“Since a son delivers his father from the hell named ‘Put’, a son is called putra; he who protects his ancestors in every way.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 107.12)
पुन्नाम्नो नरकाद् यस्मात् पितरं त्रायते सुतः।
तस्मात् पुत्र इति प्रोक्तः पितॄन् यः पाति सर्वतः।।
punnāmno narakād yasmāt pitaraṃ trāyate sutaḥ।
tasmāt putra iti proktaḥ pitṝn yaḥ pāti sarvataḥ।।
“I know that one of the favorite lines of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was a play on words, and more specifically spelling. He would lament how man in the present age of darkness, symbolized by increased quarrel and hypocrisy, is more interested in dog than God. They would rather submit to their beloved pet, doing everything for them, than give thought to the Almighty, the afterlife, or the nature of the individual, who is actually spirit soul, eternally existing.
न जायते म्रियते वा कदाचिन्
नायं भूत्वा भविता वा न भूयः
अजो नित्यः शाश्वतो ऽयं पुराणो
न हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे
na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ‘yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre
“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)
“I will use that to pivot to the growing trend amongst married adults. They seem to be foregoing having children. Family to them is the two spouses. Even the definition for that is getting stretched beyond the boundaries of sanity and propriety, wherein any sort of amorous relationship qualifies for the standard, lest any objectors be accused of bigotry or hatred.
“You will notice, however, that the childless couples tend to have pets. Usually more than one; a cat or a dog or some combination of the two. They do everything for the pet, as Prabhupada described. If you didn’t know any better, you would think the pet was their child. You could even say it is their ishta-deva, or worshipable deity of choice.
“I was wondering, is there anything inherently wrong in this path? If someone doesn’t want to have children, should they be blamed or castigated? You have to remember that raising a family in the modern day is extremely difficult. You likely don’t have helpers around. It is not like people can afford to hire servants to do the cooking and cleaning. Both parents have to work just to pay the bills, so the idea of increased family responsibility is dreadful.”
When accepting the concept of karma, there is a distinct advantage to having children. It is said that man inherits three debts at the time of birth. One is to the demigods, who are like administrators in the Divine government, responsible for different departments of affairs. The demigods give rain, sunlight, snow, clouds, and so forth.
The second debt is to the rishis. These are the elevated souls who have passed down timeless wisdom. The lead newspaper story published yesterday immediately starts to lose significance. In the future, if a person is researching a specific time period they may go back and read the newspapers, but there is generally no lasting value to the information.
The wisdom passed down by the rishis is evergreen. For instance, Vyasadeva dictated the Mahabharata to Ganesha to write down in the Sanskrit language. Within that lengthy work is Bhagavad-gita, which is a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna. Bhagavad-gita is as relevant today as it was five thousand years ago, spoken on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Within that work is a brief history, wherein we learn that the same wisdom was spoken to the sun-god at the beginning of the creation.
इमं विवस्वते योगं
प्रोक्तवान् अहम् अव्ययम्
विवस्वान् मनवे प्राह
मनुर् इक्ष्वाकवे ’ब्रवीत्
imaṁ vivasvate yogaṁ
proktavān aham avyayam
vivasvān manave prāha
manur ikṣvākave ’bravīt
“The Blessed Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku.” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.1)
The third debt is to the forefathers. We did not intentionally choose the family in which we took birth, but there was work that took place prior to our arrival. Whether we prefer the conditions or not, at least we grew up alive and vibrant. The forefathers deserve credit in that regard, for laying the groundwork.
With each debt there is a corresponding method of payment. We resolve the debt to the demigods by conducting yajna, which is religious sacrifice. We honor the rishis by reading their works, by consulting their voluminous knowledgebase and implementing the principles contained therein.
The debt to the forefathers is paid through begetting a son. In fact, the Sanskrit word for a male child has added significance; the sounds are not accidentally placed together. Putra is the word for “son”, and the root meaning is a person who rescues their ancestors from hell. Put is a certain kind of hellish region, and one who delivers their ancestors from that condition in the afterlife is known as putra. Shri Rama explains this to Bharata in a discussion found in the Ramayana.
The dog or cat cannot provide the same protection. They are not able to assimilate higher teachings, and neither can they conduct a specific ritual for the purpose of rescuing forefathers. The putra can conduct a shraddha ceremony to directly feed any ancestors who may have fallen into the hellish regions due to sinful life.
When taking the discussion outside of the realm of karma, no single situation or circumstance automatically disqualifies a person from the highest achievement. Whether they are married, unmarried, with children, childless, or with pets, they can worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead directly and achieve liberation.
As confirmed by Narasimhadeva, direct devotion is so powerful that it will automatically liberate many generations prior within the same family. This is what occurred with Prahlada Maharaja, who as a five-year old child of an antagonistic and atheistic father had little resources available to conduct formal worship. Even the meditation he tried was thwarted with physical attacks, but he persevered nonetheless.
If in future hell to see,
Putra can rescue me.
By shraddha observing,
Fed even if not deserving.
Not capable for dog to do,
At death ending relationship too.
But if in worship pleased is He,
Then automatically debts to free.