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Presentations to the GBC, March 2000 - Saudamani Dasi
 
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Women in ISKCON:
Presentations to the GBC, March 2000
 
Introduction    
Sitala Dasi Kusa Dasi Rukmini Dasi
Yamuna Dasi Saudamani Dasi  
Visakha Dasi Sudharma Dasi Conclusion

Presentation by Saudamani Dasi

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. Confronted with serious questions about the philosophy Srila Prabhupada has given us, any one of them could give a very satisfactory and strictly bona-fide explanation. The difficulty is not in defending or explaining the philosophy, but rather in trying to defend or explain our behaviour and, even more so, trying to defend our policies, unofficial and official.

Some of these ladies were among Srila Prabhupada's very first disciples. They experienced Srila Prabhupada's personal interaction with women first-hand, so you can be sure they were paying attention and asking him pertinent questions. There is speculation that Srila Prabhupada dealt with the ladies very liberally in the early days because he was very kind and could see that they weren't up to a very high standard; that the early examples of what Srila Prabhupada did or said are irrelevant to his actual desire. The speculation is that because of his kindness and mercy and out of necessity, Prabhupada allowed ladies to do things he really didn't want them to do.

As we know, Srila Prabhupada went to America to preach Krsna Consciousness on the order of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. Srila Prabhupada had the idea that he would present the Srimad-Bhagavatam to the intellectual and political leaders of America and then eventually the common people would follow. Srila Prabhupada was surprised to find that the people who came forward and took an interest were mostly from the counter-culture. He was perhaps even more surprised to see that it wasn't just boys that were coming forward but girls too. Rupanuga's wife, Kalindi, told me that Srila Prabhupada was amazed to see that we drove cars. We should appreciate how naturally Srila Prabhupada saw everything and everyone as coming from Krsna and how as a pure devotee, he was able to engage everything and everyone in Krsna's service.

Srila Prabhupada was not ungrateful to Krsna for what he provided; nor was he an atheist who saw who and what came as a matter of chance. Because of Srila Prabhupada's purity and full surrender to executing his spiritual master's order, he received instructions and guidance directly from Krsna. Bhaktivinoda Thakura gave us the vision, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati gave the order and Srila Prabhupada executed that order. The early instructions and examples establishing principles and strategies for spreading Krsna consciousness all over the world are extremely important because they were coming directly from Lord Caitanya to his pure devotee. As time went on, more and more was left to his disciples.

It is my contention that we should not portray Srila Prabhupada's early personal mood, his preaching strategy, example and instructions as some sort of compromise to necessity, while arrogantly thinking that after a few years we became so advanced that we were able to understand and improve upon the foundational instructions. When Srila Prabhupada first came to Mayapura and asked Malati to give class in front of his own Gaudiya Matha Godbrothers ('... and in front of our Godbrothers with their big sticks, too,' as Malati puts it.) Srila Prabhupada knew exactly what he was doing. Should we think he was just being provocative for no purpose? It is a testament to Srila Prabhupada's intense faith in the chanting of the holy name that he left the awesome responsibility of spreading Krsna consciousness in our incompetent hands. His faith was that the holy name would purify us so that we would eventually follow his instructions and example and that we too would receive instructions from Krsna. It would be such a blessing to be united by the Supersoul, rather than by e-mail.

Prajapati: In the early days of this movement, Srila Prabhupada, in New York, devotees said they did not know how to treat Your Divine Grace. They did not know your exalted position. I think we are still very much offensive.

Prabhupada: No, I am servant. I have no exalted position. Servant. Caitanya Mahaprabhu sat down in a place where people were washing their feet. Yes ... a representative of Krsna. I came to preach Krsna consciousness, and Krsna has sent so many representatives to help me. I consider like that. Without your help I could not do. So I wanted Krsna's help, so Krsna has sent you. Therefore you are representative of Krsna. That is my conception.1

Notes

1 Morning Walk, 15 December 1973, Los Angeles.

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