This is from an exchange I had with an ISKCON leader and sannyasi regarding the misunderstandings many devotees seem to have about Manu-samhita. The first message begins with an exchange between Basu Ghosh Prabhu and the ISKCON leader, and the last message gives a short introduction to the application of Mimamsa principles of interpretation. No further messages were received from Maharaja after that.

———- Forwarded message ———
From: XYZ Swami
Date: Sun, Jun 20, 2021 at 1:40 PM
Subject: Re: GBC FDG dialogue reps are telling us to ignore these instructions of Srila Prabhupada
To: Basu Ghosh Das

My dear Godbrother Basu Ghosh Prabhu,

Please accept my humble obeisances.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Written from my home-base: PDQ

Today I will reply to some of the quotes you sent:

[Basu Ghosh quoting Srila Prabhupada] “Woman, they are generally equipped with the qualities of passion and ignorance. And man also may be, but man can be elevated to the platform of goodness. Woman cannot be. Woman cannot be. Therefore if the husband is nice and the woman follows—woman becomes faithful and chaste to the husband—then their both life becomes successful. There are three qualities of nature = sattva, raja, tama. So rajas-tama, generally, that is the quality of woman. And man can become to the platform of goodness. Therefore initiation, brahminical symbolic representation, is given to the man, not to the woman.” [from Srila Prabhupada’s lecture on SB 1.3.17, at LA on September 22, 1972]

[Basu Ghosh]  So, although he said that women are generally equipped with the qualities of passion and ignorance…”, the point of the quote is now BLOWN UP ABOVE, that women are NOT given initiation!

What is the difficulty in understanding that women are ineligible for initiation? You have carefully ignored this important instruction of Srila Prabhupada, which must be considered a clear prohibition for women to be diksha gurus!
Therefore the criticism!

I am not ignoring these quotes, I have answered them many times. And you seem to be ignoring my answers. In this quote from Los Angeles, generally, women are generally equipped with the quality of passion and ignorance. But there are exceptions. He is just talking about the nature of ordinary women. But Srila Prabhupada has mentioned that vaisnavis are not ordinary women – why do you ignore that? In Los Angeles, Srila Prabhupada also told a lady that if she can make her husband Krsna conscious, it is alright if she becomes a guru of her husband. We have seen in India, many of the husbands are encouraged to be leaders and the wives may be very good devotees. But what to do in that case? Generally, maybe women are equipped with the quality of passion and ignorance. But vaisnavis are not ordinary, they are very special.

“…they avoid that trap, they avoid association of women. But these women are not ordinary women. They are preachers. They are preachers. They are Vaisnava. By their association, one becomes a Vaisnava.” [Morning Walk – March 27, 1974, Bombay]

As far as your quote concerning varnasrama collage…

“Prabhupada told the same thing to Satsvarupa, that women are on the level of shudras, and that there is no need of women studying in the varnashram college”:
Satsvarupa: Srila Prabhupada, is this school for women also, or just for men?
Prabhupada: For men. Women should automatically learn how to cook, how to cleanse home.
Satsvarupa: So they don’t attend var?asrama college?
Prabhupada: No, no. Var?asrama college especially meant for the brahma?a, k?atriya and vaisya. Those who are not fit for education, they are sudras. That’s all. Or those who are reluctant to take education—sudra must. That’s all. They should assist the higher class.
[From Srila Prabhupada’s morning walk at Vrindavan on March 14, 1974]

Yes, ladies should learn how to cook as part of their g?hastha dharma. We have seen that Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, his wife prepared very sumptuous prasada for Lord Caitanya. Also, Advaita Gosain’s wife Sita Devi, prepared sumptuous prasada for Lord Caitanya. That is alright, it is very good that ladies cook for the Lord. They can learn how to do that. In Chennai, ladies cook very nice prasada, I am sure you like it. Idlis, dosas, pongal, all kinds of sabzis, rice, very nice! But they also preach. The president’s wife Tarini Radha Devi Dasi organized a massive school program called Prahlada School and has thousands of children. Similarly, Madhava Kirti Devi Dasi, has organized online Gita courses and has tens of thousands of people attending these courses. They may be good cooks, but they are also nice preachers. I don’t see why you don’t see that. I have seen in Mumbai, in Delhi, our book tables are often manned by ladies, and they sell many books. I also bought one book just to gratify the preachers, lady preachers. They are very expert when they approach people to buy Srila Prabhupada books. I am sure you are using them in Gujarat in the same way. So, Srila Prabhupada has said that these are not ordinary women, these are special devotees. So, what he said in Vrndavana, is the strategy for India. What he said in the West, maybe a different strategy. As you see in the letters below Srila Prabhupada had different strategies for different people.

