It is understood that there are other instances then what I have listed here when Çréla Prabhupäd spoke on the topic. I may not have found every instance. There are times Çréla Prabhupäd made reference to it in a removed sense, and therefore these were not actual instructions about are practice and were not used as references. For example: Çréla Prabhupäd gave an analogy of a man who has 5 wives. He comes home from work and each wife grabs a different arm, leg and one grabs him by the neck. All 5 wives are pulling him saying, "Please come to my room tonight". The man is screaming in pain. The analogy is that the wives are like the 5 senses and the man is like the soul. The senses are each competing and pulling the soul, come here, enjoy with me. But the senses do not care for the eternal happiness of the soul. Meanwhile the soul is suffering, being pulled in all directions at once by the uncontrolled senses. This was not an instruction about polygamy. Other instances like this were not referenced.
Note, in the references given in this article, emphasis is that of the author.
first reference I found was Çrémad-Bhägavatam lecture 5.5.1-2 in
London (Tittenhurst) on September 13, 1969:
There is no widow marriage in India. They, the... Manu-saàhitä, the law-givers, the saintly persons, Manu saàhitä... Why widow marriage is prohibited? The idea is generally, everywhere, in all countries, the female population is greater than the male population. So the idea is that she has become widow. She was once married. Now if again she is married, another virgin girl, she does not get the chance of being married. Therefore there is no widow marriage according to Hindu scripture. And a man is allowed, if he is, I mean to say, able man, he can marry more than one wife. Not that simply marry. To get more than one wife does not mean sense enjoyment. The wife must be maintained very respectfully. She must have good house, good ornaments, good food, good servants, good children. Then one can marry. Not that simply for sense gratification. -- 690913SB.LON
Prabhupäd is explaining that widow marriage is prohibited by Shastra, by the laws of Manu. If a widow or divorced woman remarries then another virgin girl doesn't get the chance of having husband. Another way to see this is that no brahman (priestly class) would ever consider a divorced or widowed woman for a wife. For a brahmana this is totally unacceptable. Despite the man's age, or how many wives he has, a gentle brahmana would only consider a chaste virgin a candidate for wife. As Prabhupäd's instruction shows, this provides a system by which all unwed virgin girls get a chance for a husband. According to the laws of dharma, Manu Samhita, there is no such thing as divorce. No such thing as widow marriage. Yet, men are allowed, by the same laws of dharma, to marry more than one wife.
On Aug. 15, 71, Room Conversation, also in London, Çréla Prabhupäd says,
Prabhupäda: Miniskirt, trying to show the private part and people will be attracted and she will be happy. This is regular prostitution. Regular prostitution. Still they are not getting husband. Even they walk naked... That will come. Say after fifty years it will come like that.
Çyämasundara: They are starting already some places, walking naked.
Prabhupäda: And the law is you cannot marry more than one wife. The rascal lawgiver. So many women, there must be... One husband, at the present moment, must marry at least one dozen wives, otherwise they're going to hell. At least, she will know that "I have got a husband." Maybe the husband of twelve wives, but they are anxious to have a husband. That facility should be given to them. They are anxious.
Parivräjakäcärya: But they don't want to have any children.
Prabhupäda: That is next program. Why not? Now we are having our wives, so many children. Los Angeles full of children. So natural way should be accepted. They require husband. The law is, "No. You cannot have more, you cannot marry [more than] one wife." The girls have become prostitute. That's all right. "The girls are becoming prostitute. That's all right. But you cannot marry more than one." What is this?
Çyämasundara: They have contraceptive pills even for young children.
Kulaçekhara: One barrister, one of the top judges in England, a top man, top doctor, he said children should have sex life at fourteen. He said this in the newspaper two days ago. He said children at fourteen should be allowed to have sex life. He said this should be made legal. He's a top doctor or judge.
Çyämasundara: Children should be allowed to have sex life at fourteen years old.
Prabhupäda: Yes. That is psychological. They develop... Sex life, sex urge is there as soon as twelve years, thirteen years old, especially women. So therefore early marriage was sanctioned in India. Early marriage. Boy fifteen years, sixteen years, and girl twelve years. Not twelve years, ten years. I was married, my wife was eleven years. I was 22 years. She did not know what is sex, eleven years' girl. Because Indian girls, they have no such opportunity of mixing with others. But after the first menstruation, the husband is ready. This is the system, Indian system.
Çyämasundara: So they are not spoiled.
Prabhupäda: No. And the psychology is the girl, after first menstruation, she enjoys sex life with a boy, she will never forget that boy. Her love for that boy is fixed up for good. This is woman's psychology. And she is allowed to have many, oh, she will never be chaste woman. These are the psychology. So these rascals, Westerners, they do not know and they are becoming philosopher, scientist, and politician, and spoiling the whole world. They can be saved only by this Kåñëa consciousness movement. There is no other way. – 690817rc.lon
"And the law is you cannot marry more then one wife. Rascal lawgiver". "One husband at the present moment must marry at least one dozen wives, otherwise they're going to hell." Because there are so many unprotected women, in general, one man must take at least twelve wives. Otherwise, for want of happiness, women are practically walking naked so men will be attracted to their bodies. Still, the result is they are not becoming happy. Men take advantage of them for sense pleasure, that is all. It is significant to note that Prabhupäd is saying "at present moment" a man must take at least twelve wives. He is promoting this practice for now, at the present time, not just speaking about how things used to be in Vedic times.
An 18 year old girl, she is allowed by law to dance naked in front of drunken men at a bar, but same 18 year old girl is forbidden by law to be protected and properly taken care of by a man as his second wife. Modern law prohibits the man from protecting more than one girl, but allows girls to become prostitutes and naked dancers. The modern system is corrupt. That corruptness is due to a lack of religious principles. Modern Judeo-Christian culture has failed.
Devotees mention that the non-devotees are giving birth control pills (and today it is condoms) to young girls at school. One doctor or judge (in England) is quoted as saying that it should be made legal for girls to have sex at age 14. I think what was meant was girls should be allowed to dance naked and become prostitutes, legally, at age 14. But Çréla Prabhupäd answers that, yes, girls must have sex by 14, by 12. Just after first menstruation, husband should be ready to give her child. That is proper system. Then the girl is properly protected in accordance with the laws of dharma, religion.
Modern "liberals" want that young girls, 12 years old, should be given condom and taught how to have 'safe-sex'. So-called safe 'illicit' and irreligious sex outside of marriage. They argue the girls are going to have sex at that age anyway, therefore schools should promote that they have (so-called) ‘safe-sex’. Let them have sex with as many boys as often as they like, but tell them that by using a rubber condom that will make it ‘acceptable’.
The "conservative" 'religious-right' say young girls should abstain until they are married. But, today they say this should not be until the girl is at least out of school, 18 or older.
While the law of Dharma (and Çréla Prabhupäd), the Vedic scriptures, they say: Girls who have reached puberty must have religious husband, and as soon as possible the girl is be given a God-Conscious child. And the law of dharma is that girl must have no other boy friends prior to husband, therefore it is father’s duty to arrange a husband for his daughter. As soon as she is able she is to be given a child by her lawful religious husband. The girls’ desires are satisfied and as long as her husband provides for her, she remains peaceful for her whole life. According to scripture, this is the secret psychology of women. If they have sex with a man just at puberty, and then live with that man as husband and wife, and he takes care of her nicely, then she will feel satisfied and happy, peaceful, for the rest of her entire life.
By following this system there is no question of illicit sex or unwanted children. This is protection of women. Anything less is a lack of protection. There will be problems. It is a-dharma, against the laws of religion.
And to achieve this level of protection, Prabhupad says that at present one man must take at least 12 wives.
On Aug 16, 72, Srimad Bhagavatam lecture in LA, Prabhupäd says,
So actually human civilization begins when there is varëäçrama-vibhägaçaù, four varëas and four äçramas. Here is brähmaëa, kñatriya, vaiçya, çüdra, brahmacäré, gåhastha, vänaprastha, sannyäsa. Unless human society is scientifically divided in this varëäçrama system, it is animal society. It is not man’s society. Therefore he is stressing varëäçrama. Not others who are not within the category of varëäçrama, they are animals. So when the human society comes to the system of varëäçrama-dharma, then they can think about God. Otherwise it is not possible. Animal, how they can think about God? …
… So we are creating first-class nationalists in this Kåñëa consciousness movement who can save your country. We are not creating cats and dogs and bluffing the society. We are actually creating real nationalists of your country, real scholars. We don't decry material civilization, no. We don't say that. Yesterday on the beach I was talking with Karandhara, "Why your country does not allow to marry more than one wife?" He said they think it is immoral. I do not know what is the ethics or psychology behind it, but giving opportunity for the girls to become prostitute is not immoral? To marry more than one wife is immoral? You see your leaders. This is the leaders. Why? Because there is no varëäçrama-dharma, they do not know. The brähmaëas, the kñatriyas, especially, they are allowed to marry more than one wife. At least every woman will get a chance to have a husband.
So it is very scientific system, but they are killing. In India it was there, and still the rascal leaders, they are trying to kill it. Classless society—how you can make classless society? They are dogs, cats..., how you can make classless society? It can be made in Kåñëa consciousness, because when you accept Kåñëa as the supreme master, the supreme proprietor, bhoktäraà yajïa-tapasäà sarva-loka-maheçvaram, then you become classless. – 720816sb.la
(The conversation Prabhupäd refers to with Karandhar the day before is not in the archives and was most likely not recorded). Human society begins when there is varëäçram. Without varëäçram it is animal society.
Srila Prabhupad then says how he is creating first-class citizens, real scholars, who will save their country. Then, without any break, he rhetorically asks why polygamy is prohibited? Why are men not allowed to marry more than one wife? Then he answers, "Because there is no [system of] varnashram-dharma". In this way he was arguably upholding men who can protect more than one wife as examples of the type of first-class men, the "real scholars", he was creating that will save their nations. He calls polygamy a "very scientific system" and calls the leaders who have tried to have it killed in India as "rascals".
Çréla Prabhupäd says the reason for this is that there is no varëäçram dharma. No religious principles. Prabhupad says polygamy is not being allowed due to a lack of dharma, true religious principles.
Brahmanas (priestly class) and Ksatriyas (government leaders), society's leaders, they are especially allowed more than one wife. The more educated, spiritually and materially advanced, they are especially allowed. Why? As society's leaders it is their duty to protect the women. Protection means marriage. If the leaders of society take many wives, not only will every woman be properly protected and have a husband, they will have the most qualified husband. A leader of society, ruler or saintly husband.
It is not being allowed due to a lack of varnasram-dharma. Polygamy is one of the ingredients required to save society. Previously he had said presently every man must accept at least 12 wives or they will all go to hell.
3 days latter, Aug 19, 72, Srimad Bhagavatam Lecture again in Los Angeles, Çréla Prabhupäd says
According to Vedic civilization, because man is very aggressive, so he's allowed to accept more than one wife. He's allowed. Generally, female population is greater than the male population. So the Vedic principle is that every girl must be married by the guardian, father. A father's duty is, as soon as girl is thirteen years old, fourteen years old, it is the duty of the father, or in the absence of father, it is the duty of elder brother to get her married. Some way or other, find out any husband. Yes. So if every girl has to be married, and if the female population is greater, then where to get so many husbands? Therefore it is very nice system that one man can marry more than one wife. That is natural.
So in Vedic system a husband can marry... Why others? Kåñëa, He married 16,000 wives... ...So that is Kåñëa; He is God. But even common man... Just like Kåñëa's father, he had also sixteen wives. Kåñëa is one wife's son. Vasudeva... Subhadrä is another wife's daughter. Balaräma is another wife's son. So in order to stop this rascaldom, that a human, I mean to say, man, he's allowed: "Marry them. Keep them nicely. Give them apartment. Give them nice food, nice dress, nice ornament. You enjoy." But rascaldom means "No, without responsibility I shall make phish, phish, phish" that's all. -- 720819sb.la
Çréla Prabhupäd is explaining that every girl must be married. So he says it is very nice system that one man can marry more than one wife. He says that it is father's duty to get daughter married by 13 or 14, "Some way or other, find out any husband". Where to find so many qualified husbands? Therefore polygamy is a very nice system. Practically speaking Çréla Prabhupäd is encouraging it. And he is speaking to the devotees, he is not saying this is not for them to consider.
On Sept 18, 72, during Srimad Bhagavatam lecture, Çréla Prabhupäd says:
Especially instruction are given to men. All literatures, all Vedic literatures, they are especially meant for instruction to the men. Woman is to follow the husband. That's all. The husband will give instruction to the wife. There is no such thing as the girl should go to school to take brahmacäré-äçrama or go to spiritual master to take instruction. That is not Vedic system. Vedic system is a man is fully instructed, and woman, girl, must be married to a man. Even the man may have many wives, polygamy, still, every woman should be married. And she would get instruction from the husband. This is Vedic system. Woman is not allowed to go to school, college, or to the spiritual master. But husband and wife, they can be initiated. That is Vedic system. – 720918sb.la
Vedic literatures are meant especially for men. Woman must get married and husband is to instruct the wife. There is no such thing as brahmacarini asram (school for girls) or that girls approach a spiritual master to take instruction. "That is Not Vedic system." Every girl has to be married, even if the man may have many wives, still, every woman has to be married.
Çréla Prabhupäd, in a way, reluctantly, started or allowed this brahmacarini asram. He allowed the young unwed girls who came to this Krishna Consciousness movement to join and live at the temple in a women’s ashram. Although, the Vedic system is that only men come and live in a temple or guru’s ashram. Girls stay at home and then in their youth they get a husband and start their own family. Although Çréla Prabhupäd allowed girls to join and live in an ashram, he also told us this was artificial and discouraged us from following this for our own children. For our own children he wanted we follow, as much as we can, the Vedic system.
Up to this point these instructions on polygamy were side-notes he made during the course of his classes or talks. It can be argued that all of his teachings are instructions meant to be followed by his followers. Still, there was no direct order that he wanted or was allowing his followers to practice this.
Yet, it is clear that Srila Prabhupad himself had brought up the topic numerous times in his visit to the LA temple during the fall of 1972 and discussed the issue with Karandhar. And clearly Srila Prabhupad spoke favorable about it and was encouraging that it be accepted.
Karandhar was GBC (Governing Body Commission, the legal and authorized board of members who set policies and standards and execute the management and organizational duties of the international ISKCON society) at the temple in Los Angeles. At about the same time I have heard that in LA there were 60 to 80 unmarried young girls staying at the temple ashram and at least as many brahmacaris (unmarried male students). Çréla Prabhupäd had instructed that all the girls be married. Problem was most of the brahmacaris were too new, untrained, and not ready for becoming husbands, or they were absorbed in spiritual life and were not interested in getting married. Since Srila Prabhupad had just month before spoke favorably and encouraged polygamous marriages, Karandhar wrote to Srila Prabhupäd about this on December 28, 72.
