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Letters — Are Men and Women Equal in Krishna Consciousness?

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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 Krishna 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 Krishna 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.”

Richard White

Clyde, Texas

Are Men and Women Equal in Krishna 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 Krishna consciousness. I feel as though woman is regarded as lesser than man within Krishna 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.

Bill Oliver

Marshallberg, North Carolina

Dear Mr. Oliver:

According to the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita, upon which Krishna 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 Krishna 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 Krishna’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 Krishna consciousness, both men and women can become spiritually happy and spiritually perfect.

Krishna specifically says in Bhagavad-gita (9.32) that a woman who surrenders to Him in Krishna 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 Krishna 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 Krishna 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 Krishna 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 Krishna, 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.

Yours sincerely,

Jayadvaita dasa

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4 Responses to Letters — Are Men and Women Equal in Krishna Consciousness?

  1. J Jones Reply

    May 19, 2014 at 11:34 pm

    I’m a little confused if Krishna consciousness is for me, because while I want to study the Vedas, I heard the original founder didn’t have much respect for women as called them less intelligent, less philosophical and have brains half the size of men, and can only be first class people if they serve a husband. I’m expected to worship the founder, but how can I do that if I feel he didn’t have respect for me as a female, and had backwards views that I’m thankful isn’t common in my western nation?
    I know a lot of men who are less intelligent than many women I know. Plus it was males who bankrupted Iskcon in the USA with child abuse lawsuits.

    • Madhudvisa dasa Reply

      September 26, 2014 at 10:53 am

      You will never be able to become Krishna conscious unless you can realize that you are not the material body but the spirit soul within the body. So you are not a woman. You are a spirit soul trapped in a woman’s body.

      A woman’s body is not as good in some ways for spiritual advancement as a man’s body, but in other ways it is better than a man’s body.

      The material bodies of men and women are different and are meant for different roles in society. So from the point of view of living in the material world we have to recognize the type of body we are in and work accordingly.

      But when one comes to the transcendental platform, the spiritual platform, he transcends the bodily concept of life and no longer identifies with his male or female material body.

      So if you can transcend the bodily concept of life and realize you are not woman but a spirit soul trapped in a woman’s body then on that transcendental platform there is no difference. There is no difference in the souls. There is no difference on the spiritual platform. But there is a difference between a man’s body and woman’s body.

  2. Gill Reply

    February 21, 2019 at 9:46 pm

    I don’t think women are more prone to be misguided by desires for sense gratification than men. It seems the other way around in society to me but even if they were, protection is not the answer, who’s to say who should protect a woman? At the least this belittles her and suggests some kind of ownership by the man?

    • Madhudvisa dasa Reply

      April 1, 2019 at 8:55 pm

      Hare Krishna Gill

      It doesn’t matter what you think or what I think or what anyone things for that matter. We are all conditioned souls. That means we are imperfect. Because we base what we think on our conditioning by the modes of material nature. You can take a child from birth and by education and conditioning train him or her to think anything you want him to think. So what you think is not actually anything to do with you, it is the way you have been conditioned to think, the way you have been trained to think, the way you have been programmed to think.

      And we have inputs from our senses also that can color what we think. A scientist can come up with a theory and try to do some experiments to support his theory. But even that sort of thinking, based on ‘evidence’ through sense perception is not perfect because the very senses we use to perceive the world around us are imperfect. So we can not get perfect knowledge from imperfect senses.

      So this idea of what you think or what I think or what the scientists have experimented, these are not ways of accessing real knowledge. The only way to get real knowledge is to get it from some authority who actually has the knowledge.

      A crude example is if you have some complicated gadget and it stops working then you can not fix it yourself. You have to either take it to the manufacturer or someone who has the service manual published by the manufacturer and can fix it with the aid of the information provided by the manufacturer, the person who knows how it works.

      So if we are to find real actual knowledge of the material world the only place we can get that knowledge is from the person who made the material world. And that is God, and He has given us so much information in all the revealed scriptures of the world. Bible, Koran, for example, but the full original knowledge is provided in the Vedas, the oldest writings that exist on this planet, from India. Vedas is aparusa, it means not written by any person, rather Vedas descend from the spiritual world. So Veda means knowledge and the Vedas is the repository of all knowledge, both material and spiritual. Everything is there, and it is correct. And in the Vedas it is described that women are, generally speaking, nine times more sexually distracted than men. So this is the fact. You do not know, I do not know. You have only experienced your situation in your body, I have only experienced my situation in my body. But Vedas has information on everything. And if you were to make a study then you will discover this is true.

      Of course men when they are in unrestricted association with women get distracted will all the women trying to seduce them. It is also stated in the Vedas that men are like butter and women are like fire, so when the fire comes close to the butter it melts. It is for this reason the Vedas recommends that any society that wants to advance, materially or spiritually, needs to keep the butter and fire separate from each other as far as possible. So for a functional society there needs to be some separation of the men and women. That way the chastity of the women can be protected.

      Of course in today’s society these ideas seem strange. But if you study today’s society you will find that it is disfunctional and becoming more and more disfunctional as the spiritual aspect of our lives is becoming increasingly neglected.

      So the point is you may have a different opinion, I may have a different opinion. Our opinions have no value. We have to find out what is the actual situation, what is the truth. And that truth can be found in the Vedas and to a lesser degree in the other revealed scriptures that are found all over the world.

      Chant Hare Krishna and be happy

      Madhudvisa dasa

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