The Eleven Stages of the Householder
Famous both in the fields of poetry and spiritualism, Pandit Banarsidas was a great poet and spiritual scholar of the seventeenth century.
He was born on Sunday, the eleventh day of the second half of Magh month, in the Shrimal dynasty at Laia Kharagsen’s house. He was then named Vikramjeet. When he was on a pilgrimage of Banaras. he was named Banarsidas, after the birth place of Bhagwan Parshwanath. He was the only son of his parents.
He saw many ups and downs in his life. He had to face financial difficulties many a time and his family life was also not very happy. He married thrice and had nine children, seven sons and two daughters, but none remained alive. He did not lose his patience even in such difficult circumstances, because he used to be absorbed in spiritual thinking.
He was a born poet. At the age of fourteen he began to compose verses of a high order, but in his early life he wrote verses on love and sex. His first work ‘Navras’ was ready when he was barely fourteen. This has poems of a corporeal nature. It was an important work on corporeal subjects. However, the poet threw it in the river Gomati, when spiritual wisdom dawned upon him.
After that all his life was full of spiritualism. Four works written after that are available e.g. Banarsi Vilas, Nam Mala, Ardha-Kathanak and Natak Samaysar.
Banarsi Vilas is a collection of different writings and Nam Mala is a poetic dictionary.
Ardha-Kathanak is the first autobiography of the Hindi language and is a fully developed work of art. The fifty-five years of the life of the poet have been described in it, as in a looking glass.
Natak Samaysar is, in a way, a poetic translation of the verses of Amritchandracharya. However, due to the keen insight of the poet, the study of this book gives delight as that of an independent work. This book is full of spiritualism.
This lesson has been prepared on the basis of the chapter ‘Fourteen Gunasthans’ of the Natak Samaysar. For detailed study one should read the original text.
The poet is unmatched both. in his poetic art and the pursuit of truth.
The Eleven Stages of the Householder
in the Fifth Scale of the Spiritual Development
Acharya Uma Swami has said that the combination of Right faith, Right knowledge and Right conduct is the path of liberation. The man having Right faith has developed correct belief and accordingly his knowledge has also become correct. Since he has developed partial stability of the soul, the path to liberation has begun, but this partial stability does not acquire the name of conduct as such. On this account such a being is in the fourth stage of development and is called Avirati householder.
The above householder of the fourth scale by dint of his effort develops endurance of the soul and reaches the fifth scale of his pursuit. That endurance is the partial conduct and one having that is the householder in the fifth scale. Thus, the stability that grows and the failing degrees of attachment are the real conduct of this scale. That stability has automatic softness of passions and that is the conventional scale or partial conduct of the fifth scale. The outward manifestation is in accordance with the real conduct. In fact that is not even conventional conduct, but it is called as such due to accompaniment of softness of passions.
Without the experience of the eternal sentient soul, the softness of passions alone and the outward activities are not the stage of development. The householder having the purity of the fifth scale alone can have these stages.
With Right faith and the matching stability of the fifth scale one has the partial conduct and intrinsically that is the stage of spiritual growth, which is not possible without self-experience.
Pandit Banarsidas has described the nature of the householder of the fourth scale in his Natak Samaysar. One who has developed faith in the correct nature of the soul, whose faith grows with time and who has developed partial detachment, is the householder of the fifth scale i.e. Avirati Samayakdrishti.
The gradual development of the spiritual experience in the absence of the second kind of passions i.e. Aprityakhyanavaran is the state of the fifth scale.
The householder of the fourth scale has the spiritual experience of the bliss associated with it, but the effort of being one with it has been weak. As such the experience does not appear oft and on and stays only for a short while. In this state he does not have leanings for the observance of the conduct rules. However, the person in the fifth scale has by his strong effort at stability in the absence of Aprityakhyanavaran passion, got such experience again and again and with swiftness and it stays for a longer period and detachment in the behaviour pattern increases. It is due to this that his attachment towards this world, his body, and the pleasures of senses decreases and he develops a natural indifference towards these. He has also got a tendency to abjure demerits and observe certain rules of conduct, by which a change in his external behaviour is very visible.
