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(1) Where Rishi, Muni live, normally in forest.
(2) Four stages in a human being's life - Brahmcharya Aashram, Grihasth Aashram, Vaanprasth Aashram and Sanyaas Aashram. Ancient Hindoo scriptures - the four Ved Sanhitaa, and the Upanishads do not prescribe these four distinct stages of life. The idea of these Aashram was introduced in in Hindoo law books which were written between 300 BC and 400 AD. These books recommend that a man should divide his life span in four stages - Bramcharya, Grihasth, Vaanprasth and Sanyaas.

(1) Brahmcharya Aashram - (0-25 years of age) - This period should be devoted to studentship. He should follow abstinence, respect his Guru and obtain knowledge sincerely.

(2) Grihasth Aashram - (25-50/70 years of age) - After the graduation, or finishing one's education, one should enter the world by earning livelihood, getting married, having children, performing religious duties etc. This period is supposed to be a duty, not an option. During this period one should do all kinds of Dharm Karm. During this period one should pay his three debts (Pitra Rin by doing Tarpan of one's ancestors, Dev Rin by doing Yagya, and Brahm Rin by producing children).

(3 & 4) Vaanprasth and Sanyaas Aashram - (After 50 years of age) - Vaanprasth is he third stage of life. After the duties of a household are over, one should start detaching from the world. How one does it, it depends upon one's capacity. One may start detaching oneself living in the house itself, by regulating one's life routine; or leave this world completely and go to forest if one can do it. One should devote more time to study scriptures during this period. Spouse may live together with regulated life. When this is practiced completely and one is detached from the world completely, when he doesn't want anything from world, that stage is to enter into the Sanyaas stage. A Sanyaasee only gives and doesn't take anything from the world.

The writers of the last 100 years have mistakenly regarded the Aashram as an integral part of the Hindoo way of life. History does not bear evidence that Vaanprasth and Sanyaas were ever the requirements, or were strictly followed by majority of Hindoo. This was given only as a choice whoever wanted to follow them.
(Aangiras, p 67-68)

My Note - I do not defy Aangiras Muni, but in many Puraan and Mahaabhaarat "Varn Aashram Dharm" is asked by people and is described accordingly. It is stressed that one should follow his Varn Aashram Dharm and many kings have followed this too. Then what is that Aashram? And why is it stressed so much in detail? Certainly children did not live in Guru's Aashram even in last 200 years. When were these Gurukul? Paandav went to Gurukul, Krishn, Balaraam and Sudaamaa studied in Gurukul; of course Eklavya did not go to Gurukul, still he made an idol of his Guru and learned from it. It shows that at least some people went to Gurukul, maybe the common people did not have that facility, but at least the system was there. Most kings went to forest after their ruling period was over.

There are three meanings of Aashram:
1 - Aashram means hermitage. Here sages live along with other sages. They build their huts, small or large, and do their daily chores of Tap, worship, Yagya etc. When somebody goes to Van, since he is not supposed to live in bricks houses, he builds a Kutiyaa (made of leaves, twigs, straws, trees, trees' branches etc) for himself to live and to do his worship etc. When several people live nearby in such Kutiyaa, that is also called Aashram.

2 - That place was also called Aashram where disciples used to go to get educated. This is the place where they used to spend their "Brahmcharya" period of their lives. (see No 3 meaning). It was also called Gurukul. Thus Guru, his wife and disciples were considered as a family where Guru and his wife were like parents of the disciple. Guru's wife use to make arrangements for disciples' food etc and was usually called Guru Maataa (mother). They used to live in huts, work for Aashram, get alms, and learn.

3 - Its another meaning is life's four stages of human life. In Hindu Dharm a person lives his life under four Aashram - Brahmcharya Aashram, Grihasth Aashram, Vaanprasth Aashram, Sanyaas Aashram. A person's age is supposed to be 100 years and each Aashram span is about 25 years of age.

(A) - Brahmcharya Aashram. The first 25 years have been assigned for study. And this period is called Brahmcharya Aashram. During this period one is supposed to sleep on floor, to eat minimum and whatever is available food, to observe celibacy, to serve Guru (teacher), and to acquire knowledge.

(B) - Grihasth Aashram. The second 25 years (26-50) have been assigned for Grihasth Aashram. In this period a person marries, has children and fulfills all his duties towards God (Yagya, charity, alms, fasts etc). Grihasth Aashram has been considered the most important period of the life as it is the only period when a man can repay his all Rin (loans - Brahm Rin, Dev Rin, Pitra Rin) by producing children, imparting knowledge, and doing Yagya and other religious duties.

(C) - Vaanprasth Aashram. The third part, the next 25 years (51-75), are assigned to Vaanprasth Aashram. In this Aashram, a person may live in the house or in forest but detaches himself from materialism and prepares himself for Sanyaas.

(D) - Sanyaas Aashram. The fourth and last 25 years are assigned to Sanyaas Aashram. In this one a person is supposed to leave the world, all kinds of worldly pleasures, all materialism and all worldly involvement and spend his time in all kinds of spiritual activities, keeping minimum things with him, eating only whatever he gets in alms etc.


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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 06/09/11