Śrīpāda Nemi Mahārāja: Śrīla Gurudeva, in San Francisco you said that we should follow varṇāśrama-dharma, the system of four castes and spiritual orders of life. To what extent, or in what sense, do you want us to follow it?
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Follow it as your gurudeva, parama-pūjyapāda Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja, told you to follow.
If one is a brahmacārī, he follows the principles of brahmacarya; if one is a gṛhastha, he is an exemplary gṛhastha like Śrīvāsa Paṇḍita and other pure devotees. Those in the vānaprastha-āśrama follow the principles of varṇāśrama in their āśrama, and sannyāsīs follow the principles of those in the renounced order. This is varṇa and āśrama dharma, the religious system of social, or occupational, and spiritual orders of life. You are not paramahaṁsas (self-realized souls), and that is why you have been told to follow. You must follow varṇāśrama.
Śrīpāda Nemi Mahārāja: Varṇas also? We should all work according to our propensity?
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Varṇa and āśrama; both. Because we follow daiva-varṇāśrama (division of society by qualification, not by birth, and executed for the pleasure of the Lord), everyone should accept that which is favourable for bhakti, not other things.
For example, we do not accept smārta-kriyā, activities performed according to smārta (regulative but not devotional) scriptures. The funeral ceremony for one’s father and mother should not be performed according to smārta regulations. If there is a fire sacrifice or a marriage, it should be done solely according to Vaiṣṇava scriptures and regulations.
Śrīpāda Nemi Mahārāja: What is the ladies’ position in varṇāśrama-dharma? You have always emphasized that ladies and gentlemen are equal in bhakti.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Sītā devī, Arundhatī, Anasūyā, Gārgī, Maitrī, Draupadī, Kuntī, and other Vaiṣṇavīs have been given so much respect in our śāstra and Vedic culture – on the same level as ṛṣis and maharṣis (the best of the great sages and saints).
Śrīpāda Sajjana Mahārāja: Śrīla Prabhupāda has said that ladies are very good and men are very good, but together they are not very good.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: If a man and woman are gṛhastha, it is okay for them to associate with each other. If they are not gṛhastha, their association will be the cause of their fall-down; this is māyā. Kāmadeva, Cupid, has defeated even Viśvāmitra, Brahmā, and Śaṅkara (Lord Śiva).* The only personalities he could not defeat were Nara-nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi and Nārada.

Veṇu-gopāla dāsa: The other day you mentioned about the chastisement of Choṭa Haridāsa. You said that he committed a minor offense but received a serious chastisement. I am wondering how it is possible to follow pure strictness in our own lives.
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja:

yadi cāha praṇaya rākhite gaurāṅgera sane
choṭa haridāsera kathā thāke yena mane

Prema-vivarta (Chapter 7)

[If you want to associate with Caitanya Mahāprabhu, you must always remember the incident of Choṭa Haridāsa and how he was rejected by the Lord.]

Whether you are a brahmacārī or a sannyāsī, if you are not following the order of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, you will be ruined. We see so many historical examples of this; so be careful.
Choṭa Haridāsa was not lusty. On the request of Mahāprabhu’s associate, Śrī Bhagavān Ācārya, Choṭa Haridāsa went to the house of a very old lady named Mādhavī Māhiti to obtain some fine white rice for offering to the Deity. Mādhavī Māhiti was eighty-four years old, and she is considered to be one of the eternal associates of the Lord.
But there was also a young lady present in Mādhavī Māhiti devī’s house. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu knew this, and when He later heard about Choṭa Haridāsa’s going there, He at once stopped Choṭa Haridāsa from coming to see Him. He was teaching us that if one is in the renounced order of life and he sees a young lady, his mind and body may become transformed with lusty feelings. Mahāprabhu wanted to teach us that those in the renounced order should follow the ideal etiquette and be careful about association with the opposite sex. We are obliged to always remember this.
Your mind is very weak. Don’t listen to your mind. At any time it may cheat you. Māyā cheated Brahmā, Śaṅkara, Indra, and Nārada.** She is very powerful, and she can only be defeated by Kṛṣṇa. So, be careful if you want to attain love for Kṛṣṇa.
Devotee: Is it possible that there is a difference between the disciple’s external relationship with his gurudeva and his internal relationship?
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Externally you can consider, “Guru is my father, my mother, my brother, my guardian, my protector, and my well-wisher,” so try to obey all of his instructions.
Internally, you can know that he is an associate of Śrī Kṛṣṇa:

sākṣād dharitvena samasta-śāstraiḥ
uktas tathā bhāvyata eva sadbhiḥ
kintu prabhor yaḥ priya eva tasya
vande guroḥ śrī-caraṇāravindam

Śrī Gurvaṣṭakam (Verse 7)

[All the scriptures proclaim śrī gurudeva is sākṣāt hari, the direct potency of Śrī Hari, and is thus considered by saintly authorities to be His non-different representative. Because śrī gurudeva is so dear to the Lord, being His confidential servitor (acintya-bhedābheda-prakāśa-vigraha, the inconceivable different and non-different worshipful manifestation of the Lord), I offer prayers unto his lotus feet.]

