Ashram Dharma
conceived by Srila BP Puri Maharaj
compiled by Sripad BB Bhagavat Maharaj

Reference: GAUDIYA weekly
13 year, 47th issue, 6 July 1935

The inner nature of human beings differ - one from another. To adjust different people in an extremely organised and harmonised social system so as to give them a chance to develop spiritual consciousness in a gradual process, the varnashrama [social orders according to one's activity and qualification] system has been recommended. From time immemorial, this system has been established in Sanatan Vedic Religion. We can find much evidence of the existence of this system in authorised scriptures such as Vedas, Mahabharata, Srimad Bhagavatam, etc.

To describe briefly, there are four varnas [castes] - namely, brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya and shudra. The four ashramas [social status] are brahmacharia [the celibate student life], garhasthia [the married household life] varnaprastha [retired life] and sannyasa [the renounced order of life]. Every caste has its specific duties and requires training and qualification to perform the duty properly.

The duties of the brahmana is to study and teach; worship and help others to worship as a priest; give in charity and accept the same from others. He needs the following qualifications:

  • sama - equilibrium of the mind;
  • dama -- sense control;
  • tapa -- austerity;
  • soucham -- cleanliness;
  • santosha -- satisfaction;
  • kshanti -- peacefulness;
  • arjavam -- straight forwardness and simplicity;
  • jnanam -- knowledge;
  • daya -- mercy;
  • achyutatmatam -- remembrance of Lord Krishna;
  • satyam -- truthfulness.

A true kshatriya needs the following qualifications:

  • souryam -- enthusiasm in battlefield;
  • viryam -- not to be defeated or embarrassed;
  • dhriti -- patience, not to be sad even in danger;
  • tejah -- smartness to defeat or overwhelm others;
  • tyaga -- charity;
  • atmajaya -- not to be overwhelmed by bodily needs
  • such as hunger, thirst, etc.;
  • kshama -- tolerance of others faults;
  • brahmanyata -- devotion to brahmanas;
  • prashada -- happiness;
  • satyam -- truthfulness.

    Their duties areadministration and the protection of the society.
To become a sincere businessman, the following qualities are needed:
  • deva-guru-achyute bhakti -- having devotion to the Deva, to the spiritual master and to the Supreme Lord Vishnu.
  • trivarga pariposhanam -- following the way of dharma, artha, kama -- religiosity, earning money and sense gratification.
  • Astikyam -- having faith in the words of the Vedas and of the spiritual master.
  • Nityam udyamah -- repeated endeavour to earn money.
  • Naipunyam -- expertise in business.

    The duty of the Vaishya is business, agriculture and cow protection.

Shudra needs the following qualities:

  • Samnati -- humility and respect for aforementioned three classes
  • Soucham [purity] - cleanliness and purity.
  • Seva -- serving the spiritual master without duplicity.
  • Amantrajagna -- different sacrifices without mantra
  • Asteyam -- honesty
  • Satyam -- speaking the truth
  • Go-vipra rakshanam -- protection and
  • Maintenance of cows and brahmanas

    Their duty is to serve the aforesaid three varnas.

Any sincere woman from any family should serve her husband with all attention and help him to perform his specific duties. She must try to cultivate the following activities:

  • santustha - satisfaction [one who is satisfied]
  • alolupa -- greedlessness for sensual enjoyment
  • daksha -- expert and tirelessness in householder duties
  • dharmajna -- learned in religious principles
  • priyasatyabak -- speaking the pleasing truth
  • apramatta -- always careful to serve her husband
  • suchi -- purity and cleanliness of body and mind
  • snigdha -- affectionate

Except and all these orders there are other mixed castes (varna-sankara), in the society and they must perform their specific duty as did their predecessors. However, they must refrain from any and all sinful activities even if they be prevalent in the appointed society. For example, a Rajaka [who washes cloth] must wash clothes following in the footsteps of the previous rajakas, but following their footsteps, he must not drink wine.

