From 'Sri Bhaktyaloka'
by HDG Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur
I have already written separate essays regarding utsaha, niscaya, dhairya, tat-tat-karma-pravartana, and sanga-tyaga. Now I am writing this essay on sadhu-vritti. There are two kinds of sadhus - householders and renunciates. I will separately describe the vritti, or occupation, of each. Although householders and renunciates have different occupations, there are some they have in common. These will be discussed separately. There are two meanings of the word occupation-propensity and lifestyle. Propensity means one's nature, or svabhava.
Those natural propensities are the living entity's dharma . It is said in the Srimad Bhagavatam (7.11.31):
prayah sva-bhava-vihito nrinam dharmo yuge yuge
veda-drigbhih smrito rajan pretya ceha ca sarma-krit
"My dear King, brahmanas well conversant in Vedic knowledge have given their verdict that in every age [yuga] the conduct of different sections of people according to their material modes of nature is auspicious both in this life and after death."
By passing life in one's natural occupation, one can attain devotional service free from the modes of nature. Otherwise one will fall into irreligion and be unable to make gradual advancement. It is said in the Srimad Bhagavatam (7.11.32):
vrittya sva-bhava-kritaya vartamanah sva-karma-krit
hitva sva-bhava-jam karma sanair nirgunatam iyat
"If one acts in his profession according to his position in the modes of nature and gradually gives up these activities, he attains the transcendental position." Nirgunata, or the transcendental position, means devotion to Krishna. As stated in the Srimad Bhagavatam (11.25.33):
tasmad deham imam labdhva jnana-vijnana-sambhavam
guna-sangam vinirdhuya mam bhajantu vicakshanah
"Therefore, having achieved this human form of life, which allows one to develop full knowledge, those who are intelligent should free themselves from all contamination of the modes of nature and engage exclusively in My loving service." It has been ascertained by the Lord's use of the two words nirgunam and mad upasrayam. These two words are used by the Lord in Srimad Bhagavatam (11.25.29) just previous to the quoted verse. that whatever is performed out of devotion is called nirguna, or transcendental. The Srimad Bhagavatam (11.25.34-35) states:
rajas tamas cabhijayet sattva-samsevaya munih
sattvam cabhijayed yukto nairapekshyena santa-dhih
"He should conquer the modes of passion and ignorance by engaging himself only with things in the mode of goodness. Then, being fixed in devotional service, the sage should also conquer the material mode of goodness by indifference toward the modes." Therefore people can become free from the modes of nature if they pass their lives dovetailing everything-sattvika objects, activities, time, and place-with the devotional service of the Lord.
Only human beings are eligible for propensities in the mode of goodness, and remaining in that state they gradually become free from the modes. The general propensities of human beings in the mode of goodness are described in the Srimad Bhagavatam (7.11.8-12) as follows: satya-speaking the truth without distortion or deviation; daya-sympathy to everyone suffering; tapah-austerities (such as observing fasts at least twice in a month on the day of Ekadasi); sauca-cleanliness (bathing regularly at least twice a day-morning and evening-and remembering to chant the holy name of God); titiksha-toleration (being unagitated by seasonal changes or inconvenient circumstances); iksha-distinguishing between good and bad; sama-control of the mind (not allowing the mind to act whimsically); dama-control of the senses (not allowing the senses to act without control); ahimsa-nonviolence (not subjecting any living entity to the threefold miseries); brahmacarya-continence or abstaining from misuse of one's semen (not indulging in sex with women other than one's own wife and not having sex with one's own wife when sex is forbidden, like during the period of menstruation); tyaga-giving in charity at least fifty percent of one's income; svadhyaya-reading of transcendental literatures like Bhagavad-gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, Ramayana and Mahabharata; saralata-simplicity (freedom from mental duplicity); santosha-being satisfied with that which is available without severe endeavor; samadarsi-janera-seva-rendering service to saintly persons who make no distinctions between one living being and another and wh see every living being as a spirit soul; gramya-ceshta haite nivritti-not taking part in so-called philanthropic activities; viparyayeheksha-distinguishing unnecessary activities; vrithalapa-nivritti (maunam)-being grave and silent; atma-vimarsana- research into the self (as to whether one is the body or the soul); annadira-vibhaga-equal distribution of food and drink; sakala-loke bhagavat-sambandha-buddhi-accepting all living entities as related to the Lord; as well as sravana-hearing; kirtana-chanting; smarana-remembering (His words and activities); seva-service; ijya-worship; nati-offering obeisances; dasya-accepting the service; sakhyam-to consider as a friend; atma-nivedana-surrendering one's whole self. According to the differentiations of these thirty characteristics, the four varnas-brahmana, kshatriya, vaisya, and sudra-and the four asramas-brahmacari, grihastha, vanaprastha, and sannyasa-are born. In the Srimad Bhagavatam (11.18.42) it is said:
bhikshor dharmah samo 'himsa tapa iksha vanaukasah
grihino bhuta-rakshejya dvijasyacarya-sevanam
"The main religious duties of a sannyasi are equanimity and nonviolence, whereas for the vanaprastha austerity and philosophical understanding of the difference between the body and soul are prominent. The main duties of a householder are to give shelter to all living entities and perform sacrifice, and the brahmacari is mainly engaged in serving the spiritual master." The life occupations of the four varnas are stated as follows: Study, teaching, worship, teaching worship, giving charity, and accepting charity-these six are the brahmanas' occupations; out of these they should maintain their life by teaching, teaching worship, and accepting worship. The kshatriyas' occupations are protecting the praja by punishing miscreants and maintaining the life by taxation. Farming, protecting cows, and business are the vaisyas' occupations; only serving brahmanas is the livelihood of the sudras. The traditional occupation of those who are lower than sudras are their means of livelihood.
From all these conclusions of Srimad Bhagavatam it should be understood that performing devotional service to Sri Hari is the only purpose of life, there is no other purpose. Unless one makes the gross and subtle bodies favorable for devotional service, one cannot engage in such. There is a need for some arrangements in order to attain a favorable condition in those two bodies. First in order to maintain the gross body there is a need to accumulate a house, household items, grains, and drinks. For the prosperity of the subtle body one needs proper knowledge and a proper occupation. In order to make the bodies completely favorable for devotional service, there is a need to situate them above the modes of nature.
Due to the results of fruitive activities from time immemorial, whatever nature and desires a living entity develops is certainly a mixture of goodness, passion, and ignorance. By first enriching the mode of goodness, one should diminish and defeat passion and ignorance and make goodness prominent. When the mode of goodness is completely under the control of devotional service, then it becomes nirguna. By following this gradual process one's body, mind, and environment become fit for devotional service.
There is a need for varnasrama-dharma while a human remains in the stage of piety and impiety that are born of his nature. The main purpose of varnasrama-dharma is this: By gradually following varnasrama-dharma a human being will become eligible to perform devotional service. Sriman Mahaprabhu has quoted the following verses from Srimad Bhagavatam (11.5.2-3) to Sanatana Gosvami:
mukha-bahuru-padebhyah purushasyasramaih saha
catvaro jajnire varna gunair vipradayah prithak
ya esham purusham sakshad- atma-prabhavam isvaram
na bhajanty avajananti sthanad bhrashtah patanty adhah
"'From the mouth of Brahma, the brahminical order has come into existence. Similarly, from his arms the kshatriyas have come, from his waist the vaisyas have come, and from his legs the sudras have come. These four orders and their spiritual counterparts [brahmacarya, grihastha, vanaprastha, and sannyasa] combine to make human society complete. If one simply maintains an official position in the four varnas and asramas but does not worship the Supreme Lord Vishnu, he falls down from his puffed-up position into a hellish condition." Srila Ramananda Raya said that the process for achieving the supreme goal of life is given in the Vishnu Purana as follows:
varnasramacaravata purushena parah puman
vishnur aradhyate pantha nanyat tat-tosha-karanam
"One can worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vishnu, by proper discharge of the principles of varna and asrama. There is no alternative to pacifying the Lord by execution of the principles of the varnasrama system." Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, however, rejected this process as external and requested him to give a higher conclusion. The purport of Sri Caitanya's statement is this: "O Ramananda! Varnasrama-dharma is meant to regulate the gross and subtle bodies. If someone is satisfied only in that, without engaging in devotional service of Krishna, then what is his gain? Therefore, although the process of varnasrama is the only means of purification for a conditioned soul, still it is external." As stated in Srimad Bhagavatam (1.2.8):
dharmah svanushthitah pumsam vishvaksena-kathasu yah
notpadayed yadi ratim srama eva hi kevalam
"The occupational activities a man performs according to his own position are only so much useless labor if they do not provoke attraction for the message of the Personality of Godhead." From this one should not conclude that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has ordered us to discard varnasrama-dharma. If that would have been the case, then He would not have instructed all living entities through His pastimes of completely following the orders of grihastha and sannyasa.
