile!”

No. So you have to know what is transcendental emotion and what is material emotion and you have to know how that transcendental emotional platform is attained. Its not an easy thing to get those emotions.

In one sense, what you are saying is true, that the feminine nature is actually well suited to bhakti, because every spirit soul is feminine. The purusha, that’s Krishna. And every other spirit soul is sakti. It means the feminine counterpart. So in that sense that’s alright, but to understand that is not an easy thing.

OK, so its eleven o’ clock and we have gone a lot longer than I wanted to on this particular topic, but I know this is an important one and I wanted to take the time to really get into it. Is there any other question on this? Yes prabhu.

Student: Thank you very much for this, it is very relevant for us because we are discussing this in bhakti sastri course now, and I find this is relevant in our movement today and I want to ask you, is the difference, the first question you answered, the difference between man and woman, I think it is expanded in our Society also, in devotional service, because I mean, Prabhupada said that their intelligence is equal, but still duties are different; and these things should be emphasized. Its not that, you know, in our conditions, its not that a bhaktin comes to the temple and puts tilaka and decides to chant sixteen rounds that she is immediately transcendental. So my question is, isn’t this important also in devotional service?

Hsd: Yes, it’s a good point. That just because we have walked through the door, shaved the head, put on saris, (laughter) put on tilaka, or dhotis–-I am talking about men and women (laughter), (to student): Oh, do you want a sari or what? (lots of laughter) Was that a Freudian slip? (more laughter)

Yes, so just because we have taken initiation it doesn’t mean that now we are home. We are a long way from it and we have seen that in the forty years of the Krishna consciousness movement, just coming up, that it’s not that easy actually to realize that you are not this body. It’s a gradual process and I am starting to see what Prabhupada meant when he said that after many lifetimes as a devotee that eventually you may get to the point that you can go back home back to Godhead. Or you can do it in this one lifetime, if you take full shelter in the process. But what we see is that most people that have come along, after some time, you know, we mentioned yesterday about the ‘cultural bleeding’, the tendency is that the conditioned nature starts to exert itself again after some time, after the novelty of being a devotee starts to wear off a little bit. We start to slip back again because our conditioning starts to drag us back to the things that we were attracted to in our karmi life. And then the real business begins. Bhajana-kriya, by practice, but then anartha-nivritti. So getting up to the stage of anartha-nivritti is very difficult. We have seen that. Not many people are able to go beyond that stage, or even up to that stage; we usually get kind of embedded in this bhajana-kriya stage. If we are lucky we might keep on with that, a lot of people don’t even do that. After they get initiated, then they are off.

But actually to develop a full understanding that ‘I am not this body’ is not an easy thing. And therefore we cannot artificially make men and women equal, even in ISKCON. You know, this thing about ladies leading kirtanas and things, there are many different areas, demanding. But if you could do that in a situation where everyone is self-realized, and nobody is agitated—fine. But it doesn’t work like that generally.

Therefore Prabhupada had some separation of men and women because he knew that sex attraction is very, very powerful. Many, he says many, big transcendentalists have fallen to the allurement of money and women. Sense enjoyment. It’s not an easy platform to get to, where you are actually aloof and free from that. Therefore you have to deal with the men and women very carefully. So we try to make some separation and if you want to associate with a woman, then get married. [2477] Then there is an asrama for that–grihastha not grihamedhi also. Some practices are also there. So there are many rules and regulations that are meant to gradually guide us higher and higher. To get more and more purified and gradually wean us off the addictions that we have to material pleasures. And they are very powerful addictions. Very powerful.

So as you say, we can’t just walk in and say, “Ok, everyone is a devotee. So men and women, everybody should just mix together and everybody do all the same things.” It doesn’t work that way. We are affected by our conditioned natures and therefore Prabhupada said even in ISKCON we should introduce the varnasrama system. We had a talk with Srila Prabhupada on February 14, 1977 right here in Mayapur on the balcony of the Lotus building outside Prabhupada’s rooms. And he was emphasizing the need for varnasrama, that we should introduce it into our Society, and we actually put up several of the arguments, yes, that “Well aren’t we all devotees?” “Aren’t we beyond the varnasrama system?” “Didn’t Lord Caitanya say that the varnasrama was external?”

We put up all those arguments and Prabhupada shot them all down. He said “Yes, you are chanting Hare Krishna but the problem is that many of them are not even chanting their sixteen rounds.” He said that unless a person can do that they shouldn’t be given brahmana initation. Let them go and live on the farms, let them work, and let them live happily as devotees and make steady progress. But there is no need for everyone to get brahmana initiation. So he was being very practical. He was realizing that, he was giving them the opportunity but a lot of people were not able to take advantage properly and he saw the need for a social structure. He saw that need. Prabhupada was a very far-seeing person.

His first intent was setting up a preaching organization, to spread Krishna consciousness all around the world. Therefore he emphasized very much, brahmacari, sannyasa–he gave sannyasa very liberally in the early years, say from 1970 to say 1975. But from 1975 onwards he started to become more cautious, and he was recognizing that we go through this period of enthusiasm and then when the enthusiasm, the newness, wears off, then we fall back. So where is the net to catch us? Where is the safety net? That safety net is varnasrama. To fall, not back into material society, but to fall into a transcendental, a daivi-varnasrama society where you can still make progress in your spiritual life and at the same time recognize the fact that you have material propensities and that you have a need to express yourself through those propensities in human society.

We can’t all just step back and say “That’s it, now its all finished, now my material life is over.” It doesn’t work that way.

So Prabhupada was keen that we have a varnasrama system even within our own society, and to exhibit to the world at large what a sane, organized human society actually means.

So yes, we have to be conscious of all these things. We can’t just artificially make everyone into pure devotees. Because we are not. There are very few; out of all the devotees there are very few of them. Just like in the universities, out of all the people in the universities, there are very few that are at the post-graduate stage. Most of them are all under-graduates. That’s our situation in ISKCON. And it will always be like that.

So then, even when you are very advanced, still you act to the benefit and the example of those who are not advanced. So its not like all the pure devotees, men and women, they just get together and they just do whatever they like. They could do that; if they are actually pure. But they don’t. They observe the etiquette. Because people in general–-yad yad acarati sreshtha—they will follow whatever example is set. Whatever they see the big guys doing, they will want to do themselves. But they are not qualified to do what the big guys are doing. So the big guys do what they (people in general) should be doing. They only act as if they are neophytes themselves and then that keeps everything in order.

Any other questions? Krishna-kripa prabhu?

Krishna-kripa dasa: Just your comment as far as women being less-intelligent, you said that they tend to be more attached to making their bodies comfortable and making themselves comfortable in this material world, which from a spiritual point of view is considered less-intelligent.

Hsd: Yes–oxytocin! (laughter)

We were in Calcutta in 1977 and when Prabhupada arrived there were no ladies living in the building there in Albert Road, because it’s a horrible building actually. Prabhupada said it’s a horrible building, well he didn’t use the word horrible, but he said the building is useless but the location is very good. But anyway, in the 1970’s the facilities there were very poor. Space for ladies living there was extremely limited and way below, it was very sub-standard compared to what we had in the west. So what had happened was that some of the ladies had gone to live at the house of Mr. C.L. Bajuria, who was a very, very rich man and he had his own mansion, and he had a building at the side which was for the servants. So he allowed our ladies to stay in that building because it was just nicer.

When Prabhupada came he was invited by Mr. Bajuria to go over for lunch. When he went over, Mr. Bajuria was there with his wife and his household and then there were 3-4 ladies from ISKCON who were also there, waiting to receive Prabhupada. And when Prabhupada saw them then Mr. Bajuria made a joking remark. He said, “Welcome to the ISKCON Ladies’ Ashrama.” Prabhupada smiled, we had lunch, we got back to the temple, he called in Abhirama prabhu who was the temple president, and he said, “You immediately have the ladies leave Mr. Bajuria’s house and make them move back into the temple.”

That one remark that he (Bajuria) made, Prabhupada said, “I can understand that it has become an inconvenience.” He said “Why do you think these big men have such big houses? Because they want the space. Not so that they can have someone else come and live in it. They want the space.”

