Richard A. Epstein, “Hard Questions on Same-Sex Marriage”

Richard A. Epstein at the Hoover Institution writes,

The hard question is how Justice Kennedy—now the swing vote on all matters “fundamental”—thinks about this issue. Here the evidence is decidedly mixed. To be sure, his opinion in Obergefell talks about the importance of letting religions “teach” the central principles of their faith. But as Justice Thomas’s dissent points out, a religion that is allowed to teach its beliefs may be forced to give up its tax-exempt status if it puts those beliefs into practice, and its adherents can be hounded by the state if they decide to run their personal lives in accordance with their religion. We thus face a serious risk in the aftermath of Obergefell: liberty in gay rights will turn out to be a one-way street. Some liberties will be guaranteed for some people while other liberties will be squashed for others. As I write, the gay rights movement is gearing up to expand the scope of the antidiscrimination laws in housing and labor markets.

Richard A. Epstein, “Hard Questions on Same-Sex Marriage” 29 Jun 2015, Hoover Institution, 3 Jul 2015 <http://www.hoover.org/research/hard-questions-same-sex-marriage>

The article and accompanying podcast, which goes into greater depth, can be accessed here.

Amara das asks, “Same-sex Marriage in the USA: Are you ready, ISKCON?”. . .

. . . because he wants to give it good and hard to ISKCON in the butt.

Really.

Let’s be frank here: whenever someone extolls the alleged virtues of same-sex marriage, he is talking about same-sex sex. Yes, the kind of sex in which a man inserts his generative organ in an orifice other than where it is supposed to go (or a woman tries to do something similar). That’s the kind of sex he is talking about. If he were only talking about roommates, friends, which have almost always been “same sex” no matter the culture and without even the presumption of sex, there would be no controversy here. Amara is talking about a relationship in which sexual activity is presumed. That is what it even means to call it marriage, a relationship in which sexal activity is in fact presumed.

When he asks, “Are you ready?”, that’s something to take seriously because, in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, it’s not only a forewarning of impending public opprobrium but legal challenges as well. Even if it’s not him that takes ISKCON to court for not allowing same-sex marriages on its properties, he belongs to a community that approves of such persecution by legal or sometimes extra-legal means.

Does this sound alarmist? Far from it. A recent article in the Federalist makes mention of popular, state-sanctioned animus toward conservative Christians.

In 2012, New Jersey judge Solomon A. Metzger ruled against a Christian retreat house associated with the United Methodist Church that refused to allow a same-sex civil union ceremony on its premises. Just a few months ago, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed sacked fire chief Kelvin Cochran, an African-American Baptist church deacon, for expressing his personal religious beliefs on marriage in a Bible study publication.

In Washington DC, religiously affiliated education institutions are now forced to allow gay advocacy groups to use their facilities, and parents have been disallowed from helping their children who feel unwanted sexual attractions in California and New Jersey.

Even the federal government is not innocent of wrongdoing here. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told state attorneys general they can ignore state laws about marriage (in violation of their oaths of office), and President Obama has decided support for natural marriage is reason to discriminate against religious organizations when handing out federal grants. His administration is also attempting to punish a Navy chaplain for expressing his faith. With the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision today, one can only imagine what is coming next, although Canada, Britain, and elsewhere offer disturbing prospects.

(John-Henry Westen, “Same-Sex Marriage Won’t Bring Us Peace”, 26 Jun 2015 The Federalist 28 Jun 2015 <http://thefederalist.com/2015/06/26/same-sex-marriage-wont-bring-us-peace/>)

What does this mean for us who are in ISKCON, North America? It’s not a matter of if but when the persecution begins. It will not be quite like the hostility of American Christians in the 1970s and 80s towards us, or the deprogrammers of that era. But in some important ways it will be worse and more debilitating, because the politics of sexual liberation that is at the heart of American leftist politics is something that many American devotees continue to self-identify with–even if out of sentiment for their time as hippies before joining the movement. That is, the vanguard for enforcing conformity with the sexual mores of mainstream American society are already within ISKCON North America. Amara is but one voice of this vanguard, but one that has been more frank than most.

