A LOADED QUESTION
QUESTION: We see that ISKCON temples in India, do not allow ladies to worship the deities on the altar, and this prohibition is now being considered by some temples in Russia and Ukraine. For instance, during a festival abhiseka, which is much in the public eye. How appropriate is it to introduce such standards in the West?
ANSWER: This sounds like, what we call “a loaded question.” Here, I shall have to state my opinion: What is going on in India is a certain acknowledgement of cultural conditions which Srila Prabhupada wanted to honor. We have seen that he did things and directed devotees in India and more specifically in Vrindavan, so it is very possible that Srila Prabhupada said, “Here in India, only men on the altar, at least for public services.”
In Germany, for several years our head pujari was so inspired by the Radharaman temple in Vrindavan that he wanted to emulate the mood of the Radharaman temple, and one of the things he wanted to do therefore, was to have only men on the altar. And not just for the public ceremonies, but all the time. So, this was the standard for many years. But after some years that standard changed and I personally don’t find it to be a problem. I think it is very nice that many ladies now are engaged in deity worship services in the two main German temples. They are very happily engaged and that is not a problem. Why should they be restricted?
I can see many possible unwanted effects of excluding women from the altar. I would want to hear what the arguments for excluding them from the altar would be. Perhaps, I could be convinced otherwise. Nonetheless, I think it would work against the mission.
Our mission is to spread Krishna consciousness as far and wide as possible - to attract more and more people. Every such restriction we impose on women makes people in the Western world question, “Why are you making this restriction for women?” And whatever answers we may give, the bottom line for many people is, “Well, then this is not for me. I cannot be part of an institution where they make this kind of discrimination.”
Again, I would like to hear the arguments - whatever they are. If it is simply to imitate India then it brings another question to me, and that is: what is your understanding of the culture of Krishna consciousness? Do you think that Indian culture is the Krishna conscious culture?
I don’t think so. Krishna consciousness may have certain aspects which are also observed in India, but there is also a lot that is neglected in India today. This neglect, moreover, is growing. For example, the percentage of people in India who are vegetarian today has gone down to an estimated 18% even lesser than 20% of the population. Are we going to imitate that?
—From the online lesson 2 by Khishna Kshetra Swami on Srila Prabhupada’s Sandarbha, Bhagavata and Pancaratrika-vidhi at the Bhaktivedanta University, August 13, 2021.
COW CARE: WHAT DO WE WANT?
I want to at least call attention to what is in our books. I want that we think more deeply about what are we about, who are we about, when we say cow protection—go-raksa—is important. We say it is important. How important is it for us? In what ways is it important?
I have been studying this for some time now, but the more I get into it, the more I get the feeling that I am only scratching the surface of a huge topic.
Srila Prabhupada emphasised, “This Krishna consciousness movement is for the protection of brahminical culture and cows [….] When these two things are neglected then that is an animal society and then other animal qualities and paraphernalia follow.”
—From the presentation: “Keeping cows in the centre,” by Krishna Kshetra Swami at the ISKCON Communications conference New Vrajamandala, in Spain, on May 27, 2019. The completed and published article that grew out of this presentation is now available in the ISKCON Communications Journal, vol. 12 (available from Bhaktivedanta Library Services - www.blservices.com).