Vaisnavi Diksa-guru Survey

Vaisnavi Diksa-guru Survey

H.G. Basu Ghosh Das Adhikari and H.G. Sri Jiva Das Adhikari asked me to inform the GBC EC of the opinion of the various Indian leaders on the subject of Vaisnavi diksa-gurus; but, as I don’t know the different opinions of all the leaders, I am taking this survey to understand their opinions on different aspects of the issue.

Your servant, Jayapataka Swami

Section - About you

A. The bodies in which you are a member. Tick all that apply.
B. Your service. Tick all that apply.
C. Have you already taken any survey on the subject of Vaisnavi diksa-gurus?
Please indicate your degree of agreement with the following statements.

1. The GBC came to a decision after studying the Founder-Acarya’s teachings, which include the following exchange (reproduced here so that the context and sequence are clear), Srila Prabhupada 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.

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 come, 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.]

2. In Gaudiya-vaisnavism there have been Vaisnavis who served as bona fide initiating spiritual masters.
3. Although there were Vaisnavi diksa-gurus in our sampradaya, it's not the right time to have Vaisnavi diksa-gurus in ISKCON.
4. Lord Caitanya taught that whoever knows Krsna-tattva can be a guru; a Vaisnavi can know Krishna-tattva.
5. Lord Caitanya taught that whoever knows Krsna-tattva can be a guru; but a Vaisnavi cannot know Krishna-tattva.
6. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam, from the exchanges between Suniti and Dhruva, it appears that she wasn't truly on the level of kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā although she was a devotee.
7. In the world today there is a distinct cultural leaning towards the equality of the genders. Although Srila Prabhupada did mention differences between the genders on the physical and social platform, he also emphasized that, according to the Bhagavad-gita, women (as well as vaisyas, sudras, etc.) have equal access to spiritual perfection. Thus, accepting Vaisnavi diksa-gurus is not only perfectly in line with Lord Krishna's teachings, but it's also favorable to the reputation and acceptance of Krishna consciousness by the general people.
8. Srila Prabhupada 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 back to home, back to Godhead." (Lecture on SB 5.5.2, Johannesburg, 22 Oct 1975) Thus accepting Vaisnavi diksa-gurus shows fidelity to the message of spiritual equality of the Founder-Acarya.
The GBC resolution (passed on Oct 2019) states that: "Vaisnavis are eligible to give diksa in ISKCON provided that they:" - the resolution then lists three prerequisites. Please indicate your level of agreement with each of three conditions:
9. Receive written permission from the appropriate regional body or its equivalent, or national council, to give diksa in that particular part of the world.
10. 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 Vaisnava or Vaisnavi sanga.
11. Meet all the qualifications listed for ISKCON diksa-guru applicants.
12. The above qualifications and prerequisites (9, 10 & 11) are adequate and sufficient.
13. The above qualifications and prerequisites (9, 10 & 11) are inadequate and insufficient.
14. The above qualifications and prerequisites (9, 10 & 11) are too demanding and restrictive.
15. The GBC resolution came with the following "Statement on the Resolution Allowing Vaisnavis to Serve as Diksa-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 Mahaprabhu. 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 Krsna immediately becomes your favorite. Krsna does not become your favorite; you become Krsna’s favorite. (…) So if you want to become recognized by Krsna very quickly, you take up this process of becoming spiritual master, present the Bhagavad-gita as it is, your life is perfect.” (Sri Vyasa-puja Lecture — August 22, 1973, London)

“… as far as Krsna consciousness is concerned, everyone is capable of becoming a spiritual master because knowledge in Krsna consciousness is on the platform of the spirit soul. (…) The word guru is equally applicable to the vartma-pradarsaka-guru , siksa-guru and diksa-guru . Unless we accept the principle enunciated by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, this Krsna consciousness movement cannot spread all over the world”. (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 8.128 purport)

On October 15, 2019, the Governing Body Commission of the International Society for Krsna Consciousness (GBC) at their mid-term general meeting passed a resolution allowing, under certain conditions, mature and qualified Vaisnavis to serve as diksa-gurus in ISKCON.

The primary bases for this decision are the expressed desires and instructions on guru qualifications of ISKCON’s Founder-acarya His Divine Grace Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

This resolution concludes over 15 years of the GBC’s thorough research and in-depth discussions of:

• the letter and spirit of Srila Prabhupada’s numerous instructions on the subject of the importance and qualifications of various types of spiritual masters for ISKCON as a worldwide movement;

• Srila Prabhupada’s expressed desire that all his “sons and daughters” become spiritual masters;

• Srila Prabhupada’s well-documented personal dealings with and engagement of his female disciples in various roles of spiritual responsibility;

• Srila Prabhupada’s approach to the balance between spiritual and societal roles of Vaisnavas and Vaisnavis in the context of pure devotional service;

• as appropriate, the broader historical and sastic evidence in regards to diksa in Lord Caitanya’s Gaudiya-Vaisnava sampradaya.

While Srila Prabhupada indicated that Vaisnavi spiritual masters had been historically “not so many”, he also taught that the service of diksa-guru required an equally advanced level of Krsna consciousness for both genders that is achievable by strictly following the authorized devotional practices he prescribed.
Srila Prabhupada also taught that the service of diksa-guru naturally stems from fidelity to one’s spiritual master and guru-parampara , from one’s mature preaching of Krsna consciousness (siksa ) empowered by such fidelity, and from the sense of selfless responsibility for those souls who become inspired to serve Lord Krsna by such preaching.

