HUSBAND AS GURU – HOW ABOUT SRILA PRABHUPADA AS GURU?

The article “Husband as Guru” presents much of what could be considered common-sense advice for husbands struggling to come to the human platform. However, some grave faults mar what otherwise might in some contexts have been valuable suggestions.

By predicting “that some men will not agree with me (although I doubt any woman will disagree)” the author anticipatingly dismisses any opposition from males as being mere chauvinism. I am currently imprisoned in a male body, but it is not on such flimsy grounds that I perceive significant blemishes in what he calls his “illumination.”

The author constructs his thesis on a series of assertions (for instance, that “we have a higher divorce rate in ISKCON than in the outside society”) for which he submits no evidence.  Presumably the reader is supposed to accept everything he says just because he says it. However, no serious scholar in any field would give credence to a series of opinions built on unsubstantiated pronouncements. Such is the stuff of cultism and propaganda, not intelligent journalism.

Also in short supply are quotations from guru, sadhu, and sastra – a triad that defines gender issues quite differently to the manner prevalent in today’s world.

But by far the most disturbing element of the article is that the author contradicts Srila Prabhupada. He poses the question, “Is it the woman’s fault?” then paraphrases Srila Prabhupada by stating that “a failed marriage is usually the woman’s fault,” and follows with his own opinion: “if a woman has a good husband, she will stay loyal.” (Noticeably, the comment of Srila Prabhupada’s that the author feels compelled to oppose is directly derived from sastra – Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.4.3 – and concerns Sati’s disobedience to Lord Siva, whom I hope the author does not adjudge to have been “unreasonably demanding”).

In effect, the author declares that he is right in this matter, and that Srila Prabhupada and sastra (and maybe Lord Siva also) are wrong. As if to emphasize his point, he twice states his assertion in exactly the same words.

The underlying theme of the article, that disloyalty in women is caused by bad husbands, is observably not always true (I will refrain from providing sad stories here, so as not to add more pain and embarrassment to the concerned ex-husbands).

Surely the main qualification of a husband as guru is that he himself be a strict follower of his own guru. Only a faithful disciple is fit to be a guru; to uphold the opposite to one’s guru places one outside the parampara and renders one disqualified to instruct anyone. To misuse the status of being a disciple of Srila Prabhupada to instruct others contrary to Srila Prabhupada’s teachings is clearly a type of cheating and a betrayal of Srila Prabhupada.

In the following purport, to SB 9.3.10, Srila Prabhupada offers guidance to wives who feel their husbands to be difficult and incompatible. Unlike at least one of his seemingly more enlightened disciples, Srila Prabhupada does not offer grounds for a woman to abandon a husband who she supposes to be not “good.” Being based on sastra and dispensed by an indisputably realized acarya, Srila Prabhupada’s advice is certainly more valuable and authoritative than the “illuminations” of anyone who has the audacity to contradict him.

— QUOTE —

“This is an indication of the relationship between husband and wife. A great personality like Cyavana Muni has the temperament of always wanting to be in a superior position. Such a person cannot submit to anyone. Therefore, Cyavana Muni had an irritable temperament. His wife, Sukanya, could understand his attitude, and under the circumstances she treated him accordingly. If any wife wants to be happy with her husband, she must try to understand her husband’s temperament and please him. This is victory for a woman. Even in the dealings of Lord Krsna with His different queens, it has been seen that although the queens were the daughters of great kings, they placed themselves before Lord Krsna as His maidservants. However great a woman may be, she must place herself before her husband in this way; that is to say, she must be ready to carry out her husband’s orders and please him in all circumstances. Then her life will be successful. When the wife becomes as irritable as the husband, their life at home is sure to be disturbed or ultimately completely broken. In the modern day, the wife is never submissive, and therefore home life is broken even by slight incidents. Either the wife or the husband may take advantage of the divorce laws. According to the Vedic law, however, there is no such thing as divorce laws, and a woman must be trained to be submissive to the will of her husband. Westerners contend that this is a slave mentality for the wife, but factually it is not; it is the tactic by which a woman can conquer the heart of her husband, however irritable or cruel he may be. In this case we clearly see that although Cyavana Muni was not young but indeed old enough to be Sukanya’s grandfather and was also very irritable, Sukanya, the beautiful young daughter of a king, submitted herself to her old husband and tried to please him in all respects. Thus she was a faithful and chaste wife.”

— END OF QUOTE —

Not all instructions of Srila Prabhupada were meant to be fully applicable in all times, places, and circumstances, and a responsibility of astute disciples is to point out exceptions and how to deal with them. Such guidance can be actually valuable if it is based on guru, sadhu, and sastra, not on hearsay and personal opinions. Members of ISKCON are duty-bound to uphold the authority and dignity of Srila Prabhupada, and should be careful to not even unwittingly position themselves as more knowledgeable, wise, and expert than he.

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