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Monday, January 14, 2008

The Bhāgavata on misogyny

Everything is there in the Bhāgavata, and so the concept of misogyny will be there too (the concept itself is not laukika śraddhā, though some of the conclusions and implementations drawn from it nowadays may be). The line patiṁ tvapatitam bhajet (7.11.28) contains it all - it shows both the woman's and the man's duty. The woman must (bhajet is imperative) serve the husband (pati means 'master'), and the man must not be fallen (tvapatitam), which certainly includes abusing his wife (misogyny). In a single line the Bhāgavata thus rejects both feminism (patiṁ bhajet) and misogyny (tvapatitam). The Bhāgavat further condemns misogyny in verse 4.17.20 - praharanti na vai strīṣu kṛtagaḥsvapi jantavaḥ - "Women are not beaten, even if they committed an offence."

53 comments:

  1. Advaitadas,

    Feminism is a much more complex feeling than to not 'beat' women. Similarly, misogyny is not only the act of abusing women. There are many forms of misundertanding and mishandling of the female principle in human life. For example, a woman herself may be misogynist. And a man may be very attached to, admire, and even serve his wife and still suffer of extreme anti-feminist feelings.

    I disagree with your analysis that the Bhagavat rejects feminism, especially over the argument that women must serve a husband. If that were the case, then Srimati Radharani herself would be condemned by the Bhagavat for she does not honor her husband as master. Her master is Krsna.
    Feminism is not about women in this world obeying a husband, but rather, roughly, it is about human beings in this world having equal opportunities for self-realization. I think it is only sensible that we devotees humble ourselves adequately before claiming a final understanding of the Bhagavata in this very crucial matter. Men, women, we are equally servants of God, and therefore servants of each other despite the gender issues that may impair or inspire us.

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  2. Anon, Smt. Radharani is an exception. Krishna jokingly told the gopis during the upeksa vani to return to their husbands, and to serve them no matter what, but they surrendered to the real husband. They are the Lord's internal; energy, svarupas shakti. In the material context however the wife is required to serve the husband. To imitate the gopis in the sadaka deha is disastrous and condemned in the Bhagavat 10.33.30-32.

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  3. Advaita, the Bhagavat is not concerned with human behavior in itself, but with the purpose of such behavior. The instruction of the Bhagavat is to celebrate Krsna for what He is. Surely you understand that the Bhagavat does not aim at perfecting material life, but at transcending it. What is disastrous, according to the Bhagavat, is to not realize what life is about. And no, Srimati Radharani is not an exception. All jivas are invited to serve Krsna with their utmost dedication and loving feelings. Material life is relative to time and circumstances.

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  4. Anon, Smt. Radharani is not a jiva, but I do sympathise with your point. The Bhagavata does deal a lot with material things. 7.11.28 that I quoted is part of 5 chapters on varnashram, which is material life.

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  5. Just commenting further, of course Srimati Radharani is not a jiva. The problem with imitation is not that it interfers with the lila but that by such misbehavior the jiva might miss out on the lila. So, what is condemned is not imitation itself, but failure in graping the essence of spiritual reality. Srimati Radharani is accessible to all jivas, and loving service to Her is even greater than service to Krsna. By serving Her, service to Krsna increases a million folds. This means, by her natural grace, She may share Her experience with the jivas; a tangible possibility which otherwise would have remained just a myth to us. This is what I meant by 'not an exception'. She is the very real object of our affection with whom we may associate for unlimited pastimes.

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  6. I tend to agree with Advitadas on this one, everything is in Bhagavatam.
    All of our problems come from desires that have nothing to do with serving Sri Sri Radha-Krishna, but rather the material senses. It is very simple but due to desires and hate/anger in our hearts it seems like it's very complicated. Hence, males abusing females and vice versa.

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  7. The Bhagavat addresses the social mileu of it's time and place, when it addresses social and cultural issues that is.

    In what context is "service" to husband to be understood? What did the people of that time and place consider "service"?

