Bāla stāvat kriḍāsaktaḥ taruṇa stāvat tarunīsaktaḥ |
Vṛddha stāvat-cintāsaktah parame brahmaṇi kopi na saktaḥ || 7 ||
Meaning – An infant is strongly attached to games and other playful activities. A young man is forcefully drawn towards a woman. The old are eternally engrossed in worries. No person has any inclination or love towards the Supreme Lord.
The boy, youth and old man referred to in this hymn refer to the same person in his different stages of growth. A human being primarily passes through 4 stages of growth- infancy (bāla), childhood (koumāra), manhood (youvanna) and old age (vārdhakya).
This stanza highlights the way in which the human life is entirely wasted away.
During infancy, the being, whose mind is not yet totally developed, is attracted to games and play. Thereafter the entire childhood in spent in studying. During youthful days, when the body and mind are firm and strong, he will be ruled by feelings of self-importance, arrogance, lust and other desires. At this stage he will even disregard and neglect his elders. He will waste his time in unwanted activities. When old age sets in, the physical body is weak and will not co-operate. Being weak and helpless, he will be dependent on others for his needs. Yet the mind, ruled by desires, continues to torment him. Anger and grief will rule & overtake him. Weighed down by these he will suffer. Due to lack of training, the mind will refuse to entertain thoughts about God.
Every human being in this world waste his entire lifetime for earning materialistic prosperity (artha) and towards fulfillment of desires (kāma) but no one is even slightly interested in matters of dharma (righteousness) and in contemplation about God.
Maharishi Vedavyasa raised both his hands, wept and addressed the people, “My dear fellow men, through adherence to dharma (righteousness) both artha (materialistic prosperity) and kāma (fulfillment of desires) can be achieved. Please heed my words. Why is it that no person shows any dedication towards walking on the path of righteousness (dharma)?”
Infancy, manhood and old age are the 3 primary stages that a being passes through. In addition to this, there are many more in-between stages. However, the most significant mental changes and the most important relationships are built during these 3 stages and hence they are deemed to be the most important stages of life.
During infancy and childhood, the being should obey the elders. While abiding by their commands, he should mentally strengthen the foundation for his spiritual journey. Prahlada is a great example of this. In accordance to the instructions received from his Guru, Sage Narada, Prahlada spent his entire time mentally contemplating upon Lord Narayana and in the end was blessed with success.
During youth, the person should recollect that which has been learnt in childhood, practise self-restraint and continue on his path. This is a stage of turbulent mental changes. This is the stage wherein the person either achieves success or meets failure. The famous poet Kalidasa had declared that a ‘dheera’ (truly courageous person) is he who is not disturbed even when surrounded by enticing objects.
What is the extent of dheeratvam (courage) that a person should possess? The story of Pururava is an example of this. Pururava was a wise person who could not differentiate between youthfulness and old age to such an extent that he gifted away his youthfulness to his father Yayati and in-turn accepted the latter’s old age.
Old age is the next most important stage that follows adulthood. In this stage, the person should lead an ideal life and remain as an example for the other younger generations. Therefore at this stage, every step should be carefully thought of and acted upon. Realizing that this will benefit the future generations, the old should spend their time peacefully. Experiences stem from our way of life. We should understand that our youngsters would imbibe our qualities and traits. The old should stop making mountains out of molehills and bringing upon themselves diseases due to their excessive worry and tension. They should stop getting angry for every trivial reason. Those who perceive recitation of God’s names as a remedy for all ills, joyfully spend their time with God. Such persons even forget the fact that they are actually passing through old age!
Vishnudatta is a great example of this. This holy couple was not blessed with any progeny. Even this did not deter them. Without entertaining any desire, they were peaceful and content. Once when Lord Dattatreya appeared before Vishnudatta and asked him to choose any boon, Vishnudatta replied that he had absolutely no desires. Datta was surprised and overjoyed at the innocent devotion of this holy couple. He blessed them with the ultimate gift that any human will seek- liberation.