“The actual system is that the husband is Spiritual Master to his wife, but if the wife can bring her husband into practicing this process, then it is all right that the husband accepts wife as Spiritual Master. Caitanya Mahaprabhu has said that anyone who knows the science of Krishna, that person should be accepted as Spiritual Master, regardless of any material so-called qualifications; such as rich or poor, man or woman, or brahmana or sudra.”
[Letter to: Silavati—New Vrindavan, 14 June, 1969]

[Basu Ghosh quoting Srila Prabhupada] “Now, in the Manu-samhita it is clearly stated that a woman should not be given freedom. That does not mean that women are to be kept as slaves, but they are like children. Children are not given freedom, but that does not mean that they are kept as slaves. The demons have now neglected such injunctions, and they think that women should be given as much freedom as men.”

[Basu Ghosh] If women are like children, in the opinion of Srila Prabhupapda, how can you rationalize that he did not make gender distinction, and desired the introduction of FDGs?

The GBC resolution states that a lady should be 55 years of age or older, and should be under the protection of her husband or son, or someone. I don’t have the exact wording. But we also accept that women should be protected. The Manu Samhita also said that women, sudras, should not be gurus. But then what are we? We are lower than sudras. Also, the Bhagavatam says:

“Surrendered souls, even from groups leading sinful lives, such as women, the laborer class, the mountaineers and the Siberians, or even the birds and beasts, can also know about the science of Godhead and become liberated from the clutches of the illusory energy by surrendering unto the pure devotees of the Lord and by following in their footsteps in devotional service.”
(SB 2.7.46)

I don’t know what the point you are trying to make – you are not on very solid ground, and you say ok women should be initiated. But Srila Prabhupada initiated them, he even gave the second initiation, he gave them Gayatri, maybe he did not give the sacred thread. But he did give them the mantra and he told Saradia Devi Dasi that she could tell the mantra to her husband and he could somehow or another put the brahmana thread. You know all these things but rather you gave us many obscure quotes taken out of context in any of the quotes – Srila Prabhupada said generally, he was talking about general women. We are talking about vaisnavis.

“Even though you have had no gayatri mantra, still you are more than brahmin. I am enclosing herewith your sacred thread, duly chanted on by me. Gayatri mantra is as follows:
[TAKEN OUT]

Ask your wife to chant this mantra and you hear it and if possible hold a fire ceremony as you have seen during your marriage and get this sacred thread on your body. Saradia, or any twice-initiated devotee, may perform the ceremony.”
(Letter to Vaikunthanath and Saradia, 4th April, 1971)

I know you, Basu Ghosh, you are a very nice gentleman, I don’t know who is your ghostwriter. Maybe Krsna Kirti?

Hope this finds you in good health.

Your servant,
XYZ.

———- Forwarded message ———
From: Krishna Kirti Das
Date: Tue, Jun 22, 2021 at 1:35 AM
Subject: Re: This just in…
To: XYZ Swami
Cc: Basu Ghosh Das, and others.

Dear XYZ Maharaja, ,please accept my humble obeisances at your feet. All glories to Srila Prabhupada and your service to him.

Basu Ghosh Prabhu asked me to respond to the below message from you, since you had mentioned my name. In this regard, I just want to tell you that I have not been doing any writing for him lately, including his recent letters to you. I have been busy with other things. Nevertheless, with regard to your debate, I have an observation, a comment, and a question that I would like to take this opportunity to share with you and other receivers of this text.

My observation is that this email discussion, like so many others, will most likely settle nothing, because it seems to be just one Srila Prabhupada quote versus another with no guiding principles to determine how conflicting statements should be resolved. In a 2007 essay titled “ISKCON’s Search for Self-Identity,” the late Dr. Thomas J. Hopkins said,

“Many of the disagreements within ISKCON. . . involve claims that “Prabhupad said this” versus “Prabhupad said that.” This is the kind of literalist proof-texting that characterises Christian and Muslim fundamentalists, and it basically settles nothing because the “proof” presented on both sides is all on the same level — i.e. it is one quote versus another, with no systematically applied exegetical principles to determine their relative authority.

“This situation is if anything even worse in ISKCON than in these other traditions, because the volume of Srila Prabhupada’s statements and writings over the years is so great, and they have been so carefully recorded and made available, that a careful search of the cumulative records — an activity at which ISKCON’s various factions have been very adept — can usually turn up something to prove almost any point..”

And, by all appearances, this email thread on both sides seems to be yet another example of what Dr. Hopkins described as “literalist proof texting.” Am I wrong?

