Category Archives: Krishna Kirti Pr

Bhakti Charu Maharaj Calls Hridayananda Maharaj A Deviant

Letter PAMHO:26245692 (214 lines) From: Internet: “Bhakti Charu Swami” <> Date: 25-Mar-14 08:18 (13:48 +0530) To: “Krishna Kirti Das” <> Cc: GBC Discussions [25476] Cc: IIAC (ISKCON India Advisory Committee) [3987] Cc: ISKCON India (news & discussion) [10270] Cc: Basu Ghosh (das) ACBSP (Baroda – IN) [162502] (received: 25-Mar-14 11:33) Reference: Text PAMHO:26245281 by Internet: Krishna Kirti Das Subject: Re: HH Hridayananda Goswami, Krishna West, and Consequentialism ———————————————————— Dear Krishna Kirti Prabhu,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Thank you very much for your brilliant analysis of Hridayananda Dasa Goswami’s deviation. As far as I am concerned, I see his action as another attack of Kali on Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON.
I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to you for taking this stand to defend our movement. Srila Prabhupada will indeed be very pleased with you.
Your servant,
Bhakti Charu Swami
On 25 March 2014 11:25, Krishna Kirti Das <> wrote:
> Dear Devotees, please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila > Prabhupada. > > > Hridayananda Maharaja is a devotee who is widely revered and dear to many > throughout ISKCON, but he has also said and done many controversial things > over the years that have been cause for concern. Although the typical > response to Maharaja’s controversial statements and actions has been to > treat them as separate, one-off events without relation to each other, they > are instead deeply connected by a moral philosophy called > “consequentialism.” (In this regard, I have attached a paper that examines > this issue in depth. One version is a PDF document, and the other is a Word > document.) > > > As Maharaja explains in his 2005 paper titled “Vaisnava Moral Theology and > Homosexuality,”< >…/item/moral-theology-homosexuality > >consequentialism > seeks “morality primarily in the consequences of acts” and > “argues that moral behavior must produce good consequences.” > Consequentialism is plainly operative in some of his more controversial > statements: > > > 1. “In fact, he [Yudhisthira] acts so badly that he practically drops > from the list of heroes in the rest of the Mahabharata. He is officially > Dharma-raja, but no one, including Draupadi, respects him anymore. . . > . I > don’t believe this is the real Dharma-raja.” > (< >…/infallibility-of…/ > >) > This is, however, a pastime that Srila Prabhupada himself accepts and > defends in many places, as do a number of other acharyas in our > disciplic > succession.< >…/the_real_dharmarja_p ublic_version.pdf > > > 2. After having read the above statement, a devotee > asks< >…/infallibility-of…/ > >”Are > you not worried that by contradicting Srila Prabhupada’s statements, > the devotees may lose their faith in Srila Prabhupada?” To which > Maharaja > answers, “Prabhupada emphatically taught that the Guru’s teachings are > infallible because the Guru is simply repeating Shastra. Prabhupada > made it > very clear that a Guru is not infallible when not repeating Shastra.” > But > if Srila Prabhupada is fallible in his own books, how could anything > else > he says in them be trusted?

My Reply to a Foolish Feminist Imaginative Detractor of Krishna Kirti pr

Nrsingha HgTp You misrepresent me,Maniker. I agree with Tradition. I am as conservative as they come to the point of been fascist.
I am just wondering if our pre-occupation with this issue become a form of endless subtle gratification, in argument culture.
Does that make sense?
It is politics, after all. Is it not?
Like · Reply · 2 · 16 hrs

Manikar Das Brahmachari
Manikar Das Brahmachari POLITICS

anything can be painted as “its just politics.”

do you or anyone has any proof that this essay by Krishna Kirit pr is politics?
it is just your speculation.
now my speculation is that you claim that this essay is politically motivated is itself having a political agenda

so there is no end to speculation. “i THINK SO” “YOU THINK SO”

Women’s Movement In Iskcon, Krishna Kirti Prabhu

Language, Ideology, and the Women’s Movement in ISKCON

Although it is widely acknowledged within and without ISKCON that ISKCON has an influential women’s movement, the degree to which it resembles other women’s movements outside of ISKCON, particularly in the West, has been hotly debated. Rather, it is more correct to say that debate on this issue has generally been suppressed. In response to concerns that feminism was being promoted in ISKCON, one member of ISKCON’s women’s movement flatly countered, “I . . . strongly object to being labeled a ‘feminist’”{1} The possibility would not be entertained, no further discussion ensued. But because ISKCON’s membership is largely composed of people who are culturally Western and because ISKCON exists within Western Civilization and interacts with it, to foreclose discussion on the extent to which Western culture influences ISKCON is perhaps a disingenuous response to a legitimate concern.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, women’s movements have been very influential in the West. At the onset of the 21st century, ISKCON has also been significantly transformed from the inside by its own women’s movement, which has actively and determinedly asserted economic, social, legal and political rights for women in ISKCON. Compared with its Western counterparts, ISKCON’s women’s movement is still a new thing. So exploring their differences and their similarities could provide valuable clues as to the ideas, motivations, and conditions that gives impetus to the women’s movement in ISKCON. Such an exploration may also help us understand how the women’s movement may shape ISKCON’s future.

In order to facilitate honest and open discussion on the question of the Western influence in ISKCON and especially the influence of the women’s movement in ISKCON, this essay analyzes the ideas and methods of  ISKCON’s women’s movement and explores the similarities and differences it has with its counterparts outside of ISKCON.

Krishna-kirti das (HDG)

February 23, 2005


The Women’s Movement in ISKCON

What is ISKCON’s women’s movement? This quote from editors Edwin Bryant and Maria Ekstrand in “The Hare Krishna Movement, The Postcharismatic Fate of a Religious Transplant” provides a succinct description:

The society [ISKCON] is experiencing the stirrings of a suffragette movement reacting against the historical disempowerment and denigration of women, who have long been denied access to prominent roles as a result of the sannyasi (male, lifelong reunciant) culture and ethos developed in ISKCON in the 1970s (see Knott and Muster).{2}

suffragette is “an advocate of women’s suffrage”{3} , especially a militant advocate of women’s right to vote. Patricia Greenwood Harrison provides a more detailed account of the origins and usage of the terms suffrage, suffragette, etc., as used to describe the historic struggle for the political enfranchisement of women.

In the United States, the nineteenth-century discussion of the economic, social, and political rights of women was called the “Woman Question”; the movement for political enfranchisement was called the woman suffrage movement. The later British suffrage movement used the term women’s suffrage movement to describe its campaign for the vote, while the international suffrage organization used the term woman suffrage. . . . The word “suffragist” was used in both countries to describe the moderate or constitutional advocates of woman suffrage. After 1906, the word “suffragette” was used to describe the militants in Britain. The distinction between suffragist and suffragette was recognized in both countries during the years under investigation.{4}

The term suffragette movement as used by Bryant and Ekstrand aptly describes a women’s suffrage movement within ISKCON that in many ways bears a striking resemblance to the historical suffragist movements of America and Britain. But unlike historical suffragist movements, the women’s movement in ISKCON is not solely concerned with acquiring the right to vote, or equal opportunity to participate in ISKCON’s institutional decision making. Historically, women’s suffragist movements were primarily concerned with securing the right to vote. However, when efforts to secure rights for women expanded to include social status, economic entitlement, and special privileges based on gender (things not necessarily won by vote), feminism came to be the term used to describe this expanded idea of women’s equality and the movement around this idea. Much like its historical suffragist and feminist predecessors, the women’s movement in ISKCON is made up of women and men from all areas and all levels of ISKCON and who are moderate, constitutional or sometimes militant advocates of women’s equal and full participation within ISKCON’s economic, social and political spheres.

Use and Acceptance of Feminist Terminology in ISKCON

For ISKCON’s members, terms like feminism, feminist, women’s rights and, to a slightly lesser degree, equal rights are highly stigmatized. Rights advocates within ISKCON have been careful to distance themselves from these terms when presenting their program, lest they and their message be tainted with the feminist stigma. In March 2000, when the Women’s Ministry made their famous presentation at the GBC meetings in Mayapura, Sitala devi dasi in her speech to the GBC body stated that the presentation was “not about promoting feminism.”{5}  In the same presentation, Saudamani devi dasi went further in trying to quell notions that the Women’s Ministry advocated a feminist platform.

There was a rumour going around that we ladies were in Mayapura to present some feminist agenda. The idea was that, under the influence of the modern women’s rights movement or the theology which denies the hierarchical nature of existence, we would plead with the GBC to change the philosophy or adjust Srila Prabhupada’s teachings in order to fit in with the times. You can feel reassured that the ladies here before you are among the most philosophically conservative in our movement.{6}

Not only did members of the Women’s Ministry and their supporters (henceforward “the women’s movement”) reject the feminist label, they also rejected the term women’s rights—another term tightly bound to historical and contemporary feminism. In the presentation, all of the members carefully avoided the term equal rights. Also notable was the effort to distance the presentation from unspecific, feminist ideologies that deny “the hierarchical nature of existence.” Because the conventional language of Western feminism was not to be found in the writing and speech of the women’s movement, their ideas and demands were not perceived as feminist. By carefully avoiding terminology closely associated with feminism, the women’s movement overcame the most serious objection they faced, which was that they advocated a feminist ideology and social agenda.

While simultaneously avoiding the most serious objections, the women’s movement set out to win acceptance for their ideas by couching them in the terminology of spiritual rights and duties. In the paper “Participation, Protection and Patriarchy: An International Model for the Role of Women in ISKCON,”{7} Radha devi dasi argued that the “mutual relationship of rights and duties” as found in scriptural references such as sarva-dharman parityajya also applies to the relationship ISKCON has with its members. If a devotee fulfills his duty of surrendering to Krishna, then he has a right to Krishna’s protection. Similarly, if a devotee fulfills the duties and obligations that come with being a member of ISKCON, then he can reasonably expect certain rights and guarantees from ISKCON. If it could be shown that the most important duties (as opposed to trivial duties) were the same for both women and men in ISKCON, then it could be plausibly argued that the rights of ISKCON’s women should be the same as those of ISKCON’s men. Jyotirmayi devi dasi in her paper “Women in ISKCON in Prabhupada’s Time” argued this very idea: “By accepting women in the temples and giving them the brahmacarini status, Prabhupada . . . gave them all the same rights and duties of the brahmacaris in the guru’s ashrama.”{8}  Indeed, the speeches, articles, and position papers of the women’s movement were almost exclusively dedicated to proving—through the language of spiritual rights and duties—that this ideology was reasonable and scripturally authoritative.

Ideology, Meaning and Social Change in ISKCON

How would this ideology change ISKCON? The women’s movement hoped (correctly, it seems) that if their ideas were widely accepted, they would win guarantees of protection from ISKCON and rights to participate in ISKCON’s affairs—minimally to the same extent that men purportedly have guarantees and rights. Radha devi dasi categorized these rights as “substantive rights” and “participation rights”{9} . Substantive rights provide guarantees of shelter, food, protection, etc.  Participation rights include things like “citizenship, voting and ability to hold office.”{10}  Substantive rights, as articulated by the women’s movement, include sharing the temple room; having adequate food, clothing, and ashrama facility; adequate resources required of any service; and protection from things like sexual harassment. Medical care{11} also made it to their list of substantive rights.{12}  Specific participation rights (social rights, in this context) include access to “visible symbols of advancement”{13} such as titles like GBC and Temple President{14}as well as getting more time lecturing from the vyasasana. Another set of participation rights, political rights, includes “women in leadership roles from the highest levels down to the local temple communities”{15} , which of course also means “representation of women on the GBC”{16} . Although many of the rights insisted on by the women’s movement are unobjectionable, even this partial list of rights is quite at odds with their careful efforts to rhetorically distance themselves from any notion that they were asking for feminist-type equal rights. What rights did ISKCON’s men have that the women’s movement did not also insist on having?

This last conceptual hurdle was overcome by emphasizing within the debate on women’s roles the word “service”?a term when used informally by ISKCON’s devotees conflates (combines) the meanings of bhakti and yukta-vairagya. Bhakti, by definition, is ahaituky apratihata?it cannot be checked by any material condition. Yukta-vairagya, however, is the utilization of something material in the course of performing bhakti. Though utilized in Krishna’s service, a material thing by itself is not bhakti. Sravanam and kirtanam are always considered bhakti, but as the women’s movement has repeatedly reminded us, positions of authority, for example, are not always used for the Lord’s service. In spite of this distinction, devotees nonetheless use the word “service” when referring to any chore, activity, or social position that is somehow related to ISKCON. This understanding of service worked to the advantage of the women’s movement, whose activists simply emphasized this commonly understood meaning in the context of the debate on women’s roles. Some examples: “. . . women and children can thrive in Krsna consciousness, rendering service according to their desire and inclination.”{17} ; “As far as the service of temple president was concerned, Srila Prabhupada included husband and wife.”{18} . Even Srila Prabhupada used this language: “Since his service here in India is valuable as GBC . . . kindly give him visa.” But for many of ISKCON’s members, the conflated meaning of bhakti and yukta-vairagya embedded in the word “service” had the effect of transferring an unique characteristic of bhakti?that it cannot be checked by any material circumstance—to yukta-vairagya, material things used in Krishna’s service. Since the position of GBC or temple president was a “service”, and since service to Krishna cannot be checked by any material circumstance, it follows that these positions, by definition, cannot be denied to women simply because of their gender (a material circumstance). Visakha devi dasi argued thusly, “If we are presently forbidding certain services to qualified Vaisnavis, we may be quickly gliding towards the caste system.”{19}  The conflated meaning of bhakti and yukta-vairagya, as emphasized within the discourse on women’s roles, rights and duties within ISKCON, helped establish the egalitarian social view that women may assume any role, including any of ISKCON’s managerial positions.

Addressing Deeper Objections

Although for most devotees this settled the issue on women’s roles in ISKCON, the ideas and practical demands of the women’s movement remained problematic at a deeper level. In important ways, their ideology was still irreconcilable with prominent views and statements about an ideal society, as found in Vaisnava scripture. Within the context of women’s social and occupational roles, if the conflated meaning of service advocated by the women’s movement was valid, then why was a semblance of its gender-egalitarian implications not to be found in scriptural descriptions of an ideal society? Instead, Vaisnava scriptures described and lauded societies that were overtly patriarchal—this included societies controlled by great Vaisnavas.

The idea of gender-egalitarian social roles for women is even more emphatically incompatible with Srila Prabhupada’s statements about these societies and their social and occupational divisions. When commenting on Devaki’s skill in diplomacy, Srila Prabhupada wrote, “As we learn from the history of the Mahabharata, or ‘Greater India,’ the wives and daughters of the ruling class, the ksatriyas, knew the political game, but we never find that a woman was given the post of chief executive.”{20}  In the same passage he affirms that this is in accordance with the Manu-samhita and that in the world today, “Manu-samhita is now being insulted.” Elsewhere Srila Prabhupada remarked, “In Kali-yuga, people are extremely liberal, but mixing with women and talking with them as equals actually constitutes an uncivilized way of life.”{21}

The women’s movement tried to explain that Vaisnavis were categorical exceptions to these kinds of statements, and writers of the women’s movement produced references that supported this view. In reference to the statement “these girls are not ordinary girls, but are as good as their brothers who are preaching Krishna consciousness,”{22} Radha devi dasi concluded that Srila Prabhupada made an “analytical exception” for “women engaged in transcendental activities”.{23} In trying to explain that the “negative half of the woman picture” has been overemphasized and does not apply to Vaisnavis, Visakha devi dasi provided counterbalancing references: “Actually male and female bodies, these are just outward designations. Lord Caitanya said that whether one is brahmana or whatever he may be if he knows the science of Krishna then he is to be accepted as guru.”{24} “Never the trust the politician and woman. Of course, when woman comes to Krishna consciousness, that position is different. We are speaking of ordinary woman.”{25}  By arguing in this way, the women’s movement strongly suggested that references to ordinary women (the negative references) do not apply to ISKCON’s women.

A Radical View of ISKCON’s Women: An Ideological Necessity

But as is the case with ISKCON’s men, ISKCON’s women may be less extraordinary than the women’s movement has suggested. Later in the above cited Bhagavad-gita lecture (quoted from by Visakha devi dasi), Srila Prabhupada elaborates on Srimad-Bhagavatam verse 9.19.17, saying that even a most learned man in the solitary company of his mother, sister or daughter can become polluted. Srila Prabhupada then comments on his policy of allowing women to reside in his temples, that “I shall give this chance to woman [to become Krishna conscious] even at the risk.”{26}  In the years since Srila Prabhupada’s passing from this world, this “risk” catalyzed many fall downs. Anywhere from 35% – 50% of ISKCON’s gurus and leaders have fallen (typically from liaisons with Vaisnavis), and by no means has fall down been limited to gurus and leaders. Just as in Srila Prabhupada’s recorded works there are many references which affirm that women who become Vaisnavis are not ordinary women, there are also many references which affirm that men who become Vaisnavas are similarly not to be regarded as ordinary men. But if even these “extraordinary men” have had such extraordinary difficulty in transcending material nature, is it reasonable to conclude that, in spite of sharing a common, disadvantaged cultural background, ISKCON’s women succeeded where ISKCON’s men failed? The women’s movement never articulated a view of women who are on the path of bhakti but still susceptible to the influence of material nature, because doing so would belie their claims to being exceptional. If women in ISKCON were generally and to some degree still ordinary, then the “negative half of the woman picture” rejected by the women’s movement would at least to some degree still apply to women in ISKCON. This could explain why the women’s movement has categorically described Vaisnavis in ISKCON as radical exceptions to whom the “ordinary rules” do not apply.

ISKCON’s Women’s Movement from the Western Perspective

ISKCON, like any other religious society, is affected by the cultural forces that also influence other religions. Although ISKCON is theologically and culturally rooted in East Indian Vaisnavism (Gaudiya Vaisnavism), ISKCON also has prominent cultural roots in the West because much of its membership and particularly its leadership are culturally Western. When trying to understand something or describe it, we always do so from our experience. To a large extent, ISKCON’s own members have understood ISKCON through Western eyes, so the Western perspective is important. If we were to totally deny its validity, we would simultaneously deny the validity of much of our own perspective on ISKCON. Comparing aspects of ISKCON’s society to like aspects of Western society can therefore give us some valuable insights as to what ISKCON’s devotees might do in certain situations and why. To this end and in the context of this essay, this question is posed: From the Western perspective, what is ISKCON’s women’s movement? How would it be described from the Western perspective?

Defining a Women’s Movement

A logical place to begin the comparison is with the articulated demands of ISKCON’s women’s movement. What are their demands? What rights do they say they should have? As described previously, they have insisted on two broad categories of rights they have labeled “substantive rights” and “participation rights.” As previously mentioned, the women’s movement’s list of substantive rights, among other things, includes adequate ashram facility, equal access to temple facilities such as use of the temple room, protection from sexual harassment, medical care, and basic necessities such as food and clothing. Although some of their demands would be met by law enforcement{27} , most of their substantive demands are for economic provisions. If ISKCON does not provide adequate food, clothing, ashram facility, etc., then these necessities must be secured through money earned from a job or a business. The list of participation rights includes social rights such as equivalent access to “visible symbols of advancement” that approximate things like the sannyasa danda and equal access to titles and positions of authority like temple president and GBC{28} . The list of participation rights also includes “significant numbers of women leaders” who engage in decision making “from the highest levels down to the local temple communities”{29} .  These are obvious demands for equal political rights.

While ISKCON’s women’s movement has categorized their demanded rights as substantive rights and participation rights, other fields in the social sciences and in women’s studies have sometimes differently categorized them. These rights can also be categorized as economic rights, social rights, legal rights and political rights, and the women’s movement has demanded all these rights to at least the same extent that men supposedly have them. The scope and categorization of rights called for by ISKCON’s women’s movement nicely fits what scholars have defined as women’s rights and feminism.

women’s rights (pl.n.)

  1. Socioeconomic, political, and legal rights for women equal to those of men.
  2. A movement in support of these rights.{30}

fem–i–nism (n.)

  1. Belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.
  2. The movement organized around this belief.{31}

Although women’s rights and feminism are closely related terms, they have functional distinctions. ?Feminism? is the ideological component of equal rights, and ?women’s rights? is its practical implementation. Without a belief in equal rights, no one will work to establish them. Because ISKCON’s women’s movement has an expressed belief in equal rights and endeavors to implement them as socioeconomic, political and legal rights equal to those of men, ISKCON’s women’s movement can be correctly identified as a feminist movement.

Historical Feminism and ISKCON’s Women’s Movement

The women’s movement in ISKCON in important ways resembles both contemporary and historical feminist movements. Before describing these important similarities, this condensed history of feminism from the Columbia Encyclopedia will serve both as historical and conceptual points of reference:


Women traditionally had been regarded as inferior to men physically and intellectually. Both law and theology had ordered their subjection. Women could not possess property in their own names, engage in business, or control the disposal of their children or even of their own persons. Although Mary Astell and others had pleaded earlier for larger opportunities for women, the first feminist document was Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792). In the French Revolution, women’s republican clubs demanded that liberty, equality, and fraternity be applied regardless of sex, but this movement was extinguished for the time by the Code Napoléon.

In North America, although Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren pressed for the inclusion of women’s emancipation in the Constitution, the feminist movement really dates from 1848, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton , Lucretia Coffin Mott , and others, in a women’s convention at Seneca Falls, N.Y., issued a declaration of independence for women, demanding full legal equality, full educational and commercial opportunity, equal compensation, the right to collect wages, and the right to vote. Led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan Brownell Anthony , the movement spread rapidly and soon extended to Europe. . . .

. . .

In 1946 the UN Commission on the Status of Women was established to secure equal political rights, economic rights, and educational opportunities for women throughout the world. In the 1960s feminism experienced a rebirth, especially in the United States. The National Organization for Women (NOW), formed in 1966, had over 400 local chapters by the early 1970s. NOW, the National Women’s Political Caucus, and other groups pressed for such changes as abortion rights, federally supported child care centers, equal pay for women, the occupational upgrading of women, the removal of all legal and social barriers to education, political influence, and economic power for women.{32}

The first two sentences in part accurately describe some of Vaisnavism’s traditional views of women. Manu-smriti, as oft repeated by Srila Prabhupada, clearly states that women should never be independent—they require the maintenance and oversight of a father, husband or son. As has been previously shown in this document, Srila Prabhupada considered this arrangement an objective standard for a civilized society. What is more, the ideal women to be found in the scriptures—Sita, Rukmini, Kunti, Draupadi, Devahuti, Devaki, Gandhari, Arci, etc.,?all faithfully followed this injunction.

The reference to theology in the Columbia Encyclopedia’s short history of feminism is important, because when religion is the primary ethical guidance for society, in important ways civil law will be correlated with religious precepts. Therefore, in a strongly religious society changing the law sometimes means first changing the religion, or at least rescuing it from its present corruption. The first women’s conference at Seneca Falls, New York, realized this idea and developed a strategy around it. In the Seneca Falls declarations and in statements made by members of ISKCON’s women’s movement, we find that the subordination of women was considered the result of a corrupt understanding of scripture. From the Seneca Falls declarations of 1848:

RESOLVED, That woman is man’s equal — was intended to be so by the Creator, and the highest good of the race demands that she should be recognized as such.

RESOLVED, That woman has too long rested satisfied in the circumscribed limits which corrupt customs and a perverted application of the Scriptures have marked out for her, and that it is time she should move in the enlarged sphere which her great Creator has assigned her.{33}

From the women’s movement in ISKCON:

If we truly thought in terms of what is effective for spreading Krishna consciousness, many of the controversies between men and women would disappear.{34}

WHEREAS, it is our belief that many of the social issues that confront us are exacerbated because the voice of our women, who are the mothers and daughters of our Krsna conscious family, have been hushed and stifled due to misinterpretation of our Vaisnava philosophy, and thus the human and interpersonal needs of our devotees have been minimized,{35}

The Seneca Falls declarations also mentioned the “overthrow of the pulpit” as one of their objectives.

RESOLVED, That inasmuch as man, while claiming for himself intellectual superiority, does accord to woman moral superiority, it is pre-eminently his duty to encourage her to speak and teach, as she has an opportunity, in all religious assemblies.