    For someone interested in the transcendent message of the Bhagavat, the social and cultural customs of a bygone era in another region of the world my not be the stuff that melts their heart and brings tears to the eyes upon reading.

    What does service or non-service to one's husband or wife have to do with raganuga bhakti?

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  8. "Women are not beaten, even if they committed an offence."

    Whom is this instruction for? Who beats offenders? Vainavas?

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  9. Hope someone can answer:
    How come there is no record anywhere of a male committing Sati ever in Indian history?

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  10. Anon 1 - serving husbands has nothing to do with raganuga bhakti, but this blog is about more than raganuga bhakti.

    Anon 2 - nobody should be beaten, men also not, though corporal punishment is not a strange thing in India.

    Anon 3 - Why men don't perform Sati? Because gay marriage is not Vedic.

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  11. "How come there is no record anywhere of a male committing Sati ever in Indian history?"

    Women don't either, anymore, and when they did, they were FORCED to by their in-laws who did not want to financially support a daughter-in-law without a husband (their son). It was all about $$$. You can read the history. Plus it was a practice that was limited to two regions - Bengal and Rajasthan, for the most part, and those who were murdered in such a way were a minority, though in my opinion, only ONE case is one case too damn many!

    Some may say that a few women went "willingly". Well then we have to examine the psyche of suicidal persons to understand why. But let's face it, in a society that devalues women so much, and women without husbands are disrespected to the max, well quite frankly, suicide by gruesome and inhuman means might have seemed a better alternative than living as a widow in such a society.

    Anyway, many books and essays have been written on this topic. No need to get into all the details here.

    SUICIDE IS NOT RECOMMENDED IN OUR RELIGION ANYWAY. Mahaprabhu said you cannot get Krishna Prem that way.

    Please, nobody bring up Sati (the originator of the name), wife of Shiva. She self immolated through the mystic fire of meditation. No one forced her on a funeral pyre crying and kicking and screaming against her will, fighting for her life, which is how it went down in medieval India.

    And nobody mention Gandhari either. She was a parikara in Krishna's bhauma lila and we are not to imitate their actions, for that would be like drinking poison in imitation of Mahadeva, who is able to hold poison in his throat and live eternally, whereas we are not.


    But yeah, if "sati" was such a noble act, then I think some more chaste Indian husbands would have done so upon the deaths of their beloved wives....

    All about money people, all about money $$$$$$$.

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  12. That's funny Advaita, but seriously think of the implications of that. There has never been a Male Sati recorded in Indian history, why?
    This very fact reeks of sexism and yes misogyny that permeates throughout Indian culture, religion and it's history. And if one does not think India is traditionally a sexist culture they are putting their heads in the sand, history speaks for itself.

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  13. Advaita,

    You sure handling this like a man. Make us feel protected.

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  14. I think the point he was trying to make is that men do not commit sati - why not? Why should widows commit sati, while widowers do not? What special status do widowers have that exempts them from immolating themselves? Is it because they are superior to women? That is the point he was trying to make, nothing about gay marriage, Vedic or not Vedic. What a ridiculous thing to say, really. Do gay people really care if their feelings are Vedic or not?

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  15. SUICIDE IS NOT RECOMMENDED IN OUR RELIGION ANYWAY. Mahaprabhu said you cannot get Krishna Prem that way.

    This is one of the only sensible comments I received on this topic so far. Finally some shastra! Bravo! I agree, Sati is not for Vaishnavis, regardless of whether other women do it voluntarily or not.

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  16. Advaita,

    You sure handling this like a man. Make us feel protected.


    Political correctness has its advantages. It seems from all these comments that there are many strong women out there who worship Radha-Krishna and want to protect helpless men, hahaha!

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  17. That is the point he was trying to make, nothing about gay marriage, Vedic or not Vedic. What a ridiculous thing to say, really. Do gay people really care if their feelings are Vedic or not?

    Anon, get a life. I was just joking. I wasn't going to extend this debate into a gay-rights one just now, you know.

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  18. It seems from all these comments that there are many strong women out there who worship Radha-Krishna and want to protect helpless men, hahaha!

