çré-närada uväca

gåheñv avasthito räjan

kriyäù kurvan yathocitäù

väsudevärpaëaà säkñäd

upäséta mahä-munén



Närada Muni replied: My dear King, those who stay at home as householders must act to earn their livelihood, and instead of trying to enjoy the results of their work themselves, they should offer these results to Kåñëa, Väsudeva. How to satisfy Väsudeva in this life can be perfectly understood through the association of great devotees of the Lord.



The format for grihastha life should be dedication to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In Bhagavad-gétä (6.1) it is said:

anäçritaù karma-phalaà

käryaà karma karoti yaù

sa sannyäsé ca yogé ca

na niragnir na cäkriyaù


“One who is unattached to the fruits of his work and who works as he is obligated is in the renounced order of life, and he is the true mystic, not he who lights no fire and performs no work.” Whether one acts as a brahmacäré, gåhastha, vänaprastha or sannyäsé, he must act only for the satisfaction of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Väsudeva-Kåñëa, the son of Vasudeva. This should be the principle for everyone’s life. Närada Muni has already described the principles of life for a brahmacäré, vänaprastha and sannyäsé, and now he is describing how a gåhastha should live. The basic principle is to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

The science of satisfying the Supreme Lord can be learned as described here: säkñäd upäséta mahä-munén. The word mahä-munén refers to great saintly persons or devotees. Saintly persons are generally known as munis, or thoughtful philosophers concerned with transcendental subject matters, and mahä-munén refers to those who have not only thoroughly studied the goal of life but who are actually engaged in satisfying the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Väsudeva. These persons are known as devotees. Unless one associates with devotees, one cannot learn the science of väsudevärpaëa, or dedicating one’s life to Väsudeva, Kåñëa, and the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

In India the principles of this science were followed strictly. Even fifty years ago, I saw that in the villages of Bengal and the suburbs of Calcutta, people engaged in hearing Çrémad-Bhägavatam daily when all their activities ended, or at least in the evening before going to bed. Everyone would hear the Bhägavatam. Bhägavata classes were held in every village, and thus people had the advantage of hearing Çrémad-Bhägavatam, which describes everything about the aim of life—liberation or salvation. This will be clearly explained in the next verses.


Goal of  Varnashram – satisfaction of Visnu

Mahäräja Yudhiñöhira, in this chapter of Srimad Bhagavatam, is inquiring from Srila Närada Muni, “One who is staying at home with the family responsibilities, a person without understanding the goal of life, how can he achieve perfection according to the instructions of the Vedas”? And in this verse that we are reading today, Närada Muni, in essence, is giving the most important instructions for every family – man and woman, to follow within their lives. As described in Srimad Bhagavatam

“ataù pumbhir dvija-çreñöhä


svanuñöhitasya dharmasya

saàsiddhir hari-toñaëam”

Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.13


That whether we are brahmacaries, grihastas, vanaprastas, or sannyasis, whether we are brähmaëas, kshetriyas, vaishyas, or sudras what ever particular categories applies to us within the varnashram system, the principal goal and duty of life is to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead to whatever we do. It is described in the Vishnu Purana, in one of the verses, that the vernashram system is simply various organized ways by which all men, according to their particular nature can work for the satisfaction of Vishnu. And when Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu asked Ramananda Roy “what is the goal of life?” Ramananda Ray quoted this verse and he explained to Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu that to perform one’s duty according to the Varanashram system in the service of Lord Sri Vishnu for His satisfaction, that is the perfection of life.


Grahmedhi life

Krishna says in Gita.

