More And More Of Less And Less

Off The Cuff Utterances

Brahmacharin - when you read the news paper

Grihastin - when you drive that car on the road
Vanaprastin - when you remove your shoes
Sanyasin - when you slept off finally

s a n y a s a

Sanyas happens on the daily basis to you. Most certainly during the sleep. You have renounced the whole world and just remain a silent witness without any active participation. You dont relate to anyone or even know anyone, you may not even who you are. Without any question or doubt or emotions, you just sleep. Sanyasi is supposed to be like that while living in this world.

Disciple : But I see so many sanyasis are busy in
building ashrams and actively particpating in
public life, how is that to be understood ?
Master : Thats why a sanysin cannot remain a sanyasin but he
also become a brahmacharin or a grahastin or a vanaprastin. The
four ashramas are inseperabale and blended well with each other !

A sanysasin contains all the four ashramas and can visit any of them at will. When you become aware of the four ashramas well and witness them happening in your and others lives, then you have entered the sanyasa ashrama fully. But if the phases are understood to be divided and compartmentalized, strictly based on age, then it will lead to a lot of confusion in life.

Disciple : But you said during the sleeping
time everyone is a sanyasi ?
Master : Thats true. The sense of - I - is not
so strongly present then. So it is like some
kind of renunciation phase called sanyasa !
Disciple : If sleeping is the criteria then
I am a sanyasin most of the times in a day !
Master : It is heartening to hear that !

All phases are equally important in their own ways. No phase is superior than the other. If someone thought to be great because he has finally reached the phase of sanyasin, then he has been making a fool of himself all along to conisder that he lived a less evolved state till then. The evolution of man is a combination of all these phases and not from the first phase to fourth phase.

Disciple : I understand well that the phases are interconnected
and is happening all the time in my life, is there anything more
I should know about the various phases of my life ?
Master : Yes, to be aware of the phases as they take place will
eventually get you out of the phases and go beyond them !

When you are not aware of the four phases, you are bound by them and when you become aware of them, you transcend them. But even after transcending you would still have the four phases playing in your life, but you will not be influenced by the outcome of those phases anymore. Unifluenced by the phases but dealing with them in total awareness enables the seeker to rise above the bondage and taste the nectar of bliss in the form of freedom.

" sanyas does not indicate enlightenment
but just a state of total detachment "

s a n y a s a
Part - 1

It would be absurd to conclude that a sanyasi is a enlightened individual. He has only learnt the knack of withdrawing from everything and may not allow anything to influence him anymore. He has just managed to master his mind. But that does not amount to any form of realization yet.

Disciple : OMG, I was under the impression
that all sanyasis are enlightened?
Master : Thats ok. Nothing to lose in
such a thinking. but get real now !
Disciple : Whats the difference between
a vanaprastin and a sanyasin?
Master : Vanaprastin is withdrawing from the
world and a sanysasin is witnessing the world !

To witness the world one should have withdrawn from it sufficiently. In other words if you learnt how to participate then you are a brahmacharin, if you actually participate in this worldly events then you are a grihastin, if you withdraw from participating, then you are a vanaprastin and when you have fully withdrawn and just witness the whole world go by, you have become a sanyasin.

Disciple : Does it mean the sanysasin will never
participate in anything in his life
Master " Not really. If so, then when the food
arrives in his plate he would just watch it and
may not have to eat it !
Disciple : I wonder if anyone can do that ?
Master : Exactly. Every body participates
but with sanyasin there is a difference !
Disciple : May I know what is the difference ?
Master : While others have too many choices
he may not have many choices but just
eat what comes to his plate ! He stops himself
being choosy about everything !

Witnessing the world is not standing by the roadside like lamp post and watch everything. But to be in the world and not get influenced by its stifling changes. He does not relate to the world emotionally or sentimentally. He observes all the emotions, his own included, but never identify with them. But physically he seem to be part of everything despite not influenced by any of them.

Disciple : Is this the highest state of human life?
Master : Somewhat getting close to it, but
still distances have to be crossed !
Disciple : Is it ? I thought this is the last ashrama ?
Master : Sure this is the last and final phase !
Disciple : Then what about self realization? Does it not
happen in this ashrama, if this is the final phase ?
Master : Realization of the self is not any phase
but is just beyond the four phases !

