What’s Love Got to Do With It?

rojarajwed2008_12By Prema Bhakti dasi & Citta Hari dasa

After reading the comments on the recent comic, “Arranged Marriage” here on the Harmonist, we asked ourselves the very real question, “What’s love got to do with it?” What’s love got to do with romantic relationships in Gaudiya Vaishnavism? After some contemplation and a bit of research, our conclusion was “plenty.”

What we mean to say is that even though one may be a serious spiritual practitioner, it’s “okay” to have normal, loving relationships, romantic or otherwise. Although there is truth in Vedanta’s emphasis on renunciation—which most adherents understand theoretically—in reality most people need companionship in order to be situated well enough to pursue spiritual life in a progressive way. However, neophyte practitioners can tend to misconstrue the teachings of Vedanta and detachment in such a way as to end up becoming callous and even inhumane to their families, who ostensibly represent their “attachments”. Therefore, we are advocating “dutiful” love, a love which constitutes an intermediate phase on the path from lust to the pinnacle of love (prema).

There is a vast gray area between relationships based purely on sensuality and those based on fully awakened love. Understanding dutiful love as a vehicle to assist us in traveling from the former to the latter affords us the ability to live a responsible and psychologically balanced life while making progress towards the goal. This concept of dharmic or dutiful love is a principle that can be applied cross-culturally, Indian or Western, arranged marriage or not. A natural expression of this understanding would be a minimization of many of the unfortunate abuses that have occurred in spiritual institutions in the name of detachment.

Even in traditional Indian arranged marriages, which are often thought of as forced and loveless affairs, love is ideally an essential element. On a walk in 1975 (in the context of discussing the importance of quality chanting) Srila Prabhupada used the example of the quality of love in arranged marriages:

Just like love between two persons, it cannot be forced. ‘You must love him. You must love her.’ Oh, that is not love. That is not love. When automatically you love one another, that is quality. There is no quality in that quality. But gradually, remaining together, that quality of love increases. Then the wife takes care of the husband, and the husband takes care. They become bound up, united in love. That is quality.

It is clear from Srila Prabhupada’s description above that he considered love to be essential even in arranged marriages. He emphasized that in an arranged marriage love develops in a wholesome and gradual way; when that loving bond is established mutual affection arises naturally. To be clear, though, we are not advocating arranged marriage here; we bring up such a traditional example only to illustrate that such situations can be examples of life in the gray area. Regardless of whatever form the union takes, progress in spiritual life is all about becoming acquainted with and, more importantly, comfortable with the gray areas. In our quest to move from the darkness of lust to the full light of prema we must pass through the twilight of dutiful love.


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37 Responses to What’s Love Got to Do With It?

  1. Great article! I like how you acknowledged the problems with neophyte renunciation. It relates back to the Ashram Economics article.

    What is the term for that type of renunciation? It isn’t yukta-vairagya; it’s called something else I think.

  2. phagu or markata vairagya. I personally think that the service rendered to the Guru during the course of the so called “neophyte” renunciation remains valuable,nonetheless. Therefore, there is no need to be disappointed by a neophyte attempt at renunciation.

    • Citta Hari dasa

      While what you say is true the article not really about renunciation or neophyte attempts at it. It was about practitioners in family contexts who can’t treat their spouses and/or children affectionately like normal human beings out of guilt because the philosophy makes so many statements about the evils of such a lifestyle. As we pointed out, most people are not eligible for lifelong renunciation and so must live in the world while culturing krsnanusilanam, and “dutiful love” is part of that culture.

      • Hari Krishna,

        I know you wrote the article Chitta Hari, but I think the issue you raised “is” about renunciation. The problems you mention have arisen because of a misunderstanding of the true meaning and purpose of renunciation.

        The recommendation to practice detachment from family life is actually a form of renunciation. But detachment and renunciation do not mean cruelty and they certainly don’t mean abuse.