On January 9, 1973, Çréla Prabhupäd replied:
"According to our Vedic process, polygamy is allowed." ... ..."according to the Vedic system polygamy is not prohibited. But it is not a farce also. Every wife must be provided for sufficiently." ... ..."It doesn't mean to marry many wives and maintain none of them. If anyone is able to keep more then one wife and give all the comforts of life, there is no objection for having more then one wife. But if he creates trouble by marrying, he should not marry even one wife, this is my judgment. Now you can do the needful, taking into consideration the circumstances of the laws of your country, the customs of your people, the reputation of our society, the examples which will be set for future devotees to follow, like that."... ..."It is advised that all women get themselves married, and if there is any man who is better able to maintain wife and family, he is advised to marry as many women as he can maintain and thereby free other men in the society to remain brahmacari. So I can understand that many men of our society have got themselves married only for some disastrous result. That means that not all of our men are meant for married life, but because there are so many women we may not leave them unprotected without husband, that will also not serve us well. Therefore it will be the best idea if those who are well-qualified as husbands to keep more than one wife very much satisfied in every respect. If such men can marry more then once, that will free the others to remain brahmacari. But you must consider very carefully the possibility of becoming scandalized in the public for breaking their laws in this way. And in future also the devotees who are neophyte may not understand our policy in this connection, and we gradually could wind up attracting only a class of men who are very eager for unlimited sex life only. These things must be avoided at all cost. " -- Letter 73-01-09 to Karandhar
This letter appears to be the first time that Çréla Prabhupäd instructed specifically about the practice of polygamy as it pertains to his own followers. Clearly Çréla Prabhupäd favored the introduction of the practice in the Krishna Consciousness society. As long as each wife is provided for nicely, Prabhupäd says that he has no objection. He advises his followers who are better qualified husbands to take as many wives as they can maintain.
He also advised to take into consideration the laws of the country. Sometimes this is quoted to show that because it is illegal in the most countries, that we cannot introduce it. However, later in the same letter he advised to take special consideration as we will be breaking their laws. It is obvious that when he said to take their laws into consideration what he meant was to be careful and use our intelligence to try and avoid a scandal. He did not mean that if it was illegal or not acceptable not to do it. Çréla Prabhupäd was well aware it was illegal. He had spoke about this in class, how the law makers in both America and India were rascals for prohibiting it. Those who have tried to argue that he did not know at that time that it was illegal are completely mistaken. Why would he have instructed that if it is illegal not to do it when he already knew it was illegal? No. It is obvious that what he meant was to consider carefully and try to figure out a way to do it that would not create public scandal. Be very careful, and do the needful. Or, it could even be understood to mean that this may cause scandal, so be prepared for it. Srila Prabhupad was not one to back off from confrontation. He was fearless for having taken full shelter at the feet of Krsna.
This letter would seem to be the final word. Karandhar made some inquiry and this was Çréla Prabhupäd's formal written answer (or solution to a problem). These are instructions of the Founder-Acharya of ISKCON. He said it was "Best Idea" for those who are well-qualified husbands to keep more than one wife. It would seem that after receiving such instructions from the guru, the only thing left to do for the GBC would be to implement them.
Yet, after Çréla Prabhupäd sent this letter something happened that caused him to completely change his mind (at least temporarily).
On Feb. 10th, 73, 1 month after he told Karandhar that this was the best idea, to introduce the system of polygamy, and where he advised the more qualified grhastas to take as many wives as they can nicely maintain, Çréla Prabhupäd sent a letter to Karandhar and a separate one to Satsvarup, and on Feb. 14th he sent another letter to Rupa Nuga. In each of these 3 letters Çréla Prabhupäd took a hard opposing 180 degree reversed stand from his previous point of view. In his letter to Satsvarup he said,
"First let us understand that polygamy cannot be permitted in our society. Legally it is impossible and neither are there many of our devotees who are prepared to assume the responsibility for many wives. Therefore as I have suggested previously as they do in Christian religion they have so many convent where the women stay and they receive protection. The point is that the women must be protected and it is the duties of the leaders of our society to see that this is carried out." -- Letter 73-02-10 to Satsvarup
Srila Prabhupad herein gives 2 reasons for rejecting polygamy in this letter. So, lets analyze them. First he says it is illegal. Yet, he was well aware it was illegal previously as we discussed in the January, 1973 letter above. He had already taken this into consideration previously, unless he is referring to some other legal aspect that he had not considered before. Next he says that there are not many male devotees who were prepared to assume the responsibility for many wives.
First of all, we must understand that Srila Prabhupad has not changed his view regarding this being the best system, as he had just described one month early (and we shall see he continued to bring up the topic favorably and eventually reversed himself again from the content of these letters). Rather, what we are left to conclude is that the legal issues that he is concerned about here are different from the legal concerns he had already considered previously. But, this idea that there were not enough men prepared to take on the responsibility is interesting. Did he mean there were not enough men who were financially prepared for such, or was his concern their maturity and character that the men would actually be religiously responsible? It is also interesting to note that Srila Prabhupad refers to the men taking "many wives", not just a second or so.
The authorized Vedic system for protecting marriageable unwed women is marriage. This is in accordance with Dharma Shastras. This is what Çréla Prabhupäd taught over and over again and again throughout his books and lectures. I could not find any other incident where Prabhupäd had encouraged girls to remain brahmacarini or to become 'nuns'. Although he references another previous time, I never found it. Instead, in 1977 when Tamal Krsna told Srila Prabhupad that there were so many unwed girls coming to the temples that the temples were encouraging them to remain brahmacarini Srila Prabhupad rejected this idea, saying that girls cannot remain celibate, and then encouraged that one man should take 3 wives. That the women must be married, even if they marry a man who already has wife or wives. (actual quote from April 29th, 1977)
It appears that Çréla Prabhupäd never gave any further instructions or encouragement to do this, to encourage women to become nuns, and the later and most likely final instruction in 1977 totally negates this idea calling it artificial and again, in the end, Srila Prabhupad recommended polygamy as the real solution.
Therefore my conclusion is that he only suggested it here as a last-ditch alternative. He had instructed previous to this, and after this letter that the most desirable solution is polygamy. The authorized protection is marriage. In order to fully protect all girls this requires that some men take more than one wife. If this cannot be done, then last-ditch alternative is try to protect them in a convent. But, ultimately, at a later date, he discourages this saying it will fail in many cases.
Thirty days earlier he encouraged Karandhar to do the needful to introduce this system of protection, polygamy. Now, on Feb. 10th he writes:
I have received your letter of 1/24/73 concerning polygamy and feel that this policy must be strictly prohibited within our society. If it is not it shall only cause chaos, as what was possible under the system of pure Vedic Culture is impossible at the present time. -- Letter 73-02-10 to Karandhar
There is another clue here. Srila Prabhupäd says that Karandhar had sent him another letter on Jan. 24th. It appears that Karandhar, after receiving the letter dated Janurary 9th, 73, wrote another letter to Srila Prabhupäd and that in that second letter Karandhar must have presented the concerns of the other GBC who objected to the idea. Karandhar told other devotees after this date that Srila Prabhupad wanted polygamy and that he would find a solution by which it would become allowable. Karandhar was not personally opposed to it, so I assume that Karandhar, being the prominent GBC at the time, must have forwarded to Srila Prabhupad the concerns of the other GBC's involved. It appears here that based on that letter from Karandhar Prabhupad now feels that polygamy must be strictly prohibited within our society. If it is not it shall only cause chaos. What was possible under the pure Vedic Culture is impossible at the present time.
He does say, “at the present time” it cannot be permitted in our society. That does leave it open to a reversal of these letters if Srila Prabhupad, at a latter date, sees that it can be permitted. And, as we progress on in the chronology we find that is what actually happened. At this point all we know why he turned around complete on this topic is that he gives the legal reason and there are too few responsible men to take many wives. But, if this legal issue could be resolved and there were responsible devotees, then obviously, things would change.
Now, most devotees point to the statement that this will cause "chaos" and thus argue that what Srila Prabhupad meant was that the plural marriages themselves would cause the chaos. However, Srila Prabhupad is giving 2 reasons why polygamy must not be permitted "at that present time", and those are the legal issue and not enough responsible men. Yes, if the men take it as a farce, take on 2-4-12 wives, getting them all pregnant, then act irresponsibly and not take care of them all as wives and not be responsible for the children he fathers, this would create chaos. However, if there are men who are proven responsible, then this is no longer an issue. Then we have the legal issue. But, as I will show, there are actually 3 legal issues. That I will detail shortly. But, if those legal issues could be sufficiently resolved then there would no longer be a reason to prohibit polygamy. The point is that just previously Srila Prabhupad was saying that polygamy was the "Best System", and that it is not allowed because there is no Varnashram Dharma. He wanted to that devotees accept this, and take it up in order to help save the world. These letters do not show that he now rejects polygamy. He does not say that it is immoral, that it is wrong, that it is against our philosophy. He simply has agreed that there are 2 major concerns and so he has temporarily agreed with the opinion of other devotees that it not be allowed for that time being.
In the letter to Rupa Nuga he says,
"After conferring with my various GBC representatives I have concluded that polygamy must be strictly prohibited in our society. Although it is a Vedic institution still there are so many legal implications. Neither are many of our men fixed up enough to tend for more than one wife. Polygamy will simply increase the sex life and our philosophy is to gradually decrease the sex life till eventually there is no sex life. The policy should be that all the women are given the utmost protection. Women are looking for husbands because they feel unprotected so it is up to the senior members to give all protection to the women." -- Letter 73-02-14 to Rupa Nuga
It is up to the senior members to give all protection to women. But, the authorized Vedic system of protection for unwed young girls is marriage. At other times, in his books, ( CC Adi Lila 14.58) Prabhupäd teaches that without polygamy being allowed it will not be possible to protect all girls. Here Çréla Prabhupäd again states that due to the legal implications it must be strictly prohibited. Also, he again states the lack of fixed up men who can tend to more than one wife.
He says, "After conferring with my various GBC representatives I have concluded polygamy must be strictly prohibited in our society". In a matter of 30 days Çréla Prabhupäd completely reversed his stand on the issue, from encouraging it, to totally prohibiting it, and it appears what changed his mind were talks with various GBC men. The question then becomes, what were the specific issues presented by those GBC that caused Srila Prabhupad to go 180 degrees in such a short time?
If this were Srila Prabhupad's last and final instruction or he continued to support the position expressed here onward, then it may not really matter what the reason was as the bottom line would be that polygamy would not be allowed period by his followers regardless. However, this is not at all the case. Srila Prabhupad did not continue to uphold the idea that this form of marriage must be totally prohibited. As we shall see later on, such as Aug. 1, 1975, Srila Prabhupad not only said he had no objection if his men took additional wives, when others objected and brought up many reasons why it should not be allowed, Srila Prabhupad defeated all the arguments in support of it being allowed. The threat of chaos no longer detered him.
Knowing this, then it becomes more curious, what really caused him to change his view 180 degrees in 30 days?
Additionally when we look at the chronology of his instructions on this topic we find that leading up to Jan of 73, Srila Prabhupad was extremely favorable toward seeing polygamy accepted. He brought up the topic many times, once saying that currently one man should take at least 12 wives(*). Labeling those who prohibit it as rascals. He explains that he is creating first-class nationalist, real scholars, who will save their country. Then upholds men who take more than one wife as the example of such first class scholars he is creating. He explains the reason this is not allowed is because there is no system of varnashram-dharma. He describes polygamy as a scientific system. He calls polygamy a "very nice system" of getting all the girls married. Then he writes Karandhar stating that polygamy is the "best system" giving the leading GBC man the directive that those men who are doing good in household life, they should take as many wives as they can maintain and encourages polygamy to be officially practiced in ISKCON. As we see, so many times Srila Prabhupad raised this topic, and each time it is completely favorable, encouraging his followers to take it, accept it, practice it. Then, no more than 30 days after that letter come the 3 letters prohibiting it in ISKCON. But, following the chronology which we will do, we will see that again Srila Prabhupad continues to speak favorably about it and even argues for it to be allowed by his men, the ISKCON men. He defeats all arguments opposed to allowing it. And, his last and final instructions are also very clear and favorable. And, when we turn to his books we again find mostly favorable references, especially when polygamy is given in relation to society taking it up and accepting it, practicing it. Both ISKCON society and all society.
So, when we look all of his instructions and all his references, these 3 letters written in Feb. of 1973, just days apart, and just after several GBC met and wanted it not to be allowed, those 3 letters stand out as the rare exception to his general instructions on this topic. When all instructions are looked at in total then these 3 letters can be clearly seen as not being representative at all of his actual view, opinion or teachings or instructions on the topic. Rather, they are stand out in total odds with his general teachings on the topic.
Yet, when this topic is raised quite often those who are opposed pull up these 3 letters and hold them to be the final conclusion. I have seen this many times. GBC also write and quote one or more of these letters and put forth these letters as solid indisputable evidence that Srila Prabhupad did not want or allow polygamy practiced by his followers. However, the chronological study proves this conclusion to be incorrect.
Because these 3 letters stand out as being the rare exception to his otherwise very favorable encouragement and science why polygamy should be practiced, one has to again question what was the real reason why he wrote those 3 letters? What caused him to turn 180 degrees from the previous letter written only 30 days earlier?
I will admit that my research is incomplete and that I cannot say for sure. Several of the key people involved, namely are either not readily available or have very strong personal abhorrence toward polygamy that their input is proven to be contaminated by their strong sentimental or fanatical opposition to seeing this allowed. That goes for both Satsvarup and to some extent Rupa Nuga Prabhus. I will explain more why I say this regarding Satsvarup. In Rupa Nuga's case I say this because I attended a lecture he gave once, while GBC, in which he tore into polygamy misquoting Srila Prabhupad by saying that "Prabhupad said" things that he never has said. Rupa Nuga, in that lecture in LA in the 1980's, misquoted Srila Prabhupad saying that Prabhupad said it was degrading to women. That it was abusive to women. I concluded that he is so strongly and personally opposed that he made up these statements, falsely attributing them to Srila Prabhupad, just to give more credibility to his own disdain of the topic.
