Chakra Discussions

In Response To Gender In Diversity

by Sri Nandanandana dasa

Posted October 12, 2005

Hare Krishna. In his response to my article "Women in Vedic Culture", Amara dasa said that it is a nice summary of the general role of women in Vedic society, but there are exceptions to the rule, which he goes on to explain what he means. That is all right, but that is all it was supposed to be, a general description of how women are honored and respected in genuine Vedic culture, and that it is a benefit to society to keep those standards alive. I wasn't writing a book that would include each and every situation or exception to general social behavior. It is a long article anyway, so I thought I would not have to make it longer by mentioning various exceptions or different circumstances merely to pacify or clarify things for someone like him. We all know that there will certainly be men who may have God-given talents that women usually excel in, or there may be women who are talented in masculine roles. This does not mean that they have no place in Vedic society, as Amara dasa seems to think I'm saying. I never mentioned that at all. We all know that everyone is accommodated in a true Vedic society, but my point was that we should be improving things for women in this day and age and in our own organization if we are to represent genuine Vedic culture. Amara says, "Some men excel in traditionally held females roles and are feminine by nature. To assert that there is something wrong or 'unbalanced' with them is not only an unfair assessment of such persons but also a misrepresentation of Hinduism and Vedic culture." First of all, I never said or asserted such a thing in my article. I never asserted that such exceptions are unbalanced, nor was that part of the article at all. This is merely his interpretation. But this view of his only reveals his own consciousness and that he is overly sensitive because of his own gender orientation. Secondly, when I wrote this article, my friends Rangadevi and Chintamani devi also made contributions and points included in it so I could be sure that I caught the general women's view of things. I did not feel I wanted to write the whole thing without some overview from at least a few women. I also did not write this particular article to be about homosexuals or those who are exceptions to their gender. I wrote this article to emphasize by Vedic scriptural evidence and examples of Vedic women in history and in more modern times how genuine Vedic culture respects and honors women and provides for the upliftment, spiritual education and the individual empowerment of women. Plus, any organization that is meant to represent Vedic culture should also follow suit and provide the same regard and facilities. It has been too long that women have not been shown their fair share of facilities so they can become all that they can be in terms of spiritual development and potential. Society itself can have a much more progressive and balanced atmosphere if there is more respect for women and what they can do. Too many times even Iskcon has been criticized for the way people see how we treat our ladies. This perception is not isolated, and it is also not a genuine representation of what true Vedic culture is meant to be. And I included many examples of Vedic women in my article to emphasize that. This is what Amara must have missed. However, for him to take it so far as to consider my article to hold a misrepresentation of Hinduism to the point of comparing it to fundamentalistic Christianity, as he puts it, is offensive to Christians and also absurd. If it was not for that, I probably would not have bothered with this response. For him to reach such a conclusion means he must have disregarded everything else I included, such as the Vedic scriptural quotes that instruct how women should be respected and honored, and especially treated at home, along with the above mentioned points. There are many ways that genuine Vedic society uplifts and protects women, and allows for them to reach their full potential. We should study this for our own understanding of Vedic culture and how to provide women that sense of self-worth for the contributions they make. How will organizations like Iskcon grow if it cannot facilitate 50% of the population in the world in this way? Plus, there were the various philosophical points that were provided stressing that as spiritual aspirants, we should eventually reach the stage where we give up such gender based distinctions, bias, attractions or distractions altogether, being fully conscious that everyone is a spirit soul that is merely covered by the material body. Many such points were given in the article, all of which Amara must have neglected in order to compare it with fundamentalistic Christianity. Unfortunately, I have seen so many times that no matter how clear you try to make your points in articles that you write, there is always going to be somebody who just doesn't get the message. Or who misunderstands something and then uses that misinterpretation of what you meant as the basis of criticism with which they undermine the whole article, forgetting all other positive significance within it. Fortunately, I have received enough emails of appreciation for this article on "Women in Vedic Culture" to indicate that most women understand and agree with it. The article was also published in a few other papers and magazines in India, including one by the Rashtra Seviki Samiti, a national women's organization who liked it very much. I only sent it to Chakra to share the article with others who may gain some encouragement or use from it, knowing full well that there would probably be somebody who will dislike something about it. Nonetheless, we may feel that there is a need to spread an awareness of women's issues (and so many others) throughout the world, or even in Vedic organizations that should already know these things. But we simply have to keep working for the benefit of everyone regardless of how overwhelming the task may seem to be, or how others misunderstand us, or what others may say. I am of the conviction that Vedic culture is the last bastion of deep spiritual truth, and if we should ever lose that, then the whole world, or at least any chance of a sane society, is finished. I may not always be clearly understood (and in this world who is?) but I will never stop trying to fulfill this mission of spreading the spiritual understanding that Vedic culture has to offer.

Hari bol, Sri Nandanandana dasa (Stephen Knapp)