Harmonious Relationship Between Husband And Wife
By Khonika Gope-Kumar
How should a devotee treat his wife? How should he address her? How should he pacify her when she is angry? How should he guide her if she makes some mistakes? Can we get some clues about these topics from Srimad Bhagvatam?
One might wonder whether these are mundane topics and even worth being discussed among the devotees. Srila Prabhupada, nevertheless, stressed a lot on having a harmonious relationship between husband and wife. “A wife should always remain satisfied with her husband, and a husband should always remain satisfied with his wife. In the Canakya-Sloka, the moral instructions of Canakya Pandita, it is said that if a husband and wife are always satisfied with one another, then the goddess of fortune automatically comes. In other words, where there is no disagreement between husband and wife, all material opulence is present, and good children are born” [Bhaktivedanta Purport SB 4.1.6].
Srimad Bhagvatam, the reservoir of all superior knowledge, gives valuable insights about the husband wife relationship. In the Bhagvatam, we see a number of interactions/discussions between several exalted husbands and wives, such as:
Diti and Kasyapa [SB 3.14 and SB 6.18]
Devahuti and Kardama [SB 3.23]
Sati and Shiva [SB 4.3]
Parvati and Shiva [SB 6.17]
Aditi and Kasyapa [SB 8.16] and finally
Lord Krishna and Rukmini [SB 10.60]
These discourses give us many valuable instructions. However, I would like to limit this article to “how the husbands in Srimad Bhagvatam talked to their wives”. As we all know, most of the Bhagvatam stories deal with critical situations; this topic is also no exception. Srimad Bhagvatam does not only teach us how to talk to the wife soberly, in fact, many of its stories teach us how to talk to the wife soberly when there is some disagreement or she is clearly doing something wrong!
The very first couple interaction in Srimad Bhagvatam is that of Diti and Kasyapa [SB 3.14]. This is a perfect example of an elevated husband’s response to a wife, who, at that moment, was not in her most elevated situation. When Diti approached Kasyapa in a wrong time (in the evening hours when he was praying) with a wrong intention (desire to have children not because she wants to produce servants of the Lord, but because her other co-wives have already begot children). Though Kasyapa had all the reasons to become annoyed with Aditi, he did not even chastise her, what to speak of showing anger or putting up a fight. Rather he spoke the most pleasing words a husband can speak to his wife. He starts by expressing his gratitude towards Diti for all her services.
Kasyapa said, “O afflicted one, I shall forthwith gratify whatever desire is dear to you, for who else but you is the source of the three perfections of liberation? As one can cross over the ocean with seagoing vessels, one can cross the dangerous situation of the material ocean by living with a wife. O respectful one, a wife is so helpful that she is called the better half of a man’s body because of her sharing in all auspicious activities. A man can move without anxiety entrusting all responsibilities to his wife. As a fort commander very easily conquers invading plunderers, by taking shelter of a wife one can conquer the senses, which are unconquerable in the other social orders. O queen of the home, we are not able to act like you, nor could we repay you for what you have done, even if we worked for our entire life or even after death. To repay you is not possible, even for those who are admirers of personal qualities.” [SB 3.14.17-22]
In a similar way, Kardama Muni, while talking to Devahuti, expressed his genuine gratitude towards her. “Kardama Muni said: O respectful daughter of Svayambhuva Manu, today I am very much pleased with you for your great devotion and most excellent loving service. Since the body is so dear to embodied beings, I am astonished that you have neglected your own body to use it on my behalf.” [SB 3.23.6]
Even Lord Krishna, while talking to Rukmini, expressed His gratitude and thanked her for her dedication, love and faithful devotional service towards Him. Mentioning all the sacrifices she did for Her, He said, “In all My palaces I can find no other wife as loving as you, O most respectful one. When you were to be married, you disregarded all the kings who had assembled to seek your hand, and simply because you had heard authentic accounts concerning Me, you sent a brahmaṇa to Me with your confidential message. When your brother, who had been defeated in battle and then disfigured, was later killed during a gambling match on Aniruddha’s wedding day, you felt unbearable grief, yet out of fear of losing Me you spoke not a word. By this silence you have conquered Me. When you sent the messenger with your most confidential plan and yet I delayed going to you, you began to see the whole world as void and wanted to quit your body, which could never have been given to anyone but Me. May this greatness of yours remain with you always; I can do nothing to reciprocate except joyfully thank you for your devotion.” [SB 10.60.55-57]
Not only the Lord and His exalted devotees, even the characters who were attached to sense gratification spoke to their wives with great reverence, affection and gratitude. The conversation between Puranjana and Puranjani [SB 4.26], and Urvasi and Pururava [SB 9.14] are some examples. Many a times, because of our over familiarity with our spouses, we ignore to express our gratitude. However, Srimad Bhagvatam, with multiple examples, shows how important it is to express gratitude. In fact, gratitude is one of the brahminical qualifications. “Whoever acquires the brahminical qualifications — whose only wealth is good behavior, who is grateful, and who takes shelter of experienced persons — gets all the opulence of the world…” [SB 4.21.44]. One should always be grateful to the Lord and His devotees, especially to the wife who unconditionally helps him in his devotional service.
