Monday, February 6, 2017


A week or so back, not long ago really, I made a post on facebook about devotees calling women "didi." While it was a topic I wanted to mention for quite a while, it just suddenly hit me to post a few mere sentences about it, thinking it would not even receive much attention. Was I give a surprise! lol It turned into one of the hottest discussions of the year. haha 

However, that only revealed how much misinformation is out there, or even how many have no or little information on this. While others are quoting a senior devotee even tho it was different from Prabhupada. Yet others went over to the topic of whether or not we should call women 'prabhu,' which was not the topic at all. Thus, I have decided to blog about it so maybe a few more can hear about this subject matter.

Hmmmm Actually, I will just re-post some of those posts/conversations. After all, my fb account is public for anyone to read, so IMHO that makes it ok to re-post here. But I will omit names. This topic is important for keeping the Movement unchanged! So go on a little journey with me, the one I went on at fb. :)

 My original, innocent ha or naive, status post:

Stop calling women didi. Prabhupada did not refer to us as didi. Never, not even once.

All these concoctions are changing the Movement. I know Hindus say it, we are not Hindu's, and not practicing Hinduism. Leave it as Prabhupada's Movement / his way of doing things.


Devotee: Personally I'd prefer to be in the company of people who treated each other with real love and affection ... Like brothers and sisters regarding themselves as equals in the presence of their father. Rather than of those who followed any particular external formal etiquette, but where the deep love and respect that's meant to give real meaning to such words as Mata and Prabhu is not usually so apparent. Or, putting that another way, where there's live and affection, the language may vary, but so what? And where that mood is not the primary feature, who cares how correct the language may or may not be?

Priitaa Devi Das: External does not omit internal. If it does, you're hanging out with the wrong people. :) [Added to blog: In the old days there was that mood of love, kindness, caring - while still following rules, regs, and using Vaisnava terms. It's an additional reason I want to help bring the old days - full circle to these days.]

P.S. IMHO language matters, otherwise we can speak any words and have them mean any old thing.  Education, dictionaries, they are all important. But hey, whatever you want to do is your business.

Devotee 2: Just follow Srila Prabhupada's instructions if we are part of his movement, otherwise best to start our own one.
Devotee 3 [and dev when Prabhupada was on the planet]:  I don't think any 'aspiring ' devotee can go wrong by calling any others as Prabhu.... man or woman. And yes Srila Prabhupada did not use didi or any other sex distinction appellation.

My Reply: - What a good point - that he did not use any other sex distinction. A disciple is a disciple, and we should treat each other as a disciple, not a folk member. Tho I love the folk members. Just saying, we took vows, like Catholic Priests and Nuns always change their names and always use their new spiritual name or say "Father" etc - so lets treat each other that way.

Nice Hindu lady: I don't agree with you. Pranama's.

My Reply:  Are you an initiated disciple? [Never answers.] ....So we are talking amongst initiated disciples, based on our past experiences with Prabhupada OR what we have read in his letters, etc. No sense posting disagreement, that just brings up arguments - unless you have a quote from Prabhupada, than I will hear. P.S. Just realized, of course you disagree, you are Hindu birth. And that is a most fortunate birth. But we are not speaking of Hinduism, we are speaking of Prabhupada's transcendental Krishna Consciousness and how he refereed to his female disciples and how he taught us to refer to each other.

Hindu Vaisnava [devotee] man: Didi is used frequently in other Hindu religious organizations. And maybe those followers bring that in when they join ISKCON. I have seen that where formalities are broken and taken easily, the spirit of the movement is stalled.  Because other rules and regulations are also taken lightly.

My Reply: That is interesting! I never knew it was used in other Hindu Religious Organizations, just thought it an overall Hindu word. And I have nothing against it if folks are sitting around, chit-chatting in their Native Tongue, and that is part of their normal daily language. My concern, wait, I have two, ha. One is that us Westerns are Hindu Wannabees, trying to falsely copy, and that shows up more than many westerns realize. The other, more important, is that we are trying to transcend, so in order to do that, disciples at least, must stick very close to Prabhupada's instructions.

>Because other rules and regulations are also taken lightly.< 

Ohhhh, now it makes more sense. Maybe that is what I was picking up on, why it bothered me. It felt, well, not serious. Not the higher spiritual way Prabhupada had us address each other.

Devotee 4 [and dev when Prabhupada was on the planet]: I think everyone, include other lines, should respect every temple standard. Prabhupada didn't introduce "didi" in ISKCON's temples.

Priitaa Devi Dasi: Thank you for clarifying this too, and for staying on topic. :) 

[Blog readers - I omitted previous posts on "never" calling women prabhu and only mataji - as it was based on comments of one of my godbrothers who a younger devotee views as his, and should be everyone's ha - authority. But he is only my godbrother, and I disagree. Guess I'm also omitting it cuz it irritates me, to be honest. :) Right now, I want to focus on the highest. .... Actually the discussion on 'prabhu' vs 'mataji' went on quite a long time, and some of my older godsiblings wrote nicely, BUT it was never the topic and once they cleared it up, I nipped that topic and brought it full circle to this addition of didi as a change to the movement Check back later for that aspect, as it had some good points but I can't do much now since I'm babysitting my grandchild. :) .]

The following are comments from two senior godsisters, the last joined in the earliest of the early days!

