The Acharya Knows Everything?

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    Sugandha Sharma

    Hare Krishna Rsiraja Prabhuji

    Prabhuji, there are some devotees who say that the Acharya doesn’t necessarily know everything. He knows perfectly about devotion to Krishna but He doesn’t need to necessarily know everything. One example is as follows, where Vic DiCara of the JIVA Institute of Vrindavan writes this about Prabhupāda in relation to Prabhupāda’s statements on women being less intelligent:

    A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swāmī Prabhupāda, ISKCON’s founder, always behaved in an egalitarian and elevated manner towards the women amongst his followers. However, it is also true that he did not correct the extreme sexism that manifest in ISKCON over the course of 1972 ~ 1974, and consistently described women as being less intelligent than men.

    Prabhupāda’s area of expertise was how to develop a deep, intimate relationship with Sri Sri Radha Krishna – thereby attaining the supreme bliss and self-realization. He often discussed incidental points as well, but his followers tend to focus on these incidental points (the location of the moon, the size of women’s brains, and so on) far more than they concentrate on his main teachings. To make matters worse, they also insist that his incidental statements have the same importance and authority as his main teachings.

    They insist that he is absolutely perfect in every sense and in every subject – therefore whatever he said about the moon, women, etc. must be accepted as absolute truth. And they say that those who do not embrace the same zealousness are not true followers of Srila Prabhupada.

    Why must we insist that Prabhupada has to be an expert on the details of male-female psychology, etc.? Is it not enough that he is an expert on the most important topic in life: Krishna-bhakti?

    Why must the guru be made so artificial, as if he or she cannot be an individual with his or her own subjectivity. In truth, the subjectivity of the guru is very important, for it gives them the ability to perform their key function: connecting certain other subjective individuals to the absolute truth.

    Srila Prabhupāda’s incidental statements about women and so on come from more modern  post-Moghul and post-British India. For example, many are directly tracable to the misogynist political strategist Cāṇakya, many others come from his early 20th century British education at Scottish Churches College. Some may be the result of his own subjective experience of women and marriage, which has been documented as being unpleasant.

    But the Chaitanya charitamrita says: Mistakes, illusions, cheating and defective perception do not occur in the sayings of the authoritative sages.

    Therefore can you kindly elaborate on how do we understand this Prabhuji? Does the Acharya (Prabhupada) know everything?

    Ashish Dalela

    The extreme sexism that manifested in ISKCON during the 70s was the result of Western male leaders, and not due to Prabhupada. These leaders had many preconceived ideas about masculine superiority taken from their religions and cultures, which they imputed upon ISKCON to suit their interests.