My comment: It seems that the big mistake in these debates is taking Srila Prabhupada as primary, or direct, evidence, when according to the shastras, the words of an acharya are considered to have authority on the level of the smritis, not the srutis (vedo ‘khilo dharmamulam sm?tisile ca tadvida?/ acarascaiva sadhunam iatmanas tu??ir eva ca, Manu-sahmita 2.6). The Vedas, and other apaurushaya literature like the Bhagavatam, are considered primary, or direct, evidence (vedo ‘khilo dharmamulam, CC Madhya 6.135 also discusses this point in detail). The point here is that literature by acharyas is regarded as smriti, and this fact is essential in resolving certain kinds of conflicts between different kinds of statements, as will be shown below.

With regard to smriti, in commenting on this shloka, Medhatithi in his Manu-bhashya commentary notes that instead of giving a list of names of authorized smriti writers, as some shastras do, Lord Manu gives the characteristics of those qualified to write smriti so that others not specifically named in the shastras may also become recognized as shastrakaras (those who have the adhikara to write shastra).

The characteristics of an author of smriti-shastra is that he must be fully learned in the srutis, smritis and other Vedic literature (tadvida?) and must also be of exemplary character and have no self-interest (sila) in the topic he writes on other than simply explaining dharma. This definition would include great acharyas like Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, the Six Gosvamis, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Srila Prabhupada, etc. Their writings are considered shastra–specifically smriti.

Note that this definition would include those who are not necessarily pure Vaishnavas, like Chanakya, whom Srila Prabhupada considered a learned and exemplary brahmana. It would also potentially include ISKCON devotees who are not necessarily pure Vaishnavas on the platform of bhava and prema but who are nonetheless learned and pure (in the brahminical sense) and also have no self-interest in the topics they write about. And according to this shloka, along with the words of such learned and exemplary men, their good behavior (acarascaiva sadhunam) and also their personal preferences (atma-tu??i) are also authorized sources of dharma.

Here is an example of acharya’s words as smriti being resolved by sruti:

In SB 1.3.15 purport, there is a conflict between the opinion of Srila Sridhara Svami, who says that a devastation does not always occur after the change of every Manu. But Srila Jiva Gosvami however provides evidences from the shastras that one always occur after every change of Manu:

“According to Sripada Sridhara Svami, the original commentator on the Bhagavatam, there is not always a devastation after the change of every Manu. And yet this inundation after the period of Cak?u?a Manu took place in order to show some wonders to Satyavrata. But Sri Jiva Gosvami has given definite proofs from authoritative scriptures (like Vi??u-dharmottara, Marka??eya Pura?a, Hariva?sa, etc.) that there is always a devastation after the end of each and every Manu. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti has also supported Srila Jiva Gosvami, and he (Sri Cakravarti) has also quoted from Bhagavatam?ta about this inundation after each Manu. Apart from this, the Lord, in order to show special favor to Satyavrata, a devotee of the Lord, in this particular period, incarnated Himself.”

This example here shows that the conflict between two acharyas was resolved primarily by shastra, and other evidence was corroborating, or secondary. It’s not that one acharya dominated the other due to one being more recent. It is evidence from shastra that settled the issue. Without shastra, this could have devolved into a medieval quote war.

Following from this example and the evidences for the sources of dharma (why the acharyas words are considered to have the authority of smriti), it appears to me that the way out of this “quote war” is to take the discussion to a higher level and settle the matter with evidences from shastra as our primary pramana. Srila Prabhupada and other acharyas (and the shastras they have composed) will of course be quoted at length, but the primary evidence should come from the revealed scriptures. This will include sruti, smriti, pancharatras, puranas, itihasas, etc. It’s what Srila Prabhupada recommended in CC Madhya 20.352 (“shastra is the center for all”). At the very least, this process is authorized–karma brahmodbhavam vidhi.

That’s the end of my comment.

My question to you is this: do you agree in principle that the revealed scriptures are our primary, or direct, evidence, and that all other evidence from other acharyas, including Srila Prabhupada, is secondary or supporting evidence? If so, then perhaps further steps can be taken to get scholars on both sides together to discuss this matter. If you don’t agree that shastra is the primary evidence, then I humbly request you to explain what you think is the proper way to understand Srila Prabhupada’s authority as compared with shastra (srutis, smritis, puranas, pancharatras, itihasas, etc.).

Respectfully,

Your servant, Krishna-kirti Das

———- Forwarded message ———
From: XYZ Swami
Date: Wed, Jun 23, 2021 at 3:44 PM
Subject: Re: This just in…
To: Krishna Kirti Das
Cc: Basu Ghosh Das, and others

My dear Krishna Kirti Das,

Please accept my best wishes.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada

Home Base: PDQ

Thank you for writing to me.

I remember you wrote criticizing my survey. I don’t remember, but maybe we discussed other than that. I tried to get a survey done in India to present to the GBC and their positive suggestions, what they didn’t like about the resolution, about the Vaisnavi diksa gurus.

