According to the doctrine of āśrama dharma in modern Hinduism, there are four āśramas or stages in life: brahmacarya or a period of studentship, grhastha or the stage of a householder, vānapraslha or the stage of a forest-dweller or hermit, and sannyāsa or the life of renunciation. Non-Hindus in the modern period have criticized the āśrama dharma, claiming that while the four stages of life are acknowledged, the stage or state of renunciation, or sannyāsa, was considered qualitatively superior, and that this imparts a world-denying character to the Hindu ethos. Modern Hinduism represents a living repudiation of this stand. Many of its leading figures were not renunciants, and even those who were, chose to live in the world rather than retire into a cave. Mahatma Gandhi and Rāmakrsna, who adopted an ascetic lifestyle within a married state, may be viewed more as ‘hermits’ than ‘renunciants’.
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