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Srila Prabhupada often made reference to the fact that both in beginner’s maths as well as advanced mathematics, two plus two is always equal to four. While advanced mathematics can be extremely complicated it can also be very wrong if the basic principles of simple maths are not adhered to. Likewise the same principle applies to relationships and if we fail to get the basics right in our relationships we will forever struggle with them. The most fundamental relationship that we need to get right is our relationship with the supreme Lord and His creation. Sastra informs us;

jivera ’svarupa’ haya—krsnera ‘nitya-dasa’

“The living entity’s constitutional position is to be an eternal servant of Krsna”

As with the two plus two analogy, if we are either resisting or plain rebelling against our constitutional position as Krsna’s eternal servant then as well as our relationship with Krsna being askew all other relationships will be impacted as well. So the importance of getting our relationship right with Krishna cannot be over stated and in order for our relationship as an eternal servant of Krishna to be in good working order, we need to ensure that our relationship with His creation is in harmony too.

As the material energy is the property of the supreme Lord our relationship with it should be that we simply use it in His service only taking what we need for ourselves to facilitate our service to Him; tena tyaktena bhunjitha

If we can implement this principle into our lives then it will have a very positive effect on all our other relationships. Not least because if we can follow this principle of taking only what we need to keep body and soul together, we will be well on the way to becoming free of selfish motive which is a wonderful quality to bring to any relationship.

“So the whole Krishna consciousness movement is how to become dhira, selflessness. Then life is successful” SBL 1st March 1976

Another key quality of a relationship is its longevity and again this is perfectly reflected in our relationship with Krishna which of course is eternal. It is hard for us to fully grasp the extraordinary nature of an eternal relationship, one that is ever increasing, ever fresh and ever blissful. In the material realm it is often the short term, non committed relationships that people find attractive and appealing, the term one night stand comes to mind. Herein lays the inherent difference between the material and the spiritual, and for those of us who sincerely desire to return to the spiritual world we need to reject the foot loose and fancy free nature of these exploitative relationships and instead nurture relationships where we are givers rather than takers. There is arguably no better learning ground for nurturing such relationships than the grhastha asrama. Srila Prabhupada informs us that this asrama is a ‘licence for sense gratification’ but in reality the sense gratification gained (if the asrama is strictly honoured), pales into insignificance compared to the responsibility demanded (again if the asrama is properly honoured).

“Similarly, the householders, who have some license for sense gratification, perform such acts with great restraint……. ………This restricted, unattached sex life is also a kind of yajna because the restricted householder sacrifices his general tendency toward sense gratification for higher, transcendental life” Bg 4.26 Purport

“Those who take the license of married life for sense enjoyment must also take the responsibility to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Visnu, and the first stepping-stone is the varnasrama-dharma system. Varnasrama-dharma is the systematic institution for advancing in worship of Visuu” SB 3.13.11 Purport

It is interesting to note the inseparable connection between the grhasta asrama and varnasrama, again successful implementation of varnasrama depends so much on the relationships between all the varnas and asramas. Often times we get stuck on the form or field required for varnasrama and the model we almost exclusively focus on is the agrarian based one, which is of course very important. But the form and field are not the all in all, indeed in vedic times there were cities to – Hastinapura, Dvarka, Ayodhya etc., and they were all part of the varnasrama system. So in addition to form (structure), relationships are crucial and none more so than the grhasta relationship. And it is very clear that the main purpose of the grhasta asrama is not sense gratification but rather for husband and wife to render service to the supreme Lord. Naturally that service will be impeded if husband and wife are not peaceful in their asrama. If husband and wife maintain loyalty, fidelity and respect to each other then a peaceful marriage is assured. If loyalty and fidelity isn’t maintained it is often because we are attracted to someone else, usually someone younger or more attractive and obviously different. As these attractions are material, if acted on, they will prevent us from developing a closer relationship with Krishna, which ironically will provide us with all of the things we are chasing for, and think we can extract from, those short term material relationships. Relationships that inevitably mean we dishonour our commitments to our spouse, thus setting us back in our spiritual progression.

“When the wife is accepted as a sense gratificatory agency, personal beauty is the main consideration, and as soon as there is a break in personal sense gratification, there is disruption or divorce. But when husband and wife aim at spiritual advancement by mutual cooperation, there is no consideration of personal beauty or the disruption of so-called love. In the material world there is no question of love. Marriage is actually a duty performed in mutual cooperation as directed in the authoritative scriptures for spiritual advancement. Therefore marriage is essential in order to avoid the life of cats and dogs, who are not meant for spiritual enlightenment” SB 3.14.19 purport

If we want to avoid falling foul of Srila Prabhupada’s stringent words above, married couples should do whatever they can to ensure their marriage is successful. This of course requires flexibility, understanding, realism and tolerance, among other things. Often times we hear the charge that my marriage would be fine if my wife was more submissive but maybe she is doing exactly what she is supposed to do – following her husband’s example - of not being very submissive!

The analogy of the car and its driver is an interesting one in connection to the dynamic of the husband (driver) and wife (car) interrelation. As we are all constitutionally female;

“Just like if a female takes the part of a male and wants to imitate the enjoyment, it is simply false. Similarly, we are constitutionally female, enjoyed, prakrti” SBL 22nd August 1968

Those of us in male bodies need to perhaps work a little harder to avoid thinking we are the enjoyer, but a wife can help to both fulfil the husbands need to feel he is in control, while also keeping him firmly grounded, so that he doesn’t ever think he is the supreme controller! Just like when driving a car we assume a feeling of control not least because when we put our foot on the gas the car accelerates and when we put our foot on the brake the car stops and when we turn the steering wheel left the car turns left and vice a versa. However if we do not look after the car, giving it regular services, making sure it has the necessary fuel, replacing the tyres when worn etc., etc. then no matter how much we think we are in control, eventually we won’t be able to even get our car out of the garage! So the wise wife will give her husband all the respect he needs to maintain his self esteem and the wise husband will give all the love, care and attention that his wife needs for her to be able to continue to give him that respect.

We are so much in need of a healthy grhastha asrama because in many ways it is the most important asrama, not least because all members of the other asramas are produced from it. So if society is filled with exemplary grhasthas, then it will also be populated with exemplary brahmacaris and sannyasis etc.

“Marriage with a view to peaceful and virtuous life and with a view to procreate servants of the Lord is a good institution for a Vaisnava. Spiritual cultivation is the main object of life. Do everything that helps it and abstain from everything that thwarts the cultivation of the spirit.” Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura - Shree Caitanya Mahaprabhu: His Life and Precepts

One good barometer for knowing whether or not we are being successful in our grhasta life is to ask ourselves, are we learning to gradually renounce, not only our spouse and the ‘licence’ of the grhasta asrama, but have we also renounced all attraction to the opposite sex?

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