stri-sudra-pukkasa-yavanadi kena naya
krsna-nama gaya, seo guru pujya haya
“Those who chant the name of Kṛṣṇa, whether they are women, laborers, persons of mixed caste, outcasts, or otherwise, become worshippable gurus.” (Prema-vivarta, 151)
This sloka comes in the last chapter (20) of Prema-vivarta where the glories of the Holy Name (nama-mahima) is described. However, in many chapters before this, that this Holy Name is suddha-nama, is established. This is also corroborated from Prema-vivarta 20.199, 216. This is also very similar to the statement in CC Madhya 18.122, which has been answered in this email thread itself, proving that it describes those who have reached on the level of krsna-prema.
Moreover, it also says both in Prema-vivarta 20.145, and Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya 15.108, that the Holy Name doesn’t need initiation (diksa). Thus, there is no question of any diksa-guru. However, we are discussing about diksa-guru. We have never argued that women cannot ask others to chant the Holy Name. Although the chanting of the Holy Name doesn’t need diksa, our acharyas (from Jiva Gosvami till Srila Prabhupada) have mandated arcana (or deity worship) and other bhakti-limbs for all of us (without exception). Thus, there is a diksa process in our line that is based Pancharatika-vidhi. Srila Prabhupada says (CC Madhya 15.108)—
### QUOTE ###
In his Bhakti-sandarbha (283–84), Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī describes the importance of Deity worship and initiation (dīkṣā) as follows:
āvaśyakatvaṁ nāsti, tad vināpi śaraṇāpattyādīnām ekatareṇāpi puruṣārtha-siddher abhihitatvāt, tathāpi śrī-nāradādi-vartmānusaradbhiḥ śrī-bhagavatā saha sambandha-viśeṣaṁ dīkṣā-vidhānena śrī-guru-caraṇa-sampāditaṁ cikīrṣadbhiḥ kṛtāyāṁ dīkṣāyām arcanam avaśyaṁ kriyetaiva.
yadyapi svarūpato nāsti, tathāpi prāyaḥ svabhāvato dehādi-sambandhena kadarya-śīlānāṁ vikṣipta-cittānāṁ janānāṁ tat-tat-saṅkocī-karaṇāya śrīmad-ṛṣi-prabhṛtibhir atrārcana-mārge kvacit kvacit kācit kācin maryādā sthāpitāsti.
“It is Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam’s opinion that the process of Deity worship is not actually necessary, just as the specific prescriptions of the Pañcarātra and other scriptures do not have to be followed. The Bhāgavatam enjoins that even without practicing Deity worship one can achieve the complete success of human life by any of the other devotional processes, such as simply offering oneself at the Lord’s feet for His protection. Nonetheless, Vaiṣṇavas following the path of Śrī Nārada and his successors endeavor to establish a personal relationship with the Lord by receiving the grace of a bona fide spiritual master through initiation, and in this tradition the devotees are obliged at the time of initiation to begin engaging in Deity worship.
“Although Deity worship is not essential, the material conditioning of most candidates for devotional service requires that they engage in this activity. When we consider their bodily and mental conditions, we find that the character of such candidates is impure and their minds are agitated. Therefore, to rectify this material conditioning the great sage Nārada and others have at different times recommended various kinds of regulations for Deity worship.”
Similarly, the Rāmārcana-candrikā states:
vinaiva dīkṣāṁ viprendra puraścaryāṁ vinaiva hi
vinaiva nyāsa-vidhinā japa-mātreṇa siddhi-dā
“O best of the brāhmaṇas, even without initiation, preliminary purification or acceptance of the renounced order, one can attain perfection in devotional service simply by chanting the Lord’s holy name.”
In other words, the chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra is so powerful that it does not depend on official initiation, but if one is initiated and engages in pañcarātra-vidhi (Deity worship), his Kṛṣṇa consciousness will awaken very soon, and his identification with the material world will be vanquished. The more one is freed from material identification, the more one can realize that the spirit soul is qualitatively as good as the Supreme Soul. At such a time, when one is situated on the absolute platform, one can understand that the holy name of the Lord and the Lord Himself are identical. At that stage of realization, the holy name of the Lord, the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, cannot be identified with any material sound. If one accepts the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra as a material vibration, he falls down. One should worship and chant the holy name of the Lord by accepting it as the Lord Himself. One should therefore be initiated properly according to revealed scriptures under the direction of a bona fide spiritual master. Although chanting the holy name is good for both the conditioned and liberated soul, it is especially beneficial to the conditioned soul because by chanting it one is liberated.
### Un-QUOTE ###
Also, if we go on reading the same prema-vivarta beyond what Madana Mohana Prabhu has quoted, it is said there in relation to this name—
cid-ātmaka harināma bāreka uccāre |śiva brahmā ananyatāra phala kahite nāre ||199||
“Even the great personalities like Lord Brahma and Siva cannot properly describe the glories of a person who has chanted the Holy Name of the Lord with his transcendental tongue even once.”
harināma māhātmyera kabhu nāhi pāra | ye nāma śravaṇe sadā pukkaśa uddhāra ||216||
“There is no end to the glories of Harinama. Just by hearing the Holy Name, even the pukkasa are liberated.”
