Was Sunīti not a role-model for ISKCON women?

Just as one would test the quality of gold by scratching beneath it or testing it in fire, we shall now validate the statements made by Madana Mohan Das Prabhu (MMD) and his colleagues against the fire of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s teachings. In short, MMD et.al. say that Sunīti is not fit to be considered a faithful, submissive, and humble personality that ISKCON devotees can follow as a role-model, whereas from the teachings of our ISKCON Founder-Ācārya, we find evidence to the contrary. In this part we show that, after eighteen pages of a paper that extensively uses mathematics, MMD and his fellow mathematicians say that Sunīti could not initiate Dhruva because she was “afflicted by grief out of affection for her son” as well as by “jealousy and resentment toward Suruci and Uttānapāda” and therefore lacked the qualification to become his dīkṣā-guru. They further insult Sunīti, an elevated personality, by relegating her to mundane platforms, not worthy of becoming a role-model for ISKCON’s devotees.

Madana Mohana Prabhu and his colleagues say,

“It appears from the dialogue [of Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura] that Sunīti as Dhruva’s mother and a neglected co-wife of the King was afflicted by grief out of affection for her son, as well as by jealousy and resentment towards Suruci and Uttānapāda. This might naturally be the reason why she could not muster enough composure and clarity (required of a guru) to pacify and enlighten even herself, much less her son, and could not become his śikṣā-guru.” (page 17)

In order to show that Sunīti could not become Dhruva’s dīkṣā-guru, they say that she had such bad qualities, from which it can be inferred that she lacked the “composure and clarity” to deliver even herself, what to speak of becoming someone’s śikṣā- or dīkṣā-guru. But Śrīla Prabhupāda says in his purport to SB 4.8.23 that Sunīti was a “farseeing woman” and therefore advised him to approach only Lord Nārāyaṇa for help.

“Sunīti, the mother of Dhruva, was a far-seeing woman, and therefore she advised her son to worship the Supreme Lord and no one else.” [Prabhupāda’s purport to SB 4.8.23]

It is contradictory to say she is far-seeing yet jealous, resentful and lacked the composure and clarity to pacify herself and others. Yet Madana Mohana and his colleagues nonetheless say that Sunīti’s deficiencies were such that no woman in ISKCON should be like her.

In his book, “Guru: The Principle: Not the body,” MMD wrote the following:

Now, some expressed concern that Sunīti is being used a model for Vaisnavis in ISKCON and my comment runs contrary to that role of hers. Ppage 313]

Madana Mohana then goes through several quotes from the Bhāgavatam to establish that Sunīti’s teachings and her behavior are not even up to the standards of a loyal wife following the Vedic standards and hence they doubt if ISKCON women would find any benefit in following her as their role-model. Commenting on the text SB 4.8.23 on page 17 and 18 (and on page 212 of the book Guru:….), Madana Mohana Prabhu states:

As a result, even though earlier Sunīti supported Suruci’s instructions, asked Dhruva not to wish Suruci ill, glorified the Lord and encouraged Dhruva to worship Him, Dhruva still could not get rid of his vengeance on the way to the forest…The fact that Dhruva was still afflicted by anger and vengeance on the way to the forest indicates that Sunīti was not able to free him from anger by her instructions (or maybe didn’t actually intend to). [Page 18]

4.8.21-23: As a result, even though Sunīti supported Suruci’s instructions, glorified the Lord and encouraged Dhruva to worship Him, Dhruva still could not get rid of his vengeance on the way to the forest,… [page 212, Guru: The Principle….]

But in his purport to SB 4.8.23, Śrīla Prabhupāda appreciates Sunīti for her superior teachings to Dhruva Maharaja in surrendering only to Lord Kṛṣṇa and not to demigods, as shown below:

Sunīti pointed out herewith that the benediction received from the Supreme Personality of Godhead and that received from the demigods are not on an equal level. … Therefore Sunīti told her son that he should not seek the mercy of the demigods, but should directly approach the Supreme Personality of Godhead to mitigate his misery.

