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When the Husband Is Not a Devotee

By: for The Eight Petal on Aug. 5, 2011
The views expressed in this section are the opinions of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent the views of ISKCON News, ISKCON Communications or ISKCON.

We were asked a question: what if the wife is a devotee of Lord Krishna and her husband is a non- devotee (karmi)? If one partner is a devotee and the other one is not (yet), it is not a problem if the devotee wife knows what her duty is towards Krishna in this situation. In my answer that follows we assume that the husband is a normal man and not a homicidal maniac or in some other way having serious clinical mental problems.

All women have just one duty or dharma in this world--- to serve her husband. When we say all women, then it means all women. It is called stri-dharma (SB 7.11.25-29). For the wife, vivaha is her second birth (dvi-ja) her initiation into Vedic culture. And moving into husband’s house is not just moving into the house, it means she goes to live in the asrama. Who’s asrama? The ashrama of her husband. If husband is qualified, it is grhastha ashrama. If not, it is a grhamedhi life. But it does not matter if husband is qualified or not according to our standard or expectations. He is still the representative of Krishna. Who sent us this husband? Krishna sent him. The wife can still make spiritual progress even if the husband is not a devotee.

So what is it that Krishna wants from me, you, and other jiva’s in this female body? As devotees we want to please Krishna. Krishna says that for a brahmacari, guru is His representative; for child, mother is the representative ofKrishna, and for wife, her husband is representative of Krishna. As a brahmacari lights the fire for sacrifice in the ashrama of his guru, so does the wife when she lights fire in the kitchen to cook for her husband. That is her sacrifice. And Krishna accepts it equally. (This is explained in Manu Samhita.)

The point is that wife makes spiritual progress if she performs her prescribed duty which is – serving her husband [SB 7.11.25-29]. She performs her duty for Krishna for His pleasure.

“Perform your prescribed duty, for doing so is better than not working. One cannot even maintain one's physical body without work. Work done as a sacrifice for Visnu has to be performed, otherwise work causes bondage in this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain free from bondage.” [BG 3.8-9]

She may not love to serve husband who is not a devotee, but she serves him as her duty to please Krishna (BG 5.29). Wife should not be rude, critical or fight with husband as this would be even greater sin than any fault he may possess. His faults should be dealt with by his superiors or equals not by his subordinate (wife). Although he may not be spiritually qualified she should be respectful, in the same way as she is respectful to her guru. Guru may criticize, but disciple cannot be rude and disrespectful. So why should the wife be angry and rude with her husband? Hiranyakasipu abused his own son Prahlad, but Prahlad was never disrespectful to him. He always approached his father with folded palms saying: “O greatest of all demons.” Prahlad was never rude. Although his father literally wanted to kill his own son Prahlad was always respectful. Nrsimhadeva corrected his father.

For a wife service to the husband is her sacrifice (BG 3.14-15); it’s not that she should sacrifice a goat in the temple. She should sacrifice her false ego, mind, body in the service of her husband, who is direct representative of Sri Krishna. And she makes spiritual advancement. Like we have a murti of Krishna in some material form—He may be carved and made with very delicate and attractive features, or He may be painted or carved not really perfect, but still Krishna is present in those statue forms/murtis and we offer our service to Him. Even imperfectly carved murti is still Krishna’s manifestation in this world. So is the husband for wife; perfect, imperfect, good, bad, devotee, or non-devotee.

If husband wants her to serve him meat, alcohol, sex, etc, she should serve him. She will not get any reaction for doing that (BG 18.47), because she is doing her dharma (stri dharma); she is following her husband’s instructions, which means she is following her duty. So she will not get any reaction, but her husband will get reaction if he demands something that is not according to dharma. Thoughwife gets no karma it may affect her consciousness, for example she would get no karma for cooking meat but she may feel disgusted.

The point is that everyone should follow their dharma or prescribed duty. Krishna arranged this world in such a way so that everyone is able to make spiritual advancement by following his or her prescribed duty (BG 18.46).

For women it is simple. Just follow what your husband says. So however we turn, if wife is able to adjust and follow her husband she makes advancement. If she disobeys her husband, she degrades herself, slowly and surely. Krishna always sends for us a husband who is best for us to practice for our relationship with Krishna. Remember we can not get into the spiritual world until we develop the service attitude.

Now we have opportunity to practice serving Krishna by serving His representative that He sent to us and whom we got by our own karma. If we are dealing on platform of justice and morality and think “if my husband is not good then I will not serve him,” then we are not going to like Krishna. How will we tolerate that Krishna said He is going to be with me but is with another gopi instead? Is that justice? No it is not.

“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 broken hearted by not being present before me. He is completely free to do anything and everything, for He is always my worshipful Lord, unconditionally.”

So there is so much we have to practice. (Of course as I said at the beginning that we assume that we are dealing with normal men not perverts or criminals. Nor should men take advantage of this because by so doing they would reap serious bad karma.)

If husband is not a devotee, we have to do our duties, cooking (what he wants), offer to Krishna, cleaning, taking care of all family members etc. Speaking sweetly and be respectful. Have faith in Krishna that by serving your husband nicely, He will be happy with you and if He wants He will change the heart of your husband. And even if he doesn’t want to become devotee, if he is pleased with service of his wife, he will not be able to make obstacles in her devotional life. He will have respect for such a wife.

We have the example of Pisima Mataji, HDG Srila Prabhupada’s sister. She was not only Srila Prabhupada’s sister, but his God-sister as well. Just try to imagine her situation; she was married to a non-devotee, who turned out to be a rogue, meat eater, he drank alcohol, he was a woman-hunter, spending money on gambling, etc. So if we have in our husband only one of these things we would consider it as a catastrophe. She had all in one person. Not only was he a non-devotee, but he had many bad habits. So Pisima Mataji came to Srila Prabhupada and asked what should she do in this situation? He advised her to do what she learned from her mother- to serve her husband, and to pray to Sri Krishna for the best interest of her husband. And not to argue with her husband. Actually a woman should never argue with a drunken man, because he can kill her.

And Srila Prabhupada told her: “Remember those Deities that we worshiped when we were children?” He said, “I have them here, I’ll give them to... You worship Them, Radha-Govinda, and you keep praying to Them, and They’ll help you.” He didn’t advise her to divorce her husband, or to complain to various women’s ministries about him, etc. Rather for material problem he gave a spiritual solution.

She did the way Srila Prabhupada advised her; she didn’t criticize her husband, she didn’t argue with him, but she did her prescribed duties, her stri-dharma with the idea to please Sri Krishna through her service to the husband. It is not a material thing to follow stri dharma, because as I said before, a woman who follows stri dharma properly, she makes direct spiritual advancement, as a brahmacari makes by serving his guru. When Krishna gets pleased, only He can change the husband. No wife can change her husband. Krishna was obviously pleased with Pisima mataji’s service, and her husband came to her after sometime, and begged her for forgiveness, admitting that he was so bad, and realizing what a good wife he has, a wife who always works in his best interest. He ended up worshiping her. That “This woman is serving me so faithfully, and serving the Deities so faithfully, and she wants nothing but the best for me, and she’s praying to Krishna for me.” He acknowledged that and changed all his ways.

That is the power of a woman who follows her prescribed duty, stri-dharma, in order to please Sri Krishna, and to make spiritual advancement.
[ varnashrama-dharma ] [ women ]