Some of the Bureau Members asked me to inform the GBC EC of the opinion of the various Indian leaders on the subject of Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-guru; but, as I heard different opinions from different leaders, some were outspoken and some silent, so I am giving different points as I heard from different Indian leaders.
I tried to take different points that I heard, in case if something is left out, you can add your opinion at the end of this survey, in the comments box.
If you have any comments on any questions or any other suggestions on how this matter can be resolved, please add them in the suggestion box at the end of this survey.
I am taking this survey to understand the opinions of the leaders on different aspects of the issue.
The survey seems a bit long, but that is done to capture all the different aspects that were expressed. I have given additional quotes so the devotees can have the background.
Yours in service,
If you have any difficulty submitting this survey, please send a message to email@example.com
Section A - About you
A-1. The bodies in which you are a member. Select all that apply.
A-2. Your service. Select all that apply.
A-3. Have you already taken this survey on the subject of Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-guru?
You don't need to fill out this survey unless you have changed your decision.
Section B - Survey Questions
māṁ hi pārtha vyapāśritya
ye ’pi syuḥ pāpa-yonayaḥ
striyo vaiśyās tathā śūdrās
te ’pi yānti parāṁ gatim
O son of Pṛthā, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth – women, vaiśyas [merchants] and śūdras [workers] – can attain the supreme destination.
1. In this verse, Lord Kṛṣṇa establishes that women, vaiśyas and śūdras, although according to varṇāśrama, are people of low birth, can achieve the supreme destination if they take the shelter of Lord Kṛṣṇa through bhakti-yoga.
ābhīra-śumbhā yavanāḥ khasādayaḥ
ye ’nye ca pāpā yad-apāśrayāśrayāḥ
śudhyanti tasmai prabhaviṣṇave namaḥ
Kirāta, Hūṇa, Āndhra, Pulinda, Pulkaśa, Ābhīra, Śumbha, Yavana, members of the Khasa races and even others addicted to sinful acts can be purified by taking shelter of the devotees of the Lord, due to His being the supreme power. I beg to offer my respectful obeisances unto Him.
From Purport: "... Anyone from any part of the world who becomes well conversant in the science of Kṛṣṇa becomes a pure devotee and a spiritual master for the general mass of people and may reclaim them by purification of heart. A Vaiṣṇava, therefore, can accept a bona fide disciple from any part of the world without any consideration of caste and creed and promote him by regulative principles to the status of a pure Vaiṣṇava, who is transcendental to brahminical culture..."
2. Based on the purport of this verse, it is established that anyone, no matter how fallen they are, if they have taken shelter of a pure devotee, they can become a spiritual master, without any consideration of varṇāśrama-dharma status.
te vai vidanty atitaranti ca deva-māyāṁ
strī-śūdra-hūṇa-śabarā api pāpa-jīvāḥ
tiryag-janā api kim u śruta-dhāraṇā ye
Surrendered souls, even from groups leading sinful lives, such as women, the laborer class, the mountaineers and the Siberians, or even the birds and beasts, can also know about the science of Godhead and become liberated from the clutches of the illusory energy by surrendering unto the pure devotees of the Lord and by following in their footsteps in devotional service.
3. In this verse, it is established that even if one is a woman, a śūdra or a person lower than a śūdra, if he/she surrenders to a pure devotee of the Lord, then that person can know the science of God consciousness and be liberated from the illusory energy.
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta Madhya-līlā 8.128
kibā vipra, kibā nyāsī, śūdra kene naya
yei kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā, sei ‘guru’ haya
“Whether one is a brāhmaṇa, a sannyāsī or a śūdra — regardless of what he is — he can become a spiritual master if he knows the science of Kṛṣṇa.”
4. This verse established that the qualification for being a guru is to know the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, not the varṇā or anything else.
Please indicate your degree of agreement with the following statements.
