In Hinduism, human life is believed to comprise four stages. These are called "Ashramas"
Brahmacharya is a period of formal education, usually between 8 and 24 years of age, during which, the young male leaves home to stay with a guru and attain both spiritual and practical knowledge. During this period, he is called a brahmachari, and is prepared for his future profession, as well as for his family, and social and religious life ahead. The goal is to acquire knowedge, build character and learn to shoulder resonsibilities.
Grihastha or Married Family Man begins when a man gets married, and undertakes the responsibility for earning a living and supporting his family. The Grihasta earns his livelihood by whatever a vocation befitting his being a member of his group, raising children, supporting his own family, kith and kin besides the persons performing their duties in the other three Ashramas. In this ashrama an individual pays three debts - service of God, serving sages and saints and to ancestors and enjoys good and noble things in life in accordace with Artha-Kama-Moksha.
Vanaprastha comes when business, family, and other commitments have been fullfilled. At this age, retire from his social and professional life, leave his home, and go to live in a forest or away from crowd, spending his time in prayers. He is allowed to take his wife along and in this stage one gradually withdraws from active life. People begins devoting more time to study of scriptures, contemplation and meditation.
Sannyasa means 'Samyak Nyasa' - 'Total detachment' from worldly pleasures and this is the last 'Ashrama'. The wish of the Sannyasi is just to be a 'persona non grata'- one who exists almost without giving any thought to his being - with no desire for name or fame or recognition. He has renounced all desires, fears and hopes, duties and responsibilities. His worldly ties are broken, and his sole concern becomes attaining moksha, or release from the circle of birth and death.
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