“Mothers and Masters’ Present traditionalist arguments for the direction of the krsna consciousness moement, proposing that we should take up Srila Prabhupada’s mandate to establish varnasrama-dharma rather than capitulate to the norms and ideologies of secular culture. Particularly discusses are gender roles, parental responsibilities, feminist follies, and some of Srila Prabhupada’s more controversial teachings, such as those concerning early marriage, divorce, and polygamy.
The author was born in Britain in 1957 and joined ISKON in London in 1975. Later that year, he was formally accepted as a disciple of His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder acarya of ISKON, and renamed Ilapati Dasa.
From 1997 to 1979, Illpati Dasa was based in India, Mostly travelling in West Bengal distributing Srila prabhupada’s Books. He spent the following ten years helping to pioneer ISKON’s preaching in Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand.
In 1989 he was granted the order of Sannyasa, receiving the name Bhakti Vikasa Swami, and again made his base in India. Since then he has preached Krsna consciousness throughout the subcontinent, lecturing in English, Hindi, and Bengali. He also spends a few months each year preaching in the West. His television lectures in Hindi have reached millions world wide.
Bhakti vikasa Swami writes extensively on Krsna conscious topics. His books have been translated into over twenty languages, with more than one and a half million in print. Mothers and Masters is his seventeenth book.
Additionally, he is involved in developing several gurukulas and also vedic rural projects based on simple living and high thinking.
New in this third edition are many favorable reviews by female devotees, an additional section ("Spiritually Beneficial Can Be Socially Adverse"), and some other additions and alterations the main text. However, the most striking changes are the w title and cover design, in response to complaints about former versions.
e previous cover featured a female soldier, meant to symbolize how far, and how distastefully, modern woman has travelled from her innate femininity - but was deemed by some be overly provocative. The earlier title (Women: Masters or Mothers) was opined by some to present a false dichotomy, women can be both mothers and masters. In fact, I had already acknowledged that in some ways women can indeed masters. But their defining role is not as a master, as Srila Prabhupada explained:
Woman's natural position is to remain dependent on man. But if some woman artificially tries to become man, or master, that is suffering. In India the women voluntarily surrender to the subjugation of the husband. But there are many families, hundreds and thousands even - they are happy. That's a fact. And in the Western countries they want to remain independent; so they are not happy. This is my study, because I have seen the Western world and the Eastern world.'
Thus, since first being published almost a year ago, this book has caused quite an uproar between its supporters and detractors. However, it was not intended to stir up unnecessary controversy, but to bring to the attention of ISKCON' s members (especially the leaders) the long overdue "fifty percent" of Srila Prabhupada's mission: establishing varnasrama-dharma. The success of this book has been in bringing to the forefront some major issues that vitally require discussion among Srila Prabhupada's followers. Considering that the former cover and title were particularly criticized, I have changed these in the hope that its detractors will now seriously consider its subject matter, instead of merely seeking to ban the book (which they have already attempted, and with some success). As Srlia Prabhupada so lucidly analyzed, much is wrong with the world today. Especially in the West, "marriage is practically now an imagination in human society." Men and women do not know how to live together peacefully, and they produce children who simply create further disturbance. Mothers and Masters addresses the confusion regarding gender roles, which is the underlying cause of much of this ongoing social disaster, and presents a clear alternative - whereas the opponents of this book seem determined to adjust devotional life to fit into and perpetuate a civilization that Srila Prabhupada certified to be on the level of cats and dogs.
Srlia Prabhupada's mission was "sarve sukhino bhavantu: Let everyone be happy'? to educate people how to be happy in this lifetime by practicing Krsna consciousness within vamasrama-dharma, and to thus prepare in the best possible way for the next life. To this end, Srlia Prabhupada wanted that his disciples show an ideal example to the world by establishing Krsna conscious communities, wherein everyone performs his prescribed role - for instance, and importantly, that men are really men and women are clearly women, by are an auspicious source of energy to man, I being naturally motherly and affectionate, shy, and chaste, and ensuring that their children are healthy and bright. Consequently, the men actually become inspired to assume responsibility for protecting and providing. All happily cooperating together, they live on the lap of nature, depending on Krsna' s bounty. Mothers and Masters is the first publication to present a multi- faceted case for the traditional approach to Krsna consciousness, whereby everyone can be happy in the Vedic way as described by Srila Prabhupada. I humbly request all followers of Srila Prabhupada, especially those who have objected to this book, to patiently and carefully consider the points outlined herein, and to excuse any excesses or inaccuracies that they might perceive, so that all of us might come to a better understanding of these matters and thus conjointly strive to fulfill the great varnasrama mission mandated by Srlia Prabhupada.
Within the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), as in the great world around us, there are innumerable issues under discussion - political, social, economic, academic, scientific, etc. Many of the controversies in ISKCON center around the point "Should we pragmatically try to blend with modern society and adjust our teachings for the sake of preaching, or idealistically strive to create a Krsna conscious revolution via varnasrama-dharma ?"
Obviously, these two vectors are not mutually exclusive. Every follower of Srlia Prabhupada accepts that ISKCON is meant for preaching Krsna consciousness. And preaching in today's world necessitates various adaptations. But how far should we go? What is permissible and what is not? For example, should we have rock bands or just stick to traditional kirtana? Do we incorporate the roles that contemporary Western society ascribes to women and homosexuals, or stick to Srlia Prabhupada's stated stance, which nowadays is widely viewed as antiquated, meanly discriminating, and unfair?