As long as one has a material body the system of varnasrama-dharma must be followed, but it should remain under the full control and domination of bhakti. Varnasrama-dharma is like the foundation of one's supreme occupational duty. When one's supreme occupational duty is matured and one achieves his goal, then the process is gradually neglected. Again, it is also abandoned at the time of death.
In the last half of the verse quoted by Srila Ramananda Raya, it says: vishnur aradhyate pantha nanyat tat-tosha-karanam - "One should know that without following the process of varnasrama-dharma, a materialist has no alternative to pass his life favorably for the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vishnu." This is the only way to achieve the life of a devotee.
Human beings are divided according to their nature into the following divisions: brahmana, kshatriya, vaisya, sudra, sankara, and antyaja. Even though the system of varnasrama is not clearly present in some countries, still it exists in a seedling form. According to one's nature, he develops his occupation and, accordingly, his means of livelihood. By accepting the livelihood and occupation of others, one meets with misfortune. What to speak of misfortune, it especially obstructs one's devotional service. Birth is not the only criteria; the only criteria is one's nature. In the Srimad Bhagavatam (7.11.35) it is stated:
yasya yal lakshanam proktam pumso varnabhivyanjakam
yad anyatrapi drisyeta tat tenaiva vinirdiset
"If one shows the symptoms of being a brahmana, kshatriya, vaisya, or sudra, as described above, even if he has appeared in a different class, he should be accepted according to those symptoms of classification." In his commentary, Sridhara Swami has written: samadibhir eva brahmanadi vyavaharo mukhyah, na jati matrad ity aha-yasyeti. yad yadi anyatra varnantare 'pi drisyeta tad varnantaram tenaiva lakshana nimittenaiva varnena vinirddiset, na tu jati nimittenety arthah - "The brahmanas' main characteristics are qualities such as peacefulness, not birth. If these main characteristics are seen in persons other than those born as brahmanas, then such persons should be considered brahmanas. They should not be considered according to their caste by birth."
This kind of eternal varnasrama-dharma is always to be followed. It is often useful for devotional service. Members of the four varnas and the lower castes should be eager to progress their sattvic nature. If an outcaste becomes fortunate due to his pious deeds, the he should progress his cultivation of goodness while following the conduct of a sudra. Everyone should give prominence to devotional service and progress the cultivation of goodness to the platform of nirguna, transcendence, by the mercy of the devotees. These are the stages of sanatana-dharma. With devotion, the member of any varna is considered the best of the brahmanas; without devotion, the life of a brahmana fixed in goodness is useless.
For example, let us consider the statement: Some mahatma has said (Srila Narottama dasa Thakura from Prema-bhakti-candrika): mahajanera yei patha, ta 'te ha 'ba anurata, purvapara kariya vicara-"I will be attached to the path chalked out by the previous and later mahajanas." The rishis and mahatmas who have taught conduct before the appearance of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu are counted among the previous mahajanas. The conduct seen in the mahajanas after the appearance of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the conduct of later mahajanas. The conduct of the later mahajanas is superior and should be adopted. The conduct of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His followers is meant to teach people, so that conduct should be followed in all respects.
What is proper occupation? To know this, one should see the behavior of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's followers. As far as possible I will try to briefly compile them in this essay. First I will write about the behavior and occupation of the grihastha, as found in the character of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His devotees.
