Women: Masters or Mothers? called by the author a “tract,” is much more than just a religious pamphlet. It is a deep and thoroughly cogent treatise on the current social anomalies within ISKCON (mirroring the social aberrations of the Western world) and how these incongruities relate to and have arisen due to our members remaining too much influenced by Western society.
His Holiness Bhakti Vikāsa Swami is not concerned with how he will be viewed for stating facts. He speaks courageously and truthfully about the unquestionable presence and pernicious effects of feminism within ISKCON, the need for early marriage, the practicality of polygamy, the importance of shyness among women and their need for protection, the fact that Śrīla Prabhupāda never appointed women as temple presidents or GBC members, the dangers of co-education and worldly careers for women, and other such hush-hush, hot topics that may arouse angry arguments but that nonetheless need to be addressed, discussed, and adopted in our society as part of fulfilling the other 50% of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s mission:daiva-varṇāśrama-dharma.
Śrīla Prabhupāda did not want us to emulate the American (aka Western) way of life. He came to improve it, to change it, to replace American culture with Vedic culture. He wanted us to transcend the American way of life and to realize that we don’t belong in this world. Śrīla Prabhupāda states, “I am not in the world… just like I am in America… I am not adopting any ways of life as the Americans do. Not only myself, all my disciples who are following me, they are also not Americans. They’re different from American behavior, American way of life. I don’t accept any consciousness of America. And I teach my disciples also to take to that consciousness… so if you take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness and you remain in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, you don’t belong to this world.” (Bg Lecture, LA, December 16, 1968)
Though Mahārāja uses not only quotes from Śrīla Prabhupāda’s teachings, but from other sources as well, clearly, his objective is to clarify, adhere to and promote the teachings and purpose of our founder-ācārya Śrīla Prabhupāda.
Śrīla Prabhupāda predicted that if ISKCON were to fall apart, it would be due to internal strife tearing our society apart from within. We have already seen in our short fifty years as a fledgling movement the beginnings of internal crumbling. This book is a wake-up call for those of us who do not want to see the further disintegration of ISKCON. If such sensibly presented essays as Women: Masters or Mothers? are not carefully read and given serious consideration by the deep thinkers of our ISKCON Society, we may see the demise of our own institution within our very lifetimes.
There have been objections voiced by devotees who find the book’s cover unappealing or who find some fault with Mahārāja for discussing standards of cleanliness for his female disciples during their menses. I appeal to the leaders of our movement, Please read this book with a humble, open heart and don’t make the mistake of shooting the messenger! His Holiness Bhakti Vikāsa Swami is simply representing Śrīla Prabhupāda’s stance and teachings on delicate subjects which some would prefer to ignore and discredit as irrelevant due to their over-sympathizing with American or Western ways of life.
Women: Masters or Mothers? offers powerful solutions to the problems we face as a spiritual institution. It is a must-read for every member of our ISKCON Society. If we simply ignore this book as irrelevant or fanatical, our tendency as a religious movement will no doubt be to adopt the spirit of modernism, thus inviting calamity upon our spiritual progress, both individually and collectively. If we thus loosen our standards and degrade from being the powerful, pure and dynamic force that Śrīla Prabhupāda groomed us to be, how can ISKCON survive?
Purity is the force that keeps our movement thriving and growing. Impurity, which can be traced to deeply rooted attachment and adherence to Western social behaviors, is an opposing force that can lead us to degradation.
Śrīla Prabhupāda warned that we should keep ourselves free from the impurities of materialistic culture. If we give in to the cultural norms of a degraded, failing society, what will be ISKCON’s destiny? William Ralph Inge’s chilling admonition can be taken a step further to read, “That religion which marries the spirit of today will be a widow tomorrow.”