In your question you assume that an Indian Ashram means all the sannyasis, swamis, not householders. The sannyasis are there to pray for the householders: they don’t live for themselves, they don’t pray for themselves, they pray for everybody, the entire globe.  That’s why at the end of our programs we say, “Sarveshaam Swasthir Bhavathu, Sarveshaam Shanthir Bhavathu.”  “May all be peaceful, may all be happy.”  Not just, “May I be peaceful, may I be happy.”  There is no prayer like that. Sometimes I feel the translation of the Christian prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” doesn’t convey the proper understanding. Do you have to remind God to give you your daily bread?  When the baby comes out, does it say, “God, give me milk!”  No. Even before it comes out, God prepares milk. The baby doesn’t know that, the mother doesn’t know that, the father doesn’t know that.  Milk is being prepared for the baby. Who thinks of that?  God.  God knows what you want, what you need. You don’t have to ask God. So the Ashram people or sannyasis are renounced people; they have renounced everything for themselves; they are there to serve others. And the relationship of the householders is, while the sannyasis are serving, the householders are taking care of them.

Nowadays it’s all changed.  In those days, sannyasis didn’t even have a kitchen.  At midday, the householders would bring food for them. There was an interconnection. They took care of the sannyasis, the sannyasis took care of them. It is not that you are different, I am different, no.  In fact, again to quote Thiruvalluvar, he says, “Householder is better than Sannyasi.” Why? Sannyasis sometimes are trying to run away from problems. “I don’t want this.” That’s often how one becomes sannyasi at first.  But a householder has to take care of everything, sacrifice himself or herself for the sake of the family.  That’s what they learn.  Grihasta ashram means householder’s life. It’s a real education. He learns how to tolerate, how to accept, how to give, how to take care. So all the householders later on become swamis. This is the order: Brahmacharya, Grihasta, Vanaprasta, Sannyasa. There are four ashrams or levels: Brahmacharyauntil you marry you are a bachelor. You are a student. Then you marry, become a Grihasta, a householder. Then Vanaprasta, you give everything in the hands of the children, and spend your time in spiritual pursuits. And then at the end of that, you can even become Sannyasi. So they are all interconnected, they are not separate at all.


Swami Satchidananda

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