Found in Sanga, Sanga 2001.

Q. In a past Q & A discussion, “Women, Degradation, and Trust,” you appear to be disregarding the traditional Vedic role of women and their need for protection, etc.

A. All ancient and even not so ancient societies, both religious and secular, have looked similarly upon women in ways that today’s society does not. The reason is largely because of the obvious fact that women are no less intelligent, no more lusty, etc., than men. Other religious traditions, such as Christianity, have for the most part moved on from the Bible’s traditional description of the role of women to embrace the times that are with us, in which women are involved in every aspect of society.

Are the Vaisnavas to remain what would be considered socially and culturally backward on this issue and still expect to be viewed as a vital spiritual tradition? Are you suggesting that the Vedic statements about women in general are absolute truth, rather than an example of the cultural bias through which the absolute truth manifests?

Q. I would not venture to say that the liberated women is either good or bad. Women are now demanded to compete with men rather then men learning to become as loving as women. I simply take note of the sage advice of persons like Christ and Prabhupada. I find myself cautious of those who second-guess these personalities.

A. I do not find that the strides that have been taken to give women the right to vote and other equal opportunities has made them any less loving. In many cases they are more loving because they have the opportunity to express their love beyond their immediate family circle. Now they can vote, have a say as to what the world needs, and thus share the loving nature you attribute to them by investing it in determining world leaders. Nor is there any evidence that women are now less caring at home. The equality that women have gained has also caused many men to become more caring.

You choose not to “second guess” Prabhupada or Jesus Christ. What about the continuing guru parampara that is intended to help us understand the previous acaryas in light of our times? Do you really think that we should to go back to the Bible and determine the place of women in today’s society based on what is written there, rather than listening to any number of modern theologians and other religious leaders in the Christian parampara who have made adjustments in this area suitable to our times? If so, you are identifying with a very small, extremely conservative branch of Christian fundamentalism that would no doubt consider Pat Robertson the devil.

I am not second guessing Prabhupada. I am dealing with the reality of our times, as he or any religious reformer would. If you think that the world is going to return to a women-at-home man-at-work ethic by your preaching, and that this is something worth spending time on, you are entitled to do that. But it is not something that I think is very central to Gaudiya Vaisnavism, nor very practical.

Q. Sometimes while chanting I have a spontaneous image of Krishna and Radha in my heart. Is there a role for the imaginative faculties while chanting?

A. My Guru Maharaja was once told by one of his disciples that while chanting he experienced a blue light surrounding him. Prabhupada replied, “Keep chanting and it will go away.” One of the things that characterizes the Gaudiya Saraswat sampradaya is its tendency to downplay the imagination and instead to stress revelation. So in general we should guard against our imagination.

As much as we are possessed of an enjoying spirit, as opposed to one of selfless service, we run the risk of projecting that enjoying spirit into our thoughts about Krishna lila. We do not want to imagine Krishna as an object of our enjoyment. We should try to serve Krishna selflessly and chant his name sincerely and prayerfully. In time, Krishna Nama will reveal himself to us in a form that corresponds to our eternal relationship with him.

As this revelation begins to awaken, we should cultivate it. All of this develops after one’s heart is cleansed by the grace of Krishna Nama. We should not force anything other than forcing our minds to hear Krishna Nama attentively. We should try to fix the mind on the Holy Name while engaging in japa, allowing no other thought even to enter, what to speak of distracting us. This attentive chanting of japa is called nama smaranam, from which rupa smaranam follows naturally, as does in succession guna smaranam and lila smaranam.

Krishna’s form (rupa), his qualities (guna), and his pastimes (lila) are all within his name. Other than revelation, a mental impression of Krishna will no doubt surface during our chanting from time to time and although we should not put too much stock in it, given the above understanding it may be helpful.

Q. Can you elaborate on what you mentioned in a recent Q & A discussion, “developing a Feeling-thinking” for Krishna and his lila by reading sastra, developing our spiritual heart, etc?

A. When we read for the pleasure of Krishna, this is bhakti. When we read merely for intellectual stimulation, this kind of reading is not bhakti. We should read about Krishna in order to hear more about his nature and activities so that we will become more inspired to serve him. This kind of reading nourishes the heart. As feeling for Krishna manifests in our heart we can experience the knowledge of love, a kind of knowing that retires the need to know and the demands of intellect. When mind and intellect are subordinated to a heart full of love of Krishna, they naturally serve that heart. Then one can read with feeling and sense the feeling behind the text.

Q. Why is Srimati Radharani golden in color?

A. All liberated souls in Krishna lila have their own particular bodily complexions that are not limited to the color of their bhava. Radha’s complexion is fair because it is she that sheds light on Krishna. In doing so she demonstrates the power of love and this love becomes the object of Krishna’s interest. Light displaces darkness. Thus he himself changes complexion from dark to light, from syama to gaura, and the golden God in the bhava of Radha (Gauranga) gives himself to all.

Q. I came into contact with Krishna consciousness when I was 18. I am now 28. Then, my faith was unshakable, now I hardly believe that there is a God—though I would like to. I feel I want to believe in God because I don’t want to think that when I die that will be the end. Can you advise?

A. There is no end, only transformation. Whatever exists will always exist, and whatever does not, will never exist. There is no point in worrying that you will not exist after death. It is better to spend your time understanding in what sense you will exist after the transformation we call death. This transformation is relative to the life you lead now. Both the past and future are within the present. Pay attention to the present and you will know everything. You will know that sense pleasure is pain; desire perpetuates struggle; sacrifice and giving are synonymous with getting; through giving we become whole; we can give the most when we give such that our giving is beneficial in all respects—when the entirety of existence is the receiver.

Mystics say that existence is God. Gaudiya mystics say that existence is the energy of God and in this sense nondifferent from him. These are wise people, whose faith is the firm ground of their experience. In their experience, the Gaudiya saints in particular encounter the heart of reality, for this is what they are interested in—not eternal life, or power of any kind, but love.

They describe this experience as Krishna and invite us to experience reality in this way ourselves. They reason well that there is no more complete experience of the nature of reality. Try to associate with such persons of divine faith, persons of spiritual experience.

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