Capt Purushottam Sharma (Retd)
“Old is Gold”, goes the famous saying. On a beautiful kimono sent by a friend abroad to one of our esteemed diplomats, it was inscribed:
“You were a child, then young,
And now old,
In water, fire or air, gold is gold.”
True it is! Old age is a blessing that makes a person to live in spiritual nest free from worldly sorrows and pains. It is a stage full of opportunities to sincerely strive for spiritual illumination realizing a supreme fact of freedom from the shackles of illusion with passage of long journey of years. In this age, the person is pushed by the past to a domain of enlightenment to manifest what had remained obscure. A person is now steadfast enough to repulse the objects of senses and master the emotions. Time is the best teacher. With its moving wheel, it unfolds the big mystery of –
“Daivi Hyesa Gunamayi Mama Maya Duratyaya
Mameva ye Prapadyante Mayametam Taranti te”
– (Srimad Bhagavadgita 14/VII)
‘For this My Divine delusive Maya, comprising of three modes of Nature is hard to break through. However, those who make Me sole refuge, that is, who constantly adore Me alone are able to cross it.’
It is well known that spiritual advancement ultimately leads to Viveka (discrimination between the Real and the Unreal) and Vairagya
(absence of attraction for the material world). The saint-turned King Bhratari Hari called Vairagya as ‘rasa’ (Divine Drink) and framed one hundred verses on it which is known as ‘Vairagya Shatak’. Lord Sankracharya says in His Vivekchudamani that Viveka and Vairagya are like two wings of a bird that makes it fly. Similarly, an aspirant has to possess the Viveka and Vairagya to make the mind introvert. Then the afflictions of Avidya (ignorance), Asmita (egoism), Raga-Dwesha (likes and dislikes) and Abhinivesha (clinging to life) will vanish.
Old age is ideally suited to contemplate on the Almighty until His nearness is felt in all situations. This way, the thoughts, words and actions will be Divine-led. This heroic nature will pierce the fear of death, keep away illusions and delusions and culminate in salvation. This state of mind will make living lively and blissful free from worldly burdens. It is an age and a stage of embracing deliverance. Carrying inherent faith in Lord of the Universe, there remains no room for practicing harsh austerities but simply love Him and His creation, extend due respect to all, young and old, avail of opportunities to share experiences and resources at disposal for the good of the society, speak sweet to the inflicted with pains and sorrows and extend helping hand to them. Aged persons ought to act according to highest moral standards, keep calm and collected, shun ego, wrath, greed and attachment. It is a time to recollect cheerful memories. Wrinkles should be viewed as work of art on the flesh.
Aged persons should affectionately treat all other members of the family, particularly their daughters-in-law. Children should be lovingly
blessed and narrated stories and events which must promote in them love, sense of commitment and duty towards the Motherland and her people. Similarly, these must cater for virtues like prayer to the Creator, truth, non-violence, non-stealing, celibacy, selfless service to the society, honesty, humility, endurance, hard work, sense of obedience, contentment, compassion, tolerance, respect for all faiths and importance of good company.
Appreciating the constraints like low income, insufficient residential space, small-sized family units and major share of family income required on upbringing of children, aged persons must exercise restraint and make do with what falls to their share. This way elders will exercise commanding influence on other members in the family and help to achieve all-grace and gaiety.
To purify themselves, elderly persons must review the past acts and, after sustained introspection, surrender to the society all the wealth amassed by foul and sinful means because this belonged to have-nots and must go back to them. God will be pleased with such aged persons and endear them for their benevolent acts.
Elderly people must prove a role model to the society and remain active and useful as long as possible. It is the selfless service that keeps charm in life. They must seek association of noble souls (saints/sages and persons of merit) for receiving spiritual upliftment. They must have a circle of good friends with liberal minds and sense of wisdom. They must regularly study the Scriptures to achieve guidelines and aspirations for inner strength to unite with Him. They must sow the seeds of goodness. ‘Lord is seated in my heart’ should be the constant feeling. It is the power of thoughts that works wonders to move upwards.
To keep healthy both in body and mind, aged persons must exercise maximum care in food intake and its quality. Food must be light, pure and
nourishing to ensure vitality. Light exercises and Yogasanas must be taken to keep vital parts of the body in good humor. Reading Newspaper and viewing TV should be limited to ensure that no stress or emotional hurt is caused.
All of us, particularly the elderly persons, must familiarize with Lord Krishna’s revelations in Srimad Bhagwadgita which will enrich the Soul and fetch perfection, if followed with earnestness. These are:
“Gatir Bharta Prabhu Saksi Nivasah Sarnam Suhrt
Prabhavah Pralayah Sthanam Nidhanam Bijamayvyayam”
‘I am the supreme Goal, the Sustainer, the Lord, the Witness, the Abode, the Refuge, Well-wisher, the Origin, the End, Resting place, the Treasure-house, Imperishable seed.’
Saints, Seers and Sages of the yore had long span of life for they lived in eco-friendly abodes, took fruits and roots, followed the right art of living and followed strict discipline.
Some elderly persons curse old age and get themselves miserable and defeated. Such persons need to shun the extrovert tendency of the mind and develop positive attitudes towards life and engage in activities of keen interests to bring out their hidden potentials and transform themselves for a higher mission. Any disability, deformity, ailment or tragedies can be encountered by following the teachings of Srimad Bhagwadgita known as the Universe Mother. The famous story of boy Markandeya who took refuge in the feet of Lord Shiva is a big lesson. The boy Markendeya was to die on his sixteenth birthday but the Yama, the king of death, could not claim the body of the boy who was united with Lord Shiva, the conqueror of death.
Life must be attuned with God. It should always be remembered that life is a magnificent gift of God and Soul is the Lord residing therein. Fill every breath with Rama, Rama, Krishan, Krishan, Shiva, Shiva or any Favorite Deity and remain protected from any calamity. By virtue of spiritual conduct, aged one can uplift themselves to a level of sainthood. Such
persons then become worthy of esteem and epitome of ideal old-hood. They will be able to lead dignified and comfortable life, receive care and attention not only from their kith and kin but all others.
Everybody must learn to grow old gracefully and successfully to merge in Universal Life. Old age should not be treated a decline to wilderness but of majesty and fulfillment.
( The author is in his 87th year and most of the contents are from his personal experiences).
Capt Purushottam Sharma (Retd)