1. Sudevi Devi Dasi (SNS), Belgrade, Serbia

    Women: Masters or Mothers? gives profound psychological, social, and above all spiritual insights into the actual role and position of women in society.

    In the material world people tend to decide what is right and wrong based on their selfish standards. They don’t think about what Kṛṣṇa wants, and what He said and so their whole so-called knowledge and perception is based on the mental platform. On that mental platform, one is simply pulled this or that way by the material senses. Therefore, this talk of liberalism, open-mindedness, being free is just a royal edition of animals, as Śrīla Prabhupāda said.

    Western philosophy is nothing but footnotes of Plato’s philosophy. He was an atheist, especially when it came to moral law. Plato claimed that morality is not a law given by a personal God, and that ideal behaviour of people can be discovered through intelligence as there is no authority to teach us.

    The problem with this is when one is speculating and is not yet purified then from his heart comes all kinds of material desires and nasty things, and these influence one’s thoughts (lust, anger, greed, illusion, envy, and madness). Post-modernism especially considers that everything is what you make out of it by yourself.

    Nietzsche (probably the first post-modern philosopher) said that modern man has to remake his soul. It means everyone has to make an identity for oneself out of nothing. In other words it means – we become God. These concepts are of the modern dominant philosophy known as New Age, which considers Truth to be something you yourself discover by your own process.

    Jean Paul Sartre wrote a book ‘Being Out of Nothingness,’ and his girlfriend Simone de Beauvoir (the prototype of feminism) wrote a book ‘The Second Sex,’ but actually she drew her inspiration from Friedrich Nietzsche.

    Nietzsche said that people should be adventurous, experimental, dangerous and they should celebrate the body. In his moral system good is what heightens the feeling of power. And bad is all that proceeds from weakness. So, modern feminism is very concerned with these two points, and also that one should be authentic. We should have authentic relationships, which means that everything should be freely chosen. But, in reality, their authenticity is imposed.

    This trend is actually ironic because Nietzsche was not very respectful towards women. Also, the life of Simone was quite scandalous. Śrīla Prabhupāda however labeled all this for what it really was; nirviśeṣa-śūnyavāda. These persons represent the background of liberal education.

    Whatever is necessary for education and life we already have in the Vedas. We don’t have to search or experiment with these so-called modern liberal systems. Śrīla Prabhupāda gave us the best system of learning moral values and spiritual knowledge.

    Śrīla Prabhupāda introduced the concept of sva-dharma (occupational duty, the characteristic). Everything has characteristics. Dharma means to render service. Everyone is rendering service according to their characteristics. Just like the characteristic of a microphone is to vibrate the sound.

    In the varṇāśrama system, the guṇa (natural quality), karma (natural propensity of work and its reaction) and dharma (divinely ordained purpose) of the human being are the key factors of civilization. Those who condemn the Vedas are themselves condemned to blunder about in the darkness of social, moral, and religious experimentations.

    Culture, etiquette, and proper behavior distinguishes humans from animals. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu instructed Sanātana Gosvāmī that maintenance of Vaiṣṇava etiquette is the ornament of a devotee. Vedic culture or varṇāśrama is the highest culture because it originates from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Kṛṣṇa. As stated in Bg 4.13, He created the varṇāśrama system, the best possible social order and the highest manifestation of human culture.

    Vedic instructions are not subject to mistakes. The knowledge of the Vedas is received directly from God, and there is consequently no question of illusion, cheating, mistakes, and of imperfect senses. Principles can only be established by authority, not by mental speculation.

    Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu said to Rāmānanda Rāya that even sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja is not effective for go-kharas (animals). In the beginning living beings have to rise to the level of human beings, and stopvikarma.

    Therefore Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu instructed Sanātana Gosvāmī to write a rulebook beginning with details of basic standard Vaiṣṇava behavior, as a necessary accompaniment to chanting and other primary devotional services.

    Varṇāśrama system is personal and has prescribed duties for every person, from birth to death, and leads individuals to the ultimate goal – Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The goal of daiva- varṇāśrama (divine or God centered varṇāśrama) is the parama-puruṣārtha, the supreme goal of human life – love for Kṛṣṇa.

    When we combine buddhi, intelligence that Kṛṣṇa is giving, with our determination to follow Kṛṣṇa, that is called vyavasāyātmikā-buddhi.

    The varṇāśrama definition of women’s roles in society perfectly complements the female nature. It prescribes the means by which the female nature may be naturally dovetailed in the service of Kṛṣṇa thus pointing the way back to Godhead for the soul in a woman’s body.

    Modern people may say such a definition of a woman’s role in society is patriarchal or mysogynist, but what social system have they invented that can surpass Kṛṣṇa’s own varṇāśrama-dharma? Actually such people are simply barbarians who can understand only one social principle: sense gratification, the principle of animal society.

    Both women and men are equally bound by scriptural injunctions. A man who accepts a wife must return her service in so many ways, by protecting and caring for her. He must, also, respect all other women, besides his wife, just as he respects his own mother. “Be one for whom the mother is a god.” (Taittirīya Upaniṣad 1.1.20)

    A vital role of women is to not simply bear children, but to themselves be religious and of pure consciousness. As stated in Bg 1.40, unprotected women become victims of unscrupulous men and thus varṇa-saṅkara are born, and the whole civilization is spoiled.

    Therefore one of the purposes of this book is to counteract propaganda that Śrīla Prabhupāda treated men and women equally in all respects. Men and women are spiritually equal, but they are materially and socially different.

    In today’s oversexed society, women are the main sufferers, because they are more often and more seriously exploited. Men should protect women from exploitation by lusty men. According to Śrīla Prabhupāda, so-called equal rights for women means that the men cheat the women.

    Another kind of protection that women require is emotional support of a man, without which they tend to feel insecure and dissatisfied or dysfunctional — even to the point of becoming a feminist. Often it is seen that women who are superficially renunciants try to cozy up to a man (usually a renunciant) whom they admire; they cannot forswear their need for male shelter. Undoubtedly, this need for male protection is a major reason why formal renunciation for women is mostly discouraged within Vedic culture, wherein women are glorified for being chaste, not for being renounced. (p. 106)

    Again, it may not be easy to quickly change one’s way of thinking. Even if one agrees with the principles, it could for various reasons be very difficult to implement them. Nonetheless, reform is needed, and reform begins with understanding of principles. (HH BVKS, Seminar: Principles for Establishing Varṇāśrama Communities, )

    My gratitude to HH Bhakti Vikāsa Swami, who tirelessly and unwaveringly preaches Kṛṣṇa consciousness and Vedic culture, as a perfect example of a faithful disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s, and a brāhmaṇa sannyāsī – a natural teacher of the society!

    I feel this book will appeal to all individuals and can greatly help society by making sure that women are taken care of and are protected in every aspect.