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According to my understanding, a Sage is a person who has broken all the earthly bonds and intensely devoted to God. Such persons distance themselves from all kinds of material and physical pleasures.

But legend has it that great sages like Agasthya and Vashishta were married. How is it acceptable for a person who has renounced worldly pleasures to marry and indulge in physical pleasures? Or, is my understanding about the sages wrong?

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    Sage is a person who has broken all earthly bonds!! This means that they no longer bother Him. That does not mean He becomes a renunciate. There is a difference between external renunciation and internal renunciation. External renunciation means taking sannyaas and going away from family, etc. But this is not the Hallmark of a sage. The hallmark of a sage is internal renunciation. Even though He lives with family and begets children, he is unattached. He is the Master of the world. This is what actually sannyaasa means!! All the best !! – Sai Feb 26 '15 at 21:52
  • @sai - the way you have worded your sentence, indicates that those who have externally renunciated are not sages. So, do you mean to say Adi Shankara and other sanyasis are not sages? – user808 Jun 13 '15 at 7:40
  • @Krishna sir, I mean to say that Adi Shankara is not a sage because he took sannyaas. He is a sage because He Has conquered his senses and His Mind. The point was that basically one has to conquer His mind. It is not at all necessary to take sanyaas. Hope that clarification helps. Thank you for pointing out the ambiguity. ALl the best – Sai Jun 13 '15 at 16:15
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You are actually talking about munis and sannyasis. It is restricted for renuncaites to enjoy worldly pleasures once they renounce the world. Performing their own funeral rites (sradha) they become dead to the world.

turiyāśramasvikārārārthaṃ kṛcchraprāyaścittapurvakam aṣṭaśrāddham kuryāt [Narad Parivrajaka Up. 4.37]
For entering the sannyasa order one has to perform the eight sradhas having done the kṛchchhra penance.

But the sages (rishis) are different. They are not subject to such laws. Infact, it is the sages who are the law makers. In the world order, sages are next to God. So sages can marry and have families, but not a sannyasi.

Generally a sannyasi is someone who either didn't marry out of detachment or was already married and took sannyasa after fulfilling the householder's duty. Only those who are in the order of sannyasa have to distance themselves from material and physical pleasures:

Without any material attachment, with senses fully controlled, remaining enthusiastic, and satisfied in realization of the Supreme Lord and his own self, the saintly person should travel about the earth alone. Having equal vision everywhere, he should be steady on the spiritual platform. [SB - 11.18.20]

But the rishis are free to marry and have family or do as they please. But they being law makers themselves, generally don't break the laws.

  • How to be a rishi?? Is there difference between a yogi and a rishi??. What is case of Ramana Maharishi he was a sage of sages, but he renounced home and other pleasures so by your definition he should be a muni not even a rishi but he was known as Maha-Rishi the greatest of rishi's. – Yogi Jun 13 '15 at 9:14
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The sages of old that were married did so after becoming sages, not before, and did so because that was the way the world was then, thousands and thousands of years ago.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa says (Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, chapter 39, http://www.belurmath.org/gospel/index.htm):

If a man enjoys the Bliss of God, he doesn't enjoy the world. Having tasted divine bliss, he finds the world insipid. If a man gets a shawl, he doesn't care for broadcloth.

...People talk about leading a religious life in the world. But if they once taste the bliss of God they will not enjoy anything else. Their attachment to worldly duties declines. As their spiritual joy becomes deeper, they simply cannot perform worldly duties. More and more they seek that joy. Can worldly pleasures and sex pleasures be compared to the bliss of God? If a man once tastes that bliss, he runs after it ever afterwards. It matters very little to him whether the world remains or disappears.

People say that they will hold to both God and the world. After drinking an ounce of wine, a man may be pleasantly intoxicated and also conscious of the world; but can he be both when he has drunk a great deal more?

After the bliss of God nothing else tastes good. Then talk of "women and gold' stabs the heart, as it were. (Intoning) 'I cannot enjoy the talk of worldly people.' When a man becomes mad for God, he doesn't enjoy money or such things.

[question: can an man lead a spiritual life in the world?] Yes, he can. But such a man should first of all attain Knowledge and then live on the world. First he should realize God. Then 'he can swim in a sea of slander and not be stained.' After realizing God, a man can live in the world like a mudfish. The world he lives in after attaining God is the world of vidya. In it he sees neither women nor gold. He finds there only devotion, devotee, and God.

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The short answer is yes.

Ancient Hindus followed Ashrama Dharma which lays out 4 stages for human life - Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha and then Sannyasa.

The monks were in the last 2 stages in most cases. They leave to the forest along with their wife, leaving behind their property and children. They start leading a life fully devoted to spirituality. At a later stage, when they are ready, they become Sanyasis and live alone meditating.

So, the monks were once married and become celibate at the Vanaprastha stage and after; not the other way around.

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We must first establish the sanskrit back-translation of a "sage" to make the answer meaningful. If that is "sādhu" (which means "good") or "riši" ("the respected one"), there is no contradiction. Upbringing and education of children is a valuable, respectable and recommended duty for qualified persons. Chānakya nītišāstra 1.14:

A wise man should marry a virgin of a respectable family even if she is deformed. He should not marry one of a low-class family, through beauty. Marriage in a family of equal status is preferable.

If we take "sage" to mean "sannyāsī" ("renunciate"), it is unthinkable of him to marry.

"Muni" ("philosopher") should be aware of the wisdom definition in Bhagavad-gītā 13.10:

asaktir anabhišvangah putra-dāra-grihādišu (detachment from offspring, wife and everything household-related)

"Muni" , "tapasvī", "tyāgī" and "yogī" cannot be mixed with family life simultaneously, but can be interspersed, e.g. Hiranyakašipu practiced severe austerity, but left his wife Kayādhu unprotected during that time (Bhāgavata-purāna, canto 7). Kardama muni was parcticing yoga before and after begetting children with his wife Dēvahūti, but not in parallel (Bhāgavata-purāna, canto 3).

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Sanathana Dharma never recommended anyone not to marry or not to make money! It has shown the way to attain mukthi/salvation through different practices. On attaining an age either one should get married or should take Sanyasa Deeksha.

Getting married is considered as easy one as it would not be as strict as Sanyasa Deeksha. Sanyasa Deeksha may be considered as speedy way to attain mukthi. Either way you are guided by several Dharmic practices which makes you to set yourself free from Arishat Vargas (desire, lust, anger, ..). It may be tough for a common man to keep his senses under control. They can be brought to peace and control only on steady practice of dharmic activities and by the experience gained by one's one life!

So, many sages lead the marital life and have shown us the path for liberty. Their way of life can be taken as inspirational stories on how to practice those dharmas and they show us how to react to different situations in life. It is also strict dharma which says one should give birth to an offspring to get rid of Punnama Narakam (a hell named punnama)

  • In the rules of celibacy written by the great sage Yājņavalkya it is said: karmanā manasā vācā sarvāvasthāsu sarvadā sarvatra maithuna-tyāgo brahmacaryam pracakšate (recommends celibacy always). So much for never. – MKaama Jun 30 '14 at 17:06
  • Many famous and respected sages are lifelong celibates (naištika brahmacārī): Four Kumāras, Nārada, Šukadēva. In their teachings they also advise others against family life (not everyone, but certainly some), e.g. by calling it a "dark well" (andha-kūpam) etc. Nārada Muni advised the Haryašvas not to enter household life. – MKaama Jun 30 '14 at 17:20
  • gnana and karma are two different routes! I stick to my answer!! – pbvamsi Jul 1 '14 at 4:13
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    This is a good answer and does not necessitate downvotes. – user1195 Feb 10 '15 at 15:42
  • This is the best answer IMHO :) sir !! Hinduism starts with external practices and moves into internal practices. The one who is stuck in the external will never see the Truth. One has to make the progress internally. Sannyasa is all about internal victory, internal renunciation. Not a mere physical renunciation. :) Now there is a great fashion to renounce and go to the forest -- it is useless!! It is better to have a family and love Krishna, than to be in the forest and love Alcohol!! Thanks for the answer – Sai Feb 26 '15 at 21:55
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In fact I would say that it is highly recommended for one to get married in the sanatana dharma. Anyone who follows a Vedic life is supposed to get married.

This is the reason why you will see that our vedic rishis were all married and householders lifelong.

AykAshramyam tvacAryA: pratyakshavidhAnAt gArhasthasya | (Apasthamba Sutram)

Meaning - There is only one Ashramam and that is Grahastha dharma. Thus, the only Ashramam advocated by the vedAs is the eternal gArhastyAshramam and none other. This is the reason why all our seers (cause for our gotrAs) like atri , vasishta ,agastya , bharadvAja ,etc led a lifestyle of jaDa, maravuri, living with consort in the forest, doing penance, performing daily rituals (nitya karmA) , upAsana (worship) of agni , yagnyA and chanting of vedAs until their last breath.

It should be understood that there is no virtue that is superior to "Daampatya-dharma’, the path of married life. Every one should follow this advice of wisdom-Incarnate throughout their life time as wedlock is the way to salvation. One can never experience the fruit of creation without Wedlock. Male and Female species in creation are complementary to each other. One can become whole and complete only after Wedlock. Without Wedlock neither man nor woman can attain fulfillment- they will remain incomplete.

