How to understand Srila Prabhupada’s statement about women?

Rao, 12th May 2013

Hare Krishna dear devotees,

Please accept my humble obeisances,
All glories to Srila Prabhupada,

All glories to your devotional services!

Please enlighten me on this topic –

“According to Chanakya Pandita, women are generally not very intelligent and therefore not trustworthy.(BG 1.40 purport)”

your servant,
Rao
Mahabhagavat Das SDA, 13th May 2013

Dear Rao gaaru,

Hare Krishna!

Please accept my humble obeisances.
All glories to Srila Gurudeva.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Your question is a very important one. For decades this question has caused turmoil and trip-ups, many heated arguments and discussions, and much anxiety. Many asked Srila Prabhupada questions about this and Srila Prabhupada intelligently answered this question in many different ways. The key is that Srila Prabhupada and his disciples chose to keep this statement unchanged, because to a truly introspective reader, this question begs us to go deeper into the knowledge of Srimad Bhagavat Gita.

I can openly confess that this particular statement, when I read it first about 15 years ago, almost caused me to stop reading the Bhagavad Gita As It Is and put it away as a bigoted male chauvinistic piece of literature. I am glad I continued reading repeatedly, because clearly I saw that understanding that statement whilst in bodily consciousness is impossible.

Many rascals have insulted, blasphemed and painted Srila Prabhupada as a misogynist, as a male chauvinist, etc., on the strength of improper understanding of such statements. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Srila Prabhupada respects every woman more than most women respect themselves.

It is to be understood carefully what Srila Prabhupada means by looking at the broader context and Srila Prabhupada’s own behavior towards women.

Just for context, I am pasting the entire verse, translation and purport…

—-start—-
Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Bhagavad-gītā As It Is 1.40 (http://www.vedabase.com/bg/1/40)

Bg 1.40

adharmābhibhavāt kṛṣṇa
praduṣyanti kula-striyaḥ
strīṣu duṣṭāsu vārṣṇeya
jāyate varṇa-saṅkaraḥ
Word for word:
adharma — irreligion; abhibhavāt — having become predominant; kṛṣṇa — O Kṛṣṇa; praduṣyanti — become polluted; kulastriyaḥ — family ladies; strīṣu — by the womanhood; duṣṭāsu — being so polluted; vārṣṇeya — O descendant of Vṛṣṇi; jāyate — comes into being; varṇasaṅkaraḥ — unwanted progeny.
Translation:
When irreligion is prominent in the family, O Kṛṣṇa, the women of the family become polluted, and from the degradation of womanhood, O descendant of Vṛṣṇi, comes unwanted progeny.
Purport:

Good population in human society is the basic principle for peace, prosperity and spiritual progress in life. The varṇāśrama religion’s principles were so designed that the good population would prevail in society for the general spiritual progress of state and community. Such population depends on the chastity and faithfulness of its womanhood. As children are very prone to be misled, women are similarly very prone to degradation. Therefore, both children and women require protection by the elder members of the family. By being engaged in various religious practices, women will not be misled into adultery. According to Cāṇakya Paṇḍita, women are generally not very intelligent and therefore not trustworthy. So the different family traditions of religious activities should always engage them, and thus their chastity and devotion will give birth to a good population eligible for participating in the varṇāśrama system. On the failure of such varṇāśrama-dharma, naturally the women become free to act and mix with men, and thus adultery is indulged in at the risk of unwanted population. Irresponsible men also provoke adultery in society, and thus unwanted children flood the human race at the risk of war and pestilence.

——end—–

To understand this, we should understand what is the meaning of respect… respect means not taking for granted. Respect means cherishing and serving someone, not exploiting them. Respect means being in spiritual consciousness for ourselves and treating everyone else as spirit soul first and foremost.

How to understand this? Note that Arjuna is making the case and using the example of the social consequences of women left without protection from honorable gentlemen. The warriors assembled on the battlefield of Kurukshetra are all brothers, sons, fathers, and protectors of women, being Kshatriyas. Arjuna knows that most of them will be killed in the battle. This means that the women, girls, ladies being protected from degradation by these slain warriors will now be open for exploitation by jackal-like men.

Let us look at the society around us. Most women are indeed without proper protection. They are forced to work for a living, they are left to fend for themselves and children by unscrupulous men, and they are encouraged to be “fashionable/independent/strong/attractive” etc., which all promotes in the end the effect in society  which can be understood as direct or indirect prostitution… This is being encouraged by those men who want to have access to many prostitutes. The woman who has been convinced by some men (and other women previously convinced) to strip off her clothes and pose for a picture on a billboard used to sell something is actually an exploited woman. The woman who has been encouraged to engage in all sorts of activities classified as “culture”, “art” and “entertainment”, is actually exploited. A woman who is “sexually emancipated” means a woman who has been convinced that to behave wantonly is freedom, freedom for who? Freedom for any man to hunt her down like an animal. And for a man who specializes as a woman hunter it is easy to hunt down an unprotected woman.