So Prabhupada said, “He is being polite but I can understand that it is inconvenience for him, having our women stay there.” And then he quoted this verse, “bhogaisvarya-prasaktanam tayapahrita-cetasam; In the minds of those who are too materially attached to sense gratification, they can’t make advancement in spiritual life.” So he said that this is the position of the women. That as soon as they get anywhere where they can make themselves a little comfortable then immediately, “Oh, very nice.” So he said “You immediately bring them back and make them live in the temple. But he said do it in such a way that Mr. Bajuria is not disturbed. In other words, do it in such a way that Mr. Bajuria doesn’t think that because of his remark that ‘now they are all being hauled back to the temple.’ “Just tell him that, ‘Now we have made some suitable arrangement at our temple for the ladies, so thank you very much for your facilitating them, but now we don’t require it anymore. Then he will be happy and…”

So this was his point: that the women get too attached to material surroundings and comfort, and that’s not good for spiritual life. So it is a good point.

Krishna Kripa: Another difference that I notice is that, like we will have a big festival in Alachua, then the next day at mangala-arati there will be thirty guys there and there will be like, four ladies, although its more or less the same normally. But that you will always notice, that the day after a big festival that all the guys at still at the temple but the ladies are all wiped out…

Hsd: Well, I want to comment on that. It’s a good point about the proportion of women and men in the ISKCON society. As far as I know its always been about 2/3 men and 1/3 women, roughly. Always.

Now, there is some propaganda that the reason for that is because Prabhupada has always been perceived as being prejudiced against women by saying that they are less-intelligent. So is it because Prabhupada said that? Or is it because women actually don’t like renunciation, and they are not attracted to the Krishna consciousness movement because it tells them that sense gratification is not where it is at? That you actually have to give up this material world and detach yourself from the material world?

That is more difficult for a woman to appreciate. And therefore less women have joined the Krishna consciousness movement than men. This is actually the real reason why there are less women than men.

Any other questions? No other questions?

We have to know how to deal with these things. You know, these are challenges. Statements that Prabhupada has made in the course of preaching are being challenged now, not just by the karmis, but by his own followers; so-called followers.

This is how transcendental movements deteriorate and gradually become material, social events. Yes? This is what has happened to Hinduism. It was originally a transcendental system, but it has deteriorated because people.. its “ardha-kukkuti-nyaya”. Does anyone know what that is?

Krishna kripa: Half chicken!

Hsd: Yes. Its half-chicken logic. You want the end that produces the egg, but you don’t want the end that you have to feed. Chop it in half. Keep the end that produces the egg–-you can enjoy. The other end, you have to work and find the grains and feed–-throw that bit away. But then what happens is that you end up with a dead chicken, that’s all. No egg.

So the same way with Srila Prabhupada. If you look, this is why the apa-sampradayas have developed. After Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s time what happened? Immediately Vaishnavism began to degrade. Of course, Narottama dasa Thakura, Shyamananda, Srinivasa Acarya, they came from Vrindavana and they actually formalized the Krishna consciousness movement in many ways, due to the writings they had been given from the six Gosvamis. They were sent over because the movement in Bengal was starting to deteriorate–-immediately after Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s disappearance. So many different opinions were starting to come up and therefore the acaryas, many of whom who were in Vrindavana, they saw, “Now there is a need , we have to get the actual teachings written down, then send these young men over, they can preach, they are self-realized souls, and they can establish the siddhanta, they can maintain the siddhanta properly.” So that’s what happened. They came over and they preached extensively.

But still the tendency was there right from the very beginning. And within a few hundred years, by the time of Bhaktivinoda Thakura, everything was finished. Almost. Vaishnavism was just a means.. it was considered a sex-religion. Exactly what you were saying. Sex-religion. All sentiment, no philosophy. That means that whatever sentiment I have, whatever propensity I have for sense-enjoyment, now I just project that into so-called transcendental lila. Now I use Krishna and the gopis dealings as the rationale for me going off into the forest at night with three dozen women. This is what happened.

So many deviations and apa-sampradayas came about because there is this tendency to, rather than give up our material propensities and give up our material misconceptions, we rather try to change what the acarya has said to make it suit our present condition. So that we are not embarrassed when a lady comes up on the street and challenges, “Why do you say that women are less-intelligent!? I am a professor at the university! How dare you say I am less-intelligent! Have you got a degree? I have a degree. I have a Ph.d.!” They will challenge you like that. And what are you going to say? “Oh no, actually you are more intelligent than me…” (laughs) But this is what happens.

