An Open Letter to The Present
And Future ISKCON Devotees
January 14th, 2023
Dear Esteemed Vaishnavas and Vaishnavis,
Our most respectful obeisances to you all. All glories to our beloved Founder-Acharya, Srila Prabhupada.
We are a bunch of ladies disciples of Srila Prabhupada who has been sincerely serving his ISKCON for fifty-some years.
We’ve been on the entrance traces of preaching; we’ve helped construct and keep temples; we’ve translated, produced, and distributed BBT books, and introduced lots of our present leaders to Srila Prabhupada’s motion. We’ve additionally raised households, helped develop communities, and practiced Krsna consciousness with dedication and religion.
What’s extra, as the primary era of Srila Prabhupada’s Vaishnavi followers, there’s one factor all of us share: the expertise of how His Divine Grace cared for us and empowered us to serve to our fullest capability in Lord Chaitanya’s motion. Yet as we speak we share a grave concern.
Recent occasions have proven us that, beneath menace from one a part of our Society, some are keen to sacrifice the integrity and dynamism of Prabhupada’s worldwide motion by disempowering its girls devotees.
Is there maybe an intention by some to stall and stall the empowerment of Vaishnavi Diksha gurus till all of Srila Prabhupada’s girls disciples have handed away? Or, till they’ve all turn out to be bodily incapable of performing this service? Such a travesty ought to by no means happen.
If Srila Prabhupada’s instant religious daughters proceed to be denied the chance to function initiating religious masters—regardless of Srila Prabhupada’s clear instruction that we achieve this—that might set a tragic precedent for future generations.
At the current second, there’s a lot concern in our ISKCON society concerning the abuse of kids and girls. Women, who’re largely additionally moms, are the pure protectors and caretakers of the youngsters. But when their voices are ignored, silenced, or maligned, this opens the door for girls and youngsters to be abused.
It’s unlucky that some girls in ISKCON really feel that they’re being prevented from serving Srila Prabhupada, as he envisioned. Many have additionally misplaced religion and left our society as a result of disrespect or abuse they acquired in our temples from male authorities.
Moreover, there are girls who’ve misplaced belief or been harmed by male authority figures even earlier than becoming a member of ISKCON. As a outcome, a few of these girls really feel they will open their hearts extra sincerely, and higher reveal their minds, to a Vaishnavi Diksha guru.
One girl stated if she will’t obtain initiation from the Vaishnavi guru of her selection, she’ll wait till her subsequent life to obtain initiation. This is heartbreaking. Why ought to a critical and certified aspirant be left in limbo, particularly because the GBC had already given their blessings for Vaishnavi Diksha gurus, however then abruptly withdrew these blessings?
Why not permit a number of certified Vaishnavis to provoke a number of honest, deserving disciples? (At least a number of girls disciples.) What is the hurt? No hurt in any respect, based on Prabhupada and sastra:
“The qualification of guru is that he should be totally cognizant of the science of Kṛṣṇa. Then she or he can turn out to be guru. Yei kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā, sei guru haya.” (Interview with Professors O’Connell, Motilal, and Shivaram, June 18, 1976, Toronto)
In a letter to Hansadutta, Prabhupada wrote: “I would like that each one of my religious little kids will inherit this title of Bhaktivedanta in order that the household transcendental diploma will proceed by way of the generations. Those possessing the title of Bhaktivedanta will probably be allowed to provoke disciples…That is my program.”
(Letter to: Hansadutta, January 3, 1969, Los Angeles)
Some of those that need to cease Prabhupada’s girls disciples from fulfilling his order is fast to reference sampradayas that forbid girls to provoke. Why ignore those who permit them?
Throughout Gaudiya’s historical past, girls have been given initiation. Even as we speak girls give initiation in several branches of the Gaudiya Math. In the Nimbarka Sampradaya, there have been girls religious masters for a thousand years. And, there are different girls gurus in present-day India, as properly.
