Friday, May 7, 2010

Matchmaker

Radha Krishna “Those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form-to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.22)

In Vedic culture, much is made about the need to get a daughter married off to a suitable boy when she reaches an appropriate age. It is the duty of every father to provide full and complete protection to his daughter. This protection doesn’t just include providing for food, clothing, and shelter. The protection extends throughout the girl’s lifetime. Though the daughter only lives with the father in her youth, it remains his duty to ensure that the girl is protected in married life. On the flip side of this equation, the duties of the father of an unmarried boy aren’t discussed in the same level of detail. Nevertheless, we can always find the answers to any of life’s questions by seeking out Lord Krishna, or God. If an unmarried boy is devoted to Krishna, he will surely be blessed with a suitable wife should he choose to get married.

Marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati In the Vedic system, marriage is an optional institution. The point of human life is to know and love God, and this is achieved through progressing through the four ashramas of life: brahmacharya, grihastha, vanaprastha, and sannyasa. Married householder life, grihastha, is the second ashrama in this progression. However, if a student is advanced and doesn’t want to get married, he can remain a brahmachari for life. It is considered a great benefit to avoid marriage since sex life is considered the greatest hindrance to the cultivation of spiritual knowledge. Still, most brahmacharis do end up getting married. In these instances, it is the duty of the father of the boy to find a suitable girl. In the Vedic system, the qualities of both the boy and girl are matched up by expert brahmanas. At the time of a person’s birth, the exact alignment of the stars gives an insight into the child’s character, demeanor, and even their future activities. The famous Savitri, daughter of Ashvapati, had the rare option of choosing her own husband. The boy she chose, Satyavana, was a perfect match as far as qualities were concerned; however, he was destined to die within a year of their marriage. This was known to the great Narada Muni, an expert brahmana in his own right.

So there are many factors that go into marriage arrangements. Families also do some digging into the potential spouse’s family background. The family lineages are compared, for it is considered a bad thing for the boy and girl to both belong to the same gotra. Even with all this due diligence, there is no guarantee that the marriage will be a successful one. The only way to guarantee success in life is to become Krishna conscious. If a person is a devotee, they can rest assured knowing that things will work out for them in the end.

Prahlada - a devotee born in a demon family Since every living entity in the material world has a body consisting of varying combinations of the three modes of material nature (goodness, passion, and ignorance), it is difficult to accurately tag anyone as undoubtedly belonging to a certain group. Nevertheless, on the highest abstract level, every person can be classified as either an asura or a sura. Asuras are non-devotees, or uncivilized people. Basically anyone who is not a devotee of God can be considered an asura. This is the strict definition, but generally speaking, the term asura is applied to atheists, or those who are enemies of the devotees. The suras are the opposite of asuras. They are devotees, engaging all of their time and effort in bhakti yoga, or devotional service. Suras can be human beings or even demigods. Since every living entity is qualitatively the same as God, sometimes people mistakenly think that God and human beings are equal. We are certainly equal in quality to God, but in quantity we are different. God is great, and we can never be as great as Him. He is known as Ishvara, the Supreme Controller, and we represent one His energies. Though we are part of His superior energy, we are still subject to the control of the laws of nature. We can only become liberated from the entanglement of material life through practice of devotional service.

Loving service to God is also known as bhagavata-dharma. Lord Krishna is Bhagavan, meaning one who possesses all fortunes. Those who serve Him can thus become bhagavata, meaning one who is connected with God. By perfectly executing devotional service, we can become god-like. That is another definition of a sura, a person who is like God. Lord Krishna has an eternal body full of bliss and knowledge. Pure devotees similarly possess bliss and knowledge at all times. This is due to their perfect knowledge of the Supreme Absolute Truth, Lord Shri Krishna.

A devotee automatically inherits all good qualities without striving for them. These qualities come in handy in any and all situations, including marriages. By default, Lord Krishna is neutral to every living entity.

“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.29)

Lord Krishna This rule makes sense. This beautiful creation acts as a field for the fruitive activities of those who want to imitate God. In this pursuit, the Lord gladly steps aside and allows nature to take its course. Yet He makes an exception for the devotees. The bhaktas have decided they want nothing to do with this material world, for they have no desire for fruitive activity, or karma. Due to their sincere desire to engage in spiritual activity, the Lord takes it upon Himself to ensure success for the devotee. This means that if a boy wants to get married, the Lord will provide the perfect wife. The wife may not be perfect in regards to amorous life, but perfect in the fact that she will enable the husband to make progress in devotional service. Evidence of this can be seen by reviewing the lives of two very famous Vaishnava saints.

