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The family life, or what is called as the householder’s life, when executed sincerely and honestly, is considered as devotional service to the Supreme Being. There cannot be any other example of this story from our mythology.
Saint Narada was not very happy with himself when he found that the average householders do not pray to God, not even taking His name at least once a day. He went to Shri Hari and expressed his anguish. He requested for a solution to this issue and for that the intervention of Shri Hari Himself. Shri Hari appreciated Saint Narada’s concern. He handed over to Saint Narada a bowl containing oil filled up to its brim. He told him to go ahead with his journey of the world, as he normally does while chanting “Narayana Narayana” as always while carrying with him this bowl. However, he put a rider saying that while doing so, Saint Narada must ensure that not a single drop of oil should spill from the bowl. Once he completes his journey and comes back to Him, Shri Hari said He will give a solution to this issue which bothers him.
Saint Narada agreed and started off with his usual zeal by continuously reciting His name “Narayana Narayana”. As he moved forward in his journey, his attention started getting focussed on the bowl of oil and he remembered Shri Hari’s words that not a single drop of oil should spillover from it. Thus he became very careful and concentrated his mind on the bowl. As his attention increased towards the bowl of oil, the recitation of “Narayana Narayana” gradually reduced and a time came it totally stopped. Saint Narada did not realize that he had stopped reciting “Narayana Narayana” which he was always doing as a matter of habit. He did complete his journey with success as not a single drop of oil spilled from the bowl which he was carrying with him. Thus he returned to Shri Hari and reported to him about his success.
Shri Hari asked him only two things : (1) How many times, during this journey, he recited the name “Narayana Narayana”? and (2) What were all the news and scenes he happened to see in the world while undertaking his travel. Saint Narada got perplexed. He was expecting an appreciation from Shri Hari for having done a good job as instructed, but now he was faced with a predicament like this. He told Shri Hari that since his entire attention was on the bowl of oil, he could not recite “Narayana Narayana”, about which he, in fact, remembered only on hearing from Shri Hari. Secondly, as his attention was focussed on the bowl of oil he could not see any scene or developments in the world.
Saint Narada asked Shri Hari as to the reasons for these questions. Shri Hari replied to him that being an intelligent person Saint Narada must have understood the import of these questions, which, of course, he did on reflective thinking. Shri Hari said further that a householder is burdened with the heavy responsibility of bringing up his family. He has to face all the odds like earning a living, bringing up children, facing diseases, looking after the elderly, etc. So, when they are so much involved in these matters of family life, how can they take time off for prayers, worship, and recite His names?
Saint Narada understood the predicament of the householders because he himself could not recite “Narayana Narayana” while travelling in the world with the bowl of oil. His assigned task of carrying the bowl filled with oil was very simple, a single point agenda, and not at all he is responsible for any other activities, whereas the householder is burdened with multifarious activities. So, even with this single responsibility, when he could not take time off for reciting His names, he realized the situation of an average householder. He accepted his error of judgement and realized now as to why the householders are not reciting the names of Shri Hari.
However, Shri Hari did not stop at this. He again put a rider. He said to Saint Narada that the situation does not end here. A householder, when he carries out his responsibilities truthfully, honestly, and keeping the welfare of all his family members and without expecting anything in return from those services being done by him, the same is equal to doing service to the Supreme Being. This, in itself, is like doing penance. In this situation, Shri Hari, Himself shall be present in such persons without them being aware of it, guide them through, and provide them the required deliverance. Thus, as a matter of habit, all the actions of the householders, shall, in a way, become very pious and they qualify to be treated as Shri Hari’s devotees. Moreover, when such householders grow up in age and maturity, they shall have no selfish interest, no attachment to worldly desires, and shall be pure souls thinking only about the welfare of other members of the family. This evolution in thinking is possible for everyone in the family life. This is the aim one should strive at while serving the family.
Shri Hari said to Saint Narada further that whatever he had said above was not to negate any prayers or worship. Prayers done through pure hearts reach the Supreme Being instantly connecting the person with that Supreme Principle without any duality. This should be evolved in life as a habit and not as a mechanical action. It is the responsibility of each and every individual to carry out the assigned responsibilities, in whatever position they occupy in their respective lives, through rightful means and truthful endeavour. This in itself is the dedication towards the Supreme Being. The ultimate aim is the evolution of human beings into better individuals so that all their actions become divine. The society, as a whole, shall become his family, in the process, and he shall not see any distinction between him and other living beings. He shall overcome the deficiencies in himself and others, the paucity of resources shall not affect him, and he shall focus his mind towards service to all. Such a person is a divine personality.