For spiritual and religious aspirants, there has always been a pressure to give up the focus on family life due to the inherent distraction that a family creates for the seeker. Whether the seeker takes vows and enters a monastery or cloister, or leaves family behind to follow a particular spiritual teacher, or reaches a stage in life to enter the forest and take up the life of the spiritual aspirant full-time, the traditions of the world have made it clear that family is at best a distraction, and at worst, a serious bondage that can hinder the spiritual focus.

Not everyone who takes up spirituality or religious practices is either cut out for, or ready for, the life of the renunciate or the monastic life. This life should not be taken up artificially due to some mental idea or pressure, nor under a sense of total failure in the outer world. The Indian tradition actually set forth stages of life to ensure that the individual experienced all the major aspects of a full life before taking up the spiritual endeavour full-time. Abandoning family outwardly while still holding attachment to family, does not solve anything. Similarly, building a family life and creating various forms of dependent needs, and then walking away without solving the issues will tend to leave unresolved vital, emotional and mental struggles that will dog the seeker into the life of renunciation.

There are of course the very exceptional cases where the call is undeniable and unmistakable and there is no choice but for the individual to follow it. In the case of Siddhartha, the entire structure built around him for wife, family, luxury and kingdom eventually had to be left behind entirely in order for him to achieve the realisation of the Buddha. Jesus telling his disciples to leave everything and ‘let the dead bury their dead’, is another instance of a call that demanded total renunciation of family and worldly life to take up the greater mission to which he was calling them..

We tend to hold onto attachments, without realizing that as we grow and mature we naturally leave behind those things that have served their purpose and turn our attention elsewhere. The toys we played with as a child are no longer relevant to us as adults. It is therefore not a cause for concern if we find our attention and focus turning toward the purpose of life and the realisation of the Divine after living a full life of action in the world. To the extent this happens as a natural process, the residual negative impacts are dramatically reduced.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “When one enters the spiritual life, the family ties which belong to the ordinary nature fall away — one becomes indifferent to the old things. This indifference is a release. There need be no harshness in it at all. To remain tied to the old physical affections would mean to remain tied to the ordinary nature and that would prevent the spiritual progress.”

“What you write about the family ties is perfectly correct. It creates an unnecessary interchange and comes in the way of a complete turning to the Divine. Relations after taking up yoga should be less based on a physical origin or the habits of the physical consciousness and more and more on the basis of sadhana — of sadhak with sadhaks, of others as souls travelling the same path or children of the Mother than in the ordinary way or with the old viewpoint.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 11, Human Relationships in Yoga, Family Ties, pp 330-331

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 16 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.