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Become a devotee; make Mum and Dad cry

Monday, 13 October 2008 / Published in Articles, Kesava Krsna Dasa / 5,505 views

By Kesava Krsna Dasa

After becoming a devotee of Lord Krishna, many of us had to deal with the issue of emotional responses from our parents. In some cases, the apparent fall out from thinking that the, “Hare Krishna’s have broken up my family”, can last for decades. What is the position of these parents in terms of spiritual progress? Is there a way of making sense of suffering the loss of a son or daughter to Krishna’s divine service?

After I joined the bhakta course then headed by Vipramukhya Prabhu, already the desperate phone calls from my severely distraught mother came through, but I could not answer them all because they were emotionally draining. However, the extraordinary power of chanting Hare Krishna insulated me and gave rise to a somewhat callous attitude. Still, being shorn of sound philosophical grounding, I was unable to reconcile her to my spiritual calling.

The usual kindly reminders of, “They feed you a low protein diet to keep you as obedient servants of this money making machine”, were attempts by my mother to prise me away. After about two weeks, the bhakta leader decided to come home with me and preach to my parents. Re-entering my home uncovered all the lifelong sights and smells of my former abode. Armed with a video projector we showed “The Hare Krishna World”, as my parents politely watched and listened.

But they did not want philosophy; they simply wanted me home. “Have you come back to stay…Can’t you do this at home…Have we done something wrong to make you leave home like this? Tears welled up in their eyes, “Every time we play this record it reminds us so much of you. Please don’t go, just stay here”. The record happened to be Ennio Morricone’s classical movie score called, “Once upon a time in the West”, which I brought for my dad. It was a sad orchestral work which played a haunting female voice accompanied by droning cellos.

I had never before witnessed such a state in them, as they were gently desperate, and they certainly tugged at my heartstrings. But I stood my ground, putting on a brave face, and tried to assure them I was happy. After a tender farewell, and driving back to the temple, all the appeals of my parents overcame me, so I too cried. The bhakta leader exclaimed, “Oh no. This is what happened to Arjuna on the battlefield. This is a sign of ignorance”. From that time onwards, I was observed very closely because I was a potential “blooper”.

If this was not bad enough for my parents, two weeks later, my younger brother Paravidya Prabhu also joined the temple full time. That is how things were in those days; you either were in, or out of the temple. Is it possible to explain a double dose of misery caused by trying to serve Krishna?

About a week later, a large number of devotees gathered for a maha Harinama procession in my home town of Gloucester. As the devotees jubilantly sang Hare Krishna and danced happily, I distributed Back To Godhead magazines and sweets. Half expectedly, I saw my mother, and she saw shaved heads, all, and me. I approached her to offer a sweet, but the visual shock overcame her. She turned away and sped off, disappearing into the crowds of shoppers. I had to feign a blissful countenance for the rest of the Harinama. Later, she told me that day was the worst in her life.

In spite of these torrid times, my parents nonetheless came to visit me frequently. They had darshana of the deities and partook of Krishna prasadam. Some years later a senior mataji named Rtasya Devi Dasi helped arrange an open day for all devotee parents at Bhaktivedanta Manor, which was well attended. The parents could relate to each other while popping up puris and doing other amusing icebreakers.

Largely, many parents of devotees remain living a nondevotee lifestyle said to be ‘sinful’ or ‘vikarmic’, while their offspring engage in Krishna’s service. Are they also somehow engaged in devotional service, perhaps directly or indirectly? Will they benefit even when retaining embittered feelings of, “The Hare Krishna’s broke up my family?”