    And isn't that a good thing? Wouldn't you want a strong spiritual companion by your side in your worship of Radha-Krishna?

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  19. And isn't that a good thing? Wouldn't you want a strong spiritual companion by your side in your worship of Radha-Krishna?

    Spiritually strong companionship is rare in the west, whether it is fraternal or conjugal. As far as conjugal, materially strong companionship is concerned, personally I would'nt like to be accompanied by too assertive a woman. I prefer the submissive type really...

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  20. Bravo Jijaji! It is about time we old timers show some wisdom in all this. It is about time we address the fact that the tradition we have embraced for so many years of our lives is actually a tradition of heavy sexism, misogyny, and racism. Over the years I have justified these things as I thought it was a small price to pay. But now I see things differently, and if its called political correctness, then Krsna is about political correctness lol! This being Advaitadas own space, it may be impolite of me to refer to him directly, but I believe that compassion is Advaita's aim here. So I think Advaitadas and those like him who fail to see that Krsna Consciousness, more than anywhere else, is in the here and now, are in dire need of revising their own perspective. If everything is in the Bhagavat, then what is the need for Krsna's unfolding lila as we speak? If everything was said and done, then there wouldn't be need for being, no need for life. This is the question Advaita comes short of addressing. So there is need for a better, deeper representation of this unfathomable ocean which is the Bhagavat. Thanks Advaita for letting this piece pass, its appreciated.

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  21. It is about time we address the fact that the tradition we have embraced for so many years of our lives is actually a tradition of heavy sexism, misogyny, and racism.

    It seems many people overlook the 4.17.2 sloka I quoted. Reversely, I would like to see evidence of the above accusations.

    So I think Advaitadas and those like him who fail to see that Krsna Consciousness, more than anywhere else, is in the here and now, are in dire need of revising their own perspective.

    I think there is a dire need to enter into a timeless consciousness. Both material laws and spiritual laws are timeless.

    If everything is in the Bhagavat, then what is the need for Krsna's unfolding lila as we speak? If everything was said and done, then there wouldn't be need for being, no need for life.

    This too is timeless and endlessly fascinating, even if Krishna would perform just one lila all the time.

    So there is need for a better, deeper representation of this unfathomable ocean which is the Bhagavat.

    I believe Jiva and Visvantha did a great job on that.

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  22. Spiritually strong companionship is rare in the west, whether it is fraternal or conjugal.

    My experience has been the opposite. I have found that the strongest spiritual companionship in my life has been from westerners. And outside of my own personal circle, but on observing the dynamics within the GV community at large, I have found that in general Indians may follow the faith as a matter of culture, while westerners mostly embraced it out of spiritual motivation/inspiration. This makes the latter stronger devotees, ready to face the music so to speak. Indians on the other hand, because of the culture factor, are not readly willing to surrender whatever it takes. There is the consideration of form over essence. As far as material strong relationship, personally I don't care for material relationships.

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  23. I believe Jiva and Visvantha did a great job on that.

    Yes, so here is the problem, Jiva and Visvanath are not here now personally. So where we need light on making a timely decision, Advaitadas (sorry I speak of you in the third person here, its only for the sake of the argument) refers us to timeless concepts, anware that timeless is only so because it has was once timely. In other words, the follower must be an independent entity. Otherwise there is no sense in a precedent. By better representation of shastra I meant better contemporary representation. And no, repeaters of words literally does not apply. It it were so, we would be worshipers of mechanics.

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  24. Mahabharata says that Krishnas 8 main wives (Ashtakanya)committed sati upon his death.

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  25. Yes, so here is the problem, Jiva and Visvanath are not here now personally.

    That may be so for you. For me they, and all the other acaryas are alive and kicking.

    So where we need light on making a timely decision, Advaitadas (sorry I speak of you in the third person here, its only for the sake of the argument) refers us to timeless concepts, aware that timeless is only so because it has was once timely. In other words, the follower must be an independent entity. Otherwise there is no sense in a precedent. By better representation of shastra I meant better contemporary representation. And no, repeaters of words literally does not apply. It it were so, we would be worshipers of mechanics.

