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 not only of 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.
The Second Stage: Married Life or Grihastha – 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 fulfil 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 also 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 householders’ 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. The children 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.
The Third Stage: Retirement or Vanaprastha – 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 dependants. To a certain extent, it was a self-centred life, although one practised 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 true selfless servants 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 realise that a time comes when we have to say “Good-bye”. We have to prepare for that last journey.
The Fourth Stage: Renunciation or Sannyas – 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 sunset period of one’s life, when all your relationships and connections are 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 towards 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.