“King Puranjana then began to think of his past dealings with his wife. He recalled that his wife would not take her dinner until he had finished his, that she would not take her bath until he had finished his, and that she was always very much attached to him, so much so that if he would sometimes become angry and chastise her, she would simply remain silent and tolerate his misbehavior.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.28.19)
न मय्य् अनाशिते भुङ्क्ते
नास्नाते स्नाति मत्-परा
मयि रुष्टे सुसन्त्रस्ता
भर्त्सिते यत-वाग् भयात्
na mayy anāśite bhuṅkte
nāsnāte snāti mat-parā
mayi ruṣṭe susantrastā
bhartsite yata-vāg bhayāt
Friend1: Anytime you get into a discussion about marriage, about the proper role for men and women, especially in a relationship, you are sure to ruffle some feathers.
Friend2: Why should women be treated differently than men? Why should the woman have to bear the burden of responsible behavior? The men have license to act like brutes, without any concern for the impact of their words?
Friend1: It is all about the difference in nature. One complementing the other. A union to serve a higher purpose. If you go against these natures, you have chaos.
Friend2: At least that is what saints like His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada teach. The less intelligent will apply labels to these viewpoints. “Traditional.” “Old-fashioned.” “Misogynist.”
Friend1: Whereas the modern way is somehow better. Look at the current situation. There is freedom in every area. Sex life. Eating. Gambling. Intoxication. Is anyone happy?
Friend2: They are more miserable than before. The human birth is meant for tapasya. Some voluntarily imposed austerity for furthering a higher goal.
Friend1: My question today relates to a verse that I came across in the Shrimad Bhagavatam. It is about Puranjana and attachment to his wife.
Friend2: Yes, this is a wonderful allegorical section. King Puranjana is not really a person. He is symbolic of the living entity and the struggle that he goes through in the human birth.
Friend1: Right, and so this particular verse describes how the living entity becomes attached to a chaste wife. There are three distinct features to her behavior. She does not eat before her husband. She does not bathe before him. And if her husband happens to lose his cool, she remains calm. She does nothing to further aggravate him.
Friend2: If you attend “traditional” weddings of the Vedic culture, you will hear similar advice offered to the bride. The priest tells her never to eat before her husband. It is a respect thing. Make him feel like he is the boss. Always support him. That is the formula for happiness, at least in a marriage.
Friend1: Okay, I get that. But remember that Puranjana’s behavior is not ideal. The meaning is that his attachment to the wife, based on her good qualities, is not beneficial.
Friend2: Yes, because if you are too attached to a woman, at the time of death you will think of her instead of Bhagavan. Then you have rebirth and go through the struggle again.
Friend1: Don’t you see the contradiction here?
Friend1: The Vedas advise a husband to behave a certain way. The wife should be tolerant. Yet if both follow the advice, they become attached to one another.
Friend2: That is a keen observation. How do you reconcile?
Friend1: I am asking you.
Friend2: The formula is there for material happiness. The meaning is that though the Vedas may be considered a religion, the advice given helps to advance the material condition, as well. Following the atheistic tendencies brings misery at every step.
Friend1: Alright, but isn’t the lesson that Puranjana should rise above material happiness?
Friend2: It is a warning. It is a case study. Shrimad Bhagavatam is shining the light on areas of possible trouble. “This is what you will go through in life. These are the problems that you might encounter. Watch out for them.“
Friend1: I see. Okay, now what about the opposite situation? Say that my wife does none of those things.
Friend2: What things?
Friend1: She eats before me. She maybe bathes once every few days; certainly not taking into consideration my schedule. She riles me up and makes me angrier than I need to be.
Friend2: Oh, I get it now.
Friend1: Is that a good thing for me?
Friend2: If it helps you stay attached to Bhagavan. You can take it as a great blessing from above. Shri Krishna is helping you to stay free of attachments. He wants you to think of Him. If you want to appreciate a chaste wife, think of Sita Devi, the beloved of Shri Rama. Only God deserves such a spouse, and anyone who follows in Lakshmi’s footsteps embodies her devotional spirit.
Friend1: You are basically saying that I can take positives out of either situation.
Friend2: Absolutely. Always chant the holy names, be mindful of the pitfalls of attachment, and never forget Bhagavan: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Puranjana to wife attached,
Failed at becoming detached.
For liberation’s end,
Instead to rebirth to send.
But Vedas recommending behavior so,
That wife after husband’s way to go.
Idea that for material happiness accounting,
But potential for trouble not discounting.