ISKCON Ladies Forum
Srila Prabhupada, India’s greatest emissary to the Western world, set up in the West not only ashramas and temples, but an entire spiritual society. To do this he inspired women as well as men to become devotees of Lord Krishna. He authorized women to live in ashramas and serve the Lord in a wide variety of ways, some of them unconventional, although exactly in line with Lord Krishna’s teachings.
What is the position of women in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) ?
To answer, let’s first look at the purposes of ISKCON. In its founder’s vision, the members of ISKCON dedicate themselves to practicing spiritual life and distributing spiritual knowledge and techniques to others. Srila Prabhupada taught that real spiritual life means to render transcendental devotional service to the Supreme Lord, Sri Krishna. Devotional service entails engaging all our senses in the service of the Lord, the master of the senses. That service purifies our senses and frees us from all material designations. So by teaching devotional service, Srila Prabhupada showed that he wanted all his followers—men, women, and children—to become free from all material designations and regain their original pure identity.
Women in the ISKCON movement
Thus, based on Srila Prabhupada’s vision for the role of Women in ISKCON (which stemmed through a very thorough understanding of Vedic Scriptures) was carried throughout the ISKCON world. Today, women in ISKCON have a very vital role to play, right from teaching, to preaching to performing Deity dressing to flower decorations, stitching clothes for Their Lordships to cooking for Their Lordships, work in organisational roles in various capacities, in Community Development projects with their husbands, and so many other areas. In fact, there are many women leaders in the movement who are guides and mentors to young girls and neophyte women, inspiring them to accept vedic vows. ISKCON has truly lived the most popularly coined term in today’s context, “Women Empowerment”.
Women’s Bhakti Group @ISKCON, Kharghar
Carrying on with this legacy, ISKCON Kharghar also has a separate vision for engaging women in devotional service, thereby providing opportunities to the women-folk of Navi Mumbai and it’s neighbouring areas. As part of the women's bhakti group, women at ISKCON, Khargharare being imparted a spiritual experience through systematically engaging them in Krishna consciousness as a part of day to day life. Under the expert and loving guidance of HG Achintya Shakti mataji, women are being trained in order to perfect their offerings to Their Lordships, Sri Sri Radha Madanmohanji, Sri Sri Nitai Gaurasunderji and Srila Prabhupada.
HG Achintya Shakti Devi Dasi says, “We gradually try to incorporate Krishna consciousness that has a tremendous impact on our fast paced life. We encourage the women to bring about a regulated life by introducing them to the movement by engaging them according to the services they can offer best.”
Summarized below are the various ways in which this is accomplished –
1. By sincerely cultivating the authentic spiritual science of Vedic scriptures, we can become free from anxiety and revive our natural state of pure, unending, blissful consciousness. With this understanding, the group engages in collective study of Vedic Texts, the Bhagavad-gita and stories from Srimad Bhagvatam and also the many small books of Srila Prabhupada.
2. Each of us is not the material body, but an eternal spirit soul, part and parcel of God (Krishna). As such, we are all the eternal servants of Krishna and are interrelated through Him, our common father. This is our natural position but due to intensive long term association and identification with matter and materialism we have lost touch with our natural blissful position and eternal nature. We have simply become materialistic and as a result of this materialism and bodily identification we are frustrated in so many ways. We are constantly staying in fear due to the bodily conception of life.
3.Rather than living in a self-centered way, we should act for the pleasure of Lord Krishna. This is known as bhakti-yoga, the science of devotional service.
4.The most effective means for achieving God consciousness in this Age of Kali, or quarrel, is to chant the holy names of the Lord. In the preliminary stages of chanting, the practitioner experiences a clearing of consciousness, peace of mind, and relief from unwanted drives and habits. As one develops more realization by chanting, he perceives the original, spiritual existence of the self. According to the Bhagavad-gita, this enlightened state "is characterized by one's ability to see the self by the pure mind and to relish and rejoice in the self"
Voices of members of the Women’s Bhakti Group -
“We are constantly exposed Srimad Bhagvatam and such timeless scriptures by the painstaking guidance of HG Achintya Shakti mataji who makes the class interesting and funny so that we can get in depth understanding without losing focus. It is very difficult to understand the philosophy on our own . When we get guidance we are able to grasp the true essence.”
HG Gatipriya Devi Dasi
“It has tremendous impact in my life to go forward in devotion. It has opened a spiritual window into who Krishna is and about his abode. It gives a truemeaning about the aim of life.”
Bhaktin Alka Shinde
“The most profound answer for the most basic question what is the aim of life is answered. That only in human for m of life we can do devotional service and thus we can go to our real home the abode where Shyamsundar resides”
HG Jagatkirti Krupa Devi dasi
“My bhakti was impure now it feels pure. What are the 10 offenses? How can we get rid of them. Translations of the scriptures are easily decipherable”
HG Kavita Devi dasi
“Before I used to read Bhagavad Geeta but ever understood any of it but now after attending class I am able to understand the translations better. It has forever changed my life.”
“Initially I did not have kannada books but after attending class I want to delve deeper into the philosophy”
“I am very new in bhakti but services and Prasadam is something that gladdens my soul. I loved Prahladmaharajkatha immensely and loved how we can apply in our daily lives”
“I have started attending regular programs recently and I love the comradeship the love that is so contagious. I feel at home and HG Achintya Shakti mataji is astounding. She makes it really easy for us to grasp the true essence and opens a whole new insight that makes us marvel with the intricacies that exists beyond our perception. “