Those who are not inclined to fall into any of the aforementioned social positions are called antevasayina, an outcast who lives away from society. If these people are not stealing or doing sinful activities, then they are also useful in Vedic society.

Brahmacharia lives in a Gurukula [a school of the guru] and learns to serve his Gurudeva. He should give up all luxuries and with a controlled mind and senses, study the Vedic scriptures at Sri Gurudeva's lotus feet. The male off-spring of Brahman, kshatriya and vaishya castes are qualified to enter the Gurukula.
If, after completion of his studies, the student desires to enter into householder life, then with the permission from his Gurudeva, he should go back to his house and marry a girl who is from the same caste and younger in age. Then he will have to execute properly, the duties of the householder life. All the four castes can enter into household life. A grihastha must maintain all the other three ashramas. When his children are fully grown, around the age of fifty, he must then take vanaprastha order of life, retiring from the household.
In vanaprastha-ashrama (retired life) one must stay away from the household. His wife can stay with him and both of them have to perform austerities to purify the body and mind. Brahman, kshatriya and vaishya have the right to accept this order.
After following vanaprastha ashrama, only the brahman has the right to take sannyas ashrama [renounced order]. He should not stay more than three days in any town, nor more than one day in any village. A sannyasi should not give initiation to any unqualified persons, should not make a livelihood by explaining the scriptures and he should not make a very big organization which can hinder his devotional practices. He must maintain himself by begging and worship the Lord always within his heart.
This social system is described in Srimad Bhagavatam 7th and 11th Cantos in more detail. But Lord Krishna has described to Uddhava:

griham vanam bopaviset prabrajedba dvijottaman
ashramadashramam gacchet na anyatha amat
parah charet

SB 11.17.38

"If one is sakama [having material desires], then from brahmacharia ashrama he must enter into household life. If he does not have such desires, then, he may enter into renounced life. A niskama [having no material desires] brahmana must take sannyas. Otherwise, everyone should follow the gradual progress in social orders [from brahmacharia to grihastha, etc.]. Unless one is my devotee, he should not remain without an ashrama nor should one reverse the order of the ashramas [from vanaprastha to grihastha, etc.]."

Amat parah anyatha na chavet - those who are not my devotee [amatparah], they should not invert or violate the order or live without it, varnashramatita.. In his famous Bhavarthadipika commentary, Srila Sridahra Swami clarifies this point as Lord Krishna wanted to say that, for his devotees, varnashrama order is not necessary. On the other hand, we see that the Lord said in Bhagavad-gita that, "I myself created this varnashrama system according to qualities and activities." [BG 4.18] and also in the same gita he says:

sreyan svadharmo bigunah paradarmatssranusthitat
BG 3.35 and BG 18.47

"It is better to follow one's own prescribed religion even in an imperfect way, than to perform another's religious duties." We have to consider these two different opinions which seems contradictory even though they are not. If we consider the word sva - own dharma or religious duty. As long as we are in the material world, the world of exploitation, we consider the body and those related to the body as sva - our own and a struggle for existence. So this varnashrama dharma facilitates this struggle and keeps harmony in the society. This is called "Adaiva varnashrama" which is made for material minded people to promote them in the stage of naiskarma which focuses to devotional service. But the devotees of the Lord who get some faith by hearing harikatha are not compelled to follow such a system.
The ultimate goal of the human form of life is to serve the Lord with utmost sincerity [they know their real identity: sva means the spirit soul] whose inherent character is 'gopivartur padakamalayora dasadasanudasa' - serving Sri Krishna and karsna - the devotees of Sri Krishna. Then his sva-dharma is to serve] trying to reach that plane of dedication, the spiritual world, where everybody is a serving unit and there is no struggle for existence. These devotees are not compelled to follow this "adaiva-varnashrama" system. So, Lord Krishna tells in Bhagavad-gita 18.66;

Sarvadharman parityajya
mam ekam sharanam vraja,

'Give up all religious duties and only surrender unto Me.' However, as we have discussed earlier, just by taking shelter at the lotus feet of Sri Guru, in that primary stage, it is not possible to reach the paramahansa level in a moment. Even after collecting some sraddha - faith - and accepting a bona fide spiritual master, one's material desires still exist, although he is not compelled to follow varnashrama. Lord Krishna gave the following instruction in Srimad Bhagavatam 11.20.27-28:
"One who has got sraddha of hearing my pastimes and becomes disturbed by the miserable material enjoyments, but is unable to give up such activities immediately, he must serve Me with strong faith and at the same time, enjoy the material objects with a mood of hatred or reluctantly in the mood of expected satiation and the realization that 'the material world holds no further charm for me.'

