“If one can remain brahmacari that is best.”
(Letter to: Mahavisnu — Bombay 31 December, 1975)
Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami: …They may be indologists but they cannot make others follow the Indian culture. They can make someone else an armchair speculator, that they can do, but they cannot make someone else live the life of the knowledge that they teach. Because they don’t live it themselves.
Brahmacari means that you receive this knowledge and you must live it. Otherwise we can know hundreds and thousands of slokas, but it does not make us better brahmacaris unless we live these slokas. But at the same time to do all the nice activities of a brahmacari and not know why, that also will be short lived. Because now the sentiment goes in this way but later the sentiment goes in that way, I mean she was dressed in a very nice sari. Sentiment is like that, sentiment you cannot trust. Mind is controlled by intelligence, intelligence is controlled by consciousness. So just being sentimentally a nice guy is good is pious, but it is not perfect because it is changeable. Just as the mind engrossed in knowledge is changeable, speculation means it is changing and doing different things, also the mind engrossed in sentiment is changeable, because it is again the mind but without knowledge.
So one has to put the two together, that is brahmacari life; one studies and practices. First class brahmacarya means his study is first class and his practice is first class. That makes a first class brahmacari. This is the common point for all first class brahmacaris. But the first class brahmacaris are divided in two groups. They are naistika, which means he will never get married, and upakurvana, which means he is a first class brahmacari who in the future will get married. But to get married, to be a good grihasta, first he has to be a good brahmacari. So, now, what is the difference between these two? It’s a very simple thing because there is no difference in training. The training is exactly the same for both of them. It is not that the one who is going to get married has to train how to match saris and cholis, it has nothing to do with this.
Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami: He must have the same training, the difference is in realization. You study, you practice and you will understand. In the Vedic literature there are three levels of study, there are actually four, but three are commonly known, the fourth is not so commonly known. The first is called sravana. We hear about the Vedic knowledge. That’s the first one. The next is called manana. We contemplate this knowledge and practice it. From practicing it we will get understanding. Nowadays people will call this understanding a realization, but it is not. Realization is something else. Understanding means I intellectually know it and I know how to apply it. Someone does not know how to do something and then they understand it and they call this realization, but this is not realization, it is understanding. So that’s manana. The third stage is nididhyasana. One becomes fixed in that knowledge, which means that what you understand becomes your life, that is your value, you will not do anything in a different way other than this. Understanding means that you know it but you may be living a different lifestyle. Like if you go to any open minded smoker, he knows that smoking is bad for him, he understands it, but he still smokes because he does not have a realization. When he gets a realization he will stop smoking because it has become his value. He does not have a realization and therefore he is still smoking.
So realization is the important thing. The whole point of the Vedic culture is to get that realization. Because with this realization you actually, full heartedly live that lifestyle. You commit yourself to go back home, back to Godhead. Not in a theoretical way but in a definite way. So now a brahmacari is fifty percent already back home to Godhead. This is the simplest, easiest way to follow. One just remains a brahmacari, like Narada Muni, he is a brahmacari. Many sages, risis and munis are brahmacaris. Or, sometimes for the preaching, they can also accept sannyasa. But the position of realization is the same.
Since this is the goal we want, this realization, it is something very valuable. If we can get it today or tomorrow, that is not important. We should obtain it as quickly as possible but if it is not possible today then we should obtain it tomorrow. So if you can get it today, that’s what we want, if you can obtain it tomorrow, that’s what we want. Of the two, the easiest is today of course, but if it’s not possible then tomorrow.
This is the meaning of the grihasta asram. The grihasta asram is for someone who has this knowledge, this practice, this understanding, but he does not have the realization. And therefore instead of learning just by hearing one has to learn by seeing. Therefore Prabhupada says that brahmacari is first class and grhasta is second class. It is not that the soul is second class, but just that the process that is used is second class, simply because you have to see it rather than hear it. It does not mean that the devotee is second class, it means that of these two processes the seeing is inferior to hearing. The best thing is if you hear it and get the realization by practice. But if you are unable to do so then the grihasta asram is there to ensure you get it. The point is that we want realization, that’s all. So because of our previous activities, previous karma, we can get the realization by the brahmacari asram, or if we can’t then we should get it by the grihasta asram, they are both respected because they are human beings. A human being is respected. And those who follow the varnasrama are the real human beings. So this is respectable.
One doesn’t enter into the grihasta asram in ignorance. One enters with full knowledge of the difficulties and the problems that are there, and an awareness of how close one is in their dealings with maya. But it is a risk one should take to get the realization,because outside of it the whole concept of women is attractive. For a brahmacari who wants to get married any girl is a distraction, any situation, any opulence. But when he gets married then he becomes focused. So instead of thinking the whole day about married life he thinks about it only when it is necessary, and the rest of the time he is free to perform sadhana. Just like on ekadashi, if one is not very advanced and he fasts then all he thinks about is food. So in that situation it’s better if he eats and then with a full stomach he can be peaceful and perform his sadhana. But if one is more practiced then he can fast on ekadashi and have more time for sadhana, then it is conducive for his spiritual advancement.
