Friday, July 17, 2009

Our Only Support System

5519_12 “Neither the father, mother, son, friends, nor her own self is the stay of a woman in this nor in the afterlife; it is the husband alone that is her only support.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 27)

In Vedic culture, it is very important for a father to marry off his daughter when she reaches the appropriate age. This statement by Sita Devi explains the reason behind this. More important than anything else, a woman’s path to spiritual salvation depends on a good husband.

Over the past one hundred years, throughout the world, society at large has changed. Through democracy and liberation movements in America and abroad, men and women have been given independence, feeling more liberated than ever before. Not only changes in government, but advancements in technology have significantly changed our way of life. In days past, most people were engaged in agriculture, and even cow protection in India. Today’s employment landscape is quite different.

"Farm employment peaked between 1840 and 1870. In 1900, 40 percent of American workers were employed in farming; today, it's less than two percent. Technological advances made that possible." (Walter Williams, Foreign Trade Angst)

Going into the workplace and drawing a salary gives people a feeling of self-worth and independence. However, is it really independence? Instead of staying at home and living off the food produced on one’s own land, we now are dependent on our bosses, the business managers. Businessmen are by definition interested in one thing, that of earning a profit. We like to think that people start a business so that they can provide good paying jobs to others, but that is a secondary concern. A person doesn’t undertake all the risks involved in starting up a business unless they are seeking a substantial return on their investment. Our family, on the other hand, has only our interests at heart. With the wife taking care of the house and the children, and the husband in charge of economic development, both parties are pleased, which leads to happy family life. This sort of family has been replaced with one where husband and wife constantly argue and quarrel since they have their own career interests.

According to Vedic philosophy, a woman is never to be given independence. In her youth, she is protected by her father. As an adult, the husband provides for the wife, and in old age, the eldest son is charge of her protection. Many people misconstrue this to mean that women are treated as servants. In actuality, this system was passed down by God for our benefit. The purpose of human life is to know and understand God. The animal species lack the intelligence to even enquire about God. They spend all their time involved in activities of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. Since they are completely unaware of dharma, they are incapable of committing sin. The first instruction of the Vedanta-sutras is athatho brahma-jijnasa meaning “now is the time to enquire about Brahman”. Brahman is God, the Supreme Absolute Truth. If we simply engross ourselves in animalistic activities, then we aren’t making proper use of this human form of life.

Working is a necessary evil since the body requires maintenance in order to stay fit in its service to God. The idea is that we should only work to provide the bare necessities of life. It is not that men are supposed to have fun advancing in a career while the wife is left to suffer at home. A marriage is a partnership, with both parties working together for a common interest. A husband and wife share in their religious merits. If a husband is pious and devoted to Krishna, then the wife will follow Him back to Godhead after this life. A father, mother, or even son can definitely prove beneficial to a woman, but they alone are not capable of delivering her to the spiritual world. However, if a woman has a husband who is a pure devotee of Krishna, even if she isn’t perfectly pious herself, then she will share in the spiritual rewards bestowed on the husband. Thus it is in the interest of parents to find the most suitable husbands for their daughters.

Sita Devi was the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, the husband of Narayana, who is God Himself. It is because of this that one of Krishna’s names is Madhava, meaning the husband of the goddess of fortune. When Lord Rama was exiled to the forest, he tried very hard to dissuade His wife Sita from following Him. She adamantly disagreed with Him and the above quote was part of her plea to Him. Having been instructed on Vedic tenets during her childhood by her father and mother, Sita had a perfect understanding of the rules of propriety. Lord Rama set forth very logical arguments in favor of His position that she remain in the kingdom, but Sita’s counter-arguments were even stronger. Devotees aren’t afraid to argue with the Lord if it means that He will be happier in the end. She knew that the Lord would be pleased by having her accompany Him, so for this reason she wasn’t hesitant in arguing with her husband.

Though she was talking generally about husband and wives, the actual lesson she was giving us is that women should accept Krishna, or God as their husband. Krishna is capable of supporting thousands and thousands of wives, as He did during His time on earth some five thousand years ago, so it is in the best interest of all women to accept Him as their husband, at least in their minds. If we all depend on Krishna, then He will support us in any and all situations in this life and the next.