The human life
There are four objectives of a successful human life:
1. Dharma : Righteousness. 2. Artha : Wealth; prosperity. 3. Kama : Fulfilment of normal worldly desires. 4. Moksha: Liberation from worldly desire; attainment of enlightenment; God-realization; Self-realization. Life is divided into four stages, each for a period of a quarter century:
1. Brahamacharya: Unmarried Studentship.
2. Grihasta: Married householder’s life.
3. Vanaprasta: Living in a forest as a recluse, along with one’s spouse.
4. Sanyasa: Renunication of all family conn-ections, and moving from place to place as an ascetic. (This type of Sanyasa appears to have got introduced at a later stage in history. Most ancient Rishis were living in the forests along with their spouses).
There are several variations, particularly of the last two stages ¾ Vanaprasta and Sanyasa. Normally, Vanaprasta and Sanyasa stages of life have to be embraced by a person after going through the stage of Grihasta. As such, the teachings of a recluse were firmly rooted in his experiences, aspirations and prayers as a house-holder, a citizen who had actively participated in the life of society in various capacities including even having functioned as the ruler of an empire. This class of men and women had passed through the battlefield of life, had tasted all pleasures and pains of life and then taken to solitary contemplative life. Their teachings and compositions in prose or poetry, bear a stamp of wisdom born out of real experience of life and then deep contemplation.
The composition of the Vedas was done by recluses, ascetics, Rishis and Sages rooted in the realities of life inside the society. Vedic hymns were not composed by cowherd boys and shepherds while they were grazing their flocks of cattle, cows and sheep in the grass fields. The hymns are couched in chaste Sanskrit of their times, observing strict rules of grammar and metre. Lineage holders have the keys to decipher these Vedic hymns as capsules containing, in cryptic form, formulae of various branches of mathematics, astronomy, chemistry and other sciences. The hymns of these Vedas appeared before ancient sages after their prolonged period of strict discipline, austerity and deep contemplation. The ideas locked inside these Vedic hymns are supposed to be divine revelations to these Sages, Rishis of yore. The names of the 407 Rig-Vedic Sages or Rishis (men as well as women) who composed particular Hymns or to whom the same were revealed, are faithfully recorded in the original texts.
For the same reason, feelings and aspirations expressed in the vedic hymns are regarded as divinely approved and consistent with the Laws of Nature; the observance of these Laws in one’s life will bring the fulfilment of the four religiously sanctioned objectives of human life, viz. Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha. Hymns are classified as “SHRUTI” ¾ the “Heard” ones-as heard by the Rishis, the Sages, in state of deep contemplation, and transmitted for the good of society. For example, the desire for material prosperity, good health and honoured long life of 100 years so often seen in Vedic hymns is not to be regarded as unworthy of an elevated person; such aspirations are consistent with the Laws of Nature and should be respected. Genuine renunciation will come and a pilgrim on the path of religious life will make solid, substantial and sound progress when, through experience accompanied by thoughtful analysis and contemplation, he feels an inner urge for retiring from the pursuit of worldly pleasures. Otherwise, pre-mature renunciation with worldly ambitions still lurking in the mind of a religious pilgrim will result in downright hypocrisy, that will bring blockades in the pilgrim’s progress on the path of God-realization. Not only an individual himself but also his family, community and his country will come to grief when the noble principles of renunciation and selflessness are proclaimed on the public platforms or exhibited through one’s dress but an under-current of selfishness and narrow-minded worldly aspirations are dragging the man or the woman in the opposite direction. We have to get our desires for worldly pleasures and possessions washed out clear before we walk on the path of renunciation.
In rare exceptional cases, skipping the householder’s stage of life and going straight into the life of sanyas is permitted but not encouraged.