A woman who has deep insights into the sweetness and beauty of spiritual culture would not be so pleased to be addressed as 'Prabhu'. She understands, that 'Mother' always includes being a master, but it expresses so much more than that: it also includes the selfless, affectionate mood of service which a true mother embodies.
In spiritual life and its culture mothers are honored and respected as the topmost personalities within human society. Whatever the mother says goes. The father is the official head of the family, but ultimately the mother runs the show and controls everybody - through her selfless service. This is the power of mother's love. Prabhupada often explains how mother's love is the purest love to be found in the material world.
Mothers are the first Gurus for the living entity. In the Manu Samhita it is said: "The teacher (akarya) is ten times more venerable than a sub-teacher (upadhyaya), the father a hundred times more than the teacher, but the mother a thousand times more than the father." No chance for equality - the mother is a thousand times more important than the father! (Too bad, dear fathers....!)
The mother is the one who creates the spiritual atmosphere in the home, and thus within society at large. This is her most valuable contribution to human society. The mother is the actual servant-leader and backbone of the
family and thus of society at large, since society is built of many families: she is the one who creates the caring and harmonizing atmosphere within society - the relationship manager and selfless care giver.
A woman who understands this deeply will feel very honored to be addressed as mother - for her it is the most respectful and affectionate way to be addressed as.
Maybe our wonderful ISKCON society would be a more caring and affectionate one, if we women would play our roles of mothers with more dedication and deeper understanding. Sometimes I have heard the opinion that 'ISKCON needs more mothers and grand-mothers', and I tend to agree with it.
Once a very senior and educated brahmacari in Bangladesh shared the following with me, saying: "Mataji, my Guru Maharaja is our father, and you are our mother." And with an affectionate smile he added: "And mother is
more important than father - yes, mother is more important! Mother means more affection....!"
We women are meant to play such an important role. Therefore already at very young age a girl is trained in this way. Prabhupada explains this in a BG lecture on April 5th 1974:
"And they used to call every woman from the beginning of life, "Mother." This is training. Matrvat para-daresu. From the very beginning of life, all women they are treated as mother. That is the system, Vedic system. Everyone
will call a woman as "Mother." Never mind whether she is younger or older. It doesn't matter. Woman has to be addressed as "Mother." That is Canakya Pandita's instruction. Who is learned scholar? Who has got three qualification, he is learned scholar. What is that? Matrvat para-daresu: "To treat all woman as mother." Nowadays it has been introduced in India, "Bahinji." No. This is not the etiquette. The etiquette is to address every woman, never mind whether she is young or old, as "Mother."
Obviously it will be very difficult for men to come to this platform of fulfilling Canakya Pandit's instruction of seeing every woman except his wife as mother, if we don't allow them to address us as mothers. Infact, even a father will address his two year old daughter as 'Mother'. This is spiritual culture. Obviously it is not meant to be understood on the bodily platform, but on much deeper levels: she is trained to serve in the mood of a mother. And at the same time it can protect the father from child abuse if he calls and sees his daughter and any other girl as mother. Also being in the mood of a mother means there is no room for sexual vibrations and agitations. This is spiritual culture: it is designed to subdue the fever of lust. And women are trained from very young age to conduct themselves like this, which keeps the atmosphere pure and conducive to spiritual practice.
Being seen and addressed as mother does certainly not mean that a woman is confined to the home and cannot do other services such as preaching or managing. Even in those capacities we women can have the mood of serving as selfless mothers - keeping ourselves in the background, and assisting the men to become good leaders, and letting them take the credit. Throughout the Bhavagatam Prabhupada describes the role of a woman as being the power of inspiration to men (4.26.15.,1.9.27.) and an always auspicious source of energy to men (4.21.4.). This is in a nutshell her precious position within human society - indeed a very beautiful and invaluable contribution.
In materialistic ways of life and its culture things are quite the opposite: sense enjoyment is the goal of life, and to be a mother is considered a pittiful condition since she has to be at home and serve, and can't go out to enjoy life. Mothers are considered to be losers in the race for sense gratification, and they are reduced to being the cook and cleaner within the family - not a very respected and valued position, but rather a downtrodden one. They have lost this most significant contribution to human society of being the very first Guru and creating the spiritual atmosphere within the family, and thus they are searching for other venues to be valued and respected. Therefore they have entered the working world and are seeking satisfaction in professional career. And thus the highly important role of mothers has gradually been more and more lost and forgotten.
The idea of addressing a woman as 'Prabhu' seems to me a feeble attempt to re-establish the lost and forgotten value and respect which a woman ought to be given. In Manu Samhita it is said in Vers 3.56:
"Where women are honoured, there the gods are pleased; but where they are not honoured, no sacred rite yields rewards." Wouldn't it be so much more beautiful if we can restore the precious value of true mothers? This would be according to spiritual culture, whereas addressing a woman as 'Prabhu' simply brings us further and further away from it....