This is the point where another kind of varnasharama is indicated, namely, the daiva-varnashrama system. This is the necessity of the devotee community to progress in spiritual life

Srimad Bhagavad-gita and Padma Purana explain that of the devotees of Lord Vishnu - daiva-sarga [divine creation], and others - adaiva-sarga [demoniac creation], the daiva-varnashrama is designed specifically for the daiva-sarga. Those who are devotees of the Supreme Lord Krishna and who take initiation from the bona fide Spiritual Masters are not to be compelled to follow the social caste and creed. The Spiritual Master will understand the devotee's qualification and tendencies and then accordingly, will select an appropriate position and duty to fill to the optimum possibility, that devotee's capacity for spiritual service and progress and simultaneously, the needs of the spiritual society or the devotee community. If someone contains all the qualities of a brahmana and is very much interested to serve Lord Vishnu and His devotees and he is engaged in administration or business, which are prescribed for the kshatriya and the vaishya respectively, then surely it will bring chaos in the society [thus the shloka in BG 3.35 & 18.47].
On the other hand, even if someone is initiated and following the Vaishnava rules and regulations yet is a shudra by nature, if he takes the sannyas order which is only reserved for a qualified brahmana, he will not be able to maintain the standard and dignity of that ashrama and will fall down from that platform in due course or will transgress the rules and regulations engaging in adulteration and sinful activities even while in the garb of a sannyasi or he will use the sannyas dress only as a means of livelihood. Such adulteration will make a mockery of the devotee community.
Srila Prabhupada wanted to establish the daiva-varnashrama system where all the four varnas and ashramas perform their specified duties. After second initiation, one gets the sacred thread but it does not mean that there will be only brahmanas in the devotee society. Along with the daiva-brahmanas, there are daiva-kshatriyas, daiva-vaishyas and daiva-shudras. According to Srimad Bhagavatam 7.11.82, wherever we can find the symptoms of a particular caste, we have to specify his duty accordingly.
According to our daiva-varnashrama system, daiva-brahmanas can be identified with the following symptoms:
They have an inherent tendency to serve Lord Vishnu with unadulterated devotional service in the form of hearing, chanting, etc., with humility and tolerance of the standard of trinad api sunichena. Always engaged in hearing Chaitanya-vani, the message of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu from the lotus lips of Sri Guru with utmost attention and chanting with simplicity and surrender. They accept and follow the teachings of the Spiritual Master and at the same time, they try to preach also without desiring material benefit, enjoyment and fame. They are serving the message [vani] of Sri Hari-Guru-Vaishnava such as publishing, giving lectures, etc.

Actually the principal symptom - svarupa-lakshana - of a spiritual brahmana is the tendency to serve the vani [message] with simplicity. Other symptoms are secondary [tatastha] and always follows the first one. The spiritual brahmanas formerly in Srila Prabhupada's time, were given the titles of battadisheka, acharya, upadeshaka, etc., just like material-minded brahamanas who also have six-fold activity, worship the ultimate goal [paramarthi yajan]. Yajan - to help others to worship the same, studying scriptures related to spiritual matter and teach others the same, give charity in the form of harikatha and accept donations for serving the Vaishnavas.
One of the prominent differences between the smartha brahmanas and the spiritual brahmanas is that the smartha brahmanas accept donation for their own enjoyment, whereas the spiritual brahmanas never accept any donation for their own enjoyment.
We have the example of Sripad Narayanadas Bhaktibudhakara Prabhu [Prof. Nishi Kanta Sanyal] who never accepted a single Rupee for his own use. Srila Prabhupada blessed him with the titles, mahamahopadeshaka and acharya, which are reserved for a most qualified brahmana.. Mahamahopadeshaka used to beg to serve the Vaishnavas of Gaudiya Math who are completely engaged in serving Sri Guru. This is actually the profession of a spiritual brahmana [actually Srila Prabhupada used to consider them


