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Family & Relationships

I'm 27, and my parents want me (their eldest son) to get married, but I want to join ISKCON. What should I do?

by Laxmimoni dasi

Lord Chaitanya's sankirtan movement is vast. There are many, many aspects to preaching and joining; you can preach and join from any position, married or single, and living in any place. Since you're 27, you can do what you wish...but I would expect that marriage is something that's going to happen, and that you also must have some job in order to support a family.

When you say you "want to join ISKCON" do you mean that you want to remain brahmachari (celibate student) and never marry? This is a very rare position. Most men find it necessary to accept a wife. But this doesn't have to limit your involvement in ISKCON. Srila Prabhupada himself became a devotee as a householder. He supported the devotees, had preaching programs in his home, distributed and printed Back to Godhead magazines, wrote for his spiritual master's magazines, and in many ways tried to spread Krishna Consciousness.

"Joining ISKCON" doesn't only mean moving into a temple. It means dedicating one's energy toward supporting and spreading the teachings of Srila Prabhupada and following good sadhana (regular spiritual practice), reading Srila Prabhupada's books, etc. You can establish a temple in your home and help to make your parents and other family members Krishna Conscious as well.

If you are considering leaving your family to join the temple, and remaining in the temple...that is another thing. You are 27 - a grown man - and it is a heavy decision to leave your family, but you can do whatever you feel is best. Your parents don't have to agree, although that would be nice, but at 27 it's not essential. If you have a spiritual master, or other senior devotees in the temple that you go to for advice, I would suggest you also consult with them.

But consider carefully before you take any action...and understand that joining ISKCON does not necessarily mean you have to leave home and move into the temple.

Why are women more self-conscious than men?

by Laxmimoni dasi

It's not always true that women are more self-conscious than men. There are many men who are very concerned about how they appear in front of their peers and to other women; they're pumping weights to get a beautiful body and trying to be handsome and attractive. Also, when they are in front of their friends, they show off and try to be the "coolest!" In general, men or women who think they are the body are "self-conscious."

Women often tend to be shy, but this is good thing not a bad thing. They are not eager to show off in front of others, and when put in a position where that is expected they become uncomfortable. This may appear to be self-conscious, but it is a natural quality of women.

In material society women are often sent messages that their body is what really matters - they can be dumb and not think, but at least they should be sexy or beautiful. This message, often coming from media, creates an unnatural and uncomfortable situation for women. It also puts great fear into them that if they do not remain young and beautiful - which no one does, actually - then they will be rejected and unloved; they're afraid of this and so become self-conscious.

In general one who appears 'self conscious" really doesn't know who the "self" is and thinks they are a body. Therefore, since the body is always getting old and diseased, they're worried about how they will appear. They think their happiness comes from bodily relationships and so are self-conscious about how others will think of them.

Those who are aware that the self is actually a spiritual entity, which is eternal and has a loving relationship with the Lord, are "self" conscious in a good way; they're aware of who they are and who the ultimate Self is: Lord Krishna. When the spiritual self has a loving relationship with the eternal Supreme Self, then that is the perfection of life.

My husband is very strict and dominating, we're not getting along, and this makes me very depressed. What should I do?

by Laxmimoni dasi

It is difficult for me to offer material suggestions as I know very little about your relationship and I am sure it is very, very complex. But the Lord Krishna works in strange ways sometimes to teach us various lessons. Sometimes if we can just change our vision then the material circumstances don't appear as bleak as before.

Generally we consider things that make our lives uncomfortable or troublesome undesirable and they make us depressed. But after a time we may see things differently.

Often Krishna's mercy is not easily recognizable. He takes away our pride, lust, greed, and anger - often by putting us into humbling and enlightening situations - but we won't learn those lessons unless we are open to them and consider carefully that actually that there are no undesirable things, only lessons to be learned. Really it is our vision that is coloring what makes us happy and unhappy.

Generally, what is materially uncomfortable makes us unhappy. For example, for a child, going to school makes him unhappy until he grows and matures. For a woman, childbirth makes her unhappy until she is holding her newborn in her arms - so many examples are there. The material world is always full of suffering ( dukhalayam) and it is temporary ( ashasvatam) and that will always be the case, but if we see His hand in everything and understand that He only wants our welfare then we'll accept everything as His mercy and we'll always be happy.

Bhagavad-gita 13.8 encourages " . . .freedom from entanglement with children, wife, home and the rest. . ." does this mean having nothing to do with family?

by Laxmimoni dasi

In the purport to the same verse you mention, (Bhagavad-gita 13.8), Srila Prabhupada says:

"As for detachment from children, wife and home, it is not meant that one should have no feeling for these. They are natural objects of affection. But when they are not favorable to spiritual progress, then one should not be attached to them. The best process for making the home pleasant is Krishna consciousness. If one is in full Krishna consciousness, he can make his home very happy, because this process of Krishna consciousness is very easy. One need only chant:

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

. . . accept the remnants of foodstuffs offered to Krishna, have some discussion on books like Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, and engage oneself in Deity worship. These four things will make one happy. One should train the members of his family in this way. The family members can sit down morning and evening and chant together:

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

If one can mold his family life in this way to develop Krishna consciousness, following these four principles, then there is no need to change from family life to renounced life. But if it is not congenial, not favorable for spiritual advancement, then family life should be abandoned."

So the ultimate point is that we should work within the family together in Krishna's service - chanting together, going to the temple together, worshiping the Deity together - and keeping the atmosphere nicely centered around spiritual elevation.

In material relationships the family members are each considering how to get some pleasure from the other members. As soon as the wife is not satisfying the desires of the husband then the man is searching for another woman, or vice versa - thus so many families are broken and the children are without proper family structure. Ultimately the family members are not serving each other but rather considering what service they can get from each other. A spiritual relationship in which all the family is working together to help each other make spiritual advancement has a deep spiritual purpose - it is very important for all the members.

So, to summarize, it does NOT mean "having nothing to do with the family." Rather, the family should be a source of spiritual strength and support. If it becomes a detriment to spiritual life then one should be detached enough to see it in the proper light.

Does bhakti-yoga allow cleaning up others' cigarettes, or buying cigarettes for others?

by Laxmimoni dasi

It depends on the reason behind the action. If your job is cleaning, and that's your work, and you must do it or you can't survive financially, then do what you have to do...but if you have a choice, it's better to avoid. As far as actually buying cigarettes; that I would avoid. It's better to tell someone "I'm sorry, but I don't believe that it's good for you or anyone to smoke, so therefore I don't want to buy these poisonous things for you." Buying someone cigarettes implicates you in their karma because you're assisting them to do the wrong thing.

Can an aspiring devotee neglect parents who are against Krishna consciousness?

Practically there's no way for someone to prevent your "surrendering completely" to Krishna! Look at Sri Prahlad...his father was torturing him but he remained a faithful devotee of the Lord.

Of course, Prahlad is one of the greatest saints. For us, it’s best if we can make our own situation favorable. If your parents will allow you some private time and space in which you can chant, read, eat food you can offer to Krishna, go to the temple, etc., then I’d say that it’s best not to create a unbreakable rift between you and your parents. The relationship should be kept cordial if at all possible.

Try to chant on your own, read shastra (scripture) and keep some association with devotees. If that much is possible, and your determination is strong, there’s nothing in the world that can keep you from surrendering to Krishna. Surrendering to God completely is a long journey, a process. You will not surrender completely until you think of nothing else than service to the Lord. This requires practice, and is really a matter of your own consciousness - not your living situation. Sometimes when we’re in trouble, and things are difficult, we remember Krishna more and take shelter more, but when we’re given full facility we can take it for granted.

So, analyze your situation carefully and see what are the actual options. If you need further clarification than write me the answers to the questions and I will try to help further.

Thanks
I hope this is helpful.
sincerely,
Laxmimoni dasi

Can an aspiring devotee neglect parents who are against Krishna consciousness?

Practically there's no way for someone to prevent your "surrendering completely" to Krishna! Look at Sri Prahlad...his father was torturing him but he remained a faithful devotee of the Lord.

Of course, Prahlad is one of the greatest saints. For us, it’s best if we can make our own situation favorable. If your parents will allow you some private time and space in which you can chant, read, eat food you can offer to Krishna, go to the temple, etc., then I’d say that it’s best not to create a unbreakable rift between you and your parents. The relationship should be kept cordial if at all possible.

Try to chant on your own, read shastra (scripture) and keep some association with devotees. If that much is possible, and your determination is strong, there’s nothing in the world that can keep you from surrendering to Krishna. Surrendering to God completely is a long journey, a process. You will not surrender completely until you think of nothing else than service to the Lord. This requires practice, and is really a matter of your own consciousness - not your living situation. Sometimes when we’re in trouble, and things are difficult, we remember Krishna more and take shelter more, but when we’re given full facility we can take it for granted.

So, analyze your situation carefully and see what are the actual options. If you need further clarification than write me the answers to the questions and I will try to help further.

Thanks
I hope this is helpful.
sincerely,
Laxmimoni dasi

How can a wife keep her husband happy when he is spiritual and she is materialistic?

Hare Krishna! Thank you for your question. I’m not sure to whom this is being addressed - the wife or the husband - so I’ll do my best to answer from a neutral perspective.

The duties of the wife are such that she is to make the husband happy according to his desire. Cooking, keeping the house clean and orderly, the children happy, etc. are the duties of a good wife. If the husband is "spiritual" then he should have a place where he can set up his worship, and that place should be kept extra clean and quiet and should be honored by all members of the family, although they may be materialistic and therefore not participate in the worship.

All family members should respect that space, facilitate the articles needed for the worship, and whenever possible give time and silence when needed so the husband can do the needful. Also, the food prepared should be vegetarian and prepared in a sattvic way (without garlic and onions), so that it can be offered to the Lord. As long as there is proper respect on the part of the wife and there is no interference in the husband following religious practices, then there can still be peaceful life at home. It shouldn't be a problem. There are many examples of family members respecting different life styles and yet coexisting happily.

The husband should also be willing to spend time with the wife in comfortable - but not sinful - activities. That’s very important. Often when people take up spiritual life, they’re quite determined to be very fixed in avoiding anything that is "material," but everything can be spiritual if it’s used properly. Some things are just “neutral,” for example, shopping for food or clothing, which are needed to live. Also, some recreational activities can be chosen, like going for a walk, or swim, or talking at dinner, which will help to maintain a peaceful relationship and at the same time not interfere with one’s spiritual practice.

I hope this is helpful.
Sincerely,
Laxmimoni dasi

I'm a vegetarian but my mother cooks with garlic and onions. Why are they in the tamasic ("mode of ignorance" – unofferable to Krishna) category?

Hare Krishna! This is a very common problem. My son in law is Punjabi and his family also cooks with garlic and onions. It can be troublesome. Actually, garlic and onions can't be offered to Lord Krishna, and that's why devotees of Krishna don't eat them. Buddhists also consider garlic tamasic because of its strongly pungent odor. There are histories in the Puranas that indicate that the Lord created onions in such a way that we cry when preparing them, just to show us that He's not happy when we eat them.

Actually, when you think about it, giving up these two items in order to make Krishna happy isn't a very great sacrifice. To eat sattvic ("mode of goodness") food, to offer that food to Krishna and honor the prasad ("mercy" - food offered to Krishna) we simply have to give these two small items up. Living without garlic and onions is quite easy actually, but the problem is compounded with the fact that your mother cooks with them.

When my son in law's mother cooks for us, she leaves these items out. We then offer everything to Krishna, purely, and afterwards she separately adds some garlic or onion pickles to her food. That way, we're all able to eat Krishna prasadam, and she can eat what she wants.

Eventually, if you want to make spiritual advancement, you will give these items up. When that happens depends on your determination. But Lord Krishna will be pleased if you can make the sacrifice.

I hope this is helpful.
Sincerely
Laxmimoni dasi

What does Srila Prabhupada say are a husband's duties to his wife?

Hare Krishna! Thank you for your question. To find out everything Srila Prabhupada has spoken on this matter you'd have to read all twelve Cantos of Srimad-Bhagavatam! However, I can give you some general instructions in regard to a husband's duty to his wife. Below are some quotes from Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavatam:

From the story of Devahuti and Kardama and their son Kapiladeva, from the 3rd Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam:

"It is the duty of the husband to liquidate his debt to his wife. The wife gives her sincere service to the husband, and he becomes indebted to her because one cannot accept service from his subordinate without giving him something in exchange. The spiritual master cannot accept service from a disciple without awarding him spiritual instruction. That is the reciprocation of love and duty."

- Srimad-Bhagavatam, 3.23.52, Purport

"It is the duty of the son to take care of her to the best of his ability so that she will not feel separation from her husband, and it is the duty of the husband to leave home as soon as there is a grown son to take charge of his wife and family affairs. That is the Vedic system of household life. One should not remain continually implicated in household affairs up to the time of death. He must leave. Family affairs and the wife may be taken charge of by a grown son."

- Srimad-Bhagavatam, 3.25.5, Purport

And, from the Bhagavatam's section on Lord Ramachandra:

"One who strictly follows religious principles must not neglect to provide all facilities for the complete protection of his wife. There may be some suffering because of this, but one must nevertheless endure it. That is the duty of a faithful husband. By His personal example, Lord Ramacandra demonstrated this duty. Lord Ramacandra could have produced hundreds and thousands of Sitas from His pleasure energy, but just to show the duty of a faithful husband, He not only rescued Sita from the hands of Ravana but also killed Ravana and all the members of his family."

- Srimad-Bhagavatam, 5.19.5, Purport

I hope this is helpful. Mostly, the husband is responsible to give his wife spiritual guidance, and protection - in the material sense - by providing for the needs of the family and the wife herself.

Sincerely
Laxmimoni dasi