A Reply to Gaura-kesava Prabhu’s Contentions

By Dāmodara Dāsa (BVKS)

Points of Contention Summarized (Click to goto Answer of your choice):

  1. The authors did not consult Sri Vaisnavas in preparing this document from Bharadvaja-samhita
  2. Bharadvaja-samhita is a bonafide pancaratra.
  3. Why to consult Bharadvaja Samhita which is for Sri Vaisnavas? We have Hari-bhakti-vilasa for Gaudiya Sampradaya.
  4. SP, SBSST, etc. do quote from BS but do not speak anything regarding women from it.
  5. Gopala-bhatta Gosvami’s Sat-kriya-sara-dipika is a disputable text.
  6. Bharadvaja-samhita also prohibits those who are by birth sudras, antyajas, etc. from being guru. This makes almost all gurus of ISKCON non-bonafide
  7. Qualifications for who can become guru is clear from Srila Prabhupada’s texts: yei Krsna-tattva-vetta sei guru hoi. Why to add or subtract something.
  8. This paper necessitates to accept that a)That Srila Prabhupada words and actions are not the ultimate guide for what is accepted in ISKCON b)That the evidence given in this paper is considered as greater than the evidence of Srila Prabhupadas words and actions which have always been and which remain the ultimate evidence for what is accepted in ISKCON c)We need to resort to teaching beyond Gaudiya vaisnava sastras and teaching of Prabhupada
  9. The strategy to resort to evidences beyond Prabhupada’s words and actions and Gaudiya Vaisnava literatures will contradict SP’s own statements.
  10. Hari-bhakti-vilasa doesn’t mention any prohibition to become diksa-guru based on gender discrimination
  11. In BS 1.44, translators have translated pratyakṣitātmanāthānām literally as “seeing God face to face.” But it is not true as Srila Prabhupada never kept the qualification of becoming guru as for the one who sees God face to face
  12. Gaura Kesava Prabhu’s alternate translation of pratyakṣitātmanāthānām is “fully cognizant of the science of Kṛṣṇa”
  13. For men also ISKCON doesn’t follow instructions of Hari-bhakti-vilasa or Bharadvaja-samhita wherein they state that one born of lower caste should not initiate one born of higher caste. Thus why should ISKCON disregard all instructions of HBV and BS and just follow one single instruction singling out WOMEN.
  14. Unless ISKCON is divided in to castes implementing varnasrama principles is just a joke
  15. Not allowing women and sudras from becoming diksa-gurus but allowing them to become siksa-guru is a standard argument of Gaudiya vaisnavas outside of ISKCON and Bhaktivinoda dhara, and who have been vilified for that by Srila Prabhupada and SBSST.
  16. The qualification of “seeing God face to face” cannot be practically verified Institutionally and thus miserably fails to give any practical help to ISKCON in this matter.
  17. What this (SB 4.31.10 purport) specifically states is that whoever man or woman has brahminical qualifications, he or she is a to be accepted as a brahmin. That’s all.
  18. The idea of authors that Bharadvaja samhita is important for modern Gaudiya Vaisnavas is doubtful. BS is relavant for 15th century and not today.
  19. Authors don’t understand the difference between Gaudiya Vaisnava saranagati and Sri Vaisnava prapatti

Contentions Answered:

  1. The authors did not consult Srivaisnavas in preparing this document from Bharadvaja-samhita
  • We did consult and discuss the texts with Srivaisnava scholars
  • Sridhara Srinivasa Das (mentioned in Acknowledgments) is a Srivaisnava from his birth and his family is strict follower of Srivaisnavism.
  • Till date his father follows his vows, worships salagrama, etc. Sridhara Srinivasa Prabhu, before joining ISKCON, did get initiated in to Srivaisnavism (bhara-nyasa) and also performed agni-hotra for about 3 years strictly following rules.
  • He is also a learned in Srivaisnava literatures.
  • He has written a book named “A Divine Prophecy” wherein he establishes the prophecy of Srila Prabhupada’s advent from famous Sri Vaisnava literatures.
  • In writing this book he extensively travelled all over India and met many Sri Vaisnava scholars and discussed with them
  • While doing this he also discussed our Narada pancaratra slokas with them in order to understand them
  • Also he got the palm leaf manuscripts from Adayar Library in order to confirm the publication we were using. Then he got it confirmed by comparing to the verses and the commentary in the published version
  • He also contacted one professor of Srivaisnvas named Dr. Venkatacalam in Chennai
  • Besides this, recently, we met a Sri Vaisnava Scholar at Sri Rangam (Tamilnadu, South India) working with Muralidhara Bhatta, who is a pradhana arcaka (chief worshipper) of Sri Ranganatha. (for more information about him see Appendix 1 at the end)
  • He is the one at whose house Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu stayed while his visit in Srirangam.
  • We set at the very place where Lord Caitanya and Venkat Bhatta used to discuss Krishna-katha everyday
  • Once again we got verified our understanding of Bharadvaja-samhita, now with much more basis of other sastras. The scholar, named Vasudevan told us that he is ready to discuss these conclusions with anyone who is ready to remain confined to sastric proofs
  1. Bharadvaja-samhita is a bonafide pancaratra.
  • Thankyou very much for accepting this
  1. Why to consult Bharadvaja Samhita which is for Sri Vaisnavas? We have Hari-bhakti-vilasa for Gaudiya Sampradaya.

Although Hari-bhakti-vilāsa is specifically meant for Gaiḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, it doesn’t speak anything specifically about the matter of Vaiṣṇavīs’ becoming dīkṣā-guru or not. Thus, we need to resort to other śāstras for this matter.

Whenever Śrīla Prabhupāda talked about matters related to women’s role and activities, he usually quoted from Manu-saṁhitā. He has hardly quoted anything from Hari-bhakti-vilāsa for matters specifically related to women. Thus, it is not prohibited to resort to other śāstras for the matters not clearly discussed in our śāstra (here Hari-bhakti-vilāsa). In fact it is a famous rule of Vedic Hermeneutics—anuktam anyato grāhyam—that which is not clarified in our scripture should be imported from another scripture; but—paroktam avirodhī ca[1]—only those instructions which are not opposite to our scripture. Śrīla Prabhupāda followed this rule.

Thus, resorting to Bhāradvāja-saṁhitā is not transgressing Hari-bhakti-vilāsa, as the subject matter of women can become dīkṣā-guru or not, is not discussed there at all. None of the four statements of Śrīla Prabhupāda in this matter can be found in or supported by Hari-bhakti-vilāsa. But all these four statements are found in and supported by Bhāradvāja-saṁhitā. Thus, resorting to Bhāradvāja-saṁhitā, in fact, enhances the position of Śrīla Prabhupāda as a staunch representative of śāstras.

Remember, Śrīla Prabhupāda himself said—

…stated by Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura, sādhu-śāstra-guru: one has to test all spiritual matters according to the instructions of saintly persons, scriptures and the spiritual master. The spiritual master is one who follows the instructions of his predecessors, namely the sādhus, or saintly persons. A bona fide spiritual master does not mention anything not mentioned in the authorized scriptures. Ordinary people have to follow the instructions of sādhu, śāstra and guru. Those statements made in the śāstras and those made by the bona fide sādhu or guru cannot differ from one another[2].

However, Hari-bhakti-vilāsa does say one thing about women—

yoṣito nāvamanyeta na cāsāṁ viśvased budhaḥ |

na caiverṣyur bhavet tāsu nādhikuryāt kadācana ||11.708||

A wise man should never insult women, nor should he trust them. He should never become jealous of women, nor should he ever appoint them.

strībhyo’dhikāraṁ na dadyād ity arthaḥ |

One should not give authority to women (from commentary of Sanātana Gosvāmī on 11.708).

  1. SP, SBSST, etc. do quote from BS but do not speak anything regarding women from it.
  • The section in which this appears is for establishing authority of Bharadvaja-samhita.
  • Our point was that our acaryas do quote from Bharadvaja-samhita
  • Your logic is that we should accept from other sastras, only those slokas that are quoted by Srila Prabhupada or SBSST, not others.
  • By this logic almost whole Hari-bhakti-vilasa we have to reject as majority of the slokas are not quoted by Prabhupada or SBSST. Then our deity worship procedures will all be baseless.
  • Thus, this is not a proper logic
  • Moreover, it is important to note that whenever Srila Prabhupada spoke about women and her activities he actually did not quote anything from Hari-bhakti-vilasa; he quoted extensively from Manu samhita and other smrtis.
  1. Gopala-bhatta Gosvami’s Sat-kriya-sara-dipika is a disputable text.
  • You have to prove your point before claiming this
  • In 1904, Srila Bhakti-vinoda Thakura has published this book with Bengali translation (scans attached with this email for personal use only)
  • If it would have been a disputable text, why would Bhakti-vinoda Thakura publish it.
  • Also in the same publishes text, the slokas we mentioned (in the appendix of the paper) from Bharadvaja-samhita appears and commented by Bhaktivinoda Thakura.
  • Thus, it is proved that Bhaktivinoda Thakura accepts Sat-kriya-sara-dipika as bonafide and also Bharadvaja-samhita, mentioned there, as bonafide
  1. Bharadvaja-samhita also prohibits those who are by birth sudras, antyajas, etc. from being guru. This makes almost all gurus of ISKCON non-bonafide
  • Direct answer to this is, NO. ISKCON gurus are not śūdras although they may have born in śūdra or mleccha families.
  • We all know that it is a mistake to think one who is born in a brāhmaṇa family is a brāhmaṇa.
  • Similarly it is a mistake to think that one born in śūdra or mleccha family is a śūdra or mleccha.
  • Varṇa is to be judged by qualities, not by family lineage or heredity. Śrīla Prabhupāda taught us this on numerous ocassions in his teachings establishing this fact from guru-sādhu-śāstras.
  • Thus, when it is said that a śūdra is prohibited from becoming dīkṣā-guru, it means a person with quality of śūdra is prohibited from being dīkṣā-guru.
  1. Qualifications for who can become guru is clear from Srila Prabhupada’s texts: yei Krsna-tattva-vetta sei guru hoi. Why to add or subtract something.
  • manuṣyāṇaṁ sahasreṣu kaścid yatati siddhaye |

yatatām-api siddhānāṁ kaścin-māṁ vetti tattvataḥ ||BG 7.3||

“Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.”

  • Kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā is the one who has perfected his Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Such persons are very rare. They are siddhas, at least on the platform of bhāva
  • For such a person no material considerations are to be seen—either he be men, women, antyaja, or even animal. Srila Prabhupada says—

Prabhupāda: If a woman is perfect in Kṛṣṇa consciousness… Just like Jāhnavā-devī, Lord Nityānanda’s wife, she was ācārya. She was ācārya. She was controlling the whole Vaiṣṇava community….

Wife. Jāhnavā-devī. She was controlling the whole Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava community…. It is not that woman cannot be ācārya. Generally, they do not become. In very special case. But Jāhnavā-devī was accepted as, but she did not declare….

Kṛṣṇa does not make any discrimination. Kṛṣṇa does not make. Whatever difference is there, it is bodily difference. But as soul, there is equality. So whatever difference we make, that is bodily difference. So when one is above the bodily concept of life, there is no difference. Why woman? Even cats and dogs.Woman is human being. Even cats and dogs, they have got the same spirit soul. So a learned scholar will see from the spiritual platform. Then there is equality.[3]

Thus, we should appoint even animals as diksa-gurus, but only if they are siddha.

  • Usually whenever Srila Prabhupada spoke about guru, he spoke about liberated siddha souls. However, he indicates—

A person who is liberated acharya and guru cannot commit any mistake, but there are persons who are less qualified or not liberated, but still can act as guru and acharya by strictly following the disciplic succession.[4]

  • Thus comes the set of qualifications that non-liberated gurus need to fulfill in order to strictly follow the disciplic succession.
  • Now resorting to Narada pancaratras, from where our diksa-vidhi comes, we find the whole discussion specifically targetted on the topic of qualifications of different persons to become guru. The whole body of instructions there, is exhaustive and we see all instrcutions of Srila Prahbupada in the matter of qualifications of guru rooted there.
  • Now, we do not find much detailed instruction about qualifications of a guru who is not on the liberated platform; but that is what is the reality in ISKCON. So we need to do something.
  • Thus, by the famous rule of anuktam-anyato grāhyam & paroktam-avirodhī ca[5] (that which is not mentioned in one’s literature and needed for completion should be improted from other text unless except thse parts that are against our own text), we should resort to Bharadvaja-samhita because we find all the rules in toto, including those mentioned by Prabhupada
  • If we don’t resort to Bharadvaja samhita then we resort to our own experience and logic and try to legislate rules in order to save ISKCON from having unqualified gurus. Following are some examples from ISKCON law 6.2.1, GBC 2010 Resolutions:
  1. a)Must have been initiated for at least 10 years
  2. b)Exhibit proficiency in knowledge and understanding of sastras
  3. c)Effective in counselling
  4. d)Must recognize GBC as ultimate managing authority in ISKCON, support the GBC system, and follow the GBC
  5. e)Withing previous 10 years should not have been responsible for…

– Serious criminal activities (minor crimes are okay?)

– A financial impropriety that put significant funds or other assets at risk

– Risking legal consequences through the improper handling of funds and assets under his/her control

– Causing a loss of significant funds through unauthorized actions

– Any other act of moral turpitude, as defined in the ecclesiastical discretion of the GBC, and/or the legal jurisdiction in which the candidate resides

  1. f)Should be nothing in his character, conduct, or circumstances to give rise to doubt about his ability to follow the code of conduct for gurus.
  2. g)Should not be involved in any abnormal personal situation. An example of such a situation would be a disrupted or anomalous family life which could distract a guru from his guru duties or otherwise prove a disturbance to him or his followers.
  • None of the above are mentioned in yei kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā verse. According to your logic, why do we have them in ISKCON law 6.2.1 GBC 2010 Resolutions?
  • Many of these laws we actually find detailed in Bharadvaja-samhita. Thus, if we would have resorted to Bharadvaja-samhita earlier then we could have been saved from much trouble.
  • For instance,

– Law f is directly mentioned in BS 1.42 as abhiśasta definition and symptoms of which are elaborately given in various dharma-sastras.

– Law g is BS 1.38-40, good family lineage which ensures there are minimal disturbances in family life and thus have stable families

– Law d is not proper as per sastras: managing authority can never be above the spiritual brahminical authority. They are to be guided by and under brahminical authority. Thus, a faulty understanding

– Law b is prājñam is BS 1.38

  • But there are many other considerations mentioned in BS, that ISKCON GBC has not been able to think of. Why to leave them of. Better take full guidance and be saved.
  • Thus, resorting to Bharadvaja samhita is justified
  1. This paper necessitates to accept that
  2. a)That Srila Prabhupada words and actions are not the ultimate guide for what is accepted in ISKCON
  3. b)That the evidence given in this paper is considered as greater than the evidence of Srila Prabhupadas words and actions which have always been and which remain the ultimate evidence for what is accepted in ISKCON
  4. c)We need to resort to teaching beyond Gaudiya vaisnava sastras and teaching of Prabhupada
  • If this paper contradicts clear guidance of Srila Prabhupada in this matter then this point is valid.
  • However, this is not the case. In fact this paper is harmonizing all the four available statements of Srila Prabhupada on this topic without needing to resort to any interpretation at all.
  • Moreover, in the matter of women becoming diksa-guru, we do not have a clear guidance from Srila Prabhupada. if it had been so clear from Śrīla Prabhupāda’s statements then, this debate would not have been going on for last 20 years. The fact that there are two strong opinions on both sides, shows that there are statements of Śrīla Prabhupāda supporting both the sides.
  • Thus, we need to either resort to sadhu and sastras for solving the contradiction or we need to resort to our own faulty logic, inference, and speculation. What is better to resort to? Bharadvaja samhita or our speculation?
  • If you can give us a better explanation (than what we have done) to solve the contradiction between the statements of Srila Prabhupada in this regard, without resorting to any speculation, most welcome.

Till then our paper remains more authoritative as it is strictly based on sastras and proves Srila Prabhupada’s strict adherence to sastras. While the other explanations that have been tried so far need to speculate that Srila Prabhupada did not want to implement this sastric instruction for this yuga seeing it impractical; and that he has brought some new rule that defies sastras. For more, please see our recent paper’s Appendix 1 (p.18 of pdf) at Link:

https://siddhanta.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/harinam_diksa_and_fdg-final.pdf

  • Also please have a look at Appendix 2 of this document, for the detailed explanation of our harmonization of all four statements of Srila Prabhupada.
  1. The strategy to resort to evidences beyond Prabhupada’s words and actions and Gaudiya Vaisnava literatures will contradict SP’s own statements.
  • This means that we think Srila Prabhupada’s words are not rooted in sastras but sastras can defy his words
  • This means that we are not able to support Prabhupada and our acharyas from sastras
  • Then we make Srila Prabhupada as non-bonafide according to the statement of Srila Prahbupada himself—

If a spiritual master does not speak according to the revealed scripture, he is not to be accepted. Similarly, if a saintly person does not speak according to the śāstra, he is not a saintly person. The śāstra is the center for all. (Cc 2.20.352, Purport)

  • This fear is there for those who are not able to defend Srila Prabhupada and do not have sastric faith on him. Their faith is considered very weak as per Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu and thus it gets shattered as soon as they are confronted by statements from sastras that contradict Prabhupada’s statements
  • However, it is worth to ask, how we are to explain Cc 2.20.352, purport (and many such statements of his), if we accept this claim of Gaura-kesava Prabhu?
  • May I ask where does Srila Prabhupada instruct to not refer to sastras? And if he does instrcut this way, how it is to be reconciled with statements like above of Srila Prabhupada?
  1. Hari-bhakti-vilasa doesn’t mention any prohibition to become diksa-guru based on gender discrimination
  • Hari-bhakti-vilasa also doesn’t mention any prescription for women to become guru
  • It just doesn’t speak about the matter
  • Thus, we resort to the source of Hari-bhakti-vilasa and find details.
  • Please see answer to Que. #3
  1. In BS 1.44, translators have translated pratyakṣitātmanāthānām literally as “seeing God face to face.” But it is not true as Srila Prabhupada never kept the qualification of becoming guru as for the one who sees God face to face
  • Seeing God face-to-face here is the word already used by Prabhupada in BG 15.7 purport.
  • This is used to show that it is a ḷiberated or siddha stage.
  • Ours is not just a literal but rūḍhī translation as well
  • Whenver Srila Prabhupada spoke of qualifications of guru he generally spoke of a liberated soul uttama-adhikārī. Prabhupada says—

One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikārī. A neophyte Vaiṣṇava or a Vaiṣṇava situated on the intermediate platform can also accept disciples, but such disciples must be on the same platform, and it should be understood that they cannot advance very well toward the ultimate goal of life under his insufficient guidance. Therefore a disciple should be careful to accept an uttama-adhikārī as a spiritual master. (Nectar of Instructions, 5)

  1. Gaura Kesava Prabhu’s alternate translation of pratyakṣitātmanāthānām is “fully cognizant of the science of Kṛṣṇa”
  • This means he is an uttama-adhikārī. Otherwise there is no need of the word FULLY.
  • In the quote mentioned by you, see what example Srila Prabhupada gives—of Jāhnava-mātā, the wife of Lord Nityānanda. Do we think that she was not on uttama-adhikāri platform?
  1. For men also ISKCON doesn’t follow instructions of Hari-bhakti-vilasa or Bharadvaja-samhita wherein they state that one born of lower caste should not initiate one born of higher caste. Thus why should ISKCON disregard all instructions of HBV and BS and just follow one single instruction singling out WOMEN.
  • Already answered in answer to Ques. #6
  1. Unless ISKCON is divided in to castes implementing varnasrama principles is just a joke
  • ISKCON should never be divided into castes. Castes are based on birth
  • But unless ISKCON, as a society, is not divided into varnas and asramas based on qualities and duties, ISKCON may certainly become a joke
  • Srila Prabhupada says—

Prabhupāda: Yes. Thākaha āpanāra kāje, Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. Āpanāra kāja ki. Caitanya Mahāprabhu recommended, sthāne sthitaḥ. And if they do not remain in the sthāna, then the sahajiyā’s chanting will come. Just like the sahajiyās also have got the beads and…, but they have got three dozen women. This kind of chanting will go on. Just like our (name withheld). He was not fit for sannyāsa but he was given sannyāsa. And five women he was attached, and he disclosed. Therefore varṇāśrama-dharma is required. Simply show-bottle will not do. So the varṇāśrama-dharma should be introduced all over the world, and…

Satsvarūpa: Introduced starting with ISKCON community?

Prabhupāda: Yes. Yes. Brāhmaṇa, kṣatriyas. There must be regular education.

Hari-śauri: But in our community, if the…, being as we’re training up as Vaiṣṇavas…then how will we be able to make divisions in our society?

Prabhupāda: Vaiṣṇava is not so easy. The varṇāśrama-dharma should be established to become a Vaiṣṇava. It is not so easy to become Vaiṣṇava.

Hari-śauri: No, it’s not a cheap thing.

Prabhupāda: Yes. Therefore this should be made. Vaiṣṇava, to become Vaiṣṇava, is not so easy. If Vaiṣṇava, to become Vaiṣṇava is so easy, why so many fall down, fall down? It is not easy.

—Room Conversation, Māyāpura 14 February 1977

There should be a thorough overhauling of the social system, and society should revert to the Vedic principles, that is, the four varṇas and the four āśramas.

—SB 4.29.54 Purport

Among the four yugas-Satya, Tretā, Dvāpara and Kali—the Kali-yuga is the worst, but if the process of varṇāśrama-dharma is introduced, even in this age of Kali, the situation of Satya-yuga can be invoked. The Hare Kṛṣṇa movement, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, is meant for this purpose.

—SB 9.10.51, Purport

So Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement includes this system of division of society. It is perfect society. Therefore we are trying to introduce the varṇāśrama system, although it is very difficult nowadays.

—Interview with Trans-India Magazine, New York 17 July 1976

  • Seeing above quotes, there remains no doubt that Varnsrama dharma must be established in ISKCON if we are to save ourselves and the whole world. It is not an optional matter for us to decide whether to implement it or not.
  1. Not allowing women and sudras from becoming diksa-gurus but allowing them to become siksa-guru is a standard argument of Gaudiya vaisnavas outside of ISKCON and Bhaktivinoda dhara, and who have been vilified for that by Srila Prabhupada and SBSST.
  • Please see the answer to Que. #6.
  • Considering varna based on qualities automatically solves this problem
  • Those Gaudiya Vaisnavas outside of Bhaktivinoda dhara, critized us for not following varna-system based on birth. Thus, this doesn’t apply to the proposal put forward in our paper in which varna is based on qualities.
  1. The qualification of “seeing God face to face” cannot be practically verified Institutionally and thus miserably fails to give any practical help to ISKCON in this matter.
  • The qualification of being siddha is to be applied only for exceptional cases
  • For normal cases, rules are already mentioned in BS 1.38-43
  • Exceptions need not be institutionalized
  • Especially when norm itself is not in place how can one establish exception
  • Exception supports the norm; thus norm must be in place first
  • Thus the practical help that this paper gives to ISKCON is to tell it that “do not try to institutionalize an exception as a norm.”
  • Srila Prabhupada said “not so many” and “very special case.”
  • So we should not dare to make it a general case
  1. What this (SB 4.31.10 purport) specifically states is that whoever man or woman has brahminical qualifications, he or she is a to be accepted as a brahmin. That’s all.
  • It does not speak anything specifically about women

In vedic culture there were brāhmaṇis (wives of brāhmaṇa). But they never took the position of dīkṣā-guru. Strictly speaking, women have no varṇa.

Śrīla Prabhupada says that “even born in a brāhmaṇa family, a woman is taken as woman, not as brāhmaṇa.” He gives reason, “because a girl has to follow her husband. So if her husband is brāhmaṇa, automatically she becomes brāhmaṇa. There is no need of separate reformation. And by chance she may be married with a person who is not a brāhmaṇa, then what is the use of making her a brāhmaṇa?”[6]

This is because one’s varṇa is based on two things—guṇa and karma (cāturvarṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ, BG 4.13). Besides having guṇa or qualities, one must have prescribed duties of a particular varṇa in order to be of that varṇa.

In case of women, although they may have a particular guṇa or qualityśāstras do not prescribe any duty to women based on that quality or guṇa. For instance, in śāstras we do not find prescribed duties mentioned specifically for brāhmaṇis (wives of a brāhmaṇas), kṣatriyāṇis (wives of a kṣatriyas), etc. although we find them prescribed in case of males. The only duty prescribed by śāstras for women (irrespective her guṇa) is to serve and follow their husband.[7]

Hearing this, Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu said, “My dear Vallabha Bhaṭṭa, you do not know religious principles. Actually, the first duty of a chaste woman is to carry out the order of her husband.”[8]

Thus, śāstras prescribe duties of women based on their gender, not based on their qualities. Thus, although a woman may be sāttvika, she cannot become dīkṣā-guru; rather she is prescribed to marry a brāhmaṇa and then, because her husband is a guru, she automatically becomes guru-patni (wife of guru), who is respected equivalent to a dīkṣā-guru.

Conclusion:

  1. One who is śūdraantyaja, etc. by quality, cannot become dīkṣā-guru
  2. Woman, even if she be a brāhmaṇa by quality, still cannot become dīkṣā-guru, as it is female gender that is prohibited by the śāstras from becoming dīkṣā-guru.
  3. Brāhmaṇis (wives of brāhmaṇas) never took the position of dīkṣā-guru in Vedic culture.
  4. Also, because duties of women are prescribed by śāstras based on their gender, not based on their quality.
  • If Srila Prabhupada meant that even women can become brahmanas then why he did not want to give brahmin diksa to women in the beginning? This is evident from the following:

Govinda dāsī hadn’t gone to the initiation, excusing herself as ill. Although she hadn’t told Prabhupāda, she was upset that he wasn’t giving brahminical initiation to women. Disappointed, she had stayed at Swamiji’s apartment, crying. After an hour, however, she decided that by behaving so foolishly she was missing out on Prabhupāda’s talk. So she hurried out of the house and ran all the way to the temple, arriving near the end of the ceremony. As she entered, Prabhupāda looked up. “Oh,” he said, “I was just thinking, “Where is that girl?’ and Kṛṣṇa has sent.”

After the ceremony Govinda dāsī conferred with Jadurāṇī, who also felt slighted. Prabhupāda could detect their mentality, although they didn’t openly voice their complaints. The next morning he told Gaurasundara and Govinda dāsī that he saw no harm in offering the Gayātrī mantra to women-but they could not receive the sacred thread. That very night, he held a separate ceremony, initiating Govinda dāsī and Jadurāṇī into the Gayātrī mantra.

— SPL 7-3: A Visit to Boston, 1968

  • Also Srila Prabhupada did not give them sacred thread. This shows that Srila Prabhupada had different considerations for women and men in their becoming brahmanas
  1. The idea of authors that Bharadvaja samhita is important for modern Gaudiya Vaisnavas is doubtful. BS is relavant for 15th century and not today.
  • Then what is relavant for today? Our own speculative time, place, circumstance arguments?
  • Here is what Srila Prabhupada says—

Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: There is no question then of, as he says, “new smṛti.”

Prabhupāda: No. New smṛti, they may take it, “new smṛti.” But smṛti is smṛti. It is not new. You have to give reference to the past śruti-smṛti. Otherwise, it is not… Veda pramāṇaśabda-pramāṇa. Otherwise there is no evidence. It is invalid, not valid. You cannot change the original śruti-smṛti, but you have to take the timely recommendation. Just like Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Mahāprabhu said, harer nāma harer nāma harer nāmaiva kevalam, kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva nāsty eva… [Ādi 17.21]. This is the only method. You take it. But this is śruti-smṛti-pramāṇa.

Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: So there’s no question then, as he says, of bringing new smṛtis which would come into being if someone would give them sanction and authority. The position as you…

Prabhupāda: But there cannot be new smṛtis. We are giving the sanction to Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra because it is already there in the śruti. But for this time it is suitable. I am taking a certain type of medicine in the evening, it is already recommended by the physician. I am not doing it whimsically. So whimsically you cannot change. It must have reference to the śruti-smṛti-purāṇadi [BRS 1.2.101].[9]

  • Thus, if one says that Bharadvaja samhita is outdated, only meant for 15th century, then one needs to bring another literature meant for 21st century and that is supporting FDGs. Then one’s word will be taken as evidence. Otherwise not.
  • By the way, Srimad Bhagavatam is meant for Kali-yuga souls—kalau naṣṭa-dṛśām-eṣa— and in purport to SB 4.12.32, Srila Prabhupada says that women cannot become diksa-guru. Thus, even by your logic it is proved that women cannot become diksa-guru.
  1. Authors don’t understand the difference between Gaudiya Vaisnava saranagati and Sri Vaisnava prapatti
  • The word prapatti for surrender is famous in Śrī Vaiṣṇavas.
  • In Navadvīpa-dhāma-māhātmya, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura mentions that Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu took two points from each of the four sampradāyas into His acintya-bhedābheda tattva.
  • The points that He took from Śrī Vaiṣṇava sampradāya were—
  1. Ananya-bhakti or unalloyed devotion, free from karma or jñāna, and
  2. Bhakta-jana-sevā or service to the devotees.
  • If you analyze these limbs of prapatti then it is evident that it is ananya-bhakti. Thus it is not surprising why Bhāradvāja-saṁhitā appears uniquely similar to Gauḍīya Sampradāya’s teachings.
  • Ofcourse there are certain small technical differences between the two surrenders
  • Still, it is remarkable and cannot be neglected that for defining and elaborating surrender, Gaudiya Vaisnava acaryas have repeatedly used ānukūlyasya saṅkalpaḥ verse
  • Moreover, the concept of dāsānudāsa is also derived from Śrī Vaiṣṇava sampradāya.
  • Thus, when even Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura is recognizing and acknowledging the contribution of Sri Vaisnava Sampradaya to Gaudiya Sampradaya, who are we to just reject it.
  • Nor does it make any of the points null and void from the Bharadvaja-samhita

Appendix 1:

About Muralidhara Bhatta and his connection to ISKCON and Gaudiya Sampradaya

When Lord Caitanya went to Srirangam he stayed at the house of Venkata Bhattar. Venkata had a brother named Tirumalla Bhattar; Muralidhar Bhattar is his descendant. Muralidhar’s family home came to be known as “Mahaprabhu Sadanam” because of Gaurangadeva’s stay there.

In the early and mid 1970s ISKCON devotees (Acyutananda Swami, Yashodanandana Swami, Bhanu Swami and others) stayed at the home of the head archaka (pujari) of Srirangam, Sriman Rangaraja Bhattar, the father of Muralidhar Bhattar, hence Muralidhar has been friends with ISKCON since his teens.

In those days (mid 1970s) there was a lot of criticism in India that ISKCON was not bonafide. To remedy that Rangaraja Bhattar wrote an open letter of behalf of the Sri Sampradaya (Srirangam is the chief divyadesham of the Sri Sampradaya and he was head priest) stating that “ISKCON is bonafide” and a member of one of the four recognized Vaisnava Sampradayas. ISKCON BBT had that letter printed in the 10s of thousands and it was widely distributed by our preachers. This was a major favourable turning point for ISKCON’s preaching especially in South India.

His family has also watched over the Jagannatha temple across from their home and for generations they have welcomed Gaudiya vaisnavas who have come from all over India and now from all over the world on holy pilgrimage to the places where Lord Caitanya had His pastimes in Srirangam.

Muralidhar Prabhu jokingly says that he is half Gaudiya and half Sri and every year he does special aradhana for Lord Caitanya on Gaura Purnima. His wife, Srimati Ramamani devi, has even gone with local ISKCON devotees for the Brajamandala Parikrama. He has worked with ISKCON on several cooperative projects especially at the Goparbhatti temple that he excavated and rebuilt. An ISKCON devotee is on the board of trustees of that temple and several ISKCON devotees have helped manage it. Thus Muralidhar Bhattar and his family have a long history of sincere affection and friendship toward ISKCON and the Gaudiya sampradaya.

Appendix 2: Harmonizing four statements of Srila Prabhupada

First of all, if it had been so clear from Śrīla Prabhupāda’s statements then, this debate would not have been going on for last 20 years. The fact that there are two strong opinions on both sides, shows that there are statements of Śrīla Prabhupāda supporting both the sides. Let us analyze them.

There are, in all, total, four statements of Śrīla Prabhupāda that directly deal with the issue of females being dīkṣā-guru or not. There are no other direct statements of his besides these four. Anyone claiming that there are volumes of statements from Śrīla Prabhupāda supporting Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-gurus is misleading. To see all of four statments, goto Appendix 2

Points from these statements are mentioned below (understand I, II, III, IV in the brackets at the end of each point, only after reading the explanation that follows)

Statement A: SB 4.12.32, Purport

  1. “Dhruva Mahārāja’s mother, Sunīti, was his patha-pradarśaka-guru” which “is sometimes called śikṣā-guru” — [III]
  2. “generally the śikṣā-guru later on becomes the dīkṣā-guru
  3. Sunīti, however, being a woman, and specifically his mother, could not become Dhruva Mahārāja’s dīkṣā-guru — [II]

Statement B: Interview with Prof. O’ Connell, Torronto, June 18, 1976

  1. “Jāhnavā devī was—Nityānanda’s wife. She became (guru)” — [I]
  2. “Actually one who has attained the perfection, she can become guru” be he “man or woman” — [I]
  3. “But, not so many” — [I & IV]
  4. “The qualification of guru is that he must be fully cognizant of the science of Kṛṣṇa. Then he or she can become guru. Yei kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā, sei guru haya” — [I]
  5. “So similarly, if the woman understands Kṛṣṇa consciousness perfectly, she can become guru” — [I]

Statement C: Room Conversation, San Diego, June 29, 1972

  1.  “If a woman is perfect in Kṛṣṇa consciousness… Just like Jāhnavā-devī, Lord Nityānanda’s wife, she was ācārya… controlling the whole Vaiṣṇava community.” — [I]
  2. “It is not that woman cannot be ācārya” — [I]
  3. “Generally, they do not become. In very special case.” — [I & IV]
  4. “Kṛṣṇa does not make any discrimination (between man and woman)”
  5. “Whatever difference is there, it is bodily difference”
  6. “So when one is above the bodily concept of life, there is no difference” — [I]
  7. “Why woman? Even cats and dogs, they have got the same spirit soul.” — [I]

Statement D: Letter to Haṁsadūta, Los Angeles, Jan 3, 1969

  1. “I want that all of my spiritual sons and daughters will inherit this title of Bhaktivedanta”
  2. “Those possessing the title of Bhaktivedanta will be allowed to initiate disciples”
  3. “Maybe by 1975, all of my disciples will be allowed to initiate” — [I]

From above statements, it is quite clear that Śrīla Prabhupāda has spoken statements supporting both the sides and thus there is a difference of opinion for last couple of decades.

Hence, there is a need to harmonize these statements in order to understand the real intention of Śrīla Prabhupāda behind them and thus his stance in the matter of Vaiṣṇavīs becoming dīkṣā-gurus.

For last two decades, devotees on both sides (pro-FDG and anti-FDG) have tried to interprete one statement or other in order to harmonize them. However, no solution has come. The reason is that the basis of harmonization were experience and logic of the devotees harmonizing these statements.

Pro-FDGs tried to harmonize by taking statement D as the final judgement (Śrīla Prabhupāda’s real intention), statements B & C as supporting evidences, and interpreting statement A (by their own logic). In statements B & C also, the points “but not so many” and “very special case” were interpreted to fit the final judgement statement D.

Anti-FDGs tried to harmonize by taking statement A as the final judgement, statements B & C’s “but not so many” and “in very special case” as supporting evidence, and interpreting statement D (by their own logic). In statements B & C, the point that “she can become guru” was interpreted to fit the final judgement statement A.

When the basis of harmonization is logic of devotees involved in the process, there is a theoretical impossibility of reaching to any solution. This is because, who will decide, which of the statements need to be interpreted? On what basis? In absence of clear guidance from higher level evidence (guru-sādhu-śāstra) it is the preconception of the devotee involved in harmonization that will decide which statements are to be interpreted and which are to be taken as final judgement. Now, the question arises, why should your preconception be accepted as better than my preconception? Thus, no solution.

