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This is a study of the Asrama system, a Hindu construct consisting of four legitimate ways of leading a religious life. Together with the varna (class) system, it forms one of the pillars of Hindu life. The author traces its early history and explains how it gradually established connections with other Hindu religious institutions to emerge as one of the two central dimensions of the Hindu dharma. The text represents a major study not only of Hindu religious history, but also of the tradition of Indian hermeneutics.