    • Abrahamic religions have never had a feminine conception of the divine; divinity has always been conceived as masculine. In contrast, the feminine consort has always been prioritized over the masculine in the Vedic system, by noting Her name before the masculine form’s name. For example, the divine is called Lakshmi-Narayana, Sita-Rama, and Radha-Krishna, and never in the opposite order. This conception has never existed in any Abrahamic religion. Not only is there no feminine divine, but referencing her before masculine is culturally impossible. It is always Mr. and Mrs. Smith, not the other way around.
    • As I have explained earlier, there is an emotional sense in which the masculine is independent and the feminine is dependent. That doesn’t make the feminine weak. The feminine Shakti, by definition, is power. Therefore, the question of the empowerment of the feminine doesn’t arise. However, the power remains useless until there is a purpose. That purpose exists in the divine masculine. The feminine is power, and the masculine is purpose. The feminine doesn’t need empowerment; She needs a purpose, given by the divine masculine.
    • This divine conception of masculine and feminine as purpose and power is not understood at present. People assume that the feminine is weak, and the masculine is power. Hence, they talk about the empowerment of the feminine. That is also a Western idea because women are marginalized in religion, and then they revolt and struggle to gain respect. But why should that struggle exist in the Vedic system, when the feminine Shakti is always worshipped?
    • In Vedic philosophy, power is uselessand it remains unuseduntil there is a purpose. Since the purpose decides if power is used, hence, it is called superior to power. But there is a sense in which the mere existence of power excites the purpose into existence. That capacity in the power to excite a purpose into existence is the sense in which the feminine is superior to the masculine. The two genders are not equal and yet there is no imbalance of control. The masculine provides the purpose and engages the power, but doesn’t limit the capacity of power. He simply finds the right purpose for which every capacity of power can be utilized effectively. The feminine is powerful, but she unites with the purpose to become most effective by employing her powers.
    • It is a well-known fact that women were considered inferior in Western culture since Greek times. For example, a human was primarily defined as male, and secondarily as female. White men and women were superior to other races because humanity was primarily white men. Women did not have voting rights in democracies even during Greek times, and this continued until about a century ago. Due to the story of Adam and Eve, the woman has been depicted as the evil that swayed Adam from God’s commands in the Bible, and hence the cause of his destruction. In many Western cosmologies, the male is order and the female is chaos. Hence, the female had to be controlled by the male and deprived of power, to create a virtuous society. All this is a historical fact.
    • Christianity insists that all men are equal in the eyes of God. This is the basis on which the divine rights of kings and the special status of the Pope were rejected because they required some men to bow before the king and the Pope, which was contrary to religion. The liberation of all men did not however entail the liberation of women, because men and women were not equal in the eyes of God. They were always treated inferior to men in Western culture.

    So, there are two completely different senses in which the masculine and feminine are understood in Vedic and Western cultures. In Vedic culture, the feminine is power, but without a purpose; the masculine is the purpose, reliant on the feminine power. In Western culture, the masculine is both purpose and power, while the feminine is neither purpose nor power. Since purpose controls power, therefore, there is a sense in which the masculine controls the feminine in Vedic philosophy, while relying on her competence, which is completely different from how the masculine controls the disempowered feminine in Western culture.

    For example, Prabhupada found unique and appropriate ways in which to engage feminine talents in painting for his books, cooking and dressing for the deities, teaching children, etc. Prabhupada was engaging his female disciples in activities that did not require physical exertion. He gave them purpose, and his female disciples became his power. When purpose unites with power, the power is used in an appropriate manner. This, however, was not unique to female disciples. Prabhupada also engaged his male disciples in supervising the construction of temples, raising funds, distributing books, and so forth, all of which required far more physical exertion. They were also power, controlled by the purpose given by Prabhupada. But since there were two different kinds of powers in the men and women, hence there were different purposes for which they were to be used.

    Objectively speaking, both male and female disciples were following the principle of the divine feminine, and their guruPrabhupadawas following the principle of the divine masculine. In the broader sense, this means that neither men nor women are to be disempowered. Rather, one has to find the appropriate purpose for that power. The guru gives that purpose and becomes the principle of masculinity. And the disciple uses his or her power to fulfill that purpose and becomes the principle of femininity. Ultimately, all Sakti is feminine, and the soul is feminine when devoted to the Lord because that soul is some power, controlled by a higher purpose, that ultimately originates in God and is translated by the guru into specific instructions.

    Now, if people misunderstand the Vedic sense of superiority of the masculine over the feminine in the Western sense, then it is not Prabhupada’s fault. It is the fault of Westernized thinking and people’s inability to shake off their material conditioning.

    This is not unique to male-female issues. It occurs all the time in every conversation. For example, when SB speaks about space, then people think it must mean the Euclidean space used in mechanics, in which distance between points means length measured by meters and kilometers. The term used in SB is yojana which invokes the root yuj or to join. This root is also used in yoga. So, two points are joined in space and the manner in which they are joined is called yojana. In mechanics, no two points in space are joined, because all points are independent. But when space is conceived as an inverted tree, then the leaves are joined to the root through branches and trunks. Those branches and trunks are the yojana. How many people think like this? Practically nobody. Similarly, when SB speaks about a planet, then people think it must mean a ball, rather than a closed region of space. You can jump from one ball to another, but you can never leave a space, because you are inside that space, and bound by that space. Hence, you cannot go from one planet to another. How many people think like this? Practically no one. This is because they have preconceived ideas about space and a planet, which is incompatible with the Vedic idea of space and planet. You cannot communicate with people effectively if they use the same words but intend completely different meanings.

