I was briefly staying at the ISKCON Mumbai complex at Juhu, living, as usual, in squalor, when an Indian devotee married to an American living in the room across mine told me what happened when they sought advice from our guru about an operation their infant daughter urgently needed to correct a birth defect. (For those readers puzzled by this situation, you need to know that our guru regarded himself as the ultimate authority in all matters relating to his disciples’ lives and invited them to avail themselves of his so-called expertise. Bizarre but true.) Predictably enough, as soon as they informed him that the defect needing surgical correction related to the girl’s sex organs, he told them to do nothing. I still remember the mother’s ashen face and sense of hopelessness. I still wonder if they heeded the advice of their pediatrician and ignored the smug, saffron-clad blathering’s of our know-it-all “guru.”
Judging from the recent media condemnation of celebrities accused of sexual abuse, men in positions of power who either practice such crimes or hold views that excuse them, need to be forewarned. There has never been a worse time to be a public figure and try to escape censure for discriminatory or predatory treatment of women, no matter how long ago it took place. There will soon be nowhere to hide. Whether the victims use Twitter, Face Book, or another form of social media to tell their stories, the results will be the same. Remember: it was never a question if justice would prevail; it was just a matter of when. Now is the time.
STUPID? LUSTFUL INFERIORS? HOW ISKCON HAS FOOLED BOLLYWOOD
ISKCON has been particularly foolish in courting Indian celebrities in the film industry and politics with its lavish temples and charitable associations. Hema Malini—an ISKCON life member—is a prime example: a few months ago, this veteran Bollywood actress turned singer released an album of devotional songs (“bhajans”) on 13 August at the Mumbai ISKCON temple to great fanfare. How would she and her admirers react, one wonders, if they knew that the Hare Krishna cultists regard women as lustful, innately stupid baggage, little more than two-legged wombs good for cooking and acting as personal slaves for their husbands.[i] When they discover that these misogynistic views were promulgated by the founder/acharya of the Hare Krishna cult, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami (also known as “Srila Prabhupada”) and form the basis of the cult’s past and present treatment of its women members, they will undoubtedly repudiate their connection with ISKCON immediately.
BEHIND THE BHAJANS & PRASADAM: HELL FOR HARE KRISHNA WOMEN
Today, in fact, there is a wide gulf between the public face of ISKCON and the lives of members of the cult. Rigid conformity to the published teachings of Bhaktivedanta Swami is enforced through coercion and threats of defamation and expulsion. Devotees live in a regressive universe where they actively deride women members who aspire to equal treatment as “feminists,” urging them instead to submit to their husbands and be content with the notion that they are intellectual inferiors better suited to keeping house and being mothers. These types of anti-feminist rants are vestiges of culture wars that were fought at least 30 years ago. Acting as if they have any significance today is just pathetic and laughable.
Furthermore, many of the beliefs about women that Bhaktivedanta Swami’s disciples and “grand” disciples insist are as authoritative as their guru was, are shockingly vulgar and repulsive. As a former disciple of his, I will always feel cheated for having wasted the best years of my life following and defending someone capable of slandering women and marriage in such horrible terms:
Prabhupada said, “The dog likes to smell the vagina. You are like that. What is business of going another vagina? You require vagina. Take one and be satisfied. That is intelligence. First of all there is no need of vagina. But if you want, take one and be satisfied. Why you are searching after dog vagina, this vagina, that vagina, that vagina? We must expose them, that’s all. This is our business. This is a good opportunity in the court, so that it will be published. People will know what is our philosophy. Licking of vagina civilization, this. Publish. Room conversation with Adi-Kesava Swami, 19 February 1977, Mayapur,West Bengal
They are never satisfied, the vagina business.One who is dhīra,sober, he tolerates little itching sensation: "What this nonsense?" And if you practice toleration, there will be no more. Finished. You become liberated. Therefore, from the very beginning of life, childhood, this teach him, that "Don't be a vagina-smelling animal. Room Conversation: 25 Feb. 1977 Mayapura, West Bengal.
Of course, I am well aware that media and political personalities who have either supported or awarded prizes or praised ISKCON for its public relations follies would never have given their approval had they researched the cult thoroughly. The only way to inform such deluded parties is to contact them and send them the link to specific postings on this blog and its companion, https://iskconcultunveiled.blogspot.com.
The following is a collection of quotations about women from the published works of the founder/acharya of the Hare Krishna cult, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, categorized by topic. My comments follow each. "SB" refers to Srimad Bhagavatam (see notes).
Preference of Male to Female Children:
Letter of November, 1975 to his disciple, Dhananjaya Das:
I've noticed that you gave birth to a girl. This is precisely the defect. I want male children. But you do not have the Stamina. When I saw the belly of Vilasini, I really thought it would be a boy...... Why is the majority of my married students only giving birth to girls?More ignorance: The gender of a child is solely determined by the father. "Stamina" has nothing to do with it!
