In this episode, we interview Krsnanandini devi dasi from The Grhastha Vision Team where she discusses some of the key issues affecting marriages and relationships within the Krishna consciousness movement and where devotees can go for support in the all important grhastha ashrama.
Some points covered in the interview
- The three biggest issues facing grihasthas today
- Krishna conscious family life – meant for suffering?
- The twelve principles and values of Krishna conscious household life
- Integrating Krishna consciousness into all of our life
- Creativity and book distribution for busy grihasthas
For more information about the Grihasta Vision Team visit:
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Krsnendu dasa: Welcome. I’m very happy today to be speaking to Krsnanandini Devi Dasi, who is the chairperson of Grihastha Vision Team and have experience personal in the area of relationships and helping people to communicate and work together well. I got to find this website through a contact who is also involved in this project, Uttama Devi Dasi and when I saw this website, I thought that this is fantastic! Some very practical down to earth people who are trying to help devotees with some of the really basic needs that we have in our society. So I was really excited to be able to do an interview and find out more about it.
So first of all, could you give a quick introduction to yourself and just let us know a little bit about you and also about this Grihastha Vision Team and what it’s all about.
Krsnanandini Devi Dasi: Thank you very much. My name is Krsnanandini Devi Dasi and I was initiated into the Hare Krishna Movement on September 12, 1972 which was Radhastami in Dallas, Texas. And at that time Srila Prabhupada, also installed the beautiful Deities of Radha-Kalachandji.
The Grihastha Vision Team somewhat evolved out of our very sincere concern about the state of affairs of marriage and family in the movement. And in my particular case, after Srila Prabhupada left the planet, I saw him in a vision and he gave me an instruction to show the devotees all over the world how to have real Krishna Conscious marriage.
And of course, I felt very unqualified for that. And at that time, I wasn’t even aware that there were so many difficulties in the grihastha situation. I was in Ohio and kind of isolated in my devotional practice but quickly came to find out that we really really needed some showing up in our marriages and our family. And Srila Prabhupada somehow pulled together a team of people several years ago, I think it was in 2003 or 2005. He asked me if I’d be willing to talk to some other devotees who have similar interests in strengthening the grihastha ashrama and of course I was and Arcana Siddhi,Karnamrita, Anuttama, and Partha, Praharna, other devotees who were similar and inspired and motivated. We all got together and we had our first meeting there and from there, was born the Grihastha Vision Team.
Krsnendu dasa: So it’s been going for about seven years approximately. What’s developed over that time? What sort of things do you offer, what are your specific goals?
Krsnanandini Devi Dasi: We came together initially and we had a very serious weekend of brainstorming. In fact, we were privileged to host a lot of the Grihastha Vision Team members in our home here. I live in Cleveland Heights, Ohio in the United States and we came together for a weekend of just brainstorming and working together trying to figure out what were the needs in the Vaisnavas community in relationship to family and what were some of the services that we needed to offer. And I tell you, Krsnendu, that was a really powerful weekend. We played together, we cried together, we worked together and we came up with a series of initiatives that we wanted to implement on behalf of Srila Prabhupada. For householders, one of the first things that we came up with is a course called “Strengthening the Bonds that Free Us”. It is a two and a half to three-day course in which we cover many many topics about marriage and family, communication, how to resolve conflict, parenting, how to practice your sadhana as a householder. What are some of the duties and responsibilities of householders. So this course has been taught in the United States, in DC, in New Vridavana and Canada. Also some of our Grihastha Vision Team members Uttuma and Praharna have taught it in South America. It’s been taught by Arcana Siddhi and Karnamrita in Ireland. This course is really a powerful one that we put a lot of work into. So that’s “Strengthening the Bonds that Free Us”
Krsnendu dasa: So it’s like a foundational course that establishes one of your main offerings as the vision team?
Krsnanandini Devi Dasi: That’s one of the main offerings Krsnendu. And we really, really encourage devotees everywhere whether they are married or interested in supporting marriages or wanting to get married. This is a very powerful course.