RESOLVED, That the speedy success of our cause depends upon … untiring efforts of both men and women, for the overthrow of the monopoly of the pulpit, and for the securing to woman an equal participation with men in the various trades, professions, and commerce.{36}

That women were considered morally superior to men, a typical Victorian sentiment, has similarly been expressed by writers in ISKCON’s women’s movement:

The feminine qualities of nurturing and compassion perish when pitted against the masculine lust for power. Our most noble spiritual path, when denied feminine values, degenerates to prideful hypocrisy rather than devotion.{37}

Note the comparison of gender-specific traits: feminine qualities of nurturing and compassion versus masculine lust for power?a Victorian contrast indeed! Also notable in the Seneca Falls declarations is the demand to provide women with the opportunity to speak in all religious assemblies—something the women’s movement in ISKCON demanded along with overthrowing the monopoly of the vyasasana.

Feminism Within a Religious Social Context

Although the women’s movement in ISKCON in many ways also resembles contemporary feminism in its economic, social and political objectives, it nonetheless has less in common with it than with the feminism of the 19th and early 20th centuries. This is because earlier feminist movements existed at a time when religion had much greater influence on society. A consequence of this greater religious influence was the widespread belief in the sanctity of life, which manifested in earlier feminist moments as anti-abortion activism. Modern feminism, by contrast, promotes sexual liberation, which of course is facilitated by contraception and abortion—something the women’s movement in ISKCON has been careful to distance itself from.

One last point with respect to the concept of “equal rights” — that phrase seems to be a hot button for some people and it can mean different things at different times. The comments which Srila Prabhupada made about “equal rights” were made in the context of America in the 1970s when the women’s rights movement in America had sexual liberation as a major part of its agenda. His statements indicate that he was particularly (and justifiably) repulsed by that aspect. Needless to say, the Women’s Ministry is not seeking “equal rights” in the same context.{38}

The above statement echoes the sentiments of America’s founding feminist mothers:

There is a widespread belief that to be feminist means to advocate abortion. This attitude not only belies the complexity of opinion on the issue for the feminist movement: it also means that the views of the many early feminists who condemned abortion in the late eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have effectively become hidden from history.

Among American feminists in the nineteenth century opposition to abortion was widespread. Prominent feminists of the period who opposed it included Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan Anthony and Alice Paul. Stanton once remarked, on the estimate that 400 abortion `murders’ annually occurred in Androscoggin County, Maine, alone:

There must be a remedy for such a crying evil as this. But where shall it be found, at least where begin, if not in the complete enfranchisement and elevation of women?{39}

Another consequence of a strong religious influence is that women’s rights activists had to derive their legitimacy from scripture. Hence, the earlier feminist movements and the women’s movement in ISKCON have both spent much energy on revisionist scholarship.

Like other woman’s rights activists, Blackwell reinterpreted scripture through a feminist lens, picking out egalitarian passages that she could use as ammunition against her opponents. The feminist arsenal included Genesis 1:26-27 (“God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them”), which was interpreted as evidence of the simultaneous creation of the sexes; Joel 2:28 (“your sons and your daughters shall prophesy”), which was used to defend women’s religious leadership; and the scattered accounts of biblical “prophetesses” and heroines such as Deborah and Anna. “Real” religion, these women claimed, recognized the mutual dependence and equality of the sexes. “We had all got our notions too much from the clergy, instead of the Bible,” Lucretia Mott complained. “The Bible . . . had none of the prohibitions in regard to women.” 20{40}

  1. women are emotional and lack discrimination “Women as a class are no better than boys, and therefore they have no discriminatory power like that of a man. Asvatthama proved himself to be an unworthy son of Dronacharya or of a brahmana, and for this reason he was condemned by the greatest authority, Lord Sri Krishna, and yet a mild woman [Draupadi] could not withdraw her natural courtesy for a brahmana. . . We should not follow the mild nature of a woman and thereby accept that which is not genuine.” (SB 1.7.42 purport) On the other hand, “Draupadi desired that Asvatthama be at once released, and it was all the same a good sentiment for her. This means that a devotee of the Lord can tolerate all sorts of tribulation personally, but still such devotees are never unkind to others, even to the enemy. These are the characteristics of one who is a pure devotee of the Lord.” (SB 1.7.43 purport) Not only that, but “Maharaja Yudhisthira, who was the son of Dharmaraja, or Yamaraja, fully supported the words of Queen Draupadi in asking Arjuna to release Asvatthama. . . Draupadi was herself a mother, and therefore her calculation of the depth of Kripi’s grief was quite to the point. And it was glorious because she wanted to show proper respect to a great family.” (SB 1.7.49)

This dialogue of quotes is not meant to be like counter-Brahmastras thrown to nullify Brahmastras. It is simply to present something of a balance, to turn the priceless gem of Krishna consciousness to reflect different angles of beautiful light. However, generally we are exposed to only the negative half of the woman picture. All the quotes are there for all to see. Why are some emphasized at the expense of others? Could there be some unconscious motivation, some benefit to a certain group of people from that unspoken selection policy? Is our conditioning coloring which quotes we remember?{41}

Selective emphasis as found in the above examples, however, left untouched some of the deeper problems in scriptural interpretation mentioned previously. One of the deeper problems faced by early feminist revisionism is that if the scriptural passages objected to are consistent enough, explicit enough and numerous enough, then merely emphasizing other verses to counter them leaves the revisionist tactic open to the very same objection it levies. Of the feminists, the traditionalists can also rightly ask, “Why are some emphasized at the expense of others? Could there be some unconscious motivation, some benefit to a certain group of people from that unspoken selection policy? Is our conditioning coloring which quotes we remember?”{42}

Liberal biblical revisionists in dealing with problems like this have resorted to editing, annotation, retranslation and interpretation like that of formalist criticism to make the Bible more “relevant” to the modern context. This perhaps explains why within ISKCON some now openly advocate revision of Srila Prabhupada’s books. The reasons offered by liberal biblical revisionists and ISKCON’s own revisionists are the same, that the scriptures in each religion need to be made more relevant to a wider audience. Within both Christianity and ISKCON, the impetus for this deeper kind of revisionism arose in part from the contradictions inherent in selective emphasis of scriptural passages, as practiced by early Western feminists and by members of ISKCON’s women’s movement.


That the activists in ISKCON’s women’s movement have been overwhelmingly composed of members who are culturally American or European appears to correlate with the fact that feminism has been most prominent in the West, where the economy, legal system and comprehensive social safety nets have progressively made feminism affordable and desirable to single women. Given the demography of ISKCON and its chronic social, economic, and institutional troubles since the passing of its founder, the rise of ISKCON’s women’s movement was, perhaps, inevitable. Since the intellectuals and activists that made up ISKCON’s women’s movement were predominantly Western, it is not surprising that their demands, methods, and ideology closely resembled those of western feminist movements. Because ISKCON’s women’s movement formed, thought and acted within a highly religious social context, it more closely resembles mid-19th and early 20th century American women’s movements (also formed in a highly religious social context) than it does the modern women’s movements dating from the last half of the 20th century.

At this time, what makes the women’s movement in ISKCON an interesting chapter in western feminism’s ongoing saga is its use of language, where the familiar terminology of contemporary feminism was carefully avoided. Unlike most Christian denominations in the West (particularly within mainstream Protestant denominations as well as within the Catholic Church), where feminist terminology used favorably and within a religious context is often tolerated, writers and other intellectuals in ISKCON’s women’s movement had the onerous task of persuading a skeptical audience without the benefit of terms they and their audience were familiar with. By employing this policy, they achieved many of their objectives with admirable success.

Although the activists and intellectuals that make up ISKCON’s women’s movement will likely try to avoid using contemporary feminist terminology for some time to come, given the vast amounts of research extant in the areas of feminism and women’s studies, we can well ask if ISKCON’s members are not in fact denying themselves the benefit of these vast areas of scholarly opinion and research when they deny the use of language employed by scholars in these areas? For example, Kaye Asha in her book “The Feminization of the Church?” begins her book by defining what she means by the church’s feminization:

The church becomes feminized in this sense when women exercise their right and ability to join in the human and religious activities of symbol-making, becoming not only consumers but creators of religious culture. It becomes feminized when women add their voices to the discourse on Christian ethics and claim their authority as responsible moral agents. Church language becomes feminized when it recognizes women’s existence, experience, history and value; and ministry undergoes a feminization when every form of it is open to women. Finally, leadership in the church becomes feminized when it values relationship, inclusiveness, participation and flexibility, qualities that women’s social experience has prepared them to value.{43}

As per Asha’s description, ISKCON has also undergone or is undergoing every single transformation she ascribes to the terms feminized and feminization. In ISKCON women are certainly exercising “their right and ability to join in the human and religious activities of symbol-making.” ISKCON’s women have added “their voices to the discourse” on Vaisnava ethics and have also claimed “their authority as responsible moral agents.” Since 2000, has ISKCON not striven officially and practically to recognize “women’s existence, experience, history and value” and endeavored to make “every form” of its ministries “open to women”? Finally, have well-wishers within ISKCON and sympathetic outsiders like those within academia not advised ISKCON’s leadership to value “relationship, inclusiveness, participation and flexibility, qualities that women’s social experience has prepared them to value”? Indeed, they have! In 2000, quoting Radha devi dasi while addressing the GBC assembly, Rukmini devi dasi said,

Most women in ISKCON are engaged in traditional roles. We are mothers, wives, cooks, housekeepers and caretakers. We cook, we clean, we care for the children and the men in our Society, as well as caring for each other. But these tasks are not the whole of our abilities or of the contribution we have to make to Srila Prabhupada’s movement.

In fact, it is our very participation in the ‘private sphere’ that gives us a unique contribution to the public discourse. There are important gender differences that cannot be ignored. This fact, often used as an argument for silencing women, is actually a reason why they should be involved in ISKCON’s public discourse.{44}

Since the ideas, methods, and activities of ISKCON’s women’s movement so closely matches those of Western feminist movements—especially within religious contexts—is it not correct to say that ISKCON is also being feminized? If in ISKCON’s social discourse we continue avoiding terms such as feminist, feminism, women’s rights and equal rights, then we shut ourselves off from an abundance of history, analysis, opinion and lessons learned that can help us shape ISKCON’s future.

End Notes

{1}Radha devi dasi. “Labeled A ‘Feminist’” November 26, 1998. Editorial

{2}Edwin Bryant, Maria Ekstrand. “The Hare Krishna Movement, The Postcharismatic Fate of a Religious Transplant.” Columbia University Press, New York., 2004. “Introduction”. page 5.

{3}American Heritage(R) Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.

{4}Patricia Greenwood Harrison. “Connecting Links: The British and American Woman Suffrage Movements, 1900-1914.” Greenwood Press: Westport, CT., 2000. page xix.

{5}Sitala dasi. “Women in ISKCON” March 2000. page:

{6}Saudamani dasi. “Women in ISKCON”.

{7}Radha devi dasi. “Participation, Protection and Patriarchy: An International model for the role of women in ISKCON”

{8}Jyotirmayi devi dasi. “Women in ISKCON in Prabhupada’s Time” page:’s%20Time.htm.

{9}Radha devi dasi. “Participation, Protection and Patriarchy”.

{10}Radha devi dasi. “Participation, Protection and Patriarchy”.

{11}Rukmini devi dasi. “Women in ISKCON”.

{12}This is something few, if any, male ISKCON members have ever had.

{13}Radha devi dasi. “Participation, Protection and Patriarchy”.

{14}Radha devi dasi. “Participation, Protection and Patriarchy”.

{15}Radha devi dasi. “Participation, Protection and Patriarchy”.

{16}Rukmini devi dasi. “Women in ISKCON”.

{17}Yamuna devi dasi. “Women in ISKCON”.

{18}Jyotirmayi devi dasi. “Women in ISKCON in Prabhupada’s Time”.

{19}Visakha devi dasi. “Women in ISKCON”.

{20}Srila Prabhupada. Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.4.5 purport.

{21}Srila Prabhupada. Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.12.18 purport.

{22}Srila Prabhupada. Caitanya-caritamrta Adi lila. 7.31 – 32 purport.

{23}Radha devi dasi “Participation, Protection and Patriarchy”.

{24}Srila Prabhupada. Letter to Malati. December 25, 1974.

{25}Srila Prabhupada. Lecture. Bhagavad-gita 1.40. July 28, 1973.

{26}Srila Prabhupada. Lecture. Bhagavad-gita 1.40. July 28, 1973.

{27}The best known example of an investigative agency within ISKCON is the Child Protection Office (CPO), which after reaching a decision on any case under investigation passes the verdict on to the GBC and concerned temple presidents, who are expected to comply (enforce) the decision of the CPO. In many instances, the CPO has involved secular law enforcement for assistance. The CPO typically investigates cases of child abuse and abuse of women.

{28}Radha devi dasi. “Participation, Protection and Patriarchy”.

{29}Radha devi dasi. “Participation, Protection and Patriarchy”.

{30}American Heritage(R) Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.

{31}American Heritage(R) Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.

{32}Encyclopedia Article Title: “Feminism”. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press: New York, 2004. page 16670.

{33}Women’s Rights Declarations and Convention Resolutions: From the Wesleyan Chapel (1848) to Independence Hall (1876). page:

{34}Radha devi dasi. “Participation, Protection and Patriarchy”.

{35}GBC. “Minutes of The Annual General Meeting of The ISKCON GBC Body Society Sri Dham Mayapur.” March 2, 2000. Section 500, Holy Places and Spiritual Communities: Women in ISKCON.

{36}Women’s Rights Declarations and Convention Resolutions. 1848.

{37}Kusa devi dasi. “Women in ISKCON”.

{38}Radha devi dasi. Email dated October 30, 1998.

{39}Mary Krane Derr, Angela Kennedy. “Feminism and Abortion.” History Today. Volume 49, Issue: 8. August 1999. page 34.

{40}Editors: Don S. Browning, Anne Carr, Mary Stewart Leeuwen. “Religion, Feminism and the Family.” [Chapter 11, ” Restoring the Divine Order to the World: Religion and the Family in the Antebellum Woman’s Rights Movement” Contributor: Catherine A. Brekus.] Westminster John Knox Press. Louisville, KY. 1996. pages 168 – 171.

{41}Visakha devi dasi. “Humility, Chastity, Surrender and Protection”

{42}Visakha devi dasi. “Humility, Chastity, Surrender and Protection”.

{43}Kaye Asha. “The Feminization of the Church?” Sheed & Ward, Kansas City, 1997. Page xiii.

{44}Rumkini devi dasi. “Women in ISKCON”.

Krishna Kirti Pr’s Latest Insight into the Krishna West Deviation and Hridayananda Goswami

Krishna Kirti Das Krishna West is just Hridayananda Goswami trying to get “liked” by academics. He is NOT trying to preach to the West. As part of Western culture, there is a convention of religious clothing. Priests and Rabbis have certain clothing that people understand represent religious people. There is clothing for monks and nuns as well. And this clothing sets them apart from the rest of the public. The occurrence of religious dress is well understood–you can recognize them as authorities, and judge them too–monks and nuns are not supposed to do certain things ordinary people do, and they are supposed to do things ordinary people don’t do commonly. As Krishna West has rejected religious clothing, THAT PUTS THEM OUTSIDE THE MAINSTREAM OF WESTERN CULTURE. Hence, the KW propaganda that they are appealing to Westerners is rubbish since they are in fact rejecting a well-known and well regarded aspect of Western culture. Even Kirtanananda’s attempt to dress his followers in saffron monks robes and nun’s habits is a more authentic attempt to preach to Westerners by way of coopting their culture. Hundreds of years ago Christian missionaries adopted saffron color in the East to do the same thing. So KW’s rejection of religious dress is a radical departure from Western culture and history. So what is he really up to? When you look at the class of people he associates with the closest and preaches to, those are Western academics. And as a class, they are quite averse to religion. So KW is really a project microtargeting Western academics, their culture, their values, not mainstream American and European people. Another thing to consider is that there are human universals. Just the other day my wife and I were in a supermarket, and a local person approached us to ask what religion we represented. The person did not mistake it for a “clown suit“, but HDG thinks others think badly of it because he hangs with people who think badly of religion. He wants to please these people; he wants to be accepted by them. So he has adopted their views and values to the point of ruining his Krishna consciousness.
-Krishna Kirti Prabhu

Krishna Kirti Prabhu Smashes Iskcon’s Top Feminist Scholar, Jyotirmayi Ex-Dasi

The Real History of Gender Relations in ISKCON by Krishna Kirti Pr.(BVKS)

Look at her hair and her clothes now. No kunthi mala as well. This is what happens to those who destroy vedic culture using Prabhupada’s words. She is now a vegan activist and an animal rights activist. Left bhakti and has been divorced and has two sons, lives in Montpellier, France.

The long awaited reply to Jyotirmayi dasi’s biased demoniac “paper” on feminism shrewdly titled “History of gender relations in Iskcon”. As if though a divorcee French woman is the authority or the Vyasa of the 21th century who will now tell us – traditional iskcon people, what is the history of iskcon. Kripana i.e. opposite of Brahmana i.e demons or even demonesses who are not attached to the unbiased Truth cannot comment on the Veda nor represent it properly. If they do they do it with an ulterior, stealthily concealed motive to change the siddhanta just in a petty transparent attempt to find some artificial shelter for themselves in a husbandless miserable world. This shelterless french woman Jyotirmayi Dasi has been exposed as a diluter of the siddhanta and tilak wearing feminist, well now she doesn’t even wear. She is what the lower modes manipulated her into being, but the Gaudiya Vaishnava Siddhanta is not dead, it is still alive and well.
As the bhagavatam says, aghaṁ dhunvanti kārtsnyena nīhāram iva bhāskaraḥ. agham — all kinds of sinful reactions; dhunvanti — destroy; kārtsnyena — completely (with no possibility that sinful desires will revive); nīhāram — fog; iva — like; bhāskaraḥ — the sun. agham is the feminist Jyotirmayi Dasi, so what has been done is dhunvanti —  destruction… and it is a complete destruction kartsnyena by Krishna Kirti Pr. Some divorcee owls like Jyotirmayi Dasi cannot see this bhaskarah. Bhaktisiddhanta said,

“We do not find God in this world. The devotees, who serve God, out of their mercy show themselves to us. We should follow their conduct and teaching. It is the only path to our well-being.”

or as Bhagavatam says, krishne sva dhama upgate, Krishna has left for the spiritual world, but adhuno udhita the Bhagavatam in it’s book form and the person Bhagavatam, in the living form of Krishna Kirti Pr. has arisen in the world to smash the demonesses, parasites our Acharya’s movement. The verse is Sat vesat eva putana api sa kula. Meaning: sat-vaishnava, vesat-dress, eva-certainly, putana-demoness, api-also sa-her kula-family/gang.

The vaishnavi dress wearing Putana, who came to dilute the siddhanta and her sa kula, family members have been stomped into the ground.

Women are by nature insecure. Women are looking for security in life. They are looking for husbands. But if they are in a puffed up concept of womanly life, too much like prostitutes, too westernized- they will lose their husbands. Thus they will make a rascal feminist movement within iskcon, make a rascal website or two, goad a few effeminate husbands like Mahatmas, Madhvanandas, Kaunteyas et al into writing FDG-papers for them, just in an attempt to provide for them that security, that adoration, that shelter, which they walked out on. That is the bottom line of the carefully constructed lowly iskcon-feminist lies.


