A Response to the Brazilian CGB’s Recent Statement Murari Das

The CGB, ISKCON Brazil’s governing body, recently published a statement telling devotees not to share or discuss contents of the book Mothers and Masters (formerly; Women: Mothers or Masters?) on devotee social media sites. This is the statement:

 

Given that a series of misogynous publications have recently appeared on Facebook forums and pages, ISKCON Brazil would like to inform that the main source of such publications, the book of HH Bhakti Vikasa Swami called “Women: Master or Mothers?” (sic) does not reflect the official opinions of the institution, just as the GBC expressed through its Resolution 313 from 2016: ” The opinions expressed by Bhakti Vikasa Swami in his book “Women: Masters or Mothers” are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and practices of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), or its Founder-Acarya, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.”

We trust on the instructions of Srila Prabhupada to seek unity in diversity. On the other side, we expect this won’t come with an explicit ( or implicit ) attempt to diminish or suppress any group that participates in our activities, because this is exactly the opposite of Bhagavata-dharma transcendentalism, the conclusion of the Bhagavad-gita, emphasized by the previous spiritual masters and our Founder-Acharya.

Therefore, we emphasize that the book and its author do not speak in the name of any institutional resolution. And we’d like to remind everyone that the reproduction of this content in public gathering places for devotees not only deviates the discussions from valid transcendental topics, which could be discussed, but also unnecessarily attacks spiritual souls that have the same rights to take advantage of such places.

Your servants at ISKCON Brazil,

CGB – Brazilian Governing Body

Communications Ministry

Justice Ministry

Women’s Ministry

[ Click here to see the original statement on Facebook ]

We may recall that the GBC tried to ban this book a few years ago and this led to a protest by ISKCON members so intense that the GBC backtracked on the ban and claimed that it was an error in the resolution. The contents of this book however seem to be so explosive that now ISKCON Brazil management have even told devotees not to share or discuss quotes from the book online. The author of this article also tried writing a comment in reply to this statement on the CGB facebook page but that was removed too! So much for Unity in Diversity.

In the first paragraph above, the CGB used the word ‘misogynous’ to describe the postings from the book M&M (Mothers and Masters) that appeared on devotee forums. Misogynist refers to someone who hates women. In other words they are saying that H.H. Bhakti Vikasa Swami hates women. This is sort of language is not expected from a managerial body of a spiritual/religious organization overseeing the expansion of religious principles in society, and with so many people looking up to them as role models. It is obvious Vaisnava aparadha committed on a devotee who has been preaching Krsna consciousness practically all his life, and should be retracted immediately even before any discussion begins on the reasons and validity of statement issued by them. How can we say that Maharaja hates women given that so many women bodied devotees are disciples of and take spiritual guidance from Maharaja just like any other Guru in ISKCON? On Maharaja’s website we can see many videos of Women bodied devotees, families and male bodied devotees glorifying the book M&M. Would they do that if they thought Maharaja hated women or the book demeans women?

Resolution 313 of 2016 claims that the views of Maharaja in the book are not the views of Srila Prabhupada or ISKCON, however this is a strange statement indeed given that the book is made up mostly of Srila Prabhupada’s quotes with some comments from Maharaja, which is the usual way Maharaja writes books. These are indeed Srila Prabhupada’s views! The GBC and Brazilian CGB’s saying that they are not Srila Prabhupada’s views made it easy for them to reject the views as they did not want to accept them, for this would mean implementing them (Varnasrama and women’s roles according to sastra), which they don’t want to do.

The GBC used the phrase ‘Unity in Diversity’ quite a few times in communications when justifying their persecution of M&M; and here the CGB mentions it again. In this case it is just like someone saying they are making war to bring peace. If the GBC/CGB is trying to maintain Unity in Diversity, then why are they stopping us from expressing our views? Restricting and censuring a book and/or its contents seems like someone who rejects some views and wants to forcefully push their view not someone who wants to accepts diverse opinions.

