Three Ways Your Family Might React To Your Choosing Bhakti

[Narasimha]“Indignant and angry, his reddish eyes like molten copper, Hiranyakashipu said to his servants: O demons, take this boy away from me! He deserves to be killed. Kill him as soon as possible!” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.34)

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वध्यताम् आश्व् अयं वध्यो
निःसारयत नैरृताः

vadhyatām āśv ayaṁ vadhyo
niḥsārayata nairṛtāḥ

It seems like a rather innocent decision. Not that you are aiming at perfection at the outset. The finish line is way in the distance, perhaps not even attainable. This is your analysis at present, anyway. Nevertheless, you accept the promise from Shri Krishna that a little effort along the path goes a long way.

नेहाभिक्रम-नाशो ऽस्ति
प्रत्यवायो न विद्यते
स्व्-अल्पम् अप्य् अस्य धर्मस्य
त्रायते महतो भयात्

nehābhikrama-nāśo ‘sti
pratyavāyo na vidyate
sv-alpam apy asya dharmasya
trāyate mahato bhayāt

“In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.40)

Prior to making this turn, for a while little questions here and there were starting to prop up. You were no longer accepting everything blindly, following along just because everyone else was in the same mindset. You knew that life had to have something more. There must be a purpose for being put on this earth. It can’t be to simply enjoy the senses, as the animals already fall into that category.

They have no choice, but the human beings are rational. They can use that enhanced thinking ability to make excuses for procrastinating from the real objective, but you would rather not wait any longer. As Goswami Tulsidas says, correct the many mistakes from the past, including prior births, today, right now.

बिगरी जनम अनेक की सुधरै अबहीं आजु |
होहि राम को नाम जपु तुलसी तजि कुसमाजु ||

bigarī janama aneka kī sudharai abahīṃ āju |
hohi rāma ko nāma japu tulasī taji kusamāju ||

“The many past births you spoiled can be rectified right now, today, if you start chanting Shri Rama’s holy name and renounce bad association, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 22)

The issue is that most people don’t live in isolation. If they implement drastic changes to lifestyle, such as giving up meat and alcohol consumption, always chanting a specific mantra and so forth, others are sure to notice. The close family members can react in different ways.

1. “That’s cool”

In this case they are accepting. They may not understand what you are doing. The many previous generations in the family ate meat. They never considered a vegetarian diet. They were not concerned with killing innocent animals. Every new generation simply followed tradition. There was no challenge.

The family accepts your decision, but they think it is more or less a phase. You will eventually grow out of it. After all, it is not affecting them. Maybe one or two friends will take an interest down the road, but for now you are left alone.

2. Worried

In this case the family members have grave concerns. At a young age, you should be interested in advancing materially. Getting a better job. Perhaps further education to earn more prestige which translates to a higher salary. Marriage. Children.

The last thing that should be on your mind is life and death. Why give up so quickly? Renunciation is for the end of life. Right now is the time to enjoy. They try to talk you out of it.

“Try religion at a later point in life. I am religious, too, you know, but you don’t see me doing anything crazy. There has to be a balance to things. You go to the extreme today and tomorrow you will regret the time missed experiencing what is out there.”

3. Order violence

[Sita-Rama]You can handle either of the two previous cases. It’s understandable for friends and family members to be worried. Shri Rama describes that a person only offers such instruction when there is love and affection in the relationship.

मम स्नेहाच्च सौहार्दादिदमुक्तंत्वयाऽनघे
परितुष्टोऽस्म्यहं सीते न ह्यनिष्टोऽनुशिष्यते

mama snehācca sauhārdādidamuktaṃtvayā’naghe
parituṣṭo’smyahaṃ sīte na hyaniṣṭo’nuśiṣyate

“Certainly all these words were spoken by you due to your kind-heartedness and affection for Me. I am very pleased with you, O Sita, for indeed one does not offer instructions and advice to another without caring for them.” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 10.20)

What if the opposition went to the extreme? Forget trying to change your mind, they wanted your life ended, and immediately at that. Prahlada Maharaja faced that very danger. Hiranyakashipu tried to show affection in the beginning. Tears streamed from his eyes when he one time saw the five-year old son offering obeisance. This was after the relationship had turned rocky.

Prahlada insisted on the science of self-realization. He did not keep the preference to himself. When asked about the most important subjects taught in school, Prahlada replied with devotion to Vishnu. He explained that the real self-interest of the individual is to go towards the personal side of God. Material life, otherwise, is an embarrassing situation.

The father was the greatest materialist, so he did not like being insulted. More offensive was the praise of Vishnu, who was considered an enemy to the kingdom. Hiranyakashipu could no longer tolerate. The supposedly innocent choice of devotion to a higher being was considered a crime.

[Narasimha]There is always this danger. The material world is not very conducive to spiritual life, but fortunately in this age the connection in yoga can be created and maintained through the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Prahlada stayed with that name, and the unbroken meditation saved him. The devotion thrived, whereas Hiranyakashipu and his attacks did not survive for long.

In Closing:

In fixed meditation strong,

So attacks not lasting long.

Since eventually time to heal,

And wrath of Narasimha to feel.

This way when choice making,

That impetus for devotion taking.

Others not always to accept,

But Lord’s shelter can expect.

Categories: the story of prahlada, the three

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