    It would be better if you came with concrete proposals as to where the timeless is or was timely, because all this sounds awfully out of tune with transcendental insight, and awfully in tune with mundane conditioned souls who bombard their fellow conditioned souls through the media with their ideas of moral evolution (or devolution if you will) and whatnot.

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  26. << It would be better if you came with concrete proposals as to where the timeless is or was timely, because all this sounds awfully out of tune with transcendental insight >>

    Transcendental insight. What is particularly transcendental in the insight praharanti na vai strisu krtagahsvapi jantavah - women are not beaten, even if they committed an offence. ?

    Why does the Baghavat here address violence against female offenders but does not address violence against male offenders? Is the insight about gender, or is it about offense? Are offenses characterized according to the gender of the person who commit them? According to this instruction, what exactly is to be transcended?

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  27. Anon, I think you show a very shallow understanding or appreciation of the lila. I hope you are not speaking the same line Subal or Nitai das are spouting off, eg.
    modernize the lila to appeal to the masses!

    I definitely agree with Advaita das that the Radha-Krishna lila is beyond time and space and as it is, its beautiful, fascinating, endless and complete. It beautifully conveys love, surrender and devotion . Its message stands the test of time especially for GV devotees.

    I was reading lately a novel entitled Night by the Nobel Peace Prize winning author Elie Wiesel. (A required reading of my 15 year-old daughter in her H.S. English subject). It was first written in french in 1958. It was the real life experience of the author in 1941 about his brutal awakening on man’s inhumanity and degradation in Auschwitz.. Although it was almost 50 years ago since it was first written and came in a different shape, so to speak, when it was translated into english in 1972 , its messages still ring clear even in 2008-- that even in the midst of man’s inhumanity there is hope, faith, love and deliverance. Its messages were never diminished by time.

    Though the lila is above any analogy I hope you see what I mean.

    Jijaji, with regards to sati. I have not read the Mahabharat and I can’t make any comment. But being a follower of the Gaudiya Vaishnava line, I don’t know that the foundational acharyas made a definitive comment on what they think about the principle of sati, let alone a definitive stand that GV devotees should practice sati.

    Granting that the episode in the Mahabharat (I’ve not read it) where the wives of Krishna committed sati is really there, I would like to understand that that is an example of the highest devotion. We sometimes hear from time to time of self immolation. In your country the US, we recently heard of Malaschi Richter in Chicago who committed the act of self-immolation in protest of the US involvement of the Middle East war. Or a Buddhist monk who immolated himself in downtown Saigon in 1963 to protest religious persecution under the Diem regime. There are many examples in history. Well, if some people see that by self immolating they think they are making a point (though that is obviously questionable), why can not Krishna’s wives not perform sati for their GOD?

    Anonymous said: My experience has been the opposite. I have found that the strongest spiritual companionship in my life has been from westerners. And outside of my own personal circle, but on observing the dynamics within the GV community at large, I have found that in general Indians may follow the faith as a matter of culture, while westerners mostly embraced it out of spiritual motivation/inspiration. This makes the latter stronger devotees, ready to face the music so to speak. Indians on the other hand, because of the culture factor, are not readly willing to surrender whatever it takes. There is the consideration of form over essence. As far as material strong relationship, personally I don't care for material relationships.


    Well, I think statistics wise, most westerners GV people are not spiritually strong as Indians or Asian GV devotees for that matter. Look at the fall down rate or the likelihood of westerners GV going back to their non-GV ways after their GV episode. That’s just my observations. I would premise that the rate is very very high for westerners At the most most westerners are Jnanis. Im not being racist here. I have seen the dynamics in the GV communities in 3 continents-- Asia, India and in the west. And I’m definitely DISAPPOINTED with westerners. I even suspect your fascination with anything India, including GVism is more about lifestyle, to make a point, to be different. More about form than essence. Westerners just have too much impressions in their past lives and that makes spiritual endeavour such a great hurdle for them. That is why most of you are so uptight! From my observations Indians or Asians following the GV line are less uptight and so are so well balanced in both fronts – spiritually and materially. Of course, there are many very very serious westerners. But since you made this comparison, being Asian, I am obliged to refute it.

