Family & Relationships
I've been practicing Krishna consciousness for three months - trying to chant sixteen rounds and follow all the principles - but I recently had illicit sex with my wife and I feel terrible.
You're a young devotee and seem to be sincere in your desire to advance in Krishna consciousness. Even in Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna says that if one is sincerely trying to become a devotee but falls down due to past bad habits he is still to be considered a devotee.
You shouldn't be too hard on yourself, especially this early in your Krishna Consciousness. There are many unwanted things in the heart that need to be cleared over time. It will take patience and chanting over time, also service. So please just be patient and continue with your chanting and reading.
This is a very interesting subject because we've only recently begun to have older people in Krishna Consciousness. Our spiritual master, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada came to the West in 1965 and began Krishna Consciousness in America. At that time, most of his disciples were in their teens or twenties and it's only now that they are reaching their 60-70s. Our society is thus beginning to develop its methodology for taking care of the elderly.
Generally, a Krishna conscious family is dedicated to taking care of the older members. In India, where there are many extended families, one sees this profoundly. The wisdom and spiritual advancement of the elders is greatly respected and appreciated. The parents' contribution to their children's lives is also greatly appreciated. It's considered a debt that can never really be repaid, but to begin to repay it the children take full responsibility to take care of their aging family members.
Men especially are encouraged to dedicate their old age - a time when they finally become free from working and making money - to focus on spiritual study and teaching the younger generations about Krishna. Women generally live with family to be taken care of by their older children. They may come to live with their older sons and/or daughters and help to train their grandchildren. Both men and women are encouraged in their valuable final years to perfect their lives by fully concentrating on Krishna and realizing fully their spiritual nature. They're much more keenly aware that the body is temporary, destined to die, and that soon the soul will be free from this encumbrance.
That said, the situation in the Western countries, where many are practicing Krishna Consciousness, it's somewhat different for devotees, at least for this generation. When we joined, most of us left our families and our children are just getting situated now. Some of them aren't practicing Krishna consciousness and are living in a society and lifestyle we're not attracted to. So it has yet to be seen how the Hare Krishna movement will work this situation out. Some of our centers have established facilities for the elderly and we also have a hospital and hospice facility, but as the numbers of aging devotees increase we'll have to further develop these facilities.
I hope this is helpful. If you have specific questions you still need
answers for I would be happy to assist.
You're not alone. This has been an issue for many devotees. Especially early in ISKCON's development, I know many people who were inspired to change their lives by Srila Prabhupada's writings, but they were less than inspired when they came to the temple and started spending time with Prabhupada's other followers.
When you find yourself feeling a similar way, there are various things you can do. One is to remind yourself that everyone who somehow takes shelter of Krishna is a rare soul, even if apparently doing so for motives that seem less than pure. All of us in the material world are conditioned in our behavior in so many ways. "Material world" means the place for envious people. We're envious of Krishna, first of all, and by extension we're envious of all Krishna's parts and parcels. So it's no surprise that it's hard to get along with others, even others who are trying—on some level—to be Krishna's devotees.
The essence of Krishna conscious life is hearing and chanting about Krishna, serving His Deity form in the temple, teaching others about Him, and developing service relationships with His devotees. The spiritual world is full of Krishna's devotees, not all of whom necessarily "get along" with each other all the time. You can choose your friends in Krishna consciousness. The spiritual world has many different neighborhoods in it.
Sometimes Krishna puts us in situations that seem beyond our comfort zone. We may find ourselves having to associate with people we would never in a million years want to associate with if not for a shared interest in Krishna consciousness. Our own conditioned nature may want to react and rebel and refuse to accept such social austerities. But sometimes such situations are opportunities for growth. It may be that something that drives me crazy when I see it in someone else may be a problem I have inside myself but am unwilling or unable to see and confront. Often we're put into specific kinds of association precisely so that we can begin to see the areas in our own lives that need attention.
