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Ashramasrepresent the four stages of life, brahmacharya, garhasthya, vanaprastha, and sannyasa.[1]

Related Terms

Sanatana Dharma > Achara, Ashramas, Brahman, Brahmarishi, Dharma, GodHead, Gunas, Illusory Self, Moksha, Neo-Hinduism, Paramatman, Purushaarthas, Rishis, Samadhi, Sanskrit Literature, Saptarishis, Satya Yuga, Srutis, The Imperishable, Varnas, Vichara

Syncretic Terms

Right Action > Achara, Aligned Action, Ashramas, Dharma, Purushaarthas, Rtavan, Shariah


"To gain the fourfold purushaarthas, our dharmic exponents evolved a four-phased life-pattern. Brahmacharya, celibacy and being solely devoted to learning, is the first phase, where the student lives in the residence of the teacher and pursues learning wholesomely. At the end of this phase, he has the freedom to return home, get married, and raise a family to perpetuate the lineage. He has also the choice, depending upon the degree of dispassion and earnestness he gains, to pursue spiritual wisdom exclusively, to take directly to ascetic life, sannyasa.

But the second phase, household life or garhasthya, is not a lifelong pursuit. At the age of 55 or 60, when one’s children become adults, one should entrust the household to them and adopt the vanaprastha way of life, the third phase, devoted to truthful introspection leading to inner refinement and expansion. This can be done along with one’s wife, if she so desires and is ready to take up the same mission of inner refinement.

If one succeeds in fulfilling this phase, he can adopt the last phase called sannyasa, renunciation, which is the climax and crowning glory of human life. Sannyasa is a sequel to realizing one’s own Imperishable Self. Jnanadeva kaivalya praaptih, so goes the aphorism: “From wisdom alone dawn the joy and fulfillment of inner spiritual freedom.”

Thus the twelve words, taken together, become the synopsis of Sanatana Dharma. No matter what tendencies one has, there is a way of changing them for the better, by adopting and practicing the higher disciplines and values. Practice makes one perfect. In fact, the sole object of human will and ingenuity is to change, correct, and improve oneself, so as to become what one verily aspires for.

All four varnas have equal freedom and opportunity to adopt the four-phase life and reach the climax of fulfillment, though by nature all do not do so. Failure does not invalidate the concept of fourfold purushaartha and the sure way of achieving it."[2]==Footnotes==

  1. Vanamali. The Science of the Rishis: The Spiritual and Material Discoveries of the Ancient Sages of India. Toronto: Inner Traditions, 2015.
  2. Vanamali. The Science of the Rishis: The Spiritual and Material Discoveries of the Ancient Sages of India. Toronto: Inner Traditions, 2015.