The editors of Back to Godhead welcome correspondence pertaining to spiritual enlightenment. All letters will receive personal replies, and correspondence of general interest will be published regularly.
Gratitude for Enlightenment
My dear Srila Prabhupada,
May I take this opportunity to thank you for presenting Krsna consciousness so nicely. We are the most fortunate generation in history, to be present when the gate to Enlightenment is thrown open in a simple way in which all may benefit Service and Love of God.
Your students are setting the standard in worship, and your lucid books have become the epitome of Transcendental Philosophy in this age.
So I would like to inform you that I too am entering into Devotional Service by participating in sankirtana. In this way the prediction of Lord Caitanya will be fulfilled and the name of Krsna will be heard in every town and village.
Everyone will agree that this movement is presenting the purest form of bhakti, and thanks to you it is daily inspiring thousands in pure love of God.
I am taking the advice of your disciple Kirtanananda Svami, who so graciously answered my question "How does one begin Devotional Service?" "By chanting the names of God."
Are Men and Women Equal in Krsna Consciousness?
To the Editor:
I have just finished reading another Back to Godhead, and I enjoy the publication greatly. I have thought of entering a temple and becoming a full-time devotee, but there is one major question in my mind in regard to Krsna consciousness. I feel as though woman is regarded as lesser than man within Krsna consciousness. I have heard that she is regarded as lesser in the temple. I believe that we are equal. Please tell me if I am wrong in my assumption.
Marshallberg, North Carolina
Dear Mr. Oliver:
According to the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita, upon which Krsna consciousness rests, a living being is not the material body, but is the spiritual soul within the body. The distinctions between man and woman, however, are simply material; they have nothing to do with the spiritual soul within. A Krsna conscious person sees no difference between the spiritual soul in the body of a woman and that in the body of a man. In fact, he sees that even within animals the same type of spiritual soul is present. There are 8,400,000 species of life, according to the Vedic knowledge, but there is only one type of spiritual soul in all these different bodily forms. Therefore, as stated in Bhagavad-gita, panditah sama-darsinah: "A learned person sees all living entities equally." (Bg. 5.18)
However, in one's personal dealings one must generally observe some practical bodily distinctions. For instance, a self-realized devotee may wish to marry and raise a family. But unless he recognizes the obvious bodily differences between male and female, how could he possibly do so?
Men and women have different physical and psychological talents and capabilities, and one should not artificially try to ignore or negate them. Rather, all these talents and capabilities should be engaged in Krsna's service. For example, women are capable of bearing children, whereas men are not. Where, then, is the question of equality? Although there is spiritual oneness, the bodily differences exist. Therefore the principles of the Vedic civilization prescribe different duties for men and women, according to their respective natures. By executing these duties in Krsna consciousness, both men and women can become spiritually happy and spiritually perfect.
Krsna specifically says in Bhagavad-gita (9.32) that a woman who surrenders to Him in Krsna consciousness is fully eligible to go back to Godhead. There are many great women devotees, such as Kuntidevi, Draupadi, Yasodamayi and many others, whose glories are described in the Vedic literatures. Similarly, some of the most advanced devotees in our present Krsna consciousness movement are women, and they are all respected and appreciated for their spiritual advancement.
According to the Vedic literature, women have many good qualities. In some respects, they are even superior to men. For example, women are generally understood to be more soft-hearted and therefore more receptive to religious and spiritual ideas. However, the Vedic literature warns that women, more than men, are prone to be misguided by desires for sense gratification. The Vedic system, therefore, prescribes that a woman should always be protected. In her childhood her father should protect her, in her youth her husband should protect her, and in her old age her grown children or another guardian should protect her. In this way she will remain pure in consciousness and be eligible to participate in a society based on spiritual principles. If women are not protected in this way, they will become the unfortunate victims of unscrupulous men who will exploit them for sense gratification. We can see this actually happening in modern society.
You will find that our Krsna consciousness movement restricts the association between men and women. This is not because of a hatred of women. Such control is necessary for a society of smooth progress in spiritual realization. The Vedas say that a man is like butter and a woman is like fire. The butter must melt in the association of fire, and therefore they must be brought together only when necessary. The basic principle of material existence is attachment for sexual enjoyment. When a man and woman unite, the knot of material attachment tightens, and thus one becomes tied down to home, family, society, bank balance and so on, and forgets the importance of self-realization. Therefore, sexual enjoyment and self-realization go ill together.
In India our spiritual master is sometimes criticized because he allows both men and women to participate fully in the Krsna consciousness movement. According to his critics, this violates the Hindu social system. But the purpose of this movement is not to establish the Hindu social system. The purpose is to give everyone the opportunity to become perfect in self-realization and devotional service to Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Such devotional service is fully spiritual, and therefore everyone is equally eligible to participate, regardless of race, nationality or any other temporary material designations.