Saturday, December 27, 2008

Book Review

I haven't been very active on the blog lately. However, I thought I would post this review I wrote of a very important book.

In Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s masterpiece, Jaiva Dharma, one of his characters, Raghunatha dasa Babaji, tells a student, “Although Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu did not personally write any books, His followers have written volumes on His order. The Lord has personally given eight instructions, in verse form, known as the Siksastaka; the devotees cherish them as a necklace of priceless gems. They contain all His instructions in condensed form.” My own spiritual master, Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, did not say very much about Mahaprabhu’s Siksastaka, but he cited those eight verses constantly in his books, lectures, letters, and informal conversations.

In fact, it appears that not many Gaudiya vaisnava acaryas have said very much about these verses that form the seed of the teachings of Lord Caitanya. However, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura explored the meanings inherent in Siksastaka in his Sri Sanmodana-bhasya in 1886 and Bhajana-rahasya in 1902, and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura followed in the wake of Sri Sanmodana-bhasya with his brief Vivrtti, which he published along with Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s commentary in 1929. Inspired by these two great spiritual geniuses, Swami B. V. Tripurari has recently published Siksastakam of Sri Caitanya. This book further explores the ocean of nectar that is Siksastaka, beginning with these commentaries and integrating material from other acaryas as well. It further serves as a sort of map of the path of spiritual progress prescribed by Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and his followers.

Most readers are probably aware that a couple of editions of Siksastakam have been published in recent years, with the commentaries of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. These are valuable books for which we should all be grateful. I have studied them myself to aid my own dedication to deeper immersion in chanting Sri Krsna’s holy names.

One thing that this book apart from the others and makes it unique—and indispensible to progressive Gauòiya vaisnavas—is its weaving of essential elements of Sri Sanmodana-bhasya, Bhajana-rahasya, and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s Vivrtti, as well as of commentary from earlier Gauòiya acaryas, especially Srila Jiva Gosvami and Srila Visvanath Cakravarti Thakura, into a rich, poetic tapestry that more fully reveals the benefits of Sri Krsna saìkirtana, depicts aspects of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s inner life, and helps sadhakas better cultivate and measure the growth of their own inner lives.

The tapestry’s border ties the entire work together by framing Mahaprabhu’s eight verses as a confession offered to Ramananda Raya and Svarupa Damodara, a confession to what may be the greatest caper ever pulled: stealing the emotional life of Srimati Radharani. The progressively profound exploration of the verses themselves takes us on a journey into the depths of Sri Krsna saìkirtana, revealing along the way connections between the benefits of saìkirtana previewed in the first verse and the progressive stages of bhakti which Srila Rupa Gosvami describes in Sri Bhaktirasamrta-sindhu, beginning with the initial faith that opens us to the association of vaisnavas and culminating in different stages of prema.

Swami Tripurari’s language often tends to the poetic, and appropriately so, considering the poetic density of his subject. This enhances the reader’s appreciation for the effects Sri Krsna saìkirtana—and the study of Mahaprabhu’s verses—on the hearts of those who apply themselves to them. Consider, for example, this passage from the Swami’s commentary on verse four, which discusses the third effect of chanting Sri Krsna nama, spreading the petals of the white lotus of good fortune by its moonbeams:
As we have seen from this fourth verse of Sikskastakam, Mahaprabhu, representing a devotee who has attained ruci, stands well positioned to gradually experience prema-dharma and the drama of Krsna lila. When the sadhaka attains ruci, saranagati is fully in place, as his or her sraddha has matured by virtue of being in touch with the land of faith. Now the stage—saranagati—on which the drama of Krsna lila is performed is established in the sadhaka’s heart. The seeds of material desire are destroyed and the seed of bhakti that has already sprouted in the form of sraddha begins to blossom.
The beauty of sraddha’s blossom shines brightly, enchanted by the soothing moon of Sri Krsnacandra. This blossom of ruci enchants the entire world and also charms the sadhaka’s heart. In its shadow stands material desire and the darkness it represents. As inauspiciousness is removed (klesaghni), the sadhaka’s life becomes truly auspicious (subhada).

Swami Tripurari’s language here and throughout the book sheds light on the charm that saìkirtana and Mahaprabhu’s glorification of that practice exert on the practitioner’s heart. However, his language never fails to clearly illuminate the features of Krsna-conscious philosophy vital to proper understanding. Moreover, his glossary and copious notes facilitate the kind of careful study to which many will want to subject this book.

