According to the Veda, Are Women Less Intelligent than Men?


Men and women are not identical. Some of their differences are social impositions, but there are also basic physical (and thus psychological) differences that are not externally imposed.

 The male body and the female body are obviously different. The most basic difference is that men have a penis (and no breasts) while women have a vulva (and breasts). The basic male nature is therefore to penetrate and ejaculate, while the basic female nature is to receive and cultivate.

The physical body and mental body are intimately related. What affects one affects the other. The basic differences in male and female bodies reflects and affects a basic difference in their psychology. Reflecting the masculine genitalia, the masculine psyche is more assertive and has more immediate goals. Similarly, reflecting female genitalia, the female psyche is more perceptive, contemplative, and long-term.

These difference can be exaggerated or minimized based on upbringing. Thus every individual man or woman winds up with a very complex combination of masculine and feminine principles. Nonetheless, there is a different baseline in the bodies, and thus the minds, of male and female.

Male and Female Intelligence

Is male and female intelligence different? Is female intelligence inferior?

Women excel at some facets of intelligence and men excel at others. So it appears that male and female intellect is different, but not that one is categorically superior or inferior to the other.

Current psychology recognizes that intelligence is multifaceted. Women excel at some facets of intelligence and men excel at others. So it appears that male and female intellect is different, but not that one is categorically superior or inferior to the other.

One may say, “The great geniuses of history are mostly men, why is that?”

One reason may be a bias in the recording of history and the assesment of genius.

This explains why many of the most outstandingly genius humans have been males.

Another fascinating answer is that men statistically deviate from their average IQ more widely than women. This explains why many of the most outstandingly genius humans have been males. It also explains why many of the most outstandingly stupid humans are also males.

One may say, “Why are all the great leaders men?”

Again, one reason may be the bias of historians and the assesment of leadership.

Another answer simply reminds us that men and women are not identical. The male body and mind – with its muscular strength, immediate goals, and assertive nature tends to take control in more measurable ways.

One may say, “Women are better at emotions, not intellect.”

Women are more emotional, but this does not indicate that they are irrational. “Irrational” is a negative emotional condition.

Women are more emotional, but this does not indicate that they are irrational.

Women, due to their psycho-physical nature, are simply more perceptive and contemplative than men. This acuity certainly extends into the emotional realm.

Vedic Opinion

What makes Vedic culture “Vedic” is that it defines itself from the Vedic śāstra (sacred texts). So the real question is, Does Vedic Śāstra conclude that women are less intelligent than men?

Some people who consider themselves followers of Vedic culture believe that women are less intelligent than men. However, what makes Vedic culture “Vedic” is that it defines itself from the Vedic śāstra (sacred texts). Oppinions of followers notwithstanding, then, the real question is, Does Vedic Śāstra conclude that women are less intelligent than men?

A definitive statement that women are less intelligent than men would be strongest if it occurred in context: in a section of śāstra comparing women and men. At the very least, it should have a clear, direct statement that “women are less intelligent than men.”

Let us look at a few contentious quotes from the pinnacles of Vedic Literature, Mahābhārata’s Bhagavad Gītā and the Brahma-sūtra’s elaboration, Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, and evaluate whether such quotes meet the above criteria.

Kunti, “We Women” – ŚB 1.8.20

One statement from Queen Kuntī is sometimes cited as evidence that Vedic culture considers women less intelligent than men. This statement, however, does not appear in a section concerned with a comparison between men and women, nor does it even have a direct statement regarding intelligence.

The statement is the third verse in her very poetic outpouring of petition to Krishna. In the first verse she said, “You are beyond perception.” (alakṣya) The second continues, saying, “A curtain of delusion covers our eyes, making them incapable of perceiving you, Adhokṣaja.”

The verse in question then says,

tathā paramahaṁsānāṁ munīnām amalātmanām
bhakti-yoga-vidhānārthaṁ kathaṁ paśyema hi striyaḥ

“Thus (tathā) only the greatest swans amongst scholars (paramahaṁsānāṁ munīnām) who are not covered by that curtain of delusion (amalātmanā) can see you through the conduit of devotion (bhakti-yoga-vidhānārtha). How surprising that we ladies see you now! (kathaṁ paśyema hi striyaḥ)

It is unfounded to consider this a comparison between men and women. It is a comparison between paramahaṁsa and regular people.

One may ask, “Is it a comparison between paramahaṁsa and women?”

Yes, but this does not imply that women cannot also be paramahaṁsa. Such a conclusion would contradict the well-established siddhānta that anyone can become perfect in bhakti and attain the highest spiritual realizations (paramahaṁsa).

One may ask, “Why does she say striyaḥ (women) and not lokāḥ (ordinary people)?”

