Householder or Bairaagee

There is a vast contrast between the spiritual positions of Yogis (Sidhas) and that of Baabaa Nanak (i.e. Gurmat). The spiritual position of Yogis or (Yogmat) is simply that physical self is of paramount importance (i.e. physical renunciation of the family, society, world; physical nature of Asanas and breath control etc.). However, Baabaa Nanak telling them and rest of us that what’s matter in spirituality is NOT the ‘Physical’ per se, but the CONSCIENCE (the MIND) — the Conscience must remain imbued in the Creator Realization.

Thus , what’s paramount in the Gurmat (Wisdom, Giaan, Upadesh or Way of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS) is the State of the CONSCIENCE (the MIND) Not the physical location etc.

Gur-Shabad is the Essence of Sikh spirituality. Therefore, the Grace or Blessing of the Shabad is Enlightenment!

That being said, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) rejects this physical renunciation (ਉਦਾਸੀ).

  • ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਬਿਖੁ ਮਾਰੈ ਤਾ ਨਿਜ ਘਰਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਵਾਸੋ ॥ ਜਿਨਿ ਰਚਿ ਰਚਿਆ ਤਿਸੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਪਛਾਣੈ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਤਾ ਕਾ ਦਾਸੋ ॥੨੧॥ : The Enlightenment contained within the Guru’s Shabad eliminates one’s false ego-sense and vices; and create a state of Godly Realization. The Creator is Realized through the Enlightenment of the Shabad, I am thus bound to it (i.e. Shabad). ॥21॥ (sggs 940).
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਤਿਨ ਕੈ ਸਦ ਬਲਿਹਾਰੀ ਜਿਨ ਏਕ ਸਬਦਿ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਈ ॥੪॥੯॥: Nanak I am forever sacrifice to one realizes the MESSAGE OF THE SHABAD pertaining to the One Creator. ॥4॥9॥ (sggs 879).

The Sikhi or Gurbani’s (SGGS) definition of renunciation is Shabad Based — Internalization of the Shabad (Message, Advice, Guide, Direction, Upadesh, spiritual Wisdom) while staying in the world (the State of Gurmukh-Hood).

  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਖੋਜਤ ਭਏ ਉਦਾਸੀ ॥ ਦਰਸਨ ਕੈ ਤਾਈ ਭੇਖ ਨਿਵਾਸੀ ॥ ਸਾਚ ਵਖਰ ਕੇ ਹਮ ਵਣਜਾਰੇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਉਤਰਸਿ ਪਾਰੇ ॥੧੮॥ : (My) renunciation is the Internalization of the Shabad (the State of Gurmukh-hood). (My) adopted spirituality is aimed towards getting to the Message of the Shabad (i.e. mere seeing or reading of SGGS will not work). My advocated spirituality is to connect to Creator who is in Permanent Existence. Nanak, adherents of the Message within the Shabad (Gurmukh-hood) Realize the Creator. ॥18॥ (sggs 940).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜੋਗੁ ਕਮਾਵੈ ਅਉਧੂ ਜਤੁ ਸਤੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਵੀਚਾਰੀ ॥੨੦॥: Gurmukhi Yog(u) kamaavai aoudhoo jat(u) sat(u) sabad(i) vechaaree. (sggs 908).
  • ਧੰਨੁ ਗਿਰਹੀ ਉਦਾਸੀ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਕੀਮਤਿ ਪਾਏ ਜੀਉ ॥੫॥: The Householder and the renunciate are blessed by Internalizing the Shabad (the state of Gurmukh-Hood); by Internalizing the Shabad (the state of Gurmukh-Hood) the Value (of Spiritual life) is Realized. ||5|| (sggs 131).
  • ਐਸਾ ਜੋਗੁ ਕਮਾਵਹੁ ਜੋਗੀ ॥ ਜਪ ਤਪ ਸੰਜਮੁ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਭੋਗੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ O Yogi! Practise such a Yoga. (That) living a household (family) life, become Shabad-Realized (the state of Gurmukh-Hood); this is the Japa, Tapa, and Sanjam. ||1||Pause|| (sggs 970).

In a nutshell, instead of renouncing the world, the Gurbani urges us to engage in it, but with a detached attitude through Internalization of the Gur-Shabad

The Gurbani speaks at the level of the mind. Hence, the Wisdom of the Gurbani is meant to Awaken the mind from the perpetual slumber of delusion (Enlighten the mind and change its Soch or thinking).

Since the Gurbani speaks at the level of the mind, it’s beyond organized religions (ਮਜਹਬ), fanaticism, antagonistic adherents, robes (Bhekh), religious paraphernalia, race, social status, Jaat Paat (casteism), education, titles, color of skin, ancestry, region or geography, family of birth, heredity, and so on.

