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A B Cs , X Y Zs and everything in between

Monday, 28 April 2008 / Published in Articles, Editorial, Praghosa Dasa / 5,672 views

By Praghosa Dasa

Srila Prabhupada often made reference to the fact that both in beginner’s maths as well as advanced mathematics, two plus two is always equal to four. While advanced mathematics can be extremely complicated it can also be very wrong if the basic principles of simple maths are not adhered to. Likewise the same principle applies to relationships and if we fail to get the basics right in our relationships we will forever struggle with them. The most fundamental relationship that we need to get right is our relationship with the supreme Lord and His creation. Sastra informs us;

jivera ‘svarupa’ haya—krsnera ‘nitya-dasa’

“The living entity’s constitutional position is to be an eternal servant of Krsna”

As with the two plus two analogy, if we are either resisting or plain rebelling against our constitutional position as Krsna’s eternal servant then as well as our relationship with Krsna being askew all other relationships will be impacted as well. So the importance of getting our relationship right with Krishna cannot be over stated and in order for our relationship as an eternal servant of Krishna to be in good working order, we need to ensure that our relationship with His creation is in harmony too.

As the material energy is the property of the supreme Lord our relationship with it should be that we simply use it in His service only taking what we need for ourselves to facilitate our service to Him; tena tyaktena bhunjitha

If we can implement this principle into our lives then it will have a very positive effect on all our other relationships. Not least because if we can follow this principle of taking only what we need to keep body and soul together, we will be well on the way to becoming free of selfish motive which is a wonderful quality to bring to any relationship.

“So the whole Krishna consciousness movement is how to become dhira, selflessness. Then life is successful” SBL 1st March 1976

Another key quality of a relationship is its longevity and again this is perfectly reflected in our relationship with Krishna which of course is eternal. It is hard for us to fully grasp the extraordinary nature of an eternal relationship, one that is ever increasing, ever fresh and ever blissful. In the material realm it is often the short term, non committed relationships that people find attractive and appealing, the term one night stand comes to mind. Herein lays the inherent difference between the material and the spiritual, and for those of us who sincerely desire to return to the spiritual world we need to reject the foot loose and fancy free nature of these exploitative relationships and instead nurture relationships where we are givers rather than takers. There is arguably no better learning ground for nurturing such relationships than the grhastha asrama. Srila Prabhupada informs us that this asrama is a ‘licence for sense gratification’ but in reality the sense gratification gained (if the asrama is strictly honoured), pales into insignificance compared to the responsibility demanded (again if the asrama is properly honoured).

“Similarly, the householders, who have some license for sense gratification, perform such acts with great restraint……. ………This restricted, unattached sex life is also a kind of yajna because the restricted householder sacrifices his general tendency toward sense gratification for higher, transcendental life” Bg 4.26 Purport

“Those who take the license of married life for sense enjoyment must also take the responsibility to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Visnu, and the first stepping-stone is the varnasrama-dharma system. Varnasrama-dharma is the systematic institution for advancing in worship of Visuu” SB 3.13.11 Purport

It is interesting to note the inseparable connection between the grhasta asrama and varnasrama, again successful implementation of varnasrama depends so much on the relationships between all the varnas and asramas. Often times we get stuck on the form or field required for varnasrama and the model we almost exclusively focus on is the agrarian based one, which is of course very important. But the form and field are not the all in all, indeed in vedic times there were cities to – Hastinapura, Dvarka, Ayodhya etc., and they were all part of the varnasrama system. So in addition to form (structure), relationships are crucial and none more so than the grhasta relationship. And it is very clear that the main purpose of the grhasta asrama is not sense gratification but rather for husband and wife to render service to the supreme Lord. Naturally that service will be impeded if husband and wife are not peaceful in their asrama. If husband and wife maintain loyalty, fidelity and respect to each other then a peaceful marriage is assured. If loyalty and fidelity isn’t maintained it is often because we are attracted to someone else, usually someone younger or more attractive and obviously different. As these attractions are material, if acted on, they will prevent us from developing a closer relationship with Krishna, which ironically will provide us with all of the things we are chasing for, and think we can extract from, those short term material relationships. Relationships that inevitably mean we dishonour our commitments to our spouse, thus setting us back in our spiritual progression.