    Then, there is a blame game. Some people realize that they made mistakes due to their misunderstanding of what Prabhupada was saying. But others blame Prabhupada for saying the things that they misunderstood. Then there are idiots who rationalize their comprehension failures as the incompetence of the Acharyas in worldly subjects. There is a defensive mechanism called ego in everyone, that shifts blame onto others. How could I be wrong? I am always right. If some mistake was committed, it must be someone else’s fault. So, if women were mistreated in ISKCON, it was not our fault. It was Prabhupada’s fault. He gave faulty instructions.

    Those who claim that traditional societies were discriminatory don’t realize how industrialization, modernization, capitalism, and democracy have transformed modern society to create opportunities for women that did not exist before. For example, previously only warriors could be rulers, but today, the politicians are separate from the military. Through this separation, women can become politicians, and they displace men in many places. That change is not due to gender awareness. It is due to changes in political thinking where the military and government are separated. Women are also increasingly participating in combat roles today because modern combat is about remotely operating drones that fire missiles with no threat of being captured, tortured, or killed in combat. That is again not due to gender awareness. It is due to the change in the nature of military combat itself.

    Specifically, regarding the intelligence of women, we have to ask: What is intelligence? It is that which controls the mind. What is the mind? It is that which gives the world meaning. Specifically, ordinary things in the world can be given many meanings, but only a few of those meanings are true. Women are often as adept as men in giving the world meaning, which is the job of the mind. However, they are less adept than men in deciding which of these meanings are true.

    The net result is that women will give the world meanings that are not true, and yet, they will believe in these false meanings far more than men. An example is a family. All the words we use to designate people in a family are meaningful but false. For example, the word “son” or “daughter” is meaningful, but false in this world. The word “husband” or “wife” is meaningful but false in this world. If someone believes in these meaningful but false words, they are less intelligent. Their belief in false meanings is like feeling good after reading fiction. Nothing in that story is true. But you can still feel good. That is the mark of low intelligence. If someone doesn’t believe in such stories and consequently doesn’t feel good, they are intelligent.

    Essentially, an intelligent person never takes to “entertainment” because s/he knows that it is all false. The less intelligent people live in make-believe realities, even if they are false. This difference is very subtle: Everyone knows that it is false to some extent, and yet, some act as if it were true. They are less intelligent.

    To understand why women are called “less intelligent” one has to understand what intelligence means. It is not arithmetic ability. It is not the capacity to do politics or management. It is not the ability to produce scientific theories. All those things are powered by the mind. Intelligence is specifically the ability to realize that this world is make-believe and become detached from it. Men are called more intelligent because they can be more detached: They can see quickly that the world is make-believe, and persist in that realization, than women. Women don’t see that easily.

    The trademark symptom of that intelligence is renunciation. Jñāna doesn’t stand alone. It has to be combined with vairāgya. Where there is jñāna there is vairāgya and vice versa. So, Vedic philosophy is hard, because to grasp it, a person needs to be detached prior. When the mind is equanimous toward so-called worldly friends and enemies, then it can see the reality. That is called jñāna in Bhagavad-Gita.

    Women can say: We are as intelligent as men. But that has to be tested by their renunciation. Are we testing women like that? No. We are testing intelligence by measuring the capacity to do arithmetic, biology, chemistry, economics, etc., and concluding that they are similar or nearly similar. Why? Because the West has defined all mental activities as intellectual activities. There is no difference between mind and intelligence in the West. So, how can you say someone is less intelligent?

