Women To Be Gurus or Not?
Posted November 5, 2012
I am receiving some emails in regards to the above subject. Some vaishnavas feel strongly that Srila Prabhupada discouraged women to take disciples, some seem to be gender biased, some are not sure about the correct sidhanta, some feel it is not vaishnav sidhanta for women to be gurus, some are trying to justify their own opinions and understanding about this issue. Following is the verse from Sri Caitanya Caritamrta and the readers decide for themselves what really Srila Prabhupada wanted. From the teachings of Lord Caitanya any one who knows the science of Krsna consciousness and is following the instructions of his bonafide vaishnav Guru can be qualified to be a Guru irrespective of gender, caste, race, or varna.
Chapter 8: Talks Between Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Ramananda Raya
Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Sri Caitanya Caritamrita Madhya 8.128
kiba vipra, kiba nyasi, sudra kene naya
yei krishna-tattva-vetta, sei 'guru' haya
kiba -- whether; vipra -- a brahmana; kiba -- whether; nyasi -- a sannyasi; sudra -- a sudra; kene -- why; naya -- not; yei -- anyone who; krishna-tattva-vetta -- a knower of the science of Krishna; sei -- that person; guru -- the spiritual master; haya -- is.
TRANSLATION"Whether one is a brahmana, a sannyasi or a sudra -- regardless of what he is -- he can become a spiritual master if he knows the science of Krishna."
This verse is very important to the Krishna consciousness movement. In his Amrita-pravaha-bhashya, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura explains that one should not think that because Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was born a brahmana and was situated in the topmost spiritual order as a sannyasi, it was improper for Him to receive instructions from Srila Ramananda Raya, who belonged to the sudra caste. To clarify this matter, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu informed Ramananda Raya that knowledge of Krishna consciousness is more important than caste. In the system of varnasrama-dharma there are various duties for the brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaisyas and sudras. Actually the brahmana is supposed to be the spiritual master of all other varnas, or classes, but as far as Krishna consciousness is concerned, everyone is capable of becoming a spiritual master because knowledge in Krishna consciousness is on the platform of the spirit soul. To spread Krishna consciousness, one need only be cognizant of the science of the spirit soul. It does not matter whether one is a brahmana, kshatriya, vaisya, sudra, sannyasi, grihastha or whatever. If one simply understands this science, he can become a spiritual master.
It is stated in the Hari-bhakti-vilasa that one should not accept initiation from a person who is not in the brahminical order if there is a fit person in the brahminical order present. This instruction is meant for those who are overly dependent on the mundane social order and is suitable for those who want to remain in mundane life. If one understands the truth of Krishna consciousness and seriously desires to attain transcendental knowledge for the perfection of life, he can accept a spiritual master from any social status, provided the spiritual master is fully conversant with the science of Krishna. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura also states that although one is situated as a brahmana, kshatriya, vaisya, sudra, brahmacari, vanaprastha, grihastha or sannyasi, if he is conversant in the science of Krishna he can become a spiritual master as vartma-pradarsaka-guru, diksha-guru or siksha-guru. The spiritual master who first gives information about spiritual life is called the vartma-pradarsaka-guru, the spiritual master who initiates according to the regulations of the sastras is called the diksha-guru, and the spiritual master who gives instructions for elevation is called the siksha-guru. Factually the qualifications of a spiritual master depend on his knowledge of the science of Krishna. It does not matter whether he is a brahmana,kshatriya, sannyasi or sudra. This injunction given by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is not at all against the injunctions of the sastras. In the Padma Purana it is said:
na sudra bhagavad-bhaktas te 'pi bhagavatottamah
sarva-varneshu te sudra ye na bhakta janardane
One who is actually advanced in spiritual knowledge of Krishna is never a sudra, even though he may have been born in a sudra family. However, even if a vipra, or brahmana, is very expert in the six brahminical activities (pathana, pathana, yajana, yajana, dana, pratigraha) and is also well versed in the Vedic hymns, he cannot become a spiritual master unless he is a Vaishnava. But if one is born in the family of candalas yet is well versed in Krishna consciousness, he can become a guru. These are the sastric injunctions, and strictly following these injunctions, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, as a grihastha named Sri Visvambhara, was initiated by a sannyasi-guru named Isvara Puri. Similarly, Sri Nityananda Prabhu was initiated by Madhavendra Puri, a sannyasi. According to others, however, He was initiated by Lakshmipati Tirtha. Advaita Acarya, although a grihastha, was initiated by Madhavendra Puri, and Sri Rasikananda, although born in a brahmana family, was initiated by Sri Syamananda Prabhu, who was not born in a caste brahmana family. There are many instances in which a born brahmana took initiation from a person who was not born in a brahmana family. The brahminical symptoms are explained in Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.11.35), wherein it is stated:
yasya yal-lakshanam proktam pumso varnabhivyanjakam
yad anyatrapi drisyeta tat tenaiva vinirdiset
If a person is born in a sudra family but has all the qualities of a spiritual master, he should be accepted not only as a brahmana but as a qualified spiritual master also. This is also the instruction of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura therefore introduced the sacred thread ceremony for all Vaishnavas according to the rules and regulations.
Sometimes a Vaishnava who is a bhajananandi does not take the savitra-samskara (sacred thread initiation), but this does not mean that this system should be used for preaching work. There are two kinds of Vaishnavas -- bhajananandi and goshthy-anandi. A bhajananandi is not interested in preaching work, but a goshthy-anandi is interested in spreading Krishna consciousness to benefit the people and increase the number of Vaishnavas. A Vaishnava is understood to be above the position of abrahmana. As a preacher, he should be recognized as a brahmana; otherwise there may be a misunderstanding of his position as a Vaishnava. However, a Vaishnavabrahmana is not selected on the basis of his birth but according to his qualities. Unfortunately, those who are unintelligent do not know the difference between a brahmanaand a Vaishnava. They are under the impression that unless one is a brahmana he cannot be a spiritual master. For this reason only, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu makes the statement in this verse:
kiba vipra, kiba nyasi, sudra kene naya
yei krishna-tattva-vetta, sei 'guru' haya
[Cc. Madhya 8.128]
If one becomes a guru, he is automatically a brahmana. Sometimes a caste guru says that ye krishna-tattva-vetta, sei guru haya means that one who is not abrahmana may become a siksha-guru or a vartma-pradarsaka-guru but not an initiator guru. According to such caste gurus, birth and family ties are considered foremost. However, the hereditary consideration is not acceptable to Vaishnavas. The word guru is equally applicable to the vartma-pradarsaka-guru, siksha-guru and diksha-guru. Unless we accept the principle enunciated by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, this Krishna consciousness movement cannot spread all over the world. According to Sri CaitanyaMahaprabhu's intentions, prithivite ache yata nagaradi-grama sarvatra pracara haibe mora nama. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's cult must be preached all over the world. This does not mean that people should take to His teachings and remain sudras or candalas. As soon as one is trained as a pure Vaishnava, he must be accepted as a bona fidebrahmana. This is the essence of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's instructions in this verse.
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