(Kadamba Kanana Swami, 06 April 2015, Durban, South Africa, Ratha Yatra Lecture: The secret of spiritual advancement)
Question: How do we overcome challenges of associating with family members who make spiritual advancement difficult, e.g. mother, father, siblings, wife or husband, without dishonouring them?
I think that everyone has to live a life based on truth. If your life is not based on truth, not based on what you believe in, then you are in big trouble and then it is really time to make a change. So, once you have realized that Krsna consciousness is the truth then you have to make it clear to your family that you are a devotee and that you have certain principles, you have a certain way of life – no eating of meat, fish, eggs, etc. – so they should keep those things away as you cannot be part of that.
One has to be very clear and firm. In my life, my father expired before I came to Krsna consciousness but at a young age, at age seventeen, I had decided that I wanted spiritual life and I wanted to go to India. My father had other plans for me, he wanted me to go into the family business and take over from my grandfather, so he became very upset, VERY UPSET and in a thundering voice with all his might, he told me, “If you leave home, I won’t give you a cent!”
He said that very strongly and at that point I could have argued with him but I did not; I stayed completely calm and said to him, “That’s alright! I don’t need so much money and whatever money I need, I think I can get it with my energy because I have some higher goals in life!” When my father saw that I had remained completely calm and I was not shocked by his statement, then he lost control over me. And then, his anger transformed into fear and I won as he did not have any control over me. Then I walked away with my head held high, following my path and my father had to accept it because I stood up for what I believed in and stayed calm. There was more discussion but I was not doing it to cause grief to my family; a man has to live a life of the heart.
So tell your family members that you have to live a life of your heart and if it is different from what the family has been doing, what to do, but still they have to respect it. Sometimes, we cannot keep relationships with our family members, we do try, but those who are not willing to accept our way of life are not worth it. They may be from the same family but they are not our friends; such people are not our well-wishers.
Karmically speaking, we must understand that not everyone who is born in the same family is automatically a group of well-wishers and friends. By karma, not all friends end up in the same family – karma does not work like that! Just may be that nasty, problematic neighbour from your last life came as your brother in this life (audience laughter). It is also like that. Karma is not entirely about well-wishers coming together and helping each other. No, sometimes enemies come back within a family; someone may take birth to give trouble. Have you ever thought of that!? Karmically, it is possible and this is discussed in many Vedic texts. So think about that concept but I do not want you to start thinking of your whole family like that, “I have always thought that about uncle!” Anyway, you get the idea…