It’s the same idea with the brahmacari and the grihasta asram. We may find that the mind is going off because of dealings from time immemorial . Generally, we are used to looking from the perspective of only one lifetime, 50, 70, 100 years, and we think, this one is a brahmacari, that’s good, this one is a grihasta, well, what to do?But that is not the Brahman platform. This is not the actual thinking of real brahmacaris. The real brahmacari understands that we are talking about unlimited lifetimes, and now, suddenly in this lifetime we are trying to stop the whole process of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. So something that has been going on so long may or may not stop very easily. So what are these 20,30, or 40 years compared to eternity? Nothing. A child may complain, if you tell him we are going outside for 5 min because for him 5 min is eternity. But for a mature adult 5 min. is nothing. So in the same way 20 or 30 years, or however long is one’s term, is not that long and therefore it’s not looked down upon. The point is that if one can avoid it one does, but if one can’t then it does not matter because at the end of it one is going to see each and every point Bhagavatam and sastra make. One is going to see it right in the front of one’s eyes, right in his life..
The whole point is that the men have an idea that the women are going to make them happy. Right? They are soft spoken, very gentle in their dealings, you know, fine in their movements, whatever they do is soft and fine and gentle. And men tend to be cut and dry, so there is very nice balance. Right? Mn need women, women need men. So this is the difference – a brahmacari is not a man and is not a woman. Someone who can realize that can remain a brahmacari, but someone who feels he is a man, well, then a man needs woman.
Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami: Does that make sense?So, OK… (Chuckling) So this is the thing, and then we think this woman will make us happy. Right? So from a distance they look really good. They are able to keep up the act really well. They are always doing nicely, always behaving nicely, everything. But the closer you get the more you find out what a woman is. A woman is simply a man who thought women were nice.
Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami: (laughing) Right? And then they take birth as women. But they still have all the desires to control and to get all the things they want. Men – things for them come easily, this is their field, a man is there, he just collects things. And he things: “The emotion will make me happy. I have things, but the emotion will make me happy.” A woman moves in the realm of emotion and she thinks: “Things will make me happy”. So who has things? Men. So you link yourself up with a man and get all the stuff you want. So this is the problem.
In the grihasta asram you see that what sastra says is exactly what is there. There is not even one point that has been missed out. In other words you realize that; it is not that “my wife is special”. They can hold out for a certain amount of time, and keep you in this illusion, but eventually they have the tendency, especially the more stuff they get and more confident they get, they let down their guard and let you see more than you should see.
Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami: Right? But that’s the thing, if they follow the Vedic culture, the Vedic culture makes it so that the men and women aren’t together that much so you don’t see that much. If you put man and woman always together you see what they are really quickly. If you keep them separately, different rooms, etc., then when they are together that mystic is there. But if they are always together that mystic goes away very quickly. But because we are so conditioned to it one can think, well, then the modern lifestyle is better because it blows away the mystic really fast, but the difficulty is that we don’t necessarily learn in three years. So when the thing with a girl blows out in 3 years because you follow a modern lifestyle, it lasts 2-3 years, but then this is not enough time and then we have a tendency to think that well this girl was a little rough, but this girl is very sweet and gentle and this and that. So the Vedic culture is that whatever the man foolishly thinks the women are, those things that are going to make him happy, if they follow the Vedic culture that’s what he sees of a woman. A nice, gentle, wonderful, submissive, you can go on and on and on glorifying all the great qualities, he sees that and then at the end of the day he sees – still I am not happy, still I am not satisfied. The depth of emotion women can go is not very deep. Let’s say we have one kilo of emotion. Let’s say now and again you manifest this one kilo. So how much do you have? One kilo. Let’s say you have one kilo but you manifest always only 10 gr. So how much you have? 10 gr. This is the point. What man is looking for in terms of emotions is one kilo, women can only offer 10 gr.
It looks like they are the emotional species but the depth of the emotion is very, very shallow. You scratch it and underneath, you don’t want to know what it is underneath. You can talk to the grihastas, or if you have very honest women they can tell you also, rare, but we see Urvasi, she lets the cat out of the bag…
Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami: You know, Pingala, Pingala also. In different sastras different women say what their nature is. That’s the whole point – when you are dealing on the intellectual platform they are sitting on the emotional platform, and when you go to the emotional platform men go deeper than that and they are still sitting up here. So after many, many years the man puts 2+2 together and he finally gets 4. Before that he though it is 3 or 6 or 5, but finally he understands that they are two different species that have absolutely nothing to do with each other.
Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami: (chuckling) Like that. This is the goal of the whole grihasta asram – to come to this realization and then there is no looking back. So if you are convinced by hearing that’s the best, you are saving the time and the trouble. Otherwise the grihasta asram shows you direct, firsthand experience. Especially if you come from those nice Indian families, where you don’t just see your own wife but you also see your mothers in law, your sisters in law, your daughters in law, your this in law, your that in law, everybody else like this, five million different, and you see they are all the same. So therefore you can fully understand with confidence that “Yes, this is nonsense, this is maya!”