An Alternative Account of the History of Gender Relations in ISKCON

by Krishna Kirti Das — 11 November 2015

In 1997, Mother Jyotirmayi dasi, a pre-1970s disciple of Srila Prabhupada, published a paper titled “Women in ISKCON in Prabhupada’s Times,” wherein she argues that the occupational roles and social status women had in ISKCON up to 1974 was the standard Srila Prabhupada wanted. She describes the equal status women held with men in ISKCON before 1974, as she and some others experienced it; how after 1974 that equality diminished; why she thinks the introduction of social and occupational inequality was bad for ISKCON in general; and why she thinks it harmed women in particular. Consequently, she argues that deviation from that standard caused great spiritual difficulty for many. “Having known to a certain extent the movement from almost its beginning (from 1969), a number of the first devotees and Srila Prabhupada personally,” she says, “I feel a responsibility to share this experience with other, newer, devotees in order to help correct the faults and give ISKCON back its original, wonderful nature.” Hence she advocates a return of ISKCON’s social relations between its men and women to its pre-1974 state.1 One will note however that Jyotirmayi’s timeline of diminishing social equality between men and women in ISKCON coincides with the time at which Srila Prabhupada started giving more and more emphasis to varnasrama-dharma. As Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu notes, It is also clear that by 1974, Prabhupada had changed his mind about instituting the varnasrama-system. One major reason for his doing so is clearly disclosed in this [February 14,] 1977 conversation concerning a sannyasi who had fallen down from his celibacy vows : 2 Prabhupada: Just like our [name withheld]. He was not fit for sannyasa but he was given sannyasa. And five women he was attached, and he disclosed. Therefore varnasrama-dharma is required. Simply show-bottle will not do. So the varnasrama-dharma should be introduced all over the world, and – Satsvarupa: Introduced starting with ISKCON community? Prabhupada: Yes. Yes. Brahmanas, ksatriyas. There must be regular education. And well before 1974, failed marriages were also a source of great social disturbance. In early correspondence Srila Prabhupada spoke proudly of married disciples who were “doing very nicely in London” and elsewhere.3 But signs were also there that his Western disciples would find staying in marriage difficult. In a 1967 letter to Krishna Devi, he says, “I do not approve anyone’s separation who are married by me,” and he further warns her, “If this is not followed, I will not take part in anyone’s marriage in the future.”4 And by 1972, he says he will no longer sanction marriages. “I am so much disgusted by this troublesome business of marriage, because nearly every day I receive some complaint from husband or wife, and practically this is not my business as sannyasi to be marriage counsellor, so henceforward I am not sanctioning any more marriages. . . .”5 If “mutual respect” and “brotherhood between men and women” had actually characterized relations between the men and women back then, then why by 1972 did Srila Prabhupada say he was “disgusted” with his disciples’ failing marriages and say he would no longer sanction them? Relations between men and women in ISKCON’s early days were not as sober as Jyotirmayi suggests. Also coinciding with Jyotirmayi’s timeline are letters in which Srila Prabhupada emphasizes varnasrama and admonishes disciples for not following it, as in this oft-quoted letter to Madhukara (Jan 4, 1973): The varnasrama-dharma system is scientifically arranged by Krsna to provide facility for delivering the fallen souls back to home, back to Godhead. And if we make a mockery of this system by whimsically disrupting the order, that we must consider. That will not be a very good example if so many young boys and girls so casually become married and then go away from each other, and the wife is little unhappy, the husband is neglecting her in so many ways, like that. If we set this example, then how the thing will go on properly? As with his February 14, 1977, conversation, we see a similar theme: varnasrama is there to help us to go back to the spiritual world; it is not opposed to devotional service. As Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu suggests, if there was a change in ISKCON’s social system from 1974 onwards, then Srila Prabhupada’s increasing advocacy of varnasrama around that time in response to the difficulties his disciples were having would explain it. But Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu may be wrong about Srila Prabhupada changing his mind; there is substantial evidence that shows he always wanted it. In the 1972 MacMillan edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, a book he wrote with a Western audience in mind, he does not spare his readers from sharp criticism of women’s equality. “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,” says Srila Prabhupada.6 “The demons have now neglected such injunctions, and they think that women should be given as much freedom as men. However, this has not improved the social condition of the world.” That he would make Manu-smriti as the basis of his critique of modern society shows he wanted varnasrama. The important question then is not if he wanted it in ISKCON but when. Srila Prabhupada’s own commentary on the Srimad-Bhagavatam also shows that he thought varnasrama was good for the people outside of India. In his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam verse 1.10.16, which describes the royal ladies of the Kurus getting up onto the roof of their palace with “affection and shyness” to shower flowers on Lord Sri Krishna, Srila Prabhupada discusses the essential role of shyness in society. “Shyness is a check to the unrestricted mixing.” And then he relates this to the general problem of male-female attraction as the force that keeps us bound in illusion and discusses the need to organize society to minimize this attraction. It is notable that he uses this example to illustrate a general, universal principle, not something subjective or limited to the people of India. He thought varnasrama should be the standard of society throughout the world. In light of this, the significance of 1974 as a turning point in Srila Prabhupada’s increased advocacy of varnasrama is an indication that he thought introducing it no longer presented a risk in the form of rules and regulations too strict for Western newcomers to immediately follow. Instead, by that time, his disciples’ continued lack of conformity to varnasrama principles had become the new, existential risk to his mission. As per his February 14, 1977, conversation, he expressed concern that without varnasrama, his disciples’ practice of Krishna consciousness would become “sahajiya,” something “show-bottle”. Therefore 1974 was not, as Mother Jyotirmayi describes it, the start of a society-wide campaign to malign women. Instead, 1974 was the beginning of a concerted effort lead by Srila Prabhupada himself to help his disciples adopt the daivi-varnasrama culture within his own institution. It was the time to introduce higher standards to his disciples, who by 1974 were clearly still struggling to control their sex desires. Explaining the Post-1974 Mistreatment of Women in ISKCON Jyotirmayi however says the post-1974 social policies caused the mistreatment experienced by women from that time forward. “Instead of the simple separation between men and women that Prabhupada wanted, a real segregation was taking place,” and ascribes to the “real segregation” a litany of ill effects: women were considered “stupid and incapable and became subject to gross mockery” and “only as ‘women’ in the most pejorative sense”; “adultery and illicit connections, which were excuses to mistreat women devotees, increased instead of decreased”; “wickedness, meanness and impoliteness appeared”; etc. However, we find none of these negative characteristics are associated with the varnasrama societies described in shastras, which were far more segregated than ISKCON ever had been. Commenting on Srimati Sita Thakurani’s visit to the house of Sri Jagannatha Misra, Srila Prabhupada explains that a respectable woman in Lord Caitanya’s time could not be seen in public, asurya-pashya. “In the oriental culture this system was very much prevalent and was strictly observed by respectable ladies, both Hindu and Muslim,” says Srila Prabhupada. “We have actual experience in our childhood that our mother would not go next door to her house to observe an invitation by walking; she would go in either a carriage or a palanquin carried by four men.”7 Despite the high level of segregation between men and women in Lord Caitanya’s time, women were not considered “stupid and incapable”, nor were they “subject to gross mockery”; nor were they considered “’women’ in the most pejorative sense”; nor did “adultery and illicit connections” increase as a result of segregation. This shows that segregation cannot be the cause of the abuse that women suffered in ISKCON. Otherwise, we would have to believe that Srimati Sita Thakurani, Srimati Sachidevi, and the women of their time generally were also abused—more so than any of ISKCON’s women ever were. But that is clearly untrue. However, the shastras offer another explanation for the abuse: varna-sankara, a society of people who are born of illicit connection between men and women. “The entire American nation has tried to advance in material opulence without striving to produce ideal human beings. The result is that Americans are now regretting the wholesale criminality of American society and are wondering how America has become so lawless and unmanageable,” says Srila Prabhupada.8 “The men produced in such a society are less than fourth class. They are the unwanted population known as varna-sankara, and as stated in Bhagavad-gita, an increase of varna-sankara population creates a hellish society. This is the society in which Americans now find themselves.” And this is the society that Srila Prabhupada drew his first disciples from. Despite the training in sad-acara his disciples received from him and despite chanting the Hare Krishna mahamantra, his disciples nonetheless struggled to overcome their lingering varna-sankara nature. Obviously, with first- and second-initiations, the varna-sankara nature of many his disciples did not entirely disappear. And sometimes due to inattention in spiritual life, offense, or insincerity, that nature reasserted itself with full force. Thus the abuses suffered by women in ISKCON resemble the same kinds of abuses suffered by women at large in Western society. Indeed, feminists in mainstream American and European societies for more than 100 years have decried some of these very abuses in their own culture. The only difference (and a superficial one at that) is that disciples who abused women or condoned it also tried to bend the shastras or Srila Prabhupada’s statements to justify what they were doing.9 Nevertheless, the cause for the abuse of women in ISKCON is the same as the cause for the abuse of women in Western society at large: varna-sankara, not segregation.10 Srila Prabhupada’s Authority As compared with Mother Jyotirmayi’s paper, this paper offers a different narrative explanation for the change in women’s roles and status in ISKCON before and after 1974 and offers an alternative causal explanation for their abuse. Jyotirmayi asserts that the segregation of men and women in their social and occupational duties is the cause of the abuse of women and that Srila Prabhupada wanted social and occupational equality between men and women in ISKCON. However, this paper asserts that varna-sankara are the cause of the abuse of women, which is perpetuated by lack of segregation between men and women, and Srila Prabhupada therefore wanted his disciples to implement a stronger segregation between men and women than there had been before 1974. While this paper relies primarily on statements from his books and lectures, Jyotirmayi’s relies primarily on the eyewitness testimony of unrecorded personal encounters with Srila Prabhupada and on select, published letters. Out of the 60 references in her essay, 29 of the references come from personal, unrecorded anecdotes and 23 are from published letters. Together, they make up 86.7% of her sources. Others sources include the sanction of Jyotirmayi’s thesis by three senior GBC members (“Institutional Authority” in the below chart), leaving only three references from Srila Prabhupada’s books, one conversation, a Sanskrit verse (“Shastra”), and no references from lectures or classes. Less than 10% of her pramanas (8.4%) come from primary sources, which include Srila Prabhpupada’s books, lectures, or conversations. Although personal testimony is not without merit, one might ask why Jyotirmayi gives so little emphasis to Srila Prabhupada’s books. She anticipates this objection and responds by discounting their relevance. “Our subject here deals with the social application of Krishna Conscious principles, not with philosophical knowledge,” she says. “Therefore many of the arguments given here do not come from Prabhupada’s books but from conversations between Srila Prabhupada and his disciples in daily encounters, most of which of course did not get recorded.” And while she admits that “many devotees do not trust these ‘Prabhupada said’” statements, the strongest evidence she puts forward in favor of her emphasis on “Prabhupada saids” is yet another “Prabhupada said.” She quotes Mother Himavati, who says Prabhupada said, “No, what I say in talks also, many things I say are not in my books.” This is how she justifies her use of personal remembrances as her primary evidence. But Srila Prabhupada himself cautioned his disciples against these Prabhupada saids. In a letter to Omkara Dasi, he says, “Unless it is there from me in writing, there are so many things that ‘Prabhupada said.”11 Srila Prabhupada himself gives more importance to his recorded instructions over his unrecorded ones. But Jyotirmayi does the opposite; she gives more importance to his unrecorded instructions over his recorded ones. She also relies heavily on select, published letters from Srila Prabhupada. She says, “My other stories, which are irrefutable, are from Srila Prabhupada’s letters.” The problem here is that while the content of the letters themselves are irrefutable, the lessons we draw from them might not be. In this regard Srutakirti Prabhu recalls a personal encounter with Srila Prabhupada that illustrates this problem. “Srila Prabhupada repeatedly instructed that in a Krsna conscious marriage there is no divorce. This was based on the authority of Vedic injunctions, and he intended his own disciples to strictly follow the rule. One time, however, Srila Prabhupada received a written request by a disciple for permission to divorce his wife and marry another. In his reply, Srila Prabhupada somewhat reluctantly gave his permission. Srila Prabhupada’s servant at that time, Srutakirti, was bewildered by Srila Prabhupada’s action in this case, and he waited for an opportunity to inquire. Srila Prabhupada can do anything he wants, thought Srutakirti, but I can’t understand why he would do this.Finally, in the evening, while massaging Srila Prabhupada in his bed, Srutakirti asked, “Srila Prabhupada, this devotee who is asking about the divorce? “Srila Prabhupada replied that he had told him he could do it.”Yes, I know,” said Srutakirti. “But I was wondering. You always say that divorce is against the Vedic society. There can never be any divorce. “Prabhupada replied that in “your society” these things are accepted. “But in Western society,” said Srutakirti, “they also accept meat-eating and intoxication, so why aren’t any of these things allowed? “Srila Prabhupada then replied that whether he gave permission or not, the disciple in question was going to get a divorce. Prabhupada explained that if he had told his disciple no and the disciple had gone ahead and done it anyway, the offense would have been greater. Srila Prabhupada said that he had given permission since he knew the man was going to do it anyway. In this way, the offense was not so great.Srutakirti immediately appreciated that Srila Prabhupada knew just what to do in each individual case for the benefit of his disciple. Srila Prabhupada demonstrated that he wanted to deal with his disciples in sensitive and particular ways. This even applied to the case when a disciple would fall down or go away from devotional service.12 As Srila Prabhupada’s letters are for the most part addressed to a specific person, they were often tailored to the recipient’s willingness to accept good instruction. Without adequate background information, one is prone to misunderstand his intent. Srila Prabhupada’s letters, like his conversations should therefore be understood in light of his books and lectures. They help us come to the correct conclusion when trying to understand a communication intended for a specific person or group of persons. Some of Srila Prabhupada’s letters unambiguously dispute Mother Jyotirmayi’s central claims. She says that men and women in ISKCON in Srila Prabhupada’s time had full equality. “The women devotees in ISKCON had exactly the same spiritual activities, the same tasks, the same possibilities to progress spiritually and they were entitled to the same respect. At that time everything was done according to the abilities and the spiritual advancement of a person and not according to sex. Prabhupada did not make any distinction.” However, in one letter Srila Prabhupada tells Mothers Yamuna and Dinatarine that “cow protection is not possible for women.” The thing is cow protection is not possible for women. You can keep two or three cows, but on larger scale it is not possible. You should not try to take care of more. It is not women’s business. Women’s business is getting milk and making milk preparations. On the whole larger scale is not to be attempted by women. Manage a small ashram, but don’t try bigger scale, then you require the help of men. Don’t try manual exertion, then again there is mixture and that is not desired. Simply keep yourself aloof from men—chanting, many more times as possible, read books, worship the deity. I am very much pleased with this girl Svati—she has adopted this white dress. She must not be attractive at all. A widow is forbidden to use ornaments, nice sari, decoration, combing the hair nicely. These are forbidden for the woman who is not with husband.13 First, Srila Prabhupada says “cow protection is not possible for women.” Second, he says why: they would require the help of men; “then again there is mixture and that is not desired.” Finally, the principle of avoiding association with men is reiterated: “Simply keep yourself aloof from men.” This shows that Jyotirmayi’s method for selecting which letters or which parts of letters to quote is biased. The same can be said of the few (literally three) times Jyotirmayi cites Srila Prabhupada’s books. The statements she picks inadequately represent the range of statements about women and equality made by Srila Prabhupada. As already discussed, most of his statements about women and equality were specifically critical of modern sentiments. “In Kali-yuga, people are extremely liberal, but mixing with women and talking with them as equals actually constitutes an uncivilized way of life.”14 Such statements are far more numerous than ones about equality.15 Yet these statements never inform Jyotirmayi’s argument, and neither does she deal with them. Even her second-hand sources are similarly biased. One disciple of Srila Prabhupada has this recollection: “There were four Mayapur festivals in the Divine presence of the founder Acharya. Why not a single instance of women giving lecture during any four of them 1974, 1975, 1976 and 1977? I don’t remember any other instances of a woman giving a Bhagavatam lecture during my whole Krsna conscious life with Srila Prabhupada’s personal presence from 1972 till 1977. No less than three hundred days. That doesn’t mean there never was an instance when a woman might have given a lecture. But it is like a needle in the haystack.”16 Such testimony exists, but Jyotirmayi cites none of it. It is likely that she knows of such stories but as a policy does not record them.17 From this analysis of the frequency of the types of sources she uses, it is seen that she privileges second-hand sources (stories told by others about Srila Prabhupada) over first-hand sources (Srila Prabhupada’s books, lectures, conversations and letters). The second-hand sources (48%) are cited more than any other kind of evidence. The next largest category cited are Srila Prabhupada’s letters (38%), and these were selected by her primarily on the basis of their utility in supporting her argument. Letters relevant to her subject but which support a different conclusion are excluded. The same can be said of passages in Srila Prabhupada’s books (5%). It is not an understatement to say that the vast majority of statements in Srila Prabhupada’s books concerning women and social equality challenge Jyotirmayi’s thesis. It is understandable that she would rely the least on the source that contradicts her thesis the most.

A Better Hermeneutic

At the very least, it should be clear that the way Jyotirmayi and some others approach Srila Prabhupada as an authority is quite different from the way others, like the author of this paper, approach him. How does one know which way is better or if neither are better at all? In this regard, some definite, explicitly stated principles, or rules and guides of interpretation (hermeneutic, mimamsa in the Vedic tradition), are needed to help us understand Srila Prabhupada the way he wanted his words to be understood.18 Because of the non-difference between the book Bhagavata and the devotee Bhagavata, Srila Prabhupada’s statements in any other context or other personal or private instructions are best understood in a way that conforms to his statements in his books. “A devotee Bhagavata is as good as the book Bhagavata because the devotee Bhagavata leads his life in terms of the book Bhagavata and the book Bhagavata is full of information about the Personality of Godhead and His pure devotees, who are also Bhagavatas. Bhagavata book and person are identical.”19 Thus an understanding that demonstrates a closeness, a conformity, to his instructions as he has presented them in his books and in conformity with the shastras gives us the clearest understanding of the meaning he wanted to convey—the “purport” of the shastras themselves. His statements should not be interpreted in a way that makes him appear to be against the conclusions of the shastras or renders his statements meaningless. But if one tries to understand Srila Prabhupada’s instructions in a way that departs appreciably from his books, then one obtains an imaginary representation of Srila Prabhupada’s intent in much the same way the Mayavadis produce imaginary meanings from Krishna’s words. Srila Prabhupada gives this example: “The spirit of Bhagavad-gita is mentioned in Bhagavad-gita itself. It is just like this: If we want to take a particular medicine, then we have to follow the directions written on the label. We cannot take the medicine according to our own whim or the direction of a friend. It must be taken according to the directions on the label or the directions given by a physician. Similarly, Bhagavad-gita should be taken or accepted as it is directed by the speaker Himself.” Both Lord Krishna and Srila Prabhupada are persons. Hence, to approach the spirit of the Bhagavad-gita and to approach the spirit of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, one must approach both similarly. One should “read Srila Prabhupada” the way he tells us to read Bhagavad-gita—“as it is.” To revisit Srutakirti Prabhu’s story about Prabhupada’s letter granting permission to a disciple who wanted to divorce his wife to marry another, if that letter had been published like so many others, one could cite it in favor of a policy for men to freely divorce existing wives in order to remarry.20 But as Srutakirti Prabhu points out, that is not in the spirit of what Srila Prabhupada taught. It was an instruction for a particular disciple, not something to be followed generally. Thus although Srutakirti Prabhu had the advantage of being able to inquire from Srila Prabhupada in person, with little difficulty one can still come to a similar conclusion provided one is conversant with the content of Srila Prabhupada’s books. Srila Prabhupada perfectly understood the points he made, but we often don’t. In geometry, one can draw unlimited lines through a single point. But if there are two points, only one line can be drawn through them. Similarly, because of our own imperfections we require many sources to arrive at the correct understanding about something in shastra or something Srila Prabhupada said or did. Therefore Srila Prabhupada said, “Srila Narottama dasa Thakura says, sadhu-sastra-guru-vakya, cittete kariya aikya. One should accept a thing as genuine by studying the words of saintly people, the spiritual master and the sastra. The actual center is the sastra, the revealed scripture. If a spiritual master does not speak according to the revealed scripture, he is not to be accepted. Similarly, if a saintly person does not speak according to the sastra, he is not a saintly person. The sastra is the center for all.21 That is why we must also take advantage of hearing from other sources, such as his recorded lectures (which should enjoy a status near to that of his books, since he is speaking from the Vyasasana), letters, recorded conversations, unrecorded encounters retold by those who had his personal association, the personal realizations of Srila Prabhupada’s sincere followers, the words of other acharyas who may belong to other bona fide sampradayas, and so forth. These are there to help us grasp the spirit, the purport, of what Lord Krishna and His devotees are telling us. Nevertheless, as Srila Prabhupada points out, of all these sources, “sastra is the center of all”; they have a hierarchy and we must respect that. Otherwise, we create false equivalencies whose purposes will often be to nullify or dismiss something he said in favor of some other idea disapproved of by the Lord or His devotees. Since the devotee Bhagavata lives his life according to the book Bhagavata, and because Srila Prabhupada himself gave so much importance to his own books, comprehending the spirit of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions requires that we understand them in a way that is consistent with his books. With this criterion we can positively understand who has or has not grasped the spirit of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. A Hermeneutic Motivated by Gender Equality In her paper, Mother Jyotirmayi gives more importance to what people remember of their personal, unrecorded encounters with Srila Prabhupada than she does his books. Yet as a senior disciple of Srila Prabhupada and former BBT editor, she is well aware that he gave more authority to his own statements in his books than he gave to these “Prabhupada saids”. If there were more statements from his books that could have possibly supported the argument she wanted to make, she would have used them, because that would have given more weight to her argument. And she knows that. But she still made her argument despite knowing that the great majority of statements in his books and which are related to her subject support a very different conclusion. So her choice to not include more statements from his books was deliberate. It was not a choice made by accident or out of ignorance. Hence, the title of this paper, “What about Srila Prabhupada’s books?” Why did she go as far as she did to discount them? The answer is that many in our movement remain deeply attached to the secular Western idea of gender equality. They cannot believe that Srila Prabhupada did not also believe in it. And when they encounter statements that contradict their strongly held beliefs, they viscerally if not explicitly look for some way to dismiss those statements, to “bracket” them. Some devotees feel so strongly about gender equality that if they did not resort to such a deliberate strategy of selection and rejection guided by their sentiments, they would leave Srila Prabhupada and devotional service entirely. Some have said so, others have done so. These people are literally fighting for their spiritual lives. They are fighting within themselves to keep whatever faith they have from being completely extinguished. However, as is often the case with people whose existences are threatened, they sometimes resort to extreme measures that have the unintended consequence of hastening their demise. Just as a would-be rescuer of a drowning man sometimes gets overwhelmed by the strength of the drowning man and also ends up drowning, those struggling to rescue their own faith by embracing a partial faithlessness in Srila Prabhupada very soon become completely faithless. Mother Jyotirmayi reached this point when she said that Srila Prabhupada “saw that following the traditional Vedic definition [of womanhood] would be completely anachronistic and impede our movement.” Although she does not mention any particular definition of womanhood from the Vedas or Vedic literature like Manu-smriti or Srimad-Bhagavatam, the very declaration that such definitions are anachronistic is automatically an offense. It is sruti-sastra-nindanam, blasphemy of the Vedas or literature in pursuance of the Vedic version. This is the fourth of the nama-aparadhas identified in the Padma Purana. The Vedas are eternal, so if a definition is indeed Vedic, it can never be anachronistic. But to nonetheless consider it anachronistic is to consider Vedic literature a product of maya, which it most definitely is not. By declaring the Vedas to be anachronistic, uncountable statements in our scriptures become impossible to believe in, much as how tugging on a single thread in a knitted garment causes the whole garment to unravel. If the Vedic definition of womanhood is completely anachronistic, as Jyotirmayi says, then what are we to make of this definition given in the Srimad-Bhagavatam? “To render service to the husband, to be always favorably disposed toward the husband, to be equally well disposed toward the husband’s relatives and friends, and to follow the vows of the husband—these are the four principles to be followed by women described as chaste.”22 In the purport Srila Prabhupada says, “A woman’s education should be conducted along the lines indicated in this verse.” But if women are not required to follow these principles any longer because they are “completely anachronistic” and “impede our movement,”23 then Srila Prabhupada is wrong about the kind of education women are supposed to get. We cannot trust anything Srila Prabhupada says in his purports any longer because we know he sometimes gets it wrong. Srila Prabhupada is thus stripped of his authority regardless of whatever lip service is given him. Moreover, by declaring any part of Vedic literature “completely anachronistic” one disputes the validity of Vedic literature and our entire sampradaya. Why did the sages at Naimisharanya headed by Saunaka Rishi ask Suta Goswami to “please select the essence of all these scriptures and explain it for the good of all living beings”?23 Suta Goswami, and Sukadeva Goswami before him, must have failed here because they selected a “completely anachronistic” definition of womanhood for the Bhagavatam. “This Bhagavata Purana is as brilliant as the sun, and it has arisen just after the departure of Lord Krsna to His own abode, accompanied by religion, knowledge, etc. Persons who have lost their vision due to the dense darkness of ignorance in the Age of Kali shall get light from this Purana.”25 Also untrue, because the Bhagavatam sometimes gives outdated Vedic definitions of womanhood. Lord Caitanya called the Srimad-Bhagavatam amala-puranam, the “spotless Purana”, but that’s not true either, since we now know the “spotless Purana” is not so spotless after all. And now that we also know that the Lord Himself sometimes commits errors, what scope is there to place any trust in anything spoken by the Lord or by servants like Srila Prabhupada? None. Either in precept or in practice the loss of faith is complete. Whatever is left that resembles faith is an illusion of faith, a pretense.26 In this way, many devotees in our movement have wrecked their faith completely by trying to accommodate the teachings of Srila Prabhupada with the idea of gender equality. For them, the central problem is that the methods for understanding spiritual topics prescribed by Srila Prabhupada do not produce the conclusions they seek concerning women. “the problem is . . . that the conservatives have Prabhupada on their side. Prabhupada explicitly states that women should not be given any managerial position. It is even in the Lilamrita [Prabhupada’s biography]. He says umpteen times that the Manusamhita is the authority where women are concerned. He says (patronizingly, I may add) that women are to be contented with ornaments and that will keep them quiet. He may have said other things at other times, but in his books, in the lawbooks that are to stand for 10,000 years, that is what he said. Now what hermeneutical tool will free us from what Prabhupada said? (Internet text 1998)”27 The “hermeneutical tool” sought by some to free them from what Srila Prabhupada said has taken the form of the methods Jyotirmayi employed in her paper: elevate the authority of second-hand sources (stories) about Srila Prabhupada, select statements from primary and secondary sources only when they agree with your thesis, and delegitimize the authority of Srila Prabhupada’s books. That has been the hermeneutic template for many pro-gender-equality essays in ISKCON since then, and the motivation for employing this hermeneutic is deep attachment to Western notions of gender equality. Resurgence of Interest in Daivi Varnasrama-Dharma Despite the influence Mother Jyotirmayi’s paper has had on ISKCON policy makers, it has become more controversial over time, not less. Pro-gender-equal status policies put in place from 1998 onwards have either not delivered as promised or have been spectacular failures. This of course has raised questions and public concerns about the original thinking that motivated these policies. Two of the three institutional authorities Mother Jyotirmayi cites by name in her paper as support for her thesis have either admitted publicly to having indulged in illicit sex or have left ISKCON entirely after it was discovered that they were indulging in illicit sex. Also, a number of the women who had been outspoken in favor of gender-equal policies later became involved in illicit sexual affairs themselves, some of which were high-profile. As a consequence they became quieter in their advocacy if they did not entirely become persona non grata. The pro-gender-equal social policies were supposed to make such occurrences less frequent. Instead, they have had the effect of thinning the ranks of supporters, which is the kind of outcome predicted by the shastras. As Srila Prabhupada says, “The material sex life is but a perverted reflection of the original fact. The original fact is in the Absolute Truth, and thus the Absolute Truth cannot be impersonal. It is not possible to be impersonal and contain pure sex life. Consequently, the impersonalist philosophers have given indirect impetus to the abominable mundane sex life because they have overstressed the impersonality of the ultimate truth. Consequently, man without information of the actual spiritual form of sex has accepted perverted material sex life as the all in all”.28 Also, policies to promote women in positions of leadership have done little for either ISKCON or for women in general other than enriching the institutional careers of a few women. The expectation was that by seeing more women in positions of leadership non-Indian people outside of ISKCON would like us more and join us in greater numbers. But the bump in recruitment never happened. Europe and America are still struggling to maintain centers and attract newcomers outside of the Indian community.29 And despite promoting women in management positions, secular Western elites still don’t like us, and they say so.30 And perhaps most significantly, many of the problems that ISKCON has had regarding the treatment of women disappeared simply because married couples left the ashrams in great numbers to live on their own. Problems like adultery did not disappear. They just went with the householders when they left the ashram. For example, some ISKCON leaders have recently complained that divorce rates for (non-Indian) initiated devotees are higher than that of outsiders.31 However, Rochford reports (using data from the early 1990s) that one-third of survey respondents reported being divorced but that this figure is probably underestimated.32 Nonetheless, he concludes that “As we have seen, Prabhupada’s disciples, and those of his guru successors, only became further entangled in the outside culture during the 1980s and 1990s. As Prabhupada predicted, the absence of a functioning movement culture left ISKCON and its membership vulnerable to the influence of mainstream North American culture”. This situation has not changed appreciably, if at all. Thus more and more devotees today suspect that Jyotirmayi and others have misstated the problems faced by ISKCON’s women as being a lack of career options or, for example, not having the opportunity to bump into men while circumambulating Tulasi Devi.33 Instead, the actual problems are a lack of sense control that arises from close association with non-devotees, frequent social contact between men and women, and lingering varna-sankara conditioning, none of which have anything to do with glass ceilings.34 In light of the lackluster outcomes of the pro-gender-equality policies in ISKCON, there is renewed interest in varnasrama-dharma as the social approach we should be adopting, as Srila Prabhupada stipulated in his conversation of February 14, 1977. Over the past few years especially there has been a shift in thinking about varnasrama from it being an exclusively farm-based economic solution to a broader social solution that spans both urban and rural communities and makes reducing sex desire its central objective.35 “So these regulative principles are there. So what is, what is the big plan behind these regulative principles? The big plan is: here is the attraction, pumsah striya mithuni-bhavam etam to cut down this attraction between male and female. This is the big plan. Otherwise there is no need of the varnasrama.”36 Thus more devotees are reconsidering the status of statements such as this one from Srimad-Bhagavatam (9.19.17): “One should not sit on the same seat with one’s mother, sister or daughter, for the senses are so strong that even though one is very advanced in knowledge, he may be attracted by sex.” This verse also appears word-for-word in Manu-samhita 2.215. Indeed, varnasrama-dharma has broad application. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Sex Offender Public Website, family members perpetrate 30% of all child sexual assault and someone known to the child like a neighbor or family friend commit 60% of child sexual assault, leaving the remaining 10% perpetrated by strangers.37 Moreover, the site reports that 82% of all victims are female. Perhaps these Vedic principles for keeping men and women apart are not “completely anachronistic” after all? The reason these principles are not outdated is that irrespective of which age one lives in (Satva, Treta, Dvapara, or Kali) sex attraction always has been and always will be the superlative material force that keeps us in illusion. This does not change from age to age. Hence, if the karmis were to organize their society around these principles, they could eliminate 80% of their child sexual abuse cases (as could ISKCON), since 80% of the victims are female. And they could eliminate quite a few other problems, like adultery or the abuse of adult women. Lust increases with proximity (fire melts butter), and from lust comes anger, and from anger wrath. Policies that support equality between the genders bring men and women closer together, and they consequently perpetuate the abuse of women and perpetuate the creation of varna-sankara, who add further misery to everyone’s lives. Preventing abuse means keeping men and women apart. For a civilized society, there is no alternative to this social arrangement, as mandated by the daivi-varnasrama system. Conclusion The importance of this paper is that for the first time in ISKCON, the mistreatment experienced by some of ISKCON’s women since ISKCON’s beginning is explained primarily in terms of the teachings found in Srila Prabhupada’s books. All other works before this have attempted to explain their mistreatment primarily in terms of what they remember of their personal dealings with Srila Prabhupada, with little to no input from his books, and Jyotirmayi’s paper “Women in ISKCON in Srila Prabhupada’s Times” is an outstanding example of this. It is found that on topics related to women, emphasizing the authority of people’s memories of their unrecorded encounters with Srila Prabhupada at the expense of the authority of Srila Prabhupada’s books is motivated by a deep attachment to Western ideas of gender equality, which in turn leads to a faithlessness that results in the complete repudiation of the authority of shastra and Srila Prabhupada. The distinct advantage of an explanation based on Srila Prabhupada’s books is that it avoids the problem of becoming faithless, because the causal explanation closely conforms to shastra and Srila Prabhupada’s purports. Moreover, it offers practical guidance that has application not only for ISKCON’s members but for the people suffering in the world at large.38



1 Jyotirmayi’s paper is one of several papers written by a number of senior women in ISKCON and which advocate gender equality in most areas of ISKCON’s society. Of these papers, Jyotirmayi’s was by far the most influential in terms of inspiring others to demand pro-gender-equal policies within ISKCON or directly inspired the creation of such policies. In a paper by Radha devi dasi titled “Participation, Protection and Patriarchy: An International Model for the Role of Women in ISKCON” (1997), she says, “Jyotirmayi devi dasi described thoroughly in her paper, ‘Women in ISKCON in Shrila Prabhupada’s Times,’ all of these misconceptions about women and explained through Shrila Prabhupada’s own writings exactly why they are misconceptions. Sudharma dasi in her paper to the GBC for the 2000 meetings refers to Jyotirmayi’s paper has having documented the history and extent of abuse to women in the middle to late 1970s. Academics outside of ISKCON have also lent their support to the effort to bring about pro-gender-equal policies within ISKCON, and in doing so have cited Jyotirmayi’s paper frequently. E. Burke Rochford, Jr, in his paper “Prabhupada Centennial Survey: A Summary of the Final Report” cites Jyotirmayi’s paper five times and says, “I recommend that ISKCON leaders immediately move to restore the rights and responsibilities afforded women by Srila Prabhupada. Men should be educated accordingly. (A good start for everyone would be to read the articles by Jyotirmayi devi dasi 1997, and Radha devi dasi 1998.)” Later, Rochford writes a paper titled “The Politics of Gender Within the Hare Krishna Movement” (CESNUR 2006) and cites Jyotirmayi’s paper 12 times. Other academics have quoted her in their work as well. What is presented here is small sample of the extent of the influence of her paper.

2. “ISKCON and Varnasrama-Dharma: A Mission Unfulfilled”, 1998, ISKCON Communications Journal, vol 7, no. 1, June 1999. <…>.

3. Letter to Hayagriva, 8 Nov. 1968.

4. Letter to Krishna Devi 29 Nov 1967.

5.Letter to Kirtiraja 28 Feb 1972.

6. Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 16.7 (MacMillan, 1972).

7. Sri Caitanya-caritamrita Adi-lila 13.114

8. Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.7.12 purport.

9. Srila Prabhupada has informed us that such bending of the meaning of the Lord’s or the acharyas’ words to suit one’s own purposes is called mayavada-bhashya. Hence, impersonalism is also operative as a cause for abuse, and it is strongly connected to impure consciousness (avishudha buddhaya). See the Preface and Introduction to Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is for Srila Prabhupada’s comments on mayavada-bhashya. And also see Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.2.32.

10. Because India is trying to also become materially advanced like the West without educating its people in the goal of life, the intermingling of men and women and the consequent abuse of women are becoming prominent there as well.

11. Letter 2 Sep. 1975.

12. Srutakirti dasa, interview.

13. Letter dated Feb. 21, 1976, Murphy, Oregon.

14. Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.12.8 purport.

15. “Eighty percent of all statements that Bhaktivedanta Swami makes about women in the six works investigated are negative statements, in the sense that they involve restrictions, list bad qualities, group women in socially inferior classes, or treat them as sex objects that have to be avoided.” (Ekkhard Lorenz, “The Guru, Mayavadins, and Women”, The Hare Krishna Movement, ed. Ediwn F. Bryant, Maria L. Ekstrand (Columbia U. Press: New York, 2004) 122.

16. Jashomatinandana das, Email, April 2014.

17. Jyotirmayi: “My information is coming from a notebook in which, all along the years, I noted the anecdotes related to me by devotees who lived closely with Prabhupada or by devotees who received these stories from these first disciples.“

18. Defintion of “hermeneutic”, Merriam-Webster Dictionary (online) 27 Oct. 2015 <…>.

19. Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.18 purport.

20. A similar thing happened in ISKCON around Srila Prabhupada’s July 9th letter of 1977.

21. Chaitanya Charitamrita Madhya-lila 20.352, Purport

22. Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.11.25. 23. An argument often given not to follow this is that it is Kali-yuga and the men today are hardly qualified to be husbands.

24. Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.11.

25. Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.43.

26. This complete collapse of faith from partial faith demonstrates the truth of these two verses from Manu-smriti: “All those traditions (smriti) and those despicable systems of philosophy, which are not based on the Veda, produce no reward after death; for they are declared to be founded on Darkness. [v.12.95.] All those (doctrines), differing from the (Veda), which spring up and (soon) perish, are worthless and false, because they are of modern date. [v.12.96.]”

27.E Burke Rochford, Jr, Hare Krishna Transformed (2007) 146.

28. Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.1.

29. “The Changing Faces of God: The Hinduisation of the Hare Krishna Movement”, Ch. 3, Barker, Eileen, ed. Ashgate Inform Series on Minority Religions and Spiritual Movements : Revisionism and Diversification in New Religious Movements. Brookfield, VT, USA: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2013. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 24 October 2015. page 33.

30. To get a sense of how far they think we have to go to finally shed the stigma of being sexist, this statement by Anna S. King, a long-time academic observer of ISKCON from the U.K., is telling: “This leads us to consider ISKCON’s radically ambivalent attitudes to the material world, to women and to human sexuality. Male and female sensuality are represented in many ways. Some representations affect women adversely and are male-centered, others are tender and celebratory. Prabhupada himself teaches a dualism of body/soul and of gender. He considers sexuality and spirituality as conflicting opposites, lust as disordered desire. Sexual desire is a metaphor for longing for God but also a powerful subversion of that longing. Self-restraint is the dominant virtue in sexual ethics, together with a body-rejecting model of sexuality. ISKCON spirituality therefore presupposes a cultural system that denies, displaces, and sublimates sexualities. Beyond the veil of rasa puritan (and misogynist) values are hidden. While these may appear to offer points of reference in a postmodern world, they also imply that gender inequality is divinely revealed.” (From “Thealogizing Radha”, The Hare Krishna Movement: Forty Years of Chant and Change, 2007, ed. Graham Dwyer and Richard J. Cole (London: I.B. Tauris) page 224.

31. Mahatma das: “We have a higher divorce rate in Iskcon than in the outside society.” “Husband as Guru” 26 May 2014, Dandavats, 25 Oct 2015 <>. 32. Rochford, “Family Formation, Culture and Change in the Hare Krishna Movement” ISKCON Communications Journal, Vol 5. No. 2 Dec. 1997, accessed 25 Oct 2015 <… > and <…>. 33. Jyotirmayi: “During Tulasi worship in the temple room, there should be as in the past only one Tulasi for everyone, both men and women devotees.” 34. The rise of Ritvikism came about after Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance as a reaction to the large numbers of ISKCON leaders who were unable to control their senses. 35. A recent example is a presentation titled “About Varnasrama and the Need to Establish it in ISKCON” to the North American GBC on August 18 by HH Sivarama Swami. <…>. 36. Lecture, Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.8, Vrindavan Oct 30, 1976.

37. “Raising Awareness About Sexual Abuse: Facts and Statistics” accessed on 7 Nov 2015 <…>.

38. For further discussion of these matters, please see Sri Bhakti Vikasa Swami’s book Women, Masters or Mothers. More information about the book can be found at: <…>

Rethinking Varnashrama by Krishna Kirti Prabhu

Rethinking Varṇāśrama

How changing our current thinking on the utility of varṇāśrama-dharma can reconnect it with ISKCON’s overall preaching mission and solve some of ISKCON’s most troubling social problems. Krishna-kirti das 30/09/2013

Is Varṇāśrama Outdated?
The Śrutis, the Smṛtis, and Varṇāśrama
The Śrutis and Varṇāśrama
The Smṛtis
Agreement Between the Bhāgavatam and Manu-smṛti
How Varṇāśrama Reduces Sexual Attraction
Varṇāśrama for the WorldScience, Society, and Kṛṣṇa Consciousness
Causality and Bias in Science
Correlation and Causation
Observational Studies
Validity of Causal Theories in the Social Sciences
Varṇāśrama for ISKCON
ISKCON’s Commitment to Preventing Child Abuse
The CPO Explanation for Child Sexual Abuse
The Varṇāśrama Explanation for Child Sexual Abuse
Varṇāśrama succeeds where the Western approach fails
Conclusion and Recommendations

