We are on the cusp of winter. In hues of yellow, orange and red, leaves glisten in the morning sun. The trees look resplendent in the evening, and add a certain charm to the setting sun. Nature weaves its magic all around us year after year! Soon, the trees will look barren, the branches looking stark and bare, bereft of leaves.
The four seasons seem to parallel the four stages in life. The ancient Hindu scriptures divided life into 4 stages (the Ashrams) – Brahmacharya (Student life), Grihastha (Familial responsibilities), Vanaprastha (Retired life) and Sannyasa (Renunciation). According to ancient Hindu traditions, society prospers if individuals fulfill the goal of each stage of life.
The Brahmacharya Ashram is a learning phase, full of hope and vibrancy, just like Spring season. Just as new leaves grow with the help of the tree, a young person acquires knowledge and skills with support from parents and gurus. The new leaves and the blooming flowers bring joy and happiness, just like the infectious energy of the young.
The Grihastha Ashram is the working phase in an individual’s life; it is busy and productive just like the trees in summer, which look lush and green. There is a feeling of abundance. The trees provide shade and respite to everyone, like most adults who take up responsibilities at work, home and in the wider world.
In the Vanaprastha Ashram, the experienced individual passes on their knowledge to the next generation. Similarly, Autumn brings serenity and the colourful leaves spread their glory to the surroundings. Eventually, the elderly retire from their responsibilities, just as trees shed their leaves.
The Sannyasa Ashram is the final stage, when the individual walks away from the emotional and physical trappings of this world. In winter, the trees shed their colourful leaves and stand cold and stark. During the Sannyasa Ashram, people embark on solitude and austerity, just like the trees, which stand bare, withdrawn from their surroundings.
Life, like the seasons, goes through stages. Each stage of life, like each season, has its own charm and challenges. Each has its own pursuit.