Constitution for ISKCON As It Is - Article 7


Aug 06, 2017 — CANADA (SUN) —


7.1 Definition

    The varnasrama system comprises the general principles by which members of a Krsna conscious society may advance in spiritual life and become perfect. When properly established, varnasrama-dharma marks the highest status of human civilization. Following the religious principles within this system is known as sanatana-dharma. The varnasrama system delineates the functional divisions of society: the varnas (brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra) , and the asramas (brahmachari, grihasta, vanaprastha and sannyasa), the principle occupations of all people within this societal structure, and the samskaras, or religious rites and observances that mark the passage of life.

7.2 Establishment of Daivi-varnasrama

    His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada gave extensive instructions on the importance of creating brahmanas and establishing daivi-varnasrama. The word 'varnasrama' is mentioned more than 1,000 times in his published writings and lectures. As stated in §, among the aims and objectives comprising this Constitution, a secondary objective of the Society shall be "To revive varnasrama-dharma, the scientific system of social orders of classification based on intelligence, martial spirit, productivity and common assistance, with reference to quality and worth for the common cause of world society."

    Although there are also contra-indications found in sastra regarding establishment of varnasrama in Kaliyuga, the overwhelming preponderance of instruction from His Divine Grace conveys his desire and vision for establishment of daivi-varnasrama. Therefore, the Members shall work to implement daivi-varnasrama, demonstrating the ideals of a Krsna conscious culture within this spiritual framework.

    "Although the Krsna consciousness movement is a movement of brahmanas and vaisnavas, it is trying to re-establish the divine varnasrama institution, for without this division of society there cannot be peace and prosperity anywhere." [34]

7.3 Instructions on Varnasrama

    7.3.1 Sastric Instruction on Varnasrama

      His Divine Grace points out that, foreseeing the degraded condition of Kali-yuga, Lord Krsna hardly discusses varnasrama religion in the Bhagavad-gita and instead stresses the performance of work as sacrifice. [35] Bhagavad-gita does, however, tell us that varnasrama is a system created by Sri Krsna, and it is therefore eternal, and always relevant in society:

      "As confirmed in Bhagavad-gita (4.13), catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah: the four varnas must be established according to varying qualities and work. The first principle for good government is that it must institute this varnasrama system. The purpose of varnasrama is to enable people to become God conscious. Varnasramacaravata purusena parah puman visnur aradhyate. The entire varnasrama scheme is intended to enable people to become vaisnavas." [36]

    7.3.2 Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Instructions

      Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu did not reject varnasrama-dharma, but rather rejected the cheating system that poses as varnasrama under the degraded conditions of Kaliyuga. Sri Caitanya Himself accepted the sannyasa asrama. However, the Lord established that there is a higher goal, and a higher method than varnasrama: "Lord Caitanya's Philosophy is beyond varnasrama; it is Bhagavata dharma, for putting an end to all cheating processes of religion." [37] Daivi-varnasrama is the emphasis of bhakti, devotional service in the varnasrama framework, and this is emphasized by Sri Caitanya, and by His Divine Grace as the method and goal for members of a Krsna conscious society.

    7.3.3 Instructions of the Sampradaya Acaryas

      Despite the difficulties of implementing varnasrama in Kaliyuga, the Sampradaya's Acaryas, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Thakur, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur presented the ideals of varnasrama as a means to preach against the bogus political systems of modern society such as Communism and Democracy. These material systems are unfavorably compared to the perfect system for organizing society as established by Sri Krsna, daivi-varnasrama.

      In 1914, just a few weeks before accepting maha-samadhi, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura expressed this desire to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati: "Worldly people who are proud of their aristrocratic birth cannot attain actual aristocracy. Therefore they attack pure Vaisnavas, claiming that they have taken birth in low-class families because of their sins. Thus they commit offenses. The means to rectify this situation is to institute daiva-varnasrama-dharma. You have started to do that. Know it to be real service to Vaisnavas." [38]

      "My Guru Maharaja wanted to establish daiva-varnasrama. So married life is called grihastha-ashrama. It is as good as sannyasa-ashrama. …As far as we are concerned, we are trying to establish daiva-varnasrama, as it is instructed by the Gosvamis, by Hari-bhakti-vilasa, by our spiritual master. May not be very perfect, but we are trying our best to introduce this daiva-varnasrama" [39]