Regarding Satsvarup it is even more explicit. Once, ~ 1996 or so, I wrote Satsvarup about this incident to see if he knew more about it. I also wrote because he had written a book in which he had a chapter entitled "What Srila Prabhupad Actually Said Regarding Polygamy" (or close to that). That chapter mostly put up those 3 letters and stated that this was his final instruction - which Satsvarup knew very well that it was NOT. He would know this because he was the one who later objected in 1975 to Srila Prabhupad's allowance for it to be practiced by his followers. In that conversation it was Satsvarup who gave most of the arguments against it and Srila Prabhupad defeated them all. Satsvarup also wrote Srila Prabhupad a letter about the topic in 1975, again Srila Prabhupad citing he has no objection, and then again in 1977 Satsvarup presented to Srila Prabhupad a problem the GBC wanted Srila Prabhupad's help to resolve. That of how to deal with the women's traveling Sankirtan parties that were headed up by a man. Srila Prabhupad's solution, we shall read, was that the man should marry all the women on the party and take them as wives. So, Satsvarup was very much knowledgeable that those 3 letters were not Srila Prabhupad's last instruction, and that he did not uphold those letters later on. So, I wrote to ask Satsvarup about his understanding why Srila Prabhupad wrote those 3 letters in Feb of 1973, and to ask that he rewrite his book to show what Srila Prabhupad indeed did actually teach on the topice, including the much more numerous favorable instructions. Satsvarup is fanatically opposed to polygamy. He sees it as a very degrading activity (then how does he see Krsna, or Arjun, Vasudev, Nityananda, etc.?). His reply to me was terse, sharp and surcharged. Regarding the 3 letters in 1973 he claimed that he had no memory what prompted Srila Prabhupad to turn 180 degree around. He only recalls the letters, not the meetings he was part of that convinced Srila Prabhupad to write those letters. Regarding his book and how it did not actually present what Srila Prabhupad did indeed actually teach on the topic, and the fact that Srila Prabhuapd did in fact speak very favorable to devotees practicing this, he replied that his books are based on his memory of what Srila Prabhupad taught, not on what he actually taught. Thus, he refuses to change his books because he claims he cannot remember the other incidents. He only remembers those 3 letters. He said he does not deny those other conversations took place or that Srila Prabhupad may in fact given his permission, he said those recordings are there, it is documented, so he cannot deny it. But, since he doesn't remember it, he will only teach his followers what he can remember.
That is bogus and offensive. The duty of a disciple is to uphold what one's spiritual master teaches, regardless of the defects of one's personal memory. Since the other instructions are there in the Vedabase, recorded on tape, etc., in his books, when we read them they are just as good as the instructions Srila Prabhupad wrote down in those letters in 1973. When we read the letter in 1973 or a book in 2003 the instruction is just as valid. Rather, whatever the later instruction is, that is to be given precedence over earlier instructions. His entire argument was weak, baseless and added further suspicion.
I say further suspicion because I joined in the 1973 in July. The topic of polygamy was still fresh in a number of devotee's minds, and Karandhar also spoke about it, saying that someday Srila Prabhupad would introduce it and allow it in ISKCON. This was after those letters, and this remained Karandhar's view at the time. He was still certain that eventually Srila Prabhupad would allow it, because due to Srila Prabhuapd bringing this topic up with Karandhar in late 1972 and those discussions Karandhar knew that it was something that ultimately Srila Prabhupad wanted to see implemented. And, as I said, in these 3 letters there is nothing that Srila Prabhuapd says is intrinsically wrong, irreligious, immoral or outside our philosophy for banning polygamy. That was not the issue, the issue was responsible men and legal issues. It was long time ago, I was new, I cannot clearly recall if Karandhar told me or someone else mentioned this, but one thing I heard after joining in 1973 was that Satsvarup had told Srila Prabhupad that if his previous letter, the January 1973 letter to Karandhar stating that polygamy be officially arranged in ISKCON by GBC men, if that letter were to be presented to the US immigration that Srila Prabhupad could be deported and not allowed reentry to the US. This had happened previously to at least one Islamic Cleric who encouraged his followers to take more than one wife. The rumor I had heard, and it stands at that for now, is that Satsvarup asked Srila Prabhupad to write those letters prohibiting polygamy so as to counter the other letter least it become publicized.
As I indicated, there are 3 legal issues. The first is the man and wives. It is illegal for a man to marry more than one wife. That is really the basic legal issue. However, there are ways of getting around this issue. Later Srila Prabhupad says this is not a difficult issue. However, this creates two legal issues. One is regarding the temples and temple authorities, and their implication if they began to arrange these marriages in their official capacities as leaders of ISKCON. If a temple president, GBC, etc., make the arrangement for these marriages, which are illegal, then they become implicated and thus implicate the temple and ISKCON and that could definitely cause the "Chaos" that Srila Prabhupad was referring to.
And, lastly, the other legal issue would be how Srila Prabhupad would be directly implicated, if, as the leader of a religious society, it is found that he gave his official order and sanction to have such marriages officially arranged in ISKCON. Srila Prabhupad would then become legally implicated, and because he was not a US Citizen, it was a known and proven fact that US Immigration would have had solid grounds for deporting him and not allowing him to return to the US. This would have also definitely caused the "chaos", that Srila Prabhupad alluded to.
As I said, the above is only speculative, as it is not proven. However, it does provide a creditable explanation why those letters stand as the rare exception to his much more numerous favorable instructions given both just before and after those letters were written. It would also explain why he did not uphold the view of those letters later one, because in reality they were not his views at all. He was obliged to write them so that he would not be deported. However, none of that is substantiated as fact, so it has to be considered in that light. I included it here because of the uniqueness of those letters, how they contrast with his other more numerous instructions and also because those who oppose it being practiced cite those 3 letters as their highest and final proof that Srila Prabhupad simply did not want this practiced. Since that conclusion does not hold up, I feel justified giving these letters additional coverage in this book.
Let also look at the two reasons Srila Prabhupad states in those letters why he was saying this was not to be allowed (a 3rd reason, the GBC opposed it, was not a reason in itself). First, he says that not many of his men are fit for being husbands. Second he says it is illegal, therefore we cannot allow it. But, both of these issues Srila Prabhupäd himself had just addressed in his January 9th letter to Karandhar. In that letter, just 30 days earlier, Srila Prabhupäd told Karandhar, "But you must consider very carefully the possibility of becoming scandalized in the public for breaking their laws in this way." Çréla Prabhupäd knew very well it was illegal, he had talked about this in the fall of 72, calling those who prohibit it as rascals and demons. He said to conceder carefully the possibility of become scandalized. This in and of itself does not necessarily mean Srila Prabhupad was saying don't do this if you think it may become a scandal. Rather, it can also be argued that he wanted Karandhar to consider how to respond to such a scandal if and when it did occur. Srila Prabhupad was not one to back off out of fear of some scandal. He simply told Karandhar to consider this and proceed cautiously. Çréla Prabhupäd was concerned about the legality issue, but was not saying not to practice this because it is illegal. The higher principle was to provide proper religious protection to these unwed girls who were in need of protection by providing the "best system" by which they could get a responsible husband. The January 9th letter confirms that Çréla Prabhupäd saw this as a much higher moral principle then the lesser principle of not breaking the ignorant modern man made laws.
The other issue is that many of the ISKCON marriages were ending in failure. Most devotees point to this as argument against allowing men to take more than one wife. They argue that if the men cannot keep a marriage with one wife together, how can they handle 2 or more wives? Obviously, the men who cannot keep one wife happy are not the ones that other women should want anything to do with. Çréla Prabhupäd gives the opposite argument. He says that the previous failures is proof that not all his men are qualified to make good husband. Therefore, he puts forth polygamy as the solution to the problem of broken marriages. When a man has proven he makes a good husband, then let him marry as many wives as he can maintain. Problem to find all those girls a good husband is now solved. Now all those girls will all have a proven good and responsible husband. Men who are not mature or responsible, or those not interested in married life, they shouldn’t marry at all. So, this issue that there were not enough good men fit to practice this was already raised in the letter just 30 days prior. Thus, both of his reasons given why he changed his view so drastically does not really hold much weight.
My personal conclusion, which is based on some speculation, or and educated guess, is that the rumors I had heard in 1973, were most likely true and that Srila Prabhupad most likely wrote these 3 letters to protect himself from being deported. In that sense it was a legal issue.
. Then what to do with so many girls needing husbands? Those men who are best at keeping wife, they should take as many wives as possible. This will free the other men to remain celibate brahmacari. At the conclusion of this paper I will use logic argument to show that actually polygamy is the solution to the problem of divorce and broken marriages. It will not make things worse. It will eventually solve all the problems.
There is another possible reason. It could be that after he wrote the January 9th letter and Karandhar passed it around to the other GBC the GBC reacted so fanatical, so impassioned that Srila Prabhupad concluded these men were not fit or mature enough to take on this issue and thus they could create such a mess of it that it were to be a major fiasco. But, this argument does not really hold up when we see that later Srila Prabhupad again upheld the idea that polygamy be allowed by ISKCON men and thus he defeated all arguments opposing it including this argument that many men would not be fit or qualified to practice it. Really, no other scenario seems to hold up other then Srila Prabhupad wrote those letters to avoid being deported.
Regardless, lets move on to what he said regarding polygamy just a few months later in May, the 13th, 1973, during SB class. Çréla Prabhupäd says (again speaking about getting the daughter married),
"So if each and every woman has to be married, then there is no sufficient number of male population, therefore, according to Vedic rituals, those who are higher caste, just like the ksatriyas or the brahmanas, especially, others also, polygamy is allowed. Polygamy is allowed." -- 730513sb.la
Again he is saying this in reference to a father getting his daughter married. So, just a few months after saying this was no longer to be allowed in ISKCON (at the present moment), he remains preaching favorably toward the idea in general.
I saw nothing for over a year, until June 8th, 74. Çréla Prabhupäd is speaking on a morning walk and says that the system of monogamy means prostitution. When the brahmacari becomes grhasta he can keep more than one wife, if he is able to provide for them nicely. Prabhupäd says that in Vedic culture there was no illicit sex because men were keeping more than one wife (the women were protected).
Nitäi: In Los Angeles, you were saying about the system of monogamy, how in this way most of the women are left unmarried.
Prabhupäda: Yes. That is prostitution. If a man... First of all, the problem is... That they do not know, that they should produce sufficient food grains. These, all these contraceptive methods, this and that, monogamy, they are trying for checking population. Is it not?
Prabhupäda: The basic principle is to check population. Now, if they follow the Vedic principles, automatically the population is checked. Just like brahmacäré. So if the, both the boys and girls remain brahmacäré, then where is the unwanted population? Where is the question of this contraceptive method?
Nitäi: No need.
Prabhupäda: No need. Then when the brahmacäré is allowed to become gåhastha, he can keep more than one wife if he’s able to provide them nicely. Here they marry today and tomorrow divorce. The... No meaning of marriage. Simply prostitution.
>>> Ref. VedaBase => Morning Walk -- June 8, 1974, Geneva
Srimad Bhagavatam Lecture June 12, 74 Çréla Prabhupäd says that it is the duty of the father to get his daughter married Before the age of puberty. Somehow or other, he must get her married, that is his duty. Then Prabhupäd asks,
"Where so many husbands? Therefore polygamy was allowed.... ...you can marry, that is Vedic civilization, more then one wife. Because every female must be married, so where are so many husbands? So, therefore polygamy was allowed, but the man who marries he must be able to maintain the wife very nicely. That is Hindu or Vedic civilization. That is kutumba, kutumba-bharnar, maintaining the family." -- 740612sb.par
Only months after he said it was to be strictly prohibited he again was speaking favorably about it. And here, a little over a year later Çréla Prabhupäd is still speaking favorably about it. Of course it could be argued that he was speaking that this "was" allowed in Vedic culture. But, it is important to note that again he is offering it as a solution for the father to get his daughter married, before puberty. Some how or other. Therefore, "you" can marry more than one wife. He was lecturing to the devotees.
In Srimad Bhagavatam Lecture Sept 26, 74, Prabhupäd is again speaking of getting the daughter married, Kanyä Däya. The father must find out a husband for his daughter. How every girl will be married? Therefore more than one wife is allowed. Again, Çréla Prabhupäd offers this as the solution to the father to find a husband for his unprotected daughter.
This is the real purpose of polygamy, to provide a system by which all of the young girls can be properly married and protected. Therefore, over and over again, we see, that when Srila Prabhupad is speaking of getting the daughter married, he asks, “where to find so many husbands?”. Therefore it is best system for the men to accept more than one wife. It is best system for it is the best system to provide protection for all of our young daughters.
Yet on Nov 11, 74, Srila Prabhupad writes to Sukadev das. Devotees are Not allowed more than one wife.
"Devotees should have no wife if possible, but those who cannot maintain celibacy, they can marry one wife. At present moment people are so unfortunate they cannot maintain even one wife. First of all at the present moment they are not married and remain mostly unmarried. So, for such persons even one wife is a great burden. Under the circumstances how one can think of more then one wife? This is stupidity." Letter 74-11-11 to Sukadev
Wow. This letter is heavy. Srila Prabhupad is totally against it for devotees, it seems. No question about Prabhupäd's view here. In his lectures he says “you” are allowed more than one wife. Then, a devotee asks for a second wife and he is blasted by Prabhupäd who says this is stupid. Why the seeming contradiction? This letter I have found many devotees quote and say, see, Srila Prabhupad says the idea is stupid, devotees should not do this. Even though looking at this one letter that argument seems sound, looking at the more broad spectrum it not consistent as we saw earlier he was encouraging this, calling polygamy the best system and shall see later he says that he has no objection for devotees to take more than one wife.
Then why is he so opposed to it in this letter? For that, lets examine the reasons why Srila Prabhupad is so strongly objecting. He writes, At present moment people cannot maintain even one wife. Inside our movement or out, that is practically the fact. Many families find today that just to make ends meet and pay the bills it requires both husband and wife to work. Therefore, if a man cannot maintain his wife nicely, without her having to work, then how can he think of taking 2 wives?
Even more, in 1974 most of the householders were ashram devotees, living at the guru's ashram and being maintained by him in exchange for some service. That is not true grhasta. Grhastas not only maintain themselves, their family, provide for their own grha, home, but they also support the temples and sannyasis and brahmacaris. But, in 1974 most grhastas in ISKCON were not working outside, they did not have their own grha. Rather, Srila Prabhupäd was maintaining them along with their wife, feeding them, providing for them a residence. Here comes Sukadev, living at the temple, in accommodations supplied by the temple, not in a position of maintaining his own self, not having his own grha, or home. "At present", he was so unfortunate that he was not maintaining even his first wife as a real grhasta, now he goes before Srila Prabhupäd and asks if Prabhupad will give him a second wife and still be maintained by the temple? Obviously under that circumstance, Srila Prabhupad said the idea he was proposing was "Stupid".
Therein lies the real understanding of that letter, as we shall see it further explained in other correspondence.
On July 9th, 75, Prabhupäd tells a female TV reporter that "polygamy is allowed", otherwise how all women can be properly married? This, he said to a news reporter and his words were broadcast on TV and in major Newspapers. He is saying that "polygamy is allowed." Since the country is not allowing, the only way this can be understood is that Srila Prabhupad is saying, we, as Krsna devotees, ISKCON, or Srila Prabhupad himself, he is allowing it. Interesting he tells a devotee it is not allowed, then tells the non-devotee it is allowed. Then, is it allowed or not?
He also told her that all the problems in society are due to the fact that women are not trained to be the submissive servants of their worshipable husbands. He explains that once women take up their proper duties and become submissive, then all of society's problems will be solved. The logic behind this was presented in Çréla Prabhupäd’s purport to Bhagavad Gita verse 1.40. Peace, prosperity and spiritual progress in human society are dependent upon good population. Good population is dependent upon the chastity and faithfulness of the women. And all of this is dependent upon the proper protection of women in society. When women are faithful, chaste and submissive to the men, then the home becomes peaceful then good natured souls will be attracted to take birth in such peaceful families.
