Householder or Monk

I’ve written before about the distinction between Householders and Monks, but there’s a few ways of looking at this.

Classically there is the distinction in path. The way to God or source through acting in the world or withdrawing from the world. For the last over 1,000 years, the monk’s path has been more dominant in both the west and east.

This was due to the lowest part of the cycle of world consciousness. In the depths of the dark ages, it was typically necessary to withdraw from the mud of the world to make any spiritual progress. Thus, we saw a revival of the monastic tradition then. In India, this was through Shankara and the resulting Shankaracharya tradition. Several widespread teachings today are derived from this, including Deepak Chopra, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and TM.

But times have changed and there is a revival underway of the householders approach. It is no longer necessary to spend years in an ashram in India or similar to awaken. But there is still a lot of emphasis on renunciation in some circles. This is further emphasized by a focus on Shankara’s early teachings, before the divine unfolded more fully for him.

Secondly, the distinction is made in teachings on Dharma. Dharma is those actions in life which sustain. This is often codified in rules of behaviour, morality and such but is more deeply about being in the flow. ie: being naturally in tune with nature and the divine.

Dharma is taught in 4 layers – universal, family and social responsibility, time of life, and personal. Of note here is the third. Ashrama defines 4 life periods: study, work and family, winding down, and senior.

The work and family period is inherently a householders time of life – career and raising a family. The senior period is the time to withdraw from the world and develop internally – in other words, renunciation.

Thirdly is a new distinction Rose Rosetree has begun exploring. This is the difference in styles of living awake.

In an introduction to an article, she distinguishes between Householder enlightenment, where the human life is central and Simplicity, where consciousness is central.

I thought the distinction was interesting. I know several who developed a very simple life post-awakening that some might consider somewhat monkish. They may be married and home owners but live mostly devoted to unfolding further. Others I know are very active in their work and life and are more focused on that, with major unfolding coming as punctuation in their life rather than the focus.

Now – some of the first are also retired, so we might say are simply expressing that dharma. But that’s not at all universal. I can also note that those on a rapid path of unfolding stages may be inherently more focused on what is changing in consciousness than their outer life. But again, that’s not universal either and may simply be a phase. When things settle down, they may be back to a more outward stroke.

Further, the style that enlightenment brings with it may be much the same life unfolding in this new context. But sometimes it brings a different style of life with it, the old dismantling in the process of internal change. This may come as a need of the embodiment or to clear old karmic baggage.

In any case, what’s going to happen should not be a concern for you. You will be an observer of this unfolding, watching life flower in ways new and profound.

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14 Responses to Householder or Monk

  1. Davidya, thank you for all of this gorgeous summary on the vital topic of those yang and yin versions of lifestyle for the spiritual seeker, householder and monk.

    I’m honored that you, too, are beginning to explore that there are distinctions (and implications) about consciousness, where quite apart from the lifestyle directions, there can be very different ways that people explore. The distinction of consciousness lifestyles, in contrast to social lifestyles.

    So much more to come. I’ll bookmark today’s post as a first from you in the many unfolding explorations of this to follow.

  2. Davidya says:

    Thanks, Rose. So many nuances to discover as this potential comes to be lived by so many more.

  3. Amaryllis says:

    Thanks for this post. It’s interesting to reflect on this at a time when I have the urge to withdraw from the structure my life, but having made the householder’s choice (including having a family) before I became aware that I was on a spiritual path, I will of course “dance that dance out” (as Adya would say). There is a lovely Indian teacher (now passed on) Dipa Ma, who I feel close to as I contemplate my life as a householder on the path … have you come across her?

  4. zen pig says:

    once again, your post hit home with my experience. several years ago, I went through a phase, that I later learned was very common, but having not listened to, or read much about neo-non-duality, this hit me hard.