    BTW, this is going to be my last post on this thread. My principle is that I don’t talk to strangers. I don’t like people who have no guts to be open about their identity. I think that’s cowardice and reeks of fakery. Adavitadas is generous to let your posts see the light of day in his blog. I am ruthless.

    Radhe Radhe
    Malati dasi
    Melbourne, Australia

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  28. Anon:
    1. praharanti na vai strisu refers to women being the weaker sex.
    2. krtagahsvapi refers to mother Earth withholding foodgrains, an offense for which Prithu wanted to shoot her.
    3. Anon, are you a devotee at all?

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  29. << I would premise that the rate is very very high for westerners At the most most westerners are Jnanis. >>

    Regarding ratios and statistics on fall downs and the such, the fact is that no one has come up with factual definitions here, what to speak of numbers. So there is little sense in making affirmations one way or another here. But I still hold my position that westerners are more interested in the essence of GVism compared to Indians. We westerners are not impared by the culture factor. And you got me wrong, I don't do it for the lifestyle. The lifestyle is precisely what I couldn't care less for, I have a more agreeable lifestyle in the West than the Indian one. I think Indians are way behind Westerners as far as lifestyle. Truth is, Indians want to copy the West because their own model has failed. But Western good standards of living are also doomed due to its visceral unsustainability. The essence of GV is what interests me, and this is why I am sad that Advaita only repeats shastra literally, stopping short of offering his own God given insights. If he does not put his own soul in it, this to me is the real act of, um sorry, cowardice. Really, I don't mean to offend, we are ll cowards here and there, but for a GV, he has to be brave enough to say that, yes, I revere my previous acaryas to the death, but by all means I am to have my own realization of what they thaught, my openning up for revelation, otherwise what is the meaning of my own existence? I am to be like them dammit!! I think Gaudiya Vaisnavism is about learning how to stand on your own feet while loving your Masters with ever increasing depth.

    Anyhow, thanks for your graces.

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  30. I agree with malati dasi, these anonymous people are cowards, just big babies..

    namaskar,

    jeej

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  31. I am not the anon who made the comments above, but I am however disturbed to learn of this attitude of censorship by some other commenters. If statements are made that provoke questions that may or may not be uncomfortable, it is the responsibility of the devotee to answer them appropriately instead of wielding an iron rod of chastisement.

    The gurus and acharyas who you so lovingly adore met every challenge with a response: Vishvanatha Cakravarti's (partial) response to the Sakhi-bekhis was to write the Raga-vartma-candrika. Baladeva Vidyabhushana responded to the Ramanandi Vaishnavas by writing a Gaudiya commentary on the Vedanta sutra, he did not run away or tell them to stop asking disturbing questions.

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  32. But I still hold my position that westerners are more interested in the essence of GVism compared to Indians. We westerners are not impared by the culture factor.......I have a more agreeable lifestyle in the West than the Indian one. I think Indians are way behind Westerners as far as lifestyle. Truth is, Indians want to copy the West because their own model has failed.

    You are generalising about Indians. I dont know how many Gaudiya Vaishnavas you associated
    with in India, or whether you speak about the average beefeating Indian Sunday-feast guest
    in LA or NY. There's a billion Hindus out there and millions of Gaudiya Vaishnavas as well.

    ....I am sad that Advaita only repeats shastra literally, stopping short of offering his own God given insights. If he does not put his own soul in it, this to me is the real act of, um sorry, cowardice. Really, I don't mean to offend, we are ll cowards here and there, but for a GV, he has to be brave enough to say that, yes, I revere my previous acaryas to the death, but by all means I am to have my own realization of what they thaught, my openning up for revelation, otherwise what is the meaning of my own existence? I am to be like them dammit!! I think Gaudiya Vaisnavism is about learning how to stand on your own feet while loving your Masters with ever increasing depth

    How do I take the beloved acaryas non-literal please? Thy were already so kind to clarify
    the shastras with patient commentaries, ad now this should again be interpreted?
    I still got no concrete proposals, or theoretical ones for that matter.