Because she is a woman. When we speak we often identify ourselves by the groups we belong to.

One may ask, “Why does she say striyaḥ (plural) and not strīḥ (singular)?”

There are three complimentary reasons:

(A) In Sanskrit “we” is often used for “I.”

(B) Similarly, people often talk from the perspective of being a member of a group.

(C) She was speaking to Krishna via addressing the women who surrounded her. [1.8.45 indicates that she was standing with other women.]

Śrīla Viśvanātha’s comment indicates that she is speaking on the basis of being a member of a group.

One may say, “The point of her identification with women as a group is because women are less intelligent. That is why she expresses surprise that she can see Krishna.”

It is unfounded to consider this a comparison between men and women. It is a comparison between paramahaṁsa and regular people. Nor is it a comparison of intellect, it is a comparison of realized spirituality: bhakti.

Nothing in the verse or anything surrounding it suggests that Kuntī is comparing her intelligence with the intelligence of paramahaṁsa munīs. Kuntī devī identifies the outstanding trait of a paramahaṁsa munī (distinguishing him or her from the more common munī) as their devotion (bhakti) not their intellect. She has said so explicitly, by describing the paramahaṁsa munī as bhakti-yoga-vidhānārtha.

Sūta, “Fools” – ŚB 1.4.25

A statement made by Śrī Sūta is sometimes cited as evidence that Vedic culture considers women less intelligent than men.

strī-śūdra-dvijabandhūnāṁ trayī na śruti-gocarā
karma-śreyasi mūḍhānāṁ śreya evaṁ bhaved iha
iti bhāratam ākhyānaṁ kṛpayā muninā kṛtam

“Women, Laborers, and the so-called educated classes cannot grasp the three Vedas.  These fools therefore certainly could not comprehend what was in their best interest, what they should strive for. This is why the Muni [Vyāsa] compiled the Tale of Bhārata [Mahābhārata].”

Again the context here is not to compare men and women, it is to explain why Vyāsa compiled the Mahābhārata and, subsequently, the Bhāgavatam.

The verse does call some people “fools” (mūḍha), indicating that someone is “less intelligent” than someone else. But it does not say that women are less intelligent than men. Specifically it says that women (strī), laborers (śūdra) and the so-called educated classes (dvija-bandhu) are fools.

This verse is not a comparison of men and women, it is a comparison of the people of kali-yuga with the people of previous ages.

Thus the verse does not support the claim that women are more foolish than men. It supports the idea that women and men are more foolish then they need to be to understand the Veda effectively.

One may ask, “Does this mean that there are some men who are intelligent enough, but never any women?”

A few verses prior to this (17-18), Sūta stated that all people in this age (kali-yuga) are bereft of potency and are dvija (“educated”) in name only (dvija- bandhu). The phrase kalau śūdra sambhavāḥ confirms this. Thus the verse actually means that everyone in kali-yuga is unintelligent.

One may ask, “Why are women mentioned distinctly?”

Strī literally means expanders, procreators. It indicates women in the role of mothers. Other words can indicate women in other ways, nārīnām, for example. These statements group people according to their primary duties. Mothers have certain duties, so they are listed as a group when mentioning the other groups of duties, such as laborers, farmers, governors, and priests.

One may ask, “Does this indicate that women are not educated in Vedic culture?”

No. For more information, please examine the resources cited on this article. Also, one should review these quotes from the original Vedas.

Krishna, “Lower Birth” – Gītā 9.32

Some cite a statement of Krishna in Gītā as evidence that Vedic culture held women to be of lower birth, and therefore inferior to and less intelligent than men.

māṁ hi pārtha vyapāśritya ye ’pi syuḥ pāpa-yonayaḥ
striyo vaiśyās tathā śūdrās te ’pi yānti parāṁ gatim

“Pātha, if someone turns to me he can certainly attain the supreme destination, even if he might be from a sinful family, or a woman, or a merchant, or a laborer.”

Again, the context here is not a comparison of women and men, nor is there a direct statement that women are less intelligent than men.

The obvious thrust of the verse is that everyone can attain the supreme spiritual perfection through bhakti-yoga. Even those who are not qualified for other paths of yoga — those with a sinful family background (pāpa-yonaya), those who are mothers/ women (striya), those who are money-minded (vaiśya), and those who are simpletons (śūdra).

We must note that there is no mention of intelligence in this verse. These classes of people are disqualified from other paths of yoga for reason which may or may not include intelligence. Mothers and the money-minded, for example, are simply too busy and distracted to practice karma or jñāna-yogas. Simple laborers lack the intellect. Those without culture (pāpa-yonaya) lack the inspiration.

One may ask, “Does this statement show that it is sinful to be born as a woman?”