Approval of Wife-Beating:
Room conversation, 12 April, 1969, New York
Likewise, pasu, animals, when you say, "My dear dog, you shall not run there." Zack! (laughs) "No, dear dog."Zack! That's right. Likewise, women. If you become indulgent, it will make trouble. In India still, in the villages, whenever there is dispute between the husband and the wife, then she is beaten by the man and she is tame again (laughs).
ISKCON devotee-zombies who fail to object to this description of wife-beating will one day hear the "Zack! of a whip themselves when they are run out of town by people who are sick and tired of their nonsense.
She is not a leader. She is a prostitute. When women are liberated, this means prostitutes. Free women are called prostitutes.
It must be said clearly that the understanding of a woman is always lower than the understanding of a man.
Lecture on SB 1.3.21, 26 September 1972, Los Angeles.
This is psychologically true, that within the brain, the brain substance, if there is more, then one is more intelligent.. . Just see, modern scientific psychology, how it was known, long, long millions of years ago. At least five thousand years ago. . . I was student of psychology, and our professor… He was a Scotman. He explained this brain substance, cerebular substance, Dr. Urquhart, that the more brain substance is there, more one becomes intelligent. And it has been found that a woman does not have more than thirty-six ounce of brain substance, whereas in man it has been found that he has got up to sixty-four ounce. Now, this is modern science. Therefore generally, generally, woman, less intelligent than man. You cannot find any big scientist, any big mathematician, any big philosopher amongst woman. That is not possible. Although in your country, you want equal status with man, freedom, but by nature you are less intelligent. What can be done?Perhaps the most ridiculous statement our guru every uttered, based on a total ignorance of science, history, and common sense. His slavish devotion to the words of an European professor--what a big deal in to a student in Calcutta!--are particularly laughable. Trotting out the old claims of an ancient "Vedic Science" having existed is another myth and salve for people who hunger for self-importance instead of doing the hard work of getting a real education.
Letter to Madhukara, 4 January 1973
To understand Brahman is not the business of tiny brain. Alpha-medhasan. There are two Sanskrit words, alpa-medhasa and sumedhasa. Alpa-medhasa means having little brain substance. Physiologically, within the brain there are brain substance. It is found that the brain substance in man is found up to 64 ounce. They are very highly intellectual persons. And in woman the brain substance is not found more than 34 ounce. You’ll find, therefore, that there is no very great scientist, mathematician, philosopher, among women. You’ll never find because their brain substance cannot go. Artificially do not try to become equal with men. That is not allowed in the Vedic sastra. Na striyam svatantratam arhati. That is called sastra.You have to understand that woman is never given to be independence. But if there is sex desire, how to control it? Women are normally very lusty, more lusty than men, and they are weaker sex, it is difficult for them to make spiritual advancement without the help of husband. For so many reasons, our women must have husband. That's all right, but if once they have got a husband he goes away so quickly, that will not be very much happy for them.
Belief That Women Enjoy Being Raped:
Morning walk, 11 May 1975, Perth
Prabhupada: “Rape means without consent, sex. Otherwise there is no rape. There was a rape case in
, and the lawyer was very intelligent. He some way or other made the woman admit, ‘Yes, I felt happiness.’ So he was released. ‘Here is consent.’ And that’s a fact. Because after all, sex, rape or no rape, they will feel some pleasure. So the lawyer by hook and crook made the woman agree, ‘Yes, I felt some pleasure.’ ‘Now, there is consent.’ So he was released. After all, it is an itching sensation. So either by force or by willingly, if there is itching, everyone feels relieved itching it. That’s a psychology. It is not that the woman do not like rape. They like sometimes. They willingly. That is the psychology. Outwardly they show some displeasure, but inwardly they do not. This is the psychology.” Calcutta
SB 4.25.41, Purport
Although rape is not legally allowed, it is a fact that a woman likes a man who is very expert at rape.
Man has no maximum. Even an eighty-years-old man can marry a sixteen-years-old girl.
And it is recommended they should be married at very early age, then the wife will remain always chaste and devoted to her husband. At such young age, from the first night onwards, she can never for a moment forget him, being still child and unspoiled, therefore she becomes the perfect chaste wife, and in those times the wife was so much devoted to her husband that she would voluntarily die in the fire of his cremation, unable to live without him. Myself, I was very young when I got married, and my wife was 11 years only.
Sex life, sex urge is there as soon as twelve years, thirteen years old, especially women. So therefore early marriage was sanctioned in
. Early marriage. Boy fifteen years, sixteen years, and girl twelve years. Not twelve years, ten years. India
See my essay: https://iskconcultunveiled.blogspot.com/2016/01/sex-lies-and-sadhu-making.html.
