Presentation by Kusa
These past few days I have relished participating in the application
of vaisnava-siddhanta to management. Thank you!
Burke Rochford's report, submitted to the GBC last year, states:
'I recommend that ISKCON leaders immediately move to restore the
rights and responsibilities afforded women by Srila Prabhupada.
Men should be educated accordingly. Guru and non-guru leaders should
teach respect for women; women should again be viewed as capable
devotees in the service of Prabhupada's movement rather than as
temptresses or other such derogatory characterisations. To do so
would immediately increase the self-esteem of women and make them
more productive members of ISKCON. This will also make the movement
more attractive to potential members who view ISKCON's position
on women as antiquated and morally objectionable.'
Calling women temptresses and using other such derogatory characterisations
is, in part, due to our failure to practise austerity of speech.
In Bhagavad-gita 17.15, Lord Krsna states: 'Austerity of
speech consists in speaking words that are truthful, pleasing, beneficial
and not agitating to others, and also in regularly reciting Vedic
literature.' Profound speech invigorates receptivity and trust within
our Gaudiya Vaisnava family. So, why do we sometimes utilise denigrating
speech in relation to women? Perhaps it is because when a man is
improperly trained, rather than taking responsibility for his own
sex desire, he blames women and thus speaks harshly about them and
to them. This harshness towards women, and along with it, harshness
towards the householder asrama, intimidates, alienates and
lessens the esteem and dignity of women and grhasthas. Gender-biased
speech wounds our Society; spoken from the vyasasana, it
strikes a thorn in our hearts.
The Bhagavatam's wisdom is not gender-exclusive. A small
adjustment in the speaker's elaboration of a sloka could
make the instruction applicable to the whole audience. For example,
if the text reads, 'regarding associating with women for
illicit sex', the speaker could purport that one should guard against
associating with anyone for illicit sex. While reflecting guru,
sadhu and sastra it behooves us to consider our audience
and practise austerity of speech.
Pleasing and beneficial speech comes naturally with proper training.
A brahmacari who has been properly trained honours rather
than denigrates women. When such a brahmacari enters the
grhastha-asrama, his dominating male ego is tempered by his
wife's precious qualities. His realisations and humility increase
during his decades as a householder, while his sensuality decreases
until it becomes nil and he enters the vanaprastha stage.
Finally, having fully developed his own inner, gentle life - of
forgiveness, softness, nurturing and relatedness - the satisfied
gentleman accepts the renounced order. Such a secure renunciate
is not threatened by a woman's power; on the contrary, he evokes
Srila Prabhupada set the example of this mature stage of sannyasa.
He was as hard as a thunderbolt, kicking with boots on the heads
of materialistic scientists, Mayavadis, pseudo-religionists and
sahajiyas when time, place and circumstance warranted it.
He was also as soft as a rose, having nurturing, loving exchanges
with his followers - women, children and men.
Overemphasis on qualities such as rational analysis, authority,
control, competition and power causes us, men and women, to demean
softness, simplicity and gentility. By neglecting and denying these
kind and humbling aspects in each of us, by making the feminine
seem trivial, our lives become progressively more sterile, inert
and empty. 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.
It is time to bravely and without sensuality affirm the feminine,
to heal the wounds and at the same time contribute to the healing
of our children and our Society. Let us move from a place of arrogant
weakness to one of humble strength.
In his purport to text 1.9.27 of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srila
Prabhupada writes: '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.'
Due to Devahuti's feminine power, Kardama Muni was inspired to
create an incredibly magnificent palace in the sky; due to Gandhari's
feminine power, her eldest son, Duryodhana, received a body that
was impervious to weapons. Due to Savitri's feminine power, her
husband Satyavan was rescued from death. Due to Cintamani's inspiration,
Bilvamangala Thakura gave up material life and completely devoted
himself to Krsna.
Honour all Vaisnavas. Failing to do so inspires edicts instead
of dialogues, resolutions instead of relationships, indifference
instead of spiritual intimacy. Vaisnavis are agents of Laksmi, not
Mayadevi. They summon the presence of Narayana, for Laksmi is always
in her Lord's company.
We may also note with caution that Krsna conscious feminine power
can create havoc in the lives of those who don't respect Vaisnavis:
the unscrupulous Kauravas perished due to dishonouring Draupadi.
If those of us who are not on the level of Draupadi are disrespected,
we may live down to those expectations and become representatives
of Mayadevi. Respecting a woman as an agent of Laksmi will do much
to encourage her most precious devotion to the Lord. Expectation,
especially from those we respect, has an extraordinary influence
We have experienced Sri Caitanya's, Srila Bhaktivinoda's, Srila
Bhaktisiddhanta's and Srila Prabhupada's mercy. We now request the
mercy of the assembled Vaisnavas. Our ISKCON social body needs a
change of heart!