By His Holiness Danavir Goswami
An innovative theory on gåhastha sex within marriage has emerged, citing Manu-saàhitä as its authority. Attempting to be more accommodating, the theory introduces “second class” and “third class” gåhasthas, both of whom are supposed to be allowed more sex life in Kåñëa consciousness than the once per month ordained by Çréla Prabhupäda. According to this new theory, the main purpose of sex should be procreation, and therefore it is recommended to have sex when the woman is fertile, though this is not mandatory.
ISKCON’S present stance on the issue of gåhastha sex within marriage is a plain, all-embracing regulation, “once a month for procreation only”, as delineated by its founder-äcärya Çréla Prabhupäda. The new theory, however, considers this policy to be idealized and unrealistic, and as promoting guilt that is unfavorable to the advancement of spiritual life. Proponents of the theory urge the movement to mature, cautioning us not to hide behind Çréla Prabhupäda’s books at the expense of propitious adaptation of Vaiñëava principles for the present time and circumstance.
This theory practically attempts to unravel the strong rope of Çréla Prabhupäda’s monumental efforts to bind our sex desire. Where do we find Çréla Prabhupäda advocating that any class of gåhasthas should indulge in sex life more than once monthly? Where do we find Çréla Prabhupäda assigning any other purpose to sex life other than procreation?
To identify those engaging in illicit sex within marriage as “gåhasthas” is incompatible with Çréla Prabhupäda’s usage of the term. A gåhastha is a householder who strictly follows the regulative principles especially with regards to sex.
“You have asked what is meant by illicit sex. Sex should be used only in marriage for begetting nice children to raise in Kåñëa Consciousness. Kåñëa says in the Bhagavad-gétä that I am sex life performed according to religious principles. Sex life for any other purpose means illicit sex.” (Letter: June 18, 1973)
Reverend Powell: I take it from what you’ve just been saying, Your Grace, that this explains what is said here in the…, referring to illicit sex as being anything that’s not in marriage and not for procreation within marriage.
Prabhupäda: Only, the sex allowed only for begetting nice children.
Reverend Powell: You don’t feel that…
Prabhupäda: And beyond that, sex, that is illicit sex. (Conversation June 28, 1974)
“In other words, sex life with one’s wife is equal to prostitution if the regulations are not properly followed.” (Çrémad-Bhägavatam 3.14.33 Purport)
The proponents of the new theory should note that although Çréla Prabhupäda quoted from Manu-saàhitä in his writings and speaking, he purposely did not choose to extract anything about allowing more sex for gåhasthas. This omission by Çréla Prabhupäda was not an oversight, nor a simplification, rather it was a conscious, divinely-inspired realization meant to bring his followers out of illusion. It is exactly for this reason that the Vedas warn immature scholars:
tarko ’pratiñöhaù çrutayo vibhinnä
näsäv åñir yasya mataà na bhinnam
dharmasya tattvaà nihitaà guhäyäà
mahäjano yena gataù sa panthäù
“Dry arguments are inconclusive. A great personality whose opinion does not differ from others is not considered a great sage. Simply by studying the Vedas, which are variegated, one cannot come to the right path by which religious principles are understood. The solid truth of religious principles is hidden in the heart of an unadulterated self-realized person. Consequently, as the çästras confirm, one should accept whatever progressive path the mahäjanas advocate.” [This is a verse spoken by Yudhiñöhira Mahäräja in the Mahäbhärata, Vana-parva (313.117)].
ISKCON accepts Çréla Prabhu-päda as a mahäjana to be scrupulously followed without attempting to debate scriptural interpretations ad infinitum. The alarming new theory considers this the closed-mindedness of a small band of hard-nosed oldtimers who can’t see the forest for the trees. In order to justify its opinion, the theory attempts to jump over the immediate spiritual authority, Çréla Prabhupäda, and clutch at Manu. This “over-intelligence” is an offense known as maryädä-vyatikrama.1
If Çréla Prabhupäda had desired that the members of his movement should be given more opportunities for sex within marriage he could have mentioned it at least once, within the course of his vast teaching. But he did not. To the contrary, Çréla Prabhupäda was adamant on this issue. Neither did His Divine Grace leave such a significant subject open for novel alterations by so-called “mature” disciples eager to “adapt to the changing environment.”
The new theory is concerned about guilt feelings of those who fall short of the standard. Although we appreciate the spirit behind such thoughts, we cannot compromise one of the most important aspects of Kåñëa consciousness. If because of not following the actual Kåñëa conscious standard for initiated disciples, I feel guilty, that guilt is Kåñëa’s mercy to help bring me back to the proper position.
In the name of being academic, ecumenical and broadminded we must be careful not to tamper with the basic orders given by our spiritual master. Uninitiated householders interested in advancing in Kåñëa consciousness but who are at the same time unable to abide by the high standards set for gåhasthas within ISKCON, should be encouraged and properly educated so that they will one day be able to follow the principles and become qualified to take initiation. In other words, there is no scope for initiated devotees within ISKCON to transgress the limits provided by its founder-äcärya.
Sometimes Çréla Prabhupäda explained illicit sex life to be sex life outside of marriage. Proponents of the new theory conveniently misinterpret such statements to be the establishment of a second standard for gåhasthas. That is, they assert that there’s the “only for procreation” higher standard for first class gåhasthas and the “within marriage” lower standard for other gåhasthas. It is rascaldom for initiated disciples to think in this way. Çréla Prabhupäda definitely did not establish two standards. It is the same standard explained in a general way for broad understanding and then explained more explicitly when appropriate. For instance, when Çréla Prabhupäda makes a statement, “Our movement recommends chanting of the holy names of the Lord,” an opportunistic disciple may conclude, “Oh, Çréla Prabhupäda didn’t specify sixteen rounds, just that we should chant the holy names. Therefore, I prefer this instruction, just to chant the holy names—not that I must necessarily chant sixteen rounds every day.” Such word jugglery constitutes disobeying the orders of the spiritual master. Same thing with illicit sex.
In conclusion we suggest that ISKCON devotees must conduct dynamic preaching in all circles including academia, youth forums and other fields without conceding any of Çréla Prabhupäda’s treasured standards.
1 “Although one may be well versed in the transcendental science, one should be careful about the offense of maryädä-vyatikräma, or impertinently surpassing a greater personality. According to scriptural injunction one should be very careful of transgressing the law of maryädä-vyatikräma because by so doing one loses his duration of life, his opulence, fame and piety and the blessings of all the world… The rule is that in the presence of a higher personality one should not be very eager to impart instructions, even if one is competent and well versed.” (Çrémad-Bhägavatam 3.4.26 Purport)
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