Sripad Narayanadas Bhaktibudhakara Prabhu [Professor Nishi Kanta Sanyal whom Srila Sridhara Maharaj declared was the senior-most disciple of Srila Prabhupada Bahktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur] would send his entire paycheck to his Gurudev even though he had a family to support. He reasoned everything belongs to Guru & Krishna. Srila Prabhupada would have to cash the check and send back money with a bramachari to help Bhaktibudhakara Prabhu to maintain his family. He is most noted for his writings of "Vaishnavism: Real & Apparent", "Erotic Principles and Unalloyed Devotion" and two volumes of Chaitanya Bhagavat commentary called Sri Krishna Chaitanya [To be newly printed by Chaitanya-Mudrani Press this year].

as the crest jewels of the spiritual brahmanas, so he blessed them with that title, Mahamahopadeshaka, which literally means 'greatest among the great advisors' which is only reserved for the most qualified brahmanas] like Sripad Bhakti Saranga Prabhu [Srila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj]. Only a brahmana is eligible to take Tridandi Sannyas and even after becoming a sannyasi, still they have the duty to beg for Vaishnava-seva. Generally, the specific duty of a spiritual brahmana in the Math is to preach, to write, to advise and to give lecture.
Srila Prabhupada defined daiva-kshatriya with the following symptoms: They are not interested to do vani-seva but are more interested to organize the mission, to facilitate the service of the people from the different classes. Their inherent character is to rule over, to regulate and to maintain the devotees - and they are qualified to do so. To please Hari-guru and Vaishnavas, they always engage themselves to protect the mission, as well as to arrange everything perfectly. In order to administrate the mission, they cannot behave simply, but use different political policies so as to please somebody by words, or with some bribe, with punishment or to divide and rule.
These daiva-kshatriyas are not eligible to take sannyasa but the other three ashramas is meant for them. Srila Prabhupada used to bless them with the title of Matharakshaka - Guardian of the Math, etc.
The daiva-vaishyas in the spiritual community also have an important role. They are to be identified by the following qualities:

  • They are rich and are not able to surrender everything to the service of the spiritual Master, but they have a strong faith and are interested in maintenance of the preaching mission.
  • They use their money to construct new temples or repair old ones.
  • Instead of enjoying all the earnings for their own purposes, they use a portion of that wealth for the service of Hari-Guru and Vaishnavas without duplicity.

Srila Prabhupada used to give them the title of Shastarga, a well-behaved businessman.

The position of the daiva-shudras is also there in the spiritual society. They are to be identified by the following qualities:

  • They make a show of taking initiation, but are not at all interested or qualified to do any of the services which are recommended for a brahmana, kshatriya or vaishya in the spiritual society.
  • They always have duplicity, materialistic desires and ignorance. They are lacking the unadulterated faith in Guru and the Vaishnavas.
  • Although they are not completely against Hari-Guru and Vaishnava, still they are sluggish in their service. They are lacking in the serving temperament to them. Whatever so-called service they perform, that is also mixed with duplicity and is intended to fulfil their material desires.

The position of these kinds of devotees in the spiritual society is very precarious unless they give up their material desires and duplicity. Even so, there is every chance of falling down even from that position and becoming an outcast - a member of the Gunda Society and will oppose the Vaishnavas. They will give up all the regulative principles and dive into mere ignorance.