        Also I strongly disagree with your statement “the philosophy makes so many statements about the evils of such a lifestyle.” Where does the Vedic philosophy condemn marraige and family life as evil?

        In my studies of Vedic philosophy I have gained the impression that marraige is considered an excellent vehicle for the husband and wife to co-operatively make spiritual progress and to provide the same opportunity for their children.

        What about varna-ashram? Household life is the second ashram. Why do you consider it somehow inferior to the sannyasi ashram? Aren’t the ashrams designed to help us on each stage of our spiritual journey?

        I would like to suggest that ignorance of the true meaning of reunciation is not only the cause of this problem, but many others. Formal adherence to outward rules, regulations or dress codes does not constitute renunciation.

        Sannyasi or renuciation is not acheived by changing the colour of your clothes or any other external material circumstance. True sannyasi is a ‘state of being’ – a condition of your heart and your consciousness. Everyone – even women – should aspire to achieve this state by the end of their material lives.

        • Also I strongly disagree with your statement “the philosophy makes so many statements about the evils of such a lifestyle.” Where does the Vedic philosophy condemn marraige and family life as evil?

          To be more specific: the sastra condemns grhamedhis, those who enter into household life for sensual indulgence, while true grhastha asrama is a viable situation for spiritual progress.

          What about varna-ashram? Household life is the second ashram. Why do you consider it somehow inferior to the sannyasi ashram? Aren’t the ashrams designed to help us on each stage of our spiritual journey?

          I did not say that the sannyasa asrama is superior to grhastha-asrama. In theory they provide equal opportunity for spiritual progress, but spiritual qualification of those involved is a crucial issue not to be overlooked. The vast majority of devotees who enter into household life are not spiritually advanced enough to remain undistracted by the everyday demands of household life. Thus their spiritual progress is usually exceedingly slow.

          About sannyasa in general: of course it’s true that sannyasa is not about the color of one’s cloth and carrying around a stick–it is, as you said, a state of being–an inner realization–that needs to be attained regardless of one’s bodily situation.

          • “To be more specific: the sastra condemns grhamedhis, those who enter into household life for sensual indulgence, while true grhastha asrama is a viable situation for spiritual progress.”

            Since both these types of people are married, the scripture must be condemning sensual indulgence, not marraige.

            Can I suggest that the idea of marraige being evil is institutional propaganda and not Vedic philosophy. The misconception may have arisen because within certain institutions, spiritual advancement is seen as synonomous with promotion within the bureaucracy.

            “I did not say that the sannyasa asrama is superior to grhastha-asrama. In theory they provide equal opportunity for spiritual progress, but spiritual qualification of those involved is a crucial issue not to be overlooked. The vast majority of devotees who enter into household life are not spiritually advanced enough to remain undistracted by the everyday demands of household life. Thus their spiritual progress is usually exceedingly slow.”

            You seem to be suggesting that marraige causes their slow progress. Surely, if they are not spiritually advanced enough to get married, they have no hope of succeeding in any other ashrama.

            If we follow the recommendations for household life, we will eventually reach the stage of sannyasi. To suggest that one should bypass marraige because its evil, and jump straight to sannyasi sounds like a dangerous philosophy to me.

            Hari Krishna

          • The vast majority of devotees who enter into household life are not spiritually advanced enough to remain undistracted by the everyday demands of household life. Thus their spiritual progress is usually exceedingly slow.

            I find this interesting, primarily because of its similarity to a verbal statement made by Vrndaranya to me some time ago.

            She said that the samskaras created by being involved in marriage for the majority of one’s life would not be as conducive to spiritual practice in the next life had one lived as a renunciate.*

            Are your statement and her’s comparable?

            * Vrndaranya’s statement is based on my memory, so I may not be representing her accurately.

  3. Hari-kirtana dasa

    I liked your article. Simple, balanced, truthful, concise, nicely written. I think your article helps to bridge the gap between the ideal and the practical path most of us will take toward that ideal; similar to the glimmering twilight of dawn we experience when we try to chant without committing offenses.