Therefore this dīkṣā is offered according to Pāñcarātrika-vidhi. That is recommended in this age. My spiritual master inaugurated this Pāñcarātrika-vidhi, and we are following his footsteps. (BG 7.3, Mar 29, 1971)
SUMMARY: In brief remarks below, I attempt to show that Krsna Kirti Prabhu and Damodar Prabhu drastically differ from Srila Prabhupada’s instructions in their attempts to establish that women require a much higher spiritual status than men to act as diksa-gurus. I also clarify what those instructions of Srila Prabhupada are.
Dear Krsna Kirti Prabhu and Damodar Prabhu,
please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Being included in the long list of addressees of your original message looked to me like an invitation to comment. But if it wasn’t meant to be, please forgive my brief remarks below and disregard them.
Still, I would like to sincerely thank you both for keeping this discussion civil and respectful. This is an appropriate and welcome departure in style from some other recent texts on the topic, in which those professing high ideals of Vedic culture often fail to follow even basic human decorum, much less the Vedic culture.
However, if you find my comments below of interest, I would need to explain their brevity and lack of your quotes. I did peruse (with pleasure) most of what you both had written on the topic, and watched a few videos. However, as much as I would want to, there simply isn’t enough time now for pedantic quoting and counter-quoting, nor do I believe doing so will aid the readability of this thread. So, I will simply comment on what I have gathered from your previous postings to be your views, and will gladly accept corrections should I inadvertently misrepresent you.
In this text I will focus only on your use of Bharadvaja-samhita in analyzing women eligibility as diksa-gurus.
You quote a series of verses from Bharadvaja-samhita, chapter 1, which describe, in part, qualifications for being a diksa-guru. In a nutshell, the verses state that:
13-15: anyone with transcendental faith is qualified for pancaratriki-vidhi;
38-40: one should then accept a qualified devotee brahmana, ideally hailing from a pure lineage, as one’s diksa-guru;
41: without an emergency, one should not initiate those superior to oneself in terms of birth or age;
42: women, sudras, outcastes, criminals and those who are fallen and/or lustful cannot act as diksa-gurus;
43: they can give moral instructions but can never be accepted as acaryas, unless…
44. …they are pratyaksitatma-nathas, literally ”those to whom the Lord of the soul is revealed”, which overrides their aforementioned disqualifications for the role of an acarya such as birth, gender, etc.
You then cite a mid-19th-century commentator Sarayu Prasada Misra in glossing ‘pratyaksitatma-nathanam’ as ‘saksat-krta-bhagavat-tattvanam’, or, literally, “of those with direct realization of the truth of the Lord”. Then, citing Harinama-cintamani, you equate direct perception of the Lord with bhava-bhakti and conclude that women must be on the level of bhava-bhakti to have their otherwise incorrigible bodily disqualification (gender) for the role of diksa-guru erased. Next, you cite Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu to remind us that bhava-bhakti is ‘sudurlabha’ (very rare), and such, too, must necessarily be women acting as diksa-gurus.
Side point but worth mentioning:
How do you judge that Sarayu-prasada Misra is Mid 19th century commentator? From where did you get his information? I request you to produce your source. As far as our source, we have matched the available published text (published in 1862 by Khemraj Krishnadas academy) with the palm leaf manuscripts available at Adayar Library, in which the said commentary of Sarayu Prasada Misra is already there. Thus, antiquity of his commentary is much more than 19th century.
I hope the above is an accurate summary of your line of argument. If so, while not doubting its diligence and scholarly value, here is what, to me, appears problematic:
Almost okay, except the point that pratyaksitatma-nathaḥ literally means “those to whom the Lord of the soul is revealed.” More accrate translation is— pratyaksita atmanah nathah yaih tesam — “of those who are directly perceiving the Lord of the souls.” While your translation can also mean the same thing if revealed is taken as directly perceived, however it also gives room to some other interpretations. pratyaksita means directly perceived while revealed may also mean indirectly perceived. Fitting sanskrit word for reveal is prakasita.
(1) Your treatment of ‘pratyaksitatma-nathas’ as synonymous with bhava-bhakti is arbitrary, because this conclusion follows neither from the term itself, nor even from its gloss by a relatively unknown commentator.
‘Pratyaksitatma-nathas’ literally means “those to whom the Lord of the soul is revealed”, and its gloss ‘saksat-krta-bhagavat-tattvas’ literally means “those with direct realization of the truth of the Lord”.
As already explained above, pratyaksitatma-natha means “those who are directly perceiving the Lord.”
However, the exact nature, form and degree of that revelation of the Lord or realization on the truth of/about Him is not evident from these terms themselves. And your own arbitrary explanation of what it might mean — bhava-bhakti — understandably disregards alternative yet no less viable interpretations of the term in question.
You need to corroborate with the original term in the sloka which is pratyaksita or directly perceived. Then, it is quite clear that he is directly perceiving the Lord. Your question is answered by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura in Brahma-samhita 5.38 where he says that this stage begins at bhava-bhakti:
The eye of devotion is nothing but the eye of the pure unalloyed spiritual self of the jiva. The form of Krsna is visible to that eye in proportion to its purification by the practice of devotion. When the devotion of the neophyte reaches the stage of bhava-bhakti the pure eye of that devotee is tinged with the salve of love by the grace of Krsna, which enables him to see Krsna face to face.
