Vanaprastha. The 3rd Stage Of Fulfilling Desire.

by Sandra Radja

I feel a little pensive today.  I found out my cousin died of Multiple Sclerosis last night.  She had been holding on for the past five years in slow decay.  Her heart and organs was strong but her nervous system just debilitated.  I didn’t know her that well.  She was in her mid 40’s with two boys and a partner.  She had tried all sorts of avenues of therapy, including flying to China to attempt to halt the disease but it was too expensive for the entire family to be there and so they cut the therapy short.

I’m writing about this because of the ideas that Dr Svoboda mentioned about the 3rd stage of life called Vanaprastha or literally forest dweller.  He translated it as having a well appointed hut on the outskirts of society.  Not too close that you are still entrenched in the dramas of society and not too far out that the grandchildren can’t visit.  There does, however, need to be a conscious transition time to this stage of life and the appointment of dwellings signifies this.

In Bramacarya, you are partly in society and partly not but you are moving towards. In Vanaprastha, you are partly in society and partly not, but you are moving away.
— Dr Robert Svoboda - 2014 Sydney Conference

It’s probably a scary notion for some to be slowly preparing for their exit.  It is recommended that during this time you acknowledge the aim of life called Kama, or desires.  Dr Svoboda recommends expelling whatever residual desires you have during this time before moving into the next and final stage of life called Sannyasin.  It is ideal to prepare to leave this world without regret.  Acknowledge your legitimate desires and act on them now.  There is no tomorrow, it's a made up idea based on the expectation of past experiences.  It makes me wonder whether mid life crises is not really a crises but a check in to make sure there is nothing left undone before moving to the next stage.  We should celebrate these so-called crises.

In some parts of Australia we have got a couple of terms that are being widely used called sea-change and tree-change.  They both mean an exit from city life to either the coast or the country.  I personally made a tree-change recently and it’s becoming more popular amongst all ages to make the trek from Melbourne,  to where real estate is cheaper (err...just) and there is room to breathe.  The younger generation is slowly realizing that slow living is the more satisfactory option and it’s a very positive move and smaller towns are slowly booming because of it.

There is one thing that Dr Svoboda said, as an aside, which I picked up on as being of paramount importance.  And that’s realizing that the stages should not be set in stone by numerical age.  It has become especially important today as I think about Katya and watched her life get cut short by disease.  It was common practice, back in the day, to retreat to the fresh air and calm living when you had afflictions.  Spas popped up around Europe to accommodate these doctors’ prescriptions.  I don’t think that’s so common anymore.  It now takes an “alternative “health care practitioner to advise you that your environment might be making you unwell.  

We are so lucky to be living in a time where we can make money remotely as long as you can check in online. You may not be ready to leave the world entirely, but a retreat to the forest may make a difference to the quality of your life, for as long as you think you might be around.

Katya RIP.  Love, Sandra