Lectures Transcribed

Women and Faithfulness

Transcription of a lecture given in Sri dham Mayapur on February 7th 2012.

SB 4.23.22-23

vidhaya krtyam hradini-jalapluta
dattvodakam bhartur udara-karmanah
natva divi-sthams tridasams trih paritya
vivesa vahnim dhyayati bhartr-padau

TRANSLATION: After this, the Queen executed the necessary funerary functions
and offered oblations of water. After bathing in the river, she offered
obeisances to various demigods situated in the sky in the different
planetary systems. She then circumambulated the fire and, while thinking of
the lotus feet of her husband, entered its flames.

PURPORT: The entrance of a chaste wife into the flames of the pyre of her
dead husband is known as saha-gamana, which means “dying with the husband.”
This system of saha-gamana had been practiced in Vedic civilization from
time immemorial. Even after the British period in India this practice was
rigidly observed, but soon it degraded to the point that even when the wife
was not strong enough to enter the fire of her dead husband, the relatives
would force her to enter. Thus this practice had to be stopped, but even
today there are still some solitary cases where a wife will voluntarily
enter the fire and die with her husband. Even after 1940  we personally knew
of a chaste wife who died in this way. [End of Srila Prabhupada’s purport to
SB 4.23.22]

HH Bhakti Caitanya Swami: So this is queen Arci on the departure of her most
exalted husband, saktyaves-avatara husband, Maharaja Prthu. Actually the
next verse i just noticed doesn’t have a purport but let me just read it.
TRANSLATION: After observing this brave act performed by the chaste wife
Arci, the wife of the great King Prthu, many thousands of the wives of the
demigods, along with their husbands, offered prayers to the Queen, for they
were very much satisfied. [SB 4.23.23]

HH Bhakti Caitanya Swami: So certainly a very brave act Some years ago,
maybe fifteen years ago or so or twenty years even we met one gentleman on a
train here in India travelling from Jaipur to Delhi and I still remember
quiet vividly he was a older man – business type person and we were talking
about things and somehow this subject came up and he very noticeably, very
proudly told me that his mother was a sati. This is another term which is
used. Here in the purport Srila Prabhupada uses the term saha-gamana – dying
with the husband or literally going with him, saha-gamana – going with him.
So this gentleman made a point of telling us that his mother was a sati. It
is a very brave act. Certainly some of us here, perhaps some of the ladies
having heard the verse and purport this idea may have occurred to you, “What
about me?” It maybe a little amusing in one sense but it is not really. It
is a very serious thing. Such a serious thing! This brave act of the chaste
wife.

Then the wives of the demigods – and there were so many watching, thirty
three million or so. This means basically all the demigods are watching
because this is Maharaja Prthu who has just departed. He is not any sort of
ordinary person, not just any sort of big king but he is an incarnation of
the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So they are all watching. And then his
very exalted wife Arci enters the fire – saha-gamana – going with him. So
they didn’t offer prayers for her. They offered prayers to her because this
is something very extraordinary.

In Vedic culture, in Krishna conscious culture there are different
expectations of different people in different situations in life – male,
female varnas, asramas. There are different expectations or different duties
which are highly beneficial. They are highly beneficial. If one does those
duties nicely one goes back to Godhead. In this case here Arci – the idea of
saha-gamana – to go with him. And for grhasta ladies according to the Vedic
culture and as Srila Prabhupada says clearly in the purport this is really a
standard type of thing. Now of course it is Kali-yuga.

It is one thing if your husband is Maharaja Prthu or someone like Maharaja
Prthu. It is another thing being in Kali-yuga and the husband may just be
some relatively ordinary type of person or devotee facing his struggles in
trying to be a devotee and make some progress. And the wife has her own
problems. This is Kali-yuga. And to find that husband who is so inspiring
and just commands so much respect and commands in a very natural way so much
dedication and love – genuine affection and that genuine type of dedication
and very deep faithfulness. Well in Kali-yuga those husbands are rare – at
least it appears. Such husbands are rare and such wives like Arci or your
typical Krishna conscious Vedic wife – dharm-patni, such personalities are
also rare.

