Question: I’m a forward thinking, educated westerner and [comments on women being less intelligent, less trustworthy, etc.] just make me recoil.
Answer by Srila Hridayananda Das Goswami:
People do bring this up all the time. I generally explain that Prabhupada grew up in a different time and culture and this may be reflected in some of his statements on worldly matters. In other words, Prabhupada’s teaching on the nature of the soul, God etc are directly based on scripture. Prabhupada consistently taught us that his statements are infallible when he is citing the scriptures. This means that Prabhupada statements not based on scripture are not infallible.
Regarding intelligence, science now speaks of a variety of intelligences, such as artistic intelligence, emotional intelligence, mathematical intelligence, administrative intelligence etc. In this age, we cannot speak meaningful about a single ‘intelligence’ and say that men are more intelligent. It depends on the context.
Regarding the adultery, trustworthiness etc, we can now study and measure those things scientifically, and so many of these issues, in my view, should be dealt with through social and neurological science.
There is a growing awareness in ISKCON that we must distinguish between different categories of Srila Prabhupada’s statements. In fact, based on my own statements on this topic, the GBC formed a hermeneutic committee which is attempting to rationally categorize Srila Prabhupada’s different statements according to sound philosophical, spiritual, and scientific principles.
Prabhupada saved us, he loved us, and therefore he eminently deserves our devotion, despite a few remarks which we may struggle with.
Interestingly, despite some controversial statements about women, in his own life, Prabhupada treated women with great dignity and respect, as virtually all of his female disciples testify. In fact he braved terrible criticism from Hindus by giving women unprecedented opportunities in his movement.
I suggest that you, again, focus on the unlimited good that Prabhupada is doing, and put aside the few points that deeply trouble you. Even in the material world, children feel great love and gratitude toward their loving, devoted parents, and overlook a few areas in which generations may have different values.
With best wishes,
Hridayananda das Goswami