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  33. The gurus and acharyas who you so lovingly adore met every challenge with a response: Vishvanatha Cakravarti's (partial) response to the Sakhi-bekhis was to write the Raga-vartma-candrika. Baladeva Vidyabhushana responded to the Ramanandi Vaishnavas by writing a Gaudiya commentary on the Vedanta sutra, he did not run away or tell them to stop asking disturbing questions.

    1. I find it quite bold for an anon to accuse anyone else of cowardice.
    2. I never ran away but I do wish to avoid the namaparadha of preaching to the faithless. Thus each comment is judged on its own merit, and rewarded with publication or sanctioned by blockage.

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  34. I don't understand: If you believe anonymous responses to your blog are acts of cowardice, why do you offer the option? Just eliminate it!

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  35. You will find more rasiks amongst Indians that you will amongst westerners. This may be what Malati was referring too.

    However I do find it out that she finds Indians less "uptight" than westerners. Indians are some of the most uptight people I have ever met, including Indian vaishnavas. There is so much formality and protocal in their lives, what to speak of unhealthy repression of women and sexuality.

    Strict Iskcon vaishnavas struggle with the same uptightness because they basically took the worst parts of Indian culture, gender bias, sexual repression and corporeal punishment of children, and ran with it to an even more extremem degree.

    However I find the western vaishnavas who are not Iskcon oriented to be both more relaxed and more rasik.

    Still, true rasik vaishnavas are found in India only at this time I feel.

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  36. Thank you for your infinite mercy in publishing my previous comment. Perhaps you can extend your generosity to this comment also.

    I am however unhappy that you chose not to address the point of my previous comment regarding censorship and how critical views should be addressed robustly. That is the Gaudiya way, is it not?

    But then, it is sometimes in the nature of the devout to avoid questions and accuse questioners of faithlessness. Ore!

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  37. Well Advaitaji, I honestly think you are not doing yourself any favours with your censorship. Everyone is interested in the answers that you can provide to these real questions, including me.

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  38. I don't understand: If you believe anonymous responses to your blog are acts of cowardice, why do you offer the option? Just eliminate it!

    Because sometimes a valuable comment is given which warrants a valuable response. Anons, however, generally have no rights here.

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  39. I am however unhappy that you chose not to address the point of my previous comment regarding censorship and how critical views should be addressed robustly. That is the Gaudiya way, is it not?

    That may be the Gaudiya way you learned. To my knowledge it is a namaparadha to preach to the faithless, the averse and those who do not listen.

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  40. OK, since this topic is on misogyny, I would like to ask this..
    I love traditional Gaudiya Kirtan, I do... I listen to it all the time..
    But when I watch clips of it say from Madhavas lake of flowers, I always see it being 'all men' the women just stand around somewhere in the back and are barely noticed, while the men whoop it up and dance around all fancy free. I know that the women are prohibited from dancing around freely least they agitate the men, but honestly don't the women get agitated seeing all the men doing it? Does that matter or is that just 'their nature' LOL..
    namaskar

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  41. Question:I always see it being 'all men' the women just stand around somewhere in the back and are barely noticed, while the men whoop it up and dance around all fancy free. I know that the women are prohibited from dancing around freely least they agitate the men, but honestly don't the women get agitated seeing all the men doing it?

    The women are not "prohibited" from dancing around in India, as far as my experience. I've seen quite a few enthusiastic female dancers, even in their old age. But it is a very much male dominated culture and religious scene there. I know what you mean by mostly men in the photos and videos. That reflects the male dominated culture and emphasis of that particular scene in Braj.

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  42. I'm not talking about India, I'm talking about within Gaudiya Vaishnavism....
    hello, read the comments a little better before you respond..
    Don

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  43. Aren't the videos on Lake of Flowers from India?

