Guest Writer: Laasika devi dasi, BVKS
Text edited by Phalini devi dasi ACBSP
Srimad Bhagavatam 7.11.25: To render service to the husband, to be always favorably disposed toward the husband, to be equally well disposed toward the husband’s relatives and friends, and to follow the vows of the husband — these are the four principles to be followed by women described as chaste.
Text edited by Phalini devi dasi ACBSP
In the above verse, the great devotee of the Lord Narada Muni instructs Maharaja Yudhisthira about the duties of chaste women as per Vedic culture. Let's get into the detail of each of the instructions given above.
*To render service to the husband*
A Krsna conscious wife should feel blessed to render service to her husband. She should consider it as her prime duty because as per shastras, the husband is the first representative of Krsna for the wife. Lakshmi Devi, who is considered as an ideal wife, is always sitting near the lotus feet of the Lord and massaging them. Sita Devi followed Lord Rama to the forest during His exile and served Him there. Krsna's wives, who had thousands of maidservants, served Him personally and called themselves His maidservants. Devahuti served her husband Kardama Muni to such an extent that she became extremely weak. Sukanya, whose husband Cyavana Muni was quite irritable, molded herself according to his mood and humbly served him. The chastity of all these ladies is glorified in Amala Purana Srimad Bhagavatam.
Some women consider it 'too much' if their husbands ask them to remove their shoes or massage their feet. Some even consider it offensive or insulting. But actually it should be taken as a blessing. A male disciple feels blessed when he gets the opportunity to serve his spiritual master with menial services. In the same way, a woman must take it as the mercy of Krsna that He has sent her a protector, His representative, as her husband, whom she can serve everyday. A male disciple may not get the opportunity to do the vapu seva of his spiritual master everyday, but Patita Pavana Krsna has kindly sent us our husbands. We can do their vapu seva everyday. Such services must be done with humility. Massaging the body and feet of the husband, fanning him, cooking and serving him Prasad, all these are the opportunities that a wife gets as her service to Guru and Krsna. She must be fully aware that by performing these duties, she is serving Krsna, as these are the instructions given by Krsna's pure devotee Narada Muni for all wives. Knowing that the husband is the representative of Krsna for the wife, by doing his vaani seva (by following his instructions and orders) and vapu seva, she is getting the same benefit that a male disciple gets by doing vaani and vapu seva of the spiritual master.
*To be always favorably disposed toward the husband*
This is the instruction that many of us wives fail to accept mentally and practically. But we need to work on ourselves, as this is what Krsna desires from us. It is easy to follow husband's instructions when they match with our own thinking, but it is quite difficult to accept them when they are contrary to what we think. While reciting Shikshashtakam, we very easily speak...
ashlishya va pada-ratam pinashtu mam
adarshanan marma-hatam karotu va
yatha tatha va vidadhatu lampato
mat-prana-nathas tu sa eva naparaha
I know no one but Krishna as my Lord, and He shall remain so even if He handles me roughly by His embrace or makes me brokenhearted by not being present before me. He is completely free to do anything and everything, for He is always my worshipful Lord, unconditionally.
...but practically we fail to practice this verse even in the basic problems (so called basic problems of the material world) we face in our household lives. We wives must practice to neglect the minor mistakes of our husbands. Prabhupada often quoted 'to err is human.' If we examine ourselves honestly, we will see that we also commit so many mistakes, but when we see our husbands committing some mistake, we have the tendency to instantly correct it. But we must know that this is not the duty of the wife. The wife plays the subordinate role in the married relationship. A wife is not supposed to take the superior position and instruct her husband. There should be maryada (limitation) in the husband-wife relationship. But it's difficult for our 'false ego' to understand this. A wife is also called a Mantrini (counsellor) of her husband. A good Mantrini is one who gives the correct counselling at the correct time. A wife should take this position in a humble way at the proper time. She should not blast her husband with her intelligent advice when he is not in a good mood. We wives strongly need to develop our tolerance power. Many a time things in marriage don't happen in the way we desire. Our masters, our husbands, may want something from us that we don't want, but this verse of Srimad Bhagavatam guides us to be "always favorably disposed toward the husband." It's natural for men to demand the position of superiority in married life. If this is not maintained then there would be no peace in family life.