Whose fault is it? Is it the women’s fault? Should we just blame them for all the problems? NO! Srila Prabhupada is actually saying that it is not their fault. Women are very softhearted by nature. They are very kind, loving, and nurturing. They are also very trusting. It is for this reason that men find it so easy to take advantage of women. When a man wants sex, he just finds a woman he is attracted to and wins her trust with flattery, gifts, sweet words, and promises. When his lust is satiated, he just finds an excuse to move on to the next woman. It is exactly due to this trusting nature that a woman is considered to be untrustworthy, because of her kindhearted nature, a woman sometimes does not know who is to be trusted and who is not to be trusted. A woman is, in this regard, very much innocent and childlike. In this regard, a woman is treated as “not intelligent” because she cannot detect that the nonsense man only wants to gratify his senses, not actually care for her. She mistakes his effort to be a genuine love for her as a person. But she is repeatedly disappointed, first by her father, who does not train her up properly to detect this nature, then by her husband who simply uses her as a prostitute and maidservant, and then by her children who simply take service from her without giving her the love and respect she deserves.

It is time for the men of this world to be ashamed of their inability to do their duty… the reason society is the way it is, is because the men are useless weak fools who don’t have the courage or the strength to actually protect the women they are responsible for. This is the decent men I am talking about. The majority of men are dirty lustful men, classified by Srila Prabhupada with polite words as “irresponsible men” above in the purport, actually in the category of dogs, as they are simply woman hunters.

But lest we think this is the natural order, let us turn to the scriptures and Srila Prabhupada.

Consider the cosmic administration of Krishna. Who is in charge of the department of defense? Durga Devi or Kali devi. Who is in charge of education? Saraswati Devi. Who is in charge of finance? Lakshmi devi. Who are in charge of good food, fine speech, beauty, and happiness? The various goddesses of fortune. Does a person give charge of something important and responsible to someone who is unintelligent and untrustworthy?

No, Durga Devi is “mama maayaa duratyayaa” (BG 7.14), she is loved and respected by Krishna and also greatly appreciated. Can you see His love for her? He claims ownership of her “mama”, mine, but He lovingly recognizes her service to Him.

In fact, all the goddesses of fortune are highly intelligent and highly trustworthy.

What about Srila Prabhupada? Does he think women are unintelligent? Would a spiritual master give initiation to a person he considers unworthy of initiation? No! Srila Prabhupada gave women so many respectable positions, and he treated them with great love and respect. Ask any female disciple of Srila Prabhupada who is in devotional service what was his behavior towards women.

What is common between the goddesses of fortune and all the exalted Vaishnavis? They are in spiritual consciousness, Krishna consciousness. In other words, a person in Krishna consciousness is intelligent and trustworthy, but not a person in material consciousness.

And this is the key to understanding this statement… a person who considers herself to be a woman, that person is unintelligent. A person who considers that a person in a woman’s body to be actually  woman (for sense gratification), is also unintelligent. A person who does not know that one has been a woman, man, cat, dog, tree, worm, etc., is also unintelligent. A person who identifies with one’s own body or another’s body and indulges in sense gratification as a result, is unintelligent. So, lack of intelligence can be the symptom of an ignorant man or woman equally.

But in Krishna consciousness a woman is not treated as an object of sense gratification. She is devi, a goddess of fortune. She is mother. She is highly respected. A person who treats a woman properly as the energy of Krishna is intelligent, and a woman who knows herself as a part-and-parcel of Krishna is intelligent and trustworthy, provided she remains in her spiritual consciousness.

I hope that helps. Please others feel free to add as much information as possible to help everyone understand this statement of Srila Prabhupada properly and uproot the demon of doubt from the hearts and minds of anyone who reads this.

Sincerely,
Mahabhagavat Das
Virendra Trivedi, 13th May 2013

I believe that you understood its literal meaning and are not asking for a word by word translation. Right? If that is true then not much is to be said because it is not too much of a spiritual question.

Two more things are  however noteworthy in this regard:
1) Prabhupada has used the word “generally” here, which automatically implies that there will be exceptions also.
2) Vaishnavis are not included in this. They are beyond the conception of man and woman.

Regarding enlightening, you can try acting otherwise by placing trust on many women around you and soon you will be enlightened 🙂 OR you can simply believe Prabhupada’s words to be absolutely true and act intelligently.

