Dear Jeegnesh and Kaishori Sindhu dasi,
Please accept my blessings. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
As one of the chief guests at your auspicious vivaha yajna—your cherished marriage ceremony today—I have been asked to speak. The other day at the kirtan party held in your honor, I suggested that my esteemed godbrother, Bada Haridas Prabhu, be the main speaker because he and his wife Kosarupa dasi have enjoyed a successful marriage for 36 years. Later in the program, you, Kaishori, turned to me and said, “But Gurudeva, you’ll speak too won’t you?” Seeing your eagerness for guidance on this blessed day I couldn’t refuse, and I said “Yes, of course I will speak, Kaishori.”
And yet rather than speaking with the eloquence and charm of my dear godbrother Bada Haridas, here I am reading a letter. Why is this? Well, one my most cherished possessions is a hand-written letter from my beloved spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada. It is dated August 1971, and in it he encourages me in my newfound faith in Krsna consciousness. In the same letter he gives numerous valuable instructions which have been the bedrock of my spiritual practice for the past 46 years. I would have been most grateful had he spoken such words of wisdom to me, but that I had them enshrined in a letter was the best gift I could have ever imagined. It means I have been able to revisit those instructions again and again. On this joyful day, my gift to you is this letter, which I hope you will cherish as I do mine.
Today you are entering the grhastra asrama. “Asrama” literally means “the place of the spiritual master.” So from this day forth you will serve your spiritual master in the sanctity of your home. By cultivating the nine processes of devotional service your home will essentially become a temple, as Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur describes:
ye dina grihe, bhajana dekhi
grhete goloka bhaya
“One day while performing devotional practices, I saw my house transformed into Goloka Vrindavana.” [ Saranagati 31.6 ]
In such a transcendental atmosphere, you will easily cultivate Krsna consciousness and awaken your love for the divine couple, Sri Sri Radha Krsna. That is essentially the purpose of marriage. But such a lofty goal is not easily achieved. The Lord Himself admits this in Bhagavad Gita wherein He famously says:
daivi hy esa guna mayi
mama maya duratyaya
mam eva ye pradadyante
mayam etam taranti te
“This divine energy of mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto me can easily cross beyond it.” [BG 7.14]
Because the challenge of overcoming the material energy and awakening our dormant Krsna consciousness is so great, we need all the help we can get. Therefore we have marriage where a man and woman come together for the purpose of helping each other achieve that exalted goal. There is a saying: “Many hands make light work.”
Yes, romance is there in Krsna conscious marriages. Srila Prabhupada once said, “In this world every man desires a woman and every woman desires a man.” Thus in devotee marriages both the husband and wife must express their love and appreciation for each other in a variety of ways. At the same time they must always keep at the forefront their desire to achieve the highest love: love of God. By doing so their love for each other becomes divine as well, for two things equal to one thing are equal to each other. By awakening their love for Krsna, a husband and wife’s love for each other matures into a spiritual relationship that goes very deep and can never be broken.
In Vedic culture there was never divorce. This was not because it was forbidden by a law set in stone, but because the deep spiritual attachment that formed between husband and wife over many years of serving the Lord together could not be shaken.
Not that there aren’t sometimes differences or even quarrels
between husband and wife in Krsna conscious marriages. There are! Until we become pure devotees, devoid of any and all material desires, until we come to the stage of anartha-nrvritti we will have conflicts in our relationships. But these differences are overcome in marriage because of the love and trust that is established between a couple as a result of their spiritual practices, and the fact that they become best friends through having passed through thick and thin while keeping Krsna at the center of their lives.
“I would not wish any companion in the world but you.”
[William Shakespeare, The Tempest 3.1 60-1 Miranda to Fertinand]
Spiritual practices are the glue that keep Krsna conscious marriages together. Therefore a cardinal rule in devotee marriage is that husband and wife should never become so busy in their individual pursuits that they don’t have time to sit together and chant their rounds, read and peacefully take prasadam together.
If couples can do this, they can tolerate and eventually overcome differences through the purifying effect of sustained spiritual life. Although many powerful rivers flow into an ocean, the ocean is never disturbed because it is so vast and deep. Similarly, your marriage will never be disturbed if you are both deep and devout devotees of the Lord.
