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Thread: Srila Prabhupada

  1. #1

    Srila Prabhupada

    Namaste!
    I have chosen not to post this in the Hare Krishna/ISKCON section as I would like the views of multiple Hindus from many sects (as it has the potential to affect global views of all of Hinduism, not just Gaudiya Vaishnavism) on what I will discuss herein. The moderator may move it if he so wishes.
    Is anyone else bothered by the sexist and racist views of the founder of ISKCON and the way that they present Hinduism to the Western world? For example, he said things like:
    "Sudra is to be controlled only. They are never given to be freedom. Just like in America. The blacks were slaves. They were under control. And since you have given them equal rights they are disturbing, most disturbing, always creating a fearful situation, uncultured and drunkards. What training they have got? They have got equal right? That is best, to keep them under control as slaves but give them sufficient food, sufficient cloth, not more than that. Then they will be satisfied."

    And, in reference to women:
    "'You cannot have equal rights because your brain is thirty-four ounce.' Actually that’s a fact. Where is woman philosopher, mathematician, scientist? Not a single."

    Does it bother anyone else that many Westerners are introduced to Hinduism through this one man, and these are the kinds of things that filled his lectures and continue to fill his publications? Also, what kinds of Hindus are these bigoted lectures creating?

  2. #2
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    Re: Srila Prabhupada

    Namaste Jayaradhe,

    Though I don't agree with any of those controversial views of Srila Prabhupad and majority of Hindus too don't agree with him, I would advise not to rake up this issue here. This is because some members here are (or may be) members of ISKCON i.e. followers of Srila Prabhupad. It is not correct to say anything denigrating for any Guru which may hurt his followers. Moreover, it is against the Forum Rules to post flaming/annoying material towards any member.

    OM
    "Om Namo Bhagvate Vaasudevaye"

  3. #3

    Re: Srila Prabhupada

    Quote Originally Posted by devotee View Post
    Namaste Jayaradhe,

    Though I don't agree with any of those controversial views of Srila Prabhupad and majority of Hindus too don't agree with him, I would advise not to rake up this issue here. This is because some members here are (or may be) members of ISKCON i.e. followers of Srila Prabhupad. It is not correct to say anything denigrating for any Guru which may hurt his followers. Moreover, it is against the Forum Rules to post flaming/annoying material towards any member.

    OM
    Namaste, Devotee!
    I'm sorry if I came off harshly. I wasn't trying to flame or 'annoy' anyone, and I definitely wasn't targeting anyone on here in particular. However, I do feel that it is relevant to recognize and discuss some of his apparently (to me, at least) misogynistic and racist views, especially those that he tried to back using Vedic scriptures.

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    Re: Srila Prabhupada

    Namaste JayaRadhe,

    I can understand your noble intentions but I am worried how it will be taken by hard core ISKCONites here.

    See, if I have to express my opinion on these issues :

    a) "Varna" should be differentiated from Jaati (caste) otherwise we are neither honoring history nor accepting Shruti. Shruti being the highest authority must be accepted in any controversial issue. As VajrashUchikA Upanishad, a Shruti, doesn't accept Varna by birth theory, we should accept that.

    b) I don't know where any Shruti says that women are less intelligent than men. So, I cannot accept this statement from anyone. Moreover, there are many scientists, mass leaders, Engineers, Doctors, saints who are and were women. How do we reconcile with this fact if we accept Sri Prabhupad's views ?

    OM
    "Om Namo Bhagvate Vaasudevaye"

  5. #5

    Re: Srila Prabhupada

    Quote Originally Posted by devotee View Post
    Namaste JayaRadhe,

    I can understand your noble intentions but I am worried how it will be taken by hard core ISKCONites here.

    See, if I have to express my opinion on these issues :

    a) "Varna" should be differentiated from Jaati (caste) otherwise we are neither honoring history nor accepting Shruti. Shruti being the highest authority must be accepted in any controversial issue. As VajrashUchikA Upanishad, a Shruti, doesn't accept Varna by birth theory, we should accept that.

    b) I don't know where any Shruti says that women are less intelligent than men. So, I cannot accept this statement from anyone. Moreover, there are many scientists, mass leaders, Engineers, Doctors, saints who are and were women. How do we reconcile with this fact if we accept Sri Prabhupad's views ?

    OM
    Namaste!
    My sentiments exactly. Prabhupada also claimed to differentiate Jaati from Varna, yet then he claimed that blacks were inferior based on their birth. I don't see how that can be reconciled. I'm not trying to denigrate him. His mission was noble, I just worry about how his strange views impact prospective Hindus or people who just want to learn more about the religion. I mean, if the only book someone has on Hinduism says things about women being inferior to men and birth-based enslavement, how is one supposed to view that religion?

