The Gurbani’s edict (ਫੈਸਲਾ) is: It will not work — we will not be able to take to it. Why? Because, we will have new problems in the way then!
- ਨੈਨਹੁ ਨੀਰੁ ਬਹੈ ਤਨੁ ਖੀਨਾ ਭਏ ਕੇਸ ਦੁਧ ਵਾਨੀ ॥ ਰੂਧਾ ਕੰਠੁ ਸਬਦੁ ਨਹੀ ਉਚਰੈ ਅਬ ਕਿਆ ਕਰਹਿ ਪਰਾਨੀ ॥੧॥: (Because of old age your) eyes are watery, the body has become weak, and hair has become milky-white. (Your) throat is tight (due to cough, and other health issues) and cannot utter even a word; now what can (you) do (i.e., nothing – too late!)? ||1|| || (sggs 659).
- ਕਬੀਰਾ ਰਾਮੁ ਨ ਚੇਤਿਓ ਜਰਾ ਪਹੂੰਚਿਓ ਆਇ ॥ ਲਾਗੀ ਮੰਦਿਰ ਦੁਆਰ ਤੇ ਅਬ ਕਿਆ ਕਾਢਿਆ ਜਾਇ ॥੧੩੨॥: Kabeer Raamu na chetio… (sggs 1371).
Baabaa Nanak introduced something new into the Indian consciousness. Before Baabaa Nanak, people in India used to take what they called “Sannyas” in the old age — they would go to the so called places of pilgrimage and stay there until death in hope of obtaining liberation (Mukti) after death!
Baabaa Nanak repudiated (ਖੰਡਨ) the absurdity of that tradition propagated by the crafty priest-class (Pujaarees, Pandits, Brahmins…) — becoming religious when no life is left or when one foot is in the grave!
The Gurbani does NOT believe in Mukti (liberation) after death. Instead, the Gurbani believes in Mukti (liberation) while still alive (i.e., Jeevan-Mukti, ਜੀਵਨ-ਮੁਕਤ). Baabaa Nanak corrected what the crafty Pujaaree-Group had screwed up owing to their selfishness and greed.
- ਬੇਣੀ ਕਹੈ ਸੁਨਹੁ ਰੇ ਭਗਤਹੁ ਮਰਨ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਕਿਨਿ ਪਾਈ ॥੫॥: Says Baynee – O Bhagat! Listen (to this truth): Nobody has ever attained liberation after death. ||5|| (sggs 93).
Baabaa Nanak is telling us to become spiritual in early age — learn the subtle and demanding art of spiritual living (the Gurmukh Lifestyle) from an early age; transform the mind when life is alive, become liberated while both feet are still out of the grave…!
Accordingly, the Gurbani never gets tired of reminding us that the Goal of life (i.e., realization of one’s Mool, Essential Nature) cannot be postponed to old age.
However, in general, human tendency and misconception prevalent about Spiritual Life (Divine Life of Divine Wisdom or Virtues: Gurmukh Lifestyle) seems to be that it can be pursued in the final days of one’s life when all worldly responsibilities are over.
The Gurbani does not support such thinking. The Gurbani indicates that, in old age, we will have new problems in the way. For example, (1) health problems; (2) as one advances in age, senility overtakes the body and its faculties start failing; (3) one’s life can end any moment, more so in old age; (4) man is a creature of habits and what he does not cultivate in his young age is difficult to cultivate in his old age; (5) by old age the worldly attachments and fear of death will be so strong that it will completely distract the mind from pursuing the Spiritual Goal; (6) one’s mentality or mindset in old age is dictated by whatever one practices in young age…
Mentality or mindset we will be having in the end depends on whatever thinking (ਸੋਚ) we cultivate throughout our earlier life:
- ਜਿਤੁ ਲਾਗੋ ਮਨੁ ਬਾਸਨਾ ਅੰਤਿ ਸਾਈ ਪ੍ਰਗਟਾਨੀ ॥: That Vaasnaa, to which the mind is attached, at the end, becomes manifest (sggs 242).
Time is unstable, subject to constant change. Day-by-day the body wears away; the length of life shortens; bodily strength and keenness decline; and old age overpowers it.
- ਜੋਬਨੁ ਘਟੈ ਜਰੂਆ ਜਿਣੈ ਵਣਜਾਰਿਆ ਮਿਤ੍ਰਾ ਆਵ ਘਟੈ ਦਿਨੁ ਜਾਇ ॥: O my merchant friend (who has come to trade the Naam)! (As) youth wears out old age triumphs, as days come to pass the age decreases (sggs 75).
- ਕਬੀਰ ਰਾਮੁ ਨ ਧਿਆਇਓ ਮੋਟੀ ਲਾਗੀ ਖੋਰਿ ॥ ਕਾਇਆ ਹਾਂਡੀ ਕਾਠ ਕੀ ਨਾ ਓਹ ਚਰ੍ਹੈ ਬਹੋਰਿ ॥੭੦॥: O Kabeer! (Whosoever) does not meditate on Raam (Mool, Source…); gets afixed within to a big trough (of dense ignorance, doubt, Bikaar…). The body is like a wooden-pot; (as a wooden pot once burnt cannot be put back on heath, similarly; once burnt in the fire of Maya, the body) cannot be put back again (i.e., once it’s lost or wasted, it’s gone…). (sggs 1368).
Therefore, the Gurbani urges that Spiritual Life must be pursued from an early age when the bodily faculties are normal. Also, the Gurbani teaches that both the Spiritual Life and the day-to-day worldly life is to be balanced. Thus, there is no need to abandon the family and society and take abode in inaccessible mountain-tops, jungles, caves, or places of pilgrimage, etc. In nutshell, the Gurbani urges us to spend each moment intensely focused on the spiritual goal of life, and not to wait for old age when the senility, degeneracy and infirmities of the body will not allow one to sustain such practices.