“My dear beautiful wife, what you have said is befitting the occasion and also indicative of the greatness of your family heritage. You are dearer to Me than My life, for you are My companion in the performance of religious duties.” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 10.21)Download this episode (right click and save)
This vacation is not typical. Rather than travel to a theme park, where there are so many sights to visit every day, restaurants to sit in, and a fancy hotel room to enjoy sleep, you decided to go up north. You are near the mountains. These aren’t any old mountains. There are caves everywhere. There is a famous river.
Most important are the people living in this area. They are renounced. They have intentionally decided to make this place their home. They plan to stay here until they die. Most of them were not born in the area. They gave up everything to move here. They are renounced ascetics, belonging to different stages of life, such as sannyasa and vanaprastha. These are recommended in Vedic culture, which goes so far back in history that there is no known date of inception.
The ascetics are supposed to be wise men. This vacation is a kind of spiritual tourism. You are after higher knowledge, something that goes beyond the basic pleasures of life. Success has come, but you still want more. You see the same desire in others, but they are not sure what to do.
These men can help you; at least you think. They have decided to live alone, away from wife and family. You have heard many teachings along the same lines, that celibacy is important for success in spiritual life. Isolation helps, too. Living in a sacred place, tirtha, such as the one you are visiting.
In listening to one of these wise men speak, you hear something interesting. They are not advising everyone to abandon home to live in the caves of the mountains. They even say that a good wife is considered a great blessing. There are incidents from the scriptures attesting to this fact. From the Ramayana and Shrimad Bhagavatam, there are examples of great blessings that come to a man who is fortunate enough to receive a devoted and chaste wife.
1. Prays for your safety
Shri Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead appearing on earth in an incarnation form. He is the main character of the Sanskrit epic called the Ramayana. The work is named after Him as well. Rama is the crown prince, the heir apparent to the throne in Ayodhya. His wife is Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka of Videha.
Yes, the Supreme Lord has a wife. He can have an unlimited number of spouses. The companions don’t necessarily have to be joined to Him in formality. With Shri Krishna, there are over sixteen thousand wives, but there are many informal partners as well. Marriage is known as the grihastha-ashrama, which is the second stage of life for the cultured human being. Marriage is in dharma, which is duty or righteousness. Any other kind of amorous relationship is in kama, which is material desire. Still, even for the Supreme Lord there is never any kama. His companions are always the topmost devotees.
“May Indra protect you on the East, may Yama protect you on the South and Varuna on the West and Kuvera on the North.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 16.24)
One time news came that Rama was to be named the new king. He was summoned to the main palace. Prior to embarking, Sita said a few prayers. She asked the guardians of the different directions to protect her husband. There is the one God, and there are many deputies, who are like Cabinet officers in the executive branch of the federal government. Rama doesn’t need such protection, but His wife loves Him so much that she prays regardless. A chaste wife thus can bring protection for her husband.
2. Prays for your success
Rama didn’t ascend the throne at that time. In fact, there was a tragic reversal. He was kicked out of the kingdom for fourteen years. Not a nagging wife who wanted to bother her husband the entire time, Sita insisted on accompanying Rama. She did not want Him to suffer alone. Rama was ordered to traverse the forest, to live like a recluse.
During their travels, Sita prayed for her husband’s success. She essentially made deals with sacred trees and rivers. She told them that if her husband came out successful because of their blessings, she would offer them worship afterwards. A good wife prays for the success of her husband in following dharma, which is the righteous path for every human being.
3. Keeps you on the righteous path
There is prayer and then there is instruction. The duties of the husband are clearly laid out. Protect the wife. Make sure no harm comes her way. The wife is supposed to offer support. Typically, she does not instruct. Sita was very shy, and so she felt bad giving any advice to Rama.
Still, one time she worried that her husband was vulnerable to veering off the righteous path. This was while residing in the forest. Rama was of the kshatriya order. By the very definition of the word, the kshatriya is supposed to protect others from injury. Sita was worried that by carrying His weapons with Him all the time, Rama would be prone to acting aggressively without cause; thus violating dharma.
After kindly voicing her concerns, Rama replied that the sages in the forest were the ones being harassed by the man-eating ogres from Lanka. Rama was there to offer protection. For that He needed to carry His bow and arrows with Him.
Still, Rama was very pleased by Sita’s concern. He told her that only a person who loves offers words of advice in that way. He also said that she was a sadharma-charini, or partner in His observance of religious duties. If the wife is chaste and supportive, she shares in the meritorious credits, or sukriti, earned by her husband. She follows him in the afterlife.
4. Gives the needed push
Having a close relationship with any human being is difficult. Desires are not identical. Preferences change. It is easy to grow resentful of the other person. Add to the mix the natural differences between the two sexes, and you have the potential for constant arguing and bickering in a marriage.
But this doesn’t mean that all arguing is bad. Sometimes the husband needs the extra push to go in the right direction. We have the example from the Bhagavatam of Sudama Vipra. He was a childhood friend of Shri Krishna. In adulthood he was very poor, as the brahmanas tend to not have much. Their austere lifestyle helps them concentrate on the Supreme Spirit and spiritual life in general.
Krishna was living as the king of Dvaraka at the time, and Sudama’s wife wanted some relief from their life in poverty. She pestered her husband to go and visit Krishna. Sudama was hesitant, but because of the wife he left for the visit. He brought some chipped rice with him as an offering, but then was too embarrassed to show it.
Krishna was so happy to get a visit from His old friend. As the Supersoul residing within the heart, Krishna knows everything. He found the chipped rice and ate some of it. He declared it to be the best food He ever tasted. Krishna’s wife Rukmini Devi was also pleased. Upon returning home, Sudama saw that his meager home had been transformed into a palace. At the insistence of his wife, at the urging from his close companion, Sudama was able to please Rukmini and Krishna. His wife became happy as well.
5. Strength to do amazing things
It is said that the wife is the better half. So many things in material life are accomplished for the sake of a woman. A man exercises and eats healthy in order to keep an attractive body. They buy an expensive car and fancy clothes in order to look good.
This is simply the way of the world, and it can be a major benefit in spiritual life. In the Ramayana, Shri Rama defends Sita against fourteen thousand attacking Rakshasas. He has a bridge built to Lanka made of floating rocks. He defeats the evil Ravana to rescue her. In the Bhagavatam we see Krishna defeating a powerful foe in order to rescue sixteen thousand kidnapped princesses.
While attachment to sex life is kama, and thus the most detrimental to progress in spiritual life, a chaste and devoted wife can provide tremendous strength and support. Through their blessings, the path to the spiritual world can be made easier. In this dark age of Kali, the best activity to be performed by man, woman, and child alike is the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Any strength and support offered to maintain a routine of this chanting is a great blessing.
Celibacy for success in spiritual life,
How then blessing to have a wife?
For your safety and success praying,
Wise words at right time saying.
On righteous path keeping,
Share in afterlife reaping.
Examples like Sita to Rama there,
Success from their love and care.