A few months ago my wife, Archana-siddhi, and I visited the ISKCON temple in Alachua, Florida. We always appreciate this large devotee community, though it seems there is never enough time to visit all of our dear friends. Apparently now, we would have to spend a few months here to properly honor our friends by engaging in the six loving exchanges outlined by Rupa Goswami (such as revealing our minds in confidence and sharing prasadam). What a treasure the devotees are! As much as we love our visits to this thriving community, there are also growing pains that seem to find us. This is because devotees know that my wife is a professional counselor and that we offer marriage counseling together. In addition, we facilitate personal growth/spiritual workshops to promote the objectives of our group, The North American Grihastha Vision Team. Therefore, it is natural for devotees to come to us with their concerns and problems. To be honest, we are sometimes overwhelmed by the need of this community for professional counselors, as well as programs to help couples and families.
I was asked to give the morning lecture and this time the class I gave seemed to be a catalyst for hours of later discussion. When I speak I often use examples from my own life, both successes and struggles, to explain points in the verse. The part of the Bhagavatam being studied, describes the glorious activities of Lord Ram, Mother Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman along with the social interactions in the classic Vedic times. This is a favorite topic of mine as it clear from my spiritual master Shrila Prabhupada’s example and our own experience that we have to understand the essence of traditional male-female and family roles and make adjustments.
Although many of us appreciate the ideal or archetypal Vedic relationships, much harm as been done to women and children by trying to force the social standard of those times in today’s world, or by having a demeaning attitude toward women and children in the name of detachment. For this reason, many senior devotees are very sensitive to the necessity of rethinking these traditional values while also serving the purpose of the Krishna consciousness movement—serving and loving Krishna! After all, among the 64 items of devotional service or suddha-bhakti given by Rupa Goswami in his writings, there is no mention of gender roles. Such roles are servants of the spiritual principles of Krishna consciousness, and are meant to create a peaceful environment for pursuing the main activities, like the nine main types of devotional service, such as hearing, chanting and remembering Krishna. These principles are all important, whereas the details of how to practice them can and must be adjusted according to the time, culture and place we find ourselves in. If we are unable to discern the principles from the details or the purpose or spirit of the teachings from external practices or form, we run the risk of becoming another religion which has lost the meaning envisioned by its founders.
The first two items of surrender given to us by the six Goswamis and reiterated in the modern world by Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur can be helpful in reminding us of why we do what we do. They give us guidelines for living in the world in pursuit of full surrender to the Lord. We hear simply, yet eloquently, that we must accept what is favorable for bhakti and give up what is not. Easy enough it seems, yet we must do so in a realistic way in good sadhu-sanga (saintly association), in a way that is respectful and compassionate to all, and fosters everyone’s dormant bhakti.
Everyone should be encouraged to use their full energy in Krishna’s service, irrespective of caste, creed, race, gender, or nationality. In our study of relationships the Grihastha Vision Team has gleaned twelve principles and values from Shrila Prabhupada’s writings and our practical experience that are very helpful in supporting lasting marriages. One of them is mutual respect and appreciation. If this is in place, and if both husband and wife see their partner as a devotee to be served and supported in their quest toward prema (love of Krishna), then it doesn’t matter what the exact form of their relationship takes—traditional, modern, or somewhere in-between. The bottom line is what works, not the exact form it takes. This is only touching on a very big subject.
On this site we try to explore contemporary issues for today’s marriages. Feel free to suggest topics you would like to see addressed. We want this site to be relevant to you–not only the theory, but practical advice, and applied knowledge. The real and the ideal, and what works!