The answer is that they are engaged both directly and indirectly in Krishna’s service without realizing it. However miserable or angry they may be, some past event precipitated the exceptional boon of being connected with Krishna. Sri Narada Muni said; “Persons who constantly direct their lust, anger, fear, protective affection, feelings of impersonal oneness or friendship toward Lord Hari are sure to be absorbed in thoughts of Him”. (SB. 10.29.15)

The fact that concerned parents have displayed these emotions while thinking of and remembering their loved ones shows they are making some advancement in spiritual life. Mother Devahuti stated; “…But that same attachment, when applied to the self-realized devotees, opens the doors of liberation”. (SB. 3.25.20)

An example of indirect service would be the parents’ involuntarily ‘losing’, or rather, giving their sons and daughters for devotional service. The ensuing ‘suffering’ due to thinking in terms of “my child” is a great distance from that offered by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur in his Saranagati; “Mind, body and family, whatever may be mine, I have surrendered at Your lotus feet, O youthful son of Nanda”. While it would take a quantum leap of consciousness to achieve this sentiment, there is still no adverse long-term outcome; “…one who does good, My friend, is never overcome by evil”. (BG. 6.40)

When these involuntary acts are balanced against direct services rendered to the spiritual master by all progeny, there comes a benefit more far reaching than one can imagine, for the Lord takes care of all concerned. “The Lord is so kind that He gives all protection to the family members of His devotees, and thus the devotee has no need to bother about his family members, even if one leaves such family members aside to discharge devotional service’. (SB. 1.19.35 purport)

While this does not mean we should ignore our parents, for we must keep in touch, it says we can lessen our concerns if they interfere with our devotional activities. In other words, a more surrendered attitude will allow Krishna to take care of the rest. Even so, to become a devotee is the best possible way to help everyone, especially family members; “A pure exclusive devotee of the Lord serves his family interest more dexterously than others, who are attached to illusory family affairs”. (SB. 1.19.35 purport)

This phenomenon of crying parents is not unique to modern day devotees, for this has been happening all the time. Lord Chaitanya left a bereaved mother and wife. Sri Nityananda’s father Hadai Pandit, who eventually died of separation from his son, unwittingly gave Lord Nityananda away in charity to a sannyasi. Great devotees such as Sri Lokanatha Goswami of Vrndavana left behind parents who were about to get him married. The list goes on.

As for ourselves, it is in our best interests to try to become ‘exclusive’ servants of the spiritual master, and his pleasure alone can ensure all-round protection. No matter how ‘sinful’ or ‘fallen’ our family members are, these are of negligible value in the infinite estimation of the Lord. What concerns Krishna is the fact that these crying parents gave something most valuable – sons and daughters who became vaisnavas and vaisnavis. If a vaisnava is so highly loved by the Lord, and is given all access to blissfully serve Him forever, that would be worth crying about any day.

Ys, Kesava Krsna dasa

11 comments

  1. 0
    Gaurav Mittal ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “Have you come back to stay…Can’t you do this at home…

    You can surely follow bhakti at home. Krishna tells that those who remember Him can easily attain Him. Remembrance is independent of external actions.

    Have we done something wrong to make you leave home like this?

    Again, no need to leave home. Stay at home and serve your loving parents and become a devotee.

    Tears welled up in their eyes, “Every time we play this record it reminds us so much of you. Please don’t go, just stay here”.

    This is sign of good parent.

    Valmiki Ramayana – Ayodhya Kanda Canto CXI

    Vasistha, the family priest of Ram, addressed Rama with the following words in consonance with righteousness :- “The guru, O scion of Kakutstha, as well as one’s father and mother, ever come to be the adored of a man from the time he is born in this world. The father only procreates (and the mother brings forth) a human being. The guru, on the other hand, bestows knowledge on him, hence he is spoken as superior even to parents. I for my part am the guru not only of your father but yours (Rama’s) too. Therefore by obeying my instructions, you will not be transgressing the path of the virtuous. Here indeed are your subjects, kinsmen and tributary princes too. Discharging your duty by them, you will not be transgressing the path of the virtuous.” Instructed thus in sweet words by his guru himself, Sri Rama, a jewel among men, replied to Vasistha :- “The service that the parents render to their son by giving him whatever they can, as well as by putting him to bed and rubbing his body with oil etc., nay, by speaking kindly to him every moment and (even) so by nourishing him, nay, whatever (good) is done by them cannot be easily requited. Indeed that which the celebrated King Dasaratha, my father, who brought me into being, has asked me to do shall not prove untrue.”

