Brief Introduction of Basu Ghosh Das, He is the Vice Chairman of the ISKCON India Governing Council (Bureau), and has been serving in ISKCON India since 1974. He is also Regional Secretary for ISKCON in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, and Temple President of ISKCON Baroda in Gujarat.
Dear Readers, Maharajas, Prabhus, and Mataji’s,
Namonamaha. Jaya Srila Prabhupada!
1. I have read the letters from Lalita Devi Dasi and Garuda Prabhu.
2. I discussed the matter of women diksha gurus with Garuda Prabhu on a podcast [during October 2021] that can be seen on the internet, here:
3. Sivarama Swami produced a video on the topic that can be seen on YouTube,, here:
4. Recently I discussed the issue with Bhakti Vikas Swami in a podcast, and that can be seen on the internet (YouTube) here:
5. Those who propagate the introduction of women diksha gurus ignore the following compelling evidence that Srila Prabhupada did NOT intend for women to be diksha gurus. Sitalatma Das made the point, to counter the misguided and incorrect assertion of Narayani Devi Dasi that as a mother she should be a diksha guru.
What Prabhupada wrote in his purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 4.12.32, ought to settle the issue. The verse has NOTHING to do with the topic of gurus, but in his purport Srila Prabhupada made clear distinctions, and wrote: “according to shastric injunction”. Here is what he wrote:
“According to śāstric injunctions, there is no difference between śikṣā-guru and dīkṣā-guru, and generally the śikṣā-guru later on becomes the dīkṣā-guru. Sunīti, however, being a woman, and specifically his mother, could not become Dhruva Mahārāja’s dīkṣā-guru.”
It’s clear from this purport that:
a. A woman can be a shiksha guru and pathapradarshaka guru.
b. A woman is prohibited from being a diksha guru.
Why is that so? In other places, Srila Prabhupada explained why and again, used the words “according to vedic injunction”:
“According to Vedic injunction, women are not allowed to undergo the purificatory process of initiation by the sacred thread, nor are they allowed to live as brahmacāriṇīs in the āśrama of the spiritual master, nor are they advised to undergo the strict disciplinary procedures, nor are they very expert in discussing the philosophy of self-realization. And by nature they are not very pure, nor are they very much attached to auspicious activities.
This is from Chapter 23 in the “Krishna” Book, Srila Prabhupada’s prose translation of the tenth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam.
Srila Prabhupada said the same thing in a lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam 1.3.17 at Los Angeles on September 22, 1972::
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. This is the theory.
Note that one of the dictionary definitions of the English word “theory”:
• a set of principles on which the practice of an activity is based: a theory of education | music theory.
So, the sacred thread is “diksha” and no woman, including Jahnava Mata, wore/wear the sacred thread. It was not given to women by Saraswati Thakur and Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. It is ancient vedic tradition that the sacred thread confers brahminhood, and women can not be brahmanas!
Besides the evidence of eons of vedic tradition, Srila Prabhupada wrote about the sacred thread as diksha in his purport to Chaitanya Charitamrita Madhya 15.108.. Here is some of what he wrote in this purport:
Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī explains dīkṣā in his Bhakti-sandarbha (283):
divyaṁ jñānaṁ yato dadyāt kuryāt pāpasya saṅkṣayam
tasmāt dīkṣeti sā proktā deśikais tattva-kovidaiḥ
“Dīkṣā is the process by which one can awaken his transcendental knowledge and vanquish all reactions caused by sinful activity. A person expert in the study of the revealed scriptures knows this process as dīkṣā.” The regulative principles of dīkṣā are explained in the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (2.3-4) and the Bhakti-sandarbha (283). As stated:
dvijānām anupetānāṁ svakarmādhyayanādiṣu
yathādhikāro nāstīha syāc copanayanād anu
tathātrādīkṣitānāṁ tu mantra-devārcanādiṣu
nādhikāro ’sty ataḥ kuryād ātmānaṁ śiva-saṁstutam
“Even though born in a brāhmaṇa family, one cannot engage in Vedic rituals without being initiated and having a sacred thread. Although born in a brāhmaṇa family, one becomes a brāhmaṇa only after initiation and the sacred thread ceremony. Unless one is initiated as a brāhmaṇa, one cannot worship the holy name properly.”