On July 9th he tells this female reporter that "polygamy is allowed", but then just 4 days later, on July 13th, 75, Prabhupäd writes in a letter to Narottamananda that he cannot take second wife. But, this time with more clear explanation, he says:
"At least you cannot stay in our temple in Vrndaban. If you want to take a second wife, then you have to leave our Vrndaban temple. Whether you can maintain them and take some job and earn? Our temples cannot support you and your two wives. You will then want three, four, and more. Anyway, as an American it is illegal for you to do this. We are trying to minimize sex and you are trying to increase it. Please give up this idea." Letter 75-07-13 to Narottamaananda
Here Çréla Prabhupäd explains the situation further and supports the view in the letter to Sukadev. Prabhupad clearly says, "Our temples cannot support you and your two wives." Narottamananda, if I recall correctly, was engaged in selling incense wholesale to temple and devotees. But, he was still living in accommodations provided by Srila Prabhupad's temples. He was not earning sufficient money to afford his own grha, home. He was living also in India, in the Holy Dham, yet he was living at the temple along with his one wife. Temple accommodations are traditionally for sannyasis and brahmacaris. Grhastas are expected to earn their own income and thus provide for their own living arrangements. Srila Prabhupad made some exception for his grhastas who were struggling to take up this culture and assisting him in pushing forward with the movement. So, he made some concession, if man and wife lived very renounced, even in separate accommodations at the temple, living like brahmacari, then he allowed married couples to live at the temples in India. So, with one wife, he made concession and allowed that the temples can maintain a grhasta. So, here comes Sukadev and now Narottamananda living at the temples, maintained by the temples, and they are asking for second wife. Prabhupad says that our temples cannot support you with two wives. If they do, then you will want 3, 4 and more wives, all maintained for him by the temple. This is certainly not allowed. Srila Prabhupad made concession to allow married man and one wife to live at temple, but not 2, 3, 4 or more wives and still live in the temple supplied accommodations.
Therefore Prabhupad advises, if you want to do this, then you will have to leave our temple and go live on your own. You cannot stay at our temples and be supplied temple accommodations with more than one wife. You must go outside and find some job, some outside work, and earn his own living. Then he can take additional wife. But, Srila Prabhupad doubts that Narottamananda would be able to do this, so he asks him to give up the idea.
The reason I am going into so much detail is that I find the explanations I elaborate on above to be the proper conclusion whenweighed against his other more favorable instructions, and yet others have held these letters up as more final proof in their view that Srila Prabhuapd was fully against polygamy. In these letters to Sukadev and Narottamananda Srila Prabhupad is not actually condemning polygamy itself as much as he is pointing out that under the current circumstances the requests are stupid ideas since the men were not even maintaining their first wife on their own.
I would like to point out here that when the man has sufficient means to maintain his wives, this is seen as offering them protection, maintenance. But, when the man hasn’t sufficient means to provide, then Prabhupäd refers to the motive as being sense enjoyment only. He has explicitly explained this later at another time. Since these devotees were not even able to maintain one wife and they asked for second wives, their motive was not to give religious protection to another girl, but the motive was to increase their own sex-life. Their motive was sense-enjoyment, not religious protection.
So, what if a devotee were working outside the temple, able to maintain his first wife and his motive was to give real religious protection? We shall see as we go on, that Srila Prabhupad had no objection to at all.
Only 2 weeks later, however, Prabhupäd gives an entirely different response to another devotee. On August 1, 75 in a room conversation at the New Orleans farm Prabhupäd is speaking how the brahmacari ashram is a time of austerity, to build up character, samah, damah, full control.
"When they like, they become grhastas. Other wise they are controlled. That is brahmana. For Brahmana it is not compulsory to marry. Ksatriyas can marry more then one wife. They can take. So All girls must be married. That is... They must... They must have one husband, even the husband has got fifty wives. Then the problem of girl's marriage is solved."
Although he says here that a ksatriya can marry more than one wife, most all other times he said that especially ksatriya and brahmana were allowed.
Srila Prabhupäd goes on to say how when the girl gets pregnant she is sent home to her mother's and the man can go to next wife. Then he describes how we can also have one place for expecting mothers to go where they will be cared for nicely.
Nityananda asks Prabhupäd. "Are you saying that our men should have more than one wife?".
Prabhupäd, "I have no objection".
Interesting. Just 2 weeks after he writes and tells Narottamananda who is living in Vrndaban to please give up the idea, also citing that Narottamananda is American and it is illegal for Americans, now he tells Nityananda at an ISKCON farm in America that he has no objection to the question of whether our men should take more than one wife. Many devotees who have not studied this have just taken the shortest route, if they are personally opposed, they don't take the time to try and figure out what Srila Prabhupad really actually wanted or was saying, they see some negative comment and they jump on it and demand that everyone simply give it up. Those who have favored it, they try to ignor the negative comments because often they don't really understand why there were made. Here, I am dealing with both and showing that with the proper understanding there was never a contradiction in Srila Prabhupad's instructions. The negative comments each had their own very specific reasons for giving them. When we understand it properly there is no contradiction in his teachings, and there is no objection as long as it is practiced properly.
Those who insist the negative statements stand as all-in=all and final and do not give any long-term credence to the favorable references are not presenting Srial Prabhupad's actual position fairly, rather they have tinted it with their own prejudice against it. And/or they put forward a type of thinking that makes Srila Prabhupad appear very flippant, constantly flipping and flopping and changing his mind. Writing Karandhar one month that it is the "best system", then writing the next month saying it must be strictly prohibited. Writing devotees saying their request is stupid, that we don't allow it, then telling TV reporter we do allow it, then telling another devotee to give the idea up. Then telling another devotee that he has no objection if all our men take more than one wife. The thing is, if we just read the quotes quickly without going into an in-depth analysis of the situation then it does become confusing. That is why I chose to write this whole book on the topic because I did do a very in-depth study. And the only way to understand the seeming contradictions is to analyze all of the instructions together, in order, to derive the actual position, what Srila Prabhupad actually wanted and why.
Nityananda asks and Prabhupäd replies that he has no objection. But, immediately Satsvarup Maharaj objects to the idea that Srila Prabhupad does not object to it, he says:
Satsvarup: "That's a difficult proposition"
Satsvarup: "It's not allowed in this country. It's, it's illegal. It's against the law."
Prabhupäd: "That is not very difficult"
Nityänanda: No, it’s a matter of... No one knows who is married or unmarried, but If you have...
Prabhupäda: That is not very difficult.
Satsvarüpa: Well, the other difficulty, you brought this up several years ago, was that the men who take many wives have to be very select. Otherwise men will be attracted to join our movement for sex life, having different wives.
Prabhupäda: No, no, unless our men are trained up, why you should allow to stay here and to wife. We want trained up men, not third-class picked-up. We want men who will follow the rules and regulations and fully trained up. Otherwise we don’t want. We don’t want ordinary karmés and... And if he agrees to be trained up, then we’ll take. Otherwise what is the use of bringing some useless men? He must agree to produce his own food, and work. Our rules and regulations, he must follow. Then it will be ideal community. Otherwise, if you bring from here and there some men and fill up, that is not good thing. This is a training institution, to become devotee.
Satsvarüpa: Everything we do, we don’t hide it. We show the world what we’re doing. I don’t see how we could hide that one man had many different wives.
Prabhupäda: If you don’t call wife, you can have. The law allows you to keep boyfriend, girlfriend. Then the... Instead of calling “husband,” call “friend.” That’s all. But, er, it is risky and the man must be responsible to keep... To keep more than one wife by trained-up man is not disallowed.
Brahmänanda : But I think they thought that he could get it legally established, at least in the state of California.
Prabhupäda: Well then go and marry there. If the state of California allows that, then they all can go to California.
Nityänanda: The general public objects to that... It’s very...
Prabhupäda: Public we don’t care. We... What is the public? We have got our own public here. So pub... What is the public? All rascals. They are killing cows and drinking and topless dance, bottomless dance. What is the value of this public?All rascals. I don’t give any importance to this class of public, only after sense gratification, that’s all. They have no ideals of life. They do not know what is God. What is the value of this public? Müòhas, they have been described, müòhas. You know the meaning of müòha?
Devotee (1): Ass.
Prabhupäda: Ass. Müòho näbhijänäti mäm ebhyaù paramaà mama. -- 750801rc.no
Just as the letter to Sukadev seemed so heavy against the idea of devotees practicing polygamy, this letter is even more heavy in support of just that. Then, we need to examine the reasons behind the different circumstances. With Sukadev and Narottamananda these devotees were living in temple provided accommodations being maintained by the temples. Srila Prabhupad rejected their requests. Here, Srila Prabhupad is visiting a farm community and he is speaking about devotees who work the land, grow their own food, earn their own livings, have their own accommodations. Should these men take more than one wife? Prabhupad say he has no objection. This is proof that his previous objections were not directed against the idea of polygamy itself, but were objections to it being practiced wrongly. If it is practiced properly, then it is based on religious protection and there is no objection if devotees take it up if they do so properly.
What is most significant here is that one of the most outspoken against allowing this back in Feb. of 1973 was Satsvrup (at least that is my understanding), and he previously gave some arguments why it should be prohibited in ISKCON back in 73. He makes reference to that here in this conversation. While in 1973 Srila Prabhupad appeared to go along (as I pointed out, it may have been due to a threat to be deported if he did not back down from seeing it officially introduced in ISKCON), here he no longer takes that position, but rather he defends the idea that it should be allowed. He defeats any and all arguments against it.
First, it's illegal. Here Çréla Prabhupäd is saying that is not a very difficult issue. There is no law against a man keeping girl friends, don't call wife, call friend.
It will attract 3rd class men who are only interested in increased sex-life with many women? Prabhupäd says he doesn't want such 3rd class, picked-up, men staying at his temples. If the man is willing to be trained as first class, supporting himself and his family by his own work, then he can stay and marry one or more wives. But if he does not agree to become first class, then he is not fit to marry even one wife. Nor does Prabhupäd want him staying in our community.
When Bramananda mentions that he heard it may become legalized in California, Prabhupad says then ‘they’, the devotees, can all go and marry there. How can anyone say that Prabhupad was personally opposed, here he favorably promoting it.
Then, the big one that many devotees say why it cannot be allowed. Public opinion will turn against us. Prabhupäd's reply? He is very assertive, and very heavy. He says we don't care about the opinions of this public. They are cow-eaters, woman hunters and drunkards, what is the value of their opinion? We have our own public opinion (headed by the leader of our society, Çréla Prabhupäd). We should be concerned with Prabhupäd’s opinion, not the outside degraded non-devotee public. He uses a harsh word, one that Krsna uses in Bhagavag-gita. He calls the public, mudha. Then asks, "Do you know the meaning of mudha?" Devotee answers, "Ass".
This conversation is most important. Why? Because it shows just how much Srila Prabhupad was personally concerned that this aspect of dharma be accepted. A look at the chronology shows us that really his own opinion never wavered. Prior to 1973 it was Srila Prabhupad who introduced the idea and kept bringing it up in a positive and encouraging way. Then he wrote to Karandhar telling him that this was to become officially instituted in our society, that the GBC could start making these arrangements. He called it the "best system". But, then he reversed himself, taking the advice of several GBC men. But, these were not his own opinions, but those of several of the GBC. His own opinion is again expressed here, and that is that he is taking the strong position of arguing on the side that this must be allowed. That devotees can practice this.
This idea that we do not care for the opinion of the public is a very strong argument. Many devotees claim that if this is allowed it will stigmatize devotees. That people will look down upon us. Whatever the public may think, here Srila Prabhupad simply did not care. Then why should any one who proclaims themselves his true follower care. Of course, we care about the progress of the mission. But, here Srila Prabhupad is very clear, we have our own values, our own standards of dharma, religion, and moral principles. We must establish our own moral and religious principles. That IS the mission of ISKCON. Our mission is to establish Varnashram-dharma, and Vedic culture, or the Vaishnav Brahman culture. And, for those who study social dharma, VAD, the practice and acceptance of polygamy is actually very important. The immediate goal of Varnashram-Dharma, or social dharma, is the religious protection of the women. In CC Adi Lila 14.58 Srila Prabhupad makes it clear, that unless polygamy is accepted and practiced it will not be possible to get all the girls properly married and religiously protected. Even when Srila Prabhupad was opposed due to legal issues, men not responsible enough, he never wavered from the principle that ultimately polygamy is to become accepted. It is essential for the establishment of Varnashram-dharma.
Regardless of why he said it was to be prohibited back in 1973, it is clear by this conversation that he no longer upheld that view. Whatever arguments were made against allowing it, he now has taken those arguments and defeated them, all, one-by-one.
Even if polygamy causes some disturbance in the preaching, I strongly argue that without polygamy being introduced that the society will suffer much more serious set backs because it will not be possible to give protection to our own daughters. What is the use of our preaching if we act in such a way so as to not offend the cow killing public, but we let a number of our own daughters become spoiled and left unprotected? Preaching means to set the example. To lead by example. We must set up a society that does this. That properly protects the women. Then we can show the type of saintly children that flower from that society. That is our mission. To establish dharma, VAD culture. That will save the world. And to do that means to take some risks. To put our lives on the line, to take a stand. It will not happen by simply instituting the ignorance based morality of the non-devotees. We must establish the higher moral principles of VA Dharma.
When speaking of the urgency of getting the daughter married in her youth Çréla Prabhupäd often asked, “where to find so many husbands?” Therefore it is very nice system that the men be allowed to take more than one wife. This is the dharmic solution to the problem given by Srila Prabhupad himself. Better we concern ourselves with this problem of properly protecting our next generations first, then cross the bridge of dealing with public opinion over the morality issues if, when and in what shape that takes when it arises. In other words, we must be careful not to create public scandal, but that doesn’t mean we do nothing. And, should a scandal arise, we fight it, we preach the what is the highest dharma. We change the minds of this cow killing public. That is our mission and duty and it will not happen by just burying our heads in the sand and doing nothing and hope that someday the world will magically change on it's own without our personal sacrifice to make it happen.
A GBC man was arguing with me that the Mormon’s have a stigma against them due to their (at least, more or less) acceptance of polygamy. But, really, has this hurt the Mormon faith? I really don’t think so. To some it is seen as a stigma, but to others, such as myself, I never thought about it in a negative way, rather it made me more curious to find out more about what they teach. On TV interviews sometimes the women are challenged how they can tolerate their husbands taking other wives, and the women preach boldly how this is actually a higher morality and is based on religious principals. They preach how it benefits society when women become submissive and faithful and the women are all properly married. This confounds those who don’t have the finer brain to understand, but the same person will also be confounded by the idea of girls being married young, or by the idea of father’s arranging their daughter’s marriage and not allowing the girl to go man-hunting on her own, etc. Are we to throw out all of these and any other principle of dharma if and when the non-devotee cow-killing public becomes confounded by them due to their ignorance? If the public feels that chanting mantras is bad and it creates a stigma for us to chant, shall we stop chanting? No. We take impetus for preaching the higher principles of morality and raise up their standards rather than keeping our own standards down.
