3: Family Illusion
Prahlada Maharaja told his friends, “You have to begin Krsna consciousness immediately.” All the boys were born of atheistic, materialistic families, but fortunately they had the association of Prahlada, who was a great devotee of the Lord from his birth. Whenever he found an opportunity, when the teacher was out of the classroom, he used to say, “My dear friends, let’s chant Hare Krsna; this is the time to begin Krsna consciousness.”
Now, as we have stated, some boy might have said, “But we are just boys. Let us play. We are not going to die immediately. Let us have some enjoyment, and later we shall begin Krsna consciousness.” People do not know that Krsna consciousness is the highest enjoyment. They think that the boys and girls who have joined this Krsna consciousness movement are foolish. “By Prabhupada’s influence they have joined Krsna consciousness and left everything enjoyable.” But actually this is not so. They are all intelligent, educated boys and girls, coming from very respectable families; they are not fools. In our Society they are actually enjoying life; otherwise they would not have sacrificed their valuable time for this movement.
Actually there is joyful life in Krsna consciousness, but people do not know of it. They say, “What use is this Krsna consciousness?” When one grows up entangled in the sense gratification process, it is very difficult to get out of it. Therefore, according to Vedic regulations, in student life, beginning from five years of age, boys are taught about spiritual life. That is called brahmacarya. A brahmacari dedicates his life to attaining supreme consciousness—Krsna consciousness or Brahman consciousness.
Brahmacarya has many rules and regulations. For example, however rich one’s father may be, the brahmacari surrenders himself to be trained under the guidance of a spiritual master and works in the ashram of the spiritual master just like a menial servant. How is this possible? We are getting actual experience that very nice boys coming from very respectable families do not hesitate to do any kind of work here. They are washing dishes, cleansing floors—everything. One student’s mother was astonished at her boy when he visited home. Before, he would not even go to the store, and now he is engaged twenty-four hours a day. Unless one feels pleasure, how is it possible that he can engage himself in such a process as Krsna consciousness? This is due only to the chanting of Hare Krsna. This is our single asset—the Hare Krsna mantra. One can be very jolly simply by Krsna consciousness. Actually, it is a joyful life. But unless one is trained, one cannot live it.
Prahlada Maharaja says that everyone is attached to family affection. If one is attached to family affairs, he cannot control his senses. Naturally, everyone wants to love someone. Society, friendship, and love are needed. They are demands of the spirit soul, but they are being pervertedly reflected. I have seen that many ladies and gentlemen in your country have no family life, but they have placed their love in cats and dogs. Because they want to love someone but do not see anyone suitable, they place their valuable love in cats and dogs. Our concern is to transfer this love—which has to be placed somewhere—to Krsna. This is Krsna consciousness. If you transfer your love to Krsna, that is perfection. But now, because people are being frustrated and cheated, they do not know where to place their love, and at last they place their love in cats and dogs.
Everyone is entangled by material love. It is very difficult to develop spiritual life when one is advanced in material love, because this bondage of love is very strong. Therefore Prahlada proposes that one should learn Krsna consciousness from childhood. When a child is five or six years old—as soon as his consciousness is developed—he should be sent to school to be trained, and Prahlada Maharaja says that his education should be Krsna conscious from the very beginning. The period from five to fifteen years is a very valuable time; you can train any child in Krsna consciousness, and he will become perfect.
If a child is not trained in Krsna consciousness and instead becomes advanced in materialism, it is difficult for him to develop spiritual life. What is materialism? Materialism means that all of us in this material world, although we are spirit souls, somehow or other want to enjoy this material world. The spirit of enjoyment is present in its pure form in the spiritual world, in relation to Krsna, but we have come here to partake of contaminated enjoyment, just as a man on the Bowery thinks he can enjoy by drinking some liquor. The basic principle of material enjoyment is sex. Therefore, you will find sex not only in human society but in cat society, dog society, bird society—everywhere. During the daytime, a pigeon has sex at least twenty times. This is his enjoyment.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam confirms that material enjoyment is based upon nothing more than the sexual combination of man and woman. In the beginning a boy thinks, “Oh, that girl is nice,” and the girl says, “That boy is nice.” When they meet, that material contamination becomes more prominent. And when they actually enjoy sex, they become more attached, completely attached. How? As soon as a boy and girl are married, they want an apartment. Then they have children. And when they have children, they want social recognition—society, friendship, and love. In this way their material attachment goes on increasing. And all of this requires money. A man who is too materialistic will cheat anyone, kill anyone, beg, borrow, or steal—anything to bring money. He knows that his buildings, his family, his wife and children cannot continue to exist perpetually. They are just like bubbles in the ocean: they have come into existence, and after a little while they will be gone. But he is too much attached. He will sacrifice his spiritual advancement for the pursuit of money to maintain them. His perverted consciousness—“I am this body. I belong to this material world. I belong to this country. I belong to this community. I belong to this religion. I belong to this family.”—becomes greater and greater.
Where is his Krsna consciousness? He becomes so entangled that money becomes more valuable to him than his own life. In other words, he can risk his life for money. The householder, the laborer, the merchant, the thief, the dacoit, the rogue—everyone is after money. This is illusion. One loses himself in the midst of this entanglement.
