According to Vedas what is more important Self Realization or Responsibilities towards family?

Reason I am asking this is because we have read that Gautam Buddha left everything like his kingdom, his family (wife & newly born kid) in search of truth but if we all start doing that then who will look after our families coz nowadays there are more nuclear families than joint families.

Is it wise to shirk your responsibilities for self realization?

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    "Realisation" & "Family" are not mutually exclusive. They co-exists. Once realised, person becomes indifferent to family life. Krishna chose to be with family & Buddha chose otherwise. Both are right. Related How do the scriptures describe an ideal Sanyasi?
    – iammilind
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 13:47
  • Well am not sure if we can compare both coz Krishna was Vishnu Avtaar in human form and Buddha was a normal human being ... please correct me if I am wrong here @iammilind
    – Just_Do_It
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 13:50
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    @iammilind if they coexist what is the need to leave family at all? none of our rishis did this... how can you justify leaving his family responsibilities for sake of personal development ? Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 15:31
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    Just_Do_It, some consider Buddha as Avatar of Vishnu. Often, Krishna & Buddha are compared for their way of life towards ultimate. @RakeshJoshi, For the sake of argument, someone may ask shouldn't a person on realisation path make his wife happy, earn X money, have N kids, do social service...? Actually that person often becomes indifferent to family life & all else. That precisely means a yogi is least concerned about if to be with family or leave family. Both are same to him. Depending on his/her physical traits, they may choose 1. Also he doesn't see it as a personal development either.
    – iammilind
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 16:49
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    @iammilind Buddha (Gautama) is never an avatar and all major sects of hinduism have condemned buddhist doctrines. Secondly there is not question of making someone happy or sad. Its about duties and responsibilities. If someone dont have family he can be wanderer. Or someone have other people to lookout the family then ok. But if his family needs him and he goes away for his spiritual path then it it correct? Everything can be achieved by living normally in the family and several examples are available. If your father is on a deathbed and needs your service then your being Indifferent wont help Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 19:46

1 Answer 1


This answer is more according to VedAnta.

"Self realisation" and "family responsibility" are Not mutually exclusive.
Both can co-exists. But that doesn't mean that both must co-exit.

A person on the path of "self realisation" starts developing indifference towards various aspects of Prakruti. "Family life" is one among them. The person doesn't have attachment towards family. That means, if he/she stays with or without family is exactly same for them.

BG 13.8-12 - ... Non-attachment and absence of fondness with regard to children, wives, homes, etc., ... Steadfastness in the knowledge of the Self, contemplation on the Goal of the knowledge of Reality --- these are spoken of as Knowledge. Ignorance is that which is other than this.

A person with indifference is neither interested towards [family] duties nor non-duties. This neither means one shouldn't perform family duties, nor it means one must perform family duties.

BG 3.17, 3.18 - But that person who rejoices only in self and is satisfied with the Self, and is contented only in the Self - for them there is no duty to perform; For them there is no purpose here at all with performing action; nor any [purpose] with nonperformance. Moreover, for them there is no dependence on any object to serve any purpose

Hence lord Krishna has described 2 approaches for self realisation:

  1. sannyAsa (akarma based)
  2. karma yoga (karma phala based)

In the 1st approach, a person explicitly leaves the family to stay away from various attachments. In 2nd approach, a person implicitly stays away from the attachments, yet being with the family.
Some people have better detachment when they stay without family and some have better detachment when they stay within family. If they try opposite to their mentality, they will likely get bewildered. How can there be only 1 right?

Since we live in a society, the Karma yoga is more applicable to larger section of people (hence better), while sannyAsa (retirement) applies to smaller section of people. Krishna equates both of them to be best in their own ways, yet Karma yoga is better due to higher relevance.

BG 5.2 — Sri BhagavAna told, SannyAsa and Karma Yoga, both are excellent doers; but between them, Karma Yoga is better than Karma SannyAsa.

Many saints have lived active family life. Yet, many yogi-s before Budhha (VyAsa, VAlmiki) and after Buddha (VivekAnanda, Ramana Maharshi) have left active family life. They are no lesser yogi-s.

Why indifference is important?

For self realisation, between "with family" and "without family", if we choose "with family".
Then after sometime

  • Someone will ask us to choose between keep my spouse happy vs keep my spouse unhappy
  • If spouse is happy, then someone will ask no children vs 2 children
  • If 2 children, then someone will ask less bank balance vs big bank balance
  • ... and this goes on

This is the reason why "indifference" is the key to self realisation. Indifference is nature of Brahman. One has to stop seeing opposites among various aspects BG 7.27.

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    thnx for the detailed explanation.
    – Just_Do_It
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 13:02

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