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Srila Prabhupada Books

Mothers & Masters

Mothers & Masters

By Bhakti Vikāsa Swami

Women: Masters or Mothers? presents traditionalist arguments for the direction of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, proposing that we should take up Śrīla Prabhupāda’s mandate to establish varāśrama-dharma rather than capitulate to the norms and ideologies of secular culture. Particularly discussed are gender roles, parental responsibilities, feminist follies, and some of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s more controversial teachings, such as those concerning early marriage, divorce, and polygamy.


Also available in Hindi,Spanish



Working on Bhakti Vikāsa Swami’s book Women: Masters or Mothers? has been inspirational in helping to deepen my understanding of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s example and instructions and has shown that we must carefully avoid the onslaught of the degraded mentality of Kali-yuga.

– Madana-mohana-mohinī Devī Dāsī

NameMothers & Masters
PublisherBhakti Vikas Trust
Publication Year2015
Weight375 gms
Table Of Contents

Preface to the Second Edition



Part One


The Direction of the Kṛṣṇa Consciousness Movement: Merge with Modern Society, or Present the Varṇāśrama-dharma Alternative?


Devotees’ Concern with and Approach to Social Issues

Kṛṣṇa Consciousness Is Largely Incompatible with Modern Culture

Scientism, Liberal Humanism, and Self ishness

Hedonistic Civilizations Are Doomed

Traditional Societies and the Dharmic Culture of India

Śrīla Prabhupāda’s Outlook Was Not Mundane

Śrīla Prabhupāda Wanted to Introduce Divine Varṇāśrama-dharma

“Varṇāśrama-dharma Is External”

Devotees Need Varṇāśrama-dharma

Varṇāśrama-dharma (the Perfect Institution) Must Be Based On Kṛṣṇa Consciousness

Varṇāśrama-dharma Inculcates Selflessness

A Revolution of Consciousness

Varṇāśrama-dharma for Overcoming Sexual Desire

Śrīla Prabhupāda Slowly and Carefully Introduced Vedic Culture

Shared Cultures of Traditional Societies

“Preach Now, Varṇāśrama-dharma Now”

Śrīla Prabhupāda’s Vision for Kṛṣṇa Conscious Farms

Rural Living Af fords More Time for Kṛṣṇa Consciousness

Accepting Kṛṣṇa’s Social System

An Experimental Revolution

ISKCON’s Disconnect with Varṇāśrama

Traditional Culture Is Misunderstood

Slaughterhouse-education and Child Labor

Indian Culture and ISKCON

Preaching of Traditionalism in the West

An Overview of Religious and Political Reform

Ṛtvik Folly

The Basic Mistake of All Reformers

Understanding the Issues – Siddhānta


ISKCON Has the Solution



Part Two


Women: Masters or Mothers?


Section One

Why Śrīla Prabhupāda Opposed Feminism

Demons Promote a Puf fed-up Concept of Womanly Life

Respect for Women in Indian Culture

Feminism in ISKCON

Nasty Ef fects of Feminism Within ISKCON

Misunderstanding Śrīla Prabhupāda’s Adjustments

Tweaking History by Blaming the Men

A Case Study: Yamunā Devī Dāsī

The Transformation of Women’s Roles

Lust, Greed, and Exploitation

Sigmund Freud and His Followers

Sex, Dissatisfaction, and Family Decline

Men and Women Are Dif ferent

Feminist Folly

Demonic “Broad-mindedness”

Why Women Need Protection

Independent Women Are Unprotected, Exploited, and Unhappy

The Vital Role of Gṛhasthas

Women Should Be Married (Gṛhasthas, Not Sannyasis, Should Protect Them)

Women in Bengal

Illicit Sex in the Name of Religion

F ire and Butter

Even Paramahaṁsas Are Cautious About Female Association

Devotees Must Reject Feminism


Section Two

Fulf illing Women’s Potential – As Mothers

Children Are the Victims

Frustration Due to Unrealistic Expectations

Early and Late Marriage

Arranged Marriage

“Love Marriage”