The foundational piece of the course is the twelve principles and values of Krishna conscious household life which I will share with you a little later on. And those values they motivate us, but they are also considered the foundation. And as I said after we prayed together, cried together and worked together we came up with this 12 Fundamental Values and number one of course is to align ourselves and keep ourselves aligned with Srila Prabhupada, his mission, his intention and his instructions.
So that’s “Strengthening the Bonds that Free Us”. In fact, my husband Tariq Prabhu and I will be teaching that course in Toronto, Canada in the beginning of April. So that’s one of our main initiatives and what we would like to see Krsnendu is, we’d like to see all devotees eventually take this course because it really kind of open your heart and your vision about the grihastha ashrama, its possibilities and the values that we can learn from and grow from together if we have skills.
Another one of our initiatives was From Couple to Couple. It’s a mentorship training course where we teach healthy couples how to help other couples before marriage and doing marriage. How to help other couples to be strong and to have realistic expectations, how to communicate better, how to resolve conflict. Again some of the same topics in the course we teach in this From Couple to Couple.
We try to identify couples that are healthy, having been married at least above seven years and in themselves a healthy marriage (we don’t say perfect!) who would also be willing to work with others and what we found is that when people help other people, their own marriage become strengthened.
Krsnendu dasa: It’s amazing how it works right, isn’t it? Prabhupada taught us that we should preach even though we are not perfect and by preaching, it helps us to become perfect.
Krsnanandini Devi Dasi: Yes. So we’ve also done a number of workshops over the years about variety of family topics. We usually present at the Festival of Inspiration and other festivals. We’ve also presented the Five Love languages. We’ve done workshops about parenting. We’ve done workshops about improving your communications skills. We’ve done workshops about how to solidify your sadhana, which will solidify your marriage.
We’ve done workshops about preparation for marriage. That is a big thing for us in the Grihastha Vision Team. That’s also one of our initiatives that we’ve asked leaders to sign on to an agreement that they won’t perform marriages and our movement unless and until devotees have first had premarital counselling. And you are probably aware of how important that particular initiative is because if couples are prepared, if they have better understanding of what to expect and what are the responsibilities if together they have identified their values, what’s important, if they have been given some help, how to function in whatever roles they choose as a couple, then they are more likely to be healthy and happy in their marriage. So we really emphasize premarital education. We do not like the call it counselling so much because our idea is to give people education. To give them skills. To give them motivation
Krsnendu dasa: And have the right mindset to know what they are coming into.
Krsnanandini Devi Dasi: Yes.
Krsnendu dasa: That is so important. I have seen from my own experience that we some people get married they have no idea what they are letting themselves in for. And that sort of thing would make a such a difference in the success rate of marriages.
Krsnanandini Devi Dasi: So we are really pushing for that. Iam a minister myself, and I have performed marriages and I tell you, the ones that I performed where the devotees, the couples had premarital education, they do so much better than the ones who didn’t. So that’s one of the strong initiatives that we push.
We also written a book that is not yet published, but by the mercy of Srila Prabhupada, it will be published this year and it’s called “Heart and Soul Connection: A Devotional Guide to Marriage, Service and Love”
The book is full of the experiences of all the Grihastha Vision Team members. Basically each GVT member who is a wealth of experience and commitment in their own right has written a chapter in the book and we cover parenting again. We cover the 12 principles and values of a healthy, loving Krishna Conscious family. Right now, the book is in the last stages of being edited. We have a wonderful wonderful devotee named Brenda who has made a commitment to just really work on our book and polish it up so we can have it ready very soon for all the devotees.
Krsnendu dasa: Wow. That sounds great.
Krsnanandini Devi Dasi: We also have and introduction in our book by his Holiness Giriraja Swam.
I just want to share some of the Chapter titles:
So those are the chapters of our book.
We will have more information in our website http://www.vaisnavafamilyresources.org about the book and we encourage devotees everywhere to get this book, study it and share it with others.
