Women and Yajnas
by Gaura Keshava on Friday, 22 July 2011 at 21:04

Respected Students, namaskaram
I have recently answered another question about women and yajnas. It came to my attention that some in ISKCON were preaching against the Pancaratric idea that women and sudras can perform worship and yajna.
Here for your information is that full discussion.
Gaura Keshava das / Keshavachari

Dear Chaturatma prabhu ji, PAMHO AGTSP
Excuse me but I do not have lots of time to deal with questions extensively as I am teaching an online course on Archana according to the Pancaratra Agama. My paying students demanding more of my time. I've started accepting paypal donations for extensive answers to questions that take more of my time. I have to do this because I am asked so many questions. Of course I always have time for my dear friends.
We decide things based on proof. Proof means pratyaksha, anumana and sabda (guru, sadhu and sastra).
On Jul 20, 2011, at 2:34 AM, Chatur wrote:
Also I forgot to include-----
An interesting side note:  I did a grain ceremony recently for a young baby girl.  She was placed on the floor at the end for the traditional coins or books choice.  The books and the coins were to the side of the yajna area and fire pit.  As the child was set down, she looked at the coins, looked at the books, then did a full 90 degree turn and crawled over and picked up the yajna spoons!  Not once, not twice, but three times.  I had never seen this in my 30 years of doing this samskara and concluded only one thing---------to find out the answer to the below two questions!
Of course this folk custom attached to the annaprasana samskara gives us an OMEN or Varshaphala. Omens are not conclusive proof for Vaisnavas. They may indicate something or may not. We have to take them with a grain of salt. If someone wants to take an omen as an indication that he should do something he still needs to corroborate it with guru, sadhu and sastra, what to speak of logic or even simple observation.
An example. Govinda the cousin of Ramanuja was bathing in the sacred Narmada river along with his gurukula classmates. While bathing he found a Siva Lingam. He took this as an omen and became a Saivite. Later however Ramanuja reconverted him back to Vaisnavism. So was the finding of a lingam while bathing a real omen for him to become a Saivite? He may have thought so at the time, but he later became an important Vaisnava acharya.
Pranams!  I have been asked the following two questions several times in the last year:
1) Can women do agnihotras?
I'll start with some proof from Srila Prabhupada:
Letter to: Vaikunthanatha, Saradia
4 April, 1971
Georgetown, Guyana
My Dear Vaikunthanatha and Saradia,...
Even though you have had no gayatri mantra, still you are more than brahmana. I am enclosing herewith your sacred thread, duly chanted on by me. Gayatri mantra is as follows:
Ask your wife to chant this mantra and you hear it and if possible hold a fire ceremony as you have seen during your marriage and get this sacred thread on your body. Saradia, or any twice-initiated devotee, may perform the ceremony....
Hoping this will meet you in good health.
Your ever well-wisher,
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
13 August, 1974
My Dear Amsu das:
Regarding the worship of our Gaura Nitai by women pujaris, we worship Lord Caitanya in His householder life when He was with His wife, and not as a sannyasi. So, it is alright for women to do this service. But, besides this, service is spiritual and there can be no material designation. In Bhagavad-gita it is stated by Lord Krishna: striyo vaisyas tatha sudras te'pi yanti param gatim. The principle is that everyone who is properly initiated and following the rules and regulations can worship. This activity can not on the material platform.
According to the smarta vidhi, women cannot touch deity during menstrual period but the goswami viddhi allows. But it is better not to do it. One thing is that the seva can never be stopped for any reason. This also for the cooking.
I hope this meets you in good health.
Your ever well wisher,
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
So there is proof from Srila Prabhupada that women can do homas and temple pujas.
Can women do agnihotras? Historically yes. First I'll give you evidence then I will deal with Bhaktividhya Purna Swami's objections.
In the Vedic period there is evidence that women did these things. Later in the Smrti period women and sudras were forbidden to hear or chant Veda. When you cannot hear or chant Veda then how can you perform Yajna?
The Pancaratra literature which is also of ancient and divine origin also permits women and sudras to hear and chant the Veda and perform rituals.
So some people like Smartas follow the Smrtis like Manu or Apastambha mainly. While others like Vaisnavas follow the Pancaratra mainly. Vaisnavas do not reject the smrtis but do not follow all of their prescriptions. Smartas reject the Pancaratra so they strictly follow only the later Smrti sastras. There is no doubt that the original system allowed for women and sudras to chant and hear Veda and perform rituals.
Here's the proof, look it up.