Moreover, ISKCON’s Founder-Acharya Srila Prabhupada was unequivocal both in his condemnation of the gay lifestyle and his view that women should not have social, political or economic independence. Just his position alone on women has prompted a politically progressive “long march” through ISKCON’s institutions in an attempt to disestablish Srila Prabhupada’s authority, with the objective of jettisoning his stance on issues disfavored by today’s social and political classes but retaining him as a figurehead and spokesman for ideas he was in fact against. It is therefore no accident that ISKCON’s growing tryst with homosexual sexual liberation has followed women’s liberation within ISKCON. In society at large, many mainstream religious institutions have already followed the same trajectory. (Bolding added)

For many Evangelicals, the marriage debate isn’t really about marriage or families or sex—it is about the Bible itself. And that makes many evangelicals all the more uncompromising. The roots of the conflict are deeply theological. Evangelical faith prizes the Bible’s authority, and that has meant a core commitment to biblical inerrancy—the belief that the words of the Bible are without error. Genesis Chapter 1 says God created male and female for one another, and the Apostle Paul calls homosexuality a sin, inerrantists say, and for groups like the Southern Baptist Convention and its 50,000 churches nationwide, that is the biblical trump card. It doesn’t matter if the views are out of step with society or other Christian traditions. “We believe even stranger things than that,” Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, points out. “We believe a previously dead man is going to arrive in the sky on a horse.”

And there is another, just as fundamental, obstacle. So far no Christian tradition has been able to embrace the LGBT community without first changing its views about women. The same reasoning that concludes that homosexuality is sin is also behind the traditional evangelical view that husbands are the spiritual leaders of marriages and men are the leaders in church. It is one reason gay men have an easier time as evangelical reformers. Lesbians face the double whammy—an evangelical world where leadership has long revolved around straight men has twice the trouble hearing them because they are both female and gay. “It is not an accident that the women’s-liberation movement preceded the gay-liberation movement,” Robinson says. “Discriminatory attitudes and treatment of LGBT people is rooted in patriarchy, and in order to embrace and affirm gays, evangelicals will have to address their own patriarchy and sexism, not just their condemnation of LGBT people.”

(Dias, Elizabeth. “A Change Of Heart.” Time 185.2 (2015): 44­48. Academic Search Complete. Web. 29
June 2015.)

In ISKCON we have similar though not identical matters of authority in our own part of the Western culture war. And let us make no mistake about it, we are a part of their culture war whether we want to be or not. We may not be interested in their war, but their war is interested in us.

Nevertheless, more than any other religious tradition in the world, our Vaishnava tradition is most clear on the point that the fundamental principle of illusory (ungodly) life is the attraction between male and female. Pumsah striyah mithuni bhavam etam. Varnasrama principles are warranted on this principle alone. Indeed, Srila Prabhupada himself says,

So these regulative principles are there. So what is, what is the big plan behind these regulative principles? The big plan is: here is the attraction, pumsah striya mithuni-bhavam etam to cut down this attraction between male and female. This is the big plan. Otherwise there is no need of the varnasrama.

Lecture, Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.8, Vrindavan Oct 30, 1976.

It is because our theology is so clear on this point that it will be more difficult to subvert than has been Christian theology, whatever kind it is. Any attempt to change our Vaishnava principles more readily exposes itself as bald contempt on the part of the so-called reformers. If corruption of our understanding and religious principles concerning women is defended successfully, we will also be able to defend ourselves from the attempted persecutions from the pro-homosexual lobby.

There is hope after all.

And since we are part of a culture war, we could stand to make some progress against Maya where no other spiritual movement can prevail.

A modest proposal for increasing the number of brahmanas within the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and within Society at Large

ISKCON’s mission not only includes the propagation of pure devotion to Lord Sri Krishna but also includes the reestablishment of brahmanas within society at large.

