Householder (and related topics)
gmadras at ENGR.UCDAVIS.EDU
Thu Aug 14 15:05:40 CDT 1997
I am aware that a majority of the list members are householders,
and hope that the following post is not offensive.
shri nanda kumar wrote:
>With respect to a jnani being a householder, just because he must not have
>any attatchments, doesn't mean, he can forego his duty. The Bhagavat Gita
>lays much emphasis on this. A householder's duty is to take care of his
>family. And a jnani, who is also a householder, would do all his duties
>without being really attatched to anything (atleast theoritically it's
>possible, and by practice I hope it should be practically possible too).
Certainly possible, but not very probable. Sannyas is not
required, but is very useful. Shri Ravi (msr at tamu.edu) clearly addressed
why this is so in his post on June 25th (I think) where he talks about the
difficulty of abiding in the Self while engaged in householder activities
(see the archives of advaita mailing list,
I think Rama addressed most of the issues in his short post today.
External sannyas is very useful but not required. I wrote the following
before I received Rama's post, otherwise I wouldn't have written it !
shri sadananda wrote:
> these discussions in the past and Jaldhar H. Vyas insists on the external
> sanyaasa as well. Apparently he strongly believes in it. So be it. Since
> he believes in it, he can not get liberation without taking sanyaasa. If
In some works, Shankara, Vidyaaranya, and the HH of Sringeri Math
have insisted that external sannyas is needed for liberation, but this is
clearly meant for majority.
The Sringeri acharya Sri Chandrasekhara Bharathi says so in his
brilliant commentary on the Vivekachudamani, as Shri Shyam informs me.
Vidyaranya is quite emphatic about this in jivanmuktiviveka. And Shankara
is also very stern about this in several works, including his commentary
of the adhyatma patala of apastamba sutra (in the archives). Shankara has
also repeatedly pointed out that karma and jnana are not compatible. Anand
has also posted regarding this. For example, while the requirements of a
disciple should be that the disciple should have the four qualities,
have no desire for son, wealth or the other worlds, etc., in
upadeshasahasri, shankara says the disciple should be a wandering monk too.
(verse 2 ?)
By and far the best book on this subject is the jivanmuktiviveka.
The author begins with one enquiry : whether sannyas is required
for liberation. If so, what is sannyas. He divides sannyas into two kinds.
The first is the renunciation of the seeker and the second is the
renunciation of the knower. In the first stage, the seeker may reflect,
study and assimilate the knowledge of vedanta without actually taking
external sannyas (exactly what Shri vidya and rama pointed out).
But with the dawning of jnana, renunciation of the second kind is
essential. As he frequently remarks, even a _least sense of duty_ will
remove him away from oneness. He remarks that renunciation is not _only_
renouncing action with desire but all works. Let us not fail to remember
that vidyaranya was engaged in the king's court etc. but he took complete
sannyasa. Also, to 'convert' dawning of jnana (kevala nirvikalpa samadhi)
to a permanent state of mukti (sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi) requires
grace and complete stillness of body and mind. The experience of kevala
nirvikalpa samadhi (which requires complete stillness of both body and
thoughts, hardly probable by a householder) should be repeated often so as
to remove all the vasanas and one 'reaches' sahaja nirvikalpa, the 'state'
of jnani i.e., jivan mukti. See pages 153-4 of Talks with Ramana Maharshi
where this is explained brilliantly. But, there are many people, Shuka,
Janaka and a whole bunch of people mentioned in Yoga Vasistha who have
attained liberation while being an householder. So it is certainly possible.
Shankara points out that external sannyas may not be required in
ALL cases i.e., one who has attained true internal sannyas still does not
take physical or external sannyas. It is mentioned in 4.19-20 of Bhagavad
gita bhashya (see the archives of this list for my postings on this
section). So, if a householder claims that he is a jnani, it is possible,
though it is very rare. But these are exceptions, not the rule. This is
what is being referred to by Shankara and Ishvara in BG.
Often questions are posed by householders to people like Ramana
Maharshi, 'Should I take sannyas ?' This mental non-equilibrium is worse
than not taking sannyas. So, jnanis like RM ask the aspirants to practice
atma vichara etc., and then naturally, after a long practice, the
householder will take up sannyas without asking, if it needed.
Once you have lost interest in the material world, why engage in
it (other than the exceptions pointed out by Shankara) ? Shankara clearly
says in his BGB 'He whose operative works have begun to bear fruits and
who, later, achieves the right perception of the Self will, of course,
renounce works with all their auxiliaries; he sees no profit in any work
whatsoever.... Work done by the knower is, in reality, non-work; for he
has already achieved the realization of the Self that acts not. What ought
to follow is that such a sage, having no private ends to serve, should
give up all work and their auxiliaries.' A jnani/sage can not work since
he has no private end to serve, and he can not work as a dedication to
Ishvara etc. since he does not perceive duality between Himself and
Ishvara. There are, however, a few exceptions, as pointed out by Shankara,
where the sage is forced to work.
It is like asking 'Can I hold on to the hot metallic rod wearing
thermal-resistant gloves ?' Sure, you can. But why do you want to hold on
to the rod itself. Let it go and throw away the gloves too. But, most
householders don't want to leave their family (sons, mother etc.), and so
it is said to them 'Don't leave the family now. What good it will do ? Do
your dharma, cultivate traits conducive to liberation..' And slowly the
householder is prepared to become a sannyas. If the householder is told,
for example, that he can not attain jnana without external sannyas (which
is wrong), he will forego his dharma also and become a nihilist or an
atheist. This is worse than just doing your dharma without the thought of
jnana, like the mimanskas.