Know also that gurudeva is serving Kṛṣṇa (Kṛṣṇa Himself) and Kṛṣṇā (Śrīmatī Rādhikā), so he (gurudeva) must also have a teenage gopī form. You can think, “I want to be her maidservant.”
Devotee: Why is sannyāsa only given to men?
Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Women can take sannyāsa, no harm. If a woman is qualified, she can take sannyāsa. However, if any lusty person forcibly attacks her, how will she be able to protect herself? In a rare case, a lady can take sannyāsa, just as Śyāmarāṇī is a sannyāsī although not with daṇḍa (the sannyāsa staff) and all the other paraphernalia of a sannyāsī.

*Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja explained elsewhere that these great personalities were not actually defeated by Cupid; rather, they played that pastime in order to teach us conditioned souls how careful we must be in this regard.

**Excerpts from Journey of the Soul, Part 1, Chapter 5:
The verses of Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and other Vedic scriptures are full of profound purports and require careful explanation. For example, it is sometimes thought that the great sage Nārada Muni, although a liberated soul, occasionally falls into māyā. In reality, his apparent fall-downs are his pastimes of role-playing, performed for the purpose of serving the Lord in His various incarnations. All of his pastimes are performed to please the Lord, and also to teach lessons to all of us.
In the following pastime, Nārada Muni conquered Kāmadeva (Cupid) and then proudly thought, “Oh, even my own guru, Śaṅkara (Lord Śiva), ran after māyā. When Kṛṣṇa assumed His female form as the goddess Mohinī-mūrti, Śiva became enraptured and ran after her, oblivious to her real identity.” Śrī Nārada Muni gloated, “On the other hand, when Kāmadeva came to me, he could not attract me at all.”
Nārada approached Lord Śiva and boasted, “I have conquered Kāmadeva.” Lord Śiva laughed and said, “Don’t tell Lord Brahmā and Lord Nārāyaṇa.” Not listening, he then went to Lord Brahmā, bragging in the same way. Lord Brahmā thought, “A thorn of false ego has entered him. It must be removed.” Brahmā replied, “Very good, but don’t tell Lord Nārāyaṇa.” Not listening, Nārada finally approached Lord Nārāyaṇa.
Listening to Nārada’s self-praise, Lord Nārāyaṇa considered, “False ego, like a disease, has now infected his heart. His disease is like piles, and he will not be cured without an operation. I must remove this condition; I must operate.” Hiding His real feelings, He replied to Nārada, “You are My best devotee. I am very proud of you.”
While Nārada was returning to this universe after his visit with the Lord, he saw a magnificent kingdom in which there lived a king and his beautiful daughter. Delighted, Śrī Nārada thought, “I have never before seen such stunning beauty!” Approaching the king, he said, “I know astrology. I want to see the hand of your daughter so that I can tell you her future.” He then read on the princess’s palm that the man she marries would possess all the qualities of greatness, in full. Wondering, “How can I marry this girl?” he left and began to meditate on his worshipful Lord Nārāyaṇa.
Nārāyaṇa at once appeared in his meditation and inquired, “What benediction do you wish?” Nārada prayed, “Please help me. I want to marry the king’s daughter. Please give me a face as beautiful as Yours.” Lord Nārāyaṇa replied, “All auspiciousness to you. All blessings unto you. I will do what is best for you.”
Now, convinced and satisfied that Lord Nārāyaṇa had fulfilled his desire, Nārada returned to the king’s palace. It so happened that the king was then in the midst of performing his daughter’s svayaṁvara, the ceremony in which a princess chooses her husband. The king’s daughter was holding a garland, preparing to place it on the neck of the man who would most attract her, whom she would choose to marry.
Nārada followed the princess as she perused the various contestants, showing his face in hope that she would offer him the garland. However, whenever he came into her view, she looked at him in disgust and walked on. Still, trying to attract her attention, he continued to pursue her.
The associates of Lord Śiva were present on that occasion and, seeing Nārada’s repeated attempts, told him, “Oh, you are so beautiful!” Nārada believed that he was being praised, but he was actually being ridiculed.
In the meantime, Lord Nārāyaṇa arrived at the palace on His bird carrier, Garuḍa, and as soon as the princess saw Him, she adorned His neck with her garland. Then, without a moment’s delay, Lord Nārāyaṇa placed her on His lap and they quickly flew away on Garuḍa.
Nārada deliberated, “What a wicked person! I have served Him selflessly throughout my life. Only one time did I request from Him a favour – I wished to marry this girl and I asked Him for a countenance as attractive as His own. I will now see what type of face He has given me!” Then, looking in a mirror, he saw that he had the face of a baboon.
Angry and upset, Nārada immediately flew to Vaikuṇṭha, where he saw that very princess on Lakṣmī-devī’s seat. “You have cheated me!” He rebuked, “I curse You that You will weep just as I am weeping over this lady. Your wife will be taken away from You, and to retrieve her You will have to take the help of monkeys!”
At the next moment Lord Nārāyaṇa removed the illusion created by His yogamāyā potency, and Nārada saw that the girl who had enchanted him was actually Lakṣmī-devī herself.
“I performed this operation only to remove your false ego and pride,” Lord Nārāyaṇa explained kindly. Nārada at once fell to the Lord’s lotus feet and apologized profusely.
This transcendental pastime became the cause of Lord Śrī Rāmacandra’s appearance. It manifested to teach conditioned souls what to do and what not to do. We should not think that Nārada was previously in Goloka Vṛndāvana or Vaikuṇṭha and was later covered by māyā. By the wish of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, devotees can do anything to fulfill His desires.
The following is an excerpt from Journey of the Soul, Part 3, Chapter 2:
These are examples. Brahmā became attracted with his daughter. Lord Śiva became attracted with the beauty of Mohinī-mūrti, even in the presence of his wife. So this sex life can be controlled only by becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious (Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja. Room conversation in Bombay, January 7, 1977).
The above passage may seem to imply that even Lord Brahmā and Lord Śiva, who are both pure devotees, can become bewildered by māyā. However, the pastimes of Brahmā and Śiva wherein they appear to be attracted by māyā are only meant to instruct conditioned souls.
Brahmā and Śiva occupy the highest posts in the universe – as the creator and the destroyer respectively – and conditioned souls sometimes desire such high posts. In the following conversation, Śrīla Prabhupāda cautions his audience about desiring any exalted position in this world, for all material situations are fraught with the miseries offered by māyā. Śrīla Prabhupāda encourages his audience to desire only pure devotion to Lord Kṛṣṇa.
Devotee: It says here that a pure devotee like Haridāsa Ṭhākura would not fall victim to Māyādevī’s temptations, but even Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva, might fall victim. I always thought that they were pure devotees of the Lord.
Prabhupāda: No. They are pure devotees, but they are guṇāvatāra (presiding deities of the modes of nature). Just like Lord Brahmā is the supreme personality within this material universe. He’s the father of all living entities. So they are pure devotees. Of course, if we very scrutinizingly study, Haridāsa Ṭhākura is, in devotional service, in a greater position than Brahmā, although he is considered the incarnation of Brahmā – Brahmā Haridāsa.
So we should not be disturbed when we see Lord Brahmā and Lord Śiva are captivated in that way. We should take this instruction, that is, “Lord Brahmā or Lord Śiva become victim of māyā sometimes, what to speak of us?” Therefore we shall be very, very careful. There is chance of fall-down even in the status of Brahmā and Śiva, what to speak of ordinary persons. Therefore we should be very strongly inclined to Kṛṣṇa consciousness like Haridāsa Ṭhākura. Then we shall be able very easily to overcome the allurement of māyā. That is to be understood. Not that “Brahmā showed weakness. He is weak or he is less.” No. That is for our instruction (Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja. Lecture on Bhagavad-gītā 2.62–72, spoken in Los Angeles, California, December 16, 1968).
These quotes show that Brahmā and Śiva, as pure devotees of Kṛṣṇa, assist the Lord in giving His instructions to the souls of this universe.
The sages like Marīci were not in the wrong in submitting their protests against the acts of their great father [Brahmā]. They knew very well that even though their father committed a mistake, there must have been some great purpose behind the show; otherwise such a great personality could not have committed such a mistake. It might be that Brahmā wanted to warn his subordinates about human frailties in their dealings with women (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 3.12.29).
The illusory material energy is represented by Durgādevī, who is the wife of Girīśa, or Lord Śiva. Durgā-devī could not captivate Lord Śiva’s mind, but now that Lord Śiva wanted to see Lord Viṣṇu’s feminine form, Lord Viṣṇu, by His mystic power, would assume a form that would captivate even Lord Śiva. Therefore Lord Viṣṇu was grave and at the same time was smiling (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 8.12.14).
The Supreme Personality of Godhead knew that because Lord Śiva is not an ordinary person, he cannot be bewildered even by the most beautiful woman. Cupid himself tried to invoke Lord Śiva’s lusty desires in the presence of Pārvatī, but Lord Śiva was never agitated. Rather, the blazing fire from Lord Śiva’s eyes turned Cupid to ashes. Therefore, Lord Viṣṇu had to think twice about what kind of beautiful form would bewilder even Lord Śiva (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 8.12.15).
Brahmā and Śiva are not ordinary souls and are not subjected to temptation. They remain free from the lure of māyā; rather they are under the influence of yogamāyā – so what to speak of the residents of the spiritual abodes of the Lord. In fact, Brahmā and Śiva worship the residents of the Lord’s abodes, especially the residents of Vṛndāvana.

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