    According to BG 3.42: The working senses are superior to dull matter; the mind is higher than the senses; intelligence is still higher than the mind, and he [the soul] is even higher than the intelligence. So, before you understand why men and women can be different in intelligence, try to understand the difference between mind and intelligence. Try to grasp the difference between mental activity and intellectual activity. This is again a problem of vocabulary: In English, a mental person is an intellectual person. But in Vedic philosophy, a mental person is attached to this world, while an intelligent person is detached. Einstein, by this definition, was not intelligent. And those who have given up false meanings are intelligent.

    So, did Prabhupada say anything false when he noted that women are less intelligent? No, he did not. He made a very precise statement which is true for almost all cases (rare exceptions aside). But did his disciples understand what he was saying? With a high degree of confidence, we can say that they did not. Why? Because they never bothered to ask: Why is intelligence superior to mind? BG says it is, but why? You can trace all the conversations between Prabhupada and his disciples, and you will not find a single disciple asking why intelligence is superior to the mind. Without grasping the meaning of intelligence, they assumed that men have superior intelligence to women when the fact is that men who are attached to this world and find societal roles meaningful are men of low intelligence.

    Many people like to shift the blame onto someone else. It is not the student’s fault that he/she failed the exam. It was the teacher’s fault that she/he did not teach the student well. By shifting the blame, a person rationalizes his faults and perpetuates them. He also minimizes the guru, because, in at least one respecte.g., the treatment of womenhe is better than the guru. It never occurs to such people that they have not understood the guru, the divine genders, or words like mind and intelligence. There is a tendency to jump to conclusions quickly, which actually doesn’t help anyone. It merely exacerbates the problem over time.

    For example, if Prabhupada did not know about mundane subjects very well, then probably he did not know about management? Let’s find another way of managing people and societies. Maybe he was wrong about marriages? Let’s find new methods and rules for marriages. Maybe he did not understand the importance of modern science? Let’s integrate that science into our education system more and more. There is no limit to this. It is a door that you open at your own peril.

    Ashish Dalela

    I don’t know who this person is, or why I am expected to respond to his/her ignorant criticisms. This is the last of such questions that I will respond to. Going forward, either you post questions based on my books, or what I have written, or spare me the digression of responding to useless misdirected opinions.

    However [Prabhupada] consistently described women as being less intelligent than men.

    And what does BG 9.32 say? O son of Prtha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth-women, vaisyas [merchants], as well as sudras [workers]-can approach the supreme destination. Women are described to be “lower birth”, but alongside Vaisya and Sudra. Unless you think Krishna is a misogynist, calling Prabhupada a misogynist is misleading by obscuration. When you have a society of Brahmanas and Kshatriyas then you will see the difference between men and women. If the society is only Vaisyas and Sudras (as it is right now), then you will not see that difference. Isn’t this quite obvious from the above verse where women, Vaisyas, and Sudras are bundled together? Why blame Prabhupada for misogyny when you don’t have the correct reference frame for the comparison of genders?

    Prabhupāda’s area of expertise was how to develop a deep, intimate relationship with Sri Sri Radha Krishna – thereby attaining the supreme bliss and self-realization.

    The Sruti states: yasmin vijnate sarvam eva vijnatam bhavanti or “by knowing which everything else is known”. The devotees don’t have any limitations in “areas of expertise”. They are experts in everything that is needed to serve Krishna. Prabhupada’s expertise, for example, was not limited to an “intimate relationship with Sri Sri Radha Krishna”. It also included writing books, four languages (Sanskrit, Bengali, Hindi, and English), finances and legalities, playing musical instruments, cooking sumptuous meals, negotiating complex deals, and managing people from a wide variety of different cultures. If someone is unable to see his numerous areas of expertise, then they are blind. He had everything that was needed for ISKCON. If something additional was needed, he would have that too. That is because as he writes: Krishna preserves all that one has, and provides what one lacks.

    The self-realized souls in the liberated condition are called sarsti which means they can do almost everything that God can do. This competence comes naturally in order to execute God’s missions. Their expertise is a byproduct of love. Where there is expertise there may not be love. But where there is love, there is always expertise. We are not talking about incompetent and useless lovers. We are talking about highly competent and useful lovers who can execute complex missions for God.

