Vedic Philosophy Manifests, As the *Epitome of Feminism** – Encourages Women to take Leadership Positions
ISKCON Vaishnavi Ministry
Our mission is “To promote a culture of open-hearted empowerment for Vaishnavis through association, education, representation, support, and service.”
Prabhupada really loved his daughters.
One time Prabhupada had a cold, and Hari Sauri had given me a little scrap of orange silk to make into a handkerchief for Prabhupada. I was a neophyte devotee sewing for Radha-Madhava, and I thought, “Oh, I have to sew this quickly.” But I didn’t sew it very well, and I gave it to Hari Sauri anyway to give to Prabhupada. After many years I saw Hari Sauri again and asked him, “Prabhu, do you remember that little orange handkerchief you gave me to sew for Prabhupada? That little scrap of silk?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Did Srila Prabhupada actually ever use it?” He said, “Oh, yeah. Prabhupada used it and he loved that handkerchief.” I said, “Really? It was so horribly sewn. I’ve lamented for forty-three years that I sewed it so poorly.” He said, “Look, I’ll tell you what happened.” He said, “There was a lot of sannyasis in the room, and I came in with that handkerchief to give to Prabhupada as one of the sannyasis was telling Srila Prabhupada what an excellent sannyasi he was. He told Prabhupada, ‘I don’t talk to women, I don’t look at women, and I’m very fixed in my sannyasa vows.’ Srila Prabhupada was just looking down quietly listening, not commenting. I handed the handkerchief to Prabhupada and he beamed. He picked up the handkerchief and he addressed the sannyasis in the room. He said, ‘I will always accept service from my daughters.”
Krsnarupa devi dasi
If a woman is qualified, she can be a master
– Professor O’Conell: Swamiji, in the line of disciplic succession can a woman be a guru?
– Srila Prabhupada: “Yes. Jahnava devi, Lord Nityananda’s wife was a guru. She became a guru. [Jahnava devi was a beginning spiritual teacher and had male disciples]. If she can reach the highest perfection of life, why couldn’t she be a guru? But there are not many. Actually, a person who has reached that perfection can become a guru. It does not matter whether he is male or female, unless that perfection has been achieved… Yei-krishna tattva-vetta sei guru haya. The quality of the guru is that he must fully know Krishna consciousness. Then that person can be a guru. Yei-krishna tattva-vetta, sei guru haya. Is there in the material world any prohibition for women to be teachers? If a woman is qualified she can be a teacher. Where is the problem? If she is qualified she can become a teacher. What would be wrong with it? She must be qualified. That is the position. Similarly, if the woman understands Krishna consciousness perfectly, she can be a guru.
(June 18, 1976, Toronto)
“Mukunda Maharaja, Bir Krishna Maharaja, and Bhaktitirtha Maharaja were willing to help Sudharma bring the discussion into the GBC meeting rooms and Bhaktitirtha Swami suggested that we establish a Ministry, not a council, for women. Thus in 1994, the North American Women’s Ministry was formed with a voting seat and Sudharma became the Minister.”
– Excerpt from ‘Emergence of Women’s Voices in ISKCON ’
“Regarding your questions about the examination to be given
The girls will also be able to take these. In Krishna Consciousness there is no distinction between girls and boys. The girls also may become preachers if they are able.”
AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada letter to Himavati, 1969
“We can embrace different social roles for Vaishnavas and Vaishnavis, understanding that those roles are complementary and both are essential. But within these roles, which can vary around the world, we must permit devotees to use their personal natures and talents in service.”
-Radha Devi Dasi, Excerpt from the Introduction to ‘Emergence of Women’s Voices’ in ISKCON
For more Information-:
Launch of the ##Many Moons Podcast#
A new podcast entitled “Many Moons” is set to be released across all podcast platforms on February 7th, 2022.
Presented by Sadhvi Sanga and Bodhaka, the podcast is a series of interviews featuring inspiring voices of the pioneer women of ISKCON. The invited guests will speak about their relationships with Srila Prabhupada, their personal experiences within ISKCON, and many more subjects.
The title of the podcast is inspired by a very sweet pastime of Srila Prabhupada’s and something he said.