The sanyas is kind of preparing the ground for that elusive thing called enlightenment, but certainly not enlightenment. Sanyas is one more phase in life and need not necessarily lead to any awakening even after that phase as a rule or condition. If someone imagined to be enlightened just because he changed his name and the color of the clothes, it would spell disaster to him on the path to the real awakening.

Disciple : But if this is the last phase in life then
it should be automatic to get enlightened just after that?
Master : It would be so nice if it happened that way
but unfortunately things are quite illogical and
indefinite when it comes to this enlightenment zone !
" your renunciation does not change
anything externally except a quiet
inner psychological transformation "

v a n a p r a s t a
Part - 4

You neither can renounce this world, nor can renounce your body, breath, mind or even the ego, but you can only renounce incredible projections of your mind about life and people. Your perceptions of life based on your various emotions alone can be renounced. When the projections ended, you begin to see life as it is. Withdrawal from a long nurtured projections are always difficult and hence the individual usually is found as bound, despite his knowledge about renunciation.

Disciple : The renunciation and the need for it must have
been taught even during the phase of brahmacharya ?
Master : Yes, but perhaps is understood much later in life !
Disciple : But the modern education have no place for
such a thing called withdrawal or renunciation ?
Master : Its true ! The education these days is
mostly directed towards more active participation
and somehow not about the need for renunciation !

When life is only about the participation and success and never about withdrawal and peace, then it can drive an individual to face endless challenges throughout his life. This may result in a sense of incompleteness. Obviously the modern day education has ignored this phase unknowingly.

Disciple : But renunciation is understood as
some kind of inability or a failure by many ?
Master : That's the present day
education all about !
Disciple : What could be the reason for it?
Master : Juts the thirst for success and happiness
drives people to ignore the other side of life !
Disciple : Renunciation cannot bring happiness?
Master : It can bring only peace, but the
participation in life brings happiness or sorrow !

However, its important to know when to renounce and how to renounce than just renounce blindly. The priorities can never be interchanged. Grihasta and vanaprasta are totally paradoxical in nature and should be understood well before entering into their phases.

Disciple : Do vedas have the details of such
intricate information about when to
participate and when to renounce ?
Master : Yes. The vedas in assorted portions
explain in such exhaustive details about the
different phases of an individual
quite comprehensively !

when the inseparable nature of the varnashramas is understood and recognized well, you can incorporate them eventually in to your daily live and find fulfillment in the present moment itself. There may not be a need to wait till 40 years to renounce to find peace but it can happen well within a day and night efficiently.
" you cannot renounce this world
because it is not attached to you ever "

v a n a p r a s t a

Part - 3

The suffering of an individual comes from his own wrong understanding of the world and his relationship with it. Mostly it is misreading the relationships with people that causes a great share of suffering. Man finds it easy to renounce the inert objects, but always not so with human relationships.

Disciple : What should be the reason for it ?
Master : Primarily due to the improper

understanding of what exactly renunciation is !

Disciple : What is exactly is the mistake they commit ?

Master : They mistake that they have to stay out
sight of an object or a person in order to renounce it !

Disciple : Can you give an example ?

Master : You can decide to give away your clothes
to someone because you thought of renouncing them
but the actual renunciation is not the clothes but the
thought you carry that you own those clothes !

People somehow get trapped with a strange idea about the world and start to own up a few things as one's own and reject the rest. Rarely it strikes them that they cant renounce anything externally but all that they can renounce is their ideas about the world and people in it. As a grihastin you have to attach to the world and as a vanaprastin you just detach from it. Both times, it just your thoughts that make you think that you owned or disowned this word, the world remains just the same as always.

Disciple : So the renunciation is only the ideas
about the world and not the world itself?

Master : Exactly. Only because the world does
not know you owned or disowned something !

Disciple : Its almost clear but not really !

Master : If you thought the TV you watched
home belonged to you, it is just your thought
and the TV does not know that it belonged to you !

Disciple : I got the point !

Besides, there is a good number of people who think that to renounce something is to keep it away from sight or get away from its sight. They seldom try to find out whats the problem actually in dealing with a particular object or a person. They go on insisting their ignorance in the form of jumping to extremes from infantilized attachments to rip off from it out of frustrations. They just don't let things as they are, but either suffocate it out of love or shy away out of hatred.