The Real Formula for Marital Success

Homemakers and Working Wives

The Scourge of Divorce

Discouraging Divorce Among Devotees

Divorce Can Be Averted

Family Planning and Big Families

Joint Families


Education for Girls: Chastity and Cooking

Victory for a Woman

Hopeless Women Become Feminists – Men Should Become First-class

Some Misconceptions of Men

Duties of Married Men


Section Three

Women As Leaders

Women As Gurus

Women Giving Classes and Leading Kīrtanas



Calling Women “Prabhu”

Traditional Culture Is Still Appreciated

The Way Forward



Part Three


Gurudevis and Grandmothers

Feminist Rhetoric on Dandavats


On the Subject of Female Diksha Gurus

Krsna Conscious Motherhood

Time for a Revolution

Playing the Hindu Card


Suggested Further Reading


About the Author


Submit a new review


Brilliant Book!

Every female in the ISKCON community must read this book with an open mind! Initially I just ordered this book out of curiosity, but later on, this book along with the lecture CD that came along with it completely changed my perspective on how I am supposed to lead life in as a female. Truly grateful to Maharaja for such beautiful explanation of Stri Dharma.

All glories to HH Bhakti Vikasa Maharaj! :)

Su-gītā Vāṇī Devī Dāsī (JPS)

Women: Masters or Mothers? gives profound psychological, social, and above all spiritual insights into the actual role and position of women in society. In the material world people tend to decide what is right and wrong based on their selfish standards. They don’t think about what Kṛṣṇa wants, and what He said and so their whole so-called knowledge and perception is based on the mental platform. On that mental platform, one is simply pulled this or that way by the material senses. Therefore, this talk of liberalism, open-mindedness, being free is just a royal edition of animals, as Śrīla Prabhupāda said. Western philosophy is nothing but footnotes of Plato’s philosophy. He was an atheist, especially when it came to moral law. Plato claimed that morality is not a law given by a personal God, and that ideal behaviour of people can be discovered through intelligence as there is no authority to teach us. The problem with this is when one is speculating and is not yet purified then from his heart comes all kinds of material desires and nasty things, and these influence one’s thoughts (lust, anger, greed, illusion, envy, and madness). Post-modernism especially considers that everything is what you make out of it by yourself. Nietzsche (probably the first post-modern philosopher) said that modern man has to remake is soul. It means everyone has to make an identity for oneself out of nothing. In other words it means – we become God. These concepts are of the modern dominant philosophy known as New Age, which considers Truth to be something you yourself discover by your own process. Jean Paul Sartre wrote a book ‘Being Out of Nothingness,’ and his girlfriend Simone de Beauvoir (the prototype of feminism) wrote a book ‘The Second Sex,’ but actually she drew her inspiration from Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche said that people should be adventurous, experimental, dangerous and they should celebrate the body. In his moral system good is what heightens the feeling of power. And bad is all that proceeds from weakness. So, modern feminism is very concerned with these two points, and also that one should be authentic. We should have authentic
relationships, which means that everything should be freely chosen. But, in reality, their authenticity is imposed. This trend is actually ironic because Nietzsche was not very respectful towards women. Also, the life of Simone was quite scandalous. Śrīla Prabhupāda however labeled all this for what it really was; nirviśeṣa-śūnyavāda. These persons represent the background of liberal education. Whatever is necessary for education and life we already have in the Vedas. We don’t have to search or experiment with these so-called modern liberal systems. Śrīla Prabhupāda gave us the best system of learning moral values and spiritual knowledge. Śrīla Prabhupāda introduced the concept of sva-dharma (occupational duty, the characteristic). Everything has characteristics. Dharma means to render service. Everyone is rendering service according to their characteristics. Just like the characteristic of a microphone is to vibrate the sound. In the varṇāśrama system, the guṇa (natural quality), karma (natural propensity of work and its reaction) and dharma (divinely ordained purpose) of the human being are the key factors of civilization. Those who condemn the Vedas are themselves condemned to blunder about in the darkness of social, moral, and religious experimentations. Culture, etiquette, and proper behavior distinguishes humans from animals. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu instructed Sanātana Gosvāmī that maintenance of Vaiṣṇava etiquette is the ornament of a devotee. Vedic culture or varṇāśrama is the highest culture because it originates from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Kṛṣṇa. As stated in Bg 4.13, He created the varṇāśrama system, the best possible social order and the highest manifestation of human culture. Vedic instructions are not subject to mistakes. The knowledge of the Vedas is received directly from God, and there is consequently no question of illusion, cheating, mistakes, and of imperfect senses. Principles can only be established by authority, not by mental speculation. Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu said to Rāmānanda Rāya that even sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja is not effective for go-kharas (animals). In the beginning living beings have to rise to the level of human beings, and stop vikarma.
Therefore Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu instructed Sanātana Gosvāmī to write a rulebook beginning with details of basic standard Vaiṣṇava behavior, as a necessary accompaniment to chanting and other primary devotional services. Varṇāśrama system is personal and has prescribed duties for every person, from birth to death, and leads individuals to the ultimate goal – Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The goal of daivavarṇāśrama (divine or God centered varṇāśrama) is the paramapuruṣārtha, the supreme goal of human life – love for Kṛṣṇa. When we combine buddhi, intelligence that Kṛṣṇa is giving, with our determination to follow Kṛṣṇa, that is called vyavasāyātmikā-buddhi. The varṇāśrama definition of women’s roles in society perfectly complements the female nature. It prescribes the means by which the female nature may be naturally dovetailed in the service of Kṛṣṇa thus pointing the way back to Godhead for the soul in a woman’s body. Modern people may say such a definition of a woman’s role in society is patriarchal or mysogynist, but what social system have they invented that can surpass Kṛṣṇa’s own varṇāśramadharma? Actually such people are simply barbarians who can understand only one social principle: sense gratification, the principle of animal society. Both women and men are equally bound by scriptural injunctions. A man who accepts a wife must return her service in so many ways, by protecting and caring for her. He must, also, respect all other women, besides his wife, just as he respects his own mother. “Be one for whom
the mother is a god.” (Taittirīya Upaniṣad 1.11.2). A vital role of women is to not simply bear children, but to themselves be religious and of pure consciousness. As stated in Bg 1.40, unprotected women become victims of unscrupulous men and thus varṇa-saṅkara are born, and the whole civilization is spoiled. Therefore one of the purposes of this book is to counteract propaganda that Śrīla Prabhupāda treated men and women equally in all respects. Men and women are spiritually equal, but they are materially and socially different. In today’s oversexed society, women are the main sufferers, because they are more often and more seriously exploited. Men should protect women from exploitation by lusty men. According to Śrīla Prabhupāda, so-called equal rights for women means that the men cheat the women. Another kind of protection that women require is emotional support of a man, without which they tend to feel insecure and dissatisfied or dysfunctional — even to the point of becoming a feminist. Often it is seen that women who are superficially renunciants try to cozy up to a man (usually a renunciant) whom they admire; they cannot forswear their need for male shelter. Undoubtedly, this need for male protection is a major reason why formal renunciation for women is mostly discouraged within Vedic culture, wherein women are glorified for being chaste, not for being renounced. (p. 106) Again, it may not be easy to quickly change one’s way of thinking. Even if one agrees with the principles, it could for various reasons be very difficult to implement them. Nonetheless, reform is needed, and reform begins with understanding of principles. (HH BVKS, Seminar: Principles for Establishing Varṇāśrama Communities, ) My gratitude to HH Bhakti Vikāsa Swami, who tirelessly and unwaveringly preaches Kṛṣṇa consciousness and Vedic culture, as a perfect example of a faithful disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s, and a brāhmaṇa sannyāsī – a natural teacher of the society! I feel this book will appeal to all individuals and can greatly help society by making sure that women are taken care of and are protected in every aspect.

Sudevī Devī Dāsī (SNS)