I don’t really have time to engage with you. Because I have GBC work, Indian Bureau work, CDM, Mayapur, BSCT, many other activities. Just answering to Basu Ghosh because he has been elected as the representative of the Indian Bureau and I am not able to answer his emails timely as I have many other activities.

So although I would like to engage with you, but I am not able to give time. So please forgive me for that. If you like to engage with someone else, I can see if there is someone else who can spend the time with you.

I received a letter from an ISKCON devotee what you mentioned about your proposals and my comments given below. Unfortunately, I don’t have liberty to say who wrote this text.

I hope this finds you in good health and happy Krishna consciousness.

Yours in service,
XYZ Swami.

1 Our argument is not based on proof-texting alone. You are proof-texting, and using absurd exigetical principles, such as quoting very obscurve, insignificant Sanskrit texts.

The Acaryas do have authority on details, as stated by Rupa Goswami, and these are details. Shatras are primary for basic principles, Acaryas manage the details. It is not a Smrti issue, but rather a detail of devotional service. It is misconstruing the issue to call it a Smrti issue. Basically, as usual, it is not logical.

2. The example of disagreement over devastation after every Manu is not a detail of bhakti-yoga practice, and thus is not analagous to female gurus. It is an obscure historical or cosmological detail.

3. No important Shastra gives a view on women Gurus. The Bhagavatam often contradicts secondary Smrti texts, and therefore, as Jiva Goswami explains, we accept primary Shastra, and do not follow all the Smrti details. Indeed, those who do are disparaged as Smartas (from the word smrti). You miss a larger principal, such as “Anyone who knows Krishna is a guru,” which is found in the CC.

4. The ISKCON issue of diksa vs siksa guru is not even found in Shastra. Shastra does not even make these distinctions. Nor does Shastra say that a woman cannot be a Guru.

———- Forwarded message ———
From: Krishna Kirti Das
Date: Wed, Jun 23, 2021 at 6:09 PM
Subject: Re: This just in…
To: XYZ Swami
Cc: Basu Ghosh Das, and others

Dear XYZ Maharaja, please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada and your service to him.

Thank you kindly for your gracious reply. As you are indeed busy, as you say, with other important GBC work, I will not take much more of your time in correspondence. Nevertheless, I have made a few comments below, which are just for your information and need not be replied to.

On Wed, Jun 23, 2021 at 3:44 PM XYZ Swami wrote:
My dear Krishna Kirti Das,

Please accept my best wishes.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada

Home Base: PDQ

Thank you for writing to me.

“I remember you wrote criticizing my survey. I don’t remember, but maybe we discussed other than that. I tried to get a survey done in India to present to the GBC and their positive suggestions, what they didn’t like about the resolution, about the Vaisnavi diksa gurus.”

I have a background as a statistician and so have some formal training and experience in the area of surveys and best practices regarding surveys. Hence, my criticisms were made in order to better the effort.

In short, the survey requests personal information on a very sensitive matter and hence biases the responses towards the known position of the person (in this case you) who is administering the survey. Therefore there is good reason to believe that the survey results are not actually representative of what ISKCON India leaders think but instead will overrepresent what leaders who share your opinions think. Most of the questions also are worded such that the responses could give several different interpretations (i.e. ambiguous result). If you are interested in a survey that is sufficiently unbiased, then some professional help should be sought.

“I don’t really have time to engage with you. Because I have GBC work, Indian Bureau work, CDM, Mayapur, BSCT, many other activities. Just answering to Basu Ghosh because he has been elected as the representative of the Indian Bureau and I am not able to answer his emails timely as I have many other activities.”

“So although I would like to engage with you, but I am not able to give time. So please forgive me for that. If you like to engage with ssomeone else, I can see if there is someone else who can spend the time with you.”

I appreciate that, Maharaja. You are a great devotee and have done many great things for the movement.

I received a letter from an ISKCON devotee what you mentioned about your proposals and my comments given below. Unfortunately, I don’t have liberty to say who wrote this text.

I have a few short remarks in response to your colleague’s statements below:

I hope this finds you in good health and happy Krishna consciousness.

Yours in service,
XYZ Swami.

Thank you, Maharaja.

Your servant, Krishna-kirti Das

p.s. My comments re. your colleague.

1 Our argument is not based on proof-texting alone. You are proof-texting, and using absurd exigetical principles, such as quoting very obscurve, insignificant Sanskrit texts.

The text I quoted primarily is Manu-samhita, and that is hardly an “obscure, insignificant Sanskrit text.” But because Srila Prabhupada frequently quotes Manu as an authority against women’s equality, I can see why some people would like everyone else to believe that Manu-samhita is obscure and insignificant. But those who are familiar with Srila Prabhupada’s own works know that Manu-samhita is hardly insignificant. Srila Prabhupada considered it very important. So did our acharyas.