  2. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Gaurav Prabhu you make good points about the respect and obedience due to our parents (and Lord Caitanya’s example of staying in Jagannatha Puri to assuage mother Saci is worth noting, as Kesave Krishna Prabhu has done.)

    Nevertheless, the opportunity to actually live in an asram where Krishna consciousness is the center of all activities, where everyone rises early and attends the morning program and tries to engage the body, mind and speech 24 hours a day in bhakti yoga, is very valuable.

    Surely young devotees who still live at home can somehow gently persuade their parents, as Prabhupada sometimes did on their behalf, to let them take advantage of this very purifying lifestyle.

    Even Dasarath was persuaded to let Rama and Laksman go with Visvamitra to slay some demons at a tender age.

    Bhakti yoga at home is wonderful, but sometimes the parent’s home is not ideal for practicing yoga, especially if the parents are not devotees and may even be disturbed by devotional behavior.

  3. 0
    scooty.ram says:

    Pranams,

    I am trying to extend this topic to all relatioship a man/woman has.–If it is allowed.
    Just to make sure i am really conscious what i am doing!

    Should we say ” Become a devotee; make your wife/husband cry”.

    AI think depending upon the emotional bond we share with the person, we will take different steps. For the most loved ones , we will definitely show more patience and try to make the situation more harmonious and something benefiting both the parties.
    Infact Srila Prabhupada says Arjuna’s compassion to kins and kith are sign of Good Character!(ofcourse it is a mix of hrdaya dourlabhyam)

    I am not sure if one can separate or get divorce from his/her partner if we find our partner is anti ISKCON. Definitely a devotee would try to counsel both members and try to make a compromise than leave one person cry.Atleast Srila Prabhupada rules out the possibility of divorce!–Please correct me if i am wrong.

    I understand this parent scenario is much different when viewed from an angle of Anti Hare Krishna spouse .

    Also I am sure many children might end up making their parents feel miserable when they marry someone not from their caste or leave thir parents at old age homes(Atleast indian parents).
    We can say it is more noble for a son who goes to army though his parents might feel bad or emotional about it.
    However when it comes to spiritual life, a life where moral values and heart rules ,should we consider it is worth the amount of pain we give back to our parents?(If not make it a mission to make them a devotee,after all first duty is to clean one’s home).

    I request members and Prabhupada’s discsiples to share their personal experiences.
    How was Srila Prabhupada facing scenarios when Parents of his disciple show pain and sorrow of losing their children?How strict and how much of concern he had for their parents?
    Did he say it is alright to leave them cry and that they will be paid back on better terms for the loss they incur now?

    Dasan

  4. 0
    Kesava Krsna dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Gaurav Mittalji,

    What you wrote was true, and is applicable to the Iskcon we have today wherein there is scope for living outside the temple. I am married and have a family, and live outside of the temple.

    Back in 1980 this was not the case. There was no developed Nama-hatta program, or any established link with an outside devotee community because there wasn’t any. In fact, it was considered to be ‘Maya’ to have dealings of this sort. So this was the time I was writing about.

    Had today’s thinking been in place during that time, I may have considered staying at home. But then, to practice Krishna consciousness, with chanting, the cooking, the kirtanas, the incense, and so on, would probably have alienated my parents anyway. Besides, a very close family friend became an ordained christian minister, who warned my parents that I was doing something ‘positively evil’.

    However painful the situation was all around, I take it as Krishna’s kind mercy to have made this choice, and furthermore, learn so much from living an ashrama lifestyle. In fact, this helped to better prepare for a life outside of the temple.

    Ys, Kesava Krsna dasa.

  5. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “I am not sure if one can separate or get divorce from his/her partner if we find our partner is anti ISKCON. Definitely a devotee would try to counsel both members and try to make a compromise than leave one person cry. At least Srila Prabhupada rules out the possibility of divorce!–Please correct me if i am wrong.”