    He often discussed incidental points as well, but his followers tend to focus on these incidental points (the location of the moon, the size of women’s brains, and so on) far more than they concentrate on his main teachings.

    These “incidental points” are discussed by Sukadeva Goswami in SB too, when he describes material nature, and the cosmic structure, before discussing Radha-Krishna, to a man (King Parikshit) who is about to die in 7 days. If we cannot understand these “incidental points”, and see why they are necessary even for those about to die, then we are unqualified to grasp the main point. This is stated in Srimad Bhagavatam and implied in Vedanta Sutra, where God’s cosmic form is described extensively before talking about His personal form. If we cannot see the universe as the form of God, we will never see God’s personal form. The “incidental point” is actually the main point in the neophyte stage of devotional practice.

    All these criticisms are ignorant because if religion is restricted to the transcendental, then people will take guidance on social, economic, political, and legal issues from materialistic people, and they will become materialistic and atheistic. They will also say that religion is not relevant to this world, because it only talks about the transcendental world. The separations between this world and other world were instituted during Greek times, and they are antithetical to Vedic philosophy, where the material nature is called daivi or divine and personalized.

    Why must we insist that Prabhupada has to be an expert on the details of male-female psychology, etc.? Is it not enough that he is an expert on the most important topic in life: Krishna-bhakti?

    And what is the difference between male-female psychology and Krishna-bhakti? Isn’t it stated repeatedly, consistently, and overtly that Krishna is masculine and His Sakti (which includes the soul) is feminine? The relationship between God and His Sakti is always defined by male-female psychology. What is that psychology? It is that God is independent and the Sakti is dependent. That Sakti serves God, and God attracts that Sakti. Krishna-bhakti is male-female psychology in its purest form. If someone draws a distinction between the two, they are lifetimes away from bhakti.

    Srila Prabhupāda’s incidental statements about women and so on come from more modern  post-Moghul and post-British India. For example, many are directly tracable to the misogynist political strategist Cāṇakya, many others come from his early 20th century British education at Scottish Churches College. Some may be the result of his own subjective experience of women and marriage, which has been documented as being unpleasant.

    If his viewpoints were influenced by Chanakya in the 4th century BCE, Mughals in the 15th century, British in the 18th century, and American racist discrimination in the 20th century, then how do you explain why he was not influenced by all the other things that these people and times stood for? For example, why did Prabhupada ignore the Indian freedom struggle? Why did he reject parochial Hinduism? Why did he reject the exclusivist ideas of Mughals and Christians? Why did he embrace internationalism and the unity of devotees from all parts of the world? We don’t say that chalk gets its white color from cheese. We know that chalk and cheese are separately white. You don’t draw specious comparisons by selecting the data that fits and ignoring all that doesn’t fit. That is the case with a lesser intelligence hell-bent on propaganda rather than understanding.

    Even to say that his view of women was decided by his marriage experiences is to overlook his loving relationship with his sister and mother, not to speak of his numerous female disciples whom he considered his spiritual daughters. Why single out one relationship and exclude others to decide his views on gender?

    The fact is that Prabhupada loved all his disciples like his children. But he also knew that they were flawed in many ways. If he handed over responsibility to them, they quickly became puffed-up and disobeyed at the first opportunity. If he took the responsibility himself, then he was burdened with too many things. He did not have a solution to this problem. So, he gave away responsibility after due consideration of his failing health. Those who took over from Prabhupada treated everyone (not just women) horribly. To single out women is to not recognize the full scale of the problem. To attribute this issue to Prabhupada is a sign of desperationsince nothing else is working, let’s shift the blame to someone who is not here.

