Dearest Prahladananda das and Vraja Kumari dasi.
Please accept my blessings. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I see myself as a “scripted devotee” someone who puts pen to paper to organize his thoughts. And so it is that I read an offering to you on this auspicious day of your marriage. Having a written parchment will afford you the opportunity to revisit this day of mirth and joy, and remember whatever humble advice I can offer to you about how to make your journey together on the path of Krsna consciousness both materially and spiritually rewarding.
I say “materially rewarding” because the basic needs of life, which everyone seems to struggle to obtain, are easier to achieve when husband and wife cooperate together.
Mother Teresa once said:
“I can do things you cannot. And you can do things I cannot. But together we can do great things.”
What great things can a househoulder couple in Krsna consciousness achieve? One significant achievement is that by working together they can simplify their lives and find time for the most essential things in life: chanting Hare Krsna, reading Srimad Bhagavatam, associating with devotees and sharing their good fortune with others.
Srila Prabhupada writes in a purport in the fourth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam:
“Another feature of the devotee is nirihaya, simple living. Niriha means “gentle,” “meek” or “simple.” A devotee should not live very gorgeously and imitate a materialistic person. Plain living and high thinking are recommended for a devotee. He should accept only so much as he needs to keep the material body fit for the execution of devotional service.” [ SB 4.22.24 purport ]
You, Vraja Kumari, were born into an affluent family in which your parents have set a wonderful example by sacrificing most their wealth for the propagation of Krsna consciousness. Embracing that example, you yourself showed the utmost detachment and compassion by donating your entire first year’s salary to my festival tour in Poland. It was a significant donation and it was only by your generosity that we were able to function that year. You could have used any amount of that money for yourself to buy clothes, jewellery or even a car, but despite your access to wealth you always remain simple at heart—even austere in some ways.
Yesterday evening when I met your husband to be, Sriman Prahladananda das, I mentioned how much I appreciated your frugal nature and how it would surely continue in household life even though he, a capable and responsible individual, could provide whatever you needed. He nodded, appreciating your endearing qualities, but then smiled and said, “But look at the engagement ring I bought her!”
Glancing at your hand I noticed the beautiful ring, which you showed to me, blushing a little bit. Your shy demeanour only convinced me more that you and your husband will live well, but simply, using all your energy in the service of guru and Gauranga. Thus, your household life will surely also be spiritually rewarding.
Now for some practical advice. To ensure that those spiritual rewards manifest, remember a cardinal rule in household life: never be so busy that you don’t have time to sit together as a family, chant your rounds, read and peacefully take prasadam. Together those simple activities are the very essence of our spiritual progress; this is true for individuals, couples and the society of devotees as a whole.
Challenges will come: none of us are perfect (at least at this stage) and sometimes there will be disagreements between husband and wife. But those differences can be tolerated and overcome when the relationship between husband and wife is rooted in service to their spiritual masters and Krsna. Such a genuine, deeply spiritually and satisfying relationship can never be broken. Srila Prabhupada used to give the example that although many powerful rivers flow into the ocean, the ocean is never disturbed because of its greatness. Your greatness as a couple is the depth of your love for the vaisnavas, your spiritual preceptors and Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
That kind of love is unknown to most people in this world because it is a pure, selfless love. It pervades all relationships in Krsna consciousness: the relationship between disciple and their spiritual master, between parents and children, between friends and between husband and wife. Selfless love is the fundamental theme of Krsna consciousness and is most perfectly demonstrated by the cowherd girls of Vrindavan.
In closing I would like to share, once again, my favorite wedding story; I repeat it again and again at each vivaha-yajna I attend! It reveals the secret for success in holy matrimony and serves as a good example for both of you.
A few years ago, on a flight from New York to Los Angeles where I was to attend another devotee marriage, 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 want to get to Los Angeles to celebrate our seventy-fifth wedding anniversary!”
She screamed back at him, “Georgie, I love you too! It will be fun! It’s always fun with you!”
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 66 years old!” 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, Prahlad and Vraja Kumari, 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.
I wish you a prosperous marriage full 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 masters 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!
As you come together in sacred marriage on this most auspicious day, I pray that this old parchment—new actually, but steeped in the knowledge of our ancients—will be of some use to you, both today and in the years to come.
Your ever well-wisher,