Path to Siva: A Catechism for Youth

37 What Are the Two Paths?§


At the ashram in Mumbai founded by Swami Chinmayananda, Swami Tejomayananda, seated, is surrounded by his swamis and family devotees. Families & monks work together to fulfill the guru’s mission.§


In Hindu society there are two ways to live our adult life. We call them the two paths. Most people follow the family path. A rare few follow the monastic path. A married couple has great responsibilities. They create and run a home together. They raise their children as spiritual, well-educated citizens of their nation. They provide support to the young, the aged and the monastic community. The Tirukural summarizes: “The foremost duty of family life is to serve duly these five: God, guests, kindred, ancestors and oneself.” Married life begins with the wedding ceremony, where vows are taken to be faithful and follow dharma for life. Monastics follow a different path. Instead of having a spouse and children, they embrace the whole world as their family. They have two goals: to serve humanity and realize God. They renounce name and fame. Their focus is worship, meditation and yoga, which makes them pure and wise. They inspire and uplift those on the householder path. Some wander or live alone, and others join monasteries. Some are dynamic teachers, some are swamis with many followers and others are unheralded hermits. In Saivism, most monastics are men, but there are also orders for women. Monastic life begins with vows to stay unmarried and celibate, devoted to God, Gods and guru. Most Hindu monks wear orange robes. Others wear white or yellow robes. Some shave their heads, while others have long hair and beards. The Tirukural praises both paths: “Behold those who have weighed the dual nature of things and followed the renunciate’s way. Their greatness illumines the world.” “Domestic life is rightly called virtue. The monastic path, rightly lived beyond blame, is likewise good.” The key is to choose your path carefully and follow it faithfully.§


GURUDEVA: The two paths—householder and renunciate—every young man has to choose between them. …The choice is his and his alone as to how his soul is to live through the birth karmas of this incarnation. Both paths take courage, great courage, to step forward and embrace the responsibilities of adult life.§