But we have to be very, very careful here because you have two things – attachment and repulsion and Krsna consciousness is something else. Brahmacari is neither attraction nor repulsion. Because repulsion is just that something went wrong so it does not work now but if you could make it work then you are interested. Of course, in the beginning the repulsion is a very good impetus. For example when the kids are yelling and screaming you thing that’s bad but if they were not yelling and screaming then you think, well, it is not so bad! That’s why it is good for the beginning but it cannot be the foundation for your whole brahmacari life. It cannot be that “Oh I read about all these things, it is so bad”. That’s for the beginning. We are on the intelligent platform and we see this is useless, but we have to go from this platform to the platform of Krsna consciousness, to the platform of actually having a taste for the holy name.
Because the soul must have a taste. You can get it on three platforms. First is the spiritual platform, it is called vaikuntha rasa. Or you can get it on the material emotional platform which is called svargia rasa. That means nice relationships in the family, in other words that means the five rasas but on the material platform through varnasrama. And the lowest is the parthiva rasa – the senses meet the sense objects. So the modern culture is based on parthiva rasa, the Vedic culture is based on svargia rasa, and the devotional culture is based on vaikuntha rasa. Daivi varnasrama means to take these lower rasas and to engage them in vaikuntha rasa. So a grihasta after getting this realization he moves to vanaprastha and sannyasa, but now he does this with realization. And they have gone through this and now they can speak from realization, so it is very good for the preaching. But in order to do this we should have proper brahmacari training.
In other words everybody tries for naistika. And in due course of time it will become clear if he can make it or not. As Radhanatha Maharaja pointed out if someone decides to get married it is not a fall down, as long as it is done with knowledge. If they just go out and engage in sense gratification then it is a fall down, a fall down from devotional service. But to go from brahmacari to grihasta asram is not a fall down because this is a mature way to deal with one’s emotional needs.
So the grihastas respect the brahmacaris because they study, they are absorbed in sadhana, their practices are good and they have a good character. At the same time the brahmacaris respect the grihastas because they also practice nicely and because they are already on the next stage. For a upakurvana brahmacari the grihasta is the next stage. So they are more advanced than the upakurvana brahmacari. A naistika brahmacari already has the realization the upakurvana brahmacari and the grihasta try to get. So that means he will be respected by both of them. But still socially speaking the grihastas are like the parents and the brahmacaris are like the children. The grihastas take care of the needs of the brahmacaris. They arrange everything so that the brahmacaris are protected and they can study and preach. They are free just to study and preach. So we should be grateful to the grihastas for doing this. And in the grihasta asram everything goes nicely and there we get the next generation of brahmacaris. So everybody respect one another because everybody knows what the position of everyone else is in the progression of going back home, back to Godhead.
The problem is that when we are looking from a mundane platform then we see that this position is better than that position, man is better than woman, brahmacari is better than grihasta, but from the transcendental position whatever is good for your going back to Godhead, that is required and that is good. So for one person the grihasta asram is the best and for another person the brahmacari asram is the best.
So here we discussed the grihasta asram. I hope nobody minded. By understanding the nature of the grihasta asram one will either understand what is there, and be prepared or he will decide firmly that he does not want to go there. If it is not explained then it looks attractive, they are independent, they do what they want, they go wherever they want…that is what it is professed as. But it’s not exactly like that. The brahmacaris, you have to live where you are told to live, you do the activities you are told to do, only go to places where you are allowed to go, but as a grihasta I can make my own plan.
That is OK if a grihasta is a one person show. But the problem is grihasta means they are married to a wife. So now instead of the Temple president telling you where you will live, what you will dress, where you can go, now a woman is going to tell you. Like that. And minimum it costs you double as much.
Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami: So now if you want to go from here to Mayapur you will have to get two tickets, not one. And not only that, they will not want to get second unreserved; it’s got to be reserved. And they smoke and make noise, so it’s got to be air conditioned. Right? Therefore we say minimum as double. That’s on a good day. So when one has knowledge one can see – this is not what I want. It is not what my mind thinks it is. Therefore – brahmacari. Or one can say – “Oh, so that’s what it is, I can deal with it, no problem, I can handle it”, then this person will be a very good grihasta. But there is no illusion. Vedic culture does not give space for illusion. Therefore in the scripture the strong and weak points of man, woman and the grihasta asram are made very clear and obvious.
Just as a side point, the reason why in the sastra it is said more about the bad side, not about the good side, is our tendency to have our own illusion about some things. Like for example we see it is very easy for someone to take up a bad habit but it is very difficult to take up a good habit. So we see that the bad habit therefore needs to be explained more. Therefore in Bhagavatam we have one chapter that describes the glory of women, the glory of the grihasta asram, like that. So that is the fact, it is not wrong. For someone in that position these sections are good for them. It’s because of us being in illusion that there are so many other chapters in Bhagavatam which describe the disadvantages, because when you are in illusion you don’t notice this things, they are going on but you don’t notice them. They have to be very strongly pointed out so that one will be aware that they are there. So we should be very careful not to use these things against each other – brahmacaris against grihastas, men against women, etc. Haribol.
(Adapted from lecture given by HH Bhakti Vidya Purna Maharaja. Slightly edited)