A Summary of the Srimad Bhagavatham : Ch-5. Part-8.
5: Narada Instructs Yudhisthira on Ashrama Dharma :
The Grihastha does not have time to always sit in meditation, though he has to do that also for a certain prescribed time. But now, in a period where we retire from active life of social existence—contact with people of a social or political nature—we do not just lie down and say we are retired and have no work to do. The retirement is only from the distractions of life, not from the duties of life. That is to say, there is a higher duty than the duty of a Brahmacharin or a Grihastha, and this is traditionally designated as the Vanaprastha stage.
In earlier days, people in the Vanaprastha stage would go to live in the forest, but that is not to be taken literally as a necessity. We have to be completely free from the entanglements of a household life. Here, the preparation starts for the utilisation of the conserved energy for the purpose of direct meditation. There was some kind of activity in the Brahmacharya stage, and more activity in the Grihastha stage, and now the activity that was earlier externally motivated in many ways becomes directed internally, and it becomes a mental energising process only. The Vanaprastha lives in his mind, in his thought, and not in his actions. In earlier stages, actions contributed a lot to the conservation of energy and the fulfilment of the duties of life, but now thought itself is enough; and one contemplates by gathering up all one’s energies on the great aim of life.
Though the final aim of life is kept in mind even in the earlier stages, it is not brought into action directly on account of other circumstances through which one had to pass. But here, it is a direct entry into the consciousness of the higher values of life, where we befriend not merely human society, but we befriend the quarters of heaven—the gods ruling the horizon, the denizens of heaven.
To be continued ....