As a support for his devotional service, a householder should find a suitable wife. In the Caitanya-caritamrita (Adi 15.26-27) the Lord says:
grihastha ha-ilama, ebe cahi griha-dharma
grihini vina griha-dharma na haya sobhana
"Since I am remaining at home it is My duty to act as a grihastha. Without a wife, there is no meaning to householder life."
While maintaining religious family life with one's wife, sons and daughters are born in the form of Krishna's servants and maidservants; to nourish them is called maintaining the family. In these activities there is a need for piously accumulating wealth. In this regard Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has said in the Caitanya-bhagavata (Antya 5.41) and Caitanya-caritamrita (Madhya 15.96):
prabhu bale,-parivara aneka tomara
nirvaha kemate tabe haibe sabara?
`grihastha' hayena inho, cahiye sancaya
sancaya na kaile kutumba-bharana nahi haya
"The Lord said, There are so many members in your family. How will you maintain everyone? Being a householder, one needs to save some money. Because he is not doing so, it is very difficult for him to maintain his family."
One must be educated at a proper age. But he should not study atheistic literatures. In the Caitanya-bhagavata (Adi 12.49 and Madhya 9.241-242) the Lord says:
pade kene loka?-krishna bhakti janibare
se yadi nahila, tabe vidyaya ki kare?
vishaya-madandha saba kichui na jane
vidya-made, dhana-made vaishnava na cine
bhagavata padiyao ka 'ro buddhi nasa
"Why do people study? Education is only for understanding devotional service of Lord Krishna. If you miss this point, then what is the use of your education? Everyone is blinded by pride and sense gratification. Being proud of their education and wealth, they fail to recognize a Vaishnava. If one studies Srimad Bhagavatam improperly his intelligence is polluted."
Serving guests is the principle duty of a grihastha-this is the Lord's instruction. In the Caitanya-bhagavata (Adi 14.21, 26) it is stated:
grihasthere mahaprabhu sikhayena dharma
atithira seva-grihasthera mula-karma
akaitave citta-sukhe ya 'ra yena sakti
taha karilei bali atithite bhakti
"In this way the Lord satisfied all His guests and taught the world how to behave as a perfect householder. The foremost duty of a householder is to serve his guests. If a householder happily serves his guests without duplicity and according to his ability he is considered hospitable."
A grihastha should act with simplicity in his dealings with people; he should not allow any kind of cheating or duplicity in his heart. In the Caitanya-bhagavata (Adi 14.142) the Lord says:
ataeva grihe tumi krishna bhaja giya
kutinati parihari' ekanta haiya
"Therefore go back to your home and worship Lord Krishna with full attention, giving up all duplicity."
It is the principle duty of a grihastha to serve senior persons. In the Caitanya-caritamrita (Adi 15.21) the Lord says:
grihastha ha-iya kariba pita-matara sevana
ihate-i tushta habena lakshmi-narayana
"Later I shall become a householder and thus serve My parents, for this action will very much satisfy Lord Narayana and His wife, the goddess of fortune."
A householder should take the principles of renunciation to heart; but he should not simply dress as a renunciate. As stated by the Lord in the Caitanya-caritamrita (Madhya 16.237-239):
sthira hana ghare yao, na hao vatula
krame krame paya loka bhava-sindhu-kula
markata-vairagya na kara loka dekhana
yatha-yogya vishaya bhunja' anasakta hana
antare nishtha kara, bahye loka-vyavahara
acirat krishna tomaya karibe uddhara
"Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said: Be patient and return home. Don't be a crazy fellow. By and by you will be able to cross the ocean of material existence. You should not make yourself a showbottle devotee and become a false renunciate. For the time being, enjoy the material world in a befitting way and do not become attached to it. Within your heart, you should keep yourself very faithful, but externally you may behave like an ordinary man. Thus Krishna will soon be very pleased and deliver you from the clutches of maya."
A householder is duty-bound to work for the benefit of everyone. In the Caitanya-caritamrita (Adi 9.41, 7.92) the Lord said:
bharata-bhumite haila manushya-janma yara
janma sarthaka kari' kara para-upakara
naca, gao, bhakta-sange kara sankirtana
krishna-nama upadesi' tara' sarva-jana
"One who has taken his birth as a human being in the land of India (Bharata-varsha) should make his life successful and work for the benefit of all other people. My dear child, continue dancing, chanting, and performing sankirtana in association with devotees. Furthermore, go out and preach the value of chanting krishna-nama, for by this process You will be able to deliver all fallen souls."