The term saksat-krta comes from the term saksat-kara which is translated as directly seeing or direct meeting, and is used mainly for directly seeing or meeting someone. For instance in CC 2.10.181 it is translated as “directly seeing the Lord.” — prema vina kabhu nahe tanra saksatkara — “Without having ecstatic love for Krsna, one cannot see Him directly.”
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura in Jaiva Dharma (29) gives a hint of this stage of saksatkara —
“In nirvikalpa-samadhi, one is completely free from all avidya, nescience and dualism. When the devotee sees the Supreme Lord face to face in this state of samadhi, he experiences ineffable bliss known as sandrananda, the hallmark of sandra-santa-rati. Santa-rasa may also be divided into paroksya, indirect; and saksatkara, direct.”
* according to Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura’s explanation of ‘bhagavat-tattva-vijanam’ in his commentary on SB 1.2.20, ‘saksat-krta-bhagavat-tattva’ might refer to prema-bhakti, or
* ‘pratyaksitatma-natha’ might as well refer to the stage of ‘murcchita-kasaya’ per Jiva Gosvami in Bhakti-sandarbha 187. There Jiva Gosvami describes three categories of bhakta-siddhas (perfected devotees), with the third being murcchita-kasaya (a devotee not yet completely free from material desires but unaffected by them). Jiva Gosvami says such devotees are still bhakta-siddhas and can also have direct vision of the Lord (saksatkara) inwardly or outwardly, while retaining residual material desires but not pursuing their fulfillment. Narada in his previous life is quoted by him as one such example.
It is clearly mentioned there itself that these are all types of siddha bhaktas. The murcchita-kasayas are none other than bhava-bhaktas who have a very little contamination left as is described herein (in Bhakti-sandarbha 187) also and in Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, 1.2.1 commenatary of Visvanatha Cakravarti also. These are in no way sadhakas.
Bhakti sandarbha 187:
[This section is continuing commentary on SB 5.5.2-3 from text 186 wherein it says that the devotee mahantas described in this verse are — labdha-bhagavat-premanah – or those who have achieved unalloyed love of Krishna. Then it continues in 187 . . .]
atra bhakta-siddhās trividhāḥ | prāpta-bhagavat-pārṣada-dehā nirdhūta-kaṣāyā mūrcchita-kaṣāyāś ca |
Non-diacritic Version (atra bhakta-siddhas trividhah | prapta-bhagavat-parsada-deha nirdhuta-kasaya murcchita-kasayas ca)
Here the siddha devotees are of three kinds: One who has achieved the body or form as an associate of the Lord (bhagavat-parsada), nirdhuta-kasaya and murcchita-kasaya.
It continues to give example of murcchita-kasaya as Narada Muni in his previous birth when he achieved Krsna-prema.
śrī-nāradasya pūrva-janmani sthita-kaṣāyasya prema varṇitaṁ svayam eva |
Non-diacritic (sri-naradasya purva-janmani sthita-kasayasya prema varnitam svayam eva)
Then, Jiva Gosvami gives example of Bharata Maharaja. We know from Srila Prabhupada and others that Bharata Maharaja was on the stage of Bhava-bhakti.
sā bhaktiḥ sādhanaṁ bhāvaḥ premā ceti tridhoditā ||
TRANSLATION: That devotional service is categorized into three stages—sadhana, bhava, prema.
[Translation of commentary in square brackets]
viśvanāthaḥ: sā bhaktir iti | athātra sādhana-sādhyatva-rūpa-dvividha-bheda evāstu | bhāvasyāpi sādhya-bhakty-antarbhāvo’stu | kiṁ bheda-traya-karaṇena ? iti cet na,
[One may ask that there should be only two categories—sadhana and sadhya bhakti. Why there are three categories mentioned herein? It is not so…]
utpanna-ratayaḥ samyaṅ nairvighnyam anupāgatāḥ |
kṛṣṇa-sākṣāt-kṛtau yogyāḥ sādhakāḥ parikīrtitāḥ || [bha.ra.si. 2.1.276]
iti sādhaka-bhakta-lakṣaṇasya madhye raty-apara-paryāyasya bhāvasyāvirbhāve’pi samyaṅ-nairvighnyam anupāgatāḥ iti viśeṣaṇena prabalatarasya kasyacin mahad-aparādhasya kaścana bhāgo’vaśiṣṭo’stīti labhyate | evaṁ sati kleśa-janakasyāparādhasya leśe’pi sādhya-bhakter āvirbhāvo na sambhavati | ata eva tatraivoktasya sādhya-bhakti-viśiṣṭa-siddha-bhakta-lakṣaṇasya madhye—avijñātākhila-kleśāḥ sadā kṛṣṇāśrita-kriyāḥ siddhāḥ syuḥ [bha.ra.si. 2.1.280] ity anena tathaiva pratipāditam | tasmād bhāvasya sādhya-bhakter antarbhāvo na sambhavati | tathaiva sādhana-bhakter antarbhāvas tu sutarām eva nāsti | yato’traiva prakaraṇe sādhana-bhakti-lakṣaṇe bhāva-sādhanatva-rūpa-viśeṣaṇena bhāvasya sādhana-bhaktitvaṁ parāstam | bhāvasya bhāva-sādhanatvābhāvāt | tasmāt sādhūktaṁ bhaktes trividhatvam iti vivecanīyam ||1||
[Because, as it will be clarified later, in the verse utpanna ratayah samyag… which describes the symptoms of sadhaka bhaktas who have reached the end stage of rati when bhava manifests. Even on manifestation of bhava, the use of the adjective “samyag nairvighnyam anupagatah” says that there is still some leftovers of great offense. If it is so then the sadhya bhakti cannot arise if there is even a tinge of obstruction that arise due to offense. As it is said there only in the symptoms of sadhya bhakti – avijnatakhila klesah…(BRS 2.1.280). Thus, bhava stage cannot be categorized under sadhya bhakti.
