Found in Sanga, Sanga 2001.

Q. In a recent Sanga, ‘Sat gurus and siksa mantras,’ you wrote that “women are not more lusty than men nor less intelligent.” This appears to me to be quite contradictory to what Srila Prabhupada said about the subject. Can a ‘sat guru’ answer this question?

A. Srila Prabhupada has said that women are less intelligent and more lusty than men. It appears that I have said something different. However, what Prabhupada said about women is subject to time, circumstance, information available, and interpretation. If statements like “women are less intelligent than men” are to be taken as absolute, then no woman at any time could be more intelligent than any man. Is that true? You are a man. Ask yourself if this is true and answer honestly. Are you more intelligent than every woman on Earth? Is every woman on Earth more lusty than you?

If not, then you have to interpret Prabhupada’s words to fit with your own experience and with what you know to be true. You have to consider what Prabhupada meant by intelligence, who he was talking to, and whether what he said is to be considered siddhanta (absolute conclusion) or a cultural consideration relative to times past when women were uneducated, etc., etc. This is what I have done in dealing with this subject.

Can your question be answered? I think so, but you should know that yours is not a spiritual question, neither in substance nor in form. It has nothing to do with spiritual life proper, and its tenor is not concerned with understanding the truth, but rather with showcasing your own knowledge. Unfortunately, here you have only demonstrated your foolishness.

Q. In a previous Sanga you wrote, “saints can do things that even God cannot.” Doesn’t that limit God?

A. Saints can do things that even God cannot by God’s grace. They are extensions of his own self, being possessed of his svarupa sakti, and in this sense they are not independent of him. So whatever they do is really his glory. This is tattva, the metaphysical truth, with emphasis on ‘abheda’ (non difference). Still we sometimes talk about the accomplishments of great devotees as being acts that even God cannot perform. And God takes pleasure in this glorification of his devotees. This is also tattva, with emphasis on ‘bheda’ (difference). Reality is acintya bhedabhda (inconceivably one and different).

God’s apparent inability to do something is relative to his lila and its limitations. He is limited within his lila in terms of the role he plays. Mahaprabhu is Krishna himself, but he is Krishna in his acarya-lila and thus he cannot associate with unmarried village girls like Krishna does.

The giant monkey, Hanuman, jumped from Kanya Kumari to Sri Lanka, whereas Ram in the role of a human being had to build a bridge. It is the Lord’s greatest pleasure to see his devotees do something in his service that he cannot. Some explain away the glory of the Lord’s devotees by reminding others that they are not independent of him. But the Lord is not as pleased by this philosophical description as he is by those which proclaim the greatness of his devotees and obscure the reality of their oneness with him.

Q. A Bhagavad-gita critic writes, “The same mindset that Arjuna had in securing a clear conscience (Bg. 2.19) was used by Kamsa to justify his killing of Devaki’s sons. If the same approach to moral values can be used by both the demon and the divine avatar, it is hard to accept that such a ‘detached’ perspective represents a true basis for morality.” How would you reply to this critic?

A. Krishna’s initial instruction to Arjuna in the second chapter of the Gita concerns knowledge of the difference between the soul and body. The fact that this insight can be abused does not change the metaphysical truth contained within it. The truth is that the soul is never slain, nor does it slay. Before we speak of morality, it is good to know who and what we are. Following this initial instruction, Krishna speaks hundreds of verses qualifying it. In the concluding chapter of the Gita this instruction is revisited accompanied with an important qualifying remark.

yasya nahankrto bhavo buddhir yasya na lipyate/
hatvapi sa iman lokan na hanti na nibadhyate//

“One whose mind is free from egotism, whose intellect is pure, is not bound even though he slays many people, for he does not truly slay.” Bg. 18.17

In this world a madman is not held accountable for killing another because he is not involved consciously in the act of killing. A soldier in war who kills on behalf of his country and superior commander is also not held accountable for killing. One’s consciousness with regard to any action is the principal factor to be considered in determining accountability. Similarly, the realized soul is not bound by reaction to that which he does in the pure consciousness of being the agent of God. This pure consciousness is devoid of the material egotism and intellect that has not been purified by scripture and saintly association.

The egoless action of pure intellect mentioned in this verse and how one becomes situated in it has been described at length throughout the Bhagavad-gita. It is not easily attained, and it cannot be imitated. Thus, abuse of this verse, which leads to antinomainism (moral law not binding religious followers), is checked considerably by the standard of consciousness stipulated herein that one must attain before one can be considered free from karmic reactions.

While this verse returns us to the battlefield and the matter at hand, it also serves to underscore the exalted nature of the self and the God-realization that Krishna wants Arjuna to attain. Here, just as in the first six chapters, Krishna encourages Arjuna to fight as his agent without concern for any karmic implications resulting from the slaying of Bhisma, Drona, and other warriors. Thus for the sake of emphasizing the purity of self-realization, the contrast is made here and throughout the Gita in general between enlightenment and the unthinkable act of killing one’s relatives. Hypothetically, a person acting as a conscious agent of God in all of his actions can commit even such a heinous act yet not be held accountable for it.

Q. If the jiva originates from the tatastha sakti (marginal potency), what does the term ‘Back to Godhead’ imply?

A. ‘Back to Godhead’ implies that we should become acquainted with our source in loving devotion. We should enter the homeland of the heart. There in Goloka our spiritual form (svarupa) is eternally existing in a dormant condition. It awakens through bhakti characterized principally by hearing, chanting and meditating on Radha Krishna. For more discussion on tatastha sakti, click here

Q. Is it possible to introduce rasa lila in an appropriate manner for all to understand? Isn’t the basic eligibility freedom from unwanted tendencies (anartha nivritti), which most people have not attained?

A. Introducing rasa lila in an appropriate manner for a general audience is what I have done in my book, ‘Aesthetic Vedanta: The Sacred Path of Passionate Love.’ Have you read it?

Q. Most people tend to think their realization or relationship with God is the best. Could this be a reflection of the pure quality found in the Lord’s lila where the liberated soul is thinking that the Lord is ‘hers alone?’

A. I wouldn’t call the conditioned soul’s sense of an individual relationship or realization of God a reflection of the liberated soul’s experience with God. For the most part the conditioned soul’s experience is a product of the mind which is at best a tiny glimpse into the nature of ultimate reality. Naturally, we want to share this glimpse and because we’ve experienced it within the framework of a particular tradition, we may feel the need to convert others so they can have the same experience.

While a tradition may afford one a spiritual experience, being externally oriented (in relation to the mind and senses), we tend to identify the experience with the tradition and lose sight of the fact that the experience transcends everything, including the tradition. Thus there is a tendency to fall into sectarianism and often fanaticism.

Q. The Bhagavad-gita 17.9, states, “Foods that are too bitter, too sour, salty, hot, pungent, dry and burning are dear to those in the mode of passion.” Sometimes the food at the Sunday Feast is so spicy it burns my tongue and turns my face red. Are hot spices an exception or should I quote this verse to the temple cook?

A. In this verse the word ‘ati’ qualifies all of the foods mentioned. They are rajasic (mode of passion) when taken in excess (ati). Such excess brings the immediate effect of pain, the aftereffect of sorrow, and the long-term effect of disease. What is rajasic for one may not be so for another. But, yes, I think you should talk to the temple cook.

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