“yat karoñi yad açnäsi

yaj juhoñi dadäsi yat

yat tapasyasi kaunteya

tat kuruñva mad-arpaëam”

Bhagavad-Gita 9.27

That whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer and give away, any charity you offer, should be done as an act of love and service to me. This verse is universally applicable to whatever field of activity we will accept in our life. The goal of life is to become Krishna Conscious by serving Krishna, through devotional service. The vernashram system is simply a systematic process by which everyone, according to their guna and Karma, according to the particular modes of the material nature, they are influenced by and according to their natural activities, everyone can be completely engaged in the God’s service at all time. Närada Muni in this section of Bhagavatam is describing, how each and every living entity within civilized human society can be engaged fully in Krishna Consciousness. In this chapter he is specifically dealing with those in the grishasta ashram. Those who are in the family life are categorized generally as either grishastas or grihamedis. Prahalad Maharaja explains the tendency of a grihamedi. He describes that grihamedi sukham hi tucham. That those who are envious, always competitive, trying to accumulate more and more and more for their senses, and those who are living in family life, simply serving their own senses and the senses of their families without following the path of the great souls and humbling themselves before devotees of the Lord, they are considered grihamedi. It is described by Prahalad Mahäräja that such persons they are living in a deep dark well. “hitvätma-pätaà gråham andha-küpaà” that means such persons are living in the deep dark well of material existence. He explains when someone falls into family life for sense gratification, it is like falling into a deep dark well, where there is no water and when he calls for help, no one can hear Him. Factually, this is the case that one’s very home becomes the well because the home simply increases one’s attachment to bondage and ignorance. Such a foolish householder, he works very hard throughout the day getting his blood sucked from human society in the form of his employer and so many other people who are just sucking his life’s energy out, just to exploit him and they give a little money in return. Or if he is a proprietor of some company, he is simply wasting his life’s energy with so much endeavor to build his business or his enterprise. And then he comes home and it is described that his wife and children, they are like plunderers. Whatever money that he has made, they simply take it away from him. And they always want more and more and more. Prahalad Maharaja explains that such a person, throughout the day, he is simply working hard to satisfy the senses and at night he either sleeps or has sex life or engages in some frivolous enjoyment, which is really only meant to forget the problems of life. In this way such a man’s life is wasted in a deep dark well. So how to spiritualize the grihastha condition of life.

How to spiritualize household life (Grahmedhi to Grhastha)

1. Surrendering fruits of action to Krishna

Narada Muni explains it is very simple. If everything you do is consciously in the service of Krishna, Vasudeva, if you are surrendering the fruits of your actions to Krishna, then you establish Krishna as the proprietor of your home and the great purpose of all your interrelationship with your family members, then your household is no longer the deep dark well. When you come home, your house hold is actually Vaikuntha, it is the spiritual world. It is a place where everyone is working together in the service of God. It is a place where the chanting of the holy names is always taking place, where the discussion of the goal of life is always shared among the family members. This may sound difficult, it may sound impossible. In Kali yuga it may be difficult, but the question is that does one want to reside in deep dark well within one’s life or does one want to comeback to Vaikuntha every evening when he comes home. Therefore it must be done. If it is not done it is simply animal consciousness. Human Civilization means to put god in the centre. Animal civilization is to put the senses in the centre.


2. Honoring, respecting & humbling to the renounced order of life

Narada Muni explains that yes in this atmosphere of Kali yuga it is very difficult to do this. The only possible way it can be done properly, is if such grihastas are regularly, with great humility associating with saintly persons, especially those who in the renounced order of life. To the degree a grishasta honors, respects, humbles himself to those in the renounced order of life, to that degree he is in the proper state of mind to receive Krishna Consciousness and to make advancement, in his otherwise materialistic condition of life. To the degree a grishasta is proud and thinks those who are in the renounced order of life are not very important to society, if they were really important they would be like me. They would be earning a lively hood and showing people how to really live as practical functional members of society and still be Krishna Conscious. If they are thinking like that, then that very mentality of pride is blocking them from making real spiritual advancement. We find that those grihastas who are truly devotees of the Lord they consider themselves most fallen just by the environment that they are in of a wife and family and so many responsibilities in this world. They consider themselves very lowly and they consider those who have the courage and the faith to put aside all the pleasures of this world for the betterment of mankind by taking to the renounced order of life, they consider such great souls are worship able personalities and they are also always eager and anxious to hear from them and to render service to them. Such a grihastha who has this mentality is factually immune from all the dangers of the ashram that he is residing in.


