Here we go again: Prabhupada's comments about rape

On Facebook the other day, I posted a link to an article by George Monbiot, one of the few journalists whose work I admire, from the Guardian. Monbiot laments about the corporate culture and compares it to cult-like indoctrination and brain washing. He seems to be on a bit of a run about this because he had another similar article a couple of days later.

Of course, having experienced a religious cult, spending nine years in the Hare Krishnas, I thought of Prabhupada's statement that he was indeed engaged in a brainwashing exercise, precisely because our brains did need to be washed. And that is quite true. The idea of "cleansing the mirror of the mind" is central to all yoga systems. We willingly submitted to the brainwashing process because we wanted to change our way of consciousness, our way of being. To fill our minds and senses with Krishna. To become Krishna conscious.

And on the whole, I am glad of it. The process was based on the Bhāgavata-dharmas of the scripture, and is efficacious to the extent that one applies oneself and has the capacity to understand it on an increasingly subtle level. I may have moved on, but I do not regret the direction my life took when I joined the Hare Krishnas. It gave me an alternative to the "Establishment" and it warms my heart to see that enlightened writers like Monbiot and Chris Hedges recognize that human civilization is actually in danger from this so-called civilization, as Prabhupada would have put it.

When I first joined ISKCON, the very first verses from Prabhupada's Bhagavata that I read were the words that gave me hope for a way out of .a life submerged in the corporatist establishment to which society and family all seemed to have predestined me to.

Here is just one passage that shows the revolutionary tenor of Prabhupada's words:
But here the idea given by Srila Sukadeva Gosvami is that the reserve energy of human life, which is far superior to that of animals, should simply he utilized for self-realization. Advancement of human civilization must be towards the goal of establishing our lost relationship with God, which is not possible in any form of life other than the human. One must realize the nullity of the material phenomenon, considering it a passing phantasmagoria, and must endeavor to make a solution to the miseries of life. Self-complacency with a polished type of animal civilization geared to sense gratification is delusion, and such a "civilization" is not worthy of the name.
Nevertheless, though I was not altogether surprised, I found it strange that so many people who responded to those posts remarked negatively on the similarities of the indoctrination into corporate culture and life in ISKCON. I myself have not hesitated to speak quite negatively about institutional dynamics and how they can quite easily turn into a spiritually negative situation. That was one of the reasons I left ISKCON in 1979 and went to my guru, Lalita Prasad Thakur, because he was a believer that small is beautiful.  Les folies de grandeur were not appreciated by him, nor for that matter by Rupa Goswami, mahārambhādy-anudyamaḥ (BRS 1.2.28), nārambhān ārabhet kvacit (1.2.84).

ISKCON no doubt has changed a great deal since 1979. I left when things were still relatively small, despite the fact that I was in Mayapur which was and still is where Prabhupada's ambitions were the most ambitious. So I cannot speak to defend it against those -- especially those women -- who seem to have found the experience to have been an unmitigated horror from beginning to end. I am loathe to lay the blame for their grudges on Prabhupada himself. But, much in the way that Godwin's universal rule for internet conversations is that someone will sooner or later be compared to Hitler or the Nazis, it seems that when Prabhupada is under discussion, someone will sooner or later bring up his infamous comment about rape: "Women like a man who is very expert in rape."

This was not a part of Prabhupada's teachings. But it has troubled me. I have gotten embroiled in this before; I have tried to understand what mentality such a statement could have arisen from, what he meant, what the context could have been, for whom he intended it. My immediate reaction, of course, is usually to defend Prabhupada simply for the reason that I personally feel indebted to him in a way that I feel towards no one else. My feelings have not changed much from the article I wrote earlier on the subject, Guru, Grace and Gratitude, except that with my increasing gratitude for the life Prabhupada gave me, I probably feel even stronger now.

Spiritual life begins with gratitude, and it remains vibrant for as long as there is gratitude for the grace one has received. And the channel of grace has a name, which is "Guru."