Within ISKCON for the past three decades there has been much discussion about varṇāśrama-dharma, but little has been achieved in terms of its actual implementation among the general population of devotees. This is understandable, since the emphasis of varṇāśrama thought and practice within ISKCON for a long time has been on farming and cow protection. Thus if a devotee is not going to live on a farm, varṇāśrama is generally not a part of his life. Other matters take priority. Varṇāśrama within ISKCON thus remains a niche interest that is disconnected in precept and practice from the lives of most of ISKCON’s devotees. Consequently, it is largely disconnected from ISKCON’s overall mission.ISKCON’s overall mission is the propagation of the saṅkīrtana movement to society at large. Although this particular purpose comes fourth in a list of purposes enumerated in ISKCON’s official charter, all the other purposes are subsumed by it. It makes ISKCON unique among Vaiṣṇnava societies, and ISKCON’s emphasis on it accounts for its unparalleled success.
But as Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu demonstrated on numerous occasions, the saṅkīrtana movement also demands a pure way of life. Without it, spiritual progress is virtually impossible. Yet the regulative principles that comprise a sufficiently pure life are not spiritual in and of themselves. They are not causes for love of Kṛṣṇa to manifest in one’s heart, but they will prevent its development if transgressed. These regulative principles are fundamental to varṇāśrama-dharma, and some of them have proven difficult for ISKCON’s members to follow.
The difficulty devotees have had in following them is associated with varṇāśrama’s enduring disconnect from most of ISKCON. While this disconnect has several related causes, much of it arises from an overemphasis of certain aspects of varṇāśrama at the expense of others that should be given more importance. Another aspect of varṇāśrama that Śrīla Prabhupāda spoke about but which is no less important than the others is the male-female relationship, as regulated by the varṇāśrama system.In one lecture, Śrīla Prabhupāda highlights this aspect:So these regulative principles are there. So what is, what is the big plan behind these regulative principles? The big plan is: here is the attraction, puṁsaḥ striyā mithunī-bhāvam etaṁ to cut down this attraction between male and female. This is the big plan. Otherwise there is no need of the varṇāśrama.[1]
According to Lord Ṛṣabhadeva, the attraction between male and female is the basic principle of material life (SB 5.5.8), and we see in this lecture that Śrīla Prabhupāda directly connects varṇāśrama with counteracting this principle.
Agriculture and cow protection also help ameliorate the problem of sex attraction, but only indirectly. If a society’s economy is based on agriculture instead of industry, then a consciousness of God arises automatically, for it brings one’s closer to the real source of life’s necessities, reinforcing awareness that these actually come from God.[2] Agrarian occupations also curtail the production and consumption of unnecessary objects of sensual pleasure, and this leaves more time for self-realization.[3]
Cow protection in particular reinforces the idea that man is dependent on God’s mercy. Since the cow produces milk, the “miracle food” for humans, this allows society at large to consume a non-violent diet and follow a non-violent way of life.[4]
However, these important aspects of varṇāśrama alone are unable to reduce sex attraction to the point where it generally does not hinder self-realization. In the history of Gauḍiyā Vaiṣṇavism, Sahajiyā culture—characterized by enthusiastic pursuit of illicit sex in the name of Kṛṣṇa consciousness—has been long-standing, wide-spread, and for some time even definitive Gauḍiyā Vaiṣṇavism itself. Traditionally, not only is Sahajiyā society agrarian, and not only do its people venerate the cow, its people also have a lot of illicit sex.[5]
The regulative principles governing the relations between male and female are therefore of direct importance to everyone. Indeed, these principles exist to help us overcome difficulties that are directly connected with spiritual life, regardless of whether we live on the farm or in the city. As noted by Śrī Arjuna and Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad-gītā, societies that do not follow these principles quickly become varṇasaṅkarapopulations—just like the secular societies of today, whose people can hardly be expected to make any kind of spiritual advancement.[6] Because these principles universally and directly apply to all people, they must be given more emphasis than principles that will remain indirectly relevant to most people.
Connecting varṇāśrama with ISKCON’s overall mission therefore requires us to readjust our thinking about it. We need to place those aspects that are applicable to all devotees at the center of our varṇāśrama thought and practice. The most important of these is the regulation of the male-female relationship, since success or failure in this directly influences our ability to perform sadhana-bhakti. Such a reordering of priorities is necessary if varṇāśrama is to become relevant to ISKCON’s overall mission. Conversely, it will be very difficult for ISKCON’s overall mission to succeed without it.
Is Varṇāśrama Outdated?
śrī-yudhiṣṭhira uvāca
bhagavan śrotum icchāmi nṛṇāṁ dharmaṁ sanātanam
varṇāśramācāra-yutaṁ yat pumān vindate param
Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira said: My dear lord, I wish to hear from you about the principles of religion by which one can attain the ultimate goal of life — devotional service. I wish to hear about the general occupational duties of human society and the system of social and spiritual advancement known as varṇāśrama-dharma (SB 7.11.2).
According to the Bhagavad-gītā, material nature is eternal. Since material nature is eternal, so are all our material problems. The same problems we have today are the same that all living beings have always struggled with. As per the above verse, varṇāśrama-dharma is also known as sanātana-dharma and therefore is also eternal (nṛṇāṁ dharmaṁ sanātanam). Its purpose is to mitigate as far as possible our material problems. Because the problems varṇāśrama-dharma mitigates are ever-existing, varṇāśrama is always relevant for every age. It is never out of date.
But why varṇāśrama? The answer is simple: it is Lord Kṛṣṇa’s social system—cātur varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ—and it must therefore be better than any other. If we accept that society can be arranged in such a way as to improve our chances of success in spiritual life, then we must select some social system that will help us achieve that goal. If one also accepts that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then one must necessarily accept His prescriptions for society. In Lord Kṛṣṇa’s God-centered, Vedic civilization, the idea behind varṇāśrama is how to live in the world with the objective of leaving it. Because Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself has prescribed the varṇāśrama system, no other social system is better for helping its members make spiritual advancement.
Even if people cannot accept varṇāśrama for no other reason than having been born into some other culture, their lives are still miserable without it. They do not always feel the consequences of behavior that is objectively against varṇāśrama principles. Nonetheless, negative consequences eventually arise.Sometimes, however, the consequences are immediate, or nearly so. For example, chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a bacterium that can seriously and permanently damage a woman’s reproductive system. In the United States alone, it infects millions of people each year. As reported by the U.S. Government’s Center for Disease Control, “In 2011, 1,412,791 cases of chlamydia were reported to CDC from 50 states and the District of Columbia, but an estimated 2.86 million infections occur annually.”[7] And the reason the cases are underreported is that “most people with chlamydia do not have symptoms and do not seek testing.” What makes chlamydia so dangerous is the lack of symptoms until permanent damage has already been done. As per the CDC, it is common among young people, affecting “1 in 15 sexually active females aged 14 – 19.”
But why should so many unmarried young females be sexually active? (And why so many young, unmarried men?) American society is this way because its leaders believe that men and women should be allowed to intermingle freely. And because the general population follows their bad advice and bad example, common men and women cannot control themselves. Consequently, a completely preventable yet serious health problem has become widespread. A society organized according to varṇāśrama principles will not have this problem.
The sex urge is no less forceful today than in previous ages, thus following varṇāśrama is no less important to follow today than in previous ages. Even material happiness, satisfaction, and so forth will remain out of reach for those who fail to control the sexual urge. Varṇāśrama-dharma will be good both for devotee and non-devotee alike. Their lives will be happier with it and miserable without.
The Śrutis, the Smṛtis, and Varṇāśrama
On the one hand, the Bhāgavatam says that although one may perform one’s varṇāśrama duties perfectly, it is all considered useless labor if love for Kṛṣṇa does not awaken. But on the other hand, the Bhāgavatamitself prescribes varṇāśrama, as introduced by Maharāja Yudhiṣṭhira in Canto 7, Chapter 11. Indeed, most devotees in the Bhāgavatam and Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta follow varṇāśrama. Śrīla Prabhupāda himself also wanted his spiritual descendants to follow varṇāśrama. How then do we understand that varṇāśrama is external to Kṛṣṇa consciousness and at the same time is given such importance in connection with becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious?
The ­­answer is that following varṇāśrama-dharma itself does not cause love of Kṛṣṇa to manifest in one’s heart, but at the same time it is prescribed for devotees, because for most people it is usually necessary. They need it to sustain a mature commitment to pure devotional service. Yeṣāṁ tv anta-gataṁ pāpaṁ janānāṁ puṇya-karmaṇām . . ., “Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life and whose sinful actions are completely eradicated are freed from the dualities of delusion, and they engage themselves in My service with determination.”[8]
Every authorized yoga system prescribes activities that are to be followed and avoided (yama, niyama); avoiding sinful activity is essential. Without this it will be impossible to acquire the determination to worship Kṛṣṇa, bhajante māṁ dṛḍha-vratāḥ. Varṇāśrama-dharma prescribes princples to be followed that are essential for success in sādhana-bhati.
The purpose of the varṇāśrama principles is to help one make progress in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Cātur-varṇyaḿ mayā sṛṣṭaḿ guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ, “According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me.”[9] In the purport, Śrīla Prabhupāda says, “Human society is similar to any other animal society, but to elevate men from the animal status, the above-mentioned divisions are created by the Lord for the systematic development of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.” This is the utility of varṇāśrama-dharma. The principle of yukta-vairāgyam applies to varṇāśrama, since nearly anything can be used in Kṛṣṇa’s service. Indeed, yukta-vairāgyam applies to many things, not simply questionable activities, such as Arjuna’s killing one’s relatives on Kṛṣṇa’s direct order at Kurukṣetra.
The varṇāśrama principles are meant for helping us to always remember Kṛṣṇa and never forget Him.smartavyaḥ satataṁ viṣṇur vismartavyo na jātucit
sarve vidhi-niṣedhāḥ syur etayor eva kiṅkarāḥ
“Kṛṣṇa is the origin of Lord Viṣṇu. He should always be remembered and never forgotten at any time. All the rules and prohibitions mentioned in the śāstras should be the servants of these two principles.”[10]Sometimes this verse is taken to mean that one need not always follow the śāstra-vidhi if it does not help one remember Kṛṣṇa. But that is not at all implied, for scriptural injunctions are given by the Lord in order to help one remember Him. Conversely, not following the śāstras is associated with the mode of ignorance: aśāstra vihitaṁ gohram (BG 17.5), vidhi-hīnam asṛṣṭānnaṁ (BG 17.13), anapekṣya ca pauruṣam (BG 18.25), etc. Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhuṣana’s commentary on Gītā verse 18.7 makes it clear that giving up the nitya and naimittika karmas such as the pañca mahā yajñas is in the mode of ignorance, because such karmas are directly concerned with obtaining ātmā-jñana (self-realization) and also allow one to maintain his body.[11] The mode of ignorance itself causes one to forget Kṛṣṇa.More importantly, this verse also means that one should not follow the śāstras in such a way as to cause one to not think of Kṛṣṇa or to end up forgetting Him. In the Bhagavad-gītā, Lord Kṛṣṇa discusses what he calls the veda-vāda-ratāḥ, so-called knowers of the Vedas who follow the Vedic injunctions for the sake of elevation to the heavenly planets, resultant good birth, power, and so forth. Following the Vedic rules in that way is prohibited by this verse from the Padma Purāṇa. It does not say that the rules do not have to be followed—they must be followed but in the correct way[12], such that they always help one remember Kṛṣṇa and never forget Him.
Otherwise, to consider any of the injunctions from authorized śāstras to be disconnected from this principle is itself a cause for social disturbance, spiritual disturbance—and namāparādha.[13]śruti-smṛti-purāṇādi-pañcarātra-vidhiṁ vinā
aikāntikī harer bhaktir utpātāyaiva kalpate
“Devotional service performed without reference to the Vedas, Purāṇas, Pañcarātras, etc., must be considered sentimentalism, and it causes nothing but disturbance to society.” (BRS 1.2.101, qtd. in CC Adi 7.102)
Śrīla Bhaktivinode Ṭhākura in his Jaiva Dharma, chapter 3,further corroborates this close connection of the Vedas and dharma-śāstras with the project of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
The Manu-saṁhita and other dharma-śāstras written down by other great sages are smṛti-śāstras, corollaries written in pursuance of the original śruti-śāstras known as the Vedas, which are eternal transcendental sound directly manifested from the Supreme Lord, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and are thus absolutely self-perfected and free of mundane defect. Being corollaries in pursuance of the directions of the Vedas, the dharma-śāstras are held in high esteem, just as the law books defining authorized and unauthorized actions in human society are similarly highly regarded throughout civilized society.[14]Since the dharma-śāstras are considered corollaries of the Vedas, and since the ultimate aim of the Vedas is to bring people to the stage of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, varṇāśrama-dharma is closely connected with Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Therefore the idea that varṇāśrama is wholly disconnected from Kṛṣṇa consciousness is a misconception[15]
This misconceptionhas produced two classes of degraded religionists: one is the veda-vāda-rātaḥ (those who follow Vedic principles for material benefit) and the other is the prakṛta-sahājiya, who by disdain for so-called lower religious principles never rises above feigning love for Kṛṣṇa and becomes morally bankrupt. Both consider varṇāśrama-dharma to be something irrelevant to spiritual advancement, but one embraces it because he is interested in its material benefits whereas the other rejects it because he thinks it is unconnected with spiritual advancement. Both classes are wrong in their assessment of varṇāśrama, and both are fallen.[16] It should not be thought that these tendencies do not operate within ISKCON. Otherwise there would be no reason for Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī to warn us about niyamāgrahaḥ.[17]
The Śrutis and Varṇāśrama
brāhmaṇo ‘sya mukhamāsīt bāhū rājanyaḥ kṛtaḥ
ūrū tadasya yad vaiśyaḥ padbhyāṁ śūdro ajāyata
“The face of the Virāt Puruṣa became the Brahmin, His arms the Kṣatriya, His two thighs became the Vaiśya, from His feet sprang the Śūdras” (Ṛk Veda 10.90.12, from the Puruṣa-Sūkta)[18],[19]
Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself in His Bhagavad-gītā says that He Himself appears whenever there is a decline in religious practice and a rise in irreligion. Yadā yadā hi dharmasya glānir bhavati bhārata, abhyutthānam adharmasya tadātmānaḿ sṛjāmy aham (Gītā 4.7). In the purport of this verse, Śrīla Prabhupāda explains that “the Vedic principles push one towards complete surrender unto Him [Kṛṣṇa]; and whenever such principles are disturbed by the demoniac, the Lord appears.”
The Vedas are also known as the Śrutis, or that which is heard. They are considered eternal, not spoken by any mundane being. They are considered infallible, and they are heard by great sages, which is why they are called śruti. When one quotes from the Vedas in support of some opinion, one’s evidence is considered very strong.
Helping the conditioned souls become Kṛṣṇa conscious is the purpose of the Vedas.
māyā-mugdha jivera nahi svatah krishna-jnana
jivere kripaya kaila krishna veda-purana
“The conditioned soul cannot revive his Kṛṣṇa consciousness by his own effort. But out of causeless mercy, Lord Kṛṣṇa compiled the Vedic literature and its supplements, the Purāṇas” (CC Madhya 20.122).Lord Kṛṣṇa says, vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyaḥ, “By all the Vedas I am to be known” (BG 15.15). The Vedas themselves refer to the varṇāśrama-system, which is thus meant to help in the realization of Kṛṣṇa.Varṇāśrama-dharma followed for the sake of Kṛṣṇa realization is called daiva varṇāśrama-dharma.But varṇāśrama-dharma used for any other purpose is asura varṇāśrama, and it acts to cover one’s consciousness of Kṛṣṇa. That is why throughout the Gītā we find that Lord Kṛṣṇa himself makes this distinction between supposed knowers of the Vedas (veda-vāda-ratāḥ), who follow the Vedic principles for material gain, and actual yogis, who have given up the desire for sense gratification. yaṁ sannyāsam iti prāhur yogaṁtaṁ vidhi pāṇḍava, na hy asannyasta-saṅkalpo yogī bhavati kaścana, “What is called sannyāsa (renunciation) you should know to be the same as yoga, or linking oneself with the supreme, O son of Pāṇḍu, for one can never be a yogī if he does not give up the desire for sense gratification” (BG 6.2). Varṇāśrama-dharma followed for the sake of material gain or for the destruction of others is asura varṇāśrama. Varṇāśrama followed to perfect one’s practice of yoga is daiva varṇāśrama. “Sacrifice, charity and penance purify even the great souls” (BG 8.5).
The Smṛtis In addition to the Vedas, the Smṛtis are one of our most important sources of guidance for the practice of daiva varṇāśrama-dharma. This is because the Smṛtis are easier to understand than the Vedas and also because they are comprehensive. The Smṛtis include the Purāṇas, Dharmaśāstras like Manu-smṛti and Yājñavalkya-smṛti, Itihasas like the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyaṇa, the Pāñcarātras, and so forth.
In particular, the Smṛtis refer to the Dharmaśāstras. In Rupa Gosvāmī’s verse śruti-smṛti-purāṇādi-pañcarātra-vidhiḿ vinā. . . , smṛti as distinguished from purāṇa refers to the Dharmaśāstras. The Purāṇas describe the history of the world in relation to the pastimes of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa and His innumerable incarnations and associates. Through their narratives, the Purāṇas teach the principles of morality and religion, they implicitly teach how one may become perfectly self-realized, and they proclaim the glories of the Lord. As compared with the Purāṇas, the Dharmaśāstras focus on ethics, and they give codes of daily duties as well as conduct applicable to the members of each section of society. They also provide extensive codes for civil and criminal law.
As given in the Dharmaśāstras, the aim of ethics, religious duties, civil law, and criminal law is aimed at helping the members of a varṇāśrama society become self-realized. In Manu-smṛti (12.84 – 99), Manu deals with the question of which of the various actions recommended in the śāstras are the most efficacious for attaining ultimate happiness.[20] The answer given is sarveṣām api caiteṣām ātma-jñānam param smṛtam, tad dhyagryam sarva-vidyānām prāpyate hyamṛtam tataḥ: “Knowledge of the soul is stated to be the most excellent among all of them; for that is the first of the sciences, because immortality is gained through that” (MS 12.85).[21] In the same section of Manu-smṛti two different kinds of acts prescribed in the Vedas are discussed: one for pravṛtti (temporary, material benefit) and the other for nivṛtti (eternal benefit). Of these two, Manu declares the path of nivṛtti to be superior. Thus in the Dharmaśāstras, ethics, moral codes, civil law, criminal law, and quotidian religious duties, are all to be followed for the sake of self-realization.The authority for Manu-smṛti is derived from the Vedas themselves, and its authority is acknowledged by nearly all other dharmaśāstras. As stated in Manu-smṛti 2.7: yaḥ kaścit kasya cid dharmo manunā parikīrtitaḥ, sa sarvo ‘bhi hito vede sarva-jñānam ayo hi saḥ, “Whatever law has been ordained for anyone by Manu, that has been fully declared in the Veda: for that sage was omniscient.”[22] Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam’s[23]Hand-Book of Hindu Religion (1982) comments on the authority of Manu-smṛti:
The traditional number of Smṛtis or law books is eighteen. They are (1) Manusmṛti, (2) Parāśarasmṛti, (3) Vasiṣṭasmṛti, (4) Sañkhasmṛti, (5) Likhitasmṛti, (6) Atrismṛti, (7) Viṣṇusmṛti, (8) Hārītasmṛti, (9) Yamasmṛti, (10) Aṅgirassmṛti, (11)Uśanassmṛti, (12) Saṁvartasmṛti, (13) Bṛhaspatismṛti, (14) Kātyāyanasmṛti, (15) Dakṣasmṛti, (16) Vyāsasmṛti, (17) Yājñavalkyasmṛti, (18) Śatatapasmṛti. All these Smṛtis are equally authoritative but the Manu-smṛti has commanded universal respect from the authors of all other Smṛtis and authors of the Itihāsas and Purāṇas because it is the most comprehensive and the most elucidative or clear. The Parāśarasmṛti is considered to be the standard work for this Kali age. It enumerates exhaustively the special rules for the Kali age. It is said in the Manusmṛti itself that Manu’s laws apply to the Kṛtayuga, Gautama’s laws to the Tretāyuga, the laws of Śaṇkha and Likhita to the Dvāparayuga and those of Parāśara to the Kaliyuga. [24]Also in this connection, in the book Conceptualizations in the Manusmṛti (New Delhi: Manohar, 1996), Parnasabari Bhattacharya says:
Most of the Smṛtis do not pretend to be anything more than the compositions of ordinary mortals based on the teachings of the Vedas. But the Manusmṛti is regarded as an exception. It claims to have a divine origin and to be the epitome of all the Vedic knowledge and the upholder of Vedic tradition (93).He adds that Manu-smṛti is so unassailably steeped in Vedic authority that both Śaṅkara and Kumārila (as disparate as they were) both unquestioningly accepted it as such, and even praised it highly (93). Even the śrutiaffirms, (Taittirīya Upaniṣad, II.2.10.2): “Whatever Manu says is medicine.” This last śruti reference is accepted by Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa, who quotes it in his Govinda Bhāṣya, Manu-smṛti has commanded such universal respect from the authors of the Śrutis, Smṛtis, Purāṇas, and Itihāsas, it is no wonder that Śrīla Prabhupāda refers to it more than any of the other Dharmaśāstraswhenever he has mentioned them.
Agreement Between the Bhāgavatam and Manu-smṛti
The Śrutis (Vedas) are considered more authoritative than the Smṛtis because the former are considered eternal and heard directly by the great ṛṣis, or sages, whereas the Smṛtis are the recollections of the sages, or “that which is remembered.” As such, the Vedas themselves areconsidered infallible whereas the Smṛtis themselves are not. Sometimes they contain errors. Thus if there is some difference between the Śrutis and theSmṛtis, the Śrutis are to be followed. Similarly, in our own Vaiṣṇava tradition, the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (amala purāṇam, the “spotless Purāṇa”) holds a position of authority above all other śāstras. If there is a difference between the Bhāgavatam and Manu-smṛti, we follow the Bhāgavatam.
Nonetheless, with regard to varṇāśrama-dharma, there is close agreement between the Bhāgavatam and Manu-smṛti on what is considered ethical and unethical behavior governing the relationships between men and women.
Maharāja Yayāti’s famous dictum about not sitting on the same seat with one’s own mother, sister, or daughter is found word-for-word in Bhāgavatam 9.19.17 and in Manu-smṛti 2.215:mātrā svasrā duhitrā vā nāviviktāsano bhavet
balavān indriya-grāmo vidvāḿsam api karṣati
“One should not allow oneself to sit on the same seat even with one’s own mother, sister or daughter, for the senses are so strong that even though one is very advanced in knowledge, he may be attracted by sex.”
In both śāstras, the contexts for this verse are similar; each deals with the principle of male-female attraction. In the Bhāgavatam, the verse appears in the midst of the parable Maharāja Yayāti narrates to Devayānī, which describes a he-goat who was ever-attracted but never satisfied by a she-goat. It shows why one should give up the desire for sexual pleasure.
In Manu-smṛti, this verse appears in the context of prescriptions for how a brahmacāri should behave with the young wife of one’s guru.
A pupil who is full twenty years old, and knows what is becoming and unbecoming, shall not salute a young wife of his teacher by clasping her feet. It is the nature of women to seduce men in this world; for that reason, the wise are never unguarded in the company of females. For women are able to lead astray in this world not only a fool, but even a learned man, and to make him a slave of desire and anger. One should not sit in a lonely place with one’s mother, sister, or daughter; for the senses are powerful, and master even a learned man. But at his pleasure a young student may prostrate himself on the ground before the young wife of a teacher, in accordance with the rule, and say, ‘I, N. N.’ (worship thee, O lady). On returning from a journey he must clasp the feet of his teacher’s wife and daily salute her in the manner just mentioned, remembering the duty of the virtuous.[25]
We find elsewhere in the Bhāgavatam that it is similarly prohibited for a brahmacāri to allow himself to be cared for by the young wife of his guru. The rationale is also the same—men in the company of women are liable to be attracted by sex:
A brahmacāri, or one who has not accepted the gṛhāstha-āśrama [family life], must rigidly avoid talking with women or about women, for the senses are so powerful that they may agitate even the mind of a sannyasī, a member of the renounced order of life. If the wife of the spiritual master is young, a young brahmacāri should not allow her to care for his hair, massage his body with oil, or bathe him with affection like a mother. Woman is compared to fire, and man is compared to a butter pot. Therefore a man should avoid associating even with his own daughter in a secluded place. Similarly, he should also avoid association with other women. One should associate with women only for important business and not otherwise. As long as a living entity is not completely self-realized—as long as he is not independent of the misconception of identifying with his body, which is nothing but a reflection of the original body and senses—he cannot be relieved of the conception of duality, which is epitomized by the duality between man and woman. Thus there is every chance that he will fall down because his intelligence is bewildered.[26]