Since this book is to be also read by non-devotees, it is imperative that we employ a bit of damage-control here (if possible). Çréla Prabhupäd (Krishna) and myself are using very terse language in regards to those who are not devotees. Çréla Prabhupäd is referring to the non-devotee public as mudhas (asses). Cow killers. Etc. Mudha means a stupid animal, a fool, an ass. The non-devotees will have a difficult time dealing with this. It must, however, be seen in the religious aspects of the statement. It is an injunction of our scriptures that those who do not worship the Supreme Godhead, Krishna, or God, they are called foolish. No better then the asses. The Christian use the term heathens, Islam may call them infidels, etc. Krishna calls them fools, asses. If we understand the higher principle of morality, why should we be concerned of the opinions of those who don’t have such a higher understanding? Another subject is cow-killing. We drink the cow’s milk, therefore the Vedas teach that the cow is to be respected as one’s own mother. We drink mother’s milk, and cow’s milk, so cow is also our mother. It is seen as highly immoral and irreligious to kill and eat the mother whose milk we drink. The Vedas state that those who kill and eat cows become devoid of mercy and loose their finer intelligence required for understanding God. The Old Testament of the Bible says something similar (Isaiah 1.11,15). Krishna is also very fond of the cows. In these ways we separate ourselves from those who do not follow these Vedic principles. Srila Prabhupad uses a harsh term, mudha, ass, but this is the term that Krsna Himself uses in Bhagavad-gita. It is harsh, yes, but what can we do? It is how Krsna referred to those who do not surrender to Him.
Back to the topic at hand, and the conversation by Srila Prabhupad…
One by one, Çréla Prabhupäd defeats the classic arguments that his GBC men had against allowing it in our movement. When you take the combination of his January 9th, 1973, letter to Karandhar together with these arguments in August of 75, and what he says about it during his lectures, it is clear that Çréla Prabhupäd personally wanted to see this practice introduced. At the very least, he had no objection to it. Yet, for 2 ½ years Çréla Prabhupäd supported the idea that it be prohibited. Yet, here in 1975 he no longer supported that previous prohibition. Now he is openly arguing that it be accepted and practiced among the responsible followers. The fact that this conversation took place on a farm while for days he had been discussing how to introduce varnasram-dharma is significant as varnasram supports polygamy as a needed ingredient in order to give protection to all women.
Çréla Prabhupäd originally brought up the issue, and it is he who is now arguing for it.
Another of the heaviest arguments against it is the fact that its practice is illegal in most countries. Prabhupäd's solution: "If you don't call wife, you can have. The law allows you to keep boyfriend - girlfriend. Instead of calling husband, call friend. That's all. Its risky and the man must be responsible to keep. To keep more then one wife by trained up man is not disallowed."
There is no law prohibiting a man, married to one wife, or not married at all, from keeping girl friends. Can this really avoid the legal problems? Yes. I have seen several times on TV. It was simply Krishna's arrangement. One day a number of years ago, during the San Francisco earth quake, I turned on the TV to get the latest information and the Donahue show was on. He was interviewing 3 "triples" (3 men and their wives and "friends").
Two men were married with one wife each and each had another girl friend who lived with them. The 3rd man was living with 2 girl friends and wasn't married at all. In the 20 minutes I watched not once was the question of "Illegality" raised. Not one member of the audience said anything about it being illegal. The reason is simple. It isn't illegal. There is no law that says a married man and his wife cannot live with other girl friends. There is no law that says a single man cannot live with more than one girl friend. Of course, the question of morality was raised and unfortunately none of these relationships were based on religious grounds. At least not varëäçram-dharma. Therefore the idea of morality was left hanging.
However, the married wives said they were very happy with the arrangement. The wives were saying the first thing they noticed was they only had 1/2 the cooking and 1/2 the house cleaning they had to do before. All of them agreed that they also found the company of another female "friend" made their lives happier. They said now that they have experienced such a marriage they wouldn't have it any other way.
We can apply Çréla Prabhupäd’s instructions and ideas, and they will work.
One Mormon, I was read, has 8 or more "wives". Actually he is not legally married to any of them. He had a lawyer draw up a contract of partnership. Each woman agrees to render some (non-specific) service to the man, and to remain a loyal friend, and not to seek any other male relationship. In exchange the man agrees to be financially responsible for her and all offspring that are his. The contract is for life and it also covers inheritances, etc., giving each woman similar legal and financial rights as the law provides for a legal wife. However, no where in the legally binding contract are the words marriage or wife or husband used. It is not a marriage contract, but a legally binding partnership contract that is binding in a court of law that gives the same legal rights as wife to each "girl friend". He openly publicized this arrangement and was never legally challenged as a polygamist as he is not legally married to any of his "wives".
I would also go so far as to say that no wedding fire sacrifice could be performed as this is recognized as a "legal" marriage in some States. Similar to the legally binding partnership contract, there could be a sacrifice in which each partner takes a vow to be life-long friends or life long servant and master. Not an actual wedding, not as actual husband - wife, but enough to satisfy our commitment to Krishna and yet not enough to be seen as a legal marriage in the eyes of the State. Such a fire yajna must be performed at home, not in the temple.
Another point about the "immorality" of this. What would the karmis think, devotee men living with more than one girl with no official marriage? This is highly immoral and irreligious, how can we promote this? We must preach the value and need in society to protect women. The higher morality, the higher dharma or religious principle, is that all women be properly protected by the most qualified and responsible men. The man may be living with girl friend, but in all ways he his acting just like husband and in every way the girls are acting just like wives. Only to avoid the irreligious laws, they do not make any actual statutory marriage. From one view it may appear immoral and irreligious, but the higher morality and religious injunction is to protect the women. It is a higher moral principle. Since the women are being protected religiously, then it is not at all immoral. The marriage is not statutory, but spiritual, a vow and contract between the individuals and Krsna.
Judge by the results. The result of not protecting all the women properly in society is degradation of womanhood. Women become misused as sex-objects and sex-machines only. They are demoralized into accepting cheap fast relationships with many men who only want to sleep with them and move on to the next one. The children born of such degraded relationships become unloved and unwanted and seek out vengeance upon society. The whole world goes to hell. While, what is the bad reaction for allowing men to keep more than one girl friend as wife, but not legally married? It may confound a few people without higher brains to understand, but it has no other bad effect. On the other hand it will put a stop to illicit sex and will provide an atmosphere in which good population will take birth (due to the women being properly protected).
By nature women will have relationships with men and will fall pregnant, giving birth to children. If they are not protected nicely then the children they have become unwanted, raised with no father at all, or not so nice father. Women without proper protection are abused and misused by unscrupulous men.
On the other hand, if the majority of women are protected nicely by the more advanced and saintly men of society, then the children they beget will have the most qualified fathers. These will be loved and wanted children. Thus, it is for the peace and spiritual progress of society that polygamy be practiced by the more saintly married men. This is the higher principle of morality.
It is out of total ignorance, a total lack of religious principles, that the modern laws forbid it. When this law has been previously challenged by the Mormons the US Supreme Court has refused to hear it. The Mormons had challenged that it was part of their religious teachings, and therefore was protected under freedom of religion. The Mormon’s claimed that prohibiting it was interference by the State into their Religious practices and beliefs. The Supreme Court disagreed. They said polygamy was a social issue, not a theocratic or religious issue and therefore came under the jurisdiction of the Government. Such common men have no real knowledge. Mudhas. Maybe Supreme Court Justices, but asses and fools non-the-less. Marriage is a social issue and not a religious one? All social issues are religious issues. Irreligious fools only. Because the eat the cow slaughtered in the slaughter house and they have no idea of Varnashram-Dharma, these men are ignorant of what is actually right or wrong.
Marriage is a religious rite. The State marriage certificate is simply for dealing with the State over man made laws. It has no other meaning or purpose. I have not made a vow of marriage to the State, but to God. Marriage is a contract made between the partners and the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The man vows to God to be a responsible husband and father. To maintain those under his care. It is to God a woman vows to be faithful servant to her husband. Marriage is a religious ritual.
Previously, in the West, Marriage was ordained by an ordained minister at one's Church. The priest would then record the marriage in the family's home Bible and that was it. There was no State marriage license. Marriage was a contract between the husband, wife and God, not the State. State licenses cause that the marriage is now a creature of the State, and thus comes under the law of the State and control of the State. This is tyranny. Marriage is not a creature of the State, it is a religious vow and contract made with the parties involved and God, the Supreme Father. Modern laws have tried to usurp the true religious validity of marriage and turn it into a State ordained creature. The religious ceremony is not even required in the eyes of the State had has become totally optional and a side issue. A frill. Not really holding any importance. This is an example of how Godless modern society is.
If one’s authorized religious scriptures allow him to accept more than one wife, the Federal government has no right to interfere with one’s freedom to practice his authorized religious rites. In doing so the Federal government is suppressing religious freedom. Unfortunately the Supreme Court justices had too poor a fund of knowledge to understand. Based on the Vedic scripture a man is allowed to marry more than one wife simultaneously. In the Manu Samhita there are many injunctions. Krsna, God, the obvious Lord of our religion, married 16,108 wives. It is a vital aspect of our religion.
We must preach these higher principles of the need to protect all the women. We must preach to the devotees and non-devotees alike. The sane members of society will understand. Practicing polygamy provides an impetus to preach about varëäçram-dharma, not an impediment to preaching.
This would appear to be, again, Prabhupäd's final stand on the issue. Yet, 5 weeks later on Sept 7th, 1975, Prabhupäd writes Bhagavan,
"Regarding the question of second marriage, it cannot be done. Neither the law will allow it and neither we can encourage it. If they want to marry more than one wife, they must live outside our temples in their own arrangements. We have no objection if he does it, but it must be done outside the temple. It cannot be done inside the temple jurisdiction. Outside he can work, earn money, and if he wants he can maintain 16,000 wives. But he must go outside the Society. Within the Society only one marriage can be allowed.
I thought these boys and girls will be married and be happy. But, I see that they are not satisfied. In the Western countries they are trained up in a different way. Jumping from one to another. Another wife, another husband. This is the disease all over the world. Simply by agreement, then cancelled, then another agreement.
Everyone wants more than one wife. That is human nature. This means their mind is not being diverted to Krishna. Because they are not madan mohan, they are madan dahan, they are in the Cupid's fire. You want them to have more wives under GBC supervision. You will supply the maintenance? What is this nonsense? They must go outside the Society to do it. And, the sort of marriage where they are not satisfied cannot be allowed. Nor can women with child strictly she cannot marry again." -- Letter 75-09-07 to Bhagavan
At first Prabhupäd says that second marriage cannot be done. If he meant it cannot be done period, that would be in total opposition to what he just said just a few weeks earlier. Obviously he must have meant it cannot be done in a certain way. He explains why, because it is illegal. And, what he explains is that it cannot be done legally by the temple or temple authorities. Çréla Prabhupäd was not saying that he was disallowing it. Rather, he goes on to say that he has no objection if the devotee does it. He then explains the guidelines.
In January of 1972 letter to Karandhar these guidelines were not there. At that time Srila Prabhupad was instructing the GBC to make these arrangements in their official capacity as GBC. Srila Prabhupad hinted at these criteria earlier but it was not spelled out so clearly until now, in 1975.
The devotee must live outside our temples and make their own living arrangements (their own apartment or home). It must be done outside of the temple jurisdiction. Jurisdiction means the legal scope of the temple. The temple cannot perform an illegal marriage ceremony. He must go outside the Society. Within the Society only one marriage can be allowed. Here the word "Society" is capitalized indicating that it is a reference to the legal entity of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Not that one who engages in this must be removed and shunned from the association of the devotees. Forced to live outside our 'social' network. It means outside the legal entity of ISKCON. This is something that I have found a number of devotees who are predisposed against allowing polygamy misunderstand and misrepresent. They have interpreted this to mean that anyone who dare take more than one wife is to be removed, kick out, from the temple and the society, This has no basis. Srila Prabhupad would object if someone were to leave the society of devotees. Here, he says he has no objection if devotees do this. Obviously he is not speaking of leaving the society, but living outside the Ashram called ISKCON just as Srila Prabhupad himself lived outside the Gaudiya Math Ashrams, yet he attended the programs and even gave classes, etc.
The underlying reasoning for this that Prabhupad states is because it is illegal. If it were not for this he would not have insisted in be done outside as far as the marriage ceremony is concerned. The only reason he give here is that it cannot be done within the temple jurisdiction because it is illegal. Otherwise, if they do so on their own, with their own arrangements, Prabhupad says he has no objection.
He makes a remark about how in the West boys and girls get married, then jump from one to the next, another wife, another husband. It is a criticism of marriage / divorce / marriage / divorce. This is not pleasing to Prabhupäd. It is adharmic, against all religious principles. Since we have not got the original letter sent in nor do we know the circumstances, it is hard to tell what this statement is in reference to. It could be argued to mean that this man (or woman) may have already divorced one wife and married another, we actually do not know.
Then he says that every man wants more than one wife. That is human nature. But then adds that this means the mind is not diverted to Krishna. They are not the ‘enchanter’s of Cupid or the controllers of lust, but they are in the fire of lusty desire. Prabhupäd is here being critical of those men who desire more than one wife. (At least for those who do so for the reasons of satisfying their uncontrolled lusty desires). Again we do not know the exact circumstances of this particular devotee or his asking for the arrangement. It is possible this comment was given in general about any man who would want to take another wife, that is a good argument, or it could have been a comment related to this particular circumstance. He did not say like this other times when he said he had no objection to polygamy.
Still, he is not disallowing it, and neither is he really discouraging it. Just 3 weeks earlier he was arguing in favor of it being practiced by devotees. In this letter also he says he has no objection, but, it has to be for the proper reasons and it must follow the criteria he now clearly laid out.
It is also to be noted that most of the same guidelines he outlined for one who takes more then one wife, he gave for all grhastas, even if they have but only one wife. In the Caitany Caritamrita Madya Lila 24.266 it is stated that if householders live in the Society’s centers but do not work, living at the expense of the movement, they place themselves in a very dangerous position. "It is therefore advised that grhastas should not live in the temple. They must live outside the temple and maintain themselves." These were guidelines he advised for all grhastas, and for those who would take more than 1 wife, he absolutely demanded it, with the added guidelines to make sure that the temples do not get themselves legally implicated.
