Devotee: (reading) "Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira, after placing Mahārāja Parīkṣit on the imperial throne of Hastināpura, and after posting Vajra, the grandson of Lord Kṛṣṇa, as the king of Mathurā, accepted the renounced order of life."
Prabhupāda: Yes. This was the system, that one must retire. Just like at the present moment, although people are asking the president that "You retire. You resign," he is not resigning. Obstinate. Because he knows, "This is the first and last chance. I am not going to be elected again. So stick to the post and take as much money as possible." That's all. But formerly, they voluntarily retired, the king. In India also, we have seen: so many big, big politicians, they could not give up their political job. Even Gandhi.
I wrote a personal letter to Gandhi that "Mahatma Gandhi, you are recognized all over the world as a very pious man, and you are supposed to be very devotee of Bhagavad-gītā. Now you have got your independence. You fought for independence. Now you have got your independence. So I request you to take the teachings of Bhagavad-gītā to preach all over the world." That was my request. Because I was thinking of preaching this Bhagavad-gītā. So I thought that "Gandhi's position is better. If he takes up this job, preaching of Bhagavad-gītā, many people will give attention. Yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhaḥ (BG 3.21). He is a recognized good man, so people will follow." But he did not do so. He stuck up to the politics. And unless he was killed by another opponent party, he did not give it up. Similarly, I have seen other politicians also, Jawaharlal Nehru, Pant, they would not give up. Pant was so weak, I have seen. He could not stand even. He was doing like this (gesticulates), always. Still he would not give up. Similarly, Jawaharlal Nehru, he was paralyzed. Unless he was dead, he could not give up.
So this is not Vedic civilization. Vedic civilization is that at a certain age, you must retire; never mind. The age is divided into four parts: brahmacārī, gṛhastha, vānaprastha and sannyāsa; brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya, śūdra. So Vedic civilization means varṇāśrama-dharma, accepting the institution of four varṇas and four āśrama—social and spiritual order. For social order there must be brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya, śūdra, and for spiritual order, there must be brahmacārī, gṛhastha, vānaprastha and sannyāsa. This is the system. So unless you accept this institution of varṇāśrama-dharma, you are not considered as civilized man, ārya, Āryan.
Āryan means who are making progress under the institution of varṇāśrama-dharma. That progress means to approach the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is the goal. But people do not know that. Not only now; formerly also. Na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇum (SB 7.5.31). They do not know what is their ultimate goal of self-interest. Why Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira is taking... retiring from the... That is not... To become king is not the ultimate goal of life. No. He has got another ultimate goal of life. He remained as a king as a matter of duty.
Just like you work in some office or as a professional man. You work as a lawyer. You work as an engineer. You work as a medical man. That you can do, because you have to do something to live, livelihood. It doesn't matter. But to become an engineer or to become a scientist or become a medical man or a lawyer, that is not my ultimate goal of life. That is needed to maintain the body and soul together, but that is not ultimate goal of life. Ultimate goal of life is to realize God. That is ultimate. For that purpose, you may be what you are, but you must retire.
At the present moment, people retire by force or by some way or... But they do not know what is the ultimate goal of life. There are many retired men's house in your country, but they do not know what is the ultimate goal of life. Ultimate goal of life is to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Because in your busy life, you have got very little time; therefore after gṛhastha life, fifty years up to, not more than that, pañcāśordhvaṁ vanaṁ vrajet, then you must retire. It doesn't matter whether you have finished your duty or not. It doesn't matter. You must retire. And then, after being trained for some times, being retired from the family life, living secluded life—not exactly secluded, but detached from family life—let the elderly sons, daughters, they can take care of the family, and the husband, wife, they travel in different places of pilgrimage. Again they come for some time, but without any attachment, as guest in the house of his son. In this way, when he is trained up, then he says to the wife, "Now you live with your sons. They will take care of you. I am taking sannyāsa."
So everyone has to take sannyāsa. It is not that a particular man, simply Caitanya Mahāprabhu, has to take sannyāsa. No. That is obligation. You must. In Buddha philosophy, everyone has to take sannyāsa and live as a sannyāsī for some years. That is their duty. So Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira prepared himself for becoming sannyāsī. Sannyāsī means renounced. No more family responsibility—or any responsibility; simply to become pure devotee of the Lord. That is sannyāsa. Anāśritaḥ karma-phalaṁ kāryaṁ karma karoti yaḥ sa sannyāsī (BG 6.1). What is the sannyāsī definition? Sannyāsī means he works, but not as the enjoyer of the fruit of the work. That is sannyāsī. Everyone, karmī... Karmī means he is working hard, day and night, but he wants the fruit of the work to enjoy himself. That is karmī. Sannyāsī also will work hard day and night, but he will not take the fruit. It is for Kṛṣṇa. That is sannyāsī. Sannyāsī means sat-nyāsī. Nyāsī means renounced, and sat means the supreme truth. One who renounces everything for the sake of supreme truth, he is called sannyāsī. That sannyāsī formality is to change the dress. But anyone... Just like this Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira, Arjuna and his brothers, they were all sannyāsīs. But still, formality, they accepted sannyāsa, gave up attachment for the house. In this way... Because he is king, if he does not set example, then others will not accept sannyāsa.
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Los Angeles, December 17, 1973)