People need different kinds of discipline in different stages of life. Children need a discipline, young people need a discipline and even in old age one needs a discipline. There are three staffs, or tridanda, representing the three disciplines of the body, mind and soul. The first staff is the discipline of brahmacharya, or sexual control, which is necessary for any student engaged in studies. After that, in grihastha or household life, there is the discipline of the mind, maintaining proper control over food and sleep.
Even when one enters into old age, and retires or renounces everything, discipline is also necessary. But imposing brahmacharya on an old person is useless. Spiritual discipline is appropriate after middle age. The mind should always be focused on God. After retirement, one doesn't stop working. At that time the work is to concentrate the mind on God and remain focused on Him. There should be nothing other than that. The mind should not be allowed to run here and there. This becomes the discipline of the soul.
In youth, bodily discipline is necessary. One should live the life of a brahmachari, without wasting sexual energy. The thoughts must be kept absolutely pure and directed towards learning the things which will be necessary in life. In grihastha ashram mental discipline is necessary, because during married life many kinds of complications arise. The biggest problem in married life is self restraint. The foremost restraint for a householder is management of anxiety. The entire period of family life is full of anxiety. The farmer who owns land has anxiety about the crop. A wife who is pregnant has anxiety about the birth of her child.
Everybody has anxiety for one reason or another. The prices in the market are rising, and inflation causes anxiety. Unemployment creates anxiety. Not getting a promotion causes anxiety. Getting transferred causes anxiety. If the daughter is not married, there is anxiety. Whether the son turns out to be competent or a rascal, anxiety is there. So, anxiety is a universal truth in modern life and, therefore, psychologists refer to it as anxiety neurotic lifestyle. Everybody has anxiety. If you start self analysis from tomorrow you will feel that this life is a twenty four hour suffering. Some are suffering physically and some mentally. Some have a mind full of worries. So this anxiety, involving the entire spectrum of life, is the problem, and restraint of anxiety is the foremost duty of a householder.
So I told you about the three staffs, tridanda. One is physical restraint, keeping the sexual life healthy. If you misbehave with girls, thinking no one is watching, this is wrong. Self restraint in sexual life is necessary. The race which does not value this restraint is bound to be annihilated one day. Many different kinds of diseases crop up unless there is physical restraint. Then comes restraint of anxiety. If you don't control anxiety, you will have heart disease, diabetes, prostrate cancer and so many diseases. 79% of all diseases are caused by anxiety. This means that out of 100 diseases, 79 originate from stress and tension. Stress causes suppression of the secretion of the hormone insulin, and when that happens, you get diabetes.
The third discipline comes after the age of 50-55 years, when you take retirement and practise atma sanyam, there are two ways to practise this. One is worship, singing bhajans and satsang. The other is to join a spiritual organization and do social service. Institutions like the Ramakrishna Mission and Bharat Sevashram do a lot of social work, so a retired person can make himself useful in this way. In India there is a great need for social service organizations, and if they worked together, they could be more powerful than the government.
In the village, people do not have proper housing or even proper drinking water facilities. They have no other alternative but to live a life of deprivation. When the cow is in heat, by the time they reach Deoghar for insemination, it has already gone cold. Illiteracy is the biggest problem. Illiterate, uncultured people shit right in front of their own houses. In front of Vasukinath temple, people sit in rows to defecate. It seems as if a large party is sitting for lunch!
There are many people in the villages who are blind, disabled, widowed, and need help. So after retirement, at the age of 50 years, you still have so much work to do that you won't even find time to die! Therefore, instead of retiring at the age of 55-60 years, it would be better to take voluntary retirement at the age of 50. Then you can run a social service institution along with 10 to 15 other people. Don't make the plan on paper only. Implement it and keep it active in the villages, not in the cities, because there are many facilities in towns and cities, but none in the villages.
You may say the cities also need social services. However, the cities have many facilities like electricity, vehicles for transportation, roads, telephones, but there is nothing in the villages. If educated and resourceful people focus their minds on the villages, this will in turn help the cities indirectly, because it will check the population growth. When a good school opens in the village, there will be no need to send the children to town for study. If there is a small health center in the village, then no one will need to go to the big cities for treatment. If there is good barber, a good carpenter, a textile shop and a few other small shops, in the village, then no one will go to the cities. Then the pressure that is building up in the cities will automatically reduce. Now, 60 to 80% of the urban population comes from the villages. If you can motivate these people to go back to the villages, then the cities will automatically become beautiful.
The people will go back to the villages only when they have facilities for schooling and health care. This can only happen when educated people who have some resources of their own go to the villages to do social service. Such people should never become a burden on the village. They should go to the villages, because it is necessary for people to return to a pure and natural way of life in order to find their roots and to discover their real nature. This is happening everywhere in all the developed countries like America and Australia. Nobody stays in the cities on holidays and weekends. The roads are jammed with people travelling away from the cities to the villages where the air is unpolluted, the environment pure, the horizon wide and clear and the way of living relaxed and tension free.
So, I have discussed two types of self-moderation or spiritual discipline which can be undertaken in the later stage of life. The third is service to the motherland. Wherever your birthplace may be, wherever your ancestors used to live, whether in Katihar, Rikhia or Deoghar, collect all your resources and do service in that place. If you start serving in your own birthplace with a sincere heart and true feeling, the people of that place will definitely join in and help.
I came to Rikhia to retire and live quietly in solitude. I did not want to meet anyone, and even now, I do not want to meet anyone. Since leaving Munger I have renounced the world. I came here only for solitude. I realized that knowing the self is necessary for keeping oneself disciplined, without any craving for name and fame, or even for doing service and helping others. There is a difference between the feeling of service and the feeling of self? The feeling of self means atmabhav, the sentiment of others being like one's own self. If I am hurt I feel pain, but if you are hurt I also feel pain. So atmabhav means to feel the experience of others as my own experience. The sorrow and sufferings of others, the death of somebody unknown to me, the problems of families that are strangers to me are all felt as my own.
This is atmabhav, not charity. Seeing everyone in oneself and oneself in everyone is the highest attainment of Vedanta: Atmamani pashyanti bhutani; Seeing the self in all and all in the self as one Brahman. This has been written in the Gita, Upanishads, Vedas, and the rishis and munis have said the same thing. The question is, how do you experience this feeling of self and Brahman, that Brahman which is eternal, constant, immortal, perfect and formless? This doesn't happen by speaking about it alone. If you identify yourself with the pain of another, the problem of that person becomes your problem. If your mother, sister, daughter or wife is suffering in the house during the night, then you won't be able to sleep the whole night. But when the member of another's household suffers, you don't feel anything. This is not atmabhav; this is selfishness.
We are all selfish, not selfless, and the path to God proceeds from selflessness. Generosity doesn't proceed from selfishness. There is only one way traffic on this route. Whatever spiritual path we follow it must be a path of selflessness, and this has been said in the scriptures.