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The Four Stages of Life

In our grand Indian culture they conceived of life in four stages: the preliminary stage, the development stage, the flowering or blossoming stage, and the culminating, fruitful stage. The satisfactory growth of the latter three stages truly depends upon the management of the first stage.

The Student Stage

The supreme value of the student period is incalculable. Student life is the most precious life. The way in which you utilize this period will decide the nature of the coming years that lie ahead of you. Your happiness, your success, your honour and your good name all depend upon the way in which you live now. In this present period, my dear student, you are preparing your future. Remember this.

I wish you to be great. The world has put its faith in you. Your elders keep their hope upon you. Now is the time for you to wisely mould your life, your character, your physical health, your entire nature in any way in which you make up your mind to do so. And you must do this now.

It is like the laying of the foundation for an important building you wish to construct. If this building is something very important to you, then just think how much more important its proper foundation becomes in your view. The strong and continued existence of the building depends certainly upon the foundation. This is the stage you are now in.

Let your preparations be wise, correct, and of such a kind that will lead to your true welfare, supreme good, and lasting happiness. You should acquire knowledge of subjects not only like History, Geography, Mathematics, etc., but also about human nature, the science of self-control, the art of developing a pure mind, the duties of men and women, and the proper relationship between you, the world and God.

Thus, the first 25 years of human life should be dedicated to acquiring good health, perfect character, self-control, and all that is necessary for you to know in order to live life righteously, to be financially independent via some trade or profession, and to thus attain lasting satisfaction and happiness. I shall mention briefly about the second, third and fourth stages and then take up the important question of how you can manage your present stage in a most beneficial way.

The Second Stage: Married Life

Having already created a firm and ideal foundation, the student enters into the second stage of life, the householder's life. One is not merely entering into a physical partnership with another physical creature, is not entering into a social relationship with another family, but is entering into a spiritual partnership with another soul in order to fulfill a mutually shared divine destiny. So that the relationship between husband and wife is essentially a spiritual partnership between two souls. Your spouse is to you everything: companion, friend, consoler, helper and partner in this great spiritual adventure. Such is the ideal and total concept of this relationship. With such an understanding, the home becomes not only a place for living the normal
worldly existence, but a place of worship and devotion. Daily worship, helping those in need, and honouring the guest (especially the chance visitor who happens to be at your door at the time of food) become primary duties of householders.

Another aspect of the householder's duty is to evolve between themselves reciprocally a certain ideal behaviour of mutual love, honouring each other's individual freedom. Such an atmosphere becomes the ideal ground for nurturing the new generation. They find that between their parents exists a beautiful relationship of harmony, love, mutual respect and tolerance, which creates an ideal atmosphere for their growth. Through their personal relationship the parents place before the children an exemplary way of conducting themselves which becomes the first educational process of the child. Home is, therefore, the nursery of the nation, nursery of the world. Providing an ideal setting and an ideal atmosphere for the generation of tomorrow is an important duty of the married couple.

Third Stage: Retirement

Having fulfilled the duties of raising children, making them adults capable of standing on their own feet, a new stage of life comes into being. Up till now you were entirely preoccupied with your family and your profession, providing for your parents, wife, children and other dependents. To a certain extent, it was a self-centred life, although one practiced selflessness for the sake of the children and family. But now one must give way to the new generation.

Having retired, with a little more leisure on your hands, and with a vast reservoir of professional experience and expertise, one has the time to become a true selfless servant of the society, to become altruists and philanthropists. This is also the time for husband and wife, together, to enter more into the inner life, study, meditation, prayer, pilgrimage. We must realize that a time comes when we have to say "Good-bye". We have to prepare for that last journey.

The Fourth Stage: Renunciation

At this time of life the only duty is to gather together one's mind and place it upon the Supreme Being. That is the fourth quarter of life, the sun-set period of one's life, when all your relationships and connections are now coming to a close. At this time, your entire mind should be fixed upon the Eternal, no more on the passing world. You have fulfilled all your duties, and now you have to depart. The river is reaching the Ocean, and a time will come when it has to merge into the Ocean.

Here one's mind has become calm, steady and pure. One's heart is desireless and free from all cravings. One is established in perfect self-restraint and virtue. This ideal state is the fruit of right living. Here, one automatically becomes absorbed in the contemplation of the Supreme and moves toward God-experience. He or she reaps the harvest of a rich inner spiritual life, supreme peace and bliss, obtaining that ultimate objective for which one has taken birth.

That is the goal to be reached. But now you are just beginning. What must you do? How must you live? How should you manage a student life satisfactorily? There are Twelve Keys to successfully managing a student's life.

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