A great poet and devotee of Lord Rama appeared in India some four hundred years ago. This poet was Goswami Tulsidas and he is best known for writing the Ramacharitamanasa and the Hanuman Chalisa. Yet these great works may never have been written were it not for the help of his wife, Ratnavali. Tulsidas was married at a very young age, which is quite customary in the Vedic tradition. Being a pure devotee, he was naturally very kind-hearted. This led to him forming a deep attachment to his wife. He was so smitten with his wife that he refused to allow her to go visit her parents’ home. One day however, Ratnavali snuck off to visit her family without telling Tulsidas. The saint couldn’t bear the separation so he travelled through a torrential downpour in the middle of the night until he finally reached her parents’ home. Ratnavali couldn’t believe the extraordinary steps he took to see her. Instead of praising him, she chastised him. She scolded him for not having the same devotion to Lord Rama. This turned out to be the seminal moment in Tulsidas’ life. He immediately took to the renounced order of life, sannyasa, and then began writing poems about Lord Rama.

Shrila Prabhupada Probably the most famous devotee of Lord Krishna in the past five hundred years or so is His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Shrila Prabhupada founded the modern day Hare Krishna movement and wrote over fifty books, almost all of which were authored after the swami had reached the age of seventy. Yet the world may never have been blessed with his wonderful teachings were it not for his wife. Prabhupada was also married at a very young age, and though his wife was faithful and devoted, he was not very fond of her. Unhappy in marriage, it was Prabhupada’s father who urged him to take it as a blessing. His father told him that he was very fortunate to not be too attached to his wife. Many years later, when Prabhupada was grappling with the idea of taking sannyasa, it was his wife’s actions that finally gave the swami the impetus to take to the renounced order of life. Prabhupada took sannyasa, and the rest was history.

On the surface, it appears that both Prabhupada and Tulsidas received the short end of the stick when it came to marriage. But in actuality, they were extremely blessed by God. The ways of the Lord are a mystery to everyone. What may seem like a curse can actually turn out to be blessing. This doesn’t mean that God will always give us wives of the contemptuous nature. Many people are blessed to be married to pure devotees who actually perform devotional service alongside the husband. The exact predicaments will vary from person to person, but there is one commonality in all instances. If a person is a pure devotee, God will always give them exactly what they need to be successful in their devotion.

Sita and Rama Just as devotees are matched up with suitable wives, God Himself is always paired with the perfect woman, the goddess of fortune. Krishna is the energetic, and His energy manifests in the form of the goddess of fortune. This energy is referred to as hladini-shakti. Just as Krishna can take many different forms, His pleasure-giving energy also manifests in various forms such as Shrimati Radharani, Sita Devi, Lakshmiji, etc. The goddess of fortune herself appeared in human form as Sita Devi many thousands of years ago in Mithila. Raised as the favorite daughter of King Janaka, Sita’s marriage ceremony was a svayamvara, where kings came and competed for her hand.

“As Rama drew the bow back fully, the force He applied caused the bow to break in half. The sound that resulted was as fierce and frightening as that of a falling thunderbolt. Thereafter, my father, who was truthful to his promise, taking a jar of pure water and lifting it up, prepared to give me away to Rama.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.49-50)

It was decided that whoever would lift and string the illustrious bow of Lord Shiva would win Sita Devi as a wife. Many princes and kings from the around world came to give it a shot, but only Lord Rama, God Himself, succeeded. Just as God is never separated from His devotees, the goddess of fortune is never separated from the Lord. When God appears on earth to enact pastimes, His close associates usually come with Him. Lord Rama was destined to be married to Sita. The actual lifting and breaking of the bow were mere formalities.

Sita declaring Rama the winner All of life’s problems can be solved by seeking out Krishna or His bona fide representative, the spiritual master. This may seem like an overly simplistic truth, but it is completely valid. All the day-to-day problems of life are ancillary. The root of all our problems is our forgotten relationship with the Supreme Lord. If we act to rekindle the spiritual spark inside us, the rest of our problems will slowly disappear. Whatever the devotees need, God will provide. We simply have to love Krishna, have an eagerness to hear about Him, and have an affinity for His name, form, and pastimes.