A Call for Women's Ashrams
by Mahavegavati Dasi
Posted May 16, 2003

On Sept. 21, 1925, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur spoke about setting up ashrams for women:

"All of you please perceive everything of this world as ingredients for serving Krsna; everything of this world is actually meant for Krsna's service. Please see the whole race of women as beloved consorts of Krsna, and help them always to engage themselves in the service of Krsna. Please do not consider them as objects for your sense enjoyment. They are to be enjoyed by Krsna; they are never to be enjoyed by the living entities.

"Our maths are being built at many places and many sannyasis, vanaprasthas, grhasthas and brahmacaris are living there all the time and are receiving the opportunity to learn spiritual conduct. But we have been trying for a long time to also give the mothers (women) the opportunity for devotional service. Of course, those who have the facility and opportunity for devotional service in their own homes do not need a separate residence. But very often we hear that many of them get impeded in their devotional service due to bad association. It will be very beneficial for them if we can build Sri Visnupriya-palli (palli meaning neighborhood) in Sridham Mayapura near the residence of Sriman Mahaprabhu, and if they can live there separately from their families and render devotional service. They actually belong to the group of Sri Visnupriya Devi, (the wife of Mahaprabhu, who was left behind in Navadwip when He took sannyas).

"Therefore it is proper for them to live in the house of Sriman Mahaprabhu and serve him under the shelter of Sri Visnupriya Devi. There should not be any bad association or mundane male association for them there. Only a few devotees like Isan, (the old devotee servant who took care of Sri Sacidevi and Sri Visnupriya Devi after Mahaprabhu left) would stay at a distance and take care of them. It is necessary to have such an exemplary neighborhood, so that the mothers (women) can read scripture every day, discuss devotional topics with each other, and have ista-gosthi about devotional topice, so they can give up all luxury and live an exemplary, saintly life, always chant the holy name, take care of the ingredients of Sriman Mahaprabhu's service and serve him in every way."

I think there is a very great need in our Gaudiya Vaisnava society for making women's ashrams. Srila Prabhupada's ISKCON was a place where women seriously pursuing a life dedicated towards spiritual advancement could be accommodated. After Srila Prabhupada's leaving the planet, many of my Godsisters have been forced to live in non-devotee association and, having to go to work to support themselves, have been forced to compromise their spiritual life.

There are only two societies which enable women to live in such an environment: ISKCON and Vrinda. ISKCON allows the female disciples of current ISKCON gurus and a few of Srila Prabhupada's women disciples to live in the ashrams; Vrinda accommodates Srila B.A. Paramadvaiti Maharaja's disciples. Other than these two societies with limited accommodation, there is no facility to accommodate Gaudiya Vaisnavis who want to live in an ashram.

I am appealing to all devotees, male or female; I want to try to establish a Prabhupada Gaudiya Vaisnava Vishnupriya Ashram Society, so that serious female devotees will be able to have ashrams to live together with good association and practice Krsna consciousness with no major impediments. These ashrams would be open to all Vaisnavis within our Guru Varga.

If you are interested in this project, want to live in such an ashram, and/or wish to assist with suggestions, active participation, donations for purchase of buildings, or have a building to donate, please contact me through email, <mvvd2@yahoo.com, or by telephone, +1 (716) 852-2102. I can be reached after 8:30 p.m. EDT (5:30 p.m. PDT), and between 7:00 and 8:30 a.m. EDT (12:00 to 1:30 Greenwich). I am not business-minded or materially proficient, so I need all the help I can get in setting this up as a legally recognised society. Any assistance would be appreciated, including your sending this on to your friends who you think would be interested.