Should we start a spiritual path at an old age or should we perfect a spiritual path at old age?
When I was in College, I told my friend that I am going to Gita classes every week, he without even blinking , said that reading Gita and all other related things are reserved for old age, maybe after 60. I felt like I was the odd man out. Anyway, I persisted because I was really interested to learn what’s in Gita. And, I am glad I did it. I keep hearing the same argument in different forms. I thought I should attempt to clarify that for myself and others to get the things in order.
In the Vedic system of social orders, there are four stages of Human life, i.e, Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa. Brahmacharya is the stage during the first quarter of human life where he spends time with his Guru learning about various sciences and practices strict celibacy. And the next stage is Grihastha where one marries, raises the family and follows the dharmic life as per the scriptures. And the next stage is Vanaprastha where one retires from active family life and travels to holy places, meets self-realized souls and prepares oneself for Sanyasa. And in the last stage, Sanyasa , one completely dedicates himself to the devotional service and ends life perfectly with the hope of liberation. So, I am not sure where the idea of starting at old age came from. If we were to start our spiritual path at a very old age, after 60 or so, it would be too late to perfect it. It’s like saying you try to become a nuclear scientist after crossing 40 years. We can’t expect anyone walking to University after 40 and getting PhD in nuclear science. It’s possible but takes lots of effort without right background. One needs twelve years of basic training, then graduation, masters and then PhD. Even then, there is no guarantee that one gets a seat in top Universities. Similarly, how can we expect to start the spiritual path at the age of sixty and hope to perfect it within such a short time and more importantly, we don’t know how much time we have left. First of all, we don’t know whether we will be there to cut the birthday cake on our 60th birthday or not. The great yogis spent thousands of years practicing Yoga and even then some of them had to take rebirth. Srimad Bhagavatham recommends spiritual training should start at the age of five. Even though, we may all not become Sanaysis, we should at least try it out when our body is co-operating. There is no reason to wait for good things! The more we wait, the more we lose the golden opportunities of learning experiences throughout the life, which we may not get them again.
And of course, if one doesn’t want to know what is spiritual path then nothing can be done. But, Vedas recommend that the human life is for inquiring about Truth. That’s what makes us distinct from animals, knowing about ourselves, knowing about God and most importantly, walking along that path. Otherwise, there is no difference between us and animals. Humans got higher intelligence that can be used to inquire about God. Animals too have intelligence but that’s mainly used for eating, sleeping, mating and defending. This is not to disrespect animals but that’s what it is.
So, the idea of starting a spiritual path at the age of 60 should be understood as we should perfect the spiritual path at that age of 60, not starting it. The sooner we try to perfect, the more safer we are, as we don’t know when our last day is. Now you know, next time, what to say when somebody says, ‘It’s too young to start a spiritual path’. You should probably say ’Oh Brother! It’s already too late!’