The Swami writes that this book is written mostly for those familiar with Gaudiya vaisnavism, with an eye to exploring the ocean that is Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s Siksastakam. As with any diving expedition, each member will appreciate the tour according to his or her experience and skill. And as a skilled guide, Swami Tripurari helps show his charges how and where to find wonders previously unseen, perhaps even unimagined. I hope everyone who is serious about plumbing the depths of Sri Krsna nama will take advantage of the treasure that is Swami B. V. Tripurari’s Siksastakam of Sri Caitanya. This is certainly a book that I will always carry with me.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Srila Prabhupada's Big Plan

Sometimes we hear devotees talk about a grand plan Srila Prabhupada had for spreading the teachings of Lord Chaitanya, even before he came to the West. We have a hint of that plan, and perhaps a glimpse into his internal life, in a poem he wrote aboard the Jaladuta. On September 13, 1965, he wrote in his diary, “Today I have disclosed my mind to my companion Lord Sri Krsna.There is a Bengali poem made by me today in this connection.” He called this poem "Prayer to the Lotus Feet of Krishna."

krsna taba punya habe bhai
e-punya koribe jabe radharani khusi habe

dhruva ati boli toma tai
Dear brother, Krishna, it is as certain as the Pole Star that you will attain your good fortune only when Srimati Radharani becomes pleased with you.

sri-siddhanta saraswati
saci-suta priya ati

krsna-sebaya jara tula nai

sei se mohanta-guru
jagater madhe uru

krsna-bhakti dey thai thai

Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who is very dear to Lord Gauranga, the son of mother Saci, is unparalleled in his service to the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna. He is that great saintly spiritual master who bestows intense devotion to Krsna at different places throughout the world.

tara iccha balavan
pascatyete than than

hoy jate gauranger nam

prthivite nagaradi
asamudra nada nadi

sakalei loy krsna nam

By his strong desire, the holy name of Lord Gauranga will spread throughout all the countries of the Western world. In all the cities, towns, and villages on the earth, from all the oceans, seas, rivers, and streams, everyone will chant the holy name of Krsna.

tahale ananda hoy
tabe hoy digvijay

caitanyer krpa atisay

maya dusta jata duhkhi
jagate sabai sukhi

vaisnaver iccha purna hoy

As the vast mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu conquers all directions, a flood of transcendental ecstasy will certainly cover the land. When all the sinful, miserable living entities become happy, the Vaisnavas' desire is then fulfilled.

se karja je koribare
ajna jadi dilo more

jogya nahi an dina hina

tai se tomara krpa
magitechi anurupa

aji numi sabar pravina

Although my Guru Maharaja ordered me to accomplish this mission, I am not worthy or fit to do it. I am very fallen and insignificant. Therefore, O Lord, now I am begging for Your mercy so that I may become worthy, for You are the wisest and most experienced of all.

tomara se sakti pele
guru-sebaya bastu mile

jibana sarthak jadi hoy

sei se seva paile
tahale sukhi hale

taba sanga bhagyate miloy

If You bestow Your power, by serving the spiritual master one attains the Absolute Truth-one's life becomes successful. If that service is obtained, then one becomes happy and gets Your association due to good fortune.

evam janam nipatitam prabhavahikupe
kamabhikamam anu yah prapatan prasangat

krtvatmasat surarsina bhagavan grhitah

so 'ham katham nu visrje tava bhrtya-sevam

My dear Lord, O Supreme Personality of Godhead, because of my association with material desires, one after another, I was gradually falling into a blind well full of snakes, following the general populace. But Your servant Narada Muni kindly accepted me as his disciple and instructed me how to achieve this transcendental position. Therefore, my first duty is to serve him. How could I leave his service? (Prahlada Maharaja to Lord Nrsimhadeva, Bhag. 7.9.28)

tumi mor cira sathi
bhuliya mayar lathi

khaiyachi janma-janmantare

aji punah e sujoga jadi
hoy jogayoga
pari tuhe milibare

O Lord Krsna, You are my eternal companion. Forgetting You, I have suffered the kicks of maya birth after birth. If today the chance to meet You occurs again, then I will surely be able to rejoin You.

tomara milane bhai
abar se sukha pai

gocarane ghuri din bhor
kata bane chutachuti
bane khai lutaputi

sei din kabe habe mor

O dear friend, in Your company I will experience great joy once again. In the early morning I will wander about the cowherd pastures and fields. Running and frolicking in the many forests of Vraja, I will roll on the ground in spiritual ecstasy. Oh when will that day be mine?

aji se subidhane
tomara smarana bhela

baro asa dakilam tai

ami tomara nitya-dasa
tai kori eta asa
bina anya gati nai

Today that remembrance of You came to me in a very nice way. Because I have a great longing I called to You. I am Your eternal servant and therefore I desire Your association so much. O Lord Krsna, except for You there is no other means of success.

