When scriptures teach matra devo bhava, why do brahmacharis give up their parents for the sake of God?
Transcription By: Shalini Ahaluwalia Mataji
Edited By: Murlidhar Prabhu (Murli Thundi)
Question: When the scriptures teach “matrodevobhava, pitradevobhava” i.e. parents are God then why do brahmacharis give up their parents in the name of pursuing God?
Answer: The statement from the Upanishads “matrodevobhave, pitradevobhava” is representative of a generic Vedic teaching of respect and it is not a literal teaching. If it is to be taken literally and say there is a conflict between the parents – the mother wants the child to become a doctor and the father wants the child to become an engineer – which deva is the child going to follow? Can there be two Gods? Ultimately God means the SupremeBeing andthe Supreme is only one. So if we take this statement literally “matrodevobhava, pitradevobhava” then we run into logical problem because what should one do when the Gods have difference of opinion?
Actually the statement is representative of a deeper reality. The deeper reality is that the parents actually are meant to be the representatives of God and they are meant to connect the soul who is coming in their child’s body with God.So we have a vertical relationship with Krishna and a horizontal relationship with everyone in the world.Within this horizontal relationship we have a vertical relationship with our elders, a horizontal relationship with our equals and again a vertical relationship with our juniors.But essentially all these relationships are horizontal because they are all souls like us.
Now the goal of Vedic culture is that all relationships be used to connect one with Krishna.So when the parents are devotees and the children are trained to obey the parents, then the parents become Godly and they connect the children with God. But we also see in the Vedic scriptures that when Prahalad was told by his father to give up the worship of Vishnu, then Prahalad did not say “matrodevobhava, pitradevobhava”. Prahlad was no doubt respectful even to Hrianyakashipu his father but while being respectful he did not compromise his principles.So he remained fixed in his devotion to Lord Vishnu and even defied his father. Ofcourse, it is not that the devotees have to defy their parents but it is said even in the Upanishads that whenever renunciation awakens renounce the world. So the vertical relationship with Krishna is the most important because that relationship is eternal and all other relationships are meant to contribute to that vertical relationship.So in the case of most people, they perceive the horizontal relationships alongwith the vertical relationship and they try to align the two to the best of their capacity.
But in some cases some people feel the call for God so strongly, that they feel inspired, inclined, motivated to devote themselves entirely to God. In those cases the other relationships are subordinated and if required the obligations of that relationships can be avoided so that one can focus only on Krishna.
So there is a verse that supports this action in the ShrimadBhagvatam – SB11.5.41- which Srila Prabhupada quotes in the Bhagavad Gita purport, “devarshi-bhutapta-nrinam pitrinam,na kinkaro nayam rini ca rajan,sarvatmana yah saranam saranyam,gato mukundam parihritya kartam” – meaning one who surrenders whole-heartedly to the Supreme Lord – for such a person there is no obligation to anyone else.There are various obligations of which the three primary obligations are, to the devatas, the pitras, and the rishis, and pitras includesalso the parents. So those obligations are there because God has done something for us through them.It is God who is acting through parents and caring for us, it is God who is acting through the devatas and doing something for us, and it is God who is acting through the rishis and doing something for us. So if somebody devotes directly to God then that is perfectly acceptableand is glorious because that is the ultimate purpose of life.This should however, not be done with a mood of irresponsibility or avoidance of trouble but it should be done with the mood of taking up a higher responsibility. It is not that the parents have been rejected but it is more the culmination of the parents’ duty, for it is the perfection of parent’s dutyto do the eternal well-being of their children.When the children follow the process of getting connected with Krishna who is their eternal well-wisher, then they have done the greatest good.
And the parents also get enormous credit; several generations of ancestors also get the opportunity for liberation when a descendant in their family entirely devotes himself to the Supreme Lord.So it’s not anyway irresponsibility nor is it a defiance of “matrodevobhava, pitradevobhava”, when properly understood. Actually, children devoting themselves to God, is the perfection of the essential principle that is taught in “matrodevobhava, pitradevobhava”.