What the MS-13 Gang and ISKCON Have in Common

Chanakya Pandit says, viśvāso naiva kartavyaḥ strīṣu rāja-kuleṣu ca:

“There are two persons one should not trust—a politician and a woman.”

And then there is this bit of recent news from the Washington Post:

In the summer of 2003, an angler working the dark waters of the Shenandoah River in Virginia made a startling discovery. Lying on the bank under a bridge was the tattoo-covered body of a 17-year-old girl.

Brenda Paz had been a “homegirl,” or full female member, of MS-13. But “Smiley,” as she was known, had wanted out and had begun helping federal authorities.

She was four months pregnant when MS-13 members slit her throat.

Her defection, and others like it, convinced gang leaders in El Salvador that women couldn’t be trusted and led to a ban on new female members.

Michael E. Miller and Justin Jouvenal, “‘Heinous and violent’: MS-13’s appeal to girls grows as gang becomes ‘Americanized’”, 7 May 2018, The Washington Post, 9 Jun. 2018 <https://www.washingtonpost.com/…>

Although the article was about how the MS-13 street gang was becoming “Americanized” by way of accepting women into their ranks, the point of interest for devotees is that the gang itself through their own experience came to the same truth the Vedic civilization holds about women: they cannot be trusted.

Now, a group like the MS-13 is interesting in that it operates outside the law and performs heinous activities that are certain to incarcerate its members if law enforcement catches them, or certain death if their own gang members turn on them. Hence, they are always in a state of existential peril–they are always “living on the edge.” In a situation like this, you are very intimately dependent on each other for survival, you are face-to-face with human nature.

The point of commonality between MS-13 and ISKCON is that in terms of trustworthiness, both consider there to be a significant difference between men and women, with men being the more trustworthy group and women not so trusted.

From jail, Iraheta claimed that others involved in killing Damaris may have done it to move up in MS-13 but that she was motivated by love — and hate.

“They keep saying I’m a gang member when I’m not,” she said. “If you really, really investigate, women are not allowed in the gang. They are not trusted.”

And so here is the relevant point of similarity. Both organizations fundamentally do not trust women, but in branching out to places like America where the population does not hold this distrust, the organization tends to adopt those local values.

In the case of MS-13, it’s progressive “re-acceptance” of women is a sign of its “Americanization.” In the case of ISKCON in the West, the promotion of women as leaders is a sign of it’s Westernization. Both terms “Americanization” as used in the article and “Westernization” as used here refer to the adoption of gender egalitarian values.

But here is the important question: are such values “socially constructed”? That is, is trust something that comes out of society or is it an innate thing, or a part of one’s svabhava, inherent nature?

This is not a question that can be settled by modern scientific means. To give an example of this, we see that some societies tend to have less corruption in them than others. That’s a measurable, empirical fact. And countries in the West are well-known for having some of the least corrupt countries in the world.

Hence, some believe that by spreading ideas of Western secular liberalism and democratic forms of government, the world will be a much better place. If India and other non-Western countries would just adopt Western values (they already adopted their political system), they would have a fairer, less corrupt society. And they would find that women can be trusted and make a significant contribution to society, too. At least, that’s what the true believers in secular Western liberalism think.

But what if there were an alternative cause for the West’s reputation for being less corrupt? How could you scientifically test it?

Manu-smriti, for example, in the beginning of its exposition on criminal law,  explains that punishment is the basis of peace in society.

Punishment alone governs all created beings, punishment protects them, punishment watches over them while they sleep; the wise declare punishment (to be identical with) the law (7.18).

The whole world is kept in order by punishment, for a guiltless man is hard to find; through fear of punishment the whole world yields the enjoyments (which it owes) (7.22).

G. Buhler (trans.), The Laws of Manu, ed. Max Mueller, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 1993.

Here is an alternative, causal explanation: such countries as the West have stronger law enforcement.