Another of our initiatives is that for the first time ever, we are doing our couples retreat in June in Gita Nagari which is a farm community here in Pennsylvania. And we are inviting couples to come and spend a weekend to get to know one another better to make a stronger spiritual connection, to have fun while doing it. And so we have a number of really fun activities planned for couples and it is the first time this is being done as far as we know in all of ISKCON and that’s coming up in June and couples can register on our website – it’s called The Couples Retreat.
Another initiative that we have is the Newsletter of Vaisnavas Family Resources Newsletter which comes out quarterly. And we just share you for example the recent issue is about Why do couples need to rejuvenate? Why do couples need to periodically take the time to improve? And we have an article in the latest Newsletter from the male point of view is very good and from the female point of view.
Any devotee can sign up to get a free copy of that online newsletter by going to our website again http://www.vaisnavafamilyresources.org That newsletter is one of the offerings that we give to the community.
We also have a number of brochures , little, brief educational offering. One is called For Parents: Five Tips How to Be a Good Krishna Conscious Parent. Another is called Strong Marriages Have These Six Vital Ingredients, another is called Be a Better Dad another is called Preparing for a Lifetime Together and again these brochures are available to be downloaded from our website. Any devotee that would like to get a copy you can do that.
So in so many ways, we’ve tried to with very little money and just really dedicated hearts, the Grihastha Vision Team members have endeavoured to provide resources , education and encouragement to grihasthas all over the world. And we are really, really excited about the possibilities that can happen when grihasthas are enlivened and encouraged and educated.
One of the things that motivated me also beside that instruction from Srila Prabhupada, was my husband and I, we were flying from a marriage conference that used to be an international marriage conference called Smart Marriages and I think we were going to California or Nevada and on the airplane, we picked up this magazine and it said, I forgot the name of the article but I will never forget the words, it said, “Who would go to a Hare Krishna for advice about anything?”.
And that kind of really struck me because you know one of the things that Prabhupada asked us to do was to be examples for others, to be resources where people would come and ask us “How do we live a healthy life?”, “How do we live a peaceful life?”, “How do we have good family life?”.
So we took that as a kind of challenge, that in a few years, people would be coming to the Hare Krishna and say or ask “How do you have a healthy family life?” “How are your people doing so well?”
And you know, we have some of the negativity from the past, but we are very encouraged about our devotees now. More people are asking for help, like many of Grihastha Vision Team members, we provide premarital education as well as marriage enrichment and strengthening in our individual practices. For example, my husband and I, we have an agency called the Dasi-Ziyad Family Institute where we’ve worked with hundred of couples, both devotees and non-devotees, teaching healthy relationships skills. So you know, we feel the mercy of Srila Prabhupada is on us and we feel that the urgency that our Krishna Conscious families become healthy and happy, because you know healthy families are the foundation for healthy societies. We are really committed and determined to make a difference.
Krsnendu dasa: Wow that article that you read from that magazine definitely invoked that challenge. We know that Krishna Consciousness has got the most sublime philosophy and made this culture so rich but as a society, we historically struggled with a lot of down to earth things. And this is such an exciting time I suppose because it’s the time to move from the kind of theoretical, philosophical beginnings and to move to actually showing that this philosophy is practical and that, it is a way that everyone in the world can have a better life.
Krsnanandini Devi Dasi: Yes as you well know, Srila Prabhupada said “50% I have done and 50% you must do”. And I think that as Vaisnavas we all so much love Srila Prabhupada because not only did he save our life, but as we know what his teachings and example and his love and his heart is saving the world. It is our duty and our offering back to Srila Prabhupada to manifest and to show how to really take these Krishna Consciousness principles and live that in such a way that not only we are healthy and happy but those around us become healthy and happy.
