This system of life-stages developed in the Upanishads is found in full
operation at the time when the Vedic Kalpasutras were composed. It appears
that the fourth stage of the ascetic, as affording opportunities for reaching the
highest state, was growing into popularity in spite of its rigour, and it seems
that many persons were embracing it, without passing through the regular
sequence prescribed for the four orders. In fact, according to some social
legislators, on the completion of the duties of studentship, one is declared
free to enter any of the asramas at one’s pleasure. Thus a student has the
option of staying in his own asrama up to the last day of his life as a
perpetual and professed student (naishtika brahmacharin), or he may become
a householder, a hermit in the forest, or an ascetic.
    Such indiscriminate admission of men into the ascetic order from any of
the other orders, without the natural gradation through the preceding stages,
was likely to draw into that order many undesirables who by their imperfect
discipline were not yet fitted to be there, and the social legislators felt that
this influx of immature persons into the order of homeless wanderers would
tend to produce a general deterioration in the health of the society, and
besides, to disturb the economic foundation of the whole social structure.
They, therefore, insisted upon people passing from one order to the next in
regular sequence, sought to press it home that the householder was the basis
and support that held up the entire social frame, laid down severe
punishments by way of penances for those who failed to keep up the standard
of purity of the three orders of the brahmacharin, vanaprastha, and
sannyasin, and at last pointed out that it was not indispensable for an
individual to enter formally into the ascetic order, but that the highest
realisation was possible to a person who stayed at home, but detached himself
from worldly pursuits.
    Manu goes further than the Dharmasutras by declaring, ‘When the
householder has paid, according to the law, his debts to the great sages, to the
manes, and to the gods, let him make over everything to his son and dwell in
his house, not caring for any worldly concerns. Let him constantly mediate
alone in solitude on that which is salutary for his soul; for he who mediates in
solitude attains supreme bliss.’ Manu also proclaims distinctly that one who
seeks salvation without discharging his debt to his fathers by begetting
children, tumbles down the ladder      of life-marches farther off from the goal