The Acharyas have divided the state of this internal and external purity in the different stages into eleven Pratimas, and have named the internal state of purity as the wave of consciousness and the accompanying merits and demerits as the karmawave.
The traveller on the path to liberation tries to increase the stability of the soul. Accordingly detachment increases and some attachment remains. The external manifestations of such a state is called the conventional conduct. He understands and measures the stability realising his background and recognising the rise and decrease of passions. He is not disturbed by the presence of the element of attachment and aversion, but tries .his best to minimise and control them and thus develop the desired stability: He knows that attachments and aversions are present and that such a state is due to his own weakness. These are the blemishes of his scale of development and he tries to remove them by his inner force.
It is possible for a person to have softness of passions and consequent external activities, without real faith, consciousness and stability; but it is not possible for a man following the path of development to have acquired the spiritual experience of that stage and yet to have such attachments and aversions and outside activities as are not befitting in these stages. This is the real and the conventional view point of these stages.
Now we take up the nature of these different stages
1. Darshan Pratima
Observance of the eight fundamental rules and renunciation of the seven addictions, as a matter of course, with internal purity and softness of passions are the characteristics of this Pratima. The eight fundamental rules are renunciation of wine, meat and honey and the five udambar fruit. The seven addictions are gambling, meat eating, drinking, prostitution, hunting, theft and indulgence in other women. These addictions have to be shunned totally. Right faith without any blemish is the purity of the attribute of faith. The purity of behaviour with the background of right faith is real Darshan Pratima and the concurrent natural softness of passions and external behaviour is conventional Darshan Pratima.
According to Acharya Samant Bhadra five Anuvartas are also observed in Darshan Pratima. Pandit Jaichandji Chhabra clarifies this as below :-
“Some sacred books hold that eight fundamentals are the observance of five Anuvartas and abjuring wine, meat and honey. This does not mean any contradiction. The difference is only relative. Abjuring wine, meat and honey and the five udamber fruits means that the person holding this Pratima does not eat those things, which have moving creatures and does not kill or injure moving creatures for offerings to gods or for purposes of medicine. This covers the Anuvarat of non-violence and renouncing untruth, theft and indulgence in women cover seven addictions. Abjurement of strong greed has been covered by limiting possessions. Thus all the five Anuvarats are covered. Since the mistakes in observance of these are not avoided, the person does not hold the title of Anuvarat. However, considering his observances he is an Anuvarati, as it is included in partial householder’s conduct.”
2. Vrat Pratima
The purity and detachment of the first Pratima increase in intensity in the second Pratima, where lower type of attachments are not found and so the follower treats these as rules of life. The purity and behaviour befitting the second Pratima is the real Pratima and the twelve observances by way of softness of passions are conventional Pratima.
3. Samayak Pratima
By virtue of greater steadiness in spiritual inclinations, the person of the third Pratima holds equanimity of mind and body, leaning towards one’s soul, contemplates on the soul supreme thrice a day for forty eight minutes, at least, each time, and treats friends and foes as equal, leaving inauspicious reflections and retaining all the attention in the supreme glory of the spirit. This householder having greater experience of the bliss of the spirit, externally develops greater detachment.
Only sitting in loneliness for forty-eight minutes and reciting certain verses does not mean real contemplation, which, in fact, is the developed equilibrium and sentience qualities.
4. Proshadhopvas Pratima
When the state of contemplation continues at least for twelve hours and may last for twenty-four hours, the person is said to be observing the fourth Prashadhopvas Pratima. The person in this stage is one with the soul for a greater period than that of the previous one and consequently he observes fast at least on every eighth and fourteenth day of the month abjuring all sinful activities. His attachment towards world, body and pleasures has become less and as such he resolves to fast abandoning food etc.
The fast on these four days does not suffice for the growth of this stage and fast is not abjuring food only. The real fast is abandoning passion, pleasures of senses and food; the rest is starvation.
5. Sachitta Tyaga Pratima
Leanings towards the soul in the fifth stage are stronger than in the fourth stage. Attachments are decreasing gradually. He does need food to keep the body and soul together, but abandons food that means injury or destruction of living creatures, and takes boiled water. The intrinsic purity of the fifth stage is the real Pratima, while the merit and softness of passions associated with it and abandoning food entailing killing of creatures is the conventional observance thereof.