The status which is above any varna and any ashrama is called the paramaahansa stage. We can classify it as daiva and adaiva [social] paramahansa. Actually, adaiva-paramahansa is an absurd term which has no real existence. But to differentiate the real paramahansa, we make such a classification. In the society we can find many karmis [fruitive workers], yogis [mystic yoga practitioners], tapaswi [austere sadhus], chitjara-saranvayabadi [those who want to harmonize the material and ritual phenomenon with the theory that 'every path takes us to the same goal'], imitationists and egocentric rascals who make a show and imitate the real paramahansa. The materialistic society worships them as real paramahansas and gives support to the philosophy which satisfies and supports material desires and concocted mental ideas. This king of paramahansa are adaiva or asura [demoniac].
But on the other hand, the real devotees of the Lord can easily recognize an asura paramahansa and a real daiva-paramahansa. The real paramahansa is also known as a bhagavata paramahansa because their symptoms have been described in Srimad Bhagavatam. Although these paramahansas are above any rules or duties of any varna or ashrama, still, for the preaching mission, they accept brahminical duties and the dress of the sannyas ashrama. Their position is not minimized due to this.

The devotee women of any devotee society must follow all the rules and regulations of devotion and help their devotee father [if unmarried] or their husband [if they are married] to perform devotional services. They also have the chance to serve Sri Guru according to their ability. Those ladies who are not anymore interested in family life and want to devote their whole time in the service of Sriman Mahaprabhu, Srila Prabhupada recommended the following:

"Our Maths are being built at many places, and many sannyasis, vanaprasthas, grihasthas and brahmacharis are living there all the time and receiving the opportunity to learn spiritual conduct. But we have been trying for a long time to also give the Mothers [women] the opportunity for devotional service. Of course, those who have the facility and opportunity for devotional service in their own homes do not need a separate residence. But very often we hear that many of them get impeded in their devotional service due to bad association. It will be very beneficial for them if we can build Sri Vishnu Priya Palli in Sridham Mayapur near the residence of Sriman Mahaprabhu, and if they can live there separately from their families and render devotional service. They actually belong to the group of Vishnu Priya Devi [wife of Sriman Mahaprabhu] who was left behind in Navadwip Dham when the Lord took sannyasa. Therefore, it is proper for them to line in the House of Sriman Mahaprabhu and to serve Him under the shelter of Sri Vishnu Priya Devi. There should not be any bad association or mundane male association for them there; only a few devotees like Ishan [the old devotee servant who took care of Mother Saci Devi and Sri Vishnu Priya Devi after Sriman Mahaprabhu left] would stay at a distance and take care of them. It is necessary to have an exemplary neighbourhood so that the Mothers can read scripture every day, discuss devotional topics with each other and have ishtha-goshthi about devotional topics in order that they can give up all aspirations for luxury and live an exemplary, saintly life always chanting the Holy Name and caring for the details of Sriman Mahaprabhu's service, serving Him in every way."


Sri Vishnu Priya Palli - an ashrama of impeccable standards for serious women devotees interested in pursuing a life of Krishna-bhajan

Bramacharia, grihastha, vanaprastha, sannyasa, and paramahansa is not a competition with the smartha section; everyone should not aspire for brahmana.


The prime duty of a brahmachari is to serve the Spiritual Master with strong Vaishnava faith and without duplicity. After initiation, he must follow all Vaishnava etiquette and observe extreme cleanliness. There should be no luxury in his life-style. He has to always live in the ashrama of Sri Guru and work for that ashrama according to his ability. He has to maintain complete control over his senses and remain celibate. Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur in Chaitanya Shikshamrita recommended that there are two principal activities for brahmacharis: to study scripture and to travel [and preach] which assist the brahmacharis in remaining fixed mentally on the goal, i.e., to cultivate Krishna Consciousness. A brahmachari should not travel on his own whims, but following the order of his Gurudev, a devotee brahmachari can go to help the preaching programme along with the devotee group. There must be a senior brahmachari or a sannyasi as the leader and all others have to follow his guidance. While on preaching tours, there should be regular classes and kirtan and ishtha-goshthi where the preaching party leader has to take the role of Shiksha-guru, the instructing Spiritual Master. Srila Prabhupada used to send a sannyasi who is capable of guiding others as the preaching tour leader and the brahmacharis as his assistants There were brahmachari servants for every sannyasi on the preaching programme so that there was no need of luxury. The devotees must cook their own bhoga [food] and avoid anything cooked by others. On purnima, they must all be shaved. Sometimes in the name of yukta-vairagya or Vaishnavism, devotees may indulge in sense gratification which is the worst kind of hypocrisy.
A brahmachari must study diligently the scriptures under the guidance of and direct help of the Guru or a senior devotee who is already conversant in these scriptures and who is engaged by the Spiritual Master to teach other devotees. In our time, Sripad Bhakti Pradipa Tirtha Maharaj, who was a teacher in his previous life, used to teach the brahmacharis. If anyone was not prepared, he used to hit them with a small stick as a symbolic gesture. If he asked, 'What is the Seventh Nama-Aparadha?' And then the brahmachari remained silent, out came the stick. But such an affectionate chastisement was sweeter than thousands of glorifications.