In this practice of devotional service, duplicitous association has been prohibited. Even in street sankirtana one should chant and dance in the association of pure devotees. One should not chant in the association of nondevotees.
A householder should fully depend on the will of the Lord in all his activities. The Lord says in the Caitanya-bhagavata (Madhya 28.55):
suna mata, isvarera adhina samsara
svatantra haite sakti nahika kahara
"Listen, dear mother, the whole world is under the control of the Lord. No one has the power to become independent."
A householder should cautiously give up the association of nondevotees, women, and uxorious people. In the Caitanya-caritamrita (Madhya 22.87) the Lord said:
`stri-sangi'-eka asadhu, `krishnabhakta' ara
"A Vaishnava should always avoid the association of ordinary people. Common people are very much materially attached, especially to women. Vaishnavas should also avoid the company of those who are not devotees of Lord Krishna."
By following his prescribed duties a grihastha Vaishnava should accumulate wealth for his maintenance. He should not accumulate wealth by sinful means. Lord Nityananda Prabhu has stated in the Caitanya-bhagavata (Antya 5.685-688):
suna dvija, yateka pataka kaili tui
ara yadi na karis, saba nimu muni
parahimsa, daka, curi-saba anacara
chada giya, iha tumi na kariha ara
dharma pathe giya tumi laha hari-nama
tabe tumi anyere kariba paritrana
yata saba dasyu, cora dakiya aniya
dharma-pathe sabare laoyao tumi giya
"Now listen carefully, O brahmana. I will take responsibility for all your previous misdeeds if you do not repeat them. No more aggression, violence, looting, or murder; give them up forever. Lead a religious life and chant the holy names of the Supreme Lord. Then later you can also save others. Go and meet other dacoits and murderers and bring them to the path of pure religious life."
A householder should not hanker for another's wife or prostitutes. This is exhibited in the Lord's dealings with Krishnadasa in the Caitanya-caritamrita (Madhya 9.227-228):
gosanira sange rahe krishnadasa brahmana
bhattathari-saha tahan haila darasana
stri-dhana dekhana tanra lobha janmaila
arya sarala viprera buddhi-nasa kaila
"Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was accompanied by His servant, Krishnadasa. He was a brahmana, but he met with the Bhattatharis there. With women the Bhattatharis allured the brahmana Krishnadasa, who was simple and gentle. By virtue of their bad association, they polluted his intelligence."
The Lord protected that brahmana from the women's clutches by pulling him by the hair. The words sarala vipra mean a weak-hearted young brahmana.
He is a real householder who chants one hundred thousand names every day. Pure devotees should accept prasada in the houses of such grihasthas. In the Caitanya-bhagavata (9.121-2) the Lord said:
prabhu bale,-jana, `lakshesvara' bali kare?
prati-dina laksha-nama ye grahana kare
se janera nama ami bali `lakshesvara'
tatha bhiksha amara, na yai anya ghara
"The Lord replied: Do you know who is a lakshesvara? He is someone who chants one laksha, or one hundred thousand, holy names everyday. I call such a person a lakshesvara. I only take meals in that person's house, no one else."
There is no difference between smartas and Vaishnavas regarding following the codes of religion. The Lord has said in the Caitanya-bhagavata (Antya 9.388-9):
adhama janera ye acara, yena dharma
adhikari vaishnaveo kare sei karma
krishna kripaye se iha janibare pare
e saba sankate keha mare, keha tare
"Sometimes an exalted Vaishnava exhibits the same activities as a materialistic person. One can understand this by the mercy of Krishna; otherwise in this dilemma one may be liberated or destroyed."
The purport is that the conviction in the heart of a Vaishnava is independent. If one is a Vaishnava, then he can understand the conviction in the heart of another Vaishnava who is engaged in the same activities as those of the smartas. One who cannot understand this cannot respect Vaishnavas, and he thereby goes to hell.
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