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Jahnava Nitai Das

Gita, women, and atma-vidya.

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"If Krishna considers ladies as lower birth or sinner..."


The translation you had quoted is gramatically correct and does follow certain patterns observed in Vedic culture and found in Vedic texts, such as the Manu Samhita. We must note that this verse does not say women, vaishyas and shudras are sinful people. It says one who was sinful in the past will have received a body of a women, vaishya or shudra as a result. Women, vaishyas and shudras undergo more difficulties in life due to various factors. Difficulties are generally the result of sinful reactions. There can be cases when a person is born as a women, vaishya or shudra for some other reason, but the general principle is as mentioned above.


Before going any further we must first state that we are not this body, either male or female, and anyone who thinks himself a man (or woman) is a fool covered by the darkness of avidya. This is the message of the Upanishads.


On the other hand, anyone free from false identification is situated beyond a material comparison - good or bad. "Birth" itself is ignorance, thus to say you belong to a high birth or a low birth is ultimatley meaningless. They are gradations of ignorance. The biggest fool is he or she who stands up to proclaim their ignorance to the world by identifying the body for the self.


On the conventional platform, the vedic culture restricts certain people from engaging in aspects of ritual worship. For example, women are not given gayatri upadesha in the Vedic culture. Women are not allowed to recite the texts of the four vedas. Women are not permitted to perform yaga or puja in a temple as a priest. Women are not allowed to accept the sannyasa ashrama. And likewise shudras also are not given gayatri upadesha, are forbidden from reciting the vedas, and not permitted to perform sacrificial ceremonies.


This does not mean they are not able to perform worship, devotion, or sadhana! Even Mrigari the cruel hunter was made a pure devotee by chanting the name of Rama. And once Mrigari was transformed into the great saint Valmiki, he was accepted as the highest Rishi, beyond even the designation of a brahmana.


But please note, Narada did not instruct Mrigari the hunter to perform ritual sacrifice, or to chant gayatri mantra, or to recite the vedic texts on the basis that he was an atma - he simply had him chant the holy name of Rama. He followed the proper conduct according to Mrigari's level of consciousness. After Mrigari was purified of his contamination, and after he became self realized, situated beyond the bodily conception, at that time the entire world accepted him as their guru.


There are many cases of saints having the bodies of women. But by virtue of their self-realization they are not seen in terms of the external body. For them there is no restriction for their conduct based on their body, as they have factually realized themselves to be spirit souls. The great saint Gargi is an example of a women who attained the highest state of self realization.


"If He [Krishna] considers Sudra as lowest birth why should He take birth in Yadava kula which is consider to be Sudras?"


This is an irrelevant point as the premise is based on fallacy. The Yadava line does not belong to the shudra class. Yadava refers to the descendants of Yadu, who was the son of Yayati and Devayani. Yayati, a kshatriya, was the son of king Nahusha. His wife Devayani is the daughter of Shukracharya, a great brahmana and guru of the asuras. Most of the descendants of Yadu were kshatriyas, but some were cowherd men and thus belonged to the vaishya class. There are also some Yadavas who were brahmanas, such as the great saint Garga Muni, who performed the name giving ceremony to Lord Krishna.



"Krishna took birth in all varnas to show that He is beyond everything."


Krishna is beyond everything, and His birth is not material: janma karma ca me divyam evam yo vetti tattvatah. He tells us we must understand His birth and activities to be transcendental.


Generally when He incarnates he takes his birth in the surya vamsha (sun dynasty) or in the chandra vamsha (moon dynasty). But sometimes He belongs to no family or dynasty. Which lineage did Narasimha belong to? He appeared from a pillar. As Matsya He appeared in a handful of water. Varaha appeared from the nose of Brahma, so maybe literally He was a brahmana. It really doesn't matter.


His body is spiritual, sac-cid-ananda vigraha. Our body is composed of mucus (kapha), bile (pita) and air (vayu); but just see the spiritual "elements" making up the Lord's form - eternality (sat), knowledge (cit) and bliss (ananda).


