On the 26th of July we welcomed 40 ladies in Kharkov/Ukraine, who had traveled all the way from Moscow, Minsk, Moldova, Crimea and various corners of Ukraine to participate in the two-week course for ladies entitled “Exploring the Roots of Spiritual Culture”. As every year we had arranged for their accomodation in a nearby hostel of a ladies’ college. Our youngest participant was ten years of age and the oldest mid fifty, and everyone was excited to embark on this transformational journey. Each and every participant received a colorful folder with printed materials and articles. We had a tight schedule with a three hours’ session in the mornings, and another 2 hours in the afternoon. Every morning we began the lessons with a role play demonstrating the topics of the previous day’s discussions. Whenever ten-year old Manjari took part, the role plays were especially heart moving and sweet.
One of the many captivating topics was chastity – what exactly does it mean? These days we often have a very shallow and superficial understanding of this most important quality, and since women in materialistic culture don’t aspire for it at all, the term is therefore almost lost and forgotten today. I distinctly remember how I was preaching at a Sunday program many years ago in Sydney, Australia, and I mentioned this term ‘chastity’ to some newcomers. One of the ladies exclaimed with a thousand question marks written all over her face: “Chastity? What’s THAT??” Also in the German language the term chastity (Keuschheit) sounds like something from the Middle Ages.
The two main tools for a woman to cultivate chastity are tolerance and shyness. Unless a woman is tolerant, she will demand, complain, answer back, get disturbed at the slightest provocation and inconvenience, and can easily leave her husband and walk out. Tolerance is a most important quality within spiritual practice. It is the main criterion in order to measure a devotee’s advancement and spiritual strength. Tolerance indicates that the false ego is subdued and reduced. Prahlada Maharaja and Haridas Thakur are always famous examples for the topmost level of tolerance. Also Devahuti serves as a wonderful example of a wife following her husband in utter tolerance and submission. And she received such outstanding rewards— great opulences in the flying mansion which Kardama Muni created, and finally giving birth to the Supreme Lord Himself! What more would a woman desire?! She received those wonderful benedictions by paying the price of serving her husband in tolerance and submission. The main tools for cultivating tolerance however are humility and firm faith in Krsna. Unless these two elements are there, it will be impossible for a person to be tolerant.