Saturday, March 10, 2012

Meaning of Life: Hindu Perspective

The Hindus were among the first to conceive of life as a journey—a grand journey—…The individual in life ideally moves through various stages of development, and those stages of development begin with Brahmacharya…the student stage.  The first 25 years of a students’s life, ideally devoted to studying all knowledge and understanding the sacred texts of Hinduism.  After that, Grihastha, that is, the householder stage.  Notice that’s age 25 to about 55, in which the individual establishes a family and becomes devoted to providing for others, for raising children, and so that key portion of one’s life is dedicated to society and fulfilling one’s social responsibility.  But then there’s the prospect of liberation here, and in the third of the stages, Vanaprastha, the individual is encouraged to sever his or her ties with society and to move off into a realm of solitude, in which one searches in the most serious manner possible one’s connection with truth, with the divine, and so the term literally means “forest hermit”…This solitary seeker of truth…must begin with leaving all family and responsibilities behind in a quest for self-knowledge…in this journey…the third stage is necessary.  Necessary for what?  For attaining the fourth stage…: Sannyasa…the meaning of Sannyasa, it means saintliness, and it depends on the result of Vanaprastha…because one could wander about in the forest for a very long time and not attain this kind of self-realization or self-knowledge of what is true, good, noble, right, just…One has to attain a certain wisdom…
—Dennis Dalton.  Power Over People: Classical and Modern Political Theory.  Lecture One: The Hindu Vision of Life.  The Teaching Company.  1998.

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