Similarly, bhava bhakti cannot be categorized under sadhana bhakti, because in this chapter itself, sadhana bhakti is mentioned as an instrument to achieve bhava bhakti and thus bhava-bhakti is different from sadhana bhakti. Thus, it is well said that bhakti is performed at three levels.]
Thus, without doubt, pratyaksitatma-natha refers to stages of bhakti starting from bhava-bhakti. This is NOT an ARBITRARY meaning.
This is simply to show that legitimate interpretations of the term ‘pratyaksitatma-natha’, that is pivotal to your conclusion, may have a much wider range both ways than ‘bhava-bhakti’ — and so would necessarily be the eligibility criteria for women to act as diksa-gurus, even on the basis of Bharadvaja-samhita.
Otherwise, insisting to “harmonize” differing statements by Srila Prabhupada on the topic of Vaisnavis as diksa-gurus exclusively under the auspices of Bharadvaja-samhita and by arbitrarily equating these two terms with bhava-bhakti places yourselves in a position of an acarya per ‘acinoti ca sastrartham acare sthapayaty api’ (“An acarya is one who fully understands the conclusions of the revealed scriptures and whose behavior reflects his deep realization.”— Vayu Purana 59.30)
Actually, it puts us on the third line of this verse “svayam acarate yastmat” or one who himself follows the conclusions given by previous acharyas. Yes, we all should be exemplary acharyas just by thoroughly understanding, following, and establishing the conclusions of guru-sadhu-sastras. This credit we all should take; not trying to become falsely humble and thus become detached or lazy in harmonizing the conclusions of guru-sadhu-sastra.
That, Srila Prabhupada has conflicting statements on this issue is a fact and that harmonizing them is indeed necessary is also a fact. However, which harmonization attempt is more authentic is a question. The attempt which we have presented is not bringing any speculation in picture and directly harmonizes all statements based on sastra. However, all other attempts that have be presented till date had to resort to some assumption, inference, or interpretation by one’s whims. Thus, we still invite anyone to present a better harmonization without resorting to any sort of assumption, inference, or interpretation by whims.
Moreover, we are still to see any reference from sastras that directly says that women devotee can become diksa-guru; a reference of the sort that we have presented from Bharadvaja-samhita.
Also, I request you to not try to avoid direct statement of Srila Prabhupada (SB 4.12.32, purport) that says that women cannot become diksa-gurus, although they can become siksa-gurus. Why would you want to avoid this and falsely impress on the minds of the readers that Srila Prabhupada wanted female diksa-gurus and that Bharadvaja-samhita speaks against it. This doesn’t seem to be a fair dealing with the issue. It is not Bharadvaja-samhita against Srila Prabhupada; it is Bharadvaja-samhita supporting, defending, and revealing Srila Prabhupada’s stance.
Therefore, I humbly suggest, hoping that our preferences in this regards fully concur, to try and “harmonize” our reading of Bharadvaja-samhita and other sastra with our founder-acarya Srila Prabhupada’s own explanations of eligibility for ‘pratyaksitatma-natha-tva’, or the ability/state of seeing the Lord face to face — and not the other way around. One such statement on the topic, archetypal of the rest, is found in his purport on SB 4.28.51:
“When one becomes serious to follow the mission of the spiritual master, his resolution is tantamount to seeing the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As explained before, this means meeting the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the instruction of the spiritual master. This is technically called vani-seva. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura states in his Bhagavad-gita commentary on the verse vyavasayatmika buddhir ekeha kuru-nandana (Bg. 2.41) that one should serve the words of the spiritual master. The disciple must stick to whatever the spiritual master orders. Simply by following on that line, one sees the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
“In conclusion, if a disciple is very serious to execute the mission of the spiritual master, he immediately associates with the Supreme Personality of Godhead by vani or vapu. This is the only secret of success in seeing the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Instead of being eager to see the Lord in some bush of Vrndavana while at the same time engaging in sense gratification, if one instead sticks to the principle of following the words of the spiritual master, he will see the Supreme Lord without difficulty. (…) If one is very highly advanced in devotional service, he will have no difficulty in seeing the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If one engages in the service of the spiritual master, he not only sees the Supreme Personality of Godhead but attains liberation.” (SB 4.28.51 purp.)
Please note that throughout his purport Srila Prabhupada equates “very highly advanced” with “very seriously … engaged in the service/mission of the spiritual master” as synonymous prerequisites for seeing the Lord.