Disciple : So there is nothing to rearrange
anything in the world for one's own renunciation
but only correct one's own perception ?

Master : Very well said !
Disciple : Do you say that the renouncing
ideas towards other human beings is more
difficult than with other objects ?
Master : Truly so !
Disciple : What could be the reason ?
Master : Because of the human ability to
emote, one start to take the emotions of
others for real and get trapped in them !
" whenever you go to sleep,
you are in the phase of renunciation "

v a n a p r a s t a
Part - 2

The phase of renunciation happens invisibly all the time to you. When just closed a book from reading, shut off the TV from watching, put down telephone from a long and winding gossip, push the plate away on table at the end of a fulfilling lunch, leave a city or a country you visited, quit a job, close a bank account, divorce the married life, leave the seat you occupied for some one else, park you car at the lot after a hectic driving are some of the many symptoms of renunciation in a daily life.

Disciple : I think you are talking about me here ?
Master : That's just a self important thought from you !
Disciple : Why do you say that ?
Master : Because the whole world does the same, not just you !
Disciple : So Im withdrawing from many things always ?
Master : True. But also go back to them later on !

The phases or the ashramas are functioning in a cyclical fashion. Constantly renouncing something and constantly adapting to something else. Unless you renounce something, you cannot progress further in life. You renounce the breath in the form of exhalation so that you have inhale a fresh new breath of air. You leave a step behind so that you can take the next step forward.

Disciple : Which is the most distinct form of renunciation
one does in the scheme of every day living?
Master : Sleeping. It demands total renunciation
of everything you held on to till that point !

Sleeping is possible only after you withdrew from everything completely, that includes even the thought about sleep. That's total renunciation from the manifested world to the unmanifest, but without sufficient knowledge about it. The sleep happens on its own and one does not make an effort to sleep. Hence it is not actually a conscious renunciation but however it still helps you to get a taste of what renunication is like.

Disciple : But sometimes how much ever
try, the sleep does not happen ?
Master : Exactly, its a natural phenomenon
and happens on its own. You cant force it !

The reason why the vanaprasta ashrama was fixed at a much later age is only to indicate that the renunciation can happen more naturally at that time. Also the mental faculties of learning and retention and retrieval of what was learnt can slow down as the age advances. The urges also die away a more natural death when you cross the 40 age milestone.

Disciple : But I see people behaving like children at 40 too?
Master : True, they mostly grew up with unwarranted fantasies
and such fantasies can never become a reality, their brahmacharya
phase was not a proper one because they never learnt the right thing !
Disciple : What is the plight of such people ?
Master : They will catch a much delayed flight to the destination !
"when you reverse the course of grihasta,
you will enter the next phase"

Part - 1

After the phases of learning and applied living, the third phase emerges in one's life. Presumably the phases are so exclusive and unique in their design and function. While the brahmacharin learns the knack of survival in the world, the grihastin actually applies his learning and lives his life in the world. But up comes the next phase which demands the grihastin to turn to a whole new phase called vanaprasta.

Disciple : But how can turning off a TV be related to this phase ?
Master : Simply because of the fact you decided to withdraw from
watching TV, you enter the vanaprasta phase !

Vanaprasta is all about withdrawal from the world. As grihastin, you participate in life's events and as a vanaprastin you withdraw from the same life. They both are contrasting each other in a direct manner. While turning on the Tv can be compared to grihastin, turning it off is about being vanaprastin. They complement each other and cannot exist without each other.

Disciple : Whats the age group meant for this phase ?
Master : Chronologically speaking, it is between 40 to 60 !
Disciple : What is the literal meaning of the word?
Master : Vanaprasta means 'withdrawal into jungle' !
Disciple : Why with draw into jungle ?
Master : It was a way of keeping away from the
world during the gangetic civilization when the
vedic proposals to the common man was in peak practice !
Disciple : The vedas were composed during that period ?
Master : Much ahead, but people started using it during the
gangetic civilization at a more intense pace !
Disciple : Which period the gangetic civilization belong to ?
Master : 3500 to 5000 years ago and Vedas were apparently
composed even before that !

The subtler understanding of the vanaprasta ashrama needs a practical mind, which is more centered in the present than some glorious past. The relevance of the vedic statements in to day's context of living remains as important as the days when they were composed. In the present day's context, vanaprasta phase is practiced throughout the day and night, every time you withdrew from some activity.