One reason for dispute is that Srila Prabhupada made adjustments for Western preaching yet also repeatedly emphasized the superiority of Vedic culture and the need to introduce it. Should Srila Prabhupada's cultural adjustments be permanently institutionalized, or taken further? Or should we rather adopt more of the "Indian-ness" that Srila Prabhupada bequeathed us, by moving closer toward orthodox Vedic culture? Some devotees give greater importance to Srila Prabhupada's willingness to adjust, while others emphasize the necessity to make real moves toward his stated objective for varnasrama-dharma as the social enactment of Krsna consciousness, to offer an ideal alternative for today's unhappy world. The dichotomy is largely between the traditional and the modern, or Western.
Throughout this tract, I often use the word traditional to refer to the way of life that characterized India in the past and is widely followed still, as distinguished from modern or Western attitudes and norms (which are also extensively integrated into Indian life today). In some places, I also use the word traditional to refer to ancient cultures that in certain significant ways parallel the Vedic. My frequent use of the word natural indicates that which is according to the universal order, as ordained by the Supreme Lord.
Unless specifically indicated, my repeated references to feminism and feminists pertain particularly to those in the secular world, some manifestations of which are discussed herein. Although I argue that feminism within ISKCON is a reflection of that in the broader society, and is deeply influenced by it, I do not mean to insinuate that any devotees of ISKCON propound the more extreme and pernicious forms of feminism.
ISKCON's cultural divide is not unique. Similar controversies are playing out in many other religious institutions. For instance, both within ISKCON and in various Christian denominations, some mentors tend to privilege the perceived needs of individuals over the preservation of marriages, and thus are considerably more inclined to recommend divorce to couples undergoing serious marital discord; whereas other mentors, such as myself, will generally advise to tolerate many difficulties rather than undermine the sacred institution of marriage. Some people will protest that the latter approach messes up lives, especially those of women. But many will acquiesce: "Yes, this is what we need to hear. This kind of guidance is good for us:
My basic argument is that the attempt to incorporate within ISKCON any viewpoints or belief systems derived from mainstream society risks compromising the authenticity of the sankirtana movement and disconnecting us from Srila Prabhupada's mercy. I espouse that the traditional Indian way of life is the best for human stability and peacefulness - for making the best bargain out of a bad situation - and that only the Vedic system is really suitable for facilitating progress in Krsna consciousness. I particularly state this position: female followers of Srlla Prabhupada should adopt the role of mother rather than master.
Much of what is stated herein is especially applicable to the current situation in India, and will be more germane and intelligible for devotees who live there - although nearly all of these points would have been obvious to past generations everywhere, and still will be obvious to the few remaining sane persons in these culturally challenged times.
Unfortunately, it cannot be expected that everyone will accept everything in this book - especially since one of its purposes is to counteract the erroneous propaganda that Srila Prabhupada treated men and women equally in all respects. Even devotees who generally appreciate the recommendations herein might circumstantially be unable to follow them. For instance, many devotees are virtually locked into modern society, certain women are practically obliged to go to work, some couples are unable to beget children, and some devotees who never wanted to divorce are presented with no other choice by their recalcitrant spouse.
Clearly, modern society is very different from the Vedic civilization as Srila Prabhupada has described it, and to follow Vedic culture is easier said than done. Life is often more complex than can be governed by a simple set of rules; and furthermore, to perform devotional service according to the manner taught by Srlia Prabhupada inevitably necessitates defying conventional norms. As stated by Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita:
What is night for all beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled; and the time of awakening for all beings is night for the introspective sage.
Notwithstanding the inevitable difficulties that will arise in attempting to adopt the values described herein, my hope is that many devotees will, as far as possible, try to gravitate toward them, according to each individual's degree of conviction and specific circumstances.
Part one of this book is based on and developed from a lecture titled "The Basic Mistake of All Reformers" (given on 15 January 2013 in Vellore, India);" part two is from a three- session seminar titled "Women: Masters or Mothers?" (held on 13-14 June 2009 in Secunderabad, India). Part three mostly consists of previously published articles - five on topics related to gender issues within ISKCON, including one by Phalini Devi Dasi and a newly published essay by Revati Devi Dasi, and also three more of mine that are apposite to the direction of the Krsna consciousness movement, including the previously unpublished "Playing the Hindu Card:' These articles are reproduced herein almost exactly as they first appeared, without editorial corrections or addition of diacritical marks.
This tract outlines general principles, but a huge body of research will be required to establish the details of varnasrama-dharma. Although many related topics, such as how men and women should dress and interact, also require considerable discussion, all such details will have to be covered in forthcoming books. This volume is directional, and by no means exhaustive. It also features many generalizations and personal views of mine (albeit derived from a perspective grounded in sastra). It is not presented in an academic manner, in the sense of including meticulously fashioned arguments accompanied by comprehensive information and references.
I crave the indulgence of the readers, should they find some points herein to be repetitive, for "repetition of something is necessary in order that we understand the matter thoroughly, without error.
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