By Krishna Kirti dasa Adhikari

(Vaiñëava Society Vol. 11)

I am of the opinion that the general enterprise of psychology as applied to ISKCON’s grihastha problems has these problems:

a) The dominance of modern psychology in the area of social development is strongly correlated with the general discrediting of marriage within Western civilization. Some countries such as Spain, England, and the Netherlands have already adopted “gay marriage.” Countries like Sweden have had “civil unions” for homosexuals a couple of decades now and have a 65% divorce rate. America itself, also starting to experiment with gay marriage, has a 50% divorce rate. According to the U.S. government Center for Disease control, nowadays almost 40% of *all *births in America are to unwed women.

For the better part of a century now, experts in the field of psychology have informed courts and legislatures in dozens of countries on a vast array of legal and legislative issues regarding marriage, divorce, and family. To suppose that the theory and practice of modern psychology has had little or nothing to do with the mess that has become of the Western family would surely rank among the greatest examples of denial ever. This is reason enough not to rush headlong into embracing psychology as helpful for our own marital problems, yet despite the dismal track record of the psychological sciences we seem to be embracing their techniques (and hence theories) without question.

b) It is a prominent misunderstanding that modern psychology is merely a “tool” that can be used for good just as we might use a drill, a phone or a car. The problem with this thinking is that even if we accept the premise that modern counseling techniques *are* only tools, before we can even believe they are tools we must first accept certain presumptions about them—we must accept their underlying theories as valid. If those theories are incompatible with comparable Krishna conscious theories, then the techniques based on modern psychological theories are most likely incompatible with devotional life, too.

For example, when I was travelling in South India, my book-distribution party and I encountered a travelling Mayavadi preaching program wherein some of the participants, before their speaking engagement, did private pujas to mirrors. The mirrors had garlands around them, and set before the mirrors were ghee lamps, incense holders with incense, and some “offered flowers.”

Obviously, this was the practical application of *aharangopasanam,* or worship of one’s own self. The “tool” for self-realiztion was worshipping one’s self by performing puja to a mirror, and that technique makes sense if we accept the theory that the self and bhagavan are the same and without distinction.

But if we had caused one of those Mayavadis to disbelieve in advaita, made one of them a Vaishava, then there is no way that person could ever again do a puja to to himself in the mirror. Because the belief in certain theories determines practical application, or “tools,” and disbelief in those theories results in a rejection of those “tools,” there is an inseparable link between theory and practice.

Just as worshipping one’s self in a mirror indicates the acceptance of the theory of the self and God as identical without distinction, practicing the techniques of modern psychology means we accept the speculative, materialistic theories behind those techniques. To say that applied psychology is just another “tool” we can use to help us become Krishna conscious is a misunderstanding of the relationship between theory and practice.  This misunderstanding appears to be widely pervasive in our society.

c) A third objection is that heavy reliance on modern psychological technique dumbs down our preaching. Why should the karmis look to us for solutions to their marriage problems when what we basically have to offer them are secular techniques with a “spiritual” spin? If we are looking to the karmis for guidance to issues on which we should be setting the lead in terms of theory and practice, then we deny ourselves what is called in the business world a “USP,” the Unique Selling Point. If our techniques are basically the karmi’s techniques, then we don’t have a USP and cheat ourselves out of a critical market advantage.

What is unique about Krishna conscious marriages that the Western karmis (and, increasingly, the Western-educated Indians) need to take cognizance of? The primacy of duty in marriage—a notion that is also there somewhat in the more traditional notions Western marriage but has never been as clear as it has been in the concept of Vedic marriage.

How is it, for example, that in Vedic marriages men and women *by order* of their elders married each other without ever knowing one another before the day of the marriage ceremony yet had happy and satisfying marriages? Srila Prabhupada was very pleased when his disciples did like this. Regarding the marriage of Bhurijana and Jagatattarini, he once said,

“I asked her to go and marry Bhurijana. She never saw him and did not know what kind of husband she would be accepting. But simply on my word, she came from Los Angeles [to Hong Kong] and got married. The only consideration is how to please Krishna and His representative.” (18 Apr. 1972, Hong Kong)

We never find Srila Prabhupada glorifying the act of two disciples running off and marrying each other.

Duty is what defines marriage. Love and affection are also there in marriage but are secondary considerations, not primary ones. It is this primacy of duty that makes for stable marriages, not the prelimary search for compatibility. That is our USP, if we believe in it. I have my doubts that as a society we do in fact believe in it.

These considerations, and others I haven’t mentioned, are reason enough to have a serious and extended discussion and debate about the theory and practice of psychology within our society. Because marriage is an area where many devotees seem anxious to apply modern psychology, I believe that having this discussion within the context of marriage is a good place to start the overall discussion of psychology and its general compatibility with Krishna consciousness.

Your servant, Krishna-kirti das LessengerArticlesGrhastaKrishna Kirti dasaBy Krishna Kirti dasa Adhikari (Vaiñëava Society Vol. 11) I am of the opinion that the general enterprise of psychology as applied to ISKCON’s grihastha problems has these problems: a) The dominance of modern psychology in the area of social development is strongly correlated with the general discrediting of marriage within Western...