Family for the Gita




Once a renounced spiritual master presented his neophyte disciple with a copy of the Bhagavad-gita, instructing him to study the book all the time. The disciple, eager to imitate the advanced status of his guru, entered a cave in the Vindhya hill and there read the gita day and night.

Now, while the disciple took rest, a mouse who lived in the cave nibbled at the pages of the holy book, leaving the edges ragged. The disciple was very upset about this. He went down the hillside to a village and found a kitten, which he brought back to the cave to deal with the mouse. But the kitten required milk.

So the disciple managed to find a pious farmer who willingly parted with one cow. Next the would-be renunciate constructed a cow-shed with materials that he begged from here and there and laboriously dragged up the hillside. Even after building the shed, the disciple found it too difficult to maintain the cow alone.At last he found a young villager who was willing–simply for three meals a day–to tend the cow.

But now the aspiring anchorite was faced with the duty of cooking thrice daily for the cowherd as well as preparing his own meals. This meant he had to visit the village at least once a day to beg sufficient foodstuffs and firewood and then bring it all up to the cave. The villagers were less supportive now that his possessions had increased. One of them even mocked the dis- ciple, saying, “You’ve become a busy householder. Why do you persist in this charade of renunciation? Get married and work like the rest of us!” Finding it impossible to meet his requirements otherwise, the disciple did just that.

As his family grew, so did his needs until at last he lived in a comfortable villa on a large tract of land as the owner of many animals and the employer of many servants. After the guru became aware that his disciple had abandoned the cave, he traced him to his new home and was astonished to find him amidst all the trappings of worldly existence.

“Now what does all this mean?” he demanded of his disciple.

“Oh Divine Master,” came the reply, “this, my family and property, is for the gita study you ordered.”


The scriptures enjoin: yaavannirvaaha pratigraha –“accept only that which is essential for serving the Lord.” This means that a devotee centers his life’s needs around Krsna and not around himself. He is concerned neither with excessive gain or excessive renunciation.

Indeed, if an aspirant on the spiritual path becomes selfishly inclined even in the matter of renuncia- tion–i.e. his vanity is displayed in his show of detachment from the world–that selfishness is very liable to mislead him into accumulating excessive material possessions in the name of maintaining his spiritual life.

Another way that material attachment creeps into the life of a renunciate is through attraction to material knowledge. If pride is fostored through mastery of the scriptures and through philosophical erudition, that knowledge is only material and will result in the falldown of the student into material entanglement.


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