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Living with Vows - Introduction

This is our story, it is our own description of the life that we actually live. Not the story of one man, but a collective story of some impressions. It is written for anyone and everyone who desires to read it as a matter of interest, but also especially to offer support and insight to those who are actual practitioners of life with spiritual vows. Even when first introduced to ISKCON one becomes very soon aware of the four regulative principles;

and of the prescribed number of daily chanting sixteen rounds of japa of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. Chanting the holy name and following the four regulative principle become accepted as the ideal standard of life, so even people who do not actually abide by them, can also be counted as those living with vows. What to speak of people who have made a formal commitment by taking vows of initiation and have promised before the Lord, that they will adhere to these standards for the rest of their lives. Naturally with such a high norm there are bound to be failures and along with it a sense of guilt, which can be favorable if it is an impetus to recommit one self with renewed enthusiasm, but which can be unfavorable if one drowns himself in an ocean of guilt and defeat, without making any improvement. Some in that state even give up practicing Krishna consciousness to escape the psychological pressure of living as a failure. The vows should not be seen in that light, but rather as point of security in the midst of the wild waves on the ocean of material existence.

Failure must not be seen as a permanent defeat, rather in spite of it one must persevere. As Prabhupada expressed it; "Failure is the pillar of success!" One interesting point to note is that Srila Prabhupada stresses these four regulative principles as a program for mainstream society and not only for a very exclusive minority group who are drawn to live as a priestly class. Reflecting for a moment how this would be feasible from a sociological point of view especially the principle of no illicit sex, his teachings may appear unrealistic and inconsiderate of human nature, something not feasible for most people. However from a transcendental perspective, i.e. looking at every living being like a soul who is temporarily entrapped in a particular material body, we can see how the four regulative principles are the entrance unto the spiritual transcendental path, or the beginning of a consciousness based on aham brahmasmi, that we are spirit and not this body. This is the price to pay to go back to Godhead.

Although Vedic culture also offers a society based on the principles of varnasrama, where society may be divided in to four classes according to the consciousness that four prototypes of people have developed, namely; brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras. Especially the brahmanas are in the mode of goodness and principled in their behavior, whereas the other classes each are respectively more affected by the modes of passion and ignorance. Still although this varnasrama system maybe considered the best social system to accommodate and regulate human nature, it is not sufficient to liberate one form the cycle of birth and death. Therefore the four regulative principles are offered to all classes of men as a feasible path, even to fifth class men, mlecchas and yavanas, those without principles and meat-eaters, which becomes feasible by the chanting of the holy name. Therefore the chanting of the Holy Name is the principal means that makes it possible for people, who are otherwise unable to follow such standards, to rise above their limitations.