In actual fact, what is happening, my friends, is that we are giving the juices time to ferment. I really do not know what the outcome of this experiment will be, because whatever happens, the repercussions of it will remain. In other words, very strong samskaras were created in the last ten years, and I really don't think it will be possible for me in the long run to accept the orthodox position, as expressed to me by a friend:
This world is a shadow of the spiritual world and so resemblances exist in form....but not in substance. Male and female forms exist both here and there, so there is a slight resemblance of form. However the substance is entirely different. Visvanath Cakravarti Thakur writes that when the devotee realizes Sri Krishna's form, he apologizes for the "offense", in his previous ignorant state, for comparing Sri Krishna's complexion to that of a blue lotus. In other words, the reality of Sri Krishna is far beyond the imagination of the conditioned souls.
Similarly, conditioned souls dare to speculate that their genital friction has some similarity to the pastimes of the divine couple. This is a cataclysmic mistake that will forever banish them from the spiritual realm. So my message is......please understand......your sex is your sex ..... Radha-Krsna's sex is Their sex and never the twain shall meet.
If you want to advance in spiritual life the golden rule is never compare the two, never combine them in the same sentence, the same breath or even, or especially, in the same thought. Every acharya has warned us repeatedly on this point. But almost all conditioned souls are simply incapable of containing their arrogance in this regard.
Srila Jiva Gosvami clearly states that Radha Krsna's amorous pastimes create a negative effect (bhava-virodha) in any man who is still subject to experiencing an erection. So this subject is not for any sexual active person to even think about.....period.
Now we have that subject out of the way, let's consider sex in this world. No power on earth can stop young couples from having sex. So why even try? So everyone can go ahead and satisfy their appetites in a functional, healthy, dharmic context, and after a few years if they are also practicing a decent daily sadhana, the desire will just fade away into the category of "been there, seen it, done it." It's just a natural combination of experience, maturity and purity. It cannot be faked or artificially imposed in any way.
So you can see my position is not based on any idea of repression on one side, or immorality on the other. You have incorrectly assumed that I have taken a vow of celibacy in marriage. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are celibate and happy because the natural process actually works. The joy of bhakti really does make all other pleasure seem pale in comparison. Therefore, we are in an ideal situation to help others.
I hope this clears things up. If not we can continue to refine the explanation. It's just common sense really. Be normal and chant Hare Krishna. After some time, by the power of the holy name, you will cease to be normal. The process is simple, but devotees get derailed for decades as the reaction to the offenses of careless talk, narrow-minded judgmentalism, and less than affectionate dealings.
There is a temptation to jump into the debate, since these are all problems I have dealt with repeatedly on this blog. This is not the time for that, however. I am taking a slightly different attitude to the problem in general. As I may have said before, I am removed from the general Western devotee's experience by several degrees of difference. How can anyone understand the higher things when they don't even grasp certain basics?
The first problem, as I see it, is that too few people have any real experience of what it means to go inward, to be silent, to be absorbed in a mantra, or indeed anything whatsoever, what to speak of lila!
One of the main problems for the Sahajiya mode of thinking or approach is that it is based on an assumption that both sadhaka and sadhika have reached a certain level of spiritual self-awareness, or accomplishment. Such spiritual self-awareness is not the same as dogmatic unity. In other words, two dedicated disciples of the same Guru, who read and believe the same things, will not necessarily find that genuine communion on a transcendental level is possible unless they have the actual practice.
There must be a training in individual inwardness in order for dual inwardness, or communion, to be possible.
Now there are different models of Vaishnavism out there, the Gaudiya Math and Iskcon are the main ones for people coming from the West. For their devotees, the "authenticity quotient" present in each is sufficient for their hunger. One has its time or ethos frozen in late British Bengal, the other in the New York of the 1960's. But in either case, they have a particular flavor or mood that has been assiduously cultivated over the years. There are some crossover influences, but for the most part, they have kept their unique flavors intact.
One thing they have in common, however, is that they are most proud of external achievements -- grandiose developments, big temples, many converts, big successes, achievements, photos with the president, speaking to national parliaments, and all the rest of it. They call this preaching to the world at large. These have their market, and because they are externally oriented, towards growth, they naturally tend to a group ethos.
But there are others who are looking for something different, something a little more romantic spiritually, something that satisfies their quest for the exotic and which is yet a deep and profound insight into human nature universally. Something that satisfies their craving for inwardness, towards the Self, towards the Soul.
In early stages of spiritual life, the strength of community helps one's training tremendously, but such training should lead to the capacity to be alone. So the way that I conceive of Bhaktivinoda Thakur's tradition, as we can have it today, is to take the next step towards inwardness.
Anyway, the point here is that I am not thinking in terms of a "world dominator" religion, but more in the spirit of a free market of religious experience. Of finding a niche and serving it. The Gaudiya Vaishnava world is bigger than the iron-fisted rule of one or two giant orthodoxies and orthopraxies.
There are countless ways of going inward, but certain methods are common to yoga, which is described in the sixth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita or Yoga-sutra. In our tradition, lila-smarana is given only as a later development in the training. Like any yoga, you have to first learn to sit still and focus the mind on the Holy Name and the mantra, etc.
So if someone has built up faith in Bhaktivinoda Thakur through the IGM, and they start to crave the kind of spiritual ambience that he himself idealized, then why not go deeper into it? And why should the very birthplace of Bhaktivinoda Thakur not provide the service of creating a space like those of the great bhajan communities like Tatia Sthan in Vrindavan, or Bhagavata Nivas?
Bhaktivinoda Thakur is the crossover point from the modern world to the bhajan world of the past. Even if this is not a possibility as a general way of life today, it most certainly can be an asylum, a shelter from what the modern world has become, and a place to find one's spiritual core.
Now some may object that I am talking about a kind of artificial experience: It was a world that never really existed, was it? And the Jaiva Dharma world seems to have no place for women. Is that kind of gender segregation and all the negative implications that has also part of this vision?
Obviously, we cannot recreate the Jaiva Dharma in some pristine way. It will always have a touch of artificiality to it. This is what I am calling the Disneyworld aspect of things. There are medieval castles that look like Cinderella's castle, somewhat, but they don't have internal plumbing. As far as possible we preserve the best of the ideal, as much as it is possible for us to implement it. But even an artificial environment has the power to aid the elevation of consciousness and certain deliberate uses of nature and imagery can be powerful catalyst in this way. Maybe it is more of a "Frontier Village" concept rather than a Disneyworld, but the basic idea is that of a specially constructed community and environment designed to optimize spiritual culture.
Moreover, an ashram, as I said above, is asylum. It means a refuge from the madness of material life, an escape. And the primary thing, it would seem to me, for either men or women, is to spend a little time out of the "game." Some people will be forced into it by circumstance and will find the environment conducive to dealing with their lot, others will come running just like a wounded animal finds a place to lick its wounds. But as Elizabeth Abbott shows in her "History of Celibacy," both men and women have recognized through history that abstinence is a key to liberation.
This does have to have negative effects on the wider Vaishnava community or gender relations. Indeed, in the proper context it could be seen as having a salutary effect. Even a temporary bit of enforced separation can enhance union.
So why not have such ashrams for women also? And I think it is inevitable that there will be women at Birnagar also. We will have to figure out how to do it.