The GBC came to a decision after studying the Founder-Ācārya’s teachings, which include the following exchange (reproduced here so that the context and sequence are clear), Śrīla Prabhupāda clearly says there that women could be gurus "in the line of disciplic succession." He also reiterates the "kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā" principle:" man or woman . . . yei kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā sei guru haya (CC Madhya 8.128) . . . Then he or she can become guru."
Please read it carefully and then rate your agreement with the statement at the end.
The following is an audio excerpt of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s interview with Professor O’Connell and others (June 18, 1976 – Toronto, Canada).
Following is the transcription of the above audio clip.
Guest: Swāmījī, would you say something about the place of women in your movement?
Prabhupāda: There is no distinction between man and woman. That is clearly said in the Bhagavad-gītā. Māṁ hi pārtha vyapāśritya ye 'pi syuḥ pāpā-yonayaḥ striyo śūdrās tathā vaiśyāḥ (BG 9.32). The first is mentioned, striya. Striyaḥ śūdrās tathā vaiśyāḥ. These classes are understood to be less intelligent—woman, śūdra and the vaiśyas. But Kṛṣṇa says, "No, even for them it is open." Because in the spiritual platform there is no such distinction, man, woman, or black, white, or big or small. No. Everyone is spirit soul. Paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśinaḥ (BG 5.18). Vidyā-vinaya-sampanne brāhmaṇe gavi hastini śuni caiva śva-pāke ca paṇḍitāḥ (BG 5.18). One who is actually learned, he is sama-darśinaḥ. He does not make any distinction. But so far our material body is concerned, there must be some distinction for keeping the society in order.
Guest: The women could become paṇḍitas, then.
Prabhupāda: Oh, yes. Te 'pi yānti parāṁ gatim. Not only become, she can also attain perfection. There is no such restriction. Kṛṣṇa said.
Guest: Do you have any paṇḍitas in the Western movement, women?
Prabhupāda: There are so many Western woman, girls, in our society. They are chanting, dancing, taking to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Many. Of course, because superficially, bodily, there is some distinction, so we keep women separately from men, that's all. Otherwise, the rights are the same.
Professor O'Connell: Is it possible, Swāmījī, for a woman to be a guru in the line of disciplic succession?
Prabhupāda: Yes. Jāhnavā devī was—Nityānanda's wife. She became. If she is able to go to the highest perfection of life, why it is not possible to become guru? But, not so many. Actually, one who has attained the perfection, she can become guru. But man or woman, unless one has attained the perfection... yei kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā sei guru haya (CC Madhya 8.128). The qualification of guru is that he must be fully cognizant of the science of Kṛṣṇa. Then he or she can become guru. Yei kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā, sei guru haya. (break) In our material world, is it any prohibition that woman cannot become professor? If she is qualified, she can become professor. What is the wrong there? She must be qualified. That is the position. So similarly, if the woman understands Kṛṣṇa consciousness perfectly, she can become guru.
[End of quote.]
5. In Gauḍīya-Vaiṣṇava history there have been Vaiṣṇavīs who served as bona fide initiating spiritual masters (Some of them are well known, e.g. Śrīmatī Jāhnavā Mataji, Śrīmatī Gaṅgāmātā Gosvamini, Śrīmatī Hemalatā Thākurāṇī). If a Vaiṣṇavī lady is highly qualified, then she can also be an initiating guru. Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-gurus are exceptional cases, especially advanced in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. But men also should be advanced in their Kṛṣṇa consciousness to be a dīkṣā-guru.
6. Although we want all the ladies to be educated to become preachers, patha-pradarśaka-gurus, śikṣā-gurus, I don't think that now is the time to have Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-gurus in my country (India).