If you act as per my first suggestion you will become enlightened. And if you act as per the second suggestion then you are already enlightened by Prabhupada. Choice is yours. In Krsna Consciousness enlightenment is very easy. Believe it OR not! 🙂

yours,
Virendra Kumar Trivedi
Geetha, 13th May 2013

Hare Krishna Prabhu,
Please accept my humble obeisances.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

I also got the same doubt in my mind. Prabhu really It is very nicely explained by you. Thank you for giving clear explanation.  I have one doubt Prabhu,

In many books  Prabhupada in his purport mentioned about the sayings of Canakya Pandit.  I want to know Is he a devotee or a vaishnava?
If not why his words are so popularly taken.

If I asked any thing wrong please forgive  me its my humble request.

Thanking you,

your servant,
Geetha.
Mahabhagavat Das SDA, 14th May 2013

Dear Mother Geetha,

Hare Krishna!

Yes, Chanakya Pandita is a great personality who is an astute observer of society, very learned in Vedic scriptures, and had a good knowledge of how to apply the Vedic principles according to time, place and circumstances. Just as we quote great thinkers when they help us to convince skeptics about a certain point, similarly we can quote such a personality when they help us to convince others.

He was an ideal Brahmana, even though very close to the Maurya emperor Chandragupta, lived a simple life and followed a Brahminical lifestyle. He lived in a hut far from the palace. Indeed, he was the prime minister of an empire approximately the size of modern-day India, but he was an unpaid penniless worker. He did not accept any salary and received alms only to maintain body and soul together. He is a great moral instructor and led by personal example. Anyway, he was involved with politics, but that does not diminish his greatness.

From SB 2.7.9 purport:

“According to the system of varṇāśrama-dharma, the pious and learned brāhmaṇas were the natural guardians of society. The brāhmaṇas, by their learned labor of love, would instruct the administrator-kings how to rule the country in complete righteousness, and thus the process would go on as a perfect welfare state. The kings or the kṣatriya administrators would always consult the council of learned brāhmaṇas. They were never autocratic monarchs. The scriptures like Manu-saṁhitā and other authorized books of the great sages were guiding principles for ruling the subjects, and there was no need for less intelligent persons to manufacture a code of law in the name of democracy. The less intelligent mass of people have very little knowledge of their own welfare, as a child has very little knowledge of its future well-being. The experienced father guides the innocent child towards the path of progress, and the childlike mass of people need similar guidance. The standard welfare codes are already there in the Manu-saṁhitā and other Vedic literatures. The learned brāhmaṇas would advise the king in terms of those standard books of knowledge and with reference to the particular situation of time and place. Such brāhmaṇas were not paid servants of the king, and therefore they had the strength to dictate to the king on the principles of scriptures. This system continued even up to the time of Mahārāja Candragupta, and the brāhmaṇa Cāṇakya was his unpaid prime minister.”

In ISKCON, we are focused on Krishna consciousness, but we are also seeking a transformation of world society, we are not just sitting and chanting Hare Krishna but we are trying very hard to bring back the age of perfect Vedic society to this world.

So it is appropriate to learn from those who were expert in this regard.

You can also assess this by how Srila Prabhupada quotes Chanakya Pandita – it helps us to understand the point better. For example see this: “Cāṇakya Paṇḍta says that even a slight fraction of time cannot be purchased with millions of dollars, and therefore even a moment of time lost without profit must be calculated as the greatest loss in life.” (from purport to SB 3.10.11). And see this one… “One should give up the company of devils, demons and nondevotees and should always associate with devotees and saintly persons. One should always act piously, thinking that this life is temporary, and not be attached to temporary happiness and distress.” (from purport to SB 1.1.44) or see this one “According to the moral instructions of Cāṇakya Paṇḍita, ātmavat sarva-bhūteṣu: one should observe all living entities to be on the same level as oneself. This means that no one should be neglected as inferior; because Paramātmā is seated in everyone’s body, everyone should be respected as a temple of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This verse describes the different ways in which one should respect a guru, a father, a brother, a sister, a guest and so on.” (from purport to SB 6.7.29-30).

I hope this helps.

Sincerely,
Mahabhagavat Das
Geetha, 14th May 2013

Hare Krishna Prabhu,
Please accept my humble obeisances,
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Thank you very much prabhu for clearing my doubt.  I had this question in my mind from a long time but now I come know about him and I want to grateful to this group and I am very fortunate that I am in this group.  And from this group I am getting so many information about our culture,scriptures,about God, devotion,devotee,reading books,chanting, behavior so many things. Thank you once again.

Thanking you,
your servant,
Geetha.
Mahabhagavat Das SDA, 14th May 2013

Thank you, this group is only as good as the members who are part of this group. And this group is filled with priceless gems, they are all on their way back to Krishna, so anyone who stays close and engages with this group, simply by the association, will go back home to Krishna.
Virendra Trivedi, 15th May 2013

@ Mahabhagavat prabhu: So True!!! 🙂 Your last comment.

yours
Virendra Kumar Trivedi

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