Householder Yogis

By Rudra Shivananda

It is difficult for seekers who have family responsibilities to find the time and make the effort to achieve Self-Realization. Many dream of being able to leave their duties behind them and retire to a cave in the Himalayas. This tendency is especially fuelled by stories of saints who have renounced their lives and went off to remote places to achieve liberation from the cycle of suffering.

Shri YukteswareHowever, it may not be widely known that these stories of external renunciation are rather recent, from about two thousand five hundred or so years ago only. This time-frame corresponds roughly to the dark age of increasing material ignorance called Kali Yuga as outlined by Shri Yukteswar in his masterpiece Divine Science. The Lord Buddha came just at the beginning of this era and gave the example of leaving his princely life behind him and seeking for his enlightenment in the wilderness. His example was a departure from the sages that had gone before him.

In an earlier age, as recorded in the ancient scriptures, we have many stories of the householder sages as exemplified by the great beings called the septa-rishis or 7 sages who are the rays of the seven stars of the Great Bear. They were all married and had family and were the head of great lineages of saints. A great example was Vashishta who was the Guru of the royal family that included the god-prince Rama. He was the greatest sage of his time and his wife considered a paragon of virtue and wisdom – she was called Arundhati and ascended to be a star just next to her husband.

Lahiri MahasayaAnother famous example was the great sage-king Janaka who was glorified for his inner renunciation to his palaces and great wealth. His guru was sage Yagnavalkya whose wife Gargi was also renowned for her wisdom. All the great Upanishads or spiritual texts from three thousand years ago to the time of the Buddha are based on the examples of householder sages.

At the end of the this minor Kali Yuga and beginning of a the more spiritual age called Dwapara, around 1862, Mahavatar Babaji initiated Lahiri Mahasaya into Kriya Yoga and started a whole new cycle for accelerated spiritual evolution. Lahiri Baba was a householder and had children after his initiation by Babaji. He never retreated from his responsibilities and discharged his duties diligently, while at the same time attaining his enlightenment and spreading the teachings of Babaji to another generation of disciples.

All spiritual seekers should keep in mind the example of Lahiri Baba when they are considering to become a vagabond yogi. It is easier to go to a cave and meditate without dealing with the vagaries and demands of the material life. It is much more difficult to balance the living of a spiritual life in the material world. However, just as a sword is tempered in fire and water, it is actually easier for the householder yogi to be truly tested and can become immune to worldly temptations. It is the development of inner renunciation that is the true renunciation exalted by the sages. Remember this the next time you wish that you had not taken on the duties and responsibilities of a family. Persevere.

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