Srila Prabhupada's long-time friend and godbrother, Srila B. R. Sridhara Maharaja., opined that this poem, directed to Krishna, gives clues to Prabhupada's internal spiritual life:

He expressed his own position in eternal lila in his poem. I conjecture like that. Hare Krsna! In his diary in Bengali he wrote, “Today I cooked some bati-caccari. It was quite delicious. So I ate something. Today I expressed my inner feelings to my friend and wrote a poem about that.”

And that friend came to his aid. He was so earnest in his prayer to Krsna that he might be able discharge the duty that had been given to him by his Guru Maharaja that Krsna came down to help him—his friend helped him in this propaganda work. So saktyavesa-avatara. I take him; I cannot but take him to be so.

Addressing Krsna he wrote, “You are my eternal friend. Forgetting You, I have come to this world and I have been suffering the kicking of Maya, the goddess of misconception. If You come to help me in this campaign, then after finishing this I can again join You. When I shall be united with You again I shall wander along with You the whole day in keeping the cows in the forest. Running this side and that side in the jungle, in the forest. And then, lutaputi, to fall on the ground in different shows of play. I aspire after that day. I have got this good chance to serve my Gurudeva. For that reason my heartfelt appeal to You is that You please come to help me. I am Your eternal servitor, therefore so much aspiration I have got for You. You, no other, are my only resort.”

So after performing this service he aspires after a life in the cow-keeping lila of Krsna, and he is appreciating that sort of friendly service of Krsna very much from the core of his heart, his aspiration after finishing his worldly preaching campaign.

So what was Srila Prabhupada's grand plan? Feeling himself helpless and completely dependent on his friend Krishna, he talked the Lord into helping him. And, it would seem, his plan worked brilliantly.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Growing family

This is Everett Todd DeKiep. He's my grandson. My daughter, Krishnamayi, brought him into our families (ours and the DeKieps') last week. She and her husband live in Helena, Montana, where he works as an economist for the state and she works at the Lewis and Clark Library in Helena.

Our family has always been pretty close. My daughters are bright, independent women who have their own relationships with Krishna consciousness. I'm proud of them, and I think Everett is really cute.

Family relations in Krishna consciousness can be a little complicated sometimes. On the one hand, we understand that time brings us together and then separates us. On the other hand, my immediate family members are all devotees of Krishna. This part of my life has revealed a theme of trying to balance those perspectives. Ultimately, I need to focus my energy on life's real goal, and I'd like to do so in a way that encourages the rest of my family to do the same in their way, and in their time. In any event, my time and energy are shifting progressive toward the life of total commitment, somewhat as I knew it before getting married over 35 years ago, but on a deeper level. Some may find that disconcerting, I suppose, and I am working on mitigating that discomfort. In the meantime, I try to follow wherever my sadhana takes me. Proceeding with caution is not among my interests these days.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Some thoughts on discussions of polygamy

Recent events in Texas have some Hare Krishna devotees blogging about polygamy. I engaged in a brief discussion of how devotees discuss this sensitive issue a few years ago, and put together a synthesis of those articles for another devotee friend's blog a year or two ago. I thought this might be a way to revive this blog. I'm not sure how relevant anyone who happens on this page will find this. We'll see . .

Regarding the topic itself, I think that thorough study of Srila Prabhupada’s discussion of polygamy will show that, although he felt it was an important part of ideal Vedic culture, his consideration of time, place, and circumstance led to the conclusion that it was undesirable in the modern Krishna consciousness movement. My own opinion of polygamy in our time is very close to what Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote in 1857: “Polygamy is the bane of native [Indian] society—a curse that enslaves many of the softer sex. The Kulina Brahmins are inseparable companions of polygamy. In their society it is as firmly advocated as is American slavery in the Southern States. The Kulina women are no better off than the African blacks. But an African black has many advocates around: he has a voice in the ‘Anti-Slavery League,’ whilst a Kulina Brahmini has no zealous friend to tell of her sorrows and relieve them. The legislature ought to hear the cries of the people as far as their interest is concerned. Reform in everything is sought for and as the first movement we desire the removal of polygamy by an enactment.”