The cause of this universe and the basis for all existence is the penance of Brahman. The result of unswerving penance is knowledge (vidya), gnyAnam , satyam (truth) , sukham (Happiness). This world, created by, and resulting from unswerving penance, has these aspects of form: vidyArUpam , gnyAnarUpam , satyarUpam , sukharUpam . The same is bestowed upon us by the vedAs. Vedas have provided a platform for every soul (being in their respective states) to experience this 'Brahman'. ( the ultimate power)

The main objective of all the Vedas is ‘garhastyashramam’ i.e, family life (dampatya). ‘Brahmacharyam’ is instrumental and the preliminary practice for ‘garhastyashramam’. Brahmacharyam is the life of Veda adyayanam, enjoying all sorts of happiness, well being, etc i.e. Shastric veda adyayanam is brahmacharyam. Brahmacharyam is also known as ‘garhasyta sadhanam’ as it is preliminary and part of the garhastyashramam referred to in the Vedas. Brahmacharyam which is the life of Veda adyayanam and Gayathri upasana is applicable for all, irrespective of their sex and creed. The regulated proper method of mastering Vedas etc., helps one lead Dhampathya life successfully. This is applicable to woman also. Women are entitled to all ceremonies like Upanayanam, etc.

Mastering the Vedas as ordained is itself a Tapas (Penance). It must be noted that Karma (or action) and Jnana (or knowledge) are not two separate entities. Therefore there is no separate path for Jnanamarga. There is only one path, and that is Vedamarga, the path of the Vedas. Its culmination is in Dhampathya life. The Maharshi couple led the Dhampathya life throughout their lives. Remaining in that Dhampathya, one should desire good progeny, beget ideal children and bring them up with great care. They are the true wealth for ‘the here’ and ‘the hereafter.’ Immortals are fortunate enough to hear the lisping of their children. In a sense, one can attain immortality, if, being of good character, one is born as his/her own progeny. The Vedas state this explicitly.

When a man and a woman of pure conduct, bound by mutual love, consummate their marriage, all elements like form, etc., get totally absorbed in the fire of their union. This absorption creates an intoxicating light radiating from them. When this intoxicating light is also absorbed, Ananda, or Bliss arises and shines forth. The light is absorbed in itself, and Ananda shines. From that, issues forth a child, the sum total of all elements. The Maharishis advised- Always live in the state of Vedic Dampatya.

The Mahashakthi who created the whole universe, laid down the vedic path so that all mankind could live happily enjoying all comforts- temporal and spiritual. The Vedic path is nothing but the life lived by the Maharshis: the eternal dhampathya life enjoined by the Vedas.

“uthishtatha maaswapta agni michadhvam bharataaha” (YV)

This means “ O Bharathiyas! Awake and yearn for fire”, Bha in Sanskrit means light. One who worships light is a Bharateeya. That India is called Bharat clearly conveys that all Indians were following the Vedas and leading a life as prescribed by the Vedas. It extols all to worship fire which is the primordial energy behind all creation

Vedic path refers to the three stages of a person:

The initial stage, which is Brahmacharya: the study and learning of Vedas and Gayathri Upasana, and worship of Agni through oblations twice a day.

The next stage is the Grihastashrama (getting into marital life) and offering oblations to Agni by performing Agni upasana , Yagas , etc. along with the life partner which are meant for the evolution of one’s self in the spiritual realm.

The final stage is offering one’s body after death to the Agni that was worshipped.

It should be understood that vanaprastha is the continuation of grahastha stage after discharging the duties and retiring along with the wife and continuing agni upasana, penance, and nitya karmas.

To lead a life as prescribed by the Vedas, here is the system to be followed by one and all:

Initiation into Gayathri Upasana Study of the Vedas or understanding the messages given in them. Agni upasana as part of Gayathri Upasana and vedic study (BRAHMACHARYA). Getting into married life and continuing Agni Worship as a couple – Grahastha Dharma. Offering one’s body in the fire worshipped by the couple (The concept behind the ritual followed for cremation in the present day)

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Now a days people wants to enjoy the worldly plessures not the family pressures. Many people wants to become sanyasi to get rid off from the family responsibilities. In gita bhagavan said about the swadharma. As a mother or a father one must take care of their children. As a son or a daughter one must attend the needs of parents if required. though a person is not interested in family affairs and wants moksha, also can practice spiritual practices at home living with other family members. For salvation one needs only detachment to the worldly things and attachment to the god or spiritual practices only. No need to go any where. Everything can be seen in our own self.

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