7.4 Daivi-varnasrama in Current Practice

    7.4.1 Current Aims and Objectives

      Followers of Krsna consciousness are increasingly focused on some of the general aspects fundamental to establishing varnasrama, such as development of rural agrarian communities, cow protection, gurukula, and adult education on varnasrama topics. While all such efforts should be encouraged and continued, the brahminical Members of the Society, under the guidance of the Governing Body Commission and Brahminical Council, shall engage in an ongoing process of deep study and discourse on the topic of implementingdaivi-varnasrama, offering analyses and commentaries, discussing with Members in all varnas and asramas, and giving recommendations for the Members to implement, following the instructions and authorized practices established by His Divine Grace.

    7.4.2 The Asramas

      His Divine Grace introduced the establishment of three asramas in his society: brahmacharis (unmarried scholars fully devoted to the service of Godhead), grihastas (married householders living with family and devoted to the service of Godhead), and sannyasis (fully renounced preachers and retired householders fully renounced to the service of Godhead without any family attachment). The vanaprasta asrama, not functionally established during His Divine Grace's manifest lila, is for retired householders past the age of 50 who are not living with family and are devoted to the service of Godhead. Further defined in sastra are the four stages of brahmacarya (savitra, prajapatya, brahma-brahmacari and naisthika); the four stages of grihasta (vanaprasta (vaikhanasa, valakhilya, audumbara and phenapa); and the four stages of sannyasa (kuticaka, bahvoda, hamsa and niskriya). Members of the Society who proclaim to be in a particular asrama shall strictly follow the authorized standards and principles of that asrama. Sannyasis shall identify themselves according to the stage of asrama they understand themselves to be on (kuticaka, bahvoda, hamsa and niskriya).

    7.4.3 The Varnas

      His Divine Grace did not introduce the establishment of the four varnas into his society to the degree that he did the asramas. Therefore, in the pursuit of establishing daivi-varnasrama, deep study must be taken up on creating structure within the Society based on the divisions of sudra, vaisya, kshatriya and brahmana.

    7.4.4 Purity of the Varnas

      Among the many challenges to be faced in implementing the varnasrama system in modern society, one of the most daunting is the requirement for controlling marriages in order to manage genetics. This element of varnasrama, for the purpose of maintaining purity of the varnas, appears to be predicated upon the assumption of a baseline of purity in the varnas that does not exist in Kaliyuga. Therefore, brahminical Members of the Society must give deep study to this element with respect to implementation of daivi-varnasrama within the Society.

      "One of the objectives of the Krsna consciousness movement is to establish this daiva-varnasrama, but not to encourage so-called varnasrama without scientifically organised endeavour by human society." [40]

    7.4.5 The Sannyasa Asrama

      Following in the footsteps of Lord Caitanya, our Sampradaya Acaryas introduced the program of taking sannyasa strictly to facilitate preaching. Particularly in this age, if the sannyasi is not strictly engaged in a renounced fashion, constantly traveling and preaching, then almost certainty he will fall from the asrama.

