Narada Teaches Yuddhishtra a Householder’s Dharma

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This article by Nitin Kumar

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Once king Yuddhishtra, the eldest of the five Pandavas, was conducting a big Vedic sacrifice. At that opportune moment sage Narada decided to bless the sacrifice with his presence. Welcoming Narada with all due respect, Yuddhishtra, with folded hands, asked him the following question for the benefit of all humanity:

The Book of Yudhishthira (Krishnavatara Vol. VII)

"Oh divine sage!, please explain to me the course of conduct by which a householder like me, who is too much attached to his house and property, can attain moksha easily."

Bhagawan Narada replied: "A person, living the life of a householder, should perform all the karma prescribed for a householder, but offer it to God. He should also serve great saints and mahatmas. Whenever he gets the time, he should go and live amongst people who have given up worldly life and hear from them stories about the various avatars of God. The companionship of these holy people will have the following effect on the householder: Like the person who, getting up from a dream, feels no attachment to the objects seen in his dream, similarly, as the householder’s mind becomes purer and purer by satsang with holy men, he will gradually start reducing attachment to his body, wife, children, money etc, because in any case they are one day going to separate from him. A wise person should serve his body and family only to the extent that is functionally necessary and not more. He should be detached from inside but show attachment outside and behave like an ordinary, typical person. He should, without any attachment, acquiesce to whatever his parents, brothers, children or friends say or want."

Narada Smriti

"A householder, looking for emancipation, should carry out his duties while enjoying what he gets from the heavens (like crops due to rainfall), from the earth (like gold, gems etc), and whatever he gets by fate. He should understand that all wealth is created by Lord Vishnu and is obtained through His grace only, therefore, he should not hoard the wealth given to him but utilise it in the service of the aforementioned holy men. Remember, man has right over only that much as is necessary for quenching his hunger. The person who lays claim on the surplus wealth is nothing but a thief. He should be punished."

"A householder should think of deer, camels, donkeys, monkeys, mice, serpents, birds and flies like his own children and hence these should not be driven out of the house or fields if they enter and begin to eat. Even though he may be a householder, he should not go through too much trouble to obtain the three purusharthas - dharma, artha and kama. Rather, he should remain satisfied and make do with whatever he is able to get according to time, place and luck. He should share all objects of enjoyment with everyone, right down to dogs, sinners and people belonging to the lowest strata of society, and only then utilise them for his own use. What more can I say, even his wife, whom he claims as his own should be deputed to serve guests at home, even at the cost of his own neglect. People lay down their lives for their wives. One is ready to go against one’s own elders for her. Such is the attachment to one’s wife. The man who can remove his attachment from such a wife wins over the great Lord Vishnu, who otherwise is unconquerable. How despicable is this body, which if buried is going to become the food of worms, or excreta if eaten by animals, or reduced to ashes if cremated! Equally despicable is the body of the wife who contributes to its erotic pleasures! But how great is the infinite soul which pervades even the sky?"


Pancha Yajna

"A grihastha should consume for his personal self only those items which are leftover after he has performed the five daily yajnas (pancha maha yajnas). The wise person, who does not lay claim to the surplus that remains is elevated to the status of saints."

"Whatever the householder obtains through his vocation as per his varna-ashrama dharma, with that he should daily worship the gods, rishis, humans, other living beings, his ancestors (pitras) and his inner self. This is nothing but the worship of One God in different forms."

Agnihotra (A Study)

"If the householder has the required means as well the requisite qualifications for performing sacrifices, he should worship God with yajnas like Agnihotra etc. Even though God Himself is the enjoyer of all sacrificial offerings, He is much more satisfied when He is propitiated with rich food, dripping with ghee, offered through the mouths of brahmins, than He is with oblations offered through the sacred fire. Therefore, you should satisfy all - brahmins, gods, the five yajnas, humans and other creatures. In this way, you will be able to worship all living entities, or in other words, the Supreme God residing inside all living beings." 

"If sufficiently rich, the householder should perform according to his means, shraddha, the ritual for their departed parents and ancestors. Since a son is to thus revere his elders even after their death, what to say that he is expected to serve them when they are alive! Actually, having inherited their wealth, the son shows his gratitude to his parents by doing nothing to sully their reputation. Doing shraddha purifies the mind and helps also to strengthen belief in life after death. One should feed a maximum of three brahmins in shraddha, and however rich a person may be, he should not expand the shraddha too much. This is because if large scale invitations are given then it becomes difficult to sustain the necessary levels of purity required for the shraddha. Before being offered to the brahmins, the food prepared for shraddha should first be offered to the gods (bhog lagana). In fact, anytime you divide your food between gods, rishis, pitras, living beings, relatives and one’s own self, these all should be viewed as identical with God, Who resides in all of us."

