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Asrama means situation for spiritual cultivation


Srimad-Bhagavatam Lectures

Āśrama, this word, has become little popular in your country also. Āśrama means situation for spiritual cultivation.

Lecture on SB 2.1.2-5 -- Montreal, October 23, 1968:


śrotavyādīni rājendra
nṛṇāṁ santi sahasraśaḥ
apaśyatām ātma-tattvaṁ
gṛheṣu gṛha-medhinām
(SB 2.1.2)

The same subject matter, that those who are too much attached in the family affairs, gṛheṣu gṛha-medhinām. Gṛhamedhī means one who has made his center of activity home. He is called gṛhamedhī. There are two words. One word is gṛhastha, and one word is gṛhamedhī. What is the significance of these two words? Gṛhastha means one... Not only gṛhastha. It is called gṛhastha-āśrama. Whenever we speak of āśrama, it has got spiritual relationship. So all these four divisions of social orders-brahmacārī-āśrama, gṛhastha-āśrama, vānaprastha-āśrama, sannyāsa-āśrama... Āśrama. Āśrama means... Whenever... Āśrama, this word, has become little popular in your country also. Āśrama means situation for spiritual cultivation. Generally, we mean that. And here also, there are so many yoga-āśrama. I have seen in New York so many āśramas. "New York Yoga Āśrama," "Yoga Society," like that. Āśrama means it has got a spiritual connection. It doesn't matter whether a man... Gṛhastha means living with family, wife and children.

So to remain with family and children is no disqualification for spiritual advancement of life. That is not a disqualification because after all, one has to take his birth from the father and mother. So all great ācāryas, great spiritual leaders, after all, they have come from father and mother. So without combination of father and mother, even there is no possibility of begetting a great soul. There are many instances of great souls like Śaṅkarācārya, Lord Jesus Christ, Rāmānujācārya. Even they had no very high hereditary title, still, they came out from the gṛhasthas, father and mother. So gṛhastha, or the householder life, is not disqualification. We should not think it, that only the brahmacārīs or the sannyāsīs, they can elevate to the spiritual platform, whereas those who are living with wife and children, they cannot. No. Caitanya Mahāprabhu has clearly stated in Caitanya-caritāmṛta that

kibā vipra, kibā nyāsī, śūdra kene naya
yei kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā sei 'guru' haya
(CC Madhya 8.128)

Caitanya Mahāprabhu said, "It doesn't matter whether a person is gṛhastha or a sannyāsī or a brāhmaṇa or not brāhmaṇa. It doesn't matter. Simply if one is Kṛṣṇa conscious, if he is elevated in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then he is just, I mean to say, eligible to become the spiritual master." Yei kṛṣṇa-tattva-vettā sei guru haya (CC Madhya 8.128). Tattva-vettā means one who knows about the science of Kṛṣṇa. That means fully Kṛṣṇa conscious. Sei guru haya. Sei means "he." Guru means "spiritual master." He doesn't say that "One has to become a sannyāsī or a brahmacārī. Then he can..." No. But here the word is used, gṛhamedhī, not gṛhastha. Gṛhastha is not condemned. If one lives in regulative principle with wife and children, so that is not disqualification. But gṛhamedhī, gṛhamedhī means he has no higher ideas or higher understanding of spiritual life. Simply living with wife and children like cats and dogs, he is called gṛhamedhī. That is the difference between these two words, gṛhamedhī and gṛhastha.