Indeed, we see that Srila Prabhupada has described such a state of government:

Good government means that people will think that they’re secure, their property and person is secure. There will be no harm. Not very many years ago, say about hundred years ago, in India the native states, the rule was that if something is lying on the streets, valuable or invaluable, so nobody should touch it. The person who has lost or who has left that thing there, he would come and pick it up. You cannot touch. That was the law. And if one was caught, a thief, his hands will be cut off. In Kashmir state this was the rule. As soon as a thief is arrested and if he’s proved that he has stolen, the only punishment is cut his throat, aḥ, cut his hands. Bas. Exemplary punishment so that nobody will dare to steal. (Lecture on SB 1.16.4 — Los Angeles, January 1, 1974)

And it is our personal experience that laws in the Western countries enjoy a higher degree of enforcement than in many other places.

It should be understood that the descriptions and instructions found in Vedic literature are universally applicable. Hence, we should look to Vedic literature to understand how things are the way they are in the world. This also means that we can be confident that if followed anywhere in the world the result will be auspicious.

Of course, most people do not follow the Vedic culture but follow their own rules according to the three modes of nature (goodness, passion and ignorance). But that does not mean Vedic literature is not also good for them. They benefit according to their ability to accept good instruction. Therefore it is the duty of the civilized people to convince others that the direction given by Lord Sri Krishna and His bona fide, saintly devotees will be best for them. This is called preaching.

In the case of the initial subject of this essay, the trustworthiness of women, the consensus of Vedic literature is that women should not be given independence like men. According to Lord Manu, that means women are generally to be kept under the protection of a father, husband, or a son. Na striyam svatantram arhati.

As seen from recent developments in the Western countries, especially the #MeToo movement, though a veneer of equality can be maintained for some time, it cannot be permanent. What the #MeToo movement has shown is that men and women mixing freely in society will surely bring about mass scandal and cause extensive social disturbance.

What the MS-13 street gang’s experience with women shows is that confirmation of Vedic wisdom sometimes comes from the most unlikely of places. Yet it is nevertheless remarkable that some of those officially preaching Lord Krishna’s message find a way to avoid truths like this.

The Limits of (Social) Science

The American Psyhciatric Association has produced this position statement about “Same Sex Unions” (gay / lesbian marriage):

The American Psychiatric Association supports the legal recognition of same sex unions and their associated legal rights, benefits, and responsibilities.“Action Item: Position Statement Proposed by APA Committee on Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Issues Position Statement on Same Sex Unions (Approved by Board of Trustees, December 2000)

If prestigious organizations like the American Psychiatric Association can be so wrong in spite of their methodologies, then why is psychiatry, psychology and other similar social sciences being more and more employed by ISKCON? In greater society social policy and law is increasingly being formulated by professionals and academics who propound these grossly wrong, immoral conclusions. America and other affluent Western countries have already experienced the vicious effects of their influence.

Judging by the stated position and terrible influence of these so-called sciences, as devotees we should oppose at all levels the use of psychology, psychiatry and other similar disciplines as tools for shaping policy within ISKCON. Otherwise, it is not unreasonable to expect ISKCON to be misguided in the same way that its host cultures have been misguided.

(First published 17 May 2004)

Good Behavior is as Important as Preaching ISKCON's divorce problems made worse by bad leaders

Mata Radha Devi Dasi, a senior member of ISKCON’s Vaishnavi Ministry, is also a long-time divorce lawyer. The problem in this case is not that she is a lawyer or that, as a woman, she is running her own practice. It is that she has built her career on fostering the dissolution of marriages.

This provides a powerful economic incentive for sinful activity.  More divorces = more business.  But more business means more people are encouraged in sinful activity.

Even if sometimes it so happens that some marriages should be dissolved (and the dharma-shastras also specify some conditions for this, many of them intuitively grasped), baked into her line of work is an incentive to maximize the number of divorces. In her line, a success is a divorce in which the gains for the client are maximized. The more successes she racks up, the more successful her business and the bigger her income. But as a result, society becomes more sinful.