In a big preaching mission, if it is not possible for the Spiritual Master to look after every brahmachari in meticulous detail, still, the brahamachari must be given a chance to live in close proximity to Srila Gurudeva. Seeing the brahmachari's intuition and qualifications, Gurudeva will give him the appropriate service. If the devotee is having more brahminical character, then he should be given seva [service] and training commensurate with those capabilities. ONLY THE SPIRITUAL MASTER HAS THE RIGHT TO TRANSFER OR CHANGE THE SERVICE OF A BRAHMACHARI, or to put him under the guidance of another expert devotee. If others try to control the brahmachari as his own servant, it will minimize the position of his Gurudeva. The brahmacharis should be provided with nutritious prasadam, simple clothes, and their residence should be located in a separate portion of the Math where their privacy will be maintained. A brahmachari must never be allowed to live alone in solitary quarters, and there must not be any contact with either the opposite sex or other materialistic persons. More specifically, the brahmacharis should not even be allowed to mix with householder men as much as is possible because of their as yet, uncharted conviction to brahmachari celibate life. It is also preferable not to engage a new brahamachari in administrative duties because it may spoil his spiritual life. When the brahmachari is sent out for preaching, distributing books and collecting alms, there must be at least two devotees together. The Math authority must remember that these brahmacharis have come to save themselves from the influence of the material waves of the outside world and so, our responsibility is to provide the proper protection necessary to maintain their celibate life-style.
As is recorded in Srimad Bhagavatam 11.17.33:

"For one to just to refrain from gross sexual intercourse is not in the slightest to be considered as true celibate life."

There are eight kinds of sexual pleasure described in the scriptures which must not be permitted in the candidate wanting to practice the true brahmacharia, vanaprashtha and sannyas:

Darshana -- to glance over the opposite sex with the enjoying appetite.
Sparshana -- to touch the opposite sex with lust aforethought.
Keli -- to play with the opposite sex.
Rahasyam -- to stay together with the opposite sex in a solitary place.
Guhya-brashanam -- to speak with the opposite sex in solitude.
Samkalpa -- to determine or plan mentally to enjoy the opposite sex.
Adhyarasa -- to make endeavour for the success of that mental plan.
Kriya-nirvity -- to take pleasure in intercourse.