1. The "Brahma" priest in a yajna is the best trained purohit who can correct the others involved in the yajna. BRAHM? V? RITVIJ?BHMISHAKTAM AHA - Shatapatha brahmana "Thasy?dyo brahmanishtaha sy?th tham brahm?nam kurv?th" "Atha kena brahmtvam kr?yathe iti trayy? vidyayethi, trayya vidyayeti ha br?y?th" (Aithareya 5.33) Now, a woman can be a brahma as mentioned in Rigveda ( 8.33.-19): "......sthr? hi brahm? vibh?vidhaha". So, according to these qotations, not only a woman can perform a yajna, but she can also be the main purohit conducting it and correcting the others.
2."?ch?ryadaNatvam"... Asht?dhy?yi
"ACHHARYASYA STR? ?CH?RY?N? PUM YOGA ITHYEVA ?CH?RYA SVAYAM VY?KHY?TR?" - Siddh?nta koumudi (the woman who conducts the veda pravachana is called an Ach?rya).
3.?ch?rya lakshana :- "UPAN?YA TUM YAHA SHISHYA VEDAMADHY?PAYED DWIJAHA, SAKALPA SARAHASYAM CHA THAM?CH?RYA PRACHAKSHATHE" ( The one who can conduct the upanayana samsk?ra and teaches the Vedas is called the ?ch?rya) Siddh?nta Koumudi edited by Mahamahop?dhy?ya pandit Shivadatta sarma says,"ITI VACHANEN?PI STR?NAM VED?DHYAN?DIK?RO DHVANITHAHA"(THIS MAKES IT CLEAR THAT WOMEN HAS VED?DHIK?RA)
4.Rigveda 10.159-2.3: "THADVIDAHA.......UT?HAMASMI SAM JAY?...UTTAMAM" ( May I get a good husband.....Because of Vedas, I will become tejasvi and a powerful spokes person... May my daughter shine well because of her good character)
5.T?ndya brahmana (5-6-8) advises that women have to chant s?maved along with veena when a yajna is being conducted. The Mantra 5.5.29 ordains that the women have to circumambulate the yajna kunda chanting the veda mantras.
6..The kumari Gandharva grahath? story in Eithareya proves that the women had all rights for Vedas. L?tyayana ?rautha s?tra, ??nk?yana ?rautha s?tra etc., also confirms the rights of women for Vedas.
There are several other authorities advising women to chant veda mantras. Please see Yajurveda 23- 23, 25-27, 29; Shatapatha brahmana 1-9-2-2-1,; Taittar?ya samhitha 1.1.10, ?swal?yana grihya s?tra 1.1.9, K?taka grihyas?tra 3.1.30, 27-3, P?raskara grihyas?tra 1.5.1,2. , Yajurveda 36-24 "tacchakshurdeva sahitam..." is to chanted only by a woman. Rigveda 10-85.48 has to be chanted by husband and wife together.
Some more authorities for women chanting veda mantras:
Examples of women mantradrasht?ras: Ghosh?, godh?, vishvavar?, Ap?l?, Upanishad, Jahu, Indr?ni, saram?, Romash?, ?rvashi, Lop?mudr?, Yam?, Sh?shvath?, S?ry?savithr?, etc.
Rigveda 10-134, 10-39, 10-40, 8-91, 10-95, 10-109, 10-154, 10-159, 10-189, 5-28, 8-91 ..etc., are from women.
Taittar?ya brahmana 2-3-10.."..Tam tray? ved? anya srijantha... .vedan pradadow" (Three vedas were given to the woman S?t?-savitri through Soma)
Manu's daughter Id? is described in Taittar?ya Brahmana( 1-1-4) as Yajnaprak?shin? meaning Yajna tatva prak?shana samarth?.
To cite examples of mention in Mah?kavyas:
Mahabharata: - Udyogaparva 190-18: "Atra siddh? shiv? n?ma br?hmN? veda p?rag?h?. ." ( A brahmin lady by name Shiv? was a scholar of vedas and she got Moksha)A non brahmin lady Droupadi was a scholar of vedas. Ach?rya Madhva in his Mahabharata tatparya nirnaya says: "Ved?schapyuttama str?bhihi krishn?tt?bhiriha akhil?ha (Good women should learn Vedas like Droupadi)
Valmiki Ramayana:- Sundarak?nda53- 23: Vaidehi shokasantapt? hut?shanmup?gatam ( The sad S?ta did havan ) VR 5-15-48:- "Sandhy?k?le .....Sandhy?rtham varavarnin?" (S?tha would certainly come to the river to perform sandhya vandanam with pure water).
Valmikiramayana 4-16-12, 2-20-15 indicate that Kousalya and Kaikeyi also were doing agnihotra etc.
V?li's wife tara chanted swastimantras.