      During the extraordinary phenomenon of His Divine Grace's manifest lila, he saw fit to introduce certain procedures with respect to an approval process for sannyasa candidates wishing to take initiation within the institution. This process was introduced not in the early years of his preaching mission, but after the falldown of many of his sannyasi disciples. Until such time as the Governing Body Commission, after deep study, recommends a process for approving candidates for sannyasa in a non-political and sastrically sound manner, there shall be no process or regulations imposed by the Society to control the individual's freewill choice to accept the sannyasa order. Strictly maintaining the standards of the asrama shall alone determine the sannyasi's ontinued good standing as a member of the asrama, and a Member of the Society. Sannyasis who accept the service of additional roles such as diksa-guru or Governing Body Commissioner shall be open to relatively increasing degrees of scrutiny. Generally, sannyasis shall be open to the scrutiny of all Members, who shall not be intimidated or discouraged from pointing out what appear to be indiscretions in the way they conduct themselves in the asrama, according to authorized sastra and the following principles and guidelines: Sannyasis shall abide by all sastric rules governing the asrama. However, alterations established by His Divine Grace and the previous Acaryas shall be carefully examined and taken into account whenever sanctions against a sannyasi are proposed. In such cases, determination in the matter shall be made in consideration of the quality and facility of preaching, and the sannyasi's own spiritual wellbeing. Sannyasis shall avoid all association with women, except for public preaching circumstances that make it impossible not to come into their general proximity. Sannyasis shall not personally handle money and shall have no separate bank accounts or caches of money or personal assets. The sannyasi shall be accompanied and assisted by a strict brahmacari assistant in day-to-day activities and while traveling. As a public person without private interests, sannyasis shall not spend time alone behind locked doors, thereby dispelling any suspicions of impropriety. Sannyasis shall not have a fixed residence such as an asrama or apartment separate from the premises of a Krsna conscious temple or community project where he is preaching. Sannyasis shall annually present to the Governing Body Commission a report detailing the preaching accomplishments for the previous year and preaching plans for the upcoming year. They shall work cooperatively with local leaders to coordinate local preaching, but shall not be restricted from preaching freely, nor be restricted to any zone. Sannyasis shall maintain the decorum of the Vaisnava sannyasa asrama at all times, and shall uphold in all ways the principles of Constitution stated herein.

    7.4.6 Women in Society Female Members of the Society shall be treated with all due respect at all times, recognized in the spiritual role as the Mother of all, and given all protection by male Members of the society, particularly father, husband and son, in accordance with authorized sastra and the instructions of His Divine Grace. Likewise, women shall behave in the mood of Mother to all. However, such spiritual equality shall not be contrived to foster a pretense of mundane social equality between the sexes. Members of the Society shall strive to elevate the role of women to perfection as exemplified in sastra, in the person of the many stellar examples of Vaisnavis displaying their spiritual potencies. Such spiritual empowerments shall be emulated by and encouraged in women, but shall not be confused with mundane so-called empowerments based on gender identification.

      7. 4.6.2 Beyond the scope of sastric definition, all Members shall avoid undue focus on bodily considerations, both female and male, including material societal definitions of gender identification, equality and role, and other non-sastric mundane or political influences.

      7. 4.6.3 It is due to the absence of varnasrama culture in Kali-yuga that a spiritual organization like this Society is at all needed. In lieu of the social controls provided by daivi-varnasrama, this Constitution serves as the organizing structure that safekeeps the Members, notably those requiring the most protection: women, children, the elderly, the brahmanas and the cows. Nonetheless, in accordance with daivi-varnasrama, recommended social structures and duties shall be followed to the greatest degree possible with respect to regulating the interaction between men and women in close proximity, thereby minimizing disturbances that are detrimental to society and the ability of both genders to make spiritual advancement. In the case of Group Member temples, etc. that provide brahmacharini asrama facilities, the protection of Vaisnavis shall be the responsibility of the Temple President's wife or other senior Vaisnavi leader(s) at that facility, who shall assume the role of Mother in taking adequate steps to ensure the daughter's protection.

      7. 4.6.4 Given the sastrically mandated exclusion of women in certain areas of management and public leadership in the Society, and the perception that this can result in unfair bias to women and children in the event allegations of mistreatment or impropriety are raised [41], there shall be female representation on the Judicial Panel in accordance with §

      7. 4.6.5 As established by His Divine Grace, women in the Society shall not be constrained in any way from participating in the preaching field.

    7.4.7 Homosexuality and Alternative Sexuality

      Bodily conceptions such as Homosexuality, Gender Neutrality or Transgenderism shall not be the subject of regulation or special concession, either for or against, within the Society. All forms of sexual proclivity and activity are to be understood in the context of sastra, and all illicit sexual activities and tendencies, meaning those not for the purpose of begetting Krsna conscious children, are understood to be obstacles on the path to self-realization and are therefore to be controlled by sadhana practice and the cultivation of Krsna consciousness. Non-traditional marriage ceremonies or other such ceremonial acknowledgements shall not be conducted in front of the Deities or on behalf of the Society or its Founder-Acarya. Members wishing to do so may pursue such arrangements with civil authorities.

(To be continued...)


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