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Nilachal Saraswat Sangha,Puri

Ideal Householder



 "Dear Child!

       The path to salvation is laid through the mire of this world. The path of renunciation is not meant for the escapists. It is neither about attaining personal happiness alone. It is about sharing one’s over flowing happiness with those who are in need of the same. Son! You’re yourself not happy as yet in this world, what would you share with others."


 These are the strikingly apt words of advice of Saddguru Srimat Swami Nigamananda Saraswati Deva in the context of man’s eternal quest for peace and happiness, which remain ever elusive for him in this material world. Still it is a common phenomenon that starting from the superior beings to the inferior ones; all are incessantly engaged in search of peace and happiness in their own ways (sukham baanchhati sarbohi; tachhadhharma samusbhavam; tasmaaddharmah sadaa kaaryah, sarbavarnayih prajatnataah!).

        To gain happiness one must know the nature of the cause of worldly pleasure and pain. One must know the source of happiness and the way to reach it. It is like locating a river and then, connecting it to a parched land through a canal. Sadguru Swami Nigamananda Deva has advised his followers to remain connected (yogayukta) to the eternal source of bliss— ‘sat- chit- ananda/Bramhan’ to attain the desired happiness. Now the question arises as to whether one is capable of attaining it while remaining within the fold of one’s ordinary family life or one has to renunciate the fetters of this world and lead a monastic life to find ananda (the eternal bliss) the true nature of his soul. Sadguru Swami Nigamananda Deva has advised His followers to walk along the path shown by the great ‘rishis’ (the seers) of ancient India who were themselves ideal householders. Hence, He meant to say that instead of being two alternative means of happiness the life of a householder (grihee) and that of a renunciate (sanyaasi) should be nothing but two links of the same chain. This reminds us of the following verse of the ‘Bhagvad Geeta’:


               "Sanyaasastu mahaabaaho duhkhamaaptumayogatah,

                         yogayukto munirbrahma na chirenaadhigacchati ."

                                                                                   (Bhagvad Geeta 5/6)


       In this context an anecdote from ‘Mahabharata’, the great Indian epic may bring to light how the common men were able to find contentment and spiritual power as well who were leading an ideal family life. The story: A Brahmin named Kaushika took to asceticism right after completion of his studies under his ‘guru’ and went to forest leaving his old parents at home where the were badly in need of his tending and care. He observed penance sincerely to acquire miraculous power and become very well known. One day he was resting under a tree, on the top of which a heron was perching. Its droppings fell right on the head of the ascetic. He suddenly got enraged and looked at the bird with fiery eyes. Lo! and behold, the heron was reduced to ashes instantaneously. At that, the ascetic himself was surprised and elated at once by his own miraculous power gained through long penance and was satisfied that his purpose was fulfilled. There upon, he went out to a village to beg alms and reaching the house of Brahmin announced his presence at the entrance. The housewife was busy looking after her revered husband and requested the ascetic from inside the house to wait kindly for a while. A long time passed and the stood at the door waiting impatiently. At length the housewife appeared with alms to offer. The ascetic flared up at her being so late in attending to the call of an honorable guest while remaining busy in petty domestic chores. The Brahmin housewife begged excuse stating that she was roundly busy attending her husband whom she considered to be her personal god. It was her sacred duty to cater to the needs of her husband in preference to all other works. Hence, she deserved to be pardoned. At that the ascetic felt further slighted and threatened to curse her. The Brahmin housewife told him that she was no heron to be affected by his curse and asked him to meet the noble hunter and meat seller (dharma vyadha) in a particular town to learn the noble duties of a householder and the high merits accompanying it. The ascetic was taken aback by at her dignified character and power of intuition. He immediately proceeded to meet the meat seller as directed by her. He saw the latter at work busy mincing meat and selling to customers. The ‘dharma vyadha’ also saw the ascetic and greeted him saying, "welcome sir. I know you have been sent to me by that Brahmin housewife to learn the noble duties of a householder. Please sir, wait for a while till I finish selling meat." So saying he offered him a seat and resumed his work with all sincerity. The ascetic was greatly surprised, for the second time. He wondered how, a man of such mean occupation could know his encounter with the Brahmin housewife and the purpose of his visit. On completion of sale the dharma vyadha took the ascetic to his home. He immediately kept himself busy attending to the requirements of his old parents, then he attended to the needs of his honored guest and at last took his own meal. Thereafter, during the leisure hours he explained to the ascetic how he gained exceptional spiritual merit by honest way of living and by sincerely serving his old parents, who are dependent on him, thinking it to be as service to God. He explained to the ascetic how the latter had committed a great blunder in leaving his old parents helpless at home and wasted his time in doing penance in the forest. On his good advise the ascetic named Kaushika returned home and devoted himself to the service of his old and ailing parents, and eventually attained spiritual perfection.