According to the Vaiṣṇava regulative principles, one must be initiated as a brāhmaṇa. The Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (2.6) quotes the following injunction from the Viṣṇu-yāmala:
adīkṣitasya vāmoru kṛtaṁ sarvaṁ nirarthakam
paśu-yonim avāpnoti dīkṣā-virahito janaḥ
“ ‘Unless one is initiated by a bona fide spiritual master, all his devotional activities are useless. A person who is not properly initiated can descend again into the animal species.’ ”
Hari-bhakti-vilāsa (2.10) further quotes:
ato guruṁ praṇamyaivaṁ sarva-svaṁ vinivedya ca
gṛhṇīyād vaiṣṇavaṁ mantraṁ dīkṣā-pūrvaṁ vidhānataḥ
“ ‘It is the duty of every human being to surrender to a bona fide spiritual master. Giving him everything — body, mind and intelligence — one must take Vaiṣṇava initiation from him.’ ”
The Bhakti-sandarbha (298) gives the following quotation from the Tattva-sāgara:
yathā kāñcanatāṁ yāti kāṁsyaṁ rasa-vidhānataḥ
tathā dīkṣā-vidhānena dvijatvaṁ jāyate nṛṇām
“ ‘By chemical manipulation, bell metal is turned into gold when touched by mercury; similarly, when a person is properly initiated, he can acquire the qualities of a brāhmaṇa.’ ”
Again: ““Even though born in a brāhmaṇa family, one cannot engage in Vedic rituals without being initiated and having a sacred thread. Although born in a brāhmaṇa family, one becomes a brāhmaṇa only after initiation and the sacred thread ceremony. Unless one is initiated as a brāhmaṇa, one cannot worship the holy name properly.”
So if a woman cannot take initiation, yajnopavita samsara, how can she give it? She cannot.
Further, Srila Prabhupada — and vedic shastras — do not view women as brahmanas in any sense of the term. For example, the “divjapatnis” – “wives of the brahmanas” – who were indeed “greater devotees than their husbands”, where told by LORD KRISHNA HIMSELF to return home and ‘assist your husbands”. Not that he instructed them to perform the sacrifices, and their husbands should “cook, clean,. and look after the children”! Here is the shloka/verse [SB 10.23.28]:
तद् यात देवयजनं पतयो वो द्विजातय: ।
स्वसत्रं पारयिष्यन्ति युष्माभिर्गृहमेधिन: ॥ २८ ॥
tad yāta deva-yajanaṁ patayo vo dvijātayaḥ
sva-satraṁ pārayiṣyanti yuṣmābhir gṛha-medhinaḥ
tat — therefore; yāta — go; deva–yajanam — to the sacrificial arena; patayaḥ — the husbands; vaḥ — your; dvi–jātayaḥ — the brāhmaṇas; sva–satram — their own sacrifices; pārayiṣyanti — will be able to finish; yuṣmābhiḥ — together with you; gṛha–medhinaḥ — the householders.
You should thus return to the sacrificial arena, because your husbands, the learned brāhmaṇas, are householders and need your assistance to finish their respective sacrifices.
There are clear instructions from Srila Prabhupada that every human being, devotee included, should “work in their constitutional position”. Here is what Srila Prabhupada said in this regard, directly in connection with women’s duties:
Yogeśvara: So here’s a problem: The women today want the same rights as men. How can they be satisfied?
Prabhupāda: Everything will be satisfied. Just like our women, Kṛṣṇa conscious, they are working. They don’t want equal rights with the men. It is due to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. They are cleansing the temple, they are cooking very nicely. They are satisfied. They never said that “I have to go to Japan for preaching like Prabhupāda.” They never say. This is artificial. So Kṛṣṇa consciousness means work in his constitutional position. The women, men, when they remain in their constitutional position, there will be no artificial . . . (indistinct) . . . (loud traffic noises)[From Srila Prabhupada’s Morning Walk @ Rome, Italy, on May 27, 1974].
Srila Prabhupada told Satsvarupa, “no” – twice – when asked if women should attend the varnashram college:
Satsvarūpa: Śrīla Prabhupāda, is this school for women also, or just for men?
Prabhupāda: For men. Women should automatically learn how to cook, how to cleanse home.
Satsvarūpa: So they don’t attend varṇāśrama college?
Prabhupāda: No, no. Varṇāśrama college especially meant for the brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya and vaiśya. Those who are not fit for education, they are śūdras. That’s all. Or those who are reluctant to take education—śūdra must. That’s all. They should assist the higher class.[From Srila Prabhupada’s morning walk at Vrindavan on March 14, 1974. Seen at: https://vanisource.org/wiki/740314_-_Morning_Walk_-_Vrndavana?hl=college]
So it is clear — and there are other such references as well – that Srila Prabhupada and our previous acharyas did NOT consider women fit to be brahmanas and thus diksha gurus.
In another purport of Srila Prabhupada’s to a verse in the Bhagavatam – 3.24.40 – Prabhupada clearly prohibits women from taking sannyas. He wrote “the woman must remain at home”. Does that indicate that he desired women to be brahmanas and diksha gurus? It indicates the exact opposite. Here is what he wrote:
“A woman is not supposed to take sannyāsa. So-called spiritual societies concocted in modern times give sannyāsa even to women, although there is no sanction in the Vedic literature for a woman’s accepting sannyāsa. Otherwise, if it were sanctioned, Kardama Muni could have taken his wife and given her sannyāsa. The woman must remain at home.”