Disciple : But I dont seem to withdraw from anything ?
Master : Not really. You withdraw all the time from many things !
Disciple : Im surprised to hear this, because I always wondered
how renunciation or withdrawal will ever happen in my life ?
Master : You need not wonder because its always happening
to you in your life daily. Just that you dont notice that well !

The varna ashramas are like a cyclical process. The wheels of this phases will spin forever in a man's life till the day he liberates himself from all the ashramas. This wheel of transformational phases, itself can cause bondage. The best way to break the shackles of this wheel of phases is to understand their functionalities well and apply them in your life fully with awareness. Soon you would find yourself grown out of all the phases.
" whenever the world leaves an
impact on you, you are a grihasta"

g r i h a s t a
Part -2

As a student (brahmacharin) the world is not so much of a threat or even a challenge, in fact you never encounter the world like the way you do as the house holder(grihastin). Grihasta literally means, owning a house. But in order to own a house, you should essentially undergo lots of experiences in life, which indicates the applied living more appropriately. You come face to face with the world only in this phase. You face it, fight it out, win and lose, be successful or a failure, but cannot escape the world while passing through this phase.

Disciple : So the brahmacharin does not face the world at all?
Master : Mostly not. His problems are well confined to academics.
If he had to face the world in any form then at that moment he is
only a grihastin and no more a brahmacharin !
Disciple : Can you give an example to understand that ?
Master : If a student earned his own money to study then he is
living through the phases of brahmacharya and grihasta together !

Two most difficult things in life happens during the grihasta's phase, namely, building a home and living a married life. There is a endless onslaught of challenges thrown at the grihasta during the phase. But when the grihastin has enough knowledge learnt during the phase of brahmacharya to back himself, he would sail through the phase more easily. The knowledge gathered come handy to apply in the times of crisis.

Disciple : But is it a must to pass through
these phases in a systematic manner?
Master : That may not be possible. In
many developing nations, under aged
children are faced to work for living
without any primary education.
Their grihasta phase start very early.
Disciple : But what do they apply when
they don't have any knowledge ?
Master : perhaps that's how they are
being exploited so early in their lives !

The phases or the ashramas are not always followed in a fixed sequence of certain years, but it is only meant for that moment, according to the need of a situation arising at any point of time. Meanwhile, the grihasta phase is not just about pain, grief and challenges but the individual under go every possible sensual pleasures without inhibitions too. While the brahmacharya phase demands more focus on academics, there is little chance for sensuousness. But grihasta is all out to enjoy this world and he would not hesitate to do everything to make it possible.

Disciple : Does brahmacharya also teach
how to enjoy the sensuality of life?
Master : Rather they focus on how to stay in control
of such sensual experiences. They come to help
then the grihastin sometimes get out of control !
"when you decide to settle down in life, you
enter the next phase called grihasta ashrama"

Part - 1

While the first ashrama dealt with the learning phase of your life, the second phase follows close on heels, with its unique characteristics, such as finding ways to make a living in this world. As a student learning within the secured walls of the school, now the student has completed his studies and contemplates on career, profession, marriage and importantly a family.

Disciple : But why do you call it as applied living ?
Master : Because the student now applies his
knowledge learnt in his school as a brahmachari !
Disciple : Does it mean he did not live a life before?
Master : He did. But not independently, but with
the support of his parents and the guru at the school !

Entering girhastashrama is to find ones own independent ways, mostly in consultation with elders, to make a living in this wide and wild world. Earlier on as a brahmachari, he lived a life without the worry about food and clothes as he was protected by his parents and other guardians. But now as he grew up and crossed the first 20 years, its time he would test his own skills at making a living and support his parents and others in turn.

Disciple : What is the age group meant for this phase ?
Master : Technically speaking, from 20 to 40 is the period !
Disciple : But these days students study well in to their 20's too ?
Master : True, they have more history and more information to study !

The reason why the age group for the various phases cannot be fixed is because of this reason. It may change from time to time. That's why it is more appropriate, when seen from a subtler perspective of living through the phases within a span of the day. Besides, you cant expect one to live for 80 years to complete all the phases in a natural manner.

