She met me at the airport, and we immediately connected well. One of her first questions was how I would like to be addressed - as Prabhu or Mataji. When I told her my preference of 'Mataji' she was visibly relieved, laughing at her confusion when corresponding by email, not knowing which address to choose. While we were driving back to the temple she rang ladies from the community to announce our arrival, and she added laughingly: "We can call her Mataji." I sensed there must have been a whole preliminary discussion in great wonder, how a German preacher with a shaved head and white sari would want to be addressed, who on top of that preaches about spiritual culture.....And I couldn't help but being amused....
Once we women gain deeper insights into the sweetness and beauty of spiritual culture, we may not be so pleased to be addressed as 'prabhu.' It may even sound very dry and formal. We can understand that 'mother' always includes being a master, but it expresses so much more than that: it also includes the selfless, affectionate mood of service that a true mother embodies.
As vatsalya rasa is considered to be higher than dasya rasa, we can find the same principle in a somewhat perverted reflection within our relationships in this material world. A mother is always considered to be much higher than a master. Are the demigods in female forms addressed as 'prabhu?' Is Mother Yasoda addressed as 'prabhu?' Is Lakshmi Devi addressed as 'prabhu?' Is Srimati Radharani addressed as 'prabhu?' After all, She controls even the Supreme Controller, so maybe She should be addressed as 'prabhu?' No, they are all seen and addressed as Mother, with Sri or Srimati being offered as the most respectful address.
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. Srila Prabhupada often explains how mother's love is the purest love to be found in the material world.
A mother is the first guru for the living entity, planting the seed of bhakti in her child's heart. In the Manu-samhita it is said, "The teacher [acharya] 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! The mother is the one who creates the spiritual atmosphere and religiosity in the home, and thus within society at large. The father goes out and works, fulfilling his duty to maintain the household, and when he comes home tired from work, he can recharge in the spiritual atmosphere that she creates in the home. 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 caregiver.
A man might be engaged in so many heroic activities, which a woman might not be able to perform. But when he comes home, he bows down to his mother's feet (his mother's - not his wife's)! Manu-samhita states: "matrudevo bhava, pitrudevo bhava, acharyadevo bhava, atithidevo bhava," which means literally: "Be somebody who regards the mother as being God, be somebody to whom the father is as God, be somebody to whom the teacher is as God or be somebody who regards the uninvited guest as God."
Mother comes first - immediately after Krishna.
A woman who understands this deeply will feel honored to be addressed as mother. For her, it is the most respectful and affectionate way to be addressed. Krishna has given us seven mothers, out of whom five are human: the wife of a brahmana, of guru (both diksha and siksha), the wife of a king (manager), the nurse, and the physical mother. Our communities have so many mothers! Maybe the atmosphere in ISKCON would be a more caring and affectionate one, if we women would play our roles as mothers with more dedication and deeper understanding.
Here in Chicago I was invited to give a SB class and the course on sheltering relationships over the weekend, concluding with a final session on Monday evening. A lively group of around 50 to 60 devotees participated, and more watched over internet. As they had already contemplated the idea of implementing a mentoring system, the seminar came timely. When offering the Sunday feast lecture I met the entire community and connected with nice devotees over prasadam. On another evening we had a program with devotees from Russia and Ukraine, and I enjoyed tasting the 'Russian flavor' in anticipation of soon returning to Ukraine. All along I was able to put more than 60 copies of my book in the hands of eager devotees. It was a very enlivening visit to Chicago, and I firmly decided to return next year....
On the 13th of June I flew on to Toronto.....