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Ashrama Dharma

Ashrama: Brahmacharya Grihastha Vanaprastha Sannyasa

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This article is about the ancient Indian concept of human life stages. For spiritual hermitage, see Ashram. An Ashrama (Sanskrit: āśrama) in Hinduism
Hinduism
is one of four age-based life stages discussed in ancient and medieval era Indian texts.[1] The four asramas are: Brahmacharya
Brahmacharya
(student), Grihastha
Grihastha
(householder), Vanaprastha
Vanaprastha
(retired) and Sannyasa
Sannyasa
(renunciate).[2] The Ashrama system is one facet of the Dharma
Dharma
concept in Hinduism.[3] It is also a component of the ethical theories in Indian philosophy, where it is combined with four proper goals of human life (Purusartha), for fulfilment, happiness and spiritual liberation.[4]

Contents

1 Ashram
Ashram
system 2 Ashrama and Purushartha 3 Alternate classification system of life stages 4 See also 5 Notes 6 References 7 Further reading 8 External links

Ashram
Ashram
system[edit] Under the Ashram
Ashram
system, the human life was divided into four periods.[5][6] The goal of each period was the fulfilment and development of the individual. The classical system in the Asrama Upanishad, the Vaikhanasa Dharmasutra and the later Dharmashastra presents these as sequential stages of human life and recommends ages when one enters each stage, while in the original system presented in the early Dharmasutra's the Ashramas were four alternative ways of life and options available, neither presenting the stages as sequential nor placing any age limits.[1][7]

The Ashram
Ashram
system

Ashram
Ashram
or stage Age (years)[8] Description Rituals of transition

Brahmacharya (student life) Till 24 Brahmacharya
Brahmacharya
represented the bachelor student stage of life. This stage focused on education and included the practice of celibacy.[2] The student went to a Gurukul
Gurukul
(house of the guru) and typically would live with a Guru
Guru
(teacher), acquiring knowledge of science, philosophy, scriptures and logic, practicing self-discipline, working to earn dakshina to be paid for the guru, learning to live a life of Dharma
Dharma
(righteousness, morals, duties). Upanayana
Upanayana
at entry.[9][10] Samavartana
Samavartana
at exit.[11]

Grihastha (household life) 24–48 This stage referred to the individual's married life, with the duties of maintaining a household, raising a family, educating one's children, and leading a family-centred and a dharmic social life.[2][12][13] Grihastha
Grihastha
stage was considered as the most important of all stages in sociological context, as human beings in this stage not only pursued a virtuous life, they produced food and wealth that sustained people in other stages of life, as well as the offsprings that continued mankind.[2][4] The stage also represented one where the most intense physical, sexual, emotional, occupational, social and material attachments exist in a human being's life.[14] Hindu
Hindu
wedding at entry.

Vanaprastha (retired life) 48–72 The retirement stage, where a person handed over household responsibilities to the next generation, took an advisory role, and gradually withdrew from the world.[15][16] Vanaprastha
Vanaprastha
stage was a transition phase from a householder's life with its greater emphasis on Artha
Artha
and Kama
Kama
(wealth, security, pleasure and sexual pursuits) to one with greater emphasis on Moksha
Moksha
(spiritual liberation).[15][17]

Sannyasa (renounced life) 72+ (or anytime) The stage was marked by renunciation of material desires and prejudices, represented by a state of disinterest and detachment from material life, generally without any meaningful property or home (Ascetic), and focussed on Moksha, peace and simple spiritual life.[18][19] Anyone could enter this stage after completing the Brahmacharya
Brahmacharya
stage of life.[1]

Ashrama and Purushartha[edit] The Ashramas system is one facet of the complex Dharma
Dharma
concept in Hinduism.[3] It is integrated with the concept of Purushartha, or four proper aims of life in Hindu
Hindu
philosophy, namely, Dharma
Dharma
(piety, morality, duties), Artha
Artha
(wealth, health, means of life), Kama
Kama
(love, relationships, emotions) and Moksha
Moksha
(liberation, freedom, self-realization).[3] Each of the four Ashramas of life are a form of personal and social environment, each stage with ethical guidelines, duties and responsibilities, for the individual and for the society. Each Ashrama stage places different levels of emphasis on the four proper goals of life, with different stages viewed as steps to the attainment of the ideal in Hindu
Hindu
philosophy, namely Moksha.[20] Neither ancient nor medieval texts of India state that any of the first three Ashramas must devote itself solely to a specific goal of life (Purushartha).[21] The fourth stage of Sannyasa
Sannyasa
is different, and the overwhelming consensus in ancient and medieval texts is that Sannyasa
Sannyasa
stage of life must entirely be devoted to Moksha
Moksha
aided by Dharma.[21] Dharma
Dharma
is held primary for all stages. Moksha
Moksha
is the ultimate noble goal, recommended for everyone, to be sought at any stage of life. On the other two, the texts are unclear.[21] With the exception of Kamasutra, most texts make no recommendation on the relative preference on Artha
Artha
or Kama, that an individual must emphasise in what stage of life. The Kamasutra
Kamasutra
states,[21]

The life span of a man is one hundred years. Dividing that time, he should attend to three aims of life in such a way that they support, rather than hinder each other. In his youth he should attend to profitable aims (artha) such as learning, in his prime to pleasure (kama), and in his old age to dharma and moksha. —  Kamasutra
Kamasutra
1.2.1 – 1.2.4, Translated by Patrick Olivelle [21]

Alternate classification system of life stages[edit]

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Developmental stages of life[citation needed] Period Ashrama (stages of dutiful life) Purushartha (aims of life) Description