As I said, I feel privileged to be part of such a wonderful group of Vaisnavas on the Grihastha Vision Team. They bring so many different skills and talents. We have Praharna Devi Dasi. She is headquartered in Canada but she is just one of the most beautiful devotees, so committed. She is a social worker in her own field. We have Tamahora and Mantrini who are themselves trained marriage and family educators. We have Arcana siddhi and Karnamrta, the same dedication and commitment and experience that they bring. Uttama and Partha are just going everywhere teaching the courses, doing the workshops. We’ve got Sri Devi. She is located in Louisiana and as we speak, she is in Mayapur doing grihastha courses at the Mayapur Institute. We have Cintamani and Jagannatha. They are located in Pennsylvania. A very dedicated, wonderful young couple, who bring their own skills to the Grihastha Vision Team. And then finally myself Krsnanandini Devi Dasi and my husband Tariq Prabhu. We are certified family life educators, prep administrators and on and on.
All the devotees that are part of the Grihastha Vision Team, they are so dedicated. I mean with very little money that we have, we don’t have treasury of anything but with our own resources we’ve gotten together and made this commitment. And we want devotees to please utilise the resources. You know, we want devotees to call on us to train them. We want devotees to get the book and read it and share it. We want devotees to subscribe to the quarterly newsletter and if devotees are kind-hearted we want them to support us. We are 501C3 organization so that we can take this education of Krishna Conscious, marriage education to many many places because we know that with the right skills and the right commitment that there can be a transformation in the grihastha Ashrama.
Krsnendu dasa: It’s amazing that with the limited resources that you have, how much you have already done and produced with the courses and the book and the brochures. It sounds like you’ve got a really powerful team with a lot of different skills and background in this specific area. It sounds very encouraging I am excited to learn more about it myself. I’ve only just got to know about it.
Krsnanandini Devi Dasi: Well bless your heart Prabhu. We think that this thing is going to be done when more and more people cooperate together to make it done and we realize d how powerful the grihastha ashrama can become. Because you think about it Krsnendu, we want healthy brahmacaris. We want healthy sannyasis. We want healthy householders. And if the marriage and family is healthy then 90% to 99% of the offspring from that marriage and family will be healthy. Also, the grihasthas are supposed to support all the other Ashramas. Research has shown even in the secular world that when our families are healthy and spiritually inclined, they give more in the charity, their children have less issues. So much of these are validated by research.
Krsnendu dasa: Yeah. There is no doubt that marriage is the foundation for a whole society.
One thing that I wanted to ask you is that as you have background in the secular world with a lot of these things, do you find that devotees in particular have any unique problems or common problems that are maybe not so common in the outside world?
Krsnanandini Devi Dasi: That’s a very good question, I would say that one of the problems that our devotees really wrestle with and I hope you don’t mind me being just really honest, it is the idea of how to deal with the sex thing in marriage. I do not know, as I said we work in the Vaisnavas community, but also in the secular world and I do not know if it is an issue because even Christians who are married, their view about sex is not quite like you know the Vaisnavas. I think this is somewhat unique to the Vaisnavas community and many of our GVT members who provided education, provided counselling to couples, we found this as an issue.
We’ve prayed about it and we’ve come up with a pretty good (we think) way to approach it and that is that you know Krishna Consciousness is a process and Srila Prabhupada explained that it is guaranteed, it works if you work it. And a lot of times, we have the loftier goals where we want to be the pure devotee. But if we are not yet there how to work together with our spouse in such a way that neither of us become discouraged, but that we are both encouraged. How to know that we are working towards a goal and how to be okay and not feel like we are a failure if we can’t quite accomplish everything that we want to accomplish.
In the Bhagavad gita,(Bg 3.26?) Prabhupada, explains in the purport that if in your heart as a Vaisnavas, if you accept the prices of Krishna consciousness, even though you’re not fully able to do everything, then Krishna will help you and gradually you’ll make progress. I think that particular viewpoint gives hope to devotees because a lot of them wrestle with this whole idea about sex and marriage and so that is one issue that we see.
Another is our finances, how to really, you know in the early days, many of us were temple devotees and we didn’t have jobs so this idea now I think it’s part of the 50% that Srila Prabhupada was talking about. How do we have the where-with-all to support our families in a way that is at least in the mode of goodness. These are some of the things that devotees are struggling with. And I think part of what we should be doing as a society is trying to figure out those particular concerns like how do we provide livelihood and employment for devotees so that they don’t necessarily have to feel like “my Krishna Consciousness is one thing but there my job is another thing” so that’s another concern.