Puranas: Vishnupurana (1-10) and (18-19); Markandeyapurana (52); Brahma vaivarta purana (14-65) etc., may be seen.
We can go on like this, but I belive that's more then enough to make it very clear the rights and position of women in the vedic culture regarding yajnas and vedic study!
2) Would I train a particular lady when she gets her sacred thread?
Are you asking me if I would do it? Or are you asking whether you should do it? I can't answer for you but I have already done it.
I have trained a German lady disciple of Sacinandana Swami in chanting Vedic mantras, sandhya vandanam and yajna. I have video of her performing homas at ISKCON Zurich if you want to see, how qualified she is.
By the way there is also historical and iconographic evidence that women also wore yajnopavitams or sacred threads. I don't have time to present that to you just now.
I recently saw the attached article and it reminded me that I had planned to write you about this.  What is both your opinion and any knowledge you have of how the Sri Vaisnava's address this.
First let me preface this by saying that Sri Sampradaya is started by Sri devi, Laksmi, who is a divine lady, she receives the divine knowledge and mantras from Sriman Narayana her husband and gives it to her diksha disciple Visvaksena. So she is not only a female but also a guru and founding acharya of this sampradaya. Thus the Vedic mantras (including OM) received by her were also given by her to her disciple.
There are two basic parties in Sri Vaisnavism. Vadakalai and Tengalai. Which mean the Northern school and the Southern school. Now due to the spreading of Sri Vaisnavism to the West there is also a third school called Metkalai or the Western school. The differences are that orthodox Vadakalai Northern school women and sudras do not chant Vedas or even OM, they can hear them, though this is forbidden in Manu and other Smritis. They can also do many rituals without using Vedic mantras. The Tengalai Southern school allow the women and sudras to chant Vedic mantras and OM, they can also hear them.
Normally in orthodox Sri Vaisnava society in India NO ONE male or female can perform Temple worship unless they are specially trained and initiated as Temple Priests. Everyone else is eligible to perform worship only at home. The Vedic system was that husband and wife cooperated at home in the daily fire rituals and other worship. The brahmin without a wife has NO SASTRIC right to perform yajna. When the husband performs the morning and evening aupasana homas he must ask permission from his wife who chants the mantra "Juhudhi" meaning please do the sacrifice. She has to give the permission for him to proceed.
Note that followers of the Metkalai Western school totally accept the original most ancient system of allowing women and sudras to chant and hear Vedas and perform rituals. Nowadays there are many amongst all these communities and even amongst Smartas and other Brahmins who accept women and sudras to be able to chant and hear Vedas and perform rituals. The ISKCON sect of Gaudiya Vaisnavism also accepts that women (they do not have any caste distinctions so they don't discuss sudras) can chant and hear Vedas and perform ritual worship even in Temples. Though it is rare for women to perform yajna in ISKCON I have cited above my installation of Sudarsana cakra in Zurich Switzerland as one example of a woman performing yajna.
Now I will comment on the document from Bhaktividhya Purna Swami's blog that you forwarded to me.
Here is the document with (my comments in brackets):
Mataji asks a Question: Women can chant gayatri, can lead kirtan, can give Bhagavatam class, can worship the deity, so why they are not allowed to perform yajnas?
Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami: Leading kirtan anybody can do, giving class anybody can do, deity worship at home anybody can do, but women donít worship the deity here or in Vrndavan or in Mumbai. Because thatís temple standard. All other temples are technically a home standard.
(According to tradition most orthodox temples in India do not allow anyone male or female to be Temple Priests. Only specially trained and initiated Temple Priests are allowed to be archakas or pujaris. In North India some temples allow any brahmin to be a priest. There are also some new temples that allow women to be priests. An example of an Ancient temple (one of the 108 Sri Vaisnava divine places) called Muktinatha where the salagrama sila comes from had when I visited in 1978 a female priest.)
Yajna is a media. The point is that Agni does not like it.
(Please provide a quote from Agni to this effect.)
So since women are very sensitive and understanding about the feeling of others, so if Agni does not like it, or Ugra Nrisimha does not like it, because Ugra Nrisimha is without His wife so how then it is possible for a woman, who is supposed to be His wife assistant, to come forward to serve Him?
(Please provide the sastric proof of this. Nrsimha is Visnu, Visnu is NEVER separated from his wife Laksmi. How then is Ugra Nrsimha separated from Laksmi? Inherent on the right side of every Visnu deity's chest is a mark called Srivatsa, it is the place and abode of Laksmi. Even Ugra deities like Ugra Nrsimha are never separated from Laksmi.)
