Fundamental Feature of Vedic Culture - Household Lifestyle
Four Divisions of Life:
- Brahmacharyasram (student, celibate life)
- Grihasthasram (household life)
- Vanaprasthasram (forest recluse life)
- Sanyasasram (renunciate life)
Grihasthasram (household lifestyle) is the MOTHER of all divisions of life. In fact, it mothers the other three divisions.
Household Lifestyle: Grihasthasram
Lahiri Mahasay, the principal disciple of Mahamuni Babaji in the Kriya Yoga discipline, praised the household lifestyle, above all lifestyles, as being best suited to stabilize the seeker in a balanced, righteous way.
The following verses are from the Commentary on the Manusanghita by Lahiri Mahasay:
The above documents say the following:
“Four Asrams originate from the household lifestyle.
student life from l - 25 years of age;
“Grihastha: household lifestyle from 26 - 50 years of age;
“Vanaprastha: retired life from 51 - 75 years of age;
“Jati, or Sanyas: renunciate life from 76 - 100 years, and beyond].”
6:87; p. 148
“Kriya practice provides highest attainment.” 6:88; p. 148
“The household lifestyle is the greatest, because it supports and
serves the other three lifestyles.” 6:89; p. 148
“All these lifestyles stabilize in the household lifestyle.” 6:91; p. 148
Restraint of the Senses (Dama),
Dissolving the Senses (Indrya-Nigraha),
Truth (Satya), and
Freedom from Anger (Akrodha):
“These are the ten signs of religion, or righteousness. [These signs reflect Yoga Sutras and the Bible’s Ten Commandments.] All these ten qualities generate automatically through the practice of Kriya, and not by force. One has to practice in the beginning.” 6:92; p. 148
“By the cultivation [dissolving the intellect poised in wisdom] of these ten qualities, the Kriyanwit seeker attains the highest state of Realizations.” 6:93; p. 149
“Having attained these ten qualities and being attuned to the ultimate Self, the householder Kriyanwit attains the state of Sanyas [the state of internal renunciation, that is Antar Sanyas, or ‘eternal Tranquility’].” 6:94, p. 149
Paramhansa Sri Ramakrisna said that practicing meditation (sadhana) in the household lifestyle is like fighting from a fort [durga] protected from three sides.
On the other hand,
fighting on the open field where one is vulnerable to get hit from all
sides, even from behind (as the ego, the adversary, does not follow any
rule of the battle), is not for all people.
It is for that renunciate (sanyasi) who is exceptionally blessed with strong foundation from the previous lives’ activities and providences. Thus only then he can survive following the razor-edged path (khurasyadhara – sanyas).
One example of attacking from behind can be given here. While the renunciate seeker is fighting the battle against his own mind and ego, the ego leaving its second, the shadow form, in front of the renunciate, takes off and enters in the very weapon of the renunciate (the spirit of renunciation), generating in him the sentiment egotistically that “I will be the flawless perfect sanyasi (renunciate).”
The ego camouflages and disguises in the weapon of the renunciate and remains tenaciously alive while the renuciate is fighting with the second, the shadow ego, and not the real one.
This is how the ego plays the subtle trick and makes the path of a sanyasi very difficult one.
A sanyasi whole heartedly praying to Divine Mother (Mahamaya) who is in charge of the state of manifestation (cause of this world) and having Her blessing, can see the tricks of the subtle negative forces to overcome them.
As mentioned before, the ancient Vedic system of four divisions of lifestyle, which is highly scientific and balanced, perpetuates a social order that enables people to make spiritual progress.
The household lifestyle,
not the renunciate way of organized religion, is upheld as the best way
for the seeker to stabilize his life in a righteous way.
These four divisions are extremely scientific and balanced for the following simple reasons:
- In Brahmacharyasram (student life) one being celibate his study enables him to build the strong foundation for the spiritual life.
- Grihasthasram (household lifestyle) provides opportunities to overcome all kinds of passions, sensual and mental limitations, passing in and through experiences and not simply suppressing them. The household lifestyle’s main purpose is to get rid of one’s providences. Thus this household life is very important as it truly helps the seeker who becomes ready for the necessary preparation for his spiritual life.
