How fortunate are we to be born in India where old age is still respected. Our culture is so rich that everyone has a place in society, everyone has uses, even the aged.
Are we taking advantage of our rich culture and the opportunities available to us as we get older ? Many people have a settled life as they get older, but not everyone is happy. Older people generally have more time to develop new hobbies and learn new things. It is a false notion that older people lose their ability to learn. The most successful doctors, lawyers, judges, businessmen, etc, get better with age. If one stops learning, one stops living. The soul is eternal. One should never consider quitting ; life must go on. It is only when one gives up, life becomes meaningless.
One is one’s worst enemy. Lord Krishna states in the Bhagavad-Geeta, “Atmaiva-ripur atmanah” (6.5). We become servants of our habits and cannot break away from them. Habits are meant for our benefit and they should not imprison us. Yes, it is difficult for the aged to make important changes in life since they may put personal pride above everything. Actually, the spirit never gets old, one’s thinking does.
The Bhagavad-Geeta says, “He who is regulated in his habits of eating, sleeping, recreation and work can mitigate all material pains” (6.17). Also “Perform your prescribed duty, for doing so is better than not working. One cannot even maintain one’s physical body without work” (3.8). The human body is a machine that needs to be active to be healthy. Too much comfort is bane and not boon. One tends to lose focus in life if one gets too soft resulting in life becoming boring. We all need appreciation and attention and that is possible only if we are useful now and not that we were useful in the past.
To be happy, human beings require inter-personal relationships, which do not happen if one abandons all activities. Inaction only contributes to feeling of useless and makes one depressed. One can always do something useful no matter whatever state one is in. Zero effort beings zero result. One should make friendship with good and spiritual people and spend time with them. Also, one should read good books and scriptures and listen to spiritual discourses. And one can even learn music.
Similar resolve is required to undo the follies of the past. As one gets older, one accumulates many useful things, but one is also saddled with the results of one’s past mistakes. Nothing, however, is permanent , neither good nor bad. One can almost undo or atleast lessen the effect of past mistakes.
This brings us to the topic of spirituality. Spiritual science is the highest knowledge which provides all the answers we seek. Spirituality does not only mean a personal tete-a-tete with God. In the absence of spirituality, one rejects everything spiritual. One needs to make progress as per the scriptural directions and realize the truth. Personal realization of God comes later if one patiently and purposefully pursues what God has instructed.
One needs to qualify for such an honour. As soon as one starts following scriptural directions, the mind, which is crucial to one’s happiness, begins to become peaceful. The Bhagavad-Geeta says, “One who is not connected with God, can have neither real intelligence not a steady mind, without which there is no possibility of peace. And how can there be any happiness without peace” ? (2.66). And if one tries, peace comes cheap. Spirituality helps one in overcoming different types of fears, like timing of death, which is fixed ; diseases, which are result of improper living ; and old age, which is inevitable. These are causes not to make one panic, but to find solutions and tolerate life.
Souls are atomic and they always need help, no matter how well-placed a person may be. This is where developing healthy relationships really helps so as to live happily. The best way to develop friendship is to be helpful to others. But one must not get emotional about relationships. Most mistakes are made when one is swayed by emotions rather than guided by reason. People have been known to give away their possessions to non-deserving children and have repented in leisure. As a good parent, it is one’s duty to guide and train ; and not to hand over hard-earned possessions to non-deserving children. Similarly, one should be happy to hand over charge to the younger generation progressively, as practical.
Finally, one should never feel sorry for oneself, no matter how badly one is placed. After all, one is a product of what one has been. Feeling sorry does not help ; sustained efforts in the right direction do. Available time must be used judiciously to make gradual progress. Too many negative emotions result in depression. An intelligent person works towards elation – the purpose of life.