First One: 

As far as I know, Prabhupada did NOT call us Mataji. He told the men to think of us as mother, but we were all instructed to call each other Prabhu. The title Mataji was introduced much later, after Prabhupada left this world. So, although the name Mataji is nice and respectful, it is on the same evel as Didi, because Prabhupada didn't introduce it. Feedback, dear Priitaa Devi Dasi Prabhu [Will add my reply later.]

Second and most senior of senior, Godisisters: 

Yes, so true. Srila Prabhupada NEVER called any of the female devotees "Didi" and even made fun of RamaKrishna Society for doing it. But HE NEVER CALLED ANY OF HIS FEMALE DISCIPLES MATAJI EITHER!! He clearly told us to address one another as "Prabhu" both husbands as well as wives.

BECAUSE his meaning for the word "Prabhu" is different from some other people's meaning. He told us that he is the Prabhupada, and we are all the Prabhus taking shelter of him, the Prabhupada, the lotus feet where all Prabhus take shelter.

The Mataji thing came much later, when the agitated young men, esp certain sanyasins (who are no longer amongst us) wanted a way to dominate and demean the women.

Too bad they missed the point. The point of calling one another Prabhu is that it shows our eternal connection with the Prabhupada--our Srila Prabhupada.

My Reply: Bingo! Yes! :) Thank you so much Govinda Dasi . This makes sense. And I am glad to hear even the mata idea came later for that specific reason. Not because I am against being called mata, actually I prefer it. But because it shows the transcendental level Prabhupada waned us to rise to, and
how we.... errr... anyway some still try to talk their way out of it. When I joined in 73 NY, they were all ready calling women mata, so I guess I became accustomed to it. But here both you and XXX Dasi have different memories! Thank you for sharing them. Plus this is very good info on the word didi too. It really felt wrong to me. Forgive me, but it hit the pit of my stomach - that's how wrong it felt. If it's no big deal, I would think we would have heard him use it at least once. Never heard it while actively living in in Iskcon temples when Prabhupada was here. Thank you for taking the time to explain all this.


Think we're done? ha So did I. But no, there is more.

Next, some senior devotee men who I view as balanced, sane, not fanatical, posted quotes where Prabhupada instructed men to call women mataji:

    "Devotee: When you address a woman, do you...

    Prabhupada: Hm?

    Devotee: When you address a woman do you use the   word “Mataji”? Is that the right, proper word for her?

    Prabhupada: Mataji. Yes, very good. “Mother.”
                  Bhagavad-gita 4.14 - Vrndavana, August 6, 1974

     "Formerly, every woman should be addressed as “mother,” Mataji. And now they have invented “Bahinji.” No. Woman should be addressed as “mother.”   - Bhagavad-gita 4.14 - Vrndavana, August 6, 1974

NEXT, I also wish to point toward..... Prabhupada did not say for other women to call each other mata [nor didi!]. If a woman is truly old enough to be someone lady's mom and they have that relationship it may be ok, such as with the Gurukuli children who grew up around us. But that, or a woman 25 years older, is it, as far as this fallen servant can see. Not within our own age group. Once when sitting with a devotee she pointed out how Prabhupada gave us these names for a "reason." They are to remind us of Krishna, at least of spiritual life, and to create a spiritual vibration as a regular part of our lives. Why avoid using them?!

Anyhow, back to locating quotes for men to call woman as mother, I changed a bit of my opinion, well sort of. Here is my most recent post, trying to bridge it all to make sense.

My reply to a couple devotees:
I should have known or found those quotes on "Mataji" posted by ... XX and YYY, and apologize for not posting them myself. I am thankful they did the work :) and shared them here. I was a bit lost in the comments and early-day experiences of my two godsister's who said otherwise. 

Since they still have not replied to explain why, what they heard and lived, was so different from those quotes, I'm left with nothing but making an educated guess. Here goes :)

I believe both their experiences, and Prabhupada's different type of quotes, are true.

I agree with them that his initial instructions in the beginning were to call everyone Prabhu. I also agree with their reasoning (as well as yours, which was nicely expressed) why there was change/addition of mata.

Over time it became a degree...for the men (some sanyasi's and many others trying too be Brahmari) to become agitated, seeing so many females dressed in pretty saree's etc. - yet those women were trying to do the same thing they were! How confusing for some, and just plain difficult for most.

So much responsibility and even blame was put on the women of that time period. Therefore I feel my godsister's have responded so strongly. It became rather sad for women that men saw them as women more than as Vaisnavi's.

 A lot of that has calmed down over the years. Tho I suspect many my age, probably myself as well, are still affected by what happened back then. That's likely one reason for my godsister's strong comments about how men did not call women Mata until later when men became too sexually frustrated . That may be true even, but they may also be expressing a loss over the higher mood as the movement grew, got bigger, and more complex.   

 Simultaneously, there are quotes from Prabhupada that the solution to such frustration is to call all women mother. So that is there "also."  [This is not on the topic of calling women 'prabhu,' but "mataji."]

 I am just trying to build the bridge no one else will, ha, or so far.  What do you think of this conclusion of mine? Just trying to making sense of the two (godsisters early-day memories vs quotes). You may have another point.


Dear Blog readers,

I feel we have finally come to a conclusion, or at least I have. ha As the above is mine. 

 Related Poposts: 

Women and Prabhu 

Pishchima [Prabhupada's sister]