The Acaryas do have authority on details, as stated by Rupa Goswami, and these are details. Shatras are primary for basic principles, Acaryas manage the details. It is not a Smrti issue, but rather a detail of devotional service. It is misconstruing the issue to call it a Smrti issue. Basically, as usual, it is not logical.

I’m sorry, but whoever your colleague is, while he quotes Srila Rupa Gosvami, he seems to have forgotten that Rupa Gosvami says in Bhakti-rasamrita-sindu Sruti-smriti-puranadi, etc., that he considers smriti an authority, and it is also considered shastra.

2. The example of disagreement over devastation after every Manu is not a detail of bhakti-yoga practice, and thus is not analagous to female gurus. It is an obscure historical or cosmological detail.

And your colleague has failed to grasp the point that the example was cited in the context of pramana-shastra, or how conflicts between different texts are solved. The correct use of pramanas is fundamental to how we understand the shastras and other acharyas even on matters of bhakti.

3. No important Shastra gives a view on women Gurus.

Narada-pancharatra does, and Narada-pancharatra is our foremost shastra on matters pertaining to pancharatrika-vidhi. As we have shown repeatedly, the Bharadvaja-samhita of Narada-pancharatra says na jatu mantra da nari, that there is a general prohibition on female diksa-gurus (and the same shastra also says when an exception is allowed). Our acharyas have also quoted this shastra, and our own Srila Prabhupada has confirmed (SB 4.31.10) that Bharadvaja-samhita accepts persons as brahmanas on the basis of quality, not simply birth.

“On the other hand, if the brahminical qualifications are found in the person of a sudra, he should immediately be accepted as a brahma?a. To substantiate this there are many quotations from Bhagavatam, Mahabharata, Bharadvaja-sa?hita and the Pañcaratra, as well as many other scriptures” (SB 4.31.10 purport)

So, the question is why won’t you accept this evidence from Narada-pancharatra?

The Bhagavatam often contradicts secondary Smrti texts, and therefore, as Jiva Goswami explains, we accept primary Shastra, and do not follow all the Smrti details.

This is an incorrect understanding, because the smritis, being bona fide shastras, are to be understood in a way that is compatible with the srutis and other shastras with apaurushaya status like the Bhagavatam. The smritis are not rejected, either in whole or in part.

Indeed, those who do are disparaged as Smartas (from the word smrti). You miss a larger principal, such as “Anyone who knows Krishna is a guru,” which is found in the CC.

It should also be noted that the Bhagavatam directly says that Lord Manu is a Mahajana, a great authority.

4. The ISKCON issue of diksa vs siksa guru is not even found in Shastra. Shastra does not even make these distinctions. Nor does Shastra say that a woman cannot be a Guru.

This person is mistaken, and we have already presented the conclusive pramanas from Narada pancharatra.

Your servant, Krishna-kirti Das

### end of message ###

———- Forwarded message ———
From: XYZ Swami
Date: Thu, Jun 24, 2021 at 7:07 PM
Subject: Re: This just in…
To: Krishna Kirti Das
Cc: Basu Ghosh Das, and others

I have a personal question, you said that in order to make a survey, a professional should be approached, who is a professional who could be do this?

As, i mentioned earlier that I don’t have personal time to reply, but following is the reply from the same devotee to your comments. Your comments are in blue and his are in yellow.

Hope this finds you in good health and blissful krishna consciousness

Yours in service

XYZ Swami

 

The text I quoted primarily is Manu-samhita, and that is hardly an “obscure, insignificant Sanskrit text.” But those who are familiar with Srila Prabhupada’s own works know that Manu-samhita is hardly insignificant. Srila Prabhupada considered it very important. So did our acharyas.

In fact, if we thoroughly study the Manu-samhita, we will find that Prabhupada and other great Acaryas blatantly ignored many, probably most, of its injunctions. 

Further, the Manu text available today is considered to be a corrupted text. Lest you think that these literatures cannot be corrupted, Sripada Madhvacarya states that the Maha-bharata text is ’thoroughly corrupted by interpolations, extrapolations, and transpositions of text.’ The MS is especially notorious for its statements on women. Here are a few samples of MS texts that Prabhupada and all other Acaryas blatantly ignored:

“One should not marry women who have have reddish hair, redundant  parts of the body [such as six fingers], one who is often sick, one without hair or having excessive hair and one who has red eyes.”

“One should not marry women whose names are similar to constellations, trees, rivers, those from a low caste, mountains, birds, snakes, slaves or those whose names inspires terror.”

“Wise men should not marry women who do not have a brother and whose parents are not socially well known.”

“Wise men should marry only women who are free from bodily defects, with beautiful names, grace/gait like an elephant, moderate hair on the head and body, soft limbs and small teeth.” 

