Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Four Ashramas in life according to Hinduism

There are four ashramas or stages of life according to Hinduism:

1. Balya, childhood
2. Brahmacharya, the life as a student
3. Grihasta, householder
4. Sanyasa, renunciating everything

Hinduism also indentifies four valid goals of life: Artha, kama, Dharma, Moksha

Of these Moksha, freedom from all the attachments is given the higest importance. Then comes Dharma or righteousness. This again has two aspects:

1. Internal
2. Social

Internal Dharma, which means defining something as good/bad based on the attitude of the person. If something is done with an unselfish attitude, it is higher than that which is done with a selfish attitude.

Then comes social dharma, which is more like social convenctions. Not all have a well reasoned logic, but they are necessary for the smooth functioning of the society. For example, why do we dress in certain manner, or dress at all. It is for the society's conventions. There is not pure logic in these, but are still followed.

Then Artha is given importance, then comes Kama.

You can see that all these are ordered in accordance to the amount to unslefishness.

First is Moksha coz it is the aim for total non-attachment.

Then comes Dharma, coz you are fulfilling your duties at your own cost towards a society, country, thus even though a limited amount of unselfishness, still high in nature.

Then comes Artha. Here you are working with a view of your own benifit, but in doing you are also indirectly producing sulprous which is necessary for the functioning of the society.

Then comes Kama, as here only your own pleasure is the issue. There is no big unselfishness involved. So this is inferior to others in the preferance, but this in itself is not totally wrong. Only point is if there is a conflict, this should be the first to give way.

In the four stages, the first is simple chilhood.

Then comes the student age. This is the age where the student is supposed to concentrate on acquiring knowledge.

Then is the Grihasta where with the knowledge acquired, the person goes into the society to live the life according to the Dharma. He marries and also fulfills his duties towards his family, society, nation etc.

The last is Sanyasa where he leaves everything and tries to be free from all attachments and attain Moksha.

One can make this trasition in a way, time he wants(assuming he is mature enough to handle the new responsibilities). But is also imporant to show some respect to societies conventions. Sometimes its not just that you understand what you mean, it is also important that other understand what you mean.

For example, if I want to express my love to a small kid, the usual way is we kiss him. In some other places, they turn thier hands in peculiar way, in some other place, they hold his cheek with their hand. Mind you none of these is any actual expression of love. But the society understands such acts and through it also the motive. Now if suppose I argue, why should I only express my love in those forms. I can as well beat the child to express the love. But the problem is other will not be able to understand it.


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