  • ਮਨ ਰੇ ਗ੍ਰਿਹ ਹੀ ਮਾਹਿ ਉਦਾਸੁ ॥: O (my) mind! Remain detached (from attachment to Maya) while living in the midst of your household. (sggs 26).

Householder is literally translated as one who lives the householder’s life, the head of a household etc. (ਗ੍ਰਹੀ, ਘਰ-ਗ੍ਰਿਹਸਤੀ ਵਾਲਾ, ਘਰ-ਬਾਰੀ).

Bairaagee (ਬੈਰਾਗੀ) is literally translated as a recluse, hermit, anchorite, renunciate, retired from the society, detached from the world, (ਤਿਆਗੀ, ਉਪਰਾਮੀ, ਉਦਾਸੀ).

We all hear this assertion that the Gurbani encourages family-life (ਘਰ-ਗ੍ਰਿਹਸਤੀ…). But that’s only half the story. To live as a householder, the Gurbani has specified a very specific and strict condition that needs be satisfied. For example:

  • ਕਬੀਰ ਜਉ ਗ੍ਰਿਹੁ ਕਰਹਿ ਤ ਧਰਮੁ ਕਰੁ ਨਾਹੀ ਤ ਕਰੁ ਬੈਰਾਗੁ ॥: Kabeer, if you embrace or live the householder’s life, then practice your householder’s Dharma (i.e., live a Virtuous life, fulfill your duties, remember Naam, do not hate anyone etc.). But by living as a householder if you are going to stay engrossed in Maya instead, then you might as well abandon it (i.e., do Bairaag-ਇਸ ਨੂੰ ਤਿਆਗਣਾ ਹੀ ਭਲਾ ਹੈ). (sggs 1377).

As indicated in the foregoing verse, if one chooses the life of a householder, he must practice his householder’s Dharma.

  • ਗ੍ਰਿਹ ਧਰਮੁ ਗਵਾਏ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਨ ਭੇਟੈ ਦੁਰਮਤਿ ਘੂਮਨ ਘੇਰੈ ॥ : The householder relinquishes his duty (with this wrong renunciation he does not get) Satguru (true Wisdom-ਸੱਚਾ ਗਿਆਨ), and remains caught in the whirlpool of his evil mindedness. (sggs 1012).
  • ਸੋ ਗਿਰਹੀ ਜੋ ਨਿਗ੍ਰਹੁ ਕਰੈ ॥ ਜਪੁ ਤਪੁ ਸੰਜਮੁ ਭੀਖਿਆ ਕਰੈ ॥ He alone is a householder, who restrains his passions (ਇੰਦ੍ਰਿਆਂ ਨੂੰ ਵਿਕਾਰਾਂ ਵਲੋਂ ਰੋਕਣਾ); and begs for Jap (to Understand the Gurbani or Gurmat…), Tapa (to make the mind live the Gurmat…), and Sanjam (self-discipline, to restrain the mind from Bikaar). (sggs 952).

Now, what’s practicing householder’s Dharma?

In short, it is to live a Virtuous life, fulfill household duties, remember Naam, not to hate anyone, obey Hukam (System-Rule-Law of Nature), live a Gurmukh Lifestyle , walk in the Way of Truth (ਸਚ); remain firmly linked to the Jot Saroop within (Mool).

If one cannot commit himself to Dharma, instead, if one is going to remain submerged in the Mayaic efforts, then, the Gurbani says, that consider Bairaag instead.

Who does the Gurbani consider a true Bairaagee?

Real Bairaagee is not who has renunced (ਤਿਆਗ) or given up what one thinks one loves or cherishes. But the truth is that we cannot give up anything!

  • ਹੋਇ ਉਦਾਸੀ ਗ੍ਰਿਹੁ ਤਜਿ ਚਲਿਓ ਛੁਟਕੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਨਾਠਾ ॥੧॥: (One) becomes a renunciate (ਦੁਨੀਆ ਵਲੋਂ ਉਪਰਾਮ), abandons his home and walks out on (his) family, but (his) wandering impulses (ਭਟਕਣਾ) do not leave (him) ||1|| (sggs 1003).

In other words, renouncing ‘Sansaar’ or the world is not renunciation (Tiaag-ਤਿਆਗ)! In truth, one’s mind under the negative impact of Haumai (false go-sense) is the ‘Sansaar’ (world or Bhav Saagar).

The Gurmat Wisdom of the SGGS tells us that this deluded mind and its created ‘Sansaar’ can only be destroyed by Wisdom (Giaan), not by its renunciation!

