Stay Married. Start A Revolution!
By His Grace Kripamoya dasa Adhikari
ISKCON marriages are meant to be revolutionary, for the couple, for those around them, and for the world.
Since the 1960’s, a time in western democracies when many young people began to question the traditional culture of their parents; the institution of marriage has often been seen as something relevant only to a previous age. Marriage, the publicly witnessed, religiously binding, and legal, life-long commitment to one person was essential in the past, but no longer, goes the argument.
The arguments against marriage, which have gathered volume over the past few decades, go something like this: In the early days of homo-sapiens when we were hunter-gatherers and life was short, there was value in a committed and (short) lifetime male-female bonding. Only those who undertook this form of co-habitation would be able to raise children to ensure the next biological generation. Natural selection did its job.
Along came the invention of religion; that great glue of developed communities and the priests made sure that society had cohesion by creating codes of marriage. They also created magical ceremonies which drew down blessings from invisible gods who would bless the couple and make their commitment magically permanent.
In the last century, when there was no national welfare system, when a woman’s social position was at a considerable disadvantage to a man’s, and when there were no regularly effective methods of birth control, the institution of marriage, endorsed by Church and State, offered some individual protection and social stability.
But in the 21st century, when there is parity between men and women; when so many women have expressed how they have suffered at the hands of domineering husbands, and when they are no longer considered to be the property of a man, what is the place for marriage? If we place a value on individual freedom, goes the argument, and if an exclusive commitment to one partner is not always successful, then of what use is such a serious commitment? Better to arrange an escape clause as part of the nuptial agreement; or merely live together for as long as is convenient.
Yet statistics are revealing that even those reasonable arguments, seemingly logical and persuasive, ostensibly based on the values of individual liberty and compassion, do not always stack up after a few decades of living by them. The very fabric of society, beginning with the marriage, the family,and the neighbourhood, is unraveling at an alarming rate. The second generation results are everywhere to be seen. And it may be only in the third or fourth generation when the results of such fluid social principles will be truly felt.
We are not the only ones to experiment with the rejection of marriage and concomitant parental irresponsibility. Social revolution didn’t begin in the Sixties. Historians tell us that there have been plenty of civilizations before us where decadence – the pursuit of pleasure to the exclusion of moral principles (often in the name of compassion and common sense) – has so weakened the society that animalistic propensities have dominated, social disintegration has proliferated and the resultant warring tribes destroyed each other in bloody civil wars.
Marriage is one of those principles which, if not always the most pleasurable in practice, is a necessary discipline to preserve individual and social long- term happiness. And long-term happiness is the most important consideration in a truly developed society. In fact, marriage always was an essential part of a progressive life and stability of society. The past few decades have revealed that alternatives to commitment and marital faithfulness create mistrust, loneliness and, paradoxically, a lack of real personal psychological freedom. And when such negative emotional experiences are multiplied in hundreds of thousands of homes, and millions of lives, we all suffer.
Both individuals and society are now paying a high price for abandonment of partners. No one has ultimately become any happier from having a succession of relationships, and the terrible emotional consequences for the children are all around us. Important moral concepts like duty, commitment, trust, loyalty and doing what is honourable, have been exchanged for a culture of selfishness that threatens the very basic freedoms we had hoped to preserve.
And yet even in western democracies, where individual freedom and choice are enshrined as the highest concepts, the tide is beginning to change. Somehow, we are beginning to look at the mess we’ve created and we’re starting to redress the balance. Even in America, the land of the free, getting bound to one partner for life, and working through the difficult times so that you stay bound, is viewed by growing numbers as the remedy for many social problems. Rather than a loss of freedom, marriage is now being hailed by leading thinkers, both religious and secular, as an essential step in personal growth, long-term happiness, and social stability.
That doesn’t mean that staying married to one person has become any easier. The challenges to life-long commitment are the same as they have always been. It requires individual effort, compromise, mutual service, and above all, genuine love and understanding. It requires support from family, friends and needs continuing recognition of its social importance.
Within ISKCON we have the sacred mission of creating a refuge from Kali Yuga. We are a movement of people who follow the eternal principles of life, including those of marriage. We do not believe that marriage was created as a mere pragmatic biological pairing, or an arbitrary social glue dreamed up by manipulative priests in a remote past. All these notions come from the naturalists, anthropologists and sociologists who, in their sincere desire to explain society from the perspective of their own disciplines have inadvertently contributed to the mentalities behind today’s problems.
If we truly believe what our founder-acarya has told us, then we will view his movement – our movement – as a body which can bring about a spiritual revolution in human society. Nothing less. And that means our marriages must be revolutionary. Our marriages must be seen not only as our commitment to each other but as an offering to others who are yet to join us. When people see happy couples and happy families they will want to join us. If we have made a sacred and God-witnessed commitment to marriage then we must learn the scientific principles of how to create an enduring, unbreakable partnership. We must discuss our marriages, honour them, and do everything to support and protect them. We must speak up when we see couples in difficulty, help them, and never, ever, suggest the easy way out. The rewards for us all are enormous: emotionally, socially, and spiritually. And your great-grandchildren – and the future devotees of ISKCON – will thank you from their hearts.http://danavirgoswami.com/stay-married-start-a-revolution/https://i2.wp.com/danavirgoswami.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/grhasta_1.jpg?fit=500%2C250https://i2.wp.com/danavirgoswami.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/grhasta_1.jpg?resize=150%2C150ArticlesGrhastaKripamoya dasaBy His Grace Kripamoya dasa Adhikari (Vaiñëava Society Vol. 12) ISKCON marriages are meant to be revolutionary, for the couple, for those around them, and for the world. Since the 1960’s, a time in western democracies when many young people began to question the traditional culture of their parents; the institution of...Robert LessengerRobert Lessengerdgservant@rvc.eduAdministratorDanavir Goswami