Tridandisvami Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Naryana Gosvami Maharaja
Badger, California: June 22, 2007
Sripad Nemi Maharaja: Srila Gurudeva, in San Francisco you said that we should follow varnasrama-dharma (the system of four castes and spiritual orders of life). To what extent, or in what sense, do you want us to follow it?
Srila Gurudeva: Follow it as your Gurudeva, Parama-pujyapada Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja, has told you to follow.
If one is a brahmacari, he follows the principles of brahmacarya; if one is a grhastha, he is an exemplary grhastha like Srivasa Pandita and other such pure devotees. Those in the vanaprastha asrama follow the principles of varnasrama in their asrama, and sannyasis follow the principles of those in the renounced order. This is varna and asrama dharma, the religious system of social, or occupational, and spiritual orders of life. You are not paramahamsas, and that is why you have been told to follow. You must follow.
Sripad Nemi Maharaja: Varnas also? We should all work according to our propensity?
Srila Gurudeva: Varna and asrama; both. Because we follow daiva-varnasrama (division of society by qualification, not by birth, and executed for the pleasure of the Lord), everyone should accept that which is favorable for bhakti, not other things.
For example, we do not accept smarta-kriya (activities performed according to smarta scriptures). The funeral ceremony for one's father and mother should not be performed according to smarta regulations. If there is a fire sacrifice or a marriage, it should be done solely according to Vaisnava scriptures and regulations.
Sripad Nemi Maharaja: What is the ladies' position in varnasrama-dharma? You have always emphasized that ladies and gentlemen are equal in bhakti.
Srila Gurudeva: Sita devi, Arundhati, Anasuya, Gargi, Maitri, Draupadi, Kunti, and other Vaisnavis have been given so much respect in our sastra and Vedic culture, on the same level as rsis and maharsis (the best of great sages and saints).
Sripad Sajjan Maharaja: Srila Prabhupada has said that ladies are very good and men are very good, but together they are not very good.
Srila Gurudeva: If a man and woman are grhastha, it is okay for them to associate with each other. If they are not grhastha, however, their association will be the cause of their fall-down; this is maya. Kamadeva, Cupid, has defeated even Visvamitra, Brahma, and Sankara (Lord Siva). [ The only personalities he could not defeat were Nara-Narayana Rsi and Narada. Srila Gurudeva explained elsewhere that these great personalities were not actually defeated by Cupid; rather, they played that pastime in order to teach us conditioned souls how careful we must be in this regard. – Ed]
Sripad Nemi Maharaja: In ISKCON there was a problem because, supposedly, according to the ISKCON members' understanding of varnasrama-dharma, ladies are less intelligent and in a lower position. *[See endnote 1]
Srila Gurudeva: No, no. Never think like this.
Sripada Madhava Maharaja: He is saying that in ISKCON they used to think like this, and they proclaimed that their conception was according to the principles of varnasrama.
Sripad Nemi Maharaja: That conception created a big problem.
Srila Gurudeva: Yes, certainly. They don't give respect to ladies; but I give respect, and I want everyone to do so. We give respect according to an individual's qualification.
Mahaprabhu dasa: Can ladies take management positions in this society?
Srila Gurudeva: Oh, so much. In India, Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister.
Mahaprabhu dasa: So ladies do not just make babies?
Srila Gurudeva: They can make so many babies. Indira Gandhi had two very beautiful sons, and one of her sons became the Prime Minister. Her daughter-in-law, Sonya Gandhi, also has one son and one daughter, and her son may also become Prime Minister. In America, Clinton's wife may become president.
Mahaprabhu dasa: I am a family man, Srila Gurudeva. I have a family, and I see that the girls are always more intelligent than the boys.
Srila Gurudeva: Yes, sometimes they are.
Aniruddha dasa: While you were giving class yesterday, my god-brother Harernamananda prabhu (Spanish) prayed to Sri Krsna, "I want to have a close relationship with Srila Gurudeva." Then, when you were leaving the temple, you approached him and asked, "Who are you?"
He was amazed and startled, thinking, "How did he know?" He is taking that as a sign of the beginning of his establishing a closer relationship with you. He is a very serious disciple of Prabhupada. He wants to have a closer relationship and serve you, but he wants to know how.
Srila Gurudeva: (To Harernamananda dasa) Hear me for four more days, and our relation will strengthen automatically.
Sripada Madhava Maharaja: He wants to know how he can serve you more.
Srila Gurudeva: He can serve in any way he thinks best.
Sivananda dasa: One or two years ago, in Venice, I was on a morning walk with Srila Gurudeva, Brajanath prabhu, and Sripad Madhava Maharaja. I was a little bit upset with of some of the activities of ISKCON, and I asked Srila Gurudeva, "Srila Gurudeva, are these people offenders, or are they asura demons?" Srila Gurudeva said, "They are my children."
Srila Gurudeva: (To Sripad Sajjana Maharaja) Can you explain the meaning of maya as I described in my class yesterday? What is maya?
