Published on June 25th, 2014 | by Harmonist staff16
Grha-Pravesa: Entering A New House
By Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, originally published in Bengali in the 9th Volume of The Gaudiya, 1931.
By the powerful association of the representatives of a paramahamsa, one removes the risk of falling into the dark well of family life and the same powerful association with liberated family members allows one to become a paramarthika-grhastha. When one does not constantly deliberate upon Srimad bhakta-bhagavata and Srimad grantha-bhagavata, then there can be no auspiciousness in that house. Those who do not live every moment by the mercy of the Bhagavata, will not be able to understand the meaning of the two instructions of Sri Gaurasundara—these two commandments serve as a guiding light towards the ultimate goal of life:
anasaktasya visayan yatharham upayunjatah
nirbandhah krsna-sambandhe yuktam vairagyam ucyate
prapancikataya buddhya hari-sambandhi-vastunah
mumuksubhih parityago vairagyam phalgu kathyate
Things should be accepted for the Lord’s service and not for one’s personal sense gratification. If one accepts something without attachment and accepts it because it is related to Krsna, one’s renunciation is called yukta-vairagya.
When persons eager to achieve liberation renounce things that are related to the Supreme, though they are material, this is called incomplete renunciation.
Grha-pravesa1 is the duty of every Vaishnava, because the house will become conducive for hari-bhajana. It is not possible for those that follow grha-vrata-dharma.2 It is better to enter the house and make the vow that, “I shall serve Krishna.” It is incomparably better than those that follow futile monkey-like renunciation (markata-vairagya). Firstly, one who follows such useless renunciation is not a good sadhaka. If family life is favorable to hari-bhajana, then one should accept the grhastha-asrama, and if family life is unfavorable then one should certainly reject the dark well of household life. If one shows aversion to family life simply to demonstrate the gymnastic feats of useless renunciates, then the rejection of household life will never be beneficial. It will only be a matter of a couple of days before such immature vairagis will fall down.
There is no difference between entering a spiritual household and entering a matha; but do not mix the grha-pravesa of the grha-vrata and the grha-pravesa of the krsna-vrata together just as you would mix muri.3 Those that belong to the school of the grha-vrata cannot understand these words. For those whose life is governed by the Srimad Bhagavatam, their attachment to grha-vrata-dharma is completely destroyed. Those who enter household life following the laws of the external world will be increasingly absorbed in grha-vrta-dharma. Just as the acceptance of the sannyasa-asrama is most essential for the Lord’s devotees, similarly entering the grhastha-asrama and grha-pravesa are also essential for the Lord’s devotees.
Grha-pravesa should only be performed by the Lord’s devotees, the non-devotees should not perform it. When the Lord’s devotee performs the grha-pravesa, we should understand that he has actually entered his matha. Performing grha-pravesa is for creating a conducive environment to constantly serve Krishna. Collecting more than necessary (atyahara), over endeavoring (praya), gossiping (prajalpa), neglecting the scriptural injunctions (niyamagraha), bad association (jana-sanga) and mental restlessness (laulyam) – a spiritually minded householder should always keep these things far away. With enthusiasm (utsaha), determination (niscaya), patience (dhairya) he should constantly cultivate such various divisions of bhakti such as hearing and chanting, etc.; he should completely reject female association which is not according to scriptural law, association with those who are attached to women and those who are dominated by a feminine nature and he should abandon the bad association of non-devotees of Krishna. He should perform his activities by following the virtuous examples of Prthu, Ambarisa and other mahajanas, all his ordinary and spiritual activities should be done while cultivating a favorable mood of hari-seva. The spiritually-minded householder should curb the impulses of speech, mind, anger, tongue, stomach and genitals. That man who is totally indifferent to all the instructions given in Sri Upadesamrta and is obsessed with household affairs almost has the nature of an animal. He deviates from grhastha-dharma and becomes firmly attached to grha-vrata-dharma. “I will not accept grha-vrata-dharma nor useless renunciation and for the sake of hari-bhajana I will perform the spiritual activities of grhastha-dharma and act as a caretaker for Krishna by earning money honestly to perform Krsna-bhajana.” In this way one who is spiritually-minded will make this vow when entering the house. Immorality makes hari-bhajana impossible, only when one is moral can hari-bhajana be performed.
