This article is in response to the following Comment #344 that Urmila devi dasi made in a thread on Dandavats. Urmila dd said:
“This comment thread is to some extent about the subject of my class-the educating of children in Krishna consciousness. It is also to a greater extent about whether or not I, in a woman’s body, should be giving a class, or any instruction at all, in the presence of superiors according to ashrama, gender, and managerial position.”
In this comment, Urmila dd completely avoids the real reason this comment thread was started and deflects us from the real objection to her giving class. It is not at all about her being a woman. It is about the fact that she, as a female-bodied devotee, has not followed the svadharma of women, that is, stri-dharma.
The comment that kicked off an otherwise forgotten text that had only about 700 views at the time and only 3 comments, and which has now swollen to almost 9,000 views and 389 comments, by far the most commented article on Dandavats, was Comment #4 by Bhaktilata mataji, who wrote:
“By example means that there is a book Bhagavatam and the person Bhagavatam. A female devotee who preaches, which personalities should she exemplify Bhima or Kunti?
None of us would like to hear a class from a fallen sannyasi who didn’t follow his sannyasa dharma.
None of us would like to hear a class from a fallen grhasta who didn’t follow his grahasta dharma.
Nor would we like to hear a class from a fallen brahmacari who didn’t follow his brahmacari dharma.
One should be a living example of what one is preaching. So when it comes to women “preachers” which ones are actually following their stri dharma?
Most senior western women in ISKCON don’t even know what Stri-dharma is what to speak of practice it. Why should we listen to them?”
Urmila dd would like us to forget about this and turn it into an anti-woman thing, and thus she becomes the victim of misogyny who is valiantly fighting for the suppressed women who are struggling under ISKCON’s repressive “patriarchal” system. But this is not at all the case. The actual fact that Urmila dd is trying to deflect us from is that it is because Urmila dd doesn’t follow stri-dharma, therefore she is not qualified to speak, not because she is a woman. Only women who follow their stri-dharma are qualified to speak, and not others.
In Comment #189-190, Bhaktilata mataji proves that Urmila dd is not following stri-dharma and is an unchaste woman and thus not qualified to speak anywhere, what to speak of in the Holy Dham, Sri Mayapura. Bhaktilata wrote:
“In #106 Visakha Priya Mataji wrote:
“Reading through the posts concerning Urmila devi’s class, I have observed that some persons appear to be convinced that Urmila is not following the instructions of her spiritual master and that therefore we should not hear from her.
Let us consider the following statements by Srila Prabhupada about what the Stri dharma of a woman is when her husband becomes a vanaprastha and then you tell me what you think.
“There is no question of separation between husband and wife until the time when the husband takes sannyasa. At that time the wife cannot remain with the husband. Even in vanaprastha stage, or retired life, the wife remains with the husband, but without any sex relations.” Srila Prabhupada Letter to Himavati, 24/1/69
“The chaste wife’s duty is to keep her husband pleased in householder life in all respects, and when the husband retires from family life, she is to go to the forest and adopt the life of vanaprastha, or vana-vasi. At that time the wife is to follow her husband and take care of him, just as she took care of him in householder life.” Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.23.20
“Just as in the vanaprastha stage the wife follows the husband, …” Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.28.34
“The vanaprastha stage is exactly like this. Although the wife remains with the husband, she undergoes severe austerities and penances so that although both husband and wife live together, there is no question of sex. In this way both husband and wife can live together perpetually.” Srimad-Bhagavatam, 4.28.44
Now compare this with the following quote from Urmila dd’s diksha guru nomination letter dated September 2003.
“3. Should not be involved in any abnormal personal situation. An example of such a situation would be a disrupted or anomalous family life which could distract a guru from his guru duties or otherwise prove a disturbance to him or his followers.”
“My situation has been stable for some time. I’m living separated from husband as vanaprastha since 1996; we have a legal separation agreement. I’m under the authority of our sons and son-in-law. I will soon have own cabin for residence.”
Urmila dd having separated from her husband while he is still alive is exactly opposite of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions for his female disciples when their husband’s become vanaprasthas. Just as I would not listen to a “Sannyasi” living with his wife; there is no use in listening to a so-called lady vanaprastha who has separated herself from her husband. Now Visakha Priya Mataji I hope you can now understand what I mean when I say that our ladies do not even know what Stri dharma is let alone follow it, and that is why we should not listen to those who have disobeyed the clear instructions of Srila Prabhupada in the matter of following Stri-dharma.”
Basically speaking Urmila dd is a hypocrite who portrays herself as a chaste woman and strict follower of Srila Prabhupada when in fact she is the opposite.
“By a girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one, nothing must be done independently, even in her own house. In childhood a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her husband, when her lord is dead to her sons; a woman must never be independent. She must not seek to separate herself from her father, husband, or sons; by leaving them she would make both (her own and her husband’s) families contemptible. ” Manu Samhita 5.147-9
Not only does Urmila’s behavior make both of her families contemptible but it also brings shame on her guru Srila Prabhupada.
Ironically in the West, Urmila dd externally appears too conservative to many, but in India she is perceived as unchaste and a closet feminist by her behavior. Her ambition to be recognized is forcing her to come out of the closet more and more.
While the GBC has in the past seldom managed to avoid mistakes somehow they miraculously barred Urmila dd from becoming a diksha guru in 2010 and saved us at least this once from a person who is not qualified to sit on the Vyasasana what to speak of giving diksha.
However this has not at all hampered her attempts to gain a following and become a diksha guru at all costs, despite the fact that she is in direct violation of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions regarding the behavior of a woman whose husband is a vanaprastha. We do not at all expect this text to stop her in her attempts of fulfill her ambitions, she is much too obstinate for that, but we can at least inform the public of what is really going on and thus allow them to formulate more educated opinions.
Your humble servant
Citralekha devi dasi
PS. Here are some other comments on Urmila’s gauche behavior.
PPS. Click here for a reprint of an old article that appeared on VNN, which goes into details on Urmila’s dubious behavior: