Women and Service
Regarding the article "What's a Woman to Do?" by Visakha Devi Dasi [March/April], gender is never a disqualification for engaging in devotional service. All men and all women have the spiritual right to serve the Lord. But do we all have the right to serve in whichever way we desire?
Srila Prabhupada taught that Krsna consciousness means acting according to our constitutional position. In Bhagavad-gita (18.47), Lord Krsna tells Arjuna, "It is better to engage in one's own occupation, even though one may perform it imperfectly, than to accept another's occupation and perform it perfectly. Duties prescribed according to one's nature are never affected by sinful reactions."
Arjuna, by constitution, was a ksatriya [warrior]. Krsna did not encourage him to act as a brahmana even though he desired to. Similarly, Srila Prabhupada taught that the occupational service for men and women is different because our psychophysical conditions are different. He never appointed any women as temple president, vice president, GBC [governing body commissioner], or diksa-guru [initiating guru], nor did he ever suggest they be appointed in the future of ISKCON.
Sita Devi Dasi
Via the Internet
VISAKHA DEVI DASI REPLIES: To help us understand the scriptures, Srila Prabhupada gave us his transcendental purports. In his purport to the above verse (Bg. 18.47), Srila Prabhupada writes, "A man who is by nature attracted to the kind of work done by sudras [laborers] should not artificially claim to be a brahmana, although he may have been born into a brahmana family." In other words, one's work is determined by one's qualities and activities, not by one's birth.
When directly asked if a woman could be temple president, Srila Prabhupada responded, "Yes, why not?" Are we to think that Srila Prabhupada actually meant "No"? When Srila Prabhupada first made lists of prospective GBC members, he included women on the list. Are we to think that was an accident?
When directly asked if a woman could be a spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada replied, "Yes." Should we think otherwise? While elaborating on his answer to this question, which was asked by a college professor, Srila Prabhupada said, "In our material world, is there any prohibition that a woman cannot become a professor? If she is qualified, she can become a professor. What is the wrong there? She must be qualified. That is the position. So similarly, if the woman understands Krsna consciousness perfectly, she can become guru." (Interview, Toronto, June 18, 1976)
Here Prabhupada reiterates the same point he made in his purport to Bhagavad-gita 18.47, namely that one's occupation is based not on one's body but on one's qualities and activities. Srila Prabhupada encouraged everyone, including women, to serve the Lord according to their propensities.
I just read the March/April issue, and I feel like I did when I first got in contact with BTG and Krsna consciousness, in 1982. It is a wonderful magazine. So fresh, up-to-date, and enlivening. The design is fantastic.
I liked the editorial "You Can Do It!" very, very much. I think you should have more articles like that one.
However, I have a friendly suggestion. Let's take, for example, Visakha Devi Dasi's article on women in Krsna consciousness. It is a very nice and Krsna conscious article, inspiring as well. But it is somewhat out of touch with reality. So many of us men and women struggle with our bad qualities, such as envy, lust, and greed. Maybe BTG can print articles about struggles and how to overcome them. In my view, BTG should be a bridge between Srila Prabhupada's books and ISKCON today, showing people how we strive for the ideal.
Akrura Dasa adhikari
I am writing in reference to the article "Ashram Reflections," by Krsna-priya Devi Dasi, in the May/June issue. As a mother and a young grandmother, all I can say is that my heart was so filled with joy. In this age of Kali-yuga, where boys go to school and kill everyone they can, where womanhood has become so degraded, this Vaisnava Academy for Girls is a blessing for the state of Florida and the world. These young ladies are more enlightened than women three times their age. What a gift you are giving to the world: first-class Vaisnava women!
Margate, Florida, USA
Devotion and Maturity
I am a subscriber to BTG and an aspiring devotee of Krsna. As the father of three teenage girls, I was truly touched to read of the devotion and maturity of the Vaisnava Academy ashram girls.
Valdosta, Georgia, USA
Get a Life
"Ashram Reflections" shows a nice life, but I myself like a whole life. Everything isn't one-sided. It's wonderful to live a charmed life private schools and your own tutor but wouldn't it be nice to have a full life and be exposed to it all?
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada puts down all other yoga systems and says that bhakti-yoga is the best. Other systems are a waste of time. I disagree. I started the yoga of exercises, breathing, and meditation at the tender age of fourteen. And now I enjoy it; it is part of me, and I will never give it up. Bhakti-yoga sounds good too. Doing them together would be enlightening.
Edith M. Gamble
Omaha, Nebraska, USA
OUR REPLY: As "Ashram Reflections" showed, the girls of the Vaisnava Academy have a well-rounded life. But because they're training for a life of Krsna consciousness, they're being protected from potentially harmful influences. They'll face the "real world" soon enough, and the effectiveness of their education will be tested. In the meantime, they're living in an environment that helps them grow up spiritually strong. Today, children growing up with every imaginable experience don't seem to be faring so well.
As for Srila Prabhupada's emphasis on bhakti-yoga, the main point is that ultimately any yoga practice must lead to bhakti-yoga. That's because bhakti-yoga means to connect with God in devotion. So it is simultaneously the process and the goal. In other words, bhakti-yoga is really about loving God, and our yoga practice, or any other practice, has value when it helps us love God.
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In the July/August issue, we mistakenly listed Dr. Ravi Singh as the author of "Carrying on His Father's Tradition," which was about Dr. Singh. The article also incorrectly identified Dr. Singh as a psychologist. He is a psychiatrist. The article was written by BTG associate editor Kalakantha Dasa.