There are, of course, numerous and highly consistent statements by Srila Prabhupada to the same effect, for example:
“But somehow or other if someone hears with rapt attention from the right person, at the very beginning one can assuredly see Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa in person in the pages of the Bhāgavatam.” (SB 1.3.44 purp.)
“One should therefore choose a bona fide servant of the Lord constantly engaged in His service, accept such a servant as the spiritual master and engage himself in his (the spiritual master’s) service. Such a spiritual master is the transparent medium by which to visualize the Lord, who is beyond the conception of the material senses. By service of the bona fide spiritual master, the Lord consents to reveal Himself in proportion to the service rendered. (…) The whole cosmic creation becomes at once identical with the Lord as soon as service in relation with the Lord is rendered under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master.” (SB 1.5.23 purp.)
Do these and other similar statements by Srila Prabhupada, in your view, qualify as acceptable interpretations of what it means to be a ‘pratyaksitatma-natha’? And if not, why? And if this is how Srila Prabhupada himself consistently suggests we judge one’s ability to see the Lord face to face, why should we introduce any other gauge in this discussion — like ‘bhava-bhakti’?
As far as the need to be a siddha for initiate — again, Srila Prabhupada does not deny this but suggests that we judge one’s status as a siddha in a specific and very practical way. Here is just one of many such highly consistent statements:
“Presently people are so fallen that they cannot distinguish between a liberated soul and a conditioned soul. A conditioned soul is hampered by four defects: he is sure to commit mistakes, he is sure to become illusioned, he has a tendency to cheat others, and his senses are imperfect. Consequently we have to take direction from liberated persons. This Krsna consciousness movement directly receives instructions from the Supreme Personality of Godhead via persons who are strictly following His instructions. Although a follower may not be a liberated person, if he follows the supreme, liberated Personality of Godhead, his actions are naturally liberated from the contamination of the material nature. Lord Caitanya therefore says: “By My order you may become a spiritual master.” One can immediately become a spiritual master by having full faith in the transcendental words of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and by following His instructions. Materialistic men are not interested in taking directions from a liberated person, but they are very much interested in their own concocted ideas, which make them repeatedly fail in their attempts.” (SB 4.18.5 purp.)
Shall we accept Srila Prabhupada’s own eligibility criteria for acting as a spiritual master to be equally applicable to all of his followers, regardless of jati, linga, and varna? And if not, why?
These statements actually distinguish between those who are still not liberated from those who are liberated. Such non-liberated devotees should strictly follow the instructions of the Supreme Lord, spiritual master, and sastras.
Therefore if we at all want our activities to be auspicious, then we should work under the directions of the Supreme Lord. Such directions are given in authoritative scriptures such as Śrimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita, or from a bona fide spiritual master. Because the spiritual master is the representative of the Supreme Lord, his direction is directly the direction of the Supreme Lord. The spiritual master, saintly persons and scriptures direct in the same way. There is no contradiction in these three sources. All actions done under such direction are free from the reactions of pious or impious activities of this material world. (BG 10.3, ppt)
These instructions are given differently to different persons according to their particular status and the duty of a bona fide guru is to guide his disciple according to his particular status.
Service in Krsna consciousness is, however, best practiced under the able guidance of a spiritual master who is a bona fide representative of Krsna, who knows the nature of the student and who can guide him to act in Krsna consciousness. (BG 2.41, ppt)
Thus, strictly following guru involves varnasrama and sastric considerations that guru needs to guide his disciple. Thus, we understand from guru-sadhu-sastra that women cannot become diksa-guru, if she is to strictly follow the instructions of the Supreme Lord, sastras, and guru.
Srila Prabhupada says (SB 4.12.32, purport)—“Suniti, however, being woman, and specifically his mother, could not become Dhruva Maharaja’s diksa-guru.” I think we are bound to strictly follow this. Sastras also say that women cannot become diksa-gurus unless liberated.
Also, Srila Prabhupada says in BG 3.35, purport, that one should follow varnasrama duties unless liberated; and that there is difference in duties—
One should therefore discharge his prescribed duties in full Krsna consciousness rather than those prescribed for others. Materially, prescribed duties are duties enjoined according to one’s psychophysical condition, under the spell of the modes of material nature. Spiritual duties are as ordered by the spiritual master for the transcendental service of Krsna. But whether material or spiritual, one should stick to his prescribed duties even up to death, rather than imitate another’s prescribed duties. Duties on the spiritual platform and duties on the material platform may be different, but the principle of following the authorized direction is always good for the performer. When one is under the spell of the modes of material nature, one should follow the prescribed rules for his particular situation and should not imitate others. For example, a brahmana, who is in the mode of goodness, is nonviolent, whereas a ksatriya, who is in the mode of passion, is allowed to be violent. As such, for a ksatriya it is better to be vanquished following the rules of violence than to imitate a brahmana who follows the principles of nonviolence. Everyone has to cleanse his heart by a gradual process, not abruptly. However, when one transcends the modes of material nature and is fully situated in Krsna consciousness, he can perform anything and everything under the direction of a bona fide spiritual master. In that complete stage of Krsna consciousness, the ksatriya may act as a brahmana, or a brahmana may act as a ksatriya. In the transcendental stage, the distinctions of the material world do not apply. For example, Visvamitra was originally a ksatriya, but later on he acted as a brahmana, whereas Parasurama was a brahmana but later on he acted as a ksatriya. Being transcendentally situated, they could do so; but as long as one is on the material platform, he must perform his duties according to the modes of material nature. At the same time, he must have a full sense of Krsna consciousness.