It is not a statement that it is sinful to be born as a woman. pāpa-yonaya is a distinct group of people outside the Vedic culture.

Krishna, “Among Women I am Intelligence” Gītā 10.34

There are clear, direct statements that women are especially intelligent.

Though we could not find a clear, direct statement that women are less intelligent than men, we can easily find a very clear and very direct statement that Krishna considers women to epitomize intelligence.

kīrtiḥ śrīr vāk ca nārīṇāṁ smṛtir medhā dhṛtiḥ kṣamā

Among women I am the goddess Kīriti – the epitome of venerable reputation, Śrī – the epitome of beauty and opulence, Vāk – the epitome of excellent speech, Smṛti – the epitome of memory and contemplation, Medhā – the epitome of intelligence, Dhṛti – the epitome of forbearance, and Kṣamā – the epitome of forgiveness.”

The goddesses Sarasvatī, Vāk, Medhā, and Smṛti epitomize the highest standards of education, verbal excellence, intellect, and contemplation respectively. Krishna associates these qualities not just with the goddesses but with their facsimiles, human females (nārīṇām).

Indeed the important Vedic mantra like Gāyatrī and even the Vedas themselves are personified in female form.

Gopīs and Rādhārānī

It would be very difficult to explain why the most educated, expert and qualified spiritual beings would appear in a form even resembling women, if women are truly inferior and less intelligent.

It is also quite conspicuous that Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas consider females to be the most perfected and accomplished spiritualists. This refers, of course, to the gopīs and their epitome, Śrīmatī Rādhārānī – who have unparalleled expertise in all the 64 departments of education, and who are the supreme vedāntists.

It may be argued that the gopīs are not ordinary women, but they are women nonetheless. It would be very difficult to explain why the most educated, expert and qualified spiritual beings would appear in a form even resembling women, if women are truly inferior and less intelligent.

A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swāmī Prabhupāda

The problem that a bonafide guru must represent the conclusions of śāstra can be addressed in several ways…

Although it seems clear that it is not a Vedic conclusion that women are less intelligent, ISKCON’s founder, Śrīla Prabhupāda made many statements describing women as less intelligent. This poses a problem because a bonafide guru must represent the conclusions of śāstra.

The problem can be addressed in several  ways.

1) We may decide that our analysis of the Veda is wrong.

This is difficult when the evidence is as clear as it is in this case.

 2) We may decide that our analysis of the Veda is incomplete.

If so, we should not draw or support a conclusion with any finality.

Gauḍīyas, particularly, conclude that everything important in the Veda is within the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. Although lengthy, the Bhagavatam is not at all impossible to thoroughly research. So it is hard to entertain the idea of a secret statement hiding somewhere, unknown.

 3) We may decide that some things are “just common sense” and therefore didn’t have to be written.

Anything which is not concluded by the Veda is not “Vedic.” A person of Vedic culture cannot give “common sense” (which varies substantially from person to person and culture to culture) the same importance as Vedic statements.

Vedic philosophy identifies common sense as loka-pramāṇa, which is far, far inferior to the primary epistemologies of observation, logic, and Vedic revelation.

4) We may decide that what the guru says is true, period.

This makes guru is an absolute authority independent of Vedic śāstra. This opinion is absolutely outside the umbrella of “Vedic” culture. The most fundamental Vedic tenant is that śāstra is the ultimate authority to which everyone, including gurus, must conform.

 5) We may decide that we don’t understand the guru.

Prabhupada said “women are less intelligent” so many times that it seems clear what he meant. Nonetheless, his followers in ISKCON do seem to have taken his statements far beyond what conforms with his overall attitude towards women and towards people in general.

6) We may decide that a guru is guru in their field of expertise, not in all fields.

This would allow us to trace Prabhupāda’s statements about women to semi-Vedic sources like the misogynist political strategist Cāṇakya (Prabhupada himself thus attributes several of his statements about women), to cultural sources such as his early 20th century British education at Scottish Churches College, and to his own subjective experience of women and marriage, which has been documented as being unpleasant.

7) We may decide that Prabhupāda is not the ideal guru for us.

We may prefer to find a guru whose teachings do not make reference to concepts that are out of harmony with Vedic conclusions.

Which One?

#6 with a mood of #5 and #2 seems to be the best approach for me. #7 may be better for some, to some extent, but it would seem unfortunate to take it to an extreme, since Śrīla Prabhupāda clearly had many profound and intense realizations of bhakti-yoga and it would seem to be a shame to reject him entirely.

Vraja Kishor dāsa


Qualifications of Guru

Back to Godhead - Volume 10, Number 08 - 1975

The first vilāsa of Haribhakti Vilāsa explains quite a bit about the qualities of a guru.