    Sometimes in war, unqualified soldiers are promoted to higher ranks because there is nobody else to lead. These unqualified generals can assume that they were appointed because they were fully trained and perfect. This happens in those who lack introspection, are dishonest about their actual state of realization, and are strongly attracted to superficial grandeur rather than true perfection. If a poor man suddenly wins a lottery, he goes overboard exhibiting his newfound wealth. He quickly spends all the money and becomes poor again. That is the sorry state of the nouveau riche. These poor people, who were rich for a short while, then analyze the problem and say: When we were given the lottery, we were not restrained from splurging. Hence it is the fault of the one who gave the lottery. You can keep crying, shifting the blame, and perpetuating the problem. The soul is eternal.

    But I will now turn my attention to you. You started by asking me if ISKCON was a cult, by citing comparisons to other cults. That is like saying that since both chalk and cheese are white, therefore, chalk is cheese. Then you picked up someone else’s book about Big Bang and asked me to comment on it. You followed up with some questions about sex determination and embryology. And now this discussion about female discrimination. None of your questions pertain to my books, because I’m pretty sure that if you were reading those books, you will have dozens of questions about them. Instead of discussing the topics discussed in Vedic texts, or even the issues of reality and science, you are drawn toward the shallow and sensational. Is this intelligence? Does it deserve respect? Analyze your questions, and you will resolve the dilemma about respect that you are asking me to resolve.

    Sugandha Sharma

    I am really sorry Prabhuji for all the mistakes I have done. I actually want to read all your books but I can’t because I am 14 and my parents are atheistic. Due to this I just try to read your blogs but I don’t understand most of them. Most of the blogs confuse me because I am unable to compartmentalize properly. The only blog till date that I tried to understand perfectly by reading multiple times is ‘So, You Are Saying …’ because it helped me to know the serious mistakes I did when I asked you questions related to vedic epistemology. I tried compartmentalizing but I am probably still lacking much much behind. I do have many questions related to your commentary on vedanta sutra but I don’t ask them because I think that my questions arise due to my incapability to compartmentalize and inattentive reading. It is true that none of the questions I have asked till now pertain to your writings and I am really sorry for asking all these random questions without a systematic approach. All the replies that you have provided to me till now have really helped me to understand many many new things and correct myself in possible ways. I am really grateful to you for answering my useless questions. Till the time I can’t buy your books and read, I will try my best to read your blogs attentively. I promise that the next time when I ask a question, it will be pertaining purely to your blogs. I apologize again for my serious shortcomings and thank you really for investing your valuable time in answering my questions.

    Hare Krishna!

    Ashish Dalela

    I appreciate your heartfelt and sincere sharing of the problem you are facing. I apologize if I have been harsh in any way. I don’t mean it as an insult, but I cannot condone it either. I will rather suggest that you use your time to read Prabhupada’s books which are freely available online. Don’t waste your time on distractions.

    When a new seed is planted, a fence is erected around it to protect the sapling from intruders. But when the seed has grown into a tree, then even elephants cannot uproot it. In the same way, when spiritual life is nascent, then it has to be fenced for its own good. But when spiritual life is developed, then nobody can uproot it. So, protect your nascent creeper by fencing it. This means associate with Prabhupada by reading his books, and chanting the Hare Krishna mantra. When you are strong, then you can take on the critics, as you will not be disturbed by their arguments.

    Sugandha Sharma

    Thank you so much for advising and instructing me on what I should be doing. I will sincerely do as you have asked me to. Thank you so much again for everything Prabhuji.

    Ashish Dalela

    I will add a few things about gender here, which I missed earlier. The male and female are referenced in the Vedas as Śrīmān and Śrīmatī. Śrī means the energy of God, and therefore, Śrīmān means one who is endowed with Śrī. Likewise, mata means opinion, thought, or nature. Hence, Śrīmatī means that which opines like God’s energy, who thinks like Her, or has the nature of God’s energy.

    In a Vedic marriage, the man is treated like Viṣṇu, and the woman like Laksmi. These representations of Viṣṇu and Lakshmi make offerings to Viṣṇu and Lakshmi through a fire sacrifice, called a Yajñá. The Yajñá is like a person glorifying himself; the man and woman are parts of the divine, they were expanded from the divine, and they are praising the divine. This is like speech comes out of a person, is separate from the person, and praises the person. Yajñá is the Lord’s self-awareness, because the praise was part of the Lord, separated from the Lord, and references the Lord.

