British Airways, Atlanta/Europe
There was no walking today except for going from one terminal to another to depart for Mumbai, India. There was so little exchange with passengers because on both flights to and from Heathrow I had the seats on either side to myself. One flight attendant with a smile did say, "Hare Krishna." Another one, this time a woman, asked if I could be served on the flight by a woman.
"Because the Swami Narayan group forbids it, correct?" I asked.
"Correct," she replied.
"There is no problem for me. We are all spirits - in essence. I can appreciate the principle others abide by but our guru was a swami and he accepted the services of both genders." She nodded, smiled and left to attend to others.
I got to thinking about that some more. If tradition would have its way then our guru would naturally show more rigidity but he was so magnanimous. He flew atleast 10 times around the world and received the assistance of stewardesses. He gave a lot of personal time to guide his female disciples, his young western daughters. Then one day he told one of his female students that she would not be able to sit so close as she had been previously. Due to western conditioning and being unfamiliar with the etiquette towards an elderly monk, she had been innocently unaware of her familiar behavior. She complied from then on and some kind of standard was set in terms of how men and women communicate with each other in a spiritual setting. This model has been in place for centuries within ashrams in order that there be no distraction. Traditionally ashrams were for men.
Our guru, Srila Prabhupada, gave facility to accommodate women, in separate quarters, of course, as a compromise. He saw how young women in America were also curious to learn and so he gave provisions. In the mid-seventies some extremist attitude arose creating some divisions. Prabhupada sought to dissolve those attitudes to leave a feeling of inclusiveness.