If divorce is sinful, then letting a lawyer continue with a divorce law practice and be recognized as a senior devotee is something like letting a butcher get initiated and cook for the Deities yet carry on with his business.

Even if she herself is not using her legal skills to divorce her husband (and to her credit she never has been divorced), just as everyone else in the “supply chain” who makes the slaughter of an animal possible is as guilty as the one who actually slaughters the animal, she is also no less culpable for the sin of divorce committed by others she has encouraged.

The big problem is here you have a woman whose day-to-day dealings in earning a livelihood are sinful, yet she is held up as a leader for the whole of the ISKCON society. Her actions are deeply and orthogonally opposed to Srila Prabhupada’s instructions on the matter.

The worst part about it is it reflects a personal choice. She could have practiced any other specialty in the field of law. Yet she chose this. No one forced her against her will to become a divorce lawyer.

This also reflects badly on her elders, who have not protested. As we know from the example of Bhishma and Drona, maunam sammiti lakṣaṇam, silence implies consent. For their silence, Lord Krishna also held them as culpable for the sin of atttempting to disrobe Draupadi as He did the other Kauravas.

This article has been a long way of saying this–achar (behavior) is as important as prachar (preaching). But this is an important example because yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhas, whatever acts leaders perform, common men follow. On the authority of Lord Krishna, it is to be understood that many people within the ISKCON society and within society at large have been and continue to be adversely directed by Mata Radha Devi Dasi’s impious actions.

Hence, if you want to do something proactive about the problem of divorce in ISKCON, don’t start at the bottom, start at the top.

(Lest there be any doubt as to whether Mata Radha Devi Dasi’s choice of profession has been on the whole sinful and bad for just about everyone who has come under her guidance, this essay concludes with some of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions on the subject of divorce:)

Q. In your ISKCON society, do you allow for divorce?

  • Srila Prabhupada: There is no question of separation. There is no question of divorce. (Lecture: SB, 1975)
  • We don’t allow divorce; once they’re married, there is no separation. (Interview: NY Times, New Vrindavan, 9-2-72)

Q. But isn’t it necessary to have divorce as a legal option?

  • Srila Prabhupada: The divorce act is encouraging prostitution, and this should be abolished. (SB 1.17.38)
  • In Vedic civilization the husband and wife were not separated by such man-made laws as divorce. We should understand the necessity for maintaining family life in human society and should thus abolish this artificial law known as divorce. (SB 4.23.25)
  • …there is no such thing as divorce in the Vedic literature. A wife is always trained to be chaste and faithful to her husband, for this helps her achieve deliverance from any abominable material condition (SB 9.20.22)

Q. What if a woman simply cannot tolerate her husband any longer?

  • Srila Prabhupada: Generally, separation between husband and wife is due to womanly behavior; divorce takes place due to womanly weakness. The best course for a woman is to abide by the orders of her husband. That makes family life very peaceful. Sometimes there may be misunderstandings between husband and wife…but a wife should not leave her husband’s protection because of such misunderstanding. If she does so, it is understood to be due to her womanly weakness. (SB 4.4.3)
  • What is this nonsense, divorce? There is no such thing in the Vedic civilization, divorce. You must accept whatever God has given you as husband or wife, you must. They had no thinking even, idea of divorce. One may not agree with the husband.. That is natural. Sometimes we do not agree. But there is no question of divorce. (Room Conversation, Baltimore , 7-7-76)

(More instructions from Srila Prabhupada can be found here.)

Slander Advances the Left’s Agenda in ISKCON Why it works

Neema Parvini at Quillette.com explains how the Left’s use of name-calling and slandering is very effective at advancing their agenda. For the last few years, Bhakti Vikasa Maharaja on account of his book Women: Masters or Mothers? has endured slander at the hands of people who apparently hold a similar agenda.

