On Marriage and Divorce


November 9, 2011

When I was about eight years old my parents were considering divorce. I remember my mother putting mascara on in front of a mirror and I was sitting on her bed watching her. I thought it was a very strange thing, women putting on mascara, so I was watching. And my mother said to me very seriously, “everyone likes your father and everyone likes me, but we no longer like each other, so we are going to separate”. I cried, it was very painful, just the thought of it. Some hours later my father came home from work and I knew my mother was going to discuss this with him. He went in the bedroom and they closed the door. I was so disturbed that I secretly put my ear against the door to hear what they were saying.

My mother told my father how much I had been crying, and I heard them both say that for the rest of their lives they would stay together because this is what was best for the children. They never separated. As the years passed, I can honestly say, I never saw any two people that loved each other so much. Their love was very deep. It wasn’t about romance, because romance, you know it comes and goes. It wasn’t just about personality, or having complimentary views on things. It was about heart to heart, sensible responsibility to each other for a higher principle. Because they chose to go through those difficulties together for the higher principle of their love for their children, I feel God awarded them with deep affection and love for each other.

Beside the higher principle of children is the principle of God, the principle of our vows before the Lord to help each other to become pure, to become enlightened within our lives. That higher principle is why traditionally, marriages of all different cultures involve taking vows in a spiritual place - so that the union is consecrated as a partnership in the service of the Divine. What is a diamond? A diamond is the queen of all jewels. But a diamond is nothing but a piece of coal that’s been under pressure for millions of years. Gold, the king of metals, is purified when it is put in fire. This is mother nature speaking to us. This is wisdom - that by faithfully passing through the good times and the bad times - the easy times and the hard with each other, and for each other, for this higher value - then marriage has the potential to make us spiritually perfect. It will do that if we just understand the yoga of marriage.

From a spiritual perspective one should feel that their partner is something more than just my husband or my wife. A husband should feel towards his wife that this is the daughter of God - this is God’s deeply beloved daughter that has been entrusted in my care. How you treat her is how God will receive you. How you speak to her, how you act toward her, how you protect her are all important. Protection is said to be on three levels - physical, emotional and spiritual. To give that protection, to be forgiving to each other and to honor your spouse as God's property, God's gift, is how you will make spiritual progress. And a wife should feel that her partner is not just her husband but he is God’s beloved child entrusted in her care to protect, to be faithful to, and to encourage. If you see each other in this light, marriage really is yoga. Your relationship will be yoga in essence and you will make great spiritual progress.

Feelings of affection may come and go but the foundation of a healthy relationship is respect. Respect for each other and care for each other. Through respect and care affection can grow into deep love on the level of the soul. Physically we care for each other by providing the basic necessities of life. Depending on the particular nature of your occupation and relationship one must provide housing, clothing, health care and other physical needs. But emotional care is very essential. Lack of emotional care can really send a marriage off track. Everyone needs appreciation and everyone needs encouragement. So many ladies come to me and say “my husband just doesn’t care about me - he doesn’t like anything I do”. When I go to the husband, I ask “do you care about her?”  And he will say “yes, of course”. I’ll ask, “do you like what she does”? “Yes I love what she does”. “Do ever tell her”? And he will say, “why should I tell her, she should know”. Communication is so important. Sometimes in a marriage we communicate with everybody except the person we are living with. Communication - honest communication where we really do express our appreciation for each other, express our affection for each other, and express it in such a way that we encourage each other is very critical for a healthy relationship.

Marriage shouldn’t be just something that we are tolerating somehow or other because we took vows. It should be something very dynamic, very flowing and very real. It should be and very connected to the Divine, so that the struggles are not just depressing -  the struggles are spiritual challenges that we have to meet together and every time we overcome those challenges we come to a higher spiritual platform. By following marriage in this way it becomes a path of perfection.

Help ! My Husband Is Not a Devotee !
Jul 01, 2008

This article by Rohininandana Prabhu (a very senior devotee of ISKCON) highlights the possible problems of being in a marriage where one person is a devotee and the other is not. Obviously the attempt of a website like www.IskconMatrimonials.com is to ensure that devotees marry devotees.
However even if one is in such a difficult marriage one can take heart and make the best of a bad bargain. Please read this nice article to understand this better.
I recently received a letter from an aspiring devotee named Susan, who wrote that she felt trapped, not knowing which way to turn. Susan came to Krishna consciousness five years ago when she read The Perfection of Yoga. Her husband, James, had given her the book, thinking it was about exercises. Susan read it excitedly and sent away for the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, which she said “felt like a delicious wave of warm water flowing over me. It was as if everything I had thought all my life had been written down on paper.”

At first James showed some interest in Krishna consciousness, and both he and Susan went to a few Hare Krishna functions. They were looking for alternative ways of thinking and living. Susan began to get what she called “a higher taste.” But James didn’t like the pushy zealousness of some of the devotees, and his interest waned. Now he criticizes her efforts to practice Krishna consciousness, so Susan finds it hard to do all she would like for Krishna, although she manages to chant fourteen rounds a day and read Srila Prabhupada’s books. She wonders if it is possible to serve Krishna by looking after a family uninterested in Krishna consciousness, and sometimes even belligerently against it.

Susan also mentioned that some devotees have advised her to tolerate her situation and others say she should leave home. She loves her husband and family, and now that she is beginning to love Krishna she finds herself confused. Does being Krishna conscious mean she must choose between her family and Krishna? And even if such a choice is ultimately required, when is the right time to make it?

As I began to reply, my first thought was, “Is she making any assumptions? How does she know that James is not a devotee and she is?”

So I wrote:

“By broad definition, only two kinds of living beings exist: those who are Krishna conscious and those who aren’t. Although every soul is Krishna conscious by nature, some have willfully turned away from the Lord. Of these errant wanderers, some are trying to approach Him again. When these sincere souls become free from material taints and forgetfulness of Krishna, they are reinstated as His eternal associates, His devotees.

“The word devotee, therefore, means pure devotee. We’re not devotees yet. We’re aspiring devotees.

“When we look at things in this way, could it not be that your husband, like you, is also an aspiring devotee? Broadly speaking, anyone who accepts God as his worshipable Lord is a devotee.

“It may be that your husband resents the very idea that he must submit to someone or something greater than himself. If this is the case, he will naturally resent your efforts to approach the Lord. He may be afraid that Lord Krishna has come between you and him and is planning to take you away from him. You may find that the only way you can practice your Krishna consciousness is to be more secretive, as if you have a secret lover.

“But if your husband is not fundamentally envious of Lord Krishna’s existence, it may be that internally he yearns for spirituality. After all, Krishna consciousness lies dormant within everyone, as fire lies dormant within wood. And just as fire can be awakened within wood, a person’s divine consciousness can be awakened by the right association. How can we help to draw out James’s love for Krishna?

“In your letter you mention that he feels pressured by your evangelistic efforts (like trying to get him to be a vegetarian and read Prabhupada’s books). His perception may have more to do with the dynamics of your relationship than with Krishna consciousness. If so, you might want to give him room to express his feelings.

“Suppose I am the owner of a scruffy, uncared-for garden, and my neighbor spends his time fussing about it and criticizing me. How will I feel? To keep the peace I may begrudgingly do some-thing, but I’m not likely to feel much love for my neighbor or my garden.

“But suppose my neighbor is a blissfully keen gardener who sometimes leaves luscious fruits and vegetables on my doorstep? I’ll probably look at his beautiful garden and think, ‘Let me do something about mine!’

“A devotee is like a gardener busily tending her creeper of devotion. With her mind absorbed in thought of her beautiful Lord Krishna, her face mirrors His beauty and good qualities. As Krishna is attractive, so is she.

“Krishna conscious people are so overwhelmed with their research of the Absolute Truth that their enthusiasm bubbles over and they want to share their newfound treasures of transcendental knowledge. Gradually they learn discretion and tact.

“Krishna consciousness is an educational movement, not a proselytizing one. Changing from one faith to another is superficial compared to the universal education that Krishna consciousness offers.

“A couple I know who were undergoing friction and frustration in their relationship have now agreed to meet halfway. She goes with him to the Hare Krishna temple, and he goes with her to Mass. They have also agreed to accept any religious principles favorable to their spiritual lives. So they offer their food to God.

“Krishna consciousness is meant to enhance things, not tear everything down.

“If you can arrange for James to meet someone experienced and skilled at explaining the science of Krishna consciousness, he may find that his doubts and aversion taper off.

“A person I know whose husband has been practicing Krishna consciousness for eighteen years has only recently visited a Hare Krishna temple for the first time. Are you prepared to wait for James? Perhaps you can gradually acclimatize him by taking him out to a Govinda’s Restaurant or to the home of a devotee who is in a social situation similar to yours. Perhaps he felt he was thrown in at the deep end.

“Now what about you? What about the health of your devotional creeper in a difficult, restrictive atmosphere? As your husband feels intimidated by you, so you feel stifled by him. He is correct when he says that everyone is an individual and must decide whether or not to be Krishna conscious. By the same token, he can respect your right to choose for yourself. When discussing the position of a woman married to a man who was not following the principles of Krishna consciousness, Srila Prabhupada said, ‘If she, or anyone, wants to keep herself pure, she can keep herself pure in any circumstances.’

“Be assured that because you are an authentic student of an authentic process your success is guaranteed. A dedicated gardener who has good seed, fertile soil, plentiful rain and sun, and the all-important mercy of God is guaranteed a bumper crop. So too, your success is assured by the gifts of Srila Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya. And as the gardener’s family gets to share the produce, so your family will share the fruits of your spiritual progress.

“You ask if it’s possible to serve Krishna by looking after your family. In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna says that whatever we do can be done as an offering to Him. Mother Theresa once said that she is not actually a servant of the poor but a servant of God. So you are not a servant of your family, but a servant of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna, the root of all spiritual and material worlds. The water you pour to nourish your devotional service gives spiritual benefit to all living beings in the universal tree, from the demigods to the insects—what to speak of your husband and children.

“So all in all you are not as trapped as you may think, and you are well on the road to full freedom.”

Teens and Celibacy by Urmila Devi Dasi
Jul 01, 2008

Her Grace Urmila Devi Dasi is a very senior disciple of Srila Prabhupada. She is also known as Dr. Edith E. Best and is famous for having established many educational institutions within ISKCON and managing them exemplarily.

She is a member of the Grhastha Vision Team, which is coordinating courses and materials to strengthen marriage and the family in ISKCON. She is also a member of the Sastric Advisory Council to the Governing Body Council of ISKCON. She has done a number of reports on Position of Women in ISKCON and her views on education, marriage and married life are very much respected in spiritual circles.

