In the last few weeks, I made a couple of videos and articles, strongly disagreeing with Indradyumna Swami on the point of sannyasi female assistants and young women dancing in front of harinam.
I discussed these topics with a few learned devotees who I appreciate very much and through these discussions I noticed a mistake which I did.
We all want to win philosophical discussions, but we should not win by saying things which are not correct.
In his letter to Patita Pavana prabhu, in which he writes his defense, Indradyumna Swami said:
There are many other women who served in close proximity to Srila Prabhupada over extended periods of time. They always conducted themselves properly. And so do the women who travel, or serve, with me.
In my reply to that part of the letter, in my video at location 17:10, I said:
When you tell me that “There are many other women who served in close proximity to Srila Prabhupada over extended periods of time.”, you are not telling the truth.
However, one of the devotee I take appreciate very much pointed out that actually, there are some female devotees who did serve Prabhupada on many, many occasions.
If we make vedabase search on biographies of Srila Prabhupada, we will find Prabhupada’s female cook named Palika, who is mentioned many times on many different locations. From such written evidence, we could conclude that Indradyumna Swami indeed had a point when he said that women served Prabhupada in close proximity over extended periods of time.
In Hari Sauri’s transcendental diary, volume 5, Aligarh, October 9th, 1976,
Śrīla Prabhupāda also called for Pālikā. She is staying with some other women in a room at the back of the house. Prabhupāda told her that since Mrs. Saigal was eager to cook for him he would allow her, but that Pālikā should supervise her closely. Generally when he is traveling he doesn’t like to accept foodstuffs from others, because his digestive system is so delicate. But Indian culture is such that if you don’t accept this hospitality, it is considered a snub, so Prabhupāda wants Pālikā there to ensure that everything is prepared in such a way that he can eat without discomfort. Pālikā had actually asked Akńayānanda Swami to write to the Saigals about ten days ago with a request that a small kitchen be made available for her use, equipped with a double gas burner, shil and batta (grinding stone), urad, mung and tuar dahls, good atta (flour), basmati rice, and pure cow’s ghee and milk, and they have complied. It was stressed that all ingredients be of the finest quality and that buffalo products be strictly prohibited because these are dangerous for Prabhupāda’s health. As an added measure, Mahakńa prabhu, an English devotee stationed in Vrndāvana, was sent ahead with the list to make sure that the Saigals understood what was required.
So, she was obviously not there before Prabhupada arrived, and she came there to cook for Prabhupada. Therefore, she was either traveling with Prabhupada, or she came one day before him.
Then again, October 31st, 1976, location in Vrindavan, also from volume 5, Hari Sauri prabhu writes:
Yamunā has prepared Śrīla Prabhupāda’s breakfast several times during her stay and also cooked his lunch a couple of times. Now today she left for Calcutta to take up her cooking research. Śrutirūpa dāsī, who often helps Pālikā with Prabhupāda’s cooking, decided that she wanted to accompany her, and since the two of them were going, Pālikā decided she also wanted to go. Pālikā currently has a bad case of weeping eczema on her hands, and this is interfering with her service to Śrīla Prabhupāda. She took permission from Śrīla Prabhupāda after giving assurances that Arundhatī would cover her cooking duties, although Arundhatī is not as experienced and expert in the art. Last night when Prabhupāda called Arundhatī in and asked her to prepare iddli for his breakfast, she was quite nervous about it because she hasn’t made them before.
Then Srila Prabhupada nectar 1, Chapter 1, this is a book written by Satsvarupa das Goswami:
In Māyāpur, his cook Pālikā dāsī, attempted an even stricter discipline based on the instructions of a famous kavirāja from Calcutta. In this case, Prabhupāda was to follow an intricate schedule by which he would take pills and eat and drink only at certain hours. This was in 1977, when Prabhupāda was so sick that he was rarely coming down to the temple to give classes or to go on morning walks. One afternoon, a devotee named Ānakadundubhi, unaware of the tight schedule of Prabhupāda’s drinking and eating, brought Prabhupāda a fresh coconut dob to drink, as usual. Although Prabhupāda knew very well that he was not supposed to take anything at this time, he quietly accepted the dob and poured it into his cup. Just as he started to drink it Pālikā came by and admonished him, “Śrīla Prabhupāda, you’re not supposed to take anything.”
This is from Aug 13th, 1976, also Bombay again, from Hari Sauri’s diary, volume 4:
After everyone left Prabhupāda took a little prasādam from Pālikā. Inspecting his plate he asked her about one of the preparations. Pālikā told him it was a sweet made by one of the girls here.
“Not everyone should make,” Prabhupāda told her. “She is initiated?”
Pālikā confirmed that the girl was, but assured him that she would be making all his prasādam herself. She had had no time today because she had only just arrived.
Female Russian translator
One of the additional arguments that I used in my article, I said that I don’t believe that is it so hard to find Russian translator who is not a woman.
However, if we look english speaking population in russia, we can see that around 5% of people speak “some english”. That is not so much compared to Germany, where 70% of people speak english, or my country, Croatia, where 50% of people speak english. So, to find somebody who is good, who is a devotee, and who is willing to travel with Indradyumna Swami is certainly greater challenge than in other countries.
I want to say one additional thing at the end. Even though I don’t agree with Indradyumna Swami that young women should dance prominently in front of harinam, I consider this to be direct violation of Prabhupada’s instructions for women to be chaste and shy. Prabhupada mentioned that more than 1000 times in his works. However, it is better that all those girls dance in harinam than to dance in disco club. People who join this movement and start chanting Hare Krishna are in much better position than those who didn’t join this movement. Such souls are usually have at least some contact with Prabhupada and his books, and Indradyumna Swami’s credit is that he brought many such souls closer to Prabhupada.
Also, although I consider having female translator dangerous and not proper for a sannyasi, we have to admit a fact that Indradyumna Swami doesn’t have any known affairs with girls behind him, he is a sannyasi who is following sannyasi standards, with a few minor glitches, like patting young women on the head.
Nevertheless, sannyasa is dreadful order, and it is not easy to constantly travel and preach, this is something which I am obviously not capable of.
But we all have a duty to make this movement best movement that it can possibly be, and pointing out things that are wrong is also required. Discussing things that are wrong is also required.
I am definitely making mistakes in my attempt to point out things which are wrong, but my intention is not to be evil, my intention is that we all practice Krishna consciousness in best possible way to that we can all go back home, Back to Godhead.
This article originally appeared on Lasting Impression website