By Purnima Coontoor December 2008 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 Householder sagesa 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 GurujiA 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 AmmaGurumaatha 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 GrihastashramiteRecently, 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 brok
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