I am very grateful for having come across this book, Women: Masters or Mothers? but I lament not laving come across it earlier, for I would then have avoided many mistakes in my life. I was born and brought up in a simple South Indian family. My mother always dreamt that her daughter should be an independent woman. It didn’t take much time for me to develop this desire and prove my worth. To enjoy power, respect in the society and have some important identity. I saw that the best way to accomplish this desire (even at the cost of losing highly paid jobs in the West), is to be a lady officer in the armed forces, wearing uniform and getting salutes from the subordinates under my command. When asked in the Air Force selection interview by the president of the selection board as to why I wanted to be a commissioned officer in the Indian Air Forces, I gave the same reason — to enjoy respect that an officer in armed forces gets in the civil society. The president (interviewer) replied with a popular saying — the grass on the other side always looks greener — and my reply to his statement was I am sure that it is indeed very green. I was selected and joined the Air Force academy. Within ten days of the training in the academy I started to think of quitting the training. But the thought and dreams of enjoying the respect, financial independence, and fame in the society made me stay and continue the training. Soon after the completion of the training phase, I got married to a fellow officer and started my new life as a wife and a commissioned officer in Indian Air Force simultaneously. Things started looking impossible. I wanted to excel in both and didn’t want to compromise one duty for another. The tug of war started between professional front and the home front looking after family matters. I ended up requesting my superior officers to understand that it is difficult to stay away from my family, whenever there was a requirement for me to stay in remote postings for many days at a time. At home also, I began requesting my husband to cooperate, support, and understand that I am an officer and cannot be a wife to him in the same way that he had seen his mother be to his father. I used to wonder how the other married lady officers were managing their lives. I received many wise solutions and advice, such as hire a cook, employ a full-time maid servant, if you want to cook for your family the market is flooded with frozen and ready to use products, purchase already chopped vegetables, take full advantage of refrigerators and microwave ovens, cook at a time for 4 days and enjoy dining outside on weekends as you are financially independent, you see, women are better managers and so on and so forth. I started compromising the health of family and myself in order to try and maintain the balance of work and home duties. Stress started building up. Even after reaching home after work, the phone from the office kept ringing and while at the office, my mind gave the list of things to be done at home. Also, I was not at all comfortable with being the only lady officer posted in a unit of 10 male officers and 300 airmen. I started becoming a victim of anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and extreme stress. Although my husband was caring enough and advised me several times to quit the job and that his earnings were sufficient to live a decent life, I resisted the idea. I would think how I was going to face the society. By this time, my family life was almost at a standstill, as I was under severe stress and depression. Then by divine arrangement, I came across and started to
read Srila Prabhupada’s books. Prabhupāda’s words came like a hammer when I came across the phrase “Equality of men and women is a propaganda by men to fool women
for their own benefit.” Things started to fall in place. I started to get more and more inner strength by reading His Divine Grace’s books. I started deriving strength to become devoted to God and to become a devotee wife and overcome the weakness of having to prove myself. I read the sections dealing with duties and responsibilities of women whose lives were based on scriptures, again and again. Now a third aspect was entering in my life; the life of Krsna consciousness. I realized that in order to go back home, back to Godhead, all the three aspects of work, family and maintaining sadhana cannot be managed simultaneously. I will have to compromise one for the other. And I decided to leave my job for pursuing the other two on a full-time basis. Six years have passed, and I never regretted this decision even once. I agree with every line of this wonderful book Women: Masters or Mothers? In ISKCON, I am always looking for women who can inspire us with their personal examples of being good mothers and at the same time maintaining good sadhana. I find the actions of such mothers speaking louder than the voice of the women sitting in front of the microphone and delivering lectures. We need more books like this in our movement and I am happy for the young women readers who can take lessons from this book and save themselves from many troubles in life.

Śrī Brajalīlā Devī Dāsī (JPS)

Despite Śrīla Prabhupāda and our previous ācāryas explaining clearly why daiva-varṇāśrama-dharma is of great importance for devotees and ISKCON as a preaching movement, there is still sometimes some confusion as to how it should be introduced, what aspects are of more or less importance, the speed at which we should endeavor to establish it and so on. The dharma of women, strī-dharma, is unfortunately often brushed aside as something of lesser importance — or even totally neglected as it is viewed by many as impractical, too idealistic and even exploitive. That it is so is perhaps not surprising as this tendency merely reflects the view of mainstream society that the role of a mother and wife is, simply put, not very important. If you want to “be someone,” if you want to be viewed as doing something valuable for society, you must have an education and a job. Then only are you viewed as someone contributing to society. If you merely do your duty as a mother and wife, you may even be seen as a parasite or a lazy person. Women: Masters or Mothers? explains nicely and clearly why Śrīla Prabhupāda spoke and wrote quite often about the important role women have in society as devoted mothers and wives. The book makes it clear why strī-dharma is very much relevant for the women of ISKCON here and now if we want to show the world a positive example of stable family life, happy children and harmonious marriages. At the present moment there is dissonance between the ideals and principles as presented by Śrīla Prabhupāda on the role of women and the way these ideals are understood and practiced. As is pointed out in the book, an immediate change may not be possible, but at least the ideals should be upheld, strived towards and propagated so that gradually we will move in the right direction, and the sooner the better.

