July 3, 1997 – The value of life stage traditions


                Mrs. Mann, wife of highly respected General H. R. S. Mann, and a great devotee in her own right, has come to Maharaj ji. He speaks to her very powerfully about the value of the traditional Indian concept of stages in life, in which there is a proper age for studying, and then marriage and life as a householder, and then in the later years, a period of gradual withdrawal from family responsibilities and then life as a detached sannyasi:

                Sannyas means to want nothing but the love of God. A person’s whole enjoyment is gone when his family is upset. People should clean their karma before leaving the body, but instead the pressure is so great on the elderly that they leave full of worries and despair. The end of life should instead be a time of detachment.

                Previously, village life was so settled in the natural cycle of existence. There was much less pressure. The great qualities were nurtured in people, such as warm treatment of guests and respect for elders. But now the wife works outside the home and there are quarrels. The system has been shaken. We should rebuild a system.

Maharaj then brings up traditional views on the proper time for marriage, which was that  young women should be married by the age of 21, to avoid chances for sexual relationships outside of marriage.  

                We can’t change the natural system. It is going on. We must adapt our system to it. It would be good to have marriage and also continue studies. Then there would be very high character. Stages of life are in animal and human nature—even in the nature of crops. How could we change that?

                 In the past, elders were respected like deities. But now their interference is rejected. How can we find peace if we don’t respect our elders? In old Punjabi culture, we would snap to attention when an elder came, such as a schoolmaster.  If these things come back, there will be such joy in our homes. Ours was such a great culture, but it has become “advanced” so quickly. However, it is not advancement. It is a loss.

                In our country, there was so much Tapasya (spiritual discipline), such great scriptures, so many rishis and munis (sages and silent holy people). But now people have forgotten about speaking truth.

                There is a great effect of TV. It is a good medium for getting valuable knowledge, but with it comes all the rest—the drama. If God blesses, we may pick up dharma again from songs themselves, instead of these animal-like dances. We must respect dharmic blessings again and again. The majority don’t want these garbage programmes. We are from a culture of respect for elders and the like.

                Why is sangat emphasized in spiritual culture? What we see has such an effect on the mind. We think, “Acha—This is what is good to do.” Therefore we should think how children can be taught.  So many people are miserable.

                Since she is approaching the traditional age of detachment herself, Mrs. Mann asks, “How to meditate?” Maharaj tells her,

                “Don’t forget Him for a single breath.” The reason for reciting Nam is to form a good habit of remembering Him. If a person does spiritual practice daily, power develops. This is the way of the rishis. Military people develop good discipline, fearlessness, a sense of duty. These qualities are a good basis for meditating. Their life is good, very settled, with an ethic of taking good care of those whom they salute. Military people cannot be atheists, whether they read scripture and worship or not.

                What a life of the military there is in Leh, Ladakh! Even oxygen is scarce at that altitude, but still the life is very powerful. It is so dangerous to reach Amarnath (a high-altitude cave temple in Jammu and Kashmir) that a person can disappear into a deep crevasse in an instant.       

                Maharaj seems to have brought up this subject because General Mann has several times been posted at high altitudes, including Leh. The general has a very disciplined mind and lifestyle and impeccable character. He is the epitome of what Maharaj has been saying to his wife—an excellent example of the value of traditional culture.