Some years ago one of my Godbrothers, who has made a name for himself as an advocate of polygamy, wrote a critique of a Godsister’s complaints about the practice of polygamy among devotees. I wrote a very short response, called “Lord Ramachandra’s Example,” noting that his article, like most advocacy of this practice, seemed to miss one important source: a verse and purport in the Ninth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Chapter 10, verse 54 says, “Lord Ramacandra took a vow to accept only one wife and have no connection with any other women. He was a saintly king, and everything in His life was good, untinged by qualities like anger. He taught good behavior for everyone, especially for the householders, in terms of varnasrama-dharma. Thus He taught the general public by His personal activities.”

In his purport, Srila Prabhupada explains this further: “Eka-patni-vrata, accepting only one wife, was the glorious example set by Lord Ramacandra. One should not accept more than one wife. In those days, of course, people did marry more than one wife. Even Lord Ramacandra’s father accepted more wives than one. But Lord Ramacandra, as an ideal king, accepted only one wife, mother Sita. When Mother Sita was kidnapped by Ravana and the Raksasas, Lord Ramacandra, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, could have married hundreds and thousands of Sitas, but to teach us how to be faithful He was to His wife, He fought with Ravana and finally killed him. The Lord punished Ravana and rescued His wife to instruct men to have only one wife. Lord Ramacandra accepted only one wife and manifested sublime character, thus setting an example for householders. A householder should live according to the ideal of Lord Ramacandra, who showed how to be a perfect person.”

I pointed out that this purport makes abundantly clear Srila Prabhupada’s desire that we establish daivi-varnasrama-dharma by marrying only one wife and remaining faithful to her throughout our lives. Since My Godbrother invests much in dates, let’s note that this volume was published in 1977. My Godbrother’s research shows that, in the abstract, we should have little objection to the kind of polygamy practiced by men with qualifications similar to King Dasarath. We should also note, however, that even Dasarath’s household was not perfectly peaceful. If men less qualified than he try to care for more than one wife, we can expect just the sorts of problems we have experienced over the years.

In fact, our godbrothers’ attempts at “polygamy” were really meant for increasing their sense gratification, regardless of their attempts to rationalize their behavior. I know of no such arrangements in which the “wives” were all equally satisfied with the results over the long run. In the conversation my Godbrother cites as Srila Prabhupada’s “last and final instruction on the matter,” Srila Prabhupada says another wife would be allowed “[i]f the woman allows husband.” He imposed the same restriction on acceptance of the sannyasa ashram by his married disciples. This shows the wife’s importance in the family and underscores Srila Prabhupada’s assertion that both husband and wife should be faithful.

In trying to introduce spiritual culture to the world, we need to be bold, as Srila Prabhupada showed by his own example. We must also be humble and honest enough to acknowledge the limits of our actual understanding of varanasrama’s cultural manifestations, as well as the limits of our understanding of Srila Prabhupada’s desires. Otherwise, we risk minimizing his significance and missing the richness of genuine spiritual culture.

When this Godbrother wrote a nine-page reply entitled, Lord Krishna’s Example: Giving Shelter to 16,108 Wives,” I wrote what follows:

I have no intention of becoming embroiled in a tit-for-tat argument with my Godbrother about the propriety of polygamy; however, I do want to respond to a few problems I found in his reply to my article, “Lord Ramachandra’s Example.”

First, it should be clear to anyone who reads my article carefully that it does not disparage polygamy, either as a principle or in its correct practice. It argues for nothing other than careful consideration in argument. That’s all. In the article to which I responded, my Godbrother simply ignored any views other than his own. As I have taught over 6,000 college students, any successful argument must take into consideration other sides of an issue, including any questions or objections that may be raised. My Godbrother’s didn’t, and I simply wanted to point out that if we intend to include polygamy in our understanding of establishing varnashrama-dharma, we should do so carefully. “We must also be humble enough to acknowledge the limits of our actual understanding,” is what I actually said. I stand fast by my advocacy of humility.

Further, anyone who reads my article can also see that nowhere in it do I attack my Godbrother’s character or his motives for repeating Srila Prabhupada’s words. I met my Godbrother when he lived in Los Angeles and Three Rivers, and never had any impression of him except that he is a serious, sincere devotee. And since an interlocutor’s character is an important element of classical rhetoric, maybe I should mention my own track record: I have been a faithful disciple since early 1970 and a faithful husband to my wife for 33 years. Ask anyone who knows me.

