One of our topics for discussion was the quality of chastity and shyness for a woman. In these modern days we often have a superficial understanding of these important qualities, and since women in materialistic culture don't aspire for them at all, women as a rule have lost them - even within ISKCON. In today's culture we like to take any opportunity to show off. This is what materialistic culture is all about: the more we can show off, the more successful we are. In fact, shyness is taken as an abnormal state of mind. A shy girl who doesn't know the art of impressing others is almost looked upon as mentally challenged. It is seen as a psychological problem that requires some serious treatment.
Interesting to note that in spiritual culture ladies are trained in so many different arts, but they don't perform in public. They would only perform in a small circle of relatives and friends, not in front of a bigger audience. This is in order not to give a taste for the egoistic satisfaction of performing and showing off. Once this eagerness for recognition is there, a woman will lose her shyness. In the modern days, a girl will often practice arts for no other reason but to perform and receive recognition. Deep within our hearts we are all so attached to the ego satisfaction gained by exhibitionism.
In a conversation in London on July 27, 1976 Srila Prabhupada explains this point:
"Even, say, hundred years ago, that Girish Chandra Ghosh, he wanted to introduce theatrical performances, imitating the European theatrical performances, man and woman taking part. So he wanted to invite woman artist. Not a single woman joined. Who will go to public stage to dance, respectable girl? They'll never. That is hundred years. I am speaking, say, about forty years ago. In one of our [indistinct] men, the girl was to be married, and it is the custom in India, the bridegroom's party comes to see the girl, whether she is right. Similarly, the girl's party goes to see the ... So they came to see one of my friend's daughters. The daughter is very beautiful, rich man's daughter. So one of the bridegroom's party questioned, "You know how to dance?" That was his question to the girl: "You have learned something about dancing and singing?" So she was my friend's daughter, my, that friend, Mukunda Mullik. His elder brother was there. He became very angry, that "This rascal is asking our daughter whether she knows dancing and singing." She took it as ... He took it as insult, that "Respectable family, daughter should learn how to dance, how to sing?" So immediately he protested, "No, no, no, she does not know how to dance, how to sing. She's not meant for that purpose. We like, of course, a young girl dancing and singing, but we cannot teach our family members. We spend for that outside. You cannot expect our Mullik's family daughter dancing and singing. No. He is well, good [?]." Actually that is... Dancing? Singing? What is this nonsense? For a respectable family? It is meant for the low-class professional. Pay them, they will dance. Or go to some prostitute. She will dance. So he said that, "We have got some taste for dancing, but not that our family members should do that. We pay for that outside." So this art ... And among the theatrical, Girish Chandra Ghosh could not get a single response from any respectable family. Then he had to seek some young girls from the prostitute class.They became later on famous artists, Kusumkamali Dasi, this Dasi ... Nowadays it has become a fashion that aristocratic family should join this cinema and spoil their character. Otherwise it was meant for the ..., no respectable man. You find the Bhagavata description, especially for these professional who would come. They'll take their reward."
These deep secrets to the extraordinary strength and beauty of a woman are unfortunately neglected today, even among us ISKCON devotees. Once we understand more deeply the importance of shyness, it becomes very clear that a truly chaste woman would for example never even want to be in the front of a hari-nama parade, displaying her feminine beauty. A chaste and shy woman would also not want to show off by dancing in kirtana in a loose and extravagant way. These days we are deeply influenced and conditioned by materialistic propaganda around us, which is strongly orientated towards externals and displays. This conditioning takes very subtle forms and easily creeps into our spiritual practice.
Krishna consciousness offers plenty of opportunities to water these unwanted tendencies, which will obstruct our spiritual progress and contaminate our temples. It requires systematic training in order to bring about a deep paradigm shift - a spiritual understanding of womanhood: feminine behavior based on chastity and shyness. One has to be prepared to go fully against the modern tendencies, norms, understandings and values.
On the morning of my departure I was given a little surprise: a farewell get-together with the leaders of the yatra, while savoring a delicious cake.
The topic of spiritual culture is well received here, and the devotees are eager to have such weekend seminars again in the future.......
On the 16th of October I flew to Zuerich - stopping over for one night in the temple - and on to Delhi.....
Your servant, Devaki dd