It begins with the most essential, core quality… HBV 1.35 quotes the Upaniṣads, “tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet…” The essential qualifications of the guru is…:

1) to personify the conclusions of the Vedas, 

2) to be expert in explaining those conclusions, 

3) and to be fully dedicated to pursuit of those conclusions.

HBV 38-40 give more details about important qualities of a true guru, quoting from Mantra-Muktāvalī. The guru…:

1) has a pure lineage (referring to the parampara more than the birth family)

2) is pure (isn’t blamable for serious things)

3) is dutiful (doesn’t abandon their responsibilities)

4) is “in āśrama” (may clarify #3, and/or may mean that they pursue spirituality)

5) gives up anger

6) is very knowledgable

7) knows every śāstra

8) is faithful/convinced (of śāstra’s conclusions)

9) does not hate or envy anyone

10) speaks with endearment/ pleasantly (“is nice to hear”)

11) is pleasant in gesture and body language (“is nice to see”)

12) is clean / honest / innocent

13) dresses well (i.e. makes endeavor to please others by appearance)

14) is youthful (may also mean “young”! May also mean youthful-spirit)

15) loves to help every creature

16) is pensive, introspective, intellectual

17) humble character

18) is content

19) is not selfish

20) is deliberate and careful

21) has other good character traits (forgiveness, etc.)

22) worships 

23) resolute (follows through on intentions and conclusions)

24) is respectful

25) is like a mother or father to students

HBV 41 suggests that a guru must instruct the disciple using a balance of both praise and correction.

HBV 42-44 quote Agastya-Saṁhitā about the guru’s qualifications. The guru…:

1) worships divinity

2) is peaceful

3) has no interest in external objects of pleasure

4) understands spirituality

5) can explain the Veda

6) expertly understands the meaning of the Veda

7) both corrects and encourages as appropriate

8) is dedicated to spirituality

9) understands reality

10) understands the true essence of things, understands the heart

11) understands mysteries and secrets

12) can perform rites and rituals with perfect mantra

13) understands how to accomplish things (how to accomplish “yoga”)

14) is minimalist and spartan in personal habits

15) speaks only the truth

16) maintains a household

HBV 45-46 quote Viṣṇu Smṛti, explaining that even if someone has all these qualifications, they shouldn’t go out looking for disciples or advertise themselves. They must only accept disciples out of compassion for and affection for the students.

HBV 47-55 clarify that for Vaiṣṇava dīkṣa the most important qualification is that the guru recieves a Viṣṇu mantra from a proper lineage, and uses that mantra faithfully to worship Viṣṇu.

In his comment on HBV 54, Śrīla Sanātana Goswāmī quotes the pañcarātra stating that it is advisable to reject dīkṣa from a person who is not a Vaiṣṇava, and take the opportunity to receive dīkṣa from one who is. 

HBV 56-58 quote Tattva-Sāgara to illustrate additional circumstance in which it is not advisable to accept a person as guru, or in which is may be advisable to reject the guru. These may be taken as evidence that the person is not truly a Vaiṣṇava. This is when the guru…:

1) desires excessive sex and other greeds for external pleasures

2) espouses mundane philosophies justifying vile behavior devoid of good character

3) pursues behavior not fit for their āśrama – which could be evidenced in physical ways like their becoming too hairless or hairy (a gṛhastha being too renounced or a tyāgi becoming too opulent), and/or in their developing bad teeth, discolored lips and bad breath.

4) becomes full of bad traits (lying, stealing, anger, hatred, etc.)

5) who accepts donations even though already well-off  

HBV 59-72 clarify that a guru can also refuse to accept, or can reject a disciple under circumstances where the disciple displays refusal to learn, etc. In fact, if a guru does not reject such people, it is evidence that the guru wants the prestige of having many disciples, and is a sign that the guru is fallen.

HBV 73 – 78 clarify that a guru must not accept a disciple before the two of them actually live together for one to three years and mutually decide on their compatibility.

As I see it, if a person has all the above qualifications, they are a perfectly qualified guru and it would be extremely easy to be a very good disciple of such a person. Therefore we should try to find a guru with all the qualities, or at least a great many of them. The core property (as evidenced by the Upaniṣad quote at the outset) is a very clear understanding of the Veda, and ability to clearly explain that. Without this core quality, even with the other qualities, a person is not qualified to be guru.

Thus, the main quality of a guru is the ability to explain the Vedas and clear up doubts various people will have about their conclusions and meanings.

Vraja Kishor das

Duty, and its Relationship to Bhakti

Duty… A dictionary defines it as a “moral or legal obligation or requirement.” A thesaurus lists synonyms like, “Responsibility, obligation, commitment.”

Essentially, “duty” means to do what is required of you.