The Bhāgavatam and Manu-smṛti agree that the conditioned souls have an innate tendency for illicit sex, meat-eating, and intoxication, and they also agree that the purpose of the Vedic ceremonies that regulate them is to help them give up these tendencies.
The Bhāgavatam (11.5.11) states:
loke vyavāyāmiṣa-madya-sevā nityā hi jantor na hi tatra codanā
vyavasthitis teṣu vivāha-yajña surā-grahair āsu nivṛttir iṣṭā
“In this material world the conditioned soul is always inclined to sex, meat-eating and intoxication. Therefore religious scriptures never actually encourage such activities. Although the scriptural injunctions provide for sex through sacred marriage, for meat-eating through sacrificial offerings and for intoxication through the acceptance of ritual cups of wine, such ceremonies are meant for the ultimate purpose of renunciation.”
And Manu-smṛti 5.56 states similarly:
na māḿsa-bhakṣaṇe doṣo na madye na ca maithune
pravṛttir eṣā bhūtānāḿ nivṛttis tu mahā-phalā
“It may be considered that meat-eating, intoxication and sex indulgence are natural propensities of the conditioned souls, and therefore such persons should not be condemned for these activities. But unless one gives up such sinful activities, there is no possibility of achieving the actual perfection of life.”[27]The mention of meat here is notable in that agreement between the Bhāgavatam and Manu-smṛti is not limited to the project of curbing the tendency for illicit sex. Both śāstras also condemn flesh-eating.With regard to Manu-smṛti (MS) 5.56, the discussion of eating meat first acknowledges that the Vedas prescribe certain sacrifices in which an animal is slaughtered, and it is considered that no sin has taken place in taking the life of the animal. That is because the sanction comes from the Vedas. However, Manu (5.48 – 49) then declares that the slaughter of animals is not only impious but despite limited Vedic sanction is still a ghastly act.
nākṛtvā prāṇināṁ hiṁsāṁ māṁsamut padyate kvacit
na ca prāṇivadhaḥ svargyas tasmān māṁsa vivarjayetsamutpattiṁ ca māṁsasya vadhavandhau ca dehinām
prasamīkṣya nivarteta sarva-māṁsasya bhakṣaṇāt
“Meat can never be obtained without injury to living creatures, and injury to sentient beings is detrimental to the attainment of heavenly bliss; let him therefore shun the use of meat. Having well considered the disgusting origin and the cruelty of fettering and slaying corporeal beings, let him entirely abstain from eating flesh.”
Two more verses condemning flesh-eating in this section of Manu-smṛti are very familiar to devotees.anumantā viśasitā nihantā krayavitrayī
saṁskartā copahartā ca khāda-kaśceti ghātakāḥ
“He who permits the slaughter of an animal, he who cuts it up, he who kills it, he who buys or sells meat, he who cooks it, he who serves it up, and he who eats it must all be considered as the slayers of the animal” (Manu-smṛti 5.51).
maṁ sa bhakṣayitā ‘mutra yasya māṁsam ihād myaham
etan māṁsasya māṁsatvam pravadanti manīṣiṇaḥ“He (māṁ + sah – literally “me he”) whose flesh I eat in this life will devour me in the next life; the wise declare this to be the real meaning of the word flesh (māṁsaḥ)” (Manu-smṛti 5.55).
Though Śrīla Prabhupāda himself rarely if ever cited the source for these verses, his references to them are unmistakable:
When animals are killed in a slaughterhouse, six people connected with the killing are responsible for the murder. The person who gives permission for the killing, the person who kills, the person who helps, the person who purchases the meat, the person who cooks the flesh and the person who eats it, all become entangled in the killing.[28]
Generally, in order to attain the human form, a living entity has to pass through many species of life on the evolutionary scale, but if a goat is sacrificed to the goddess Kālī, he is immediately promoted to the human form. The mantra also says, “You have the right to kill this man who is sacrificing you.” The word māṁsa indicates that in his next birth, the goat will eat the flesh of the man who is presently sacrificing him.[29]
These statements have been long-time, favorite sayings of devotee-preachers.
Not only does Manu-smṛti condemn illicit sex, flesh-eating and intoxication, it also proscribes gambling.nākṣaiḥ krīḍet-kadācittu svayaṁ nopānahau haret
śayanastho na bhuñjīta na pāṇisthaṁ na cāsane
“Let him [a brāhmaṇa] never play with dice, nor himself take off his shows; let him not eat, lying on a bed, nor what has been placed in his hand or on a seat” (MS 4.74).
pānam akṣāḥ striyaś caiva mṛgayā ca yathā kramam
etat akaṣṭamaṁ vidyāc catuṣkaṁ kāmaje gaṇe
“Drinking, dice, women, and hunting, these four which have been enumerated in success, he must know to be the most pernicious in the set [of vices] that springs from love of pleasure” (MS 7.50).
Manu-smṛti agrees with the Bhāgavatam on the sinful nature of gambling, intoxication, flesh-eating, and illicit sex. Both śāstras affirm that the path of renunciation (nivṛtti) is superior to the path of sense pleasure (pravṛtti), and they also affirm that all sacrifices and penances should be performed for the sake of renunciation and for the sake of ātma-jñāna, spiritual knowledge. Hence, both śāstras link ethics and moral behavior with self-realization; one cannot make progress in self-realization unless one is moral. Both śāstras affirm the superlative strength of the attraction between male and female, and consequently both śāstras recommend the disassociation of men and women as far as possible.
All these prescriptions and their stated purposes are at the heart of daiva varṇāśramadharma, particularly the recommendations in both śāstras for the strict separation of male and female. “The big plan is: here is the attraction, puṁsaḥ striyā mithunī-bhāvam etaṁ, to cut down this attraction between male and female,” says Śrīla Prabhupāda. “Otherwise there is no need of the varṇāśrama.”[30]
How Varṇāśrama Reduces Sexual Attraction Human behavior has its basis in both upbringing and disposition—nurture and nature (saṁskāra and svabhāva)—and varṇāśrama-dharma employs both in helping men and women control the sexual urge. Learning how to apply the etiquette in the present context helps ensure that dealings between men and women are as sober as possible. Yet the same principles of etiquette work to keep men and women at a respectful distance from each other, so as not to be victimized by their own natures.Take for example Cāṇakya Paṇḍita’s dictum mātṛvat para-dāreṣu, “Oneshould consider a woman other than his wife to be his mother.” The intent of addressing other women as mother is clear. Generally, no man thinks of his own mother as a sex object. On the contrary, she is someone who is worthy of veneration. One who considers other women to be like his mother will be similarly disinclined to pursue a sexual liaison with them. And likewise, a woman is supposed to address men other than her husband as sons. When men or women are adored or venerated in this way, the relationships are sober.
Otherwise, when others are seen as objects for one’s own consumption, for one’s own personal enjoyment, that is when exploitation begins. For example, those dumping their sewage into the River Yamunā are the ones who see her as “it;” mere water for human use—not a shining goddess and vehicle of Divine grace. The same is true between men and women. Vedic etiquette governing the dealings between men and women is a formality whose aim is to prevent a sexually intimate relationship from arising.
But etiquette alone is insufficient to control the urge for sex. In order to adequately curb sexual desire between men and women while practicing Kṛṣṇa consciousness, there must be a minimum of contact—verbal and visual, what to speak of tactile. Thus to advance nicely in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, men and women must be careful to keep aloof from each other.
In this regard, Śrīla Prabhupāda comments:
Generally, of course, one is not sexually attracted to his mother, sister or daughter, but if one allows himself to sit very close to such a woman, one may be attracted. This is a psychological fact. It may be said that one is liable to be attracted if he is not very advanced in civilized life; however, as specifically mentioned here, vidvāṁsam api karṣati: even if one is highly advanced, materially or spiritually, he may be attracted by lusty desires. The object of attraction may even be one’s mother, sister or daughter.
Therefore, one should be extremely careful in dealings with women. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was most strict in such dealings, especially after He accepted the sannyāsa order. Indeed, no woman could come near Him to offer Him respect.[31]
To control the sexual urge, the social and occupational roles prescribed by varṇāśrama-dharma for each member in society minimize interaction between men and women. Vedic civilization allows men and women to associate only when necessary.
With regard to curbing sexual attraction, Śrīla Prabhupāda’s translation and purport to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.10.16 summarize the most important idea underlying the structure of a varṇāśrama society—the separation of men and women. The translation of the verse reads as follows:
“Out of a loving desire to see the Lord, the royal ladies of the Kurus got up on top of the palace, and smiling with affection and shyness, they showered flowers upon the Lord.” But it may be asked that if these are royal ladies, who could have stood next to the Lord had they insisted, why did they prefer to honor Him from a distance?
In explaining the ladies’ behavior, Śrīla Prabhupāda writes that shyness “is a particular extra-natural beauty of the fair sex, and it commands respect from the opposite sex.” The respect commanded by shyness means that men will not see a shy woman as a sex object. She instead becomes an object to be venerated and protected.
Furthermore, this exhibition of shyness on the part of the royal ladies is an eternal custom. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes that this incident from the Mahābhārata period “proves definitely that the ladies of the palace observed strict pardā (restricted association with men).” It is not an introduction of the Mohammedans, as some mistakenly say. Shyness nicely reflects varṇāśrama principles, and in this pastime it is exhibited by Lord Kṛṣṇa’s own personal associates. Therefore the customary shyness exhibited in this pastime is sanātana, eternal.
Continuing with his commentary in the same verse, Śrīla Prabhupāda discusses the purpose of society. “Human civilization, as conceived of by the sages of India, is to help one free himself from the clutches of illusion.” People are attracted to the body because of the presence of the spirit soul. Without the soul, the body, however beautiful, will not attract anyone. One should be attracted only by spirit, not matter. But because we still remain in “the darkness of ignorance,” Vedic civilization “allows very restricted mixing of woman and man.” Thus “shyness is a check to the unrestricted mixing,” says Śrīla Prabhupāda. “It is nature’s gift, and it must be utilized.” It helps us avoid being attracted by illusion.
As far as the women class are concerned, they are accepted as a power of inspiration for men. As such, women are more powerful than men. Mighty Julius Caesar was controlled by a Cleopatra. Such powerful women are controlled by shyness. Therefore, shyness is important for women. Once this control valve is loosened, women can create havoc in society by adultery. Adultery means production of unwanted children known as varṇa-saṅkara, who disturb the world.[32]
(This question must be asked of ourselves: “How must feminine shyness be utilized in ISKCON?” Given the shortcomings of many of ISKCON’s members in avoiding illicit sex, this question should not be paid reverent lip service and then ignored.)
Without coming to the standard of Vedic civilization, people will remain in the darkness of ignorance, and it will be almost impossible for them to advance in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. As sex attraction is the basic principle of material life (SB 5.5.8), limiting sex attraction is necessary in order to allow the general populace to make spiritual advancement. This idea is fundamental to varṇāśrama-dharma, and it is realized in the occupational duties prescribed in the śāstras for men and women.
The January 1936 edition of the Harmonist advances this idea in an article titled “Sex.” The article observes that “there is no field of human labor into which she [a woman] is not entering on a footing of equal partnership with men.” But then it asserts that keeping the sexes segregated also requires that their respective spheres of activity also be segregated.
“Under the circumstances will it not be regarded as an extinguisher of the cherished hopes of the fair sex to advance the view that the sexes should be segregated from each other, which clearly requires also demarcation of the respective spheres of activity of the sexes? Shri Krishna Chaitanya condemns all association between the sexes for carnality in the most unsparing terms. Is this teaching of the Shastras to be regarded as obsolete and oriental in view of the immemorial practice of Western countries as well as the most modern tendencies all over the world that are rapidly sweeping away all barriers to unreserved association of the sexes? If women take over the work that is being performed by men all over the world, will not such change obliterate the last obstacles in the way of the fellowship of the sexes on a footing of perfect equality? Will it also lead to sexual intemperance and moral and eugenic disasters?”
The social emancipation of women as described here accurately portrays the fallen character of the industrialized Western countries, where women’s equality is a cardinal virtue. In the United States, for example, women have entered the workforce and all other areas of the public sphere. But 52% of all U.S. marriages end in divorce[33], and 40% of all children in the U.S. are born outside of marriage[34]. As explained in the above excerpt from the Harmonist, women’s comingling with men for the sake of equal occupational opportunity requires them to associate closely with men outside of their families, and this in turn leads to “sexual intemperance” and “moral and eugenic disasters” (or strīṣu duṣṭtāsu).[35]
Many people, however, will correctly point out that there are many occupations that women excel in. They have both the interest and capability of taking up most occupations that men engage in today, except those that require exceptional strength and endurance. And even then, there are instances of women excelling in some of these exceptional occupations. Aside from bearing children, which negatively impacts women’s careers as compared with those of men, many if not most women today nevertheless find satisfaction in careers outside the home. So it appears to be a straight-forward, moral proposition to let women undertake any social or occupational role suited to their talents. Conversely, it appears to be very unfair to deny women the kinds of occupational opportunities they are interested in and capable of nicely pursuing. So, why not let women work outside the home?
The reason as to why women should not work outside the home and apart from their male family members is that the objective of Vedic civilization is spiritual advancement, not material advancement. Since spiritual advancement is the goal of Vedic civilization, it is more important to help the general public control their senses than to help them advance materially. “In all spiritual affairs, one’s first duty is to control his mind and senses,” writes Śrīla Prabhupāda in the preface to the Nectar of Instruction. “Unless one controls his mind and senses, one cannot make any advancement in spiritual life.” Sense control is more important than career opportunity. Indeed, when Śrīla Prabhupāda saw how much difficulty his disciples had in controlling their own minds and senses while practicing Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he prescribed varṇāśrama in order to help them “walk the talk.” That is why women’s occupations in the varṇāśrama system are centered on the husband and home. In this way, sex attraction in society is minimized.
That a woman’s occupational engagements should be centered on home and husband, however, does not mean that the Vedic civilization does not produce very capable, very talented women. In the Vedic context there have been capable lady scholars, viduṣis[36], but their education was not obtained from public universities or at the kūla-guru’s āśrama along with brahmacaris. Their education was received in the home, from fathers, mothers, husbands, and even from sons. We see for example in the Bhāgavatam that Śrīmatī Devahūti received transcendental knowledge from her son, Lord Kapilādeva. Mother Śācī, the mother of Lord Caitanya, was herself also learned. In the pastime of the Lord’s eating dirt, the Lord asked her why eating dirt was wrong, and Śācī explained to him how difference is real and the Māyāvāda idea expressed by the Lord was false. Yet we do not find that Śācīdevī, who herself was from a family of brāhmaṇas, had received any education from elsewhere. In Vedic civilization, scholarly women receive their education from their families.
The same can be said of women from all the other castes. They were educated but did not receive their education from outside. Nor did they pursue outside occupations. In his purport to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.4.5, Śrīla Prabhupāda points out how the wives and daughters of the kṣatriyas were very capable but never took up positions of authority within society.
As we learn from the history of the Mahābhārata, or “Greater India,” the wives and daughters of the ruling class, the kṣatriyas, knew the political game, but we never find that a woman was given the post of chief executive. This is in accordance with the injunctions of Manu-saḿhitā, but unfortunately Manu-saḿhitā is now being insulted, and the Āryans, the members of Vedic society, cannot do anything. Such is the nature of Kali-yuga.
It is good to be educated and have career satisfaction, and it is good to control one’s senses. But if a conflict arises between the two, then priority should be given to sense control. That is Vedic civilization.Thus according to both the Bhāgavatam and Manu-smṛti, a woman’s prescribed duties are centered on household and husband. The Bhāgavatam, Canto 7, Chapter 11, describes the occupational divisions (varṇas) of human society. Therein the characteristics and prescribed duties for brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, vaiśyas, and śūdras are given. Next, the prescribed duties for women are given.
To render service to the husband, to be always favorably disposed toward the husband, to be equally well disposed toward the husband’s relatives and friends, and to follow the vows of the husband — these are the four principles to be followed by women described as chaste (SB 7.11.25). A chaste woman must dress nicely and decorate herself with golden ornaments for the pleasure of her husband. Always wearing clean and attractive garments, she should sweep and clean the household with water and other liquids so that the entire house is always pure and clean. She should collect the household paraphernalia and keep the house always aromatic with incense and flowers and must be ready to execute the desires of her husband. Being modest and truthful, controlling her senses, and speaking in sweet words, a chaste woman should engage in the service of her husband with love, according to time and circumstances (26-27). A chaste woman should not be greedy, but satisfied in all circumstances. She must be very expert in handling household affairs and should be fully conversant with religious principles. She should speak pleasingly and truthfully and should be very careful and always clean and pure. Thus a chaste woman should engage with affection in the service of a husband who is not fallen (28). The woman who engages in the service of her husband, following strictly in the footsteps of the goddess of fortune, surely returns home, back to Godhead, with her devotee husband, and lives very happily in the Vaikuṇṭha planets (29).
As given in the Bhāgavatam, the pastimes of Lord Rāma and Mother Sītā (SB 9.10.11) corroborate this conclusion (bolding added).
When Rāmacandra entered the forest and Lakṣmaṇa was also absent, the worst of the Rākṣasas, Rāvaṇa, kidnapped Sītādevī, the daughter of the King of Videha, just as a tiger seizes unprotected sheep when the shepherd is absent. Then Lord Rāmacandra wandered in the forest with His brother Lakṣmaṇa as if very much distressed due to separation from His wife. Thus He showed by His personal example the condition of a person attached to women.
In this verse the words strī-sańgināṁ gatim iti indicate that the condition of a person attached to women was shown by the Lord Himself. According to moral instructions, gṛhe nārīṁ vivarjayet: when one goes on a tour, one should not bring his wife. Formerly men used to travel without conveyances, but still, as far as possible, when one leaves home one should not take his wife with him, especially if one is in such a condition as Lord Rāmacandra when banished by the order of His father. Whether in the forest or at home, if one is attached to women this attachment is always troublesome, as shown by the Supreme Personality of Godhead by His personal example.. . .
A further understanding to be derived from this example is that a woman, however powerful she may be in the material world, must be given protection, for as soon as she is unprotected she will be exploited by Rākṣasas like Rāvaṇa. Here the words vaideha-rāja-duhitari indicate that before mother Sītā was married to Lord Rāmacandra she was protected by her father, Vaideha-rāja. And when she was married she was protected by her husband. Therefore the conclusion is that a woman should always be protected. According to the Vedic rule, there is no scope for a woman’s being independent (asamakṣam), for a woman cannot protect herself independently.
As shown here by the Bhāgavatam and as explained by Śrīla Prabhupāda, it is troublesome for women to travel—even with her husband—because of the greater opportunity for her to be exploited by other men. Hence, women are enjoined to remain at home, and even then while at home to remain under the protection of a father, husband, or sons. And if remaining at home is not possible, then she must remain under the protection of some male relative, as did great women like Sītā Devī, Kuntī, and Draupadī.As does the Bhāgavatam, Manu-smṛti similarly states that a woman’s duties are centered on her husband. She should not be independent, should manage her household nicely, and she should follow her husband in his vows, much as how the Bhāgavatam has prescribed.
bālayā vā yuvatyā vā vṛddhayā vāpi yoṣitā
na svātantryeṇa kartavyaṁ kiṁcit-kārya gṛheṣvapibālye piturvaśe tiṣṭhet pāṇigrāhasya yauvane
putrāṇāṁ bhartari prete na bhajetstrī svatantratampitrā bhartrā sutairvāpi necched-virahamātmanaḥ
eṣāṁ hi viraheṇa strī gahrye kuryād ubhe kulesadā prahṛṣṭayā bhāvyaṁ gṛhakāryeṣu dakṣayā
susaṁskṛtopaskarayā vyaye cāmuktahastayānāsti strīṇāṁ pṛthagyajño na vrataṁ nāpyupoṣaṇam
patiṁ śuśrūṣate yena tena svarge mahīyate
By a girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one, nothing must be done independently, even in her own house (MS 5.147). 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 (148).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 (149).She must always be cheerful, clever in the management of her household affairs, careful in cleaning her utensils, and economical in expenditure (150).No sacrifice, no vow, no fast must be performed by women apart from their husbands; if a wife obeys her husband, she will for that reason alone be exalted in heaven (155).
The varṇāśrama principles given by both the Bhāgavatam and Manu-smṛti leave no scope for a woman to be independent. The Bhāgavatam declares that a woman’s prescribed duties are that of a pativrata, one devoted to her husband. And Manu-smṛti directly states that women should not be given independence and must be protected by a male member of her household.
Furthermore, Manu-smṛti declares that the protection of women is the highest religious principle for all varṇas.
puruṣasya striyāś caiva dharma vartmani tiṣṭhatoḥ
saṁyoge viprayoge ca dharmān vakṣyāmi śaśvatānasvatantrāḥ striyaḥ kāryāḥ puruṣaiḥ svairdivāniśām
viṣyeṣu ca sajjantyaḥ saṁsthāpyā ātmano vasepita rakṣati kaumāre bhartā rakṣati yauvane
rakṣanti sthavire putrā na strī svātantryam arhatikale ‘dātā pita vācyo vācyaścānupayanpatiḥ
mṛte bhartari putrastu vācyo māturarakṣatisūkṣmebhyo ‘pi pṛsaṅgebhyaḥ striyo rakṣyā viśeṣataḥ
dvayor hi kulayoḥ śokam āvaheyur arakṣatāḥimaṁ hi sarvavarṇānāṁ paśyanto dharmamuttamam
yatante rakṣituṁ bhāryā bhartāro durbalā api
I will now propound the eternal laws for a husband and his wife who keep to the path of duty, whether they be united or separated (MS 9.1). Day and night women must be kept in dependence by the males of their families, and if they attach themselves to sensual enjoyments, they must be kept under one’s control (2). Her father protects her in childhood, her husband protects her in youth, and her sons protect her in old age; a woman is never fit for independence (3). Reprehensible is the father who gives not his daughter in marriage at the proper time; reprehensible is the husband who approaches not his wife in due season, and reprehensible is the son who does not protect his mother after her husband has died (4). Women must be particularly guarded against evil inclinations, however trifling they may appear; for, if they are not guarded, they will bring sorrow on two families (5). Considering that the highest duty of all castes, even weak husbands must strive to guard their wives (6).
The highest duty of all varṇas is declared here to be the protection of women—specifically of husbands to protect their wives. In verse 9.5, women are to be given special protection, rakṣyā viśeṣataḥ, from “evil inclinations,” which is an archaic way of describing the inclination for “sense gratification.” Women by nature are inclined to sensual pleasure. “Generally all women desire material enjoyment,” says Śrīla Prabhupāda in explaining Śrīmatī Devahūti’s lamentation on the departure of her husband, Kardama Muni, for the sannyāsa order of life. “They are called less intelligent because they are mostly prone to material enjoyment.”[37]Women need protection, for if their enjoying spirit is not kept in check, they will create havoc in society through svātantrya, independence—intermingling with men in society at large.To protect one’s ability to make spiritual advancement and to protect that of others, the institution of varṇāśrama-dharma has given the duty of protecting women to their husbands and other male relatives. This duty is declared to be the highest duty of all the varṇas—dharmam-uttamam. That means all other duties associated with the varṇas are not as important.
Manu declares this the highest duty because sense control is the objective of the varṇāśrama system. Indeed, practitioners of all authorized systems of yoga follow principles of yama and niyama, prescribed activities and restrictions. “In all spiritual affairs, one’s first duty is to control his mind and senses, says Śrīla Prabhupāda in the Preface of the Nectar of Instruction, “Unless one controls his mind and senses, one cannot make any advancement in spiritual life.” And Manu-smṛti similarly indicates that the goal of life is not sense pleasure (pravṛtti) but instead is the attainment of ātma-jñāna by means of activities that cause cessation of material existence (nivṛtti).[38] Since attraction between male and female is the basic principle of material existence[39], and since protection of women means minimizing the intermingling of men and women in society, following this social principle alone will do more to help the members of a varṇāśrama society control their senses than any other social principle.[40]
Varṇāśrama-dharma is the only social system authorized in Vedic literature, and it is therefore the social system that can best curb sexual attraction. If this were untrue, Śrīla Prabhupāda would not have pushed his disciples so hard in his later years to implement varṇāśrama-dharma within ISKCON. Indeed, most of his instructions on varṇāśrama-dharma were aimed at his disciples.