It is not possible to serve Hari while collecting a multitude of sins, and it is also not possible to serve Hari by performing various works of piety. For those people who think about the limited boundaries of their piety, who wish to enjoy the fruits of their own heroic works and who desire to nourish their crooked mentality, there is no other way for them to be freed of their misconceptions except by the exclusive worship of Sri Hari through the execution of grhastha-dharma. By the endeavors of trying to satisfy his senses, the sensual grha-vrati will fall down; but by completely endeavoring to serve Krishna, he acquires auspiciousness. By niyamagraha (infatuation with ritualistic ceremonies) and niyama-agraha (disregard for the scriptural injunctions), one becomes a grha-vrata. Many people think, “I will enter my new house, shut the doors and chant japa! That will be auspicious and I will also be recognized as a spiritually-minded householder.” But after many days chanting on beads they will fall into the dark well of the basest pleasures. If they did not perform kirtana after hearing the words delivered from the divine mouth of the associates of the paramahamsas, if they do not construct their lives properly, they will descend into grha-vrata-dharma. grhastha devotees will try to do everything possible to help those who have given up everything and who constantly perform krsna-bhajana.
The present business of Sri Gaudiya Matha is to engage all of mankind in the service of Sri Hari—to this end Sri Gaudiya Matha is willing to spend many, many gallons of blood. Those who are reluctant to take up this opportunity of service and are immersed in grha-vrata-dharma, are aware of this. The spiritually-minded householder works hard for his wife and children, and works just as hard to serve Hari. Knowing that his wife and children belong to Bhagavan, he feeds them and takes care of them. Otherwise, just as one does not feed a snake bananas and milk, if the association of family members is unfavorable then one should remain aloof from them. Such spiritually-minded householders have absolutely no interest in material pleasures, he only tries to serve Hari twenty-four hours a day. He is krsnarthe akhila-cesta (“serving Krishna at all times”) at all times and in various ways he is busy serving Hari. Grhastha devotees fully respect the spiritual concepts of duty and morality, but in regards to mundane ethics, they have neither love nor hatred towards them. For one whose consciousness is always immersed in divine service, all his mundane obligations are concluded by his performance of spiritual duties.
Tirumangai Alvar4 took birth in the Kallara tribe. Even though he preached hari-bhakti, influenced by his past samskaras, he was involved in robbery. Yet his heart was moved by spiritual ethics, and he even managed to make robbery favorable to serve Lord Hari. Only the devotees of Bhagavan know the art of utilizing any activity in the service of Hari. When Jagad-bandhu Bhakti-ranjana Mahashaya5 could have done many things with his wealth, he made his accumulated money favorable by engaging it in the service of Hari. He mastered the spirit of service in such a short time! Amongst unlimited multitudes of jivas, one can scarcely comprehend how one came to the Lord so suddenly. He surrendered everything to the service of Hari.
He decided that, “This family and home is His, and if I perform service to Hari, whatever will be left will be His prasadam and I shall accept His remnants.” He had only to realize that his losses and gains were all connected to the service of Hari; he was not involved in either sin or piety. By trying to deceive the Supreme Lord by one’s sin or piety, exploitation or renunciation, morality or immorality, one will be forced to reap the fruits of good and evil. But if all results go to the Almighty, the jiva will not be involved in the consequences of good and evil. A man robs others to enjoy for himself, but Tirumangai Alvar robbed others for the service of Vishnu, and thus he did not have to pay for the results of his plundering. All the ways by which Jagad-bandhu Babu had to resort to in order to earn his fortune and all the difficulties he encountered found their true meaning when he offered the fruits of both morality and immorality in the service of the Supreme Controller.
But relying upon the Holy Name is no reason to sin. “Since Tirumangai Alvar served Hari by robbing people, then let all looting be used to serve Hari”—such arguments come from the desire to commit sinful activities on the strength of chanting the Holy Name. Jagad-bandhu Babu’s material activities were unexpectedly used to serve Hari. The idea that, “First we should become good materialists and then we will become servants of Hari” – this sort of argument is unfavorable in cultivating devotion. Even if the divine will utilizes activities that are due to one’s previous samskara in the service of Hari, such acts cannot be considered as the rule or as an example for ordinary people. Although Tirumangai Alvar was committing crimes, although Jagad-bandhu was facilitating service by inappropriate ways sometimes, through the results of their extraordinary sukrti, they considered everything as the property of the Supreme Lord, and being utilized in that way, it became beneficial.