There are two kinds of householders in the spiritual society. One kind joins Krishna Consciousness while already engaged in householder life; another kind are those who join as brahmacharia in the Guru's mission and afterwards, become householders. Without marriage, there should be no illicit relationship between man and woman. And once married, there is no system of divorce in the Vedic Sanatan religion.
We have to consider the situation carefully. When a brahmachari wants samavartara [the sanskara for getting entrance into household life], he is more than less trying to enjoy the fruits of his pious activities and relinquishes his strict vows to his Gurudeva. In such a stage, the devotee is more interested to become independent from the Guru and not follow the minute-by-minute guidance of Gurudeva, the acharya. Srila Prabhupada's idea was that they should marry a girl from their previous caste and social status and younger in age. According to Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur, those who are marrying girls from other castes, in the name of Vaishnavism, are not to be considered as grihastha. They are merely sense-enjoyers. Of course, this caste system is mostly prominent in India, but the Western devotees must also arrange matrimony according to their previous social status among Western society. However, such hard and fast rules are not always applicable but they should be given a chance not to deviate from spiritual practice [sadhana] and so, gradually come up to the standard of complete surrender. Otherwise, if he or she is forced by rules and regulations of caste-marrying traditions against his will and even capacity, it may inspire him to run after his desire in such a way that he will fall into more darkness.
Those grihasthas who come to Krishna Consciousness already in the grahashtha ashrama - after that initiation they are not compelled to follow the adaiva-varnashram any further. They are now qualified to enter the daiva-varnashram system. Now the problem may arise that the wife and children and social relationships with different relatives may cause some difficulty in this transition. Then, in such a case, he must try to make his family also devotees within the daiva-varnashram system. And his occupation should be shukla-vritti, free from sinful activities. Whenever he wants to relate to other families, i.e., marriage, etc., he must try to make these relationships among devotee groups avoiding the bindings of the formalities of his previous caste and social group. But unnecessary disturbance of the smartha society is also not our purpose. Therefore, this course of action should be taken unless such an endeavour causes great resistance.
Mahaprabhu recommended for Vaishnava grihasthas three things:


Archan is necessary for the grihastha. At the same time, he should try to serve any guest, especially Vaishnavas. The grahastha-ashram has special responsibilities to maintain the other three ashramas. But they should not develop any pride that they are the maintainers or providers for those ashramas. Any grihastha has a duty to support the mission of his Spiritual Master. And he must do it according to his capacity. According to Srila Prabhupada's idea, the grihastha devotee cannot make any disciples, but he has the right to preach Mahaprabhu's message. The grhastha ashram is meant for the development of material detachment and it is not a permanent arrangement for one's spiritual life. Srimad Bhagavatam 7.14. 3, 4, 8, 11, 12 says:
"Grihastha devotees must from time to time, have sat-sangha. In that sangha he must hear the avatar-katha of the Lord. While hearing sincerely, he will slowly be able to give up attachment for his own body, his wife and children. Such as an awakened person remembers his dream but he is no longer attached or entrapped by that dream, to its happiness nor its miseries. The grihastha should not run after money but he should be happy with whatever he will get and try to develop his spiritual consciousness. He is entitled to as much money as is necessary to feed himself and his family. If he wants more for his own comfort, he is a thief and he needs punishment. The grihastha has the responsibility to maintain celibacy except from time to time when he has a license to associate with the wife, traditionally once a month, ritugaminah. Atithi-seva, serving the guests, is one of the principal duties of the true grihashtha. Even he must engage his wife to serve the guests, neglecting his own comforts, he should engage thoroughly. The man can give up his own life, he can even kill his own Father or Spiritual Master for women. If one grihastha can give up the attachment to that wife due to his extreme devotion, then with that devotion, even the Supreme Lord becomes conquered by him. According to Srila Prabhupada's idea of daiva-varnashrama, every Krishna Conscious grihastha must try to make his son a tridandi-sannyasi. But if he sees that the sons are not willing to do that, then he must merely get them married in such a way as to become free from those responsibilities.


The grihastha has responsibility to his off-spring until they are married. Once married, he is relieved of his responsibility and must directly take to the vanaprastha ashrama. In that ashram, he can keep his wife with him or he can live without the wife. And if he keep the wife with him, she must be completely free from any chance of child-bearing. He can leave the charge of his wife to the eldest son if he wants to live in the Spiritual Master's Math [Ashram].
In the Vanaprastha ashram, tapasya [austerity] is one of the main criteria. In Krishna Consciousness, the tapasya is not so strong, but if coming from grihastha ashram, there is a necessity for enforced austerity because of a habitual lack of yukta-vairagya. He should not try to engage any of the ashram residents as his personal servant. Rather, he must try to become their servant. They have to practice humility and celibacy just like a strict brahmachari. While serving the mission of his Spiritual Master with sincerity, he has to prepare himself for the sannyas ashram.


