Spiritual Vision is Beyond Discrimination
Posted January 21, 2009
Sylvia Milleding wrote: "is Krishna really a man, and if Krishna is, why would He elevate men over women in a spiritual context?" Krishna is male and female both, as all forms and energies emanate from Him and are sustained by Him. It may be asked: why, then, do we say "He" and not "She"? Well, English does not have a word that means both "he" and "she" except "it", and that refers to inanimate objects, dead matter.
The Absolute Truth is one, but to enjoy pastimes, He expands into male and female forms, Radha-Krishna, for loving interactions.
Sylvia asked why God doesn't descend in female form, but He does. There is Mohini Murti, and there is Lord Chaitanya, who is Radha and Krishna again combined into one personhood. There are all the animal incarnations, whose genders are not specified.
However, all such considerations become irrelevant if one considers the actual nature of Krishna: that when Krishna appears masculine, He is simultaneously feminine, and vice versa. There is no duality in the spiritual reality — nothing that is this, but not that. Everything is this, and that also. Simply on the basis of desire, form is made. If one desires to love Krishna as a lover, then the female form is given. Or if to love Him as a friend, the male form is given. For the sake of love only, there appears to be duality, but actually there is none, as two forms can merge and again separate, spiritually.
It is hard to think of these things with a dualistic mind. Knowing duality to be the cause of so much distress and hatred, many people think that spiritual means oneness. It does mean oneness, but difference also: acintya-bhedabheda tattva means that the absolute truth is simultaneously One but Many. This is inconceivable — acintya — but we can wrap our material brains around such an idea, if we consider that the Lord, like the Sun, is One, but has unlimited rays, which are of His essence, variously reflected and refracted.
Sylvia has read the Bhagavad-gita and certainly knows by now that she is neither female nor male, but spiritual energy. Still, she is living in the material world and has experience of discrimination against souls in female form, and that is a valid concern for a spiritual seeker, as justice and equanimity are essential spiritual values, pre-requisites for spiritual vision. At least there should be no sexual inequality in the society of devotees: we should cultivate seeing each other as spiritual sparks of God's glory. That we see any difference at all, is simply due to our material conditioning.
Sylvia mentions that the vedic texts reveal a very man-centred culture — instruction always given to the man, with the female learning from him. People do not suddenly become spiritual; it is very gradual. Because, generally, female bodies do not have as much physical strength as male bodies, this has translated into patriarchy in most societies, and superimposed into spirituality, the assumption is that the female has less spiritual strength — which the multitude of female saints, eastward and westward, certainly disprove. So just put it down to ignorance and arrogance on the part of males, and lethargy on the part of females, that these things are not corrected. Ignorance, arrogance and lethargy are all symptoms of the mode of ignorance.
Incorrectly, some devotees think that just by chanting, they will become transcendental to the modes of nature, but Srila Prabhupada explains that chanting or any other form of devotional service can be tainted by the modes of nature, and if this is the case, then the service or the chanting, instead of liberating one, actually binds one up in further illusion (Srimad Bhagavatam 3.32.37 and 3.29.9). Thus, there are what Sri Chaitanya calls "weeds" that choke the creeper of bhakti. These "weeds" are fed by the watering process, which is chanting in the lower modes of nature. The water or chanting does some good to the creeper, but because it is tainted by the modes, it also chokes it by feeding the weeds, preventing its flowering and bearing the fruit of love for God. This is all explained in Caitanya Caritamrta. (Madhya lila, 19.159-160)
Therefore, as one chants, one should constantly pray to be rid of anarthas or blockages to bhakti, and during the day one should always be trying to come to the mode of goodness at least, and to discriminate not on the basis of bodily dress but on the basis of character, how much spirituality, in character and in vision, each person possesses, so that we can take advantage of advanced association and give guidance to those less advanced.
Of course, this level of advancement does not necessarily correspond to one's position and degree of importance in the society, as real advancement only corresponds to sincerity of heart. Thus, the pot washer in the temple can easily be more advanced than the Bhagavatam speaker, so it pays to stay sharp and spiritually discriminative. It is said that the neophyte sees differences on the basis of body and sect, the more advanced on the basis of spiritual character and vision, and the most advanced does not see any distinction at all. Thus when one has advanced beyond duality altogether, one's sense of discrimination can relax, but up until that point, it is most essential for survival.