Vanprastha: Modern retirement & spiritual reflection

Vanprastha is the third stage in the ancient Indian concept of ‘Chaturashrama’, which is divided into four stages based on natural human growth and needs. Etymologically, Vanprastha is derived from “van,” meaning forest, and ‘prastha,” meaning going to.
But one must wonder: now that we are centuries ahead of the times when these ancient scriptures were written, how does one find relevance in them? More so, how does one follow the duties of these stages?
In implication, a person moves away from active household life to a relaxed one, passing the baton of responsibilities to the next generation. In other words, “retirement” is the modern term for Vanprastha. The stage when one begins to wind up the working desk and steps up on the advisory pedestal with a suitcase of experience and expertise
This stage is prominently marked by shedding worldly pleasures and seeking spiritual liberation. Herein one begins to detach from materialistic concerns and possessions to retreat within and devote oneself to quietness and solitude. To consciously reframe life with meaning rather than assets.
Not just in professional and personal life, but in every aspect of life, Vanprastha, similar to ancient times, quintessentially means ‘liberation’. Liberation from a lifestyle driven by external worldly remunerations to enriching the within.
In the urban setting, although in practise Vanprastha may have undergone changes from dwelling in the forest to wellness and spiritual retreat, liberation and transformation remain the core goals. The vanprasthis involve themselves in community services, detaching from one’s own family to embrace the world as one’s own.
Spiritual endeavours marked by religious trips, joining groups, and finding a guru to guide one on the path of salvation evoke a quest for union with nature and the divine metaphysical entities. Indulging in any form of art is catalytic to freedom from the conditioned mindset and also offers release of suppressed emotions.
Numerous such activities serve as a gateway to withdrawing from mundane worldly duties and providing an avenue to fulfil the dreams and wishes left behind. They are helpful in detaching not just from materialistic possessions but also from platonic relationships, obsessions with habits, and the lingering traumas of hurt and losses. Because the spiritual journey begins with letting go!
With continuous endeavours, as a succession to the Grihastha stage, in Vanprastha, a person transforms from aspiring to enlightened.

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