And Srila Prabhupada’s consistency on this topic can be highlighted even further:
The term ‘pratyaksitatma-nathas’ that you have arbitrarily translated as “[those] who are on the stage of yoga-pratyaksa (i.e. are self-realized – seeing God face-to-face)”, literally means “those to whom the Lord of atma is revealed”.
The following well-known verses, spoken either by Lord Krsna Himself or by His pure devotee, actually describe the spiritual master as the lord of one’s atma . This perfectly aligns with Srila Prabhupada’s treatment of service to the spiritual master as “tantamount” to seeing the Lord in person:
You cannot just connect words out of whims without seeing the context. If the word pratyaksitatma-natha in Bharadvaja-samhita would mean the one who sees the spiritual master face to face then there would have no meaning to bring this verse after the verses 1.38-43. This is because all other candidates for the position of spiritual masters that were mentioned (in 1.38-43) were already initiated devotees and thus have their spiritual master. The women who were prohibited were also initiated devotees, because the whole non-devotee category had already been rejected in verse 1.37 itself.
Thus, if in verse 1.44, pratyaksitatmanatha means one who sees the spiritual master face to face, can become guru, then it would practically mean initiated women who are already rejected in verse 1.42-43.
Moreover, it will also mean any devotee who is initiated and serving his spiritual master can become guru, regardless of his spiritual advancement, which, I think you will also agree, doesn’t seem to be a sane propositon from any angle. Thus, the quotes that follow do not support what you want us to believe Srila Prabhupada meant.
The real meaning of these verses is that as long as one is conditioned, one has to know what Krishna wants through the medium of the spiritual master. One cannot concoct about his or her duty. Thus, becaue spiritual master is the representative of Krishna, he is as good as God in front of one’s eyes. That one knows from Guru and Guru guides his disciple based on guru-sadhu-sastra seeing his nature and position, as already established before.
bhayam dvitiyabhinivesatah syad isad apetasya viparyayo ‘smrtih
tan-mayayato budha abhajet tam bhaktyaikayesam guru-devatatma
Word-for-word: guru-devata-atma — one who sees his own spiritual master as his lord and very soul.
Translation: “…an intelligent person should engage unflinchingly in the unalloyed devotional service of the Lord, under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, whom he should accept as his worshipable deity and as his very life and soul.”
yaman abhiksnam seveta niyaman mat-parah kvacit
mad-abhijnam gurum santam upasita mad-atmakam
Word-for-word: gurum — the spiritual master; santam — peaceful; upasita — one should serve; mat-atmakam — who is not different from Me.
Translation: “One who has accepted Me as the supreme goal of life should strictly observe the scriptural injunctions forbidding sinful activities and, as far as possible, should execute the injunctions prescribing minor regulative duties such as cleanliness. Ultimately, however, one should approach a bona fide spiritual master who is full in knowledge of Me as I am, who is peaceful, and who by spiritual elevation is not different from Me.”
and SB 11.17.27:
acaryam mam vijaniyan navamanyeta karhicit
na martya-buddhyasuyeta sarva-deva-mayo guruh
Word-for-word: acaryam — the spiritual master; mam — Myself; vijaniyat — one should know;
Translation: “One should know the acarya as Myself and never disrespect him in any way.”
Thus, even from a purely grammatical point of view, as corroborated by Srimad-Bhagavatam, the requirement for a woman, sudra or antyaja to be a pratyaksitatma-natha, or one to whom the Lord of one’s atma is revealed, is fulfilled by their serious acceptance of the spiritual master followed by committed surrender to his (or, yes, her) instructions and mission:
Conclusion (1): According to Srila Prabhupada, one becomes qualified to see the Lord directly by being serious in following the instructions and mission of one’s spiritual master and serving the Lord under his guidance, which doesn’t necessarily require attaining level of bhava-bhakti as its prerequisite.
(2) Singling out women as requiring to be siddhas to initiate, unlike men
You also attempt to prove that, unlike men, women must be siddhas seeing the Lord in order to initiate. While the general, both easily observable and practicable, eligibility criteria for seeing the Lord have already been established above by Srila Prabhupada’s many statements, the notion of “greater conditioning” by gender might deserve a separate analysis.
Your attempt, however, is refuted by the very verses from Bharadvaja-samhita you quote.
Verses 1.42-43 disqualify not only women, but also sudras, antyajas, criminals, fallen and lustful, from being diksa-gurus. In the same vein, the stipulation in verse 1.44 that one can be a diksa-guru regardless of the previously listed disqualifications of gender, birth etc. only by becoming a ‘pratyaksitatma-natha’ applies not excisively to women, but also to sudras, antyajas, criminals, fallen and lustful mentioned along with them in 1.42-43.