Engaging in karma is futile. The path of karma-kanda never brings the jiva any auspiciousness—they are just like a football. One minute the jiva is up, the next minute they are down again and they are constantly moving around. By receiving a good thrashing for his sins, the jiva gradually takes to the path of piety, then once again when he has been deceived by the illusory flowers of piety, he again turns to the path of sinful activities. Due to this he takes to the path of renunciation—the desire to renounce everything up to the point of moksa. These are known as the specific activities of devotion to the Lord.
Whether a devotee resides in the house or he resides in the matha the result is the same. A devotee is always vigilant; every act he performs is for worship of the Almighty, and not for the worship of Satan or an attempt to enjoy for himself.
- Grha-pravesa: The ceremony of entering a newly constructed house for the first time. [↩]
- Grha-vrata-dharma: Materialistic household life. [↩]
- Muri: Dried puffed rice mixed with spices. [↩]
- Tirumangai Alvar is one of the twelve Alvar saints of the Sri Vaisnava sampradaya. [↩]
- “Jagad-bandhu Bhakti-ranjana Mahashaya” is the spiritual name of Sri J.B. Dutta, a wealthy businessman of Calcutta and disciple of Srila Sarasvati Thakura. [↩]
“he should completely reject female association which is not according to scriptural law, association with those who are attached to women and those who are dominated by a feminine nature”
What does the last part mean? “Those who are dominated by a feminine nature”
‘The essence of Vaisnava behavior is to give up the association of the unsaintly. By unsaintly it is meant those who are attached to the opposite sex and those who are non-devotees.” –Caitanya Caritamrta 2.12.195
It is interesting that since Tirumangai Alwar seems to have been discussed to some extent in the comments, in his poems to the Lord he regrets in practically each shloka how he wasted his time in trying to enjoy women. He goes onto mention in each verse how the name of the Lord has given him a higher taste unparalleled to any worldly pleasure. 🙂
Good question. When I was reading over the article, I took that section as a paraphrase of some of the verses in the Upadesamrta. This article is written with a very traditional context in mind and I took it to mean basically that one should not associate with persons who are dominated by lust. I would however like to read BSST’s commentary on Upadesamrta and see how he deals with those particular verses to perhaps get a better understanding of his particular angle of vision. .
I think there are positive and negative aspects to both masculine and feminine energies. A person dominated by the negative feminine energy might be whimsicle, weak in their convictions and or decisions, and overly attached and dependent on relationships or material comforts as a means of escape and well comfort.
Maybe he is referring to this side of the feminine. The positive parts of feminine nature could be easily used in service I think. Things like selfless nurturing, softheartedness, kindness and empathy.
Masculine energy certainly has it’s negative side too. Pride, hard heartedness, stubborness, anger violence. And positive aspects might include decisiveness, steadiness, courage, and so on.
I think a balanced person would ideally have the good aspects of both natures to some degree.
That’s my speculation 🙂
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta writes: “Tirumangai Alvar took birth in the Kallara tribe. Even though he preached hari-bhakti, influenced by his past samskaras, he was involved in robbery. Yet his heart was moved by spiritual ethics, and he even managed to make robbery favorable to serve Lord Hari.”
A question arises: how was this robbery considered “favorable to serve Lord Hari” if Lord Hari personally arranged for Tirumangai to STOP his ghastly business of murder and robbery? The traditional story is very clear that such sinful activities performed ostensibly in the name of service to the Lord are NOT pleasing to the Lord and must be rejected. The end does not justify the means – not in a Vaishnava theology at least. To make this point and to atone for his sins, Tirumangai Alvar visited 88 of the 108 principal Lord Vishnu shrines primarily in South India.
I read what BSST writes before he cites Thirumangai Alvar. From what I understand, BSST seems to be saying that Thirumangai Alvar is an associate of Bhagavan because he cites him in the context of explaining the ideal householder devotee who is immersed in thoughts of Bhagavan. So the activities of the Alvar must not be karma but divine play.
Another thought that came to my mind is the power of sadhu-sanga (his wife, at the least) and vaisnava seva (he fed 1008 vaisnavas daily).