What’s required of you?

That depends on who you are. If you are a student it’s your duty to study. If you are a parent its your duty to care for your children. If you are a driver, its your responsibility to get to the destination safely. Etc. Etc.

The specifics of Duty are different for everyone, the essence is the same – to do what is required of you, rather than doing whatever you might feel like doing at the moment.

The result of duty is to reduce selfishness, which is the basis of kāma, which is the primary effect of avidyā. So, following one’s duty gives rise to vidya (knowledge). Thus by following duty selflessly one gradually becomes qualified to more fully utilize the tools and techniques of jñāna-yoga (the yoga of knowledge/consciousness) such as study of philosophy and meditation upon the root of consciousness. By such meditation and study, one’s knowledge transforms into realization, and one is very likely to develop a sense of emotional attachment to the root of consciousness, paramātmā. Thus from jñāna-yoga, one can ascend to bhakti-yoga.

So duty is an initial precursor to bhakti and therefore everyone in society should be very warmly encouraged to adhere to their various duties under all circumstances.

Those who are at the stages of jñāna and bhakti already act only on the selfless platform, so there is no separate need to specifically encourage them to ordinary duties. Such people are rare, but they tend to perform ordinary duties anyway, to set the proper example for the masses.

Duty is the essence of dharma, morality. It therefore generates all the essential moral qualities such as humility, tolerance, forgiveness, nonviolence, compassion, etc. Jñāna- and bhakti-yogas, being successors to the duty-yoga, karma-yoga, generate these essential moral qualities even more deeply.

Vraja Kishor das

We Know the Center of a Circle by its Circumference


This continues directly from the previous excerpt; We Do Not Eat Fruits Washed by Karmīs

Then we went to other European countries and everything was so different. The devotees were kind, generous, and helpful. The parents of the straightedge kids whose homes we sometimes stayed in didn’t seem so terrified by the “Hare Krishna sect.”

I remember sitting on the grassy hill of one of the Krishna farms somewhere out there in I-forget-where, twirling a dandelion flower between my fingers, wondering how Viṣṇupāda could be the leader here, were everyone was so sweet, and over there too, where everyone was so mean? I realized that the center of a circle is perceived through its circumference. Unless we are personally very close to someone, we only experience them through those who are close to him.

I imagined the fanatical book-distributing non-karmī-fruit-eaters from over there approaching their guru saying, “Shelter is coming, but is this punk rock bonafide?” I imagined their guru saying something relative to their mood. Something like, “Well, Prabhupāda stopped Viṣṇujana from doing the same thing…” Then, I could see them coming away with the conclusion, “Our guru says you are bogus.”

On the other hand I imagined the simple, down-to-earth people from over here approaching their guru saying, “What should we do to help Shelter when they come?” Responding to their mood, the same guru might say, “Bring them prasādam and see if you can coordinate some book distribution and harinām.”

I decided to suspend my previous judgement on Viṣṇupada’s character. Maybe he was who I initially thought he was, maybe he wasn’t. Until I got to know him and his surroundings, I couldn’t know for sure. And why should I be in any rush to find out? I should have better things to do.

Then I thought of Prabhupāda. He was so different at 26 2nd Avenue and during the very early years of ISKCON, when his circumference was so much smaller and women like Yamuna Devī, Mālatī, and Jadurāṇī were an important part of it. Later, the circumference so much larger and so  very different, and he too seemed very different. I began to realize that what ISKCON accepted as “Prabhupāda’s Mood” was really only the mood of the circumference at a given point in time. Even what they saw as “Prabhupāda’s Teachings” was only the teaching they had managed to evoke from him, and was only what they had managed to comprehend of it.

This gave me some hope that I might be able to get close to Prabhupāda himself, without the circumference, if I studied his books carefully – especially the earlier ones.

– Excerpt from an early draft of

Train Wrecks and Transcendence: A Collision of Hardcore and Hare Krishna
Available May 2016

By Vraja Kishor [ ]

We Do Not Eat Fruits Washed by Karmīs


The Hare Krishna world in Europe was quite different from the one I was used to. The ‘80s hadn’t devastated it as fully as in America. I guess that’s because their main post-Prabhupāda guru actually managed to “keep the dream alive” and continue acting as their unquestionable divinely-anointed leader. Harikeśa Swāmī, a.k.a. Śrīla Viṣṇupāda, made rock albums himself. They were  completely awful in every way, and the fact that his disciples could listen to them made me really believe in brainwashing. Yet, despite being a wannabe rocker himself, he declared 108 an affront to Śrīla Prabhupāda. If we were real devotees, he said, we would be selling Prabhupāda’s books on the streets, not rocking out on stage.

