There are four stages of human life as per Hinduism. Are you wondering what are those different stages of human life? These four stages are called ashramas and were prevalent in Hindu society as early as the 5th century. The concept stands as one of the strong pillars of Hindu socio-religious thought. The idea behind this concept is to provide structure and guidance for an individual’s day to day life. So, let’s look at the different stages of human life.
Different Stages of Human Life – Ashramas
The four stages of human life as per Hinduism are as the following: –
- Brahmacharya – It refers to the stage of living as a brahmachari, a student, or an ardent disciple.
- Grhastha – It indicates the stage of living as a householder.
- Vanaprastha – Vanaprastha relates to a stage of living as a hermit
- Sannyasa – the stage of living as a renunciate.
Meaning and Purpose of the Four Stages of Human life
The different stages of human life have different meanings and purposes. The asramas prescribes every individual to go through these stages in succession, although most modern individuals do not go through all the steps. An average individual would spend his first twenty-five years in the brahmacharya stage. It is a formal education period where the individual chooses his guru and leaves his home to attain spiritual and practical knowledge.
The second stage is from the age of twenty-five to fifty years. The texts suggest that the individual must go through grhastha. Here the individual marries and takes responsibility for his family. He must mould himself according to social and cosmic norms.
The third stage is between fifty and seventy-five. The individual spends his life in Vanaprastha. The individual’s duty as a householder comes to an end. At this point, the person should let go of pleasure, desires, and social life. In this stage, the person can take his spouse along with him.
After going through all three stages, it would finally lead him to the last of the four stages of human life, i.e., sannyasa. When an individual enters this stage, he has no duties, hopes, responsibilities, etc., to make it possible for him to merge with the One.
The purpose of going through these stages is that an individual liberates himself by releasing himself from familial and societal obligations. An interesting fact is that there are, in fact, individuals who bypass other stages and go directly to sannyasa because of their intense desire for Liberation.
A sannyasi is a person who enters the last stage of the ashramas. Lord Krishna defines sannyasa in Bhagavad Gita. He says it is renouncing all kamya karmas or actions performed with a desire for the fruits.
Internal sannyasa indicates an inner transformation, the renunciation of all desires. The external sannyasa refers to the rejection of all external bonds and attachments for those seekers who want to, and are fit to, devote their lives to spiritual pursuit. It is the last stage that he gains moksha.
The first two prepare the individual for his life ahead. Simultaneously, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa prepare the individual for moksa by liberation through introspection and renunciation. Therefore, these are the stages of human life as per Hinduism.