Stages of Life in Hinduism – A Concept Misunderstood by Modern Intellectuals

By Paanchajanyaa published on November 17, 2016

Hinduism which is known to be the oldest of all religions in the world, is more a way of life than a religion. The hindu way of life involves dividing an individual’s life into 4 stages as: Bramhacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa. These 4 stages of life have always been misunderstood in the past few decades by equating them with modern monotheistic definitions giving rise to confusions and misinterpretations. Let us look into what Hinduism says about these 4 stages of life in detail.

Brahmachari is a term usually used to describe the unmarried individual. The Brahmacharya stage is used to represent the life of an individual before his marriage. This can be further classified into two phases as Shishya (Student) and Snataka (Graduate). The student phase involves a vrata called Brahmacharya Vratha where a student maintains a disciplined way of life in which his concentration lies only on gaining knowledge. The student is hence prevented from thinking about, speaking about, playing with, looking at, personally talking with women as these things might distract his concentration from acquiring knowledge which is now-a-days a common thing among young teenagers. The student after his completion of studies enters into the graduate phase of life after the Samavarthana(Graduation Ceremony). This ceremony is associated with the end of formal education of the student in Gurukul and the Brahamcharya Vratha. This ceremony is used to signify that an individual is ready to the Grihastha phase of life and is introduced to things associated with wordly life like wealth, women and other necessities of household. Recently when a case regarding the entry of women aged between 10 and 50 years at the Sabarimala Dharma Sastha Temple, came for hearing at the Supreme Court, many modern intellectuals and liberals where questioning the Vratha followed by the Lord there and equating him with Hanuman who is also known to be a Brahamachari. But one speaking about this have to understand that, Hanuman and Bhishma were leading their life in Snataka phase where they completed their education by performing the Samavarthana and were simply unmarried. The Dharma Sastha at Sabarimala is still in his student phase of life and hence he is following the Brahmacharya Vratha wherein he is forbidden from looking at or speaking with women. Unfortunately, the liberals and intellectuals who are not aware of the differences between the student and graduate phases of life in Hinduism have not only degraded this tradition of that ancient temple but have also called the lord himself as a misogynist by equating these practices with the modern monotheistic ideas.

Grihastha stage refers to the married phase of life of an individual wherein he maintains the household, raises his family, educates his children and leads a family centered life. This stage is considered as the most important of all stages in sociological context, as an individual in this stage not only pursues a virtuous life but also produces food and wealth that sustained people in other stages of life, as well as the offsprings that continued mankind. 

Vanaprastha stage refers to the retirement stage, where an individual, hands over the household responsibilities to the next generation, takes an advisory role, and gradually withdraws from the world. Here a person withdraws his wish of collecting wealth for himself and his family and spends whatever he gets for the welfare of mankind. This stage is often confused with Sanyasa in modern days. Rishis in ancient days were in vanaprastha stage of life and not in the Sanyasa stage. So they used the wealth they got as donation or by their own activities for performing various yagnas for the welfare of the mankind. Modern people who question the ethics of Yogis who indulge in business and other activities of obtaining wealth have to understand that these people don’t have to lead a puritanical life and hence they are not prohibited from such activities.

Sanyasa stage refers to the ascetic phase of life. Here an individual renounces his material desires and prejudices, by a state of disinterest and detachment from material life, generally without any meaningful property or home, and is focused on Moksha, peace and simple spiritual life.

Thus the modern idea of equating the practices and traditions of Hinduism with the western monotheistic practices has led to complete misunderstanding of Indic traditions. As a result we witness unjust degrading of the traditional practices of the oldest religion of the world which despite of many such cultural and physical attacks has successfully been able to survive unlike many other old religions of the world.

 

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Responses

  1. Raj Puducode Reply

    November 24, 2016 at 11:46 pm

    From stone to a precious gem, from an inert thing to the most illuminated, from the lowest caste to the highest, from an ant to an elephant – Bharat has believed that God exists in all these aspects. Bharat is a country which has firm faith that every object is worthy of worship. That is why in Bharat you find that even a stone in the form of an idol finds acceptability and worship. Trees like Asvattha tree and tulasi have also been worshiped here. Animals like cow, elephant and horse also are being worshipped in Bharat. Bharat is one which wants to foster even ants by providing them sugar and flour as food. Bharat is a country which offers worship recognizing divinity in all sorts of animals whether it is a donkey, monkey or a dog. Unfortunately people who cannot recognize this basic truth foolishly describe Indians as foolish. But this is not true. Bharat is a country which is extending the love of God not merely to human beings but to every living being, be it animals, birds or bees. The type of social justice that is obtained in Bharat cannot be obtained in any other country in the world. No country has been able to recognize this philosophy of Bharat. Bharat is one which combines spirituality in day to day life.

  2. Raj Puducode Reply

    November 24, 2016 at 11:48 pm

    The sanctity, the sacredness in this country is not there anywhere else. Therefore, Bharat has been the land of several incarnations. Bharat is akin to a mother of the whole world. In what way are we thinking of our motherland. The present procedure is wrong. You have to respect your mother land and that should be the goal of your life. and Lord Rama said, Mother and Motherland are much greater than heaven or paradise. He considered his physical mother and motherland as one and the same. That we have to know and practice. You think and pray to Rama, you glorify Rama but who is practicing the teachings of Rama. No one is practicing. You are a hero in chanting the name of Rama but you are a zero in practicing his teachings. Why don’t you follow the teachings of Rama.

  3. Raj Puducode Reply

    November 24, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    There are two things which are important for man’s life. One is confidence in one’s own self and the other is cleansing one’s own mind. Man cannot live by himself in isolation. The entire world depends upon the social structure and on the manner in which individuals are knit together into a society. It has been the good luck of our country to have had a society which is well knit on the basis of sacred principles. The quality of forbearance of our society is not to be seen elsewhere. It is blood that flows through the arteries of Indian youth. It is not water. You have to make a determined effort to revive our sacred culture and demonstrate to the rest of the world the vitality that is contained therein. The youth of India should be prepared to sacrifice even their lives for the sake of truth. This country has been such that it had always traversed along the path of truth, had lit the lamp of truth and shed the light of truth. Today, Indians have apparently been subdued by the situations that prevail in the country, by the times in which they are living and by the environment through which they are passing. They have forgotten the greatness of their own culture and are being ridiculed by others. The sacred tenets of our scriptures such as: respect your mother as God, respect your father as God, respect your teacher as God and respect your guest as God, no longer convey any meaningful messages to us in the social makeup of today.

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