The statement finishes of by saying, in essence, that the contents of M&M should not be shared or discussed on devotee websites as it deviates the discussion from transcendental topics and also victimizes spiritual souls (who oppose varnasrama or stri-dharma) who also have a right to enjoy such places (websites). Bhagavad-gita says in BG 18.46 that by doing their dharma, work ordained for them (Vaisyas, Brahmins, Women etc.), one can attain perfection and in Srimad Bhagavatam SB 7.11.29 it says that a women who performs her stri dharma – “…returns home, back to Godhead, with her devotee husband, and lives very happily in the Vaikuntha planets.” Considering this we can see that performing or talking about stri dharma and varnasrama dharma is transcendental as it leads to liberation and should thus not be stopped as the CGB advocates. The acaryas; Srila Prabhupada, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, Bhaktivinoda Thakur, etc. and the sastras; Srimad Bhagavatam as well as Bhagavad-gita, all spoke on these transcendental topics of knowledge as they are purifying and give us the way to go back to godhead. So why is the Brazilian CGB which is supposed to be representing Srila Prabhupada and the parampara ordering devotees to stop discussion on these topics?

The GBC, CGB and other devotees trying to stop distribution, discussion and now online posts of M&M exposes their aversion to Varnasrama and stri-dharma (the main subject of the book) and their inability to counteract and defeat the points in the book advocating their implementation and propagation. Their not being able to defeat the points is expected, because the contents of Mother and Master (M&M) are in consonance with sastra. They are eternal truths which are universal and not subject to the whims of so-called modern civilization with its upstart materialistic movements like feminism. Thus not being able to defeat the points they tried to stop the book and its ideas by labeling the author as a hater of women who is not representing Srila Prabhupada, hoping that it will deter devotees from absorbing those ideas. Such actions are unbecoming of the CGB.

One of the three members of the CGB put out a post on the CGB facebook page just after the statement was posted, explaining in great detail why the restriction was warranted and the post turned out to be longer than the resolution. Really, if this restriction on the contents of the book was warranted then there would be no need to justify it so elaborately as it would be self-evident. We could see so many points in his post that were different from Srila Prabhupada’s opinions (which is non-different from sastra) which should not be the case for a leader or manager in ISKCON. Srila Prabhupada’s ideas about women’s roles are clearly given in his teachings; an example is Bhagavad-gita, BG 16.7 purport, Srimad Bhagavatam, SB 7.11.25-29. M&M has simply taken out all such quotes and presented and discussed them. Following the guru, is the first lesson in spiritual life and all success will lie in following Srila Prabhupada’s instructions and not speculating or trying to follow newfangled modern ideas.

Srila Prabhupada said that feminism was simply another form of maya and that – “So-called equal rights for women means that the men cheat the women.” [taken from the Science of Self-realization]. Srila Prabhupada never started a women’s ministry or tried to encourage women to do what men did so why are we now deviating from his example? Just what is the purpose of this Women’s ministry and where does it fit in our efforts to propagate Krsna consciousness and establish Varnasrama? Are they in favour of Varnasrama and women’s roles in it or are they against? I was recently shown an article which showed that a senior member of ISKCON’s self styled Vaishnavi Ministry is a long time practicing divorce lawyer! This means she makes a living by breaking up families. This contradicts Srila Prabhupada’s opinion on divorce – “What is this nonsense, divorce? There is no such thing in the Vedic civilization, divorce. You must accept whatever God has given you as husband or wife. You must. …But there is no question of divorce.” [July 6, 1976, Washington D.C]. This is not the example we want to show outside society and not what we want to teach the young girls of our movement. We need to rethink our direction of preaching, and this should start with implementing Varnasrama dharma in accordance with Srila Prabhupada’s order and also shutting down the Women’s or Vaishnavi ministry which over time has shown to not be working in harmony with sastra and Srila Prabhupada’s vision of what women’s roles should be. The proof is that they are one of the parties that produced this statement of the CGB.

We thus call on the CGB and the other parties who wrote this statement to:

  • Apologize for calling His Holiness Bhakti Vikasa Swami a misogynist, hater of women.
  • Withdraw the statement issued on their facebook page which has been shown to be against the efforts to serve Srila Prabhupada’s mission.

Failing to do this will unfortunately lead us to conclude that the CGB and the other parties who wrote this statement are no longer supporting and propagating Srila Prabhupada’s teachings but have an agenda to spread feminism and other non-Vedic ideas of theirs.

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