By Kadamba Kanana Swami
In many ways, old age is a blessing. For a Vaisnava, it is a great blessing. Why is it so? Because then, there is no more distraction. When we are young, we have so much fight. “Oh, I want to enjoy… but I have to be Krsna conscious! I should be Krsna conscious. I really want to be but I want to enjoy also.” When you are old, “Yeah, I want to enjoy but let’s be real. Can I? Can I really?” You can try to squeeze a few more drops out of the old broken machine but it is not very convincing. You may want to eat many things but you cannot, not like before. You just cannot. If you do, you have pay for it. Whatever you do, you have to pay for it – more and more and one day, it might just kill you!
In this way, one can see how people can eat themselves to death or people that are like so addicted to sex. People like the cardinal in France who died in the home of a prostitute. The same cardinal who spoke to Prabhupada, (French accent) “But you know, why can we not take the flesh of the cow to feed the hungry children? It is for the children. There is so much hunger in the world. So what can we do? Let the children starve and not eat the flesh of the cow?” Some logic… but he was found dead in the bed of the prostitute – the cardinal! This is an interesting detail that Krsna exposed. So with time, all facades are broken down. With time, it all becomes real. With time, we can no longer fake it. With time, it will become clear who we really are!
The famous German poet writer, Goethe, who is like the German Shakespeare, wrote many wise things, many interesting wise things. However, his doctor testified that in the last three days before his death, he was suddenly overwhelmed by extreme fear. So it is like that! At the end, whatever is not real will collapse. It all becomes real. It is like you can no longer play. You can no longer ACT like a pure devotee. You have to BE IT. You have to have FAITH in Krsna otherwise, it is over, you will become exposed. Old age is a reminder to us: Krsna is our only shelter and we had better start practicing now.
Prabhupada asked the question, “Who is an old man?” and everyone was looking around the room. You can do this exercise – ask one of the kids at a Sunday feast, “Who is an old man?” Sometimes they point at me and something in me goes, “Me? I don’t look that old, do I?” but Prabhupada pointed at a five-year-old child and said, “He is an old man because he can die at any moment.” Anybody can die at any moment!
We were at a funeral yesterday. Anybody can die at any moment. That is what I learned when my father took me to the cemetery for the first time to visit the grave of his father. I was four but I could read a little and I was reading the tombstones. I was not so shocked by the grave of my grandfather because I did not really have much of a relationship with him but when I saw a tombstone of someone who died that was born after me, then I was shocked. Then I realized, “Oh my god, I can die also. Even now, I can die. It is not only old people that die. Anybody can die.” Therefore, we had better be ready and let go of this life.