San Diego has a mild marine climate with mild winters and cool summers - just what most people would like. The temple is in a neighborhood of nice little houses with gardens where palm trees and mediterranian succulent plants grow with their thickened and fleshy leaves and stems.
Part of our discussion was the importance for a mentor to demonstrate a good standard of vaishnava etiquette and behavior. Our social conduct should be exemplary in all regards - towards seniors, equals, juniors, towards children and towards the other gender. Behaving according to vaishnava etiquette is considered to be the jewel of a devotee - his most beautiful ornament. By his behavior he exhibits his realization of Lord Chaitanya's instruction of trinad api sunicena.
"The example is the butter and fire should be kept separate as far as... Otherwise the butter will melt. Matra svasra duhitra va [SB 9.19.17]. The butter and..., means man and woman. A man is butter, and woman is fire. So this is restricted even the man happens to be father, brother or son. Matra svasra duhitra va. People cannot think of sex impulse in the presence of daughter, mother or sister. But shastra says "No. There is possibility." Matra svasra duhitra va na vivaktasane vaset: "They should not be kept, should not sit together." Then people may say, "This is impossible. Maybe some tenth-class rascal may be attracted." So the next line says, "No," vidvamshapi karshati, "it is not the question of tenth-class rascal; even first-class learned, he may be attracted." Not to speak of tenth-class rascal, but first-class learned may be. Not may be. It is a... Balavan indriya-gramo vidvamshapi karshati: "The senses are so strong that it can mislead even the most learned scholar."
In a lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.1.6 given in Mumbai on April 17, 1976, he further explains:
"With woman you should be very, very cautious and careful, as much as required, not free mingling. No. Therefore, according to Vedic civilization, there is always a separation between woman and men. Here in India we find that whenever there is some meeting, the women are sitting separately; men are sitting separately. This is required. Not only that, you cannot talk even with woman unnecessarily, even with your wife. This is restriction. Therefore it is said, yavad-artham vyavaharet: "as much as it is required." Don't talk unnecessarily, "Phish, phish, phish." That is very dangerous. Dangerous means in spiritual life. Yavad-artham. Even with your mother, with your daughter, with your sister, you cannot sit in a solitary place and talk. This is restricted. What to speak of others, even with your mother."
Once we gain this understanding, which is of course entirely opposite to the modern materialistic world view, it becomes obvious that in order to make spiritual advancement in Krishna consciousness, there is not much room for friendship between men and women. We keep such association to the bare minimum required to perform our service, and otherwise maintain a respectful distance to each other. This is how we show our affection and respect towards each other: we don't want to distract each other from our attention to the Lord.
In some parts of the world it has become common practice in Krishna consciousness for men to hug ladies and vice versa. Such practice is not conducive for spiritual progress. Rather, it is subtle sex life. It shows that we have unfulfilled needs, which are meant to be satisfied within family life. Better to be honest and situate oneself in the grhastha ashrama. Thus we can fulfill our needs according to the recommendations of shastra, accept responsibility and perform the purifying duties prescribed for this ashrama. This is the recommended way for spiritual progress. To try and bypass such seemingly cumbersome austerities by fulfilling one's emotional and physical needs in a scripturally unauthorized way will not lead to success on the path of devotional service. We will merely cheat ourselves and create disturbance for others.
Even within devotional service it is recommended to always try to arrange things in such a way to minimize the association between both genders. It is an important principle within spiritual practice. In situations where it cannot be avoided, it is advisable to be alert in fear, always remembering that we are taking a conscious risk for the sake of serving or preaching. When alert in fear, we can be introspective in order to guard against the spirit of sense gratification. We reflect, not allowing ourselves to enjoy the attention and company of the other gender. Detecting such tendencies for subtle sense gratification in our hearts, we may regret and be extra careful and self-observant. In this way a sincere devotee can be protected.
On the 7th of June I flew on to Chicago......
Your servant, Devaki dd