12 September 2020

Moving past Grihastha

A very brief excerpt from an article in The Atlantic ["Your professional decline is coming (much) sooner than you think."]
I told him my conundrum: Many people of achievement suffer as they age, because they lose their abilities, gained over many years of hard work. Is this suffering inescapable, like a cosmic joke on the proud? Or is there a loophole somewhere—a way around the suffering?

Acharya answered elliptically, explaining an ancient Hindu teaching about the stages of life, or ashramas. The first is Brahmacharya, the period of youth and young adulthood dedicated to learning. The second is Grihastha, when a person builds a career, accumulates wealth, and creates a family. In this second stage, the philosophers find one of life’s most common traps: People become attached to earthly rewards—money, power, sex, prestige—and thus try to make this stage last a lifetime.

The antidote to these worldly temptations is Vanaprastha, the third ashrama, whose name comes from two Sanskrit words meaning “retiring” and “into the forest.” This is the stage, usually starting around age 50, in which we purposefully focus less on professional ambition, and become more and more devoted to spirituality, service, and wisdom. This doesn’t mean that you need to stop working when you turn 50—something few people can afford to do—only that your life goals should adjust.

Vanaprastha is a time for study and training for the last stage of life, Sannyasa, which should be totally dedicated to the fruits of enlightenment. In times past, some Hindu men would leave their family in old age, take holy vows, and spend the rest of their life at the feet of masters, praying and studying. Even if sitting in a cave at age 75 isn’t your ambition, the point should still be clear: As we age, we should resist the conventional lures of success in order to focus on more transcendentally important things.
More at the source, which is worth reading (and I think the embedded graphic is brilliant).


  1. instead of laying off older workers, companies can say that they are “retiring” their workers “into the forest.”


  2. The graphic is enlightening, although I wouldn't venture brilliant.
    My brother, just entering his 9th decade, sees his place on the graphic as a flat line ... his youngest brother, me, near exact 16 years his junior, sees his position as teetering on the last steps, muttering 'damn, I was just getting the hang of it'.

  3. This sounds like the Kipling story, "The Miracle of Purun Bhagat," which was in the Jungle Books.

    1. New to me. I found this on a quick search:


  4. Chasing after money, power, sex and prestige always seemed like a trap to me. A carrot on a stick leading the herd to slaughter.

  5. I am 58. I have noticed that I don't have the ambition I used to have. There was a time when I was wanting to advance in the ranks, etc. But nowadays I have no desire to take on new duties, but am simply trying to maintain a happy status quo.

    And while there might have been a time when I had high hopes that my writing might become known, I suppose I have always felt that my writing was really a means of wanting to "be a blessing." Indeed, as I approach the end of my one novel, I'm not worried about shopping it or it becoming famous. I am simply wanting it to "matter."

    Hebrew priests (not the High Priest) worked from 25 to 50, if I recall the scriptures correctly. Those are years where physical and intellectual ability, strength and wisdom, come together the strongest, I imagine. But it leaves additional time for a youth to be a youth...and plenty of time for a senior to enjoy his remaining time.

    1. One suggestion re your writing. For material that might not be ready for publication in conventional form, consider creating a blog (like this one) on Blogspot or a similar platform. Then you can post there, get feedback as you go along, and later assemble the material into a book form if you want. It costs nothing and takes little time if your writing is saved in a digital format already somewhere.

      That's what I'm starting to do with TYWKIWDBI - use it as a place for some of my unpublished writing and research.


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