Jyotirmaya prabhu (SHDS) and Gauracandranana Mataji (BVKS)

Harilila Prabhu (JPS)

Pradhan Gopi Mataji (GKG)

HG Manidhara Prabhu (ACBSP)

Mālyahārī-kuṇḍa Devī Dāsī (KRKS)

Women: Masters or Mothers? offers powerful solutions to the problems we face as a spiritual institution. It is a must-read for every member of our ISKCON Society. If we simply ignore this book as irrelevant or fanatical, our tendency as a religious movement will no doubt be to adopt the spirit of modernism, thus inviting calamity upon our spiritual progress, both individually and collectively. If we thus loosen our standards and degrade from being the powerful, pure and dynamic force that Śrīla Prabhupāda groomed us to be, how can ISKCON survive? Purity is the force that keeps our movement thriving and growing. Impurity, which can be traced to deeply rooted attachment and adherence to Western social behaviors, is an opposing force that can lead us to degradation. Śrīla Prabhupāda warned that we should keep ourselves free from the impurities of materialistic culture. If we give in to the cultural norms of a degraded, failing society, what will be ISKCON’s destiny? William Ralph Inge’s chilling admonition can be taken a step further to read, “That religion which marries the spirit of today will be a widow tomorrow.”

Phalinī Devī Dāsī (ACBSP)

Women: Masters or Mothers? called by the author a “tract,” is much more than just a religious pamphlet. It is a deep and thoroughly cogent treatise on the current social anomalies within ISKCON (mirroring the social aberrations of the Western world) and how these incongruities relate to and have arisen due to our members remaining too much influenced by Western society. His Holiness Bhakti Vikāsa Swami is not concerned with how he will be viewed for stating facts. He speaks courageously and truthfully about the unquestionable presence and pernicious effects of feminism within ISKCON, the need for early marriage, the practicality of polygamy, the importance of shyness among women and their need for protection, the fact that Śrīla Prabhupāda never appointed women as temple presidents or GBC members, the dangers of co-education and worldly careers for women, and other such hush-hush, hot topics that may arouse angry arguments but that nonetheless need to be addressed, discussed, and adopted in our society as part of fulfilling the other 50% of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s mission: daiva varṇāśrama-dharma. Śrīla Prabhupāda did not want us to emulate the American (aka Western) way of life. He came to improve it, to change it, to replace American culture with Vedic culture. He wanted us to transcend the American way of life and to realize that we don’t belong in this world. Śrīla Prabhupāda states, “I am not in the world... just like I am in America... I am not adopting any ways of life as the Americans do. Not only myself, all my disciples who are following me, they are also not Americans. They’re different from American behavior, American way of life. I don’t accept any consciousness of America. And I teach my disciples also to take to that consciousness... so if you take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness and you remain in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, you don’t belong to this world.” (Bg Lecture, LA, December 16, 1968).
Though Mahārāja uses not only quotes from Śrīla Prabhupāda’s teachings, but from other sources as well, clearly, his objective is to clarify, adhere to and promote the teachings and purpose of our founder-ācārya Śrīla Prabhupāda. Śrīla Prabhupāda predicted that if ISKCON were to fall apart, it would be due to internal strife tearing our society apart from within. We have already seen in our short fifty years as a fledgling movement the beginnings of internal crumbling. This book is a wake-up call for those of us who do not want to see the further disintegration of ISKCON. If such sensibly presented essays as Women: Masters or Mothers? are not carefully read and given serious consideration by the deep thinkers of our ISKCON Society, we may see the demise of our own institution within our very lifetimes. There have been objections voiced by devotees who find the book’s cover unappealing or who find some fault with Mahārāja for discussing standards of cleanliness for his female disciples during their menses. I appeal to the leaders of our movement, Please read this book with a humble, open heart and don’t make the mistake of shooting the messenger! His Holiness Bhakti Vikāsa Swami is simply representing Śrīla Prabhupāda’s stance and teachings on delicate subjects which some would prefer to ignore and discredit as irrelevant due to their oversympathizing with American or Western ways of life.

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