Therefore as Srila Prabhupada also says in the purport to find ladies who
can do it. Not just – I remember in the Abhaya Charan DVD series there was
such an incident portrayed. Somebody’s husband died. They wanted to throw
the wife in the fire. She didn’t want to go and someone came and saved her
life I think. I forget the details. [Member of the audience says it was
Bhaktivinode Thakura.] Was it Bhaktivinode Thakura?

So yes Srila Prabhupada elsewhere looks into this subject a little more
deeply perhaps or a slightly different perspective. Srila Prabhupada says
that for the faithful, chaste, Krishna conscious Vedic wife who has the
faithful and dedicated and highly qualified Krishna conscious Vedic husband,
for her to lose the association of such a husband in her later years, in old
age – to lose that association Srila Prabhupada says that for her to
continue on living would be worse than dying. The separation for such a lady
from such a husband would be worse than dying.

Actually there is a short story by Srila Visvanatha Cakravati Thakura of
krsna-lila and it is you could say light hearted but in it is the snake of
Lord Siva comes to bite and kill Radharani, the daughter in law of Jatila.
And Abhimanyu is Radharani’s husband and the son of Jatila. Then snake who
is actually Krishna talking through the door to Jatila tells her this that,
“I want to cause you pain therefore I am going to kill your daughter in law
inside.” And the Jatila says, “Well you want to cause me pain why don’t you
just bite me and kill me?” And the snake says, “No, no, no! If I kill them
you will suffer much more for the rest of your life – another twenty or
thirty years or whatever. You will suffer much more than if I bite you right
now and if you just die. It will be just a matter of a few minutes or so. I
want to cause you pain because you have been blaspheming Krishna who is the
Lord of my Lord, Siva. So therefore to cause you the maximum pain i am going
to kill your daughter in law and your son.”

In this type of context of course as we said that is presented in a somewhat
light hearted context, but this is very serious context – for a quality
lady, dharm-patni to lose after many years of constant close association, to
lose the company of her highly qualified husband, dharm-pati, it would be
worse than death. So it would not be some sort of torture or some sort of
show of strength or character or something like that. It would just be a
relief for her to enter the funeral pyre and saha-gamana – to go with him.
The idea at least in so many cases is be born together in the next lifetimes
and be married again, together again and like that.

I remember quite some number of years ago we went on parikrama to a place in
Vraja Mandala called Uchagaon, the place of Lalita-devi and we met one young
girl there. She was like early teens at the most – cowherd girl and somehow
or the other she invited us to her house. So we went to her house. Her
mother was there and her mother gave us some chaas, buttermilk. So we sat
and had our buttermilk and then the mother told us, pointed to her daughter
and told us in sort of Hindi-Vrajbhasya, “She is a very good girl. She will
be a sati.” And this girl looked at her mother shocked. “Speak for yourself
if you want to!”

In this Kali-yuga what can we say! It is Kai-yuga and just to demand these
things or just to expect these things – well the times they have changed!
But it is a fact in general or at least in the Vedic context for women –
like we said there are different duties, expectations and different
standards for different people in Vedic society in terms of varnasrama, it
terms of male, female and so on. But certainly it is a fact that
traditionally according to Vedic standards for women this particular
qualification of faithfulness and chastity is really highly regarded and it
is a really foundational quality for a lady.

As ksatriyas must be bold and charitable and fearless and brahmanas must be
knowledgable and clean and so on and so forth. So women one of those just
basic features of character which is like a natural and valuable,
practically invaluable ornament of character for ladies is faithfulness. So
therefore traditionally for ladies to be faithful wives to their qualified
husbands and act very faithful and very attentive lovers to their children.
These are very important things.

Nowadays of course as we said it is Kali-yuga as we all know and life is
different. Even in my own childhood my mother never worked and many of the
mothers of my close school friends never worked. Nowadays of course it is
all part of the conspiracy of the wealthy people how to get more money out
of people. The people must have more money. Otherwise how can you get more
money out of them? Therefore everybody must work including the women. Behind
the scenes I would say it is almost a conscious conspiracy actually.
Certainly it is working in that way.

