The Wife, The Husband and The Guru This is a first in series of articles concerning the qu

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The Wife, The Husband and The Guru ================================== This is a first in series of articles concerning the questions raised by the late Sulochana Dasa. Sulochana Dasa (Steve Bryant) was murdered in May 1986 during his aggressive campaign against what he saw was widespread corruption in the Krishna movement. We'll attempt to discuss some of the controversial issues he had fought to resolve. A September 1986 Time Magazine article, "Troubled Karma for the Krishnas," called Sulochana Dasa (Steven Bryant), "a bit of a crank," and "a disgruntled disciple". But recently, a Rolling Stone article (April 9, 1987), "Dial Om for Murder," gave a much more detailed look into the holy war this one man was waging against the International Society for Krishna Consciousness calling him a "martyr". Being the controversial figure that Sulochana Dasa was, who can say for sure what he was: a "crank" or a "martyr" or whatever? But the questions that his life and death evoked are worthy of spiritual consideration. This article will focus on an issue Sulochana raised concerning women, their husbands, and the guru. According to the Rolling Stone article, trouble began in Sulochana's marriage when he had lapsed into a period of taking intoxication and stopping his devotional practices shortly after his marriage. He left his wife and children in New Vrindaban while he departed for India. It was at that time that the spiritual leader for New Vrindaban, Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada, had agreed to initiate Sulochana's wife, Jane, as his faithful and eternal disciple. Between Sulochana and Bhaktipada, who had the ultimate authority over Sulochana's wife Jane? In general terms, you have the husband and wife relationship, so where does the guru's authority lie? Can the guru override the authority of the husband especially if the husband is not acting properly? In order to understand the answer to this question, reference to the Vedic culture must be made in order to understand the role of the wife, husband and spiritual master, and how these three work together to advance in understanding Krishna consciousness. The bona fide guru is the authority in spiritual matters for a society that is interested in going home, back to Godhead. Society must follow the spiritual rules and regulations governing proper social and sexual conduct if they are to make any advancement in understanding their eternal relationship with God. These principles are known to and taught by the guru who is an expert in the Vedic science of Krishna consciousness. According to that Vedic science of Krishna consciousness, sexual union between man and woman is only allowed for begetting a child. Otherwise celibacy is observed by both sexes. Contact between male and female is summed up in this verse from the Bhagavatam (SB 7.12.9): "Woman is compared to fire, and man is compared to a butter pot. Therefore a man should avoid associating even with his own daughter in a secluded place. Similarly, he should also avoid association with other women. One should associate with women only for important business and not otherwise." Further, it should be noted that the woman is not meant for remaining single but as soon as she has reached puberty, an arrangement is made for her marriage so that she may devote herself to the service of a responsible husband devotee. By her fifteenth year, she then leaves the protection of her father and takes up the service of her husband, serving him faithfully with her faithfulness to him being her main religious duty. Having stated some of the standards of Vedic life regarding women, we should note some of the problems that arise in trying to establish practically such standards, especially in the Western culture. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness created by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was meant for creating first class men--brahmins--who would give society spiritual guidance. But women were also attracted to accepting the path of bhakti-yoga and receiving the unique spiritual training offered by the Krishna consciousness movement. However, the Vedic regulations strictly forbid a sannyasi, a celibate and a renunciate like Prabhupada, from associating with women. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the father of the Hare Krishna movement and the incarnation of Krishna in the Kali-yuga also would never even allow Himself to talk to women, thus setting the example for His disciples. Did that mean that Prabhupada was neglecting authoritative Vedic injunctions and the authority of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu by giving instruction to and providing shelter for women? The fact is that only highly spiritually advanced devotees are able to become free from fall down due to association with women. It can be understood that Prabhupada was such a rare and advanced devotee. Empowered by Lord Krishna to spread the Krishna movement, especially in the West, he wrote over fifty authoritative books on the Krishna science, established over a hundred Krishna temples worldwide and initiated about four thousand devotees into strict spiritual vows of no meat eating, no intoxication, no gambling and no illicit sex--all this he had started at the advanced age of 69, singlehandedly, with only seven dollars when he arrived in America by boat in 1965 and accomplishing it in the short span of 11 to 12 years. However, he warned the ordinary devotees against