  4. Marriage without love is dry austerity. Love without marriage is passionate sentimentalism.

    I find the fact that we still need to discuss the fact that love and marriage go togethor, as if this is an earth-shattering realization, to be disturbing. What is a marriage (commitment & responsibility) without love (affection)? What is going to hold a marriage togethor if at some level there is no love in between? Fear of consequences? “What will people say?”

    • This is an interesting point and it definately crossed our minds when writing it as to why it needs to be said in the first place. Yet, it is a discussion that comes up again and again,
      for practioners as they face the many statements on renunciation and detachment in Vedanta. Therefore, I think it is important to write about affection in a relationship, expressed clearly and concisely, as a balance to so much of that. I have rarely heard a discussion which emphasized “love” within a marriage. Love in this world is presented as false and “lust” and consequently contrasted with prema,real love.

      I think if one is a serious practioner and is progressive in their pursuit of the goal, one will naturally “check-in” periodically and contemplate these issues again and again. Life in the “gray” is about assessing and reassessing where one is at in terms of our attachments in this world and our attachment to bhakti.

  5. At the present time arranged marriages in most cases simply do not work and no amount of wishful thinking about how love is supposed to ‘arise’ out of a forced proximity can change that. Pre-marriage counseling and/or match-making by parents and friends, older TRUSTED devotees, is a different story and can be very helpful.

    I know quite a few devotee broken pairs whose marriages were arranged and in all by two cases these were the ‘trails of tears’ that left both sides deeply scarred, frustrated, and blaming Iskcon and it’s half baked social ideas and experiments for their messed up lives.

    It is a very rare case when a bad marriage makes someone more Krishna-conscious. Most of the time there is a messy divorce and re-marriage using the tried and true natural attraction formula. Many people are so in love with themselves that they first need to actually become attached to someone other than themselves to taste what love is all about. If you can’t love your wife and kids than I’m quite sure you can’t develop a love for Krishna.

    • I personally feel that people are very selfless not in love with themselves nowadays. They are not in love with their real self, the “soul”, only with the distorted conception of self, their senses, mind etc.

      If you can’t love your wife and kids than I’m quite sure you can’t develop a love for Krishna.”
      Many people during SP’s time had to leave their wife and kids for service to their guru and they progressed in spiritual life.
      I don;t think there is a fixed method of progressing.

    • We both also know few arranged marriages that are a very good ones and last for many years although the intention of match-maker sannyasi was to arrange marriages between people who totally did not match each other…
      Most of his experiment was total disaster but these couples survived and survived in good shape. They really love each other now although in some cases it took long time to realize what it means to be a good husband and good wife. And they are good devotees too. I guess it requires a lot of both- spiritual and material maturity to through such experience.

  6. In the last 30 years in the movement I have met quite a few of the people who left their families supposedly to serve their guru, and was rarely impressed with the degree of love for Krsna, His devotees, or anybody else for that matter, that these people displayed. While there are notable exceptions to this trend, it is still a trend IMO. There are very good reasons why sannyasa even in Vedic times was limited to the old brahmanas only.

  7. I really liked this article. People in the West, I think, have a tendancy to want to microwave their spiritual advancement when it’s best and most completely attained from a crock-pot. I think that’s why there’s been these disastrous social experiments and abuse and so forth as GV has taken hold in the West. It came from people co-opting tradtions with thousands of years of refinement, debate and modification within one culture, and plunking them down within the context of another, and you just can’t do that. Too often, I find myself wanting to find out what the highest spiritual “level” is and becoming obsessed with obtaining that level- the microwave approach. True humility should allow me to realize my limitations, and yes, my attachments, for what they are, and rejoice in the spiritual progress I am making, and when and if, in this lifetime, further outward spiritual advancement (as far as taking sannyasa, etc.) becomes available, then by the Grace, I will humbly accept it. But I think the true test would be the amount of personal and social difficulty. If it is a heartwrenching task that leaves yourself and your family and friends devastated, then maybe you’re “jumping the gun” and you’re not really as advanced as you thought you were. Not a cause for disappointment, but that’s just not where you are right now. If you press on, to the detriment of yourself and others, then how are you ultimately detached? You are attached to sectarian status, and your own advancement is more important than service to others. Rejoice in where you are, chant Hare Krishna and be happy! The rest will take care of itself.

