Our temple president is a second generation devotee who grew up here and is 28 years old. He has made a solid commitment to develop this project further, and his youthful spirit attracts a lot of young people. He is always open for new ideas, is very approachable and takes part in so many activities - even the little kids' ratha yatra which we had yesterday! So it's been a real pleasure for me to become a part of this wonderful spiritual family...
Family life within spiritual practice is given a very different significance than in a lifestyle with a material orientation. A mundane approach sets romance and sense gratification as the main purpose and expectation of the man/woman relationship, whereas in Krishna consciousness we aim at our purification by means of performing our family duties within devotional life, which will qualify us to return home, back to Godhead.
Our mundane conditioning is very strong, deep and subtle; when we come to Krishna consciousness we may easily think: 'I don't want to have sense gratification and romance in my life, since it is a disturbance and obstacle on the path of pure devotional service.' And thus we may reject the idea of getting married, thinking it to be simply maya. We miss the point that marriage in devotional life brings along a very different orientation and purpose: It is an ashrama - an arrangement dedicated to self-realization.
The fact that we are still falling short in establishing family life as an ashrama where the holy name and the Srimad-Bhagavatam are the very centre of life, adds to the misconception that family life is maya. We don't see many good and inspiring examples around us, and instead so many disappointing, unsatisfactory or even frightening cases of miserable life with disastrous complications. Not surprising, that the grihastha-ashrama has received a bad image in many devotees' minds.
We can apply the nice analogy given by Srila Prabhupada in the connection of the man/woman attraction being like a thorn in our foot. It is a painful situation, causing trouble and misery and entangling us in material existence. If we are expert, we can take another thorn and use it skilfully in order to remove the first thorn. And after the successful operation we throw out both thorns. The second thorn is the grihastha-ashrama - a highly recommended path to become free from the man/woman attraction. However, if we are not competent, then we end up with two thorns in our foot! This indeed seems to frequently take place - because of lack of training and education how to use the thorn in an expert way.
Many times, devotees make the statement "I don't want to get married" - an attitude which reflects a rather mundane approach. In material life, the criterion for making decisions is "what do I want"? "Is such a proposal pleasing to my mind and senses? Do I like it"? Such contemplation takes place on the level of the mind, which is a very unreliable and flickering foundation for making important decisions. Today, our mind may like a certain idea, and tomorrow it may reject it. A materialist takes instructions from the uncontrolled mind and is doomed to become its slave.
Contemplating the idea of getting married with a spiritual mind-set, the question is not, "do I want to get married", but rather, "is it helpful for my purification and spiritual advancement to enter married life? Is it necessary for me to get married"? This approach reflects an entirely different consciousness: We leave ourselves open and are ready to accept whatever is advisable for our purification. Whatever Krishna and His devotees advise! It reflects a mood of submission, whereas the mundane approach reflects a mood of knowing better what is good for me.
In spiritual life, the matter of concern is not what I like, but rather what is recommended by our gurus, sadhus and the shastra.
In a lecture to the Srimad-Bhagavatam (6.1.23), in Honolulu, 1976, Srila Prabhupada therefore commands:
"So our request is, don't be hypocrite. There are four ashramas: brahmachari, grihastha, vanaprastha, sannyasa. Whichever ashrama is suitable for you, you accept. But sincere. Don't be hypocrite. If you think that you want sex, all right, you marry and remain like a gentleman. Don't be hypocrite. This is Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's movement. He did not like hypocrisy. Nobody likes."
From this we can understand that it is very conducive to our spiritual advancement to be firmly situated in one of these ashramas. Srila Prabhupada's words don't leave any room for being unmarried, but at the same time not a brahmachari.
The question therefore should not be "do I want to get married", but rather "in which ashrama am I well situated"?
Your servant, Devaki dd