On the Petition for Vaishnavi Dīkshā Gurus in ISKCON

Prof. O’Connell: Is it possible, Swamiji, for a woman to be a guru in the line of disciplic succession?

Prabhupada: “Yes. Jahnava devi was — Nityananda’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-vetta 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-vetta, 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.”
Interview with Professors O’Connell, Motilal and Shivaram 
June 18, 1976, Toronto

***

The very idea that I have to sign a petition to get the “leading” ecclesiastical body of ISKCON to support what is at the highest level of Krishna Bhakti understanding, is utterly confounding and painful to me. The futility of it all. And, at the same time, its necessity. Kalakantha’s proposal, while well-meaning, and while attempting to further ISKCON’s maturation, I fear enables, ironically, the depersonalizing and demoralizing system that is in place by doing so.

Prabhupāda once told a sannyāsin, who complained about women in the temples, to go live in the forest if he couldn’t take it. To act as if women don’t live in this world or to act as if they don’t count is just absurd. GENDER HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ESSENTIAL DIMENSIONS OF BHAKTI, and to limit devotional service in any way is to deny the absolute and unlimited power of Bhakti. Period. I feel very sorry for these impoverished souls who try to limit Bhakti, which is an impossibility!

Our dīkshā lineage has FOUR women! Here they are, from the Nityānanda Parivāra: Jāhnava Devī, Maheśvarī Devī, Guṇamañjarī Devī, and Rāmamonī Devī. We wouldn’t be here without these wonderful female gurvīs in our lineage, and thus we are indebted to them!

And we can now be indebted to those numerous women who have contributed so much to Prabhupāda’s major branch of the Caitanya Tree. 

The essential problem, as I see it: The supposedly leading and highest ecclesiastical group of devotees, the GBC of ISKCON, try to control devotees and the relationships between them that naturally occur. Some sincere devotees will naturally find some sincere and advanced Vaishnavīs to be ones from whom they wish to receive their connection to the Guru Paramparā. It’s about the substance of the relationship . . . if it is truly Vaishnava loving saṅga, then it will be elevating to both disciple and guru. If it has yet to meet a certain level of purity and wholeness, hopefully it will grow into that. If it is something that ends up being an unhealthy relationship, then it will break apart. 

This is natural. The GBC of ISKCON have yet to learn that no one can limit and control Vaishnava relationships that are solidly grounded in Krishna Bhakti. They are going on anyway, whether such relationships are acceptable by the GBC or not. They are going on in “substance,” while perhaps not in “form.” But GBC so-called leadership desires to control the form with the hopes of controlling devotees’ hearts. It CANNOT be done! It is going on anyway . . . NOTHING can stop the heart of a Vaishnava!

I offer my most deeply appreciative and caring praṇāmas to all the past and present females in our sampradāya!

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