7. Lord Caitanya taught that whoever knows kṛṣṇa-tattva can be a guru; a Vaiṣṇavī can know kṛṣṇa-tattva.
8. The mother of Dhruva, Sunīti, mostly women are not dīkṣā gurus except in rare cases. However, she gave guidance to Dhruva Mahārāja to take shelter of and look for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Since she was his mother, in any case, she could not be his dīkṣā guru. But she encouraged him in his search for Bhagavan. She was a vartma-pradarśaka-guru and śikṣā guru. Śrīla Prabhupāda said that there is no difference between a śikṣā guru and a dīkṣā guru. Thereafter Dhruva Mahārāja, eventually got initiated by Nārada muni, and by worshipping Kṛṣṇa, he achieved all he desired. His mother went back to the eternal spiritual world because of her guidance to Dhruva Mahārāja. We want all of our Vaiṣṇavīs to also be trained as vartma-pradarśaka-gurus and śikṣā gurus so that they can benefit their relatives and others, in the spiritual path.
9. Śrīla Prabhupāda did emphasize the spiritual equality of the genders; for instance, in statements such as "For God there is no discrimination. Women, men have equal rights to become godly and go back to home, back to Godhead." (Lecture on SB 5.5.2, Johannesburg, 22 Oct 1975) Thus accepting the possibility of having Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-gurus shows fidelity to the message of spiritual equality of the Founder-Ācārya.
10. In the world today there is a distinct cultural leaning towards the equality of the genders. Although Śrīla Prabhupāda did mention differences between the genders on the physical and social platform, he also emphasized that, according to the Bhagavad-gītā, women (as well as vaiśyas, śūdras, etc.) have equal access to spiritual perfection. Thus, accepting Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-gurus is not only perfectly in line with Lord Kṛṣṇa's teachings, but it is also favourable to the reputation and acceptance of Kṛṣṇa consciousness by the general people.
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta Madhya-līlā 18.121-122
strī-bāla-vṛddha, āra ‘caṇḍāla’ ‘yavana’
yei tomāra eka-bāra pāya daraśana
kṛṣṇa-nāma laya, nāce hañā unmatta
ācārya ha-ila sei, tārila jagata
"If they see You just once, even women, children, old men, meat-eaters and members of the lowest caste immediately chant the holy name of Kṛṣṇa, dance like madmen and become spiritual masters capable of delivering the whole world."
11. When women, children, old men, etc. see Lord Caitanya (or His empowered representative), they chant the holy name of Kṛṣṇa, thus by Lord Caitanya's mercy they become spiritual masters.
The GBC resolution (passed on Oct 2019) states that: "Vaiṣṇavīs are eligible to give dīkṣā in ISKCON provided that they:" - the resolution then lists four prerequisites. Please indicate your level of agreement with each of four conditions:
12.A. Receive written permission from the appropriate regional body or its equivalent, or national council, to give dīkṣā in that particular part of the world.
12.B. Are at least 55 years of age and in a stable family situation, living under the protection of a husband, elder son or son-in-law, qualified householder couple or senior Vaiṣṇava or Vaiṣṇavī saṅga.
12.C. Meet all the qualifications listed for ISKCON dīkṣā-guru applicants.
12.D. GBC Resolution 701.6 states: After five years the GBC shall review this resolution to determine if the number of Vaiṣṇavīs initiating in any region or as a total for the world is in keeping with Śrīla Prabhupāda’s indication of "…not so many". This part of the resolution adequately fulfils Śrīla Prabhupāda's statement "…not so many"?
13. The above qualifications and prerequisites (12.A, 12.B, 12.C. 12.D) are adequate and sufficient.
14. The above qualifications and prerequisites (12.A, 12.B, 12.C. 12.D) are inadequate and insufficient.
15. The above qualifications and prerequisites (12.A, 12.B, 12.C. 12.D) are too demanding and restrictive.
The GBC resolution came with the following "Statement on the Resolution Allowing Vaiṣṇavīs to Serve as Dīkṣā-gurus in ISKCON." Please read it carefully and then express your degree of agreement with this GBC statement.