At the same time, Srila Prabhupada severely criticized and warned against bodily and mundane considerations in regard to the role and eligibility of diksa-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”.
(Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 1.35 purport)

We, the GBC, are convinced that Srila Prabhupada 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 Krsna Consciousness; and that some of them thus become competent to solidify their siksa by giving diksa as faithful representatives of Srila Prabhupada.

We recognize that some members and friends of ISKCON may object to this resolution based on their own reading of sastra, their own social experiences, or deeply held Vaisnava 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 Chaitanya and our previous acaryas, and as facilitating senior, mature and exemplary followers of Srila Prabhupada in their dedicated service to him and his ISKCON. Please bless them in this new important spiritual responsibility.

“So one who is spreading krsna-upadesa , simply repeat what is said by Krsna, then you become acarya. (…) 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 acarya, and people will understand Krsna consciousness very easily”.
(Lecture on Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 1.13 – April 6, 1975, Mayapur)

- End of Statement -

15. Please express your degree of agreement with the above GBC statement.
16. The above GBC resolution and statement on Vaisnavi diksa-gurus (Oct 2019) represent a balanced and acceptable direction.
17. The above GBC resolution and statement on Vaisnavi diksa-gurus (Oct 2019) represent an unbalanced and unacceptable direction.
18. In the last 16 years the debate on the issue has been sufficient, and the various sides were heard sufficiently.
19. There is dialogue/mediation going on between the GBC and the ISKCON India Bureau on the subject of Vaisnavis diksa-gurus. I shall accept whatever conclusion is produced.
20. Vaisnavi diksa-gurus should give first initiation (harinama), the pancaratrika mantras (for Deity worship), and also the Brahma-gayatri - just like the men.
21. Vaisnavi diksa-gurus should give first initiation (harinama), the pancaratrika mantras (for Deity worship) and also the Brahma-gayatri but - to men - not the brahmin thread, which would be given by a man.
22. Vaisnavi diksa-gurus should give first initiation (harinama) and the pancaratrika mantras (for Deity worship), but not the Brahma-gayatri.
23. Whether we accept Vaisnavi diksa-gurus or not; ISKCON should have the same approach throughout the whole world.
24. ISKCON could have different approaches in different parts of the world: certain countries may have Vaisnavi diksa-gurus and others not.
25. The preaching would be enhanced by qualified ladies being diksa-gurus in India.
26. Srila Prabhupada did emphasize the spiritual equality of the genders; but accepting Vaisnavi diksa-gurus could confuse people and be taken as Westernized feminism. Also, some orthodox denominations, in India or elsewhere, may consider our allowing Vaisnavi diksa-gurus to be a deviation; and that may somehow hamper our preaching.
27. Srila Prabhupada envisioned different strategies for the West and for India, according to the time, place and circumstance. This should also apply to the engagement of women in India.
28. It would be detrimental to the preaching if ladies are diksa-gurus in India.
29. We should have a recorded debate, with proper moderation between supporters and opponent of Vaisnavi diksa-gurus.
30. We should have an in-depth discussion on the whole topic of guru-tattva (relation between diksa- and siksa-gurus, etc.) and its application.
31. Ladies should be patha-pradarsaka-gurus and siksa gurus for their family members.
32. Ladies should be patha-pradarsaka-gurus and siksa-gurus; and if they are kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā, they can also be diksa-gurus.
33. Considering the services offered by ISKCON diksa-gurus (teaching, guiding and counseling), certainly qualified Vaisnavis can also perform them, for those who are inspired by them.
34. The list of prerequisites and qualifications - for Vaisnava or Vaisnavi diksa-gurus - should also include the following (tick whatever applies):
35. Being in a male human form is indispensable for the assimilation and the transmission of spiritual knowledge.
36. Souls in the male or female human form can both assimilate and transmit spiritual knowledge.
37. The male-gender body is essential in the process of giving initiation.
38. The gender (either male or female) of the body is not an essential element in the process of giving initiation.
39. One argument against Vaisnavi diksa-gurus is that Srila Prabhupada never appointed any; but there are a number of things that Srila Prabhupada didn't do, such as not appointing any black-bodied devotees as GBC. Therefore I don't find this argument very sound.
40. We should accept the conclusions of the GBC in philosophical matters, such as on Vaisnavi diksa-gurus; even if it appears to be against some scriptures.
41. We should enquire about the conclusions of the GBC in philosophical matters, if we think there is some philosophical discrepancy.
42. If some smriti-sastra says something like sudra and women cannot become gurus, but Lord Caitanya says that whoever knows Krishna tattva is a Guru, we should give precedence to Lord Caitanya's instructions.
43. The GBC said that ISKCON can have Vaisnavi diksa-gurus; we should accept this conclusion and leave it up to the individual devotees to make a personal choice, to have a male or female guru.
44. In principle, if they are qualified, Vaisnavis could serve as initiating spiritual masters in ISKCON.
45. In principle, Vaisnavis can never serve as initiating spiritual masters in ISKCON, regardless of the level of qualification.