One time Mahatma Gandhi had a fight with his wife. There was lots of yelling and screaming and at one point he actually told her to leave home forever and escorted her out the door. But she just sat on the front doorstep. After a while he came out and was surprised to see her sitting there. Still annoyed he said, “I told you to go away!” She looked up and replied, “But Prabhu, I have nowhere else to go. This is my home and you are my everything!” That touched his heart, and he smiled and took her back inside.
rsi sraddhe aja yuddhe
prabhate megha garjane
dampatya kalahe caiva
bahvarambhe laghu kriya
“The funeral ceremony of a sage who has died in the forest, a fight between two goats, a thunder clap in the morning, a quarrel between husband and wife, all begin in grand style but the outcome is insignificant.” [ Canakya Pandit, Niti Sastra ]
A devotee’s life is characterized by unshakable faith in the Lord, the spiritual master and the devotees. Because in marriage a husband sees his wife as Krsna’s devotee and a wife sees her husband as Krsna’s property, their faith in each other is strong and no adverse material circumstances can break their relationship.
Loving relationships in Krsna consciousness work on a different principle than mundane love. In material affairs the emphasis is on what “I” can get out of a relationship. In spiritual affairs the emphasis is on how to serve and please my beloved. The best example of spiritual love is the residents of Vrindavan—the gopis in particular—who always put Krsna’s needs and desires before their own. Such bhakti, or devotion, filters down in all Krsna conscious relationships: relationships between friend and friend, father and son, master and servant, lover and lover. If we serve without personal motivation, serve only with the desire to please the Lord and His devotees, that is the formula for success in deep long-lasting Krsna conscious relationships.
If you, Jeegnesh and Kaishori Sindhu, serve and love each other based on this selfless formula the success of your marriage is guaranteed, the success of your relationship with your spiritual master is guaranteed and the success of your relationship with the Supreme Lord in guaranteed.
bhaktya mam abhijanati
yavan yas casmi tattvatah
tato mam tattvato jnatva
visate tad anantaram
“One can understand the Supreme Personality as He is only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of the Supreme Lord by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God.” [BG 18.55]
This we have learned from our spiritual master. But I was also enlightened to this fact in a most unusual way a few years ago on a flight from New York to Los Angeles where I was to attend another devotee marriage. As I boarded the flight, I was contemplating what I might say when asked to speak at the event. Being late for the flight that day I was unfortunately assigned a middle seat between a more desirable window and aisle seat. As I settled in an elderly couple appeared and squeezed in on either side of me: the man took the window seat and his wife took the aisle seat.
As soon as the flight took off the elderly man said very loudly, “Martha, I love you! I can’t wait to get to LA to celebrate our seventy-fifth wedding anniversary!”
She screamed back at him, “Georgie, I love you too! It will be fun, as always!” It was obvious to me that they were both very hard-of-hearing.
“Wow!” I thought to myself. “They’ve been married for 75 years! I can get some tips from them about successful marriage and use it in my talk at the wedding.”
“Excuse me,” I said, turning from side-to-side to get both of their attention.
“What’s that young man?” screamed the old lady. “Speak up!”
“Young man?” I thought. “I’m 65!” But I said aloud, “How old are you, Ma’am?”
“We’re both 96,” she replied.
“We were childhood sweethearts,” chimed in the old man.
“I see,” I said. “Well, I’m going to a wedding on the West Coast and I’d like to ask you for some advice that I can share with the young couple. What would you say is the essential ingredient for a successful marriage?”
They looked at each other for a moment, paused, then smiled and said simultaneously in their equally loud voices:
“Love means to give more than you take.”
I leave you, Jeegnesh and Kaishori Sindhu, with those words of wisdom found both in our ancient scriptures and from the mouths of an old couple in the USA. I have no doubt that many years from now you will share those words of wisdom with your own children and grandchildren, thus ensuring this magical formula for successful marriage is passed down through generations to come.
I wish you a prosperous marriage, full of joy and laughter. I pray the good Lord will send you saintly sons and daughters who will carry on the legacy of this great movement. And I wish that by serving the devotees, your spiritual master and the Lord successfully throughout your married life together, you will indeed reach perfection in Krsna consciousness and go back home, back to Godhead in this very lifetime!
And now I hand you this letter, my gift to you on this special day. I pray it is a gift that you will cherish and benefit from throughout the years, just as I cherish and continue to benefit from the letter I received from the hands of my own divine master, Srila Prabhupada.
Your ever well-wisher,