The Joy of A Dignified Last Phase of Life . . . . . 2nd Chapter of the book ‘Address of Happiness’ [a.k.a. સુખનું સરનામું] by Shri Haresh Dholakia

Once I came across very strange news in the newspaper that a retired professor of psychology had committed suicide because of depression.

Such news results in a smile as well as compassion. It is indeed pathetic that the professor of psychology has to end his own life. More miserable is the fact that the person – who attempted to understand and teach the process of mind, who probably inspired others, who certainly must have taught others to adjust in the life – could not settle in his post-retirement life. Someone can defend him by saying that, perhaps, circumstances in or around his home may have been so unfavourable that he must have given up and taken such an extreme step, hence he may be excused.

The answer is – what happened may be acceptable from a layman, but not from a professor of psychology at a prestigious university.

This shows the failure of theoretical education. When education results in only knowledge, to earn our living only, it can produce wise words, it may provide status too, but does not practically help to lead a good life. Such education is meaningless, useless and dry. If what we preach cannot be digested by us, then is it of any use? This is when we recall preaching s of Saints, which appear true as well.

Saint Narssinh Mehta states in plain words: “These are all means to earn your living.” As a pig eats whatever is in the pit of garbage to fulfil his hunger, so does a man eats books for the same purpose. He gulps some words of the principles, without chewing them properly. He, then, goes on to abuse them to earn money, but with no effect on either his or others lives. According to Narsinh Mehta, this is prostitution of words.

Even Kabir mocks by saying that an intellectual and a torch-bearer provide light to others, but they themselves remain in darkness. An intellectual teaches others from the books, but generally is not able live by that knowledge. His knowledge is confined to theories only. He himself lives the life of utter ignorance, a very poor quality life. The torch-bearer does not lose anything by remaining in the darkness, but an intellectual appears dumb.

‘Bhagvad Gita’ also mocks such educated persons. It calls them devils, as described in the 16th chapter .It has adjective ‘dumb’ for such persons. They impart knowledge to others but suffer from indulgance or frustration.

The education without practical skills is pseudo-education. It may have momentary external impression, but is nothing practically. The Chinese thinker, Chu-Cheng-Tzu, writes in lighter vein: “A dog which barks well is not called a good dog.  Similarly a man who makes fluent speeches cannot be called a wise man.” One has to ensure that education is acquired along with culture, maturity and love. A monkey will not be free of his animal instincts, even if you bath and decorate him. We have to make him like humans. Mostly, the traditional education fails on this score. The reason is, it is imported by the intellectuals. The blind person cannot lead you.

Second part that requires consideration also comes from the same event. What happens to a person who retires? Many a times we observe people fearing the retirement. Why only retirement, they seem to be bored even during short leisure. Most of them complain:  “time-pass is a problem.” It is surprising to see them depressed; frustrated; unhealthy; suffering from psycho-somatic problems; angry, in short passing time with great difficulty.

Is retirement not desirable? Should a man work like a machine for his entire life? Does rest have no importance in life? One has to keep doing something, always? Can’t we enjoy retirement? Is life such a bore?

Indian mythology splits the entire human life in four stages. First is ‘brahmacaryashram’ [celibacy phase] – to be used for acquiring knowledge. Next is the stage full of activities – ‘grihasthashram’- [application of knowledge]. Then comes,-‘vaanprashthashram’ – meant for serious thinking. There is no bar on activities in ‘vaanprashthashram’, but you are expected to slow down, attain balance between activities and retirement. You need to decrease gradually the strenuous activities and gravitate towards inner self.

This motivate towards adjustment and dignified joy of old age. Old age is the crux of life. Childhood is stage of ignorance; youth is full of speed, worries and responsibilities. Hence you never had true leisure. Retirement is the only time where you can remember your past and live your present moments happily. If you have lived your life well panned and healthily so far, then you would be able to enjoy your retirement.

Why one has to adjust in old age? Firstly, fear of nothing-to-do, being inactive, haunts. Secondly, one is worried about short-term constraint of finances, the ever-changing family circumstances, growing-up children, own status among them….all these cause worry. Even the society pays more attention to the young. They are praised, respected. At that time, the slowly aging person thinks him useless in comparison to the young. This thought reduces their socializing. They feel lonely. Fast-paced and ever-changing society seems to have no space for them. This is when efforts for the adjustments gain importance.

David Richardson, the psychologist, observed these old people trying to adjust in their lives, based on which he has classified them in three groups.

First is ‘autonomous’ group. They have the power to remain healthy and joyful in the old age. They do not seek external help. They have trained their minds such that they somehow find out pleasure. They find life-support systems from these sources of pleasures and experience freshness. They do have physical problems, but these do affect them. They are treasures of wisdom. Their ability to enjoy the life has remained intact. Not bound by social traditions, they enjoy themselves, remain happy and healthy and live fully the moments, in store for them. The grace of these people is unique. Their old age is full of beauty. We still remember Gandhiji, Kaka Kalelkar, Russel, Buddha, Krishnamurthy, Ravishankar Maharaj, Dr. Kalam and many such great persons. Their flame of internal beauty grows brighter with the advancement of age. The reason they were sources within. The zeal of their inner consciousness makes them ever-fresh.

The second group dos not have this zeal of inner consciousness, which can support their lives, but they social capital.  After retirement, they live by power, money, authority, activities and enjoy these possessions to pass the time. Such people are more in numbers. Richardson calls them ‘adjusted’. Their powerhouse is dependent on others. But it feeds them well and they pass their life. The only unfavourable point is that since they are dependent on external circumstances, any  social or  circumstantial change  immediately upsets them.

Richardson calls the last group as ‘anaemic’. These old people have neither their inner source of enjoyment nor external source to help them adjust well. They are helpless and insecure. The life is liability and thing not  be enjoyed. They do not live, they rot. As the lake bottom becomes dry after evaporation of the water, their life also becomes dry and void and they live like a breathing corpse. They are in fact dead, but somehow appear to be moving. They carry the life like an unwanted burden.

Let us again look at the Indian philosophy for the solution. ‘Vaanprasthashram’ and ‘sanyasashram’ have been deliberated at length.  As preached, the old person has to gradually withdraw from the external material world and look more for inner consciousness, realize that the soul is everlasting and omnipresent, and practice meditation. As you become more introvert, your life becomes sweeter.

This does not proscribe abstinence from all external activities. In fact, he needs to serve the society selflessly, as and when required. The society should benefit from his wisdom. He should stop the activities of his youth which used to feed the ego and get the publicity. This can create ideal combination of speed of the youth and wisdom of the old, accomplishing a vital task. Youth needs direction, which the old can provide. The old needs warmth, which the youth can provide. The river of life can continue to flow smoothly between these two banks and the fields of the society can prosper in fertility.

It is important that always try to remain healthy and well-planned in the youth in order to make old age beautiful. Nothing can be achieved in short time. You need to be prepared gradually. Great results can be achieved by the right process only. Old Age is the last boundary of our life. To reach there smoothly and live beautifully there, it is necessary to live properly from beginning. This is our lesson for successful life.

Translation By: Susmita Vaishnav

Leave a Reply