But it goes both ways, Ugra Nrisimha also cannot be worshiped by a grihasta man because he is with his wife so how can he approach the Lord Who is without His wife?
(Since when can a married man not approach an unmarried man or man without his wife? Please provide the sastric proof of this. Same argument as above. Even at Ahobilam in South India all 10 ancient Nrsimha deities are worshiped by Grhasthas. According to Pancaratra the Pancaratric priest MUST be married, unmarried or widowed males are forbidden as Pancaratric priests. Sannyasins and Brahmacharis are actually forbidden to be Pancaratric priests. In some sampradayas like Madhva who do not strictly follow Pancaratra they are allowed as priests but grhasthas are not restricted except that there may be some Madhva deities that have only sannyasin priests like Udipi Krishna. Some Madhvas may believe that Ugra Nrsimha should be worshiped only a by celibate persons, but please provide this sastric evidence if you insist on following it. Most do not follow this.)
Therefore only brahmacaris worship Ugra Nrisimha.
(Please provide the sastric proof of this.)
We do have the element that these are people so Agni just does not like to be approached in this way.
(Please provide the sastric proof of this.)
Because a woman is going to do yajna, when is she going to do this yajna? Whenever. Right? Service like this is nitya, every day.
(Actually that is not so. We are discussing Temple Worship. If there is only one Priest or Priestess then sure that person would have to do the service every day. However in most temples there are more than one priest or priestess.)
At home, OK, there the wife can sets the altar and get someone else to do the puja, the son, the husband, but it does not fly in the temple. You are the servant, you do it.
(See above. Both male and females are servants. How does this make any difference?)
Mataji: I am asking this questions not because I donít follow this or I donít believe in it but because I have to answer questions by scholars.
(Then you need proofs from sastra. See my proofs from sastra above.)
Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami: Yes, the point is that it is a matter of cleanliness, because the yajna is done for purification, so you see all the rites, everything is done for purification. So now women donít take a full bath every day, so how are they pure?
Mataji: You mean hair?
Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami: I mean hair. So how are they clean? You slept on your hair Ė not clean.
(Of course men can have long hair also, and women can have short hair and wash it. But apart from that the sastra says that women CLEAN their hair by brushing it. If you want the Sanskrit I can provide it.)
Thatís why women can be involved in home worship but not in temple worship.
(This makes no sense. You cannot be unclean in any puja, house or temple. If one is impure for the temple then one is impure for the house also.)
As I said, all our temples except for three are set as home temples.
(Who said? What is the source of this? Did Srila Prabhupada ever say this, or is this just your perception? Please provide the sastric proof of this opinion.)
If you know pancaratra, if you donít know pancaratra then, yes, you can say anything, speculate as you like, do anything.
(Do you actually know Pancaratra? Do you know the evidences of Hari Bhakti Vilasa? Do you have any sastric proofs? You can also say anything. Please provide the sastric proof with your opinions. QUOTE "Not only faithful twice born brahmanas, but also chaste ladies and pious sudras who are engaged in the service of their spiritual master are qualified to be initiated into the chanting of this mantra. This is described in the Tantras. According to the rules and regulations of the Agamas, women can faithfully perform puja to Lord Visnu while remaining devoted to their husband and sudras who have taken initiation can also worship Lord Visnu." Hari Bhakti Vilasa 1.194-5 "Initiated women are also eligible to worship Lord Visnu, especially if they desire the benefit of their husband. THIS IS THE ANCIENT CUSTOM." HBV 1.197 What quotes do you have against women worshiping in Pancaratra???)
Because you are connecting these different things that have nothing to do with each other. Gayatri, lead kirtan, give Bhagavatam class, worship the deity so why not yajnas? But they are all different categories, they are not connected.
(Indeed they are connected. The reasons why the Smrtis have cited that women and sudras cannot perform yajnas is that they are not qualified by being not initiated, not being able to chant Vedic mantras, etc. In ISKCON women (they do not have any caste distinctions so they don't discuss sudras) can chant Vedic mantras, and are initiated into them, they also perform Temple worship all over the world except for a couple of Indian temples. They are also hardly allowed to lead kirtans or give class in those temples either. Whereas in most other places they can and do. No doubt they do all those things more infrequently than males. However these actions are linked in sastra.)
It is like why only women can have babies, why men canít have them?
(Wrong example. If it's not like that at all. Please provide the sastric proof with your opinions.)
Plus, deity worship means what kind of deity worship?
(This should not matter. Any Vaisnava of whatever sex may worship any deity. Can males worship female deities? Yes. Then why females cannot worship male deities? Please provide the sastric proof with your opinions.)
