What is Four Stages of Hinduism?

Ashrama is a system of stages of life discussed in Hindu texts of the ancient and medieval eras. The four ashramas are: Brahmacharya (student), Grihastha (householder), Vanaprastha (forest dweller), and Sannyasa (renunciant). The ashrama system is an aspect of the dharma concept in Hinduism. It is also a component of ethical principles in Indian philosophy, where it is associated with the four proper goals of human life (purushartha), which are to achieve fulfillment, happiness, and spiritual liberation. Moreover, since the four ashramas can be seen as the framework of an influential life-span model, they are also part of an indigenous developmental psychology that has shaped the orientation and goals of many people from its ancient beginnings to the present day, especially in India.

1. Brahmacharya Ashrama (Student Life) - Duration 1 to 25 Years

The Brahmacharya Ashrama is the first stage of life, which focuses on education and self-discipline. In this stage, the individual studies the Vedas and scriptures under the guidance of a guru. The Brahmacharya Ashrama emphasizes education and physical, mental, and spiritual development. This stage prepares the individual for the other ashramas of life and guides him towards restraint, discipline, and attainment of knowledge.

2. Grihastha Ashrama (Household Life) - Duration 26 to 50 Years

The Grihastha Ashrama is the second stage of life, in which the individual marries and raises a family. In this stage, the person takes up social and economic responsibilities. In Grihastha Ashram, the principles of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha are followed. This stage is considered important for the stability of life and the advancement of society. The Grihastha person performs his duties towards his family and society and participates in religious and social activities.

3. Vanaprastha Ashram (Vanaprastha Life) - Duration 51 to 75 Years

Vanaprastha Ashram is the third stage of life, in which the person gradually retires from worldly life. In this stage, the person hands over the responsibilities of his family to his children and goes to the forest to do Sadhana and meditation. In Vanaprastha Ashram, emphasis is laid on self-reflection, Sadhana and religious activities. In this stage, the person engages in the search of his soul and moves towards the goal of his life.

4. Sanyas Ashram (Sanyasi Life) - Duration 76 Years onwards

Sanyas Ashram is the last stage of life, in which the person completely renounces the worldly life and does Sadhana to attain Moksha. In this stage, the person takes to sanyaas and is absorbed in the worship of God. In Sanyas Ashrama, the person renounces all kinds of material comforts and devotes his life to religion and spirituality. This stage leads the person to enlightenment and liberation.

The four ashramas clearly define the role and duties of a person at different stages of life. These ashramas guide the person towards leading a balanced and purposeful life. Following these four ashramas in Hinduism leads a person towards self-development, social service and ultimately attainment of moksha. The overall purpose of these four stages of life is to help the person lead a complete and balanced life.

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