I recently came across a document on the GHQ (www.harekrsna.org/gbc/black/ghq.htm) which was a conference by some of ISKCON’S leaders to stamp out the influence of women in ISKCON. In this conference, there is no mention whether this attempt to turn back the clock would be good for the preaching. There also appears to be no balance, just the perception of two sides at war.
Srila Prabhupada said so many things about women- one side takes his liberal views, and the other his conservative views. I take both. Women need protection, because in a rape case, the victim is almost always a woman. Unwanted pregnancies happen only in women. Generally the protection of children falls down to a woman- there are many more single mums than single dads. Due to naturally being more protective of children, and physically being weaker, they need protection. Women are generally more governed by emotions- this is completely necessary to nurture children. There has to be a strong sense of empathy- that this little person's happiness and distress is everything to me. Because human young remain dependent on protection for longer than any other animal, this is completely necessary, and is hard-wired into us. And it’s not a bad thing- it’s completely a good thing. Men are designed differently, because they are traditionally bread-winners, which meant figuring out how to win bread. In traditional hunter-and-gatherer societies, this required a lot of cerebral activity- remembering which areas were productive last year, which rocks were good for making tools, how they negotiated peace with this or that aggressive tribe, and so on.
But it has also been shown that the brain, more than any other organ of the body, is completely malleable (Click Here). It changes according to how it is used. To begin with, a woman's brain may have be emotionally centred, but if she focuses on an intellectual career, rather than an emotional family-centred one, the brain develops in that way. Therefore, there are so many women post-graduates. To deny that women can be just as rationally intelligent as men is to deny facts. Similarly, men can be just as emotionally intelligent- or there wouldn't be so many great single dads.
The real problem, plaguing ISKCON and outside it, is the idea that reason is superior to emotions- that to be "more intelligent" is more important than to be "more loving" and that leadership is more about who is smarter than who is more empathetic. What a horrible idea.
When we examine the character of kings like Sibhi and Arjuna, we don't see intellectual geniuses, just extremely compassionate men. Sibhi was willing to cut off his flesh to feed a bird. Arjuna cried for the enemies that had five times tried to kill him and his family. Yuddhisthira was inconsolable after the battle of kuruksetra. He could only think of the suffering of others, not his own victory. These were all great leaders. They were men, certainly, because in those days, protection of others required the ability to wield huge bows. That not being so presently, anyone can take up the task- provided they have the emotional capacity.
To turn back the clock, you have to turn back all aspects of time, or you live in constant contradiction. To make a situation where only men lead, which means to protect others, you would also have to get rid of all modern defensive apparatus (which women can use), and have only bows and arrows in the world. With modern technology, the ability to defend is open to all, and the question then becomes- does one want to do it? Does one care? Is the welfare of others paramount in one’s scheme of things? Therefore, even in Vedic culture, we have situations like in the Bhagavatam, where Draupadi “called the shots” on the basis of compassion. She insisted that the killer of her sons not be put to death- because his innocent wife would suffer. Krsna advised Arjuna to satisfy her wishes, which he did. Bhima argued on the basis of justice, devoid of compassion. In effect, a suitable decision was made, by listening to a woman's plea for compassion. Krsna insisted it be so.
So rather than argue, who is more intelligent, they should argue, who is more compassionate? Who stood up for the abused gurukulis? Who covered it up? Who is still covering it up, licking the shoes of child-abusers and calling them sannyasis? After establishing who has been the most compassionate for the most vulnerable, the most caring, by comparison of each individual’s acts of chivalry- the courageous defence of another, they should be elevate them to the position of ksatriyas in our movement- for karma should always match guna. Some of these men and women may also have the capacity for spiritual compassion, and see beyond the temporary distresses of the body, to the soul's need. They should be put into positions of brahmanas. But without compassion, without the desire to help others, spiritual knowledge will necessarily be used for personal self-aggrandizement, gross or subtle- at the very least, to get accolades after the class, accumulating honor and respect and eventually position. After all, even Ravana knew much sastra and could quote from it, but he was hardly a brahmana.
Compassion is the best quality of a brahmana, as it defines whether he is merely an intellectual, or a vaisnava. It is the common quality to all leadership, ksatriya or brahmana, and the white flag of peace between warring factions. When women feel protected in a loving way, which means to not just protect their bodies, but their minds and intelligence, from those that demean them, they don't feel the need to become feminists. But we have a concomitant responsibility- to not turn hatred of misogynism into hatred of men, or think that a relationship with a man is about establishing who is superior, who gives the orders. We shouldn't think of ourselves as feminists, but “das das anu dasi”. Feminism is only necessary if there is a threat to one evolving to one's full capacity. If we use it for augmenting our false egos, ever, it will become our worst enemy. There is a perception by men that feminists are hardened battle types, ready to go for the jugular. Whatever cause we align ourselves with, we must be ready to throw away our weapons, at the first possibility of a truce.
If a man is encouraging us to grow and develop our innate talents, guna, but would also like a nice dinner made and the house kept clean, we say "thank you" by honouring his wishes, and we also learn humility and a loving service attitude. When we see our emotional talents as every bit as important as our intellectual talents, if not more so, then what better way to develop that talent than by being kind and affectionate to our husbands? If the goal of feminism, to be given as many opportunities to evolve as a man, has already been achieved in any given situation, especially in family life when the welfare of kids is at stake, there is no need of war. We need to know that, and know when to drop our defences, be loved, be protected, and enjoy it.
Many of us know that already, but the men against feminism have to hear it, as some may be feeling "give them an inch and they'll take a mile" or "give them some freedoms and before you know it, you will be their willing slaves". This sentiment has been betrayed by the language used in the GHQ, calling them "feminazis". There is no need for war on the basis of the body, simply if we put Srila Prabhupada's instruction of varnashrama into effect, and focus on guna, rather than the body. Being soft-hearted was the quintessential quality of all Vedic leadership- the desire to help others. When combined with spiritual realizations, the guna is brahminical. When focussed more on protection of the body, it is indicates the ksatriya.
If Srila Prabhupada's instructions matter to us, and they really should be our “life and soul”, we should immediately begin varnashrama, starting with our leadership. All those who are shown to be compromising an ideal standard of compassion, should be removed- and offered service as vaisyas or sudras, which they may excel at. All those who have shown acts of chivalry, should be made ksatriyas in their zones. All those who have shown compassion combined with spiritual insights, should be made brahmanas in their zones. It has nothing to do with who has a thread or who doesn't, or a certain type of reproductive organ. Certainly none on the GHQ are showing signs of either kind of leadership, as they are seeing on the bodily platform- who has their kind of reproductive organ and who doesn’t- which precludes them from the brahmana platform. The fact that they are more interested in subduing women, than in helping them evolve their spiritual and intellectual potential, which is complete protection, precludes them from being Vedic ksatriyas as well, who knew that the body is less important than the soul.
I'm all for Vedic culture, but let's not misrepresent it, nor take into account the effects of time, but preserve its essence. Vedic culture is not about subduing anyone, but recognizing guna, and assigning karma accordingly. How could Vedic culture, which is based on Vedic knowledge, have anything to do with gender? It was simply the constraints of the time, that no women were leaders. The bows would have broken their backs. They could simply, as Draupadi did, give advice to their physically powerful husbands- and the advice, if good, certainly if compassionate, was acted upon.
We don't have the need for bows and arrows, but we are so much short of compassionate brahmana and ksatriya leadership in ISKCON, that wherever it may be found, we should take advantage of it, regardless of the body, which is only the dress, and not the real person.
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