We have already pointed out that in the same purport (SB 4.12.23) Śrīla Prabhupāda appreciated queen Sunīti as a farseeing woman. And furthermore, in his purport to SB 4.8.22, Śrīla Prabhupāda explains that Sunīti’s instructions to Dhruva Mahārāja forms the essential part of the system of Bhakti Yoga that everyone, wanting to perfect their life in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, must follow, as cited below:

The system of bhakti-yoga described by Queen Sunīti to her son is the standard way of God realization. … Queen Sunīti also indicated by her instruction that Dhruva Mahārāja was only a small child, five years old, and it was not possible for him to purify himself by the way of karma-kāṇḍa. But by the process of bhakti-yoga, even a child less than five years old, or anyone of any age, can be purified. That is the special significance of bhakti-yoga. Therefore she advised him not to accept worship of the demigods or any other process but simply to take to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the result would be all perfection. As soon as one places the Supreme Personality of Godhead within one’s heart, everything becomes easy and successful.

Is it not surprising that Madan Mohan Prabhu finds nothing but faults in Sunīti’s instructions to Dhruva Mahārāja, whereas Śrīla Prabhupāda finds her instructions nothing short of presenting pure process of bhakti-yoga that even a child less than five years old or anyone of any age can be purified?

Madan Mohan Prabhu’s logic is that Sunīti’s instructions to Dhruva Mahārāja could not help him give up his anger; this logic is faulty at best. But would that not also mean that Nārada Muni’s instruction to Dhruva Mahārāja was of vain, since Dhruva was still filled with revenge against his step mother? The fact is such opinions are unauthorized since they are in direct violation to that of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s statements in SB 4.8.22 purport, in which he says that Sunīti’s instructions are good to purify not only a child less than five years old but to anyone of any age.

Madan Mohan Prabhu’s further insults of Sunīti and other Vedic Personalities

On pages 213 and 214 of his book, Madana Mohana Prabhu cites the incident associated with Diti and states:

One example could be that of Diti — another great personality — who definitely wanted to take vengeance on her nephew Indra by worshipping the Lord and who therefore earned the following reprimand from her husband Kaśyapa in 6.18.41:

śarat-padmotsavaṁ vaktraṁ vacaś ca śravaṇāmṛtam hṛdayaṁ kṣura-dhārābhaṁ strīṇāṁ ko veda ceṣṭitam

“A woman’s face is as attractive and beautiful as a blossoming lotus flower during autumn. Her words are very sweet, and they give pleasure to the ear, but if we study a woman’s heart, we can understand it to be extremely sharp, like the blade of a razor. In these circumstances, who could understand the dealings of a woman?”

It seems that, in this regard, based on poor understanding of the translations to SB 6.18.41, Madana Mohana Prabhu’s compares Diti’s character with Sunīti, intentionally removing the context of previous verses and the commentary given by Śrīla Prabhupāda. Upon investigating the context, we find that in verses 6.18.39 and 40, Kaśyapa Muni blames himself for his plight and he himself does not find any fault with Diti for acting in her nature as being a woman.

Kaśyapa Muni thought: Alas, I have now become too attached to material enjoyment. Taking advantage of this, my mind has been attracted by the illusory energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the form of a woman [my wife]. Therefore I am surely a wretched person who will glide down toward hell.

This woman, my wife, has adopted a means that follows her nature, and therefore she is not to be blamed. But I am a man. Therefore, all condemnation upon me! I am not at all conversant with what is good for me, since I could not control my senses.

So, it is clear that Madan Mohan Prabhu’s intentions in applying the generic statements of Kaśyapa Muni about the overall nature of women is specifically to taint the character of Sunīti.

Notwithstanding the position of great personalities like Sunīti, is it fair on the part of Madan Mohan Prabhu and his colleagues to accuse Sunīti of characteristics of a lusty woman as they have done in their concluding section on page 214 of their book, as below?

I will leave it to others who are more familiar with both dharma-sastras, stri-dharma and women’s psychology to judge if and to what extent Kaśyapa’s statement about Diti is applicable to Sunīti and other great ladies in SB.  But, coming back to my original point, the statement about Sunīti was made as one possible explanation why she could not serve as Dhruva’s diksa-guru, among other such explanations.