artificially imitating the incredible activities of such empowered and authorized acharyas as displayed by he himself. Regarding his ability to be a guru for women, Prabhupada says in one purport (SB 7.7.14): "One should not remain in a secluded place with a woman, even one's mother, sister, or daughter. Nonetheless, although one is strictly prohibited from staying with a woman in a secluded place, Narada Muni gave shelter to Prahlada Maharaja's young mother, who rendered service to him with great devotion and faith. Does this mean that Narada Muni transgressed the Vedic injunctions? Certainly he did not. Such injunctions are intended for mundane creatures, but Narada Muni is transcendental to mundane categories. Narada Muni is a great saint and is transcendentally situated. Therefore, although he was a young man, he could give shelter to a young woman and accept her service. Haridasa Thakura also spoke with a young woman, a prostitute, in the dead of night, but the woman could not deviate his mind. Instead, she became a Vaishnavi, a pure devotee, by the benediction of Haridasa Thakura. Ordinary persons, however, should not imitate such highly elevated devotees. Ordinary persons must strictly observe the rules and regulations by staying aloof from the association of women. Narada Muni, Haridasa Thakura and similar acharyas [like Prabhupada himself] especially empowered to broadcast the glories of the Lord cannot be brought down to the material platform." In light of his special qualification as a bona fide acharya, he allowed women to take shelter of him because of their interest in Krishna consciousness. But in his dealings with them, Prabhupada was just like his own guru, Bhaktisiddhanta, who was a life-long celibate, and would also never allow himself to be alone with a woman for a moment. He taught his disciples personally and through his books that the woman's primary religious duty was to be faithful to her Krishna conscious husband. He strongly opposed the Western fad of women's liberation where the woman mixed freely with men or tried to be independent of men. Women must always be protected by responsible men from exploitation by unscrupulous men. He taught that the Vedic standard of life is for the woman to become devoted to her husband who then, in turn, is devoted to the spiritual master. But in all practicality, his Western disciples could not easily conform to the strict Vedic standards concerning chastity and celibacy. Consequently, some marriages amongst Krishna devotees would end in divorce, which is prohibited in Vedic culture. However, Prabhupada did teach that separation between couples could be recommended under specific conditions (SB 7.11.29 Purport): "A fallen husband is one who is addicted to the four principles of sinful activity--namely illicit sex, meat-eating, gambling and intoxication. Specifically, if one is not a soul surrendered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he is understood to be contaminated. Thus a chaste woman is advised not to agree to serve such a husband. It is not that a chaste woman should be like a slave while her husband is naradhama, the lowest of men. Giving up the association of her husband does not mean, however, that a woman should marry again and thus indulge in prostitution. If a chaste woman unfortunately marries a husband who is fallen, she should live separately from him. Similarly, a husband can separate himself from a woman who is not chaste according to the description of the shastra." Prabhupada openly stated these and related controversial Vedic viewpoints concerning proper female behavior for female journalists in July 1975 during his brief visit to Chicago. Women were often taken aback by the strong stance Prabhupada took against the then current women's lib movement. One wounded Chicago Tribune reporter wrote: "Forgive me if this story is not well- written, I am a woman.... He spoke thirty minutes and never mentioned women. I asked how women fit into his system. Women are not equal in intelligence to men. 'Men's brain weighs sixty-four ounces, women's weighs thirty-six ounces. It is just a fact.' He continued, 'Women are meant to assist men, that is all.' He said women do not figure in his class system except as daughters or wives. An unmarried woman is presumably classless. The Swami now lives in Los Angeles, and he trains his followers there. He says he has about 10,000 followers. 'We do not have so many,' he said. 'It is hard to find a first- class man.' It's a pity, half the population are women." Prabhupada's reaction to the article: "So it is not bad. Our policy should be that at Dallas [Gurukula] we shall create first-class men. And we shall teach the girls two things: how to become chaste and faithful to their husband and how to cook nicely. If they have these two qualifications, then I will take a guarantee to get them a good husband. These two qualifications: she must learn how to prepare first- class foodstuffs and she must learn how to become chaste and faithful to the husband. Only these two qualifications, then her life is successful. Here [in the West] the boys do not want to marry because they're not very much inclined to marry an unchaste wife. This is the psychology. They know it. If the woman is chaste, even though she is not very beautiful, she'll be liked by the husband." Citing how only a highly advanced celibate like Prabhupada could provide proper spiritual guidance for women, just like Narada Muni and Haridasa Thakura, Sulochana Dasa questioned how was it possible for others who are less advanced to imitate the behavior of such saintly acharyas. Prabhupada