The ladies like to come in even better if someone else already undressed the deity and wiped Him, and then to put the dress, to put the flowers, to do all these nice things, do the offering, do the arati, anything thatís personal and anything thatís seen. You know what I mean?
(Males also like to do these services, and women also can do the other services. You have given no proof of your ideas that women should only dress and decorate. However even then you accept women do these services, so is this not against your point? Please provide the sastric proof with your opinions.)
Which woman will go for years with the salagram worship with all the technical details in the back where nobody sees and nobody sees the salagram? Name me one; I will be happy with one name. You understand? It is against the nature.
(Shasti and Swati are two names. There are several ISKCON women I know who also worship salagrama. Srila Sanatana Goswami concludes in Hari Bhakti Vilasa that Vaisnava women and sudras can worship salagrama. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu gave Raghunatha das goswami his govardhana sila to worship even though he was born as a sudra. QUOTES: "Therefore everyone, whether brahmana, women or sudra should engage in worshiping the Supreme Lord in His form as the salagrama sila after being duly initiated." HBV 5.450 "It does not matter whether one is a woman, sudra, brahmana, or ksatriya, anyone who worships the salagrama sila attains the eternal abode of the Lord." HBV 5.452 "According to those who are the knowers of the truth, the statements prohibiting the worship of the salagrama sila by sudras and women that are found in the scriptures are applicable only to those who are not devotees of Lord Visnu." HBV 5.453)
Why is the lady there? Because you can see it, all other ladies will say Ė ďO, they look beautiful today!Ē Ė thatís her inspiration. Anybody is telling Jananivas that his worship of the salagram is fabulous? Who would even know? How could you tell? You see the salagram and the face, bas, thatís it. You canít tell if the worship was done nicely. But you can see the clothes, you can see the garlands, you can see these things. So that means unless you know what is a woman you canít understand these answers anyway. So thatís the point, God created man and woman, He knows who they are and therefore He is giving them their duties. So you have to know who they are.
(What is that supposed to mean? No sastric proof. You are inferring something that is not supported by you with sastra.)
So in the yajna, because the fire is the most pure, therefore can only be touched by someone who is pure.
(See my quotes and argument above. This has already been defeated.)
A woman is going to do all these achamans and stuff like that?
(Sure. Why not?)
Do you know how many levels of purity there are?
(Perhaps you could quote something from sastra about it, please.)
What they are teaching there (The Mayapur Academy) is home worship. Even the samskaras they are teaching there is a general thing. But the point is like this: the water that is here, behind you, this is for washing your hands. The acaman cup is used for the deity. And even then, there is one acaman cup that is used for your purification and there is another one for the deity. So already here we described three levels of purity.
(So what? This is besides the point.)
Men have trouble with that, let alone ladies. Women will only do it because it is the religion, because purity is a good thing, this, that. But thatís who? Brahman women. Brahman women donít have problem with this because they know who they are. Any woman that knows the standards of purity knows they are not pure.
(You have not explained why and when women aren't pure or why and when men or sudras aren't pure. Please explain with quotes from sastra. You are inferring things without proof.)
It is said that there is one day in the month that they are considered pure.
(Sastric proof please?)
After the fourth day when they take their bath.
(He is now referring the fourth day of the menstrual cycle after a lady takes her rtu snana or seasonal head bath)
Then they are called, I think, atrei. Which means killing a woman on that day after taking the bath is equal to killing a brahmana.
(Sastric proof please?)
On that day, everything is so clear, they can discuss philosophy, they have so much realizations, everything happens on that day, and then next day - bang, back to normal. All the emotions flood in, but that one dayÖThat does not mean that on that day they can do yajnas.
(Sastric proof please? Sounds like misogynist propaganda.)
Means that there is only one day when they are like that. And nitya means it is every day. Is that makes sense? So it is a matter of understanding what is a woman, what a woman actually likes? Just like if you look in an architecture book, letís say about offices. OK? And you look in there at the offices. And some of these modern offices are very slick, they are made of glass and stainless steel, there is one computer on the desk, one lamp, like that, so who can work in such offices, men or women?
(This makes absolutely no sense. I'm not sure what this strange argument is supposed to mean? Even male executives have pictures of their families on their desks and males also decorate their work places with personal things just like women do. Perhaps you have not worked in an office yourself, Swami ji.)
Mataji: Men.
(How did she come to that conclusion? By appealing to stereotypes?)
Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami: Right. If there was a woman there then there would have been pictures, flowers, she can be the CEO of a biggest company in the world, you go to her home, she still has her teddy bear in her bed. So thatís the point is that there is an inherent nature in the woman. And therefore God is trying to please that. Why would women want to make yajnas, because thatís just a thing that they canít have, so the things that you canít have give you a taste. But why should they look there for this taste? Because the men are not providing the taste where they should get it naturally and thatís why they are looking here.
