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Vedic Culture:Varṇāśrama-dharma

Māyāpur, India – February 28, 1972

Bob: I’ve asked devotees about how they feel toward sex in their relations, and I see the way they feel, but I can’t see myself acting the same way. See, I’ll be getting married at the end of this summer.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Hmm?

Bob: I’ll be getting married at the end of this summer, in September or August when I return to America. And the devotees say that the householders only have sex to conceive a child, and I cannot picture myself at all in such a position. What kind of sex life can a devotee lead, living in the material world?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: The Vedic principle is that one should avoid sex life altogether. The whole Vedic principle is to get liberation from material bondage. There are different attachments for material enjoyment, of which sex life is the topmost. The Bhāgavatam says that in this material world man is attached to woman, and woman is attached to man: puṁsaḥ striyā mithunī-bhāvam etam. Not only in human society – in animal society also. That attachment is the basic principle of material life. So, a woman is hankering for or seeking after the association of a man, and a man is hankering for or seeking the association of a woman. All the fiction novels, dramas, cinemas, and even ordinary advertisements that you see simply depict the attachment between man and woman. Even in the tailor’s shop you will find in the window some woman and some man. So this attachment is already there.

Bob: Attachment between man and woman?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. So if you want to get liberation from this material world, then that attachment should be reduced to nil. Otherwise, simply further attachment. You will have to take rebirth, either as a human being or as a demigod or as an animal, as a serpent, as a bird, as a beast. You will have to take birth.

So, this basic principle of increasing attachment is not our business, although it is the general tendency. Gṛha, kṣetra, suta [home, land, children]. But if one can reduce and stop it, that is first class. Therefore our Vedic system is to first of all train a boy as a brahmacārī – no sex life. The Vedic principle is to reduce attachment, not to increase it. Therefore the whole system is called varṇāśrama-dharma.

The Indian system calls for varṇa and āśrama – four social orders and four spiritual orders. Brahmacarya [celibate student life], gṛhastha [married life], vānaprastha [retired life], and sannyāsa [renounced life] – these are the spiritual orders. And the social orders consist of brāhmaṇas [intellectuals], kṣatriyas [administrators], vaiśyas [merchants and farmers], and śūdras [ordinary workers]. So under this system, the regulative principles are so nice that

even if one has the tendency to enjoy material life, he is so nicely molded that at last he achieves liberation and goes back home, back to Godhead. This is the process. So sex life is not required, but because we are attached to it, there are some regulative principles under which it is maintained.

[Chanting starts somewhere in the background, with exotic mṛdaṅga drumbeats amid laughing and the loud blowing of horns.]

It is said in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam [5.5.8]:

puṁsaḥ striyā mithunī-bhāvam etaṁ
tayor mitho hṛdaya-granthim āhuḥ
ato gṛha-kṣetra-sutāpta-vittair
janasya moho ’yam ahaṁ mameti

This sex life is the basic principle of material life – attachment for man or woman. And when a man and woman are united, that attachment becomes increased, and that increased attachment will induce one to accumulate gṛha (a home), kṣetra (land), suta (children), āpta (friendship or society), and vitta, money. In this way – gṛha-kṣetra-sutāpta-vittaiḥ – he becomes entangled. Janasya moho ’yam: this is illusion. And by this illusion he thinks, ahaṁ mameti: “I am this body, and anything in relationship with this body is mine.”

Bob: What is that again?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: The attachment increases. The material attachment involves thinking “I am this body, and because I have this body in this particular place, this is my country.” And that is going on: “I am American, I am Indian, I am German, I am this, I am that. This is my country. I shall sacrifice everything for my country and society.” So in this way, the illusion increases. And under this illusion, when he dies he gets another body. It may be a superior body or an inferior body, according to his karma. So if he gets a superior body, then that is also an entanglement, even if he goes to the heavenly planets. But if he becomes a cat or dog, then his life is lost. Or a tree – there is every chance of it.

So this science is not known in the world – how the soul is transmigrating from one body to another, and how he is being entrapped in different types of bodies. This science is unknown. In the Bhagavad-gītā Arjuna lamented, “How can I kill my brother or my grandfather on the other side?” He was simply thinking on the basis of the bodily concept of life. But when he could not solve his problems, he surrendered to Kṛṣṇa and accepted Him as spiritual master. And when Kṛṣṇa became his spiritual master, He chastised Arjuna in the beginning [Gītā 2.11]:

aśocyān anvaśocas tvaṁ
prajñā-vādāṁś ca bhāṣase
gatāsūn agatāsūṁś ca
nānuśocanti paṇḍitāḥ

“You are talking like a learned man, but you are fool number one because you are talking about the bodily concept of life.” So sex life increases the bodily concept of life. Therefore, the whole process is to reduce it to nil.

Bob: To reduce it over the stages of your life?

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. Reduce it. A boy is trained as a student up to age twenty-five, restricting sex life. Brahmacārī. So, some of the boys remain naiṣṭhika-brahmacārī [celibate for life]. Because they are given an education and they become fully conversant with spiritual knowledge, they don’t want to marry. And even if they do marry, sex life is restricted. But the basic principle is that one cannot have sex life without being married. Therefore in human society there is marriage, not in animal society.

But people are gradually descending from human society to animal society. They are forgetting marriage. That is also predicted in the śāstras [scriptures]. Dāmpatye ’bhirucir hetuḥ: in the Kali-yuga [the present age of quarrel], eventually there will be no marriage; the boy and the girl will simply agree to live together, and their relationship will exist on sexual power. If the man or the woman is deficient in sex life, then there is divorce. So, for this philosophy there are many Western philosophers like Freud and others who have written so many books. But according to Vedic culture, we are interested in sex only for begetting children, that’s all. Not to study the psychology of sex life. There is already natural psychology for that. Even if one does not read any philosophy, he is sexually inclined. Nobody is taught it in the schools and colleges. Everyone already knows how to do it. [He laughs.] That is the general tendency. But education should be given to stop it. That is real education.

Bob: In America at present that’s a radical concept.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Well, in America there are so many things that require reformation, and this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement will bring that. I went to your country and saw that the boys and girls were living like friends, so I said to my students, “You cannot live together as friends; you must get yourselves married.”

Bob: Many people see that even marriage is not sacred, so they find no desire to marry. They see that often people get married, and if things are not proper they get a divorce so very easily. Therefore many people feel that to get married is not meaningful.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Their idea is that marriage is for legalized prostitution. They think like that, but that is not marriage. Even that Christian paper – what is that?

Śyāmasundara: Watchtower.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Watchtower. It has criticized that one priest has allowed a marriage between two men – homosexuality. So these things are all going on. People are taking to marriage purely for prostitution, that’s all. So therefore people are thinking, “What is the use of keeping a regular prostitute at such heavy expenditure? Better not to have this.”

Śyāmasundara: You use that example of the cow and the market.

Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. When milk is available in the marketplace, what is the use of keeping a cow? [Everyone laughs.] It is a very abominable condition in the Western countries. I have seen it. Here also, in India, gradually it is coming. Therefore we have started this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement to educate people in the essential principles of spiritual life. It is not a sectarian religious movement. It is a cultural movement for everyone’s benefit.

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