“Where Rama is, there is not fear, nor failure. That mighty-armed son of Dashratha is heroic. Let us, while he is yet ahead within a short distance of us, follow Raghava. Even the shadow of the feet of our master, so high-souled, would bring us happiness. He is the lord of all these, he is the refuge, he is the accomplishment of our religious duties. We and you, will serve Sita and Raghava." (Women of Ayodhya speaking to their husbands, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand Sec 48)
The Sanskrit word for husband is pati, which means lord or master. The husband is the master and the wife serves him. The husband in turn is required to provide complete protection to the wife, ensuring her happiness and security. This is the collective dharma of husband and wife and it is conducive to a happy marriage, and an equally happier destination in the afterlife.
People might take offense to these guidelines. “Women are just supposed to be slaves to the husbands? How is that fair? What if the husband is a reprobate?” On the contrary, the wife is to be anything but a slave to the husband. We generally equate the idea of serving someone with butlers and maids; people who work for us by cooking, cleaning, and attending to our every need. This is not the type of relationship suggested for a husband and wife.
The wife is considered the better half. In the spiritual world, Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the energetic, while His eternal consorts, Radha, Lakshmi, etc. are considered His energy, hladini-shakti. This relationship is reflected in the material world in the form of the husband and wife. The husband is the energetic, and the wife’s duty is to sustain his energy by keeping him in check. This is a role that women naturally assume, for wives usually don’t hesitate to correct their husbands when they see them behaving improperly. To properly serve a husband actually means to make sure he is adhering to religious principles. Human life is not meant to be wasted on mundane sense gratification like cats and dogs do. We have a higher level of intelligence, so we should use it to cultivate God consciousness. Married life is referred to as the grihastha ashrama, so it is recognized as a religious institution. It was put in place by God so as to allow men and women to cohabitate peacefully, leaving time for tapasya and yajna. The best type of yajna is the chanting of the holy name of the Lord, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Constantly reciting this mantra, along with performing other aspects of devotional service, allows couples to make tremendous spiritual progress.
We sometimes see that men can fall down from the righteous path. They may take to intoxication or gambling, or maybe the pressures of work and family life can get the better of them. In these cases, it is the duty of the wife to serve her husband by getting him back on track. In fact, the highest service a person can provide to anyone else, be they a man or a woman, is to get them to become Krishna conscious. That is the point of human life, for one who thinks of God at the time of death is assured residence in God’s spiritual planetary system, where once going, one never returns. One who can arouse feelings of spiritual bliss in others is a true saint. Wives who keep their husbands dedicated to serving Krishna are truly serving their husbands.
This was the type of behavior exhibited by the women living in Ayodhya many thousands of years ago during the time of Lord Rama. Krishna comes to earth from time to time when there is a decline in adherence to dharma. As Lord Rama, He played the role of a pious prince, completely dedicated to the welfare of His dependents. Voluntarily accepting banishment from His kingdom, Lord Rama set off to live in the forest for fourteen years accompanied by His wife Sita Devi and His younger brother Lakshmana. The citizens of Ayodhya were greatly saddened by this event, for they loved Rama and were looking forward to Him being the new king. They were so frightened at the thought of being separated from Him that they decided to follow Him to the forest. In the above referenced statement, the women of Ayodhya are openly declaring their love for Rama. They want to follow Rama to the forest, and they are trying to encourage their husbands to come with them. In essence they are saying, “We perform all these religious rituals in hopes of attaining great spiritual rewards. Well, Lord Rama is that reward, and He is right in front of us. He is the object of our worship. It is our duty, as husband and wife, to follow Him and to constantly serve Him and His wife Sita.”
The Vedas are the original religion passed down from God Himself. Since every living person has different levels of intelligence and understanding, not everyone takes to the highest form of religion, bhakti yoga, at the beginning. For this reason, there are different divisions of the Vedas, with many sub-religions. The idea is that every person, whether they be situated in the mode of goodness, passion, or ignorance, should have a dharma which they can adhere to, which will allow them to make spiritual progress. On a strict material level, there are many samskaras and rituals prescribed for married couples to go through. These are just steps that allow one to hopefully one day come to the platform of pure love of Godhead. These women of Ayodhya had already reached that platform. With intelligence greater than that of any meditational or philosophical yogi, these women urged their husbands to follow the path of the highest dharma, bhagavata-dharma.
Lord Rama is one who gives pleasure to all. The name Krishna means “all-attractive”. We need only look to God for our happiness. A husband and wife who dedicate their life to His service will always be happy. In the end, the citizens of Ayodhya were unable to follow Rama and they had to wait fourteen years for His return. Nevertheless, these women of Ayodhya performed the highest service to their husbands by instructing them on the real meaning of religion. Thus, their adherence to dharma was perfect.