Devotional Thoughts

The ideal life of a grihastha

The ideal life of a grihastha

Lecture by Sri Madhu Pandit Dasa on July 29, 2015
Srimad Bhagavatam – 3.14.17

eṣa te 'haṁ vidhāsyāmi
priyaṁ bhīru yad icchasi
tasyāḥ kāmaṁ na kaḥ kuryāt
siddhis traivargikī yataḥ



O afflicted one, I shall forthwith gratify whatever desire is dear to you, for who else but you is the source of the three perfections of liberation?

Kashyapa muni is empathetic with his wife’s desire for sex at an untimely moment which he was hesitant to fulfil. Day, time, etc., for conception is very relevant within the framework of material laws of nature. So just because of Diti’s uncontrollable desire he had to concede and that is how this dialogue is going on. 

kashyapa muni

The three perfections of liberation are dharma, artha and kama. Moksha is liberation.  If one engages in artha and kama in line with dharma then one will move closer to moksha, because the dos and don’ts of artha and kama are designed according to dharma to lead the soul to gradual purification.  And that process is called the pravritti marga or the gradual purification of the human soul by leading one’s life according to those rules and regulations. 

A grihastha has many responsibilities and the wife is considered to be the assistant and she also shares all the benefits of what the husband does.  We should not confuse the pravritti marga with the nivritti marga.  The nivritti marga is a direct process of elevation by following the yuga dharma. The direction for us is to surrender to a pure devotee and develop transcendental bhakti within one life time. All the goals are based on the potency received from chanting the Hare Krishna mantra. In Krishna consciousness movement also Prabhupada did not discriminate, Lord Chaitanya’s movement is for women also.  Prabhupada created nivritti marga even for women; he did that by bringing likeminded devotees who are not deeply into artha and kama, and got them married and made them preachers of Krishna consciousness. 

We can guide some grihasthas who are in the pravritti marga; we need to know what the normal process of grihastha life is.  Just because women are accepted into Krishna consciousness movement by Srila Prabhupada, doesn’t mean that we have adopted the pravritti marga, we are still in the nivritti marga.  It is a short cut to go back to Godhead, to purify without any discrimination. The woman can be equally elevated by chanting 16 rounds, by following the regulative principles. That is the power of the Hare Krishna maha mantra.

srila prabhupad

But if one does not follow the path of daily chanting 16 rounds then it becomes very difficult to control the mind.  Grihastha life cannot be without artha and kama, there has to be little artha and kama; very minimum so as to survive together, to keep the mind peaceful, that is provided always. Like Prabhupada said – if my grihasthas can live like a brahmana, they can live off the temple, if they want to live more than like a grihastha they cannot live off the temple.  Temple cannot provide all those things.  Even Prabhupada suggested, you can go outside, sell books, take commission and live.  So therefore those who are brahmacharis or desiring to get into grihastha ashram have to understand that they are not in for a normal life. If they are thinking that they are in for a normal life, whole life they will be frustrated. 

It is not that the grihasthas in Iskcon are poverty stricken; Krishna keeps all His devotees happy, we have to regulate our desires, we have to know that we are on the spiritual path, I am on the path of withdrawing the desires one by one, not increasing desires.  Then we will stand securely on a spiritual platform to execute our devotional service.  Then it will not matter, what ashram one is in.

If one gets into grihastha ashram simply to control another living entity, he will get frustrated.  And when he realizes that, that jiva is not listening, they have got an independent opinion then he will start torturing the woman – grihastha life means you have to have respect for the women. They are also jivas; you have to give respect to them.  If you don’t respect them, then where is the question?  If you want somebody just for the sake of listening and following you, then you have to give up your master mood, I am the boss, that is the disease that we have to come out, I am the lord of all I survey. 

Of course sometimes people go very wild, that time stick is also required.  Harshness is also required in management. Different times, different people, different strokes.  If somebody is exploiting, then the authority whether it is the father, mother, teacher, husband, anybody – mercy should not be given.  One has to be taught the hard way.  There is a place for anger between the teacher and the student, between the father and the children, between the authority and those who are following. But all these things have to be utilized with great intelligence.  We have to understand that we have to give up our lording tendency. If somebody thinks that the wife is my menial servant, it is a very low consciousness and then frustration comes.  Nobody is anybody’s, everybody is Krishna’s, and everybody is Prabhupada’s.

We guide somebody, we live together, we have companionship, there has to be mutual respect, it is hard but if you do that, then that is commendable.  Simply to be husband to a wife is itself a benefit, being a good husband to a woman and a big devotee is a big benefit to the woman because women have to be protected in this material world.  If women remain unmarried they will be exploited, it is a harassment in their life.  So women also have to feel very grateful to their husband for being their companion, for giving them an opportunity to chant Hare Krishna, to get liberated from this material world.  As Prabhupada says – the training of the boy is brahmacharya and training of the girl is chastity, faithful wife and spiritually trained brahmachari are good combination for advancement of human mission.

(The above transcripts have been edited for better readability. However they have not been verified and confirmed by the original speaker.)

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