A human society which aims at sense gratification being the ultimate goal of life will always promote envy, exploitation and competition. It results in a culture of abandoning each other for the purpose of sense enjoyment: husbands abandoning wives, wives abandoning husbands, mothers abandoning their children, fathers abandoning their children, and children abandoning their parents and grand-parents. It is a culture of neglect, impersonalism and selfishness.
A human society which aims at selfless service to God being the ultimate goal of life will result exactly in the opposite. It will promote a culture of selfless service and care, of trust and affection based on deep and meaningful relationships.
Spiritual culture is Krsna's culture which He has given us in order help us gain stability and harmony in this material world, so we can whole-heartedly develop our lost and forgotten relationship with Him.
In spiritual culture every section of human society has a certain role with purifying duties to perform which in return serves the society at large and offers protection and support to all other sections within society.
Let us look at various sections of society, for example the elderly, the children and the mothers - what are their position in materialistic culture, and in spiritual culture?
In a culture where sense enjoyment is the goal of life elderly persons are regarded as a burden. An elderly body becomes more and more unsuitable for sense enjoyment, and such a person can not keep up in the race for sense gratification. Therefore they are hidden away in Retirement Centers - out of sight. Retirement Centers are a manifestation of materialistic culture, where there is no respect, inquiry and service offered to the elders.
In a culture where self-realization is the goal of life elderly persons are highly respected members of society. They embody self-realization, wisdom and life experience, and they are affectionately cared for since they pass down an immense treasure of wisdom, traditions and life experience. In spiritual culture nobody would put their elders in a nursing home or retirement center. It would be unimaginable, since it is regarded as greatest mercy to serve the elders. It is also considered to be the purifying duty of the young generation to serve and care for the elders, since the present status quo is based on the tapasya and hard work of the previous generation. As a result there is a natural reciprocation of gratitude, respect and service.
It is very similar in regards to the position of the children. In materialistic life and it's culture the children disturb the enjoyment of the grown-ups and are therefore always in the way, and thus pushed aside into kindergardens and day-care centers. Nowadays many mothers are handing over their babies to the day-care center at the very young age of six weeks, simply so they can pursue their careers and earn more money to enjoy a higher standard of life. This results in traumatic emotional disturbances in the child, since the little entity needs the care of an affectionate mother so urgently.
Since we are all more or less conditioned by materialistic life we carry some of these conditionings very deeply within our mind, and we so often experience children to be a disturbance, and it unfortunately enters occasionally our attitude towards our children in ISKCON. As a result they feel pushed aside and neglected. They can strongly perceive that they are in the way of the enjoyment of the adults, and that there is only very little room for them in the world of the grown-ups. And thus they often don't like Krsna consciousness once they are grown up. Infact, with regret and pain in the heart we have to admit that we lost almost the entire first generation of children in ISKCON.
However, in spiritual life and its culture things look again very differently. The children embody the future, and it is well understood that spiritual cultivation has to start right at the very beginning of life, infact even before conception, and during pregnancy. Thus children become the very center of life, and they are given so much care, attention and affection, combined with spiritual training and education so that they are attracted from their early childhood to remembering Krsna in a joyful and playful way. The vision and understanding is there, that these children are very fortunate souls, and it is the highest responsibility and purifying duty of the parents (especially the mother) and later also other authority figures within the community to sow the seed of bhakti in the hearts of these children.
And what is the position of mothers within these two cultures?
In a culture where sense enjoyment is the ultimate goal in life it is a pittiful position to be a mother. Her service is not respected and valued, and she is considered to be in an unfortunate and downtrodden position - she can't go out and enjoy life but has to remain at home and serve. What a great misery!
In spiritual life and it's culture she is serving as the very first Guru for the living entity, planting the seed of bhakti in the child's heart. The mother is the one who creates the spiritual atmosphere in the home, and thus within society at large. This is her most valuable contribution to human society. The mother is the actual servant-leader and backbone of the
family and thus of society at large, since society is built of many families: she is the one who creates the caring and harmonizing atmosphere within society - the relationship manager and selfless care giver.
Throughout the Bhavagatam Prabhupada describes the role of a woman as being the power of inspiration to men (4.26.15.,1.9.27.) and an always auspicious source of energy to men (4.21.4.). This is in a nutshell her precious
position within human society - indeed a very beautiful and invaluable contribution.
As a result she will be highly valued and thus protected by men, since she is the power of inspiration to them. Therefore in spiritual culture a woman is always protected - by the father, then the husband, and finally the son. She is protected and cared for like one protects something highly valuable from thieves - a precious jewel.
Thus the ends of the circle of giving care meet perfectly, and all sections of soiety are nicely being cared for.
Interesting to observe that in former days care was always based on personal relationships based on respect and service to one another. As life became more and more materialistic the relationships started to become more impersonal and self-centered, and thus the government had to take over the care which was formerly given through family members and friends within a community.
Now, today in ISKCON I can basically see two choices: we can try to immitate the systems of care given by the secular society, based on impersonal relationships and managerial or organisation structures with paid staff. Or we can bring care back to personal relationships, as it is the system within spiritual culture, based on selfless service and mutual respect.
If we want to indeed create a spiritual organisation, Devotee Care might have only so much future within our ISKCON society as it brings us back to the roots of our very culture - Krsna's culture. Spiritual culture has to become the very content and substance of Devotee Care - otherwise it could very easily remain hollow and simply an organisational structure with so many bureaucratic systems.