Hence, there is an absolute need for correct guidance from a higher level evidence in this matter. This is what we tried to follow in both these papers. Bhāradvāja-saṁhitā is not a book written by any of pro-FDGs or anti-FDGs. It is extant from time immemorial and is a bonafide Nāradapañcarātra śāstra. Statements from this book in the matter of who can become guru and who cannot, automatically harmonize all the four statements (A to D) of Śrīla Prabhupāda without any need for applying our pro-FDG or anti-FDG logic. Thus, the results of this harmonization authoritatively stand above the results derived by pro-FDG or anti-FDG harmonizations.

The final authoritative results derived are as follows—

  1. Women who are siddha, on the stage of perceiving God face to face, can become dīkṣā-guru[10]
  2. Women who are still on the sādhana stage cannot become dīkṣā-guru[11]

III. Any women can become śīkṣā-guru[12]

  1. Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.1.17, states that siddhas are very rare, “not so many,” and “very special case”

Now, please refer back to the statements A, B, C, and D as described in the beginning. End of almost each point in these statements has I, II, III, or IV mentioned in square brackets. These points are connected to the results I, II, III, or IV, derived herein.

  • Although somewhat technical, we hope our explanation this is clear.

[1] Kātyāyana 3.3

[2] SB 4.16.1, purport (emphasis ours)

[3] Conversation, San Diego, Jun 29, 1972

[4] Letter to Janardana, Apr 26, 1968 (emphasis ours)

[5] Kātyāyana-smṛti 3.3

[6] Śrī Śrī Rukmini Dvārakānātha Deity Installation, Los Angeles, July 16. 1969 (emphasis ours)

[7] For details of duties of women, see SB 7.11.25-29

[8] CC 3.7.106

[9] Answers to a questionaire from Bhavan’s Journal, Vrindavan, Jun 28, 1976

[10] Bhāradvāja-saṁhitā 1.44

[11] Bhāradvāja-saṁhitā 1.42-43

[12] Bhāradvāja-saṁhitā 1.43

Pramanic Videos on Female Acharyas

See the ISKCON page for further information.

Executive Summary: Pāñcarātrika-vidhi and the Proposal of ISKCON’s GBC for Instituting Female Dīkṣā-Gurus

See the ISKCON page for more information. Or click on the links below in the right-hand column to go directly to the page. The full document can be accessed here.

The GBC subcommittee on Vaiṣṇavī Initiating Gurus was convened for the sake of creating recommendations for the implementation and practical functioning of female dīkṣā-gurus. ii
Questionable recommendation: female dīkṣā-gurus give first initiation only but males give second initiation to the first-initiated disciples of female dīkṣā-gurus. ii
Also questionable: 55-year-old minimum age limit on female dikṣā-gurus.</i. Nowhere supported by guru-sādhu-śāstra. iii
The subcommittee suggests that daiva-varṇāśrama-dharmais in some measure incompatible with spiritual advancement. iii
Purpose of this paper: to present the correct understanding about implementing female dīkṣā-gurus according to guru-sādhu-śāstra and Vedic hermeneutics. iv
Evidence from Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura shows that first initiation as practiced in ISKCON includes the first three saṁskāras (tāpa, puṇḍra, nāma) from the procedure of pañca-saṁskāra, as described in Nārada Pañcarātra. 2
Evidence from Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura further shows that secondinitiation as practiced in ISKCON covers the last two saṁskāras (mantra, yāga) from pañca-saṁskāra, where the disciplereceives mantras used in Deity worship. 2
Harināma-dīkṣā in ISKCON is a type of pāñcarātrika initiation, or dīkṣā. 1
ISKCON second initiation (mantra-dīkṣā) is also a type of pāñcarātrika initiation, or dīkṣā. 2
Therefore, pāñcarātrikī rules and regulations governing dīkṣā-gurus apply to female dīkṣā-gurus. 4
Śrīla Prabhupāda confirms that harināma-dīkṣāis conducted according to pāñcarātrika-vidhi. 3
A synopsis of the Nārada Pañcarātra, Bhāradvāja-saṁhitā, 2nd chapter of the Pariśiṣṭa (appendix), establishes that ISKCON initiations are fully based on pāñcarātrika-vidhi. 3
According to Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura in Harināma-cintāmaṇi, the perfectional stage of bhakti begins at the level of bhāva. 5
Nārada Pañcarātra allows women who are siddha, who are at the perfectional stage of bhakti (pratyakṣitātma-nātha), who have completely spiritual bodies, to become dīkṣā-gurus. 4
But women who are not siddha are prohibited from becoming dīkṣā-gurus. 6
Without any need for speculation, Nārada Pañcarātra fully harmonizes Śrīla Prabhupāda’s differing statements on female dīkṣā-gurus. 7
The system of initiations in ISKCON is 100% based on the ācāryas and Nārada Pañcarātra. 9
Appendix I discusses two previous efforts sponsored by the GBC to research female dīkṣā-gurus and why neither effort produced conclusive results. 10
Appendix II provides pramāṇas showing that aguru qualified according to pāñcarātrika-vidhi can bestow the brahma-gāyatrī mantra with second initiation. 12
Appendix III provides the original transcript of SB 4.12.32, the purport where Śrīla Prabhupāda says Sunīti could not be Dhruva’s dīkṣā-guru because she was his mother and a woman. 13
Appendix IV gives the English translation of the first 56 ślokas of the 2nd chapter of the Pariśiṣṭa of Bhāradvāja-saṁhitā (Nārada Pañcarātra). This has never been translated before into English. 14