In Search of Utopia
Many devotees get discouraged when they encounter conflict in their relationships.
“Hey, it’s not supposed to be like this…”
“I joined Krishna Consciousness to escape from all this!”
We whinge, we whine and wax on; but it changes nothing.
Although our Utopian ideals sound noble, they can often leave us frustrated and disappointed. They can also result in us becoming negative and impersonal in our dealings. Srila Prabhupada warned about this tendency in a letter to Atreya Rsi dasa in 1972.
“So we shall not expect that anywhere there is any Utopia. Rather, that is impersonalism. People should not expect that even in the Krishna Consciousness Society there will be Utopia. Because devotees are persons, therefore there will always be some lacking – but despite everything they may do, their topmost intention is to serve Krishna.”
Many look towards Vaisnava couples whose relationships have passed the test of time and muse naively, “Oh, they must get on all the time. I bet they never argue.” We don’t want to burst any bubbles here, but… we dare you… just go and ask them!
The reality is that even the most successful marriages have upsets.
But there’s no need to get discouraged. The good news is that the difference lies in how couples work together to deal with these inevitable, real-life challenges…and that is something that can be easily learned; it’s not rocket science!
The truth is, all couples struggle, even the ones that don’t look like they do. What we haven’t been taught is that the struggle — even a tough and messy struggle — is an opportunity to lean into commitment, rather than check out and end the relationship. (Nasreen Gulamhusein)
When you are equipped with clear intentions and have the right tools at your disposal, you can effortlessly work your way through to the other side of any conflict that may come your way.
The following extract from the introduction to our book… Relationship Rescue Remedy, explains the moment when my husband and I recognized that over the course of our married life we had gradually, albeit unconsciously, developed a simple formula for successfully resolving the inevitable misunderstandings and conflicts that accompany any relationship.
The Birth of the Relationship Rescue Remedy
It was around 2:30 am one winter morning when the Five Drop Rescue Remedy was born. Of course it didn’t have the catchy title then. Actually, my husband and I were in the middle of a ‘meltdown’. Yes, you heard right. It was a meltdown at 2:30 in the morning! But what was worse, or even darkly funny, was that it happened in the middle of our first session of trying to complete a book together about successful Grihastha life. Our book, entitled, ‘The Grihastha Journey’ was envisioned as a comprehensive manual, gleaned from over 40 years of practical experience. We were determined and enthusiastic to write this book amid our hectic schedules as teachers, thus the ‘earlier than early’ rising schedule.
So, there we sat, enveloped in tension, with time ticking carelessly away and the two lower modes of nature wreaking their havoc upon us. Our struggle stemmed mainly from our very discordant styles of how to approach the task. My husband’s approach to a given task is very logical and linear, while I lean heavily on creativity and spontaneity – raring to go, but finding it hard to tune into the routine minutiae required. We always joke that it is lucky we never had an astrological compatibility chart done or we would have definitely flunked.
You will be relieved to know that we worked to the other side of our conflict, as we always do, and have done for the last 40 years! However, we had just used up our precious writing period and were now feeling the frustration of time wasted. Or was it?
It was at this juncture that we realised that the process of how we worked through our conflicts could be a useful formula. We had consistently found when counselling couples, that they either had few, or very ineffective, tools to solve their misunderstandings. We began to see how our experience in effectively solving conflicts could be both valid and useful.
Consequently, on that fateful, chilly morning our enthusiasm was diverted to working out the steps we used to solve all those upsets and conflicts over the years. We quickly discovered that the process had a definite structure; one that had gradually evolved and matured into a formula.
At this point, we concluded that a different book was required; one with a focus on urgently needed communication skills, specifically how to solve conflicts. Enter ‘Relationship Rescue Remedy’, a time-tested, uncomplicated recipe that will help you to easily dissolve conflicts.
These conflicts, both big and small, are the ones that eat away at the very fibre of our most cherished relationships. We have observed the impact of destroyed relationships within our ISKCON society, and the effect this has had on devotees’ spiritual and material lives. We have also witnessed the legacy of these consequences spilling over to second and now third generations; the children Srila Prabhupada confidently labelled as our ‘future hope’.
But there is no need to get depressed. Acknowledging such serious social implications can and should be a positive motivating force for change. We are confident that using the effective conflict resolution strategies outlined in our ‘Relationship Rescue Remedy’ can help turn the tide on this disturbing trend.
The key point to remember here is…
If dealt with and resolved properly, conflicts are not only normal and healthy – but they have the power to strengthen us and bring us even closer.
Why it Matters So Much!
You might think that having what you consider to be an ‘Okay relationship’ with your spouse is OK… but I’m going to suggest that it’s not Okay! Frankly speaking, if that’s our current thinking, chances are the vast majority of us will end up settling for less than Okay relationships.
Isn’t that how everything else in life works? Unless we aim for extraordinary (great) relationships, the reality will be less than satisfactory.
As devotees we have made a commitment to work towards becoming great souls. Why should we lessen our expectations in the relationships department?
Unfortunately a large majority of devotees still hold the misconception that the acceptable standard of excellence for our Grihastha ashram is to have a mediocre relationship; translation – to weather the storm for around 25 years and come out the other side, still in one piece. It appears that our societal expectation for successful family life hasn’t progressed much from those early days, when the best relationship training programs offered, were ‘The Hopes and Horrors of Household Life’ or the equally dismal ‘Survival in The Grihastha Ashrama’.
In recent years, with the desire to reverse negative trends, we have seen ISKCON leadership making concerted efforts to cultivate and expect high standards of excellence from both the Brahmacari and Sannyasa ashrams.
The word is out that excellence is the way to go. But what about the other 95% of ISKCON’s membership- our Grihastha ashram? Will aiming for Okay make them happy, will it provide an inspiring example for their children to emulate? I don’t think so!
We encourage devotees to think of this little book as a practical first aid kit. It will give you five simple steps or ‘potent drops’ that will enable you to quickly clear away any festering conflicts and deeply enrich your relationships.
Although our book is written mainly in the context of marital interactions, it doesn’t take much to discern that the tools and strategies we present can be applied successfully in any relationship dynamic.
We are currently giving away copies of our book (you only have to pay for shipping and handling)
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