Subjective Reality in Relationships

There are different opinions regarding social issues or philosophy among devotees. Any perspective, side of an issue, or point of the Krishna conscious philosophy can be carried to an extreme in relation to others.

I tend to me on the middle of most issues, much to the chagrin of those who strongly advocate different perspective or causes. I do have strong opinions on certain issues, yet I am usually not on the front lines of confrontation. Ideally, even when I disagree I try to see the other perspective, and understand why the person holds the conviction they do.

In the traditional way of establishing siddhanta (conclusion of the scripture), one of the processes is to argue in favor of the opposing argument, and then to "defeat" it (although the term "defeat" is not very useful for happy married life). I take this part of siddhanta as really trying to understand the "other" side.

Seeing and appreciating both sides is very useful in couples counseling, where we often have two very different interpretations of past activities, or even current communication. Usually the truth is somewhere in the middle.

In any case, whether one person is "right" and another person "wrong", my wife and I try to impress upon the couple the conception of "subjective reality". Sometimes we have to say to a couple, "Do you want to be right, or in love (or stay married)?" Each spouse has to respect the other, and their different views on issues or perspectives on the KC philosophy.

Subjective reality means that each one of us understands things according to our particular psychological "filters" (our past conditioning and experience).

This is the meaning of the "new age" saying that "perception is reality" (not ultimate reality, but personal reality). Some people---including devotees---have a very hard time with this. This can be especially the case when their subjective reality has become dressed in the "clothes" of spiritual philosophy, and therefore must be right.

An example of our subjective reality "being dressed in spiritual clothes" might be when we come to Krishna conscious with strong views about---lets say certain social considerations---and then find some statements supporting them (or that COULD support them). Then we might be unwilling to accept another view even if supported by scripture and/or practical experience or considerations.

As scientists have a "knowledge filter" by beginning with the idea that life comes from chemicals, or that evolutions is true, and then only accept "evidence" that supports this view, devotees also can have knowledge filters regarding their cherished view of the application of the philosophy.

Social positions in general are in the plane of relativity and can be adjusted---and must be if KC is to remain dynamic and relevant---according to time, place, and circumstances. Varnasrama (the occupational divisions and spiritual orders of society) and/or social considerations in general are not part of the limbs of bhakti or listed in the 64 items of devotional service given by Rupa Goswami.

Whatever side a person has regarding social issues if their spouse or potential spouse has a different view, then those differences have to be discussed and at least harmonized and respected. In premarital counseling, we often see how different each devotees views can be on many different issues: from roles of men and women, household duties, earning money, education, child raising philosophy etc.

Some devotees fanatically stress the traditional roles, while others stress that devotees couples should do whatever works for them considering the unique natures of both persons and their type of conditioning and education, etc.(and some devotees fall somewhere in the middle).

These difference can usually be worked out if each person has flexibility, sufficient compatibility, and desire for Krishna consciousness as the ultimate goal. However, these perspectives are best worked out before marriage. Otherwise they are sure to become problems for the couples during their marriage. Couples also have to explore and share their expectations for their marriage, and genuinely and continually appreciate their life partner's unique perspective and nature.

It is interesting that often a person just before marriage, or newly married, expects their spouse to be a mind reader and know them without discussion, or they just assume their spouse thinks like they do. That type of thinking is a recipe for disaster.

To conclude, we all need to understand the nature of subjective reality in all our relationships, whether as spouse, parent, leader, business partner, guru, brahmachari, disciple, student, employee or whatever our position is. Then we can have meaningful and more respectful communication in all our dealings with others, despite differences.

To borrow from Steven Covey, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood".

Combined comments from old site

Thu, 10/25/2007 - 16:39 — Navasi
Knowledge Filters

Dear Karnamrita Prahbu,
I really like all of this, but especially the part about devotees sometimes having "knowledge filters", and
Finding evidence in the scriptures to support the particular view that they would like to support....
I recall in particular a devotee I knew who went through Prabhupad's books, and found all the quotes that were relevant to the particular view they wanted to take, see, etc... and created their own personal study book on this topic.
While there is of course not a thing wrong with creating your own book of quotes about things you personally want to study,
it does tend to encourage a "knowledge filter" when you create one of quotes that are only on one particular subject.
Since you're only looking at those quotes themselves, on that one subject, and not in relation to the other sections of scripture surrounding them,
it can lead to a slightly "filtered" perspective of what Prahbupad was trying to say about that topic itself.
Which of course would lead to a lack of genuine understanding about the subject as it truly is in relation to actually becoming Krishna Conscious about it.
That's my opinion anyway, and my response to what you've said here...
I really like this, thank you!


Fri, 10/26/2007 - 23:28 — Karnamrita.das
Seeing the whole teaching

Hari Bol Nivasi! Thanks for sharing your experience.

We can never take just one or even a few quotes from Prabhupada or the scriptures as authoritative without looking at everything we can find on the subject.

Prabhupada often gave opposite instructions to different disciples, as he was preaching according to that particular disciples question or circumstance. And even in back to back purports he sometimes says what appear to be contractory statements. This means we have to really make a study of his words and the scripture in order to harmonize his different statements, or when he seems to differ from the previous acharyas.

We have to not only look at what Prabhupada said, but how he acted in real life. As he would say, our actions are more important than our words, or in merely quoting something. We have to keep a level head, and be truth seekers, not just peddling our views to show we are right.

Everyone will become convinced of particular perspectives. The crucial test for me is HOW WE HOLD THEM. Are on a campaign to make everyone else wrong, and putting others down for holding such views? That is very immature, and shows a lack of depth.

The problem is not that devotees differ, but that often we don't know how to differ with dignity, instead of fanaticism. Sometimes devotees don't know how to have a respectful discussion and they post it on the Internet. That is a real disservice to our great tradition, which is so broad and accommodating.

Your friend in Krishna,