“When the wife is accepted as a sense gratificatory agency, personal beauty is the main consideration, and as soon as there is a break in personal sense gratification, there is disruption or divorce. But when husband and wife aim at spiritual advancement by mutual cooperation, there is no consideration of personal beauty or the disruption of so-called love. In the material world there is no question of love. Marriage is actually a duty performed in mutual cooperation as directed in the authoritative scriptures for spiritual advancement. Therefore marriage is essential in order to avoid the life of cats and dogs, who are not meant for spiritual enlightenment” SB 3.14.19 purport

If we want to avoid falling foul of Srila Prabhupada’s stringent words above, married couples should do whatever they can to ensure their marriage is successful. This of course requires flexibility, understanding, realism and tolerance, among other things. Often times we hear the charge that my marriage would be fine if my wife was more submissive but maybe she is doing exactly what she is supposed to do – following her husband’s example – of not being very submissive!

The analogy of the car and its driver is an interesting one in connection to the dynamic of the husband (driver) and wife (car) interrelation. As we are all constitutionally female;

“Just like if a female takes the part of a male and wants to imitate the enjoyment, it is simply false. Similarly, we are constitutionally female, enjoyed, prakrti” SBL 22nd August 1968

Those of us in male bodies need to perhaps work a little harder to avoid thinking we are the enjoyer, but a wife can help to both fulfil the husbands need to feel he is in control, while also keeping him firmly grounded, so that he doesn’t ever think he is the supreme controller! Just like when driving a car we assume a feeling of control not least because when we put our foot on the gas the car accelerates and when we put our foot on the brake the car stops and when we turn the steering wheel left the car turns left and vice a versa. However if we do not look after the car, giving it regular services, making sure it has the necessary fuel, replacing the tyres when worn etc., etc. then no matter how much we think we are in control, eventually we won’t be able to even get our car out of the garage! So the wise wife will give her husband all the respect he needs to maintain his self esteem and the wise husband will give all the love, care and attention that his wife needs for her to be able to continue to give him that respect.

We are so much in need of a healthy grhastha asrama because in many ways it is the most important asrama, not least because all members of the other asramas are produced from it. So if society is filled with exemplary grhasthas, then it will also be populated with exemplary brahmacaris and sannyasis etc.

“Marriage with a view to peaceful and virtuous life and with a view to procreate servants of the Lord is a good institution for a Vaisnava. Spiritual cultivation is the main object of life. Do everything that helps it and abstain from everything that thwarts the cultivation of the spirit.” Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura – Shree Caitanya Mahaprabhu: His Life and Precepts

One good barometer for knowing whether or not we are being successful in our grhasta life is to ask ourselves, are we learning to gradually renounce, not only our spouse and the ‘licence’ of the grhasta asrama, but have we also renounced all attraction to the opposite sex?

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3 Responses to “A B Cs , X Y Zs and everything in between”

  1. ccd says :

    There is a tendency in a conditioned soul to exploit whatever religious philosophy one may have. When I say exploit it means to take advantage not for bettering ones spiritual advancement, but to entangle deeper into material realm.

    That is the basis of hypocrisy of the materially motivated religion, ”so called dharma” of the second verse of the Bhagavata Purana?

    Not only one has to reject this tendency in others, one has to first reject this tendency in oneself. In fact its easy to see what is wrong with others, how other person is not doing it right. Its harder to see it in oneself. As you say: “Those of us in male bodies need to perhaps work a little harder to avoid thinking we are the enjoyer.” Conditioning of this statement is already implied.

    Controversial issues of a fundamentalism are often highlighted by how hard it fits with contemporary reality. In this context fundamentalism means materially motivated religiosity. In effect its the only reason of our bhagavata-vaishnava tradition – to overcome this tendency of the conditioned souls to conform to rules of religion and still keep the position of enjoyer. Can we do it? Can we keep calling ourself man or a woman and still think we are devotees or good devotees?

    The issue needs a radical paradigm shift if we are to rise anywhere near Bhagavatam standard. If I fail to meet that mark, I will be a good example of a show bottle devotee, who ‘despite any reasonable notions’ thinks oneself to be already Krishna Dasa (in capitals) while hardly thinking in terms of it being once svarupa, inner essence.