People in general are being guided into hellish condition of life by the rascal leaders, so we must establish qualified brahmanas at the head of the society, and widely distribute Krishna conscious principles. (Letter to Balavanta 17 June 1972)

We have enough of technological and other types of educational institutions, but perhaps there is none where actual brahmanas and Vaisnavas are produced. So we will have to establish an educational institution for that purpose. (Letter to Kirtanananda 12 January 1969)

Your idea to recruit many brahmacaris is nice. We need a class of men purely brahmanas. The whole world is full of sudras. The Krishna Consciousness movement is meant for re-establishing the system of four varnas and asramas, then there will be progress of civilization. (Letter to Rupanuga 3 May 1972)

I am so pleased to know that you have been recommended by Sriman Bhagavan das Prabhu for gayatri mantra initiation. Actually that is what I am trying to do in your country is to establish a brahminical society. So when I see that these young American boys are becoming eligible by qualification to take second initiation and become qualified Brahmins, I become very much pleased and my Guru Maharaja becomes pleased also.  (Letter to Laksmi Narayana 8 July 1971)

However, in many of the countries throughout the world where there are ISKCON centers there are many twice initiated devotees who live outside of the temple but who on account of their professions are unable to devote substantial time to preaching. The vast majority of these have jobs and accept a salary, which according to the shastras and our parampara is forbidden for a brahmana.

In time of emergency, one may accept any of the various types of professions known as rta, amrta, mrta, pramrta and satyanrta, but one should not at any time accept the profession of a dog. The profession of uñchasila, collecting grains from the field, is called rta. Collecting without begging is called amrta, begging grains is called mrta, tilling the ground is called pramrta, and trade is called satyanrta. Engaging in the service of low-grade persons, however, is called sva-vrtti, the profession of the dogs. Specifically, brahmanas and ksatriyas should not engage in the low and abominable service of sudras. Brahmanas should be well acquainted with all the Vedic knowledge, and ksatriyas should be well acquainted with the worship of demigods. (SB 7.11.18-20)

[Purport to SB 7.11.18-20:] As stated in Bhagavad-gita (4.13), catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah: the four divisions of human society were created by the Supreme Lord according to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them. Formerly, the principle of dividing human society into four sections — brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra — was strictly followed, but because of gradual neglect of the varnasrama principles, varna-sankara population developed, and the entire institution has now been lost. In this Age of Kali, practically everyone is a sudra (kalau sudra-sambhavah), and finding anyone who is a brahmana, ksatriya or vaisya is very difficult. Although the Krsna consciousness movement is a movement of brahmanas and Vaisnavas, it is trying to reestablish the divine varnasrama institution, for without this division of society there cannot be peace and prosperity anywhere. [end of purport]

Srila Prabhupada: No, they are not brahmanas. Those who give education in exchange for money—they are not brahmanas. For instance, we are lecturing, educating people. We don’t say, “Give us a salary.” We simply ask them, “Please come.” That is why we are cooking food and holding so many free festivals. “We’ll give you food. We’ll give you a comfortable seat. Please come and hear about self-realization and God consciousness.” We are not asking money—“First of all pay the fee; then you can come and learn Bhagavad-gita.” We never say that. But these so-called teachers who first of all bargain for a salary—“What salary will you give me?”—that is a dog’s concern. That is not a brahmana’s concern. A brahmana will never ask about a salary. A brahmana is eager to see that people are educated. “Take free education and be educated; be a human being”—this is a brahmana’s concern: You see? I came here not to ask for any money but to give instruction. (Journey of Self-Discovery, Chapter 6, Slaughterhouse Civilization)

In India, schoolchildren are taught Canakya Pandita’s instructions. Although he was the prime minister, Canakya Pandita maintained his brahma?a spirit; he did not accept any salary. If a brahmana accepts a salary, it is understood that he has become a dog. That is stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. He can advise, but he cannot accept employment. (Science of Self-Realization, Chapter 6, Spiritual Communism)

Not only do we see from these statements that establishing brahmanas in society is fundamental to Srila Prabhuapda’s mission, and therefore fundamental to ISKCON’s mission, we see that being a brahmana means not accepting a salary. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (4.13), “According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me.” Therefore work itself is an essential qualification for a brahmana. That is why according to authorized parampara understanding we see that those who accept a salary are no longer considered brahmanas.