    • Anthony,

      I really appreciated your comment and your analogy. The comparison between the microwave versus the crock-pot is very appropriate. So true.

      In many ways I feel that our success is in viewing sexual attachment from a larger context. Sexual attachment is an amazing power and the ability to use that power or to be used by it depends upon the knowledge of the community that an individual is in. There were wise people who knew how to utilize that energy through art and music to satisfy all the different aspects of people.
      Certainly, if one were to look at vedic society in terms of dharma, artha, kama and moksha, it focussed on all aspects of a person’s nature. It sought to utilize all the energy of man for the betterment of the unique individual (dharma), the community (kama), the environment (artha) and moksha (finding freedom to love God despite having a material body).
      In a lot of ways it is the modern GVs that decided to take the puritan approach. And in a lot of ways, taking the puritan approach a lot of vitality necessary for healthy circulation of the individual and the community was squeezed out. Over course of time, for those who have not reached the stage of moksha, the wells of enthusiasm go dry. For most, life is a lot more of a marathon than a sprint. We have to learn how to utilize our energy for the long run. In a lot of ways it is about knowing how to direct our sexual energy under proper guidance. I feel that this knowledge has been for the most part lost to the detriment of humanity.

      As long as man has a physical body, he is not purely a spiritual being nor is he purely a physical being. He is a hybrid being.
      Modern psychology has failed because in the absence of using sexuality to find subtle subjective meaning in life, man’s energy is translated in purely sexual terms.
      On the other extreme, spirituality and religion is not sustainable in a community as long as there is no proper understanding of how sexuality can be utilized through art and literature to increase the vitality of the community.

      Behind sexual energy is man’s search for personal meaning and fulfillment in the context of a physical life. So sexual energy in a lot of ways is like electric current. Generating that current means bringing the positive energy (spirituality) togethor with the negative energy (sexuality) to generate the current of the community. It is a complex energy whose subtleties are hard to master. But that doesn’t mean the solution is to be afraid of it and thus remain in the dark. Rather, we need to boldly move forward to understand it and use it for the betterment of our community and humanity.

  8. Prue you say,

    “Can I suggest that the idea of marriage being evil is institutional propaganda and not Vedic philosophy. The misconception may have arisen because within certain institutions, spiritual advancement is seen as synonomous with promotion within the bureaucracy.”

    Although what you state has occurred in some spiritual institutions, this is largely due to a lack of sambandha jnana, or balanced knowledge. There are however many statements of Vedanta that speak to the pitfalls of grhasta asrama. Objectively speaking, these statements highlight renunciation as the ideal.

    Subjectively speaking, however, a person under the guidance of a qualified guru and through self introspection will take up a particular designation in order to facilitate their further progress. The essential idea of course is to be in the best position to cultivate saranagati.

    Although each path has its challenges, practically speaking if one is properly situated as a renunciate one is in the best position to dedicate one’s life completely without worldly distractions.

    • Hari Krishna Prema Bhakti,

      You say – “There are however many statements of Vedanta that speak to the pitfalls of grhasta asrama. Objectively speaking, these statements highlight renunciation as the ideal.”

      I agree that renunciation of the material is the ideal. But you are assuming that renunciation is an external quality that is dependant on someone’s ashram. You are also assuming that renunciation is not possible within the household ashram.

      Please remember the story of Pundarika Vidyanidhi and Gadadhara Pandit in Chaitanya Bhagavat. Please also remember the story of Ramananda Raya and Pradyumna Misra(CC Antya 5).

      If the idea that marraige is evil, or in any way inferior to sannyasi, is accepted as the truth, then there is an insidious, unspoken suggestion that association with women is evil, or bad for spritual progress.

