The Fortune of Being a Senior Citizen 

Dr. C.L. Prabhakar

sataminnu sarado anti devahyatra nascakra jarasam tanunam

putraso yatra pitaro bhavanti mano madhyareerishatayurgantoh

“Oh you Gods! A lovely hundred years (Śarad seasons) stand before us with in the given span of lifetime. Kindly, do not trouble our mortal physical frame, until we reach to a certain age. The next generation can take charge and get ready to bear the responsibilities of becoming fathers in turn.”

Rigveda 1.89.9

Ramayana expressed a truth that death is natural to all beings while life and living is change. But if a being lives long breathing (svāsan) healthily then we consider him to be fortunate. In other words, if prāṇa-śakti is live, healthy, it is a blessing and the person would be able to witness many things for long time upon this Earth. Therefore, to grow into the stage of senior citizen for any being born on Earth is Fortunate. Here when Valmiki employed the word ‘Svāsa’ he seems to imply health, active life in the granted span of time. Svāsa is the prāṇa and when it is intact activity could be done with such vigour and enthusiasm. Further we have a prayer to Rudra ‘Prathamo Daivyo Bhishak’ (SYV 16 Ch). He needs to bless us long life followed by assurances of health and detachments of unwanted strings of responsibilities. This would help for all to subsist that period of life to go for gains like: friends, health, wealth, and above all sustained memory. In Camaka prasanga of Yajurveda, we have many articles of life programs enlisted. All of them are lending support for hope and optimistic aspirations for necessary comfort. Thereby our faculties and activity shall not be passive. In principle, we have asked for 35 optimistic desires and conditions to go safe with us until the end of being a senior citizen. There are hundreds of positive desires to stay and be fruitful to us in life. For example, one can see developments in various dimensions of life like, family, profession, contacts, religious and spiritual events and distinctions. Such long life leads to growth into being a ‘Śatāyuṣī’ (of hundred years). Right from the age eighty and more years of age, the person is styled as Śatāyuṣī and there are many āśirvāda mantras Veda and other scriptures to confirm health and peace in the life thereafter for the persons in. Prayer is unfailing measure of attainments being proved a Boon and Bonus.

As we are born and brought up as the child of the creator Prajāpati, Atharvaveda, lends a scope by confirming a blessings thus: to reach the old age. Kalidasa too has given the scheme of life:

Saisave abhysata vidyanam Yauvane vishayeshinam!

vardhake muni vruttinam yogenante tanu tyajam!!

Raghuvamsa 1.8

Which means from boyhood to 25 years, earn knowledge as much as possible. Learn arts and sciences as much as possible further. Growing young (25 to 50 years of age) one would enjoy the pleasures, acquisitions and stabilization for richness and sharing, etc. It is stage to gather wealth and properties and discharge responsibilities in many fronts. While at advanced age from fifty years and more; one has to live like a saint and finally with the practice of discipline of Yoga one to prepare to leave the body at the conclusion of living. Moreover, in old age practice the activities gravitating towards those activities of sages and saints and at end yoking the mind with the Absolute. Later evict the soul from body to attain Emancipation.

The motto of life need be, as Kalidasa continues to advise: whatever riches or wealth amassed, gift away at senior age. For a balanced safety, ‘talk judiciously’, eat fewer amounts of food for health. Thus, prepare for peaceful existence and exit.

Tyaagaya smbhrutarthanm Satyaya mita bhashinam!

yasase vijigeeshunam prajayai gruhamedhinam!!

Raghuvamasa 1.7

Taittiriya Upanishad too exhorts the same in its section on Vedic Convocation (vedamanucyacaryo antevasinamanusasti…). In this manner, on the one hand, we can also follow the instructions provided by our great thinkers and on the other gain indications and measures done profusely from our scriptures for an aspirant course of life at old age.

Moreover, the set of four aims marked for people namely Dharma, Artha , Kāma and Mokṣa constitute as their pastimes. An urge is cultivated to make them fulfilled greatly. Also four āśramas (stages of life) are suggested to individuals keeping reverence to worldly life, past times and workable activities, which are – Bhrahmacarya, Gruhastha, Vānaprastha and sanyāsa. Vānaprastha considers as the high time to go up to Śatāyuṣī. It is a stage to elevate mind and adopt the spiritual practices like Yoga, worship, dhyāna, jāpa, prāṇāyāma and more for peace and complacency. When a person turn older, they have to attend personal upliftment which they could not attend during their age of storm. At advanced age it is necessary to turn to Vedanta and mingle with the divine interest. Yajurveda Chapter 18 opens with the mantra that one has to look for the divya vajas that uplifts the life. Divya vajas are the things that would be of utility, personal, impersonal and universal. This is the most crucial time as the parents are in at the edge of old age which is full of experiences of life and eager to enlighten their next generation.

