Braja Raja Priya is a thirty year old celibate monk in our ashram. His older and younger brothers are also celibate monks serving at ashrams close to Mumbai. I recently met their father and initially wondered if he was saddened at his three sons’ relinquishing a rich and promising career to serve selflessly in an ashram. While Braja Raja is a postgraduate in physics, his older brother is a qualified doctor and the younger brother has passed his engineering from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). The trio’s father Lala Krishna is a sixty two year old retired clerk with a government of India undertaking. He is presently staying with his wife, 57 year old Prema Viharini in the Isri village at Giridih district of the state of Jaharkhanda in Northern India.
I asked the couple if they regret to see all their three sons become monks, since in India even today having a son is considered a prized possession and what to speak of three qualified sons at that. The parents of Braja Raja were happy to see their children serving the society selflessly. Prema Viharini said she prays her three sons remain happy and continue serving all their life. Lala Krishna is a man of few words and didn’t say much but approved of his sons’ actions.
How does the couple spend their time? They rise by 2.30 every morning and chant Hare Krishna for eight hours, followed by prayers, and hearing of discourses and study of sacred scriptures. This schedule would put the strictest of monks to shame. Their twelve room palatial apartment has a garden with many vegetables and flowers growing luxuriantly. While Lala Krishna also works at the garden, his wife dutifully keeps the house clean and spiritually vibrant. They conduct discourses every evening and teach God consciousness to the villagers.
Recently Lala Krishna gave away five million rupees in charity to the cause of spreading the teachings of spirituality in the Indian villages. Most of the family savings has been spent on preaching the message of God and the couple is content on living simply with bare minimum personal needs.
Lala Krishna and Prema Viharini are the last remaining remnants of a powerful Vedic culture that is soon getting extinct. Seeing their sacrifice set me thinking of how a life of service and celibacy is not new in India. The Vedic tradition emphasizes that to advance spiritually one has to give up unrestricted sense gratification and eventually come to a stage of relentless service and abandoning of sex pleasure altogether. This is not a painful path of denial but rather a path of deep inner fulfilment where practises that connect a spiritual practitioner to God fill him or her with spiritual happiness, and as a result it’s relatively easier to say no to sex life.
Even today in the twenty first century, despite the massive propaganda by the media at fulfilling of one’s carnal pleasures, interior Indian villages have a rich culture of spirituality, and celibacy is recognized in many places as an important element of this spirituality. Families grounded in rich spiritual values respect celibate monks and consider it as an honour if their children lead disciplined life of abstinence coupled with rich spiritual practises.
Meeting such an exemplary couple humbled me and simultaneously inspired me. I wish I can develop the same mood of service and sacrifice that this family embodies.