Examples of great souls who were Grhasthas : Ambarisha Maharaj

  1. Humbled himself before renounced order

And we find throughout the Vedic literatures many many stories of such great souls. We find story of even Ambarish Mahäräja. Ambarish Mahäräja was the king of the earth and Durvasa Muni, even though he was not a pure devotee of the Lord. Ambarish Maharaja was factually more advanced than him. But because Durbasa Muni was in the renounced order of life, Ambarish understood that it is my duty to humble myself before him. The fact was Ambarish was far more advanced than Durbasa Muni. But Ambarish never thought that way. He considered simply the fact “this man is in the renounced order of life, makes him worshipable and I must humble myself before him”. So even if a grihasta, does happen to be more advanced than one in the renounced order, he never thinks himself to be like that. As soon as he does he becomes a victim of pride. Ambarish Maharaja understood the sanctity in the holiness of sanyas or of this ashram of vairagya.

As a matter of fact in Vedic culture it is said that when the first of the day when you see a sanyasi you must offer your obeisance, otherwise if you do not it is so offensive that you must fast that day to atone for the offence. And this also includes Mayavadi sannyasis. Even a Mayavadi sanyasi who has no devotion to Krishna, still the common man is expected according to the sashtra, and according to the Srila Prabhupada himself in his books, you still must offer obeisance. This is because you not simply offering obeisance to that particular person’s devotion, but you are offering obeisance to the renounced order of life, which is so sacred and so holy, without which respecting one cannot make proper spiritual advancement. It is the standard. Of course the renounced order of life is not easy and nobody ever wants their family members to become those in the renounced order of life. Everyone is always thinking that my son or my daughter, you should just get married nicely and you offer all respect to the sannyasis but do not be a sanyasi, you not ready, you not qualified besides that you have so much to do for us. And what happens is factually every parent is going to say that. Even – Sankaracarya, Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, even Lord Caitanya, they said no no, do not take to, you are a good devotee, but stay at home and support us in your livelihood and have nice wife and children and very nice. But that sanyas is for somebody else not for you. But Sankar left, Madhva left, Ramanuja Left, Caitanya Mahaprabhu left, even Prabhupada left. So you see those in the renounced order of life are those who are willing to despite all social controversy and despite also social pressures for the sake of serving humanity in the greatest way possible, they are willing to put aside all of the pleasures of material life for the sake of preaching Krishna Consciousness through their words and through their example. And such souls how much they have given up is to be greatly adored and respected by society. To the degree a society worships and respects the sadhus to that extent the society makes spiritual advancement. But of course unfortunately many people become so-called sadhus not with this spirit of compassion but simply because its an easy way to be lazy and get free food. We are not talking about those saintly persons. But genuine saintly persons who are honestly surrendering and dedicating their lives in the service of the Lord, they are the standard for the entire civilization to follow.


Examples of great souls who were Grhasthas : Grihasthas in New-Vrindawan

I remember at New-Vrindavan, it was in 1973, the origin of New Vrindavana was on a hill, it is called the Vrindavana farm. The main community was at Bahulavan, which is where Radha-Vrindavana Chandra were living, which was on the main road and there were so many acivities. And this other farm you had to walk three miles through mud and dirt through jungle. It was completely in the wilderness, on a mountain totally away from any form of civilization. No telephone, no radio, no television anywhere within miles and miles around. There was simply ice-cold water, usually no electricity, very austere conditions. If the brahmacharis are pure and the brahmacharis are dynamic in their Krishna Consciousness then all the grihastas will think I want to be like them. Look at all I have to deal with. I want to be just like them. And he said, to the degree the brahmacharis are Krishna Consciousness to that the grihastas will respect the brahmacharis and will want to put them on a pedestal that they ultimately “I want to achieve this standard of renunciation”. That is real consciousness. Even though now I cannot, may be for the next twenty five years; I have to raise my children and everything, but this is the standard I want to always look up to. He said to the degree the grihastas are looking up to the sannyasis and brahmacharis in this way to that degree the grihastas will make spiritual advancement. To that degree they will never ever have to see the darkness of that deep well that Prahalad maharaja is talking about.