Interestingly, BSST’s use of the words, ‘one whose consciousness is always immersed in divine service,’ is what the Tamil word ‘Alvar’ means. 🙂
Another interesting incident I learned about Thirumangai Alvar is that he actually seemed to have beheaded (yes, beheaded) his brother-in-law, Yatirasan, who was a Vaisnava. One of the offenses listed in the Skanda Purana is to kill a vaisnava. Of course, the Alvar was not implicated. I think this shows he was pure in his intent, so pure that he could actually take the life of another vaisnava without implications!
I’m sure that is what these Islamic terrorists think when they behead other Muslims: we are above the laws of morality because we are pure devotees.
Such thinking is always UTTER NONSENSE.
Another thought that came to me was how much of an austerity it would be to keep one’s motive pure (feed 1008 vaisnavas daily) in the midst of running a government, stealing, fighting a battle with the Chola king’s army and killing many for using tribute funds towards feeding the vaisnavas and serving them, and stealing a golden idol of Buddha and having to behead your own brother-in-law for it so others wouldn’t know whose body it is that got stuck trying to steal the statue. I have enough trouble keeping my mind concentrated during lectures so I can’t even imagine how strong and pure the motive was in the Alvar. And it all shows in the Alvar’s poem, ‘Vaadinaen Vaadi’, which loosely translates to, ‘Shriveling, like a plant, after repeated and unsuccessful search for pleasure in the realm of matter.’ Page 7 has the English translations. I am also reminded of some songs of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura where he repents his apparent material entanglement.
But maybe you can glorify the Alvar from here on end. I don’t want to take it all for myself. 😉
The point is that neither TA nor the followers of the Alvars ever claimed it was OK for him to rob and kill people in the name of devotional service, or that Lord Vishnu was pleased with such service. That is very important. Twisting and distorting the message of Tirumangai Alvar is not glorification.
All those who claim to be above the universal laws of morality should demonstrate their transcendence by drinking molten metal, like Adi Sankaracharya did, to show his disciples that they cannot imitate his unconventional behavior.
I agree, and Sarasvati Thakur says this in the article:
One thought that came to mind is how the Acharya may set different standards for different students. Narada muni asked Ratnakar (who later became the famous Valimiki Maharishi who wrote the Ramayana) to chant ‘Mara, Mara’ instead of ‘Rama, Rama.’ But he didn’t tell Ratnakar to continue his robbery/murder. At the same time Narada muni asked Mrigari to fully kill the animals as part of his sadhana. Both Ratnakar and Mrigari attained the grace of their guru by sincere practice.
Activities of Thirumangai Alvar is that of a siddha and I think they shouldn’t imitated by sadhakas. The acharya can of course find some way to engage the sadhaka’s previous samskaras for the divine, as Sarasvati Thakura says in the above quote.
I think the overriding point is the generosity of bhakti devi who through the medium of the acharya can engage anyone regardless of their moral status.
“Activities of Thirumangai Alvar is that of a siddha…”
No, that is not what the Alvar tradition is teaching us. The Alvar tradition does not consider TA to be a siddha in the early part of his life, while he was engaged in these sinful acts. He reached perfection only after he stopped these activities, repented, and became purified by his austerities and devotion.
In considering the latest article posted on The Harmonist by Pujyapada Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhara Dev Goswami Maharaja wherein he quotes Gita verse 18.17 and also considering the fact that Thirumangai Alwar is considered to be an incarnation of the bow of Lord Vishnu/Narayana, I don’t understand how he could’ve committed sinful acts, since to commit such an act would require identification with matter. I don’t think TA fell from Vaikuntha during the early part of his life. Thus his whole life, as I understand it, has to be divine arrangement.
BSST writes above: “Tirumangai Alvar took birth in the Kallara tribe. Even though he preached hari-bhakti, influenced by his past samskaras, he was involved in robbery.” Thus even he attributes his misdeeds to material influences. Being considered an incarnation of Lord Raam’s bow, Saranga, does not grant one immunity from material influences. Only Lord Vishnu is truly the master of material energy. Even His eternal servants, like Arjuna, are subject to material contamination by the modes of passion, goodness, and ignorance. That is clearly explained in the Gita.
Excellent comments/questions and beautiful answers.