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The Fours Ashrams of Life – A Rational and a Scientific Approach of Life

Friday, September 25, 2009

In my earlier post on Hinduism, I have emphasized that Hinduism is more a way of life than a religion. Every doctrine of ancient India, carved out by the ancient saints, is based on scientific and rational reasoning. However, to put them to use they needed to be socially embedded. Hence methods like, the Ashram system, were included in the Vedic society where the life of an individual was founded on both Karma and Dharma. With such methodology the then contemporary society also aimed at holding the social institutions together. Instead of becoming sages and escaping from worldly duties man was taught to shoulder every social and personal obligation. Apart from these the four stages of life also led to spiritual development.

In the ancient Indian tradition, one planned the years of life in four ashrams or stages, with the style of Yoga practiced in each stage chosen to match the circumstances of that stage. The average life of Indian was considered 100 years. The life span in Vedic India was divided in 4 parts, each of 25 years. These were called Ashrams. The word ashram means shelter implying that the person takes shelter successively in each of the four stages during his life’s journey. These ashrams were named following:
Brahmcharya Ashram (Student)
• Grihasth Ashram (Householder)
• Vanprastha Ashrama (Hermitage)
• Sanyas Ashrama (Renunciate)

Brahmcharya Ashram (0 -25 years)
- The celibate student time of youth is for learning the foundation of lifestyle. This is the perfect time to inculcate values like self-restraint, knowledge and obedience. In this time one was accepted to have simple living. Till a few decades back, celibacy till marriage was the norm in India. In rural India it still is. However in urban areas the incidence of premarital sex is increasing, largely under the influence of the west.

Grihasth Ashram (Householder) (25 – 50 years)This was the stage of family life. It begins with marriage and proceeds to raising a family. It involves earning a living through the skills acquired during Brahmacharya ashram. Religious or spiritual practices are done in the context of worldly life and service to others. This is the first stage where he puts his knowledge to use. He has to discharge the duties of a son, brother, husband, father and a member of the community.

Vanaprastha Ashram (50 -75 years) This Ashrama indicates the departure from material possessions. The person lives with the family, in society, but in a withdrawn manner. Relationships with grown children and community are more in the role of a matured mentor. Celibacy is again advocated.

Sanyas Ashrama (75 – 100+ years)
- The final stage is Sanyasa or renunciation last till a person dies. He is completely free from the emotional attachments. It is at this age that he becomes an ascetic and completely dedicates his life to serve God.

Ideas like these can never grow old. As a result the Ashram System is still followed in India, consciously or unconsciously. Although they are not strictly implemented but even today an Indian has a life of a student, a family man and then he retires. As old age seeps in, he passes on his responsibilities to his children and moves closer to spiritualism.


Shankar said...

very useful info's..meghana...once again a very unique post...

vivek said...

Hey Meghana.... Finally i take out time to comment on your post.
really nice article..
I agree the statment
"Every doctrine of ancient India, carved out by the ancient saints, is based on scientific and rational reasoning."

Our culture, saints, myths everything is based on rational reasoning. The thing is that our middle aged generations forgot, not carried, not learned, not understand the basics behind the things and then people take out the meaning as per their understanding, knowledge that might be right or wrong leads meaningful things to baseless or out dated things.
Thats unfortunate happned/ happning to our rich culture.

Meghana said...

Thanks Vivek!

I believe whatever damage has been done to our rich culture cannot be undone.But now its the responsibility of us to carry forward to our siblings and spread awareness to who do not understand the importance of Indian culture.Nothing wrong in adopting good things from western culture,but with that we should not give me our Indian values.

Vivek said...

That's true and necessary Meghana... we do peoples have habit of follow, praise, appreciate, western or other cultures and same time many of us feel shame for our culture, our traditions, our customs that really hurts.
and that is the reason i have started blogs to tell about our rich culture, to aware people..

You can check my following blogs, i am providing this list cause i feel our interests match, and motto is same..

cause of lack of time i could not update regularly.

Shas said...

Hi! nice post. There was something that i wanted to know. Plz tell me there is a ritual of stepping on the bride's toe or feet by the groom while taking the pheras. What is the significance of this ritual?

Meghana said...

Hi Shas,

Thanks for you kind words for my post!

I am not aware or may be not able to get the ritual you are mentioning about the Hindu marriage.The overall procedure of a Hindu Vedic marriage is more or less the same across but some rituals are sometimes regional based.And you know India is such a vast country that every mile you would see some change in the culture and language.

Very soon I would come up with a post which would describe the main rituals performed in a Hindu Vedic marriage.May be it would help you in clearing your doubt.

Let me know if you need any further information.



Aruna Hatti said...

Hi Meghana -
What a terrific blog you have. I was particularly interested in this post because one of the things I cherish about Hinduism is that it offers such a grounded philosophy on the complete life cycle.
Unfortunately, I think many people these days are too busy to really take the time to understand the Hindu philosohpy and what it has to offer. As a result, I think many struggle to relate the Hindu way of life to their everyday life.
My personal mission is to help children (and families) understand and relate to aspects of the Indian culture.
There is also a wonderful book I recommend: Hindu Samskaras by Rajbali Pandey.

Aruna Hatti

Meghana said...

Hello Aruna,

Thanks a lots for reading and appreciation.If like you all Indian adopt a personal mission of keeping the Indian culture alive in their heart and lives I am sure we all would definitely succeed it in passing to our next generation.

Saw your website also very unique idea.I have also heard lot about Mr Rajbali Pandey,but have not got a chance to read but surely would read your recommended book.

Keep visiting!



Vidushi said...

Hey u r doing a really different thing...liked it...