From Parvini’s article:

Thinkers who typically oppose the left have long pointed out that they have been losing the war of words. As David Horowitz puts it in Take No Prisoners(2014):

Whenever a Republican and a Democrat square off, it’s Godzilla versus Bambi. They call us racists, sexists, homophobes, and selfish pigs, and we call them … liberals. Who’s going to win that argument? They spend their political dollars calling us names and shredding our reputations; we spend ours explaining why the complicated solutions we propose will work and why theirs won’t. But when you are being called a racist, an enemy of women, and a greedy SOB, who will listen to your ideas about the budget? Who is going to believe you when all of your motives are portrayed as vile? (p. 105)

“The Prison-House of Political Language”, Quillette, 4 June 2018 <https://quillette.com/. . .>

A similar thing happened to Maharaja on account of his book. Feminist ISKCON members and ISKCON’s GBC attacked him for writing a book based on Srila Prabhupada’s teachings about women’s prescribed social roles, status and behavior. The specifics of their dealings with him are documented here, here, here and here. The book itself can be referenced here.

The objective of the name-calling, as Parvini describes, is to ensure that a substantive discussion does not take place.

Given this fact, people who are part of the “Rebel Alliance” develop a way of speaking designed to circumvent the possibility of debate or even the introduction of evidence. They employ what Thomas Sowell called, in The Vision of the Anointed (1995), “pre-emptive rhetoric” (p. 64), a set of words and phrases that assert the correctness of the argument before anything else has even been said.

And indeed, this is what happened in the case of Bhakti Vikasa Swami. GBC office-holders deputed to deal with Maharaja initially delivered an ultimatum to him, to either withdraw his book or that the GBC will publicly declare that he has misrepresented Srila Prabhupada.

In response, Maharaja made the following plea:

You have given me an ultimatum of two alternatives, both of which (in my estimation) are unfavorable to me. You state that you have no choice in this matter as you simply have to execute a resolution made by the GBC.

My suggestion: another possibility is for you inform to the GBC members that after some initial correspondence with me, it seems that the resolution was made without receiving a balanced assessment of the book and that proper procedure was not followed inasmuch as the author was not consulted. You could recommend that hence this resolution not be published or implemented at least until proper procedures have been followed and full consideration taken of all issues concerning it.

The GBC made no further attempt at a reply before publishing their resolution against him.

Why is it so difficult to discuss women’s issues in ISKCON? Because you will be openly slandered and vilified if you try. As Parvini points out, not having discussion is the objective, so that the name-callers and slanderers can advance their own agenda without opposition.

How the #MeToo Movement Is Changing Western Society Krishna-kirti Dasa

In a special report on the #MeToo movement, in which women have been stepping forward en masse with allegations of sexual misconduct, NBC News reached out to 265 people ages 20 to 81 in the work force to better understand how the movement has reshaped their lives.

This is one of the responses:

I minimize my interaction with women now and under no circumstances will I be in a room alone with a woman again. . . . We have all been told by our corporate office to not have a man and a woman alone in any room, whether it is an office or a conference room. If a man and a woman have to have a conversation behind closed doors, we are now required to have a third person present, with a fourth being preferred.

— Male / Manufacturing / Keene, N.H. / Age 43

THINK, “#ChangedByMeToo”, 30 May 2018, NBC News, 31 May 2018 <https://www.nbcnews.com/specials/changed-by-me-too#slide-3>

Compare that to this verse from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, 9.19.17 (Also, Manu-Smṛti 2.215):

mātrā svasrā duhitrā vā
nāviviktāsano bhavet
balavān indriya-grāmo
vidvāṁsam api karṣati

“One should not allow oneself to sit on the same seat even with one’s own mother, sister or daughter, for the senses are so strong that even though one is very advanced in knowledge, he may be attracted by sex.”

So, we shouldn’t be afraid of openly promoting our social philosophy.

Indeed, this is the perfect opportunity to openly challenge the status quo of feminism in mainstream society. We should explain to people in general how to not be victimized by association with women. People like the above quoted man are coming to the same conclusions that are in our śāstras but doing so the “hard way.” They will be grateful to be shown a better, easier way.