Householder or Sannyasin – Who is greater ?

Householder or Sannyasin – Who is greater ?

A king was always in the habit of questioning scholars and holy men: who is greater, a Sannyasin or a householder? He wanted valid reasons for the view expressed. No one was able to give him a satisfactory answer.

At last a good Sannyasin visited the king. When the point at issue was referred to him, he said that each is equally great in his place, and offered to prove it, if the king followed him in his wanderings for a few days. Agreeing to this proposal, the king set out with the Sannyasin.

In the course of their travel, they reached a place where the ruling monarch had arranged a Swayamvara (marriage by choice) for his daughter. In a Swayamvara the girl chooses from among the assembled suitors the one she likes best.

The king had proclaimed also that he would give half his kingdom to the man whom his daughter chose.

So a large number of princes had assembled; but the girl, instead of choosing any of them, put the ceremonial garland of choice on a young and handsome Sannyasin who was watching the scene from a corner.

Startled at it, the Sannyasin threw the garland away and walked fast from the place, followed by the girl who was madly infatuated with him.

Towards evening, the Sannyasin entered a forest and disappeared into the woods.

While the girl was standing stranded in the forest, not knowing where to go, the king and the first Sannyasin, who were following the two, went to her help.

All the three of them took shelter under a tree on that cold night.

A small bird, its mate and children saw from their nest these people shivering from cold under the tree.

As a householder, the bird thought it is its duty to extend them hospitality.

It flew away, got a bit of burning firewood in its beak, and dropped it to his guests, who made a fire with it and relieved themselves of the cold.

Next the bird thought it its duty to give some food to these hungry guests and threw itself into the fire glowing below, so that they might eat its burnt flesh.

Now its wife felt that one small bird would be insufficient for three, and so threw herself also into the fire in pursuance of the wifely duty of fulfilling the purpose of the dead husband.

The parents’ footsteps were followed by the children too, as they felt it was their duty to carry on the work of their parents. Thus all of them courted death in the discharge of their duties.

The Sannyasin then said to the king who was surprised by all the experiences he had that day: “O King! You have seen that both of them – the Sannyasin and the householder – are great in their own places. If you want to live an ideal life in the world, live like those birds, ready to sacrifice yourself for others. If you want to renounce the world, be like that young Sannyasin, to whom the most beautiful woman and a kingdom were as nothing…. Each is great in his own place, but the duty of the one is not the duty of the other.”


Sannyasin: A renouncer; an ascetic who renounces all earthly concerns and devotes himself to meditation and scriptural study; one belonging to the fourth stage of life. During the first a person is a brahmachari, a student of Vedas (practicing chastity, continence, self-control and spiritual disciplines); during the second, he is a grahastha, or householder; during the third, he is a vānaprasthin, dwelling in the forest; during the fourth, he is sannyasin, or monk. Each stage has its prescribed duties and responsibilites.

(Sannyasa (saṃnyāsa) is the life stage of renunciation within the Hindu philosophy of four age-based life stages known as ashramas, with the first three being Brahmacharya (bachelor student), Grihastha (householder) and Vanaprastha (forest dweller, retired).[1] Sannyasa is traditionally conceptualized for men or women in late years of their life, but young brahmacharis have had the choice to skip the householder and retirement stages, renounce worldly and materialistic pursuits and dedicate their lives to spiritual pursuits.

Sannyasa is a form of asceticism, is marked by renunciation of material desires and prejudices, represented by a state of disinterest and detachment from material life, and has the purpose of spending one’s life in peaceful, love-inspired, simple spiritual life.[2][3] An individual in Sanyasa is known as a Sannyasi (male) or Sannyasini (female) in Hinduism,[note 1] which in many ways parallel to the Sadhu and Sadhvi traditions of Jain monasticism, the bhikkhus and bhikkhunis of Buddhism and the monk and nun traditions of Christianity, respectively. – Wikipedia)


N Ganapathy Subramanian, August 30, 2017.

— nytanaya, August 30, 2017.

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