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    Re: Srila Prabhupada

    Namaste JR and Devotee

    I am a Saiva, but for disclosure I was around in the SF Bay Area during the early days of the ISKCON temple, and am familiar with the original location, as the temple moved about, as well as the Berkeley temple, and there is no doubt about so many controversies over the years. Oddly, some of those sources, I knew them, I also met some of the most controversial figures such as Hansadutta. Having been in the area during those times, how could a Hindu such as myself NOT know all these things, or come in contact with those involved?

    But I thought about, in particular the Prabhupad comments you shared, about blacks, and this at first struck me as odd since I also recall many devotees who were black, including some that I believe were in high positions of authority in ISKCON. So, such a comment didn't exactly fit.

    However, researching this comments about blacks it does appear that the comment from Mayapur 1977 might be authentic. However, if the date is correct, keep in mind Prabhupad died shortly afterward in the same year.

    I am not making any excuses if this comment is accurate. Of course, I do not agree in anyway. And everyone knows my opinions (I think) in regards to how some misinterpret (in my observation and from understandings shared with me from some very enlightened souls) varna and turn 4 varna into 6,000 jati. However, I mention this only in that, while Prabhupad was very, very liberal in many ways (and very brave actually), Prabhupad was also very, very conservative as well. Again I am not making an excuse for such a comment. But you have to understand, sometimes you still need to respect things from the overall picture rather than get too worked up about some things. I can get a little intrusive sometimes with others who take caste too seriously or do not hold the same teachings that I do, but at the same time I can soon just move on and hope I can be friends with everyone since we as Hindus are, and will, have a very hard time of it in Kali Yuga. We need to all work together to help Hinduism and the Hindu community prosper so that we ourselves will not "become slaves" (to use the word as in the comment) to the mad people of Kali Yuga who indeed will do this to ALL of us if we are not careful. I am not the sort of Hindu who will shrug off power, I see power and wealth as something that can also be a tool to safeguard our commitments to Hinduism from the dangers of those in Kali Yuga who, frankly, are insane. Sometimes I say, "you don't have to live wealthy to be wealthy".

    So in this regard, while I disagree with such a comment, I also still thank Prabhupad and ISKCON for so much they have given. There are many Hindus among the highest levels within Sampradayas who are working through all these issues, issues and controversy which I do not deny have happened, and I think you will find that over time everything is going to be settled.

    Africans, so-called "blacks", there as well Hindus are found.

    And after all, some say Krishna Himself is black.

    I myself, when young, sometimes had what might be racist thoughts. But I have outgrown all of that. I hope I do not say anything stupid when I grow older, of which I am certainly in what some call the "senior years". Whatever Prabhupad said, I have no doubt I potentially can make the mistake of truly saying something stupid that would pale anything Prabhupad ever said. In fact, this very year I said and did something that actually was a great insult to Devi Goddess. My wife wouldn't let me forget, and she made it very clear just how "stupid" I really am. If I ever make a mistake in words, I hope my fellow Hindus will be ready to forgive me.

    Om Namah Sivaya

  7. #7

    Re: Srila Prabhupada

    Quote Originally Posted by JayaRadhe View Post
    Namaste!
    I have chosen not to post this in the Hare Krishna/ISKCON section as I would like the views of multiple Hindus from many sects (as it has the potential to affect global views of all of Hinduism, not just Gaudiya Vaishnavism) on what I will discuss herein. The moderator may move it if he so wishes.
    Is anyone else bothered by the sexist and racist views of the founder of ISKCON and the way that they present Hinduism to the Western world? For example, he said things like:
    "Sudra is to be controlled only. They are never given to be freedom. Just like in America. The blacks were slaves. They were under control. And since you have given them equal rights they are disturbing, most disturbing, always creating a fearful situation, uncultured and drunkards. What training they have got? They have got equal right? That is best, to keep them under control as slaves but give them sufficient food, sufficient cloth, not more than that. Then they will be satisfied."

    And, in reference to women:
    "'You cannot have equal rights because your brain is thirty-four ounce.' Actually that’s a fact. Where is woman philosopher, mathematician, scientist? Not a single."

    Does it bother anyone else that many Westerners are introduced to Hinduism through this one man, and these are the kinds of things that filled his lectures and continue to fill his publications? Also, what kinds of Hindus are these bigoted lectures creating?
    I'm not a Prabhupada follower, but I can't help but note a couple of things:

    1) Prabhupada initiated shudras and people less than shudras into sacred thread. This is not consistent with a view that he was "racist" against shudras.