Srila Prabhupada told his disciples that they would show their love for him, especially after his departure from this world, by cooperating to serve his mission. Whenever and wherever devotees are chanting and hearing about Krishna and spreading His teachings, you will find that Krishna sends such persons extra mercy, enabling them to rise above whatever material discrepancies may be there. In my personal experience, I've been in bad moods, thinking evil thoughts about "this guy" and "that guy," but when we're in kirtan together, all evil thoughts disappear.
If we ourselves are doing our best to chant attentively and serve in whatever capacity Krishna arranges for us to serve, even if our desire for more congenial company isn't being met to the degree we may like, we'll be satisfied that at least we're doing our best. And then when Krishna finally sends people our way in whose association we feel genuinely uplifted and enthusiastic, we're all the more grateful.
Certainly women CAN work outside the house for money; it's not sinful for them to work, nor does any Vedic authority specifically forbid it. But whether women SHOULD work outside for money is a different question.
In an ideal society, women wouldn't be required to work outside of the home to earn money. It's a man's job to offer sufficient support for his family so that the needs of the wife and children are met and everyone is peaceful and satisfied with whatever arrangements can be made.
Unfortunately, in modern society the cost of living—even simply—within modern cities is very high. Competition for education and jobs is very strong. Often, men are unable to take care of the needs of the family. In such cases it may be necessary for women to help maintain their family by working outside and contributing some money.
This is unfortunate, because women generally have other duties—raising children, cooking for the family, maintaining the house, etc. If these very important duties are neglected, there are serious consequences for the family and for the society. The best solution is that the family lives simply and supports itself with whatever the man is able to earn, by honest and diligent work, and the woman remains at home to assist in whatever way possible to keep the family happy and healthy.
Your other question, "what is Krishna's view?" is not so simple. This issue isn't just about women, but rather about the structure of society, the family and the culture in which they live. If the society isn't healthy, and the culture is unbalanced—placing too much emphasis on material things rather than encouraging spiritual growth by simple living and high thinking—then it will be difficult for anyone, women and children included, to remain satisfied and properly taken care of. It will be difficult for the man to provide sufficient income to meet the artificial wants and desires such an unbalanced society encourages. And so, people—women included—will be pushed into unnatural situations in order to maintain the status quo. We see this happening all over the world. The results are far-reaching and deleterious for human society as a whole.
Depleted resources, polluted air and water, lack of quality food, increased violence, disrespectful and unruly children, and so on, are all the consequences of a misguided society. If we want to change this—at least in our own lives—we need to start focusing on our spiritual life, on getting our pleasure from our relationship with the Supreme Person, Krishna, and living simply, as much as possible off the land and creating strong local economies which will support a realistic and wholesome lifestyle. Once we begin that work, women will naturally be more encouraged and happy to remain home and do their most important job of raising future generations by taking care of their families.
Regarding Vaishnava aparadha, offending Krishna's devotees: Would someone who doesn't know what this means (or isn't yet a devotee of Krishna) still be punished for this?
Vaishnav Aparadha is a very dangerous thing. Apa means against and radha means devotion; so it is an act against devotion or an act that stops devotion.
Generally, Vaishnava aparadha implies some type of deliberate ill intent— the desire to hurt someone, or find fault with them in order to make oneself feel better, or look better in the eyes of others, to get even, or retaliate. In each of these cases there's an element of envy and malice. Whether one knows about aparadha or not, if envy and malice are there then there will be a reaction. And yes, it also applies to nondevotees. In once sense, it applies mainly to nondevotees because real devotees don't commit Vaishnava aparadha.
If one offends another Vaishnava, and is aware one has done so, the best thing is to go and beg for forgiveness, if this is not possible then sincere chanting of Hare Krishna, and begging the Lord for forgiveness is in order.
I hope this is helpful.
That the chanting has decreased your material desires is a good sign. That's what's supposed to happen. Keep up the good work. It's not surprising that she's not interested in devotional life, if she's not practicing it. If you feel the relationship isn't helping your own spiritual progress, perhaps it's Krishna's mercy that you aren't attached to her. You can always pray for her ultimate benefit.
Perhaps she could develop relationships with some of the female devotees in your area. The more friends we have who are devotees, the better.
To maintain the relationship by pretending not to practice Krishna consciousness (some devotees have tried this) wouldn't be helpful, since strong relationships are based on honesty. In the long run, if you plan to get married someday, you may wish to consider marrying someone who's at least open to becoming enthusiastic about devotional service. You might point out to your girlfriend that you doubt your relationship could succeed as a marriage if Krishna consciousness—which is an important part of your life now—has very little meaning for her.
I was once engaged to someone but could see that the relationship wasn't helping my spiritual life. At the time, I was so attached that it was difficult to drop it. But I prayed to Krishna that, if He thought this relationship was the best thing for my spiritual life, that He arrange for it to continue, or if He thought another girl would be better, then let that happen, or if He thought the best thing was for me to go back to being a brahmachari (celibate student), which incidentally was very nice, that that might happen. As it turned out, the girl broke up with me within a month, and I chose to be a brahmacari again.
One idea is, if you're attached to maintaining the relationship and she's attached to her idea of you but unwilling to accept your commitment to Krishna consciousness, is for both of you visit Mayapur, the birthplace of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. You could pray to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu that she becomes a devotee. If she even goes to Mayapur once, her life will be perfect. Such is the power of the holy dhama. Then, if you end up splitting, you can be satisfied you gave her the best benediction. If you prefer, you can take her to Vrindavan.
Meanwhile, keep chanting with as much attention as you can and you'll get the full benefit of practicing Krishna consciousness.
No, marriage is all right. But sex outside of marriage binds one to this material world and so is counterproductive from the spiritual point of view. The point is that sex for other purposes than producing God conscious children makes us more materialistic and slows our spiritual progress.
Simply put, if you get married and engage in sex for fun instead of producing a child, that act will make you more materialistic. It will cause you to identify yourself more with your body and more as an independent enjoyer rather than servant of God, the supreme enjoyer.
The pure consciousness of the soul is to please God. So sex for producing children that are taught God consciousness is a spiritual experience, otherwise sex is material. As mentioned above, sex for producing children is OK. Sex for recreation is an impediment to spiritual progress.
The key is to develop the habit of thinking of the Lord as the proprietor of your body and home, and thinking of your family members as His eternal servants. Then you can perform the activities of maintaining them as service to Krishna.
The reason Krishna discourages work for a fruitive result—action with view to a personal outcome—is because such action results in our receiving another temporary, miserable, material body. In the Bhagavad-gita, 3.9 Krishna recommends work as sacrifice for Lord Vishnu—the Supreme Person.
He also makes it clear, in Chapter 2, verses 12-30, that we are spiritual souls; in other words, we are not these bodies. When we understand that, we won't want to excessively strive for any selfish, temporary pleasure.
Some practical ways to begin developing the habit of seeing everything in your world as Krishna's property are:
Offer all the food you prepare to Krishna.
Get together with your family members and chant Hare Krishna in the evening or morning.
If you haven't already, you may want to obtain Deities of Krishna and perform some daily worship.
"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."
Jealousy arises when we want what another person has. We must try to achieve a state of mind in which we are content with what we have and simply admire or look up to what another has. Joy is in wanting what we already have.
We can defeat negative thoughts by shifting our consciousness. In our minds, instead of thinking, “Wow, he/she is so good at everything and I’m barely even good at one thing,” we can think, “Wow, he has been gifted by Krishna and is helping to encourage so many people. I want his association, because he is dear to Krishna; I am so inspired by him to continue in my own practice.”
Now, this may not work the first time—or the first couple of times. However, each time a negative thought or jealous thought arises, we must turn it around: “I am so inspired by this person. Look even what he has done for me. I am so blessed to have his association.”
We must also remember that ultimately, there is no jealousy or envy in the spiritual world. Why? Everyone has equal access to Krishna to his or her heart’s content. When we have eaten dinner and just cannot have even one bite more, are we jealous that our neighbor is having a delicious plate of prasadam? No, simply because we are already full. This is how it is in the spiritual world—and this is how it can be right now, if we allow it. We have equal access to Krishna right now, and if we latch onto Him, we are as dear to Him as any other devotee.