The appearance of such a spiritual entity is just like the sun. The sun may appear to rise in the east, but factually the sun is always existing. It is not actually originating from the ocean as it appears. Lord Hari is eternally existing in His spiritual abode of Vaikuntha. But it appears that He takes His birth from a particular family.


We find the description of His divine appearance in the Bhagavatam. It is described He manifested fully dressed in beautiful yellow garments, with gold jewels decorating His body, and with long beautiful hair. If my memory serves me right, when I was born I wasn't decorated with jewels, gold, and silk. There were some other not so nice smelling liquids covering my body. That's probably why His appearance is called jayanti, whereas mine is not.


Some people may claim Lord Krishna was an ordinary man, who was born just like you or me, but the Bhagavatam says otherwise.


If the Bhagavatam's description of Lord Krishna's appearance is not accepted as true, then the description of Lord Krishna's very existence should also be rejected. Why take half and reject the rest. Either the statements of scripture are absolute truth, or they are lies. If they contain even one false statement, then their value as shabda-pramana is lost.



"He said Radha is His dearest devotee to show that there is no difference between men & women as far as devotion is concerned."


Devotion is a quality possessed by the soul. Bhakti-yoga is the process of linking the atma and the Lord through loving devotion. It has no connection with this illusory body, either male or female. Anyone who thinks I am a male (or female) is a fool. We need to go back and start at the ABC's again. Lesson one: We are not this body, we are a spirit soul - aham brahmasmi.


Ultimately all matter is equally illusory, whether it is gold or stool. Still on the conventional platform we consider gold to be pure and stool to be impure. What is gold? Nothing but a combination of earth (bhumi), water (apa), fire (anala), air (vayu) and ether (akasha). And what is stool? It is the same five elements combined in a different proportion. On the fundamental level how can one be called pure and one impure? But how many of us will take a bath in stool? On the conventional platform we interact with matter in a relative manner.


"Like dress, the body is changed that is all. He [Krishna] should not have meant that lady's birth is because of sin."


Krishna 'should not' have meant that or 'did not' mean that? Sometimes verbal slips are reflections of our subconscious mind, other times they are just careless mistakes.


All births within this material world are due ultimately to the sins of kama (lust), krodha (anger) and lobha (greeed). According to Lord Krishna this world is dukhalayam, the place of suffering. Why would anyone be here?


Let us imagine a person in this dukhalayam, suffering reactions to his previous actions. Why is he suffering? Because he has performed great saintly acts! He is suffering because he was a great devotee! He is suffering because of his selfless endeavour to help all... Well, maybe not. Maybe he wasn't a saint, maybe he wasn't a great devotee, maybe he was actually suffering because of his sins. You can decide.


The fact that we are born bound by matter means we are the criminals. Some of us are more criminally inclined than others, so there are various grades of cells, which we call as bodies. According to the influence of the modes of nature we are given the appropriate cell to serve our term in. If we are very ignorant, we are given a body among the lower species of life. If we are slightly better behaved criminals we are given accomodation in the minimum security zone of svarga.


All of these births are due to our sinful tendancies to exploit matter in various degrees. Still on the conventional platform we say this one is good and that one is bad. The scriptures say a human birth is good... but the fact that we are born means we are not good, we are bound by the illusion of maya.


Still, among all the bad births, the human birth is the best, as it provides us with the facilities to progress in spiritual life and free ourselves from bondage. Thus the great devotee Bhakta Prahlada says:


durlabham manusham janma


"This human life is very difficult to receive."


It is something like almost getting parol from the prison. They have transfered you to the minimum security wing, and if you behave well your case will be brought before the parol board. Its your big chance to become free. But most of us cannot give up our criminal nature, and we end up back in the maximum security wing. And once you fall from the minimum security wing back to the maximum security wing, it will be a real, real long time before you are given a second chance. There are 8,400,000 species of life to go through. Step by step, one body at a time we have to work our way back towards that valuable human form of life.


