Householder Life

Grihastha or Grihamedhi?

Another expression for “getting married” is “entering the grihastha-asrama.” Srila Prabhupada said: “Asrama means something in connection with God. That is called asrama. So grihastha-asrama means one may live with family, children, wife, children, friends – that’s all right. Live. Whatever life is suitable for you, you accept. But you. . . cultivate Krishna consciousness.” (Lecture on SB 7.5.22-30, London, 8 September 1971)

But simply getting married doesn’t guarantee that your home will be a true asrama, a genuine place of spiritual cultivation:

“In the revealed scriptures there are two nomenclatures for the householder’s life. One is grihastha, and the other is grihamedhi. The grihasthas are those who live together with wife and children but live transcendentally for realizing the ultimate truth. The grihamedhis, however, are those who live only for the benefit of the family members, extended or centralized, and thus are envious of others.” (SB 2.1.2, purport)

Srila Prabhupada expands on this idea in a lecture:

“There are two words, grihamedhi and grihastha . . . Grihamedhi means he has made his center the wife and family. Just like one cow is . . . tied with the rope and with a fixed-up wood, and he is going round this way, and he is thinking that he is going round the world. Yes. So grihamedhi means he has fixed up his center, the wife and children, and going round throughout the whole life, no ending. They are called grihamedhi . . .Grihastha-asrama means it is as good as other asrama; sannyasa-asrama, grihastha-asrama. If he lives according to the regulative principle, that is asrama.” (Lecture on SB 7.6.6, Vrindavana, 8 December 1975)

Being a grihamedhi, being focused only on the bodily necessities and mental whims of one’s family, is the default setting in this world. Being a grihastha is something different:

There are so many rules and regulations of grihastha life. Grihastha life is not that ‘Whenever I like, we have sex.’ No, that is not. There is regulated. Once in a month. When there is menstruation, and if the wife is pregnant – then no more sex life. There are so many rules and regulations. Grihastha means one who follows the rules and regulation of sex life.

That is grihastha. Not that simply united, man and woman, and live like animals. No, that is not grihastha. That is called grihamedhi.” (Lecture on SB 5.5.8, Vrindavana, 30 October 1976)

You need to know that your house is not automatically going to be an asrama unless you put some real effort into it; unless you decide to observe the rules and regulations necessary for spiritual advancement. And of course you need to choose a spouse with similar disposition and values. In choosing a life partner, different people look for different things: “For a grihamedhi, to accept a wife means to satisfy the senses, but for a grihastha a qualified wife is an assistant in every respect for advancement in spiritual activities.” (SB 3.22.11, purport)

Srila Prabhupada again and again colorfully describes the materialistic householder’s mentality: “Grihamedhi means they simply want to decorate their apartment and children and wife. That is their end of life.” (Lecture on SB 2.1.1-5, Boston, 22 December 1969)

This is an excerpt from the Bhakti Marriages Course “Get Ready for Married Life for Men” from ISKCON Congregational Development Ministry, prepared by Sri Radha Govinda Dasi.