So nowadays – even I remember being present in my mid teens perhaps with my
mother and in some situations she was asked, “What is your occupation?’ And
she said, “Housewife.” She was a relatively educated woman. She had her
Masters degree but she said housewife – straight answer to a straight
question. Nowadays in so many cases the great majority of the ladies are
asked, “What is your occupation and she will say whatever. Some sort of
doctor, lawyer, engineer, business person, administration, something,
something, something. “And are you married?” “Yes.” So that comes second. Of
course men when they are asked, “What do you do?” They don’t say, “I am a
husband and a father.” They give their occupation.

I read something a little while ago – it was not a joke although it sounds a
little like a joke. It was quite serious. Some lady, more traditionally
minded perhaps in America presented some report on the internet. She had to
go to some government department to fill out some forms for some reason. So
the clerk interviewed her, “What is your name?” “Okay.” “What’s your date of
birth?” “Okay.” What is your address?” “Okay.” “What is your occupation?”
Housewife, wife and mother.” And the clerk looked at her in silence. “No. I
mean what do you do?” “I am a wife and a mother.” And the clerk said, “What
I mean is what is your occupation? What is your job?” At that point she got
frustrated and left – the woman who had written this report. But she had to
do whatever it was – fill out those forms.

So she went back later and met some other clerk and same process. “What is
your name?” “Okay.” “What’s your date of birth?” “Okay.” What is your
address?” “Okay.” “What is your occupation?” “Child development
technologist.” [Laughter] “Oh.Okay.” [Laughter.] Well it is Kali-yuga and it
just comes out in so many ways. But that faithfulness of the wife and mother
to not think – of course it depends of the nature of woman, of the person.
It depends on their nature and some may get involved in this or that but
still at least you can say as a type of bottom line if a woman has really
given herself to being a wife and a mother in Krishna consciousness it
doesn’t mean that she is automatically a second class citizen and it is a
just a sort of default position you fall back to if you can’t do anything
better. It is not like that at all.

To actually be a successful wife and mother and look after your husband and
care for him and protect him successfully – that’s valuable. And what to
speak of bringing up the children so that they become real devotees and
young men and women of quality. That is a major contribution to society and
not just like something second class. So it is Kali-yuga. We read in the
ninth canto that Lord Rama was such a husband to Sita. She was just sold out
to Him – just sold out! She just humbly served Him whatever He wanted and
She was such a wife that Lord Rama whatever She wanted, He would do anything
for Her. It wasn’t as they say sometimes that battle of the sexes. The man
feels that he should be the head of the family but the wife has other ideas.
She just sort of badgers him endlessly to get what she wants. These
Kali-yuga techniques! Keep on asking again and again and again ’til the
person snaps and just gives up, “All right you can have it. Just give me a
break.” But Lord Rama would facilitate Sita.

Srila Prabhupada makes the point in one of the purports here that Lord Rama
was such a dedicated husband that even He is the Supreme Personality of
Godhead and when Sita was kidnapped He could have done a number of things.
He is God. He could have stopped it. He could have stopped it! Of course He
could! He could have just wiped out Ravana on the spot by remote control. It
is absolutely no problem whatsoever, and just rescued Sita by remote
control. It is just the least of problems for the Supreme Lord. But actually
Lord Rama went through this long exercise and it was very painful and
millions of people died just to rescue Sita

He did not want to even take over Lanka and become the king or anything or
take all the money. He just wanted Sita. That is as simple as that.
Prabhupada makes that point that to show how faithful a husband He was in
Krishna consciousness or Rama consciousness he went through this whole
endeavour to rescue Her and kill Ravana. He could have just manifested
hundreds or millions of replacement Sitas on the spot. But He didn’t. He
made the effort to rescue Sita. To show when a person is a Krishna conscious
grhasta man and he has a truly faithful Krishna conscious wife that is an
important duty.

So for the ladies in general to be faithful and not become distracted –
being faithful in this context means you don’t get distracted by first of
all other men and then by anything else actually – that even if your husband
is poor you live like that and serve nicely like that. This sort of
faithfulness is a very important quality in ladies.