Saisava 0–2 years

No moral codes during this period

Balya 3–12 years Brahmacharya Dharma Vidyarambha, Learning of alphabet, arithmetic, basic education

Kaumara (13–19) Kaishora 13–15 years Brahmacharya Dharma
Dharma
and Moksha

Tarunya 16–19 years Brahmacharya Dharma
Dharma
and Moksha

Yauvana (20–59) Yauvana-I (Tarunayauvana) 20–29 years Brahmacharya
Brahmacharya
or Grihastha Dharma, Artha
Artha
and Moksha

Yauvana-II (Praudhayauvana) 30–59 years Grihastha Dharma, Artha
Artha
and Kama
Kama
and Moksha

Vardhakya (60+ ) Vardhakya (Period-I) 60–79 years Vanaprastha Dharma
Dharma
and Moksha

Vardhakya (Period-II) 80+ years Sanyasa Dharma
Dharma
and Moksha

See also[edit]

Brahmacharya Grihastha Vanaprastha Sannyasa Purushartha Yamas Niyamas Hinduism Varna in Hinduism

Notes[edit]

^ a b c Patrick Olivelle (1993), The Āśrama System: The History and Hermeneutics of a Religious Institution, Oxford University Press, OCLC 466428084, pages 1–29, 84–111 ^ a b c d RK Sharma (1999), Indian Society, Institutions and Change, ISBN 978-8171566655, page 28 ^ a b c Alban Widgery (1930), The Principles of Hindu
Hindu
Ethics, International Journal of Ethics, 40(2): 237–239 ^ a b Alban Widgery (1930), The Principles of Hindu
Hindu
Ethics, International Journal of Ethics, 40(2): 232–245 ^ Chakkarath, Pradeep (2005), p. 39 ^ Rama, p. 467. ^ Barbara Holdrege (2004), Dharma, in The Hindu
Hindu
World (Editors: Sushil Mittal and Gene Thursby), Routledge, ISBN 0-415-21527-7, page 231 ^ J. Donald Walters (1998), The Hindu
Hindu
Way of Awakening: Its Revelation, Its Symbols, an Essential View of Religion, Crystal Clarity Publishers, pp. 154–, ISBN 978-1-56589-745-8, retrieved 12 July 2013  ^ Vivekjivandas, Sadhu. Hinduism: An Introduction – Part 2. (Swaminarayan Aksharpith: Ahmedabad, 2010) p. 113. ISBN 978-81-7526-434-2 ^ Brian Smith (1986), Ritual, Knowledge, and Being: Initiation and Veda Study in Ancient India, Numen, Vol. 33, Fasc. 1, pages 65–89 ^ R Pandey (1969), Hindu
Hindu
Saṁskāras: Socio-Religious Study of the Hindu
Hindu
Sacraments (2nd Ed.), Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 81-208-0434-1 ^ Sahebrao Genu Nigal (1986). Axiological approach to the Vedas. Northern Book Centre. pp. 110–114. ISBN 81-85119-18-X.  ^ Manilal Bose (1998). "5. Grihastha
Grihastha
Ashrama, Vanprastha and Sanyasa". Social and cultural history of ancient India. Concept Publishing Company. pp. 68–79. ISBN 81-7022-598-1.  ^ Mazumdar and Mazumdar (2005), Home in the Context of Religion, in Home and Identity in Late Life: International Perspectives (Editor: Graham D. Rowles et al.), Springer, ISBN 978-0826127150, pages 81–103 ^ a b Albertina Nugteren (2005), Belief, Bounty, And Beauty: Rituals Around Sacred Trees in India, Brill Academic, ISBN 978-9004146013, pages 13–21 ^ Ralph Tench and William Sun (2014), Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility: Perspectives and Practice, ISBN 978-1783507955, page 346 ^ Saraswathi et al (2010), Reconceptualizing Lifespan Development through a Hindu
Hindu
Perspective, in Bridging Cultural and Developmental Approaches to Psychology (Editor: Lene Arnett Jensen), Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195383430, page 280-286 ^ S. Radhakrishnan (1922), The Hindu
Hindu
Dharma, International Journal of Ethics, 33(1): 1–22 ^ DP Bhawuk (2011), The Paths of Bondage and Liberation, in Spirituality and Indian Psychology, Springer, ISBN 978-1-4419-8109-7, pages 93–110 ^ Alban Widgery (1930), The Principles of Hindu
Hindu
Ethics, International Journal of Ethics, 40(2): 239–240 ^ a b c d e Patrick Olivelle (1993), The Āśrama System: The History and Hermeneutics of a Religious Institution, Oxford University Press, OCLC 466428084, pages 216–219

References[edit]

Chakkarath, P. (2005). What can Western psychology learn from indigenous psychologies? Lessons from Hindu
Hindu
psychology. In W. Friedlmeier, P. Chakkarath, & B. Schwarz (Eds.), Culture and human development: The importance of cross-cultural research to the social sciences (pp. 31–51). New York: Psychology Press. Kriyananda, Swami (1998), The Hindu
Hindu
Way of Awakening, Crystal Clarity Publishers, ISBN 1-56589-745-5  Rama, Swami (1985), Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita, Himalayan Institute Press, ISBN 0-89389-090-1 

Further reading[edit]

Patrick Olivelle (1993), The Āśrama System: The History and Hermeneutics of a Religious Institution, Oxford University Press, OCLC 466428084 Alain Daniélou
Alain Daniélou
(1993), Virtue, Success, Pleasure, and Liberation, ISBN 978-0892812189

External links[edit]

Look up ashrama or आश्रम in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Four ashrama of yoga Pravritti-Nivritti Social action, inward contemplation and Ashramas The Four

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