In Vedic culture it is the father’s duty to get his daughter married. In Iskcon, for the girls who join the temple from outside at an older age, it is generally the GBC, temple president or other devotee appointed by them to make such arrangements. Originally Prabhupäd encouraged Karandhar to arrange polygamous marriages in January of 73. Intrinsically Srila Prabhupad was not opposed to this. However, it was brought out that there could be legal implications for the temple if the temple authorities did this. Here he questions Bhagawan if he wants the GBC to supervise such marriages? And then asks, the GBC will also supply their maintenance? Obviously Srila Prabhupad says this is non-sense. GBC or temple authorities cannot be involved, they would then be legally implicated. Thus, he says, those who wish to do this must do so on their own, outside the temple. He said in the first paragraph that, "they must live outside in their own arrangements." Combined with the fact that the GBC or temple authorities cannot be involved due to legal implications, it is my conclusion that the man is supposed to, therefore, make his own arrangements for the additional marriages. Clearly he does not want the GBC giving a devotee temple maintenance who takes more then one wife. He says that devotees who do so, must do it outside of ISKCON and provide their own living arrangements and maintenance. Within the Society, the ashram, Srila Prabhupad made exception and allows a devotee to live with one wife, only. Not more. Ashram is ideally meant only from brahmacaris and sannyasis, not grhastas, but Srila Prabhupad has given concession, he will allow married man with one wife to live in his ashrams.
Çréla Prabhupäd adds a very important instruction. Women with child, “strictly”, Prabhupäd says, she cannot marry again. This is especially important as this instruction is given in regard to a devotee taking more then one wife. There are many Western devotees who wrongly think that this is the only way polygamy should be practiced. This is allowed in Islam, but it is not allow by Manu Samhita, nor by Srila Prabhupad.
Several years ago I was speaking with a devotee who claimed he was involved with a GBC sub-committee on setting ISKCON marriage standards (I have been informed later that his involvement was more or less unofficial). I mentioned to him that I was, at that time, interested in finding a second wife. I told him, however, that despite my older age, I would only consider someone who was chaste, virgin. Immediately he said that was totally unacceptable. He argued that if I was really set on taking a second wife I should only consider seeking a woman who was previously married with children. For a married man to even think of taking a virgin girl, was to him, somehow immoral. Just see. That goes completely against Dharma Shastra and against Srila Prabhupad's instructions.
I explained the whole purpose was to give protection to an unwed girl who may otherwise spoil if not married soon. He argued that the divorced women who had children also were seeking a man to protect them. No. I am sorry to say, but they already have a husband. A woman is not allow to remarry. That is the law of dharma. There was a mataji in the community who had 3 children all from the same devotee husband, who was still an active ISKCON devotee. I was told it would be more acceptable to the devotees if I married her, and totally unacceptable to offer protection to a chaste virgin girl. This is advice made in the mode of total ignorance regarding the laws of dharma. Such advice is completely at odds with Çréla Prabhupäd’s instructions. Here Srila Prabhupad mentions this point in connection with polygamy. Strictly a mother with child she cannot be remarried. That is not allowed by the laws of dharma. And yet this devotee was advising the GBC on matters of marriage standards, he did not even understand basic tenants of dharma.
The Manu Samhita, which Çréla Prabhupäd calls the lawbook for all mankind, is very heavy on this and related topics of divorce and remarriage. Manu Samhita 9.64 states that no one can authorize a widow to sleep with another man (to obtain offspring in the event her husband dies), nor can anyone authorize the remarriage of a widow. Manu says that a brahman, who in his folly, authorizes such is in violation of sanätan-dharma. MS 9.65 says that in all sacred Vedic texts that refer to marriage, no where is found that a widow can remarry. MS 9.30 it is stated that if a woman becomes disloyal to her one and only husband, all other men must shun her. In her next life she must take birth in the womb of a jackal, tormented with diseases as punishment for her disloyalty. MS 9.41 states that men of good quality must never lay down with another man’s wife. And MS 9.46 states that neither by any amount of money or by legal or social repudiation (divorce) can a woman be released from her vow of being the wife of her husband. This is the law of dharma. (There is no such thing as divorce).
It is up to the men of society to elevate themselves to these standards. If men did this it would give women the impetus to become submissive and remain faithful to their one and only husband. How? If, once a woman leaves her husband, or he leaves her, if no other man would have anything to do with her, this will give the woman the impetus to make their marriage work. Çréla Prabhupäd taught that the cause for nearly all marriages breaking up is that the wife is not submissive. Today women have no impetus to take a submissive role. However, if men become elevated to the standards of the dharma shastra, then once a woman is married (or in any way touched by a man) no man will have anything to do with her. Especially if she leaves her husband and has become disloyal. If no man will then have anything to do with her, this, and only this, will give women the impetus to become submissive and remain forever faithful.
The whole process of chastity of women depends on the men. Men must raise their standards to the level of varnasram-dharma. And based on that dharma accept only virgins for wives, no matter if it is first wife or 100th wife. Or the man is 16 or 80. Once men become elevated to this standard, then all else will follow.
Prabhupäd calls the process of marriage, including polygamy, a very scientific process. Most of the world, including many devotees, appear to have a lack of knowledge as to what is proper or improper. These books are an attempt to do something about that.
The letter to Bhagavan was in Sept. of 75. On Nov. 9 of 75, Prabhupäd wrote Satsvarup a letter and said, "... Regarding the devotee taking a second wife, it is all right from Vedic culture, but it is not right from American law view point. That you have to adjust." Here Çréla Prabhupäd didn't go into the long explanation telling how the devotee cannot live inside the temple etc. He did not give any philosophic discouragement at all. He didn’t chastise the devotee in any manner at all. All he says is that it is all right according to Vedic culture, but it is illegal in America, so you make some adjustments.
What is important to remember is that it was only 3 months earlier that Satsvarup had objected to the idea of allowing polygamy in ISKCON for this same reason. It is illegal in America. At that time Çréla Prabhupäd instructed Satsvarup that was not a difficult problem. There is no law against keeping girl friends, so simply don’t call husband and wife, call boy friend, girl friend. Now, 3 months later when Prabhupäd tells Satsvarup to make some adjustment, it would seem most logical to conclude that the proper adjustment would be to follow the previous instructions and advise this man not to marry the second girl, but to keep her like wife in all respects, just don’t legally marry.
The following is from a room conversation which appears in the BBT Port Folio as July 7, 1976, in Baltimore (although Hari Sauri Prabhu says is a mistake, that it was actually recorded on July 6, in Wash. DC.). They were discussing divorce and Srila Prabhupad asked when it was introduced. Pradyumna said it was introduced by Henry the Eighth, the King of England. The Catholic Church didn’t allow divorce or for a man to take more than one wife. The king very quickly got dissatisfied with his wives and since he couldn’t divorce or take another wife he did what any completely degraded immoral rascal would do, he had their heads cut off. Then he was allowed to marry another wife. After the second time the Catholic Church ex-communicated him. He then started his own Church, the Church of England, which allowed divorce. Such a degraded culture. In this degraded environment divorce is conceived by a man of total immoral and degraded character.
Prabhupad: …Kings were allowed to marry more than one wife. Why to accept another wife means another wife should be killed? What is this? Everything nonsense. King can marry more than one wife. And at the time of marriage they were given so many woman. Because the woman population is greater than the man, always. So when the King is married, along with the queen, many other friends of the queen they would go with the king. They live in the same palace, same palace. Sometimes they had children, däsé-putra. Just like Vidura. Vidura was not queen’s son. One of these women friends. So that was allowed.
Rüpänuga: They were raised with the real sons.
Prabhupäda: Oh, yes.
Rüpänuga: Treated nicely.
Prabhupäda: Yes. Not that because he is born of a däsé no care should be taken. No, equal. But he cannot inherit the throne, that’s all. There was no question. Even Muhammadans, they used to marry more than one wife. Two hundred years ago, one Muslim Nawab of Lucknow, Wazel Dusayet(?), he had hundred and sixty wives. The palaces are still there, Lucknow, hundred and sixty palaces. Why the Nawab? Our Kåñëa, not hundred sixty but another zero, another, hundred sixty thousand, two zeros. Hundred sixty plus two zeros. They were not neglected. But He is God, He expanded Himself also, sixteen thousand forms, so that no wife would feel separation. So if one husband can maintain properly more than one wife, he’s allowed. But the wife must be taken care of properly. Not that because I have got more than one wife, one is neglected, one is... No. She must be taken care of.
Våñäkapi: We were talking the other day, not in our society though.
Våñäkapi: Not in the ISKCON society, though.
Prabhupäda: In the Kali-yuga one cannot maintain even one wife, what to speak of more than one. They are afraid to marry one wife. I first heard this, one elderly lady in New York. At that time, I was newcomer. I asked her, “Why don’t you get your son married?” “Yes, he can be married, provided he can maintain wife,” she said. So these things were unknown to us. In India, whether he’ll be able to maintain... Just like I was married when I was third-year student. Where is the income? There is no income, but still I was married. -- 760707r3.bat (note Hari Sauri says it was actually recorded on 6th of July in Wash. DC.)
This conversation is significant, more so then what appears here. Several devotees who were aware that I was writing about polygamy told me to speak to Hari Sauri. Being Srila Prabhupäd’s personal servant for many years he was present several times when the topic was brought up. His personal view is that Srila Prabhupäd strictly did not want his followers to practice it. I spoke with him about this. He has additional information in regards to the above conversation.
In the above conversation Vrsakapi makes reference to a conversation he had with Prabhupad a few days earlier. Prabhupad states that if the man can properly maintain more than one wife, he is allowed. Vrsakapi adds, “Not in the ISKCON society, though”. Srila Prabhupad says that in Kali Yuga one cannot even maintain one wife, what to speak of more than one. He says today men are afraid to marry even one wife (but, he has also said at other times if one can maintain more than one, he’s allowed to do so).
The prior conversation refereed to here by Vrsakapi was not recorded and is therefore not in the BBT Folio, however, Hari Sauri was present at that meeting and gives further insight. Although Hari Sauri was present and actually heard the conversation, still I am at odds with him as to what Srila Prabhupad meant. I base my point of view on the study of what Prabhupad said before and after these meetings. I am not at odds with him about most of what he says that Prabhupad said, but I differ in the understanding of what Srila Prabhupad meant by what he said.
Hari Sauri says that the day or two before, while in Wash. DC, Vrsakapi was speaking with Srila Prabhupad about the polygamy issue. Vrsakapi was requesting Srila Prabhupad to give an official sanction for it within ISKCON. Hari Sauri said Srila Prabhupad was adamant. He said it is not to be allowed in ISKCON. Vrsakapi brought up several quotes where Srila Prabhupad had spoke favorably about it, but Srila Prabhupad insisted that it was not to be allowed in ISKCON. If someone wanted more than one wife he must leave the temple and live outside on his own. Unfortunately the conversation was not recorded, so it is not possible to know exactly what was said.
Hari Sauri firmly believes that what Srila Prabhupad meant was that any one who engages in such activities is to no longer be considered an official devotee of ISKCON. The temples and the GBC should officially excommunicate him and ban him as a member and that he will no longer have any official connection with ISKCON. He therefore cannot be engaged in any ISKCON project or service, especially in the capacity of management. (the details were added by Hari Sauri, as his interpretation of what he thought Srila Prabhupad said). Hari Sauri told me personally that he sees polygamy as being inconsistent with the philosophy of Krishna Consciousness. Thus, his personal bias is against it. With that bias, even though he was personally present, it is my conclusion that his predisposed idea that this was immoral and wrong led him to the wrong conclusion regarding what Prabhupad was saying.
While Hari Sauri wrote down some notes in his diary later that evening or the next day, it is no where near as accurate as a recording or letter. It is very possible that what he wrote down was also biased by what he thought Srila meant, and may not have been an actual true word for word transcript. As with any topic, in-depth study provides newer and deeper insight. My disagreement is based on what Srila Prabhupad said both before and after this incident. I am looking for consistency in what Srila Prabhupad was teaching and what Hari Sauri claims is not at all consistent with Srila Prabhupad's other instructions on the topic.
As presented earlier, back in August of 75 (nearly 1 year earlier), on the New Orleans farm, Srila Prabhupad was asked “should our men take more than one wife?” and Srila Prabhupad says he has no objection. During that conversation there was no mention of it not being allowed in ISKCON. The setting was the farm community and the discussions were about how to introduce varnasram. When devotees argued against it, Srila Prabhupad defeated their arguments.
Then, a few weeks later in Sept. of 75 Srila Prabhupad wrote Bhagavan and said it cannot be allowed in ISKCON. Similar to what Hari Sauri says Srila Prabhupad is telling Vrsakapi. But, in the letter to Bhagavan Srila Prabhupad defines what he means. And he does so in writing. He states that it not be allowed because it is illegal. Yet, he says if they go outside the temple jurisdiction (which means the legal scope) of the temple (and the terms ‘temple’ ‘Society’ and ‘Iskcon’ are used interchangeably), then Prabhupad says he ‘has no objection’. Srila Prabhupad didn’t object to it, as long as ISKCON was not legally implicated (and the women are nicely maintained, the man must be responsible, etc.).
Srila Prabhupad doesn’t say that the devotee who takes more than one wife is to be officially booted out of ISKCON. That he is no longer to be seen as a fit member (or disciple or follower of Srila Prabhupad). That he can no longer participate in management activities. He clearly says he had no objection if his men do this if they follow his instructions on how to do it. But, Hari Sauri thinks that is what Srila Prabhupad meant and he has advised the GBC on this point at times.
Hari Sauri also says that the topic was raised in the 1976 GBC meetings and he says the conclusion was the same. That Prabhupad indicated that it is not to be allowed in ISKCON. Again, none of this was recorded and is not in the BBT Folio. I agree that the idea that it cannot be allowed in ISKCON, the ashram, is something Srila Prabhupad would instruct. I disagree with the way Hari Sauri interprets their meaning. It would be totally consistent with Prabhupad’s other instructions of that time, before or after. Thus, I say that Hari Sauri's interpretation is not correct. Unfortunately there is no recording or transcript of what he actually said.
This is not the end of the story concerning Vrshakapi. Hari Sauri says that when Vrshakapi meet with Srila Prabhupad and was requesting some formal sanction (which he did not get) Hari Sauri says that Vrsakapi had a personal motive in requesting this, but he was not straightforward with Prabhupad about it.
In Nov. of 76, Çréla Prabhupäd wrote a very strong letter to Rupa Nuga chastising Vrsakapi in this regards. Hari Sauri shed a little more light on the subject, more then the letter reveals on it’s own. Hari Sauri told me that, although in the meeting with Prabhupad earlier Vrshakapi was only asking about allowing others to take more than one wife, it was found out later that Vrshakapi had been having an affair with one of the brahmacarini’s under his care. He was wanting to take the girl as a second wife, and this is why he was trying to get an official sanction from Prabhupad to allow him to make arrangements for others, officially, in ISKCON. (Which I pointed out why Prabhupad would not give it, for legal reasons). Srila Prabhupad was informed of the real situation. On the 8th of November, 76. Prabhupäd wrote Rupa Nuga:
“This incident with the president of our Washington temple is not good. He can't even maintain one wife. Just see how lusty he is. Now he'll dare to take another. Anyway he cannot live in the temple. If he wants two wives it must be done outside. He should maintain his family by working and give 50% to the temple. He may not live off temple funds. Temple president is generally meant for sannyasi, but a grhastha may be if he is restrained. It is not good if he remains as president.” Letter 76-11-08 to Rupa Nuga
This appears to be the last letter Çréla Prabhupäd wrote concerning polygamy. Prior to having access to the VedaBase Folio. But, not his last word on the topic.
