Marriage vs. renunciation


To marry or not to marry:

I'm in my mid-20s and after reading some books by Yogananda, I have started my yoga and meditation routine. Now, I wonder what is the point of being married or having kids. But at the same time, everything comes from God... so is it my misconception that a renunciant is better than being a householder? Also, can one still be a renunciant if they had past wrong-doings such as premarital sex?

—Le, United States


This is really an individual issue. On the one hand, Yogananda recommended that those who come onto the spiritual path and aren’t married yet, have an opportunity to become a monk or nun and dedicate their life completely to God. They can have more time for meditation, and service to others that is more universal than that given to one’s own family.  Service to one’s family can become selfish and contractive if it’s not done properly.

On the other hand, Yogananda said in the Autobiography of a Yogi (I’m quoting the 1st edition — these very words were quite drastically changed in the late 1950’s editions):

“To fulfill one’s earthly responsibilities is indeed the higher path, provided the yogi, maintaining a mental uninvolvement with egotistical desires, plays his part as a willing instrument of God.”

He was comparing the path of the renunciate to that of a yogi, living in the world and raising a family. Yogananda’s most highly advanced disciples were householders: Rajarsji Janakananda and Sister Gyanamata. So, like much of the spiritual path, it’s not so easy to define it in terms of black and white.

As far as past wrongdoings, I don’t think there would be many renunciates in this world if monasteries only allowed people who had never erred in any way. The purpose of the spiritual path is to lift us out of delusion — it wasn’t designed for those who are already perfect!