    The marriage vow is very serious and it is a great disturbance in society if people feel free to just marry and divorce and remarry, as we see is common nowadays.

    Therefore, devotees should definitely marry devotees. Sometimes we wishfully think we will be able to change someone after we get married, but chances are, they are thinking the same about us, (i.e. that they will convince us to give up this “Krishna nonsense”). So being married to a nondevotee can be very troublesome.

    There were extreme instances where Prabhupada let his disciples divorce. He made sure they understood the gravity. He counseled some women that they could leave an inimical husband, but could not remarry. He actually wrote something to that effect in Srimad Bhagavatam (Seventh Canto, I think).

    In practice, he was even more lenient. He did let his disciples remarry, including women. My take on it is that he strongly rejected divorce and remarriage in principle, and also was concerned for the reputation of ISKCON as not condoning irreligion, but in practice he was compassionate on weak disciples and wanted above all else that they should keep chanting and practicing Krishna consciousness.

    He was very disturbed by the irreligious behavior of some of his disciples concerning their sometimes casual attitude toward marriage vows, but his loving commitment to saving them did not waver.

    For preaching where divorce and remarriage is prominent (as it is everywhere now), we should stick to our religious principles as the guiding eternal codes of morality, but we can show compassion and tolerance for weakness, following Prabhupada’s example.

    After all, the best remedy for someone who commits some sin is to sincerely and feelingly take up the chanting of Hare Krishna. We are not going to prescribe them some material atonement ritual.

    Similarly with parents. Once the child is of legal age, duty to a Vaisnava guru trumps duty to parents in cases of irreconcilable conflict. We should try to convince parents and get their consent, but the “higher” religion is to serve Krishna, even if it may involve disobeying a parent or husband or law.

  6. 0
    scooty.ram says:

    Thanks for the detailed information on marriage and KC

    “(i.e. that they will convince us to give up this “Krishna nonsense”).”–Simply awesome one! I never thought people would imagine this alternative! :-)

    “We should try to convince parents and get their consent, but the “higher” religion is to serve Krishna, even if it may involve disobeying a parent or husband or law.”- Varnashrama system ensures we follow the law as well as Be Krishna conscious.
    Prabhupada’s movement is much more lenient in the sense that he simply wanted people to follow few basic things.

    However only for an extremely ‘special or pure’ devotee , can we think of ‘breaking’ the laws of Krishna/Veda!–But again very rare case.

    Yes, in today’s world the varnashrama syste or gurukul system is very tough.
    I heard sri Bhakti Raghava maharaj working on this Varnashrama project and also met few devotees in india who are living THE SIMPLE life. Nice to have such strict and focused devotees.

    “After all, the best remedy for someone who commits some sin is to sincerely and feelingly take up the chanting of Hare Krishna. We are not going to prescribe them some material atonement ritual.”– I feel the first remedy is to ‘accept the mistake’ and then correct it.
    By accepting a mistake we can come over it next time.It is sometimes better to be honest than correct.So we indeed might need some material atonement ritual like fasting or whatever to realise the gravity of the mistake.
    We might translate the prayaschita to a KC one by chanting extra rounds but i question the mood of such attempt.SO best is to perform some prayaschita to get into our minds that we indeed need to atone for this and Chanting hare krishna is not an escape root.

    It is for a higher stage devotees who need not perform any prayaschita since they have the vairagya and enough realisation from the mistake they did.

    But to remove the paapa beeja– Hari nam is the best medicine. It removes the Roots of all evil!

    Dasan
    PS:It is a mistake to divorce irrespective of the problems in marriage since marriage is a decision made by us .So we need to really work out on this and spend more time that leave them crying.Similarly we should show some gratitude to parents for we are indebted to them from our birth.If we are to say we are indebted to Krishna eternally,then divorce can also be service to Krishna(jus like quitting parents).But it is mostly not!

