TTP 3: Family Illusion
Prahlāda Mahārāja told his friends, "You have to begin Kṛṣṇa consciousness immediately." All the boys were born of atheistic, materialistic families, but fortunately they had the association of Prahlāda, who was a great devotee of the Lord from his birth. Whenever he found an opportunity, when the teacher was out of the classroom, he used to say, "My dear friends, let's chant Hare Kṛṣṇa; this is the time to begin Kṛṣṇa consciousness."
Now, as we have stated, some boy might have said, "But we are just boys. Let us play. We are not going to die immediately. Let us have some enjoyment, and later we shall begin Kṛṣṇa consciousness." People do not know that Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the highest enjoyment. They think that the boys and girls who have joined this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement are foolish. "By Prabhupāda's influence they have joined Kṛṣṇa consciousness and left everything enjoyable." But actually this is not so. They are all intelligent, educated boys and girls, coming from very respectable families; they are not fools. In our Society they are actually enjoying life; otherwise they would not have sacrificed their valuable time for this movement.
Actually there is joyful life in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, but people do not know of it. They say, "What use is this Kṛṣṇa consciousness?" When one grows up entangled in the sense gratification process, it is very difficult to get out of it. Therefore, according to Vedic regulations, in student life, beginning from five years of age, boys are taught about spiritual life. That is called
Prahlāda Mahārāja says that everyone is attached to family affection. If one is attached to family affairs, he cannot control his senses. Naturally, everyone wants to love someone. Society, friendship, and love are needed. They are demands of the spirit soul, but they are being pervertedly reflected. I have seen that many ladies and gentlemen in your country have no family life, but they have placed their love in cats and dogs. Because they want to love someone but do not see anyone suitable, they place their valuable love in cats and dogs. Our concern is to transfer this love—which has to be placed somewhere—to Kṛṣṇa. This is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. If you transfer your love to Kṛṣṇa, that is perfection. But now, because people are being frustrated and cheated, they do not know where to place their love, and at last they place their love in cats and dogs.
Everyone is entangled by material love. It is very difficult to develop spiritual life when one is advanced in material love, because this bondage of love is very strong. Therefore Prahlāda proposes that one should learn Kṛṣṇa consciousness from childhood. When a child is five or six years old—as soon as his consciousness is developed—he should be sent to school to be trained, and Prahlāda Mahārāja says that his education should be Kṛṣṇa conscious from the very beginning. The period from five to fifteen years is a very valuable time; you can train any child in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and he will become perfect.
If a child is not trained in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and instead becomes advanced in materialism, it is difficult for him to develop spiritual life. What is materialism? Materialism means that all of us in this material world, although we are spirit souls, somehow or other want to enjoy this material world. The spirit of enjoyment is present in its pure form in the spiritual world, in relation to Kṛṣṇa, but we have come here to partake of contaminated enjoyment, just as a man on the Bowery thinks he can enjoy by drinking some liquor. The basic principle of material enjoyment is sex. Therefore, you will find sex not only in human society but in cat society, dog society, bird society—everywhere. During the daytime, a pigeon has sex at least twenty times. This is his enjoyment.
Where is his Kṛṣṇa consciousness? He becomes so entangled that money becomes more valuable to him than his own life. In other words, he can risk his life for money. The householder, the laborer, the merchant, the thief, the dacoit, the rogue—everyone is after money. This is illusion. One loses himself in the midst of this entanglement.
Prahlāda Mahārāja says that in this state, when you are too much implicated in materialism, you cannot cultivate Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Therefore one should practice Kṛṣṇa consciousness from early childhood. Of course, Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu is so kind that He says, "Better late than never. Even though you missed the opportunity to begin Kṛṣṇa consciousness from childhood, begin now, in whatever position you are." That is Caitanya Mahāprabhu's teaching. He never said, "Because you did not begin Kṛṣṇa consciousness from your childhood, you cannot make progress." No. He is very kind. He has given us this nice process of chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. Whether you are young or old—no matter what you are—just begin. You do not know when your life will be finished. If you chant sincerely, even for a moment, it will have great effect. It will save you from the greatest danger—becoming an animal in your next life.
Although only five years old, Prahlāda Mahārāja speaks just like a very experienced and educated man because he received knowledge from his spiritual master, Nārada Muni. That is disclosed in the next chapter of the
So although Prahlāda was only five years old, by advancement in knowledge he was imparting perfect instructions to his classmates. Some may find these instructions unpalatable. Suppose a man is already married and Prahlāda says, "Take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness." He will think, "Oh, how can I leave my wife? We talk so nicely together, sit together and enjoy. How can I leave?" Family attraction is very strong.
I am an old man—seventy-two years old. I have been away from my family during the last fourteen years. Yet sometimes I also think of my wife and children. This is quite natural. But that does not mean I have to go back. This is knowledge. When the mind wanders to thoughts of sense gratification, one should at once understand, "This is illusion."
According to the Vedic system, one has to forcibly give up family life at the age of fifty. One must go. There is no alternative. The first twenty-five years are for student life. From age five to age twenty-five, one should be educated very nicely in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The basic principle of one's education should be Kṛṣṇa consciousness, nothing else. Then life will be pleasing and successful, both in this world and in the next. A Kṛṣṇa conscious education means one is trained to give up material consciousness altogether. That is perfect Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
But if the student is unable to capture the essence of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then he is allowed to marry a good wife and live a peaceful householder life. And because he has been trained in the basic principles of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he will not entangle himself in the material world. One who lives simply—plain living and high thinking—can make progress in Kṛṣṇa consciousness even within family life.
So family life is not condemned. But if a man forgets his spiritual identity and simply becomes entangled in material affairs, then he is lost. His life's mission is lost. If one thinks, "I cannot protect myself from the attack of sex desire," then let him be married. That is prescribed. But don't have illicit sex. If you want a girl, if you want a boy, get married and live in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
A person who is trained in Kṛṣṇa consciousness from childhood naturally becomes disinclined toward the material way of life, and at the age of fifty he gives it up. How does he start giving it up? The husband and wife leave home and travel together on pilgrimage. If from twenty-five to fifty one remains in family life, one should have some grown-up children. So at age fifty the husband entrusts the family affairs to some of his sons who are family men, and he and his wife go on pilgrimage to the holy places in order to forget family attachments. When the gentleman is completely matured in detachment, he asks his wife to go home to their children, and he remains alone. That is the Vedic system. We have to give ourselves a chance to progress in spiritual life, step by step. Otherwise, if we remain attached to material consciousness throughout all our days, we will not perfect our Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and we shall miss the opportunity of this human form of life.
So-called happy family life means that we have a very loving wife and loving children. Thus we enjoy life. But we do not know that this enjoyment is false, that it is resting on a false platform. At once, in the twinkling of an eye, we may have to give up this enjoyment. Death is not under our control. From the
The whole point is that one should begin Kṛṣṇa consciousness immediately. Suppose one thinks, "After finishing my sporting life, when I am old and there is nothing else to do, then I shall go to the Kṛṣṇa consciousness Society and hear something." Certainly at that time one can take up spiritual life, but what is the assurance that one will live to an old age? One may die at any time; so postponing one's spiritual life is very risky. Therefore one should take the opportunity now to advance in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That is the purpose of this Society: to give everyone a chance to begin Kṛṣṇa consciousness at any stage of life. And by the process of chanting
Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare
Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare,
advancement is very quick. There is an immediate result.
We request all the ladies and gentlemen who are very kindly attending our lectures or reading our literature to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa during your leisure hours at home, and to read our books. That is our request. We are sure that you will find this process very pleasing and very effective.