Krsnendu dasa: So they are not competing with each other but it is arranged in such a way that our spiritual life is progressive.
Krsnanandini Devi Dasi: Yes. Yes.
Another concern that a lot of devotees have is how to balance your spiritual duties and practices with taking care of your family. And again what we’ve encouraged the devotees to understand is that your service to your family is your devotional service, it’s not distinct.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur said that marriage for Vaisnavas is a good institution and is highly recommended. He is encouraging us to utilize the ashrama of marriage to grow in Krishna Consciousness to develop loving relationships and to in general, live peacefully on the Earth with each other and raise peaceful children. So I would say those are the three main challenges that we have and all those couples that are not Vaisnavas, they struggle with the financial thing and they struggle with the idea of how to at least maintain some God consciousness in this crazy larger world.
Krsnendu dasa: It is an interesting point because I remember speaking with my Godbrother,Damodara. He mentioned to me one time when I talked about the idea of balance and he was saying that when we talk about balance like for example spiritual versus family. It gives the idea that when one goes up the other one has to go down. This is the idea of balance but really what we are looking for is integration – how we can make our family life a spiritual family life so that our family life improves and our spiritual life both improve together rather than competing with each other. And these things that you’ve mentioned I can vouch for myself and experiences I’ve had with many other devotees. Those three big topics which devotees are dealing with like what you said, sex, money and balancing or integrating our spirituality with our own family, and other responsibilities.
Krsnanandini Devi Dasi : You know what Krsnendu, I think that we have the greatest opportunity of all the people because this science of Krishna Consciousness that Srila Prabhupada gave us, it actually has everything in it. I mean, you know the “Six Loving Exchanges”, “Always Chant Hare Krishna”, “Krishna is always there helping you all along the way”. We just have to realize what we’ve been given. We have to realize that tools. And as Lord Chaitanya said, the three greatest weapons in the Kali-yuga are the Holy Name, devotees, and prasada.
As grihasthas, we can do that, we can chant Hare Krishna together as a family and individually, wherever we are, we can take that opportunity. The Holy Name is so purifying, it is sound incarnation of God, as you know, it will purify our family life.
Of course, we are going to go through difficulties and challenges. We are in a material world but these are our weapons.
And then associating with like-minded devotees who are similarly trying to raise their children and similarly trying to please the Lord, that’s a powerful weapon. If sometimes devotees are isolated, now we have conference calls, we have the Internet. There are ways now that we can start connecting with other devotees and that’s important.
Prasada. We make sure that we prepare nice prasada offer to Krishna, offer to our family, offer to our guests that come to our home. If your children go to public school there are so many opportunities to take cookies and different kinds of prasada to the school, so there are ways. I think that our challenge is to be creative. How to prosecute this Krishna Consciousness in our variety of different circumstances and Krishna will help us if that’s our desire.
And if we cooperate this idea of working with other devotees to get things done on behalf of Srila Prabhupada, we’ll find ourselves empowered beyond as they say, 1 plus 1 equals 2. But then when Krishna is in the mix 1 plus 1 can equal to 2000.
Krsnendu dasa: I really like that idea you mentioned about creativity, because sometimes devotees could feel a little helpless when things are not ideal as they see it. But if we can take it as a challenge and think how can I creatively make the best of the situation, then it can become quite fun and a great way to progress.
Krsnanandini Devi Dasi : Let me give you an example, Krsnendu. In Cleveland Ohio where I live, there’s no temple so we have an Nama Hatta program and there are two main meetings. On Wednesday evening, devotees meet on the West side and on Sundays we meet on the East side.
We recently made a commitment to distribute 1,008 Bhagavad-Gita this year. Now here is a group of people, mostly family people, so we do not have a temple and we do not have a sankirtan committee, but we’ve decided to take on this service and it is really exciting.