It is not defeated but supported. We have already established that the meaning of the word pratyaksitamanatha is being at least on the level of bhava-bhakti, refuting your explanation that it can be anyone who has just been initiated. The improper quoting that you have done is to be noted herein. You have tried to hide the fact that the persons mentioned in verses 1.42-43 are initiated devotees. If you have not read Bharadvaja-samhita please read it before you comment. The verse 1.37 already establishes the fact that those who are not intiated devotees are not even to be considered for the post of guru. Thus, after setting the context it discusses, from initiated devotees who are eligible for the post of diksa-guru. Thus, verse no. 42-43 prohibit initiated women devotees from being guru. Then verse no.44 allows those intiaited women and others who have reached to the level of direct perception of the Lord or bhava-bhakti. If we take your explanation, then it accuses the fault of asangati or disharmony on the bharadvaja-samhita.
Moreover, this list of “spiritual pariahs” (for lack of a better moniker) who can be redeemed by the power of bhakti is a standard occurrence in BG, SB, CC, Hari-bhakti-vilasa and other Vaisnava scriptures.
We have never claimed that bhakti cannot purify women and men equally. Why do you try to bring such statements and mislead the readers. Yes, bhakti can purify men and women equally. And thus we expect as many liberated men as women; and both of them can become gurus.
Now, from those who are non-liberated devotees (men as well as women), women are prohibited from taking post of diksa-guru, while men who conform to extra set of qualifications as demanded by pancaratra sastras, besides devotional qualifications, can become diksa-guru. Thus, you find many more men, as such non-liberated men are many more in number than either liberated men or liberated women.
The number of women diksa-guru even more reduces, because even among liberated women majority do not transgress their varnasrama roles in order to set example for other less qualified women in the society and thus lead them on proper path. Thus, we find great nitya-siddha ladies like Kunti, Devahuti, Yashoda, etc. not becoming diksa-gurus. Thus, it becomes rarest of rare.
Thus, Srila Prabhupada rightly says (in a conversation with O’Connel) that we rarely find women on the post of diksa-guru. This point is always neglected. Why did Prabhupada said, “but, not so many” and “in very special case,” if there is no difference in considerations between men and women in taking the post of diksa-guru?
To mention just a few:
* ‘striyo vaisyas tatha sudras te ‘pi yanti param gatim’ (BG 9.32)
* ‘stri-sudra-huna-sabara api papa-jivah’ (SB 2.7.46)
* ‘striyah sudra vrajaukasah khaga mrgah papa-jivah’ (SB 7.7.54)
* ‘stri-bala-vrddha, ara ’candala’ ’yavana’’ (CC Madhya 18.123)
* ‘stri sudrah pukkaso vapi ye canye papa-yonayah’ (HBV 11.405)
Such verses then often proceed to explain how these otherwise disqualified, per Vedic norms, classes of people become elevated by bhakti — even to the position of gurus:
stri-sudra-pukkasa-yavanadi kena naya
krsna-nama gaya, seo guru pujya haya
“Those who chant the name of Krsna, whether they are women, laborers, persons of mixed caste, outcasts, or otherwise, become worshippable gurus.” (Prema-vivarta, 151)
In other words, we are yet to find any sastric proof for your notion that the redeeming power of bhakti somehow acts differently or less effectively on women as compared to the other “spiritual pariahs”. We are also yet to see an authentic Vedic lineage, Vaisnava or not, that would disqualify women from their spiritual practice but qualify sudras, antyajas, etc. — or visa versa.
In fact, you in your conviction to the contrary seem to be one of a kind.
Incidentally, if you maintain that women must be on the level of bhava-bhakti to initiate, you must also hold the majority of ISKCON diksa-gurus, including your esteemed spiritual master, to the same standard — bhava-bhakti and no less.
In a reply to you, in another email, I have already established that Brahmana, ksastriya etc are based on qualities and not birth or heredity. Thus, sudras etc. who are prohibited in verse 1.42-43 are sudras etc by quality and not by birth. Thus, ISKCON gurus, who qualify for being a brahmana and then being a guru are not the prohibited category by Bharadvaja samhita 1.42-43. The fact that Bharadvaja-samhita judges brahmana etc. based on qualities and not birth is established by Srila Prabhupada himself –
On the other hand, if the brahminical qualifications are found in the person of a sudra, he should immediately be accepted as a brahmana. To substantiate this there are many quotations from Bhagavatam, Mahabharata, Bharadvaja-samhita and the Pancaratra, as well as many other scriptures. (SB 4.31.10 purport)
Thus, ISKCON gurus, even if not on the level of bhava-bhakti, are still bona fide gurus according Bharadvaja-samhita, if they qualify for being guru according to the qualifications given there.
However, woman is woman, whether have sattvik qualities or tamasic qualities. And it is women as a category that has been prohibited by Bharadvaja-samhita and as described by Srila Prabhupada in SB 4.12.32, purport, from becoming diksa-gurus. Even if we go by symptoms then what is the symptom of women? How is one identified as a woman? Obviously, by her bodily features and no other way. All sastras, sadhu, guru, and common parlance identify gender of a man or a woman by their bodily characteristics.
Thus, throughout Krishna’s Vedic Culture there have been brahmanis and there have been sudranis also. But even though having sattvik qualities, brahmanis were never given the position of diksa-guru.
