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Ashramas (Āśrama (Sanskritआश्रम) ) are the four stages or phases of life in traditional Hindu society. Each ashrama is characterized by specific duties, responsibilities, and spiritual practices. The four ashramas are Brahmacharya (student life), Grihastha (householder life), Vanaprastha (retired life), and Sannyasa (renunciate life).

About the Grihastha stage of life

Grihastha pertains to the householder stage, where individuals are expected to fulfill their societal and familial duties, including marriage, raising children, pursuing a career, and contributing to society. It is also seen as a time for actively engaging in worldly responsibilities while adhering to moral and ethical principles outlined in Hindu scriptures.

 

[Excerpts from commentaries, articles and letters by Swami Chinmayananda]

Becoming the ideal 

Grihasthas can perfect themselves. The entire Geeta is a message for the Grihasthas. All our Rishis were householders. And very few of our so-called renounced men have reached perfection. The intelligent conclusion is that “to perfect from the home” is far better and easier. The trick is to change our attitude – that is all!

The very structure of Hinduism recognizes the householder’s existence as necessary training in curbing animalism and purifying the greater heights of spiritualism. Cultural perfection is the goal. Every individual’s breath, activity, and thought is marshalled and disciplined to bring out the symphony of the perfect Hindu culture.

In a noble and mutually loving joint family, every member is ready to make sacrifices for all. It is in itself a spiritual discipline! If your thoughts are noble, pure, loving and positive, all around you will feel the joy of being…. you change — the family and the community will all change in their attitude towards you. 

Feel the unity and come to live a purposeful life of mutual understanding….what greater fulfillment can you have than seeing an entire family bursting with joy at you, due to you, because of you?

Spiritual development 

The householder is trained to live a life of earning and hoarding, mating and breeding, building and keeping, only as a field of activity for him to train himself in love, kindness, service and charity. 

A householder is not barred from experiencing the Infinite Nature and gaining spiritual liberation. Married life is no bar for spiritual unfoldment, as has been the Hindu insistence all along; our scriptures and traditions support this statement.

All our Rishis have married but “not” tangled with the family. They considered the family an environment provided by the Lord for their progress. And they made use of it by serving the family with love and affection. Hitch your mind to Him, be grateful to the family that He has provided, and pursue your life peacefully.

Duties of a Grihastha

The duties of Grihasthashram are to be considered as the first responsibility. Lord has given you certain duties, and you must learn to fulfil them completely. There is nothing less noble in the sacred life of a householder if we know how to live in self-control and in inner contentment. 

Be careful in your inner thoughts and, therefore, your outer words and actions. With remembrance of Him, serve all around you, always. This is the greatest Pooja, the highest Prayer we can raise to our Creator. By selfless self-surrender, you can maintain the web of the family — this itself is the greatest Sadhana.

Yield yourself to the family and domestic duties joyously. You have a status to maintain, a family to serve, and children to be moulded and brought up. The Lord has come to you in the form of these close relations.

When the time for that comes, all these relationships will disappear as a mist, and you will be alone to seek Him at your own Heart Centre. Give the Lord the credit of a better intelligence than yourself, and submit to His treatment of your life.

Living as Grihastha

Practice sincerely. Live continuously. All the hours around the clock, your life, in the consciousness of the Divine and the Supreme, the True and the Eternal. 

Play the GAME of LIFE: play the part to which you have been called on the stage, but forget not the greater mission in life, the greater goal to be achieved. Live the STAGE-LIFE perfectly and play the part exactly as the Lord, the Manager and the Playwright had intended it to be played. 

His intentions are codified and indicated in the great textbooks on Dharma, which preach the higher values of life, viz, the ethical and moral rules of life. Live well. Live in kindness, love and understanding.

Thus, by doing the job, you can also have close companionship with Him. Don’t protest; He is Omniscient and Omnipotent. He knows you, and your worldly domestic discipline, perhaps, is very much needed for your growth. Joyfully do the job as a part of meditation upon Him. 

Facing challenges

In household life, there are periods of time when the Lord makes you face challenges to put more chime into your personality. With devotion and surrender, face them all with a smile, fully assured that His help will always come to you.

In the pursuit of his vocation, the householder is not asked to spare any special time or to sacrifice his duties towards himself, his own children, society, the nation, or the world, but, while emphasizing the need for pursuing his duties on all these levels, he is asked to keep continuously in touch with the scriptures and to preach the same truth to others, both by his words and his actions.

It is not the status of the householder that binds and obstructs your quietude and peace but the sense of possession and clinging attachment to the things and beings around us. 

The toys meant for children to play with can become a bone of contention and a source of sorrow for the child when they get attached to them. Remove the sense of attachment. Whatever we have here belongs to Him. Each of us has been given a share of it to play with. If this wisdom dawns on you, the possession never brings disturbances in you.

Finding happiness

Even a householder, when he contemplates and meditates upon the Reality, or worships and adores the Divine with great devotion, will enjoy the rewards of his personality liberation from all its mortal agitations and sorrows. 

“Nama Smaran,” by yourself or with your family members, assists you in preventing thoughts about the objects of the world around you from entering your mind and helps to eradicate the flutterings of the mind. A householder, when he learns to work and strive in a continuous spirit of dedication, experiences the Nature Divine—the spiritual learning and life. 

Even remaining human these days is spirituality enough! Keep it all up—all Lord’s Grace. That WITNESS knows all. He guides and leads. Follow Him. Live a true Hindu life—attend Satsang at home frequently, do honest work, and share your profits with the community for its spiritual rehabilitation. 

Over-enthusiasm in spirituality should not force you to neglect your duties towards your family. The time wasted in small talk can be creatively used for the spiritual unfoldment. Be independent. All relationships will be tossed up and down and can never be steady. Your relationship with Him, in your heart alone, can be the same.

Have a spirit of dedication unto the Lord and roam happily through life in the safe and true belief that “He is the Truth: His Will Alone Be Done; May I be ever an instrument in His hands and through this body may His plans be fulfilled.” To such a pure “Nishkama Grihastha,” even sages will bow in reverence!

An ideal life of worldly pursuits and spiritual life. This is the ideal Grihastha life described in our text-books – this is Grihastha Dharma!

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