meditation-krishnabaiA friend of ours recently asked, “How can I strengthen my sadhana despite the distractions of being a householder?” To answer, let’s turn to the wisdom of ancient India. The Vedas describe four stages of life: 1) the celibate student; 2) the householder; 3) the person who partially withdraws from outer involvement and hands over most of his responsibilities to others; and 4) the renunciate, or sannyasi, who leaves behind all worldly ties to seek God alone.
Each of these stages builds on the strengths and wisdom gained in the previous one, and each one has its own challenges as well as opportunities. In my life, I’ve passed through the first three stages, and now, as a nayaswami, am embarking on the fourth. In each of them my sadhana, service, and relationship to God has changed. If we understand the opportunities that underlie each stage, we will find continuing spiritual growth throughout our life.
Before Jyotish and I were married, I lived as a single devotee at Ananda for six years. It was a life of spiritual focus and simplicity with few outer responsibilities. I was able to commit myself to long hours of daily meditation and to serve whenever and wherever I was needed.
After we were married, and particularly after our son was born, I had to adjust to the fact that my ability to meditate and serve was no longer entirely under my control. Responsibilities for the welfare of others took precedence over my own needs. After a period of some resistance on my part, I began to appreciate what a tremendous opportunity lay before me to get rid of the ego.
I realized that if I surrendered every moment to God, I began to feel His presence in new ways. If I held the thought that I was acting as His instrument in my service to my family, my relationship with Him grew deeper and more intimate. There was simply less of me to get in the way, and my meditations took on greater depth.
We had a dear friend, Haripriya, who was a direct disciple of the Indian saint, Anandamayi Ma. After living in the ashram for a number of years, Haripriya was told by Ma that she needed to marry to fulfill her karma. When she protested, Ma told her, “It is better to live in the world and long for the ashram, than to live in the ashram and long for the world.”
So, to my friend who asked the question and to you the reader, don’t expect the spiritual path to be the same as you move through life’s stages. If we define sadhana as our total relationship with God, rather than just time spent in meditation, then we see that He has a particular lesson to teach us each step of the way. As a householder, don’t push away personal ties, but don’t become attached to them either. Play your part in God’s dream, but never forget that the only reality is His eternal presence hidden behind all of life’s experiences.
With divine friendship,
Nayaswami Devi

19 Comments

  1. Dear Devi,
    What superb advice!! I have one daughter of 9 and a son of 12 with the love of my life and my clients and….
    I so cherish your advice here from one end to the other, thank you.
    with a huge smile from Denmark
    Sibila

    1. Nice to hear from our family in Denmark.
      May God’s smile add His joy to your own.
      With love

  2. I always try to see my sadhana as an on going thing. Every step of the way He is with us, we just need to remember to be with Him every step of way, no matter what we are doing and not doing. In love, devotion, sincerity, humility and surrender, I will serve Him because I am really nothing myself (Akartritvam). Blessings and much love to all!

  3. Thank you so much for your thoughts on being a householder. It was so affirming and helpful, as there are so many challenges and opportunities. As much as I can let God do it, and not be so identified as the doer, I feel there is spiritual growth possible, and you really spoke to this. Thank you.

  4. Dear Devi,
    Thank you for your inspiring message. It seemed that you were speaking to me. I too have gone through the stages of feeling discouraged when serving family and other responsibilities forced shorter meditations, less satsangs, less involvement in Master’s work etc. But over time (by Master’s grace) I have come to understand that they are EXACTLY what I need ! They are not in conflict with but work to help strengthen my love for God and Guru.
    Thank you for reinforcing and reaffirming my thoughts.
    –padma

    1. Our generation of disciples of Master is pioneering a new approach to finding God that is well suited for Dwapara Yuga.
      May God and Guru bless you and your family always.

  5. Devi,
    Thank you for these inspiring thoughts. I have had one longstanding issue nothing to do with family responsibilities which caused me anguish for years and even caused me to move my residence twice. Until recently I had not really been able to reconcile this with the identity I feel as someone who tries to follow thee path of sadhana. But one day I had gone out to scrape weeks off my driveway and I thought suddenly that this is what my situation was like. The weeds are innocent and had no intention to harm the driveway, but they would harm it. So I mercilessly removed them. So I now see that I must have been in the wrong place those times I moved. Now I have a place to live and opportunity to take the classes I always wanted. I think what was a weed in the wrong place is now a flower which can grow. Therefore I now believe that, even if painful, transitions are our blessings, as you say, if we judge correctly.

    1. Dear Pat,
      Thanks for your thoughts. God has created such a wonderful school for us all to expand our understanding. With best wishes for your continued growth.
      With love

  6. Bless You Devi,
    Your post could not come at a more appropriate time for me.
    I have been pondering my path, and what is God’s will vs. My will.
    Then your comment from Anandamoyi ma… “It is better to live in the world and long for the ashram, than to live in the ashram and long for the world.”
    Every time “I” choose the “Ashram”, the world seemed to push me further into the world. I am starting to come to accept and understand, especially through my pray and Master’s replies, that my longing for the Ashram is just the first step in my process toward it. I must live out my parts in “God’s time” not my own, Trust it, and be steadfast in my devotion/sadhana no matter what the outward circumstance is. As you said, it is a tremendous opportunity to learn to “let go” of the ego!
    Thank you also for helping me to see that Sadhana, is the opportunity to be in relationship with God in a deep way. The form, outward appearance, length of time…none of that matters. I am starting to clearly understand that Sadhana is within.
    I could be in traffic, taking care of others, shopping, being “worldly”, being in relationship with another human…the list goes on…and even if all I do is keep my mind gently chanting GOD, or give my ego up in small ways and surrender to His will…Well, then that is my Sadhana.
    My heart is full!
    Thank You.
    ~~~Peace, Josette

    1. Dear Josette,
      Thank you for your thoughts. I believe that “practicing the presence of God,” as the great saint, Brother Lawrence, said is the key to inner growth.
      With joy,

  7. Timely and reassuring message! Sometimes I think I am not progressing on the spiritual path because my sadhana is less then I want it to be due to family and outward committments but then I realize I am so much more aware of and close to God then I used to be. My on going inner conversation with God through out the day helps me to feel the joy and see the synchronicity going on in my life. It isn’t just about meditation, at this time of my life, it is more about that inner committment and devotion then the outer trappings of sadhana. Thank you!

    1. Dear Patricia,
      You are so right. As we move along the highway of life, if each of us could always hold God in our heart, it would change the world.
      With love,

  8. Dear Nayaswami Devi,
    I read your post and write to you with a torn heart as my young and loving husband has suddenly left us all to be with the Almighty. I feel guilty that I should have been more loving while he was here. I loved him but also fought with him. How can I ask the Divine to give him blessings and what do I do now?
    Regards
    Neerja

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