In fact, in the famous conversation with prof. O’Connell of June 18, 1976, Srila Prabhupada says exactly that — the adhikara for both women and men to act as diksa-gurus is the same [note his “he or she”]:
“The qualification of guru is that he must be fully cognizant of the science of Krsna. Then **he or she** can become guru. Yei krsna-tattva-vetta, sei guru haya. [break] In our material world, is it any prohibition that woman cannot become professor? If she is qualified, she can become professor. What is the wrong there? She must be qualified. That is the position. So similarly, if the woman understands Krsna consciousness perfectly, she can become guru.
You seem to have avoided the statement “but, not so many,” in trying to establish that there is no difference at all in consideration for men or women from becoming diksa-gurus.
However, Srila Prabhupada then explains that the adhikara “to be fully/perfectly cognizant of the science of Krsna” is to “agree to understand” — which brings us back to the previous point of qualifying to see the Lord by serving one’s gurus instructions:
Indian man: Well, to understand Krsna consciousness, do you not require adhikārī?
Prabhupada: Adhikari means he must agree to understand. That is adhikari. But we do not agree. That is our fault.
Please note. Here first of all the person asking question has changed. The question is slightly changing the context also. The context is now becoming how to understand Krishna consciousness and not how to become guru. Thus, the answer is to follow the orders of Guru. This following brings one to the level of perfect Krishna consciousness when one can then become guru. Otherwise if you take the meaning that anyone who agrees to undestand immediately becomes eligible to become guru, then it means that there is no difference between merely agreeing to understand and to understand perfectly. This is not correct.
Conclusion (2): There is not sastric support for your notion that women must be on a higher level of bhakti to initiate than their male “fallen” counterparts.
(3) Brahmanas don’t need to be siddhas to initiate
You also try to establish the advantage of being born in a brahmana family for serving as a diksa-guru:
“But in case he has all the required qualities, plus he has the fortune to be born in such a great family tradition, he certainly has an advantage… Hence, Bharadvaja-saṁhita designates such a guru with the advantage of birth in an unbroken and sinless family tradition as sresthatama, or the best of all”.
You even quote Srila Prabhupada to substantiate that claim:
“Srila Prabhupada in his commentary on Bhagavad-giita 6.42 says, “Birth in a family of yogiis or transcendentalists—those with great wisdom—is praised herein because the child born in such a family receives a spiritual impetus from the very beginning of his life.” He further notes that “such families are very learned and devoted by tradition and training, and thus they become spiritual masters”.”
Granted, similar statements about the preeminence of brahmana-gurus over gurus of other varnas are also found in Hari-bhakti-vilasa.
Volumes have been written and spoken on the subject, the most famous being Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s “Brahmanas and Vaisnavas”. But for our purposes it will suffice, again, to quote a conclusive statement by Srila Prabhupada in which he puts all such sastric statements in a pure Krsna conscious perspective:
“In the Hari-bhakti-vilasa it is stated that if one bona fide spiritual master is born in a brahmana family and another qualified spiritual master is born in a sudra family, one should accept the one who is born in a brahmana family. This statement serves as a social compromise, but it has nothing to do with spiritual understanding. This injunction is applicable only for those who consider social status more important than spiritual status. It is not for people who are spiritually serious. A serious person would accept Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s instruction that anyone conversant with the science of Krsna must be accepted as the spiritual master, regardless of his social position. There is an injunction in the Padma Purana which states that though a highly elevated, spiritually advanced devotee of the Lord may have been born in a family of dog-eaters, he can be a spiritual master, but that a highly elevated person born in a brahmana family cannot be a spiritual master unless he is a devotee of the Lord. A person born in a brahmana family may be conversant with all of the rituals of the Vedic scriptures, but if he is not a pure devotee he cannot be a spiritual master. In all sastras the chief qualification of a bona fide spiritual master is that he be conversant in the science of Krsna.” (TLC 31)
So you yourself are countering one statement of Prabhupada with his another statement and leaving it unexplained which means you are unknowingly claiming that Prabhupada was mistaken in his statement in BG 6.42 purport.
However, we are giving harmonization of both. Please note the words “born in a brahmana family.” Although birth is not the primary consideration, it is a consideration nonetheless. Being born in a family tradition of brahmanas is not a sin by itself. If one’s brahmana family tradition is maintaining its quality by undergoing samskaras, etc. then the child born in such families do have a better chance of being a brahmana than others. This is strictly as per SB 7.11.13. The point that Srila Prabhupada is against it that varna be not taken primarily based on birth but primarily based on qualities.
Conclusion (3): Your attempt, based on Bharadvaja-samhita 1.39 to present birth in a brahminical lineage as an advantage for becoming diksa-guru, according to Srila Prabhupada “has nothing to do with spiritual understanding” and is “only for those who consider social status more important than spiritual status … [and] not for people who are spiritually serious”.
We stated a very minor advantage after filtering through the primary considerations of qualities and devotion. However, in just trying to defeat us, you have defeated Srila Prabhupada’s statement in purport to BG 6.42.
Please forgive me for what was intented to be “brief remarks” and please let me know if I am mistaken in any on the points above. I live to be corrected.
Again, thank you both for your scholarship, culture and civility. It is very much needed and appreciated.
Begging to remain