“A Brahman who marries a Shudra woman…is bound to go to hell after death.”

“A Brahman, true defender of his class, should not have his meals in the company of his wife  and even avoid looking at her. Furthermore, he should not look towards her when she is having her meals or when she sneezes/yawns.”

“Men may be lacking virtue, be sexual perverts, immoral and devoid of any good qualities, and yet women must constantly worship and serve their husbands.”

“Women have no divine right to perform any religious ritual, nor make vows or observe a fast. Her only duty is to obey and please her husband and she will for that reason alone be exalted in heaven.”

“In case a woman tears the membrane [hymen] of her Vagina, she shall instantly have her head shaved or two fingers cut off and made to ride on Donkey.”

“In case a women, proud of the greatness of her excellence or her relatives, violates her duty towards her husband, the King shall arrange to have her thrown before dogs at a public place.”

“Any women who disobey orders of her lethargic, alcoholic and diseased husband shall be deserted for three months and be deprived of her ornaments.”

In fact, Smṛti literature contains thousands of injunctions that no Acarya ever followed nor taught. Here are some more “injunctions” supposedly from Manu Smrti that no Vaishnava Acarya has ever endorsed or taught:

Prabhupada could never have created a Krishna consciousness movement if he followed this injunction:

If a person of lower caste adopts the occupation of a higher caste, the king ought to deprive him of all his property and expel him from his kingdom. (Manusmriti, X: 96)

Imagine the effect of this injunction on ISKCON preaching: If a Shudra (lowest caste member) dares to give moral lessons to a Brahmin, the king is to get him punished by pouring hot oil in his ear and mouth. (Manusmriti, VII: 272)

Shall we teach devotees and the public the following acceptable murder? If a Brahmin kills a Shudra, he is to perform penance by killing a cat, frog, owl or crow, etc. (Manusmriti, XI: 131)

Should we impose this rule in ISKCON? It is the highest duty of the woman to burn herself after her husband. (Brahma Purana 80.75)

How about this? When a woman, proud of her relations [or abilities] deceives her husband (with another man), then the king should [ensure that] she be torn apart by dogs in a place much frequented by people. And the evil man should be burnt in a bed of red-hot iron. (Manusmriti, MS VIII: 371/372)

According to Krishna Kirti prabhu, we should follow all the above injunctions. 

To say that all smrti literature is in strict accord is ludicrous and shows that one knows very little of Sanskrit literature. For example, how will one reconcile the Manu-samhita with famous Vaishnava statements such as this, often quoted by Prabhupada, which violates hundreds of smrti rules:

ṣat-karma-nipuṇo vipro matratantra-viśāradaḥ
avaiṣṇavo guru na syād vaiṣṇavaḥ śva-paco guruḥ

“A learned vipra, expert in the six duties and learned in mantra and tantra, if a non-devotee, may not be a guru. A devotee dog-eater can be a guru.”

Similarly, the CC 2.8.128 states:

kibā vipra, kibā nyāsī, śūdra kene naya
yei kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā, sei ‘guru’ haya

“Whether a learned brāhmaṇa, or a sannyāsi, or even if a śūdra, one who knows the truth of Kṛṣṇa is actually a guru.” Again, one can hardly count all the smrti rules violated by this statement in CC. 

I will stop here for now. In summary, the arguments given are in fact the same arguments given for centuries by the notorious smārtas who for centuries tried to stop the expansion of Krishna consciousness, by imposing irrelevant caste and smṛti rules that are not required for Krishna consciousness. In fact, our Acaryas taught a very tiny, miniscule percentage of the thousands upon thousands of smrti rules that our Acaryas simply ignored, as they are irrelevant, or detrimental, to Krishna consciousness.

The Acaryas do have authority on details, as stated by Rupa Goswami, and these are details. Shatras are primary for basic principles, Acaryas manage the details. It is not a Smrti issue, but rather a detail of devotional service. It is misconstruing the issue to call it a Smrti issue. Basically, as usual, it is not logical. 

I’m sorry, but whoever your colleague is, while he quotes Srila Rupa Gosvami, he seems to have forgotten that Rupa Gosvami says in Bhakti-rasamrita-sindu Sruti-smriti-puranadi, etc., that he considers smriti an authority, and it is also considered shastra.

The example of disagreement over devastation after every Manu is not a detail of bhakti-yoga practice, and thus is not analagous to female gurus. It is an obscure historical or cosmological detail. 

And your colleague has failed to grasp the point that the example was cited in the context of pramana-shastra, or how conflicts between different texts are solved. The correct use of pramanas is fundamental to how we understand the shastras and other acharyas even on matters of bhakti.

No important Shastra gives a view on women Gurus.