had definitely warned against the imitation of such extraordinary behavior. "Ordinary persons, however, should not imitate such highly elevated devotees. Ordinary persons must strictly observe the rules and regulations by staying aloof from the association of women." He especially gave repeated warnings to sannyasis who have taken a vow of lifelong celibacy. Hadn't Lord Chaitanya Himself banished Chota Haridasa from His association as punishment for the sannyasi's simply glancing lustfully at a woman therefore causing him to take his own life and end it in shame? Therefore he questioned the actions of the successor acharyas-- Kirtanananda in particular. By what right did they have in assuming that they could provide the same quality of spiritual guidance for women as displayed by Shrila Prabhupada? They were also initiating many young and single women as disciples. The new gurus had only been accustomed to the ideas of "celibacy" and "chastity" for only a few years and, by accepting the order of sannyasa and being the young men that they were, would it be reasonable to conclude that maybe they were not yet able to provide directly the spiritual guidance necessary for young women without having their celibacy affected? After all, even the oldest of the Prabhupada disciples were only recent products of the mid-sixties counter-cultural generation where celibacy and chastity were old-fashioned and outdated ethics nobody really advocated. By the time Sulochana had his anti-Bhaktipada, anti-new-guru campaign into full swing, many of the new gurus had already fallen, precisely due to the these sexual pressures and/or other violations of their spiritual vows, giving credibility to his theories that they were not on the level of spiritual stability; what to speak of spiritual maturity and spiritual perfection. In perspective, it should be said that failure to remain celibate is not at all surprising for men typical of today's sexual orientation. Today, men and women are such easy prey to the demands of the senses, that they'll jeopardize most anything for sex enjoyment. For example, television evangelist Jim Bakker, it had recently been revealed, risked the good reputation of his name, fame and the success of his multimillion dollar preaching enterprise on the flickering enjoyment of one brief sexual encounter with his secretary. Similarly, now overseas marines have traded access to US secrets in exchange for Soviet women's sexual favors because of uncontrolled sexual desires at the cost of compromising US security and causing an embarrassing situation for Americans. Because of the sexual climate that fosters this type of behavior, Prabhupada had often referred to Western so-called civilization as a society of hogs and dogs because, like the dogs and the hogs who care little for sexual restraint, generally Westerners are known for their liberal sexual indulgences. In ISKCON, however, the fact that many of ISKCON'S new gurus have fallen due to breaking their celibacy vow is quite shocking in light of their responsibilities, grave vows and mostly because of their exalted title as gurus. But again, in reference to today's promiscuity and sexual upbringing where self-restraint is practically nil, such fall downs are not very astonishing. Accepting the new gurus as spiritual intermediates at best rather than on the spiritual master platform Prabhupada had proven to be on, how, then, could Bhaktipada be so bold as to interfere with his young marriage, Sulochana wondered. Cited in the Rolling Stone was this phone conversation Sulochana had taped with Bhaktipada: Bhaktipada: I have the only eternal relationship with her. There's only one thing you can do. Sulochana: What? Bhaktipada: You'll have to surrender to me. Bryant (Sulochana) refuses. He says he cannot allow his sons to stay in New Vrindaban. Bhaktipada: All right, we'll fight for it. Sulochana: You want to just go through with a fight, huh? Bhaktipada: Yeah! The Rolling Stone continues: "The thing Bryant liked best about Jane was he could dominate her. She says he beat her. He kept the pressure on, reminding his wife again and again she was his devotee. Therefore she had to do whatever he said." Sulochana had denied ever laying a hand on his wife but called his wife's accusations part of a clever scheme to win a divorce. A friend said, "Steve knew he could never have a relationship with Jane unless he went back [to New Vrindaban]. Jane was fixated on Bhaktipada. He'd brainwashed her." And from Jane: "I was tired of traveling and didn't really have any affection for Sulochana. I asked Bhaktipada if I could stay, and he said yes. Sulochana got really mad. He argued with Bhaktipada and started criticizing the community, saying, 'This place is just a tourist business to make money. There's no spiritual qualities left at all.' He was really devastated. I think he realized he was losing his only disciple." If the Rolling Stone article is accurate, then it may be somewhat difficult for Bhaktipada to justify how he had involved himself in Sulochana's marriage and consequently allowed his already twice married disciple, Jane, to marry again. A wife may live apart from such a fallen husband who had completely abandoned all attempts to advance in godly life by endlessly seducing other women, indulging in intoxicants, gambling and eating meat, etc., if his situation could not at all be improved, according to the above Vedic version of marital separation. However, she may not remarry. But, according to Rolling Stone, "The guru had given another devotee." --Vaishnava Dasa


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