A young woman who has no husband is called anatha, meaning ‘one who is not protected.’ As soon as a woman attains the age of puberty, she immediately becomes very much agitated by sexual desire. It is therefore the duty of the father to get his daughter married before she attains puberty. Otherwise she will be very much mortified by not having a husband. Anyone who satisfies her desire for sex at that age becomes a great object of satisfaction. It is a psychological fact that when a woman at the age of puberty meets a man and the man satisfies her sexually, she will love that man for the rest of her life, regardless who he is.
Twelve years. And she was given to a boy, my brother-in-law, for the second marriage. Means that my brother-in-law lost his first wife, and still, he was twenty-one years old. My sister was twelve years old and brother-in-law was twenty-one. In the sastra I do not know exactly what is that sastra, but they say that if the girl before marriage has menstruation, then the father has to eat that menstrual liquid. Means it is, mean, very strict. And if the father is not living, then the elder brother has to eat. [break] …of getting the girl married rests on the father. In the absence of the father, the eldest brother. The girl must be married. That is it. It is called daya, kanya-daya.
And the women are declaring, “independent.” They are begging door to door to a man, “Please give me shelter. Give me a child,” and they’re independent. One American woman, was…. She was speaking that “In
, the woman are treated as slave. We don’t want.” So I told her that it is better to become slave of one person than to slave of become hundreds. (laughter)The woman must become a slave. So instead of becoming slaves of so many persons, it is better to remain satisfied, a slave of one person.. . . And our Vedic civilization says, narī-rūpa pati-vratam: “The woman is beautiful when she remains as a slave to the husband.” That is the beauty, not the personal beauty. How much she has learned to remain as a slave to the husband, that is Vedic civilization. India
Formerly, when I was married, my wife was eleven years old. So (laughing) an eleven years old girl and I was at the same time twenty-one, twenty-two. One day I captured her hand. She began to cry. A little girl, you see?Yes, we all see, unfortunately for your reputation as a "pure devotee"! That little girl should have been home playing with her sisters and her toys. Instead, she got hell.
Education of Women
SB 1.3.13 Lecture,
So dealing with woman… Especially instruction are given to men. All literatures, all Vedic literatures, they are especially meant for instruction to the men. Woman is to follow the husband. That’s all. The husband will give instruction to the wife. There is no such thing as the girl should go to school to take brahmacari asrama or go to spiritual master to take instruction. That is not Vedic system. Vedic system is a man is fully instructed, and woman, girl, must be married to a man. Even the man may have many wives, polygamy, still, every woman should be married. And she would get instruction from the husband. This is Vedic system. Woman is not allowed to go to school, college, or to the spiritual master. But husband and wife, they can be initiated. That is Vedic system.Barefoot and pregnant, literally. Since Bhaktivedanta Swami, by his own admission, never read the Vedas and believed that women should be denied educations, reading his books is a waste of time and visiting temples erected by his followers is an insult to Hindu culture.
The following is a sample of documented comments he made in his role as ultimate authority of ISKCON, all addressed to his initiated disciples unless otherwise noted:
Srimad Bhagavatam , 4.26.26, purport: Generally when a woman is attacked by a man – whether her husband or some other man – she enjoys the attack, being too lusty.
Srimad Bhagavatam,4.25.42, purport: When a husbandless woman is attacked by an aggressive man, she takes his action to be mercy.
References and Notes
The "Srimad Bhagavatam" quoted here and elsewhere in my blog refers to what is more commonly known as the Bhagavata Purana, one of the eighteen puranas (histories) dating from somewhere between the eighth and the tenth century, CE. In common with most epic poems, it is a lengthy compendium of topics relating to the mythical origins of a people, in this case those of the Indian subcontinent. Other characteristics of similar works in the epic genre are claims concerning ancient composition, single authors, and an almost continuous stream of fanciful exaggerations that orthodox readers (such as Bhaktivedanta Swami) take literally. Its significance to the Hare Krishna cult rests on its placing the avatar of Vishnu, Krishna, on a platform that Vaishnavas (devotees of Vishnu) regard as higher than any other deity in the Hindu pantheon and the devotional practices of Bhakti Yoga as the culmination of all others. In reality, the Bhagavata Purana owes much of its influence to its composite nature as a work of epic literature and especially its syncretic philosophical underpinnings. Bhaktivedanta Swami's commentaries (he called them "purports") with their rigid literalism and emphasis on chanting and adoration of the Radha Krishna deity skirt the general philosophical agreement of the Bhagavata Purana with the monism of the great Shankara. The aim of all yoga is reunion of the errant soul with the Divine.