By Purnima Coontoor
In the time of kaliyuga, when the need of the hour is to spiritualise society, the role of the householder seeker is a crucial one. juggling career, family, multiple relationships and traffic jams, the householder must bloom like the proverbial lotus in the muck of everyday life
It is said that when Buddha visited his family after enlightenment, his wife Yashodhara had just one question for him – was it necessary for him to have abandoned his wife, infant child and kingdom to achieve enlightenment? Buddha said no, he could have easily achieved it even being in the world, but he did not know it then!
Householders can take heart – they need not leave their homes and vocations to seek the Divine in the Himalayas or elsewhere. For those who use their ‘householdership’ as an excuse to have no time for spiritual pursuits, it is a reminder that they should make use of this golden opportunity to evolve into better human beings. Sanatana Dharma, in fact, has given grihastashrama equal status in the journey of an individual’s life, the others being brahmacharya, vanaprasta and sanyasa. Each stage of life, according to its tenets, is to be lived to the fullest, and specifically used for establishing a relationship with our higher selves/inner selves/God.
• Brahmacharya is the formative learning stage, starting from the age of four, when one starts building a relationship with one’s inner self with the guidance of guru and parents. Literally meaning ‘circumambulating the Brahman’, the foundation for spirituality, of cultivating the extremely important faculty of looking at every being as divine, is established here by teaching young ones to consider parents, guru and guests as divine (matru devo bhava…)
• Grihastashrama is the stage where couples seek the divine through the senses, and perpetuate the pursuit of the same through their progeny.
• In the next stage, vanaprasta, individuals are expected to withdraw gradually from worldly transactional activities, while still being householders.
• All these stages are to culminate in sanyasa, a natural state of detachment and disassociation which comes as an outcome of a life well lived. In Kaliyuga, sanyasa can only be mental detachment (and environmentalists might well ask where are the forests to retire to, anyway?).
|SHRI NIMISHANANDA A woman is more spiritual because she carries the womb with her|
The whole point is, the purpose of life itself is to establish contact with our Higher Selves, and having a lesser goal is like insulting our very soul. Seen in this light, every situation that we encounter in our life’s journey should be converted into a learning experience – what is required is an awareness, willingness and commitment to do so. Unfortunately, not many know, or live by the lofty tenets of Sanatana Dharma. We therefore blunder through life and relationships by our own dharma of trial and error, hits and misses, and sometimes manage to touch base with our spirituality by sheer default. What else can be better than being a wife, mother, father, or son to experience life in all its myriad moods and forms, and emerging through the trials-by-fire as better human beings?
Motherhood, in fact, tops the list for generating emotions close to spirituality in the maternal breast. It is not for nothing that a mother’s love is said to be the most selfless – I have yet to come across a mother who will not gladly take on her child’s pain if she could. Says Adi Shankaracharya: Kuputro jaayeta kvachidapi kumaataa na bhavati (Bad sons may be born, but there can never be a bad mother). In our land, which celebrates motherhood like no other, the primordial force, which created the universe, is depicted as the divine mother Adi Parashakti, and to worship God as Mother comes easily and naturally to Indians.‘Yaa devi sarvabhuteshu matrurupena samsthitaa namastasyai-namastasyai-namastasyai namonamaha’
‘Salutations to Thee, O Devi, who is present in every being as mother! Salutations, salutations, salutations to Thee!’
|Swathi wih her husband and baby|
Swathi is a young mother whose life spun 180 degrees after her baby was born. Footloose and fancy free before that, Swathi recalls times when weekends were spent watching movies, eating out, and travelling with husband Sandeep and family. While all that is history now, the one thing she misses most is sleep – with her baby showing scant respect for fixed sleeping hours, the young mother is often bleary-eyed and tired during daytime. However, ask her if she yearns for those days again, and she says never! “Now I know why motherhood is so glorified, because it is!” she declares, as she looks fondly at her child. “No sacrifice is too much. I never thought I could care so much for another being, but see how naturally it comes to me! I feel blessed,” says Swathi. The other day, the couple was playing with their child at the stationary horse, and looked blissful! When I enquired if they were free for a movie that weekend, “not for the next three years,” they chorused happily, “Now our lives will revolve round him, and when he starts school, around his holidays.” Qualities like patience, tolerance, responsibility and selflessness have ceased to become mere words with parenthood for this young couple.
