(Kadamba Kanana Swami, 24 April 2015, Radhadesh, Belgium, Srimad Bhagavatam 6.18.31-34)
The situation of worshipping the husband is a Vedic injunction. In this day and age, it certainly just cannot be written off as irrelevant but on the other hand, the relevance of it really depends on the individual positions of the husband and wife. When the husband is truly, properly situated and fixed in spiritual practices, then this will apply more than when the husband is spiritually quite weak. In some cases, it is the lady who is the spiritual engine in the family and drives the spirituality and then it becomes a little bit awkward if this Vedic etiquette (of worshipping the husband) is so strictly enforced. Therefore, Srila Rupa Goswami has said laukiki vaidiki vapi ya kriya kriyate mune hari-sevanukulaiva (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.200). Whatever gives kriya, whether it is Vedic or whether it is practical mundane kind of principles, whatever is hari seva anakula, whatever gives benefit for the service of the Lord, we will accept.
The dharma sastra goes into this kind of injunction in a much more elaborate way than the Srimad Bhagavatam does. We see in this chapter that Kasyapa is certainly speaking principles of dharma when he is pointing out that the husband represents the Lord as the object of worship for a woman. At the same time though, while Kasyapa is speaking these verses, he is deviating from dharma; that is also to be noted. We cannot just look at the text alone. We have to look at the thread of the chapter and basically, Diti and Kasyapa are about to engage in sexual activities at an inappropriate time which is a deviation from dharma. So although Kasyapa is speaking words of dharma, he is using the words of dharma to kind of justify his adharmic activities. So the very proponent of the principle is himself not qualified for the worship, by looking at this verse. That is interesting because that is Kasyapa, what to speak of us!? So therefore, we have to really see if this applies and when it is just demanded,“You have to worship me as God,” then it may not be a proper relationship.
In this day and age, oftentimes partnership works better. However, when women have to overly compete with men, then it is an artificial situation. Of course, our modern society creates that artificial situation but with it, ladies are losing somewhat of the soft, female nature and are developing more the competitive male nature. In our modern society, males and females are educated up to PhD level. It is also not that those ladies who are PhD’s have become PhD’s unnecessarily, but rather that everyone can be engaged in the service of the Lord. So when we are very transcendentally engaged, we can engage all our assets in the service of the Lord and that is the essence. So PhD’s are welcome to use their expertise in the service of the Supreme Lord.
Still, we cannot just ignore the Bhagavatam’s descriptions on male and female natures and therefore we may see that traditional roles, traditional descriptions of conditioned nature, have their significance. In the Bhagavad-gita, we see also that women are described to be less intelligent. Now, the best way to understand that is to first of all understand what the definition of intelligence is. The definition of intelligence means to act according to principles of behaviour which are revealed by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the source of all knowledge, so intelligence basically means that we have access to that knowledge and know how to apply that knowledge. Without application of knowledge, there is no intelligence. That may not be according to modern definition but it is by the Vedic definition. In the Vedic context, intelligence means that one is pursuing the ultimate goal of life in his understanding and in his actions. That is of course a distinction from modern intelligence. So whenever we look at Bhagavatam or at scriptures in terms of intelligence, we always see intelligence in the context of pursuing the ultimate goal of life.
So protection for ladies is recommended in Vedic culture. I remember in two ashrams back, I sometimes had a few disagreements. My former wife, I do not mean to disclose things in negative way, but she sometimes would get into an argument with someone. That happens in life. Then she would say, “You have to protect me,” which means, “You have to support me.” And I would say, “Yes, I have to protect you from yourself.”
Then we would have a major argument (laughter). What to say… this is not meant to be putting anyone down but that is just how it works in the world. It is not so easy to have these kind of Vedic roles. We are coming from a very different culture and the Vedic model does not fully fit us and also, in a transcendental context, it is not fully required. In the transcendental context, it is really anakulyena sankalpa, it is whatever is favourable for the service of the Lord.
When Srila Prabhupada came to the West, he said, “Oh, the ladies are very intelligent. They are very intelligent. They are very capable. They can do many things.” So whoever can produce results ultimately is what is important but the protection element is there. It is natural.
I met the German lady on the plane who was a single mother, working a job and putting two children through school etc. She said, “Maybe sometimes, sometimes I am thinking that the traditional model was actually nice.” You know, having a husband who takes care of everything so that the ladies can take care of the children instead of putting the kids in the day care and working around the clock to pay for everything. It is a very topsy-turvy society.
So when we are looking at these kind of models, of male-female relationships of the Bhagavatam, then we can see them in the context of Rupa Goswami’s writings (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.200), and we cannot just isolate a verse like this from the Bhagavatam, carve it on stone and hang it in the bedroom, as like these are the rules of the house.
Some memories come back from the grhastha ashram and I also noticed that during arguments, people can quote a lot of slokas (laughter). During arguments, they can quote sastra left and right, much more than usual but sastra is not a tool to win an argument. Sastra is offering us, besides pure devotional service to the Supreme Lord, a supportive material condition. The essence is pure devotional service and our interest is pure devotional service. Somehow or other, in whatever way we can get the maximum result for Krsna’s service, that is what our desire is.