His followers looked down on us. We knew it right away because it was one of the first things they told us. “Śrīla Viṣṇupāda says you are not bonafide.”

Oh, thank you. Nice to meet you, too.

Some of the ISKCON’s most prolific booksellers were here amongst his disciples. When we walked into the temple room they welcomed us with their backs.

Of course, our lack of bonafidity didn’t stop them from coming to our shows to sell books and so on. Somewhere in Germany, we pulled into a club and they were already there, somberly eyeing the peculiarities of our decidedly un-bondafide selves. They hadn’t brought anything to eat, but, as usual, the person in charge of the show had cooked us a vegetarian meal.

The devotees sat along the wall, glaring as we sat at the table.

It was exceedingly awkward, so I made a plate and carried it over to offer it to them.

“We eat only prasādam.” their spokesman said, renouncing my offer with a German accent that was almost cartoonish.

“This is prasādam.” I replied, already a bit insulted.

“No. It is cooked by the karmīs,” he declared. “Krishna does not accept it. And we do not eat karmī grains.”

I handed him an apple from a basket of fruit on the table.

He refused it, “It has been washed by the karmīs.

Devotees all over the world are guilty of fanaticism, but this was just beyond imagination. I sat down and ate as much karmī grain as I could, in as boisterously joyful a mood I could possibly muster. We then informed they were welcome to stay for the show, but they were not welcome to sell books or do kīrtan. We would do the preaching.

They left.

Hey, if you are going to be “unbonafide,” you might as well do it without the hassle of having people breathing down your neck.

– Excerpt from an early draft of

Train Wrecks and Transcendence: A Collision of Hardcore and Hare Krishna

Available May 2016

By Vraja Kishor []

Kubjā’s “Almost Pure Lust”


QUESTION: I once read somewhere, but I cannot remember where, that Kubja was attracted by Krishna in a selfish way of sensual satisfaction, and still Krishna fulfilled her desire. And then it is said that this intimate contact with Krishna purified her, so that her love later transformed into pure prema, as that of the gopis. Do you perhaps know where is this described?

Her love became like the prema of the gopīs but is actually not on the same level of quality.

In Bhakti Rasamṛta Sindhu, First Division, Second wave, in the section about Rāgātmikās of the Kāmarūpa type, Śrī Rūpa goswami specifies that Kubjā is not a Kāmarūpa Rāgātmikā. Her love is “kāmaprāya” (almost kāmarūpa prema). It has a semblance of the gopī’s love because it is also passionate and sexual (kāmarūpa rāga), but the purity of what Śrī Rūpa calls Krishna-śukhārtha (the intention to make Krishna happy) is not clear enough in her case to qualify her as being similar to the pristinely clear and pure motivations and intentions of the Vraja gopīs.

As such Kubjā doesn’t quite exist within Vṛndāvana with the gopīs, but close by in Mathura with the women of that city. 

In describing the divisions of rāgānuga-sādhana, Sri Rupa and Sri Jiva (the commentator) explain that those who aspire for romantic love with too much focus on the external physical details (“sambhoga-icchāmāyī”) actually wind up emulating kāma-prāya persons, like Kubjā. Those who focus primarily on the pure sentiment of selfless love at the core of that sexual passion (“tad-bhāva-icchāmāyī”) are the better examples of kāmānuga-rāgānuga-sādhakas (those who aspire to love Krishna like the gopīs do).

Kubjā was extremely, extremely blessed, but still there is an experience that is higher and more intensely blissful than what she attains. That is the mood of the Vraja gopīs, whose best is Śrī Rādhā.

Vraja Kishor

Spiritualized Sex?


QUESTION: Could you talk about the relationship of the bhakta’s sexuality and his/her sadhana. How to spiritualize sex?

Sex and Religion

Observance of regulation is the beginning of discipline, and discipline is the beginning of yoga. Thus sex begins to gain spiritual utility through religion – which regulates and refines sex through principles, rules and sacraments like marriage.

Sex in Karma-yoga, Tantra-yoga, & Sahajīya

Sex has spiritual utility in karma-yoga, because this yoga is all about performing one’s duties without selfish motive, and sex as part of one’s duty as a spouse and ones duty to produce children.

Tantra-yoga, a non-mainstream subset of karma-yoga, goes further and deals directly with sexuality as a tool for realizing one’s actual relationship to the external world.

Tantra blended with sahaj-buddhism came into the Vṛndāvana area a few centuries ago and became the sahajīya sect. They practice tantra-yoga with the nomenclature and context of Vrindavana bhakti –  adopting “Rādhā / Krishna” in lieu of the standard “Prakṛti / Puruṣa” male / female concept. Although this may have validity as tantra-yoga, it is generally despised by those who practice sādhana as Sri Rupa defined it in Bhakti-Rasāmṛta-Sindhu.