So we’ve had to be creative. Like how do we do it because sometimes, we don’t go out on the streets. So one of the things that I was inspired of, to do is just call people that I know and I say, “look, we are having this contest to distribute the Bhagavad-Gita. This is a book that saved my life. So many people read it. I want you as my friend or as my family to help me with this contest by getting a book.”
And I am just so amazed at how many people are so positively responding. And that’s just creative because I don’t have the opportunity as much to go out in the streets but I can pick up the phone and then I said to myself “Well Prabhupada if they say no, it’s no real lost” but so far, I’ve gotten only few nos.
Krsnendu dasa: It sounds like a really good approach. As you say it is creative. And the way that you frame it, how can people say no? It is not like pushing the book on them but you are making it part of something fun that they get to participate in this competition and it makes it reallyappealing to people. It is a very creative method.
Krsnanandini Devi Dasi: As a householders, we need to understand that Krishna wants us to be happy. This is a realization. Sometimes devotees think “Oh spiritual life should be so austere, I should be suffering”
But ultimately this is what Prabhupada said,” Chant and be happy.” He wants us to be happy. So if we work together, this is so important, this cooperation. We really just pray to Krishna all the time for help like “Lord how do I do this? How do I raise my children? How do I respond to my husband or my wife? Help me Krishna, I want to do this to please you” Krishna will help us.
So we have the resources of the Grihastha Vision Team. We want other devotees to utilize these resources and there are groups of couples who will come and train people in your community.
Krsnendu dasa: There is a wealth of resources there. I like what you’re offering here because you’re basically helping devotees in the way that we don’t have to be poor and miserable to be a devotee. We can be happy and wealthy and we can have a prosperous society where everyone is able to progress in spiritual life. And I think that’s a paradigm shift for a lot of devotees. It’s a really positive thing that you are doing. I’m really inspired. You must let me know as soon as your book is released so I can let the people I am in touch with know about it to spread the word. Because that will be a great milestone.
I just encourage whoever is listening to get in touch with you through the website and see if there is anything that particularly attracts them. They might want to do one of your courses such as Strengthening the Bonds that Free Us or the Couples..
Krsnanandini Devi Dasi: The Couple Mentorship course, or the Couples Retreat that we are doing in June in Gita Nagari. We will come and do workshops in communities on topics that are pertinent and relevant for your community about marriage and family and couples, and preparing for marriage. We also want to look into the idea of how to prepare brahmacaris for marriage. We even encourage brahmacaris and some sannyasis to take the course because even if you are not married or won’t get married, we are a society and we should have knowledge of what makes all parts of our society work well.
Krsnendu dasa: So just to mention the website address again. http://www.vaisnavafamilyresources.org And that is the place to go if you are interested in doing the courses or just to get more information. I strongly recommend everyone to go and check it out. It sounds just like what our society needs.
So thank you very much for sharing that with us today.
Are there any final words that you want to leave us with today?
Krsnanandini Devi Dasi: What I would like to say is that there’s hope for us as a society and Prabhupada gave his life so that we can be happy. We owe it to Srila Prabhupada to be happy and to make others happy. And I think we have real opportunity, we don’t have to go up and do something big. You know there is an old saying that “Between the little things that I won’t do and the big things that I can’t do, the danger is that I won’t get anything done”. So wherever we are, we can get something done for Prabhupada. We can start righting our families by learning some skills that help us to be better spouses, better parents, better children and be inspired and fired up to spread the good word that Prabhupada shared with us. We also have the Dasi-Ziyad Family Institute website www.dzfi.org that’s another website that you can go to for resources for marriage and family. We want to encourage people to go for resources.
Thank you so much. I really appreciate what you’re doing Prabhu. Let’s work together more and let’s see the beauty, like one year from now, we should be able to see families that have been empowered because they’ve been inspired and educated.
Krsnendu dasa: That is a wonderful vision. Thank you very much that was fantastic. I am sure that everyone who is listening will also be inspired.
Once again make sure you visit http://www.vaisnavafamilyresources.org to find out more about it.
Krsnanandini Devi Dasi: Hare Krishna.