So you have to be capable to actually uphold the statements of the acaryas, and not try to rationalize them to suit your own current time, place and circumstances. There are some things which are inviable. The varnasrama system is inviable. And the differences between men and women are inviable. They are there. They are biological and psychological facts that there are differences in different kinds of bodies, that’s all. It’s as simple as that.

It doesn’t mean that you are disqualified from making advancement but it means that you should know what your propensities are and you should be engaged in a particular way so that you can get the best out of this body and mind by serving Krishna.

So we are not against women, Prabhupada was not against women; in fact, it’s ironic that Prabhupada was the one person in the Gaudiya Matha that was inviting so many women, young women, and allowing them to stay in the temples, and he was being criticized like anything for doing that, here in India, by his own godbrothers. Now he is being criticized by his own so-called followers. That he is prejudiced against women. What can you do?

Student: Just one question about this point that we can advance spiritually through a lot of life-times, or we can surrender completely in one life time. It is not completely clear for me what means surrender completely? What is the standard?

Hsd: Surrender completely means that you give everything that you have got, right now, at this moment. And then you sustain it. Then you sustain it. It means that you remain surrendered. That’s the problem.

Sometimes out of sentiment we feel very enthusiastic, and we give everything that we have. Just like in Australia, we had a couple that joined the New Govardhana farm community. Very enthusiastic, so this lady had some land, and they insisted that we want to give this land to ISKCON. It was an inheritance. Several devotees told them not to do it because they were new. “No, no. We have to do it. We want to do this.”

So then they went ahead and did it, and we made a legal agreement, they had some lawyers look at it, and made sure that they had signed some things saying that “Yes, we are not doing this under duress, we are doing this because we want to do it, blah, blah, blah.”

Then later on, after a few months, they broke up, the couple. And then she immediately sued ISKCON, to get the land back. She had given it freely and she had stated legally, but then she sued us to get the land back. And then after a big court case, hundreds of thousands of dollars spent, the judge gave her the land back. He ordered us to pay her the money for the land and we had already sold it on to someone else. So now we have about a $400,000 debt. Because this woman, after her initial enthusiasm, she changed her mind. Even the newspaper said, “This is ‘India-giver’. You know what an Indian-giver is? Anybody from America knows what an Indian-giver is. Veda Vyasa, what is it?

Veda-Vyasa: When you give and then want to take it back.

Hsd: Yes, It comes from the 1800s, when the American government was expanding, and they were invading the Indian lands. So they would go there, they would make a treaty with the Indians, “Yes, this is your land, we won’t touch this,” and a few years later some more Americans would come, and then they would say, “Actually there is some gold on this land, this is very fertile land, why should the Indians have it?” So then they would break that treaty and then take more land, and then the Indians again would make another treaty, and then they would break that treaty. Every treaty that the American government made with the Indians they broke–-Indian givers. They had no intention of keeping the treaties–-that’s where it comes from.

So this newspaper, they said, “This woman is an Indian-giver. She has given it and now she is trying to take it back.” And of course they said it sets a horrible precedent now for anyone who gives something to a religious society, later on, years later, they can come back and say “Now I want my money back.” What kind of position does that put you in?

It’s a problem. Some people get enthusiastic for some time and then afterwards they change their minds. So we have to be a little careful about that. What was your question?

Student: About lifetimes, surrender completely.

Hsd: Yes, so surrendering completely, we shouldn’t be Indian-givers. Not to Krishna. We give everything to Krishna and then the next day we decide we want it all back again.

If you want to sustain your gift of giving everything to Krishna you can only do that on the basis of knowledge. By knowing that everything is Krishna and that everything belongs to Krishna in the first place. But really knowing. So that you are never tempted again to try to be a controller or an enjoyer in this material world. Or a possessor.

So yes, we can surrender, but surrender is forever. Not today, and then tomorrow you change your mind. That is not surrender. So that requires practice. It actually requires lifetimes of practice, to be able to do that. But you can do it in one lifetime, Prabhupada said that. If you are really serious about Krishna consciousness, if you follow the practices, chant Hare Krishna very seriously, then at the end of this life you will be able to go back home, back to Godhead.


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