In support of my recent musings on FDG – it’s quite common to hear the narrative of two ISKCONs today. Early ISKCON was liberal and women were encouraged in all possible ways, and then Prabhupada took devotees to India where they learned Indian customs and then they imposed these foreign social norms on the “early ISKCON”. In other words, social conservatism in ISKCON is an Indian phenomenon, not present in “ISKCON proper”.
Here is an article from Chicago Tribune about their local Hare Krishna temple. It’s from 1970 – from before devotees went to India. The only source of information on how our society should function at the time was Srila Prabhupada. There weren’t even any books to speak of – abridged BG and TLC, not even Krishna Book, and yet look at the level of their conviction! Where is their alleged liberalism? Where is conservative Indian influence? Who can honestly say that they brought these ideas in from anywhere but Srila Prabhupada?
Here is the part about temple president and his wife:
“FROM CALIFORNIA, Rudra was sent to help at the Detroit temple, then on to found the Chicago temple. With him came eight followers, including his bride, Radhika. Their marriage was arranged by a senior devotee in Detroit. The couple met a week before the ceremony. After three months, they say they are very happy.
“If you choose your mate, it would be for physical attraction,” Rudra says. “When the movement chooses her, it’s for the spiritual betterment of both.”
“Marriages in Krishna Consciousness are nice,” says Rudra, and Radhika, a quiet, dark-haired girl with wire-rimmed glasses, nods. “The husband is spiritual master.” Radhika accepts this philosophy.
“There are different types of bodies. I am a woman, and the female body is at a lower spiritual consciousness. So the husband serves Krishna and the wife serves Krishna by serving her husband. In return, be gives her spiritual knowledge.”
Married couples’ sex life is limited to certain times and is for procreation only.
Children live with their parents until age 5, when they are usually taken to New Vrindaban, a Krishna farming settlement in West Virginia, to be educated by devotees.”
Just look at that “husband is the spiritual master” line – where did it come from if not directly from Prabhupada? Where is any place for “women can also become gurus” line of thinking, nowadays commonly attributed to Srila Prabhupada as a matter of fact?
We can say that this was an isolated case and elsewhere devotees were as liberal towards women as today, but here we have Rudra coming from LA temple, which was the model for the rest of ISKCON to replicate, and then going through Detroit and onto Chicago, and everywhere on the way their type of marriage was encouraged, not looked at as too fanatical, and New Vrindavana gurukula was taking kids from all over, too.
When some devotees today remember that time differently it’s their memories that could have changed, but this article stands as a testament, as a snapshot of reality as it was perceived in ISKCON circa 1970. And there is no place for FDG there. Explain that!
Source: Sitalatma Das FB