The Four Stages of Life

NameInstructorCourseDateQuestion 2: The Four Stages of Life1. The Stage of StudentshipThe first stage of life, as outlined in the Manu, is the stage of studentship. During this stage, a person, who is usually male, must place himself under the guidance of a tutor. The tutor must then instruct the student on how to achieve desired states of personal growth, such as self-purification and self-control (Voorst 39). The student is required to recite all the teachings of the Veda as instructed by his tutor, so as to gain all the wisdom they contain. During the recitations, the student is required to clasp his hands together in a pose referred to as the Brahmangali, while uttering the syllable “Om” at the beginning and the end of each lesson. According to Voorst (39), failure to pronounce the syllable would cause the lesson at hand to escape the student’s grasp, thus rendering the entire exercise fruitless.The stage of studentship, primarily, cultivates the virtues of respect and discipline within a person. A student wishing to become twice-born is required to follow all the instructions set forth by his teacher without fail. This is only made possible by fully appreciating the consequences of disobedience. In this regard, a student must understand that any disobedience on his part will condemn him to a life of suffering and humiliation upon reincarnation. For instance, a student who speaks ill of his teacher will become a dog in his next life, while the one who steals from his teacher will be reincarnated as a worm (Voorst 39).
2. The Stage of the HouseholderThe next stage of life, in pursuit of rebirth, is that of the householder. A student can only enter this stage once he has completed the first stage successfully as determined by his teacher. The stage of the householder entails the twice-born man choosing an appropriate woman and getting married (Voorst 40). For the marriage union to be deemed acceptable, the wife in question must be from a similar socio-cultural background, such as coming from the same caste. Similarly, the woman must be of perfect health and without any undesirable physical traits, such as red hair (Voorst 40).This stage in the life of a twice-born man focuses greatly on respect for traditions, ancient teachings, and instructions from tutors. For example, twice-born men must respect the requirement to only select wives of equal castes and not lower, lest they be condemned to hell (Voorst 40). If they contravene these rules, they risk having their sacrifices and offerings being rejected by the spirits of the ancestors and the gods. This would, then, seal their fate by preventing them from ever entering heaven.3. The Stage of RetirementThe twice-born man who completes the second stage successfully must then proceed to the next stage of retirement, which is typically arrived at during old age. According to Voorst (40), the teachings of the Veda dictate that each twice-born man who notices his skin wrinkling and his hair turning white must depart to the forest. He can either take his wife with him, in which case she must also make a vow of solitude, or leave her with his sons. The twice-born man in the stage of retirement is supposed to focus solely on putting his senses under his control while making offerings to the gods and reciting the Veda.In essence, the stage of retirement is a way of preparing the twice-born man for a life of asceticism in total devotion to the gods (Voorst 41). The basic requirements during this stage of life indicate that the twice-born man is supposed to become one with nature by returning to his primary origins. For instance, he is required to wear skins or tattered garments and leave his nails uncut as a sign of his dedication and focus. He is also supposed to be in control of his basic urges, such as his sexual desires, further readying him for the last stage of asceticism.4. The Stage of AsceticismThe fourth and final stage in the life of a twice-born man is the stage of asceticism. During this stage, the twice-born man will have gone through all the preceding stages successfully, thus gearing himself for the inner bliss brought about through asceticism. According to Voorst (41), only the person who has gone through all the four stages of life can expect to experience bliss after his death. This last stage of asceticism also showcases the high regard with which a life of solitude is held within the Hindu community. For instance, the ascetic forsakes everything in his life to pursue liberation in a life of complete solitude, through which he is assured of happiness and peace upon his death.This type of solitary existence for the twice-born man means that he becomes solely reliant on nature and the gods. He is not bothered with the mundane concerns of laymen, such as food, security, or companionship, as he will already have attained the much sought-after state of complete liberation from such basic needs (Voorst 41). At this stage, the twice-born man desires neither life nor death, but rather waits patiently for his assuredly blissful rebirth.
Works CitedVoorst, Robert. Anthology of World Scriptures. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2005. Print.