Yet salaried brahmanas who contribute little to preaching are common among ISKCON’s members. The proliferation of brahmanas who have jobs, and who therefore do not follow brahminical principles, is one of the most significant reasons for lower levels of preaching in various countries around the world.

To correct this problem, a modest proposal is made along the lines of Srila Prabhupada’s statement to Professor Kotovsky in his famous conversation with him in Moscow:

As I told you, this propaganda is meant for creating brahmanas all over the world, because the brahmana element is lacking. One who seriously comes to us has to become a brahmana, so he should adopt the occupation of a brahmana and give up the occupation of a ksatriya or sudra.

Of course, Srila Prabhupada accepted as twice-initiated disciples people who did not give up their non-brahminical occupations, and he made them brahmanas. Following from what Srila Prabhupada says, he immediately also says that anyone from any social or occupational position can be a spiritual master:

But if one wants to keep his profession and also at the same time understand our movement, that is allowed. We have many professors following our movement. There is Howard Wheeler, a professor at Ohio State University. He is my disciple. He is continuing with his professorship, but almost all the money he is getting he is spending for this Krsna consciousness. Grhasthas, those who are in householder life outside, are expected to contribute fifty percent of their income for our society, keep twenty-five percent for family, and keep twenty-five percent for personal emergencies. But Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu teaches that it does not matter whether one is a grhastha (householder), or in the renounced order, or a brahmana, or a sudra. Lord Caitanya says, “Anyone who understands the science of Krsna becomes My spiritual master.” The actual words in Bengali are kiba vipra, kiba nyasi, sudra kene naya.

Yet the problem we face today is that most who decide to remain in their salaried professions are not exceptions in terms of the standards that Srila Prabhupada describes above—someone who gives 50% of his salary to the Krishna consciousness movement. The problem, though circumstantial, is nonetheless formidable, and it requires corrective action in the following time, place, and circumstance recommendation.

The following modest proposal is thus made:

  1. New initiates will be required to either give up their occupations for a brahminical one, as outlined in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, or contribute 50% of their salary on a sustained, indefinite basis, to the Krishna consciousness movement as a prerequisite for being considered for second initiation.
  2. Older second-initiates who are “out of compliance” will be given five years to make the necessary arrangements for their livelihoods to bring them in compliance. Those who remain out of compliance will no longer be regarded as brahmanas, nor should they be called brahmanas, call themselves brahmanas or expect to be called brahmanas. Their status will be similar to that of dvija-bandhus. Standard brahminical activities like worshiping the Deities in the temple or cooking for Them should be reserved for those who are in compliance, though the out-of-compliance brahmanas should still be encouraged to continue serving the Lord in whatever capacity they can.

It is expected that this policy will achieve the following:

  1. Increase the number of full and part-time preachers.
  2. Increase the purity of existing and new brahmanas.
  3. Please Srila Prabhupada, as he has stated that reestablishing brahmanas in society is one of his main objectives.

Respectfully,

Your servant, Krishna-kirti das

The CPO and the Case of Ajamila Prabhu

Smith Arthur Harold (64) was arrested in Mayapur, the headquarters of Krishna movement in Bengal’s Nadia district. He was remanded to 14-day jail custody by the CJM of Krishnanagar court.

Though disciples from all over the world are provided with accommodation inside the ISKCON campus, Harold was living in his own apartment in Gournagar. The complainant started working as his cook one-and-a-half years ago.

Jayatri Nag, “ISKCON disciple from Australia held for raping help”, Oct 19, 2014, Mumbai Mirror, 8 Feb. 2015 <http://mumbaimirror.com>.

Regardless of the outcome of this incident, what will be very interesting is to see whether the CPO (ISKCON Child Protection Office) will eat one of its own.

Ajamila Prabhu is a long-time member and advocate of that institution, and furthermore members of that institution have been pushing the GBC to give them jurisdiction over GBC members or other high-ranking ISKCON officials the GBC exempts, and the GBC has so far refused to grant the CPO’s request for absolute jurisdiction. That effectively gives the CPO jurisdiction over prosecuting low-status men in ISKCON. And since the CPO publishes no statistics, we have no idea whether the institution, as an institution, is actually meeting its mandate or whether it exists for other,  less virtuous reasons.

