By Madhava Smullen
“What’s a Woman to Do?” a new 32-page booklet written by Srila Prabhupada disciple and author Visakha Dasi, and released on Gita Jayanti day, reflects on women’s services in Srila Prabhupada’s Hare Krishna Movement. The booklet is available to read via PDF here: https://www.vaishnaviretreat.com/what-s-a-woman-to-do
Visakha produced the work after she was asked to make a presentation on the topic for members of the Pandava Sena youth group in England earlier this year. She also made the presentation at the Vaishnavi Retreat in California in October.
“I started research, and it took much longer than I had anticipated,” she says. “Because many factors play into it, which make it a difficult problem that has caused tension in our movement for five decades now.”
Visakha explains some of these complexities in her introduction to the booklet, including male/female psychological tendencies; our own cultural, familial, societal and personal expectations of what men and women should and should not do; our widely varying understanding of Prabhupada’s statements and mood; and more.
The booklet then looks at the sastric view of women’s roles, and how Prabhupada translated those roles practically in his preaching and teachings. It discusses the different ways we can understand basic principles, such as protection of women. And it does not shy away from the uncomfortable and controversial statements about women we sometimes find in scriptural verses and in Srila Prabhupada’s writings, exploring different ways to understand them.
“There are statements in the booklet given by Prabhupada that are sometimes taken as discouraging,” Visakha says. “But we can read them and understand them in a different way so that they are indeed not discouraging. And in that way, understand his mood and his intention in saying these various things.”
“The booklet leads to a conclusion that we want everyone in Prabhupada’s movement to thrive, and to feel that they can fully utilize their talents in the service of Krishna, and pleasing Srila Prabhupada,” Visakha continues. “No one should feel less or inhibited in doing those things.”
Visakha acknowledges that many young women and men just coming to ISKCON, as well as longtime devotees are “disturbed and confused by this issue.”
“It’s really something we need to address personally and as a society,” she says. “I hope this booklet gives some spark of interest in doing that, so that people can understand Prabhupada’s mood and feel encouraged in Krishna consciousness, whatever body they’re in.”
She adds that in her personal experience with Srila Prabhupada, “He was very, very encouraging, and had very high expectations of allhis disciples. He didn’t want people to be discouraged in any way, rather he wanted us to give strength and confidence to each other, so we could do great things in his service.”
Visakha hopes that women will read her booklet and be encouraged by it in their service; and that men will also read and benefit from it.
“A balm to the heart, Visakha’s well-researched presentation resolves an ongoing conflict between spiritual equality and the gender gap,” commented one reader, Kosarupa Dasi.
Read the booklet here: https://www.vaishnaviretreat.com/what-s-a-woman-to-do
The PDF may also be added as an attachment to emails and sent to friends who may benefit