tṛṇād api su-nīcena
taror iva sahiṣṇunā
kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ
The first couple that my husband and I counseled for marital problems
almost broke our enthusiasm for this service. The husband, bent on
imposing his conception of stri dharma in his marriage, insisted that his wife
should agree with everything he said and shouldn’t have her own opinion.
Thinking we were co-conspiring with his wife, he hurled obscenities at all
three of us and stormed out the room several times. He refused to accept
even one percent responsibility for their marriage problems.
“The wife should be submissive to the husband,” he ranted while he paced
back and forth. “It is her only hope for going back to Godhead!”
I couldn’t help myself: “The husband should be submissive to guru and
Krsna—‘trnad api sunicena’—and this is his only hope to go back to
Somehow this calmed the young man down enough for him to sit in his
I continued, “Krsna das Kaviraja said we should string this verse around
our neck. This is clearly the Vaisnava model for a successful marriage. If
both husband and wife practice the decorum in this verse along with
sadhana, there is no question that peace, harmony and happiness will
abound in the marriage.”
These words left him speechless for a moment, and he was more
cooperative during the remainder of the session.
After the couple left, I reflected on my days as a new devotee living as a
brahmacarini in Prabhupada’s temple. One of the first set of verses I
learned was the Siksastakam—verses spoken by Lord Caitanya Himself. It
was clearly the mood and behavior we all aspired to practice with one
another in the ashram. Nowhere in our Gaudiya Vaisnava scriptures are
we taught to abandon this behavior after marriage, nor are we taught that it
is only to be practiced by the wife and not the husband.
To practice humility and respect towards all living entities is the only way for
the sadhaka to move through the preliminary stages of sadhana bhakti. If
one neglects these practices in the Grihastha ashram, one’s spiritual
progress will be hampered.
Many relationships begin with an infatuation stage. At this time, couples in
love often experience a pseudo-trnad api relationship. Nature gives us a
free ride as powerful ‘feel good’ chemicals are released, causing a very
intense feeling of attraction between two people. This temporary high
makes it seem effortless to be humble, tolerant and respectful.
While this state is not lasting, it gives us a preview of what is possible. We
want these qualities. We find them attractive in others and in ourselves.
They are favorable to spiritual progress.
But they don’t come naturally.
After a short time, the magic of the first stage of relationship disappears
and we return to our baseline conditioned natures. Grihastha ashram can
be a very favorable situation for practicing humility, respect and tolerance.
The Vaisnava Marriage Challenge booklet is a practical application of Lord
Caitanya’s verse—trnad api su-nicena. If we can focus on this verse
everyday in our marriage, we can have an extraordinary relationship with
our spouse and accelerate our progress in Bhakti.