RELG 207 Chapter Notes -Sannyasa, Bhagavad Gita, Cybernetics
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Notes reading Hinduism part 2
The Stages of Life
The preceding sections traced its insistence that differences in human nature call for
a variety of paths towards life’s fulfillment. Not only do individuals differ from one
another; each individual moves through different stages, each of which calls for its
own appropriate conduct.
o As each day passes from morning through noon and afternoon into evening,
so every life likewise passes through four phases, each possessing distinct
aptitudes that dictate distinct modes of response
How should we live?
Hinduism says that depends not only on what kind of person you are but also on the
stage of life you are in.
o Marked off as that of the student (according to India)
o Began after the rite of initiation (ages 8-12)
o Lasted 12 years during which the student typically lived in the home
of the teacher, rendering service for instruction received.
o Life’s prime responsibility was to learn, to offer a receptive mind to all that
the teacher, on the pinnacle of the past could transmit.
o The successful student was not to emerge a walking encyclopedia but to
emerge as equipped to turn out a good and effective life as potter’s
apprentice to turn out a well-wrought urn.
o Begins with marriage
o There are 3 fronts on which they can play with satisfaction: family, vacation,
and the community to which one belongs.
o Attention will be divided between the three.
o This is the time for satisfying the first three human wants:
o Pleasure—through marriage and family primarily
o Success—through vocation
o Duty—through civic participation.
Hinduism smiles on the happy fulfillment of these wants but does no try to prime
them when they begin to ebb (Move away from the land; recede).
If we follow the seasons as they come, we shall notice a time when sex and the
delights of the senses (pleasure) as well as achievement in the game of life (success)
no longer yield novel and surprising turns.
o When this arrives, the individual should move onto the third stage.
If reality is a monotonous and depressing wasteland and self no more than subtle
cybernetics, the rewards of vision and self-knowledge cannot possibly rival the
ecstasies of sense or the satisfactions of social achievement.
Hinduism follows that succeeding the stages of student and householder
(second stage), Hinduism will mark with confidence a third stage into which life
This is the stage of retirement.
Any time after the arrival of a first grandchild, the individual may take advantage of
the license of age and withdraw from the social obligations that were thus far
shouldered with a will.
Stage of relief is in order we should let life conclude before it has been
This is the time for an adult to begin the journey to discover WHO one is, and what
life is about.
Question to ponder:
1. Why are we born to work and struggle, each with a portion of happiness
and sorrow, only to die too soon?
a. To find meaning in the mystery of existence is life’s final and
o Retirement looks beyond the stars, not to the village streets.
o It is the time for working that philosophy into a way of life; a time for
transcending the senses to find, and dwell with, the reality that underlies this
This is where the goal of “Sannyasin” is reached.
Sannyasin is defined by the Bhagavad-Gita as “one who neither hates nor loves
The Sannyasin’s wish is to remain a complete nonentity on the surface in order to be
joined to all at root.
o With no fixed place on earth, no obligations, no goal, no belongings, the
expectations of the body are nothing.
o Social pretensions likewise have no soil from which to sprout and
o No pride remains in someone who, begging bowl in hand, finds
himself at the back door of someone who was once his servant and
would not have it otherwise.
Good to have all the status whisked away at a stroke, for all social identities prevent
identification with the imperishable totality of existence.
“Taking no thought of the future and looking with indifference upon the present, the
sannyasin (according to Hinduism) lives identified with the eternal Self and beholds
The Stations of Life
Hindu concept of caste (system):
o Arose during 2nd millennium B.C. when Aryans possessing a different
language, culture, and physiognomy migrated into India.
o The extent to which ethnic differences, color, trade guilds harboring
professional secrets, sanitation restrictions between groups with different
immunity systems, and magico-religious taboos concerning pollution and
purification contributed to the pattern that emerged may never be fully
o The outcome was that society was divided into four groups:
Then the fifth group appeared—the untouchables (outcastes)
o Outcastes who in their 4th stage of life renounced the world for God were
regarded as outside social classifications and were revered (even by the
highest caste) the Brahmins.
o Second deterioration lay in the proliferation of castes into sub-castes, of which there
are over three thousand.
o Third, proscriptions against intermarriage and inter-dining came to complicate
o Fourth, privileges entered the system, with higher castes benefiting at the expense
of the lower.
o Finally caste became hereditary—one remained in the caste into which one was
1. The Brahmins (or seers)
o They are reflective with a passion to understand and a keen intuitive
grasp of the values that matter most in human life
o These are civilization’s intellectual and spiritual leaders
o More “specialized” society including philosophers, artists, religious
leaders, and teachers; things of the mind and spirit are their raw
2. The Kshatriyas (administrators)
o Born with a genius for orchestrating people and projects in ways that
make the most of available human talents.