ISKCON Governing Body Commission
October 17, 2019
“Just adhere yourself to the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Then you become spiritual master. That’s all. So I hope that all of you, men, women, boys and girls, become spiritual master and follow this principle. Spiritual master — simply, sincerely, follow the principles and speak to the general public. Then Kṛṣṇa immediately becomes your favorite. Kṛṣṇa does not become your favorite; you become Kṛṣṇa’s favorite. (…) So if you want to become recognized by Kṛṣṇa very quickly, you take up this process of becoming spiritual master, present the Bhagavad-gita as it is, your life is perfect.” (Śrī Vyāsa-pūjā Lecture — August 22, 1973, London)
“… as far as Kṛṣṇa consciousness is concerned, everyone is capable of becoming a spiritual master because knowledge in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is on the platform of the spirit soul. (…) The word guru is equally applicable to the vartma-pradarśaka-guru, śikṣā-guru and dīkṣā-guru . Unless we accept the principle enunciated by Sri Caitanya Mahāprabhu, this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement cannot spread all over the world”. (Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 8.128 purport)
On October 15, 2019, the Governing Body Commission of the International Society for Kṛṣṇa Consciousness (GBC) at their mid-term general meeting passed a resolution allowing, under certain conditions, mature and qualified Vaiṣṇavīs to serve as dīkṣā-gurus in ISKCON.
The primary bases for this decision are the expressed desires and instructions on guru qualifications of ISKCON’s Founder-Ācārya His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda.
This resolution concludes over 15 years of the GBC’s thorough research and in-depth discussions of:
• the letter and spirit of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s numerous instructions on the subject of the importance and qualifications of various types of spiritual masters for ISKCON as a worldwide movement;
• Śrīla Prabhupāda’s expressed desire that all his “sons and daughters” become spiritual masters;
• Śrīla Prabhupāda’s well-documented personal dealings with and engagement of his female disciples in various roles of spiritual responsibility;
• Śrīla Prabhupāda’s approach to the balance between spiritual and societal roles of Vaiṣṇavas and Vaiṣṇavīs in the context of pure devotional service;
• as appropriate, the broader historical and śāstric evidence in regards to dīkṣā in Lord Caitanya’s Gauḍīyā-Vaiṣṇava sampradāya.
While Śrīla Prabhupāda indicated that Vaiṣṇavī spiritual masters had been historically “not so many”, he also taught that the service of dīkṣā-guru required an equally advanced level of Kṛṣṇa consciousness for both genders that is achievable by strictly following the authorized devotional practices he prescribed.
Śrīla Prabhupāda also taught that the service of dīkṣā-guru naturally stems from fidelity to one’s spiritual master and guru-paramparā, from one’s mature preaching of Kṛṣṇa consciousness (śikṣā) empowered by such fidelity, and from the sense of selfless responsibility for those souls who become inspired to serve Lord Kṛṣṇa by such preaching.
At the same time, Śrīla Prabhupāda severely criticized and warned against bodily and mundane considerations in regard to the role and eligibility of dīkṣā-guru — whether in the form of casteism, selfish motives for profit, adoration or distinction, or as conformity to social, cultural or modern trends and artificial “equality”:
“…Generally a spiritual master who constantly instructs a disciple in spiritual science becomes his initiating spiritual master later on. (…) Sri Jiva Gosvami advises that one not accept a spiritual master in terms of hereditary or customary social and ecclesiastical conventions. One should simply try to find a genuinely qualified spiritual master for actual advancement in spiritual understanding”.
(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā 1.35 purport)
We, the GBC, are convinced that Śrīla Prabhupāda by his devotional potency and perfect guidance continues to empower many devotees, men and women alike, to properly follow and represent his teachings in the mission of spreading Kṛṣṇa Consciousness; and that some of them thus become competent to solidify their śikṣā by giving dīkṣā as faithful representatives of Śrīla Prabhupāda.
We recognize that some members and friends of ISKCON may object to this resolution based on their own reading of śāstra, their own social experiences, or deeply held Vaiṣṇava convictions. At the same time, and on the same basis, others will think this resolution does not go far enough or that the additional requirements are unfair. To assuage these concerns, we will further describe the milestones leading to this decision and the philosophical underpinnings of this resolution in an upcoming document.