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  44. Question:I always see it being 'all men' the women just stand around somewhere in the back and are barely noticed, while the men whoop it up and dance around all fancy free. I know that the women are prohibited from dancing around freely least they agitate the men, but honestly don't the women get agitated seeing all the men doing it?

    There is an attribute called lajjA or bashfulness in decent women. In the old days, pre-1960s, it was also still present in the west. Indian ladies still have that, and many other attributes, like chastity.

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  45. << There is an attribute called lajjA or bashfulness in decent women. In the old days, pre-1960s, it was also still present in the west. Indian ladies still have that, and many other attributes, like chastity. >>

    Advaitadas I am sorry but you are being too simplistic here to be taken seriously: lajjA aside, there are other and more realistic reasons women bahave as they behave in these circles in India. Remaining on the side lines is also due to a culture of opression, ignorance, abuse, neglect, and violence. It is not a volunteer position sprung out of educated choice but it is one extricated. I think it would be more honest and responsible of you as an spokesperson for Indian women to address the whole of the issue instead of one isolated aspect.

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  46. "There is an attribute called lajjA or bashfulness in decent women. In the old days, pre-1960s, it was also still present in the west. Indian ladies still have that, and many other attributes, like chastity."

    Adwaitaji, you sound as if you have not lived in India very long.

    Ahhh. The stories I could tell about the ladies there. But this is not the place for that.

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  47. A few quotes from Sudhir Kakar's Intimate Relations: Exploring Indian Sexuality, an analysis of sexuality in modern India.

    One of the most depressing and insightful parts of the book is when the author examines Indian proverbs in regards to women. Misogyny is the common thread:

    In most regions of the country, male folk wisdom offers overt reasons for man's perennial war with woman. It agrees in portraying the female sex as lacking both sexual morality and intelligence.

    Punjabis and Gujaratis are of one mind that, "The intelligence of a woman is in her heels" (Strini akkal edi mā). Tamils maintain that, "No matter how educated a woman is, her intelligence is always of the lowest order," and Malayalis warn that "One who heeds the advice of a woman will be reduced to beggary" (Penachollu Kalkkunnavanu peruvali).

    Folk sayings in the northern languages, however, place singularly greater emphasis on the employment of force and physical chastisement to correct perceived female shortcomings. "The places of a horse and a woman is under the thighs" (Ghoda aur aurat rān telē) we hear in Hindi.

    And in Gujarati, "Barley and millet improve by addition of salt, women through a beating by a pestle" (Usī jawār bājrī musē nār pādhrī): "Better to keep the race of women under the heel of a shoe" (Rāndni jāt khāsdane talē rākhelij bhalī); (Mūrkh nāri ne nagārā kutyani kāmnā).

    The proverbs in the South Indian languages, on the other hand, convey more a man's sense of helplessness and resignation in the face of general female cussedness and constant provocation. "Wind can be held in a bag, but not the tongue of a shrew," is common to both Kannada and Telugu. "Neither the husband nor the brother-in-law can control a pugnacious woman" goes another Telugu saying, while yet another admits even a king's helplessness in the face of female disputatiousness.

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  48. Adwaitaji, you sound as if you have not lived in India very long.

    Betal, only you can provocate like that! You blew your cover! In my blog of January 18 you can read I spent about 130 months (close to 11 years) in India/Nepal so far, and not exactly in the MVT (Little Manhattan)

    Ahhh. The stories I could tell about the ladies there. But this is not the place for that.

    I did not claim that all Indian women are meek in private, no ma'm. I've been around.

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  49. The Indian system of joint family lifestyle plays a big part in the positioning of women both in society in general and the family in particular.

    So much can and has been said about this. There's alot of literature out there written by Indian women themselves about the pros and cons of their culture.

    Regarding the dancing thing. I've moved in many Indian vaishnava circles and several women do dance. It's normally not the choreographed style of dancing you get at Iskcon centers during a rip roaring kirtan, but it is dancing.