Obviously any desire to associate with the opposite sex means lusty desires are involved whether it is with one wife or 10 wives. But, there other reasons for Srila Prabhupad to say this case was due to lust that reading the letter on it's own does not reveal. From the added information Hari Sauri gave we understand that Vrsakapi was having an affair with a girl under his supervision as temple president. But the more obvious reason for saying this man was motivated only by lust is stated by Srila Prabhupad. He says this devotee cannot even maintain one wife, therefore, just see how lusty he is.
But, he was temple president, a manager, well respected senior devotee holding a leadership post. He had comfortable living accommodations. What does Prabhupäd mean he can’t maintain even one wife? Because, like others in the past who wanted Prabhupad to give them another wife, he was living in the temple. He was not maintaining himself and his wife, the temple was maintaining both he and his wife. That is what Srila Prabhhpad means, if you want to do this, do so outside of ISKCON, outside of the temple ashram. Go, get a job, earn your own living, maintain your self, your wives, your family, help support the temple, then you can take as many wives as you want. But, not that you live at the temple and the GBC, or the temple, or Srila Prabhupad will maintain you and your many wives while living at the temple. It is really a simple thing to understand that Srila Prabhupad was saying. Just see how so many things he taught were misunderstood.
If one cannot maintain one wife, but wants to take another, then the motive is only to satisfy one's lust. Then there is no question of offering "protection" to the other wife. Where is the "protection", if you cannot even maintain one wife? On the other hand, if one can maintain one wife and has finances to maintain another, then he is able to offer actual "protection". Going back to 1969 Srila Prabhupad explained this very clearly:
And a man is allowed, if he is, I mean to say, able man, he can marry more than one wife. Not that simply marry. To get more than one wife does not mean sense enjoyment. The wife must be maintained very respectfully. She must have good house, good ornaments, good food, good servants, good children. Then one can marry. Not that simply for sense gratification. -- 690913SB.LON
To take more than one wife does not mean sense enjoyment. The motive of the man must not be simply to enjoy increased sex-life. Rather, the motive is to 'protect', to 'provide for' and 'care for' the wives and children. That means the wife must be given home, jewelry, nice clothing, good food, etc. Then one can take additional wife if he is financially able to protect.
In regards to this letter about Vrsakapi I do not find that Çréla Prabhupäd was disapproving of men taking more than one wife if it is done properly. For the right reason. But here the circumstances were wrong. Therefore Prabhupad was rightfully upset. Still, he stated what the devotee must do to permit it. Live outside, work and maintain yourself and your wives on your own.
This is the same criteria as he has stated before. Live outside the temple ashram, earn your own livelihood and give 50% to the temple. (Giving 50% to the temple is an instruction he gave to all grhastas, not just for men wanting a second wife) He must not live off temple funds. Srila Prabhupad is not saying, you do this, you rascal, and I will kick you out, you will be banned from my temples. No, this is not what he said. With all due respects to my friend Hari Sauri, this is not what Srila Prabhupad meant.
Then Prabhupäd gives one more guideline specifically pertaining to the position of temple presidents. Prabhupäd says that temple president should be sannyasi. He has allowed grhasta if he is restrained (grhasta-brahamacari). Temple president living with 2 wives, Prabhupäd didn’t feel that was acceptable. He advised that he should step down as temple president.
Yet, some GBC and temple authorities have come to the wrong conclusion that any devotee who engages in polygamy should be punished. They should be prohibited from holding any managerial or leadership position, and in some cases they are banned from temples or associating with devotees. Srila Prabhupad never said this. This was not his policy. It is wrong. Yes, for a temple president, he should step down, why not, he had just violated principles. He was caught having a secret affair with a brahmacarini, a girl under his authority. And, he needed to go out side and get a job and maintain his own family. So, that was appropriate for him to step down. But, could he still come, lead kirtans, give classes, take up other leadership roles. Yes, why not? Srila Prabhupad was not prohibiting this. These things the GBC are misunderstanding and taking wrong action.
As Rupa Gosvami states (quoted by Prabhupad in his purport to SB 4.18.3) that if one posses himself to be advanced in spiritual knowledge but does not support his views by references from the sruti and smrti he is simply creating disturbance in society. Then Prabhupad goes on to say how the Manu Smrti is to be followed by all of human society, in both spiritual life and material life. (He didn’t exclude ISKCON devotees). The Manu Samhita fully allows men to take more than one wife. It does not suggest any punitive measures against those who practice it, and neither did Srila Prabhupad. If the GBC cannot give evidence in sruti and smrti for their stand against polygamy, than they must rescind it. Otherwise, Rupa goswami says, it will only create disturbance in society.
If one can manage more than one wife, that should be seen as a major accomplishment in this age of Kali. If the man is doing it properly it is an example of being highly responsible. Why disallow someone like this from sharing his abilities in some position of responsibility within ISKCON? Such logic is faulty. Vasudev, Krishna’s father, or Arjun, Krishna’s dear friend, we will ban from responsible positions in ISKCON. What is this?
To protect ISKCON's social standing? That is also not supportable. Rather, ISKCON should be preaching boldly in favor or polygamy. As the principle is based on proper religious protection for the women. This is our duty to help the world take up the principles of dharma. Our duty is to preach, not to run and hide.
Rather, I am in favor of the GBC creating punitive measures against members who remarry a divorced mataji. Manu Samhita supports such punitive measures. Manu Samhita and Prabhupad’s teachings do not, however, support punitive measures against a man with more than one wife. But, if one arranges the remarriage of a woman who has already been married, Manu says that person has broken the eternal laws of religion. Manu, and Prabhupad, state there is no such thing as divorce, therefore to remarry a woman who was already married is the same as sleeping with another man’s wife. For this Manu smrti gives very severe punishment. (It also gives lesser punishment, but it also states that: ) The woman can be taken into a public place and devoured by dogs. The man can be placed on red-hot iron and burned to death. For this there is very much shastric support for taking punitive measures. But not for a man who takes more than one wife.
A man who remarries another man’s wife is completely socially irresponsible. He has broken the laws of dharma. Canakya Pandit says such a woman becomes the enemy of her children, so the man must also assume responsibility for creating such a situation. It is shastricly forbidden, irreligious, degraded and socially irresponsible. This the GBC should take punitive measures against. Such devotees who engage in marrying a woman who has already been married and has child from other devotee husband. Such devotees should be prohibited from holding any position of management or responsibility in ISKCON. This is fully supported by shastra and the laws of Varnasram. The GBC should manage in this way, not whimsically creating their own standards which are not supported by shastra.
On Feb 27 of 77, Prabhupäd, in a room conversation is being asked questions concerning a father who wants to get his 12 year old daughter married properly in accordance with the Vedic system. However, Prabhupad’s mood at the time is one of disgust with the way marriages have been failing in ISKCON. He says:
Prabhupäd: That is the disease in your country, that... There is no objection nineteen-years-old boy and twelve-years girl, it is very good combination, but the culture is so bad that after few days they will separate.
Rädhä-vallabha: Yes. That’s the actual problem.
Prabhupäda: If they stick to have one husband and one wife, it is very good. Or even the man can marry more than one wife. That is allowed in the Vedic system. The difficulty is nobody remains as wife, nobody remains husband. It is very dangerous. That is against Vedic. Otherwise man can have more than one wife, but woman cannot marry more than one husband. But the system—the boys and girls intermingle so freely, and in your country there is no restriction—naturally it becomes adulterated. That is the danger
Rädhä-vallabha: So he wanted to know that...
Prabhupäda: Knowing or no knowing, they’ll not do with him. So what is the use of consulting me? They’ll break. They’ll promise and they’ll break. How you can make them standardized? They will break.
Rädhä-vallabha: They have to be responsible people.
Prabhupäda: They’ll never become. That is my experience. So what is the use of consulting me? They’ll never become. Almost impossible. They’ll not keep standardized.
Rädhä-vallabha: So it should just be up to them.
Prabhupäda: What is the use of consulting? They’ll promise and they’ll break.
Rädhä-vallabha: Yes, you were telling me in Hawaii about that, that that is the difficulty. They have no responsibility. All right, I’ll tell him that.
Rädhä-vallabha: I will tell him that.
Prabhupäda: Otherwise there is no objection. I married; my wife was eleven years old.
Rädhä-vallabha: You were responsible, though.
Rädhä-vallabha: But you were responsible.
Prabhupäda: Everyone in India responsible. That is Indian culture still.. -- 770227rc.may
Srila Prabhupad’s was obviously, at that moment, fed up with ISKCON marriages in the West. He asks, “What is the use of consulting me?”. They will promise and then after a few days they will break. So, what is the use?
And, I am very sad to say, in this particular incident this boy and girl did marry, and most unfortunately after some time the marriage was broken. As Srila Prabhupad almost said it would.
He makes a very important point here. He says the reason marriages do not stick in the West is because our culture is so bad. In America there is no restriction. Boys and girls intermingle freely, then it becomes adulterated. (Lack of chastity for the women) And for the men, they are not responsible. They promise something one day, the next day they break it. No concept of dignity. No concept of honoring unto death a vow taken before Krishna and guru. In India, he says, everyone is responsible. That is the culture there, still.
The lessons are clear. As far as marriages, we may get all the technical details right. The age of the boy, the girl, astrologically, all external details may appear correct, but if the girl and boy are not trained nicely in varnasram culture, the marriage will still not last. It will break. To come to the proper cultural attitudes requires training, and that is what Srila Prabhupad is pointing out here. In the West the boys and girls mix freely, everything becomes spoiled.
Prabhupad’s attitude is almost one of total frustration. It almost appears that he is saying it is no use to try anymore. It will fail anyway. If this is really true, then why bother? Well, Prabhupad does give one small fractional hope, he says it is almost impossible. There may be one hope. And only one that I see. We have to adopt the Vedic culture, varnasram-dharma, as taught by the Manus, not in a few external things, but in all aspects. We must raise ourselves to the standards of social dharma, as taught by the Manus. Prabhupad has taught that varnasram means human society. Societies not based on the laws of varnasram, he said, is animal life only.
It isn’t that Prabhupad was always in this mood of disgust. As we shall see, he still gave practical instructions in these matters, along with the hope that such things can and must and will be done. In other words, due to so much bad culture in the West, we must be fully aware that it will be most difficult, but, we must not give up. Rather, I see this as impetus for us to try most diligently.
Again, this conversation concerned getting the daughter married. This time it was an actual situation, the devotee’s daughter, getting her married before puberty. Again, in this context, Prabhupad mentions that men can take more than one wife.
A few days later on March 2nd, 77, Satsvarup is in Prabhupad’s room reading the GBC resolutions that were just passed. There was one item the GBC wasn’t sure how to handle and were presenting it to Srila Prabhupad so that he would say something. He did. It wasn’t what they expected:
Satsvarüpa: …Then one of the popular means to distribute books is by women’s party. A party of women will travel under the care of a man devotee. But in taking care of the women, we have noted that some of these parties have been preaching a false philosophy of the relationship of the man who’s taking care of the women, and that philosophy is that the saìkértana leader is the eternal husband and protector of the women in the party.
We wantthat this philosophy should be rejected. If a man is taking care of a number of women in a saìkértana party, he should be regarded as the son as well as a representative of the spiritual master, of Çréla Prabhupäda, and not the husband of these women.
Prabhupäda: Husband, but why he does not marry them?
Satsvarüpa: Well, sometimes there may be as many as twenty women in a party.
Kértanänanda: They would like to.
Prabhupäda: We have no objection if one marries more than one wife. That I have stated. But law does not allow it. So do the needful. -- 770302rc.may
(=========== Left off here - remaining to be re-edited)
One man is taking care of a number of women. The GBC are asking Prabhupäd to say something to stop what they thought was a false philosophy. Rather then these men taking the position of husband of these girls, the GBC felt they should be as son’s and simultaneously as representatives of guru. Noble reasoning.
Çréla Prabhupäd’s response must have surprised a few devotees. Instead of smashing this ‘false’ philosophy, Prabhupäd asks why the men don’t marry these women? This idea came totally unprovoked directly from Çréla Prabhupäd. Not only did he have no objection, he is making the suggestion himself. Satsvarup points out that in some of these parties there are up to 20 women. Sort of to say, how horrible - we can’t allow this!! Prabhupäd’s response, “We have no objection if one marries more then one wife. That I have stated”. That, Prabhupad says, he has already stated.
Çréla Prabhupäd points out only one problem. The same single underlying problem. The law doesn’t allow, so do the needful. He isn’t saying don’t allow it, but is leaving it up to them. He already instructed how that was to be done. Don’t call husband wife, and make sure ISKCON isn’t legally implicated. This was the needful thing to do.
It is important to note that Srila Prabhupäd says he has already instructed that he has no objection for a man to take more than one wife. This would seem to indicate that Prabhupäd thought everyone should have known this by then. This makes it even more questionable that Çréla Prabhupäd took an absolutely opposing view toward it in 1976 either at the GBC meetings or in his private talk with the Wash. DC Temple President. It is as if Prabhupäd is saying, I have already told you, I don’t object, not if it is done properly, so why are you looking so surprised?
We can preach what Prabhupäd said, but if it is illegal, we cannot officially make it a part of our legal GBC or ISKCON policy. Nor can we perform illegal marriages. Nor can we create a situation where ISKCON could be implicated (as in temple president’s or GBC’s officially making such arrangements). But, if a devotee maintains himself, has his own living arrangements, etc., even if he takes 16,000 wives, we have no objection. It is the same with the Mormons. Officially the Mormon Church does not sanction such marriages. But, if one practices it they do not punish such followers. Rather, many Mormon’s privately promote it, but publicly they say they oppose.
How can anyone say that Prabhupäd didn’t want this to be practiced by ISKCON men at the present time, when he himself is suggesting not just one, but several of his own disciples that they marry all the women under their charge, even 20 women or more ? ? ?
Another point about this incident is that Prabhupäd never suggests that if the men do take these girls as wives that they must stop their service of being leaders of a book distribution party. He didn’t say they would have to go out and get a different job to maintain their many wives. And he didn’t suggest they would no longer be members of ISKCON. Why? Because he had at another time instructed that selling his books was a first-class means of livelihood for a grhasta. These devotees were already engaged in a bona-fied occupation for a grhasta. By the selling of the books they were not only maintaining themselves, but they were helping to maintain the temples, BBT, etc. There was no question that they should have to give up this service, as would be expected for a temple president.