Sripad Sajjana Maharaja: It is hard for me to speak without prior preparation.
Devotee: Maya is the desire to be a second Krsna, and that misunderstanding creates all the problems of this world.
Srila Gurudeva: You should know that there are two kinds of maya. Ultimately, maya is yogamaya (Sri Krsna's internal desire-potency), whose function is in Goloka Vrndavana and in the prakata-lila of Krsna, His pastimes as manifest in this material world. Yogamayam upasritah: In His rasa-lila Krsna employed his yogamaya, His potency which makes the impossible possible, and that yogamaya potency made all arrangements for Him and the gopis. Without yogamaya, rasa-lila would not have been able to take place.
There is no function of yogamaya in this world. Here in this world, maya refers only to worldly maya, by which creation, sustenance, and destruction of the cosmos take place. This maya is a shadow of the real yogamaya.
Maya is also the thinking that, "I am this body, these relatives are mine, this wealth is mine, this land is mine, and all my possessions are mine." We think, "Oh, wealth will save me; my relatives will help me;" this conception is maya. Attachment to relatives is maya, and destruction is also maya.
Maya is able to defeat everyone in this world. In Kali-yuga (this present age of quarrel and hypocrisy) she especially attacks sannyasis; so be very careful.
Sripad Nemi Maharaja: How does maya attack the sannyasis, Srila Gurudeva, and how can we be safe?
Srila Gurudeva: She sees that the sannyasi is the best person to be attacked.
Sripad Nemi Maharaja: So how they can be saved?
Srila Gurudeva: They can be saved only by surrender to Sri Krsna, guru and Vaisnavas. If sannyasis think, "There is no one to control me," they will surely land in the lap of maya. Those sannyasis who always remember Krsna, guru and Vaisnavas will be protected.
Visvambhara dasa: Srila Gurudeva, for so long you have been asking me which devotees are the top book distributors. Now we have determined the top three book distributors by how many books they have distributed, but we are wondering if that is actually the best way to measure. Is there a way to measure by quality?
The only way to practically measure right now is through quantity. But there is some doubt in several devotees' minds in this regard; they have expressed some dissatisfaction with this method. So, we are wondering if there is another way to measure for next year.
Brajanath dasa: Some devotees are saying that ISKCON leaders used to encourage the number one, two, and three distributors, who, by so many tricks, 'by hook or by crook' distributed books and then left devotional service. Many of the topmost distributors left Krsna consciousness and are now completely in maya.
Srila Gurudeva: So be careful. Still, we should give some reward to the best distributors.
Sripad Madhava Maharaja: How can they judge who is the top?
Srila Gurudeva: By how many books they are distributing; only by this way.
Visvambhara dasa: Another question is this: We are inspired to give the top distributor a big recognition – a ticket to Kartika – but some devotees think that that is too much.
Srila Gurudeva: Oh, they should decide. A committee will decide.
Sripad Padmanabha Maharaja: Srila Gurudeva, Yesterday you mentioned that the difference between your brahmacaris and sannyasis and those of our Srila Prabhupada was that you are training your brahmacaris and sannyasis in such a way that they will not fall down in the future. You have trained all the brahmacaris who have been with you for many years, telling them very strictly that they must never give up their brahmacarya, their saffron cloth.
One thing to note is that during the time of our Prabhupada, he encouraged brahmacarya, but he did not enforce it.
Srila Gurudeva: Yes, he did not enforce brahmacarya, because it was the beginning of the Krsna consciousness mission in the West.
Sripad Padmanabha Maharaja: Yes. He did not enforce it. If they wanted to marry, there was no problem.
Sripad Bhagavata Maharaja: In fact, in the beginning he personally arranged the marriages, because he saw that they were not capable of remaining brahmacaris.
Srila Gurudeva: He was very, very intelligent. Somehow he arrested them all. He trained them to make money also. In this way, even if they would give up life in the matha, they would be able to easily maintain their lives.
Gokuldas dasa (Australia): Srila Gurudeva, I have a question. Since the beginning you have encouraged us to form a society in this sanga, and now the leaders are doing this. Yesterday there was a big meeting.
But some devotees have a doubt regarding the establishment of a society, and I also have a doubt. Those who assume management positions tend to be very strong, pushy, and forceful, especially in Western societies. How can we best avoid a body of controlling leaders? Many are asking this question. They are worried that we will again become like ISKCON or another, similar institution.
Srila Gurudeva: We do not control here. I do not want to control anyone by force. I have love and affection for everyone, and I control everyone by that love and affection.
Sripad Madhava Maharaja: Gokula is saying that if there are managers in the society, their natures will want to control everyone, like some of the managers in ISKCON did.
Srila Gurudeva: No, no. Why would that happen? I always remind the leaders to think that they are servants of the matha. I make them matha commanders to serve all. I tell them not to think, "I am the controller and I am the head." I tell them, "Don't think, 'I am the monarch.'" They should consult with all others before doing anything.