  7. 0
    pustakrishna ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    ahaituki apratihata…bhakti is spontaneous, and, it cannot be stopped by anything. When westerners converted to Krishna consciousness in days gone by, bhakti was embraced enthusiastically. It did not feel like an imposition, but rather something that was blossoming from within, grace of Sri Guru. Usually, this was not an act of rebellion. It was like coming up for air after being held down in the water for what seemed like an eternity. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu took control of our lives directly. What more can I say…
    On another level, devotees are not the cause of parents despair if their children should become bhaktas. Some parents were also relieved to see the fresh direction that their children were taking. It was not always the case that one was seen as converting from their former religion to another. Of course, that is often the case. Even namacharya, Srila Haridas Thakur, was persecuted for taking up the chanting of the Hare Krishna Mahamantra. It is an example of paramount importance.
    Whatever the case, Srila Prabhupad questioned how the seemingly impious westerners would take to Krishna consciousness. Srila Prabhupad was very, very grateful to his young disciples. Many times I heard him say that “these young western boys and girls are giving the best years of their life to serve Krishna.” We slept on the floor, even on cobblestones, bathed in ice cold water, and felt happiness in so doing. It is not to be understood by mundane calculation.
    Secondly, regarding the issue of divorce, anything is possible for the sake of serving Krishna. Srila Prabhupad gave Sanyas to some of his married disciples who were only in their twenties, for the sake of spreading the Krishna consciousness movement. Preaching took precedence over everything. So exalted did Srila Prabhupad hold the preachers. Although we were his disciples, he gave so much personal honor to us. The affection was apparent, and the gratitude was genuine. Marriage was for regulated sense enjoyment, albeit dovetailed with Krishna. It also is laudable and not to be disrespected. But, those who wanted to dedicate themselves to preaching Krishna consciousness around the world were very special. Even if they eventually took a turn away from the sanyas ashram, Srila Prabhupad still gave them encouragement. Their service was not to be forgotten. Time and again, this was the case. Never forget that.
    Pusta Krishna das

  8. 0
    Akruranatha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “I feel the first remedy is to ‘accept the mistake’ and then correct it. By accepting a mistake we can come over it next time.”

    Good point.

    If we do not even really accept that it was a mistake and “own it,” so to speak, then our chanting will be encumbered by the seventh offense.

    In fact in ISKCON we are told to fast for certain offenses (e.g., failing to offer obeisances to a sannyasi the first time you see him each day).

    I have been told of various “fast-worthy” offenses, including even spilling milk. (We don’t cry over spilled milk, but in ISKCON we fast the next day, or so I have been told. I have to admit I never followed that one. Did Prabhupada really tell us to do that?)

    The “fruitive mentality” of prayascitta is that, by accepting some austerity to atone for my sin, I will be relieved from a greater karmic reaction later.

    But a serious devotee may accept some austerity just to set a good example, or because it is the right thing to do to please guru and Krishna. After all, charity, sacrifice and austerity are not to be given up.

    Sometimes we see “tapasya” translated as “penance.” If we are honest, almost all of us will realize we have plenty of things to repent. We have accepted material bodies in order to try to enjoy independently of bhakti. That was big mistake number one, and we make many little subservient mistakes as long as we are not pure devotees.

    Vanaprastha and sannyasa asrams are particularly suitable for austerity and renunciation. Austerities are part of a devotee’s lifestyle, and do reflect our recognition of the gravity of our mistake (in having embraced even legal material enjoyment). The threefold austerities of body, mind and speech, done for the sake of pleasing Krsna, is sattvik and should not be renounced. (B.G. 17.14-17)

    On the other hand austerity should not be overdone, like demons who torture themselves or to destroy or injure others, which Krishna says is in the mode of ignorance. (B.G. 17.5-6; 17.19)

    Yes, Rajagopal, generally the duties of bhakti and the conditional duties of material dharma follow parallel lines. It is only rarely that one will be asked to give up the path of material righteousness to actually please some higher desire of Krishna (like Yudhisthira saying “Asvattama is dead”, or the simple gopis offering their foot dust to cure Krishna’s headache.)

    So-called bhakti that is not in accord with sruti, smrti, purana, or pancaratra is a disturbance to society

  9. 0

    regarding the divorce issue ,Srila Prabhupada was not in favor of divorce or remarriage.

    Srila Prabhupada states in one conversation:
    9-11 1969 London

    Prabhupada: Because I have taken sannyasa. I have dedicated my life for Krsna. That is the Vedic system, that certain portion of your life should simply dedicate for God. That is called sannyasa.
    Reporter: To do this, did you have to divorce?
    Prabhupada: No. There is no question of. We do not know what is divorce. In our country there is no divorce, at least in Hindu law. Yes. Wife and husband, once combined, that is for life. There is no question of separation, in all circumstances. Either in distress or in happiness, there is no question of separation. Now our modern politicians, they have introduced this divorce law. Otherwise, according to Hindu, Manu-samhita, there is no divorce law.

    dampatye ‘bhirucir hetur
    mayaiva vyavaharike
    stritve pumstve ca hi ratir
    vipratve sutram eva hi

    [In Kali-yuga] “Men and women will live together merely because of superficial attraction, and success in business will depend on deceit. Womanliness and manliness will be judged according to one’s expertise in sex, and a man will be known as a brahmana just by his wearing a thread.” (SB 12.2.3)

    for Brahmanas it is forbidden to get divorced Manu Samhita States:

    “Neither by sale nor by repudiation is a wife released from her husband; such we know the law to be, which the Lord of creatures (Prajapati) made of old.
    “Once is the partition (of the inheritance) made, (once is) a maiden given in marriage, (and) once does (a man) say,’ I will give;’ each of those three (acts is done) once only.” (Manu-samhita 9.46-47)

    Vedic society recognizes eight traditional types of marriage – brahma, daiva, arsha, prajapatya, asura, gandharva, rakshasa, paishaca (Manu-samhita 3.20-44) – first four auspicious and second four inauspicious. Marriage in Kali-yuga is mainly by personal selection (gandharva type, SB 9.20.15 p.) and often leads to divorce.

    Srila Prabhupada said that divorce is fit only for sudras (SB 9.3.21 p., 9.20.15 p.

    There must be compulsory marriage of young boys and girls attaining twenty-four years of age and sixteen years of age respectively. There is no harm in coeducation in the schools and colleges, provided the boys and girls are duly married, and in case there is any intimate connection between a male and female student, they should be married properly without illicit relation.

  10. 0
    kannanrs ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Vani feels like Vapu

    “After all, the best remedy for someone who commits some sin is to sincerely and feelingly take up the chanting of Hare Krishna. We are not going to prescribe them some material atonement ritual.”– I feel the first remedy is to ‘accept the mistake’ and then correct it.

    but miss u in Chennai

    Dasan Kannan
    (kannan62k)

  11. 0

    Srila Prabhupada used to joke he had been cursed by some parents of his disciples , just like Daksa cursed Narada Muni for sending all his sons back to Godhead, Kesava Krsna Prabhu has pious parents, many parents are not even concerned what happens to their children if they become a Hare Krsna devotee or anything, that is the sad stage of Kali Yuga–for a lot of devotees Srila Prabhupada has become like a mother and father, and eternal guide. Lord Nityananda has preached we should see Sri Krsna in that light.
    Srila Bhaktivinoda has shown us this in his song Nagara Sankirtan:

    (1) On the island of Godruma in Nabadwip Dham, the magnanimous Lord Nityananda has opened up the Marketplace of the Holy Name, meant for the deliverance of all fallen souls.

    (2) O men of faith! O men of faith! On Lord Gauranga’s order, brothers, I beg this one thing of you: Chant Krishna’s name, worship Krishna, and learn about Krishna.

    (3) Being careful to remain free of offenses, just take the holy name of Krishna. Krishna is your mother, Krishna is your father, and Krishna is the treasure of your very life.

    (4) Giving up all improper behavior, carry on your worldly duties only in relation to Krishna. Chanting the holy name of Krishna and showing compassion to all living beings is the essence of all religion.

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