The Sraddha - The Hindu Book of the Dead

"One who understands the essence of dharma should not serve non vegetarian food, nor eat it at the time of shraddha, for there is no real gratification in the slaughter of animals but there is supreme satisfaction with food which is fit for sages. Actually, for those who wish to follow the correct course of conduct, there is no higher dharma than abstaining from violence towards all living beings either through mind, word or action."

"It is the duty of householders to indulge in charity on auspicious occasions like makar-sakranti, akshaya-trittya etc, as anything given to the gods, pitras, brahmins, humans on these days bears endless (akshaya) fruit. A householder should also regularly visit places of pilgrimage. Any virtuous act performed in such places gives a thousandfold fruit."

"However, remember one thing, the universe is a big tree with infinite creatures. Its root is Bhagawan Krishna. Therefore, gratifying Him leads to the gratification of all creatures. Thus, many people worship His idols with great reverence. But those who cultivate hatred towards other humans, their worship remains futile and does not yield any fruit. Even amongst the humans, a brahmin is considered the most deserving of veneration because through his tapasya, studies etc, he bears within himself the Veda, which is nothing but the body of God. Indeed brahmins, who purify the three worlds with the dust of their feet, are venerated even by the Supreme God Krishna."


The Benefit of Dharma and the Disadvantage of Adharma

"The very definition of dharma is that which removes hurdles in the way to a person’s moksha. The person wishing to follow the path of dharma should steer clear of the five forms of Adharma. These are:

Vidharma : It is that which though practiced as dharma, obstructs another person’s dharma.

Paradharma : This is when a person follows the dharma prescribed for another varna or ashrama. For example, a brahmin picking up the sword, even when there is no emergency.

Upadharma : This is hypocrisy or performing dharma merely for showing off.

Chhala : Interpreting the shastras (scriptures) otherwise by jugglery of words.

Abhasa : When one resorts to a course of conduct according to one’s own fancy, different from the duties prescribed for one's particular varna and ashrama in the shastras, then it is known as ‘abhasa’, meaning that which given only an ‘impression' of dharma, but is actually not so.

Indeed, varna and ashrama have been prescribed by God Krishna Himself, according to our innate natures (Bhagavad Gita 4.13). When they are followed, they lead to innermost peace."

Srimad Bhagavad Gita with Commentary by Sridhara Swami

"One who is a dharmatma (follower of dharma), even though he may be poor, should not attempt to earn money either for the sake of his own subsistence or even for performance of dharma. Because the person who ceases from all endeavours for his livelihood, gains to an ‘effortless state’, and it is this very effortless state which takes care of his subsistence, much like the proverbial python whose subsistence carries on without any effort on its part (ajgar-vritti). How can the happiness enjoyed by a self-contented person who has no desires and delights in his own self, be obtained by a person who is always tormented by one desire or the other and runs hither and thither in the search of money? Like the person wearing shoes has no fear from thorns and pebbles, similarly for the person who has contentment (santosha) in his heart, there is sukha always and in all places, and no dukha at all. Indeed, a self-satisfied man can be happy by merely getting water to drink. However, one who is driven by desires, especially those of the stomach and the genitals, is reduced to the status of a dog in his own house."

"Yuddhishtra! There are three impediments to a person’s moksha - kama (desire), krodha (anger) and lobha (greed), (Bhagavad Gita 16.21). One should win over kama by practicing restraint; krodha by giving up desires and lobha by recognizing money (artha) to be nothing but a source of trouble (anartha). And finally, one should win over fear by realisation of the Ultimate Truth. Actually, one can win over all these faults merely by bhakti towards one’s guru. Indeed a guru is a direct manifestation of God Himself, who imparts to man the light of knowledge. But for the person who thinks of the Guru as an ordinary mortal, the hearing of shastras of is as futile as the bath of an elephant (who bathes in water quite thoroughly, but as soon as it comes on the shore it takes some dust from the ground and strews it over its body)."

Advaita: A Conceptual Analysis

"The ultimate aim is to cultivate the three types of advaita (oneness) in life. These are:

Bhava-Advaita : This is the comprehension of the essential oneness of cause and effect, like thread and cloth. Similarly, any difference between God, who is the cause of the world, and the world is unreal or illusory.

Kriya-Advaita : This is the offering of all actions to God and realising that the mind, word or body, used to accomplish an act, are but mere instruments.

Dravya-Advaita : Realizing that one’s own self-interest is not different from one’s wife, children, as well as all living beings.

Finally, Yuddhishtra! For a particular person, the particular material he is allowed to acquire at a particular time by a particular means, as entitled by the shastras, except in emergencies, he should conduct his life according to only those materials. Oh king! The householder who abides by these duties prescribed in the shastras, eventually attains unity with Bhagawan Krishna."

Tribhang Murari Chaturbhujadhari Krishna, With The Towering Kirtimukha Crown


(This story occurs in detail in the Shrimad Bhagavata Purana, 7.14-15) 

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