Responsibility of Brahmacharis in inspiring Grhasthas

So therefore the brahmacharis have a very very deep and grave responsibility to the rest of the society. If the brahmacharis and the sannyasis are lazy, if they are indulging in sense gratification then no intelligent grishasta can properly respect them. And therefore their spiritual life is very very much obstructed. When the brahmacharis are enthusiastic, when they are hard-working for the welfare of humanity, when they are pure in heart and humble and devoted to guru, when the honest and sincere grihastas see this, they have something to look up to, they have some people to actually put as a standard by which they can try to attain. In this way the brahmacharis, simply by their example are preaching for the purification through their lives, for the whole society. So it is the brahmacarie’s and sannyasi’s duty to work so hard in the welfare work for others that the grihastas cannot have this misconception if they are all serious that these people are just lazy that’s why they want to live in this brahmachari ashram but We are really trying to do something. And the brahmacharis should be so humble, so clean and so pure that the grishasta ashram looks up to them and think oh! this is the real life, why can I not be like this? I remember in New Vrindavana our brahmachari ashram was so strict and so full of enthusiasm, and so dynamic with Krishna Consciousness that practically every grihasta was just thinking what are we doing down here? There were about 100 devotees in grihasta temple and there were about 20 in the brahmachari temple and it was three miles away and it was practically like there was just a glowing light just radiating in all directions and people would just lookup to the direction of brahmachari ashram and the grishasta would think – We are so glad that some people are Krishna Consciousness in this world. What is our Krishna Consciousness? We have so many attachments, so many things diverting our attention away form Krishna. When will that day be mine when we can be like that. Because they were always thinking like that they were the most first class girhastas in the entire Hare Krishna movement. They were so staunch, they were so enthusiastic, they are so responsible to their family in Krishna Consciousness and willing to do anything in the service of their guru.

We were discussing Ambarish Maharaja, try to understand this is a very very important principle. Ambarish was a pure bhakta and Durvasa Muni was an impersonalist mystic yogi at that time. Ambarish was completely pure in heart and Durvasa Muni was showing signs of enviousness. In this way, Ambarish Maharaja was far more advanced spiritually. And the proof was that when Durvasa Muni tried to kill Ambarish Maharaja, Ambarish had so much respect for the renunciation of Durvasa Muni, Ambarish just with folded palms was offering his obeisance to Durvasa Muni, even when Durvasa Muni was creating a monster to kill him. But then Narayan Himself, the protector of Ambarish his devotee destroyed that monster demon and Sudarshan Chakra came to kill Durbasa muni. And Durbasa muni was flying all over the universe trying to escape the Sudarshan Chakra. Finally he came to the lotus feet of Narayana Himself, after Indra, brahma and Siva, they could not help him. Everyone said you have to go to Vishnu. He bowed down to Vishnu, he said please save me, this burning hot Sudarshan cakra is always behind me, wherever I go, I cannot escape. I beg forgiveness of you. Narayan told him, Ambarish is my pure devotee. Those who are sadhus in pure devotion, he said they only think of me and I only think of them. There is nothing I can do to protect you because you have offended my devotee. Unless you personally get the dust of the feet of that devotee and get his forgiveness, I cannot give you any relief for your imminent death. That is how far superior Ambarish was and Durbasa Muni came after a year of traveling through the universe. Ambarish Maharaja through that whole year did not eat anything. Why? Out of respect for Durvasa Muni! Because the sanyasi came to his house for Prasad and the Sudarshan Chakra started chasing him before the Prasad was served. Therefore Ambarish was thinking, “I cannot take one drop of water until after my guest has been satisfied”. So that whole year Ambarish was simply standing at his door practically with folded hands waiting for his honored sanyasi guest to return and Durvasa muni came running back with the Sudarshan Chakra still right behind him, fell at Ambarish’s feet and Ambarish was very embarassed, what is this sanyasi is falling down at my feet? He is a great yogi. I am nothing, I am just a fallen grihasta. And Durvash Muni begged please forgive me. Ambarish said, forgive you, you are great soul!. Please forgive me, it is only because me that you had such inconvenience. You were running away from Sudarshan Chakra for this last year. It is all my fault. I am sorry. Please take your Prasad and be happy. This is the extent that the great souls in the grihasta ashrams show respect to those in the renounced order of life.


