Our scriptures suggest to leave the family and go to forest at the age of fifty :पञ्चाशोर्द्ध्वे वनं व्रजेत्. Reference:https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanaprastha

At the same time our scriptures advise to treat parents as Gods :मातृदेवो भव, पितृदेवो भव।

It is really a cruel system that compels aged parents who need more love and care to live in forests while their wards would live under the roof safe and sound. On what grounds was it recommended? Above 75 years, sannyasa was advised which meant roaming alone and begging which is also very painful at that age!

Were these compulsory or voluntary?

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    We are only a Q&A site. We do not decide or judge which practice is cruel or not. We have no authority in doing so. This question is like inviting opinions from users. Such questions will get closed as opinion based. Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 16:46
  • This is a valid question. He's asking "On what grounds was it recommended?" and also if it's "voluntary or obligatory?" -- neither of which is opinion-based. Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 23:18
  • In general, WIkipedia is not a good source for Hinduism. Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 5:08
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    @sv, while those 2 parts are not opinion-based, the part about 'it's a really cruel system' is.
    – ram
    Commented Feb 3, 2019 at 4:53
  • if you're being neutral, why not say "it's a really just system that doesn't compel parents".. it's obvious you have a pre-conceived notion that it is compelling. Sati was also not compulsory, it was voluntary. that is also opinion-based.
    – ram
    Commented Feb 3, 2019 at 5:06

1 Answer 1


I think it is just a recommendation. It might not be mandatory.

See Vashishta Smriti

1 There are four orders of life: student, householder, forest hermit and wandering ascetic. After studying one, two, or all the Vedas, a man who has not violated his vow of chastity may live in whichever of these he prefers.

The Manu Smriti also says "He may" .. that means there is an option.

6.1. A twice-born Snataka, who has thus lived according to the law in the order of householders, may, taking a firm resolution and keeping his organs in subjection, dwell in the forest, duly (observing the rules given below).

6.2. When a householder sees his (skin) wrinkled, and (his hair) white, and. the sons of his sons, then he may resort to the forest.

6.3. Abandoning all food raised by cultivation, and all his belongings, he may depart into the forest, either committing his wife to his sons, or accompanied by her.

It is not mandatory because, Manu Smriti says, in whichever order a person is residing, he is fit for liberation, if he has understood the true purport of Vedas. So, for such a person it is not required to live the life of a forest hermit as a rule.

12.102. In whatever order (a man) who knows the true meaning of the Veda-science may dwell, he becomes even while abiding in this world, fit for the union with Brahman.

  • Yes may be u are right :) We can't be sure why such verses are there in the text .. but such verses are thr in other Smritis too .. and those were attributed to Saptarishis like Atri, Gautama, Vashishta @ParthaBanerjee
    – Rickross
    Commented Feb 3, 2019 at 4:47
  • So whoever interpolated had a massive task ahead of him :D He must have been paid huge sums for doing that job @ParthaBanerjee
    – Rickross
    Commented Feb 3, 2019 at 4:51
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    @ParthaBanerjee, there are also 'cruel' punishments for brahmanas. what may seem 'cruel' to you may actually be merciful , because the consequences of not punishing could be much worse.
    – ram
    Commented Feb 3, 2019 at 4:55
  • No I dont knw abt such critical versions .. Plus they hv the Puranas so lots of texts to work upon ..:D @ParthaBanerjee
    – Rickross
    Commented Feb 3, 2019 at 4:55
  • @ParthaBanerjee, the punishment for brahmins drinking liquor is to drink hot boiling liquor (or lead) until he dies. the punishment for sudras drinking liquor is just a hangover/headache next morning. Punishments are for those who do not do prayaschittas, so we must definitely pay heed to these punishments as a society. That's like asking who is higher authority 'parents, or the instructions of parents'. Smritis are the words of bhagavan (vedas) illumined by rishis.
    – ram
    Commented Feb 3, 2019 at 5:03

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