(A unique misogynist argument, which does not make sense. But where in sastra does it say this?)
Thatís why they are after anything that men have. The man is supposed to provide, he is not, so therefore they are going to get everything he has.
(So it's like penis envy???? Are you serious?)
 Thatís the point, it is not a matter of whether you like it or not, thatís the way Agni likes things done.
(Sastric proof please?)
 The woman will not spend the time to get the svaras exactly right in the vedic mantras, thatís why they are not trained to chant these mantras.
(Sastric proof please? In fact all women in ISKCON are trained and given gayatri mantra, does that not have svaras? The fact is that no one in ISKCON was trained in svaras before but now they are all beginning to get trained. So why not the women also?)
 Because it sounds nice, it is good enough, why be fanatic? But you have to be fanatic in these things. But thatís why only men can do it.
(Why? Because only men are fanatics???)
 Salagram worship Ė you have to be fanatic about it.
(Srila Prabhupada said that it is easy. QUOTE: "The salagrama-sila should be worshiped with tulasi where a sufficient quantity of tulasi leaves are available. Worship of salagrama-sila should be introduced in all ISKCON temples. Salagrama-sila is the form of the Lordís mercy. To worship the Deity with the sixty-four items mentioned may be a difficult job, but the Lord has become so small that anyone in any temple can carefully handle Deity worship simply by performing the same activities with the salagrama-sila." CC Mad 24.336)
 Otherwise Prabhupada says Ė why should you come to that side if you are not going to do the 65 items?
(64 not 65 items. QUOTE: "In the Hari-bhakti-vilasa (11.127Ė140) there is a vivid description of what is required in Deity worship. There are sixty-four items mentioned." CC Mad 24.334 What exactly are you saying Srila Prabhupada said?)
 So if you not going to do all the technical things, why are you going? Therefore it is just not done. Because we will take that the home worship and the salagram worship is the same, but they are not, the salagram is directly Visnu, he is not installed, He is Visnu, but the deity is installed.
(FYI the installed deity is also Visnu. You have not properly described the difference between the installed Visnu and the self-manifest Visnu.)
 Therefore Ė the yajnas, the salagram and the big temple worship Ė these are the things they donít do. And thatís it.
(You need to post some sastra to support that. Why not just do that to begin with, instead of all the speculation?)
Everything else they can do, everything else they can learn.
(What do you mean everything else, like Sandhyavandanam? Sraddhas? Utsavas?)
 There is so much there, if there is 99 percent or 98 percent of what you can do, why going there? Do the 98 percent first and then you can talk about the 2 percent that is left. They are not doing the 98 percent and want that, whatever it is, they want that, you know.
(Men aren't doing 98 percent of it either! So what?)
 Why donít ladies start wearing caupins? Why they donít do that?
(Not only ladies but all men but sannyasis need not wear kaupins. How is this relevant?)
 Men wear white always, white dhoti, white kurta, day in and day out, the whole life, why donít the women do that?
(Some do. But how is this relevant?)
 The man only have 3 sets of clothes or 5 sets of clothes, why donít the women do that?
(Some do. But how is this relevant?)
 The man does not shave his legs, why donít the women do that?
(Some don't. But how is this relevant?)
 He leaves his eyebrows alone, he does not pluck them, so why donít the women do that?
(How is this relevant?)
And is it fair, he does some good activity she gets 50 percent of that, she does some bad activity, he gets 50 percent of that, is that fair, is that equal?
(How is this relevant?)
 Why the men are not striking about that? The point is that women already have 90 percent of the whole thing, now they say we want from the 10 percent that are left 50 percent and you get 50 percent. We are not talking about from 0 to 100 percent, the women already have the whole package and they want more. Therefore it is cheating.
(What??? You are not making sense.)
 Mataji asks a Question: Women donít receive upanayana because they are not qualified?
(Is that meant to be a question??? Or a statement?)
Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami: No, they receive upanayana in the form of marriage. They do receive but it is in the form of marriage.
(While it is true that women receive a mangal sutra at the time of marriage in lieu of a upavitam sacred thread and their husbands have to wear an extra sacred thread indicting that they are grhasthas. The upanayanam is not exactly equal to the vivaha samskara. For example the duties of the person who actually takes upanayanam are different that the person who simply marries. In ISKCON women get upanayanam and vivaha both. Somehow although they get the gayatri mantra and sit in the yajna they do not get the upavitam sacred thread. Though there is evidence of this in ancient times.)
