Vedic Women Deserve Protection
When I did bhaktin Tiana's astrological chart in the summer of
1992, I told her she should not feel rejected by our devotional community at
ISKCON Berkeley, because:
"ISKCON is far from being the kind of society Srila Prabhupada envisioned. Srila Prabhupada stressed 'simple living, high thinking.' He wanted devotees to live on farm communities, without relying on modern industry and technology--much like the Amish. He emphasized 'traditional values'--the girls would be taught cooking and sewing, while the boys would be trained to work the land.
"He said young males would study in the gurukula, the school of the spriitual master, beginning at age five, and would remain bramachari (celibate) until age 24, when permitted to marry.
"The kumaris (virgin daughters), meanwhile, would be taught to worship Shiva in the hopes of getting a good husband, would marry at age 16, and would be trained to be subservient to their husbands. Marriages would be arranged, and there would be no question of divorce or separation. Devotees would only reside in Kali Yuga cities for preaching and missionary work."
I've been fortunate enough to study under some of the finest astrologers:
James Braha, who is associated with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi'sTranscendental
Meditation (TM) movement, and Nalini-kanta dasa (Tom Hopke), a Prabhupada
disciple. My friend and godsister in the San Diego FOLK program, Margaret
Dvorak, described Nalini as "...one of those 'fringe' type devotees; a few
rounds, a few regs, you know how it is..."
What I thought had been private consultations with Nalini in the summer of 1989 were recorded and broadcast without my knowledge or consent. (During one such session, for example, I asked if we could step outside and talk in private.) In his book, How to Read Your Horoscope, he calls the free love guru Rajneesh a "demon". And in my chart, he wrote: "With the Moon in the pure sign of Virgo in the seventh house, try to show an example to others about cleanliness and sexual purity." Yet he sanctions teen pregnancy! What a hypocrite!
Nalini introduced me to an underage girl, saying she was a "single mother", so I assumed she was available. I took off my glasses, in the hopes of making myself look more attractive to her. He could tell right away that I was turned on by her, because when I referred to her as "beautiful", he replied in a soft, seductive voice, "yes, she is..."
According to Vedic civilization, only princesses like Draupadi are allowed to select A HUSBAND. Srila Prabhupada repeatedly quoted the Laws of Manu as having said that women must never be given independence: they must be protected by their fathers in their youth, by their husbands in married life, and by their sons in their old age. Srila Prabhupada said that according to Vedic civilization, if an unmarried girl leaves home, or leaves her father's care, even for a moment, no one will marry her. Srila Prabhupada said further, after being forced to tolerate divorce in his own society (ISKCON), that a woman with children, strictly speaking, cannot remarry.
Ravindra Svarupa dasa writes: "...marriage can also be part of devotional service. Marriage does not confer a license for sexual indulgence. It does not sanction a holiday from religious principles. Rather, according to religious principles sex is meant only for begetting God conscious children...Children born of parents who are free from lust will be exceptionally pure and naturally inclined toward devotional service...Even the sexual union of a man and a woman can be used in the service of Krishna. It is extremely good fortune for a child to be born from parents engaged in self-realization, for from his earliest moments he lives in an atmosphere uncontaminated by lust and greed, and he takes in the principles of spiritual life with his mother's milk."
Srila Prabhupada similarly writes in The Path of Perfection: "Yoga does not mean going to some class, paying some money, engaging in gymnastics, and then returning home to drink, smoke, and engage in sex. Such yoga is practiced by societies of the cheaters and the cheated...If one tells you that you can indulge in sex as much as you like and at the same time become a yogi, he is cheating you. If some so-called guru tells you to give him money in exchange for some mantra and that you can go on and engage in all kinds of nonsense, he is just cheating you. Because we want something sublime and yet want it cheaply, we put ourselves in a position to be cheated...if we want perfection in yoga, we have to pay for it by abstaining from sex. Perfection in yoga is not something childish, and Bhagavad-gita instructs us that if we try to make yoga into something childish, we will be cheated. There are many cheaters awaiting us, waiting to take our money, giving us nothing, and then leaving."
So I was under the impression this teenage girl had gone out and gotten pregnant, around the same time my friend Rankin Fisher (a former Missionary Baptist minister) and I were causing our own scandal within ISKCON: writing a paper on temple congregations; demanding that disciples who haven't been following their vows over long periods of time step down and just become part of the laity, just as Srila Prabhupada allows fallen sannyassis (monks) to serve as grihastas (householders). Umapati Swami rejected our plan, thinking we were diluting (i.e., "watering down") the principles, and for a long time I was sickened by what I thought was hypocrisy on the part of the ISKCON leadership; e.g., tolerating falldowns in areas like not chanting a full 16 rounds every day, not attending the morning program, divorce and illicit sex within marriage, etc. while rejecting the idea of a formal laity.
Sarva Satya dasa (of the ISKCON World Review) had told me earlier that I was in some kind of "penalty box" for having committed offenses against devotees (vaishnava-aparadha). But he wouldn't say what the offenses were. From my perspective, it's the other way around: devotees committed offenses against me!
Rankin told me he was convinced Krishna Consciousness could easily become as widespread and influential as an evangelical Christian denomination of several million people, if we had a lower echelon of service; a formal laity. Sometimes devotees misunderstand; we're advocating EXPANDING the sankirtana movement (to bring in people from all walks of life, and engage them in devotional service) --not breaking it in two.
So when I was introduced to this girl, I thought the ISKCON leadership was admitting defeat. I thought the joke was on Umapati Swami. This ("fringe" devotees, teen pregnancies, etc.) is the future of ISKCON! Having been alone for so long, I was more than willing to rescue her from the stigma of unwed motherhood, but wasn't sure if this wasn't a trap, to scandalize me further, since she WAS underage ("jailbait"). So unless she were to respond to my subtle overtures (e.g., taking off my glasses, and referring to her as "beautiful"), there wasn't much I could do...although for the next couple of years, I kept telling myself, "I should have gone for her!"
I told a 17 year old Hindu-American devotee, Vineet Chander, in an April 1995 letter that was propagated widely throughout ISKCON, "I find it amusing that there are devotees out there preaching standards to the 'conditioned souls' neither they nor their children are able to follow."
I've heard that some devotee parents try to justify the lax standards of their children, by saying things like, "My daughter has kshatriya inclinations..." and in ancient times the princesses were allowed to select a HUSBAND (not a boyfriend). If this argument is true, it means they're acknowledging varnashrama dharma, and that ISKCON is not merely a brahminical movement.
This was my conclusion to Vineet; I also told him in that same letter, "Srila Prabhupda has built a house in which the whole world can live. There's room for fringe-type devotees." To quote another disruptive religious figure, "Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone." We ought to have a formal laity within ISKCON: a few rounds, a few regs for the general mass of people... newcomers to Krishna Consciousness and fallen initiates serving the brahmanas together. This is varnashrama-dharma.
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