Guru-patni

The concept of traditional female representative of guru is guru-patni. When husband is a guru, his chaste wife becomes guru-patni. Curiously the terms guru-patni, chaste women, or even chastity are all missing from the SAC’s paper. How can it be that the principle of chastity is absent/ignored in a policy on female gurus? Why is it not mentioned the female guru should perform stri-dharma of cooking and serving prasadam as we see Jahnava Devi herself engaged in this way so perfectly?

Again and again, we see terms of male gender used to describe the guru who accepts disciples. This is because he is the representative of God, who is male:

“Guru, being representative of Kṛṣṇa, he is worshiped as Krsna.” [Nov. 30. 1974 SB Lecture]

Women, on the other hand, are considered representatives of Goddess Laksmi:

“woman is considered as goddess of fortune, representative of goddess of fortune.”
[Aug. 15, 1968 Initiation Lecture]

The principle is that a woman takes an inferior role to her husband, no matter if she is human or on demigod status. The examples of Queen Kunti, Draupadi, Sita, and other pancakanya exalted women honoured in a wife’s wedding vow are absent from the SAC’s presentation. He we see Prabhupada use the term helpmate/dharmacari:

“she will work together with you as your helpmate in Krsna’s service.” [Letter to Jananivasa Sept. 20, 1970]

This echoes King Janaka’s speech to his daughter, Sita, in Valmiki Ramayana:

This Sita, my daughter, is going to be your helpmate in discharging your sacred obligations.”

And Markandeya Purana:

“taking thy wife as thy helpmate, perform all sacrificial and other religious duties.” [Markandeya Purana 71 (spoken to the son of King Uttama, stepbrother of Dhruva Maharaja]

A February 1, 2014 article by Agnideva Dasa, regarding a discrepancy with a female member of the SAC’s philosophical understanding of Srimad Bhagavatam on the sacrificial fire. SB description of a wife maintaining the household fire while her husband is away, which is different from an initiation fire yajna.

Prabhupada explains in his Chapter Summary of SB 6.19, cited in the above-mentioned article, that the sacrifice described is part of the pumsavana vrata:

“This chapter explains how Diti, Kasyapa Muni’s wife, executed Kasyapa Muni’s instructions on devotional service. During the first day of the bright fortnight of the moon in the month of Agrahayana (November–December), every woman, following in the footsteps of Diti and following the instructions of her own husband, should begin this pumsavana-vrata. In the morning, after washing her teeth, bathing and thus becoming purified, she should hear about the birth mystery of the Maruts. Then, covering her body with a white dress and being properly ornamented, before breakfast she should worship Lord Visnu and mother Laksmi, the goddess of fortune, Lord Visnu’s wife, by glorifying Lord Visnu for His mercy, patience, prowess, ability, greatness and other glories and for how He can bestow all mystic benedictions. …Then one should chant the Laksmi-Narayana mantra.” [SB 6.19 Summary]

In verse 20, we read:

“One should accept this viṣṇu-vrata, which is a vow in devotional service, and should not deviate from its execution to engage in anything else. By offering the remnants of prasāda, flower garlands, sandalwood pulp and ornaments, one should daily worship the brāhmaṇas and worship women who peacefully live with their husbands and children. Every day the wife must continue following the regulative principles to worship Lord Viṣṇuwith great devotion. Thereafter, Lord Viṣṇu should be laid in His bed, and then one should take prasāda. In this way, husband and wife will be purified and will have all their desires fulfilled.”

This Visnu-vrata is a vow which entails one should daily “worship the brāhmaṇas and worship women who peacefully live with their husbands and children.” One can infer that women who are unchaste and unfaithful to their husbands are not worshipable.

In SB Eight Canto, 8.16.8-9, the husband Kasyapa (also speaker of the 6.19 verses) asks his wife Aditi, “when I left home for other places”, did you “offer oblations of ghee into the fire?”. Again, similar to Kasyapa’s Sixth Canto Pumsavana Vrata story, the wife assists her husband in maintaining the household fire. It is maintained mutually, both husband and wife.  

Aditi responds in subsequent verses, assuring her “beloved husband” that “the fires, guests, servants and beggars are all being properly cared for by me. Because I always think of you, there is no possibility that any of the religious principles will be neglected”. Aditi refers to herself as her husband’s maidservant (Prabhupada translates bhajantyah as maidservant) and her husband as her “most gentle lord”.

Urmila Devi Dasi’s response, regarding the above-mentioned Srimad Bhagavatam section, ignores the fact the wife was acting as her husband’s assistant and not independently. She states:

“Because the verses and purports only talk about worship the woman is doing herself, with no mention of engaging someone else, the most straightforward understanding is that the woman is conducting the yajna. Any other understanding would be having an interpretation that is not present in the text, or any of the other texts in that section, nor in any of the purports.”

 This is in contradiction to Manu-samhita which states: 

“No sacrifice, no vow, no fast must be performed by women apart (from their husbands)”. [Manu-samhita 5.155 and Visnu-smriti XXV]