Psychologists are observing that the modern male is caught in a bind: he is pressured to be tough and independent, and yet he is expected to be a sensitive partner to his wife.

But the trends of the 1980's don't favor the "sensitive man." He who was once considered an admirable, caring person is now called a wimp. The image of Hollywood's Rambo pressures men to live up to an impossible standard of masculinity. As a result of this bind, men are more and more becoming out of touch with their real selves. Beneath a veneer of machismo often lies a troubled man. As one psychologist reports, 'The diagnosis of chauvinism is superficial. Closer examination of a man's behavior reveals a powerfully masochistic, self-hating and often self-destructive style."

The Krsna conscious philosophy and way of life can offer solutions to this male dilemma. The Bhagavad-gita informs us that all persons, whether male or female, have an identity beyond the temporary bodily role. This permanent identity is called atma, spirit soul. The Bhagavad-gita instructs us how to live out our social duties as man or woman and at the same time get in touch with our permanent relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Knowledge of the atma must be combined with knowledge of the supreme atma, the Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna. God, or the Supreme Being, contains both male and female aspects, but He is the ultimate enjoyer, known in Sanskrit as purusa, or "male." In human society, both men and women seek the dominant role as the enjoyer. Everyone strives to be the purusa, but in the absolute sense a mere mortal can never become the predominator. We are all predominated. While living in this world, we are under the control of the material energy, and even if we attain liberation from birth and death, we then accept the eternal loving supremacy of the Personality of Godhead. So once a man understands that he is not the supreme purusa, he can relieve himself from a heavy burden of false ego.

This is not just theory. A life dedicated to God consciousness can fulfill a man's drive for courageous acts while allowing full expression of his capacity for gentleness and caring. This harmony is realized in the lives of saintly persons of all religious paths.

We observed this in the life of our spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada acted with great courage by coming to America with no money or patronage. With lone determination he began the Krsna consciousness movement in New York City. And as his movement successfully developed worldwide, Srila Prabhupada often seemed like a general on the battlefield, directing men and resources. He was never depressed or daunted by obstacles to the spreading of his mission.

On the other hand, those who met Srila Prabhupada were impressed by his childlike innocence and gentleness. He was never too busy to chat with children, to give medical and domestic advice to his disciples and friends, or to stop to admire a flower. Srila Prabhupada once advised one of his disciples who was about to leave for preaching in Bangladesh, "Go with the courage of an Englishman and the compassion of a Bengali mother."

One might say that the saintly ideal is just as unattainable as the perfect macho image, and therefore to attempt it will create another kind of pressure. Granted, most of us cannot attain the stature of a saint. But Prabhupada encouraged everyone, declaring that taking to God consciousness is easy and sublime, since it is an awakening of our original nature. Attempts to become a supermale are artificial, and whatever success we may attain is temporary. But attainment of our spiritual life is natural, and the gains are never lost.

When a man tries his best to serve God, he adopts practices that require sensual restraint and dutifulness noble forms of masculine strength.

At the same time, spiritual practice brings out the softer, compassionate side of a person. Through worship of God and service to the spiritual master, a man refines his sensibility.

Spiritual life is not stereotyped. There are many different roles that may be fulfilled by a God conscious person. In the lives of great teachers such as Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha, we see the ultimate: an empowered person who combines the heroism of a preacher with the compassion of a mother ready to face persecution, while offering protection to all suffering souls. We also have saintly examples in the lives of persons who fulfilled more worldly roles, such as the kings of Vedic times or even ordinary workers who dedicate their occupational efforts in the service of God through karma-yoga (action in Krsna consciousness). The Vedic social scheme provides a way, known as varnasrama, whereby a man or a woman can engage his or her talents in the service of God under the direction of the spiritual master.

Simply putting God in the center of one's life drastically diminishes the pressures to behave as a Rambo and the fears of being called a wimp. If we associate with persons who are God conscious, such friends will not exert bizarre pressures on us to perform as "purusas." And if we are God conscious, we will not be disturbed by the demands of materialistic persons that we behave in a chauvinistic way.

In the Vedic scripture Srimad-Bhagavatam, there is a story of a king who once made fun of the great saint Jada Bharata. Unaware of the spiritual stature of Jada Bharata, the king was employing him as a palanquin bearer. While carrying the king, the saint was concerned not to step on ants along the way, and therefore he walked somewhat awkwardly and jostled the king. The king then rebuked him, "What's the matter? Are you too weak?" To these words Jada Bharata replied as follows:

My dear king and hero, whatever you have spoken sarcastically is certainly true. . . . You have said that I am not stout and strong, and these words are befitting a person who does not know the distinction between the body and the soul. The body may be fat or thin, but no learned man would say such things of the spirit soul. … As far as the spirit soul is concerned, I am neither fat nor skinny; therefore you are correct when you say that I am not very stout. Also, if the object of this journey and the path leading there were mine, there would be many troubles for me, but because they relate not to me but to my body, there is no trouble at all. Bhag. 5.10.9

Even if one is not prepared to make a dramatic increase in commitment to spiritual life, a little spiritual understanding will give him relief. If a person just begins to understand the atma, he will know that he is neither a man nor a woman, but an eternal servant of God. Even if we can only occasionally meditate on this eternal identity, we will get solace from the clashing pressures created by illusory persons in the illusory material world. Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami