The Vedic social institutions of brahmacarya, gṛhastha, vānaprastha, and sannyāsa are defined largely according to levels of interaction between male and female. Only in gṛhastha life is there some allowance for extended association between men and woman. In gṛhamedhī culture, which largely defines Western society today, there is no restriction regarding how much a husband and wife may interact. But among Vedic gṛhasthas, even association between husband and wife was limited.
Traditionally, family elders would not allow the young married members to mix very much. Men and women did not go shopping, partying, playing, dating together, and even if they worked together (e.g., in agricultural fields), they would usually do so in separate groups.
Śrīla Prabhupāda said, “Woman is good, man is good; when they combine together, bad.”
Nevertheless, we factually see that many householder couples are working together cooperatively in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, with the wife encouraging the husband spiritually – so under certain conditions the combination can be good. The first condition is that association with women is allowed only for gṛhasthas.
“When protected, women as a class remain an always auspicious source of energy to man.”
“Therefore according to Vedic culture a girl must be married.”
A major reason why all women should become married is to afford their protection. Upon attaining puberty, a girl needs a mate. If females are not obliged to marry, and instead are misguidedly afforded the freedom to remain independent and unprotected, they thus become potential victims of exploitation, with the result that they will produce bad progeny. Vedic culture does not allow such freedom to women any more than it does to children, as both classes are incapable of properly utilizing it.
Because only gṛhasthas are allowed to associate with women, protection of women is meant for gṛhastha men, not others. It is an abomination and a major embarrassment to ISKCON if any of its sannyasis keeps a woman as a constant companion, as a de facto wife.
Reproduced with permission from the book Women: Mothers and Masters by Bhakti Vikasa Swami.