From what Srila Prabhupada wrote we can understand that there is no scriptural basis for the contention that women be diksha gurus!
The basis of Garuda Das, and the proponents of women/female/vaishnavi diksha gurus is Western egalitarian thought. The “gender equality ethos” that is popular amongst those known in the West as “liberals” and “woke”.
They will – Hridayananda Maharaj already argued in is 2005 paper, Vaishnava Moral Theology and Homosexuality” [can be viewed on his website] that “gay rights” are valid. But Maharaj’s contention contradicts what Srila Prabhupada wrote in his purport to Srimad Bhagvatam 3.20.26:
“It appears here that the homosexual appetite of males for each other is created in this episode of the creation of the demons by Brahmā. In other words, the homosexual appetite of a man for another man is demoniac and is not for any sane male in the ordinary course of life.”
and in Srila Prabhupada’s letter to Lalitananda:
Letter to: Lalitananda
26 May, 1975
My Dear Lalitananda dasa,
Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter dated May 13rd, 1975 and have noted the contents. I am very sorry that you have taken to homosex. It will not help you advance in your attempt for spiritual life. In fact, it will only hamper your advancement. I do not know why you have taken to such abominable activities. What can I say? Anyway, try to render whatever service you can to Krishna. Even though you are in a very degraded condition Krishna, being pleased with your service attitude, can pick you up from your fallen state. You should stop this homosex immediately. It is illicit sex, otherwise, your chances of advancing in spiritual life are nil. Show Krishna you are serious, if you are.
I hope this meets you in good health.
Your ever well-wisher,
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
It is highly regrettable that scholars such as Garuda Das, and many leaders of ISKCON in North America have adopted an ideology that quite obviously contradicts all of the above evidence from Srila Prabhupada’s purports, lectures, etc.
They ignore the historical fact that Srila Prabhupada did not appoint even one woman as a TP, GBC and, BBT/MVT/Property trustee. Srila Prabhupada did not envision women in managerial and leadership roles in his society during his lifetime. He felt that women in leadership roles was “unfortunate and most regrettable”:
The entire purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 4.16.23 states this:
“It is very appropriate to compare a powerful king like Pṛthu to a lion. In India, kṣatriya kings are still called siṅgh, which means “lion.” Unless rogues, thieves and other demoniac people in a state are afraid of the executive head, who rules the kingdom with a strong hand, there cannot be peace or prosperity in the state. Thus it is most regrettable when a woman becomes the executive head instead of a lionlike king. In such a situation the people are considered very unfortunate.”
and in a lecture at London on July 7, 1973, Srila Prabhupada said:Prabhupāda: Hm. So the history is, that same family, there was dispute who would occupy the throne. Dhṛtarāṣṭra and… Actually he was the eldest son of the king, and next was Pāṇḍu. So every country the law of primogeniture, what is called? The eldest child… In your country, even the eldest child is a girl, she also occupies the throne. Just like present Queen Elizabeth. Formerly there was Queen Victoria; before that, another Elizabeth. But in India woman has no such right. The woman is never given any responsible post. That is the opinion of the greatest politician in the history of the world, Cāṇakya Paṇḍita. According to his opinion, viśvāso naiva kartavyaḥ strīṣu rāja-kuleṣu ca. He has given his explicit opinion that “You cannot trust with any responsible post or any responsibility with a woman and politician.” Those who are diplomat, politician, you cannot trust them. [Srila Prabhupada’s lecture on Bhagavad-gita 1.1 at London on July 7, 1973].
Prabhupada said in a lecture at London on August 5, 1971:
So the point is, Vedic culture means Kṛṣṇa consciousness. So this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement means that we are trying to revive the old Vedic culture throughout the whole world. That is the original culture, because any other cultural history does not go beyond three thousand years in the modern history, but before three thousand years, what was the culture in the world? Practically there is no information. Darwin’s theory is not perfect; it is only a theorizing. Human civilization is existing since the creation of this universe. So it is not that there was no human being some thousands of years ago. That is not a fact. The human civilization is coming since a very, very long time.
“So our . . . this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is based on the Vedic śāstra. In the Bhagavad-gītā it is said, vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo (BG 15.15): by studies of all Vedas, one has to come to the conclusion that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” [From Srila Prabhupada’s lecture at London on August 5, 1971].
The conclusion is that those who are propagating women diksha gurus are just advocates of gender equality, and egalitarianism in ISKCON. They have become, effectively, “sahajiyas”, by ignoring “shastric injunctions” and “sanction in vedic literature” and have created “a so-called spiritual society concocted in modern times”!
Is there more: there certainly is! But for now, “I rest my case”.
