Many women have perceived ideals of a perfect male romantic match - "Tall, Dark and Handsome", " The Knight in the Shining Armor" and "Prince Charming". Having experienced them through the movies, fairy tales and Mills and Boons - such males often handsome and romantic act as a foil to the heroine, rescuing the "damsel in distress" from all her woes. Prince Philip rescued "The Sleeping Beauty", Princess Aurora from the curse of sleep from the bad fairy Maleficent. Cinderella was rescued by her Knight in the Shining Armor when the slipper fit her. Rescued by him she found relief from the emotional abuse at the hands of her stepmother and stepsisters. Snow White's fairness and beauty made her the object of her step queen mother's envy, because of which she faced many fatal encounters. Being close to death yet again, she was saved by her prince charming from further pain.
Some of these stories have taken root in our lives. So much so, that at crucial points in our lives we draw on such stories hoping for a potential husband to come and take us away from all our problems, thereby living happily ever after. A difficult childhood, unfulfilled emotional needs, difficult parents and siblings and lack of deep relationships within our family of origins and the effect of such media, cause us to deeply fantasize for the knight in the shining armor to come and rescue us. Trying to match everyone we meet to the prince charming we have been hoping for - when we actually meet one who makes up for what we lost while growing up, we are deeply attracted.
Reconciliation is hard
Our own personal needs and myths can push us into inappropriate involvement. We tend to lose our guard when we feel "rescued" from our situations. Usually such stories do not have a "happily ever after" ending like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. The reward for our goodness is not usually an ideal mate, very unlike what we have been made to believe by the world of pretend. While our needs maybe fulfilled in such a marriage, a lot of reconciling will have to be done between our ideal mate expectations and the reality of our mates. We could have missed some vital reality signs and value system mismatches while we experienced all the good things. Learning to accept their flaws and limitations post marriage becomes a real struggle.
What are we trying to be rescued from? - The example of Princess Devahuti
The Bhagavad Gita describes this world as a temporary place full of misery. Misery is not a design flaw in the material world - it is by design. When we learn how to deeply feel the pain and misery of this world, we detach from it and deeply desire to be rescued. However "The Knight in Shining Armor" may not be able to rescue us perfectly since that knight also belongs to this miserable material world. The place the knight would rescue us from and the place the knight would take us to both belong within the material world. It would be placing too much of an expectation on your knight to really rescue you and keep you happy. Also the knight would have his own share of misery and would be looking to have his own needs met.
While some make fairy tales, movies and the world of pretend their foundation, many find it prudent to find examples from scripture and real life. Fairy tales end with happily ever after, glossing over the lives of the hero and heroine walking into the sunset. The rescued princess seems happy in the arms of her beloved - not much detail is given about how they got along with each other, how they handled disagreement, finances, children, challenges and the course of their marriage. Without that level of detail the make believe presented leaves us starry eyed. Scriptures on the other hand very clearly elucidate the impossibility of finding happiness in this world and point us to a spiritual panacea for our quest.
The Srimad Bhagavatam gives us the example of Princess Devahuti. She was the daughter of King Manu who was the governor not of a village , or a state , or a country, or a planet - but he was the governor of the entire universe. She grew up with incomparable opulence, with many jewels, maidservants, royal palaces and loving parents. She was one of the most beautiful women of the world. She was seeking a suitable husband in terms of age, character and good qualities. The moment she heard about the sage Kardama Muni she set her mind and heart on him. Not because she saw him as the knight in the shining Armor who would rescue her from her emotional and mental problems and not because she saw him as someone who would meet her needs. Her view of marriage was aligned to the principle of marriage elucidated by her spiritual masters, her spiritual guides and the scriptures of the bhakti tradition - i.e. husband and wife serve Lord Krishna nicely and help each other advance in spiritual life. In this way both the husband and wife become true benefactors for one another.
Being highly spiritually elevated herself, she found her pleasure in developing a connection with Krishna and not in the tasteless things of the world. She was convinced by knowledge and realization that the things of the world were temporary and could not offer her any lasting peace and pleasure. Since she was convinced by knowledge she did not have the need to experience them before she made a decision about their importance. She was looking for someone who also on the spiritual path, so that as husband and wife they could march together on the path of eternal life. Kardama Muni seemed to be a good fit for her as he was fixed in his spiritual understanding and was clear in his path. She was convinced that such a marriage based on a spiritual theme would rescue her from the material world and its problems of birth, disease, old age and death. She knew that this knight in the shining armor had the ability, the vision and the mercy to rescue her from the frivolity of material life towards lasting peace and happiness in the Lord's service.
Devahuti got married to Kardama Muni fully aware and prepared to give up the identity of a princess and to live an austere life in the forest with no palaces, no maid servants, very simple clothes and a very simple living. Over time because of the austere life she also lost her beauty, her hair became matted, and she became very emaciated but that did not bother her as her pleasure did not come from the externals. She found her pleasure in serving her very spiritually elevated husband assisting him in his spiritual growth. Her pleasure came from serving him with respect, love and affection. Kardama Muni on the other hand had great appreciation for his wife. He acknowledged that he was able to go further on the spiritual path because of her love, care and assistance and so he willingly shared all the spiritual assets and mercy he had accumulated with her. When she desired to have a child he made perfect arrangements by his mystic powers to have a fruitful union with her. Through his powers, her emaciated and dull body once again turned very beautiful and they lived in palatial surroundings of great beauty. Their union resulted in her having the Supreme Lord Krishna come as her son as Kapila Muni. Kapila Muni being the Lord Himself further inspired Devahuti on the spiritual path, so at the end of her life she was able to give the last vestiges of material attachment and fully focus her mind on the Lord. At the end she is liberated from the cycle of birth, disease, old age and death and became situated in her spiritual identity of a loving servant of Krishna.
Bridging the gap between Devahuti and ourselves
Looking for a husband to rescue her from the cycle of birth and death, Devahuti made the right choice and achieved the purpose of life. As aspiring spiritualists we can consider how we can follow the quality of her heart. Her heart was full of satisfaction in being connected to the Supreme as a loving servant of the Lord. It is evident from the parallels of the fairy tales and Devahuti that our needs shape our lives. Before looking for a suitable spouse it would be prudent to examine the condition of our heart and evaluate our needs - both material and spiritual.
Being aware of our needs and core issues helps us deal with them in a mature way without leaping at the next prince charming who holds promise. Awareness of our weaknesses makes us powerful against the force of temptation. Such awareness helps us in personal transformation. It helps us find healthy ways to meet needs. It helps us in resolving some of our core hurts. It helps us in choosing good Krishna-conscious strategies to meet our needs. Over time such awareness also helps us in assessing if those needs are real or if they are artificial creations of our own minds. Our soul begins to sense that there is more to life than the mundane experiences of the superficial level of our engagement in the world. The soul begins to feel a weariness of spirit in an endless cycle of dissatisfaction. There is usually nothing with which it can be attributed except for the revival of one's lost relationship with God who we in the Gaudiya Vaishnava bhakti tradition know as Lord Krishna.
With a powerful daily bhakti practice we will be able to remove the non-essentials from our heart and completely focus on the essence which is development of a loving relationship with Krishna. That would help us in finding a spouse more suited to really aid us in our eternal spiritual journey of loving service to Lord Krishna.[ bhakti ] [ family ] [ marriage ] [ spouse ] [ women ] [ womens-roles ]