- Vanaprasthasram (forest recluse life) provides final preparation.
- Sanyasasram (renunciate life) provides to overcome all kinds of attachments and free the mind for merging into Oneness with absolute Consciousness of the ultimate Self which manifests in the state of Chira Mouna, the Eternal Silence …
In ancient times, when the householders realized Brahma (the ultimate Self), they were called Brahmana (one who has realized Brahma). Thus, Brahmana is synonymous with Sanyas, or Swami.
The idea of adopting a renunciate lifestyle and living in a hermitage is itself a temptation and attachment.
In the hermitage, the seeker’s efforts are polluted in a subtle way by dependence on donations.
Therefore, the seekers cannot generate Asteya (non-stealing), Indriya Nigraha (dissolving the senses) and Aparigraha (self-reliance, or independence).
So the household lifestyle is the best station of life to find the righteous way to be rid of attachment, which is the primary enemy of Realization, and to be rid of providential ties while generating the noble qualities (mentioned in this section) for achieving eternal Realization.
Panchanan Bhattacharya, chief disciple of Lahiri Mahasay, published a book titled Jagat O Ami, "The World and I" in which he described the encounter of two local educationists with his father, Thakurdas Bhattacharya, in connection with starting a girl's school in his neighborhood.
A tiny excerpt of that discussion is produced here from his book.
My [Panchanan Bhattacharya's] father said, "Listen! I have told you before that the marriage system in the Vedic culture among the Aryya (Aryans) was not for enjoying the senses.
"The first reason for getting married was for husband and wife to meditate together. It is prohibited for a man to perform sadhana, meditation, alone without his wife. During this meditation on Brahma, the ultimate Self, to attain Knowledge of the Self, there arise some obstructions. They are physical and mental. It is not possible for a jiva, individual being, to overcome these obstructions without the help of his wife.
"As the bird flies in the sky with the help of two wings, similarly, the jiva, the individual being, like a bird, with the help of Purusa (man) and Prakriti (woman), jointly making sadhana, meditation, acquires the ability to practice the path of Brahma, the ultimate Self; otherwise not.
"The second reason for marriage is to be expert in Karma (action) and Dharma (righteousness), and to produce a son who will be expert in Karma and Dharma.
"The third reason is that the household lifestyle is the best among all asrams (stations of life). That is why all the Risis, Sages, of the past were in the household life style. The devoted wife is the beauty of the household life, and she brightens the family." P. 469 Jagat O Ami (World and I, Volume 1) by Panchanan Bhattacharya, reproduced in Babaji and His Legacy, by Swami Satyeswarananda, page 507.)
Also in this context, we can refer to what Panchanan Bhattacharya wrote with regard to household lifestyle.
"If I dress myself with red clothes [like a tantrik] or orange [like a Swami] and pretend to be a Sadhu, Sage, then I have become perverted and a liar. If I do not according to the natural course then I have become perverted. If I violate the rules of nature then I act against nature. Then many diseases will attack me and my pains will increase.
"To wrong nature is sin and sinful acts cannot bring good results.
"I hate the external sentiment to abandon the wife; therefore, I cannot do it and it is not supported by reason.
"My advisors behave one way, but I have gleaned otherwise from my study of the scriptures.
"All the Risis, seers, and Devas, deities, mentioned in the scriptures did not abandon their wives. Nor were they bachelors from childhood. Some Risis had more than one wedded wife. Devas, deities, had the same.
"Being married, they produced many children; there were many examples in the scriptures. Vyasa himself did not abandon his wife; he had his son, Sukdev. Sukdev had his son and daughter.
"Then Astabakra, Kasyap, Bharadwaj, Gautam, Vasistha, Kapil and Narada, all have accepted wives." P. 11 Jagat O Ami (Volume 1) by Panchanan Bhattacharya, reproduced in Babaji and His Legacy, by Swami Satyeswarananda, page 507-508.
NITAI CHARAN BANERJEE