8: Bodily Conception Vanishes

SAC Point 8: “Such natural instincts of a woman or a man are manifested only in the bodily conception of life. When either a man or a woman is advanced in spiritual consciousness, the bodily conception of life practically vanishes.” [SB 6.18.42 Purport]

SAC Comment: “When the bodily concept of life vanishes, the material qualities of one’s lower nature are transcended. The conclusion must be, therefore, that if a female devotee is actually advanced, above the bodily platform, she may assume the post of a spiritual master.”

The SAC actually means “if a female devotee is actually advanced, above the bodily platform, she may assume the post of an initiating spiritual master”. This conclusion, however, cannot be substantiated from their selection from SB 6.18.42 Purport. The SAC presents ‘half the hen’. The other half of the hen can be understood from the verse and verse preceding spoken by Kasyapa Muni, and reading the rest of the purport:

“To satisfy their own interests, women deal with men as if the men were most dear to them, but no one is actually dear to them. Women are supposed to be very saintly, but for their own interests they can kill even their husbands, sons or brothers, or cause them to be killed by others.”

Kasyapa, in the verse prior, was commenting on the dangers of gross and subtle falldown associated with sannyasis seeing a woman’s voice and form. Now, Prabhupada describes according to Kasyapa, women have a “natural inclination” to be “too self-interested” and are capable of killing their male relatives/authorities. Prabhupada states these are “authoritative sastric injunctions”, concluding “we should therefore be very careful in our dealings with women”, although a woman also has the right to go back to Godhead if she “strictly follows the instructions of the spiritual master and sastra.” 

Prabhupada’s purport to SB 6.18.42 continues by stating the importance of protection for women because freedom leads to “gross selfishness”, according to Manu who decries female independence which is applicable even to Krsna conscious women. The purport concludes:

“A man should be trained to be a first-class devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa, and a woman should be trained to be a very chaste follower of her husband. That will make the lives of both of them happy.”

A woman may be transcendentally situated, but others will still see her material female form and hear her voice because her “bodily conception” vanishes, not her body! The rationale of the SAC’s point is akin to allowing a sannyasi to associate with women, because if he is above the bodily concept, he is above the rules and regulations of the scripture. Sannyasis are restricted from associating with women; similarly women are restricted from giving diksa.

Bell Metal to Gold Analogy  

The bell metal into gold analogy from Hari-bhakti-vilasa 2.12: yatha kananatam yati describes turning “a lowborn man into a brāhmaṇa by initiating him properly into Vaiṣṇava activities” [Srimad Bhagavatam 5.24.17] It is also found in Kularnava Tantra. This analogy cannot be applied to women because the female body is not transformed into a male body. Drawing the conclusion that a woman is transformed cent percent with a brahmana would contradict Manu, Narada, the Goswamis and Srila Prabhupada who all state:

“In all circumstances a woman should remain dependent upon some guardian.” [Srimad Bhagavatam 4.18.3]

Similarly, the idea that a woman can perform a fire ceremony if she doesn’t have a thread, if she is an offenseless chanter of the holy name is based on a misunderstanding of SB 3.336.6 and Jiva Goswami’s comment on such:

“Those who find fault in the Western Vaishnavas should consider this statement from Srimad-Bhagavatam and the commentary on this verse by Srila Jiva Gosvami. In this regard, Srila Jiva Gosvami has stated that to become a brahmana one has to wait for purification and undergo the sacred thread ceremony, but a chanter of the holy name does not have to wait for the sacred thread ceremony. We do not allow devotees to perform sacrifices until they are properly initiated in the sacred thread ceremony. Yet according to this verse, an offenseless chanter of the holy name is already fit to perform a fire ceremony, even though he is not doubly initiated by the sacred thread ceremony. This is the verdict given by Devahuti, the mother of Lord Kapiladeva, when He was instructing her in pure Sankhya philosophy.” [CC Madhya 18.135]

This section of the Bhagavatam Canto 3 being quoted, is with regards to Teachings of Lord Kapila to Devahuti. Therein Prabhupada states:

Women are considered on the same platform with sudras, and although a woman may be married to a brahmana, she is not given the sacred thread.” [TLK 5]

Prabhupada also states in TLK 5 that men are in “charge of” women, who “should be given knowledge” and “should also follow this knowledge” from either their father, husband or grown son.

“In all cases, women should always remain dependent. [TLK 5]

Not “in some cases” but “in all cases” women should remain dependent. This is further explained in a lecture on the above TLK verses:

 “Women should be under the protection. In the Manu-samhita it is said that woman should not be given freedom. Na strī svātantryam arhati. They cannot properly utilize freedom. It is better to remain dependent. That is very good. Independent woman cannot be happy. That’s a fact. We have seen in the Western countries, on, in the name of independence, so many women are unhappy. So that is not recommended in the Vedic civilization and on the varṇāśrama-dharma. So therefore the mother, Devahūti, was given under the charge of (her) grown-up son, Kapiladeva. And Kapiladeva was fully cognizant that He has to take care of His mother…. I must take charge of My mother and keep her always pleased.”

We must be careful not to come to a conclusion which contradict or try to override these statements. We depend “on the judgement of the bona fide spiritual master” ie. Srila Prabhupada, to determine whether one is to be accepted as a brahmana:

“Whether one has acquired the qualification of a brāhmaṇa depends on the judgment of the bona fide spiritual master. He bestows upon the disciple the position of a brāhmaṇa by his own judgment. When one is accepted as a brāhmaṇa in the sacred thread ceremony under the pāñcarātrika system, then he is dvija, twice-born. That is confirmed by Sanātana Gosvāmī: dvijatvaḿ jāyate.” [Varnasrama College Conversation, March 14, 1974]

A woman becomes a brahmani if she is a chaste and faithful wife of a brahmana and not otherwise because chastity cannot be separated from a woman’s qualification as a bonafide disciple:

“Because woman is meant for assisting man, so the woman becomes suitable according to the man, her husband.” [TV Interview July 9, 1975 Chicago]

woman is supposed to be assistant of man. If woman is faithful wife of the first-class man, then she also becomes first-class.” [July 9, 1975 Press Conference Chicago]