Vanaprastha: The Hermit in Retreat

     The Vanaprastha stage is one of gradual withdrawal.  The person's duty as a householder comes to an end: He has become a grandfather, his children are grown up and have established lives of their own.  At this age, he should renounce all physical, material, and sexual pleasures, retire from his social and professional life and leave his home for a forest hut where he can spend his time in prayers.

     The hermit is allowed to take his spouse along with him but maintains little contact with the rest of the family.  The role of the third ashrama is to be consulted as elders by the community at large, teaching dharma to those who visit.  This kind of life is indeed very harsh and cruel for an aged person.  No wonder, this third ashrama is now nearly obsolete.