Maturity or Just Old Age?

Swami Yogananda Saraswati

According to the Vedic tradition, there are four stages in human life, the culmination being the last stage when husband and wife retired from the world and lived a life of renunciation and prayer. Having experienced a complete life and having known the joys and sorrows of family life, of birth and of death, they accumulated a stock of experiences and then voluntarily retired from active participation, to devote themselves to spiritual life and the search for that very cause for which they had suffered and enjoyed. Now at last they could 'round off' their life in seeking the ultimate cause of existence, the purpose for which they had been born. Through their experience they had come to know that life is transient but that there was something which was permanent, and now they could devote themselves wholly to its search.

Every unfoldment in life is beautiful, from the growth of a child, to the deeper understanding of life and its interrelationships. When the events of our life can be accepted calmly, then we are emotionally and mentally strong. Fate is not harsh or unkind. If it seems to descend with heavy blows upon us, then it is for our benefit, that we may accept and learn and in so doing, grow strong. Like the bamboo revered by the Japanese, which bends low in the storm and lifts itself up again when the storm has passed.

Ageing is not a physical thing only; there can be maturity in thought and emotions also. But because we think that our body is what we are, we try to preserve the facade which we present to society. Why resent growing older? What is wrong with maturity? As a child one pretended to be grownup; as an adult one tries to look younger. It is no wonder many people think life has finished for them at 65 years, when they are summarily retired from their occupation. The society today is geared for the young and there are few prospects for the mature person. It is society which is to blame for this situation, but the society consists of the individual persons and it is only when the individual thinking changes that society will also change.

So, now you have retired; what are you going to do? Potter around in the garden, baby-sit for the grandchildren, go on a world tour, watch television, or just grow old? These are the prospects, but what a dismal future! It is no wonder that so many older persons lapse into illness and inertia, due to their feelings of uselessness, misery and frustration. Yet they need not be useless.

Many accidents are surely due to the impetuousness of youth. How could they heed the advice of their elders when, as it is in western countries nowadays, there is practically no interaction between the young and old, when the grandparents are not there to console or give counsel? Here again the structure of the society is to blame. Younger people need guidance from those who are mature, and the immature can give meaning and brightness to the life of their elders. The dignity of wisdom and age give balance to a restless society.

Every age in life has a meaningful purpose. Maturity has a serenity and wisdom which youth cannot yet know, due to its lack of experience. It is only at this time of life that we can devote ourselves fully to finding out just what we really are, and what the purpose of our existence really is. Man is not the body which he possesses and also not the mind with which he thinks that he possesses his body. In every one of us there is an immortal spark, and the prime purpose of life is to discover and rekindle this spark which is already within and which is eternal. When discovered and rekindled, this light will illumine not only ourselves but will give light on the path to all who follow. Thus will man in his maturity grow strong and grow beautiful. Every age in life has its own dignity, its own courage, its own fulfilment. But man has still to learn this, and it is only in what has been erroneously termed 'the declining years' that he can purposefully live and enrich his life without the turmoil's of youth and its inexperience.

When we start to see light
We can give up our fight
For now there's a new day arising.
We can look at things
With the wisdom age brings
And find new dimensions in living.

When our time is our own
There is time to reflect
To discover the source of our being
And we'll find life's a store
Far richer than before
For its gained quite a new dimension.

As we look with new eyes
At life's clear sunny skies
Fresh inspiration will come awinging
And as day follows day
Life is no longer grey
But a new life, only just beginning.