    I was meditating, and it hit me that there was not a dam thing I could do. I was so despondent that I cannot convey the depth of my depression in that moment of really seeing on a very deep level, that there was nothing I could do.

    for the first time ever, I did not finish my meditation. I just got up and walked away. I went about 50 yards from where I was sitting, and everything dropped away. I laughed my ass off. I saw very deeply that there was nothing I needed to do! so dam simple, yet it eluded me. how amazing and insane. right there, I could have spent the rest of my life walking the earth.

    but being a husband and father of 8, it quickly came back to me, that I could not do this. I had responsibilities’ to provide for my family. so this glimpse slowly faded into the background.

    I sometimes wonder what path life would have taken if I were single, without anyone depending on me. I will never know, but I do not regret my family. after all, what use if love, if we think we love only for what we can get out of

  5. Davidya says:

    Hi Amaryllis
    There can also be times within the cycle of our personal lives where we’re in what might be called a more outward or a more inward stroke. I spoke with Tolle’s publisher on this subject some years ago.

    This does not mean we’re not a householder, only that we want to try and find a way to be inner in moments of life within that. And yes, you want to dance that dance out. There is much richness in a well-lived life. And often there is a lot more going on than we’re remotely aware of. Being good with the life we have allows what is here to flower.

    No, I’ve not run into Dipa Ma.

    • Amaryllis says:

      Thanks for your reply, and the cross posting; it perfectly enhances what you are saying. After contemplating your comment, what I now realise is that under its spiritual disguise, my previous comment was mainly just a resistance to how life is appearing now. Resistance is not only futile, but also tricky to spot sometimes 🙂

      Dipa Ma:

      • Davidya says:

        Hi Amaryllis
        Yes, and it’s very common. Resistance has a quality of inertia which can cause a shadow, making it hidden. Making it conscious is a key part of resolving it.

        The mind wants to feel in control so accepting life feels somehow wrong.

        Ah – I have much less exposure to Buddhism which would be why I don’t know of them.

        • Amaryllis says:

          And I find it’s not just the mind that wants to be in control, the desire to control also arises from I, as the individual (although I guess that what’s you mean by the mind?). This individual controller alternates with allowing, which flows in and creates space. Control is unknown when allowing is in the foreground. Allowing just is. I don’t know if I’ve explained it very well … I guess I am confused that sometimes one is in the foreground, and sometimes the other; it creates a sort of tension, which leaves me (the individual) wanting to control the flow and get rid of ‘myself’ (as the controller), to have only the allowing/flow in the foreground. As you see, I am creating quite a few problems for myself :).

          • Davidya says:

            Well – the I sense can be seen as distinct or described as mind identified as separate. Much of the I sense is a mind’s story about who it is, etc. But there is deeper layers as well, what I called the three am-egos.

            Yes, you’ve explained it very well. The shift you describe is where we are in relationship to it. Kind of like a shift in focus.

            And yes, it’s very common that when this dynamic becomes conscious, the controller can get into complex games about appearing to want to get rid of itself or pretending to be Self battling itself, and so on. But basically what happens is that consciousness simply becomes clear enough that it sees completely through this and it ends.

            Ironically, it’s a sign of very good progress.

  6. Davidya says:

    Hi ZP
    Right – and so good that the second part of it arose.

    8! Yes, responsibilities, for sure. Another of the branches of dharma. But those responsibilities are not endless. They are for a time. And yes, you don’t want regret.

    Sometimes we have this idea that we chose the life we have as it is. But really, what we choose is how we are with the circumstances that arise. Some of that is to move us forward and some of that is to clean up the past.

    If we have a strong regret, it will drive us into an experience of the other choice. The other side of that was prominent earlier in this lifetime here. If we find peace and OKness with it, we have resolved it now and will not be driven to do it over.

