December 14, 1998 VNN2677 See Related VNN Stories
The Worshipable Mother
BY SWAMI B.A. PARAMADVAITI
EDITORIAL, Dec 14 (VNN) All Glories to Sri Sri Guru and Gouranga
Please accept my most humble dandavat Pranams. As I have recently seen many articles regarding the position of women in societies which have attempted Krishna Consciousness, I feel inspired to write the following homage to the Vaisnavis whom I have met in this life as well as to those I have not met.
My obeisances first to the seven mothers mentioned in the Vedas, namely our Mother Veda, Mother Earth, Mother cow, Mother queen, Mother brahmana, Mother wife of the spiritual master and finally, my own mother. We worship the female energy from the highest svarupa shakti Srimati Radharani and her all love creating Hladini Shakti, down to the last woman who can bring a child into to this world. There are, of course, also her many expansions of Laksmi, the goddess of fortune; Durga, Sarasvati, Kali, and Parvati who have important powers over this material world.
Similarly, in an Indian family, the wife and mother is worshipped and can make decisions on many issues. They make decisions on marriages, often the treasury, and the household. Family relationships are, for the most part, coordinated by them. They also look after the family's savings such as the gold items that are used and stored by them.
Srila Sridhar Maharaj told us that once an Indian Prime minister was asked to go to England as a representative of India. His reply was that he would decide whether he would go the follow day. The following day he declined. When he was asked the reason for his decline, he said that his mother had told him that it would be better if he not go to England.
Srila Sridhar Maharaj also quoted the famous sloka of Manu Samhita:
pita raksati kaumare, bhrtta raksati yauvane...
"Here Manu explains that during their first years, the father will protect the females, during youth the husband will protect them, and in old age the sons will protect them. Though externally having no rights, they draw respect from society more than a goddess does."
Unfortunately, however, men today do not behave very properly in this respect. They like to quote the scriptures, but only to justify their own "greatness". In many cases today, men represent a danger for women. After the many experiences of attempting to form Krishna Conscious societies in the West, we have all the more reason to analyze the real position of women. Friedrich Nietsche, after reading the Manu Samhita declared:" This is the first book I have read which gives justice to women and poor people". Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati requested to establish Visnu Priya Ashrams for all women who wanted to be devotees and had no other place for shelter. In the classic Prema Pradip by Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur, he mentioned the Women's Ashram and their saintly leader who was highly respected. History, as you all know, has also given the stories of great women spiritual masters such as Hemalini Thakurani, Gangamata Goswamini and, of course, Jahnava didi. No doubt, they were not women in the ordinary sense, but are any women who preach ordinary?
Let me first remember the wonderful years of Srila Prabhupada. During that time, my god-sisters did the most wonderful preaching. Not only did they preach, collect, sew deity clothes, cook delicious feasts and give support to all the other activities, they were also outstanding figures who helped to spread Krishna Consciousness. By the orders of Srila Prabhupada, Srimati Yamuna didi and Srimati Himavati didi preached to thousands of Hindus in the pandal programs. Srimati Yadurani didi painted nectar pictures and preached tirelessly. Srimati Vrindavan Vilasini didi, Srimati Nartaka Gopal didi and a host of others were the constant champions in the transcendental book distribution. They served Srila Prabhupada unfailingly, doing the longest hours you could imagine just giving this nectar to the people, year after year after year. In New Vrindavan, one didi boldly stopped the speculations about Srila Prabhupada which threatened the movement. Srimati Visakha didi helped in making the films on Krishna Consciousness.
These women, and others, are truly the mothers of this movement and always looked after the well being of Sannyasys, Brahmacaries and Brahmacarinis alike. They are also the holy mothers of the second-generation devotees. The list of their names and glories are too long to go into much further detail. All the services done by them are important elements in the sum and substance of the Krishna Conscious family. But there are more stories to be told.
Factually, the women in the temples and in their general modern life have not always been protected very well. Protection means to give them a fair opportunity to serve Krishna. Men and women are to live compatibly. This means complementing each other whenever necessary. From an unbiased consensus, in the past, if someone failed it was more often the men, thus causing families to break up. Women also hardly have any record of stealing, drug misuse, and sexual abuse in Vaisnava families. Men, on the other hand.......
No wonder that Krishna says in the Bhagavat Gita 10.34
"Among woman I am fame, fortune, fine speech, memory, intelligence, steadfastness and patience."
