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Four Āśramas

Discussion in 'Hinduism DIR' started by mangalavara, Dec 1, 2021.

  1. mangalavara

    mangalavara Verified Account ✔
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    Namaste.

    Is the system of four Āśramas or stages of life very relevant in contemporary Hinduism?

    I can certainly see the importance of Gṛhastha or 'being devoted to a home/family' and Vānaprastha or 'retiring to forest.' I understand that the latter does not require actually retiring to a forest.

    Has Brahmacarya been replaced with today's educational system and the university?

    Is it necessary for a man (or a woman) to enter Saṃnyāsa?

    I have to ask these questions because this has been on my mind for a while now.
     
    #1 mangalavara, Dec 1, 2021
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  2. Sirona

    Sirona Hindu Wannabe

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    The Hare Krishnas give the Bhagavad Gita a fundamentalist read. They predict global harmony if varanashrama ist to be introduced worldwide, although they give more emphasis on the varnas. One 1980s book by a certain Harikesa Swami called Varnasrama Manifest even triggered the interest of the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

    I also think they believe that a woman cannot enter sannyas.
     
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  3. SalixIncendium

    SalixIncendium अहं ब्रह्मास्मि
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    They have been relevant to me in my life, though I was unaware of the classifications and stage names until recently.

    Looking back, I can see my brahmacarya phase of life through the age of 18, even though I didn't identify as Hindu. Raised as as Catholic, I found myself questioning and contemplating that religion, my existence, and forming my worldview through that stage of life.

    At the age of 18 I was married, had a child at 19, and spent then until very recently, when my daughter started her family, in the gṛhastha āśrama. At that point, I found myself entering vānaprastha (posted a thread about it here fairly recently). No, I'm not living in a literal forest, but I can relate to this at least on a metaphorical level. I have left my career in upper management, have turned my house over to my daughter, and currently going through renunciation of worldly possessions, and my perspective on what is important to me has shifted entirely.

    I cannot say that saṃnyāsa will be relevant my life, as I haven't made it that far on this ride, but given my experiences so far, I would certainly place it confidently in the forecast. :)
     
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  4. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    I think they were conceived as general and sensible guidelines, and still are general guidelines. People vary and to put some hard and fast rule on the exact time or date to switch to the new stage doesn't reflect reality.

    To me, the sannyasin stage is just when you naturally age, and start to turn inward. That is, if you've followed dharma, and completed the other three stages successfully.
     
    #4 Vinayaka, Dec 1, 2021
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  5. mangalavara

    mangalavara Verified Account ✔
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    Basically, make most people householders who work laborious or servile jobs for a living? :tongueout:

    Interesting. This makes me think that Brahmacarya as a stage of life is not necessarily living in the house of a gurū and learning the Veda but giving priority to learning during that age range, contemplating religion, and having one's worldview shaped so that one is spiritually prepared for the rest of one's life.

    I remember your thread. It certainly sounds like you are in the Vānaprastha stage of life. Your way of life is truly Hindu.

    I imagine that if I were to enter Saṃnyāsa, I would want to do so in a Hindu country. Here, not many people, I think, would understand or be supportive.

    Wow. I like this view.

    In that case, I am still in the Brahmacarya stage of life. Just after I turned 30, I began my career as a university student and then earned my degree at 33. It will probably be in the next Gregorian year that I shift to Gṛhastha. Lol. Millennials!

    I take it that in this era, considering that we don't live in the premodern Indian subcontinent or even Hindu Southeast Asia, we approach these stages of life (and our types of occupations) in a spiritual manner informed by our scriptures regardless of whether or not we receive sacred threads, learn Sanskrit, and retire to the forest (preferably one in the Himalayas :D). In that manner, our way of life is indeed Hindu and that we're not merely applying Sanskrit words to stages of life and types of occupations that are present virtually everywhere in the world.
     
    #5 mangalavara, Dec 1, 2021
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  6. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    I think there needs to be a distinction made between the formal sannyasin, and the sannyasi stage of life. I view it as almost sad that it's the same word, as that has caused confusion, especially in the west. I don't know the history of this term.

    The formal sannyasin is an unmarried, never married lifetime monk. This is in stark contrast to the householder, which is the other option of the two paths. There are an estimated 2 million sannyasins in India today, called by various names, like sadhu, yogi, swami, etc. The time of the vow can be quite young, or in some orders, older. In my sampradaya, as an example, the young man has to enter the monastery under less strict vows (poverty, celibacy, loyalty to the lineage, humility, etc.) before the age of 25, and then take sannyas vow when he's ready, if he gets ready. Other orders are stricter, or more liberal. Most new sannyasins come from families within the same sampradaya, and often trained with that in mind. In the very religious it is an honour to have a monk in the family, although you may never see him again.

    Another variety of sannyasin is the wandering ascetic, or sadhu, who would rarely stay in one place for more than a month or so, constantly on the move, begging for food. In honoring the tradition, many will come fort with food. He owns his robes his staff, and his begging bowl, and considers even those on loan from God.

    This shouldn't be confused with the sannyasin stage of life. Some people, in more liberal orders, are indeed accepted at this stage, but only with the approval of one's family. One who abandons his family in favour of the forest, without the family blessing, would be considered adharmic.