In the meantime, we humbly request ISKCON devotees to see this resolution in the light of the inclusiveness of Lord Caitanya and our previous ācāryas, and as facilitating senior, mature and exemplary followers of Śrīla Prabhupāda in their dedicated service to him and his ISKCON. Please bless them in this new important spiritual responsibility.
“So one who is spreading kṛṣṇa-upadeśa, simply repeat what is said by Kṛṣṇa, then you become ācārya. (…) Suppose you have got now ten thousand. We shall expand to hundred thousand. That is required. Then hundred thousand to million, and million to ten million. So there will be no scarcity of ācārya, and people will understand Kṛṣṇa consciousness very easily”.
(Lecture on Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā 1.13 – April 6, 1975, Mayapur)
- End of Statement -
16. Please express your degree of agreement with the above GBC statement.
17. The above GBC resolution and statement on Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-gurus (October 2019) represent a balanced and acceptable direction.
18. The above GBC resolution and statement on Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-gurus (October 2019) represent an unbalanced and unacceptable direction.
19. In discussion with Professor O’Connell, Śrīla Prabhupāda mentioned that there could be Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-gurus, but he commented "not so many" and this appears in the GBC resolution. Is it a restriction, an instruction to limit the number of Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-gurus, or is it an observation that historically, there are not so many? Please give your opinion, what you think this is? What was the nature of this comment?
20. What does "but not so many" mean? Please select the appropriate statement below, which matches up with your idea, of the maximum “not so many”.
22. In the last 16 years, GBC heard from the Śāstric Advisory Committee, heard from the ISKCON India Bureau and discussed the matter. Thus the debate on the issue has been sufficient, and the various sides were heard sufficiently.
23. There is a dialogue/mediation going on between four members of the GBC and four members of the ISKCON India Bureau on the subject of Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-guru. Would you accept a conclusion reached by the mediation committee?
Śrīla Prabhupāda's Letter to Vaikunthanatha, 4th April 1971
"Even though you have had no Gāyatrī-mantra, still you are more than brāhmaṇa. I am enclosing herewith your sacred thread, duly chanted on by me. Gāyatrī-mantra is as follows: [taken out] Ask your wife to chant this mantra and you hear it and if possible hold a fire ceremony as you have seen during your marriage and get this sacred thread on your body. Śāradīyā, or any twice-initiated devotee, may perform the ceremony..."
24. The above quote establishes that Śrīla Prabhupāda didn’t have any problem that a Vaiṣṇavī (who has a second initiation) can give the Gāyatrī mantra to a man (in this case her husband); and the brahmin thread can be put on his body somehow or other.
25. Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-gurus should give first initiation (harināma), the pañcarātrika mantras (for Deity worship), and also the Sāvitrī-Gāyatrī mantra. Men can get the brahmin thread from another man.
26. Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-gurus should give first initiation (harināma) and the pañcarātrika mantras (for Deity worship), but not the Brahmā-Gāyatrī.
27. Whether we accept Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-gurus or not; ISKCON should have the same approach throughout the whole world.
28. ISKCON could have different approaches in different parts of the world: certain countries may have Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-gurus and others not.
29. The preaching would be enhanced by qualified Vaiṣṇavīs being dīkṣā-gurus in my country (India).
Pejawar Swami (His Holiness Vishwesha Tirtha Swami) is one of the senior-most sannyāsī in Madhva-sampradāya. He served as one of the ācāryas of eight established Maṭhas of Śrīpād Madhvācārya in Uḍupī. He recently left this material world at the age of 88 years. He is considered one of the Orthodox ācāryas.
30. "However, since both the boys and the girls are being trained to become preachers, those girls are not ordinary girls but are as good as their brothers who are preaching Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Therefore, to engage both boys and girls in fully transcendental activities is a policy intended to spread the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement." (CC Ādi 7.31-32 - Purport). This should also apply to the engagement of women anywhere in the world.
