The word yoga means ‘to join’ or ‘to unite’. Every man is in his natural or normal state is incomplete in some way or the other. To overcome this incompleteness he joins hands with another potent power or focus to acquire strength and augment his potential, in order to use his enhanced capability rapidly thus proceeding from the state of incompleteness to completeness: this is the sole purpose of yoga.Grahastha Ashrama or Married Life is said to be the most important stage of human.
There are around 84 famous branches of Yoga like Hath Yoga, Raj Yoga, Japa Yoga, Tantra Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Swara Yoga, Riju Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Samatva Yoga, Buddhi Yoga, Praña Yoga, Dhyana Yoga, Jada Yoga, Surya Yoga, Chandra Yoga, Sahaja Yoga, Prañav Yoga, Nitya Yoga and so on, and another 700 not-so-popular sub-branches.The system,poses, meditation/sadhna techniques and practices of each of these are very different from the other, but even then, the guiding principle among them is the same.
The means may be different but the ultimate goal is the same. The progress made from smallness or nothing to greatness, from illusion to reality, darkness to light, incompleteness to completeness, from death to immortality is yoga.The attempt to transform a molecular soul into the Supreme Soul is yoga. Each and every path that we humans use to achieve this is a yogic path. To reach our destination there could be different paths and methods with different directions.
Similarly there are several ways for self-realization as well. When one is hungry one may choose to eat bread,rice, sweets,fruits or even meat, as per one’s liking, to overcome his hunger. All these food-items are very different in character,nutrients and taste but eating any of them serves the same unique purpose i e. , ‘overcoming hunger’. Similarly, there is just one purpose behind all the yogic practices, ‘expanding individual self’ or in other words,’uniting/linking smallness with greatness’.
Yoga of Married Life (Grahastha Ashrama)
Among all the branches of yoga, Grahastha Yoga (yoga of married life) is also one. If one gives a serious thought to it, one would realize that raising a family is indeed a very important, but relatively simple form of yoga. Even then the ‘siddhis’ (spiritual accomplishments) attained through its practice are in no way inferior than any other form of yoga. Infact, they are superior than the other 3. Grahastha Ashrama (Grahastha means Family, Ashrama means a place away from society where yogis live) fulfills the need of the other three Ashramas and lends support to them. In other words, all the other three Ashramas are meant to properly perform the Grahastha ashrama and make this stage of life peaceful and happy. Youngsters, in Brahmacharya Ashrama are asked to channelize their energies for self-improvement and observe abstinence only so that their upcoming grahastha Ashrama is energetic and resourceful.
Those who take up Sannyas (Give up every material desire) devote their energy to benefit others and try to bring peace and happiness to the world. But who are those ‘others’ and what is this ‘world’? These are different names of grahastha Ashrama only. On a weighing balance, all the three Ashramas or stages of life on one side would be balanced by the single grahastha Ashrama on the other. If grahastha Ashrama gets disorganized or destabilized, the other three ashramas would also not survive in this world.
Religious scriptures have prescribed that raising a family is a very important duty of every human being. It is written that the soul of a person who has no offspring has to go to hell and he cannot attain peace without his offspring praying for his moksha or freedom. It is also written that without giving birth to a child, one can never repay the debt of his parents and all the love they showered upon him. There are several such beliefs prevalent in the Indian culture. The real meaning behind them is :
It is abiding for all to raise a family, provide a good future to his child and contribute to the welfare of the society.
One often wonders as to what is the main reason for such importance of grahastha Ashrama? When an analysis is done it can be understood that raising a family is indeed a divine yogic practice which helps in evolution of the self as well as the society. It leads one to heaven, helps in breaking worldly ties and attaining self-realization.Most of the revered rishis (Indian sages, scientists of spirituality) were married and had their families. Rishi Vashishtha had one hundred sons, Sukanya was the wife of Rishi Chyavan. Though there were a few exceptions who had taken up sanyasa at a matured age, but almost all other rishis raised families and lived with them. They performed all their penance in grahastha Ashrama and attained self-realization while being with their families.
Lord Krishna, the supreme master of yoga raised a family and so did Lord Shiva, the presiding deity of yoga.
In olden times it was common to grow long hair, remain unclothed and sit on animal skin for Sadhna/Yogic practice. People had to live in small cottages in villages.
Creating and raising a happy family is in fact a very natural, important and available-to-all yogic path of self-development. Till a boy lives alone, his concept of self remains limited to just himself. He only thinks about feeding and clothing himself, and about his studies, his games and his own happiness. His entire work-field remains confined to just himself. When he marries his circumference of self expands. He begins to think about his wife’s happiness and comfort. He begins to fulfill the needs of his wife while even compromising on his own comforts and wishes. He spends his energy to help and serve his wife, and make her happy. This just means that his conception of self now expands to two individuals from one. Then a baby arrives. The man now has to put so much selfless attention in serving the child’s needs and his all-round development that he forgets about his personal needs and tries to meet all the child’s requirements.
Thus the circumference of his self expands from two to three. If father brings sweets at home, he doesn’t eat them but distributes them to his children. He accepts hardship but gives full attention to his children’s health, education and happiness. Day-by-day he begins to establish control over his selfish ways, learns self-control and begins to regard his wife, children and relatives etc as a part of himself. This way indeed he progresses on the path of self-development.
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Lord Manu (In Hindu mythology, the gods created Manu, the first man, who gave life to all humans ) has said, “A ‘complete human being’ is a man along with his wife and child. Till this does not happen he remains an incomplete, undeveloped man.”
Just as it is not possible to gain admission in a college without passing the entrance exam, similarly without grahastha Ashrama it is very difficult to get to the next stage or Ashrama ie. Sannyasa. The concept of “Self” expands from a single individual to two as husband-wife, then with a child into three and then into relatives and neighbors, into society, into village, region, state, nation and finally into the whole world. The entire humanity gradually begins to embrace this sphere of own self. The progress that started from one to two in Grahastha Ashrama culminates into the realization that there is one’s own soul that is spread in the whole world, one divine light of Supreme Soul that permeates the entire cosmos. With the arrival of wife man learns to control his selfishness, with children the self-control matures further and slowly man learns to master his selfishness completely.
The practice of forgetting oneself for others gradually gets so evolved that nothing remains “mine”, everything becomes “ours”.
Poetic renditions of ‘I find nothing as mine, all belongs to Thee’ begins to resonate in the heart.
When ‘I’ dissolves, only ‘Thou’ remains. The basic and convenient practice of Grahastha Yoga in its evolved state results in the conversion of the individual soul into the Supreme Soul. The bounded soul gets rid of its incompleteness, attains perfection and the true purpose of yoga is met.