Brahmacharya - Usage - Life Stage

Life Stage

Another common usage denotes the life stage of brahmacharya within the Vedic ashram system. Brahmacharya ashram is the life stage that occupies the first 20 or 25 years of life. Ancient Hindu culture divides the human lifespan into 100 years. Brahmacharya is the stage when the young child leads a student life (ideally in the Gurukula, the household of the Guru). It is one of the four stages of life (ashramas) in traditional Indian civilisation as outlined in the Manusmṛti. It refers to an educational period lasting 14–20 years which starts before the age of puberty. During this time the traditional vedic sciences are studied along with the religious texts contained within the Vedas and Upanishads. This stage of life was characterised by the practice of strict celibacy. This stage of life is preceded by the child's Upanayanam, a ceremony in which the child is considered to take a second birth. Brahmacharya is the first of the four phases of human life, namely, Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha and Sannyasa, prescribed by Manusmriti for the dvija castes in the Hindu system of life.

Traditionally, in this life stage, the brahmachāri student went to live, often in the forests, with a spiritual teacher under whom he practiced a life of strict celibacy, morality and continence dedicated to learning all aspects of dharma that is the "principles righteous living". Dharma comprised personal responsibilities towards himself, family, society, humanity and God which included the environment, earth, nature and devotion to God. In the Hindu scheme of life, the brahmacharya life stage starts between the ages of five and eight, when the chela starts his/her studies.

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