Varṇāśrama for the World If a religion articulates a universal principle, then it should also have universal application. Varṇāśrama-dharma is universally applicable because Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself recommends it. And because it is something favorable for making spiritual advancement, ISKCON’s members are obliged to propagate it within society at large, beginning with themselves. Since example is better than precept, it is only a matter of time before intelligent readers outside of ISKCON question the clear difference between the society described in Prabhupāda’s books and the way in which ISKCON members actually live. In this respect, preaching depends onvarṇāśrama-dharma.
Accepting something favorable for one’s Kṛṣṇa consciousness is one of the six aṅgas, or limbs, of śaranāgati—surrender to Kṛṣṇa. Because varṇāśrama-dharma gives directions for personal and social life that are favorable for Kṛṣṇa consciousness, it is something we must teach to the rest of the world.ISKCON’s first purpose is
To systematically propagate spiritual knowledge to society at large and to educate all people in the techniques of spiritual life in order to check the imbalance of values in life and to achieve real unity and peace in the world.[41]
The principles of varṇāśrama-dharma are the basis of some of the most fundamental techniques of spiritual life. For example, a devotee in ISKCON at his, or her, first initiation vows not to engage in illicit sex. But how is that accomplished? The varṇāśrama principles give ample guidance for this. The same is true of the other vows one makes at the time of initiation. Since sex itself is a social activity, a social system that regulates it is an essential part of what we teach.
Indeed, all social systems regulate sex, but the varṇāśrama system regulates it better than all others, for the sake of helping society make spiritual advancement. Thus we find that Śrīla Prabhupāda himself advocated the varṇāśrama system when the topic of discussion was about society. He believed that human progress begins with accepting it. In 1971 in Moscow, Śrīla Prabhupāda fearlessly preached the necessity ofvarṇāśrama-dharma to a Professor Grigoriy Kotovsky, an adherent of Soviet “classless” ideology. Indeed, their lengthy conversation is focused almost exclusively on varṇāśrama.
Śrīla Prabhupāda begins his conversation with Professor Kotovsky by telling him that “the Vedic concept of socialism or communism will much improve the idea of communism.” He gives examples of how the gṛhāsthais obligated to feed all persons who come to his home. He is even supposed to call out to others on the street to come if hungry and eat. Śrīla Prabhupāda also recommends that instead of the state being the proprietor of everything, God should be considered the proprietor of everything as per the Īśopaniṣad. The conversation moves quickly from great interest in the U.S.S.R. in ancient Vedic literature to Hinduism to varṇāśrama-dharma.
Śrīla Prabhupāda’s point to Professor Kotovsky is that the system of varṇāśrama-dharma is timeless, ahistorical. “There is no need of tracing history; it is naturally existing from the day of creation.” Śrīla Prabhupāda also claims that Manu-smṛti is also timeless, ahistorical.
So Canakya Pandita was living in a cottage, but he was actually the prime minister. This brahminical culture and the brahminical brain is the standard of Vedic civilization. The Manu-smrti is an example of the standard of brahminical culture. You cannot trace out from history when the Manu-smrti was written, but it is considered so perfect that it is the Hindu law. There is no need for the legislature to pass a new law daily to adjust social order. The law given by Manu is so perfect that it can be applicable for all time. It is stated in Sanskrit to be tri-kaladau, which means “good for the past, present, and future.”The point of varṇāśrama-dharma being ahistorical, timeless, is that it is applicable in all times, “past, present, and future.” Śrīla Prabhupāda states that Manu-smṛti itself is also timeless, tri-kaladau, and is therefore suitable also for the present and future times.
At the very least, varṇāśrama-dharma’s purpose is to cut down four things, intoxication, gambling, flesh-eating and illicit sex. When these four things are not indulged in, life becomes simpler, easier for spiritual and even material progress.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: One’s whole life will change, because these four things–illicit sex life, intoxicants, meat-eating and gambling–are very great impediments to social improvement.
Prof. Kotovsky: That will automatically make life simpler, because a person who does not indulge in illicit sex, intoxicants, and such other things has to lead a comparatively simple life.
This shows that varṇāśrama at a basic level can be intuitively comprehended by persons of other cultures. There is at a minimum some visceral recognition in people everywhere that the activities varṇāśrama-dharmaaims to curb are indeed vices. It is therefore enough to know that because good people everywhere will recognize the value of varṇāśrama, we should preach it despite opposition to it that sometimes arises.
Although most of his instructions on varṇāśrama were aimed at ISKCON initiates, Śrīla Prabhupāda’s preaching this system demonstrates that it is also part of ISKCON’s mission to propagate the techniques of spiritual life in society at large. “This propaganda is meant for creating brāhmaṇas all over the world, because the brāhmaṇa element is lacking,” says Śrīla Prabhupāda in the same conversation with Professor Kotovsky. “One who seriously comes to us has to become a brāhmaṇa, so he should adopt the occupation of a brāhmaṇa and give up the occupation of a kṣatriya or śūdra.” That Prabhupada says this suggests that his intention was for ISKCON to act chiefly in a brahminical capacity. The need for ISKCON to propagate varṇāśrama-dharma both internally and then publicly reflects the fact that the dharma-śāstras generally only explicate the duties of brāhmaṇas, who are expected to convey the same to the rest of the society. Thus the propagation of the varṇāśrama-dharma system is an essential part of ISKCON’s preaching mission.
Science, Society, and Kṛṣṇa Consciousness
For many devotees, and especially for non-devotees, a doubt may arise as to the authority of the Vedic scriptures over the body of scientific evidence produced by the social sciences. Over the years, the hard sciences have produced many discoveries—powered flight, heart transplants, telephones, cars, computers, and so forth. In previous eras these would have been considered miraculous. For the social sciences, the expectation is held that if science is applied to the study of humanity similar miracles will be produced.
Some therefore feel that psychologists and sociologists could make discoveries that can be utilized in the service of Kṛṣṇa, much as how devotees use cars and phones. Problems like how to build a nuclear weapon, though difficult, are straightforward to solve, but problems like poverty or child abuse remain intractable. They always remain out of reach of a clear solution because the means of adequately understanding them solely by scientific observation and inference do not yet exist. Indeed, fields like sociology and psychology have yet to produce any kind of scientific breakthrough of the magnitude of those in the hard sciences. There is no sociological discovery equivalent to the splitting of the atom. The persistent lack of progress in the social sciences shows that human behavior is considerably more inaccessible to investigation than is inert matter.
This is where śāstra-pramāṇa matters. It can inform us of important dimensions of human nature that can never be discovered by empirical methods. And despite the best intentions, those who end up as professionals in the social sciences often promote or follow speculative theories that cause more harm than good. Research and social action guided by śāstra and bona fide representatives of the authorized guru-paramparā,however, does not have this problem.[42]
Causality and Bias in Science
Science is about understanding causality. An effect is studied to discover its cause. For example, before Louis Pasteur (1822 – 1895) there were popular theories about what caused infectious diseases, but none were useful in preventing them. However, Pasteur’s scientific demonstration of the germ theory of disease revolutionized the medical field. Among many important uses, this theory’s application allowed for greater prevention and control of epidemics. Pasteurization, the method of heat-treating liquids to prevent them from spoiling, is perhaps the most well-known of his germ theory-related inventions. Pasteur correctly identified and demonstrated a cause for some effect, and as a consequence an effective means of controlling disease was discovered. If a cause can be identified, its effect can be utilized, manipulated, or prevented.[43]
Science applied to human affairs through the social sciences also seeks to discover causality. “What causes people to commit crimes?” “What causes marriages to break?” “What causes depression?” These are some of the many questions researched in this field. Finding causes for these problems ostensibly will make people happier, because the discovery of a cause will automatically suggest solutions. All public policies, therapies, and treatment plans that come from the social sciences depend on some idea of the cause for a problem that needs to be treated. Whether in the natural sciences or the social sciences, the goal of all scientific research is to understand causality.
Correlation and Causation
In order to discover causal relationships, it is necessary to remove bias from one’s research. Bias means that there is some known or unknown influence on an experiment that affects the results, and researchers do their best to control the influences known to them. However, the field of science not only requires that known biases be accounted for and controlled, it requires that unknown biases also be accounted for and controlled as well. Otherwise, test results cannot conclusively establish a causal relationship between one thing and another.
Causation means that something directly influences something else and not some other unknown cause. If an experiment is properly designed, it is the random assignment of test subjects to different conditions that assures that it is the behavior being studied and not some other, unknown cause.[44] Properly designed studies that randomly assign test subjects to treatments are the only kind of test that can demonstrate causality.
Otherwise, without randomization the most that can be achieved in a scientific study is the identification of a correlation between one thing and another. Correlation, sometimes called association, means that two or more characteristics are associated with each other, but their relationship is not necessarily causal.
It is often the case that studies which do not use randomization are misinterpreted as inferring a causal relationship when in fact they do not. This oversight is not uncommon, and it leads to erroneous conclusions about causality—even if there are many such studies and even if a firm consensus exists amongst them. This example from scientific literature illustrates the difference between correlation and causation as well as the ease with which a wrong idea about causality can be inferred from non-randomized studies:
In a widely studied example, numerous epidemiological studies showed that women who were taking combined hormone replacement therapy (HRT) also had a lower-than-average incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD), leading doctors to propose that HRT was protective against CHD. But randomized controlled trials showed that HRT caused a small but statistically significant increase in risk of CHD. Re-analysis of the data from the epidemiological studies showed that women undertaking HRT were more likely to be from higher socio-economic groups (ABC1), with better-than-average diet and exercise regimens. The use of HRT and decreased incidence of coronary heart disease were coincident effects of a common cause (i.e. the benefits associated with a higher socioeconomic status), rather than cause and effect, as had been supposed.[45]
The randomized trials demonstrated that there was some hidden variable (unknown factor) the researchers conducting the epidemiological studies had not considered. Once they reexamined their data in light of this discovery, they were able to identify important missing factors and bring their results in line with those of the randomized clinical trials.
Observational Studies
Scientific studies that do not use randomization are unable to establish causality. Such studies, including epidemiological studies, are called observational studies. Modifying the test subjects and being able to randomly assign them to different conditions is outside of the researchers’ control. Observational studies can identify correlations (which can be useful in suggesting areas of further research), but they cannot identify causation because they cannot rule out the possibility of influences unknown to researchers.Sometimes observational studies have successfully demonstrated causality, but this has been rare. The studies that positively linked smoking to lung cancer provide a good example. It would have been unethical to have randomly assigned some people to chain smoke for years on end and others not in order to see which ones developed cancer. Some experiments did just that with animals. But animals are not people, so even those test results were not counted as sufficient to establish a causal link between smoking and cancer in humans. Thus observational studies were about the only kind of study that could be conducted.
The ethical concerns for testing smoking in humans limited the kinds of tests that could be conducted. That is why the effort to confirm the link between smoking and lung cancer took over 40 years and thousands of observational studies done on every dimension conceivably related to smoking. Because observational studies had to be used, researchers had the onerous task of demonstrating that no other, possible hidden variable could account for lung cancer except for smoking. Therefore a tremendous number of observational studies were conducted to account for every imaginable hidden variable. The magnitude of such an effort is exceptional, which is why it is found that observational studies are rarely used to establish causality.
Nonetheless, although observational studies are less reliable than randomized controlled studies, they are frequently undertaken because it would otherwise be impossible to conduct any other kind of study. Consequently, fields like the social sciences are almost exclusively limited to observational studies. Within the social sciences, the possibility of establishing causality with sufficient certainty by means of scientific observation and inference[46] generally remains well out of reach.
Validity of Causal Theories in the Social Sciences
Because the social sciences are unable to produce within their problem domain a scientifically plausible demonstration of causality, researchers in these fields have necessarily had to borrow their notions of causality from the realm of philosophy, not science.
Some researchers have admitted that their key presuppositions about human consciousness and behavior are subjective, not scientific. The mid-20th century pioneers of what is today known as “client-centered therapy” (Carl Rogers, Rollo May, Abram Maslow, etc.) were unafraid to argue that “an a priori understanding of human nature, whether consciously stated or not, was essential in the making of any psychology.”[47] Any therapy ultimately depends on notions of human nature that belong in part if not in full to the realm of philosophy, not science.[48]
In this particular approach to psychology, which remains popular today, the influence of existentialist philosophy is difficult to understate. Carl Rogers “thought that Kierkegaard’s insights and convictions expressed views he himself had held but was unable to formulate.” They had a “loosening up effect” on him. In the book Sickness unto Death, Kierkegaard argues that the aim of life is “to be that self which one truly is,” and Rogers understood this to mean that “one ought to allow one’s innermost nature to surface.” This idea was a cornerstone of Rogers’s thought on the self and on therapy.[49]
Aside from the field of psychology, sociology has an even more colorful background in speculative thought. In his seminal work, The Sociological Imagination, renowned sociologist C. Wright Mills writes that “so very much of modern social science has been a frequently unacknowledged debate with the work of Marx, and a reflection as well of the challenge of socialist movements and communist parties.”[50]One characteristic of such thought is fascination with equality. Socialists of all stripes believe in what is called “class conflict,” which is the idea that exploitation of others is caused by inequality. According to this theory, people with more power than others will naturally try to protect their privileges, and in so doing, they will exploit those under their control. Therefore when sociologists research some subject that involves human suffering, they often look for inequalities and “differences in power” between one class and another. They typically recommend that some dubious form of “equality” be introduced in society to alleviate the problem.
The heavy reliance of the social sciences on philosophy for their causal theories shows that the studies attached to their theories, which are mainly observational, only give their theories the appearance of validity. This means that causal explanations from the śāstras have no less validity than speculative causal theories from the social sciences, which lack actual scientific confirmation. Popular speculative theories about human behavior promoted as if they were scientific are instead a reflection of some group of influential people’s unsubstantiated opinions, their “religious beliefs.”
The question then is which “religious beliefs”—doctrines—about human nature should be followed? The answer is that they must be authorized. Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhuṣana in his Govinda-bhāṣya commentary on theVedānta-sūtras discusses this:
“When we refer to a particular scripture, it must be authorized, and for this authority it must strictly follow the Vedic injunctions. If someone presents an alternative doctrine he himself has manufactured, that doctrine will prove itself useless, for any doctrine that tries to prove that Vedic evidence is meaningless immediately proves itself meaningless. The followers of the Vedas unanimously accept the authority of Manu and Parāśara in the disciplic succession. . . .”[51]
Solutions based on varṇāśrama-dharma will be superior to whatever is currently on offer from the modern humanistic sciences. The application of scientific investigation to human affairs is welcomed, but it must also be guided by the śāstra-vidhi. It should not be speculative.
Varṇāśrama for ISKCON Efforts in ISKCON to implement the varṇāśrama principle of restricting male-female association have traditionally been focused on the renunciate āśramas—especially the sannyāsa āśrama. However, statistics published by ISKCON’s Child Protection Office suggest that the gṛhāstha āśrama in ISKCON is in even more need of reform.
In looking at the facts about child sexual assault, a picture of who the most common offenders are begins to emerge. A national study conducted in the United States in 1981 found that in approximately 90 percent of child sexual assault cases the offenders were male and 90 percent of, victims female. Australian studies reinforce this finding.[52]
These numbers have not changed appreciably in 20 years. A study published in 2011 by the Australian Institute of Family Studies has noted that “26% of all cases involving male perpetrators were associated with sexual abuse compared to just 2% of cases involving female perpetrators.”[53] An American study cited by the Australian study reports similar statistics.
Additionally, the American Psychological Association has stated on its website that “most mental health and child protection professionals agree that child sexual abuse is not uncommon and is a serious problem in the United States.”[54] This is true in most places in the world today, which is why governments, professional health organizations, and non-profits have devoted tremendous resources and billions of dollars to dealing with the problem.
Available from the ISKCON Child Protection Office website is a brochure titled No Excuses. [55] It is published by the Government of New South Wales (Australia). The point driven home by the below table reproduced from the brochure is that not only is child sexual abuse overwhelmingly perpetrated by males, significant percentages of the perpetrators are family members.
Sydney Survey – 1984
Offender%Adelaide Survey – 1983
Offender%Father57.4Father42.3Uncle12.4Uncle11.5Brother10.3Brother8.4Stepfather6.8Stepfather5.7Grandfather5.6Grandfather6.6Male cousin1.8Other male relative*8.3Defacto male (live-in)1.5Male acquaintance*15.4Brother-in-law1.2Mother1.3Mother0.9Other female relative0.4Male legal guardian0.3Female acquaintance0.4Son0.3Multiple assailants4.3Mother’s boyfriend0.3Male stranger2.2Stepmother0.0Not available0.4Defacto female0.0 Sister-in-law0.0* “other male relative” includes defactos, foster fathers, siblings, stepbrothers, brothers-in-law and cousins. “Male acquaintance” includes friends of the child’s family, neighbours, mothers’ boyfriends and males acquainted with the family through employment.[56]Female legal guardian0.0Grandmother0.0Female cousin0.0Other0.0
ISKCON’s Commitment to Preventing Child Abuse
Like much of the rest of the world, ISKCON considers child sexual abuse a serious problem. And likewise, ISKCON has devoted tremendous resources for its size to its prevention. In 1997 the GBC established the Task Force on Child Abuse in ISKCON, and from its recommendations the GBC in 1998 established the ISKCON Central Office of Child Protection (CPO). As per the CPO website:
Since the office began in 1998 the CPO (Child Protection Office) has held nine Child Protection Judges Training seminars which has resulted in 104 devotees volunteering their services as judges. The CPO has also held Child Protection Information Trainings in various countries such as Great Britain, Italy, India, Hungary, Germany, Canada, South America, and North America, resulting in more than 500 devotees trained worldwide. The CPO also has sent out information packets to ISKCON centers and devotees worldwide, and has compiled reports on local Child Protection Teams.
For the past three years (2011 – 13), the ISKCON Child Protection Office has received over 10% of the ISKCON Governing Body Commission’s annual budget. Except for the GBC Strategic Planning Team, no other project listed in the GBC’s budget has received as much funding.[57] As compared with any other ISKCON-sponsored program, the funds and resources devoted to the prevention of child abuse makes it one of ISKCON’s most important social programs.
The CPO Explanation for Child Sexual Abuse
In conducting its work, the CPO strives to utilize the best insights and best practices available from the fields of medicine, psychology, psychiatry and sociology. CPO staff and ISKCON educational personnel either have advanced education in these fields or have received field training through the CPO’s own outreach programs. However, CPO initiatives do not rely on any notion of the problem of child sexual abuse that is unique to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Nowhere in its published literature does the CPO offer a causal explanation derived from Vedic principles as first principles.
With regard to causal explanations, at the CPO website are two documents authored by experts in the field: one is by Kathleen Coulborn Faller titled Child Sexual Abuse: Intervention and Treatment Issues (1993)[58], and the other is a pamphlet by the Government of New South Wales (Australia) titled No Excuses, and which cites the work of David Finkelhor for its causal explanation.
Finkelhor is perhaps one of the most renowned and influential researchers and theorists in the area of child sexual abuse. Although Faller puts forward a causal model for explaining child sexual abuse that “is somewhat different and more practice-focused” than Finkelhor’s (69), she does not claim hers is radically different. She observes that all current causal theories on child sexual abuse (including hers and Finkelhor’s) draw from a common history of research and theory. Since Finkelhor has been one of the most influential researchers in this area, the causal explanation offered in No Excuses is reviewed here.In the section “Examining the Causes” of No Excuses, this question is posed (bolding added):
Considering the facts about child sexual assault it is reasonable to ask what is it about society, or the way men are reared in our society, that makes child sexual assault largely a male crime?
The cause is presumed in the question: it is nurture more so than nature that accounts for male sexual aggression against (female) children. The implication is that if we change the way men are brought up, that will do more to curb sexual assault against children than any other remedy.To substantiate this line of thought, the booklet quotes and paraphrases Finkelhor:”Women learn earlier and more completely to distinguish between sexual and non-sexual forms of affection.”
He [Finkelhor] expands this by saying that women’s upbringing tends, from the beginning, to prepare them for motherhood and give them opportunities for caring for others and showing affection. Men’s upbringing, on the other hand, usually includes far fewer opportunities for caring for others and discourages men from showing their need for affection or support. Many men learn to express these needs only through sex. As a result, when they are feeling dependent or in need of support, they are much more likely to look for fulfillment in a sexual form – even with an inappropriate sexual partner such as a child.In addition to other factors quoted at length—all of them contrasting men’s socialization to that of women’s—the brochure summarizes Finkelhor’s conclusions on what should change in men’s socialization.- less emphasis on sex as part of a relationship- more emphasis on sex as the way to express affection and need- and the belief that an appropriate sexual partner should be younger and smallerFinkelhor’s focus on socialization is notable. The public policy measures suggested by his findings are that men have to be raised differently than they have been, or they must be retrained by corrective therapy. Following from this assessment, he recommends these social changes (bolding in original):- less emphasis on sexual success as proof of male adequacy- more emphasis on the need for men to share with women the task of nurturing their children- the need for men to “learn to enjoy sexual relationships based on equality”It is especially important to note here his emphasis of nurture over nature as the more important causal factor. If nurture rather than nature is the causal factor, then changing the way men are brought up and socialized will be effective in curbing the problem of child sexual abuse.
Finkelhor’s prescription for “equality” also suggests that his approach is grounded in “conflict theory”, which as described in the last section comes from the influence of Marxian thought on the development of the field of sociology itself. As Marx himself said about the relationship between society and consciousness, “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.”[59] Thus it is not surprising that Finkelhor, a sociologist, would conceive of the problem almost exclusively in terms of socialization, nurture.
The Varṇāśrama Explanation for Child Sexual Abuse
The varṇāśrama perspective on child sexual abuse is that nature is more influential than nurture. Balavān indriyā grāmo vidvāṁsam api karṣati, “The senses are so strong that even though one is very advanced in knowledge, he may be attracted by sex.” This Bhāgavatam verse demonstrates that nature is the more powerful causal factor. It is so powerful that even someone who is very educated in the principles of civilized behavior can fall victim to his own senses.
One implication of this is that every man is at significant risk of sexually assaulting children, even if the child happens to be one’s own daughter. Therefore duhitrā, or daughter is mentioned in this verse, along with mother and sister. Consequently, controlling child sexual abuse requires that society itself be restructured to minimize the contact between male and female—even within the family—and men and women be socialized to avoid each other’s close association. Such socialization conducted according to the śāstras will reintroduce brahminical culture.
For example, a devotee who was born into a family of Śrī Vaiṣṇava brāhmaṇas once related how during breakfast every morning in his house, his sister would prepare a glass of hot milk for her father and bring it to him. Then one morning, her father asked her how old she was. “Ten,” she answered. Then he told that henceforward only her mother would serve him. This family custom follows directly from the Bhāgavatam; its purpose is clear. It reduces the opportunities to be attracted by the illusory energy. Such culture will help the members of society at large become peaceful and make spiritual advancement.Unfortunately, our own society, ISKCON, lacks such culture. The CPO has handled allegations of devotee fathers molesting their own daughters, and some have been found guilty. But had these devotees instead been socialized according to brahminical standards, they and their families could have been spared the ignominy of such a reprehensible act.Brahminical social norms would also significantly reduce the frequency of divorce, as many divorces within ISKCON arise on account of infidelity.[60]
Brahminical culture deters such behavior, because men and women meeting with each other and intermingling at joint functions, educational or otherwise, would not arise. At the very least, such intermingling would be frowned upon and give rise to public opprobrium. Prevention is always better than cure, and a varṇāśrama society is especially suited to preventing sexual intemperance, whether with a child or another adult. Given that Srila Prabhupada repeatedly urged his disciples to follow daiva varṇāśrama in ISKCON, the question now is: When will ISKCON begin to seriously prioritize that crucial need?Varṇāśrama succeeds where the Western approach failsOne reason the problem of child sexual abuse has been intractable within ISKCON and elsewhere is that Western approach adopted by the CPO is not holistic. It sees only “diseases and cures” much like allopathic medicine does. Similarly, managers steeped in social science paradigms can only posit “problems and solutions,” since that is as far as their paradigm considers.
For example, the approach adopted by the CPO does not presume that some of the kinds of restrictions it imposes on offenders should be generally followed in society. The IndianVaiṣṇava brāhmaṇa disallowing his young daughter to personally serve him is an example of a custom that should be followed in society generally—at least within a society of brāmaṇas, which ISKCON is supposed to be. This is a preventative approach to the problem. But the CPO only punishes such behavior after it has evolved into one or more egregious acts. The CPO’s approach is punitive, not preventative. Hence, CPO initiatives do little if anything to prevent child sexual abuse.
According to the varṇāśrama perspective on the problem, the fundamental cause is primarily one of nature—svabhāva. Because the current cultural norms within ISKCON tolerate or look indifferently upon the intermingling of men and women inside or outside the family, CPO initiatives do nothing to prevent otherwise good devotees from engaging in forbidden sexual acts with minors (or each other). This guarantees that there will be a steady stream of offenders and an ever-existing cause célèbre to perpetually justify the existence of an institution like the CPO, which meets the career needs of those involved more than the social needs Śrīla Prabhupāda advised.
Another problem with the CPO approach is that it treats the sexual exploitation of children as an issue separate from the sexual exploitation of adults when they are really the same issue. Victims of child sexual abuse are overwhelmingly female, and the perpetrators are overwhelmingly male. Therefore the actual need is protection of women. Whether they are children or adults, women require protection from sexual exploitation. If the problem of exploiting females is solved—and the śāstras and ācāryas give sufficient direction as to how it can be solved—the problem of child sexual abuse goes away automatically.
Helping others avoid the false allure of the material energy is varṇāśrama-dharma’s main purpose. If followed properly, it will significantly limit sex attraction between males and females at all levels of society. Its chief virtue in the matter of preventing child sexual abuse is it minimizes the possibility of illicit sexual liaison. This is achieved through varṇāśrama’s very social structure and through the duties it prescribes for the members of each varṇa, each āśrama, and for women as a special class. This system naturally reduces the stream of offenders. The Kṛṣṇa conscious approach to dealing with child sexual abuse begins with the introduction of varṇāśrama-dharma.

Conclusion and Recommendations
Not only must the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement attract people to it, but it must also help sustain those who sincerely try to take up Kṛṣṇa consciousness and make steady advancement on the path of devotional service.[61] In order to achieve this, the first business of devotees is to control their senses.[62] As ISKCON’s history has shown, devotees have had the most difficulty following the vow to avoid illicit sex. This is unsurprising, since male-female attraction is the basic principle of material life. Varṇāśrama-dharma exists especially for reducing sex attraction. “Otherwise,” says Śrīla Prabhupāda, “there is no need of thevarṇāśrama.”[63]
Reconnecting varṇāśrama-dharma with ISKCON’s overall mission involves thinking of varṇāśrama in terms of its purpose of reducing sexual attraction. This is not to say that its other social and economic objectives, such as agriculture and cow protection, are unimportant. They are also very important, and projects already dedicated to them should continue as they have been. Yet it should also be clear in the minds of devotees that all other socio-economic objectives of the varṇāśrama system are subordinate to the objective of reducing sexual attraction. Manu-smṛti itself declares that protecting women is the highest religious principle for all the varṇas: imaṁ hi sarvavarṇānāṁ paśyanto dharmamuttamam, yatante rakṣituṁ bhāryā bhartāro durbalā api, “Considering that the highest duty of all varṇas, even weak husbands must strive to guard their wives.”[64] Our thinking about varṇāśrama and our priorities within it should be readjusted to reflect this understanding.
It should be emphasized that Śrīla Prabhupāda’s own rationale for wanting to establish varṇāśrama within ISKCON was precisely to help his disciples struggling to avoid illicit sex. “If Vaiṣṇava, to become Vaiṣṇava is so easy, why so many fall down, fall down? It is not easy,” says Śrīla Prabhupāda. “The varṇāśrama-dharma should be established to become a Vaiṣṇava.”[65]
In the same conversation Śrīla Prabhupāda also said that establishing it within ISKCON would be very difficult but that it must nevertheless be done. Although Śrīla Prabhupāda did not discuss at length the difficulties involved in establishing varṇāśrama, some are proffered here for further discussion:
1. Opprobrium from society at large outside of ISKCON for men and women following complementary social roles based on the principle of reducing sexual attraction.
2. ISKCON’s members’ persistent attachment to non-varṇāśrama culture, particularly to Western culture and its values of gender-equality and sexual liberation.
3. The authority of smṛti-śāstra in ISKCON—at least that of those referred to by Rūpa Gosvāmī and other ācāryas (i.e., Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.2.101).
4. Ideas from the sociological and psychological sciences opposed to Vedic principles that have become prominent in many areas of ISKCON.
Implementing varṇāśrama-dharma within ISKCON will mean overcoming these obstacles.Of these four, the most worrisome is the last one, as it poses a direct challenge to both Kṛṣṇa conscious ideals and siddhānta. In this regard, it is worth restating some of our ācāryas’ verdicts on the worth of speculative theories opposed to Vedic principles.
“If one tries to nullify the conclusions of the Vedas by accepting an unauthorized scripture or so-called scripture, it will be very hard for him to come to the right conclusion about the Absolute Truth. The system for adjusting two contradictory scriptures is to refer to the Vedas, for references from the Vedas are accepted as final judgments. When we refer to a particular scripture, it must be authorized, and for this authority it must strictly follow the Vedic injunctions. If someone presents an alternative doctrine he himself has manufactured, that doctrine will prove itself useless, for any doctrine that tries to prove that Vedic evidence is meaningless immediately proves itself meaningless. The followers of the Vedas unanimously accept the authority of Manu and Parāśara in the disciplic succession. . . .” [66]
Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhuṣana in his Govinda Bhāṣya commentary on Vedānta-sūtra
Vedic civilization takes advantage of the perfect knowledge presented in the Vedas and presented by great sages and brāhmaṇas for the benefit of human society. Vedic injunctions are known as śruti, and the additional supplementary presentations of these principles, as given by the great sages, are known as smṛti. They follow the principles of Vedic instruction. Human society should take advantage of the instructions from both śruti and smṛti. If one wants to advance in spiritual life, he must take these instructions and follow the principles. In Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī says that if one poses himself as advanced in spiritual life but does not refer to the śrutis and smṛtis he is simply a disturbance in society. One should follow the principles laid down in śrutis and smṛtis not only in one’s spiritual life but in material life as well. As far as human society is concerned, it should follow the Manu-smṛti as well, for these laws are given by Manu, the father of mankind.
Śrīla Prabhupāda, SB 4.18.3 purport. yā vedabāhyāḥ smṛtayo yāśca kāśca kuṭṭaṣṭayaḥ
sarvāstā niṣphalāḥ pretya tamoniṣṭhā hi tāḥ smṛtāḥutpadyante cyavante ca yānyato ‘nyāni kānicit
tānyarvākkālikatayā niṣphalānyanṛtāni ca
All those traditions (smṛti) and all those despicable systems of philosophy, which are not based on the Vedas, produce no reward after death; for they are declared to be founded on Darkness. All those doctrines, differing from the Veda, which spring up and soon perish, are worthless and false, because they are of modern date.Manu-smṛti 12.95 – 96
The śāstra-vidhi and the ācāryas are clear about the value of doctrines not based on the Vedas (BG 17.15, purport): “Besides that, one should not talk nonsense. The process of speaking in spiritual circles is to say something upheld by the scriptures. One should at once quote from scriptural authority to back up what he is saying.” Doctrines not based on the Vedas are products of the modes of passion and ignorance, and they produce no benefit in this life or the next.
However, as per Lord Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad-gītā, acts of sacrifice charity and austerity are not to be given up. “Indeed, sacrifice, charity and austerity purify even the great souls” (BG 18.5). Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhuṣana’s incontrovertible commentary on the next verse (BG 18.6) makes it clear that the performance of such acts constitute worship of the Lord.
In this verse, the Lord speaks of how the sacrifices and other acts are purifying. Having given up the idea of being the agent (saṅgam) and giving up all the results (phalāni) which the actions are said to produce, such as going to pitṛloka, one should do the actions only with the thought that they are worship of the Lord. This is the highest conclusion (uttamam matam) discerned by Me (niścitam). This conclusion of the Lord about tyāga is the best because it includes additionally renunciation of being the doer.[67]These acts themselves are part-and-parcel of varṇāśrama-dharma, hence accepting varṇāśrama as something favorable for Kṛṣṇa consciousness constitutes one of the six aṅgas (limbs) of śaranāgati (surrender). A surrendered soul—especially one on the intermediate stages of devotion, will gladly follow varṇāśrama-dharma for his, or her, own purification.
As noted herein, the varṇāśrama system will be good for the non-devotees, too, for their lives without it are troublesome. This is the context in which the famous verse from the Viṣṇu Purāṇa 3.8.8 about varṇāśramawas spoken; Maharāja Sagara asked Aurva Muni what he could do to bring his citizens to the point of pure Kṛṣṇa consciousness. It is also noted in the summary to Canto 9, chapter 8 of the Śrimad-Bhāgavatam that Maharāja Sagara “reformed many clans, including the Yavanas, Śakas, Haihayas and Barbaras”—races that had rejected Vedic culture or remained outside of it. The fact is that such fallen societies are the standard for today’s world order, and people who belong to those societies are factually harassed by their speculative methods to become happy. They are looking for relief from their own devices, and the varṇāśrama system can offer them some positive relief—at least as far as they can accept its principles.
Not only must we give others Kṛṣṇa consciousness but we must also give them irreproachable examples of a way of life that supports it, as per the tradition we have received from Srila Prabhupada. That way of life is to be found within varṇāśrama-dharma. Otherwise, life is perceptibly miserable.
In the Manu-smṛti it is stated that a woman should not be given independence, but should be given protection by her father, husband and elderly sons. In all circumstances a woman should remain dependent upon some guardian. Presently women are given full independence like men, but actually we can see that such independent women are no happier than those women who are placed under guardians. If people follow the injunctions given by the great sages, śrutis andsmṛtis, they can actually be happy in both this life and the next. Unfortunately rascals are manufacturing so many ways and means to be happy. Everyone is inventing so many methods. Consequently human society has lost the standard ways of life, both materially and spiritually, and as a result people are bewildered, and there is no peace or happiness in the world. Although they are trying to solve the problems of human society in the United Nations, they are still baffled. Because they do not follow the liberated instructions of the Vedas, they are unhappy (SB 4.18.3 purport).
Śrīla Prabhupāda says a similar thing in his own commentary on the Bhagavad-gītā, which continues to be one of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s most widely distributed books to the public at large. This means that he also intended that ISKCON preachers present the varṇāśrama system to society at large.[68] Srila Prabhupada wrote:
As for behavior, there are many rules and regulations guiding human behavior, such as the Manu-saṁhitā, which is the law of the human race. Even up to today, those who are Hindu follow the Manu-saṁhitā. Laws of inheritance and other legalities are derived from this book. Now, in the Manu-saṁhitā 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. However, this has not improved the social condition of the world. Actually, a woman should be given protection at every stage of life. She should be given protection by the father in her younger days, by the husband in her youth, and by the grownup sons in her old age. This is proper social behavior according to the Manu-saṁhitā. But modern education has artificially devised a puffed-up concept of womanly life, and therefore marriage is practically now an imagination in human society. Nor is the moral condition of woman very good now. The demons, therefore, do not accept any instruction which is good for society, and because they do not follow the experience of great sages and the rules and regulations laid down by the sages, the social condition of the demoniac people is very miserable (BG 16.7 purport).
So the varṇāśrama system is something we must preach, because good people everywhere will welcome the introduction of such a society.
In summary, varṇāśrama-dharma is good for preaching as it will also benefit non-devotees, it is good for devotees because it “purifies even the great souls,” and it is good for the ISKCON society as well because it directly addresses current social problems costing ISKCON and its members untold hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