Her article below is very useful to understand the dynamics of the growing years amongst children and the importance of a proper home. Please read on :


Celibacy is such an important part of Vedic education that the Sanskrit word for student is brahmacari (“celibate”). The pressure to give up celibacy begins, of course, in adolescence, the most dangerous age and often the turning point of one’s life. Young adults need guidance before and during the teenage years to recognize and follow the right path.

Celibacy trains adolescents for self-restraint, whether they stay single or get married. It develops their inner strength, self-control, and good character. It also fosters good health and a fine memory.

Without celibacy we can never realize that we are spirit soul, distinct from the body. Sex reinforces the illusion that we are these bodies. Sexual attraction and its extensions in family and society are the main knots that bind us to material identification. Vedic education aims to free the child from these knots so the adolescent can act on the spiritual plane.

Children, of course, have no knowledge of sex. How do we train them to value celibacy before they reach puberty? By association and environment.

Modern educators know well how children’s early impressions influence their later moral behavior. And these educators are passing on their decadent moral values to our children. For example, the New York City public school board recently introduced textbooks in the first grade that show families with two “mommies” or two “daddies,” to get children used to homosexuality.

And schools aren’t the only place kids learn to think well of illicit sex. Role models such as those on television, on radio, and in politics keep reinforcing the message. Parents add to the negative influence by using contraceptives or cheating on their marriage vows.

The result, of course, is that children enter adolescence with attitudes that lead them away from self-realization, or even civilized life. The illicit sex that results from years of indoctrination leads to chaos. Yet the very educators and politicians who promote illicit sex to children talk on about fatherless families and unwanted kids who turn to crime and drugs.

To be trained in celibacy, our young students should live with people who take pleasure in Krishna consciousness. Our first task is to shield our children from materialistic influences and surround them with positive, transcendental life. That’s the only way to get them ready to face their transition into adulthood.

But childhood training isn’t enough. Prabhupada told us we must carefully guide our children during their teens. Then surely they will come out first-class Krishna conscious devotees. We should be like a commanding officer who not only trains his solders but also serves with them on the battlefield.

Traditionally, a spiritually guided society helped young people with good association, vocational training, and marriage. Our teenagers need to train and study with Krishna conscious friends and teachers. Otherwise, Prabhupada once said, if from twelve to fifteen years of age they go to an ordinary school, by bad company they become rotten. It is sad to see this happen to a child who had strong childhood training and could have become a first-class human being.

Despite the best training and the best company, most teenagers want to associate with the opposite sex. Therefore, Vedic culture prescribes early marriage, on religious principles. That kind of marriage makes the mind peaceful and receptive to spiritual instruction.

Parents must help their sons and daughters find suitable marriage partners, except for children who are going to stay happy in lifelong celibacy. Parents should understand that adolescents have only three choices in sexual morality: celibacy, marriage, or immorality. Because of the danger in a society where boys and girls mix freely, marriage should be encouraged.

We sometimes mistakenly think that an “arranged” marriage means that the parents force a twelve-year-old girl to marry a thirty-year-old man—and they meet for the first time at the wedding. Prabhupada gives us a different picture. He tells us of a gradual process, usually spanning several years. The parents look for a suitable partner for their child, taking into account that the boy and girl should be equal in character, qualities, social position, and renunciation.

The parents judge the match through their own observations, by asking others, and through astrology. The wishes of the boy and girl are also important. Once the families and the boy and girl agree, a period of occasional, supervised association begins. It’s as if the parents introduce their child to a suitable mate and then chaperone formal “dates” to prepare the children for marriage. When the children are old enough to marry, the girl may still spend long regular visits at her parents’ home so she may gradually get used to being a wife. An extended family makes this easier by helping the new couple in their duties and relationship.

This time-tested process can be easily followed today. The girl engaged to a suitable boy doesn’t have to advertise herself to find a man. And the boy knows he can’t marry until he becomes responsible. He is therefore motivated to mature into a conscientious man of good character.

Built on the early training in renunciation, their marriage will be dedicated to Krishna, fulfilling our hope for their future.

Celibacy—Exquisite Torture, or a “Yes to God”?
Jul 01, 2008

by Ravindra Svarupa Dasa

The visit of Pope John Paul II to America last fall may come to be remembered most for the strange contrast it presented between the overwhelming enthusiasm shown for the man and the decided lack of enthusiasm shown for what he had to say. Among the unpopular positions espoused by the Pope was his insistence on maintaining the celibacy of priests. On the evening of October 3 he reiterated this position before an audience of seminarians at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, a complex of imposing buildings of huge grey granite blocks, where the Diocese of Philadelphia trains its priests. The Pope’s visit here particularly interested me, since a few years earlier I myself had spoken before the seminarians of St. Charles—and on the very same topic.

It is rare but not odd that a Pope should speak before American seminarians, but it is perhaps rare and odd that a Hare Krishna devotee should do so. What the Pope had to say was not unexpected. He stressed the full commitment the life of a priest demands, urged prayer as necessary for priests “to remain in a state of continuous reaching out to God,” and praised celibacy for priests as the “concrete response in their lives to express the totality of the ‘yes’ they have spoken to the Lord.” Naturally he was received enthusiastically, and the seminarians were reportedly “touched” by his speech. My own reception was somewhat more subdued, though respectful. But it is interesting that the Pope did not hear the seminarians voice the protests against celibacy that I—a member of “another religion”—did.