Vegetables having the capacity to grow again are included in Sachitta (having life).
6. Diva Maithun Tyaga Pratima
The purity necessary for the development in this stage is the real sixth Pratima, while external renunciation is the conventional one. In the second Pratima the follower had resolved to be satisfied in his spouse only. Now the attachment grows still less and he observes celibacy on all the days and nights of the eighth and fourteenth days of the month and resolves not to entertain such evil thoughts. Acharya Samant Bhadra has called this Pratima as Ratribhukti Tyaga Pratima also. Even an ordinary householder does not take his meals during the night, but the follower in this stage stops taking all the four kinds of food himself, does not ask others to do so, and does not give his assent for such indulgence.
7. Brahmacharya Pratima
His assimilation of the soul having been increased, the holder of the seventh stage has developed more detachment and he follows celibacy throughout day and night with nine enforcements and does not allow his mind to run away from the resolution. Such a householder is called a great conduct-holder.
8. Arambha Tyaga Pratima
The natural purity of this stage is the real Pratima, while indifference towards this world, body, and the pleasures of senses that come, by way of lessening of the fury of attachments and the abandoning of external indulgence in householders’ affairs, is the conventional following thereof. More devoted to the pursuit of the soul, he abandons all trade and commerce and other sinful occupations e.g. doing written work, fighting, agriculture and trade of all kinds.
9. Parigraha Tyaga Pratima
The real growth of this stage lies in the consequent purity of the soul, and the abandoning of all the ten kinds of possessions, retaining a few necessary articles only, is conventional Pratima. The holder of this Pratima is full of detachments, satisfaction and equilibrium and other auspicious attributes.
10. Anurnati Tyaga Pratima
The purity of demeanour has again developed to a very great extent in the tenth stage, which is real following of the same, while withholding assent in the matter of marriage, trade and other household entanglements of his own family and friends is the conventional observance. This householder is held in great esteem.
11. Uddishta Tyaga Pratima
This is the last stage of the householder’s development on the path of the spirit. Such a householder is of two kinds e.g. Chullak andEtak, the last one being the higher stage, after which the householder accepts rnonkhood.
The spirit of detachment here is greater than in previous stages and the state of detachment comes off and on and lasts for a longer period. This internal purity and behaviour are the real observance, while the external merit and softness of passions are the conventional; following which induce the follower to abandon food etc. prepared for his sake.
The follower here develops greater indifference towards the world and the physical aspects of life. The householder just like a monk, at this stage abjures food prepared for his sake and does so with all his mind, body and speech and does not encourage anyone else also to do so for his sake. He moves freely leaving his home and family connections.
The Elak leaves all worldly possessions except a loin-cloth and water-can, while the Chullak still having more attachment retains a piece of cloth for covering his body partially, gets himself shaved by the barber and keeps some sort of utensil for taking meals.
The monk experiences the bliss of his soul at least within forty-eight minutes, which is the emblem of his spiritual development and the observance of the twenty-eight rules of conduct and the physical activities associated with it are the conventional observance of the monkhood. Likewise the householder of the fifth grade has concurrent detachment and spiritual experience, though not so often as in the case of a monk and that is the real following of the Pratima, while softness of passion as prescribed in the spiritual texts for such a. holder is the conventional fifth Pratima. Being associated with real growth of the soul, these physical activities are also called conventional Pratimas.
Persons having the external acceptance of the conditions of these Pratimas only, will call for bondage due to wrong faith. Along with, the softness of passion, that is there, he will invite merit bondage also, by which he becomes entitled to heavenly lives but cannot end the worldly existence.
This development of the eleven Pratimas is according to the rule of the retention of purity of the first in the next stage. The purity in the higher stage increases invariably without discarding that achieved in the previous stage. Holders of the first to the sixth Pratimasare the lowest, those in the seventh, eighth and the ninth stage are the medium stage, while the holders of the tenth and the eleventh Pratimas are the best holders of these.