Abhinandanam – kudos – to Sitalatma Prabhu’s well written logical and reasonable posts to this forum, Same to Sivaram Swami, Bhakti Vikas Swami, Bhakti Raghava Swami, Rupa Rughunath Swami, and all of ISKCON India that is opposed to the concoction known as “vaishnavi diksha guru”! Here is what the ISKCON India Governing Bureau resolved during it’s meeting at Ahmedabad during November of 2019, that was sent to ISKCON’s GBC:
Whereas, the GBC has passed a resolution at their mid-term meeting at Tirupati 2019, authorizing female diksha gurus. However, the Bureau had passed a resolution during its February 2019 meeting at Pune, calling on the GBC not to pass any resolution on female diksha gurus, before entering into a dialogue with the Bureau, but regretfully GBC did not do so, and the Bureau feels distressed and disheartened by the disregard shown by the GBC towards the Bureau,
Whereas, we all know that “books are the basis”, and in our foundational book, Srimad Bhagavatam, 4.12.32, Prabhupada clearly stated that “being a woman… Suniti could not be Dhruva’s diksha guru”. The Bureau finds that the said resolution instituting female diksha gurus is in our understanding a contravention of this specific instruction of Srila Prabhupada,
Whereas, the resolution passed by the GBC on female diksha gurus is having a divisive effect on the worldwide communities of devotees,
Whereas, the members of the Bureau find the said resolution instituting female diksha gurus to contradict established vaishnava practices, traditions, and “culture of the Saraswat line of Gaudiyas” as set down in various vedic scriptures,
Whereas, the effort to institute female diksa-gurus in ISKCON contravenes Srila Prabhupada’s instruction to institute varnasrama-dharma as the social system for ISKCON,
Whereas, Srila Prabhupada did not confer the sacred thread to women, therefore we understand that they are thus unauthorized to confer it to others,
Whereas, Srila Prabhupada had so many sincere and senior female disicples, but still he never appointed a single woman as a TP, GBC, or ritvik (guru – as per the July 9 letter), thus establishing his intent that as per teaching of the shastra that woman should always be protected and not have authority over men,
Whereas, the Bureau is afraid that since the GBC has the tendency to appoint women as TPs and GBCs, and now female diksha gurus, it will open the doors to more Western liberal egalitarian ideas that men and women are absolutely equal, a view that Prabhupada condemned time and again,
Whereas, this resolution and consequent implementation will cause the leaders of the four Vaishnava sampradayas and bona fide followers of Sanatana Dharma to call into question the authenticity of ISKCON,
Whereas, the members of the Bureau feel that the GBC resolution authorizing female diksha gurus even on a regional basis will adversely affect ISKCON India. As devotees around the world treat ISKCON as one united institution and not compartmentally, with each area having it’s own systems of initiation. So anyone who is initiated by a female guru outside of India cannot be denied as a bona fide initiated devotee within India. We wish to point out that ISKCON India has the most temples, the largest group of both fully dedicated and congregational devotees, and the most book distribution in the world. Moreover, we wish to point out that the vast majority of ISKCON’s congregation in the USA, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, as well as to some extent in Western Europe, are Indians, and they naturally have a relationship with ISKCON in India,
Whereas, the Bureau takes cognizance of the vote in the ICC – Indian temple presidents and managers meeting – (vote was seventy six in favor, three opposed, with four abstentions), and in the IIAC – divisional council representatives and Bureau members’ joint meeting – (twenty one in favor, three opposed, and six absentions) wherein both bodies voted overwhelmingly to reject this resolution of the GBC, and called upon us to convey their desire to the GBC for this resolution to be rescinded,
Whereas, there is no pressing need to pass such a resolution while the GBC have yet to arrive at a clear, well thought-out conclusion on Gurutattva ( Diksha, Siksha, etc.) and the unique position of our founder-acharya, for posterity,
Whereas, this resolution that may have far reaching effects on the ISKCON was passed by the GBC with only a simple majority, whereas to be confirmed as a GBC member a 4/5 majority is required,
Therefore, in view of the above, it is hereby resolved, that,
The Bureau hereby expresses its strong opposition to the GBC resolution on female diksha gurus, passed during their 2019 meeting, at Tirupati,
The Bureau calls on the GBC body to rescind the resolution on female diksha gurus during its 2020 AGM, and, as requested by the Bureau in February 2019, to enter into a dialogue on the issue with us, to come to a mutually agreeable solution on the basis of guru, sadhu, and shastra,
Further, the Bureau calls on the GBC body to reconstitute the Shastric Advisory Council (SAC), in consultation with the Bureau, as it appears that the conclusions of the SAC papers of 2005 and 2013 on the topic of female diksha gurus, which informed the GBC’s resolution, are incorrect.
Hope this meets you, dear readers, in good health and jolly spirits.
Basu Ghosh Das