So here is Ajamila Prabhu, who is a highly regarded member of ISKCON but may not be so highly regarded that the GBC will exempt him from investigation by the CPO. But if the CPO does investigate him, a possibility is exoneration, which may provoke a backlash among CPO faithful. Mob justice demands action against the perceived wrong-doer, regardless of innocence.

Alternatively, a guilty verdict may undermine their faith–the heads of other CPO activists could be next up in the guillotine on the slightest fabrication, and through Ajamila they would get to see that.

As perverse as either outcome is, that still strikes me as progress in the right direction, for the CPO is one of the spiritually (and materially) worst things to have been foisted on ISKCON’s members.

I am convinced that Maya Devi’s real objective of the gurukuli abuse episode was to establish the CPO within ISKCON. The court cases and cash settlements that preceded or brought about the development of the CPO were merely side-shows that had a time limit. The CPO doesn’t have any such end date.

Seven theses on the establishment of a varṇāśrama civilization

[From an email dated 27 November 2013 addressed to a group of devotees discussing the agenda for an upcoming meeting on various varnasrama and gurukula projects. Subsequently Sri Bhakti Vikasa Maharaja addresses these points in a lecture titled Varnasrama: The Big Picture.]

Dear Maharaja, and Prabhus, please accept my humble obeisances at your feet. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

I feel it is important to start out with a big-picture vision because it gives direction to the small-scale, practical local efforts. To this end, these are some brief thoughts of mine with regard to the “big picture” of gurukula education and varnasrama projects. I do not claim they are infallible but offer them up only as points to consider.

Your servant, Krishna-kirti das

Some points on the establishment of Varnasrama civilization

  1. The form of a future varnasrama civilization follows from the simple fact that the present state and direction of modern science and technology confer upon its bearers a decisive military advantage. Present and future conflicts throughout the world will not be fought with chariots, bows and arrows but with machine guns, tanks, planes, and nuclear missiles. Protecting and advancing the spiritual, agrarian culture of varnasrama for the foreseeable future therefore necessarily requires the co-advancement of science, technology, and industry.
  2. The economy of a future varnasrama civilization at best must necessarily be a hybrid of agrarian, industrial, and knowledge-based technical economies.
    1. The system of education for such a society must necessarily teach all subjects required for both spiritual and material advancement.
  3. The social structure of a varnasrama civilization depends upon the avoidance of creating varnasankara, unwanted population, and the creation of good population, which has a temperament better suited to making spiritual advancement.
    1. Society must be stratified according to varnasrama divisions with the primary, societal aim of regulating sexual reproduction.
    2. Varnasrama principles to this end must be inculcated as far as possible for both rural and urban subpopulations.
  4. To maintain such a civilization, it is imperative to create and perpetuate a class of brahmanas who can preside over all of the most important knowledge-areas of society—be they humanistic or technical—in order to maintain the spiritual focus of society.
  5. To establish a modern varnasrama civilization, a class of brahmana preachers must be established to wage a “culture war” against all opposing doctrines and opposing social institutions and their champions.
  6. Founded by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness is the present, and historic, institution to promote and lead the effort of reestablishing the spiritual direction of human society.
  7. To preserve ISKCON’s purpose and mission, which is Srila Prabhupada’s purpose and mission, there is an immediate need to train brahmana preachers to defend ISKCON against opposing impersonal and voidist doctrines and advance Vedic civilization.
    1. Such training will be the basis of a “Counter-reformation” within ISKCON.
    2. This training will be instrumental not only in protecting and strengthening ISKCON against opposing cultural influences but will be useful in meeting the organization’s preaching objectives.
    3. The first doctrines that must be opposed are those that are popular within
      1. Society at large and which have become influential within ISKCON.
      2. Dominant perspectives in the social and psychological sciences and which have been advanced within ISKCON by those with advanced degrees in these areas.
    4. Varnasrama will be the social doctrine that will be advanced in opposition to all other social doctrines presently advanced within and outside of ISKCON.