I have tried to understand what Prabhupada meant. There is even an article in my drafts that I will never publish in which I looked into the whole idea of "rape fantasy" on the part of women. Certainly there are men and women whose sexual tastes are quite varied and even rape fantasy has been seen by biologists as a part of humanity's primate heredity. I think of sexuality as an activity in the gunas of material nature. Modern apologists for unrestricted sexuality use the primate past as an argument in favor of their vision of a completely sexually liberated human society. I argued in this article ("Proselytizing for a brave new world") that you cannot have it both ways: you cannot say we have evolved as humans, but that where sexuality is concerned we should revert to our primate heritage. And, in my view, the evolution of sexual behavior, which includes the restrictions place upon it by culture, is the evolution of humanity. Negotiating civilization and its discontents does not mean returning to bonobo culture.

Now in yesterday's article, I was still clearly in the mood of exulting in my mood of gratitude, in the spirit of remembering just how entirely my life was factually changed by Prabhupada, and how I like the results. Here in my old age feel like I am just beginning to cash in on a lifetime of stamping Radha and Krishna on my brain, on my tongue, on my heart.
ramante yogino'nante satyānande cid-ātmani
iti rāma-padenāsau paraṁ brahmābhidhīyate 
The yogis take pleasure in the transcendental Self, unlimited Truth and Bliss, and for this reason, the Supreme Brahman is also known as Rama.
But, in my little memory of previous lives reveals something about me, as do those first verses I read, which are so strong in their spirit of vairāgya. I am not an ascetic, but compared to most people, I am fairly indifferent to worldly comforts and goals. In fact, Sahajiyaism is part of the Indian dialogue about asceticism and one about which I am concerned. Sahajiyaism does not accept some of the fundamental life-denying premises that are ubiquitous in Hindu literature, even though it accepts the goal of synthesizing them with the affirmation of the world. You cannot actually enjoy without detachment and the mastery of desire.

This is basically what I am writing about separately in the series that I am working on about the sthāyi-bhāvas. One of my next articles will be about śānta-rasa, which is the rasa of the yogi, the ascetic, the seeker of God. It is also the path of knowledge. It is the bias in the direction of world denial and the via negativa. And, as a consequence, it is also the bias of patriarchy, because it idealizes the separation of purusha and prakriti, not their union

So my last comment in the abovementioned discussion was that by Prabhupada's grace I have become a Sahajiya. To be a Sahajiya means to reject a particular model of Vaishnavism, but not Vaishnavism itself. In fact, in my view, only a Vaishnava can be a Sahajiya. So, after due consideration, it is not just one isolated statement about rape [I had been saying, "Do we throw out everything we have imbibed from Prabhupada for this one stupid statement?") but a pattern of traditional patriarchal misogyny to which the "liberated" human instinct of the modern world rejects.

Looked at from this point of view, my defense of Prabhupada comes from a knee-jerk masculine bias. Those who supported me were mostly men, while those who were worked up about the rape quote were mostly women. And of course, a statement like "women like rape" and all the rest of the misogynistic material that is available in Prabhupada's writings and recordings, based in the bias towards disgust for sexuality and worldly love, are obviously going to be more hurtful to women.

So on self-examination I had to admit to a particularly profound insensitivity to their concerns. But more importantly, in terms of my Sahajiya viewpoint, most recently expressed in articles about male ego and manjari bhava, it had to be looked at as a kind of self-contradiction.

India has many strong goddess traditions, with quite different moods. Radha Krishna bhakti is oriented towards the feminine through identifying it with the principle of love. That romantic vision may not appeal to all feminists, but it nevertheless is a picture of a world that is entirely dominated by women: Vrindavan.

Rape is the very antithesis of love. For anyone to say that any woman enjoys it, or that any man should cultivate rape or any dimension of the rapist mentality, which at its base is the patriarchal mentality of domination and objectification, is to promote a kind of non-love. Non-prema is anything in which sexuality, in its infinite psychic manifestations, is not pointed towards the Transcendent.

The goal of prema, in the Sahajiya view, necessitates love between the sexes, not in "cheap imitation" of Radha and Krishna, but in order to approximate the highest concept of purity, by which the deepest mystical communion with God in the form of the Yugal can be reached.

