Female Gurus in Vaisnavism

J.G. Swami Vishnupada's picture



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One of the areas that gets me into trouble with other Vaisnavas is the subject of female gurus. There are very few religious traditions in which women have played a serious leadership role. In this respect, Vaisnavism is actually different, though my critics would say otherwise. Sadly the egalitarian approach of Bhakti Yoga, which stresses the universality of devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and therefore denies any disqualifications based on birth, sex, or caste, seems to have had little to no impact on the social conditions of these individual classes of people, since an extreme patriarchy seems to have taken a dominant role in some circles. Let us be clear; patriarchy is based on the illusory conceptions of material bodies. While the definition of Vaisnava is a devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Visnu or Krsna, it also carries with it a deeper significance. That is, constitutionally we are all "Vaisnava" in the sense that it is the true nature of the soul. Given this deeper understanding, there can be no place for material conceptions in devotional service, such as male and female. While we certainly recognize bodily differences, these differences do not preclude either gender from sincere devotional service. And while the Vedic conception of life does define gender roles, it does not render women incapable of being gurus. Our sampradaya is blessed with examples of very transcendental women. Women such as Sachidevi, Visnupriya, Jahnavadevi, Hemlata Thakurani, and Gangamata Goswami. Women who demonstrate the requisite knowledge, dedication and consciousness may become a sannyasini and serve as a guru today.There is no room for denying a woman called to be a servant of the servant of the servant, as all devotees are. Hare Krsna!