Chakra Discussions

Vaisnavi Asraya enriches lives of women devotees

by Madhava Prasada dasi

Posted May 16, 2004

A group of women devotees has established an organization called Vaisnavi Asraya Inc., a project intended to empower ISKCON women to become stronger in their personal and spiritual lives. Taking the motto "Women especially are the highest refuge of women" (spoken by Lord Siva to Uma Devi in the Mahabharata) the group hopes to "help create a vibrant and positive future in Krishna consciousness for all the Vaisnavis based on caring relationships and our identities as spirit souls."

Trustees for Vaisnavi Asraya include Malati dasi, one of the early disciples of Srila Prabhupada, the first woman GBC member and a strong advocate for devotee-women; Manjari dasi, a lawyer, former GBC secretary, and author of the book, Gauradesa;and Krsnangi dasi, a holistic counsellor and a teacher of yoga and stress management.

Two GBC members have offered their appreciations for the work of Vaisnavi Asraya. "In Vedic culture a woman is not only treated as mother but is also considered the source of power, opulence, knowledge and fortune. This is not a sentimental concept but is a perceivable reality," said HH Bhakti Caru Swami. "Time and time again the Vedic scriptures remind us that respect for women brings auspiciousness and prosperity, whereas the opposite causes one to lose those qualities. I humbly request the members of ISKCON to consider the importance and need of this project and to help it grow," he said.

"Women are a natural source of shelter, encouragement and strength for each other," said Anuttama das. "By working together they can have a very powerful and positive effect on themselves, our families, and the greater mission of Srila Prabhupada." Women are "uniquely qualified" to build "a more stable and caring foundation" for Vaisnava communities, he added.

Projects

Vaisnavi Asraya hopes to establish a network of community centres for women devotees to offer mutual encouragement through seminars, festivals, instruction in devotional arts and a range of support groups, and to further interfaith preaching with other women's religious and spiritual groups.

Devotees have set up a publishing firm, called Jaya Radhe Publications. Currently in production are Beyond Gender, aimed at counteracting gender bias expressed by immature devotees, and Divine Death, the lives, struggles, surrender and glorious passing of fifteen women-devotees in Krishna consciousness. The group is seeking help with research, writing, editing, proofreading, layout, art design, marketing and distribution of these and other books, as well as financial assistance to help cover printing costs.

Vaisnavi Asraya also would like to set up a series of ashrams to enable elderly Vaisnava women, for example, to live together with other Krsna conscious women of the same mood and stage in spiritual life. Our purpose is to meet the needs of like-minded devotees and therefore other types of ashrama arrangements are also possible.

For example, a group of solo-mothers may want to get together and create their own community living environment. A group of brahmacarinis and other Vaisnavis may want to get together and have their own preaching center or maybe their own living facility near a temple. We can help to bring these devotees with similar needs and moods together and through combining the different resources, funding, donations, skills, etc., establish the different ashramas accordingly.

Another project, Vaisnavi Education and Culture, aims to facilitate and promote educational and training opportunities. Seminars will be based on the teachings of Srila Prabhupada, Vaisnava culture and sastra, and will include personal growth workshops and life-skills training, for the realistic application of Krishna consciousness in today's world.

Membership

Members receive, among other benefits, access to a member-only section of the website, priority participation in projects and activities, a free personal development kit, discounts on books, seminars, conferences, and special training courses, as well as the association and friendships of many Vaisnavis around the world.

Devotee women interested in these and many other contemplated projects may visit www.vaisnavi.org for more information, or send an introductory email to info@vaisnavi.org, providing their name and contact information. Optionally, if you're interested in membership, we would also like to know who is your guru, where is your nearest local temple, when you joined ISKCON, your marital status, and whether you live independently, in a temple or devotee community, or elsewhere. Please indicate your principal interests among the objectives of Vaisnava Asraya and, for reference purposes, include the name and email address of a devotee who knows you.

For our interactive website, you can send us: inspiring quotes from Srila Prabhupada and stories of him with his female disciples, sastric quotes and other thoughts to encourage women in devotional life, profiles of devotee women who inspire you, your best recipes, news items, short essays (around 500 words) for the 'Your Say' page, questions, suggestions and feedback, ideas and support for the support groups and personal growth workshops, reviews of books and other items produced by Vaisnavis for the market place, and participate in discussions, on-line seminars, etc.

For our different projects - Oh! A whole lot more! You can research Vaisnava scriptures, write articles, seminars, books, Vaisnavi profiles and hagiographies, teach and develop the Vaisnavi Academy seminars and training courses, edit and proofread our publications or do artwork & layout design, do market research and distribution, engage in public relations, start a local community centre, develop interfaith preaching with other women's religious groups, develop social benefit programs, research grants/charity organizations for donations to our projects, or help administer the website, its pages and its activities. Send us your ideas! We want to hear from you! Please contact us : info@vaisnavi.org

Sponsorship

Think for a moment of where you would be today if it was't for some person who helped you through a difficult time. It's a tough world, and more so for those forgoing material prosperity for the sake of spiritual life. The fact is we cannot survive on our own -- we need each other and the help of each other. It's the same for everyone. Even if your life has been 'a bed of roses', still there has been some time when you received help from someone that made all the difference to where you are today.

Many of the daughters and granddaughters in Srila Prabhupada's family are suffering and are in need of help. After years of selfless service they find themselves without financial support for medical costs, basic living needs or a place to spend their final years. Others find themselves having to support themselves and their children on their own without tangible money-earning skills. In the struggle to survive, some are gradually losing their spiritual lives. The need is pressing.

Please take this opportunity to help the daughters and granddaughters of Srila Prabhupada and give back to yourself the greatest need -- the blessings of the Vaisnavas, especially Srimati Radharani. Consider making a monthly, annual or one-time donation to support a renunciant woman living in India who has dedicated her life to the mission of Srila Prabhupada and is now without maintenance or family support, or to help women devotees with scholarships, vocational training, bringing up children alone, medical treatment or facing a sudden crisis in life, etc.