Rukmini Walker remembers the pastime as follows:
“The New York devotees had just acquired this new temple, the second New York temple at 61 2nd Avenue, and they were writing to Prabhupada telling him that the new temple was just like a palace. And I was feeling a lot of anxiety about this because I was thinking, ‘Prabhupada’s coming and he’s going to be so disappointed when he sees this temple. They’re telling him it’s just like a palace, but it’s just another storefront. It’s a little bit nicer than the first storefront, but it’s just another storefront.’ I was thinking, ‘He’s going to be angry, he’ll be so disappointed, it’s going to be horrible.’ So Prabhupada came in and he sat on the vyasasana and he said, ‘I prayed to Krishna to send me one moon, but Krishna has sent me so many moon-like boys and girls.’ That’s what he said.”
‘Many Moons’ podcast launch will start on Monday, February 7th with its first guest, Visakha Devi Dasi exploring how Vaishnavis can serve in leadership roles. The episode will be entitled ‘Not Ordinary Women’.
The interview will answer important questions such as ‘how can Vaishnavis remain true to their feminine nature whilst serving as leaders?’ ‘What unique contributions can women make in leadership roles?’ ‘Can we follow daiva varnashrama in such a way to empower Vaishnavis to serve to their greatest capacity?’
Catch the live and recorded episode on Sadhvi Sanga YouTube channel and Bodhaka Facebook Page.
GBC Amends and Affirms Law -: Allowing Vaisnavis To Initiate
Per GBC policy the resolution described below can not go into effect until reviewed by the SABHA.
December 22, 2021—The Governing Body Commission (GBC) of ISKCON today passed a resolution amending a 2019 law affirming that qualified Vaisnavis, or women devotees, may under certain conditions, initiate disciples (give diksa) within the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
Of the 28 voting GBC members present for the tally, the vote was 18 in favor, 2 opposed, and 8 abstentions. In other words, 64% of GBC members voted in favor of the proposal.
The earlier 2019 Law resolved that “Vaisnavis are eligible to give diksa in ISKCON” but was not enacted because the GBC agreed to first enter into a formal dialogue with representatives of the India Bureau, some of whom had raised objections to the 2019 decision.
Since then, four members of a GBC subcommittee met with four senior members of the India Bureau more than two dozen times, to listen to their concerns and consider amendments to the law based on their input.
“We wanted to ensure that the GBC clearly heard the viewpoints and issues raised by the Bureau members,” said Brahmatirtha das, a representative of ISKCONResolve who specializes in mediation. “Myself and my colleague, Sri Prathamesh Popat, from Mumbai, who was nominated by the India Bureau to co-facilitate the meetings, worked diligently to ensure that all voices and perspectives were heard over the many months the two groups met.”
Today’s GBC decision was denoted as a “Culturally Sensitive Resolution.” In short, ISKCON Regional Governing Bodies (such as the India Bureau) may, under specific conditions, choose to opt out of the policy for their area based on it being culturally sensitive. This is the first ever GBC resolution designated as culturally sensitive, under a law passed just a few weeks ago.
The Amended law highlighted several points that arose from the GBC-Bureau discussions:
- Regional Governing Bodies (or National Councils where there is no RGB) may opt out of this policy
- With the authorization of their RGB, an individual country may also opt out
- If a Region opts out, a 2/3 majority vote of that RGB may still approve a specific Vaishnavi to initiate in their Region.
Requirements for Vaisnavi gurus that were established in the 2019 law remain, specifically that Vaisnavis who initiate must meet all standard qualifications for diksa-guru applicants; be at least 55 years of age; be living in a stable family situation, or have the protection of senior Vaisnava or Vaisnavi sanga.
The debate over whether women can serve as diksa gurus has yielded extensive papers and arguments on both sides of the matter. The topic has been the focus of multiple GBC meetings, debates and dialogues for more than 15 years, including a three-day GBC retreat in Tirupati, India, dedicated to the topic.
Today’s decision balances the concerns of those who oppose Vaisnavi diksa gurus—by allowing Regions to opt out, while allowing for Vaisnavis to initiate in all other parts of the world. It affirms the GBC’s previous decisions that to have Vaisnavis serve as diksa gurus is authorized in sastra, acceptable in Vaisnava culture, and is the desire of ISKCON’s Founder-acarya, His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada.