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SOCIAL SCIENCE : THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF CULTURE
The Four Stages of Life
Besides the division of the four social orders (varna) was the Vedic
division of the four stages of live (ashramas). Just as we differ in
aptitudes, so do we differ in age. There are different seasons in human life
as in nature. What grows in the spring will not grow in the autumn. The action that is
appropriate in the spring is out of place in the fall.
In this way the normal human life was regarded as eighty-four years,
consisting of four sections of twenty-one years each. The first twenty-one years is called the
"Brahmacharya ashram", the stage of youth or learning, which requires
a certain discipline, guidance and purity for its full flowering.
The second twenty-one years, from ages twenty-one to forty-two, is called the "Grihastha ashram" or
householder phase. This is the main time for having children and raising a family, as well as for
working and fulfilling our duties to society.
The third section of twenty-one years, from ages forty-two to sixty-three is the "Vanaprastha" or
the hermitage phase. This is a time for return to contemplation and for
guiding society in the distance.