      You also say “Although each path has its challenges, practically speaking if one is properly situated as a renunciate one is in the best position to dedicate one’s life completely without worldly distractions.”

      I agree – but the essential point is to be ‘properly situated’ as a renunciate and this is possible in any ashram. The artifical imposition of celibacy will also create worldy distractions.

      “Know a genuine sannyasi as the person who performs obligatory duties without expecting the fruits of their actions.” (BG 6.1)

      • Prue,

        We all agree that renunciation of the enjoying spirit is the ideal, and that such renunciation has nothing to do with one’s external situation. We also agree that the artificial imposition of anything can create huge distractions. The shortcoming of household life I was referring to is its great potential to distract the practitioner from his or her practice, which has everything to do with the eligibility of the given practitioner.

        There is no inherent spiritual superiority in either case, as you have noted with the examples you’ve given like Raya Ramananda and Pundarika Vidyanidhi. But we must also not forget that those people are nitya parikaras of Sriman Mahaprabhu and so are in a different category than ordinary sadhakas. I have yet to meet any householder (or sannyasi for that matter) who when hearing one verse from the Bhagavatam began tearing out his hair and rolling on the ground. This is Sri Radha’s father–he is absorbed in prema always, regardless of external circumstances. And it goes without saying that behavior like his arises out of the intensity of his prema and cannot be imitated by ordinary sadhakas. Neither can the extraordinary renunciation of the Sat-goswamis be imitated, since such arose out of extraordinary standing in bhakti.

        For ordinary practitioners who have not yet risen above the clouds of the mind domestic life’s challenges and constant demands can be extremely distracting from the task of Krsnanusilam.

        I used the word “evils” to describe this potential for distraction. Evil refers to a state of darkened consciousness, and distraction from bhakti is just that in the minds of the sages who live in the light, like Narada (who encouraged 200 of Daksa’s sons to give up the dharma for which Daksa had begotten them to forego entering into that dharma to pursue contemplative lifes of devotion).

        • Hari Krishna Chitta Hari,

          This whole discussion began when you said your article was “about practitioners in family contexts who can’t treat their spouses and/or children affectionately like normal human beings out of guilt because the philosophy makes so many statements about the evils of such a lifestyle.”

          The philosophy does not consider the lifestyle of marriage evil, ignorant, etc. This idea is patriarchal propaganda, not Vedic philosophy. As you say, it is the distraction from bhakti which is evil or ignorant. There is potential for material distraction in all the ashrams.

          Ironically, it is this propaganda that has caused the need for your article. If there was no misunderstanding about the Vedic conception of marriage, why would we need to teach devotees something as natural as loving their families? Why would you feel the need to write an article which suggests dutiful love as a solution to the problem?

          • Prue,

            I agree that there is potential for distraction in all the asramas. That’s a given, which is why I brought up the point of eligibility.

            I disagree with your propaganda theory. The philosophy does put a heavy emphasis on renunciation, and does make statements that household life is not particularly conducive for spiritual growth (hence statement like Bhagavatam 7.5.5 about the “dark well”). If such statements did not exist there would be nothing to misconstrue. The teaching also says that it does not matter which asrama one is in–grhe thako, vane thako, sada hari bole dako. In whatever position we are in–home or forest, we need to constantly take the name of Hari. It comes down, once again, to the eligibility of the practitioner and to having a qualified guide.

      • You say – “There are however many statements of Vedanta that speak to the pitfalls of grhasta asrama. Objectively speaking, these statements highlight renunciation as the ideal.”

        I agree that renunciation of the material is the ideal. But you are assuming that renunciation is an external quality that is dependant on someone’s ashram. You are also assuming that renunciation is not possible within the household ashram.

        Prue, I share your appreciation for the article under discussion, but I don’t share your opinion that the co-author has made either of these assumptions. It may be that some persons make assumptions of this sort (and I am sorry that they do), but neither is in evidence here.