In the Mission I started in 1984, I considered the need for more protection for women and concluded that we must give them more space to protect each other. When their fathers, or fathers of their children, or anyone else failed, where could they turn? Men are especially crafty at cheating women when they are in despair. I could not see any other solution than to request the older mature matajis to try to take these things into their own hands with the support and enthusiasm from all others. Who else but transcendentally advance matajis will properly guide, host or protect the young unmarried women, the widows, those who have no family, the single mothers, and the older matajis and renounciates when they travel around?
This gave rise to the Visnupriya Ashrams which we have started since in many cities and countries. Other Vaisnava Missions have also started similar programs. The results have been amazing. Faithful mataji devotees have expanded Krishna Consciousness to many new cities. It is wonderful to see twenty-year-old Vaisnavis preaching to college professors, managing temples, organizing festivals, Hari Nama parties, and anything else you may imagine. They take on responsibilities and help our mission just as much as any man. This is a proven fact. I cannot understand how some people still behave rudely and thus minimize the importance of the matajis for any and all services within the Vaisnava society. As a matter of fact, they are greatly needed at Vaisnava family meetings, Istagothis, GBC meetings, etc. because their feelings of motherly affection help to overcome the influence of the masculine vanity, the calculative and arrogant insensitivity. Not only women, the entire Vaisnava Society has suffered from the "big city gang style" of management.
If some of these words appear to sharp to you, it is only because you have not paid attention to the way people in their so called renounced mood sometimes talk about women. To be unkind to our mothers only shows how little we have understood the Vaisnava culture.
I am not in favor of letting the sexes mix unnecessarily, especially for cultivating Brahmacaria. Nevertheless, one has to carefully monitor the separation so that it does not get out of hand and produce fanatic lunatics and woman haters who later either become Homosexuals or neurotic wrecks that spoil their chances to have a nice family.
The man should see his wife as one of Krishna's gopis. He should be proud and happy to be married and a father and not forget that Krishna will not easily forgive one who mistreats His Gopis. It is necessary for those who take on family responsibilities to be happy and to do so in a materially and spiritually balanced way.
Adults have to see that their grown children can move in this direction with confidence. Distorted Brahmacaries can put peer pressure on young people warning them of "falling prey to the lusty seduction of the witch women". If that is the case, the boy will later look upon his wife as the cause for his "paradise lost," and will not please her, his children, his Guru, or Krishna. How can one expect happiness under such conditions?
We have even seen sannyasis loosing their spiritual integrity after insulting women. If any mataji is offended, it is a disaster for the community (family) and therefore we were taught from day one to call them mother - Mataji or didi - sister. Not even the hard-hearted people can approve inflicting sufferings on their mother or sister.
Will they be unhappy if they feel ignored or neglected? How would you feel?
Actually, the only problem with women in this world is that they would like to be like men. They also want to adopt the male vanity, the same disease of the conditioned soul: the desire to imitate the only real Purusa who is entitled to enjoy every soul for its eternal benefit. But the so-called purusas only become more miserable as they try to enjoy what is not their property.
Many women also make these frustrated attempts. Thus marriage often becomes a battle to dominate rather then a loving tie to overcome Maya through the conjoint service to Sri Guru and Gouranga and in this way attracting the children and neighbors. In India we hear very little about women being misunderstood and abused. (I am not defending here all the possible abuses which happen in India against women. What I am writing about is how things should be and are in places and with people who have appreciation for Vedic culture.)
Women who are already worshipped by the society and the family simply have no need to constantly lobby against men. A German woman journalist spent fifteen years in India and wrote a book about the position of women in India. The title is: The Soft Regimen of Women in India. It is an interesting account of how Indian women apparently always give the man the supreme position. Simultaneously, however, family affairs depend primarily on them.
Again, I offer my obeisances to all the transcendental women who have decided to fight against Maya and who have helped so much to make the Krishna Conscious family a reality and a success. We know it is our Karma that we were born under such adverse circumstances. Let us at least try our best to make the association of men and women (who try to understand that they are neither men nor women), both in family life and in ashram life, a pleasant experience.
Istagosthis and the guidance of kindhearted Vaisnava(i)s will help us deal softly with each other, resolve any problems, and give our mothers and sisters the place they need to serve humanity and the Vaisnava society even better then they already have.
See Related VNN Stories | Comment on this Story
This story URL: http://www.vnn.org/editorials/ET9812/ET14-2677.html
NEWS DESK | EDITORIALS | TOP
Surf the Web on