The teachings of Sri Ramakrishna to householders were simple:
- Live a life free of malicious intentions, greed, lust, and other forms of negative emotions/passions
- Now and then, go into solitude for a while (3 days a month or so) and reflect on God as much as possible.
He said it is not necessary for householders to leave their families and kids. In his view, people born into a family had several duties:
A] Duties towards the parents: Parents, according to Sri Ramakrishna, are divine manifestations of God, for children. A family person should make every effort to keep his or her parents happy. He said that a family person must provide for and think of their parents before he or she indulges in his or her own pleasures. For example, he or she should not eat before offering food to parents. The pleasure he referred to was the pleasure that arises from chanting the name of God. But if the parents were being a hindrance to attaining a life full of God, the person should keep minimal contact with them.
B] Duty towards Wife: Next to parents, a person should pay attention to the needs of his or her spouse. One should provide for his wife while living and when he is not around (after death). He should provide for his wife, if chaste, a living even after he died. That means making provisions for the future. But he never said that people should forget God while paying attention to their worldly duties. Again, he wanted people to leave such wives who would drag them down from the path of God. If a wife would not let a person try and reach God, the husband should keep minimal contact with the wife while living in a way to reach God.
C] Duty towards Children: After the spouse, the duty of a person is towards his or her children. He or she should take care of his or her children until they are of the age of education. They should then be provided with the best education possible. After education, when the children can earn on their own, the duties towards children cease. By education, the master also meant spiritual education so that they (the children) can find their way home in the dark.
D] Duty towards Relatives and Friends: He did not talk much about this. He said the worldly person has duties towards his or her relatives and friends. The family man or woman should not offend relatives and friends and should speak only good of them. The person should be able to help them in case some or any of his relatives and friends face any form of adversity. Again, people are cautioned that they should not leave the way to God in serving their relatives and friends. There are so-called friends who may try to drag you into a life full of what they consider enjoyment. If you know it will hinder your living so that you cannot focus on God, it is better to leave such friends and relatives. For example, friends who insist on alcohol daily or take you to fallen women, are to be left immediately before any further damage is done.
E] Duties towards society: Finally, the worldly person or a family man or woman had a duty towards society. The people should provide for building objects necessary for the proper functioning of society. They should contribute towards building educational institutions, alm-houses, etc. That is, a man should earn enough to provide for his parents, spouse, kids, and a little extra to provide for friends and social causes.
Sri Ramakrishna did not form any sect nor did he insist others follow his own tendencies. For example, he would not insist that anyone should pray to Mother Goddess only as Sri Ramakrishna was a devotee of Mother Kali.
In other words, people should pray to God, as the formless manifestation or as a form that the family person likes. If the home deity of a family person is Sri Vishnu, the householder or family person should pray to Vishnu or anyone he or she likes. Or one may simply choose another deity or form and pray to God. This, he said, is the initial form of prayers and will make the devotee soon realize that all forms of God are the same.
According to the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna for house holders (as well as the Hindu scriptures), there are three categories of devotees in India. One prays to Lord Vishnu and another to Lord Shiva. The third category prays to Mother Goddess or Shakti which he said manifested in all human beings. There is another category where he referred to people as praying to God as different forms.
Sri Ramakrishna taught that people should choose their own form of God; the deity or formless God are all one and no matter how you pray, you pray to the Ultimate God. Among other important teachings of Sri Ramakrishna was that after one or two children, family people should shun the sex life and be pious, helping each other on the path to the realization of God. He said bodily passions are a great hindrance on the path to realizing God. He often gave the example of God being a magnet and worldly people being needles covered with dust. The magnet does not attract the needles as long as the dust is there. But when the dust falls off, the needles are attracted to the magnet, the God. Hence worldly people should get rid of worldly passions as much as they can.
Download the free Teachings of Sri Ramakrishna PDF for more details.
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