Thursday, January 24, 2013

Growing Old Gracefully

We see certain changes happening in our own person.

The body grows from infant stage to the next stage where there is a complete change in the external appearance. The infant grows into a youth. So totally dissimilar! It is this feeling (that it is still myself) that is important for us. Even if we get completely disfigured, the feeling does not disappear. In a way the feeling is connected with our consciousness. We are aware that we exist. That's the only reality.

The man in the intensive care unit, breathing his last breath, also has the same feeling of self. Had he not become panicky, this awareness could extend to the awareness without the body. In our worldly confusion, nothing else exists for us except the immediate. We are too concerned with our possessions, with our image and our physical existence.

Whenever external changes occur, we are panicky. Growing up is a matter of great emotional trauma for a little infant as it is for the adolescent. It turns out to be a battle of wits for the very capable young person to occupy a senior position ousting the earlier incumbent. The old man does not want to give up and the young man is in a mood to take over. The individual recognizes his total incapacity, physical and mental; yet he is unwilling to give up.

Sankaracharya very nicely depicted this state in a verse: 'The old man’s head is now white with grey hair, all the teeth have gone. The old man walks with a stick for support still the desire to continue to live does not leave him.'

We have to recognize changes that occur, accept the ones that cannot be changed and still maintain our own peace and carry on what we have to do as our duty.

Actually at the highest level the individual becomes so philosophical that he realizes the changes that occur in life; like a Buddha he can see that we are all like the mute sheep that are driven to a slaughter house. We do not recognize the change that comes at the end. Buddha did accept it when he wondered in the end as to how long his rattling body will continue. 

Hansaji Jayadeva Yogendra

This article was published in Yoga & Total Health (October 2012) - the monthly magazine of The Yoga Institute.