31. It would not be detrimental to the preaching if Vaiṣṇavīs are dīkṣā-gurus in some distant place.
32. Having a recorded debate, with proper moderation between supporters and opponent of Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-gurus would solve the disagreement.
33. We should have an in-depth discussion on the whole topic of guru-tattva (relation between dīkṣā- and śikṣā-gurus, etc.) and its application. This is necessary to come to a conclusion on Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-gurus.
34. Vaiṣṇavīs should be patha-pradarśaka-gurus and śikṣā-gurus for their family members, neighbours, friends etc.
35. Vaiṣṇavīs should be patha-pradarśaka-gurus and śikṣā-gurus; and if they are Kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā, they can also be dīkṣā-gurus.
36. Considering the services offered by ISKCON dīkṣā-gurus (teaching, guiding and counselling), certainly qualified Vaiṣṇavīs can also perform them, for those who are inspired by them.
37. The list of prerequisites and qualifications - for Vaiṣṇava or Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-gurus - should also include the following (select all that are applicable):
38. Being in a male human form is indispensable for the assimilation and the transmission of spiritual knowledge (kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā).
39. Souls in the male or female human form can both assimilate and transmit spiritual knowledge and be kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā.
40. The male-gender body is essential in the process of giving initiation.
41. The gender (either male or female) of the body is not an essential element in the process of giving initiation.
42. One argument against Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-gurus is that Śrīla Prabhupāda never appointed any; but there are a number of things that Śrīla Prabhupāda didn't do, such as not appointing any black-bodied devotees as GBC. Therefore I don't find this argument very sound.
43. We should accept the conclusions of the GBC in philosophical matters, such as on Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-gurus; if sādhu, guru or śāstra say something supporting.
44. We should respectfully enquire about the conclusions of the GBC in philosophical matters if we think there is some philosophical discrepancy.
45. If some smṛti-śāstra says something like śūdra and woman cannot become gurus, but Lord Caitanya says that whoever knows kṛṣṇa-tattva can be a guru, we should give precedence to Lord Caitanya's instructions.
46. The GBC said that ISKCON can have Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-gurus; we should accept this conclusion and leave it up to the individual devotees to make a personal choice, to have a Vaiṣṇava or Vaiṣṇavī guru.
47. According to the Bhagavad-gītā 9.32: "... striyo vaiśyās tathā śūdrās, te ’pi yānti parāṁ gatim" (O son of Pṛthā, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth – women, vaiśyas [merchants] and śūdras [workers] – can attain the supreme destination). Based on this understanding, it is confirmed that bhakti takes precedence over varṇāśrama .
48. "But these women are not ordinary women. They are preachers. They are preachers. They are Vaiṣṇava. By their association, one becomes a Vaiṣṇava." (27th March 1974, Morning walk, Bombay 1974). This applies to Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-guru.
49. In the purport of Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta Madhya-līlā 8.128, Śrīla Prabhupāda said: "To spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness, one need only be cognizant of the science of the spirit soul. It does not matter whether one is a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya, śūdra, sannyāsī, gṛhastha or whatever. If one simply understands this science, he can become a spiritual master." This is applicable for Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-gurus.
50. "I hope that all of you, men, women, boys and girls, become spiritual master and follow this principle. Spiritual master—simply, sincerely, follow the principles and speak to the general public." - Śrī Vyāsa-pūjā, London, August 22, 1973. This is also applicable to Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-gurus, if they are qualified.
51. I want to see Vaiṣṇavīs in ISKCON be preachers, vartma-pradarśaka-gurus and śikṣā-gurus. If they are very advanced in kṛṣṇa-tattva, then to be allowed to become Vaiṣṇavī dīkṣā-gurus.
52. If there are thousands of male devotees, who become qualified to initiate, then it makes sense to have female devotees who become qualified to initiate.
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