Ashram

An Ashram in Hinduism is one of four age-based life stages discussed in ancient and medieval era Indian texts. The four ashrams are:

Brahmacharya (student)

Grihastha (householder)

Vanaprastha (retired)

Sannyasa (renunciation)

The Ashram system is one facet of the Dharma concept in Hinduism. It is also a component of the ethical theories in Indian philosophy. Under the Ashram system, the human life was divided into four periods. The goal of each period was the fulfillment and development of the individual. While some Indian texts present these as sequential stages of human life and recommend age when one enters each stage, many texts stated the Ashrams as four alternative ways of life and options available, but not as sequential stage that any individual must follow, nor do they place any age limit.

 

1. Brahmacharya

Age: Till 24

DescriptionBrahmacharya represented the bachelor student stage of life. This stage focused on education and included the practice of celibacy. The student went to a Gurukul (house of the guru) and typically would live with a Guru (teacher), acquiring knowledge of science, philosophy, scriptures and logic, practicing self-discipline and learning to live a life of Dharma (righteousness, morals, duties).

 

2. Grihastha

Age: 24-48

DescriptionBrahmacharya represented the bachelor student stage of life. This stage focused on education and included the practice of celibacy. The student went to a Gurukul (house of the guru) and typically would live with a Guru (teacher), acquiring knowledge of science, philosophy, scriptures and logic, practicing self-discipline and learning to live a life of Dharma (righteousness, morals, duties).

 

3. Vanaprastha

Age: 48-72

Description: The retirement stage, where a person handed over household responsibilities to the next generation, took an advisory role, and gradually withdrew from the world. Vanaprastha stage was a transition phase from a householder’s life with its greater emphasis on Artha and Kama (wealth, security, pleasure and sexual pursuits) to one with greater emphasis on Moksha (spiritual liberation).

 

4. Sannyasa

Age: 72+(or anytime)

Description: 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 focused on Moksha, peace and simple spiritual life. Anyone could enter this stage after completing the Brahmacharya stage of life.

 

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