Within ISKCON, Vaishnavi Diksha gurus have been endorsed by the SAC (Sastric Advisory Council), the SABHA (Spiritual Advisors Bhagavat Assembly), the North American Council, the Australian Council, and several other ISKCON Ministries. Do their voices, like these of Prabhupada’s girls disciples, additionally not rely?
Some devotees keep that ladies might give Siksha, or instruction, however not Diksha. Yet, in his purport to CC Adi 1.34, Srila Prabhupada writes: “The initiating and instructing religious masters are equal and an identical manifestations of Krsna, though they’ve completely different dealings.” And, in his purport to Adi 1.47, His Divine Grace additional clarifies: “If one foolishly discriminates between them, he commits an offense within the discharge of devotional service.”
Most just lately, a decision was handed by the GBC mandating a
moratorium on VDG for as much as three years. (ISKCON News https://iskconnews.org/gbc-pauses-vaishnavi-diksa-gurus-again/.)
Again, is it the intention of some who oppose certified Vaishnavis giving initiation to stall till the remaining girls disciples of Srila Prabhupada have handed away? Then it might be stated to future generations of Vaisnavis: “Srila Prabhupada’s direct girls disciples didn’t give initiation, so how will you?”
The moratorium’s proposers declare that its main function is to debate and make clear the problem of guru-tattva in ISKCON. But if that’s true, then why not droop all initiations by each women and men? Why droop solely initiations by girls?
In 2021, the GBC adopted a decision that acknowledged “cultural sensitivity” in several areas of the world. That is, if a sure area was not in favor of Vaishnavi Diksha gurus, then that space could be free to ‘decide out’ or forbid VDGs. In different phrases, every area would resolve what would finest serve their neighborhood and preaching wants.
We welcome the necessity for cultural sensitivity, as did an awesome majority of voting GBCs. But some voices in India, ignoring Srila Prabhupada’s name for “unity in range,” have refused to respect these areas of the world with preaching wants completely different than their very own.
Prabhupada’s teachings are clear: He needs us to unite round common religious rules whereas diversifying their software “when it comes to time, nation, and candidate,” (CC Madhya 22.105 purport)
This is vital to discovering the cooperation we’ll must take Krsna consciousness to each city and village. Indeed, as Prabhupada stated in his final 12 months with us, our love for him could be proven by how we cooperate collectively. Yet, those that oppose range at the moment are destroying our unity. With all due respect, this isn’t cooperation; it’s coercion.
Some folks contend that since Srila Prabhupada didn’t choose any girls to provide initiation, so, after his departure, neither ought to we. But neither, for instance, did His Divine Grace choose any Indian, Chinese, African, or Russian devotees.
Does this imply that male devotees from these backgrounds usually are not eligible to supply Diksha in ISKCON? Of course not. Srila Prabhupada dismissed the bodily conception of life. So why now cling to the identical false impression and discriminate towards Vaishnavis?
In the West, professors inform us the 2 points that the majority concern college college students are cared for the atmosphere and fairness for girls. And within the West, many educated second and third-generation folks of the Indian diaspora say that denying girls equal alternative undermines their curiosity in Krsna consciousness.
Should this not encourage us to undertake cultural sensitivity and Srila Prabhupada’s directions relating to time, place, and circumstance as basic rules of his world motion?
Dear devotees of the longer term: If the certified girls disciples of Srila Prabhupada, who at the moment are of their 70s, usually are not allowed to supply initiation, know for sure that giving them this service alternative was the need and instruction of our beloved Founder-Acharya. Please don’t let this service be denied to certified Vaishnavis of your era, because it has to this point been denied to us.
Finally, pricey ISKCON leaders, we humbly ask: Can you permit a number of senior girls, who’ve faithfully served ISKCON for some fifty years, to supply initiation as Prabhupada needed, in these areas of the world that welcome them? Can you not honor the cultural sensitivity that was just lately endorsed?
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