Every day is precious, a gain and a bonus after certain senior age for everybody. Personal ego need at least be reduced and in its place the divine importance is to be installed. So, to live the age of any senior for long with health and peace one needs ‘śānti karmas’ religiously. They begin from Ṣaṣṭhi purti (60 years) of age and go up to Śatāyuṣī. Every decade, after sixty years all need śānti ceremonies. This involves invoking the blessings of elders, gods and the departed ancestors in the lineage on installment basis. Religious observances (tapas of convenient order) add to the effort of seniority.

The flow of time (Kāla) is like river which never turns back. The clock for a senior person is very important and so one has to be mindful. There is a suggestion that one has to do dharma

Ajara amaravat prajnah vidyam artham ca sadhayet|

gruhita iva keseshu mrutyuna dharma macaretḥ||

Hitopadesa

The verse suggests in the course of life, vidyā and Artha need be earned as though mṛtyu is grasping hairs.

Āchārya Śankara says in one of his stotras advises- ‘please reduce the ego and pride everyday little by little to reach zero level (aharahar va garvam parityajyatam). When ego is removed scope for benefits would be at gain. Here, Śankara hints that it is in our hands to send away ego and negativity from us. Śṛi Kṛśṇa gave the importance to a fact that one should uplift by himself as self is all in all and never self be demeaned.

uddharet atmana atmanam naatmanam avasadayet

atmaivahyatmano bandhuh atmaiva ripuratmanah  !!

Bhagavadgītā 6.8

One has to help oneself to uplift. Never one should demean his own self. Self is the friend to self, but self is enemy to one’s own self. Kṛśṇa means here self-reliance is the formula of happiness and more so when people reach senior age. Relations usually neglect the requests.

Self is noble and personal too. Seniors are at the verge of evening walk of life, meaning exit remains closer. Realizing that, they should monitor their time with care and commitment. They must take assistance only when they should. Kṛśṇa said in the Bhagavadgītā that one should uplift oneself. Such instruction is a mark of wisdom to the people, more so at senior stage since children and relations grow busy in their own way.

When seniors practice Vedāntic way of life, realizing its worth in reality, then they would be near peace and in peace too. This piece will help happy ending, the conclusion of life on earth. For any senior individual, death without any hazels and life with no dependence is desirous.

These two are possible when we turn spiritual and revering the divine. This fortune is obtainable by Yoga, which includes dhyāna and accessories to them. Also, one should adopt the inclination of mind to vote for the sense of vairāgya. The awareness of the body, house and township, etc. need not be bothered at invariably. Truly speaking our body is a Traveller’sBungalow taken for lease for a period. But while enjoying ‘be neutral and uncommitted’ like the lotus leaf in a pond (Padmapatra iva ambhasa). For this way of adopted living the mind is to be disciplined and that is possible through the instructions by a guru and practice of them regularly.

The constant prayer is:’ whatever advancement in age and wealth possessed should be prosperous and helpful owing to the effort which is the form of Yajña. One always need to remember the Upaniśadic truth:

 ‘mrutyorma amrutam gamaya’

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

 move from material problems to ultimate pathway of spirituality and the immortality

When God’s grace subsists life of a senior is a FORTUNE and a true BONUS. It is so because Earth, the bhuloka, is the most beautiful loka of lokas. We have attestations given to us in the works of great sages, authors like Kalidasa, Bana and several others in the world Literature. Added to that there would be scope to wash off follies and sins in order to get higher planes of happiness and Nirvāṇa.

In a nutshell, to live a full period of Senior citizen as granted by the providence is a boon. It should be appropriately employed for personal and universal welfare by controlling emotions. Mind can be managed pleasant by studying relevant scriptures. He would have the scope to experience Bhoga, Bhāgya, Saubhāgya and Mokṣa.

Dr. C.L Prabhakar, Professor, Sanskrit & President, WAVES, Bangalore Chapter