How important is it for devotee-couples to follow the Vedic model for gender roles in their relationship?
Transcribed by: Jyoti Shirasangi
How important is it for a devotee couple to stick to the traditional gender roles, in terms of the wife being submissive to the husband, and the husband being the leader of the family, in the practice of Krishna consciousness in today’s world?
The traditional Vedic model can serve as a guideline, at the same time; we cannot eradicate individual nature which is shaped also by the upbringing in this life.
Now, traditionally the soul in a female body has a particular nature, and the soul in the male body has a particular nature, that is the nature that is endowed by the body. But along with that, the upbringing in this life also shapes once thinking, once behaving, once acting substantially, and that cannot be neglected.
That’s why, if the women has been brought up in a particular family or a particular culture, where she had also got education and she has in many ways taken her own decisions, and has lived largely in the way that women live in today’s world (not necessarily in terms of degradation that many women unfortunately embrace in the name of liberation), But overall in terms of having their own education, their own currier, and having their own vision for life.
for such a women, to expect suddenly to take the role of a submissive housewife, just because she has become a devotee, will be too much of a demand. Because nature has been shaped in a particular way, by the decades and decades of upbringing and culture that has been there.
Moreover even the husband may feel uncomfortable with this, although initially the idea of a submissive wife may be pleasurable for the male ego. The ego can go on a power trip also, that’s the prospect. But overall the way men and women interact in today’s world is not like that.
When males and females interact in colleges, or they interact in professional settings, they generally interact in a way that is determined not by gender, but by other factors. May be the competence in a particular field, the structures of the institution and who is at what post in that institution.
So, the factors other than gender, determine the nature of interaction between males and females. So, even the husband may not be able to function effectively, and the husband definitely will not be as as exemplary husband as the Vedic cultural model expects, where the wife is said to be submissive to her husband, and the husband is also expected to be submissive to the spiritual master, and the husband is also expected to be exemplary leader and protector of the family. So, honestly speaking, weather the husband has that spiritual caliber, is something which needs to be examined honestly with introspection and discussion.
It is best that, every individual couple recognize their unique situation, not just in terms of the fact that we are practicing a timeless philosophy in a contemporary setting, which is quite different from the way it was practiced traditionally, but also that, every individual is different, and that every individual’s interactions with other individuals will also be different.
Therefore, based on this mutual understanding of each other’s nature, and based on the understanding of what would help that relationship to flourish, A particular way of developing that relationship may be integrated, and that will be learnt along the way. And over a period of time, individual couples will understand, how best they can function.
So, rather than insisting on the specific gender models (Vedic models for gender relationships), we should understand the purpose of that model. The purpose was two fold.
One was to help both of them (the husband and the wife) to have a healthy and strong relationship among themselves, and secondly to help both of them to develop as individuals and as devotees, and grow in their spiritual life with each other’s assistance, and their service to Krishna.
So, how these two purposes (developing mutual relationship and developing relationship with Krishna), how they can be best facilitated and promoted in today’s world, that every couple will have to decided, based on their own experience, their own understanding, and then their own guidance, that they will get from the super soul within the heart.