The Four Stages

Studying other religious traditions has always been of great interest to me, although I have had little time or opportunity to do so.  I hope to do more in my retirement.

I visited an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Hinduism a while back and was struck by a bit of the belief system.  In English, I believe it would be called “The Four Stages of Life.”  Unfortunately, all the information I have read about these stages speaks only of men.  I am not sure if it uses “man” in the generic sense of “human” or really only means males!

I am using material found on the “About Religion” website.

The first stage is The Single Student.  “This is a period of formal education. It lasts until the age of 25, during which the young male leaves home…to attain both spiritual and practical knowledge. During this period, he is prepared for his future profession, as well as for his family, and social and religious life ahead.”

The second stage is The Married Family Man.  “This period begins when a man gets married and undertakes the responsibility for earning a living and supporting his family….This stage lasts until around the age of 50….However…(for some) this stage lasts a lifetime.”

The third stage is The Hermit.  “This stage begins when his duty as a householder comes to an end. He has become a grandfather, his children are grown up and have established lives of their own. At this age, he should retire from his social and professional life, leave his home, and go to live in a forest hut, spending his time in prayers.  (This kind of life is indeed very harsh…for an aged person. No wonder, this third stage is now nearly obsolete.)”

The fourth stage is The Wandering Recluse.  “At this stage, a man is supposed to be totally devoted to God. He has…no other attachment; he has renounced all desires, fears and hopes, duties and responsibilities. He is virtually merged with God, all his worldly ties are broken, and his sole concern becomes attaining…release from the circle of birth and death.”

This is rough stuff, but interesting.  I suppose the part that beckons me is to view my retirement from a different perspective.  Rather than being released from my “spiritual” vocation, I am invited to delve more deeply into it.  These coming years are an opportunity to deepen my faith and nurture a greater intimacy with God, freed from the normal duties of a job.

I hope that will be true for me.  I hope that I will find ways to grow spiritually in my retirement, in ways that perhaps have been less accessible for me till now.  I have seen that in some of the more elderly of our faith family.  I hope to grow to be more like them.  If you are in the elder stage of life, I wish it for you too.

Rev. Rob Williams

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