    2) Prabhupada initated women into doing temple puja. This, too, is not consistent with a view that he was "sexist" against women.

    3) I've previously indicated that varnas were not racial categories. This would be obvious to anyone who reads (i.e. not most Western Hare Krishna followers or Neo-Hindus in my experience) - even devas and rAkshasa-s had varNas as revealed in the bRhad-AraNyaka upaniShad and the rAmAyaNa, respectively. The bhAgavata purANa mentions varNa categories for the inhabitants of various dvIpa-s. Thus, having condescending views about some varNas might be characterized as "casteist," but logically, it is not "racist."

    4) I'm less bothered by out-of-context quoting of socially conservative views, than I am by those who tacitly misrepresent their qualifications to interpret scripture, and then proceed to misinterpret them in brazenly illogical ways (i.e. claiming that the tail Hanuman used to burn Lanka was merely a metaphorical tail, or that Ravana's 10 heads were merely a metaphor for his fearsome appearance, even though he was described as 10-headed even when lamenting dead relatives or after he had been killed, or claiming that the monkeys were not really monkeys even though they fought with rocks and trees and jumped from one place to another, etc.). And then of course, there are double-standards in scriptural acceptance, like denouncing the authority of some smRitis on one hand, while worshiping Biblical deities on the other....

    5) Apropo to #4, we can assume that the author, who objects to Sri Prabhupada's very liberal initiation policies, would similarly object to the more widespread conservative standard in traditional Hinduism of limiting study of the Veda to twice-born males and claim that this is "sexist" or "racist." That would put him/her at odds with generations of Vaishnava and non-Vaishnava scholars. When everyone else disagrees with you, there are two logical positions to consider - (1) they are all wrong and you only are right, or (2) there is something wrong with your views. When a person with no knowledge of Sanskrit and at best superficial knowledge of a few select Hindu texts finds himself/herself disagreeing with the views of those who spoke the language and wrote commentaries on the sacred texts, it suggests that one is simply in denial about one's lack of qualifications. In which case, a certain sense of humility would seem to be called for...
    Last edited by philosoraptor; 01 December 2012 at 02:37 PM.
    Philosoraptor

    "Wise men speak because they have something to say. Fools speak because they have to say something." - Plato

  8. #8

    Re: Srila Prabhupada

    Namaste ShivaFan!
    I was surprised by his comments as well when I first encountered them, given that the 1960's counter-culture was so liberal and "hippies" made up the majority of his followers in those days, that and the fact that I'd black members of ISKCON. Do you suppose that he was losing his verbal filter in those days and that's why he was so candid?
    And, I do agree with you that he did do a very good service in introducing Radha-Krishna to so many people in the West. Thanks to him, Krishna has become a household name.

  9. #9

    Re: Srila Prabhupada

    Quote Originally Posted by philosoraptor View Post
    I'm not a Prabhupada follower, but I can't help but note a couple of things:

    1) Prabhupada initiated shudras and people less than shudras into sacred thread. This is not consistent with a view that he was "racist" against shudras.
    I didn't say he was "racist" against shudras (that doesn't even make sense). I said he was racist against blacks.

    Quote Originally Posted by philosoraptor View Post
    2) Prabhupada initated women into doing temple puja. This, too, is not consistent with a view that he was "sexist" against women.
    He said that women are less capable of learning than men. He also wanted girls discontinue education past the age of ten. This is a quote from a conversation he had with Satsvarupa Das Goswami on 31 January 1977:
    Satsvarüpa: Yes. (break) Mainly it’s about the girls who are over ten. They were in Vrndävana and discussed this with Jagadisa, but they couldn’t settle up, so they wanted to know what you think. Their idea is that… As of now, there is no plan for a school for the girls over ten, but just that they should return to their parents and not get any more schooling. But they’re thinking that there should be, and one reason is that you said in France that the girls could learn these sixty-four arts. So they were thinking that there should be a school for girls over ten, and that it should be situated in India. One reason is that in India our teachers can take help from Indian Life Member ladies who know these arts. Our Western devotees don’t know them, the cooking and painting and things like this, but the Indian women do. …
    Prabhupada: My opinion is already there according to the… They should be chaste, faithful to husband. Little literary knowledge, they can read. That’s all. Not very much.



    Quote Originally Posted by philosoraptor View Post
    3) I've previously indicated that varnas were not racial categories. This would be obvious to anyone who reads (i.e. not most Western Hare Krishna followers or Neo-Hindus in my experience) - even devas and rAkshasa-s had varNas as revealed in the bRhad-AraNyaka upaniShad and the rAmAyaNa, respectively. The bhAgavata purANa mentions varNa categories for the inhabitants of various dvIpa-s. Thus, having condescending views about some varNas might be characterized as "casteist," but logically, it is not "racist."
    I didn't say that the varnas were races. However, it seems strange that someone who opposes the caste system would support racism. You've misunderstood me.

    Quote Originally Posted by philosoraptor View Post
    4) I'm less bothered by out-of-context quoting of socially conservative views, than I am by those who tacitly misrepresent their qualifications to interpret scripture, and then proceed to misinterpret them in brazenly illogical ways (i.e. claiming that the tail Hanuman used to burn Lanka was merely a metaphorical tail, or that Ravana's 10 heads were merely a metaphor for his fearsome appearance, even though he was described as 10-headed even when lamenting dead relatives or after he had been killed, or claiming that the monkeys were not really monkeys even though they fought with rocks and trees and jumped from one place to another, etc.). And then of course, there are double-standards in scriptural acceptance, like denouncing the authority of some smRitis on one hand, while worshiping Biblical deities on the other....
    Oh, I'm sorry. I forgot that you have a problem with people interpreting scriptures differently from you. And, I don't worship Biblical deities. I have images from many religions on my altar at different times throughout the year. I worship Radha-Krishna, but I still respect the religions of my friends and benefactors. Not to mention, Bhaktivinode Thakura has said that we don't have to accept every single word of every single scripture as 100% literal and not to lie to ourselves. I would be lying to myself if I forced myself to believe that Ravana was running around on earth with ten heads.

    MOVING ON... His commentary isn't conservative. It's racist and sexist. Show me where other Gaudiya gurus state that, for example, blacks are shudras, women have smaller brains than men, Hitler was a "nice guy", and many other things I could drag out. And, how have I taken his comments out of context? They create their own context. When is it ever called for to say "blacks are shudras and need to be enslaved" or "women's brains are smaller than men's, show me one smart woman"?

    Quote Originally Posted by philosoraptor View Post
    5) Apropo to #4, we can assume that the author, who objects to Sri Prabhupada's very liberal initiation policies, would similarly object to the more widespread conservative standard in traditional Hinduism of limiting study of the Veda to twice-born males and claim that this is "sexist" or "racist." That would put him/her at odds with generations of Vaishnava and non-Vaishnava scholars. When everyone else disagrees with you, there are two logical positions to consider - (1) they are all wrong and you only are right, or (2) there is something wrong with your views. When a person with no knowledge of Sanskrit and at best superficial knowledge of a few select Hindu texts finds himself/herself disagreeing with the views of those who spoke the language and wrote commentaries on the sacred texts, it suggests that one is simply in denial about one's lack of qualifications. In which case, a certain sense of humility would seem to be called for...
    Yeah, I agree. A certain sense of humility is called for. I love your assumptions about me. They crack me up every time.

    XOXO,
    JayaRadhe

  10. #10

    Re: Srila Prabhupada

    Quote Originally Posted by JayaRadhe View Post
    I didn't say he was "racist" against shudras (that doesn't even make sense). I said he was racist against blacks.
    And yet, he initiated Blacks, including thread initiation, which is not consistent with the view of being racist against blacks.

    He said that women are less capable of learning than men. He also wanted girls discontinue education past the age of ten.
    And yet, he initiated women, including thread initiation, which is not consistent with being sexist against women.

    Oh, I'm sorry. I forgot that you have a problem with people interpreting scriptures differently from you.
    No, I avoid interpreting scripture as a general rule. I have a problem with people interpreting scriptures that they never read.

    And, I don't worship Biblical deities. I have images from many religions on my altar at different times throughout the year.
    Rejecting smRiti-s that are referenced in mainstream purANas on one hand, and yet accepting the reality of deities who are spoken of only in non-Vedic scriptures, is basically a double standard.

    I worship Radha-Krishna, but I still respect the religions of my friends and benefactors. Not to mention, Bhaktivinode Thakura has said that we don't have to accept every single word of every single scripture as 100% literal and not to lie to ourselves.
    Bhaktivinod Thakur also denounced the Adam and Eve myth as a fabrication for unintelligent people, but doubtless you have problems with that, too, based on what you wrote here.

    I would be lying to myself if I forced myself to believe that Ravana was running around on earth with ten heads.
    No, you are lying to the forum, by making claims like this and still not acknowledging the fact that you have never read the unabridged Ramayanam. If you had, you would know why your theories about his 10-heads are wrong.
    Philosoraptor

    "Wise men speak because they have something to say. Fools speak because they have to say something." - Plato

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