 Where The Householder Is Heading Today?


       It is increasingly evident, today, that men by and large are unable to strike a balance between their material and spiritual lives. Speaking in general, spiritual bankruptcy of common man has made him outright secular and individualistic in thought and practice. This has, of course, affected his family life and his social life as well. So much so that mutual relations between the members of a family are determined on the basis of their secular needs alone and not in consideration of any higher calling. More often than nit this results in discord and distress in their family. Moreover, the family being the primary unit of the society a disturbed family largely contributes to the discontentment and unrest in the society by chain action.

        The idea here is to attain that state of mind in which one is able to love others as naturally as one loves one's 'own' self.

        The knowledge of the true nature of this world, of the true identity of one's own self, of the true nature of relations between the members of a family and the true purpose of human life is what is essential in bringing about such an elevated state of mind. The solution lies in the right attitude of man towards his fellow men. Man must come to realize that his own interest is best served in serving the interest of every other individual in the family. In other words, man should see his own interest in the interest of his fellow beings. This is called extension of self or living a larger and broader life. The more he extends his self, the greater he grows culminating in the merger of his individual self with the universal self.


An Ideal Householder


       The difference between an ordinary householder and an ideal householder is that while the former thinks himself to be the owner or master of his household and the family members to be 'his' wife, son, daughter etc., the latter considers his household to be belonging to God. He considers himself a mere caretaker of the family along with its possessions. An ordinary householder also worships god in his home but with the purpose that god may always guard his property and protect his family that his enjoyment of family life may remain undisturbed and unaffected. But an ideal householder worships god in the home thinking that the Lord of the universe is rightly the Lord of his household. He believes that his family members actually belong to god as all other beings of the world, and have united together in family for a limited period according to their individual 'praarabdha karma' (deeds of past lives). Therefore, he develops no blind attachment to any of his family members whom he loves dearly all the same, for they all belong to god.

       But, is it practicable for an ordinary man to see divine presence in his wife, children, etc. and to nurture his relation with them on that term to remain free from the worldly bondage? Sri Sri Thakura Nigamananda Deva has answered it positively. As an ordinary iron piece acquires magnetic power from a magnet, by being attached to it, so an ordinary human being can acquire spiritual strength by remaining attached to god — the source of boundless spiritual energy. Sri Sri Thakura has instructed His followers to regard Him as the real master of their households. A householder should perform all his duties on behalf of the master—his Guru. All family members are dear to him for they belong to Him. Such orientation in thinking would free them from the snare of mundane attachments and desires, which are the known causes of all human miseries.

        This way an individual should remain surrendered to his 'guru' placing all his material and spiritual responsibilities (abhyudaya nihshreyasa) at His benevolent feet. By this, the householder achieves the famed ideals of 'nishkaama karma' (as opposed to actions generating the cycle of birth and death), which was so dearly espoused by Bhagwan Srikrishna in the Srimad Bhagvad Geeta:


               "Yajnaarthaat karmanonyatra lokayam karmabandhanah

               Tadartham karma Kaunteya muktasangah samaachara."

                                                                                         (Bhagvad Geeta 3/9)

        (The world is bound by actions other than those performed for the sake of yajna/ universal benefit/God Himself. Therefore, O son of Kunti, you perform actions for yajna alone, without attachment.)

        According to Sri Sri Thakura, the noble purpose of observance of the dharma of ideal family life is to make one's own life blissfully active through all ups and downs in the process of living. So that all other persons close to him may draw enough inspiration to make their lives sublime and this world/ planet a better place to live in.