 Mataji: But sometimes we see women do yajnasÖ
Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami: They donít do yajnas there. It is like this, if I take a pack of noodles, cook it and give it to you, is that cooking?
(Sounds like it. What's your point?)
 No. So what are they doing is not yajnas.
(Who said? Where is the sastric proof?)
Because it is all about them. If you have ever done a yajna, whatever you are wearing gets ruined.
(Not true. I've done plenty of homas. Maybe in ISKCON yajnas your clothes get ruined but this is not always, or even the normal, situation.)
 Because of your endeavor to make the best arrangements for the fire to be able to accept the wood, the ghi and all the offerings. So these things burn holes on your clothes, ghi gets all over the place, everything turns blackÖ
(I agree that there can be some mess sometimes. You must be a very messy purohit. But how is this relevant?)
So when you watch those yajnas that women are doing what it is like? They have this small fire and everything is perfect. This is not yajna. It does not have anything to do with Agni, it is all about them being the center of attention.
(Sounds misogynist to me, how is this relevant?)
 Basically that means their husbands donít know how to take care of them so they have to come in public and try to get some attention.
(Now you blame the husbands? How is this relevant or sastric?)
Because somebody who is actually brahminicaly qualified, why they have to do that?
(No one has to make yajnas or pujas, they usually do it for the service of the Lord and because He mandates it in sastra.)
 Mataji: ...
Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami: Because it is a media where they cannot function. If they say, men can do it, so we can do it, but then men are wearing white. Why donít the ladies start wearing white? Simple.
(Yes, simple, but that was not your only objection. So far you have not actually quoted any sastric objection.)
 Just think of the money you will save. Think about all that endeavor for everything like that. So why is not that done? No, because we are women and we need all these thingsÖso the point is that they are going to do all those things in the yajna. The man is doing the yajna and thatís it, when the woman is doing it, it is the whole thing about who is looking, what the other ladies will say Ė who she thinks she is to do this Ė this is going onÖSo there is nothing in a yajna for women.
(Sounds misogynist to me, how is this relevant? Where is this stated in sastra? It sounds like your speculation.)
 Deity worship Ė yes, dressing the deity, the interaction, the beautifying, there is something there for them. So they can be involved in the field of pancaratra.
(In Pancaratra, yajna is also prescribed. Pancaratric yajna is not Vedic yajna. Actually Vaisnavas don't perform Vedic yajnas usually, they only perform Agamic yajnas. The Vedic yajnas like agnistoma or atiratra aren't part of Vaisnava practice. You aren't even doing Vedic yajnas in your school. You are doing Agamic yajnas.)
 But in the Vedic yajna there is nothing for a woman to be involved in.
(See my sastric quotes above. Even in the Asvamedha sacrifice women are required.)
 The ladies like to dress the deities, the ornaments, thatís what the ladies like. But there are none of those in the yajna. The setting up the yajna Ė the ladies traditionally do this. They can do all the decorations. But those ladies they donít want to do anything like that, it may spoil their clothes and this and thatÖThey just want to come in and do the little dinky yajnaÖI have seen it, their fire is that big.
(Apparently size matters to you! But where is that stated in sastra, that a big yajna is only possible. Size is not everything. There are specific sizes given in sastra for different homas, bigger than that is not sastric either. Daily Vedic homas like aupasana and samida dhanam are very small.)
And they are doing some big yajna, hundreds of people are attending. They donít know the nature of men and women. These women donít get the attention they need in their family life and in their social life and they need to go out in public and to get this feeling of being the center of attention, anything that can give them this feeling.
(Sounds misogynist to me, how is this relevant? Where is this stated in sastra? It sounds like your speculation.)
Brahmacaris dress the deities every day. They are not out there asking Ė what do you think?
(I have had many ask me this. I have myself asked people this when I have dressed the deity. I have dressed many deities for many years in many ISKCON temples. Sounds misogynist to me, how is this relevant?)
 But the ladies, if they do something like this they are out there expecting to hear the comments Ė it was so nice, but if they donít hear such comments they will not do it again.
(Sounds misogynist to me, how is this relevant?)
 So that means there are certain things the men do and women donít just because of the nature. Like the salagram worship with all the mudras, the ladies donít want to do all these technical things; they want to draw the nice faces only. It is fun to learn them, ladies know them. But they donít do it because every day it is the same, it is boring for the ladies, but dressing you can change every day. But now you do this mudra, now chant this mantra, and all this never changes, this part the ladies donít like.
(This comment sounds offensive to all those women pujaris in ISKCON who did all the deity worship day in and day out over years. How is it relevant.)
