“As for detachment from children, wife and home, it is not meant that one should have no feeling for these. They are natural objects of affection, but when they are not favorable to spiritual progress, then one should not be attached to them. The best process for making the home pleasant is Krishna consciousness. If one is in full Krishna consciousness, he can make his home very happy because this process of Krishna consciousness is very easy.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 13.8-12 Purport)
Shri Krishna created the system of varnashrama. This is dharma, or religiosity. Dharma also means duty. Varnashrama is the more detailed definition to the modern day term of Hinduism. The idea is that every person should advance spiritually. That advancement can reach maturity in an instant. The indication is pure consciousness of God. Impure consciousness is knowing that He exists but then forgetting Him most of the time. It is knowing that He is there and then simply asking Him for things; like shopping at an online retail outlet.
Becoming purely God conscious quickly is rare. Just as it takes twelve years to finish primary schooling, to ascend to the highest levels of an existence may take many lifetimes. No matter where you are along the path, progress should continue. All souls are equal in constitutional makeup, but in the material world there are different kinds of coverings. These are known as bodies.
cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ
tasya kartāram api māṁ
viddhy akartāram avyayam
“According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me. And, although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.13)
If you have the body that is suited for service, then offer it to others. If your qualities lean towards conducting business, doing farming, and protecting animals, follow that path. If you are a born leader, courageous and ready to take on the bad guys in society, go for it. If you are a wise person interested in studying the difference between matter and spirit, the purpose to an existence, and following righteous principles, accept that path.
Along with the four varnas, or occupations, there are the four spiritual institutions. These are like phases of life. The second phase is marriage. Since it is known as an ashrama, even marriage is meant for spiritual purification. Think about it. Being married to someone is supposed to have the same result as living in a monastery. The experience is supposed to be no different than approaching an enlightened sage in his hermitage situated in the cold and remote mountains.
Marriage is the grihastha-ashrama. Husband and wife work together to advance in consciousness of God. It is the only ashrama in which a person works for a living. The married person is the only one who has money. The student, the retired family man and the wandering ascetic live off others. In this respect married people play a valuable role in society. They support everyone else.
To the extent that a marriage doesn’t work, the cause is always a difference in goals. Imagine this situation. You meet the girl of your dreams. You want to marry her; spend the rest of your life with her. The dream becomes a reality. Then a few years later you run into trouble. She wants to live in a different place, one that is better for her career. You want to stay where you are, close to your friends and family. You don’t share the same dream. Obviously, a conflict is present.
Material sense gratification is known as kama. In any relationship, if each person is only looking to satisfy kama, then there will be issues. This is because kama can never be satisfied. Each person also has their own way of trying to satisfy it. This is bound to lead to clashes.
The husband and wife in the grihastha-ashrama share the same dream. They want to be conscious of God. They want to keep making advancement. They want to serve without motivation and without interruption. Of course this is the ideal life in marriage. The ideal doesn’t always meet the practical.
Yet the standard is set by the Vedas, which are rooted in Shri Krishna. He gives us marriage. There is no other purpose to it than spiritual advancement. Marriage of any other kind is in kama. Kama leads the individual to trouble, while dharma brings them closer to their original consciousness, which is Krishna consciousness. Each individual has so much to offer, so much potential after taking birth. They can reach that potential through following dharma.
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)
Devotion to Krishna is so strong that it supersedes any other dharma. A person may be a student, an ascetic, married, a warrior, or a businessman and still find the shelter of the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord. Whether they were previously living by righteous principles or were deep under the sway of illusion, they can still achieve perfection in this very lifetime. The goal is to get closer to God the person, and in this age the easiest way is the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The husband and wife who share the same objective of love and devotion to Krishna can benefit each other tremendously.
Marriage of love and care,
Best when the same dream to share.
Grihastha-ashrama to be like the rest,
Advance to God, from consciousness be blessed.
When each other’s interests not diverging,
Then towards Hari’s feet converging.
Delivered all today through holy name,
Mattering future, not from where they came.