DO ELDERS DESERVE RESPECT? ARE THEY MATURE ENOUGH?
Few days ago, a reader wrote to me: “Sir, my biggest worry today is my in-laws. My father-in-law goes to club in the morning and comes back evening, after consuming alcohol. My mother-in-law is full time TV addict. She spends our money on new dresses and ornaments. She never spends time with our kids. Both would always find fault with me. I am really fed up with life. My husband also knows this. But what can we do? We bear the brunt with silence. You always write about ‘Sukrutam’ by seeking blessings of elders, our culture etc…We are scared that if we react to them we will get curse…”
Immediately I replied: “Pack both of them off to an old age home immediately”
“What” it was a shocker to the lady, “But Uday Sir, you only once wrote that Matha Pitha Guru Deivam” (Mother Father Teacher God)…”
“Yes – you should consider them as GOD. Then, they also have the responsibility – to elevate themselves to the level of god. If your in-laws have asuric (demonic) qualities, why do you consider them as god?” I said.
“But, we have to respect senior members of our family…”
“Why don’t you then respect Kamsa, elderly uncle to Krishna? Why don’t you respect Hiranyakashyap instead of his son Prahlad?”
“That’s because they were Asuric.”
“Which means, if seniors involve in adharmic (non-virtuous) deeds, they don’t deserve any respect and consideration”
The old age is the time when the man (or woman) is getting ready for the third stage in life – that is Hermit Stage (Vanaprastha). He retires from the occupation. He gives his valuable advice out of his wisdom. He clears children’s and youngsters doubts and teaches them of the traditions and customs to be followed in family life. He sees it to that his children are fully aware of the customs and culture and about their ultimate goal. If they are not following this dharma, do they deserve any respect?
They have to be dharmic. It takes both sides to build a bridge. Dharma should be followed by both elderly and young people. If our parents or in-laws made money in adharmic way, by associating with them, you will also share the result of their bad-karma, I told her.
If elders in the family just sit home without doing any karma and spent time just on watching TV and bitching about others; do not imbibe values and do not share their experience with children; then it is better for you not to stay with them. Your children will head to chaos. They would pamper the children and set themselves as wrong role models. TV addicts are definitely slave of market-media, irrespective of their age.
If parents are weak and cannot move, yes, it is your duty to take care of them – who else is there for them? But if they are healthy and capable of roaming around and go to club to drink alcohol, then you don’t have to take care of them, which was my advice to her.
‘Matha Pitha Guru Deivam’ is a very popular adage or phrase in Sanskrit language and often quoted in Hinduism. That also means they (father, mother and teacher) should live in the status of god with sattvik karma.
Will you respect the teacher in Bangalore who raped six year old student?
Just because a couple gives birth to you without imbibing humane values in you, do they deserve to be called as parents? Aren’t you then just a by-product of pleasure seeking exercise?
Yes, seniors also deserve respect, for their experience and wisdom. But the age and maturity/wisdom do not necessarily correlate directly. And age has nothing to do with wisdom……of course, with age one get experiences….But trying to get wise with lessons learned from those experiences come as choice…only if one wishes…
The reality on the ground: age is not a sign of maturity. There are five types of ages in a human life – Chronological Age, Physiological Age, Intellectual Age, Social Age and Emotional Age.
Chronologically and physiologically you are becoming older, you can’t prevent it. Biologically an organism needs time to grow to maturity. Depending on genetic variations and environmental factors the rate of growth will vary.
So the real maturity should be based on the other three ages. Emotionally immature people seem to be trapped in a childish mind-set but don’t (and probably never will) realize it.
I know old people who go around acting like teenagers. I know 8 year olds to be as mature as one would think an adult would be. Swami Vivekanands, Adi Sankaracharya, Jesus Christ….all were in early 30s when they left word…Wisdom has nothing to do with age…
Let me tell a story. There was a movie in which hero kills the main villain. Villain’s brothers are not as tough as him… Villain’s father who in his 80s is bed-ridden body paralyzed shouts, screams and curses those siblings “If I could get up, I would have gone and killed him. You are all chickens’.
This sums up the old age attitude of the most….
That sums up everything about the old age, “If I were….”
I know an old man. In my childhood I heard about his adventures as Casanova. Recently, I saw him talking against “Kiss of Love” and Love marriages. He was delivering lecture about morality in life. You might ask, “People can change, right?”
Of course, people change, I agree. But I know this man. His problem was that he lost this physical stamina. If he had enough strength he would still have been a rooster chasing hens.
Another example is an unpopular lady character nick-named firework-shanti. She had had her glorious days of live-in business and when she lost her charm, she become devotee of a Guru. Changes can happen in humans. Later, my journalist friend told me that she was doing pimping work for the Guru to get young girls to his ashram.
You might have seen lot of goondas turn gentlemen. You might have even seen Politicians talk soberly!
Mostly, goodness in character comes from childhood itself – it is the result of DNA in them, upbringing and parenting. Even at death bed they won’t really change. Superficially, yes. (I am not generalizing = I agree few people can have dramatic changes.)
But what you learn in your childhood will stay with you till your grave (Chottayile seelam chudalavare – a Malayalam proverb). The cross-over or change can happen only if you have lot of divine blessings. It happens when you de-condition yourself. It needs lot of awareness. The conditioned mind would manipulate you to make you believe that you have changed. The more old, the more rigid we become.
When you see a changed old man or woman, try to analyze it. In most cases, you will find that this gentleness and maturity derived from weakness or fear and not out of inherent or genuine courage.
Maturity is a choice. We do not get to choose what age we are, but we do have the ability to decide what our actions are. Maturity is completely dependent on the kind of experiences a person has in his life, which is not really related to his age. Say, an eighteen year old orphan, working and struggling to make both ends of her day meet, is definitely more mature than probably some twenty five year old guy living off his rich parents.
Watchful: Those adults most inclined to use the expression, “you’ll understand when you’re older,” are also usually the ones who don’t understand much.
In olden days, we respected old people because they really become pious. The experience and hardship that they face make them wiser and mature. They will become emotionally matured.
I have seen two generations before me. My grandfather’s generation was mature and wiser at their 50s itself. When it came to my father’s generation, they are not matured even when they cross 60s! My generation, I don’t know when they will become matured and wiser.
What are the signs of emotional maturity? I ask myself the following questions:
Do I take responsibility for my mistakes? If the answer is yes, you are matured.
Do you always find someone else to blame? If the answer is yes, then you are immature.
If you are insecure, often defensive and have low self-esteem, or if you are unreliable – often late, not doing what you say you will and letting people down (with hundreds of excuses ready of course) – then, do you deserve respect of being elder?
When something great happens to someone you know instead of being excited for them, you often feel jealous and wish bad things upon them instead – then do you deserve any respect?
With old age, comes the genuine nature of sharing and caring. So, let us NOT add years to life, but life to years. Let’s age graceful with a readiness to share and care for the young.
© Uday Lal Pai. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing at [email protected]