(Stage of Householder Life)
Some of the essential things that a householder should know have been reproduced here from Sreenarayana-dharma. It is advisable to have a copy of the book (in full) handy.
Bringing up (tending) Infants.
112. A lady who brings up child must be healthy, compassionate, humble, pleasant, well mannered and conversant with the rules of ethical living.
113. The interior of the house must be decorated aesthetically with hygienic articles. The child should be put on a bed with clean and soft sheets.
114. Improper words, articles, narrating unpleasant incidents, disrespectful behaviour and anger, should not be uttered or displayed before the child.
115. Up to 5 years of age, the mother should rear the child. She should fondle him; motivate him, and look after his likes. She should narrate stories of great men (to instill similar good qualities in the child). Should pronounce words correctly and clearly. The child should be brought up giving great attention to hygienic food, and by putting on clean and attractive attire.
Initiating the Child’s Education.
117. A child, who has been brought up in the above manner, should be initiated into basic education, with the assistance of a learned and spiritually oriented teacher.
118. The person who initiates the child in to the 3 R’s (reading, writing, arithmetic), should be learned and devoted. He should have a compassionate heart and a good moral conduct.
119. The child should be given a clean bath and made to sit facing the preceptor (teacher/guru). Then the sacred mantra should be written on the child’s tongue with a piece of gold (usually a golden ring).
120. After prostrating, the child should be asked to chant (repeat) the words pronounced by the guru. Then, he should be blessed with a pleasant feeling and smiling face, by the parents and teacher.
(Laws of each order (stage) of life)
124. The ancient teachers, who are highly respected, have prescribed four stages (order) in life, namely, (1) Brahmacharya (stage of celibacy and seeking spiritual and material knowledge), (2) Grihasthasramam (stage of householder), (3) Vanaprastham (elderly who retires to forest life) and (4) Sanyasam (religious recluse or solitaire).
125. Yet, the intelligent and faithful ones, in today’s context 3 ashramas (order of life) are enough. This has been proclaimed even in Vedic times.
126. In my opinion, these are Brahacharyam, Grihastasramam and Sanyasa. At the outset, let me tell about their basic attributes.
127. For a male, the period of Brahmacharya (studentship) is from the time of initiation into learning to the age of 24. For a female, this is up to the age of 16.
128. When the prescribed period of Brahmacharya ends, if a person desires to become a householder, he can terminate his Brahmacharya. Otherwise he should not do so.
131. Having performed one’s duties as a householder, a person can withdraw from it. At the age 60, one should, on his own will (volition), renounce the world to become a recluse.
132. One who departs this world after observing the period of Brahmacharya, and the duties of a householder, according to the rules laid down in the code of conduct, such wise one is called a Rishi (seer).
[Brahmacharya and Grihasthasram, are pravritti-marga in life going towards the world and therefore of ambition and desire. Renunciation is nivritti-marga moving away from the world.]
136. Just as the work done in the day provides comfort at the night, and the work done in the first 8 months of the year brings joy in the next four months of rain, the good deeds of the childhood become useful to provide comforts (benefits) in adult life.
137. What is done in adulthood serves for the comforts of old age. Whatever deeds a man does in his lifetime (till death) becomes useful in his next birth.
The Householder’s Duties
171. Now on, I shall relate the code of conduct prescribed for a householder. May I have your ears (attention). The householder life is the seat of the triad, Dharma, artha and kama. That is also the way that opens the door to liberation (Moksha).
172. After studying all the scriptures scrupulously as instructed by the guru, one should enter the stage of a householder with a pure mind, after taking permission from one’s parents and teachers.
173. One should get betrothed to a girl with a good family background, who follows the right codes of conduct, who is well-mannered, and endowed with pleasant physical features (beauty). She must be acceptable to both parents and teachers.
174. While entering into sexual union with wife, one should follow the rules of moral conduct. Life is to observe righteous deeds and householder’s discipline is for procreation.
175. The wealth accumulated during Grihasthasramam is for giving away in charity (so that it becomes beneficial to humanity). Food should be prepared to share with the guests and destitute, and not just for one’s own consumption.
176. The following are the qualities of a householder:- (i) love towards all beings. (ii) a compassionate heart. (iii) equality in one’s attitude (behaviour) towards others.
178. The bride and bridegroom should be selected from within the same spiritual community. Marriage has to be performed by a competent person in a gurukulam or in a temple.
179-180. The parents of the bride, the parents of the groom, a colleague each of the bride and the bridegroom, a relative of the bride and of the bridegroom, a teacher and a priest totaling to ten people should be present in a wedding ceremony. To have less than that does not seem appropriate for the welfare of the community or group.
181. The practice of taking and giving dowry has been condemned by all ethical minded people. Taking and giving dowry amounts to selling one’s children (it becomes a commercial transaction instead of a spiritual union).
182. Once a girl has been promised in marriage to a person even verbally, she should not be married off to another person. If there is a slip in this matter, it amounts to violation of Dharma.
183. Those who suffer from diseases like leprosy, tuberculosis, breathing problems, asthma or cardiac diseases or from poverty should not get married. (AIDS can be added to this list today).
184. If after marriage anyone of the couple is affected by a communicable disease, they should avoid sexual union in the larger interest of the community.
