Ancient texts also view the human life-span in terms of stages. Life is seen as a process of evolution in four stages known as Ashramas, which literally means a dwelling place. There are four main Ashramas:
Brahmacharya: During this period the major task is learning while living as a student under the guidance of a Guru, with emphasis on discipline and simple living.
Grihastha: In this phase of life an individual has to work and take on the responsibility of raising and maintaining a family within the social context.
Vanaprastha: It is a period of seclusion after one has raised the family and completed the duties towards it. It requires severe discipline and austerity and sharing responsibilities with the younger people.
Sanyasa: It is the final stage of life when one needs to achieve complete detachment from worldly objects, freedom from desire, and move towards ultimate self-knowledge and renunciation from the world.
These stages or ashramas are based on the principle that a human being should grow, participate and discharge worldly duties and contribute to the progress and welfare of society and move towards liberation and spiritual growth. It is desired that the older persons should give way to the younger generation.
In this scheme one lives in a web of obligations to society as well as environment including all living beings such as animals and trees. It emphasizes co-existence with this whole living world rather than being a consumer and exploiting the environment for personal gains.