*To be equally well-disposed toward the husband's relatives and friends*
In His lectures, Srila Prabhupada tells about the custom in Bengal when the boy goes to marry, he tells his mother before leaving "Mother, I am going to bring a maidservant for you." But at the present time, many wives can call this ancient practice orthodox and may even consider it offensive. It is natural for a son to be affectionate toward his parents, so he expects his wife to serve them. We read in Mahabharata how Draupadi was deeply respectful toward her mother-in-law Kunti Devi and served her very humbly. Also we read in Srimad Bhagavatam, how Krsna's childhood friend Sudama came to visit Him in Dwarka. Krsna made him sit on his bed and washed his feet, and Rukmini Devi fanned him with a chamara. And of course, Krsna was very pleased by her service. It is natural for the husband to want his wife to serve his dear ones in a loving way. So it is an important duty of a wife that she serve her husband's relatives and friends in the way he expects from her.
*To follow the vows of the husband*
Different husbands have different moods. A wife's duty is to follow the vows of the husband. If a husband takes a vow to chant a certain number of rounds during a certain period, then the wife must give him a nice atmosphere and welcome his vow, so that he can peacefully and enthusiastically carry on with it. She can also chant some extra rounds if time and her services allow her, and if her husband expects it from her. The same principle applies to reading shastra.
If the husband takes a vow to eat only once during a certain month, then she may also follow her husband's vow with his permission, if her health allows her and it doesn't become a hindrance in her services to the husband and family. If the husband takes a vow to live simply and execute Krsna consciousness, she must practice living simply in the way he desires. The main thing is that she must give him a favorable atmosphere where he can peacefully execute his Krsna conscious activities. If the husband takes a vow to help his relatives or friends in some way, the wife should not object and nag about it. If the husband takes a vow to send his children to gurukula rather then sending them to slaughterhouse (schools), the wife must follow his vow. If the husband takes a vow to lead a vanaprastha life, the wife must follow his vow. If the responsible Krsna conscious husband decides to take sannyasa, then his wife must let him do so. She should not become self- centered. She must support his decision so that he can preach Krsna's message to everyone.
Some women say, "I won't follow the footsteps of Sita Devi because my husband is not like Rama." But this is just a modern feministic idea. If we want our husbands to behave ideally, we must see to it that we are as ideal as Sukanya who did not fight or argue with her very irritable husband Cyavana Muni. She molded herself according to his mood and served him humbly. We must take inspiration from such glorious ladies mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam.
Srila Prabhupada's sister Bhavatarini Devi Dasi's husband broke all the regulative principles. Still Prabhupada guided her to stay with him, serve him faithfully and He gave her the deities of Radha Krsna that they both worshiped during their childhood and asked her to pray to Them. Prabhupada's sister, who was also the disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, even used to cook meat for her husband. He was also a woman-hunter and alcoholic, but she still served him and prayed to Radha-Madhava for him. At the end of his life, his mind changed and he realized all his mistakes. This is the power of chastity and the result of following the instructions of a pure devotee of the Lord.
If we women sincerely try to apply the instructions given by Narada Muni in our lives, we will see the process working miraculously in our lives. We will see how our husbands will become more Krsna conscious, more responsible, more dutiful and more peaceful (even if they are not devotees). The problem in our married life mostly comes when we don't have the patience to follow these instructions of Narada Muni in our lives.
• There may be some exceptional cases where a woman faces abnormal hardships in her married life. Such cases can be discussed with some trustworthy senior grihastha couple who are themselves sincerely following the instructions of shastras given for grihasthas. But for most of us married ladies, the key to leading a peaceful Krsna conscious grihastha life is to become the maidservant of our husband. This is the instruction given in all the shastras for women. But we must remember that whatever we do, we must keep Krsna in the center. Without keeping Krsna in the center, everything becomes 0. But if we chastely try to serve our husbands, following the instructions of shastras for the pleasure of Krsna, our Supreme Master, our lives will become successful, of this there is no doubt.
Your aspiring servant,
Laasika Devi Dasi
Nandagrama Farm Community