“The aged are not a spent force, they are a treasure house of knowledge. They are not to be sidelined, they are to be mainstreamed. These flowers may be faded but they still smell sweet through empowerment”(Singh 2001).
Senior citizens, without doubt have a very important role to play, but before going into that it is worth our while to first understand the purpose of our lives and why we have been born as humans. This has a tremendous bearing on not only our growth but also on how a senior citizen can contribute to society and nation building.
Each one of us has a twofold purpose. The first is to realize the Creator and then to merge into Him, while the second is related to our vocation or profession.
This has been aptly called the ‘inner’ (Self or God realization) and “outer’ (pertaining to job, profession or vocation) by Eckhart Tolle. As I see it, both of these are ultimately related to the progress of society in more ways than one. This is so because the closer we get to our selves, the better and richer our ‘outside’ performance. The better the “outside” performance more is the progress in this world of ours. The Creator fulfills His (and our) dreams through us! Mother Theresa said it beautifully: “I am the pen, He writes”.
The two purposes mentioned above, impact the lives of all we interact with (even if we don’t do so directly). This is because we are all interconnected and every thought, deed or action influences everyone and everything on this planet. Every thought and every deed has an effect on others. Senior citizens, after wading through the four ‘ashrams’ of Sanatana Dharma (Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanprastha, and Sanyas) and imbibing all the wisdom thus gained are in a unique position to guide others and influence both the young and old alike.
It is worthwhile briefly recapitulating the concept of the four ‘ashrams’ at this juncture. Each ‘ashram’ or stage has a specific purpose. During the first stage, one is supposed to gain both spiritual and practical knowledge, while in the second one takes over responsibilities of one’s family and those pertaining to one’s job or profession. This stage is supposed to seamlessly flow into the stage of gradual withdrawal from worldly surroundings .The last phase of one’s life is that of ‘sanyas’ or renunciation, (more about this later). All four stages are supposed to help fulfill the purpose of one’s life, that of realizing the Creator through the four fundamental aspects of life called the four ‘purusharthas’, namely ‘Dharma’, ‘Artha’. ‘Kam’ and “moksha”. These, of course also include the job one does for one’s living.
Healthy aging too comprises of connecting first to one’s ‘ self’ and then with the Almighty and in the process, gain the infinite wisdom of the Supreme Being, which then automatically flows in to other beings. This way a senior citizen becomes “the sandalwood which perfumes the very axe that cuts it”. To a spiritually evolved soul, this is not done intentionally, but just happens, through the flow of spiritual vibrations emanating from him.
Senior citizens, are therefore, best suited for transferring their wisdom to others, which they may do consciously or unconsciously, as mentioned above.
In this context, I would like to mention that life is actually a continuous flow, fulfilling the three basic principles of Nature, namely ‘movement’, ‘transformation’ and ‘structure’. This is like the river flowing silently towards the mighty ocean, and in the process, helping transform everything along its path. Life is, therefore a continuum, hence the concept of ‘retirement’ does not arise since even so called ‘death’, as we know it, is ‘just a beginning’. The term ‘retirement’ thus appears to be paradoxical when looked upon from the point of view of ‘sanyas’ as alluded to above. This warrants a deeper look, as the real meaning of this word, is, unfortunately, not well understood. A ‘sanyasi’ does not need to consciously relinquish his connection with the world he lives in. The important thing is to ‘be in the world, yet not of it”. When one is spiritually evolved, one has no need to renounce anything, as worldly things and problems just fall off like dead leaves from the branches of a tree. One continues to live in society but is not affected by worldly things or ‘maya’. This is true renunciation and in the process, one’s spiritual vibrations spread into all beings around them and affect them positively. The person who gets filled with the Light loses his ego, becomes ‘sahaj’, yet full of tremendous ‘tej’ and depth. This way ‘old age’, which is ‘just a number’, becomes productive in the true sense of the word.
There are many examples of senior or ‘super seniors’ contributing to not only the welfare of society but helping people evolve spiritually. Guru Amar Das continued to spread his light and dispelled the darkness surrounding his followers till a very ripe old nonagenarian age and in the process guided so many to their real home and ultimate union with the Supreme Being.
It is believed that Lao Tzu lived for one hundred and fifty years! As we are aware, he spoke of the concept of the Tao, which is the same as the ‘Word’, Shabd”, “Naam’, “Amen”, “Ameen” and so on and is believed to have written the book Tao Te Ching. The concepts laid down by him are still being followed in spiritual circles. Let us, therefore, look up to our elders as beacons of light, wisdom and knowledge and give them the love and respect which they so richly deserve. They are a tremendous asset not only for a nation but have the potential to change the entire world! Spiritually evolved elders are the true leaders of our great nation and the entire world. They are the greatest sources of inspiration for the young, who need the guidance of evolved seniors for their balance and equanimity. Let us all embrace them with open arms, imbibe their spiritual vibrations and go forward in life full of positivity and enthusiasm.
Dr Vijay Mohan Kohli, MS MCh FIACS
Specialist in Adult Cardiac Surgery and have performed over 8,000 cardiac surgeries independently and associated with twice that number.
Senior Consultant Cardiac Surgeon, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram and Pushpawati Singhania Research Institute, Sheikh Sarai, Saket, New Delhi
International Member of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons
Member European Association of Cardiothoracic Surgery
Member Asian Association of Cardiothoracic surgery
Visiting Consultant,Thorax Centre, University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden