What About the Rest of Us?
AT LAST HERE'S A COLUMN especially for us! As a loyal BTG reader for nineteen years, I've often felt the need for a forum to discuss practical, day-to-day issues that come up in our efforts to become Krsna conscious.
How to survive in a non-Krsna conscious environment? What to do when we get out of practice, feel spiritually lethargic, or suffer a crisis of faith? How to relate to friends, relatives, neighbors, and workmates, or to each other as husband and wife, parent and child, now that we have taken up spiritual life? What to do when our hus-band or wife isn't "into it" and comes home with an "adorable pup" just when we're trying to set up an altar in the front room? How to find enough time to fit everything in?
Questions such as these have become all the more pertinent for me since my family and I moved away from the vicinity of the ISKCON temples three years ago. We had many years of experience in ISKCON to draw from, and were wondering how to create a favorable environment for our spiritual survival and growth in our new setting. We realized how difficult it must be to practice bhakti-yoga at home for someone who has no background of temple life and only the high standard of an ISKCON temple as a model.
Temple organization naturally and rightly tends to cater to those who wish to live as renounced celibates. But what about the rest of us? ISKCON has been through many changes. In its infancy married devotees who moved out of the temple compound were often looked on as apostates, doomed to destruction. Later, when temples couldn't support the ever-increasing population of married devotees and their children, temple leaders changed their thinking. "Move out," they advised, "as soon as possible."
Now financially independent Hare Krsna families either live near a temple and take part in temple functions as best they can or, like the majority of BTG readers, live too far away to visit daily. We are therefore pioneers facing the question of what to do: What is the grhastha asrama, married life in Krsna consciousness? And how is it different from other marriages?
One day I was reading in the Caitanya-caritamrta about Lord Caitanya's south Indian tour. The Lord gave the same advice to all: "Remain at home, chant Hare Krsna, and try to teach others about Krsna consciousness." He told people that if they followed these simple instructions their home life would not obstruct their spiritual advancement and they would never lose His company.
Srila Prabhupada writes:
This is an opportunity for everyone. If one simply follows the instructions of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, under the guidance of His representative, and chants the Hare Krsna mantra, teaching everyone as far as possible the same principle, the contamination of the materialistic way of life will not even touch him. It does not matter whether one lives in a holy place like Vrndavana, Navadvipa, or Jagannatha Puri or in the midst of European cities where the materialistic way of life is very prominent. If a devotee follows the instructions of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, he lives in the company of the Lord. Wherever he lives, he converts that place into Vrndavana and Navadvipa. This means that materialism cannot touch him. This is the secret of success for one advancing in Krsna consciousness.
I felt happy and encouraged to read this, and I thought how ISKCON is shaping up along similar lines. Temples can be compared to Lord Caitanya's head-quarters at Jagannatha Puri, where other sannyasis, brahmacaris, and renounced householders assisted Him. "Home devotees," married or single, visit temples regularly, making a pilgrim's journey on Sundays or special occasions. Now it is left to us to understand and discuss how to practice bhakti-yoga at home within the simple framework Lord Caitanya and Srila Prabhupada have described.
Rohininandana Dasa was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1973. He and his wife, Radhapriya Devi Dasi, whom he married in 1975, have taken part in a wide range of ISKCON's activities, especially training new devotees. They live with their three children in the south of England.