Prahlada Maharaja says that in this state, when you are too much implicated in materialism, you cannot cultivate Krsna consciousness. Therefore one should practice Krsna consciousness from early childhood. Of course, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is so kind that He says, “Better late than never. Even though you missed the opportunity to begin Krsna consciousness from childhood, begin now, in whatever position you are.” That is Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s teaching. He never said, “Because you did not begin Krsna consciousness from your childhood, you cannot make progress.” No. He is very kind. He has given us this nice process of chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Whether you are young or old—no matter what you are—just begin. You do not know when your life will be finished. If you chant sincerely, even for a moment, it will have great effect. It will save you from the greatest danger—becoming an animal in your next life.
Although only five years old, Prahlada Maharaja speaks just like a very experienced and educated man because he received knowledge from his spiritual master, Narada Muni. That is disclosed in the next chapter of the Srimad-Bhagavatam [7.7]. Wisdom does not depend on age, but on knowledge received from a superior source. One cannot become a wise man simply by advancement of age. No. That is not possible. Knowledge has to be received from a superior source; then one can become wise. It doesn’t matter whether one is a five-year-old boy or a fifty-year-old man. As it is said, “By wisdom one becomes an old man, even without advanced age.”
So although Prahlada was only five years old, by advancement in knowledge he was imparting perfect instructions to his classmates. Some may find these instructions unpalatable. Suppose a man is already married and Prahlada says, “Take to Krsna consciousness.” He will think, “Oh, how can I leave my wife? We talk so nicely together, sit together and enjoy. How can I leave?” Family attraction is very strong.
I am an old man—seventy-two years old. I have been away from my family during the last fourteen years. Yet sometimes I also think of my wife and children. This is quite natural. But that does not mean I have to go back. This is knowledge. When the mind wanders to thoughts of sense gratification, one should at once understand, “This is illusion.”
According to the Vedic system, one has to forcibly give up family life at the age of fifty. One must go. There is no alternative. The first twenty-five years are for student life. From age five to age twenty-five, one should be educated very nicely in Krsna consciousness. The basic principle of one’s education should be Krsna consciousness, nothing else. Then life will be pleasing and successful, both in this world and in the next. A Krsna conscious education means one is trained to give up material consciousness altogether. That is perfect Krsna consciousness.
But if the student is unable to capture the essence of Krsna consciousness, then he is allowed to marry a good wife and live a peaceful householder life. And because he has been trained in the basic principles of Krsna consciousness, he will not entangle himself in the material world. One who lives simply—plain living and high thinking—can make progress in Krsna consciousness even within family life.
So family life is not condemned. But if a man forgets his spiritual identity and simply becomes entangled in material affairs, then he is lost. His life’s mission is lost. If one thinks, “I cannot protect myself from the attack of sex desire,” then let him be married. That is prescribed. But don’t have illicit sex. If you want a girl, if you want a boy, get married and live in Krsna consciousness.
A person who is trained in Krsna consciousness from childhood naturally becomes disinclined toward the material way of life, and at the age of fifty he gives it up. How does he start giving it up? The husband and wife leave home and travel together on pilgrimage. If from twenty-five to fifty one remains in family life, one should have some grown-up children. So at age fifty the husband entrusts the family affairs to some of his sons who are family men, and he and his wife go on pilgrimage to the holy places in order to forget family attachments. When the gentleman is completely matured in detachment, he asks his wife to go home to their children, and he remains alone. That is the Vedic system. We have to give ourselves a chance to progress in spiritual life, step by step. Otherwise, if we remain attached to material consciousness throughout all our days, we will not perfect our Krsna consciousness, and we shall miss the opportunity of this human form of life.
So-called happy family life means that we have a very loving wife and loving children. Thus we enjoy life. But we do not know that this enjoyment is false, that it is resting on a false platform. At once, in the twinkling of an eye, we may have to give up this enjoyment. Death is not under our control. From the Bhagavad-gita we learn that if one dies while too much attached to one’s wife, the result will be that in his next life he will have the body of a woman. And if the wife is very attached to her husband, she will get a man’s body in her next life. Similarly, if you are not a family man but are attached to a cat or dog, then your next life will be as a cat or dog. These are the laws of karma, or material nature.
The whole point is that one should begin Krsna consciousness immediately. Suppose one thinks, “After finishing my sporting life, when I am old and there is nothing else to do, then I shall go to the Krsna consciousness Society and hear something.” Certainly at that time one can take up spiritual life, but what is the assurance that one will live to an old age? One may die at any time; so postponing one’s spiritual life is very risky. Therefore one should take the opportunity now to advance in Krsna consciousness. That is the purpose of this Society: to give everyone a chance to begin Krsna consciousness at any stage of life. And by the process of chanting
advancement is very quick. There is an immediate result.
We request all the ladies and gentlemen who are very kindly attending our lectures or reading our literature to chant Hare Krsna during your leisure hours at home, and to read our books. That is our request. We are sure that you will find this process very pleasing and very effective.
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