A woman, says Bangalore-based guru Shri Nimishananda, has a propensity towards being more spiritual as she carries the womb within her, a microcosm of the cosmic womb – the universe, which holds all of creation. As a daughter, wife, colleague, boss, friend, her maternal instincts are always ready to surface at the slightest chance, irrespective of whether she has given birth. Men with more of yin in them also display the trait. Thus, we are all spiritual by default, but cultivate other qualities due to societal pressures and individual inclinations.
If playing mother comes easily to women, men tend to remain boys until they become fathers. “After my children were born, I have become extremely conscious of what I say and do, because I want to inculcate the right values in them,” says Raman, an HR professional from Bangalore. His wife Alka says she cannot recognise the man she married after her children were born. Undisciplined and wayward, Raman, by his own admission, had no clue what life and responsibility was all about. He hung around with friends all the time and had no inkling of what his parents would go through when he disappeared for days on end without informing them. Now he has become a sensitive and caring individual who always puts his family’s interests before his own. Raman’s father, at the thread ceremony of his grandson recently, marvelled at the change in him. “Is it really my son out there?” he exclaimed, “look at him, taking so much interest in tradition and carrying out his duties diligently as a father. All thanks to my daughter-in-law, she has done what we couldn’t do as parents!” he said with obvious gratitude.
Parenting also affords a great learning experience. “I used to be very liberal with use of swear words before, but now I have become conscious of my speech. My 10-year-old son, in fact, pulls me up if I do slip into it sometimes,” says Raman. Awareness is an essential ingredient towards becoming more spiritual, and children teach us how. Children also teach us to be in the present moment, give us back our innocence a bit, and help us marvel once again at the colours of a rainbow and the fine grains of sand. “Become more and more innocent, less knowledgeable and more childlike. Take life as fun, because that’s precisely what it is,” says Osho, and what better way to revisit the joys of our own childhood than through our children? The noblest instincts in an individual come to the fore when one is around them, and those feelings should be recognised as the true, uncorrupted nature of a human being.
It is said that a woman expects her man to change after marriage, and the man does not want his woman to! Couples who transcend this conflict are the ones who mutually benefit from this relationship – arguably the most difficult one to manage. Sharing one’s body, mind and space with another by itself requires a paradigm shift in attitude, just like spirituality does. Bharathi and Prem Nirmal, a couple who run the Shiva Vyapti Trust, Mumbai, dedicated to spreading rishi culture, say that being a grihasta is the fastest way to transcend desires, grow in all dimensions and move towards a fulfilling life. They recalled that they were so different in terms of culture and upbringing and had such diverse ideas that an astrologer had once predicted that either one of them or Prem’s mother would commit suicide. However, they were united in their commitment to use situations as an instrument of growth and they weathered the challenge. Says Bharathi, “We ran our electronics factory successfully for 22 years, completed all family responsibilities, looked after a nice daughter, who is equally independent, very talented and responsible. Simultaneously, we started a meditation centre 12 years back and today we are completely out from business, happily fullfilled and free of compulsive family duties. We are dedicated fully to spiritual activities and feel completely satisfied about everything that life has to offer!”
While 90 per cent of young parents enjoy parenthood, dealing with other relationships within the circle can be traumatic or spiritual, depending on how you look at it! My mind goes back to a Hindi film called Kal Aaj Aur Kal, which featured Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor and Randhir Kapoor. The film highlighted the dilemma generated by the gap between the three generations of grandfather, father and son. The man in the middle is most traumatised, caught as he is between the ego clashes between his father and his son. With patience, understanding and perseverance, he manages to bring them all together and foster a feeling of oneness and belonging. But most importantly, the father could do it because he was able to subdue his own ego, put his own needs on the back burner, and look at the entire situation with dispassion and detachment. Spirituality!
Joint families afford this opportunity for evolution like no other. When daughters become daughters-in-law and wives, they have no choice but to muster their nobler sentiments in order to deal with a new set-up and family. Just a generation ago, elder brothers were required to shoulder the responsibility of the family, get their sisters married and often steamroll their wives’ desires and expectations in the process. Compromise is the name of the game, surrender being the best option. While ‘what cannot be cured must be endured’ works, ‘what cannot be cured must be enjoyed’ works much better, as I discovered myself! Being a single child, marrying into a family of eight siblings and what seemed like a million cousins, nephews, nieces, uncles and aunts seemed like the perfect recipe for mental breakdown. It took me five years to get all their names right, and to get used to the constant flow of visitors (and cash, from what I felt was ‘our’ pockets). I was thrown into a different world altogether, and I confess I resented the change in lifestyle and values that the new family demanded of me in the beginning. I was often aghast to see ‘my’ towel being liberally used by a distant uncle, or a sister-in-law rummaging ‘my’ wardrobe for ‘my’ red dupatta without so much as a by-your-leave. I was furious when my husband regularly left his purse on the living room TV, and stunned to see others doing the same. I have gradually come to understand the meaning of sharing and caring, experiencing and extending warmth beyond husband and children. In times of celebration, I am glad to laugh and enjoy with all of them; in times of crisis, I am grateful for the helping hands that stretch spontaneously to offer time, money, resources and emotional support. Glad too, that my child had the benefit of growing up with a large extended family, happy with the knowledge that he will continue to operate on a higher plane by default. Again, as Osho puts it, “Love cannot exist as a monologue; it is a dialogue, a very harmonious dialogue,” and no one ever evolved by isolating himself from family or society.
