Home > Reader > Women: Masters or Mothers? — A book by HH Bhakti Vikasa Swami > Reactions to the Ban
His Grace Dhanesvara Prabhu (ACBSP)
Posted on June 27, 2016
Who Do We Want to Serve?
by Dhanesvara Das (ACBSP)
In the early days of the wonderful Movement that Srila Prabhupada created to bring the unvarnished Truth to the illusioned people of the world his earnest followers recognized that he was perhaps the only person who served their real interest as spiritual beings. The environment in the U.S. in the mid-60s was one of turmoil. The youth didn’t trust their parents, especially didn’t trust their government, and as the saying went, they often didn’t trust anyone over 30 who had by then succumbed to so much social programming. But they instinctively knew that they could have absolute trust in Srila Prabhupada.
It was he alone who told them that by serving their senses they were imprisoning themselves in a world of suffering. The way to freedom was to understand that they had nothing to do with the temporary material body, whether male or female, black or white, young or old. They had nothing to do with what they thought that they owned – their nice cars, big houses, bank balance or position and titles in a world of envy. Their real interest was to serve the Supreme Lord and that they could best do so by publicly chanting His holy names on the streets of their cities. We understood quickly that the Absolute Truth cannot be made to bend to our desires or thoughts of how we thought things should be, but that we had to adapt ourselves to the Absolute Truth. Self-transformation, beginning with transforming what we thought to be truth was the process we needed to go through to find the happiness that deep within we knew was our birthright. We knew that Srila Prabhupada was the true representative of the Supreme Lord, that he was the only authority that we could trust, and that by surrendering to him in whatever he said we could find our way out of the morass of ignorance we were immersed in. That was the Hare Krishna Movement that I joined.
Moreover, Srila Prabhupada had wanted not just to change the ways of young men and women, but he had a broad vision for changing the entire world by giving it a footing on spiritual principles. If people were going to be free from conflict, strife, lust and the suffering created by envy they would have to follow spiritual principles. The suffering of the world resulted from their own actions in spiritual ignorance, and the only way to find relief was to learn and follow spiritual principles.
My how times have changed.
Ironically, and tragically, during the year that we celebrate 50 years since Srila Prabhupada established ISKCON, the very leaders who purport to be his successors no longer hold his words sacred, and have demonstrated by their actions that they are more interested in pleasing people bewildered by the bodily conception of life than their own spiritual master. They have done this by banning a well-written, thoughtful book that analyses the position of women in society vis-à-vis spiritual principles of stri dharma given by Manu, the father of mankind, by the author’s own vast experience of the Indian culture that follows those principles, and by hundreds of quotes of Srila Prabhupada on the subject of women and marriage.
In his book Women: Masters or Mothers? his grace Bhakti Vikasa Swami writes in thorough detail about how Srila Prabhupada wanted his followers to establish a culture based on spiritual principles that demonstrates to the world how human society can be prosperous and happy by following those principles. Key to that successful culture is the dominant role that women play. Not dominant in the sense of being the lords or controllers, but dominant in that their role is so pivotal to the society’s success. And herein lies the confusion – how exactly women should exercise their dominance. One side – the women of ISKCON who object to not having equal status with men – want to be dominant in the sense of having control, to be able to do those things that the men do. Srila Prabhupada and shastra on the other hand teach that women should accept a role subordinate to men, and exercise their dominance in how they live and act according to dharma. Of course the men must themselves be qualified. But if the men are not qualified, as the argument is raised, the fix-it is not to try to put fallen women in a superior role as the feminists seek to do, but to raise the men up, and to raise the women up too. To raise the entire world up above the modes of passion and ignorance.
One of the arguments for the ban is that the book will offend people who are unduly influenced by feminist rhetoric since it is not what is now called “politically correct”, and ISKCON will be harmed by association (although nowhere is the claim made that the book represents the official position of ISKCON as a whole). The argument is that we want these bewildered people to accept us so that it is easier for them to accept and then take up Krishna Consciousness. But if this were the formula for success then Srila Prabhupada should have taken the uptown swami’s advice and wore Western dress, suit and tie, and adopted American ways. Thankfully he didn’t buy that argument. He came to give – not to get. And if no one was interested in what he had because of his insistent adherence to the Truth, well, that was their loss. Similarly, our business is to give – to give the straight Absolute Truth and if people cannot accept it then, well, it is their loss. We do nothing for them by entering into their illusion.
Apparently there are a number of women who are offended by many things written in Women: Masters or Mothers? and Malati Devi Dasi has made a long list of such things, many of which are quite subjective mind you. For example, she thinks the cover is inflammatory! Well, often book covers are meant to be inflammatory – that provokes people’s interest and causes them to pick it up and read it. However, it is not inflammatory for everyone, and I, for one, certainly did not see it in that way. There are other non-issues such as this on her fault-finding list, but I won’t go into those details here.
My challenge to these disgruntled ladies is this: if Women: Masters or Mothers? is such a bad book, instead of trying to restrict it from being read bring your own book and give your opinion about the proper role of women in a spiritual culture. Support your position with hundreds of quotes from Srila Prabhupada and from Manu and other shastra. Then let the devotees read both and determine in which line of thinking they hear Truth.
By banning (to prohibit the sale of books in ISKCON temples is banning, btw) Women: Masters or Mothers? the GBC is attempting mind control – they are in effect telling the devotees what is acceptable thought and what is not. But the GBC have NO authority to do such a thing! They claim to be successors of Srila Prabhupada but he never did, and would never, try to tell people what to think. Such a thing is totally against spiritual principles! We each have to find our own way Back to Godhead. It is not something that is going to be achieved by getting on the good ship ISKCON and kicking back for the ride to Vaikuntha. It doesn’t happen like that.
Spiritual life demands freedom of thought. Self-realization demands that we consider all possible ideas and the purity of our heart will determine where we will go. If we purify ourselves sufficiently and free ourselves from our own self-imposed illusions we will achieve success in self-realization. But if our heart is contaminated with desires for sense gratification of any kind that’s what we will get – that’s what this entire material creation is for! Have all the illusion you want! If we want to be free from illusion however, to know the Truth, then we must surrender to that truth, however unpalatable it may seem, and then the fog will be lifted from our eyes.
Srila Prabhupada is ISKCON and his teachings are the basis ISKCON. There is no meaning to ISKCON without following faithfully the teachings of His Divine Grace regardless of how much they fly in the face of the fools of this world who are bewildered by maya. If you don’t like what Srila Prabhupada said then leave ISKCON! Srila Prabhupada is not for you if that is the case. But don’t you dare try to change or alter the valuable truths that are the shelter for everyone. In the book Women: Masters or Mothers? I hear the Truth. I hear Srila Prabhupada. In Bhakti Vikasa Swami’s writing I see his strong stand against the illusions of this world. In his writing I hear his willingness to choose the Absolute Truth regardless of what the entire rest of the world might think. As for me, I’ll take my stand with Bhakti Vikasa Swami. And if the GBC goes against him, well then I’ll have to side against the GBC.