Ideals of Household Life

Hare Krishna Dear Vaishnavas,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev!

In Srimad Bhagavatam 7.14.2, Sri Narada Muni gives very nice instructions to Yudhisthir Maharaj on ideal family life and how householders should conduct their affairs:

śrī-nārada uvāca
gṛheṣv avasthito rājan kriyāḥ kurvan yathocitāḥ
vāsudevārpaṇaṁ sākṣād upāsīta mahā-munīn

Nārada Muni replied: My dear King, those who stay at home as householders must act to earn their livelihood, and instead of trying to enjoy the results of their work themselves, they should offer these results to Kṛṣṇa, Vāsudeva. How to satisfy Vāsudeva in this life can be perfectly understood through the association of great devotees of the Lord.

There are 4 very nice instructions given in this verse:

1. kriyāḥ kurvan - work has to be performed. Sometimes in neophyte mentality we think that devotional service means to give up our occupational duties. Such path is never recommended. Krishna in Bhagavad Gita 3.8 says niyatam kuru karma tvam - perform your prescribed duty. In the purport Srila Prabhupada comments, "work should not be given up capriciously, without purification of materialistic propensities."

2. yathocitāḥ - the work has to be performed as per scriptural injunction. Srila Gurudev says that this means that work has to be done earnestly and honestly.  

3. The results of the work has to be - vāsudeva arpaṇaṁ sākṣād offered unto Sri Krishna. 

4. This art of working as per scriptural injunctions and offering the results to Krishna can be learnt through upāsīta mahā-munīn - through the association of great devotees. 

From all the above points, the association of great devotees cannot be stressed enough. In Srimad Bhagavatam the historical account of the ten sons of Pracinabarhi, known as the Pracetas is given. The Pracetas underwent severe austerities for ten thousand years within the seawater to carry out the order of their father. By chanting and repeating the mantras given by Lord Shiva, they were able to please Lord Vishnu. When Lord Vishnu, thus satisfied, appeared before them and requested them to ask for any benediction, the Pracetas asked "tāvad bhavat-prasaṅgānāṁ saṅgaḥ syān no bhave bhave" "We pray that we may associate with those who are engaged in discussing Your pastimes. We pray for this benediction life after life.

It is interesting to know that 

1. even after ten thousand years of austerities and glorifying the Lord, when the Pracetas pleased the Lord, what still remained to be asked for was association of devotees even though the Lord made Himself available to them.

2. the Pracetas not only asked for any kind of devotee association. They specifically asked for association of devotees who are engaged in discussing the Lords' pastimes.

How does the above account of Pracetas relate to the original verse we are discussing? As discussed previously, results of work has to be offered to Krsna, otherwise work causes bondage. But one cannot offer someone anything with love and devotion unless and until he knows that person. The devotees of the Lord are always engrossed in talking about Krishna and describing His transcendental form, pastimes and qualities etc - "kathayantaś ca māṁ nityaṁ" - as such, in association of such devotees we also get the opportunity to hear the descriptions of the beautiful Lord, and thus we can come to know the supremacy and magnanimity of all attractive and merciful Lord. We also get an opportunity to serve such exalted devotees - "syān mahat-sevayā viprāḥ". By following their instructions, we naturally become attracted to the Lord and His pastimes. Anyone who becomes attracted to the Lord cannot help but dedicate his livelihood for Him. This is the result of serving and hearing from pure devotees who are engrossed in discussing the Krishnas' pastimes.  Thus the whole loop of working as per scriptural injunctions and dedicating the results of work with love and devotion to Krishna becomes complete. This is how a person in grhastha life can achieve perfection. The same cannot be said of a person who does not have attraction for hearing or studying Srimad Bhagavatam from devotees.

As such it is not surprising that in the very next verse Sri Narada instructs Yudhisthira Maharaj, "A Grhastha must associate again and again with saintly persons, and with great respect he must hear the nectar of the activities of the Supreme Lord and His incarnations as these activities are described in Srimad-Bhagavatam and other Puranas."

I pray unto the lotus feet of Srila Gurudev, Srila Prabhupada and all the devotees that I may always be attached to serving the devotees and by their mercy I may gain at least a little attraction for hearing the pastimes of the Supreme Lord who can relieve me from the results of work and material bondage.

Yours in service of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev,
Viraja Krsna das