I have often wondered at (and sometimes envied) people who are single by choice, erroneously believing that they had a greater chance of experiencing peace and happiness. My young friend, Shubha Patwardhan, Research Associate at IIM-B, is 30 and single. She once amazed me with her insight on the same. “I have great respect for people who have and manage relationships,” she said, “without relationships you have no reference point to help you judge your own attitudes and actions.” How true. Socrates, it is said, had a most foul-mouthed wife, and yet the man never once resented her or reacted against it. In fact, every time he felt he was being pushed to the limit, he was grateful to her for the chance she afforded to examine his thoughts and emotions for any sign of negativity. He found none, which is why he is hailed as one of the great spiritual souls of all time.
This is not to glorify abusive relationships or expect people to continue in one even under extreme provocation. But while one is in it, it is best to look at it as a learning experience. The worst saas or bahu or saala is always a lesson in ‘how not to be’ when it is our turn. Not that walking away from a relationship will automatically lead us into a better one – no, not unless we have assimilated the learning from it. If individuals find themselves landing in the same kind of situation/job/relationship repeatedly, and maybe lifetime after lifetime, it is because they have not learnt and evolved. Each person and situation is put in our lives at precise moments because our Higher Self has called it forth for our evolution, evolution being the one and only agenda of life on earth.
“Whenever you are in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude,” said American philosopher and psychologist William James, and one cannot contest the truth in this statement. Running away is not the answer, dealing with it head on is. Converting it into a spiritual lesson, though, is the best option, as Akila Jaikumar discovered. For long, Akila had remained an ‘unwilling, resentful, and unhappy’ daughter-in-law for various reasons. She also worried and wanted people to approve of her at work and home. Akila suffered from migraine and arthritis. Once, she developed severe abdominal pain, which was attributed to a large fibroid, which needed to be operated immediately. The spiritually inclined Akila immediately consulted the book You Can Heal your Life by best-selling author Louise Hay. “Was it any surprise that for fibroids, the thought patterns that induced them were ‘resentment nursed against a partner’ and for arthritis in the ankle, it was ‘criticism and resentment’?” asks Akila in wonderment. “It was a revealing moment– by my attitude and thoughts, I had created my own diseases,” she says. Akila was able to let go of these debilitating feelings, and debilitating illnesses left her too.
|GURUMATHA AMMA |
“Become free of desire and thus become fearless”
Akila also learnt a valuable lesson when her domestic staff damaged an expensive and rare decorative artifact obtained from Nepal with great difficulty. “For days, I brooded about it, but over time I understood the simple truth that one has to let go of the attachments to material things, money, belongings and be happy. Today, I have suffered enormous losses in the economic meltdown, many times more than the earlier loss, but I am not worried. The loss has taught me to let go of attachments to material things.”
Life thus provides innumerable opportunities to learn and grow, and intensify one’s sadhana, reiterate Prem and Bharathi. “Does a noisy neighbourhood irritate you? Do you get angry if someone pushes you in the crowded train? ” Becoming more observant of the mind in such situations is the beginning of the spiritual journey for you! is their compelling argument.
Ashok Gollerkeri, Senior Marine Radio Officer in Mumbai, sums up the whole issue of relationships beautifully. “Even in a relationship that is a bed of roses, life’s circumstances, its twists and turns, the unique roles, strengths and weaknesses of individuals can create conflict or a divergence of paths and preferences. How these differences are transcended by the power of love, how one summons the courage to pick oneself up every time one falls, how one wipes away every tear and every bitter memory to hug and love again – this journey is the triumph of the spirit, the triumph of love, the triumph of truly intimate relationships. These can hurt deeply at times but through shared pain and pleasure, can expand one’s ego boundaries, open one’s perception to a different dimension of life, enriching one’s life in a way reason would be unable to comprehend.”