I had been invited specifically to address a class on the topic of revelation. Fifty or so young men in black filled the lecture hall when I arrived. I had thought over carefully what I would say: it must be clear to them that I had no sectarian message. I could speak on the general principles of religion that ought to apply as much to their faith as to my own.

And I knew some of their problems. I knew that the Church was losing priests at an alarming rate, and that there was agitation among the clergy for a married priesthood. Indeed, I had seen some of this turbulence at an appallingly close range: while doing graduate work in religion at Temple University, I had watched as one Catholic religious after another abandoned their vows to take up secular life. Some got married; others simply hit the streets.

I wrote the Hare Krishna mantra on the blackboard and then explained to the class that it was simultaneously a prayer and the prayer’s fulfillment. As a prayer, it begs the divine energy that unites us to God to join us with Him through service, and at the same time it is that union, for by chanting we directly associate with God in the form of His divine names (Krishna the person and “Krishna” the sound are nondifferent). Then I taught the seminarians how to pronounce the words of the mantra and asked them to chant it with me in call-and-response fashion. And then, to my immense delight, we had a wonderful kirtana, as fifty strong voices clearly and vigorously chanted the Hare Krishna mantra with me. After years of lecturing, I could get just about any audience to chant, but this chanting was exceptional; it was robust, spirited, with none of the sectarian reluctance I had feared. It was alive. These were clearly not ordinary men.

After the kirtana,Ibegan to explain how chanting was related to the subject of revelation. Revelation is two- sided: there is the giver and the receiver, and then the receiver becomes the giver to another receiver, in turn. In Sanskrit this process is called parampara, or disciplic succession. Since the All-perfect reveals Himself perfectly, His revelation must be passed down without any change or alteration. For God’s revelation to be potent, it must be preserved intact, in all its original integrity.

How is this possible? The original giver, God, may be infallible, but the receiver is all too fallible. And yet, as I explained, we must understand that the divine revelation is not merely a collection of sentences, not just propositional truth. Memorization and rote transmission are machinelike functions that do not in themselves suffice for transmitting the revelation. God’s revelation—His word—like His names in the mantra, is absolute, and therefore God Himself is given in His word, in His own revelation. For this reason, the word of God possesses a concrete power. Just as a potent antibiotic injected into the bloodstream destroys the agents of infection, so the word of God, injected into the ears of a fully submissive receiver, destroys all his material contaminations, and he becomes transformed into a fitting receptacle, into an unsullied transparent medium. Such a person not only speaks the word of God; he lives it, and living it, becomes the word personified.

Thus the potency of God’s revelation is exhibited through the devotees, who are living exemplars of the purifying power of God. The word that is in relation to God can be received as-it-is only from those persons who are in relation to God. They are the life in which the letter lives. The revelation of God becomes a dead letter, like a law without government, when there are no pure devotees living the life of the letter.

So far, I had their full attention. Now I began to explain the four regulative principles, which are absolutely necessary for a person to observe if he wants to transmit the revelation of God intact. I enumerated: no eating of animal flesh, no indulgence in illicit sex, no taking of intoxicants, and no gambling—and I saw that I was losing my audience. Feet shuffled, eyes wandered ... and then the monsignor, their instructor, announced that it was time for a short break.

He and I sat down together. I wanted to talk with him about meat-eating, but before I could begin to offer reasons why a Christian ought to refrain from animal slaughter, he began to offer reasons why a Christian could indulge in alcohol. This was not an auspicious sign, to say the least, and as I began the second part of my lecture, I was somewhat less sanguine about the spiritual chances of these wonderful chanters. The monsignor, after all, was their teacher.

I spent the second part of the lecture explaining the spiritual principle that it is possible to give up the material activities of the senses not by rigid nullifications or barren abnegations, but only by giving the senses superior engagements in divine service. It is first of all necessary to control the tongue, I explained; only then can the other senses (including the genitals) be controlled. In the Krishna consciousness movement, I told them, we control the tongue by chanting the Hare Krishna mantra and by talking about the transcendental activities of the Lord and His devotees, and we eat only the sacred food called prasada (or God’s mercy), which is sanctified by having first been offered to the Lord. Similarly, the eyes, ears, nose, hands, and legs are all controlled by spiritual engagements in divine service. Our senses are not repressed by such engagements; rather, they become purified by being kept in contact with the divine through active service. And thus our mind, the hub of the senses, becomes fixed in constant remembrance of the Lord, and such recollection gradually reawakens our dormant love for God. When this original love is misdirected, it assumes the guise of material desire, of lust. This is why, when spiritual purity is restored, material desire is not present even in a repressed state, where it can break out at any time; rather, it has been wholly transmuted back into its original and natural form, pure love for God.

I answered a number of questions, mostly concerning the particular practices of Krishna devotees, while they passed around the large bowl of sweetballs (prasada) Ihad brought for them.

After the class was dismissed, about a dozen seminarians lingered behind, all very friendly and inquisitive, and began to question me, mostly about the four regulative principles. I saw that several of them had lit cigarettes.

In the course of our discussion, I finally asked one of the smokers, “Do you really find that impossible to give up? I wasn’t prepared for his answer—or for the vehemence of it.

“If I could just take a girl out on Saturday night, he exclaimed, “instead of having to sit around here, crawling up the walls, I might not have to smoke!” There were murmurs of assent. And with much bitterness and resentment, they began criticizing the celibacy rule.

The Krishna consciousness movement, of course, has married priests. (I’m one.) But I told them that even married couples restrict sexual intercourse to once a month, and then only if they are trying to have a child. (“Rhythm” we regard as another form of cheating.) One of them said that it sounded worse than celibacy: they clearly didn’t want marriage on those terms either.

I was appalled by the amount of sexual frustration these men were giving voice to. It was wrong. So I started to question them about their life in the seminary, and it soon became quite clear why they were having such immense difficulty. To begin with, they had large stretches of idle time on their hands. And then, they freely read novels and magazines, habitually watched television. All these activities certainly agitated their senses. There was nothing spiritual about their eating habits. It was strictly for the tongue, and they were accustomed to drinking beer and smoking. They had lots of idle time, their senses were kept continuously under the bombardment of materialistic stimulation, and then—they were told to be celibate!

No one could be celibate under those circumstances. They were being cruelly, exquisitely tortured. Then I remembered the monsignor with his perverse syllogism: “Everything God has made is good. God has made alcohol… .” (He made arsenic, too, but you don’t ingest that!) I became angry. It was criminal to do this. These seminarians were not ordinary men: they wanted, and wanted very badly, to dedicate their lives fully to God. But nobody was showing them how. They were living in a way to agitate all their senses, and then commanded to be celibate! Of course they were always falling down, always laboring under a huge load of guilt. No wonder they were so cynical, so bitter and resentful. I wondered why nobody was teaching them. They didn’t even know the practical ABCs of spiritual life. They were being criminally betrayed.

It was so frustrating for me. I had told them what to do—but could they do it in the context of the Church? To chant God’s names and dance with His devotees, to eat the sumptuous feasts of His mercy, to hear and read the always- fresh stories of His activities and pastimes, which fill volume after volume, to let their eyes feast on the gorgeous form of the Lord in the temple ... could they do things like these? I had an overwhelming urge to take these men, right now, out onto the streets to chant. Then, I knew, they would be all right, they would be safe. They wanted a pure life (a rare thing), they wanted to surrender fully to God, they wanted to overcome the powerful “law of the flesh”—and I knew how they could do it.

But here they were, all in black. As we began walking down the long corridor, I asked one of them if there were some spiritually advanced person here he could follow. He shrugged.

“I don’t know.” He turned to his friend: “What d’you think?”

“I don’t know.” Silence for a few paces.

“Hey!” another suddenly exclaimed. “What about Holy Joe!”

“Hey, yeah! Holy Joe!” They began to laugh.

My depression deepened. We walked through the high, deserted halls, our footsteps ringing in the emptiness. The massive stone of the seminary loomed over us.

We stopped at the entrance to the chapel (the one where the Pope would speak a few years later). They wanted me to see it. They were proud of it. But it was huge, dark, and cold. Walls of bone-white marble shone dully. It was like a sepulcher. I shivered and mumbled something polite.

Before I left I told them that I had not come to criticize their religion. But as I looked at their faces, still clearly marked by the purity of their calling, I could only think that they were being horribly betrayed. I do not want to criticize their religion now, either, but I can only honestly report that I did not see there the spiritual energy that the word of God bears when lived by his pure devotees.

With John Paul II there has come hope. He is young, energetic, and is said to have charisma. But the sign of real renewal will not be the protestations of affection, the big turnouts, the cheers, and the applause. It will be when those seminarians embrace their vows not with bitterness and resentment but with joy, enthusiasm, and confidence.

You may not believe such a thing is possible, but I have seen it. I have been blessed to meet a pure devotee of God. Some of us have not been betrayed.

How to be an Ideal Husband by HH Radhanath Swami
Jul 02, 2008

Narada Muni the great acharya has previously explained to Maharaja Yudhisthira, the story of Prahlada Maharaja who is the perfect example of devotional service. Prahlada Maharaja remained faithful to the words of his spiritual master even in the face of the most impossible difficulties.

Depending on a power beyond his own, the mercy of Krsna, he crossed all obstacles. The Lord himself incarnated with a form that will attract all people’s hearts for all time just to show his love. At the conclusion of this pastime - it is said, “wherever devotees are gathered to discuss the subject matter of life, the matter of Prahalad Maharaja is discussed”. How can people apply these teachings practically in their lives? Narada Muni explains the varnasrama system - the four varnas and four ashramas and duties to be performed by devotees, “mahajano yena gatah sa pantha” so that we can follow in the footsteps of the Mahajanas.

So at the beginning we get a view of a pure devotee, what he speaks, how he walks etc. and then a practical explanation of how we can do it, irrespective of ashram, varna or sex etc. Daivi varnashrama means to follow in the footsteps of great souls. In this particular verse the essence of varnashrama is described: we live for the purpose to only please Krishna. Our success is to be categorized according to how we please Krsna and His devotees. If Krsna is pleased then our life is perfect. If Krsna is not pleased, irrespective of how popular we are, our lives are spoiled.

Catur varna - Krsna has personally created this varnashrama dharma, He has given everyone a chance based on quality, activities or nature, to become perfect and to follow in the footsteps of Prahlad Maharaja and become great souls. In this verse the grhastha ashram is described.

In the 5th canto Rsabhadeva says human life is meant for tapasya. Sense gratification is the purpose of animal life or the dharma of animals. To enjoy the temporary impulses of the senses is animal life, actually human life is meant for tapasya to be willing to have the determination to say no to the mind and senses for the purpose of doing the will of god.. The mind and senses are to be interacted but should say no to certain things. Srila Rupa Goswami said - accept what is favourable for devotional service and reject what is not, that is tapasya. Each ashram has a particular way of explaining this tapasya or duties. For a brahmachari or sannyasi it is to give up attachment for property, money etc., to tolerate sex life. Similary for grhasthas, a husband or wife must tolerate in the same way as a sannyasi has to tolerate sex desire. They have to tolerate each other, you cannot break that vow. We follow the vow according to principle of Krsna Consciousness and we only stop when we take a more difficult vow. How practically is this to be done?

The wife follows the vows of the husband but not the whims or restless nature or abusive nature of the husband. Instead it means the vow of Krsna Consciousness. We take vows to serve the spiritual master and the vaishnavas, these are the vows of the devotees and whatever way the husband is performing his vows, to follow that, is the duty of the wife. The duty of the husband is to be Krsna Conscious, to be a dedicated follower of the spiritual master. Not to go to the cinema house, rather it means the vow of Krsna Consciousness. Husbands in Krsna Consciousness are supposed to be first class men. There are many examples in the scriptures which illustrate that love is not about romance but about austerity. In the purest sense it is dancing with Krsna, but in material life it is about dedication, austerity and being willing to adjust in grhastha life with your partner, even if it is difficult.

Here is an example of a couple that went completely against their nature. Svayambhuva Manu’s daughter was Devahuti she was the princess of the world. Svayambhuva Manu describes the opulence of his palace. He didn’t wake up to an alarm clock he woke up to pure hearted vaishnavas chanting in person for him. Devahuti was his daughter, physically she never endured anything difficult. Then Svayambhuva Manu married her to Kardama Muni who is living in the jungle and wearing tree barks, eating fruits and roots of trees. How many of you would like to marry Kardama Muni and give all that you have and be ready to live in the jungle?
What to speak of the princess of the planet doing so. Kardama Muni’s vow to Krsna’s service was very severe. There were no bazaars shops, Devahuti was wearing bark, living in the forest, no phones to chat with friends, nobody else to talk to and the husband would go into meditation for months at a time. When he came out of meditation her shapely form was going away, she was emaciated, pale almost blackish, just from living in that condition. Her hair was matted but she never complained because this was her husband’s service to Krsna. She endured all those difficulties for him and that was her unbelievable example of chastity for a higher purpose. Kardama Muni’s nature was that he hated sense gratification so his wife was willing to adjust her life for him, that is real love, service and it equals Krsna Consciuosness.

But how was Kardama Muni fulfilling the desires of his wife? He knew she wanted to have a child but he was an ascetic so he had to change his life around in order to properly protect and satisfy Devahuti. In the grhastha ashram to have children is a service, Krsna mentions in Gita - for men and women to perform sacrifice for the service of Krsna is devotional service. So Kardama Muni created a magnificent aerial mansion. He didn’t want it but he did it for his wife. He made major adjustments though it was difficult for him. He performed major austerities in order to accommodate the needs of his wife. Kardama Muni changed his own life around for his wife and Devahuti changed her life around for her husband. What was the result? Nine amazing daughters and they were far from ordinary daughters. They then had a son, not an ordinary son but the supreme personality of Godhead, Kapiladeva.

If husband and wife keep their vows the result is Krsna. Krsna is born of that relation. Prabhupada says Chanakya Pandit gives “valuable” instruction something that is “valuable” should be protected and what is that instruction? “When there are no fights between husband and wife the goddess of fortune automatically enters their house. Prabhupada gave many wedding lectures he said there is no question of divorce, you have to adjust, you can’t give up you have to keep Krsna in the centre.

You have to forgive each other and tolerate each other. Husband and wife are not meant for sense gratification that is for the hogs, husband and wife in Krsna Consciousness is meant for tapasya. Prabhupada said marriage is to facilitate happiness - sarva bhavante sukhino - so how do we understand marriage is for happiness and also for austerity?

Article on Arranged Marriage submitted by His Grace Madhavananda Prabhu
Jun 30, 2008
His Grace Madhavananda Prabhu is a leading disciple of Srila Gour Govinda Swami and is looking after Gopal Jiu Publications in India. Out of his kindness and concern for the devotees he sent this wonderful article for us to read.

It emphasises the importance of arranged marriages and horoscope matching over the modern concept of love marriages.

His letter and the article he sent is available below.


Hare Krishna

My pranams. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

I recently came across an article written by a journalist with the LA Times on the topic of arranged marriages. I thought you might find it interesting and/or useful for preaching.

The author is 2nd generation Indian (born in the USA). As a young lady born and raised in America, she naturally has some preconceptions and strong bias against arranged marriages. In this article she describes attending a traditional arranged Hindu wedding in India for one of her cousins. In the course of the wedding she gradually becomes intrigued by the family and marital values she sees therein. Too her own surprise she begins to shed some of her bias and in the end wishes that she herself could have such a wedding.

As it is coming from a secular source, it seems to me to be a nice article for persons to read who are either ignorant of the value of arranged marriages or who have some bias against it.

I hope that it is useful for you and that all is well for your bhajan.

Vaishnava kripa prarthi,
Madhavananda Das

"Do you take this stranger?"

By Swati Pandey, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

June 26, 2008
GORAKHPUR, INDIA -- It was near midnight at the Railway Club, a posh spot at the train station in Gorakhpur, close to the Nepal border. Hundreds of guests had gathered four hours earlier to eat made-to-order dosas and Indian-Chinese fusion finger-foods, to watch green, red and gold fireworks explode over palm trees and to dance to bass-heavy Bollywood tracks.

My cousin's wedding would soon begin.

A family astrologer had recommended the date and advised that the wedding start after 10 p.m. and conclude before 4 a.m. Those last hours would end six days of ceremonies, the first reunion of my maternal family in two decades and my first full Hindu wedding. They would also end my uncle's efforts to arrange a marriage, and a future, for my cousin.

All of it -- the years spent selecting a suitor, the final minutes of anticipation, the newness of the couple, a man and woman not shaped by former loves and heartbreaks -- was romantic in a way I hadn't expected. Growing up in America for all my 25 years, I'd long ago given up on the tradition, but by midnight, I had started to wonder.

What I never realized, as a googly-eyed adolescent who had imagined eloping with a George Clooney type, was that "love marriage," as many Indians call it, is the aberration.

Arranged marriages are common in countries and cultures that came belatedly to Romanticism and rock 'n' roll and whatever else gave rise to what we call youth. It's difficult to quantify them because the term is such a broad one -- encompassing a childhood betrothal and a parent's mere suggestion of a vetted match.

My cousin's arrangement was closer to the latter. Her father found Vishal through one of my paternal cousins. Shockingly for this conservative swath of north India, sometimes called the "cow belt," he set a date for them to meet without a chaperon.

"He looked better in person than in photographs," Garima Upadhya, 26, said, recalling their first meeting. "He was always laughing and joking."

They next met at their engagement party in Gonda, Garima's hometown. Two months after that they would be married; the all-nighter wedding would be the most time they'd spent together.

That's still more time than my mother had with my father before marrying him in 1969, in the same house where Garima was raised.

They met face to face when my father looped a garland around my mother's neck at their wedding. They moved to the U.S. within months.

My father attended school while my mom improved her spoken English by watching daytime television, the teacher to so many immigrant women. Whereas Garima called her sister's cellphone only hours after driving off with her husband, my mother had to save up for a short, staticky call home.

She tried to hold on to her old life and customs, but when she patted the part of her hair with sindoor, a red powder many Indian women wear to denote their marital status, Americans worried that she was bleeding.

She wears it only for special occasions now, and so, for Garima's wedding, she applied sindoor and piled on the other many accessories of married Indian women: thick gold bangles, anklets, toe rings, a wedding ring and a mangal sutra -- a gold-and-black beaded necklace.

Beside her, I felt nakedly unmarried and young.

For five nights, the guests arrived at dusk at the house in Gonda.

The first ceremony was the sangeet, a sort of bachelorette party. A crowd of 200 women drummed tablas,danced and sang funny ad-libbed songs about the groom.

I had seen one sangeet in the U.S., performed on a stage by a handful of women. It was more a folk art display than a boisterous, inclusive party. Still, it was something.

The next day brought a ceremony that's rare in India because it requires a body of water within walking distance. A nain -- a jack-of-all-female-trades hired to preside -- began the ceremony by painting in red ink a thick line around each woman's feet, in the manner of Hindu goddesses and old-time Bollywood actresses. The ink would last longer than the days of celebration. She made sure to break mine at the heel, signifying that I was unmarried.

Then the nain led us, a line of singing, sari-clad women darting between motorcycles and rickshaws, to the nearest pond.

There, my mother dug a mound of dirt that we would take back to Garima. In an earlier time, Garima would have sculpted it into a hearth for her new home.

My grandfather explained the ritual. "The bride is being uprooted from her family," he said in his nimble English. "And so the women uproot the soil."

While we sang and prayed, Garima packed and gabbed constantly with her future husband on her cellphone.

Despite her unabashedly joyful voice, I still found myself wondering why she decided to have an arranged marriage. All our cousins had had "love marriages" and had still won parental approval, however reluctant. My parents have never expected me to have an arranged marriage, even if they praise the practice and occasionally name-drop eligible bachelors.

Garima was never the shrinking Indian ideal of a girl. She was brash and essentially American like me, and always had been. When I visited India every two or three summers, we were inseparable.

At about age 5, in matching miniature bridal saris, we vied to see who would receive more compliments. A few years later, we were disrespectful to our elders; we talked back and threw tantrums.

As teens, we bragged about boys, despite our meager experience with them. She was mostly obedient to her father, who forbade her from talking to boys out of earshot. I was shy, studious and either was ignored or mocked by boys.

Now, Garima was lecturing me on love.

"Swati," she explained to me in her slightly patronizing English, "love grows with time. You don't just fall into it."

It didn't matter that I had been in love before -- the kind you fall into, the kind that does grow with time, but breaks, perhaps because no arrangement, no contract, no children held it together. It didn't count because it was unsanctioned by marriage.

My grandfather made this clear when he sat idly reading my palm one afternoon, a small-time hobby for him, an 84-year-old criminal defense attorney. He observed the two creases between my pinky and heart line.

"And you will have one great love," he said.

"But there are two lines," I said.

He paused, raising my hand to his glassy brown eyes, and stared hard at the unmistakable pair of lines.

"I see only one," he said. "And it is yet to come."

By my family's standards, my spinsterhood is imminent. An arranged marriage had always been an appealing Plan B -- if I failed at romance or a career, if I got tired of being alone and wanted a family, my parents could simply find me a gainfully employed man, as long as I was still fairly young and decent-looking and virginal, not too tan or too irreligious, not a smoker or a drinker. (I have trouble with some of those; I won't say which.)

Garima explained why she opted for an arranged marriage one afternoon, after we had spent some time recalling the boys she had crushes on in high school.

"I know Papa would never choose anyone but the best husband for me," she said.

I had heard the reasoning before -- from my parents, mostly. It assumes that one's parents know one best. That might have been true for Garima, who had never lived apart from family, who had never had an actual boyfriend and had few secrets to keep.

But by accident of birth, I had been an American child and dorm-dwelling student, a great keeper of hidden diaries, a believer in privacy. Since I was 18, I had scrupulously hidden parts of my life from my family, collecting and losing loves, as it seems women must to grow up. But why should I believe that the secrets I keep are what make me most me? When I'm in India, surrounded by the comfort and community of my big family, by Garima's glowing youth and uncanny wisdom, that seems too American a notion.

For two hours before her wedding, Garima waited for her groom.

She wore her wedding lehnga, a deep-magenta full skirt and fitted blouse, all embroidered with silver and gold thread and blue, pink and silver beads. She sat still so as not to upset her veil, or her heavy gold-and-ruby nose ring, a hoop the size of a silver dollar connected to matching earrings with a chain across her cheek. A necklace dripped from her collarbone to her waist, and a dozen bangles were stacked on each arm.

She was overwhelmingly beautiful, and seeing her made me indulge in a girlish daydream of my future wedding, which as a child I envisioned as white, but which I had years ago started to see in pink and red and gold.

Garima, her sister and her female cousins were hiding, waiting for the baraat -- the groom's party -- to arrive. We peeked through curtained windows, hoping to catch a glimpse of the men dancing down the red carpet, and the groom emerging from his horse-drawn carriage.

When the baraat finally arrived, as fireworks erupted and spelled, in English, "Garima Weds Vishal," my family greeted them, offering the groom sweets and a quick prayer. We women stayed hidden, holding Garima's train above the dusty floor as she extended a solitary arm out a tinted glass door to toss rice toward the groom.

Finally, when she appeared, she looked dutifully melancholy. As the couple stood onstage before the crowd and exchanged flower garlands -- like exchanging wedding rings -- she had only the faintest flicker of a smile. Vishal's grin was broad, but mostly, Garima's lips were pouted, her head bowed.

That expression held as the bride and groom walked seven times around the fire, as the groom's sister tied a knot with their two scarves, as their parents washed the couple's feet. I was sure it was exhaustion, the oppressive weight of her clothes, nerves, an act -- as the good, sad daughter. It couldn't be what my mother had felt at her wedding. I wondered as a child, seeing my mom's expression in photographs, if she had been forced into marriage, if she loved my dad, if they should divorce.

But by the time the wedding ended at 4 a.m., it became clear to me how sincere Garima's sadness was. She had one journey to make alone, while her husband waited in his car. It was the bidai -- the parting.

The family lined up to say goodbye. Garima's tears, initially just shining around her eyes, began to fall thickly. Her shoulders heaved, and soon she was wailing, a long, loud, high wail, bursting forth from a sadness I couldn't understand. It scared the emotion out of me; I felt like an alien American, who would never know this strange mix of pain and exhilaration that all the women in my family had known.

Just before Garima reached me, just as I had finished rehearsing what I would say to her in the most profound Hindi I could muster, she cried for her sister, who rushed to her. She sobbed for her father to take her home, but instead, they walked her to the car. Outside, the sun was rising.

Usually, I am the one embracing a line of tearful relatives to say goodbye.
This is what I did the day after the wedding, except Garima wasn't there.
There was little crying -- the wedding had exhausted us.

I thanked my grandfather for teaching me about some ceremonies. He replied in short, sharp English: "Don't write about it. Do it."

It might have been a simple nudge toward marriage, but I couldn't help but hear the same infuriating drop-your-job, find-a-man advice of too many bestselling American books.

My grandfather, with his broad shoulders and bullhorn voice, just needed fewer words. And they cut more deeply, because I knew that I couldn't just "do it." It's too late for me to have a rite of passage that combines a wedding, prom and first date and moving out of your parents' house and in with a man.

I moved down the rest of the line thinking deeply on the tradition I was rejecting by living the way I do. Seeing that tradition as a boisterous, living spectacle had made it harder to dismiss, and harder to see my choices as inevitable or obvious or easy.

Garima's younger sister was last in line. We were now the only unmarried ones in the family. Though that status signified so much for me -- ambition and freedom, failure and loneliness -- for her it was an unremarkable fact. At 23, she could switch it off like a light by asking her father to find someone.

She gave me a long hug, and I asked jokingly when I should book my next ticket, for her wedding. She smiled and uttered the most reassuring words I'd heard in a while:

"Don't wait for a wedding."

Epilogue: After a honeymoon in Goa and a month getting to know the in-laws in Gorakhpur, Garima moved to Vishal's apartment in Gurgaon, a rich, sprawling New Delhi suburb. He works as a computer engineer while she gets to know her new city and circle of friends. She seems happy.

For me, returning to the United States always requires forgetting the realities of my Gonda days -- that pink can be worn with orange; that hot showers are a luxury; that marriages can be made by people other than those doing the marrying. It took a few weeks to readjust to my life here, but now that I have, only with deliberate effort can I recall what appealed to me about my cousin's way of marriage. But then I imagine myself in her place, and it is not unappealing.