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Ageing Gracefully In Indian Culture-Four Divisions
Vanaprastha a ashram of Hindu ashramas or divisions of one's life, contributes to ageing gracefully..
Correcting "Vanprasth Ashram" Concept :If "Vanprasth Ashram" is interpreted to mean "going to a forest" after completing fifty years of life, it will have the following consequences
Benefit of life long experience of the retirees will be lost to the younger generations for good.
Householders habituated to a life of comfort and luxury will be frightened to their bones and never think of stepping into VanprasthAshram.
Vanishing forests will not be able to accommodate over nine crores of senior citizens in India alone.
His Holiness Swami Chinmayananda was once interviewed on the subject. The interpretation of the concept of "Vanprasth" Ashram"given by His Holiness is an eye opener, authoritative and practical enough.
Hindu Scriptures are flexible enough on the subject. Based on the interview with His Holiness, the Faculty of CCVS divided the "VanprasthAshram" in two broad stages viz.
I.Home based Vanprasth life to be lived in two stages of about five years each.
2.Ashram based Vanprasth life to be lived in two stages of about five years each.
Following steps have been recommended for living the life of a successful Vanprasth in modem tiines :
Home Based Vanprastha Ashrama-(For Ageing gracefully)
First Stage (About five years)
- Firmly decide that you want to step in Vanprasth life style.
- Move to outside room of your house
- Separate the bed
- Food in room
- Start Scriptural studies and satsang
- Study or join courses to complete cherished work or hobby.
- Cultivate friendship with other elderly people.
- Cultivating good relations with children and their spouses
- Start Balavihar groups for children, yoga, counseling and personality development classes for youth.
- Discharge remaining responsibilities if any
- Write your will
Second stage (About five years)
- Join service associations
- Take up responsibility for selfless work
- Join satsang groups Increase spiritual practices .
- Consolidate the first stage
Ashram Based Vanprasth-(For Ageing gracefully)
Third Stage (About five years) Shift to an ashram without spouse.
Engage in full time selfless work
Give up the habits of anger, criticism, lust, egoism, excessive talking, talking about your past, present and about others.
Cultivate helpfulness, sweetness of speech, a forgiving and non hurting nature
Continue Scriptural studies, meditation and other sadhanas
Fourth Stage (About five years)
- Reduce clothing, belongings and above all, food intake.
- Develop liking for being alone.
- Undertakeanusthanas frequently
- Meditate,meditate, meditate
- Prepare for sannyasa
In essence, Vanaprastha a ashram in action in modern times will be spread over a period of about twenty years. The basic values to be lived will be:
- Life of Brahmacharya
- Daily study of scriptures Spiritual practices for inner purity
- Selfless social service & creative work
- Simple food & clothings
- Control of Mind & Indriyas (body organs)
- Spreading scriptural knowledge
- Friendship and kindness with all
- Regular Donations
- Serving the Guru by following his teachings
- Life ofVairagya -giving up desires
- Settling wealth among children before death
It will be seen that the proposed life style of a "Vanprasth" provides logical and plausible answers to all the questions raised in the introduction above.