By Krsna Prestha Devi Dasi

Have you ever wondered how you would make a difference in the world? 

Srila Prabhupada created an international spiritual society as a means to counteract the discord on the planet and give everyone the opportunity to experience true peace and happiness by reawakening their eternal relationship with God. As someone born in ISKCON and now a counselor specializing in relationships, I invite you to explore my perspective on contributing to Srila Prabhupada’s mission and promoting harmony and spirituality.

The setting: Wal-Mart. The time: 5:25 P.M.

I’m waiting in line at the checkout and can’t help but notice the woman sitting on the motorized

shopping cart in front of me, blocking my view of the aisle ahead. Suddenly, she screams at a ten-year-old boy immersed in his video game nearby.

“Cody! Cody! You blockhead, do you hear me?” she roars. “Get over here this minute!”

The boy’s face turns red as he scampers over and stands by the metal spoke wheels. That’s when I notice her shirt. In large letters scrawled across her chest is the name of her Christian ministry. She squints and her lips scowl. She looks absolutely miserable, and so does her son, as well as the tall, gaunt man, who I assume is her husband, standing quietly next to her. I feel sad for them all, but one thing is sure: They are a poor advertisement for her spirituality.

Do I sound judgmental? Perhaps it seems that way. But from my perspective, I’m just using discrimination. Because the nature of the soul is to be joyful, we are pleasure seekers, and accepting and rejecting are functions of the mind that we apply to our search.

“No happiness there!” I quickly conclude. “They are not my beacons of light to follow.”

Two days later I’m taking my young son to our temple’s school. As we walk down the grassy lane leading to the front entrance, I observe the family in front of me. The mother is smiling brightly, warmly, her big heart shining through her eyes. The father’s demeanor appears loving and gentle as he holds the hand of one of his daughters and carries his smallest girl in his spare arm. The third child runs slightly ahead, apparently lost in happy thoughts. The cooperation of the couple is obvious: They are a team caring for their children. After dropping the girls off at the school, they walk side-by-side back to the temple. Their strong, loving connection is noticeable. They radiate love, cooperation, and harmony.

I smile, my heart filled with authentic joy as I recognize their harmony and love, which I, the soul, inherently seek to experience. This couple is a beacon of light, and as a therapist I feel proud of these devotees of Lord Krishna, representing Srila Prabhupada’s movement in such a beautiful way. To me they serve as an authentic inspiration. Who would not want to experience their spirituality?

The scene took me back to the time my seven-year-old son asked me, “Mommy, are Krishna and Prabhupada real?”

“Of course they are, my dear,” I replied in surprise. “Why do you ask?”

“Because it seems like barely anybody knows about Krishna and Prabhupada.”

He stopped and looked me in the eyes.

“Mommy, so many people are suffering; why don’t you tell more people to chant Hare Krishna?”

He was clearly very concerned. In that moment I realized that the problems in the world are just as much my responsibility as anyone else’s.

As a mother, wife, and member of the Krishna consciousness movement with an M.A. in psychology, I began to seriously consider: How can I take responsibility and be more active and instrumental in spreading spiritual awareness? How can I help Krishna consciousness be the solution to people’s sufferings?

Chaitanya’s Example of Love

I began my considerations by stepping back in time five hundred years. Lord Chaitanya appeared in West Bengal and flooded the world with the holy names, answering Adwaita Acarya’s prayers for the Lord to descend and remove the suffering of the conditioned souls. Upon His descent, the Lord used His beauty and His love for all as “weapons” to destroy our suffering by drawing us toward His message.

Humans all want to feel love and are attracted by it. When they don’t have it in their life, they suffer deeply from the terrible disease called loneliness.

I mentioned the Wal-Mart mother only to point out that her suffering and her unhealthy way of relating to her child were both sad and repelling. In contrast, the beautiful loving family at the temple was uplifting and attractive to the soul seeking joy and love.

These two examples may lie at opposite ends of the spectrum of human relationships, so to clearly understand my perspective on how Krishna consciousness can address people’s suffering, let’s look at people in the middle of the spectrum.

Two Struggling Couples

Imagine this scene: The room is thick with tension. Not a word has been spoken over the last twenty-four hours. He intently stares out the window. She glares at him from across the table, eyes anointed with disdain.

He’s always shut down and avoiding me, she thinks bitterly. It’s obvious he doesn’t value me.

He glances over at her as he thoughtfully chews a bite of warm, fragrant basmati rice.

This woman doesn’t get me at all. I’m so sick of her expectations and feeling constantly judged.

Suddenly, their one-year-old starts to cry. The woman quickly jumps up from the table.

“It’s okay, sweet boy; mommy’s here.”

As she soothes the little one, her eyes shoot over to her husband, who sits quietly, chewing slowly, staring out the window, apparently oblivious of anything else.

Why doesn’t he get up once in a while and take care of his son, and just let me eat in peace?

Her thoughts steeped in anger, she files away more evidence that he doesn’t value her.

Highly sensitive to his parents’ deep internal frustrations, the little devotee boy cries louder.

The parents dress their child in a yellow jumper suit, and the family drives off to the temple for the evening arati. Swaying gently to the sweet, melodic kirtana, bright, clean japa bags hanging from their necks, they look like a nice little family.

Perhaps for some the scene plays out a little differently. For example, another couple may never have had children, or the children are all grown up. They’re stoically sticking it out until death separates them. They live like roommates in a stalemate, without hope of their needs ever being understood or met. Their hearts are closed from years of built-up resentment and disconnection. Meanwhile, they fully embrace the philosophy that relationships are difficult and love cannot exist in the material world.