    Of course there are a number of directions that a bullet can come from, but Prabhupada always stressed the very basic understanding – of us not thinking on the basis of what he called ‘bodily platform’. Its not hard to move away from it once the chanting is done in humility. But what if its not, what if we are practicing cheating religion and think ourself ‘man’ ‘woman’ ‘big’ ‘small’? What if we look at others via the eyes of this relative moral religion paradigm – can we misrepresent the mood of the mission or are we safe?

    ys Caitanya

  2. Akruranatha says :

    This is a great article that makes a number of great points.

    We have a personalist philosophy so we should really be the best at personal relationships.

    We believe in eternal personal relationships in the spiritual world, so we ought to be able to cultivate long-term friendships in this temporary life too.

    Of course these friendships should not be based on the bodily platform, but on our increasing vision of how the spirit soul is moving through various bodies (enjoying different sets of senses grouped about the mind), until it can achieve its ultimate good fortune of returning back to its home in Krishna’s abode.

    I may be getting off the subject, but I think relationships among devotees is extremely important and not just for grhasthas.

    If we are thinking about qualities we should look for in a person who has been recommended to serve as an initiating guru within ISKCON (assuming we should continue deciding, as a matter of quality control, who ought or ought not be accepted to officially perform this important type of service), I think one of the important questions to ask should be: Does this candidate have some close friendships among his or her peers?

    Srila Prabhupada started and directed ISKCON single-handedly, a lone sannyasi in a foreign country with many young, impetuous disciples. (See, NOI p. 40) Ordinary devotees cannot do such things.

    But now we have a big society with lots of scope for friendship and cooperation among leaders. Friends are so important in spiritual life. It is great to have someone to confide in during times of doubt or difficulty, a well-wisher who will make sacrifices when necessary to help a “friend in need”.

    (Where did we get the idea — some of us anyway, I suppose I should speak for myself — that a initiating spiritual master is supposed to be some kind of lone spiritual hero that has no equals and no close friends? Isn’t that an impersonalist idea?)

    The Paul Simon lyric, “I have no need of friendship, Friendship causes pain, It’s laughter and it’s loving I distain, I am a rock, etc.” mocks the impersonalist mentality.

    We aim to return home to Krishna’s abode where there are millions of families and friends serving Krishna in the center.

    But getting back to grhastha asrama, the relationship of husband and wife is a most important kind of partnership among devotees. So much service must be done cooperatively to maintain and raise a devotee family.

  3. Akruranatha says :

    Caitanya’s comment was good and profound, as usual. I had to read it over a few times to get a sense of what he was saying.

    Once we find ourselves with in a “position” in the society of devotees, as temple commander, sankirtan leader, husband, father, membership director or whatever, we still may have the tendency to seek to exploit our position and sense of “who we are” for material enjoyment rather than doing the hard yoga work of remembering we are servants of Krishna at every step of everything we do.

    It is easier to remember that I am serving Krishna, perhaps, if I am a temple cook or a pujari or a book distributor than if I am a bus driver or grocery store clerk, because everything I am doing is directly involved with some service to Krishna. (I think book distributor is the easiest, because one has to engage one’s mind and speech in glorifying Krishna all day, if one actually distributes books on their merits).

    But still our minds can be so obstinate (like controlling the raging wind), they are always looking for an opportunity to disengage from Krishna’s lotus feet and engage in something else. And then we start thinking we are someone other than a servant of Krishna. “I am husband, I am wife, I am employee, I am boss, proprietor, etc., let me enjoy according to my position.”

    That was at least part of what you were saying, Caitanya Prabhu, wasn’t it?

    If we really want to be friendly with people we need to respect the needs of their bodies and minds. Devotees also have bodies and minds.

    Sometimes our impersonalistic tendency is to think, “We are not these bodies, so why should I care for the bodily needs of other devotees?” (Again, speaking for myself. I am sure there are many pure souls who have never had such a hellish mentality, but I plead guilty.)

    This is kitchen religion, after all. We are cooking for Krishna, dressing Krishna, learning to have a personal relationship with Krishna.

    Krishna has a spiritual body, and His devotees also have bodies we need to care for. We have to have proper relationships in terms of our different devotee bodies and minds.

    It is so important to serve the Vaisnavas: offer them prasadam, see that they are comfortable and have everything they need to perform their important spiritual duties, and then we may inquire from them about how to make progress in going back to Krishna. If they are pleased with our service they will bless us with their good guidance.

    Its so natural.

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