chapter  17
22 Pages

Åçrama

ByWalter O. Kaelber

The term “åçrama” in mainstream Bråhma~ic thought generally refers to four distinctsocial locations within which the Hindu male may pursue cultural as well as specifically religious goals. These social locations-often correlated with particular spatial locations as well-are quite clearly “places of toil or exertion.” Such “exertion” (çram) was ultimately perceived to serve a moral and/or spiritual purpose. The correlation of åçrama with ascetic activity is evidenced by the repeated pairing of the roots çram and tap in Bråhma~ic literature (Kaelber 1989: 30; Olivelle 1993: 9-11). The term “åçrama” takes on its best-known meaning in the context of a preeminent construct of Hindu theology or self-interpretation: the “åçrama system,” a system of four “orders of life.”