In the last chapter we saw how the Asrama system was tuned to human developmental needs.
Brahmacharya is the stage when brain development and learning happens. Grhasta is the stage when professional and emotional development happens as neurons in our brain re-wire and emotional component of cognition and behavior mature. Vana prastha is the stage when we need to develop new thinking, getting out of routine, so that we keep up the use of our mental faculties to prevent decline. Sanyasa is the stage when we need to avoid stress, as stress causes the loss of memory in old-age.
Social benefits of Brahmacharya
The stage of Brahmacharya is the student stage of life, where kids undergo formal learning process. Upanayana ceremony is carried out to introduce the kid to a formal Guru.
According to Manu Smrti Kids belonging to Brahmana Varna have to enter the formal learning process at the age of 7, those who aspire to be in Kshatriya Varna at the age of 11 and those who aspire to be in Vaizya Varna at the age of 9.
The age difference is due to the nature of professions. To handle weapons one needs a lot more physical strength and mental maturity. To handle farm animals and implements one needs physical strength less than handling weapons. To focus on reading and writing more, one needs to train more rigorously from younger ages.
These ages are somewhat followed in current societies also. In student life, people enter vocations like NCC at 12 years of age. They enter scouts and guides at 10. They start writing from 6. Though kids in India start writing at 3, age greater than 5 is recommended to start writing, even now.
Brahmacharya or the formal learning stage of life prepares the young minds with lot of knowledge and tools that they can use for finding more knowledge or provide services or goods. Only those societies which have a good formal learning mechanism develop well.
It was the case then and also now. Today there is a clear-cut recognition of importance of formal learning all across the world in all societies.
Social benefits of Grhastasrama
It is the stage of life when one gets stable household in terms of a profession, marriage and kids. Grhastas actually keep running of the societal machine as a rule.
For a Grhastha to produce kids that are more intelligent and adaptable, it is extremely important that the Grhasta goes through the Brahmacharya stage where he/she learns more structured knowledge, new skills and techniques, learns to adapt and evolve and learns to live in more austere conditions.
Hence Grhasta always need to be preceded by Brahmacharya. This is absolutely applicable at all times.
Such a Grhasta preceded by a meaningful Brahmacharya produces progeny that can take forward the human evolution in all domains.
The fundamental unit of a Society is NOT an individual but a family. It could be joint or single family. But then the family is the fundamental unit of society. It is because the family is the unit in which new ones are born, given a safe and stable Brahmacharya for their evolution, happiness for developing their emotional development. A Family is the unit which teaches the young ones, cultures the young brains about necessity to give and take, learn to loose and win, love the vanquisher etc. If the family system goes off, then individuals cannot learn to live in a society, as the vital elements of give and take, win and loose would not be imbibed such individuals.
From the evolutionary stage of being single beasts, we evolved into primates of fission-fusion thereby which guided our evolution of intelligence as we were able to utilize the collective knowledge of many brains and not our brain alone.
If the family system breaks off, then we will loose these advantages and become beasts again.
Social benefits of Vanaprasta
Rishis in Vanaprasta were innovators and creators of new knowledge. They not only lived simple life, but also spent time researching and innovating.
Sections of population who have finished their commitment with kids should go out and seek new areas of knowledge, while living simplistically. This is Vanaprasta. This Asrama can solve several important problems faced by the society today.
<!–Today there is no easy solution for a society that needs to keep innovating or spend energy in large-scale research that is not funded.
<!–In the American and European model, unemployment allowances, state support for old-age, medicare for all provide a relatively risk-free society to youngsters, who then spend their time innovating even if they end up as a failure. They can take the risk as they have a huge safety net. Though it enables youngsters to take risks, it has become a drag on society and such support has become expensive. In the Indian model, we are left to fend for ourselves and the risk-affinity with youngsters to innovate has become very low.
<!–With Vanaprasta model of society, innovation, research and service becomes a part of everyone’s life. It is carried out with happiness for the sake of innovation and not for personal gains at an age where taking risks doesn’t matter.
<!–Thus Vanaprasta could be the Answer for carrying out innovation in future societies, where people enter innovation after they have settled their kids.
<!–If people follow Vanaprastha, they can start innovating and researching or serving the society, when their kids are on their own and switch over to a simplistic life-style to reduce their expenses.
<!–This also means that people in Vanaprastha stage leave the conventional jobs to budding Grhastas while taking up more innovative stuff for them.
<!–As large sections of population scale down their needs and live an asectic life concentrating on innovation, research etc, their demands on the society drastically comes down. That reduces unnecessary demand and inflation in society.
Social benefits of Sanyasa
Sanyasa Asrama is NOT for ‘Spiritual’ people. It is for everyone. It is for people to keep their minds stress free and happy.
In Sanyasa Asrama, people need to give up everything including our relationships. They live by begging, which means that they eat the left-over food after others have taken. They keep traveling to distant places spreading their experiences, knowledge and wisdom.
When someone faces problems in other Asramas, experience and neutrality of Sanyasa is to be invoked to help. Since Sanyasin’s belong to no family or a family unknown to us and is not tied to any place or person or property, they are supposed to provide experience, maturity and neutrality that would guide others.
The guidance from Sanyasin’s started like this. But it is completely out-of-turns now.
Modern Sanyasins do not live the life of beggar. They don’t give up relationships. In fact they invent new ones! Many have great appetite for food, clothes, music, wealth and sometimes even sex. Even traditional acharyas have become administrators of wealth.
The biggest difference in the original and modern sanyasa asrama is sanyasins should not acquire even people around them. They should be totally individualistic talking to different people and not having anybody around them.
Post Sankara, due to the ‘mutt’ systems, sanyasins acquired a set of people as disciples in the Buddhist traditions and another set to run the mutts. This stagnation of people in the mutt system created new relationships that sanyasins were supposed to remove.
This meant that begging bowl wandering sanyasa was adopted only literally whereby people lived sanayasa life of saffron cloth and simple meals inside golden palaces, wealthy buildings with huge political and power connections.
Why do we need Asrama Dharma..?
The materialistic way of living, whereby we exploit natural resources more and more to create more and more wealth that has to be distributed fails at a point. This planet cannot bear the exploitation of natural resources beyond a point. We are hitting the limits already due to rapid advancements in science and technology.
Hence higher population and more exploitation of natural resources cannot be the answer. At some point materialism of creating more wealth and distributing more wealth will break, as the world is finite in its resources.
The solution in the materialistic way is to have the population reduced by reducing the population growth rate. There is a problem in that also. When the population does not grow sufficiently working population to non-working population ratio declines. It leads to few young people working for a larger older population.
Hence there is an ultimate contradiction here. We need younger population to grow to support the old. But a growing population hits the limits of this planet Earth.
Look at the following figures on how the population pyramid is changing in India.
Population distribution 2010 (Source: United Nations (2009))
In 2010 India roughly 25% is population of less than age 20, 15-20% population in 50 and above. The population of age groups between 20-50 is 55-60%. This is the population that effectively supports the other 40-45% population.
Population distribution 2050 (Source: United Nations 2009)
By 2050, we may have 20% of population less than age 20, 30-35% in age 50 and above. The 20-50 population would be 45-50%. This means that 45% population need to support the 55% population.
How will this society work..?
The Europeans and the United States are already grappling already with this change. We will hit this by 2050.
The population growth, which created more young people to support the old had to hit a break-point as it was becoming un-sustainable in terms of natural resources like air, water and shelter. Now when we are decelerating we would be left with more old people to be supported by fewer young people.
How do we address this..?
Varna Asrama Dharma – Answer to a perfect society
When 20% of population follow the simple living and learning prescribed for Brahmacharya, when 20% of population follow the ascetic living and innovation prescribed for Vanaprastha, 10% of population follow the Sanyasa living (having food after others needs are met) prescribed for Sanyasa, then 50% of population reduces its demand on society drastically. Then it is possible for the 50% of Grhasta population to support the other 50%.
The simple living by 50% of population is a more practical solution. Since the population belonging to Brahmacharis, Vanaprasti, Sanyasin do not earn much, they do not spend much and live a more austere life. The Grhastas earn and spend so that money or wealth keeps flowing between people.
Brahamacharya – Stress on Sharing and Simplicity
What we need to stress today for students in Brahmacharya is simple living and sharing. These are two characteristics we need to stress for people in this asrama. Today it is lacking.
Grhastasrama – Manage Gain and Pain
It is the Grhasta-asrama stage in which people can enjoy the pleasures and pains of the world. This is the stage when people should earn and spend money. They should also prepare themselves for their Vanaprastha stage of life during this time which means they should not accumulate diseases in their body, manage stress caused by procedures such as TSV, Yoga and develop a mental ability to enjoy themselves and the world as a spectator.
Vanaprasta – Austere and Innovative
The world economy and ecology needs people getting into Vanaprastha and Sanyasa as part of their life. Vanaprasta is needed for people to live simply and serve or innovate.
Sanyasa – Live on remnants and be Neutral
Sanyasa is needed for people to have a minimalistic living where they satisfy their needs after all other’s needs are met, while neutrally guiding the society.
Problems of today’s world can only be resolved by adopting simple living, better innovations and neutral/big/balanced thinking
Next in Series..
The Aryan society – Then
More posts by this author:
- The Eternal Varna Asrama Dharma – Part 5
- The Eternal Varna Asrama Dharma – Part 7
- The Eternal Varna Asrama Dharma – Part 1
- The Eternal Varna Asrama Dharma – Part 18
- The Eternal Varna Asrama Dharma – Part 4