Please forgive me if I have offended anyone.


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Dear jndas,

This is really interesting. You have given very good explanations. I agree with you, but I would just like to add one thing to what you have written: -


The meaning of caste in the past (i.e. at the time Bhagvatam was written or before that) is not the same as the meaning of caste at present. In the past people used to do different kinds of works as per their casts. Example: Brahmanas used to perform pujas and teach people, kshatriyas used to protect their motherland etc. Of course there were exceptions but general rule was like this. But at present a person of any caste or religion is entitled to do any kind of job (teacher, engineer, doctor, politician etc). So, the rules which were applicable in the past need not be applicable at present. I am not saying that the rules were bad. They were good for that time but it is not necessary that they are good in present time also. As an example, there was a time period which we know as "Samantvaadi kaal", when enemies used to attack and after killing the king used to misbehave with queens and princesses. If at that time, it was wise to keep ladies in protection of male not to allow them to be alone unless they were powerful enough to protect themselves. But it does not mean that now also women should not be allowed to go out and do jobs. Similarly, Manu Samhita or any other rule book may have been applicable in the past. But it is not necessary to apply them in present time.

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Mam hi partha vyapasritya ye api syu: papa-yonaya:

Striyo Vaisya: tata Sudra: te api yanti param gatim

Meaning even those who are sinful by birth attain me if they take refuge in me

Similarly women, vaisyas, as also Sudras, taking refuge in Me verily attain the highest goal.

So Krishna did not say womenfolk as sinful birth. It was interpreted wrongly. Vedas are the authority. In no where in Vedas God differentiated men & women. It is only few males in the male dominated society brought all the wrong ideas from Vedas ,Upanishads etc. Coming to your point of view also women are placed first in the path of devotion to attain God before Vaisyas & Sudras. Brahmanas attain God through Jnana marga, kshtriyas attain Him through Karma yoga remaining sectors attain Him through Bhakthi yoga. Women in our society are assighned the most sacred work of bringing up their children. Why do you think today you find more ttenage criminals, drugaddicts etc, because of lack of mothers’ love. Only women have the tolerance that is why god had given women the duty of bearing a child. Because of few male chuvanists who could not tolerate the progress of women in the society started putting restrictions. First restriction is it is not necessary to educate women. Women who are the first teachers of their children were deprived of education. If you analyse, Maitreyi, Devahooti Sita, Panjali were all well educated. Only in this Kali yuga women were deprived of many freedom. Man made laws making women ignorant were prevalent. Thanks to Rajaram Mohan Rai & Gandhiji for awakening women by breaking some of the cruelest laws like sati etc. How sadist people were?

Regarding Gayatri also nowhere in Gayatri mantra it is told that it should not be recited by women. By the by when we do Upanayanam for our sons mother also hears Gayatri. Upanayanam is not recommended for ladies because of their bodies. That is all. As I mentioned already it is the lady of the house who takes full care of the family may not find time to do sandyavandanam etc regularly so it may also be one of the reasons women are not recommended for Gayatri japa. It lies in the interpretation & surely God never differentiate between male & female. It is again our ego which says I am man etc.

Again some one mentioned that dowry problem etc arise mainly because of women.

In this context I would like to ask our dear men when your mother asks you not to smoke or drink you do not listen but if she asks you out of ignorance to accept dowry you readily accept why? It is greed. You can as well do not listen to accept dowry like smoking or drinking. Always think what sacrifices your mother made for your progress & what sacrifices your wife making for your children, then you will understand how much women were suppressed in our society. Now It is changing because of awareness & education. Present generation is considerate & understanding.There is no end for this topic if we go on debating. Each one of us are assigned some duties let us do our duty & leave the rest to God.

But one thing I want to stress is women are not sinful by birth. We are fortunate to get this human body. Even Nammazhvar, Chatanya prabhu imagined them as lady to attain the Lord. As Meerabai said only God is Purusha & all the jives are women. Vedas say Purusheshu Vishnu. So the correct interpretion of the 32nd sloka of 9th chapter of Gita is given as above. The above meaning is given by , Ramakrishna Mutt & by Gita press Gorakpur, India. As animesh said, Manu Samhita or any other rule book may have been applicable in the past. But it is not necessary to apply them in present time. & can not be applied to present.


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Dear Viji,


> Again some one mentioned that dowry problem etc arise mainly because of women.


In one of the threads I mentioned that there are many problems in society like dowry and that even women support it. It seems you have misinterpreted what I am trying to say. I am not assuming that dowry problem arises mainly because of women. I wrote this statement in the thread "Controversial but interesting". I will just reproduce a portion of what I wrote there:


"Even if the laws laid down by Manu were bad at that time also, then also we should not blame only Manu. He was the person who wrote these. But the general mindset of the people then must have been against women taking part in devotional service. There are many bad things prevalent in the society now e.g. dowry system. Assume that somebody likes this system very much and writes in a book that dowry must be given, then that person should be blamed but we should not blame him only because many (in fact almost all) people willingly or unwillingly go for dowry. Even women (from boy's side) support it."


Please read this once again and decide what exactly I am trying to say. All I am saying is that just because Manu wrote something which we do not consider as good, then also it is not fair to blame only Manu. Similarly if somebody writes in a book that dowry must be given, then we should not blame only that person because many people induldge in this (even if they do not mention this in a book). I have written that women from boy's side also induldge in this. But I have nowhere written that they are the sole responsibilities.


It is bad that men from boy's side ask for dowry. It is bad that women from boy's side ask for dowry. And I fully agree with you that the youth themselves listen to their parents. If they can not listen to their mother when she asks to stop drinking and smoking, then they can as well not listen to her when she asks to accept dowry.


I think now it must be clear to you that I wrote those comments in the context of Manu Samhita.


For your kind information, I am 25 yr old, my parents are no more. When my mother was there she never asked me not to smoke or drink. This is simply because I never smoked or drank. Now also I do not do that.

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Dear Viji,

You hsve mentioned about Sati Pratha. I firmly believe (and I am sure you will agree with me) that this bad system and many other such things happen because some self-proclaimed scholars of scriptures misinterpret scriptures. They do not tell people what is the essence of our holy books. Common folk believe them because they consider them to be highly knowledgeable. It is true that now Sati system is not as much prevalent as at the time of Raja Ram Mohun Roy, but now also some people consider this as good. They claim that it is mentioned in our holy books. I do not consider myself as an authority on our holy books, but I do not believe that they consider sati system as good. If they consider it as good, then why is it that the three queens of Dashrath did not become satis after his death? Why didn't Satyavati become sati after Dusyant's death? If you think, you can recall many other such incidents.


In the time of Raja Ram Mohun Roy, the so called scholars of vedas sanctioned sati system. Worst part is that they used to call the women who became satis as devis. Just imagine that the women were forced to become satis and after their death people used to call them as devis, put flowers on their bodies and worship them. This is nothing but extreme hypocrisy.


There are very few people like Raja Ram Mohun Roy who can stand against such bizarre incidents. Even Gautam Buddha had to take birth because many people had made worshipping of God as almost impossible for common folk.

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Dear animesh,

I am really sorry if had hurt you. I also agree women are also responsible for many social evils. But those who ask dowry were uneducated. Now we feel ashamed to ask dowry etc as women are also equally educated & earn. The society can change if each individual realises his or her responsibilities. When great women like Jijibai & putalibai produced Shivaji & Gandiji why can't other women also try & produce good citizen? If each woman is educated, most of the social evils can be prevented. I really appreciate your analying mind & interest in spiritual path at this young age. Ofcourse younger age is more conducive for spiritual path. It will protect you from committing acts which are prohibited. Once again I feel sorry for hurting you.

with best wishes



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From the book "Renunciation through Wisdom"

by By His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada:


"The scriptures have declared that in

Kali-yuga everyone is born a sudra, or a menial laborer, a member of the

fourth class."


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