In Srimad Bhagavatam, there is information about the sannyas ashram. There are two types of sannyas; one is tridandi- sannyas; the other is parmamahansa sannyas. Only a brahmana can take tridandi-sannyas, with the exception that a paramahansa sannyas who was previously in the other three varnas - he can go to tridandi-sannyas in order to preach. Srila Prabhupada never wanted the sannyasi to stay in one place or to maintain a Math because, his duty was to travel and preach. Srila Prabhupada's conception of sannyas initiation was meant for those qualified preachers to become acharya. In the commentary of Chaitanya Bhagavat, Srila Prabhupada considered the sannyasis as the son of Mahaprabhu and other ashramas as his servants.

namas trikala satyaya jagannatha sutaya ca
saputraya savritaya sakalatraya te namah
CB 1.1.2

"I pay my obeisances to the son of Jagannath Mishra with all his associates like his sons, his servants and his wives."
So, Srila Prabhupada queries who was Mahaprabhu's sons? He had no seminal sons. So, Srila Prabhupada concludes that those great saints of the renounced order are his sons. The daiva-gunas, divine qualities of a sannyasi is explained by Sri Krishna in the Srimad Bhagavad-gita 16.1:
"There are three such qualities of sannyas:

  • One is abhayam, fearlessness. Srila Vishvanath Chakravarti Thakur commented that this means not to be afraid to live even in the jungle between the snakes and tigers without any help [guns, knives, explosives, or other human help - solitary].
  • The next quality is sattva-samsuddhi - the cleaning of the whole entity - holiness.
  • The third quality is jnana-yoga- viavasthitih - having proper knowledge of sambhanda, abhideya and prayojana, which actually and factually covers the whole of the knowledge of Gaudiya Vedanta.
Actually, an unqualified man should never be initiated. But for a sannyasi this adage is especially emphasized because he is forever traveling and coming in contact with different kinds of people whom he has known for only a short time. So, or him, there is need for extra precaution since he doesn't know the history of every person or their family, etc. But for a preacher, he can rely on those who are already ensconced in various preaching centres or Maths in each area. If a sannyasi preacher is the acharya of a big mission, then he has to make a lot of disciples, but he must remain careful not to cultivate the propensity to increase the quantity of Math members at the expense of the quality of the individual members and their bhajan. Srila Prabhupada wanted to stress more the quality than the quantity. He told us not to be disheartened if the rest of the world does not listen or accept the true siddhanta of Sriman Mahaprabhu. So, to please the masses, sannyasis should not try to dilute the philosophy or the regulative principles.
The inner nature of the sannyasi is that he is the servant of Sri Svarupa Damodar and Sri Rupa Goswami. So, their life and soul is to preach the doctrine of Sri Rupa and Sri Ragunnath. But inwardly, they are the maid-servants of the gopis -- gopi-kinkari. Every Gaudiya devotee is encouraged to aspire to come to this point, to this platform of surrender to Sri-Sri Rahda and Krishna, according to the teachings of Sri Chaitanyadev. The sannyasis, in the name of preaching, should not deny themselves, their own bhajan.


Is it [Daiva-Varnashrama system] in competition to the adiava-varnashram [smartha-varnashram]?

Srila Prabhupada:
It is not at all in competition with the smartha-varnashrama because the devotees want to do everything which is favourable for devotional service and conversely, they try to avoid that which is not favourable for devotional service. This posture predicates all the guidelines - orthodox or otherwise - of etiquette in the daiva-varnashrama system. Whereas the smartha-varnashrama always tends to favour enjoyments in the form of dharma, artha and kama. Ultimately, they aspire for Moksha - liberation. Whereas the devotees want to transcend these things entirely - dharma, artha, kama & moksha, and aspire for spontaneous loving service [prema-bhakti] to the Supreme Lord. As such, the ultimate goal is different. So it is a misnomer to consider them to be in competition with each other.


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