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Article C: The Householder and the Renunciate

"The grihastha too attains moksha; only he must follow strictly the dharma laid down for his ashrama. There is no doubt that every one, to whichever ashrama he may belong, who adheres to the dharma of that ashrama, will attain moksha." Sathya Sai Baba (grihastha: householder, moksha: enlightenment, ashrama: stage of life, dharma: duty, truth, religion, morality, justice, righteousness; that which binds; that without which something cannot exist)

It is often perceived that one must literally renounce all material possessions and retreat to the forest or mountains in order to follow the path of renunciation. Yet the Vedanta principles of nonattachment and selflessness apply to the path of the householder as well as the renunciate. Nonattachment does not necessarily relate to one's material possessions. A regal man can be nonattached to the most luxurious possessions of the world while a homeless man can be most profoundly attached to a blanket, his only possession in the world. Conversely, kings can be attached to riches while peasants can be nonattached to poverty.

Nonattachment deals with how one relates to material objects of the world, not necessarily the extent of one's material objects. Attachment leads to dependence upon objects or situations for happiness, whereas nonattachment leads to independence from objects and situations for eternal bliss. The path of renunciation allows one to approach nonattachment. Renunciation can be literal renouncement of material possessions with retreat to remoteness, or renunciation can be symbolic renouncement of material possessions in the midst of society.

A householder can perform action with devotion, with selflessness, and with righteousness. Performing action with these qualities and aligning with dharma both facilitate nonattachment even when material objects are the results of action. One's qualities, tendencies, and impressions from past action all contribute to one's duty in action. Donation of one's entire wealth and retreat to remoteness might even be harmful for one whose duty is not literal renunciation. One must search for the Divine within in order to orient one's actions with true duty. Following that true duty is a direct path to enlightenment.

East-West Counseling & Meditation -- Modern Psychiatry Integration -- Himalayan Philosophy -- Penn & Stanford Medicine
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