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Duties of the Householder - Mahanirvana Tantra

Manu Smriti, the Law-Book of Sanatan Dharma (Hinduism), is considered the most authentic and ancient scripture discussing each and every aspect of life in great details. Manu Smriti holds the role of the householders as the highest of all roles. Verse 78 of Chapter 3 clearly states "Because men of the three (other) orders are daily supported by the householder with (gifts of) sacred knowledge and food, therefore (the order of) householders is the most excellent order."
(Note: The three other orders are "Brahmacharya" or Studenthood, "Vanaprastha" or Retired life and "Sanyasa" or Monkhood).
Furthermore. it also states that to be a householder is not for the weak minded person (Manu Smriti 3:79).


However, with the passage of time, the wise men realized that the ancient Vedic practices no longer applied to the changed circumstances and hence many "Tantras" were written between the 10th and 14th centuries CE. it is notable that throughout the Tantras, such as the Mahanirvana Tantra, they align themselves as being natural progressions of the Vedas.

Chapter 8 of "Mahanirvana Tantra" describes the Pravritti Marga (duties of the householder) in detail.


Following are some verses from Mahanirvana Tantra which describe the duties of the householder.


  • A man becomes a householder the moment he is born. It is by Samskara that he enters upon any of the other stages of life. For this reason, one should first be a householder, following the rules of that mode of life (8:14).
  • When, however, one is freed of worldly desires by the knowledge of the Real, it is then that one should abandon all and seek refuge in the life of an ascetic (8:15).
  • In childhood one should acquire knowledge; in youth, wealth and wife. The wise man in middle age will devote himself to acts of religion, and in his old age he should retire from the world (8:16).


Duties towards Parents, Elders, Guests, and Relatives


  • No one should retire from the world who has an old father or mother, a devoted and chaste wife, or young and helpless children (8:17).
  • He who becomes an ascetic, leaving mothers, fathers, infant children, wives, agnates and cognates, is guiltyof a great sin (8:18).
  • He who becomes a mendicant without first satisfying the need of his own parents and relatives is guilty ofthe sins of killing his father and mother, a woman, and a Brahmana (8:19).
  • A householder should not tell an untruth, or practise deceit, and should ever be engaged in the worship of the Devatas and guests (8:24).
  • Regarding his father and mother as two visible incarnate deities, he should ever and by every means in his power serve them (8:25).
  • According to their requirements, one should offer seats, beds, clothes, drink, and food to mother and father. They should always be spoken to in a gentle voice, and their children’s demeanour should ever be agreeable to them. The good son who ever obeys the behests of his mother and father hallows the family (8:28-8:29).
  • If one desires one’s own welfare, all arrogance, mockery, threats, and angry words should be avoided in the parents’ presence (8:30).
  • The son who is obedient to his parents should, out of reverence to them, bow to them and stand up when he sees them, and should not take his seat without their permission (8:31).
  • Even if the vital breath (Prana) were to reach his throat, the householder should not eat without first feeding his mother, father, son, wife, guest, and brother (8:33).
  • *The man who, to the deprivation of his elders and equals, fills his own belly is despised in this world, and goes to Hell in the next (8:34).
  • *The householder should cherish his wife, educate his children, and support his kinsmen and friends. This is the supreme eternal duty (8:35).
  • The body is nourished by the mother. It originates from the father. The kinsmen, out of love, teach. The man, therefore, who forsakes them is indeed vile (8:36).
  • For their sake should an hundred pains be undergone. With all one’s ability they should be pleased. This is the eternal duty (8:37).


Duties towards wife


  • The householder should never punish his wife, but should cherish her like a mother. If she is virtuous and devoted to her husband, he should never forsake her even in times of greatest misfortune (8:39).
  • The wise man, whilst his own wife is living, should never with wicked intent touch another woman, otherwise he will go to hell (8:40).
  • The wise man should not, when in a private place, live and sleep or lie down close to other men’s wives. He should avoid all improper speech and braggart boldness in their presence (8:41).
  • By riches, clothes, love, respect, and pleasing words should one’s wife be satisfied. The husband should never do anything displeasing to her (8:42).
  • The wise man should not send his wife to any festival, concourse of people, pilgrimage, or to another’s house, except she be attended by his son or an inmate of his own house (8:43).


Duties towards children


  • A father should fondle and nurture his sons until their fourth year, and then until their sixteenth they should be taught learning and their duties (8:45).
  • Up to their twentieth year they should be kept engaged in household duties, and thenceforward, considering them as equals, he should ever show affection towards them (8:46).
  • In the same manner a daughter should be cherished and educated with great care, and then given away with money and jewels to a wise husband (8:47).


Some Other Advices


  • The householder should thus also cherish and protect his brothers and sisters and their children, his kinsmen, friends, and servants (8:48).
  • He should also maintain his fellow-worshippers, fellow-villagers, and guests, whether ascetics or others (8:49).
  • The householder should not be inordinately addicted to sleep, idling, care for the body, dressing his hair, eating or drinking, or attention to his clothes (8:51).
  • He should be moderate as to food, sleep, speech, and sexual intercourse, and be sincere, humble, pure, free from sloth, and persevering (8:52).
  • Chivalrous to his foes, modest before his friends, relatives, and elders, he should neither respect those who deserve censure nor slight those who are worthy of respect (8:53).
  • Men should only be admitted to his trust and confidence after association with them and observation of their nature, inclination, conduct, and friendly character (8:54).
  • Even an insignificant enemy should be feared, and one’s own power should be disclosed only at the proper time. But on no account should one deviate from the path of duty (8:55).
  • A religious man should not speak of his own fame and prowess, of what has been told him in secret, nor of the good that he has done for others (8:56).
  • A man of good name should not engage in any quarrel with an unworthy motive, nor when defeat is certain, nor with those who are superior or inferior to himself He should diligently earn knowledge, wealth, fame, and religious merit, and avoid all vicious habits, the company of the wicked, falsehood, and treachery (8:58).
  • Ventures should be undertaken according to the circumstances and one’s condition in life, and actions should be done according to their season. Therefore, in everything that a man does he should first consider whether the circumstances and time are suitable (8:59).
  • The householder should employ himself in the acquisition of what is necessary and in the protection of the same. He should be judicious, pious, good to his friends. He should be moderate in speech and laughter, in particular in the presence of those entitled to his reverence (8:60).
  • He should hold his senses under control, be of cheerful disposition, think of what is good, be of firm resolve, attentive, far-sighted, and discriminating in the use of his senses (8:61).
  • The wise householder’s speech should be truthful, mild, agreeable, and salutary, yet pleasing, avoiding both self-praise and the disparagement of others (8:62).
  • He whose aim is truth, whose charity is ever for the poor, who has mastered lust and anger, by him are the three worlds conquered (8:65).
  • The wise man who in his conduct with his fellow-men looks with an equal eye upon friend and foe, by him are the three worlds conquered (8:69)

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