His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupäda
Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
yasya prasädäd bhagavat-prasädo
yasyäprasädän na gatiù kuto ’pi
“By Çré Kåñëa’s mercy He gave us our perfect master, Çréla Prabhupäd. And by his mercy he is giving us Krishna. Without Their mercy one cannot progress toward the ultimate goal of life.”
Çréla Prabhupäd gave to his
followers the mission to establish daiva-varëäçram-dharma. This book is an
attempt by its author to assist him in some small way with that mission.
book was originally written just for the members of ISKCON. However, this
knowledge must be
understood by all of human society. Thus I have decided to make it a little more
understandable to non members of ISKCON as well. A number of Sanskrit terms and
words are used, therefore at the end of this book is a Glossary. Refer there
more detailed information as to what the term varëäçram-dharma and other
There are several books that I published in a short time period. This book on polygamy, another as a handbook for girl’s training before marriage and another is entitled "Kanyä Däya; The Father's Most Obligatory Duty To Get His Young Daughter Married”. Actually, everything is included in the Kanyä-Däya book. The other 2 were written for those only interested in the 2 sub-topics (polygamy and pre-marriage training).
Däya book covers many topics related to marriage. Based on Çréla Prabhupäd’s
instructions it most specifically is concerned with arranged marriages by the
father for his daughter. It extends much further, however, and includes chapters
on divorce and remarriage, relationships and duties of the husband and wife,
marriage ceremonies & arrangements, and includes one chapter dedicated to
understanding Prabhupäd's instructions regarding polygamy. Men taking more than
one wife. The reason is simple: Çréla Prabhupäd gave a number of instructions
specifically concerning the marriage of the daughter.
the topic of polygamy is so controversial I decided to publish the information
on it separately for those interested in just this topic.
the Vedic concepts of marriage are controversial in this modern industrialized
world. Çréla Prabhupäd, in accordance with the Vedic injunctions, stressed
getting the daughter married before puberty. Or at the very latest 16 years of
age. He taught that for girls there should be no celibacy. Girls should live
with husband and be given a child as soon as they are physically able. For boys,
celibacy is stressed. If a boy must marry, he should not marry until he is in
his 20’s. More ideally 25 years old. Manu Samhita states the ideal ages as
being 30 for the man, 12 for the girl.
boys, young age means a time of austerity, control, to build up strong
character. In this way Çréla Prabhupäd taught different social and marital
roles and duties for men and women, husband and wives. And Çréla Prabhupäd
taught that marriages should be arranged by the parents, especially it is the
the most obligatory duty of the father to arrange the marriage of his
daughter. Boy and girl must not
freely mix and choose on their own. Allowing boys and girls to mix and
intermingle, Prabhupäd has said, will ruin everything. The father, who is more
mature, must select the proper boy to become the husband for his young daughter.
All of these concepts are at complete odds with modern society’s norm. However, Çréla Prabhupäd describes these processes of marriage to be very scientific. They are not based on ‘old cultural traditions’ alone, but are scientifically founded on the highest knowledge of social organization. It is part of what is called varëäçram, or varëäçram-dharma. The scriptural injunctions that define varëäçram-dharma are referred to as the laws of dharma. ManuSamhita or Manu Smrti being the main dharma shastra (scripture).
amazing feature about the varëäçram system is that it offers the best for
everyone, from the astute renunciate to the gross sense enjoyer to the common
man. Everyone can find happiness and obtain direction toward spiritual goals
the concepts concerning the Vedic system of marriage are controversial,
most are not illegal. There are some countries that have laws
restricting age. Such laws, although designed to protect people, are made in
complete ignorance of the higher principles of protection that are defined
in the Vedic scriptures. Most ironically it is India, the country from
Vedic scriptures come that is one of the worst. There they have passed
irreligious laws making it a crime for a girl to marry before the age of 18.
The only solace is that I was told this law is seldom enforced, especially
in the rural areas. But this is also declining. Many weddings are
performed where the girl is much younger, simply they do not register such
marriage with the government until the girl is over 18.
one practice that is illegal in many countries is the system of
allowing men to take more than one wife. Yet, there are many Mulsim
countries where it is legal. It is legal by Jewish law, although the country
of Israel chose to make it illegal so as to not offend the Western countries
that helped it become established, still there are known to be over 180,000
polygamous marriages among the shepardic Jews and many of the orthodox
Jews have taken second wives. Polygamy was allowed and common in many American
Indian tribes. No tribes are
known to have disallowed it or considered it in a negative way. It is also
legal in many African nations. Fifty years or so ago polygamy
was legal in India. Any man could legally take
Today only Muslims are allowed. Again,
irreligiousity and pressure from Western countries, this was made illegal even
in India. It is still practiced, just not openly or as widely as it used to be.