As we heard earlier today is the appearance day of Srila Narottama Dasa
Thakura He was also extremely faithful in many ways but one particular
incident comes to mind. Narottama Dasa Thakura appeared in Kheturi which I
believe is in current day Bangaldesh. Eventually in his late youth or so he
went to Vrindavan and in Vrindavan he met Srila Jiva Goswami and took
shelter of him. Then he met Srila Lokanath Goswami and was very deeply
struck by the character of Lokanath Goswami and his standards as a devotee
and just who he was as a devotee. So Narottama Dasa Thakura in his heart
made up his mind, “I am going to accept Srila Lokanath Goswami as my
spiritual master.’

Then he approached him. However Lokanath Goswami had taken a vow even in
like a formal sense he had determined, resolved that, “I am not accepting
disciples. End of story! I am simply going to focus on my own Krishna
consciousness.” So Narottama Dasa Thakura approached Srila Lokanath Goswami
and appealed to him, “Please accept me as your disciple and initiate me.”
Lokananth Goswami laughed and refused and just made very little of it –
like, “I am not even going to think about it. I couldn’t even think of it so
just go find someone else.”

However Narottama Dasa Thakura his character was like that. He had made up
his mind. He had already given his heart internally and he was not just
about to go and chose another one. So he resolved that, “Despite this I am
going to live as a disciple in terms of my own lifestyle, my program of what
I do.” So what he did? Lokanath Goswami was living in the area where his
Samadhi and bhajan-kutir is at the Radha-Gokulananda Temple, not far from
the Yamuna on the sort of eastern end of Vrindavan town more or less. So
Lokanath Goswami was living there.

Every day he would get up and go down to the Yamuna, take bath and evacuate
etc. take bath and then come back and continue with his days activities.
Narottama Dasa Thakura would wait somewhere near but secretly watching and
when Lokanath Goswami had gotten up early in the morning and gone down to
the Yamuna, Narottama Dasa Thakura would come out and clean up around the
little sort of asram type place of Lokanath Goswami – make up the bedding
and clean up and so on and then go around another way down by the Yamuna and
when Lokanath Goswami finished all his bathing activities down there and
came back v would then come out of there and clean up down there. He would
clean up the stool etc.

This went on for one year. So after a year or so Lokanath Goswami was really
wondering, “Who is doing this. Everyday this is happening. Let me find out.”
So one day he went off to the Yamuna but then he came back quickly to see
who was doing it and sure enough he saw it was Narottama Dasa Thakura. So
then he came out and stopped him and asked him, “Why are you doing this? You
shouldn’t be doing this.” And Narottama Dasa Thakura just threw himself at
Lokanath Goswami’s feet and begged him that, “I have already accepted you
before as my spiritual master and I am just going to carry on doing this for
the rest of my life whether you accept me or not. So please be merciful and
accept me.”

Lokanath Goswami accepted him. So in that sense Srila Narottama Dasa Thakura
was extremely faithful and he was ready to go on for the rest of his life.
He has written one nice song. He is particularly well known for his songs.
We sing everyday Guruvandanam – sri-guru-carana-padma. We sing every day,
kevala bhakati-sadma, bando mui savadhana mate. Savadhana, you must be
careful, you must be cautious. Watch out! There is no other way to achieve
success in Krishna consciousness without taking shelter of the lotus feet of
the spiritual master. Narottama Dasa Thakura also wrote one other song about
Lokanath Goswami in which he is explaining these things that, “If you are
not merciful to me I actually can’t live.” And he means it. It is not just
some colourful little poetic expression. He actually feels like that.

So we also, this is particularly in one sense for the ladies but in another
sense it applies to all of us. We must all cultivate faithfulness to
Guru-Gauranga, Radha Krishna, Srila Prabhupada, to Iskcon, to the devotees.
We need to do that. That is a truly essential characteristic – feature of
character for all devotees. Of course as we have noted it is Kali-yuga.
Everyone sitting here knows it is not easy. Actually sometimes it is
extremely difficult but still we must do it even though it is Kali-yuga. By
the mercy of Lord Caitanya, by the mercy of the Panca-tattva, by the mercy
of Srila Prabhupada these things are possible.

There is a very nice little incident in Mahabharata, some of you may have
seen it or read of it. Bhima was waiting in the palace outside of one of the
rooms, outside of the main throne room of Maharaja Yudhisthira. Maharaja
Yudhisthira was on the throne. It was the hour of the day when anyone could
come to the king and present anything and the king would deal with it. So
Maharaja Yudhisthira was waiting for people and Bhima was outside in the
next entrance way, in the next room.