 So one should know what works and what does not work, otherwise one will be dissatisfied. The brahmacaris are on the altar, they do the worship and go, there are no conflicts, no riots, but if there is just one woman involved there is a big problem, I have seen it.
(Sounds misogynist to me, how is this relevant?)
 Once a year here in Mayapur they do everything, they polish Pancha Tattva, and it becomes a riot, who is in charge, who says what, who she thinks she is, that is all that is going on. They polish the deities, but it is not nice. Therefore there are certain things that women do and things they donít.
(Sounds misogynist to me, how is this relevant?)
Mataji: But what if a woman is brahminicaly qualified?
Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami: But brahminicaly qualified means they work in a brahminical environment, it does not mean that they can do the yajnas.
(Huh??? What is this supposed to mean???)
 Mataji: Ö
Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami: It is just like this, when Prabhupad was here did the ladies make yajnas, or worship the deities?
(Yes, they did and do worship deities all over the world. And no one practically did yajnas so neither did most men do yajnas. So what? How is that relevant?)
 Did ever ladies do any yajnas? Not one.
(No kids did them either, only TPs and GBCs did them on behalf of Srila Prabhupada or he did them himself. How is that relevant?)
It was not even a discussion, it just does not happen. People can do it, men and women are equal, but where are they equal? Do you want to be equal to a man? Or you want to be superior to him or junior to him? Equal, where is the fun in that? It is the difference that makes the whole environment that the women work. People donít understand that. If you buy something for 10 rupees and sell it for 10 rupees where is the profit? But if I buy it for 10 and sell it for 100, or 1000, or 1 000 000Ö So the greater the difference, the greater the profit. The greater the difference between men and women Ė the greater is the profit in their interaction. Why the men instead of hanging the whole day with the brahmacaris donít spend half of the day just making their hair and making sure they look all right? Because the difference is there is a taste. But if we are going to work on equality here thenÖYou go downstairs here, the brahmacaris eat the same things, day in, day out. It does not change. You see any women down there? No. So? Equal means that. You want to be in the menís world Ė then be in the menís world. Not pick and choose what do you want out of it. You are in it, or donít bother. If everything is equal why donít the men ask ďHow do I look?Ē They come in their white dhoti and say Ė ďYou did not say if you like my dhoti!Ē ďNo, I like your dhoti.Ē ďNo, but you are just saying that!Ē
Devotees: Chuckling.
(Sounds misogynist to me, how is this relevant?)
Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami: You would like that, you would be comfortable with men like that in your house? Right? No. So where is the equality? This whole thing comes from frustrated women where men donít know how to deal with them. Men donít know how to be men so then the women have to fill the gap, but still they are trying to fulfill the needs of women. Though they are doing it by picking certain things from the menís world, but they are not functioning there in that way.
(Sounds misogynist to me, how is this relevant?)
Mataji: Many people marry because they have sexual needs. But after having a child as a result some just want to have sex without having children. Do they have to perform all rituals before sex?
(How is this relevant to women doing yajnas? Why are you asking a sannyasi this question? Shame on you.)
Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami: The point is that sex has strange phenomena that it produces children. Therefore if you have sex it will be in a regulated fashion, in specific time and all this things. Basically there are two things Ė unbridled desire which will always be a problem, and the other point is, at least in most of the people, you can buy this comment or not, it is up to you, in most cases people donít understand the actual meaning of intimate interaction between man and woman. Because most of what is intimate is not sex. Men only know sex, and sex is better than nothing for the women. But actually women are not looking for sex, they are looking for that intimacy. So if that is understood then there will be lot of things that they can be close and intimate and there will be no need of sex. But because people are untrained then the bottom line is just sex and then you have this problem.
(How is this relevant to women doing yajnas? Why is a sannyasi speaking on this subject?)
 Mataji: What is the solution?
Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami: The solution is training but you can train only someone who wants to be trained, and unfortunately when people get married they think that they are the world experts in men-women relationships but unfortunately very few are.
(Although this last comment is irrelevant to the main issue of women and yajna's still it is probably the only thing I agree with him on. Certainly though a sannyasi is not going to train men and women on their interpersonal relationships. This could be better accomplished by a senior grhastha couple. It is traditionally the role for the parents of the young couple.)
The end of Bhaktividhya Purna Swami's blog entry on Women and Yajnas.
Actually the Vedic rules forbid a Sannyasi from performing yajna. However since Bhaktividhya Purna Swami is performing only Pancaratric Agamic yajnas Vaisnava rules allow for him to perform them. However he should understand that the same Pancaratric rules that allow him as a sannyasi to perform yajna also allow women and sudras to perform worship and yajna.
Gaura Keshava das