A Life Lived in Entirety : Four Aims, Four Stages and Four Classes of Human Life – Part 1

As a response to my previous article “Donning My New Identity as a Philosopher – A Discussion on Evolution of Consciousness and Personal Identities” one of the readers asked me to write about the Hindu scheme of Four Ashramas (Four Stages of Human Life)

  1. Brahmacharya (student)
  2. Grihstha (householder)
  3. Vanaprastha (retired)
  4. Sannyasa (renunciate)

This scheme is embedded as part and parcel of every Indian. Perhaps the reader who requested a write-up from me on this, would have intuited the parallel between this scheme and the way I talked about evolution of consciousness and identities in my last article.

Rather than discuss this scheme in this article I am just going to introduce it and prepare some groundwork by talking about my evolutionary outlook and writing style, which would help the reader to assimilate my future writings.

This Article Is Not Going To Be A Prescription But A Door To Understanding Oneself

The intent of my article here is not to give a prescription based on this scheme. Not only would it be a dead regurgitation of memory, it would add or reinforce prescriptions we have already accumulated from every single quarter of society. As a philosophical inquirer I want to throw light on matters concerning the human situation, not to leave the reader with a set of conclusions, but the spirit of free inquiry; not with dead thought but with a living fire that burns the false.

While we are on this, I also wish to caution something that may be assumed about me, even though I would have never made such a claim anywhere in my writings. All prescriptions are made on the basis of an identity assumed by oneself. My identity is that of a philosopher-inquirer so I give no prescriptions. A reader must understand that I have assumed no other identity for myself. I am not a Hindu, I am not an Indian, I am not a teacher and I am even not a philosopher advocating a system of philosophy.

It’s true that I have written more about Hindu concepts in my last article and in this article, I do so only because of the wide familiarity of these concepts to Indians and am always keen to bring out the general human condition in these classifications rather than to do with any particular culture, class or race.

What I had presented in earlier in “Donning My New Identity as a Philosopher – A Discussion on Evolution of Consciousness and Personal Identities” was the Hindu concept of evolution of identity in the social scale; called the Chaturvarna – Four Varnas/Classes. Then I tied it with the evolution of identity on the personal scale with Anodea Judith’s psychological stage; which employs a modern outlook, as well as the three Hindu psychological mind states – the three Gunas. So I move seamlessly through different concepts in different systems. Of course, being human I am not beyond preferences and style, so please don’t lay a charge on me if I do tend to lean one way or the other : I am not infinite 🙂

What I can say, however, is that there is nothing “false” for me, though I shall use this term extensively and out rightly. (As I used in one instance above) Wherever I use the word “false”, it must be read as “partially true”. This is because I see life as evolution, a fluid movement, rather than being boxed up in compartments. And this is what I call Integral Living. It is cumbersome for me to write “partially true” everywhere, everytime, so I shall stick to the word “false”. Perhaps I should start documenting my own lexicon somewhere.

The Four Aims of Life (Purusharthas)

While the Hindus had a scheme for evolution of identities on the individual scale and social scale, they also had a scheme of evolution of Four Aims of Human Life (Purusharthas)

  1. Dharma (piety, morality, duties)
  2. Artha (wealth, health, means of life),
  3. Kama (pleasure, relationships, emotions)
  4. Moksha (liberation, freedom, self-realization)

(English translations from Wikipedia, which I liked very much. I made just one change – instead of love, I have used pleasure in Kama)

Before I get into the interrelationship between the four different schemes of Hindus – The three Mind States (Gunas), the four Aims ( Purusharthas), the four Ashramas (Stages) and the four Varnas (Classes), I would like to revisit what I wrote last time.

A Re-visiting Of The Four Varnas/ Social Classes And My Evolutionary Style Of Writing

  1. Sudra – Employee
  2. Vaishya – Social Manager/Sustainer
  3. Kshatriya – Social Policy Maker/Administrator
  4. Brahmin – Social Transformer/Inquirer (Please note – not Social Entrepreneur who is a Kshatriya, and not a Social Worker, who is a Sudra in my scale)

Those who would have gone through my previous post in this regard would notice that I have translated the Hindu terms more compactly in English this time and with a minute change of flavour. Being an inquiring philosopher and an evolutionary, I do not believe in having fixed conclusions but rather allow for newer insights and forms to emerge. Like life, a true philosopher never stops evolving. This is something my readers have to expect in all that I write. So the best way to read me is to see the last that I have written on any matter.

This automatically does not suggests that what I had written previously was totally false or serves little value. Life exists on several parallel planes – if we speak hierarchically – or in different modes, if we wish to speak without any hierarchy. Not all people are having the same consciousness at any given moment of time. So what appeals to a person at a certain time, at a certain level of maturity will show great variation. Depending upon the inclination and maturity of individuals my older writings may hold more attraction and make more sense than my newer ones.

As noted earlier I am not a scholar or a pedantic given to establishing historical meanings of the words; not that these functions are invalid – they are – for some people, at some time. But my interest is not to establish exact meanings of words. I am not dependent on words to provide me with meaning. Without doubt one does start that way but eventually an inquirer becomes more plastic with the meaning of words. For him they are starting point of inquiry rather than a concrete fact. For him a word can convey multiple meanings at multiple levels of consciousness in multiple contexts. So the meaning of word for an inquirer is extracted in the context he wishes to explore, with the level of consciousness he has in that instant. All this may sound a bit perplexing to a beginner of self inquiry but I thought that I should make a mention here and develop this theme in detail in my later writings. I don’t want my readers to expect a mathematical consistency in my writings.

What I am saying is not novel, at least historically. Any reader of history in any field would recognize that over time the meanings of words have kept changing through different minds in different ages and different cultures. Oh my and what feuds have erupted on them!

The Four Stages (Ashramas) of Hindu Society in Wikipedia

Anyone, who is interested in the details of this scheme would do well to read this concise but very well presented article in Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashrama_(stage)

Since the description of this is found on Wikipedia I would not be spending much time discussing it’s details; rather I would like to present it with my own view, tying it also with my previous article.

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