On the morning of Friday, April 10, 1931, parama-bhagavata Sriyukta Nitya-Gopala Ghosa Mahasaya, one of the most important helpers of the preachers of Sri Gaudiya Matha, who has great faith in the Vaisnavas and who is dedicated to the Holy Name of the Lord, having finished constructing his new home, sanctified it with the foot dust of His Divine Grace Om Visnupada Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada, only entering it after the Guru and his pure Vaisnava servants. Those who perform grha-pravesa, following the rituals of the materialistic karma-kanda Smarta paddhatis, certainly fall down again and again into the dark well of materialistic household life; but that householder who reject such common conceptions and is always entertaining spiritual topics, maintaining a mood of humility and submission, always inviting the paramahamsa maha-bhagavata and the pure devotees to his home and filling his new home with hari-bhajana benefits his town and indeed the whole world.
For this purpose, filled with causeless mercy, the savior of the fallen Sri Srila Prabhupada and his associates stepped into the home of Sriyukta Nitya-Gopala Ghosa Mahasaya and spoke hari-katha and performed kirtana with the understanding that entering a spiritually surcharged house and entering the matha are non-different. In this place Srila Prabhupada manifested some ambrosial instructions. That morning, Srimad Ananta Vasudeva Paravidyabhusana B.A,Sriyukta Haripada Vidyaratna MA. BL. and Pandita Sriyukta Pramoda-bhusana Chakravarti Pratna-vidyalankara Mahasaya performed sankirtana for the satisfaction of Gauranga. At the request of Sri Srila Prabhupada, the Gaudiya editor Sripada Sundarananda Vidyavinoda Prabhu read and explained the precepts of the duties of grhastha-asrama from the Srimad Bhagavatam, 4th Canto, 22nd Chapter, wherein Maharsi Sanat-kumara's gives instructions to Maharaja Prthu.
That same day in the evening, Sri Srila Prabhupada and his associates came to the home of parama-bhagavata Sriyukta Nitya-Gopala Ghosa Mahasaya and delivered instructions concerning the grha-pravesa performed by the spiritually minded householder. At that time we had the chance to hear that and we consider ourselves to be most fortunate. We have published some of that here).
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:
nirbandhah krsna-sambandhe yuktam vairagyam ucyate
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." (Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 2.253-542)
Grha-pravesa is the duty of every Vaisnava, because the house will become conducive for hari-bhajana. It is not possible for those that follow grha-vrata-dharma. It is better to enter the house and make the vow that, “I shall serve Krsna.” 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. 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 Krsna. 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 Krsna. 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 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 Krsna 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 Krsna, 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 Krsna 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 as regards 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 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. Only the devotees of Bhagavan know the art of utilizing any activity in the service of Hari. When Jagad-bandhu Bhakti-ranjana Mahashaya 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 Visnu, 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, the 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.
(This article first apeared in Bengali in the 9th Volume of The Gaudiya, published on 18th April 1931)
Grha-pravesa – The ceremony of entering a newly constructed house for the first time
Grha-vrata-dharma – Following materialistic household life
Jagad-bandhu Bhakti-ranjana – The spiritual name of Sri J.B. Dutta, a wealthy businessman of Calcutta and disciple of Srila Sarasvati Thakura
Muri – Dried puffed rice mixed with spices
Paddhati – A text describing the performance of various rituals
Samskara – The results of one’s previous actions
Tirumangai Alvar – One of the twelve Alvar saints of the Sri Vaisnava sampradaya