The Stages of Life (<i>Āśrama</i>) and Human Rights

Arvind Sharma

in Hinduism and Human Rights

Published in print January 2004 | ISBN: 9780195665857
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199082025 | DOI:
The Stages of Life (Āśrama) and Human Rights

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According to the concept known as the āśrama system, or the doctrine of the stages of life, the life of a human being is notionally divided into four stages: (1) that of a celibate student (brahmacarya); (2) a householder (gārhasthya); (3) a hermit (vānprasthya), and (4) a renunciant (sannyāsa). This chapter argues that the four stages of human life are an extension of a pivotal distinction drawn within Hinduism between pravṛtti and nivṛtti, where the first term stands for involvement in the affairs of the world and the second term for the disengagement therefrom. The contribution Hindu thought makes to human rights discourse is to suggest that it has not paid enough attention to the nivṛtti phase of life.

Keywords: āśrama; stages of life doctrine; human rights; Hinduism; pravṛtti; nivṛtti

Chapter.  2950 words. 

Subjects: Human Rights and Immigration

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