householder yogi

a mother, a wife, and a yogi too? one woman's account of yoga in the family

Let us say I randomly selected ten people and asked this question: "Given a choice, what would you wish for the most in your personal life?" Chances are, nine out of ten would say, "Happiness, love and joy." Obviously, neither the question nor the supposed response is new to this age and generation. Human beings have sought these as the ultimate goal of existence since the dawn of creation.

While Western civilization has associated happiness with good health, wealth and possessions, Indian spirituality has emphasized that such worldly pleasures are ephemeral, temporal and dependent upon external circumstances. Sanatana Dharma – the Eternal Religion – states that real joy lies in yoga, or union of the individual soul with God, and therefore, that human life should be utilized to achieve self-realization.

However, recognizing that premature asceticism and mass renunciation would lead to chaos and disintegration of society, the ancient Manu Dharma Shastras, or Laws of Manu, formulated the four-phase system of ashramas, or stages of life, through which an individual would mature and progressively evolve. In a model human being living under ideal conditions, each ashrama, which means "to exert or labour" was supposed to last twenty-five years: brahmacharya, a student period; followed by grihastha, life as a householder; vanaprastha, withdrawing from society to reflect on the mysteries of life and commence spiritual practices; and finally, sannyasa or total renunciation.

Due to the abandonment of ambitions, attachments, family, society, and eventually, the ego itself, the sanyasi has been honoured and glorified throughout the ages. Then what about the householder? Can aspiring householders ever become yogis? In the Bhagavad Gita, when Arjuna seeks to know the one definitive way of reaching the Highest, Lord Krishna says, "In this world, aspirants may find enlightenment by two different paths. For the contemplative is the path of knowledge; for the active is the path of selfless action." Nevertheless, the fact remains that for a majority of people, the whole idea of a yogi conjures up images of people meditating in the solitude of mountains and hills with no external distractions.

Indeed, it is one thing to read about the possibility of a householder becoming a yogi, and quite another thing to meet one or to actually become one. Except for a few successful souls, the average grihastha seeking spirituality is left craving practical guidance and wondering how to put nishkama karma, duty without desire, into action. Swami Vivekananda, the world-famous disciple of the householder yogi, Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, acknowledges: "It is useless to say that the man who lives out of the world is a greater man than he who lives in the world; it is much more difficult to live in the world and worship God than to give it up and live a free and easy life."

This Sunday morning, I find myself desperately wishing for a few hours of quiet with no interruptions. But it is simply impossible. My husband is out of town attending a conference; Sriram, my six-year-old son, and Shanta, my four-and-a-half-year-old daughter, are working on their art projects and demanding assistance. And I have missed satsang because the children don't want to go; they are missing their daddy and want to stay home.

Attending Sunday group satsang is very important to me – spiritually, mentally, physically and emotionally. I never miss it unless I am traveling or a family member is ill. I have found that being within a community of like-minded people who are on the same meditative path, at least for a couple of hours a week, can be a rejuvenating experience. It literally prepares me for the week ahead. Satsang means "being in the company of the wise" and "being with the truth," and is an occasion for quiet rejoicing and happiness of the spirit. But the tiny voice in my heart asks me not to let satsang make the children feel abandoned, and so the decision to stay home with them feels right.

This sense of direction and the contentment that follows each decision is not something new. Time and time again, I have found that regular meditation balances the inner cravings of the soul without having to neglect the physical existence. Spiritual sadhana makes me feel centred and fills me with an inner strength. It gives me the courage of conviction

Rama Devagupta teaches Sahaj Marg Meditation as a preceptor of Shri Ram Chandra Mission (, serves as a faculty member at the Sahaj Marg Research and Training Institute, and lives in Houston, Texas. Besides writing articles, she is currently working on two books: on family life, and comparative spirituality. Contact her at

Copyright ©2007 ascent magazine, first Canadian yoga magazine, yoga for an inspired life