Hare Krishna. My name is Krishna Kirti Das, and I’m going to comment on the question and answer portion of a Bhagavatam class given by His Holiness Bir Krishna das Goswami, who is responding to a devotee named Dharma Das, who himself is a highly successful book distributor from Serbia. The class took place on January 7th, 2020. And is on Srimad-Bhagavatam canto six chapter 18 text 35.
Now, why I am commenting on this portion of the class is that I feel that Maharaja’s opinions on the subject of women’s social rules and the female diksha guru issue are representative of the views and attitudes of many devotees in our movement. However there are many others in our movement who do not share these views, and I will be representing them.
So, I will play this portion of the lecture, and at certain points I will stop and comment.[Bir Krishna Goswami] Slovenia is a very nice country. So, any other questions? Yes, Dharma. [Dharma] Gurudeva, in the last few days you a lot talk about, like you say, controversial topic [BKG] I was hoping not to be controversial today. [Dharma] But I was quite, have heavy pain in the . . . . I was quiet last days but I must be honest that you are, as you say yesterday, we should not blindly accept everything and . . . [BKG] yeah . . . [Dharma] . . . zombies and so on so I must be honest I something cannot really understand fully and also cannot accept somehow because something because of my different experience which I had [BKG] Uh huh. [Dharma] if you can allow me to discuss little more about this . . . [BKG] Okay . . . [Dharma] topic. So first of all I want to say I’m not a chauvinistic in my attitude. As you know, I love my wife the most in the life, and she’s my best friend. And I have only one desire and my one wish, one desire in my life – together with my wife eternally serve Krishna after this lifetime to go back home together with my wife and that we can eternally serve Krishna.
So I’m listening to Srila Prabhupada non-stop for the years, every day. And about this topic between male and female, Srila Prabhupada very really very clearly said, in a direct way, quite strong statements. For example when he was often asked from some journalist and so on in America at that time it was very prominent these equal rights between men and women, and we can hear from Srila Prabhupada very clearly that he was not appreciate the idea he worries to only criticize this and he explained that this means that women will be even more exploited in the future and misused. . .[BKG] yes [Dharma] . . . and not be protected. And we can see that this is really become true. Today’s society not so many divorces is going on, divorces between wife and husband. Also we can see are, unfortunately, in our society, ISKCON, from Kadamba-kanana Maharaja. Recently he was here. We can heard from him that this is one of the most problems now in ISKCON– divorces between husbands and wives.
So Srila Prabhupada also said on many occasions that when he was asked what women should do in the Hare Krishna movement, in Krishna consciousness, he said she should only follow her husband, and that’s all. I recently listened just to this conversation. He was [indistinct] . . . She should just followed her husband, and that’s all. Also he did the statements in Bhagavatam, many many places and so on.
And to end this little interrogation before I ask you something about this female deeksha guru, also I can not fully understand this, because in the Fourth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam story of Dhruva Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada really clearly said in one purport that Suniti, who was mother of Dhruva Maharaja, she cannot become diksha guru of Dhruva Maharaja because she is a woman and also she is his mother.
Now, my question is why so much interpretation of these very clearly statements of Srila Prabhupada. If you read carefully and listen carefully, he was very strong and very. . . and I can see from my experience . . .[BKG] Can you stop for a second, because several different . . . [Dharma] No, my question is. . . [BKG] Now wait a second. . . There’s several different points you’re making, and you are clearly agitated. So that, you know, to think clearly you should, you should be peaceful about these things. There’s something else going on.
So as far as the women diksa-guru, there was a statement by Prabhupada “I want all my devotees . . . ” I don’t remember the exact wording, but, you know, the boys and girls who take this test, they can become gurus. There’s a very clear statement that Prabhupada . . . Wait a second. . . No no. Prabhupada said gurus, and they can increase the generations.
That means first of all, I mean, if you want to get into a whole discussion, probably in the Chaitanya-charitamrita, Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami says shiksha-guru and diksha-guru are equal and different manifestations of Krishna. In fact, in our sampradaya, the shiksha-guru. . . See, you’ve got so many different questions you threw out.
In our sampradaya, shiksha-gurus are considered more important than diksha gurus. So it’s not that, saying that women cannot be diksha gurus but can be shiksha gurus, says that they’re less important. It says they’re more important. So nowhere does Prabhupada say there cannot be women diksha gurus.[Krishna-kirti Das] Srila Prabhupada just said in this purport that Suniti could not become Dhruva’s diksha guru because she was a woman. Let me read the exact quote here: According to sastric injunctions, there is no difference between shiksha guru and diksha guru, and generally the shiksha guru later on becomes the diksha guru. Suniti, however, being a woman and specifically his mother, could not become Dhruva Maharaja’s diksha guru. Here Srila Prabhupada says that Suniti could not become Dhruva’s diksha guru because she was a woman. Yet Maharaja said that Srila Prabhupada never said any such thing. So, what’s going on here?
In the next part, Maharaja clarifies that he is not saying that Srila Prabhupada does not say this. He says that Srila Prabhupada does not prescribe it. In other words, Maharaja is saying that Srila Prabhupada is merely describing some incident that happened at some time in the past, not prescribing action for the present. Therefore we are not obliged to follow it. However, as we shall see, our acharyas have refuted this line of reasoning.[BKG] secondly and as far as that statement, referring to Dhruva Maharaja story, where he says that Suniti could not become the guru of Dhruva Maharaja because she was his mother as well as a woman, that is a “descriptive” statement.
There’s two things that we understand from Shastra: there’s “prescription” and “description”. “Description” is given, I hope everyone understands what I’m talking about, “description” means describing a particular circumstance in a particular age. “Prescription” means “you cannot do this.” You understand? So one has to be able to understand Shastra from that particular point of view, that sometimes there’s a “description” of something that happened or didn’t happen or wasn’t allowed in a particular time place and circumstance. And sometimes there’s a “prescription.” A “prescription” is a definite statement, like, “A woman can never become a diksha guru.”[Krishna Kirti Das] On the point of “prescription” versus “description”, Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana refutes this in his Govinda Bhashya commentary on Vedanta-sutra. Commenting on the sutra *shastra yonitvat*, Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana first describes the opposing point of view in this way: (And just for your information, I’m reading from a translation by Bhanu Maharaja.)
At this point, someone may raise the following objection: The Vedanta philosophy does not give either positive orders or negative prohibitions but simply descriptions, as the sentence “On earth there are seven continents.” Men need instructions in how to act. Therefore what is needed is a series of orders to guide men.
Men need orders such as the ordinary orders. “A man desiring wealth should approach the king.” or, “One suffering from indigestion should restrict his intake of water,” or the orders of the Vedas: *svarga kamo yajeta* “One desiring to enter the celestial material planets should worship the demigods,” or *suram na pibet* “No one should drink wine.”
The Upanishads do not give us a string of orders and prohibitions but merely a description of the eternally perfect Brahman. For example, the Upanishads tell us *satyam jnanam* : “The Supreme Personality of Godhead is truth and knowledge.”
So, this is very similar to Maharaja’s argument, that Srila Prabhupada is giving us a “description,” not a “prescription.” The implied conclusion is that the Upanishads are little if any help in guiding our actions because they are “descriptive” not “prescriptive.” The same would be true of Srila Prabhupada’s description of Suniti.
Now, Baladeva Vidyabhusana gives a reply to this objection, which I shall read:
To this objection, I reply: do not be bewildered. Even though the Upanishads do not give us a series of orders and prohibitions, still they teach us about the Supreme Brahman, the most important and valuable object to be attained by any living entity. Just as if in your house there were hidden treasure and a description of its location were spoken to you, those words would not be useless simply because they were a description.
In the same way, the Upanishads’ description of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the greatest treasure to be attained by any living being, whose form is eternal, full of knowledge and full of bliss, who is perfect and beyond any criticism, who is the friend of all living entities, the Supreme Lord, who is so kind that he gives himself to his devotees, and the supreme whole of all existence, of whom I am a tiny part, is not useless but of great value to the conditioned soul.
The descriptions of the Supreme Brahman and the Upanishads are valuable. Just as the description “Your son is now born” is useful and a great source of joy, and the description that “this is not a snake but only a rope partly seen in the darkness” is also useful and a great relief from fear.[Krishna Kirti Das] Some more examples: In Bhagavad-gita, chapter 2 text 13, Lord Krishna says, *dehino ‘smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam jara* *tata dehantara-praptir dhiras tatra na muhyati* As the embodied soul continually passes in this body from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not promoted by such a change. So, here Krishna even indicates that because of this description one should not be bewildered. In other words, just the description alone is of immense and practical benefit.
Bhagavad-gita, chapter 15 text 6, Krishna describes the spiritual world: *na tad bhasayate suryo na sasanko na pavakah* *yad gatva na nivartante tad dhama paramam mama* “That supreme abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by fire or electricity. Those who reach it never return to this material world.” In the purport, Srila Prabhupada says, “One should be captivated by this information. He should desire to transfer himself to the eternal world and extricate himself from this false reflection of reality.” So, the description itself is motivation for action.
Then, at the end of Bhagavad-gita, in chapter 18, the qualities of the different varnas are described. And for brahmanas, *saucham*, or cleanliness, is one of those qualities. So, are we going to say that a brahmana is pure, but this is not a prescriptive statement? It doesn’t say that a brahmana “should be pure.” Do we really want to go there?
So clearly, if we were to follow this distinction between “prescription” and “description,” treating the descriptive statements as irrelevant or not very important for guiding our actions, then we would end up with very little of the scriptures and even very little of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions to guide us on a wide range of very important matters.
Therefore, as shown by Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana, this idea that descriptive statements do little or nothing to guide our activities is rejected.