Sex in Jñāna-yoga 

Jñāna-yoga is characterized by cessation of activity, including sex. But Krishna does say in the Gītā (6.17) that even a jñāna-yogī doesn’t immediately abandon every basic bodily function, and should strive to be moderate and practical in their approach to things like eating, sleeping, and sex (“vihara”). 

Sex in Bhakti-yoga

The same principle defined in Gītā 6.17 operates in bhakti-yoga as well, expressed by Śrī Rūpa in Bhakti-Rasāmṛta-Sindhu as the 8th aṅga of sādhana: “Being moderate in worldly affairs.” Different gurus define “moderation” in different ways, often differing even from one disciple to the next.

One or two sādhanāṅgas have aspects which give some allowance for elements of karma-yoga to become practices of bhakti yoga when done to please Krishna by performing the duties he has assigned through the śāstras (#51, “doing everything for his sake” and #47, “servitude”). These duties do not exclude the duties of a spouse and parent, which do not exclude sex. Ordinary bodily functions like eating, sleeping, reproduction, and self-defence, can thus become part of bhakti-yoga. Śrī Viśvanātha has said that even passing stool and urine can thus become a part of bhakti-yoga

The real trademark of bhakti-yoga, however, is that it transforms sexuality by undertaking a quest for sexual passion to please Krishna, which Śrī Rūpa calls kāmarūpa bhakti. This is quest is followed by:

  1. Hearing carefully and in detail about how perfect souls such as the gopīs experience and express sexual passion towards pleasing Krishna,
  2. Always thinking of Krishna in the context of his relationship with the gopīs,
  3. Performing one’s daily practices like hearing and chanting with an internal relevance to that relationship, and
  4. Contemplating a perfected version of oneself which can take part in assisting their relationship.

To greater or lesser extent, and in more or less restricted or refined forms, all the yogas utilize sex as part of the process of purification, but only Gauḍīya bhakti envisions sexual passion as part of the divine objective. Thus, no yoga has as fully a transformative concept of sexuality as the bhakti-yoga of the Gauḍīyas. 

Vraja Kishor das

108’s First Real Show


When we got back from the old world, I tried to book a string of shows and make 108 actually happen. It was something I had never done before and have never done again.

The first show would be on Saturday, October 10th at the Unisound in Reading, Pennsylvania with Another Wall and one or maybe two other bands. The next weekend we would do a Friday program at the Baltimore ISKCON temple, a “108 Spoken Word.” It would be a regular Hare Krishna event with kīrtan, “class” and a “feast,” but the subject of the classes would be our lyrics. We tried to book a show somewhere nearby the day before… but that was unusuccessful. That Sunday, however, we managed to book the Apocolypse in Norwalk, Connecticut, this time with Supertouch, Another Wall and one or two others. We planned to hold another spoken word somewhere in Norwalk the next day… but that never worked out.

FullSizeRenderThe next weekend had two shows: Saturday in Dayton, Ohio with World’s Collide and Endpoint; Sunday in Bloomington, Indiana at a place called Rhino’s, with a spoken word the next day. The Friday after that we planned to do a show and spoken word in Columbus, Ohio.

I put all these dates on a flier with the 108 logo, a picture of Rādhā-Krishna I had drawn myself, a notice that our delayed 12” EP would finally be out in November, and an address for inquiries and interviews.

Norm Arenas had recently moved into the temple, so we got him to play second guitar, planning to do all these shows as a five-piece, but before we could even practice with that line-up, Rob quit. That left us without a singer… a week before we were finally supposed to play our first shows.

I wouldn’t admit defeat and decided to sing and play guitar.

hqdefaultThe first show, at Unisound, went surprisingly well. I wore my bleach-splattered black pants and a cool shirt with Lakṣmī and Viṣṇu seated together on the sea-dragon, Ananta Śeṣa. With a thick black marker I had drawn the Hare Krishna mahā-mantra around my right forearm, and wore a bracelet of red, shiny beads that the Rādhārānī deity in D.C. had worn. On the inside of my left forearm I drew a heart with the word “Vraj” in it. We played practically every song from the Holyname record, plus a few songs I had written since then: thorn, hostage:i, and woman. I drew up and handed out a flier with 108 lyrics on it, and explained the songs from the stage with semi-psychotic Krishna-banter.

I had been working lately with two women from the Baltimore temple, who came to the show and stood at the side of the room on a raised bench of some sort. I dedicated Woman to them, “This song goes out to those two ladies over there, Kārtika and Tracy. They are Hare Krishna women. They’re real women because they know what a real man is. They can tell a real man from an imposter. They know that the real man… is Krishna.”