  • ਪੂੰਅਰ ਤਾਪ ਗੇਰੀ ਕੇ ਬਸਤ੍ਰਾ ॥ ਅਪਦਾ ਕਾ ਮਾਰਿਆ ਗ੍ਰਿਹ ਤੇ ਨਸਤਾ ॥ ਦੇਸੁ ਛੋਡਿ ਪਰਦੇਸਹਿ ਧਾਇਆ ॥ ਪੰਚ ਚੰਡਾਲ ਨਾਲੇ ਲੈ ਆਇਆ ॥੪॥: You worship fire (ਧੂਣੀਆਂ ਤਪਾਂਣਾਂ) and wear saffron colored robes. Smitten by calamity (distress, trouble…), you run away from your home. Leaving your country, you wander in foreign lands. (But your Mayaic mind) brings the five pariahs (i.e., Bikaar: lust, anger, greed, etc.) with it. ||4|| (sggs 1348).

Real Bairaagee, according to the Gurbani, is:

  • ਜੋ ਮਨੁ ਮਾਰਹਿ ਆਪਣਾ ਸੇ ਪੁਰਖ ਬੈਰਾਗੀ ਰਾਮ ॥: Those who conquer their minds are Bairaagee. (sggs 569).
  • ਸੇ ਜਨ ਬੈਰਾਗੀ ਸਚਿ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਗੀ ਆਪਣਾ ਆਪੁ ਪਛਾਣਿਆ ॥: They are Bairaagee who have lovingly focused their consciousness on realizing their own self. (sggs 569).
  • ਸੋ ਅਉਧੂਤੀ ਜੋ ਧੂਪੈ ਆਪੁ ॥: He alone is a detached hermit, who burns away his self-conceit (sggs 952).
  • ਸੋ ਸੰਨਿਆਸੀ ਜੋ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਸੇਵੈ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਆਪੁ ਗਵਾਏ ॥: He alone is a Sanyasi, who serves the Satigur (Giaan or Knowledge of Truth) and removes his self-conceit from within (sggs 1013).

However, there is also a condition attached to the life of a Bairaagee. That is, if one chooses to live a life of a Bairaagee, that person must not get involved in Mayaic efforts, Bikaar (lust, anger, greed, etc.). If he does, then, the Gurbani says, he will be the most unfortunate person.

  • ਬੈਰਾਗੀ ਬੰਧਨੁ ਕਰੈ ਤਾ ਕੋ ਬਡੋ ਅਭਾਗੁ ॥੨੪੩॥: If a Bairaagee (someone who has renounced the world) gets involved in worldly entanglements (Mayaic efforts, ਮਾਇਆ ਦਾ ਜੰਜਾਲ, ਬੰਧਨ…), he is very unfortunate (great is his misfortune, ਮੰਦ ਭਾਗੀ…). ||243|| (1377).

He is said to be person of great misfortune, because – by being a Bairaagee if he still remains engrossed in Mayaic efforts or Bikaar then, he misses out both Maya and Rabb!

  • ਮਮਤਾ ਮੋਹੁ ਕਾਮਣਿ ਹਿਤਕਾਰੀ ॥ ਨਾ ਅਉਧੂਤੀ ਨਾ ਸੰਸਾਰੀ ॥੧॥: (If one is) attached to the affection (of Maya…) and the love of woman (lust…). You are neither a renunciate (anchoret, ਤਿਆਗੀ…), nor a family man (ਗ੍ਰਿਹਸਤੀ). ||1|| (sggs 903).

Clearly, such person, on account of duality and doubts (Dubidha, ਭਰਮ…) has no real understanding (ਸੂਝ-ਬੂਝ) of both Bairaag and household. Consequently, as the proverbial expression goes, his condition is comparable to the launderer’s dog, etc.: ‘ਧੋਬੀ ਦਾ ਕੁੱਤਾ ਨ ਘਰ ਦਾ ਨ ਘਾਟ ਦਾ’; ‘ਨਾ ਇੱਧਰ ਦਾ ਨਾ ਉੱਧਰ ਦਾ’…

  • ਇਕਿ ਕੰਦ ਮੂਲੁ ਚੁਣਿ ਖਾਹਿ ਵਣ ਖੰਡਿ ਵਾਸਾ ॥ ਇਕਿ ਭਗਵਾ ਵੇਸੁ ਕਰਿ ਫਿਰਹਿ ਜੋਗੀ ਸੰਨਿਆਸਾ ॥ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਬਹੁਤੁ ਛਾਦਨ ਭੋਜਨ ਕੀ ਆਸਾ ॥ ਬਿਰਥਾ ਜਨਮੁ ਗਵਾਇ ਨ ਗਿਰਹੀ ਨ ਉਦਾਸਾ ॥: Some pick and eat fruits and roots, and live in the wilderness. Some wander around wearing saffron robes, as Yogis and Sanyasis. But there is still so much desire within them-they still yearn for clothes and food (i.e., sense pleasures). They waste their lives uselessly; they are neither householders nor renunciates. (sggs 140).

