In the Bhagavad-Gita, Srila Prabhupada tells us that marriage is a sacrifice that should not be given up. “There are many purificatory processes for advancement of human society to spiritual life. The marriage ceremony, for example, is one of these sacrifices. The Lord says that any sacrifice, which is meant for human welfare, should never be given up. The marriage ceremony is meant to regulate the human mind to become peaceful for spiritual advancement” (purport, Bhagavad-Gita 18:5). The spiritual inheritance that was left to us by Srila Prabhupada includes having a wholesome, healthy, Krishna conscious life.
What characterizes a wholesome, healthy Krishna conscious life? The 12 principles and values mentioned above constitute a strong, spiritually and materially enlivening marriage and family life. Too many devotees still do not understand that the Grihastha ashrama is a bonafide ashrama, a place of spiritual growth, a step up from the brahmachari ashrama in the varnashrama system. Our Vaishnava tradition is full of examples of advanced Grihasthas.
We should make shoring up marriages and families a priority in ISKCON!
Leaders in our movement should insist that their disciples follow Srila Prabhupada’s instructions and get premarital counseling. For those who are already married, insist that they take marriage enrichment workshops and classes. Brahmanas and ministers should agree to perform marriages only if the couples get strong premarital education. Those who are trained, experienced and committed to following principles and chanting regular japa, should provide this premarital education.
Every Vaishnava community should contract to have the Strengthening the Bonds That Free Us Course taught in their community. Or, at the very least, have regular workshops that teach Healthy Relationship skills, qualities needed for healthy, enduring marriages, the value of commitment and realistic expectations about what marriage is and what it can and cannot do. Men should be taught to look at protecting Krishna’s daughters as a great and highly significant service.
Divorces should be discouraged and frowned upon unless there is serious physical or emotional abuse.
Let’s reflect upon the mood of our founder acharya. Whenever there was a lack of something necessary, Srila Prabhupada prioritized the missing thing. For example, he focused on brahminical development because brahmanas (the heads) were the most absent in our society. He acted in many emergency ways to address this absence. Because the marriage and family situation is in emergency or crisis mode, we should make shoring up marriages and families a priority in ISKCON!
There should be many more Krishna conscious, cultural and family activities for men, women and children including movies, games, sports, (skating, swimming, wrestling).
Intelligent thinkers in our movement should come up with ways to employ our youth so that they do not have to continually seek their livelihood in gross materialistic environments. We should engage the wonderfully expert talents of many Hare Krishna youth in management, marketing, art, business and community development.
A culture of caring is the essence of Grihastha life. We need to develop strategies to create places for devotee seniors to be cared for with love and respect.
Every devotee should support the efforts of the Grihastha Vision Team and other initiatives focused on strengthening and supporting healthy marriage and family life, with their time, money and creativity. GVT members spend a lot of time, money and energy in developing and implementing initiatives for the benefit of the entire ISKCON community. We see the work of the Grihastha Vision Team and similar Vaishnava groups as a substantial part of the 50% Srila Prabhupada left for us to do (“50% I have done and 50% you must do” –Srila Prabhupada)
Children raised in healthy wholesome families make healthy, wholesome brahmacharis and brahmacharinis, healthy, wholesome grihasthas and healthy, wholesome sannyasis! Grihasthas are enjoined to support all of the other three ashramas. Shouldn’t we prioritize this ashrama? Shouldn’t we make it strong and relevant to the mission of Srila Prabhupada?
Think about it. If we get the foundation or the seed right, we will get the whole system right. Srila Prabhupada gave us the tools and the blessings, it is up to us to appreciate and use them.