Even if the wife is not being engaged in devotional service, a husband should not show anger and use harsh words. Rather the husband should be tolerant, try to convince her by providing appropriate logic and whenever possible, engage her in devotional services. When Diti approached Kasyapa in the evening, Kasyapa Muni tried to convince her about the inappropriateness of the time. However, Diti still insisted and ultimately he fulfilled her desires [SB 3.14]. Later on, when Diti’s sons Hiranyakasipu and Hiranyaksa were both killed by Visnhu at the request of demigods headed by Indra, Diti again approached Kasyapa with a desire for a son to kill Indra. “Upon hearing Diti’s request, Kasyapa Muni was very much aggrieved…” [SB 6.18.38] Though he was angry inside, he did not show his displeasure at all; rather he engaged Diti in austerity and told her to undergo the purificatory process known as pumsavana for at least one year to get a son who will be able to kill Indra [SB 6.18]. Later on, she gave birth to the exalted Prachetas. Though Kasayapa was equally nice and gave advice based on sastra both the times, in one occasion, Diti ignored his suggestion and in another occasion, she accepted.
On the other hand, when Aditi, the mother of the demigods and another wife of Kasyapa Muni, was very afflicted by seeing her sons’ distress as they were driven out of the heavenly planets by the demons headed by Bali, she requested her husband to improve the situation [SB 8.16.17]. Kasyapa Muni instructed her in the philosophy of self-realization, the difference between matter and spirit, and how to be unaffected by material loss. But when he saw that Aditi was not satisfied even after he had given these instructions, he advised her to worship the Lord and take up the devotional process called Payo-vrata [SB 8.16]. In every situation, he guided his wives to devotional service despite their shortcomings and material desires.
The last Bhagvatam example of this article would be that of Lord Shiva, who, in a very pleasing manner and with appropriate logic, tried to refrain Sati from going to her father’s place [SB 4.3]. However, she did not listen to her husband and we all know what happened later on. We also see Lord Shiva’s pleasant yet appropriate speech to mother Parvati when she cursed Citraketu. “After hearing this speech by her husband, the demigoddess [Uma, the wife of Lord Shiva] gave up her astonishment at the behavior of King Citraketu and became steady in intelligence [SB 6.17.36]. It is interesting to note that though Lord Shiva talked to Sati and Parvati in a similar way, Parvati valued his speech and Sati did not.
In summary, it can be said that the general Vaishnava principles such as appreciation, gratitude, tolerance and logical explanation is even more applicable for the spouse. A husband’s dharma is to be nice with the wife and a wife’s dharma is to be nice with the husband. As true well-wishers, we should try to do our best either by assisting them or by guiding them to Krishna Consciousness. However, every person has his/her own free will. He/she might choose to follow or choose not to follow the path of religion. If we see that they are doing something wrong, we can only tell them and sincerely pray for them, but we should not force them. That will only worsen the situation. We should remember one thing, even Paramatma in our hearts does not force us to do something, how can we force our spouse to do something?