For a Sahajiya to tolerate a statement like the one under criticism is to say that the path of prema and the path of disgust are one and the same. They cannot be. And this is just another, but perhaps the most important, of our multiple positions in opposition to Iskcon and to Prabhupada.

Sahajiyaism is, however, in my view, best suited for the Vaishnava. Indeed, I cannot conceive of it without much of the external and internal actions of bhakti-yoga. Divorced of Radha and Krishna bhakti, sexual love is limited in the mystical meaning it can achieve. This is why it is entirely incorrect to call this path "refried tantra."

Prabhupada, whatever he did in terms of promoting an attitude towards women that is patriarchal and conservative in the extreme, was perhaps unaware of the subversive nature of the Radha and Krishna symbol as a glorification of romantic love. Indeed Radha and Krishna tell us that spiritual love is not just the serene love of compassionate angels, but finds its apex in the passion of a pure sādhaka and sādhikā, a devotee man and devotee woman, whose love is their sādhanā and whose perfection of God-realization comes in their love.

So how can I reject Prabhupada, who brought me to this? And yet how can I not reject Prabhupada when he says something which to me denies the very essence of Rādhā-dāsya?

Perhaps I have not been vociferous enough in declaring these things. And to some extent it is true that I don't want to offend those who still have sentiments for Srila Prabhupada, when I also share them, but women in general have the right to be appalled at the statement in question.

I am not at all opposed to those feelings, which I think are perfectly in line with Sahaja. And Sahaja perhaps really begins with the recognition of how diametrically opposed it is to the varnashram kind of system Prabhupada tried to establish. But, as always, let us find the proper balance here.

Jai Radhe.

I posted that backlogged article here. I hope that this is enough on this subject.


Anonymous said…

Dear Jagadananda Das,

As a Kaula, one awaits with keen interest your forthcoming (we)blog post on śānta-rasa (the rasa of the yogi).

The true knowledge attained from your Sahajiya practice shines through every post on your (we)blog; it is a great privilege to learn from a living master.

In the love of truth.

M. N.
Jagadananda Das said…
Coming soon. Jai Radhe.
Prem Prakash said…
What's the big deal about what Prabhupada said? It seems the difficulty people have is that if he was wrong about one thing, he could be wrong about other stuff. That impies he might not be a pure devotee, yadda yadda. That would pop the mythological balloon about him and his knowledge of Krishna.
Jagadananda Das said…
Yes, this is right. On the one hand, the persons who stress the rape comment are the ones who want to burst the mythological balloon. But that is not _my_ problem. I have already dealt with that.
Prem Prakash said…
"But that is not _my_ problem. I have already dealt with that."

From your writings, it seems you have dealt with that with tremendous integrity. So much so it seems that no one is happy with you!

The reason I bring up the myth of the pure devotee is because it has been so damaging. For whatever benefits it may bring in the intial cultivation of faith, it seems more harmful than good. It demands of the devotee a sacrifice of personal integriy and autonomy, and deals a blow to any chance of real, deep devotion because the guru induldges and reinforces the devotee's subconscious search for security, rather than helping him grow beyond psychological and emotional dependence. We know the guru plays a parental role. No healthy parent claims perfection and no loving parent wants his chil to remain immature and dependent forever,.
Anonymous said…

yāvac-chaktis-tataḥ kuryād-recakaṃ kumbhakaṃ punaḥ ║177║

Dearest Prem Prakash, Once the Lion learns to roar he will never again settle for the life of a Lamb...
Prem Prakash said…
Roar away, my anonymous friend!
Anonymous said…
"Final Meaning" and "One Vehicle" from "The Lion's Roar of Queen Srimala, the single-vehicle great expedience, the corrective and extensive Sutra".

"Lord, when all the defilements and secondary defilements are eliminated, one obtains the inconceivable Buddha natures exceeding the sands of the Ganges River. Then, as a
Tathagata-Arhat-Samyaksambuddha, one gains the unhindered understanding of all natures; it is omniscient and all seeing, free from all faults and possessed of all merits;
King of the Doctrine and Lord of the Doctrine; and, having gone to the stage which is sovereign over all natures, utters the Lion's roar: 'My births are finished; the pure life
fully resorted to; duty is done; there is nothing to be known beyond this.' That being so, the Lion's roar of the Tathagatas has final meaning (nitartha), and explains the meaning

"Lord, there are also two kinds of knowing indicated by the statement 'There is nothing to
be known beyond this.'

"The Tathagata, having shattered and defeated the four Maras by the incomparable victory of a Buddha, gained the Dharmakaya which is superior to all the worlds and
which cannot conceivably be witnessed by any sentient being. Having been made Lord of the Doctrine unhindered in all stages of the knowable, he rightly saw that there is no duty
or stage beyond this to be left over or to be understood. Having properly entered the supreme incomparable stage which is fearless and endowed with the power of the ten
powers, and having clearly seen all the knowable with unhindered knowledge, he uttered the Lion's roar with the knowing, 'There is nothing to be known beyond this.'

Anonymous said…
Well, some women indeed cannot get an orgasm without being abused. This is a medical fact. And these women were never abused before and they aren't wrong in the head. My guess all this comes from their past lives. But only `some` women are like this, not all women.

Just out of curiosity, is there any way you can upload your unpublished article about it to Google docs or somewhere else?
Anonymous said…

Dearest Anonymous Commenter (Thursday 9th July),

Your curious question has no real foundation to support its construct of Socratic induction, and is not just or written in the true spirit of curiosity.

"Thought", "action" and "desire" are as three slaves bound together, when one comes out into the light of true intellect, the other two are always dragged out to be illuminated also.

Be careful that these three brightly burning coals driven by the fire of your desire do not obscure the true light within.

Inducing Jagadananda Das to publish this article and then use it to further betray him will not work; in betraying Jagadananda Das you betray your own self... three slaves serving two masters will never work...
Anonymous said…
When the Universal Mother Matrika kisses each of the fourfold
energies of the lord, amba, jyestha, raudri and vama, each
energy has its own distinct fruit. When she kisses the energy of
amba, then you are kept from either rising or falling. You are
held at the same place. When she kisses the energy of vama,
you are given the fruit samsara. When she kisses the energy of
raudri, you are unable to make any decisions, either good or
bad. When she kisses the energy of jyestha, you rise to the knowledge
of your own nature.

By kissing these four energies, you are deprived of your real
nature of universal consciousness. Not even for a moment are
you situated in one-pointedness. Your organs of action and organs
of knowlege lead you to the external, not the internal,
world. Thus, these "threefold malas" are correctly said to bind
your own nature. This is explained in these "two verses" of

When by hearing some sound, good or bad, you are carried away
from your own nature . . . (Spanda Karika 3.13)


The energies of Lord Siva are always determined to cover and
conceal your own nature. (Spanda Karika 3.15)

See pages 28-29:
Anonymous said…
Dear "assistant" of Jagadananda Das (Friday, 10 July, 2015),

I thank you for your interesting opinion, but I am sure Jagat can speak for himself on any matters concerning spirituality. Saying that his unpublished article can in any way betray him, in my humble opinion, is total nonsense, because the material on this topic is already widely available on the internet for those who are interested in it. My interest and curiosity is only in the spiritual context regarding this matter, that Jagat could share his thoughts about it, taking into account his profound knowledge on sexuality and spirituality.

Also, the life in here and above is an open book, nothing is hidden, ever, not on Earth, not anywhere else. You will see it yourself, eventually.

As for you lecturing me about spiritual matters, I think I will better stick to asking my own inner light instead of listening to you or anybody else. If you don't see the difference, then it's probably your true light within that is obscured.

Good luck on your path.
Anonymous said…
Yes, nothing is hidden Prem; we may all do as one will...
Anonymous said…
On further reflection, there are some truly beautiful verses written in Gurmukhī from the Adi Granth (Sri Guru Granth Sahib), the central religious text of Sikhism (read from Āsāvarī 5th mėhlā onwards) which may be of some interest to readers:


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