Actually readers and others need no further research on their own as suggested by Madan Mohan Prabhu in judging the characters of Diti or Sunīti. In fact they need to go no far beyond the words of Śrīla Prabhupāda in regards to understanding women’s psychology. In his purport to SB 6.18.46, Śrīla Prabhupāda compliments the nature of women in following the instructions of her husband despite being selfish at fulfilling their desires, as cited below:

… a woman is generally inclined to serve her own purposes. Kaśyapa Muni proposed to train Diti to fulfill her desires within one year, and since she was eager to kill Indra, she immediately agreed, saying, “Please let me know what the vow is and how I have to follow it. I promise that I shall do the needful and not break the vow.” This is another side of a woman’s psychology. Even though a woman is very fond of fulfilling her own plans, when someone instructs her, especially her husband, she innocently follows, and thus she can be trained for better purposes. By nature a woman wants to be a follower of a man; therefore if the man is good the woman can be trained for a good purpose.

It will be further evident that Madan Mohan Prabhu and his colleagues intentionally misguide their audience by painting a horrible picture with regards to the character of Sunīti, especially in light of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s words that certifies the character of Sunīti as impeccably compassionate and great, as cited below:

After the departure of Dhruva Mahārāja from the palace, the King was very afflicted, but by the kind words of Saint Nārada he was partially satisfied. He could understand the great fortune of his wife Sunīti and the great misfortune of Queen Suruci, for these facts were certainly very open in the palace. But still, when the news reached the palace that Dhruva Mahārāja was returning, his mother, Sunīti, out of her great compassion and due to being the mother of a great Vaiṣṇava, did not hesitate to take the other wife, Suruci, and her son, Uttama, on the same palanquin. That was the greatness of Queen Sunīti, the mother of the great Vaiṣṇava Dhruva Mahārāja. [purport to SB 4.9.41]

Why did MMD et.al. intentionally mix up the statement of Kaśyapa Muni about woman in general with the character of Sunīti? It is done with the sole aim of lowering her position and women of Satya-yuga, lower than that of ISKCON women of Kali-yuga. Is it not an insult to the whole gender of women by irresponsibly commenting and challenging the characters of Vedic personalities of a golden age as not a suitable role model for ISKCON Woman?

On page 214, MMD et.al. writes further:

Thus Uttanapada was not punished by the Lord for his misbehavior towards Dhruva. However, Sunīti in her instructions to Dhruva called Uttanapada thrice as many ill names as her co-wife — which is not commensurate with his or Suruci’s actual degree of guilt or malice.]

Madana Mohana Prabhu and his colleagues’ claim that Sunīti called her husband thrice as many ill names finds no supporting statements of Śrīla Prabhupāda in his purports and hence it is completely speculative and offensive in nature, and their claim is solely aimed at deriding the character of queen Sunīti. Śrīla Prabhupāda’s purports (SB 4.8.19 and SB 4.9.41) credit even Suruci, not to speak of Sunīti, as being instrumental for Dhruva Maharaja becoming a pure devotee of the Lord. Hence Madana Mohana Prabhu and his colleagues become the modern age “Ācāryas” for inventing their own commentaries that no other ācārya has ever stated before.

Conclusion

In the purport to SB 4.12.33 Śrīla Prabhupāda clearly establishes that pure devotee disciples such as that of Dhruva Mahārāja, can easily overcome the deficiencies of their guru based on the strength of his pure devotion. Hence, in accusing Sunīti of lacking qualifications to become Dhruva Mahārāja’s dīkṣā-guru, Madana Mohana Prabhu and his colleagues do seem to be knowingly violating the essential teachings of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam or Śrīla Prabhupāda’s purports.

With the ill-intention of deriding the character of Sunīti, Madan Mohan Prabhu and his esteemed colleagues of mathematicians have overstepped all Vedic traditions and ethics by writing eighteen pages of pure word jugglery to obfuscate the very simple and straightforward statements of our Ācāryas. Whether berating and belittling Sunīti to be less than that of Kali-yuga personalities in the name of glorifying ISKCON women is a mad-elephant offense or not is left to the readers.

In continuing parts we will analyse other fallacies in their writings…

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