Take the bhagavad gita commentary of Shankara. Arjuna is trying to
run away from performing his dharma and tries to use taking sannyas as an
excuse. That is he wants to do the dharma of sannyas (ahimsa) while being
a kshatriya. But donning an ochre robe alone is not going to do much, if
we don't have enough chitta shuddhi. When we roam in the world, we think
of the forest and in the forest, we may think of the world. The latter is
much worse !! That's why Shankara etc. emphasize on cultivating the good
qualities in life whatever station of life one is in, sannyas will follow
automatically (or not, in some cases). Krsna also asks Arjuna to do his
dharma with dedication to Ishvara, i.e., without expectation of fruits.
This will purify his mind and then later, if his prarabdha is so, Arjuna
would be fit to take sannyas (or not !) and attain liberation. In any
case, whether one is a sannyas, householder, or a brahmachari, one is
bound by that dharma at the particular stage of life.
I would just say that there is a possiblity that a jnani may lead
a life of a king, householder etc like Janaka. And this was my gist of
postings and ramblings previously on this list. We should not condemn
someone as being ignorant just because they are a householder. Ramana
Maharshi often used to emphasize this.
> Neither by yoga, nor by shankhya nor my action nor by studies one can gain
> liberation. Only by the teachings (understanding) of the oneness of
> Brahman and atma that one can gain liberation and by none other.
And to understand this, a Guru, strict adherence to dharma is
needed. Theoretically, it may appear nothing is needed. Guru is our Self.
Brahman is above dharma and adharma. But, all great sages have insisted on
the need for a Guru. And a Guru (in an external form) will appear when the
disciple is ready, not before. And one transcends the duality of adharma
and dharma only by practicing dharma. One kills the vasanas, not by
destroying all vasanas initially, but by first replacing the bad
(adharmic) ones by good ones (like desire for liberation etc) and then
transcending the good ones too (jivanmuktiviveka has a whole chapter on
this). Shri Rama has posted on this subject recently and several times
shri rama wrote (in a separate thread):
>I haven't read the jIvanmukti viveka by shrI vidyAraNya, but apparently
>he says that everyone should make an attempt to realize the self,
>irrespective of what they are doing, even if they are not able to take
That is correct, and is echoed in lot of other books
(shankara's commentary on adhyatma patala, for example). Yes, we should all
make attempts, practice dharma and try to "realize" the Self.
In any case, jiivanmuktiviveka (jmv) is insistent that one should
take sannyas (after achieving a certain amount of chitta suddhi) if one
wants to realize the Self. BTW, jmv does allow women to take sannyas.
Also, Vidyaaranya 'rejects' the statement in the Gita 'Renunciation is the
renouncing works with desire.' And says that renunciation is renouncing
all works. The book is absolutely brilliant, and translations are
available from Ramakrsna math and theosophical society with the sanskrit
verses. There are extensive quotes from Yoga Vasistha etc. and several
other advaitic sources in the book. There are quotes from a book called
naradaparivrajakopanishad. Has anyone heard of this book ?
>One can read translations of upanisshad-s. Apart from
>that, books like Atma bodha, upadeshasAhasrI, daxiNAmUrti hymn etc
>condense the teachings of upanishhad-s so that any one can read it.
>These texts also do not require any initiation and can be read by all.
>It only requires that the sAdhaka try to follow the sAdhana
>chatushhTayam so that things are viewed in the proper perspective.
Yes. And when the saadhaka reaches a certain level, has an amount
of vaigraya, he would _probably_ quit the material world and take sannyas.
Also, the question of a jnani being a householder/sannyas or not
is strictly from the viewpoint of the ajnani i.e., a person who perceives
and attributes the duality to be real. A jnani is unaware of his "body"
and is above all distinctions of sannyas, grihasta or vanaprasta etc.
Even the statement that a jnani is sarvakarmani (who has destroyed
all karma), but lives due to prarabdha is strictly from the ajnani
viewpoint. There is no karta in the jnani, where is the karma ? Further,
if the father (karta) who has three sons (sanchita, prarabdha and agami)
has died, is it proper to say that only two sons (sanchita and agami) are
But this does not mean that since jnanis are above dharma and
adharma, they can do whatever they please (as some people who claim to be
jnanis do). Jnanis, by default, will adhere to dharma. Again, there may be
a few exceptions, as Shankara notes in the Brahma sutra bhashya. But these
are just that, exceptions. And a whole bunch of modern "jnanis" who don't
adhere to dharma or indulge in sensory pleasures but teach vedanta or
teachings closely resembling advaita vedanta may be safely ruled out as
mere charlatans. Rama has made this point before.
HH of Sringeri Math and kanchi math are quite emphatic that we
practice our dharma. Dharma, btw, applies to householders and brahmacharya
etc., and to westerners and indians etc.. There are two kinds of dharma :
saamaanya dharma and vishesha dharma. The first is applicable to everyone,
and the latter is applied to all Hindus, depending on the varna and the
station in life.
Hence, when we do our dharma in a spirit of dedication to Ishvara,
then our mind will be purified. This is the one of the messages of Gita.
Let us also try to seek the Self and cultivate the requirements of a
disciple, as outlined by Adi Shankara (thus graduating to a level where we
can be taught about Atman and Brahman etc). And leave the rest to God. He
will decide when we are fit to either take or not take sannyas. Why, let
Him also decide when we are fit for liberation itself ! AUM namaH
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