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  • Caitanya Chandra dasa

Female diksa guru: how to solve this complicated discussion?

The discussion about if qualified ladies should also be allowed to initiate disciples is still going strong inside our movement. Both sides have plenty of arguments to sustain their conclusions and therefore the discussion can go on eternally. Although there are still no confirmed deaths, it seems that it's just a matter of time...


What makes this discussion so complicated is because it has two sides: the philosophical and the cultural side. If we fail to separate these two sides, the arguments will interpolate and it will be practically impossible to reach a conclusion. In fact, it becomes difficult even to understand where the disagreement is! When this happens, people become exalted, the offenses start and the material modes overcome us.


The first is the philosophical side, if ladies giving diksa are allowed or not, according to our vaishnava philosophy. In this part of the discussion, two questions should to be answered:


1- According to vaishnava philosophy, could, hypothetically, a qualified lady initiate disciples?


2- In case of an affirmative answer, what would be the necessary qualifications?


The important part about this first part of the argument is that it must be conducted solely on a philosophical basis. The point is not about if a certain person could be allowed to initiate or not, but if a vaishnavi guru is an idea acceptable or not according to vaishnava philosophy and according to the instructions left by Srila Prabhupada.


If the conclusion of the first part is that qualified ladies could initiate, the second part of the argument could start.


The second part should answer the following question:


3- Considering all cultural, psychological, political and practical aspects, as well as the pros and cons, should qualified ladies be allowed to initiate in ISKCON?


We can see that the second part is actually more complicated than the first, because it includes different practical aspects of the question and also a discussion of the pros and cons. However, if the philosophical side is already agreed upon on the first part, the discussion becomes more streamlined and less vicious. Here, no quotes from sastra are needed: the discussion can be focussed on practical points. Here, questions like a possible negative reaction from indian society and from members of other vaishnava sampradayas, cultural aspects, resistance from sectors of our society, as well as potential risks and benefits could be separately discussed. The conclusion could be to allow hypothetical qualified ladies to initiate, or not.


We can see that it is perfectly possible that an agreement could be reached on the sastric possibility of a qualified lady accepting disciples, but at the same time be concluded that the risks of implementing this inside of our society outweigh the benefits. Maybe it's too soon, maybe it would not be positive for our families, maybe it would be too dangerous, and so on.


Only if the second part of the argument would also result in a positive answer to the question, individual cases of ladies that could potentially fill the role could be discussed. Then, all the arguments related to the suitability of particular candidates could be examined, without mixing with other aspects of the discussion. It could be that in the end no candidates would show the necessary qualifications for such an important role, which would also conclude the discussion.







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