        Certainly scriptural references that caution against (or flat out disparage) grhasta ashrama can be recklessly applied and interpreted. I am also certain that this has occurred in some institutions. As such, persons who pursue spiritual life in the context of marriage or a committed relationship have been unfairly criticized or branded as weak-willed and lacking in renunciation.

        Thus I think you and I agree that a more holistic conception of the spirit of renunciation – and how it is best achieved by each practitioner – is in order. Prema-bhakti’s point that a sadhaka’s renunciation should be furthered under the guidance of a qualified guru, however, is extremely important in this regard. As was pointed out, objectively and practically, the formal renunciate is generally in the most advantageous position both to surrender and serve — and also to help others develop that quality and propensity. Indeed, that is why we seek out the guru’s guidance in the first place.

        • Hari Krishna Gopala das,

          Thanks for your comments. I like your idea that we should seek a more holistic and individual conception of the spirit of renunciation. So I have to disagree with your statement –

          “Objectively and practically, the formal renunciate is generally in the most advantageous position both to surrender and serve — and also to help others develop that quality and propensity.”

          Practically speaking, a householder is also in a good position to serve and help others with their spiritual development. They can help their children, their spouse, serve the ashram and the sannyasi’s. We cannot consider the sannyasa superior just because they may be able to help a larger quantity of people.

          A holistic conception recognises the importance and value of all the individual parts. Guru and disciple, sannyasa and householder, male and female are like left and right hands – symbiotic and complementary.

          • “Practically speaking, a householder is also in a good position to serve and help others with their spiritual development. They can help their children, their spouse, serve the ashram and the sannyasi’s. We cannot consider the sannyasa superior just because they may be able to help a larger quantity of people.”

            From my understanding sannyasa order is given the highest regard because one who is in that stage of life is no longer a “taker” in this world but his or her prescribed duties in life are to study and teach others and represent purity in practice. They are ideally the leaders of society and that is their particular function, which when properly honored and ideally followed should inspire the householders to perform their prescribed duties which includes maintaining the renunciates.

            Each order is ideally serving according to their capacity and role including the householders as you mention. If each person performs their duties in an exemplary way, the holistic conception you describe arises naturally.

            The sannyasa is the exemplar of the teachings and therefore we honor that status. If understood properly, that will not disparage the status of the grhasta.

      • Hi Prue,

        Thanks for the reply.

        I am not assuming that either renunciation is dependent on an external or that it is not possible in grhasta asrama. I was simply stating that practically speaking renounced life facilitates total absorption.

        You say,

        “If the idea that marraige is evil, or in any way inferior to sannyasi, is accepted as the truth, then there is an insidious, unspoken suggestion that association with women is evil, or bad for spritual progress.”

        I think marriage may be a distraction for either a man or a woman. I also do not assume that woman cannot be sannyasis. If a man or woman can be properly situated as a celibate renunciate free from worldly responsibilities then all the better.

    • Ummm…not to pour water on this philosophical debate, but without grhasthas how is human civilization supposed to go on? It seems that if people were to actually live up to the ideal that you are proposing (or were forced to–Taliban-style) that it would dry procreation as a whole.
      Is that a consideration?

  9. None of the six Goswamis was a sannyasi in the external sense of this word. The same can be said about almost all the associates of Lord Caitanya. That would suggest that sannyasa asram is not essential in bhakti.

    In the context of the modern world sannyasa is a very risky business. It is much more of a gamble than grhastha asram. Iskcon’s history is a perfect example of those risks. With some notable exceptions giving sannyasa to young, immature Western devotees was a disaster. When the ideals are impractical they should be at least re-evaluated.

  10. One of the difficulties I see with this discussion is that sannyasa is typically identified more with jnana-marg than it is with bhakti- marg. But nonetheless renunciation is an interim result of bhakti.