Narada-pancharatra does, and Narada-pancharatra is our foremost shastra on matters pertaining to pancharatrika-vidhi. As we have shown repeatedly, the Bharadvaja-samhita of Narada-pancharatra says na jatu mantra da nari, that there is a general prohibition on female diksa-gurus (and the same shastra also says when an exception is allowed). Our acharyas have also quoted this shastra, and our own Srila Prabhupada has confirmed (SB 4.31.10) that Bharadvaja-samhita accepts persons as brahmanas on the basis of quality, not simply birth.

On the other hand, if the brahminical qualifications are found in the person of a śūdra, he should immediately be accepted as a brāhmaṇa. To substantiate this there are many quotations from Bhāgavatam, Mahābhārata, Bharadvāja-saṁhitā and the Pañcarātra, as well as many other scriptures (SB 4.31.10 purport)

So, the question is why won’t you accept this evidence from Narada-pancharatra? 

The Bhagavatam often contradicts secondary Smrti texts, and therefore, as Jiva Goswami explains, we accept primary Shastra, and do not follow all the Smrti details.

 This is an incorrect understanding, because the smritis, being bona fide shastras, are to be understood in a way that is compatible with the srutis and other shastras with apaurushaya status like the Bhagavatam. The smritis are not rejected, either in whole or in part.

Indeed, those who do are disparaged as Smartas (from the word smrti). You miss a larger principal, such as “Anyone who knows Krishna is a guru,” which is found in the CC. 

It should also be noted that the Bhagavatam directly says that Lord Manu is a Mahajana, a great authority. 

4. The ISKCON issue of diksa vs siksa guru is not even found in Shastra. Shastra does not even make these distinctions. Nor does Shastra say that a woman cannot be a Guru. 

This person is mistaken, and we have already presented the conclusive pramanas from Narada pancharatra.

 Regarding Narada-pancaratra, Krishna Kirti prabhu should tell us what percentage of the the NPR’s many injunctions Prabhupada asked us to follow. How many did previous Acaryas require their followers to obey?

If we calculate this, we will find that Vaishnava Acaryas did not require, expect, or request their disciples to follow all the rules of the NPR.

———- Forwarded message ———
From: Krishna Kirti Das
Date: Sun, Jun 27, 2021 at 7:13 PM
Subject: Re: This just in…
To: XYZ Swami
Cc: Basu Ghosh Das, and many others

On Thu, Jun 24, 2021 at 7:07 PM XYZ Swami wrote:
I have a personal question, you said that in order to make a survey, a professional should be approached, who is a professional who could be do this?

There are lots of them. Any professional pollster, or a psychologist or sociologist who has experience conducting polls and analyzing the results would qualify. Someone you pay as a third-party and who has absolutely no stake in the outcome of your matters is best. The kind of survey you say you want can be done and also can be considered reasonably free from bias. But as it now stands, your survey is biased and the results cannot be trusted.

As regards to your colleague, he is certain of his own knowledge, but he has shown that he does not know the difference between a vidhi and a niyama. A vidhi is an act that must be performed, otherwise sin will occur. But a niyama is what is called a quasi-obligatory injunction, in which some part of it may be obligatory while another part of it may be optional (it is advised, but not obligatory).

For example, your colleague quotes this verse as an example of a morally repugnant vidhi:

“Wise men should marry only women who are free from bodily defects, with beautiful names, grace/gait like an elephant, moderate hair on the head and body, soft limbs and small teeth.” [MS 3.10]

However, the Jurist Kirshori Lal Sarkar in his 1909 book “The Mimamsa Rules of Interpretation as applied to Hindu Law” makes the following remarks about this same verse:

“Suppose in connection with a duty enjoined, objects and persons are incidentally mentioned, with a statement of the qualities which those objects and persons should possess. In such a case if each of the qualities had the force of a Vidhi and formed an indispensable condition, then it would be simply impossible to perform the duty. For instance, in connection with the duty of marrying, Manu lays down that the bride should, among other things have a name which is easily pronounceable, should have a gait like that of a swan, whose hair is gently flowing. If these adjectives be taken as essential parts of the Vidhi for marrying, then in many cases marriage would be impossible. Therefore, the adjectives must be taken as mere matters of description as what is desirable and not as conditions precedent, affecting the question of validity of the marriage itself.” (page 283) [URL: https://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/sarkar1909/0309 ]

So, if this injunction is taken as a vidhi (compulsory rule) then many women will remain unmarried. Does Manu want to say that only beautiful women should get married? If so then the fathers of ugly girls are bound to get the sin of not getting their daughters married because that is the vidhi (compulsory rule) given in Manu samhita and other puranas.

Technically vidhi means an injunction (motivation to do something) whose action is not found from anywhere except from the words of the injunction itself. For instance, “one should wake up for mangala arati” is a vidhi statement. Without this statement no one would have even known about this action.

