Why the Ashram?
The system of Ashram divides the total lifespan of a man into four phases and prescribes different ways of life suitable for the different stages. The first phase is called Brahmachayra (the phase of celibacy). In this stage of life an individual has to devote himself to the acquisition of knowledge. He is to be admitted to Grurukul, the place of learning where he gains knowledge fit for his caste. Having crossed this stage with a diploma from Gurukul, he enters another phase that is called Grahathya Ashram (the phase of establishing household). In this phase one should devote oneself to various earthly duties such as marriage, propagation and looking after the disabled or the weaker member of the society.
In addition one has to raise material wealth needed for the worship of gods and ancestral spirits. Then comes the third phase that is called Vanaprashtha Ashram. In this stage, one is supposed to turn towards meditation turning away slowly from almost all the worldly duties. This process culminates in Sanyas Ashram (the stage of a sage) when one has to abstain completely from all the worldly pleasures waiting for the reunification of the soul with the universal soul.
The Ashram system is justified by various Hindu scriptures. They describe it as a very beneficial system because it prescribes duties suitable for various phases of physiological development of the human body, it helps to develop a spotless personality, it consolidates the relationship between various elements of the society, it marks the practical life and finally it makes a man fit for salvation.
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About the article
This Article and upcoming posts are extracted from the book, TOURIST INFORMATION DIRECTORY, 1997. by my Late Father Journalist, Sociologist & Anthropologists, Er. Ramesh Chandra Bandhu Bhattarai.