By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda
So long life is there, everyone is thinking, “I have got this responsibility. I have got this responsibility. I have got this responsibility,” and they are working very, very hard and doing all nonsense. Nūnam pramattah kurute vikarma [SB 5.5.4]. Now, somebody’s stealing for the sake of family maintenance, and) doing so many sinful activities, but when they are scattered again by the laws of nature, nobody will be sympathetic to me if I suffer for my own sinful activities. But they do so, for the so-called family. They get money, and they… Due to affection… First of all, whatever he earns, by hook or by crook, first of all he wants to see that his wife, children, are fed up very nicely. And, at last, if there is some remnants, he can eat. Out of affection, you see?
So therefore this affection is the very hard knot for being bound up in this material world, this affection. Therefore the Vedic civilization is that the affection is to be cut off compulsory at a certain age, not that the affection should continue. If the affection continues, then there is no chance of my becoming free from this material world. There is no chance.
Therefore vānaprastha. Because the affection with one’s wife, is very, very strong, so by vānaprastha, the husband and wife, they give up the affection. Not give up – they go away from home, and they travel in the holy places just to purify, and again, when the affection draws, they come to the family – again (stay) at home for one or two months, then again go away. So the wife, there is no sex connection (between the husband and wife), but wife remains as assistant to the man to be accustomed how to remain aloof from the family. And then, when the man is practiced to remain aloof from the family, then the wife is sent back to the family, to the care of elderly children, and the man takes sannyāsa, compulsory. It is called “civil suicide.” My Guru Mahārāja used to say, “Commit civil suicide.” If you commit suicide it is criminal. (Sannyāsa) is also suicide – no more connection with family. This is also suicide, but it is civil. There is no criminal action against… But it is also voluntarily committing suicide—no more connection with anyone.
… So the whole process is how to get out of the affection of this family, community, nationalism. This is the process. This is illusion. But at the present moment, this illusion is being increased.
[An excerpt from a lecture given on the Srimad Bhagavatam 1.8.41 in Mayapur, West Bengal on October 21, 1974]