Since my Godbrother finds it appropriate, however, to question my motives, let me deal with that section of his recent article first. He asks, “Are you trying to create a generation of young prostitutes so you can enjoy them?” Not at all. I’m strictly monogamous, and at 58 I’m done with sex and headed in the other direction. I’m probably more upset than my Godbrother is that so many of our devotees’ daughters aren’t properly situated; many of them were my students. Moreover, as far as I know, no one has ever before suggested such a flaw in my character. I find it insulting to Srila Prabhupada, to my vaishnavi wife, and to my godbrothers’ daughters. More to my point, though, such character attack, although it’s certainly his prerogative to indulge in it, weakens my Godbrother’s argument.

Early in his second article, my Godbrother misstated my comments. Regarding the June 28, 1977 conversation, my Godbrother wrote I’m “reading things that just aren’t there and putting words in SP’s mouth that he didn’t say.” This is simply not true. Even in his quotation in this most recent article, right where he tries to prove I’m making things up, Srila Prabhupada says, “If the woman allows husband, ‘He likes.’ . . .” I didn’t say this; Srila Prabhupada did. His main point here is, as My Godbrother points out, that a chaste wife who is properly protected ought not to object. But Srila Prabhupada does say that a second wife would be permitted “If the woman allows.” My Godbrother says, “I only read that SP says the wife must not mind very much if her husband takes more than one wife.” Then read it again, more carefully this time, prabhu, because you seem to have missed a sentence. “If woman allows.” One more time—those are not my words, but Srila Prabhupada’s own. My Godbrother should read his own article more carefully, or at least be careful enough to edit out what he doesn’t want us to see.

He says I claim the Ninth Canto purport says “that Srila Prabhupada does NOT want us to take more than one wife.” That is just not what I write there. What I do say is that it expresses his desire that his male disciples accept only one wife and remain faithful to her.

He claims that I see this verse “as some sort of absolute dictum that is so strong and powerful that it totally overpowers and over shadows [sic]” all instructions that favor polygamy. But that’s not what I say, either. Nowhere do I even imply that it nullifies any other instruction. One could make a case that instructions in Srila Prabhupada’s books should carry more weight than comments made in his room, on a walk, or even in a letter. I read a letter to a godbrother named Sadhanananda in which Srila Prabhupada wrote that devotees say, “Srila Prabhupada has said this, or said that.” This is another form of cheating, he said. “If it is not in my books,” he wrote, “I did not say it.” I won’t make such a case. I will, however, present some of Srila Prabhupada’s instructions in the matter, from his books and other sources, to show that this is not an isolated statement that runs counter to his real desire.

In the purport to SB 4.26.4, Srila Prabhupada writes, “One should be satisfied with his married wife, for even a slight deviation will create havoc.” Then he continues, “A Krishna conscious grihastha should always remember this. He should always be satisfied with one wife and be peaceful simply by chanting the Hare Krishna mantra.” In a 1972 Bhagavatam lecture in Los Angeles, he said, “So to become Krishna conscious means immediately--that is the test--immediately he will become free from lust and greediness. If he's not free from lust and greediness, he is making a show; he's not Krishna conscious. This is the test. If one is actually advanced in Krishna consciousness, then these two symptoms will be visible in his character: no more lusty, no more greediness. He should be satisfied with one wife or one husband. Why hankering after others? That is lusty. That means it is not on the stage of Krishna consciousness; it is in the material platform.” In a 1974 Bhagavatam class, he said, “a person should be so nicely trained up that the one wife with religious, by performing religious ceremony, is given to him, he should be satisfied with her, not to see other women, adulteration. This is Kali-yuga.” In 1975 he told us, “If anyone can maintain a family--family means one wife and one or two children--then he is to be considered very expert, successful,” and in 1976 he said, “Tapasya begins with brahmacarya, life of celibacy, or accepting one wife only. That's all.” Years before, in 1971 he said, “We recommend our students not to have illicit sex. We don't stop sex, but regulate. . . . What is the difficulty? No illicit sex means don't be cats and dogs. Be married man and have one wife, one husband, and be satisfied.”

