Āśrama means where there is activities, spiritual. That is called āśrama. So if you remain as gṛhastha, or family man, there is no harm. But utilize for advancement of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Then you are gṛhastha. But if you do not know that, if you simply remain a family man for satisfying your senses and begetting children up to the point of death, that is called gṛhamedhī. These two words. Apaśyatām ātma-tattvaṁ gṛheṣu gṛhamedhinām (SB 2.1.2). So one should not be gṛhamedhī. One may become gṛhastha. That is the difference.
So this man, Ajāmila, was not a gṛhastha, because his beginning of life is that he gave up his married life. He was married with nice wife, coming from respectable family, but he gave up that, and he was attached to a maidservant. And he gave up his real family life. He became a family man with this maidservant, and go on begetting children. That was his life. Therefore this word is used particularly, tasya pravayasaḥ. He was old enough; still, he was begetting child. But one who is brāhmaṇa, he would not stay in family life more than fiftieth year. Pañcāśordhvaṁ vanaṁ vrajet. One must go to the forest. Forest means vana, and therefore, one who goes to the forest, from the word vana, it is vāna, vānaprastha. Prastha mean one who has gone. This is regulative life. One has to take leave from this family life and accept the vānaprastha. Vānaprastha means prior to accepting the renounced order of life. The husband and wife goes out of home and travels in many holy places to associate with holy man and take his instruction just to prepare for sannyāsa. So when one is fully equipped in knowledge, then he asks his wife to go to home to be taken care of by the elderly children, and he becomes a sannyāsī.
This is called varṇāśrama-dharma. This is real purpose of life: four varṇas, four classes of men, up to fourth class, not up to tenth class. And then spiritual life: brahmacārī, gṛhastha, vānaprastha, sannyāsa. This institution is called varṇāśrama-dharma: four varṇas and four āśrama. So when one is educated or trained up by this varṇāśrama institution, then his human life begins. Otherwise he is animal. One who does not take to this varṇāśrama-dharma, he remains in the animal life. That is the Vedic system. So Caitanya Mahāprabhu enquired from Rāmānanda Rāya, "What is the aim of life?" Rāmānanda Rāya immediately replied that,
- puruṣeṇa paraḥ pumān
- viṣṇur ārādhyate panthā
- nānyat tat-toṣa-kāraṇam
- (CC Madhya 8.58)
The real purpose of life, goal of life, is to satisfy Viṣṇu—Viṣṇu, Lord, the Supreme Lord, or Kṛṣṇa. This is life, to become Kṛṣṇa conscious, to know Kṛṣṇa and try to satisfy Him. That is life.