“In the ultimate analysis, it is you and only you,” says Mumbai-based writer Rajendar Menen emphatically. “People come along in different garbs and teach you different lessons and then leave. Possibly, even from past lives. Then, after it all, finally, you go back to the dust and the eternity that gave birth to you. However, in this short journey, without a doubt, you are shaped by your relationships. That is the primary role of relationships.” Amen to that.
Purnima Coontoor is a Mass Communications professional from Bangalore, freelancing as a writer, editor, translator and teacher, an Osho admirer and lover of life! Contact : email@example.com
We welcome your comments and suggestions on this article.
Mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Life Positive follows a stringent review publishing mechanism. Every review received undergoes -
Only after we're satisfied about the authenticity of a review is it allowed to go live on our website
Our award winning customer care team is available from 9 a.m to 9 p.m everyday
All our healers and therapists undergo training and/or certification from authorized bodies before becoming professionals. They have a minimum professional experience of one year
All our healers and therapists are genuinely passionate about doing service. They do their very best to help seekers (patients) live better lives.
All payments made to our healers are secure up to the point wherein if any session is paid for, it will be honoured dutifully and delivered promptly
Every seekers (patients) details will always remain 100% confidential and will never be disclosed
a glimpse of grihasta rishis – past and present Our land has been blessed with any number of spiritual personalities who have been householders as well. In fact, sages who have been written about in our puranas and scriptures, like Agastya, Vyasa, and Vasistha had wives whose support and co-operation were deemed most essential and critical in their spiritual quest. In recent times, too, there have been and are grihasta spiritual leaders– a few of them are discussed here.
Lahiri Mahasaya (1828-95)
This great soul came to the limelight through Paramahamsa Yogananda, known as the latter’s guru Yukteshwar Giri’s guru. Born Shyama Charan Lahiri in Bengal, this yogi revived the science of Kriya Yoga when he learned it from Mahavatar Babaji in 1861. Later known as Lahiri Mahasaya, he was unusual among Indian holy men in that he was a householder – marrying, raising a family, and working as an accountant for the Military Engineering Department of the English government. After initiation, his guru directed Lahiri to return to his worldly life and teach the ancient art of Kriya Yoga as a householder. During his lifetime, Lahiri Mahasaya initiated more than 5000 seekers from different faiths into the ancient yoga, breaking the rigid caste barriers that were present at the time. Lahiri Mahasaya saw God everywhere and was unencumbered by social status. Towards the end of his life, his aura of spirituality and peace attracted many sincere seekers who would come to meditate in his presence at his Benaras house.
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836-86)
This great spiritual master needs no introduction. Ramakrishna considered his wife as the Divine Mother herself, and worshipped her with flowers and incense, calling her the Holy Mother. He saw the mother even in the most degraded prostitutes. Regarding Ramakrishna’s treatment of her, Sarada Devi said, “I was married to a husband who never addressed me as tui (you). Ah! How he treated me! Not even once did he tell me a harsh word or wound my feelings.” Sarada Devi is considered as his first disciple. After Ramakrishna’s death, Sarada Devi continued to play an important role in the nascent religious movement. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Sarada Devi will remain shining examples of a model grihasta spiritual couple, who not only supported each other but also helped the other evolve spiritually. Sri M Some call him a yogi, some Baba, a Vedantin, or a Sufi, but he prefers to call himself just ‘M’. He has discarded what he calls the ‘outer shell of all formal religions’ – this is what is said of this spiritual master on his website www.satsang-foundation.org. M, grihasth-cum-spiritual leader lives in Madanapalle in Andhra Pradesh, a beacon of light to those tossing in spiritual darkness.His life journey is too interesting to be written in a few words; what is essential to know is that M has hands-on experience of both the worlds – one phase being that of a wandering monk and the other of a householder. M firmly believes it is not given to everybody to renounce the world and become a sanyasi. Perhaps only one in a thousand can be a true sanyasi, he says; most others are trapped in saffron robes, culminating in extreme frustration.
Though he himself desperately wanted to be a renunciate, his master was against it. “Be in the world but not of the world” said his master, arguing that there were many saints who were teaching. “You have to play a different role. Go back and get married. Stay as a family man. Come back after that” he was told. M did just that – he married Sunanda, and overcame all the token apprehensions of an inter-caste marriage. The couple remains happily married and have a son and daughter. M’s work includes writing for The Andaman Times, India Today, and Nanaji Deshmukh’s research journal, Manthan. M also paints for a living. “Being a family man one has to shoulder responsibilities,” he says. The couple now serves the underprivileged in Madanapalle. Says M, “When you serve a less fortunate person in any way – material or spiritual, you are not doing him a favour. You are helping yourself to move closer to the divine blissful Being.”
Shri Shri Nimishananda Guruji
A most prominent spiritual master in the grihasta rishi tradition from Bangalore, Pujya Guruji has been ordained to work for the upliftment of human consciousness and society by the Divine Mother Shri Nimishamba Devi herself. After his sakshatkara, Shri Shri Nimishananda assumed his present name a few years ago and continued as a householder, but now extends his love, care and compassion to a much larger family. Giving the spiritual perspective of being a grihasta, he says – “Kaliyuga needs both male and female energies– Shiva and Shakti, to maintain balance. Shakti, which is dynamic and kinetic, needs Shiva – the static and potential energy, to keep the Chaitanya consciousness alive, meaning to bring about awareness of the soul. Enlightenment thus means the combination of the Shiva-Shakti principle.” Grihasta literally means to carry the house of Lord within us. Marriage should be a union of souls and not merely the body, which can pave way for other divine souls to come to earth. A householder thus co-operates in the process of creation and evolution – the task of the universe itself. Male and female hormones are triggered by the pineal gland, which is situated between the eyebrows. Thus, this activation also activates the third eye chakra – the seat of knowledge and consciousness. “Our ancient sages have always known this,” says Pujya Guruji, “which is why they all married and raised families.” A householder’s life gives one a multidimensional view of life – a dot will start to look like the sphere that it actually is, called the bindu in the centre of the Srichakra, and will help us to evolve faster.
Gurumaatha Amma is a wife and mother in her late 50s who is also a spiritual guru to thousands of devotees. Her grihasta status has in no way hindered either her evolution or her mission of helping souls to evolve. Love is a state of being, she says, not a state of mind or a situation. ‘Being’ is all there is, irrespective of one’s physical identity tags. All external actions and relationships should purify the mind and body and create an atmosphere conducive to self-inquiry through silence and meditation. Amma’s credo is simple – be in the problem (or relationship), but do not become the problem! Do not entangle and indulge in it. Use your vivek – intuition, to become the solution. Being in a relationship thus can itself be the solution for evolution. A satvic person is one who knows that all relationships of husband, children etc are but temporary – when you shed the idea of ‘me and mine’, says Amma, you are free of bondage. “Become free from desire, and thus become fearless,” she exhorts.
Confessions of a reluctant Grihastashramite
Recently, I met a guru who took one look at my face and told me, ‘You are a sanyasin, a rishi. You will never marry.’ I knew it. I knew it. And here I am stuck with a home and a job and even a commute, for crying out loud.
It hasn’t always been an easy decision to stay stuck in samsara. I remember soon after I entered the path, travelling to a distant village for an interview with Medha Patkar. A bullock-cart ambled by, and suddenly the deep peace and silence of the countryside hit me viscerally. This was how life was meant to be, I thought painfully to myself; travelling at a sane speed, not hurtling through life like a supersonic jet, unable to even think straight. I never did know what village life would be like. For I had a mother to take care of; and that was a priority.
And in retrospect, I am confident that my growth in the hothouse atmosphere of city life, pungent with smoke fumes, traffic jams, loaded schedules, challenging relationships and unrealistic deadlines has been far more rapid than if I had slunk away to the great outdoors. In meeting and achieving the many tasks and challenges thrust on me, I have grown. My daily train travel has been a tremendous spiritual gym, pushing and shoving into a crowded train, dodging elbows and other weapons, trying to negotiate your way without stepping on toes or nerves – it’s a tough call! I learnt to be assertive, from being a wimp, and at the next level I learnt not to give in to provocation. My job has probably been one of the most powerful growth programmes I could have ever enrolled upon. And its growth potential increased by a quantum leap when I took over the editorship. My nerves were stretched to their limit, especially on the nights we had to send the CD of editorial pages to the Delhi office for printing. The courier closed at 10 pm, and I would find myself silently shrieking with tension as the minutes ticked by, and 10 pm ominously approached. Editing has been one long tutorial in time management, and it is paying off. Now we usually close at 3 pm or 4 pm on the appointed day, and I actually find myself sauntering home early. Editing is still no child’s play but it is infinitely easier today than it was earlier. Another tremendous area of growth in my life has been relationships – with significant others and with family. I learnt to let go of relationships I had outgrown, to cultivate only friendships that mattered to me, to nurse and heal a broken heart, to reclaim sundered relationships, and to work on building and strengthening existing ones. Relationships mean the world to me, and ultimately they are the comfort of my samsaric life.