In 1974, he wrote Sukadeva prabhu, “No, devotees are not allowed more than one wife. Devotees should have no wife if possible, but those who cannot maintain celibacy, they can marry one wife. At the present moment people are so unfortunate they cannot maintain even one wife. First of all at the present moment they are not married and remain mostly unmarried. So for such persons even one wife is a great burden. Under the circumstances how one can think of more than one wife? This is stupidity.” There are more, but this just shows that, although I don’t claim this one purport supersedes all others, it is also not an isolated instruction.

My Godbrother objects to my saying that his research shows that, “in the abstract, we should have little objection” polygamy practiced by men as qualified as Dasharath. He’s particularly upset by “little objection” and suggests we should have “NO” objection. He also doesn’t like “in the abstract.” I agree. I’m happy to change it to “In principle, we should have no objection to the kind of polygamy practiced by men with qualifications similar to King Dasharath’s.” Despite my Godbrother’s cleverness, I have no desire to obstruct our understanding of varnashrama-dharma, but to encourage careful understanding and even more careful application.

At one point, my Godbrother concedes that, so far, experiments with polygamy have failed. Then he suggests that “most” monogamous marriages have failed as well, so perhaps we should give up on marriage altogether and just couple like animals. I’m sorry he wasted any of his time energy, and space on this unfortunate point. This is a clear case of the logical fallacy called argumentum ad absurdum.

Although my Godbrother claims that polygamy is not meant for increasing sex life, Srila Prabhupada seems to have another opinion. In a 1973 letter to Rupanuga, he wrote, “After conferring with my various GBC representatives I have concluded that polygamy must be strictly prohibited in our society. Although it is a Vedic institution still there are so many legal implications. Neither are many of our men fixed up enough to tend for more than one wife. Polygamy will simply increase the sex life and our philosophy is to gradually decrease the sex life till eventually there is no sex life.” Of course polygamy is ideally meant for protecting women. But that’s not its only purpose, as we see in a Srimad-Bhagavatam purport: “A man is allowed to keep more than one wife because he cannot enjoy sex when the wife is pregnant. If he wants to enjoy sex at such a time, he may go to another wife who is not pregnant. These are laws mentioned in the Manu-samhita and other scriptures” (SB4.26.4, purport). And in a Bhagavatam class, he said, “According to Vedic civilization, because man is very aggressive, so he's allowed to accept more than one wife.”

Finally, my Godbrother invokes examples different from Lord Ramachandra’s that he seems to think Srila Prabhupada wanted us to follow. Bhima, Arjuna, and other devotees, he points out, had more than one wife. Of course, they were rich kings and perfect devotees. Lord Nityananda had more than one wife, my Godbrother says. Maybe, but the example of Nityananda Prabhu’s Srila Prabhupada wants us to follow is his compassion and tireless preaching of the holy names, not his disregard for social conventions. Even Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, he says, ignored Lord Rama’s example by remarrying after his first wife’s passing. In fact, He did, but only at the insistence of his widowed mother. He also left that wife at age 24 to go preach all over India.

Ultimately, as evidenced by my Godbrother’s title, he suggests we follow the example of Lord Krishna, who had 16,108 wives. However, when Srila Prabhupada discusses the Lord’s household, he doesn’t suggest it as a model for ours, except that, despite lying comfortably next to our wives, we should rise early in the morning, bathe and meditate on Krishna. Instead, Srila Prabhupada points out that Krishna accepted 16,108 wives to demonstrate His opulence as the full-fledged Personality of Godhead. This is one way Krishna shows He is not one of us!

Once more, in case it’s not clear to some, I’m not writing specifically to oppose polygamy. I’m really suggesting that we discuss the issue fully and apply it carefully. In fact, I expect this to be my last article on the subject. I’m much more interested in how we discuss it than in whether anyone has more wives than I. Neither do I suggest that anyone with an opinion different from mine is an atheist or infected with sinful desires of some sort. I only advocate careful and civil discourse among devotees, especially in public.

Perhaps we should follow Srila Prabhupada’s example. If necessary, marry one wife or husband, conduct our home lives according to the instructions of our spiritual master, gradually give up all material endeavor and sense gratification, and immerse ourselves in distributing prasadam, protecting cows, and chanting and broadcasting the glories of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s sankirtan movement. After all, Narada Muni testifies that “those who are always full of cares and anxieties due to desiring contact of the senses with their objects can cross the ocean of nescience on a most suitable boat—the constant chanting of the transcendental activities of the Personality of Godhead.”