    Viṣṇu is the ultimate Śrīmān, and Lakshmi is the ultimate Śrīmatī. The marriage of Śrīmān and Śrīmatī is always viewed as the marriage of Viṣṇu and Lakshmi.

    When Lord Viṣṇu goes to sleep, then Goddess Lakshmi presses His feet to wake Him up. This is the power trying to excite the purpose into manifestation. But Lakshmi’s method is not shaking Lord Viṣṇu by His shoulder to wake Him up. It is rather pressing His feet to draw His attention. The masculine is self-absorbed and doesn’t need anything. The feminine is powerful, but She needs the self-absorbed masculine. She excites the masculine into the wakeful stage of wanting Her. In simple words, the power excites the purpose into existence, which then unites with the power.

    The feminine has power over the masculine: Even if the masculine is self-absorbed, she draws him out. If the feminine is absent, the masculine is self-absorbed. But the feminine transfers her control to the masculine because she needs him. This gender dynamic leads to numerous seemingly contradictory claims in Vedic texts.

    • Since the feminine draws the masculine out, and without her the masculine is self-absorbed, therefore, in the material world, it is said the feminine is the cause of material attachments.
    • Since the masculine is self-absorbed, while the feminine serves him, therefore, the ideal Śrīmān and Śrīmati marriage is noted as a self-realized husband and a devoted wife.
    • Since the feminine can excite the masculine into having purposes that he will not have in the absence of the feminine, hence, she is said to have power and control over the masculine.

    Thereby, you can say many seemingly contradictory things: (a) The masculine is controlled by the feminine, (b) the feminine depends on the masculine, (c) the masculine is independent of the feminine, and (d) the feminine creates attachments and without her, there would be self-absorption. The male-female relationship in this world is supposed to be like that. When a man and woman become just like Lord Viṣṇu and Goddess Lakshmi, they ascend to Vaikuntha as a couple.

    There are many beautiful archetype couples in Vedic texts. For example, Goddess Kāli stands on Lord Shiva’s chest to wake Him up, because that is how impatient She is for the Lord, although in an assertive manner. Goddess Durga binds Lord Shiva in Her embrace and doesn’t let Him leave. She is another type of assertive woman, but assertive in a different sense. Then, there is Sati who wants Lord Shiva to see all Her creations, and His attention toward Her creations satisfies Her.

    There are literally infinite such archetype couples in the spiritual world, and the male- and female-natured souls can emulate any of them. Based on which couple they emulate, they go to that part of the spiritual world. Thereby, there are infinite types of spiritual loving relationships, signified by different couples. These things are not hidden or obscure in Vedic philosophy. They are front and center.

    In the material world, however, all these divine archetypes are forgotten. What we have is demanding women who want to control their husbands, but not serve them. Then, we have men chasing women, rather than being self-absorbed. Then there are violent and dominant men, who try to disempower and subjugate women. And there are women who want to be self-satisfied. All these are mistakes. The material world comprises numerous such mistaken men-women relationships.

    If we study all these male-female archetypes, then marriages in this world can also be permanent. Without that, gender debates ravage a society endlessly. Marriage is not just for this world. Shiva and Kāli are in an eternal marriage, like Shiva and Durga, like Shiva and Sati, like Viṣṇu and Lakshmi, like Rama and Sita. Then, there are numerous extramarital relationships, like Krishna and Radha. They are not encouraged in this world because we are unable to understand them.

    Some of these relationships are more beautiful than others. But none of them are difficult to cause separation like divorces in this world. There is always preference toward the more beautiful, which is why the Krishna consciousness movement presents the extramarital love between Krishna and the gopis. But the other divine relationships are also so beautiful as to be eternal. Our life can be devoted to understanding these types of divine love, and keep away from mischevious people.

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