Alarka says- ‘Tell me about the duties of the different classes and stages of life.’
Madalasa says- ‘Donation, study and Yagya, these three are the religion of a Brahmin. Performing Yagya for others, teaching and accepting donation are the three vocations of Brahmin. Donation, study and Yagya are also the religious duties of Kshatriyas. Protection of land and using weapons are vocation for Kshatriyas. Religious duties of a Vaishya are also same like that of the Brahmins such as donation, study and Yagya. For a living, Vaishya may take up animal rearing, agriculture and trade as profession. Serving all these three above mentioned castes as well as making donations and performing Yagya are the religious duties of a Shudra. Tilling the earth, serving Brahmins, feeding animals, selling and purchasing items are professions of a Shudra. A person belonging to Dwij class may relatively enjoy freedom until his sacred thread ceremony has not been performed. After the sacred thread ceremony, he should come to stay at the home of his teacher and observe celibacy strictly while studying scriptures. There he is expected to serve the Guru sincerely. At the completion of education, he should pay Dakshaina to his Guru. He may get married and start the second stage of his life that is Grihastha ashrama. He should then subsequently opt for Vanprastha and Sanyas respectively.
After the completion of education and paying all the dues, the disciple is ready to start second stage of his life that is Grihastha ashrama. For this he should first find a suitable girl from his caste and get married. Grihastha ashrama is considered as the best stage of life. It is in itself a complete Yagya. As a householder, he is expected to foster those who are dependent on him. During this stage of his life, he should earn his livelihood by occupations ascribed for his caste. He should please the deities by performing Yagyas, his ancestors by making oblations, Prajapatis by producing children, spectres by offering sacrifices of cereals and society by showering love. Even the ascetic and celibates depend on married people for their daily bread. Hence married life or Grihastha ashrama is stated to be superior among all the ashramas.
A Grihastha must welcome and treat even his unexpected guests with great warmth. A householder who fails to satisfy his guest never succeeds in religious matters. The Yagyas that are offered in such households go futile. Hence it is not proper for the householder to show ego and abuse a guest otherwise he will have to expiate for it later.
When the children of the householder grow up and his body becomes senile, he should go to the forest after relinquishing the world. There, he should pass his time by indulging himself in austerities and religious activities. This stage is known as Vanprastha ashrama and is most necessary for the sanctification of his soul. This stage is followed by Sanyas ashrama- the stage, which requires complete renunciation, celibacy, control of senses and anger etc. The virtues like truthfulness, sanctity, non-violence, tolerance, forgiveness, kindness, generosity and contentment are the religious merits applicable to all the ashramas equally. Those who abide by their religion stay in the abode of Brahma till the reign of fourteen Indras. The king punishes those who violate this religious code. If the king doesn’t punish them, he is himself destroyed. Hence a king must first of all abide by the duties as prescribed for different ashramas in his life and only then he has the right to punish those people who violate these dictates. ‘
DUTIES OF A GRIHASTHA (HOUSEHOLDER)
Alarka says- What are the duties of a married man by discharging which he becomes free from all kinds of bondage and attains salvation. Kindly tell me about these things.
Madalasa says- O son! Those people who discharge their duties as a householder by fostering all the living beings attain to the heaven automatically. All the living creatures of the world including the deities and the dead ancestors are dependent on their nurturing on the householder. They always look at the face of the married man for their living. In fact, Grihastha ashrama can be compared to a cow that fosters others with her milk. All the four Vedas are present in this
‘cow’ that is Grihastha ashrama. Entire universe is reflected in this ashrama.
Daily after the bath in the morning, a Grihastha must perform oblations to the deities, to the sages, Prajapati and ancestors by offering water to them. Then he should perform a Yagya and offer cereals in the sacrificial fire. There are certain places in the house, which are reserved for specific deities and where offerings are made to them. Sacrifice to Brahma should be offered in the central part of the home, to Vishwadeva in the eastern side of the home, to Dhanvantari in the northern side, to Indra again in the eastern side, to Yama in the southern side, to Varuna in the western side and to Soma in the northern
side of the home. At the threshold of the house, sacrifice should be offered to Dhata and Vidhata. One must sit facing the south while offering sacrifice to his dead ancestors. For the dogs and birds, sacrifices should be given on the ground in the morning and evening. At the arrival of a guest, a Grihastha must
worship him by offering water, cereals, flowers etc. as per his financial condition. If possible, a Grihastha should feed one or more Brahmins in order to pacify his ancestors. He should give alms to a beggar and a celibate. Without giving alms, a Grihastha must not proceed to dine. He should also feed starving and diseased people first. Such kind of living definitely benefits a Grihastha.