Disciple : I understand that the phases divided within 80 years
can be just figurative understanding and cant be always real ?
Master : Well said. Because it appears that one has to always
wait for 80 years to complete all the phases successfully !

The grihasta ashrama begins right from the time you plan about your future life. Whenever you get busy about planning your life, you are passing through the phase of the applied living. Technically it is also called as the phase of the house holder. Its because, you plan to settle down in the form of getting a job, marriage and family and find a home to live your life applying the various things you learnt in life.

Disciple : But which are the times
one becomes a grihasta in daily life?
Master : Whenever you step out of
your house to go to work, to earn money,
whenever you felt the need for a man or
woman in your life, a home to live and
children to parent and protect, and
secure your life for all of your future,
then you are entering into the
grihasta phase of your life !

Within a day, when you remembered about your house tax to be paid, electricity bill to be cleared, the pending visit to the bank about your loans and account, the school fees of the children to be paid, thoughts about work, office, boss, colleagues, buying properties, house rent, change of job, promotion, increment, going through old pay slips, entering int o some business, or expanding the existing business, counting money in the locker, shopping, cooking, are some of the many many occasions when you display distinct quality of a grihasta.

Disciple : I seem to do all of that all the time ?
Master : That's OK. Its not wrong, just that
at this point of time you are predominantly
expressing as a grihasta !
Disciple : To be a grihasta is to be less evolved ?
Master : There is no less or more, when it comes
to this varna ashramas. They are all same !
"whenever you learn something in life,
you enter in to the phase of brahmacharya"

part - 2

While the first 2o years dedicated to the learning process, the learning does not end there. One keeps learning all through one's life. Every time a individual happened to learn something, he passes through the phase of brahmacharya all over again. And the learning happens all the time, that's why separating ashramas based on age factor can prove to be a grosser exercise.

Disciple : I have a pertinent query in this connection ?
Master : Thats alright, as long as you understand what
you ask about, then all queries are pertinent only!
Disciple : I always thought brahmacharya is about
maintaining one's celibacy. In fact I was told that way.
How do I understand the connection here ?
Master : Usually brahmacharya ashrama is slotted
in the first 20 years when there is little chance of
any sexuality naturally. But such a natural state
has been stretched far beyond the need and became a
sole meaning to that particular phase !

The celibacy is a not a need for children, who have not yet matured as adults for exercising the sexual freedom. That means there is no question of practicing celibacy as a rule for the growing child. It was just a bit of distorted thinking that gave this false singular interpretation to brahmacharya as a strict abstinence from sensuousness. The ashramas do not govern one's life as a thumb rule, but only indicate the various psychological phases possible in a seeker's life.

Disciple : So how exactly I'm to know that
I am a brahmachari even in my family life ?
Master : Yes, even in a married life, the
phase of brahmacharya is possible, every time
you read the news paper in the morning !
Disciple : How come reading news paper can be
an exercise of brahmacharya? It baffles me !
Master : When you read news paper you tend
to learn something about this world which you
did not know before. That's precisely when you
become a brahmachari !

Not just the newspaper, even watching TV or just browsing the internet, or just gossiping in the office, whenever you came to know of a new thing, you have spontaneously slipped in to the mode of learning. Even if you are a married man, at that time, you are just a learner or brahmachari only. A man on the death bed decided to learn meditation and some breathing exercises, then he is no more a man of retirement and death but a fresh learner of meditation and thus a brahmachari.

Disciple : So it can happen any time ?
Master : Yes even when you learnt a
new recipe from the cook book !
Disciple : Truly amazing, to know
one can be a brahmachari all his life !

So the scriptures also propose a time table for the individual in its karma kandas (section of vedas that describe the art of living through various rituals). When you wake up, the mind is fresh and ready to absorb new information. So the scriptures talk of early morning, as the ideal time to practice brahmacharya, in the form of learning and practicing spiritual exercises. The quality of learning is at its best only during the freshness of the early morning even though anytime is suitable for learning.

Disciple : In my case, learning
never happened in the morning !
Master : It must have happened
just before the early morning ?
Disciple : How did you now that ?
Master : Most people choose either
early morning or late night for
the learning purpose !
Disciple : But they are so much in
contrast with reference to time ?
Master : Not really. The late night
and early morning are divided by
just a couple of hours only !