One man came and said to Bhima, “I have to see Yudhisthira. I have got a big
problem. I can’t figure it out.” Bhima said, “Oh. What is the problem?” The
man said, “I have got a vegetable garden and for security purposes I built a
wall around it but now the wall is moving – coming in on the vegetable
garden. And the wall is taking the vegetables. I can’t figure it out. How
can a wall do that?” Bhima said, “Shew! I don’t know. Go ask Yudhisthira.”
So the man went in to see Yudhisthira.

Then just like that another man came and said, “Oh big problem! I took some
water out – a bucket of water and I poured the water into five smaller
containers but then for some reason i poured the water back from the five
containers into the bucket. There was less water in the bucket. I poured all
the water into the five containers and all the water out back into the
bucket. There is less water. What is going on?” Bhima said, “Shew! I don’t
know. Go ask Yudhisthira.”

Then another man came and said, “I have got a problem. What a problem! I
have an elephant and we were walking along. We walked through a wall – the
elephant also. There is a hole in the wall. We walked through the wall but
the tail of the elephant got stuck in the hole. [Laughter] I can’t
understand it. What is going on?” Bhima said, “Shew! I don’t know. Go ask
Yudhisthira. He is good with these types of problems.”

Then a fourth man came and said, “You won’t believe what happened. I just
can’t understand it. There was a mountain over there, just a little way away
– a big pile of rocks, these like boulders and rocks all piled up a mountain
and no vegetation, just one little vine – small vine sticking out. I pulled
the vine. The whole mountain collapsed. The whole thing collapsed! Finished!
No mountain left. What is going on?” Bhima said, “Shew! You beat me. I can’t
figure it out. Go ask Yudhisthira.” So that fourth man went.

Bhima was waiting to hear from the men when they came out what solutions v
had given but none of them came out. Then he thought, “I am curious here. I
am going to go in and find out for myself.” So he went in. Yudhisthira was
just sitting there on his own. And Bhima said, “So what happened with those
four men? What did you tell them?” Yudhisthira said, “Four men? What four
men? Nobody came to see me so far. I am just sitting here on my own. Tell me
about these four men.”

So Bhima said, “First man: vegetable garden with wall about it but wall is
moving in and eating the vegetables.” Yudhisthira sat up. He said, “Really?
Tell me more.” “Second man: He had this bucket of water. Poured it into five
cups and poured it back. There was less water.” Yudhisthira sat up even
more, “Really? Tell me more.” “Third: he has go an elephant, went through
the hole in the wall with the elephant. The elephant’s tail got stuck in the
hole.” Yudhisthira sat up even more and said, “Get those men. Find them.
Catch them. Lock them up.”

Bhima was totally bewildered and he said, “What? What is going on here?
Please tell me.” And Yudhisthira said, “They are personifications of
Kali-yuga. But it is not Kali-yuga yet. It is still Dvarpara-yuga. So catch
them. Lock them up. Don’t let them loose now.” So then he explained, “The
man with the encroaching wall represents the leaders, the governments. They
are meant to protect the people from the thieves but they become the biggest
thieves. And then the bucket of water poured into the five cups but then you
get less back. That is like children in Kali-yuga. The parents put so much
effort into them and then when the children grow up they just go their own
ways and they don’t reciprocate and give some proper reciprocation to their
parents. Then the third man – the elephant goes through the hole in the
wall. It has to be a big hole, but his tail gets caught.”  Yudhisthira said,
“In Kali-yuga all the big government people, business people, all these
people are big crooks but because they are so powerful they can get away
with it. And some little man does some little crime, some little fraud or
something, he gets caught and then there is a big story in the news paper,
‘Fraudster is caught'” Then Bhima said, “What about the fourth man who
pulled the creeper?” And Yudhisthira said, “Yes that is very good. He is
showing that in Kali-yuga even though it is a mountain of faults just with
one little thing – just chanting the hare Krishna maha mantra the whole
mountain of fault just collapses.” [Haribol! Applause.]

So Bhima was very satisfied with that. I think on this note we will just
finish. Srila Prabhupada Ki! Jai! [Applause]

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