Within ISKCON, and out, polygamy stand as one of the most controversial
topics concerning marriage.
happens to be a subject that Çréla Prabhupäd spoke about both favorably and
unfavorably. This has created some confusion about it among the members of
For example: In one letter written in January of 1972, Çréla Prabhupäd wrote to a leading devotee, a Governing Body Committee (GBC) member, Karandhar, who asked what the official ISKCON view should be regarding polygamy, Srila Prabhupad said in regards to the religious protection and marriage of the unwed girls in the Krishna Consciousness movement, and to as a solution to the increasing number of divorces and broken marriages in ISKCON, that polygamy was the 'best idea'. He put polygamy forward as the solution to these problems. He instructed that the more qualified men to marry as many wives as they could support nicely. He recognized this was illegal in America, so he advised Karandhar to be cautious and prepared for some scandal. But, then in another letter to the same devotee and other letters to 2 other GBC devotees just 30 days latter he wrote that its practice, in ISKCON, was to be 'strictly prohibited'. (NOTE: Srila Prabhupad used the term ISKCON to refer to his actual ashrams. The ashrams of a guru are mostly for the brahmacaris and sannyasis. In later writings he clarified that grhastas were to live "outside" of Iskcon, making their own arrangements for their own living arrangements and income. So, it can be argued that his instructions encouraging his men to take up polygamy, while 30 days later instructing that it not be allowed in his brahmacari ashrams is not at all contradictory). However, the real reason for this major turn around was that many of the GBC managers of ISKCON objected to this idea. There is some speculation that several GBC actually demanded that Srila Prabhupad write some letters showing that he prohibited it so as to protect his ability to remain in the US, least if the first letter be made public he could have been deported.
he once told one
But, he tells another devotee that he has 'no objection' to the
question whether our men should take more than one wife. He tells another that
his attempt to take second wife is lust only and advises to give
it up. Later he asks a GBC why the men who head up women’s traveling sankirtan
parties don’t marry all the women under their care. Prabhupäd is told there
are up to 20 women in some of these parties and Srila Prabhupäd replies that "we
have no objection" in allowing our men to keep more than one wife. He
once said of his followers that even one takes 16,000 wives, there was no objection
as long as each wife was taken care of nicely.
When I began my serious research on this subject I found these seeming contradictions and it was a bit confusing. Also, those who favored the idea quoted the favorable quotes, those who were fervently opposed quoted only the negative quotes. But, I was not satisfied looking only at one side and ignoring the other. That was not a conclusion. Neither was it satisfactory to think that Srila Prabhupad was flipping and flopping constantly and giving so many contradictory instructions. So, I set out to resolve the seeming contradictions and try to discover Srila Prabhupad's actual position.
The first thing that became clear in keeping a list of the quotes and references is that the favorable ones out numbered the unfavorable by a large margin. And his later and last instructions were clearly in favor. As were almost all references in his books and lectures.
I set out to find out for myself, and to document, just what was Çréla
actual position? What did he really want his followers to do in this regard?
And, WHY? Was there a ‘religious’ purpose behind allowing men to take
more than one
wife? And why did he appear to give those contradictory instructions? The first
thing was to determine whether or not they were actually contradictory
at all. Were there determining circumstances for the different instructions?
And, most importantly, as he has instructed that the later instructions
are to be followed over earlier instructios, what were his last and
This booklet is
the result of this analytical study to find the answers
these questions and to reveal and explain them in a logical and level headed
manner. Using the BBT VedaBASE Folio (which contains all, or almost
all, of Çréla Prabhupäd's writings, letters, recorded lectures and
conversations and his books, indexed electronically) I arranged his instructions
on this topic chronologically. This, along with a careful study, reveals more
definitively what was Prabhupäd's actual position on the matter. And reveals
why there appeared to be contradictions, when in actuality there are none.
Many Hare Krishna
devotees seem convinced that ultimately Çréla Prabhupäd
didn't want any of his followers to practice this. My study clearly shows this
the quotes by
Srila Prabhupad. Verses and
purports are referenced by ISKCON standard abbreviations (ie: SB, BG & CC
for Srimad Bhagavatam, Bhagavad Gita & Caitanya Caritamrita. Also MS refers
to verses in the Manu Samhita). Taped transcriptions are referred by the BBT
Archives DOS file name. For example: 720816sb.la.
This refers to a SB, Srimad Bhagavatam, lecture held on the 16th of
August of 1972, in Los Angeles. Letters are referred to by
BBT Archive date and name to whom letter was addressed. 73-01-09 to Karandhar
refers to a letter sent by Srila Prabhupad to Karandhar dated the 9th
of Jan., 1973. This should make it
easy for others to look up the references themselves in the BBT Folio.