  7. Jose says:

    After listening to Cynthia Lane (and a a growing number of other mystics speaking about the sacred immanence) speaking how after completing the most advanced courses in TM…and then finding Native American teachers that initiated her into the Immanent Light, in the body, in the cells (comes to mind the stunning experiences of the late Mirra Alfassa – “the yoga of the cells”)…

    …I keep pondering if the indigenous traditions kept the holistic – transcendent/immanent – worldview while the rest fell into the “just-transcendent, run-to-the-hills-of-nirvana-not to come back-again-to-this-physical-world” in the cycle you mention.
    I say this because it’s been shocking to me – after being introduced to Tantric texts and Sri Aurobindo (“the Vedantic is a side of the Truth, the Tantric is the other side, together, they are the integral Truth”) and Mirra Alfassa in my adolescence – to read statements from contemporary leaders from monastic-oriented lineages (Vedic, Buddhists…even Daoists!) filled with such hatred of the body, the women, the world. (IS it a surprise that MOST of those leaders from Eastern lineges have fallen into power/sex abuse…?
    What I’m questioning is if the axis, more than householder/monk, is of a holistic cosmology, or a prejudice against Shakti, against manifestation, out of uncoscious rejection of the world, despite big proclamations of “all-embracing” spirituality…

  8. Davidya says:

    Hi Jose
    Thanks for commenting. I trimmed the 2 quotes as they where just amplifications of your points and took it beyond “comment”. They where also extreme views of our circumstance which I have no interest in amplifying.

    You seem to have missed one of the points of the article. Worldviews are not driven by philosophies, they’re driven by consciousness. In the cycles of time where consciousness becomes more limited, the emphasis and worldview also becomes more limited.

    To be clear, the Vedic tradition is not a monastic one but it contains a monastic branch that has come to be over-emphasized in that time. Most leaders have not fallen into abuse issues but some prominent ones have.

    Same with TM. Not a monastic technique but some have lived that approach along with it, sometimes motivated by escapism. I would also say that no one tradition is the solution for everyone.

    Now we’re in a cycle where that worldview no longer serves but still has some momentum. Some people are invested in that and resistant.

    There is also a stage when transcendence can be dominant. That’s not a bad thing. But it should be viewed as a stage to come out of and back into the world.

    Further, there are a small percent of people who are monastically oriented. This doesn’t make them flawed or limited. It’s the fundamentalism that’s the issue.

    And that points to a major aspect of what is unfolding today. Consciousness is awakening. This is creating a lot of change and stirring things up. Some are responding to this with fear, so there is growing fundamentalism around the globe. Some are getting into escapism, living in lala land.

    But we should not mistake this for “where things are headed”. It is consciousness driving the bus, not these effects. This is the junk showing up to be seen and resolved. If we make it truth, we amplify and reinforce it instead.

    And no, it’s not about a prejudice against Shakti. There is a process where we have to untangle our attachments to the world so we can be liberated from entanglement. When that is established, we can then live that IN the world. Once the stages in consciousness complete, it’s all about Shakti.

    If however a person is in a place of trying to detach from the world but has poor technique, they can struggle for decades and come to see that part of themselves as evil. This is a weakness of method, not philosophy.

    What you should be asking yourself is why you’re favouring such inflammatory teaching? What in you is trying to be seen but is putting it on others, turning the spiritual field into a mecca of manipulation? This doesn’t serve you well.

  9. Jose says:

    My apologies. I’m not happy with the form this comment took, but yet what I was trying to express awkwardly is a recap of a diffuse feeling I’ve had since a child about ‘spirituality’, plus many years of watching, getting direct or indirect feedback from spiritual practitioners, etc., and I’ve been finding articulated in better or worse ways in recent years, by more and more people.
    Not endorsing “inflammatory teaching” by itself,but maybe sometimes a ‘flame” is necessary to melt extreme ‘frozen’ views…

  10. Davidya says:

    Hi Jose
    No problem. I understand where this is coming from. The old traditions have been distorted in the ensuing time. The more religious, the more likely it’s been manipulated by less than enlightened motives. But this was a symptom of the time, not a hidden conspiracy. And the reason people are talking about it now is because it’s become more conscious.

    That’s a good thing. But amplifying the darkness of the past is not how you bring the light to it. The trick is in acknowledging whats off but not giving it your power.

    And yes, inertia is transformed into purity with fire. But is it the fire of truth or the fire of anger? Anger can lead to truth but only if it’s not caught in control.

    One of the reasons I’m not formally affiliated with a spiritual organization is they’re notoriously plagued with control issues. The Shankaracharya tradition is a political mess. There is some cleaning up to do. But what needs to be done is becoming increasingly clear.

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