Yes, it’s true, some steadfast couples can successfully, yet somewhat miserably, eke out a low-quality, closed-hearted marriage. Others simply cannot. Their unmet needs, weak connection, and the behaviors that result eventually land them in affairs, divorce, or other extremely painful outcomes. Regardless of whether they stick together or break up, neither the couple with the child nor the childless couple will be able to help other suffering souls find refuge from their interpersonal conflicts.

We all have an impact on the harmony in this world, positive or negative. In psychology it is understood that as adults we tend to unconsciously create the same emotional environment we experienced as a child, be it of loneliness, anger, and conflict, or of joyful harmony.

Prabhupada’s Welcoming House

Srila Prabhupada was deeply concerned about people’s happiness and saw Krishna consciousness as the means to attain it:

We are preaching Bhagavad-gita as it is. Our mission is to spread the instructions of Krishna so that people may become happy, hopeful, and peaceful. The central point is to understand Krishna as the supreme proprietor, the supreme enjoyer and the best friend of all living beings. . . . When we accept Krishna’s instructions perfectly we become automatically a perfectly religious person. Therefore the Krishna consciousness movement is not a sentimental fanaticism of so-called religion. But it is the perfect culture for peace and happiness of the whole human society. (Letter, September 15, 1975)

Prabhupada wanted a high-quality spiritual society to attract and retain conditioned souls, providing a house the whole world could live in. His incredible vision was of a huge family coexisting in harmony, with Krishna in the center.

If we accept Srila Prabhupada’s vision, we need to carefully think about how we can best create harmony, as a house filled with discord is not at all appealing. People may enter but then quickly leave.

Although we may be successful in many ways, if we radiate discord within our self, with God, or with others, then we contribute to the conflict in the world. We should consider what we wish to leave as our legacy, our contribution to happiness on earth.

Human interactions make up a large percentage of what contributes to people’s happiness or suffering. Over the last ten years of my profession, I have witnessed the deep sadness, loneliness, and suffering people experience in unhappy unions, as well as how they feel their life has been saved when they achieve sustainable levels of harmony and openhearted connection by truly putting God consciousness in the center of their marriage. People want harmonious relationships and are starving for guidance. Just imagine the effect an amazing spiritual movement of bhakti, loaded with radiant loving families, could have on the world. How attractive and powerful it would be—letting Krishna consciousness truly shine as the spiritual solution to material problems.

Evolving Through Love

Marriage is an opportunity to evolve through love, stimulating spiritual growth. Relationships are like magnifying glasses that show us exactly how we need to refine ourselves spiritually. In fact, we can often find parallels between our relationships in this world and our relationship with God. With spiritually focused consciousness and intentions, we can simultaneously clean up our personal connections and improve our connection with Krishna.

So how do we begin transforming our relationships?

Relationships become rich and sacred when we infuse them with spiritual consciousness and gratitude. When we understand that the soul we are relating with is part of God, is a divine gift, and can be seen as God loving, maintaining, and protecting us on a deep heart and soul level—in that moment the union becomes a means to love Krishna and receive His love in return. Maintaining this vision daily is one of the great spiritual practices that helps purify us of the false ego and false sense of proprietorship. Giving up the sense of proprietorship means seeing ourselves as the servant of the servant of God and seeing the people in our life as God’s gift to assist and serve with us.

In the Krishna consciousness movement our practice when something falls onto the floor is to pick it up and touch it to our head, treating it as sacred, because we know it belongs to Krishna and is being used in His service. We can apply the same consciousness to our family members. Treat them as sacred and notice how Krishna reciprocates with our sincere demonstration of Krishna consciousness.

Remember, thoughts are seeds that grow a specific fruit.

Ask yourself, “What thoughts do I cultivate about my family members? Are they thoughts of gratitude and of seeing them as an essential part of my loving service to Krishna?”

Krishna asks us to do everything as an offering of love to Him: “Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer or give away, and whatever austerities you perform—do that, O son of Kunti, as an offering to Me.” (Bhagavad-gita 9.26) As an offering of love to Krishna, lovingly serving the souls He places in our life is a way to cultivate a beautiful consciousness.

Each morning as you awaken, try to hold on to the peaceful vision that the companions surrounding you—your spouse, children, friends, and community—are Krishna’s direct love in your life. In line with this goal, Srila Prabhupada carefully taught his disciples to create harmony. If we follow Srila Prabhupada’s guidance and cultivate daily thoughts, consciousness, and aligned behaviors such as he taught, we will undoubtedly experience a powerful change in the quality of our relationships and our spiritual life. [See the sidebar “Marriage Guidance.”]

Many people succeed in various frontiers in their life, but human interactions tend to be difficult territory to face and master because of the nature of the false ego. When Arjuna wanted to run from his life challenge, Krishna said, “No, stay on the battlefield, change your consciousness, and perform your activities as an offering of love to Me.”

That is exactly what Arjuna did, and in doing so perfected his life.

My Own Motivating Thoughts

To conclude on a personal note, I will share three reasons why I feel deeply inspired to create the highest quality connections possible.

1. In my joyful yet grave service as a mother, Krishna has entrusted me with the care of two souls. These boys will most likely become husbands and fathers. I know how important it is to provide an environment in which my children can thrive materially, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, so they in turn will hand this environment down to their children, creating generations of health.

2. I know it is an environment where I can flourish in my spiritual life, and it is a wonderful platform for me to be more powerfully of service.

3. In my heart of hearts I know that doing so pleases Krishna and Srila Prabhupada and becomes an attractive example to conditioned souls who are also seeking peace, harmony, and happiness in their lives.

My hope is that you too will feel inspired to refine your relationships by seeing them as connected to your devotional service and spiritual evolution, thereby benefiting the world.