191. The house, in which a couple live with undivided love to each other, will become sanctified and be full of prosperity.
193. A person who shares his food in order to avoid committing a sin (or as a virtuous act) will never be childless or lose his children.
194. An undaunting householder, who proceeds steadfast in his principles of Dharma and is always engrossed in dharmic deeds, will become the foremost among all ascetics.
195. One who leads others through the path of Dharma, and himself does not waver in its observance, is called a supreme (noble) observer of Dharma.
196. If it is beneficial to all, then the Grihasthasrama-dharma is the best form of Dharma. But if it harms others, it is adharma (sin).
199. A girl who attains puberty (gets her first monthly period), becomes purified when she takes the (ritual) bath after 7 days, and the house is cleaned with holy water and homam (sacrificial fire). Later when she gets her monthly periods, she becomes pure after bath and performance of homam.
201. All the household materials used by the woman during her periods should be washed in water and made clean by drying.
202. After the menstrual bath (4 days after the onset of periods), for the next twelve days the husband should lovingly approach the wife for sexual union. In this context parvas (certain prohibited days) should be avoided.These include Ashtami (the 8th day of full/new moon), Chathurdasi (14th day after full/new moon), Amavasya (the New-moon day), eclipses, religious festivals, the days when sun crosses the equator (Samkramams).
203. Since these twelve days are the most appropriate and apt for conception, one who desires a child should approach his wife. Other times are considered a taboo.
204. From the time of conception to the time the child is weaned (ie. not on breast milk), the parents should live with spiritual restraint, avoiding sexual union.
205. There is a reason for this. If the above restrictions are not observed, then the mother and child may get diseases, have chances of premature death, and suffer from loss of vital energy. The breast milk may also become impure.
206. A pregnant woman should consume milk-based food products regularly. Remaining chaste, she should listen to stories about virtuous people, and remain happy all the time.
207. She should not suffer unhappiness for any reason, whatsoever, she should avoid unpleasant thoughts.
208. The pregnant lady should pray for an easy and painless labour, and that she begets a child with all good qualities.
209. The householder should display interest in serving all, from a child in the womb to a person in the death bed.
212. The power of the state (ruler), the status of Dharma, and the condition of the world depends on the code of conduct followed by the householders, as citizens. Therefore the householder is the support for everything in a country. (A nation is as good as its citizens.)
213. In view of this, the philosophic thinkers, and the wise laud the stage in life as a householder, as the foremost (greatest) among all the four asramas.
214. Whichever community (or nation) disgraces or degrades the codes of conduct to be observed by the householder, will suffer a decline and fall in its splendour, greatness and progress.
218. In life one should not consider marriage as a means for enjoyment; or as a part of one’s right to obtain pleasure.
219. Therefore, those who wish to enter Grihasthasrama should think and consider well before embarking on a married life.
220. If there be compatibility (between couples) in educational level, wealth, age, looks and manners, it results in development of mutual love, which becomes strong bound in a married life.
221-22. A man is born, and dies only once in a lifetime. A person who lives an indiscipline life is liable to be born again and again. Similarly, a coward dies a hundred times (the brave but once). These two types of people are not suited to married life.
223. A man’s love for a woman should be for his life time, when he marries her. Therefore a person should marry only once in his life.
226. A second marriage may be performed once. Not again and again. A person who marries a number of times loses the benefit of his virtuous deeds.
227-28. Both health and marital love deserve equal importance. Therefore a couple should have a medical examination to ascertain their state of health and their ability to procreate children. This can prevent another marriage and the need to go for tests again and again.
229. A medical examination is appreciated and advised for the birth of healthy children. The parents of the bride should function as advisors on the codes of conduct expected of a newly wed couple.
230. The well-wishers of the couple should behave lovingly towards the newly wed couple. Without restraining their freedom they should prevent their indiscretions.
231. The householder should avoid taking advantage of (benefit from) the numerous things that are available in his in-law’s house, which can lead to mutual misunderstanding and mental anguish (later).
234-35. The couple should share equally all their joys and sorrows. In the performance of their respective duties, they should be cooperative so as to avoid fault finding. They should not adopt ways that destroy their love and trust. They should examine together and clarify any mistakes or misunderstandings. These are the attributes of Dharma.
236. A wife deserves praise, when she behaves in a well-bred manner, and has qualities matching those of her husband, and spends money according to the income, and remains untainted.
237. If the housewife is not virtuous, even the most respectable family will become devoid of good qualities (virtues). By and by the family will perish.
238. If she has noble qualities (virtues), even an ordinary family, will, in course of time, slowly acquire those noble qualities.
239. A virtuous and chaste wife is the priceless and the most important possession of a man in his life.
240. A chaste woman who is spiritually oriented, who looks after her husband’s needs, and who ensures that no harm comes to her or her family, is considered the noblest.
241. One who guards her honour, even outside of her protective environment at home, is considered a noble wife.
242. A housewife, who is an embodiment of good qualities, and a noble lady, is like a lamp that does not flicker even in a storm. She is the personification of the godess of wealth, Lakshmi.
243. A husband, living with such a wife, should observe the codes and perform his duties of a householder, constantly and without any hindrance.
244. A person who observes his duties as a householder, and becomes the source of eternally auspicious deeds, will, after fulfillment of what is expected of him, attain the state of Bliss (Moksha).