Vanaprastha

From Academic Kids

A vanaprastha (from Sanskrit vana, forest, and prus, dwelling) is a person who is living in the forest as a hermit after partially giving up material desires.

This word is generally used to denote a particular phase of life(next 20 years {60-80 years of human life span} ). In this phase of life, the person is in a retreat from worldly life. He lives away from the city, in a jungle as a hermit, with as little material possessions as possible. This stage denotes a transition phase from material to spiritual life. It is the third in the four phases of a man, namely, Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha, and finally Sanyasa, as prescribed by Manusmriti for the Dhwija castes, in the Hindu system of life.

When the householder is advanced in years, when he perceives his skin become wrinkled and his hair grey, when he sees the son of his son, the time is said to have come for him to enter the third stage of life. He should now disengage himself from all family ties except that his wife may accompany him, if she chooses, and repair to a lonely wood, taking with him his sacred fires and the implements required for the daily and periodical offerings. Clad in deerskin, a single piece of cloth, or in a bark garment, with, his hair and nails uncut, the hermit is to subsist exclusively on food growing wild in the forest, such as roots, green herbs, and wild rice and grain. He must not accept gifts from any one, except of what may be absolutely necessary to maintain him; but with his own little hoard he should, on the contrary, honor, to the best of his ability, those who visit his hermitage. His time must be spent in reading the metaphysical treatises of the Veda, in making oblations, and in undergoing various kinds of privation and austerities, with a view to mortifying his passions and producing in his mind an entire indifference to worldly objects.

Having by these means succeeded in overcoming all sensual affections and desires, and in acquiring perfect equanimity towards everything around him, the hermit has fitted himself for the final and most exalted order, that of devotee or religious mendicant.

Topics in Hinduism
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