Some thoughts on Rochana’s thoughts on FDG (Female Diksa Guru)

Over at the Sampradaya Sun, editor Rochana Prabhu has given his thoughts on female diksa-gurus (FDGs). Briefly, his take is that the tradition mandates for the most part a laissez-faire approach to the question of who can be a guru. He is, of course, right that this has been the tradition. Yet the fact of being part of an institution like ISKCON makes it reasonable for its leaders to insist on additional criteria.

For example, if someone in ISKCON is a sannyasi, he may be a bona fide sannyasi, but he is also an “ISKCON sannyasi” simply by the fact that people in general will also associate him with ISKCON. So the leadership is right to impose other obligations or standards on him in order to protect the ISKCON brand name and Srila Prabhupada’s legacy. A non-hypothetical example of this is the age requirements for sannyasa imposed by the society. There is no age requirement for sannyasa in shastra or in tradition, but the leaders of our society have imposed one in response to what has been a problem with lack of steadiness with past, younger sannyasis. So if you want to be a young sannyasi, then you are welcome to, but unless an exception is made for you by the leaders, you will have to go outside of ISKCON for it. That doesn’t mean you aren’t a bona fide sannyasi if you do, but you can no longer be counted as an ISKCON sannyasi. The important point here is that the additional rules imposed by the GBC are germane to one’s status as a representative of the society.

In the same way, if someone is a guru in ISKCON, then the fact that one is representing ISKCON and hence ISKCON’s Founder-Acharya Srila Prabhupada, then it may be reasonable for ISKCON’s leaders to insist on other criteria in addition to that mandated by shastra or our sampradaya. That is because you are not just any guru, but you are an ISKCON guru. It is not that gurus outside of ISKCON are not bona fide, but to be counted as a guru who also represents ISKCON one has to play by additional rules imposed by ISKCON’s leaders.

The GBC has a rational interest in connection with their duties to say who or who should not be a guru within ISKCON. And that is reasonable, as ISKCON’s GBC have indeed been charged with protecting the image and legacy of the movement Srila Prabhupada started. Those who disagree with their criteria can still be bona fide gurus. It’s just that if they want to act in the capacity of a bona fide diksa-guru but do not have the blessings of the GBC, they will have to go outside of ISKCON to act in that capacity.

The right of the GBC to impose rules and prohibitions in addition to what shastra and our acharyas have given is a separate question from whether the GBC itself remains faithful to the desires of ISKCON’s Founder-Acharya. Rochana Prabhu raises this point:

The western oriented GBC, many of whom are sannyasis, are actively directing ISKCON towards the model of a western-style religion. On the other hand, we have the eastern style religionists advocating that ISKCON follow an eastern style religious model, with guru and ashrams. The leaders in these two camps have differing perspective on the FDG issue, which emphasizes the great divide.

A taxonomy that is better than “Western” vs. “Eastern” is called for here, because Rochana Prabhu’s characterization of them doesn’t do justice to either. Really, are Western ISKCON liberals primarily interested in schmalzing with their counterparts at politically left-of-center interfaith conferences and ISKCON “eastern style religionists” primarily interested in mathas and ashrams? There is much more to it on both sides (if that’s how the sides can be distinguished), and Rochana Prabhu’s position is not necessarily distinct from either side.

Nonetheless, Prabhu Rochana’s description of what he thinks are the motivations of the “western oriented GBC” is still useful as a starting point for getting a better understanding of the matter.

The western liberals look forward to communing with their ecumenical associates, pointing out just how inclusive modern ISKCON is by recognizing and including women diksa gurus, and homosexuals. They have experienced the criticism from other religious western scholars, who point to the exclusion of women as an indication that Krsna consciousness/ISKCON is a primitive, backward culture. So for the benefit of a few ISKCON leaders who feel it an important preaching program, communing with a few ecumenical fellows from other western religions, as a result the whole society is forced to go along with the debate on FDG.

This is accurate because at a high level many ISKCON members have indeed pursued their own academic careers or have made extensive efforts to befriend Western academics and social leaders. Consequently, the price they have had to pay for membership in, say, academia or to be counted among the friends in this community has required them to change their own values. (I shall say more about this in subsequent posts.)

