According to the ancient Hindu Laws of Manu, there are four stages or “ashramas” of life, each lasting 21 (or 25) years.

The first stage – 0-21 (0-25)  years – Brahmacharya/Student – the person lives as a unmarried celibate, studies with a guru; the focus is on education, character development, development of skills

The second stage – 21-42 (25-50) years – Grahasta/Householder – the person marries, establishes a household, enters into a career, becomes an integral part of the world of activity

The third stage – 42-63 (50-75) years – Vanaprastha/Hermitage – the person leaves the household and goes into the forest (or now in modern society, a quieter retreat), where he/she lives a life of study, mentorship, prayer, and meditation.

The fourth stage – 63-84+ (75-100+) years – Sanyasa/Renunciate – the person leaves all worldly activity and engages the whole force of personality toward spiritual development and upliftment.  One can become a guru at this point.

For more about the stages of life in different traditions and cultures, see Thomas Armstrong, The Human Odyssey: Navigating the Twelve Stages of Life (Ixia Press, 2019)

This article was brought to you by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. and

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