However, marrying women with beautiful gaits and teeth etc. is a natural tendency found always from one’s inclination for sense-gratification. One does not need an injunctive statement to know this. It is not that without this statement everyone would have married ugly women.

As explained above by Sarkar, such details cannot form the vidhi injunction although it may have been mentioned in the form of an injunctive statement. Therefore, he considers this injunction to be a niyama. It is semi-obligatory in that marriage is the part necessary but having a gait like an elephant, small teeth, etc. is not obligatory–it is advisory only.

Sarkar notes elsewhere that it is because some people misidentify such niyamas as vidhis and advocate that, for example, it is a sin to marry a girl who does not have small teeth. In doing so, they end up portraying perfectly reasonable injunctions as something repugnant, which is what your colleague is doing here. He is deliberately acting as do those who seek to discredit Manu-samhita.

In any case, there is no point in me replying to the rest of what your colleague is saying, because he doesn’t know enough about the topic to comment meaningfully about it.

The real issue, however, is why are you promoting his opinion? Because you have forwarded his opinion without giving his name, you cannot distance yourself from what he says. It is your choice, and yours alone, to share his opinion anonymously. Even if you say, “those are his words, not mine,” you still chose to share them. Hence, as long as you don’t explicitly reject his opinion, his opinion is your opinion–you own it.

Similarly, by standing by the deficient work of the SAC, on which the GBC’s most recent resolution for approving FDG is based, you create reasonable doubt about your own authority. In both the 2005 and 2013 papers on FDGs, the SAC says there is no special rule in the Pancharatra shastras that pertains to women giving diksa. But this claim was later checked and shown to be false. But if you continue to stand by their research, then your own judgment will be regarded as deficient.

Moreover, at the very beginning of the SAC’s 2013 document, the SAC says, “SAC members mostly agreed that there are no direct and unequivocal statements in the sastras that women have to be more spiritually qualified than men to become dik?a-gurus,” and then they proceed to show only the evidence favorable to the majority opinion. Indeed, one of the senior members of the SAC resigned in protest over this and said the evidence he presented was either ignored or misrepresented in their document. What the SAC did is something like a panel of judges giving only the majority opinion and not also including the minority dissent or misrepresenting what the minority said. This is corrupt scholarship.

And by continuing to stand by the SAC’s conclusions, the GBC has to share the responsibility and blame for SAC’s deficiencies and corruption.

If many others in the movement see the GBC as neither learned nor honest, how can the GBC possibly keep ISKCON united? They can’t, because people will follow their own factions even despite knowing the truth, and those who really do want to follow the truth will go elsewhere. The Mayavadi sannyasis in Varanasi, for example, said that although they know that the word jugglery of Sankaracharya is wrong, they nonetheless follow it because they belong to Shankaracharya’s sect (sampradaya-anurodhe tabu taha mani CC Adi 7.136). Similarly, there are many people in ISKCON who follow their leaders only out of party-spirit, without regard for right or wrong.

Even in India, the late Kirtanananda kept a dog, a german shepherd, to whom he used to give the Mahaprasadam of Sri Sri Radha-Rasabhihari and then have the dog’s remnants distributed to his disciples. And, despite being Indians, they ate it, even knowing that the dog ate it first. Some distanced themselves, but most didn’t. And when Kirtanananda left, the majority of his followers left ISKCON with him.

So, party-spirit is ever-present and strong. It’s human nature. That is why, even as a professional with experience in survey design and analyzing survey data, I question the utility of having the survey that you have sponsored done at all. Surveys have their genuine uses, but not all matters can be understood accurately or at all through surveys–any professional will tell you this.

But by continuing to stand by the deficient conclusions and unethical methods of the SAC, the GBC will only be able to capture those with affiliated party-spirit. The rest will have good reason to stop accepting the GBC’s authority. And these devotees will eventually leave and continue Srila Prabhupada’s movement on their own terms, maybe not under the name of ISKCON. The GBC will be responsible for this split in the movement, and no one else.

The only authentic remedy for this is that the issue needs to be reviewed conjointly by scholars on both sides of this issue, not by one side. And it needs to be done in an ethical manner. The results of the research should be comprehensive, conclusive, and above all ethical. Then all persons regardless of party affiliation will accept this as truth.

Since you are one of the most important gurus in ISKCON today, your support for this proposal will practically guarantee it will be undertaken. Such a course will rebuild trust and confidence (for all members, not just some faction) that the conclusion reached by the GBC represents the will of Srila Prabhupada and the parampara. Therefore, I and many others humbly request that you take up this proposal.

But if you don’t, then a major schism in ISKCON is virtually certain. It may not be immediate, but it will eventually come. There is truth to the biblical proverb, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Respectfully, your servant, Krishna-kirti Das

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