A few days after our Holy Name Retreat at Ekachakra Dham we embarked on our three-weeks' course "Exploring The Roots Of Spiritual Culture" for ladies.
Quite a few matajis who had been participating in the retreat decided to attend the course. They had received some nourishment and inspiration and were open and eager for more......
We had turned my place at the Mayapur Goshala into a class room - I had bought six chairs to be placed along the sides of the room, we had purchased sitting mats for the floor and had even arranged to get a flip chart made, so we could write things down visibly for all.
We were around twenty eager ladies of various levels of seniority: some were rather new to Krsna consciousness, and some had been practicing for more than 25 years. We also had one disciple of Srila Prabhupada participating. It was a nice group, and we valued each other's association.
We were meeting every morning for three hours going systematically through the topics, and the concise hand-out's were helpful for us all. Every morning we started the day with skits summorizing the topics of the previous day. Role plays are an excellent tool to deepen our learning experience, and they bring the participants together and stimulate their intelligence and creativity.
Every single devotee who participated in this course experienced a rather deep transformation on her world view and outlook on life and it's goals. On the last day we shared realizations, and some ladies were revealing very personal experiences and shedding tears - tears of remorse of past misunderstandings and mistakes, and tears of relief and happiness of having gained valuable insights into the eternal principles and wisdom underlying spiritual culture. It was as if a curtain of ignorance was finally lifted.
Sadhana mataji had ordered the Mahaprasadam of Sri Sri Pancha Tattva, and we accepted prasadam together as a final loving exchange. Syamala mataji from Sydney felt so inspired by this course that she proposed to transcribe the entire course material and make a book out of it.
Books are certainly a very powerful tool to affect people's consciousness, as Srila Prabhupada has been demonstrating.....
Vrindadevi mataji from Swizzerland shared the following reflections which very nicely summarize the mood of the entire course and give powerful food for thought....:
"What is night for all beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled, and the time of awakening for all beings is night to the introspective sage"(BG.2.69).
The day of the ordinary materialist has to become night to me, if I truly want to progress in my spiritual life. The worldview and culture of the materialist and that of the transcendentalist are as opposite as day and night. In the ultimate sense they are incompatible. Understanding this fact more deeply, I can consciously choose how much uplifting spiritual culture I want to integrate into my daily life.
Krsna has endowed the female form with a very powerful energy. I have the choice to use it as an instrument of maha-maya which bewilders and exploits, or I can use it to become an auspicious source of energy to men and thus uplift others around me (SB 4.21.4.). In this way I can greatly influence the atmosphere of my surroundings and have a tremendous responsibility within society. I can choose to either use everything and everyone for my enjoyment in a gross or sublte way, or to nourish all with my service and care.
"Actually, a woman is supposed to be the energy of the man. Historically, in the background of every great man there is either a mother or a wife." (SB.4.26.15.)
The spine gives the main support to the entire body and keeps it upright. But the spine is in the back - not visible from the front. Women who know the art of being the auspicious source of energy to men are like the backbone of society: they keep things together and upright. Men could be compared to the face of society. Just imagine what would happen when the spine wants to be in the front....!
It seems to be a forgotten dignity and honour to serve in the background.
In spiritual culture women are considered to be mothers. They are the care givers and nurturers within society. They balance the forces and harmonize the relationships.
Mother's mood is 'I am last - everybody else comes first.'
ISKCON needs more true mothers and grand-mothers.....
In the name of progress, freedom and independence I lost respectability and real shelter - and I wasted so much time and energy by constantly competing with men and women for the highest position of control and influence. But "the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world." Our children need good mothers who can empower them to become emotionally strong adults one day.
Men need my uplifting energy rather than the bewildering one, and thus they will be inspired to make the sacrifice of protecting and sustaining a family or a community. And in order to take charge of things they need my encouragement, rather than one more competitor. This is an eternal principle which I can observe within family life, but also within society at large.
Hierarchy means "divine order" with Krsna being on the top. But if Krsna is removed, the divine order turns into exploitation. Rather than rejecting the idea of hierarchy and throwing out the 'baby with the bath water' I want to put Krsna back on the top. Being protected as a wife and mother will be a blessing for me, not a curse.
I want to deeply understand the eternal and universal underlying principles of spriritual culture. Spiritual culture is Krsna's culture, which He has made available to me to derive tremendous support on my path back to Godhead. I am not so interested in the details of application of the remnants of Indian or even Vedic culture. I need to understand the eternal underlying principles. Then the application will follow.
I need to be convinced of the beauty and joy of serving and preaching in the mood of a mother, rather than an agent of the prison keeper Durgadevi.
I sincerely pray to Srimati Radharani that She may help Devaki Mataji and others to dive deeply into the subject of spiritual culture. I feel it can indeed give the root and foundation to a more caring and happy International Society for Krsna Consciousness. This course clarified many of my misunderstandings I had grown up with in the sometimes confused family of ISKCON.