Examples of great souls who were Grhasthas : Dashrath Maharaj

Dasaratha Maharaja was the King of Ayodha and when Viswamitra Muni came out of the forest wearing a dear skin, ashes all over his body perhaps. He came to Dasarath Maharaja. Dasarath Maharaja put him on the throne, washed his feet and he said whatever is in my kingdom is yours, I am your servant. We can sight thousands of examples. The scriptures are filled with such examples.


Examples of great souls who were Grhasthas : Vasudev & Garga Muni

When Garg Muni came to the house of Vasudeva, Vasudeva was the father of Krishna, Vasudeva told Garg muni that the great brahmans like yourself, you come in the excuse of begging from the grishastha just to show your mercy and give us your association. Actually we are very poor hearted, we are constantly thinking in terms of how to maintain our family, we are constantly meddling in material affairs, therefore we are so inclined to forgetting Krishna and the goal of life. Therefore the great souls come begging as an excuse to enlighten us. By giving charity to the sadhus, we are perfecting our human existence. But the real charity is not being given by us but it is being given by you. Not only are you giving us the opportunity to engage in the service of the Lord’s devotees but you also enlighten with transcendental knowledge and enlighten us by your example of detachment in complete devotion to Sri Krishna.

So therefore the first and most prime duty of grihasta is to associate with saintly persons. And one of the greatest responsibility of those who in renounced order of life, is to live a life of such spiritual integrity that those in grihasta ashram which is always, in great majority of the population will be able to respect you and will be able to make advancement through their increased faith in those in the renounced order of life. So here at the brahmachari ashram we have a very very serious responsibility to the entire society. It is not that we are here for our own purification. For our own purification we could go to vrindavana become babajis we are here for preaching work. And our preaching is not simply to make everybody brahmacharis. If someone is willing to be a brahmachari, we welcome them with all enthusiasm. But most of our preaching will be to the people in general, who are in the grihasta ashram. And to the degree we are pure, to the degree we are glorifying Krishna, to the degree we are manifesting Krishna’s glory through enthusiastic kirtan, through very very careful cleanliness, in every aspect of our living conditions, through learning the shastra and through living very pure and humble lives, this ashram will become like a beacon light, like an effulgent sun and it will give light to the hearts of all sincere souls who want to perfect their lives in Krishna Consciousness. So this is our great responsibility to make it as easy as possible for the grihastas to perform their most important responsibility which is have faith and trust in those in the renounced order of life and to constantly seek shelter of association of the sadhus.


QD: Is there any difference between an ideal grihasta and an ideal sanyasi?

Answer: In essence, they are both surrendering their lives to the service of guru and Krishna, there is no difference. But in practical function, there may be difference. A sanyasi is dedicating his body, mind, words, simply for preaching Krishna Consciousness. The grihastas are also, as far as possible doing like that but he is also taking care of wife and children but his responsibility to his wife and children is all in the service of the Lord. So in spirit there is no difference between an ideal grihasta and ideal sanyasi. It is only in form and in function that there is some difference.


Thank you, very much.

Written by

Radhanath Swami

H.H Radhanath Swami is one of today’s most beloved and respected spiritual teachers. A Bhakti Yoga practitioner for 40 years, he is a guide, community builder, philanthropist, and acclaimed author.Born and raised in Chicago,at the age of 19 he discovered India's Mystical devotional tradition and now spread his message of compassion and love around the world.

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About Me

Radhanath Swami

H.H Radhanath Swami is one of today’s most beloved and respected spiritual teachers. A Bhakti Yoga practitioner for 40 years, he is a guide, community builder, philanthropist, and acclaimed author.Born and raised in Chicago,at the age of 19 he discovered India's Mystical devotional tradition and now spread his message of compassion and love around the world.