As we know, some of these men did live with these girls like husband’s and ultimately everything ended in a mess. To be fair, at the same time many monogamous marriages also ended in a mess. Does that mean we should reject all marriages? The fault is not polygamy. If each girl had only one husband, it is likely, following the statistics of other monogamous marriages, most would have failed as well. That is why training is needed. That is why men should only marry chaste virgins who are willing to be submissive. I was told, however, that one such marriage did work out, up until the man fell down and got involved with drugs (which some feel he was pressured to do so by others).
Another point I would like to mention is peer pressure. Social acceptance or rejection is very crucial. If the society does not properly understand, it creates animosity and conflict. In this particular incident, I never heard that Prabhupäd had sanctioned (what to speak of suggested himself) these men accept all the girls in their care as wives. This was not "publicized" by the local GBC. Rather, I recall hearing how these men were non-sense sense enjoyers. The girls were at times referred to as less intelligent fools for being cheated by these "non-sense devotees". This animosity can cause the women to feel ashamed of their actions and cause friction between them, their husband, themselves and the rest of the Vaishnav community. Some people saw this as a complete farce. I recall the attitude of one brahmacari who wanted to get married. He felt the idea of polygamy was non-sense, that the girls had been cheated by this non-sense man. He thought it was his duty to try and ‘save’ one of these girls by convincing them to leave their husband and marry him. (This is debauchery) Other men thought these women must be so loose they will have sex with anyone and tried to have illicit affairs with several of them. These factors also have to be weighed in. None of this would have happened if everyone was aware that it was Prabhupad himself who suggested it.
On April, 29th, of 1977 Prabhupäd is speaking with Tamal about the education of our young girls:
Prabhupäda: So far gurukula is concerned, that also, I have given program. They have given the name of “girls.” We are not going to do that.
Tamäla Kåñëa: What is that?
Prabhupäda: Girls. Boys and girls. That is dangerous.
Tamäla Kåñëa: Gurukula.
Prabhupäda: In that article.
Tamäla Kåñëa: Oh, oh, oh.
Prabhupäda: Girls should be completely separated from the very beginning. They are very dangerous.
Tamäla Kåñëa: So we’re... I thought there were girls in Våndävana now. They said that they’re going to have the girls’ gurukula behind the boys’ gurukula. Gopäla was talking about that.
Prabhupäda: No, no, no. No girls.
Tamäla Kåñëa: It should be in another city or somewhere else.
Prabhupäda: Yes. They should be taught how to sweep, how to stitch...
Tamäla Kåñëa: Clean.
Prabhupäda: ...clean, cook, to be faithful to the husband.
Tamäla Kåñëa: They don’t require a big school.
Prabhupäda: No, no. That is mistake. They should be taught how to become obedient to the husband.
Tamäla Kåñëa: Yeah, you won’t learn that in school.
Prabhupäda: Little education, they can...
Tamäla Kåñëa: Yeah. That they can get at home also.
Prabhupäda: They should be stopped, this practice of prostitution. This is a very bad system in Europe and America. The boys and girls, they are educated—coeducation. From the very beginning of their life they become prostitutes. And they encourage.
Tamäla Kåñëa: Oh, yeah.
Prabhupäda: They distribute pills. I have seen the boys and girls dancing together, embracing, in the school film. That ruins the career. Both of them are ruined. That is very regrettable. Then you shall require this sterilization, pills, another big program. They are creating animal civilization, and when the animals are disturbing, they are trying to find out some other means. This is their program. First of all create animals. Then, when the animals behave like animals, then another program. Why do you create animal?
Woman brahmacäriëé, this is artificial.
Tamäla Kåñëa: In our centers, though, there are so many brahmacäriëés, and even sometimes they’re encouraged to remain brahmacäriëé.
Prabhupäda: That they cannot. As soon as they will find opportunity, they will become vyabhicäriëé (unchaste)... ... For woman, protection".
Tamal "So, you don't advocate this remaining sing,,, these women remaining brahmacarinis"
Prabhupäd "Therefore polygamy was allowed. Let them be taken care of, one husband, three wives." -- 770429rc.bom
Back in Feb. of 73 when Çréla Prabhupäd wrote several letters saying that polygamy must be strictly prohibited in our society, he said we can do as the Christians and start a convent for celibate women. Now Prabhupäd says they will only become prostitute. For women protection - by marriage. Therefore, let them be taken care of, one man, three wives. He is speaking of the ISKCON brahmacarinis, girls who joined later in life on their own accord, as opposed to the devotee daughters. For both he advocated marriage as the authorized system of protection. And to facilitate the protection by marriage of all the girls, he is encouraging polygamy. As long as it is done properly. As long as the girls are maintained nicely, and ISKCON isn’t legally implicated.
Ksatriyas were taking hundreds of women They had money."
[ISKCON devotee 3 (or more) wives, ksatriyas have money, they can take 100’s of wives]
The last reference I found about marriage, June 28th, 77. Prabhupäd's last instruction on the matter.
Prabhupäda: …And the boy and the girl are not allowed to mix with second girl, second boy. They are kept strictly. And when they’re grown up, they’re allowed to mix and the affection becomes firm. These are psychology. It is the psychology of woman that before puberty, if she has got a boy, she loves forever. She’ll never be unchaste. So these marriage things are done very psychologically, scientifically, so that they may become happy, and then, in peaceful mind, combine together, good cooperation, they make progress, spiritual. This is the plan, varëäçrama-dharma. Very scientific. And Kåñëa says, “I am that.” Whatever Kåñëa shall give—perfect. Nobody cares they are suffering.
[Today the youth are suffering, how to find boy friend, husband, how to find girl friend, wife. But to find they are mixing freely, boys and girls. The result will be all bad arrangements. Due to lose of chastity the marriages will fail. They are suffering and who is caring to introduce this very scientific system based on varëäçram-dharma that will stop this suffering?]
Tamäl Kåñëa: Now you are introducing again to the world. There is good hope. Young girls in our society, they should be promised to some boy just in the same way, by their parents.
[Çréla Prabhupäd wasn’t speaking of old India, or ideal Vedic times. He wanted us to follow this. Our daughters are to be married this way. Before puberty. This is Prabhupäd’s instruction. Prabhupäd’s response to the idea of ISKCON devotee parents giving their daughters in marriage at puberty age is…]
Prabhupäda: And if required, one man can take care of more than one wife because woman population is greater.
Tamäl Kåñëa: Right. And some boys want to remain brahmacäré. So naturally there’s fewer men for women.
Prabhupäda: And those who are able, you can keep more than one wife. Just see Kåñëa—sixteen thousand wives. God. That is God. Come on, if there is anyone to compete. Sixteen thousand palaces, sixteen thousands wives, each wife, ten sons. That is God.
[“Those who are able, you can keep more than one wife”. The “you” he is referring to is the ISKCON devotees. His followers.]
Tamäla Kåñëa: No one is equal to or greater than Him.
Prabhupäda: All queens are happy. Whatever she desires from husband... Satyabhämä... And Kåñëa went to the heaven and brought the pärijäta flower to satisfy. This is husband. Wife has asked for something: “All right.”
Tamäla Kåñëa: He even had to fight.
Prabhupäda: Oh, yes. That is husband’s duty. She has dedicated her everything to the husband, and husband must see that she is comfortable. This is husband. She must have children, she must have good house, good eating, good clothing, good ornament. Then she is satisfied. They want these things. A woman does not mind very much, “My husband has got more than one wife.” If she gets all the comforts of her wishes, some children and some comforts, then she is... She does not grudge because woman knows man’s psychology. A man is not satisfied with one woman. So he must be given that. But she must be chaste. She cannot have more than... Then their relation is all right. If the woman allows husband—“He likes. Let him have more than one woman, but I must be chaste”—this... Our civilization is nowhere, Vedic culture.
Tamäla Kåñëa: In the villages in India, is this still going on sometimes. We see in the cities it’s not, but in the villages, do they still have more than one wife?
Prabhupäda: Oh, yes. Not poor man. Kñatriyas.
Tamäla Kåñëa: Oh, not these...
Tamäla Kåñëa: Not these workers.
Prabhupäda: They cannot maintain.
Tamäla Kåñëa: Yeah, that’s right. They don’t have the land to maintain. You have to have land.
Prabhupäda: You can have more than one wife, but maintain them just like wife. She may not have any complaints that “My husband cannot maintain me.”
[As far as I could determine, this is it, the very last and final instruction to his followers on the matter. “You can have more then one wife, but maintain them just like wife.” Bas.]
Çatadhanya: (entering) All glories to Çréla Prabhupäda.
Prabhupäda: Close that door. How are you?
Çatadhanya: Feeling much better. (break)
Prabhupäda: ...man and woman happy, and in happiness, in peace of mind, make progress, spiritual life. That is the Vedic civilization. The guide is there, brähmaëa. The protection is there, kñatriya. The food is there, vaiçya. And labor is there, çüdra. Combine together, live very happily, peacefully, in the society. You’ll find still. The aim is how to realize God. -- 770628r2.vrn
He says the marriage system of getting girls married in childhood, it is very scientific system. The psychology of girls. He reminds us that this is varëäçrama-dharma. He quotes Krishna, "I am that". Krishna is that sex life that is performed in accordance with the laws of dharma. What is that dharma: Here Prabhupäd is saying it is marriage before puberty. Including polygamy. Krishna is also that sex-life if performed according to the laws of dharma, for the protection of the women.
Tamal Krishna says the parents of the girls in our ISKCON society must follow this. They must give their daughters to a suitable boy. Prabhupäd’s response, that if required, if there are not enough qualified single boys, then one man can take care of more then one wife.
Then Prabhupäd says again, if you are able, than you, his male followers, can take more than one wife. Krishna had 16,000 wives, and Prabhupäd encourages, “Come on, if there is anyone to compete?” Of course, no one can compete with Krishna, but the mood Prabhupäd is speaking is most favorable. All his guidelines and qualifications that must be met he had already fully instructed, as I have shown here. Now he is encouraging again, as he did back in January of 1973, those who are better able to maintain wife, come on, take as many as you can maintain. All girls must be protected by a husband, even if he has many wives.
But, as he stipulates here. They must each be maintained like wife. Each one taken care of nicely. There must be no complaints (I will add, I think safely to say, no complaints over what is normal for any woman) that my husband cannot maintain me. Then Prabhupäd has no objection.
Prabhupad is encouraging it. Come on, any one to compete? Give the girls protection. Institute the varëäçram system. Protect all the women. See to it that all girls are married before or just after puberty. Then, man, woman, in happiness, peace of mind, make progress spiritual. Then more and more elevated souls will be attracted to take birth in this movement.
His very last talk on the subject of polygamy appears to also be his final instruction to us in regards to any form of marriage. In this last instruction he gives all key ingredients. How to train the girls before marriage. He gives instructions to the fathers about getting the daughter married. He gives instructions to the husbands and instructions for the wives.
The instructions as to the training for the girls: Teach them at home. No formal schooling is needed. Teach them how to cook, clean, sew and most important, how to submissively serve a husband.
To the fathers he instructs: Before or just after puberty, get the girl married. Some how or other, find out a husband. Let them combine together just at puberty. And if required, if you can find no one else, give her as additional wife to an already married man.
To the men who enter householder life: Maintain and provide all comforts of life to the wife. And if there is some desire to provide for large family and one has the means, than take more than one wife. But, each wife must be maintained without (undue) complaints.
To the women: Be submissive. Be faithful. If your husband is providing nice clothes, nice house, nice children, then don’t hold a grudge, allow the husband to take other wives. Understand it is simply natural desire for man. If he is maintaining you nicely, then allow him to have what he wants.
These are Prabhupäd’s very last instructions regarding getting the daughter married and on the topic of polygamy (that I could find).
I will add that women should not take it personally. It is natural, all men want more than one woman. It is not a reflection on the first wife that she has failed or is incompetent or that she isn’t able to satisfy her husband, that she isn’t good enough for him. It is simply man’s nature. Does this mean that Rukmini just wasn’t good enough for Krishna, therefore he had to go out and marry 16,107 more wives? No.
If the wife is first-class submissive, best cook, best wife in the world, the man will want another one just like her. If she is no good at all, complains all day, lazy, etc., he will want another completely unlike her. Either way, man’s natural desire is to have more than one relationship. So, intelligent wife will allow him. She won’t fight. But, he must be able to support them.
My wife comes from Hindu Vaishnav family. Her mother came to visit us in the spring of 95 and this topic was raised. My wife got angry and was upset with me and was thinking her mother would chastise me for looking for a second wife. I must say, I have a very nice mother-in-law. She didn’t say one word to me. She was upset with her daughter. She told her that she had nice home, nice children, she should keep her mouth shut and never argue with her husband. She told her that if this is what I want, she must keep quiet and let me. She told us that she never argued with her husband, and wouldn’t, even over such thing as this. She knew what was required of a woman to make family life peaceful. Practically she said the same thing Prabhupäd said in this regard.
Anyway, the point is that this is the proper attitude the wife should have. Don’t argue. If husband is maintaining you, you don’t have to work, then keep quiet and let him take as many wives as he can maintain. This way the first wife will also be helping society by allowing her husband to protect other women as well.
The society should not think lowly of either the man or his wives. They are engaged in protection of women, in executing their duties in full accordance with the laws of religion, varëäçram dharma, and in full accordance with Çréla Prabhupäd’s instructions and desires that all girls be properly protected. The first wife, especially, if she is acting submissively and allowing her husband to do this, she should be given due respect by the vaishnavs for setting such a needed example for others to follow. Her attitude will be completely pleasing to Çréla Prabhupäd.
She shouldn’t be seen as someone who has been ‘taken’ by her husband. Who was forced to accept a second class position. That is total misunderstanding. Peace and spiritual progress in society are dependent upon such chastity and faithfulness of the women. Such a woman is to be highly respected, not disrespected.
Of course, what Srila Prabhupad is presenting here is the ideal. Girls married before puberty, having child as soon as she reaches puberty. Giving daughters as additional wives to men who are already married. In the villages of India such things can be more easily done. The people will not only not object, many will be encouraged to see Westerners engaged in such Vedic principles. But, in the West so many demoniac laws are there. We have to be very careful, but at the same time we have to strive for the ideal system. As we know this is the only thing that will ultimately save the world. Srila Prabhupad had predicted that sometime in the future America will take up Krishna Consciousness in the same way the Japaneese and Chineese took up Buddhism. Therefore I see a day will come when the people will throw out all the demoniac laws and will want to follow the laws of dharma. Prabhupad said it will be written in their history books how Krishna Consciousness saved the world. Someday polygamy will be legal, even for the father to give his 12 year old daughter to another man as additional wife. But, to get to that point we must preach the principles of varnasram, and more importantly, we must set ideal examples ourselves to show the results of what happens when one lives in accordance with the principles of varnasram-dharma.
We have so far only presented quotes from Prabhupäd’s recorded lectures and conversations. Next are references from his books.