    That said, the re are some similarities between the stage, and the formal sannyasin, and that lies in the religiousness of the individual. In many ways the sannyasin stage resembles the other, but is just far less intense.
     
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  7. mangalavara

    mangalavara Verified Account ✔
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    Your whole post is both informative and helpful. All of this is good to know as it helps me understand. :)

    I think one could say that just as there is a difference between formal Sannyasin and the Sannyasi stage of life, there is a difference between formal Brāhmaṇa occupation and informal Brāhmaṇa occupation. A Vedic scholar or priest, for instance, would be a formal Brāhmaṇa whereas a public or private school teacher would be an informal Brāhmaṇa, yeah? What both would have in common is the spiritual approach to the occupation and the right character, I think.
     
    #7 mangalavara, Dec 1, 2021
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  8. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    Sort of. Traditionally, all Brahmins were priests. Some priests were also scholars. But because of poverty, and waning support, some Brahmins were forced to seek alternative occupations to earn a living, like teaching, medicine, and more. Many still retain their Brahmin character though. That part is well imbedded.

    In the opposite way, there is also a class of priest called pandarams, who could assist Brahmins in temple ritual, but grew in number with the sugar diaspora, as Brahmins were less likely to be captured and taken to work in the cane fields in far off lands. The people still wanted a religion though, some a religious non-Brahmin would step up and volunteer.
     
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  9. ajay0

    ajay0 Well-Known Member

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    I would say it is a general framework for reference or perspective, so as to gain spiritual merit and get closer to enlightenment . It is however in the end totally the individual's choice and should not be applied rigidly. Most Hindus leave out the vanaprastha and sannyasa phases.

    Nisargadatta Maharaj attained enlightenment while in the Grhastha phase of his life. So did Lahiri Mahasaya and Rajini Menon and Anandamayi Ma. They never went through the Vanaprastha or Sannyasa phase.

    Trailanga Swami chose the sannyasa phase, while Vidura, the minister celebrated for his wisdom in the Mahabharatha chose the Vanaprastha phase in his old age and retired to the forest. So it is entirely an individual choice. Siddhartha went through all the phases.

    The ashrama system serves as a perspective for reference or perspective, but it boils in the end to the individuals choice as befits his capabilities and interests.
     
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  10. Sirona

    Sirona Hindu Wannabe

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    Curiously, Prabhupada has contempt for people with laborious or servile jobs as long as they are in the "material world". He called them "fruitive workers" and compared them in the crudest way to donkeys and dogs, who allegedly have only eating, sleeping, defending themselves and sex on their minds. If you study ISKCON, you will find out that as a "devotee" you often have to do just as much work, but for a "higher" purpose. ISKCON propagates that the rural life as it was in the Middle Ages in India is the best way of life. "Simple living, high thinking" is the slogan he always used.
     
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  11. ameyAtmA

    ameyAtmA ~ ~
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    Let us see what BhagavAn Shri KRshNa svayaM (Himself) said about sannyAs

    Bhagavad GeetA 5.3
    dnyeyaM sa nitya sannyAsI yo na dveshTi na kAnkshatI |
    nirdvando hi mahAbAho, sukhaM dvandvAt pramuchyate ||

    Know that person (karma-yogi from previous verse) to be an Ever-SannyAsi , ever-renounced, who neither hates (dveshTi) nor desires or keeps expectations (kAnkshatI). Such a person, free from all dualities (nirdvando -- likes-dislikes, love-hate, good-bad, happy-sad, elated-down), becomes free (mukta), O mighty-armed One (mahAbAho - Arjuna).

    na dveshTi na kAnkshati - merely reading the verse makes you feel peaceful.
    nirdvando
    nitya-sannyAsI

    The ashram framework is relevant when this becomes challenging while in the world. Hence the tendency to walk away.

    Being in the world and yet alone - dwelling within.
    What is most important is quiet time alone, to contemplate.
    Being emotionally self-sufficient and hence independent.


    Related to this is the verse in BG chapter 12 - bhakti yog
    BG 12.17
    yo na hRushyatI na dveshTi na shochatI na kAnkshatI |
    shubhAshubha parityAgi bhaktimAnashyah: me priyah: ||

    One who never
    --feels overexcited or elated (
    harsha => hRushyatI),
    --hates
    --laments (but finds a solution instead)
    --desires or keeps expectations (
    kAnkshatI - verb , from AkAnkshA - noun)

    who has given up expectations or attachments to fruits i.e. outcomes of karma - actions/decisions,

    such a person full of bhakti (-- ironically, vibhakti => full of oneness with Me in Spirit, just for worship is split apart from Me)


    is very dear to Me.


    -----------

    Bramhacharya is not just going to school, college and university, but rather the attitude that is learned and that shapes the student. Respect for and trust in teachers, parents, elders, seva-bhav, servitude, obedience, discipline, having the attitude that studying and learning is their duty at this point, not being extravagant or demanding, and celibacy.

    ------------



    vasudeva sutaM devaM |
    kauMsa chANura mardanaM |
    devakI paramAnandaM |
    KRshNam vande jagadguruM ||

    || om namo bhagavate vAsudevAya ||
     
    #11 ameyAtmA, Dec 2, 2021
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2021
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