    Also, Braj has it's own type of folk dance and whenever a kirtan reaches especially sweet heights, you will always find a few Brij basi women getting up and shaking their booty Braj style, even if it's a sit down kirtan.

    In Indian Gaudiya vaishnava circles that have a significant percentage of western female sisyas, you will often see a similar type of choregraphed dance as is staple fair in any Iskcon temple.

    It all depends on the sanga.

    It appears from Lake of Flowers that women attendees of kirtan are in a minority compared to the men, at least that is what the photos and videos convey.

    But generally speaking, even now in 2008, the Indian vaishnava circles I have moved in appear to still be male dominated in the sense that the ashrams, maths, mandirs and other living facilities are primarily filled with men. This reflects the culture from which the religion sprang - in olden days more men than women chose to remain single and thus the ashrams that were built were built to accomodate those men and their other single male friends. Women who chose to remain single either continued to reside with their families (and some men did too), or made their own way.

    This pattern continues even today.

    Personally, I feel that women making their own way has some benefits in that you are able to remain "independent" both physically and psychologically from any "institution".

    However, it can be damaging both physically and psychologically if the women do not have sufficient financial resources to maintain themselves in a healthy and safe manner. And this is exactly the condition of many women in the Braj area, unfortunately.

    Between east and west, the position of women is far more progressed in the west.

    But alas! That is part of the sacrifice we have to undergo in order to get rasik vaishnava sanga in the Holy Dham.

    Nothing comes without a price!

    But I do feel western vaishnavas can be a catalyst for positive change in India, just as Indian rasik vaishnavas have something to contribute to us and our cultures, similarly we have something to contribute to Indian culture.

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  50. Prabhus,

    No offense to any devotees, can I please clarify one of my doubt?

    In BG chapter 9 text 32 Krishna says "O Son of Prtha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth - women, vaisyas, as well as sudras - can approach the supreme destination".

    Can anyone clarify through the comments from Acaryas why Krishna categorized women as low born?

    Radhe-Krishna

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  51. Can anyone clarify through the comments from Acaryas why Krishna categorized women as low born?

    The commentaries of Visvanath and Baladeva do not elaborate on that, they simply confirm the text. However, the Gita (13.22) does say that according to one's attachment to a certain guna or culture/mentality and karma or its consequent activities one takes birth in either good or bad species - kAraNaM guNa sango'sya sad-asad yoni janmasu - I would say that is really standard, basic Gita-knowledge.

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  52. Anonymous

    That is not a proper translation of the text.

    Krishna is not saying that women are lowborn, he is saying that those who take shelter of Him; be they lowborn, women, vaishyas or shudras, will attain Him.

    Basically he was listing the non-elite of society.

    Brahmins and Ksatriyas were an elite minority at the time, at the top of the rung with access to higher education and the hosting of sadhus and jesters in their courts and homes.

    The working class - vaishyas and shudras, as well as women and those considered "lowborn" did not have as much access to education and thus an elite member of society might think that they did not have sufficient oppurtunities to read shastra or avail themselves of kathas in languages they may not know or sadhu sangas.

    Plus, being the working class, they would be working hard during the day to support the elite classes and thus where was the time?

    So Krishna is saying here that these persons, those generally neglected in terms of higher education and oppurtunities, they can also reach Him, in case there was any doubt about it.

    The sloka is not saying women, vaishyas or shudras are "lowborn". It is listing them along with the lowborn as those who normally did not have oppurtunities in that day and region of the world.

    THANK GOD THINGS HAVE CHANGED (even in India)!!!!!!

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  53. The sloka is not saying women, vaishyas or shudras are "lowborn". It is listing them along with the lowborn as those who normally did not have oppurtunities in that day and region of the world.

    THANK GOD THINGS HAVE CHANGED (even in India)!!!!!!


    Also, evidently the main point of this sloka is not about differences but about equality. Krsna is clearly indicating here that a really enlightened man ceases to discriminate on the basis of circumstances but instead levels out all souls to their rightful constitutional position which is of a volunteer servant. This is not even about mercy, but about comon sense and logic duh.

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