Gokuldas dasa: I see that several institutions, like ISKCON and even Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja's institution in Bhubanesvara, are being managed with a mentality of control. Only one institution was not like that, and that was the Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti lead by you and Srila Trivrikram Maharaja and Srila Vamana Maharaja.
Brajanath dasa: Gurudeva, when we first came to Kartika, we saw how everything was managed by you. We saw how there were no management meetings; nothing of the sort.
Srila Gurudeva: There was no meeting at all at that time, and still there is no meeting. Everything transpires as if automatically.
Brajanath dasa: On the contrary, we (western devotees) have to sit down time to time and have meetings. We have to say to everyone at the meeting, "You have this job and you have that job, and if you don't do your job, then everything will fail." But there are no meetings in your sanga. Everything happens automatically.
Srila Gurudeva: No meetings at all.
Devotee: Srila Gurudeva, when there are properties and money involved, there is always greed. How can we avoid that, and how can we avoid the way we suffered in ISKCON? When Srila Prabhupada was here, nothing like this happened; but after his departure so many leaders began fighting over properties and temples, and kicking out devotees. Ambition and greed tend to come to societies, desiring to destroy them. How can we avoid this?
Srila Gurudeva: The members of the controlling committee must be very selfless, surrendered to guru, Vaisnavas, and Krsna; and also detached from worldly wealth and desires. I want to make members like this. Maya may come, but we are trying by this method.
Purandara dasa: In the absence of good association, leaders may adopt their old bad habits of trying to be controllers. How can that be avoided?
Srila Gurudeva: Some corruption dwelled in Satya-yuga, more so in Dvarapa, more in Treta, and still more so in Kali-yuga. We are trying; but still it may come, and therefore it is essential that we are careful in that regard.
We find that sometimes, if a father has two sons, the sons quarrel and one shoots the other instead of loving him. This is the world; this is why we should chant and remember Krsna, and be surrendered to Krsna and guru. This is why. Without this, any scheme will fail.
Gokuldas dasa: It always seems that some persons are there to persecute others, and sometimes I'm thinking that this is Krsna's arrangement to teach us to be more tolerant.
Srila Gurudeva: No, this is not Krsna's arrangement. He never likes things like this. He is very merciful and kind.
Sripad Madhava Maharaja: This is the arrangement of Kali (the personification of this Age of quarrel and hypocrisy).
Srila Gurudeva: Those who are selfish are simply cheaters.
(To Aniruddha dasa) Don't criticize ISKCON, as you have done. The ISKCON devotees are also my children. Don't speak about them with such anger. Be calm and quiet, and perform bhajana. Don't see anyone's faults. See your own faults. Do you understand?
Aniruddha dasa: But if we keep a humble attitude...
Srila Gurudeva: Try to follow these principles of humility and respect for all. These are not my words. Rather, sastra is telling this and Krsna is telling this. Whoever criticizes others will see that he has absorbed all the bad qualities he is criticizing. He will see that those bad qualities have entered his own being.
[*Endnote 1: Srila Gurudeva's lecture in Holland, July 12, 2005 – Some people think that sudras and women are very low. This is actually a wrong idea – a very wrong idea. You should know you are neither male nor female. The soul is transcendental, a servant of Lord Sri Krsna, but we have now accepted a female or male form. It is not that the intelligence is low in ladies and high in men.
It is also not true that black people are necessarily sudras. Who are sudras? Those who eat cow-flesh and drink alcohol, and those who cheat others. Sudras are those engaged in diplomacy, duplicity, hypocrisy and envy – whether they are black or white. I will speak something more on this topic, with reference to Srimad-Bhagavatam.
We are all spirit souls. The soul is not white or black. All souls are very beautiful. Regarding the transcendental form of the soul, there is no question of who is less intelligent or more intelligent. If ladies are so low-class and so low in intelligence, how could the gopis have defeated even Lord Sri Krsna? Why does our guru-parampara, beginning from Brahma and Narada, worship the gopis? Why did Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu – Sri Krsna Himself – adopt Srimati Radha's mood? Srimati Radhika always defeats Krsna in beauty, in intelligence, and in all other ways. If ladies are less, why do we Gaudiya Vaisnavas want to be gopis? We want to serve Lord Krsna and Srimati Radhika in a female form, not a male form. So how is it possible that this female form is lower? Don't think like this.
Srila Vyasadeva appeared in a family of sudras, and Sri Narada Rsi was also born in a sudra-family. However, whoever calls them sudras will go to hell. Srila Haridasa Thakura was born in a Muslim family. He appeared in a family in which cows were slaughtered and their flesh eaten, but he is not a Muslim.
Ramananda Raya said about himself, "I am sudra." This is trnad-api-sunicena – humility. Mahaprabhu said about Himself, "I am a Mayavadi sannyasi." Was He a Mayavadi sannyasi? Of course not. One may say that He Himself said so, but He said so only out of trnad-api-sunicena.]