The Vanaprastha-asrama and its practical application

( – A. Introduction

1. What is vanaprastha?

The word vanaprastha is composed of the words vana, meaning “forest” and prastha, meaning “to go,” so a vanaprastha is “One has gone to the forest.” Vanaprastha is an asrama in the Vedic varnasrama system. An asrama can be both a physical and mental place and refers to “a place where one cultivates spiritual life, where culture of the spiritual is foremost.”
The vanaprastha order is complete retirement from householder life, a time when one prepares oneself for going back to Godhead. It requires shedding one’s material attachments to become free of the repetition of birth and death (samsara). Every man and woman should be trained for this purpose.

2. Srila Prabhupada wanted to establish varnasrama-dharma, and specifically, daiva varnasrama-dharma, in ISKCON to save human society from gliding down to hellish life.

Vanaprastha is one of four asramas in the varnasrama system. Srila Prabhupada wanted to establish varnasrama-dharma, also known as the Vedic civilization. If established systematically, it will change humankind. He was confident that the varnasrama system would cleanse the hearts of everyone, allowing all to receive and understand spiritual knowledge.
(The grhasthas, vanaprasthas, brahmacaris and sannyasis should endeavor together with their total energy to become Krsna conscious. This type of civilization is called daiva-varnasrama. One of the objectives of the Krsna consciousness movement is to establish this daiva-varnasrama-dharma society. This was the second half of my mission.)
“The Krsna consciousness movement, however, is being propagated all over the world to reestablish the varnasrama-dharma system and thus save human society from gliding down to hellish life.” (SB. 5.19.19, purport)

“Without cleansing the heart, it is very difficult to understand and receive spiritual knowledge. All these reformatory measures—brahmacari, grhastha, vanaprastha—they are simply the cleansing method. And bhakti is also a cleansing method, vidhi-bhakti.” (Lecture on SB. 6.1.34–39, Surat, December 19, 1970)

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