Dear Respected Vaishnavas/i,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
This is an open affirmation on the rejection of the book entitled ‘The Emergence of Women’s Voices in ISKCON’ launched on the 22nd August 2020 by ISKCON Vaishnavi Ministry. Serving this as a strong proclaim that ideologies on the basis of ‘Equality’ can never be shoved down the throats of every Vaishnavis in ISKCON and thus not all Vaishnavis will remain silent witnessing the diminution to the words of Sastra or transparent manipulation of the words of Srila Prabhupada befitting to personal agendas and motives.
This highly collective effort of coming up with a book in the notion of speaking up for the women in ISKCON simply reflects the deeply ingrained egalitarian frame of mind which are the very scheme of the Western society that Srila Prabhupada came to shatter into pieces with his teachings. Popping with something on the contrary to the teachings and Vedic culture that Srila Prabhupada desired to instil, unfortunately is proving to be presuming Guru-vakya and I believe neither anyone in this movement nor the esteemed line of authors of these book would want to be in such a position.
Enough of anthology and deem emphasizing on theology and philosophy (Sastra). Continuous narration of the sufferings of the women in ISKCON in the name of abuse (which clearly plays the role of trump card in sowing the seed for these unceasing grapple of equality), bringing to limelight the need for ‘equal’ treatment and service to be given to both male and female devotees or rattled by the fact that other devotees in the opposite genders are receiving credits for the services done never would set the ground of liberation to deride Guru, Sadhu and Sastra.
With utmost humility, I am making a request here that rather than engaging in a constant dispute for women to be given equal opportunity in services, given positions of leadership or presidency, leading kirtans, giving lectures or to be Female Diksa-gurus, it is a real emergence that we, female followers of Srila Prabhupada, start moulding ourselves in regards to how Srila Prabhupada wanted us to behave as clearly delineated in Srimad Bhagavatam and Chaitanya Caritamrta (SB 3.23.1-5, 5.1.29, 7.11.25-29, 9.3.10, 9.10.55 and CC Madhya 9.201). The transcendental verses and purports by Srila Prabhupada reflects his exact aspiration for his female disciples and followers and these feminine qualities revolving mainly on the pillars of chastity and shyness are ought to be instilled in every female devotees surrendering to the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada.
“As far as the women class are concerned, they are accepted as a power of inspiration for men. As such, women are more powerful than men. Mighty Julius Caesar was controlled by a Cleopatra. Such powerful women are controlled by shyness. Therefore, shyness is important for women. Once this control valve is loosened, women can create havoc in society by adultery. Adultery means production of unwanted children known as varṇa-saṅkara, who disturb the world.” (SB 1.9.27, Purport).
“Shyness is a particular extra-natural beauty of the fair sex, and it commands respect from the opposite sex. This custom was observed even during the days of the Mahābhārata, i.e., more than five thousand years ago. It is only the less intelligent persons not well versed in the history of the world who say that observance of separation of female from male is an introduction of the Mohammedan period in India. This incident from the Mahābhārata period proves definitely that the ladies of the palace observed strict pardā (restricted association with men), and instead of coming down in the open air where Lord Kṛṣṇa and others were assembled, the ladies of the palace went up on the top of the palace and from there paid their respects to Lord Kṛṣṇa by showers of flowers. It is definitely stated here that the ladies were smiling there on the top of the palace, checked by shyness. This shyness is a gift of nature to the fair sex, and it enhances their beauty and prestige, even if they are of a less important family or even if they are less attractive. We have practical experience of this fact. A sweeper woman commanded the respect of many respectable gentlemen simply by manifesting a lady’s shyness. Half-naked ladies in the street do not command any respect, but a shy sweeper’s wife commands respect from all.” (SB 1.10.16, Purport)
Naturally a woman is fully satisfied to remain away of the limelight and by cultivating proposition for bringing forth more female devotees to be given equal rights and share, allowing them to be in the spotlight, it is crucial to be acknowledged here that these ideologies may serve as propensities for the valve of shyness to be broken and the latter of these acts are detrimental to our movement and the society as a whole.
