- In the orthodox Brahminical stages of life for men, vanaprastha, going into the forest, is the third stage or ASHRAMA. After he has completed his studentship and fulfilled his duty in life (when he has seen his children’s children), the man enters the forest with or without his wife to devote him-self to celibacy, austerity, study of the VEDAS, Vedic sacrifices, and spiritual discipline. This stage is also called the stage of SADHU. The man must wear animal skins, bark, or rags; leave his hair and nails uncut; and eat pure food. He may beg food, if necessary. The final stage is SANNYASI or mendi-cancy, when he emerges from the forest to wander alone, seeking alms. The vanaprastha and the san-nyasi stage were clearly the most ideal course of conduct and were probably never followed com-pletely by all BRAHMINS or other upper-CASTE men, for whom they were primarily intended.Further reading: Patrick Olivelle, The Asrama System: The History and Hermeneutics of a Religious Institution (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.