The Right Age for Spirituality
What is the best time for the journey to God?
What is the best time for the journey to God? Childhood, youth, or old age? This is what the offspring of demons asked young Prahallad.
Our minds are fickle in early childhood. Nothing of significance enters our heads; our ‘catching power’ is limited in this age. The wisdom of scriptures little interests small children. At the time of youth, a person has fully developed mental faculties and a disease-free body. But the young face a big problem - they are vain.
Once a god of heaven was very thirsty, and a young girl gave him water. His thirst quenched, he said, ‘I am a heavenly being, and I am highly pleased with you. Ask me for a boon. I will give you anything you want.’
The young girl, who was sixteen years old, demurred because she had no expectations of him. But she was hideous. The god pressed again, ‘Shall I make you beautiful?’
On hearing this, the girl gave him a resounding slap, ‘You scoundrel! What do you mean? Do I look ugly to you?’
Such is the vanity of the young! A young person considers himself to be invincible, immortal, and utterly beautiful.
Thoughts of death and disease will not cross the mind of a young person. It is natural for a young man to feel that he can break stones with his bare hands. It is natural for a youthful girl to preen in the mirror, marveling at her beauty. How can the guru convince such a person to turn towards God?
What about middle age? This is a perfect time for spirituality, but there is a problem. Such a person is caught up in worldly activities. He has to take care of his young family, provide for them, take care of the elderly, build a house, and make provisions for his future. He knows that he should tend to his spiritual needs but keeps postponing till old age. He convinces himself that in old age, he will do nothing but the devotion of God.
Now we come to the fag-end of life. The flower of youth has long withered, and there are other problems to contend with. Mentally he is worn out and attached to worldly things and people; it is tough to unfasten his mind. Physically, his body is a mess. There is a lengthy list of diseases of old age, all too familiar to us. Even if he is convinced about meditating on God, his body refuses to cooperate. Instead of God, it is thoughts of pain and illness that cross his mind. How can such a person fasten his mind to God?
Saints have said that there is a sweet spot for spirituality. It is right after early childhood and just before youth. This is the perfect time because the mind is reasonably mature to understand and yet, it is still not clouded by the vanity of youth.
But it can also be argued that there is no perfect time. Today, right now, is the perfect time to submit to God. There is no telling when death will come with its unfailing grip. If you are a child, do not wait for youth. If you are young, do not wait till middle age. If you are middle-aged, do not wait till you are old. If you are old... well, if you are old and still not convinced, it is a shame!
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