Insofar as Western ISKCON liberals (if we may use that term briefly here) identify with the values and norms of liberal Western thought, a salient feature of Western thought is its lack of a transcendent conception of the self. Hence, equality in the context of Western thought is conceived of in terms of material standards. That is why Western liberals (following the ideas of Rousseau and Marx) are obsessed with minimizing the differences between different classes in society. They believe that exploitation arises from class difference, hence they try to minimize differences between different classes of people, down to the individual.

Another important consequence for those who hold this line of thought is their belief motivates them to try to erase as far as possible the differences between male and female at all levels of society. Notice that this is similar to the Eastern impersonlist view, which Srila Prabhupada criticizes in his purport to SB 1.1.1 (bolding added):

Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura specifically deals with the original and pure sex psychology (ādi-rasa), devoid of all mundane inebriety. The whole material creation is moving under the principle of sex life. In modern civilization, sex life is the focal point for all activities. Wherever one turns his face, he sees sex life predominant. Therefore, sex life is not unreal. Its reality is experienced in the spiritual world. The material sex life is but a perverted reflection of the original fact. The original fact is in the Absolute Truth, and thus the Absolute Truth cannot be impersonal. It is not possible to be impersonal and contain pure sex life. Consequently, the impersonalist philosophers have given indirect impetus to the abominable mundane sex life because they have overstressed the impersonality of the ultimate truth. Consequently, man without information of the actual spiritual form of sex has accepted perverted material sex life as the all in all. There is a distinction between sex life in the diseased material condition and spiritual sex life.

Impersonalists have to embrace mundane sex life because their information about the absolute truth is limited to its impersonal feature. The same is true of Western religionists. Their scripture simply does not describe (or describes very badly) the transcendental characteristics of the Lord. Hence their religious efforts are necessarily focused on worldly piety–soup kitchens, hospitals, eye-camps, etc. In other words, both the Eastern impersonalists and Western religionists converge on the worth of mundane philanthropy, and for them its worth as religious activity is superlative. They cannot aspire to something higher because they lack the transcendental qualification to do so. As a consequence, material sex life must necessarily flourish wherever they dominate society. And that’s why the West has elevated sexual gratification as a public virtue to a level not seen since the Romans.

This observation motivates the following theorem: A person or group emphasizes mundane equality as a virtue if and only if they are impersonalists. The use of the term “if and only if” means that the assertion is bi-directional. That is, if you are an impersonalist, then your philanthropic activity will be characterized by fruitive work — soup kitchens, eye-camps, charitable hospitals, etc. In the other direction, an impersonalist stance will also be indicated by one’s social and political values. If you believe men and women should have equal opportunity in the workplace, then you are an impersonalist. And if you are an impersonalist, then you will very likely favor various mundane social equality measures, including equality in the workplace, equality in political, social and economic opportunity between the sexes.

(Of course, some impersoanlists in India like the Mayavadis have been staunchly orthodox in their separation of the sexes (only women allowed to take sannyasa), but this is largely because of the strong influence of Vaisnavism in Indian culture at large. In other words, the Vaisnavas have kept the orthodox followers of Sankara from devolving into Marxist-style equality of the sexes by serving as a counterbalance to their overemphasis of the impersonal feature of the Absolute Truth. Other impersonalists in India, however, like the Brahma-kumaris, did devolve into Marxist-style equality of the sexes. So did the Chaitanyaite Sahajiya Vaishnavas, who are infamous for their sexual impropriety. Orthodox Vaisnavism has traditionally been inimical to these movements, and for good reason.)

So, what does this say about our own divisions on the FDG matter in ISKCON? For the sake of providing a more useful taxonomy than what Rochana Prabhu has provided, it means that the differing opinions on the matter of female diksa-gurus are better and more clearly understood in terms of to what extent their conception of the Absolute Truth is mixed with impersonalism. The virtue of this differentiation is that it gives us a continuum on which to evaluate the different opinions.