1. Reestablish a global varṇāśrama ministry at the GBC level.2. The global varṇāśrama ministry should provide guidance to all social programs and other social ministries within ISKCON.3. Promote serious and sustained research into topics of dharma generally.4. Current social programs pertaining to marriage, divorce, education, child-abuse, etc., should be reviewed for conformance to Vedic principles.5. ISKCON gurus, GBC members, and other leaders should discourage the use of modern psychological and sociological approaches to happiness that have proliferated within ISKCON and teach their followers to avoid them.6. Official ISKCON projects that rely on or lean heavily upon these speculative disciplines should be gradually weaned off of them or disbanded entirely.7. Current varṇāśrama initiatives such as cow protection and agricultural projects should continue and expand. (They naturally will, once the concept of dharma itself is clear.)8. Promote a serious discussion about how to restructure ISKCON society around varṇāśrama principles (especially that of keeping the sexes separate) and socialize devotees not initially acclimatized to it to accept it.a. This should also include a discussion about those devotees who will never accept varṇāśrama and what should be their appropriate social status.
[1] Śrīla Prabhupāda. Lecture, Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.8, Vrindavan Oct 30, 1976.[2] See TQK Ch. 9, response of brāhmaṇa to Communists’ manufacturing of bread.[3] See SB 1.10.17 purport.[4] There are a number of important facets of the cow’s importance to human society and Kṛṣṇa consciousness that are beyond the scope of this paper.[5] “Even in such a sacred place as Vṛndāvana, India, unintelligent men pass off this rectal and genital business as spiritual activity. Such people are called sahajiyā. According to their philosophy, through sexual indulgence one can elevate oneself to the spiritual platform” (SB 4.29.14 purport).[6] BG 1.40, 3.24.[7] U.S. Government, “Chlamydia – CDC Fact Sheet”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 Aug. 2013 .[8] BG 7.28. It is also notable that in the purport of this verse Śrīla Prabhupāda links sinful activities with the second half of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam verse 5.5.2, tamo-dvāraṁ yoṣitāṁ saṅgi-saṅgam—association with women or with persons attached to women is tamo-dvāraṁ, the gateway to hell. Yama, or prescribed action, involves associating with saintly people, and niyama, or restriction, involves avoiding the association of women and men who are fond of women’s association. The varṇāśrama system’s social structure is therefore based on this principle.[9] BG 4.13.[10] Padma Purāṇa, qtd. in CC Madhya 22.113.[11] The pañca mahā yajñas are (1) offerings to brahman by chanting the Vedas, (2) offerings to the devas by arcana, (3) offerings to the pitṛs by tarpaṇa, (4) offerings to guests by food, and (5) offerings to animals by food. Nitya karmas are those prescribed for daily performance and naimittika are those prescribed periodically, such as monthly or yearly.[12] This is also noted in places in the Bhagavad-gītā. For example, Kṛṣṇa notes that those who worship the demigods worship only Him, but in a wrong way—yajanty avidhi-pūrvakam (BG 9.23). The word avidhi, literally means “against the rules.”[13] Śruti-śāstra-nindanam, blasphemy of the Vedic literatures or literature in pursuance of the Vedic version.[14] Chapter 3, qtd. in Bhaktivedanta Vedabase (Folio), 2003.1, Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.[15] “O Brahmā, whatever appears to be of any value, if it is without relation to Me, has no reality. Know it as My illusory energy, that reflection which appears to be in darkness” (SB 2.9.34).[16] sve sve ‘dhikāre yā niṣṭhā sa guṇaḥ parikīrtitaḥ
karmaṇāḿ jāty-aśuddhānām anena niyamaḥ kṛtaḥ
guṇa-doṣa-vidhānena sańgānāḿ tyājanecchayā“It is firmly declared that the steady adherence of transcendentalists to their respective spiritual positions constitutes real piety and that sin occurs when a transcendentalist neglects his prescribed duty. One who adopts this standard of piety and sin, sincerely desiring to give up all past association with sense gratification, is able to subdue materialistic activities, which are by nature impure” (SB 11.20.26).[17] Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī in the second verse of his Upadeṣāmṛta warns that niyamāgrahaḥ—eagerness to accept the scriptural rules for some utilitarian purpose or eagerness to reject them—are causes for the destruction of bhakti.[18] T.R. Rajagopala Aiyar, Puruṣa Sūktam (Tirupati: T.T.D, 1982) 28.[19] This is reiterated in SB 3.6.30-34, and others.[20] This important point is further studied and developed by an article: Bhattacharya, Parnasabari. Conceptualizations in the Manusmṛti. New Delhi: Manohar, 1996. (cf., pgs. 196-197, & Ch. IV, “Manu and Vedic Tradition,” pgs. 93-112) He also gives a satisfactory explanation of the potentially misunderstood yet key term, “ātma-santuṣṭi” in MS 2.6. He also notes Manu’s striking similarity with Bhagavad-gītā.[21] Translation by G. Bühler.[22] Ibid.[23] Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanams is a famous Śrī Vaiṣṇava institution.[24] Page 50.[25] G. Bühler, MS 2.212 – 2.217 (page 69).[26] SB 7.12.7 – 10 trans.[27] Trans qtd. in SB 11.5.11 purport.[28] SB 4.25.8 purport.[29] Path of Perfection 3.[30] Śrīla Prabhupāda. Lecture, Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.8, Vrindavan Oct 30, 1976.[31] Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 9.19.17, purport.[32] SB 1.9.27 purport.[33] U.S. Govt, “FASTATS: Marriage and Divorce”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 Aug. 2013 .[34] U.S. Govt, “FASTATS: Unmarried Childbearing”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 Aug. 2013 .[35] BG 1.40.[36] Viduṣi is the feminine form of vidvān, a learned man, scholar.[37] SB 3.23.54.[38] See MS 12.82 – 99.[39] SB 5.5.8.[40] Some people counter that chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahāmantra while avoiding sinful activity is sufficient in and of itself to achieve this end. And they say that there is therefore no need to follow varṇāśrama. However, it should be noted that people who are at an intermediate stage of advancement cannot fix their minds upon Kṛṣṇa without deviation (Gītā 12.9, atha cittaṁ samādhātuṁ na śaknoṣi mayi sthiram). As such, people at this stage of advancement require the further support of varṇāśrama principles to help them keep sufficiently pure to make steady spiritual progress.[41] “Seven Purposes of ISKCON”, Kṛṣṇ, 12 Aug. 2013 .[42] Fields like psychology and ethics never developed in India because they were obviated by the pervasive sense of dharma characteristic of traditional Indian society. Dharma subsumes these and much more.[43] This was only in the 19th century. People in India have been drinking hot milk for millennia, if only because that is what has always been done. Many dharma-śāstra authors also commented on, or wrote their own Ayurvedic treatises. The striking consistency between medical literature and dharma-śāstra is so well known, that S.G. Moghe can say (pgs. 30-31): “It will be proper to conclude here that in some respects, Dharma-Sastra, Ayurveda and Niti-Sastra are inseparably connected with each other.” (”Relation of Indian Medical Science [Ayurveda] to Dharma-Sastra,” in Studies in the Dharmasastra, New Delhi: Ajanta, 1991.)[44] Typical clinical drug trials randomly select participants into two groups, one with the drug being tested and the other without (the placebo group), because proof is needed that the new drug actually makes people better and not some other random or unaccounted for effect.[45] Lawlor DA, Davey Smith G, Ebrahim S (June 2004). “Commentary: the hormone replacement-coronary heart disease conundrum: is this the death of observational epidemiology?”. Int J Epidemiol 33 (3): 464–7. doi:10.1093/ije/dyh124. PMID 15166201. Qtd. in “Correlation does not imply causation.” Wikipedia. 3 Sep. 2013 .[46] Pratyakṣa and anumān refer respectively to direct perception and logical inference.[47] Roy José DeCarvalho, The Founders of Humanistic Psychology (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1991) Questia, 21 Aug. 2013 .[48] “The keynote in the revolt and establishment of humanistic psychology was the understanding of human nature. The view of the person as a being in the process of becoming permeated the founders’ critique of behaviorism and psychoanalysis and dictated their views on method and psychotherapy. An a priori understanding of human nature, whether consciously stated or not, was essential in the making of any psychology, they argued. For this reason most psychologists of the time, especially behaviorists, regarded humanistic psychology as a philosophy or poetic psychology” (DeCarvalho).[49] DeCarvalho 62.[50] C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1959) p. 82.[51] Qtd. in CC Adi-lila 6.14-15 purport.[52] Govt. NSW, “Report of the NSW Child Sexual Assault Task Force to the Premier”, 1985, qtd. in Govt. of New South Wales, “No Excuses,” 1985, published at ISKCON Child Protection Offices, 17 Aug. 2013 .[53] Alister Lamont, “Who Abuses Children”, Feb. 2011, Australian Institute of Family Studies, 17 Aug. 2013 .[54] APA, “Child sexual abuse: What parents should know” 2013, American Psychological Association, 17 Aug. 2013 .[55] Govt. of NSW, “No Excuses,” 1985.[56] The 2005 U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services study cited by the 2011 Australian study gives a very different breakdown of the relationship of the perpetrator with the victim. For example, in the category “Sexual Abuse Only”, the U.S. study lists biological fathers as only 7% of all sexual assaults, whereas the 1984 Sydney survey lists biological fathers as the most frequent offender, at 57%.[57] ISKCON GBC, “Resolutions,” 17 Aug. 2013 .[58] Kathleen Faller’s 1993 paper is referred to as a resource on the CPO website at as of 17 Aug. 2013. However, the file available from the CPO website is corrupt and will not load into an Adobe Acrobat reader. A full, uncorrupted version of the document is available at Village Counseling Center > Resources> Child Sexual Abuse at . Causal models are discussed on page 68 of the document.[59] K. Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1977, with some notes by R. Rojas. Qtd. in “Historical materialism,” Wikipedia, 5 Sep. 2013 .[60] Divorce itself is considered a contributing factor in cases of child abuse.[61] cf. Bhagavad-gītā, 7.28.[62] “In all spiritual affairs, one’s first duty is to control his mind and senses,” says Śrīla Prabhupāda in the Nectar of Instruction. “Unless one controls his mind and senses, one cannot make any advancement in spiritual life.”[63] cf., Conversaton with Hari Sauri and Satsvarupa Maharaja, Mayapura, February 14, 1976.[64] Manu-smṛti 9.6.[65] Conversation, 14 Feb. 1977.[66] Qtd. in CC Adi-lila 6.14-15 purport.[67] Translation by Bhanu Swami.[68] In fact, any controversy about Śrīla Prabhupāda’s position—about, for example, the social role of women according to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam—provides all ISKCON members with the opportunity to preach his instructions convincingly, by personally combining mature practice with profound realization. It is far easier to evade such responsibility while rationalizing adoption of non-devotional principles instead. As Śrīla Prabhupāda said, “You can cheat, but it will not be effective.”

Various Intelligent Comments by Krishna Kirti Prabhu


krishna-kirti says : 
When radio and television started out, the promoters said that it would be a great boon to education. No one believes that anymore–and all the nonsense currently broadcasted on radio and television is here to stay. Hatha Yoga is the new “radio”, or “television,” of ISKCON. It is attractive, full of promise, and yet another “experiment with the truth.” If the experiment is taken to its logical endpoint and fails, will its promoters and the leaders who assented to it (even if silently) ever be able to separate its speculative water from the milk Srila Prabhupada initially gave us?


krishna_kirti_prabhuOne thing uncharacteristic about this message I want to point out in their response is its length. They felt compelled to respond at length to Maharaja’s inquiry about why they did not consult him before they made their decision. It means they are basing their decision on correspondence whose audience was very limited, and it can be asked whether the rest of the GBC had viewed any of the correspondence from that group before taking their decision.

If their answer is “no”, then that means they are basing their vote solely on Malati’s testimony, because she was the only GBC member who participated in that online discussion [with senior ladies who protested WMM], without having given a fair chance to Maharaja to respond to allegations made by her. Bottom line then is the GBC did not bother to consult Maharaja after all.

If their answer is “yes”, that they reviewed the correspondence between Maharaja and the women he invited to discuss the matter with him, then because no one who was a part of that conversation took BVKS’s permission to share his correspondence with the GBC, he has a strong right to demand to see what correspondence of his and of the other interlocutors that was shared with the GBC.

And even more important in the case that the GBC saw some of BVKS’s correspondence is the fact that BVKS would have had no idea at all what was shared with them. He does not know what has been selectively quoted (and hence misrepresented). So in order to test this BVKS should demand that they show all the correspondence of his and the others that was shared with the GBC. If they don’t comply (expected answer), then he has a very good reason to believe that what was shown to the GBC was selective and biased to produce a certain outcome.

What seems to be at stake here in the minds of the GBC EC (and arguably the rest of the GBC) is they are concerned that their decision has the appearance of being just. It’s a famous maxim in English law that “not only must justice be done but justice must also be seen to be done.”  (see,_ex_p_McCarthy for details of the case). If they are publicly perceived as having dealt with BVKS in an unjust way, then that will further tarnish their authority.

Of course, they may not be overly concerned about those in ISKCON who may object to their way of dealing with BVKS. They may think their decision will appear just simply by virtue of it being the outcome their main supporters wanted. (“Time place and circumstance, Prabhu!”)

And if it indeed comes to this I don’t see what else can be done to reason with them outside of power politics. In that case, all the options for dealing fairly with the GBC are limited and unpleasant.

Your servant, Krishna-kirti das










Scripture is the Basis by Krishna Kirti Prabhu

[From an exchange on Facebook]

Dear XYZ,

While you are an historic devotee who has done tremendous service for Srila Prabhupada, the way you understand and explain spiritual subjects is not the way that Srila Prabhupada told us to understand them. If we consider the way Srila Prabhupada himself explained them, whether in his books or lectures especially, he lead with shastra; only seldom did he quote his own Guru Maharaj. But most of us don’t do that. In these debates we tend to either quote Srila Prabhupada at length or quote from our own experience of him and seldom quote from shastra. And there are many reasons why this leads to innumerable misunderstandings.

Consider the case when we happen to speak with devotees who do not belong to our sampradaya. For example, Sri Vaishnavas. When we discuss spiritual subjects with them, we don’t quote Srila Prabhupada at length, we quote shastra at length and then may sometimes add the support of our acharya, Srila Prabhupada. Otherwise, they will not accept what we say, even if it is right. And we can’t blame them for that. We would do the same if they started bashing us over the head with quotes from whomever their current acharya is.

So the first point here is that when we lead with shastra, then that evidence has wide authority, more so than any other kind of evidence. Srila Prabhupada wanted to present the teachings of Lord Krishna in the most authoritative way, which is why he placed so much emphasis on shastra in his own presentations.

Therefore Srila Prabhupada says in his commentary on CC 20.352,

“Srila Narottama dasa Thakura says, sadhu-sastra-guru-vakya, cittete kariya aikya. One should accept a thing as genuine by studying the words of saintly people, the spiritual master and the sastra. The actual center is the sastra, the revealed scripture. If a spiritual master does not speak according to the revealed scripture, he is not to be accepted. Similarly, if a saintly person does not speak according to the sastra, he is not a saintly person. The sastra is the center for all.”

Srila Prabhupada is making a very important philosophical point about the central place of shastra in this triad of authorities. It is what we should quote to begin with. Lord Krishna also says that austerity of speech consists in speaking words that are truthful, pleasing, and beneficial to others, and also in citing Vedic literature — anudvegam karam vakyam satyam priyam hitam ca yat svadhyaya bhyasanam caiva van mayam tapa ucyate. In his purport to this verse, Srila Prabhupada says: “The process of speaking in spiritual circles is to say something upheld by the scriptures. One should at once quote from scriptural authority to back up what he is saying.” Here again Srila Prabhupada is making this same point about the centrality of shastra. He doesn’t say, “at once quote your guru,” he says quote shastra, and that this is the process of speaking in spiritual circles.

Of course, it is also pleasing, and necessary, to hear the words of the guru. Yet it is not at all pleasing to hear him quoted or represented in a way that is contrary to shastra. The person bhagavata lives his life in terms of the book bhagavata, and as we have already seen, the person bhagavata speaks according to shastra. So words and speech of the acharya must be in line with shastra. That is why he is an acharya in the first place. Therefore when we represent Srila Prabhupada, or any bona fide acharya, we should quote him in such a way as to augment our understanding of the shastra. That is why [for] every single verse in the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, a verse is typically followed by the word “purport”. What Srila Prabhupada is doing is quoting shastra, and then explaining it. That should be our standard when we discuss these matters.

Another pont to consider is that ISKCON itself at this point in time is an agglomeration of different sampradayas. Different gurus in our midst, and others not formally gurus but influential in their own right (like your good self, for instance) emphasize different aspects of Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and teach their realizations to their followers and disciples.
And though there is a special closeness of consensus on innumerable practical and theological areas by virtue of being a member of Srila Prabhupada’s grand institution, the differences that have emerged are significant enough to also cause unwanted (and usually unnecessary) dissension, such as what we are experiencing now on the topic of women’s roles in society. Without considering actual incompatibilities (some views are plain wrong) and who is correct or incorrect for a moment, the differences arise in part because of the fact that we do have within ISKCON different sampradayas. We have many in fact. And because of these differences the common currency for discussion of spiritual topics should be shastra, as it is when we converse with other Vaishnavas who are in completely different sampradayas.

And finally, I would like to point out that the reason we should make shastra the center of our discourse is that there is often enough a difference between what Srila Prabhupada said and what we think he meant by what he said [such] that the two are not equivalent. You yourself have the experience of having at one time objected to something Srila Prabhupada had asked [you] to do (or specifically refrain from). Srila Prabhupada recanted, and then innumerable women henceforeward came to the wrong understanding. Citing shastra helps us better understand whether an utterance of Srila Prabhupada was, for example, a specific concession to a specific disciple or group of disciples, or limited only to a special time, place, and circumstance, or whether he gave an instruction that is generally applicable.

Considering all that has been said, and especially the shastra quoted, I request you to reconsider your method of divining Srila Prabhupada’s intent and adopt a shastra-centered approach to presenting your ideas. The fashionable way of discussing spiritual topics now is not the way Srila Prabhupada wanted us to understand spiritual topics. And it is because we don’t understand these things the way he told us to understand them that we get into so much unnecessary difficulty.

Your servant, Krishna-kirti das

Women’s Roles in Iskcon Krishna Kirti Pr.

Krishna Kirti Das (BVKS)

Nowadays it is common to hear the word “discrimination” in ISKCON society. When the word “discrimination” is used, it is often done to accuse one or more persons of being unfair to another person or group of persons, and this unfairness happens to almost always have something to do with gender. If women do not have political representation, that is called “discrimination,” or that “the men” are oppressing women. If a guru-kula happens to take only male students, and not female students, then there are complaints and accusations that the heads of the guru-kula are “discriminating”—or that they are oppressing women and venting their hate on them. Or if we are feeling a little benevolent, we can dismiss them as merely ignorant and in want of a better understanding. So there is a women’s movement in ISKCON to right these wrongs, so to speak. But the so-called oppression of women that we are trying to rectify are things we will find all over the Vedas, and specifically in Srila Prabhupada’s books.

In scripture, we find that boys went to the guru-kula, not girls. Sandipani Muni only had male students, not female students. When the cowherd men of Gokula convened to discuss what to do about the many disturbances of demons (who were trying to kill Krishna), we never find that women were participating in the meeting with the men. Or in Krishna’s court in Dvaraka, we never find any women among his ministers and representatives. The same is true for Lord Rama’s court, as it was for Maharaja Dasharatha’s court. It should be obvious that the educational, social, and political institutions we read about in scripture were mainly exclusive of women, not inclusive. Does this mean Sandipani Muni was ignorant? Were the cowherd men of Vrindavan narrow-minded? Was Lord Rama a bigot? Or was Lord Krishna a sexist? And above all, when the person without whom we would not have the faintest idea of what is the spiritual world makes statements in his books such as these:

As we learn from the history of the Mahabharata, or “Greater India,” the wives and daughters of the ruling class, the ksatriyas, knew the political game, but we never find that a woman was given the post of chief executive. This is in accordance with the injunctions of Manu-samhita, but unfortunately Manu-samhita is now being insulted, and the Aryans, the members of Vedic society, cannot do anything. Such is the nature of Kali-yuga. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.4.5 purport)

Are we to conclude that Srila Prabhupada’s admonition of such gender-inclusive social policies, as we have today, is the byproduct of a less-enlightened, narrow-minded, 19th century Indian culture?

Nowadays the people of our society seem to be more inclined toward mundane social reform and less inclined toward trying to understand from the words of our acharyas and from the words of scripture what is the perfect, Krishna-conscious society. Rather, it seems we are too busy trying to import non-spiritual social values in order to appeal to the mundane sentiments of the karmis, and, perhaps, appease devotees who maintain such mundane sentiments. It is no wonder, then, that nowadays we hardly every hear talk about taking over the world and making it Krishna conscious. Instead of taking over the world, it appears that the world is taking over us.

But if we think more deeply about scripture, and the explanations of our acharyas, only then can we get real direction and guidance as to what will solve our problems. For example, although women did not go to the guru-kula with the boys, they were nonetheless similarly qualified as the men who went to school. Although the great women we read about in scripture, as per Srila Prabhupada, were never heads of state, they were nonetheless influential and active in the political arena. Women like Devaki knew the art of politics, Rukmini and Subhadra could drive a war chariot, Draupadi managed the Pandava’s treasury. Citrangada, a Manipuri princess, battled Arjuna. None of them had a voice or vote in political assemblies, yet they were well protected, cared for, and were still influential and important in society. All this was possible in a social atmosphere that was thousands of times more exclusive of women, from social and political life, than today’s standards. Yet in spite of the exclusion, these highly qualified women were satisfied with their roles, and they were much happier than today’s so-called liberated women.

We have got Mahabharata, there is not a single instance… We had very,

very great, qualified women. But they were in charge of state…? Very, very

qualified women. You know. Na svatantratam arhati, striyah. For woman there

is no independence. The Manu-samhita. They must stay under father, under

husband, or under elderly sons. (Evening Darshana, May 9, 1977 Hrishikesha)

The society we read about in the Srimad-Bhagavatam is Lord Krishna’s. It is completely spiritual, not something mundane. Lord Krishna performs His nitya-lila in that society. Yet if due to mundane sentiment we despise Krishna’s society, considering it to be something discriminatory, or sexist, then there is no hope for us to participate in those pastimes. Instead of dismissing the words of the Vedas and our acharyas as “impractical” or “discriminatory,” we should first try to understand how the society we read about in scripture, with all its seeming contradictions and “politically incorrect” social structure, is actually the perfect society.

`sastra-guru-atma’-rupe apanare janana

`krsna mora prabhu, trata’–jivera haya jnana

“The forgetful conditioned soul is educated by Krsna through the Vedic literatures, the realized spiritual master and the Supersoul. Through these, he can understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead as He is, and he can understand that Lord Krsna is his eternal master and deliverer from the clutches of maya. In this way one can acquire real knowledge of his conditioned life and can come to understand how to attain liberation.”

[From the purport] Sadhu, sastra and guru act as the representatives of Krsna, and the Krsna consciousness movement is also taking place all over the universe. Whoever takes advantage of this opportunity becomes liberated. (CC Madhya 20.123 + purport)

Your servant,

Krishna-kirti das (BVKS)