On the idea that all women devotees should be given opportunity to indulge in services according to their talents, it is indeed more important to provide dominance on fulfilling women’s potential as mothers since that motherly nature is readily inbuilt in a woman and rather not an independent skill to be learnt with training.
“I am in due receipt of your letter dated July 19, 1972, and I am simply surprised that you want to give up your child to some other persons, even they are also devotees. For you, child-worship is more important than deity-worship. If you cannot spend time with him, then stop the duties of pujari. At least you must take good care of your son until he is four years old, and if after that time you are unable any more to take care of him then I shall take care. These children are given to us by Krishna, they are Vaisnavas and we must be very careful to protect them. These are not ordinary children, they are Vaikuntha children, and we are very fortunate we can give them chance to advance further in Krishna Consciousness. That is very great responsibility, do not neglect it or be confused. Your duty is very clear.” (Excerpt from Srila Prabhupada’s Letter to Arundhati, Amsterdam, 30th July, 1972)
This directly propounds to the dharma of women, Stri-dharma, which are the prescribed duties for conditioned souls in this material world in the bodies of female to adhere to. Burying and dismissing entirely the idea of varṇāśrama-dharma by putting forward feud that the system is inconsistent for practice in the current society certainly does not tally with the genuine intent of Srila Prabhupada wanting to establish a society propagating on the principles of daiva-varnasrama as “No, 50% of my work is incomplete, because I have not established varnashram.” (As recounted by Abhirama Dasa (ACBSP) on April 14, 2015) and the call of Sastras. Bhagavad-gita 4.13 proves that this divisions within society adhering to respective prescribed duties according to guṇa and karma originates from the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself.
“The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is therefore very much eager to reintroduce the varṇāśrama system into human society so that those who are bewildered or less intelligent will be able to take guidance from qualified brāhmaṇas.” (SB 10.8.6, Purport)
“Actually human civilization begins when this institution of varṇāśrama is accepted. Otherwise it is animal civilization—eating, sleeping, mating, and dancing, that’s all. All right. Thank you very much.” (Lecture on BG 9.4 — Melbourne, April 23, 1976)
“Ultimately the aim of varṇāśrama-dharma is to turn a crude man into a pure devotee of the Lord, or a Vaiṣṇava.” (SB 1.2.2, Purport)
Although varṇāśrama-dharma pertains to the relationship with the body and not the soul as per Bhāgavata dharma, propounding Bhāgavata dharma alone and deriding the importance of varṇāśrama-dharma which is certainly ānukūlya in helping to come to the proper standard of spiritual life by regulations, is inadmissible in relevance to the stages of Bhakti we are in.
A query that bud in accordance to the stages of Bhakti one may be in following the preceding statement, do those on the higher stages of Bhakti, performing pure devotional service for Krishna, would be inflicted with the need of disputing over rights and equality between male and female devotees or wanting to be Female Diksha-gurus? Entirety of the write-ups in the book is in complete propagation of Bhāgavata dharma but the contention remains on the bodily platform ie equality and what more can be contradictory than this?
Therefore, I am putting forward my humblest request that all present and future female devotees in ISKCON, to take the shelter of the eternal words of Sastra and Guru as the highest standard to be practiced in relation to the propagation of our prescribed duties and not anthologizing on the temporary and rare admissions and adjustments that Srila Prabhupada made to propagate the mission of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu fulfilling the aspiration of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur in the province of mlecchas and yavanas. These would prevent unnecessary melee for the present and future young women in ISKCON as to what are their real prescribed duties.
kṛpā-sindhubhya eva ca
vaiṣṇavebhyo namo namaḥ
-Sincerely penned in the service of Srila Prabhupada by an insignificant female follower who does not aspire for credits in service and desiring to perform vaniseva with the mercy of Guru and Gauranga-