    Classically sannyasa is about attainment, not practice. But in bhakti there is more to attain than renunciation (sannyasa). So the difference between sannyasa and attainment in bhakti is love of God. However, if a devotee is renounced, she should be respected as more advanced by those who are not, given that her detachment is a result of her bhakti. And bhakti practiced with a clean heart or detachment will bring more rapid progress. This is the implication of sadyo hrdy avarudhyate ‘tra

    • You lost me there, Maharaja…
      The only sannyasis I know up close and personal are those from the Saraswata line. Are they not identified with bhakti marg?

      In the practical sense how do we evaluate person’s renounciation? Please forgive my bluntness, but is a formerly gay sannyasi abstaining from married life a renounced person? I have seen plenty of grihastha devotees leading very austere lives, working hard to maintain their family and to keep alive their sadhana, sacrificing a lot of their personal ambitions to be good fathers, mothers, husbands, and wives. And I have seen many sannyasis leading lives of comfort, ease, adoration, and open pursuit of various personal ambitions.

      As they sometimes say in the military, I respect the rank but not always the person holding the rank. Saraswatas had some truly great sannyasis, but they also had some truly rotten ones.

      • I am speaking of the term in a classical sense. Sannyasa is generally more identified with jnana marg. Therefore the controversy over the sannyasa institution of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura. He in turn looked to the Sri sampradaya for a precedent and of course found it. But as much as bhakti is about pravritti (bhava/prema) more than merely nivritti (renunciation unto itself) sannyasa unto itself is more readily identified with jnana. Sannyasa is the goal of jana marg but not the goal of the bhakti marg. This is what I meant.

        Otherwise abuse of the concept is unfortunately rampant.

        • Thank you for the explanation, Maharaja, and the common sense approach to these issues. It is quite refreshing.

          Sometimes we think that just because we add bhakti to something it will make the river flow uphill, so to speak. While that proves we have a lot of faith in bhakti, it also sets us up for a lot of disappointments. General trends of this world are hard to beat.

    • Thank you for offering some clarification of sannyasa and detachment in bhakti.

      However, if a devotee is renounced, she should be respected as more advanced by those who are not,

      A question I have from your comment is – can one see detachment that has resulted from attainment in bhakti? Sadhaka’s will attain more and more bhakti throughout their practice, but their external presentation/situation may stay the same. They may have become detached as a product of bhakti, but continue in their same external situation. Detachment can also make one detached from changing their circumstance right?

      Confirmation of your point and those of others in this thread about the inferiority of the grhastha asrama is confirmed in Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s Jaiva Dharma. In the context of daivi-varnasrama, I take it that the grhastha has all the eligibility for bhakti, but is given the humble role of service to the three asrama’s which focus on material detachment. A proper situation (usually household life) is recommended for all who practice bhakti, but those rare souls who have the adhikara from previous practice and who can honestly forego the entanglement of household life are worthy of utmost respect. And what harm is there in being humble and serving those who are externally renounced/detached?

      • Syama Gopala dasa

        “is given the humble role of service to the three asrama’s which focus on material detachment.”

        This made me think, because it can be said that renunciates serve the other ashramas just as humbly. Eg Would there be a temple where you could worship if there wasn’t anyone maintaining it?

      • Look for absence of pratistha, desire for followers and position.

        • That is extremely hard to know for a person who is not perfect himself/herself.How to find fault with a teacher when one is not perfect himself/herself. Generally many people suspect that most sadhus have a desire a pratistha. Even if a sadhu avoids pratistha, they feel he/she is doing that to gain pratistha.
          How can one externally know that somebody is free from desire for pratistha. Even simple and austere people can be chasing this dream.

          • Yes, many people thought Prabhupada was desirous of pratistha, but not those who knew him well, not Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja, not others like myself. So you have to get to know a sadhu well. Takes time.

        • The person who truly embodied total lack of pratistha was Srila Sridhara Maharaja. That was evident from both his behavior and from his teachings. He has inspired so many devotees all over the world despite the often nasty Iskcon propaganda against him. His writings continue to inspire both young and and old devotees who are attracted by its form and content.

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