“I want that all of my spiritual sons and daughters will inherit this title of Bhaktivedanta, so that the family transcendental diploma will continue through the generations. Those possessing the title of Bhaktivedanta will be allowed to initiate disciples. Maybe by 1975, all of my disciples will be allowed to initiate and increase the numbers of the generations. That is my program.” (Letter to Hamsaduta—Los Angeles 3 December, 1968)
First, Prabhupada was talking about an officiating initiation system while he was present. Bhaktivedanta, a post-graduate title, was to be awarded to those who have successfully passed exams on a seven-year course of study of Prabhupada’s books.
ISKCON was in its infancy at the time of this 1968 letter, and Prabhupada was still in the process of writing books; Srimad Bhagavatam and Caitanya Caritamrita had yet to be written. As Prabhupada wrote, the more he introduced his disciples to the scientific principles of Krsna consciousness. As they studied and practiced devotional service, realizing and applying the truth, Prabhupada was hopeful they would eventually qualify as Bhaktivedanta as a similar letter written weeks later reiterates:
“By 1975, all of those who have passed all of the above examinations will be specifically empowered to initiate and increase the number of the Krishna Consciousness population.”
[Letter to Kirtanananda, January 12, 1969]
“Sons and daughters”, not “sons or daughters”; in terms of women, daughters refers to wives with their husbands, as their assistants, not independently. Prabhupada did not contravene a woman’s prescribed duty. The proposed system was that the brahmana husband would initiate as a representative of the Acarya and his wife would assist as an instructor guru. Prabhupada followed Narada’s instructions for women, ie. to be chaste followers of their husbands. Here are some letters from 1970 and ‘71 showing Prabhupada included the husband when speaking about the service of his female disciples:
“Similarly in London Yamuna is also doing nicely, and all the wives of our students should be especially trained up for Deity worship and cooking, and when possible they should go outside on Sankirtana Party with their husbands and others.” Letter: Hamsaduta April 18, 1970]
“Regarding your cookbook, I have turned it over to Malati and Yamuna Prabhus who are with me in Delhi, along with their husbands, to go over the contents carefully and then I will finish the final editing and send it to you very soon. I will write a brief introduction as you desire.” [Letter to Krsna Devi November 20, 1971]
“So you organize everything in such a way that we can deliver these souls back to Krishna—this is our real work. Some of our girls may be trained in colleges and take teacher exams, and their husbands also. As you develop our program there I shall give you more hints.” [Letter to Satsvarupa November 25, 1971]
Secondly, Prabhupada’s statement, “Maybe by 1975″ is not definitive. It means he was considering the possibility seven years in the future. By 1975, Prabhupada had published the Srimad Bhagavatam and Caitanya Caritamrita books. Through discussions he had July 9-13, 1975, we get a synopsis of how he envisioned the practical application of varnasrama principles he felt were appropriate to Western society. These conversations are so pertinent to understanding the FDG issue:
By 1976, Prabhupada wanted to implement stricter policies for brahmanas and sannyasis. In a 1976 Letter to the GBC, Prabhupada outlines the details of the Bhaktivedanta and other preliminary exams, insisting that all prospective brahmanas “will have to pass the Bhaktisastri exam and anyone wishing to take sannyasa will have to pass the Bhaktivaibhava examination as well….Any sannyasis or brahmanas already initiated who fail to pass the exams will be considered low class or less qualified….During the exams books may not be consulted.”
The hope Prabhupada had in 1968 for Bhaktivedanta graduates to initiate was not realized and the standard he expected of brahmana disciples was reduced to Bhaktisastri. Even sannyasis were only expected to pass the Bhaktivaibhava exams, meaning they were proficient in knowledge including the first six cantos of the Srimad Bhagavatam. The Bhaktivedanta exam was modifed to include the last six cantos and Caitanya Caritamrita studies were only tested at the topmost degree of Bhaktivaibhava.