Appreciating the Infinite

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.3.28 | February 8, 2014 |

English; Colombo, Sri Lanka

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Question:

Since I got children it has been hard for me to follow a strict sadhana. Not only because of having children but also because my husband desires for me to take care of the household in the best possible way and keep a high standard (cleaning, cooking etc.). Around me I have some devotees telling me that I should not worry too much about strictly chanting 16 rounds, raising early and reading, that I will have more time for that in the future. In one way I am inclined to agree that it may be better not to brake my neck but at the same time I know that these are the things that keep us going as devotees and are part of the initiation promise. I pendle between the two ways of thinking and can't settle in my understanding. What is the right way of thought?

The second is in regards to my children. I always had a strong desire for my children to have a devotional education. To either attend gurukula or be homeschooled. Unfortunately neither is possible where we liveand my husband does not think it is a good thing to move anywhere else. I am very, very scared that our children will be too much influenced by the association in karmi-school and that it will bring them away from Krishna consciousness. What can I do to lessen the risks for this? 

 

ANSWER by HH Bhakti Vikasa Swami: 

"...Generally in response to such questions posed by grihasta devotees I suggest that they take advice from other grihastas who are in a similar situation and have been able to negotiate it well in Krishna consciousness. There is no doubt that having children is a major involvement. Especially in the nuclear family, whereas in the extended family there are many mothers looking after the many children. In one letter Srila Prabhupada wrote to a lady disciple who obviously had previously been involved in deity worship. Srila Prabhupada wrote to her that now that she had a child her main service was looking after her baby, not worshiping the Deities.

BUSY PERIOD
Traditionally in Bengal, ladies who wanted to be initiated as Vaishnavas would wait until their main child bearing period was over. Realizing that during that period they’re going to be very, very busy. Anyway, Srila Prabhupada never said to do that, but that traditional practice does recognize the difficulty of maintaining spiritual practice while having children. I am not much in favor of these counting machines for chanting, these “click, click, click… Hare Krishna…click, click”. But I’ve told lady disciples of mine that have have children, especially young children that they can use it. It’s not first class but it is better than nothing and that is really the spirit in which we all have to do devotional service. That we all have to do the best under the circumstances we are in. There’s no perfect situation anywhere. Although in general devotees who don’t have many children or no children they are freer to perform sadhana than those who do have children. And then again, raising children in Krishna consciousness is another kind of service. It can be seen like that. Even though it might not seem to be very obvious that it’s devotional service to clean up the stool after a baby or to separate two young children who are fighting. But it can be seen in that perspective that to raise them in consciousness of Krishna.

EXTENDED FAMILY OF DEVOTEES
If you’re not able to chant all your rounds every day then you can keep a note. It might go up to a few thousand eventually, so later in life you can take up chanting more rounds if it comes to that. Then modern facilities give us the opportunity to listen to kirtan and lectures while cooking and doing everything else. In the absence of an extended family it would be good if all the ladies in that community got together. I don’t know if they do or not and help each other as much as possible.

NEVER NEGLECT YOUR CHILDREN
The children should not be neglected, that’s the point. Even if one’s own sadhana is neglected the children needs to be looked after. They need lot of attention. One way to engage the kids so they don’t bother you so much is to have a T.V. But that’s not a good idea. Not at all. It’s a common solution but it’s really not a solution at all.
So be happy and think that Krishna has put me in this situation at this time and it’s my service to look after the children and look after the family. And everything else you do as well as you can as far as possible not pushing yourself to hard so that you don’t get a mental or physical break down.

FESTIVALS ARE IMPORTANT
And festivals are very important for householder devotees, especially the children. Engaging the children and when they are a little older, preparing for the festivals. Engage them as soon as possible in temple activities. Decorating the temple, picking flowers for Krishna, making dramas, that is a great way to engage the kids and all the parents love it.

EDUCATION ANSWER
As far as education is concerned, for male kids, if possible they could be sent to gurukula in Mayapur. There has been some bad publicity concerning it recently. But as far as I can see it is by far better than what the karmi world can offer. And even it is far ahead of what ISKCON elsewhere has got to offer. There are grown children who are now adults and who are now initiated in Krishna consciousness. Just close here to Brno there is Nrsimha-caitanya, one devotee. How old is he? Early twenties? 24. Any others in this area, boys, girls? Oh, yes, your wife is also raised by devotee parents. So did your wife go to a karmi school? Devotee: “Yes.” 
So she survived it, so it is not impossible. So it would be very advicable for this mataji to consult the parents who for what ever reason was constrained to send their children to karmi schools but whose children have never the less emerged as good devotees. No easy solutions that’s for sure.

MAYA DOESN'T RELAX
It is a great struggle to establish Krishna consciousness in the modern world. But Krishna will be pleased by our service. We should try to do things as best as possible and also understand that we are also constrained by circumstances. It’s easy just to relax and say: “Okay…puh… Too much struggle. Okay, I’ll just chant Hare Krishna as much as I feel like it and watch TV as much as I feel like it. And what I feel, what I can do." But to be a disciple means to voluntary accept the struggle to become purified. To go up. So we try to make things as tight as possible. To keep us focused on the goal of becoming pure devotees. And to keep out maya. Sometimes we see devotees they are following strictly and all of a sudden “Prrrrr… Too much”. And then they collapse and flop into sense gratification. One day they have a flash or realization: “I don’t have to follow all these rules, I can just relax and be happy. And I can still chant Hare Krishna. When I like, how I like, as much or as little as I like. If I like. Oh, following all these rules…it is just too much, I can just relax”. But of course, maya does not relax. When we newly become a devotee we get a blast of bliss and then when we flop into maya we get a blast of maya’s bliss. But it is no bliss. And maya just goes on with her usual business of just squeezing out every drop of you.

KEEP UP THE STRUGGLE
So keep up the struggle. Even devotees sometimes say “I don’t feel like I’m making any progress”. Anyway, even if you feel like you’re not making any progress, just keep on going. Just like you’re in deep water and you don’t have enough strength to swim but you have enough strength to just stay afloat. So you’re not going anywhere but at least you’re not drowning. Hoping that someone may come and rescue me. So if we don’t have enough strength to swim, at least stay afloat and Krishna will come and rescue us. That doesn’t mean that we should just willingly make compromises with maya. But in situations where we find that we are not able to apply ourselves as sidiously as we would like to, just to the best we can, don’t give up."

 

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