– Excerpt from an early draft of

Train Wrecks and Transcendence: A Collision of Hardcore and Hare Krishna

By Vraja Kishor []

Why Did Rama Abandon Sita?


QUESTION: Why did Lord Rama abandon Maa Sita?

This is not my specialty, I am a devotee of Krishna, who, I’ve heard, was Rāma in a previous life.:) Nonetheless, I will try to share with you whatever I know about this heartbreaking topic.

Why did Rāma abandon Sītā?

The answer is simply this: Rāma’s reason-for-being is not prema, it is dharma. Specifically, Rāma’s reason-for-being was to illustrate rāja-dharma, the moral duty of kings.

If you are a king, duty to your citizens supersedes your duty to anyone else, even including family. This is why, for the sake of the citizens, some of whom did not approve of our beloved Sītā, Rāma had to abandon her.

Personally, I would rather have seen such citizens decapitated, but then that is probably why I would not make the best king. As Rāma showed, a king must be willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of his subjects. Sītā Jī came with him in this avatāra of her own accord, knowing what would happen. She sacrificed herself to assist him. This is prema. She is always the emblem of Prema, for she is Sri Radha.

In Rāma līlā, the better character for us is Sītā, not Rāma, I think.

Vraja Kishor

Female Chauvinism in ISKCON


Aren’t you sick of being seen as just a piece of meat? An exploitable toy? I want the Hare Krishnas out of hardcore, and I’ll tell you why: blatant sexism. Sexism has no place in our scene. Female domination and male subordination must end!

That’s how I opened the “Sexist Things Krishna’s Say” article in Enquirer #6, which was attempt to unexpectedly flip the tables and show a plethora of Prabhupāda quotes about the superiority of women.

[Prabhupāda] belittles the male’s role in marriage by repeatedly describing the wife as, “the better half of the husband.” (SB 1.7.45)

A man is portrayed as spiritually incompetent. The “foolish” and “hard-hearted” man is said to be completely dependent on the mercy of his “good wife.” Without her help he cannot be elevated. Prabhupāda says, “the wife is considered to be the source of all liberation.” (SB 3.14.17) Thus, “Husbands as a class cannot repay their debt to women, either in this life or in the next.” (SB 3.14.21). “The wife is mentioned here as ishta, which means ‘worshipable.’” (SB 4.13.12)

The spiritual master of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s guru instructs that the wife should always be seen as the greatest exalted devotee. The husband should respectfully place the dust of her feet on his head, and serve her like a menial servant. He is to serve her every meal, taking for himself only what she leaves behind. And what fate awaits a husband who won’t do all this? Surely, he falls down into hellish existence. (Bab., part 1)

heraNext to this I had a painting of the Hera Pañcamī festival of Goddess Laxmī, showing the goddess on on a throne surrounded by women who were forcing men with bald heads and pony tails to bow down in supplication, threatening them with sticks.

Women are advised not to be allured by men, who are death-like representatives of Māyā [illusion and lust] “A woman foolishly looks upon māyā in the form of a man, her husband. A woman, therefore, should consider her husband… to be the arrangement of the external energy of the Lord for her death, just as the sweet singing of the hunter is death for the deer.” (SB 3.31.41-42)

Women, on the other hand, are to be seen as embodiments of divinity and the representatives of intelligence (SB 4.25.21). Krishna himself declares all these good qualities to be feminine, “Among women I am fame, fortune, fine speech, memory, intelligence, steadfastness, and patience.” (Gītā 10.34) Even the ultimate source of intelligence, the Vedas (the body of knowledge on which the Hare Krishna movement is based) is treated as being of feminine gender. (SB 3.24.15)

Hare Krishna’s claim that their movement is based on spiritual equality. The truth, however, is that women are awarded absolute superiority, even in the realm of the soul. “The soul… is supposed to be originally a woman.” (SB 3.31.41) Hare Krishna’s boldly assert that the highest spiritual perfection is exclusively in the domain of the female (Cc. Mad.8.79). Without serving those most perfect women, a man has no hope of entering the spiritual world (Cc Mad.8.223). It is absolutely impossible, they say, for a male to attain that level of perfection, he must first become a woman (Cc. Mad.8.225).

Obviously this article was a parody, but by giving this glaringly one-sided interpretation I hoped to demonstrate that the male chauvinism in ISKCON (or the claims of sexism against us) was based on similarly one-sided interpretations.

Female chauvinism is a distorted view of Krishna consciousness. Male chauvinism is an equally distorted view. Both positions are based on hasty, unwarranted conclusions deduced from isolated quotes taken out of context.

– Excerpt from an early draft of

Train Wrecks and Transcendence: A Collision of Hardcore and Hare Krishna

By Vraja Kishor []