Many years ago when I was a visitor to Meditation Retreat, Haridas suggest we as individuals progress through four stages in life - I think he called them Ashrams.
What is the growth process we, as individuals, experience as we experience this "growth process"?
What can we learn in each?
What can we expect in/from each Ashram?
—David Bell, USA
I remember you from those early years at the Meditation Retreat!
The four ashrams are part of human development. In our younger years we are part of the brahmacharya or student stage. This is the time to be open to learning from life, ideally from wise teachers. It should be a time of dedication, humility, and learning to focus.
The second stage is the householder stage where we take up responsibilities in the world. This is a time for developing our energy and our service to family and society. It is a busy time of life but we learn lessons of selflessness and serving the welfare of all.
Whether we are actually married with children or not, most people go through this phase.
The third ashram is where the children are grown and the householder can step back from many of his duties. Instead of carrying the burden of many responsibilities, he now has more time for meditation. Now he acts in an advisory role to others. This is a stage of wisdom and inner withdrawal.
The fourth ashram is called sannyas. This is a stage of complete renunciation and inner freedom in God, symbolized by leaving family entirely and going to the forest. It is a time when one is completely free to focus on God completely.
We, in our time, may not be able to take up a begging bowl, but we can focus on giving up the ego and embracing soul bliss. To hellp with this later stage, Swami Kriyananda in 2009 created a Nayaswami Order (naya means new). You can read more about this new Swami order at www.nayaswami.org.
Blessings to you on your spiritual journey,