When A Woman Is Engaged In Sādhana-bhakti by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura
When a woman is engaged in sādhanabhakti, she should not improperly associate with men. Associating with the opposite sex is very inauspicious for the advancing devotee. There are two types of men and women. When a man and woman are married according to religious principles, there is no sin in their touching and talking with each other; rather, this touching and talking is beneficial because of the scriptural sanction. There is, however, no provision for illusory activities other than the execution of reciprocal duties.
If they are bewildered by each other and they engage in activities other than prescribed duties, then that is called strīsaṅga and puruṣa-saṅga, or association with the opposite sex. For those who are engaged in worshiping Krishna, such association yields inauspicious results. If either one is guilty of such association, then they become an obstacle for the other party. If the wife is helpful in the discharge of devotional service, then the fault of strī-sanga does not arise. But if the wife is an impediment in the discharge of devotional service, then one should carefully give up her association. We should consider the behavior of the great Vaiṣṇava ācārya, Srimad Ramanujacarya. When she wilfully offended his gurus wife Srimad Ramanujacarya sent his wife to her parent’s home. He then took sannyāsa, in this connection. If there is no marital relationship and one converses with a woman with self gratificatory motives, then this is strī-saṅga. That is sinful and detrimental to devotional service. Considering these points, the practicing devotee should very carefully give up the association of women and persons fond of women. As stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (3.31.35):
na tathāsya bhaven moho
yoṣit-saṅgād yathā puṁso
“The infatuation and bondage which accrue to a man from attachment to any other object is not as complete as that resulting from attachment to a woman or to the fellowship of men who are fond of
For a householder devotee, touching and speaking to his wife in the above mentioned manner is not detrimental to devotional service; but for a renunciate there cannot be any type of talking or touching a woman, otherwise his practice of devotional service will be completely spoiled. Association with such a deviated person should be totally rejected. One should give up the association of dharma-dhvajīs, the hypocritically devout, with special care. Those who accept the external signs of dharma but do not actually follow dharma are called dharma-dhvajīs. There are two types of dharma-dhvajīs—the hypocrites and the fools, or the cheaters and the cheated. Such hypocrisy is also condemned in jñānakaṇḍa and karma-kaṇḍa. In devotional service this hypocrisy ruins everything.
Better associate with sense enjoyers, for in this whole world there is no worse association than the dharma-dhvajī. The deceitful dharma-dhvajīs accept the signs of dharma with a desire to cheat the world, and to fulfill their crooked desires they cheat the foolish by helping them in their rascaldom. Some of them become gurus and others become disciples, and by trickery they accumulate wealth, women, false-prestige, and material assets. If one gives up the association of crooked hypocrites, then he can honestly engage in devotional service. Honest worship is the only way to attain Krishnas mercy. As stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.3.38):
sa veda dhātuḥ padavīṁ parasya
yo ‘māyayā santatayānuvṛttyā
“Only those who render unreserved, uninterrupted, and unmotivated service unto the lotus feet of Lord Krishṇa, who carries the wheel of the chariot in His hand, can know the creator of the universe in His full glory, power and transcendence.”
— Śrī Bhaktyāloka – The Six Faults and Qualities of Bhakti, Translated by Sarvabhauma Dasa