Questions and Answers: How to see Women/Men?/How to work for Krishna's enjoyment?
Q. How does a devotee actually see his wife? What is the difference between seeing women as mothers or as a wife? Or even as sisters and wives? Is a sister and a wife is the same for a devotee, or different? Or what is the difference?
A. Seeing a woman as a mother means seeing her with honor and respect--not as an object of enjoyment. Of course we "should" see everyone--men or women--in relationship to Krishna's service. Regarding your question, generally a devotee takes a wife (or husband) for companionship, to retire material desires, and especially for someone to help them make spiritual progress. However, the desire for intimacy and sex, as well as to have children are also a big part of many devotee's motivation. In modern India, that idea of seeing women as sisters has entered, which Prabhupada criticized. In my view, it may have some utility, yet is still not as formal or useful as seeing a woman as mother--it could work if one holds one's sister in reverence and respect. The problem is that many men see someone as a sister, not in a formal, traditional sense, but more as a label of friendship, which leaves room for the mind to wander to thinking of the woman for material enjoyment. Seeing men, women, or the world as objects to exploit and selfishly enjoy, is the real problem for everyone, as it keeps the soul in the material world of suffering and repeated birth and death.
In a marriage, both husband and wife need to see their spouse as a devotee of Krishna to be served and helped. Though they may take different roles due to social convention, or utility, the main thing is to cultivate spiritual life together, while also meeting the basic necessities of the body and mind. Husband or wife may take charge of various areas of the house and their life together according to their natures and expertise. If both people work, traditional roles (calling something women's work or men's work) have to be rethought. One of the most important items in a marriage is mutual respect and trust, as well as daily spiritual practice, and shared devotional service. This creates harmonious dealings, and gradually purifies the relationship, awakening the dormant spiritual consciousness.
For me personally, seeing all women, except my wife, as mother is challenging. Although I can't say I see every women except my wife as a mother, I do my best. I endeavor to offer all women respect, in order to keep some distance--which is the point of seeing a women as a mother, or in the case of women, seeing men as a son. It is important to understand the reasons behind different recommendations in the scriptures, so we can adapt them to the times we live in, as is required. Otherwise, we run the risk of being dogmatic moralists, who have lost sight of the purpose behind the dos and do nots we follow. The warning for a man is that women can be like fire, which may cause them to melt, and loose their self-control. If we become too familiar with a member of the opposite sex other than our spouse, we may become overly attracted, and attached. While we shouldn't be neurotic, we can exhibit due diligence and care. Our prayers for help, and remembrance of Krishna are our constant companion, we will be successful in all our dealings with others, and not fall victim to our selfishness.
Men can put women in illusion, and women can put men in illusion--this is what makes the world go around. This is why in Vedic culture there is some separation or distance created between men and women, and indeed, that exists to some degree in every society. However, separation between the sexes does not stand alone. Additionally, spiritual knowledge must be cultivated, as well as purifying the consciousness through pure chanting of the holy name, and experiencing a higher spiritual taste. The intelligent sages knew the spiritual purpose of life and made recommendations according to the time, place and circumstances. Thus, we have to think well how to adapt moral principles and recommendations to modern times--to know the spirit behind the law, and apply them intelligently, and practically. We have to judge a thing by the results.
We may think such ideas are terribly old fashioned. However, judging by the sex scandals of many important men, and many cases of sexual harassment against women, it is obvious that there is merit in restricting the association of men and women, and educating people spiritually. And in Krishna consciousness, we want to associate with everyone on the basis of the soul, and service to Krishna and his devotees. Then there will be no illusion, or desires for exploiting the opposite sex. Service is the solace! We have to awaken our soul to rise above animality.
I do see some women as a sister (and I have my Godsisters, or those ladies also initiated by my guru). Since I didn't have a very good relationship with my mom, it can be hard for me to compare them to her, so I have to think more in a universal sense. Seeing older women, or those my age as mother is easier, while younger ladies, I endeavor to see them as daughters. However, the idea is to create some distance between you and any women other than your wife, so you don't think of them as a possible sexual partner--which is a typical conditioning for men. When we become too familiar, biology can kick in, and we may loose our intelligence. Making spiritual advancement and coming to the spiritual platform, will help us rise above biological attractions. We have to develop the serving ego where we see everyone and everything as meant for Krishna's enjoyment. That is our goal, and may take life times. We have to at least be attracted to the spiritual ideal, and eventually, to want it with all our hearts. Intense eagerness for obtaining Krishna is our ticket to success.
Q. Prabhu, your statement that, "everyone and everything is meant for Krishna's enjoyment." means what? "The duty of the souls is to work for Krishna's enjoyment" What does this mean? When does Krishna enjoy our actions? How?
A.There are many ways to speak, philosophically, or religiously, etc. We are one with Krishna, yet a unique individual. Having a good understanding of the basics of the philosophy is essential, which means understanding the Bhagavad-gita, etc., which teach us that we are an eternal soul, part of Krishna. Our nature is to serve. Presently in material consciousness, we are identifying ourselves with the body, and acting only for the senses and mind. If we understand that for the soul, identifying ourselves merely as a body is a problem, then we have to search out the solution. If we do, we will want to change the influence acting upon us, from matter to spirit.
Please read Bhagavad-gita As It Is, chapter 4 vs 24 and purport, which speaks of how to change the type of energy which influences us--from matter to spirit. As part of God, our nature is to serve Him. That will bring us the happiness and fulfillment every soul hankers for. We remember our soul, and its eternal relationship with Krishna by chanting the maha-mantra (Hare Krishna mantra), reading the Gita, Shrimad Bhagavatam, and other bhakti scriptures, and thus understanding the philosophy of bhakti, or Krishna consciousness. If we understand the spiritual philosophy, we will want to associate with devotees of Krishna, engage in service for Krishna, and aspire to purify our consciousness. We will also understand the importance of accepting the shelter of a Guru, who can destroy our doubts and inspire us to keep practicing spiritual life. This is pleasing to Krishna.
Everyone works to maintain their existence and family. A devotee's endeavor to see that his or her real employer is Krishna, and thus be in the mood of service to Him, through our work, and everything we do, say, eat--whatever. See Gita chapter 9 vs 26 & 27 (offer everything to Krishna, and even better, offer the things Krishna wants in love). Basically there are dos and do nots to spiritual life, which revolve around, and facilitate, always remembering Krishna, and never forgetting him. To do this, we can do what is favorable for remembering and serving Him, while avoiding what is unfavorable. This is the beginning of acting to please Krishna, and there are many more things we can learn. Sharing one's faith, or the knowledge of Bhagavad gita is also pleasing to Krishna. In the twelfth chapter of Bhagavad Gita we learn who is dear to Krishna. We can remain in our family and occupational situation, yet make spiritual advancement through using our life, wealth, words, and intelligence for Krishna. There are no material impediments to Krishna consciousness. It can be practiced in any situation, if we want to! Krishna consciousness or pure bhakti is very user friendly!