For example, some who favor the traditional norm of limiting female diksha-gurus are not necessarily against there being any. Typically, people in this group argue that for those still situated in the stages of vaidhi bhakti (which, arguable, is the level that most all of ISKCON gurus are at), they are obligated to follow varnashram principles in order to protect themselves and others from mundane sex attraction. This is much harder for women to do than men, which is why the dharma-shastras give different direction for men and women on the matter of their legitimate occupations. This means that if exceptional women come along (and there is no reason to believe that this is a virtual impossibility, given that some appear in our line), then there should be no objection to letting them act as guru.

In this regard, Srila Prabhupada’s instruction to Smt. Yamuna devi dasi and Smt. Dinatarine dasi is relevant:

Mayapur
21 February, 1976
Murphy, Oregon
My dear Yamuna and Dinatarine,
Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated February 4, 1976.
Enclosed please find a true copy of my reply to your letter dated December 24th, 1976.
The thing is cow protection is not possible for women. You can keep two or three cows, but on larger scale it is not possible. You should not try to take care of more. It is not women’s business. Women’s business is getting milk and making milk preparations. On the whole larger scale is not to be attempted by women. Manage a small asram, but don’t try bigger scale, then you require the help of men.
Don’t try manual exertion, then again there is mixture and that is not desired. Simply keep yourself aloof from men—chanting, many more times as possible, read books, worship the deity. I am very much pleased with this girl Svati—she has adopted this white dress. She must not be attractive at all. A widow is forbidden to use ornaments, nice sari, decoration, combing the hair nicely. These are forbidden for the woman who is not with husband.
I hope this meets you well.
Your ever well-wisher,
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

Here we have Srila Prabhupada saying “cow protection is not possible for women”, and the rationale for his instruction is clear: in order to minimize male-female association, such division of labor is necessary. That rational is wide and deep in its application, and it explains why in ISKCON’s spiritual lineage female diksa-gurus have been rare.

But Western secular liberals, Western religious liberals, and Western-leaning liberal members of ISKCON will tell you something different. For example, Western-leaning liberal members of ISKCON think its a check on women’s devotional service if they are not allowed to be temple presidents or GBC members. ISKCON members or not, the Western-leaning liberals believe in equal-opportunity employment because they have an impersonal conception of the Absolute Truth and hence define spiritual equality in terms of equal access to worldly social, economic, and political resources.

Because they overemphasize the oneness of the Absolute Truth, they dismiss such divisions in society by ignoring them, disparaging them and the sources of scriptural authority for them, or dismissing them entirely. That is, to some significant extent they are impersonalists, and their impersonalism can be understood from their visible inclination to ignore or disparage such conventions. Consequently, they all also have a devil of a time adhering to scriptural standards of illicit sex. Therefore their tendency is to try to dumb down the requirements for it, which motivates them to take shelter of the word-jugglery that is the halmark of the Mayavadis. The Western equivalent of this is called “revisionism,” whereby Western liberal religionists reinterpret their own scripture by means of linguistic theories that deny authorial intent (structuralim, poststructuralism, etc). That’s who impersonalists are, that’s what they do.

This is not to say that our own Western-liberal-leaning ISKCON members are complete impersonalists. But just as knowing “you are not the body” is not sufficient to restrain one from sense gratification, knowing that Krishna (God) is a person is not sufficient to deter one from activities motivated by impersonalism. That is, there is a difference between theoretical knowledge and realization. Those who are nominally Krishna conscious are still attracted to the material energy because they still are attached in varying degrees to impersonalism. It is therefore no accident that Srila Prabhupada defined his mission as nirvishesha shunyavadi paschatya desha tarine, his mission being to deliver the Western countries, which are filled with impersonalism and voidism.

So, to further constructive discussion on the female diksa-guru issue, I propose that the different groups be understood with respect to their personalist or impersonalist inclinations. As a proxy for measuring the degree of their impersonalism, it is proposed that their relative fidelity to varnasrama principles be a measure of their personalism or impersonalism, for this is the hottest area of contention between the two groups.

And the two groups should not be divided into people who are for- or against- female diksa gurus, for nearly everyone in both groups agrees that women can be diksha-guru. What they disagree on is the extent to which varnasrama applies to women who are being considered as candidates for diksha-guru. The two groups can be divided on the basis of whether varnasrama should be retained as a criteria for allowing or disallowing women to act as a diksha guru. That’s the dividing line.