The Gurbani tells the hypocrites (ਪਖੰਡੀ) to shed hypocrisy (ਪਖੰਡ).

  • ਕਰਿ ਬੈਰਾਗੁ ਤੂੰ ਛੋਡਿ ਪਾਖੰਡੁ ਸੋ ਸਹੁ ਸਭੁ ਕਿਛੁ ਜਾਣਏ ॥: (O mind!) Become detached, and renounce hypocrisy (of your superficial Bairaag or Pakhand); the Divine knows everything (from within you). (sggs 440).

In nutshell, the Gurbani asks to strive for affectionate detachment (Bairaag-ਬੈਰਾਗ) while living in the middle of happenings of the world.

  • ਨਾਨਕ ਘਰਿ ਬੈਠਿਆ ਜੋਗੁ ਪਾਈਐ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਉਪਦੇਸਿ ॥: O Nanak, Yoga (Union) is obtained even while sitting in your own home, by following the Satgur’s Teachings (Giaan or Wisdom). (sggs 1421).
  • ਨਾਮਿ ਰਤੇ ਘਰ ਮਾਹਿ ਉਦਾਸਾ ॥: Attuned to the Naam, remain detached within your own Home (sggs 16).
  • ਹੁਕਮਿ ਮੰਨਿਐ ਹੋਵੈ ਪਰਵਾਣੁ ਤਾ ਖਸਮੈ ਕਾ ਮਹਲੁ ਪਾਇਸੀ ॥: Obeying Hukam, one becomes acceptable, and then unites with his Mool within (Source, Jot Saroop…). (sggs 471).

Baabaa Nanak teaches Yogis about Bairaag in the outset of the SGGS:

  • ਮੁੰਦਾ ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਸਰਮੁ ਪਤੁ ਝੋਲੀ ਧਿਆਨ ਕੀ ਕਰਹਿ ਬਿਭੂਤਿ ॥ ਖਿੰਥਾ ਕਾਲੁ ਕੁਆਰੀ ਕਾਇਆ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਡੰਡਾ ਪਰਤੀਤਿ ॥ ਆਈ ਪੰਥੀ ਸਗਲ ਜਮਾਤੀ ਮਨਿ ਜੀਤੈ ਜਗੁ ਜੀਤੁ ॥: (MY mind that is in full control of my senses is) sealed (ਮੁੰਦਾ) in contentment; and dignity (ਪਤੁ) of my senses (ਝੋਲੀ) diligent and focused (ਧਿਆਨ) upon accumulating the Treasure (ਬਿਭੂਤਿ) of (Divine Virtues). Such diligence enable a life time (ਖਿੰਥਾ ਕਾਲੁ) of liberation from vices (free from inflictions of vices or Bikaar– ਕੁਆਰੀ) and the spirituality (or Way – ਜੁਗਤਿ) of unflinching faith (ਡੰਡਾ ਪਰਤੀਤਿ) in (Divine Virtues). (Divine Virtues as) as the highest spirituality (ਆਈ ਪੰਥੀ) for all of humanity entails a mind that Wins (ਮਨਿ ਜੀਤੈ) the command or dictates of our sensory world (ਜਗੁ ਜੀਤੁ). (sggs 6).


  1. Thank you for this enlightening post. I am still confused about how the householder life differs from that of a bairaagi? The two have the same conditions – if one is a householder, they must be a dharami person and uninfluenced by Maya. If they are unable to do this, they are better off being a bairaagi.. but this state of being also has the same conditions as that of a householder – they must be uninfluenced by maya but this is not possible without being dharmi first… so if a bairaagi is someone who is dharami and out of maya, and a householder is a dharami and out of maya… what is the difference? I hope this makes sense. Thank you again.

  2. Thank you Bj Randhawa ji for taking time to comment on this post.

    is it really possible to lead a life of Bairaaga…

    According to the Gurbani, yes: though difficult(“Kathan”), but it is possible for the “Gurmukh”:
    •ਜਨ ਨਾਨਕ ਇਹੁ ਖੇਲੁ ਕਠਨੁ ਹੈ ਕਿਨਹੂੰ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜਾਨਾ ॥੨॥੧॥: Jan Nanak ihu khelu kathanu hai kinahoon gurmukhi jaanaa ||2||1|| (sggs 219).

    Also, the Gurbani asserts that without Bairaag, Maya cannot be gotten rid of (cannot be liberated from Mayaic efforts, Mayaic Trishanaa, Mayaic desires, etc.) :
    •ਬਿਨੁ ਬੈਰਾਗ ਨ ਛੂਟਸਿ ਮਾਇਆ ॥੧॥: Binu bairaag n shootasi maya ||1|| (sggs 329).

  3. is it really possible to lead a life of Bairaaga. Some people say that desire is natural and inescapable. is it possible to run from Nature??

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