Dear Syama-vanamali dasa and Keli Kandali dasi,
Please accept my blessings. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. In thinking about what gift to give you on the auspicious day of your marriage, I decided to offer you my words and thoughts in written form. The disciple always desires the instructions of his or her spiritual master; I know myself how greatly I value the few written words my spiritual master directly addressed to me, because I can return to them again and again. I hope the humble advice I offer you in this letter will allow you to return to this happy day repeatedly as you traverse the path of Krsna consciousness side by side.
Dearest Syama-vanamali, today you are accepting an immense responsibility to help nurture and guide Keli Kandali in her Krsna consciousness. You’ll be the breadwinner in the family, all the while setting the highest example of sadhana for your wife and children to follow. Every householder can attest to the challenge of balancing one’s material and spiritual responsibilities. The secret is to make your spiritual responsibilities the priority, and then your material responsibilities will naturally follow suit. This is, in fact, the advice of the Lord, spoken 5,000 years ago, but ever more relevant in our modern times:
“In the beginning of creation, the Lord of all creatures sent forth generations of men and demigods, along with sacrifices for Visnu, and blessed them by saying, ‘Be thou happy by this yajna [sacrifice] because its performance will bestow upon you everything desirable for living happily and achieving liberation.’”
[ Bhagavad Gita 3.10 ]
The yajna for this age, of course, is the chanting of the holy names, specifically the Hare Krsna mantra. Permeate your married life with those holy names and you and your family will bear with dignity the ups and downs we all experience as life goes on. And what’s more important, constant chanting will fill your household with happiness and joy at every moment. It is essential that every day, without fail, you and Keli spend time together chanting the holy names, either in japa, bhajan or kirtan. The golden rule is that you should never be so busy in life that you can’t find time to chant together, read together and peacefully take prasadam together.
By chanting together you make spiritual progress side by side, and such an experience creates a strong bond between you. Yes, there will be moments of discontent, arguments and disagreements. But those differences can be tolerated and overcome when the relationship between husband and wife is rooted in spiritual practice, namely chanting Hare Krsna which Lord Caitanya says, “gives us the taste we are always hankering for”. Such a genuine, deeply spiritually and satisfying relationship can never be broken.
By adhering to these simple instructions, you will fulfill your role as leader of your family. In effect you’ll be their hero, a true “pati guru,” leading your wife and children from darkness to light, from ignorance to truth, from the material world to the spiritual world, much like Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur writes in his famous poem, Saranagati:
“So push thy onward march, O soul,
Against an evil deed
That stands with soldiers hate and lust –
A hero be indeed!
Maintain thy post in spirit world
As firmly as you can,
Let never matter push thee down –
O stand heroic man!
O Sharagrahi Vaishnava soul,
Thou art an angel fair;
Lead, lead me on to Vrindavan
And spirit’s power declare.
There rests my soul from matter free
Upon my Lover’s arms –
Eternal peace and spirit’s love
Are all my chanting charms.”
My dearest and most beloved Keli-kandali, words cannot describe my deep love for you as my disciple, as my spiritual daughter. Certainly, there are formalities in the relationship between guru and disciple. One is servant and the other is master. The prevailing mood is one of awe and reverence. But the constant and selfless service of the disciple endears him or her to the spiritual master and in time a natural affection and spiritual love develops between the two. This phenomenon was explained by Srila Prabhupada on September 28, 1966 in a letter in which he wrote:
“At his first sight of me my spiritual master also saw me with such love. It was in my very first darsana of him that I learned how to love. It is his boundless mercy that he has engaged an unworthy person like me in fulfilling some of his desires. It is his causeless mercy to engage me in preaching the message of Sri Rupa and Sri Ragunatha.”
Keli, I have known you since you were a mere child, practically a baby. I still remember the first time we met. I was visiting the gurukula at New Govardhan and when we all sat to take prasadam, you sat down next to me, a three-year-old in a mood of fixed determination. Within moments, you were stealthily stealing prasadam from my plate whenever I wasn’t attentive and eating it with full satisfaction. I kept thinking, “Who is this brazen child?” When I finally looked at you in astonishment, you just smiled broadly and stole more prasadam! Such was the beginning of our relationship of “give and take.” Of course, as time went on and you matured in Krsna consciousness the tables turned and your mood was to give, rather than to take. Your faith in your spiritual master – your guru nistha – became and remains your most endearing quality. I am often reminded of Srila Prabhupada’s statement about my godsister, Malati dasi: “She would give her life for me” he once said, “and I would give mine for her.” I share the same sentiments for you, my dear spiritual daughter, Keli Kandali dasi.
And so it is with the greatest pleasure that I watch you take this step forward in your spiritual life on this day of your vivaha yajna, your marriage day. You are capable of doing many things in life, Keli. But together with Syama-vanamali you will do even more. There is a saying that “many hands make light work.” I have great hope that the two of you will set the highest standard for grhastra life, while at the same time carrying forth the mood of our sampradaya, that we always share our good fortune with others. By nature grihastas are meant to give “dan” (charity). In Vedic culture, it was the grihastas that maintained the brahmacaris, vanaprasthas and sannyasis. In that same mood always open your home to both devotees and non-devotees for Krsna conscious programs. In this way, you can share the wealth of devotional service in the form of kirtan, katha and delicious sumptuous prasadam. These are the pillars of Lord Caitanya’s sankirtan movement. When householders are serious about their sadhana, as I have instructed your husband above, and are always ready and willing to open their home to others to experience Krsna consciousness, then their home becomes just like the spiritual world:
ye dina grhe bhajana dekhi
grhete goloka bhaya
“One day while performing devotional practices I saw my house transformed into Goloka Vrindavan.”
[ From Saranagati, by Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur ]
Dearest Keli, knowing your heart I am confident that as you are wonderful disciple, you will also be a wonderful wife and an exceptionally wonderful mother. Fortunate are the devotees who will take birth in your family! In due course of time, you will demonstrate that it is not demeaning in any way to be a “stay at home Mom.” Rather it is the glory of a woman to give her full time and energy to raising her children to become pure devotees of the Lord. In reality, it is a full-time duty. It challenges one’s determination in the practice of sadhana bhakti as well. Every mother knows how hard it is to chant 16 rounds a day with an infant in her arms. But for those mothers who do, spiritual perfection is guaranteed:
“My Dear Kadamba dasi,
Please accept my blessings. I am in receipt of your note and gift of one ring. Just now I am wearing it. Because you have sincerely offered, I must accept on behalf of my Guru Maharaja although I am not worthy.
I have met your son. His lovely features are very nice and he appears to be a first class brahmacari. Always be an example to him by being steadfast in Krsna Consciousness and your motherhood will be perfected.
Hare Krsna. I hope this meets you well.
Your ever well-wisher,
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami”
[Letter, December 8, 1973 ]
In the wedding procedure, there is a powerful mantra from the Rg Veda which is repeated by the husband. While generally it causes the audience to smile, I know you have taken it most seriously.
om imam tvam visno midhvah suputram subhagam krdhi dasa ‘syam putran adhehi patim ekadasam kuru
“O Visnu, impregnate her, make fine, strong sons. Put ten sons in her, make eleven men in the house.”
[ Rg-veda 10.85.45 ]
May the Supreme Lord fulfill your desire to expand the ranks of Lord Caitanya’s samkirtan army with fine young men and women.
My dear Syama-vanamali and Keli Kandali, I am very happy to be present today for your auspicious marriage ceremony. I give to you all my blessings for a prosperous and spiritually rewarding marriage. May the Lord always watch over and protect you, may He bless you with unlimited services, may He fill your home with many happy children and endless contented guests. May He give you the spiritual strength to bear all trials and tribulations and the intelligence to overcome all obstacles on the path of pure devotional service. And when all is said and done, may He transport both you and all your kith and kin back home to the spiritual world to be part of the eternal family of His devotees. As Srila Prabhupada once said, “One day we’ll have our ISKCON in the spiritual world!”
Your ever well-wisher,