H.H. Swami Shankarananda, a senior monk of chinmaya Mission was initiated into Sannyas by Pooja Gurudev Swami Chinmayandanda in 1986. He attained Mahasmadhi on 29th September 2003.
He had been the founder and leading light of the Vanaprashta movement (for senior Citizens) of the Chinmaya Mission.
He has written many original books on the Vanaprastha movement (Indian Gerontology), besides commentaries and translation of various books on Vednata.
“How to live in Old Age” was originally written in Hindi. The book is based on Adi Shankaracharya’s book ‘Sadhana Panchakam’. Swamiji’s commentary on this book describes the forty steps to divinity, following them one could lead a contented life as wekk as attain spiritual unfoldment. The emphasis and relevance in old age is high lighted, although it is relevant for the entire life span comprising all the four Ashrams. The universality of the theme is evident since the steps could be practiced by irrespective of cast, creed or religion.
Swamiji considered Sadhana Panchakam a very suitable spiritual text for the five days seniour citizen re-orientation camp (Vridhavastha Samadhan Shivir) since it comprises only five verses and it gives a blue print for a person how to prepare for the Third Age i.e. vanaprastha Ashram. The text then goes on to tell how to prepare for the Fourth Age i.e. Sannyas Ashram. The various types of Sannyasis have been described.
The bounden duties of the Third and Fourth age have been described and how they could be lived in the present times has been beautifully interpreted.
Adi Shankaracharya, the premier Vedantin, talks of how man squanders his entire life— childhood is lost in play, youth in pleasures and old age in worries.
Shankaracharya gives remedies to the ills of old age in his Sadhana Panchakam. This commentary by Swami Shankarananda throws light on how one can age gracefully—without being a burden to family members, without feeling desolate and derelict, like an abandoned old building.
Many scriptural tips are dished out here, are easy to digest and assimilate. Please treat this as a self-help book for practice and peace.
This book is an English translation of the Hindi original. Hope it serves as a “friend and philosopher” of the old, who are looking for a harmonious forward journey.
In the four-day orientation camps for the elderly, organized by the Chinmaya Mission, the subject of Spirituality is taken up along with the classes of Psychology and health. The spiritual textbooks taken in such camps are Sadhana Panchakam, Bhaj Govindam, Mani Ratna Mala etc.
Amongst these books for many reasons Sadhana Panchakam is considered to be one of the most appropriate text. Firstly this book has only five shlokas, which are easily covered in the four lectures allotted for spirituality. Secondly, in this text Bhagwan Shankaracharya has advised a person having completed the second stage of life (Grihastha Ashrama) to proceed into the third stage of life (Vanaprastha Ashrama). He has very clearly elaborated that once a person has purified his subconscious mind (Chitt) by performing selfless service (Nishkam Karma) then
one must leave his home without delay. Thereafter, he should devote his time fully for spiritual Sadhana. Hence this text is very useful as a spiritual guide for a person in the Third Stage of Life.
In the five shlokas of Sadhana Panchakam, Bhagwan Shankaracharya has given forty tips to guide a person in his spiritual unfoldment. In the first six tips, he gives the preliminary preparation one has to undergo and in the next thirty four tips he gives an outline of the duties to be performed in the Vanaprastha Stage and the Sannyas Stage (Fourth Stage of Life) During my discourses on this text many new ideas kept on coming to my mind which I consider to be the Grace of Poojya Gurudeva. Gurudeva has also written a short commentry on the Shlokas of this text. This helped me to a great extent. Secondly, during his various discourses Poojya Gurudeva gave an outline of the duties of the Vanaprastha Stage of life. He gave us a method as to how we should gradually disassociate from our homely life and enter an Ashrama (Spiritual Old Age Home) and pursue our Sadhana. These thoughts time and again came to my mind.
One of the devotees taped my discourses on the text and also tried to write it. There was a demand for a book on Sadhana Panchkam, hence I rewrote it. During this period new thoughts also came to my mind and this resulted in the present form of the book. This could now be used as a textbook for the basic course in the University for Third Age.
This book primarily gives an outline of Spiritual Life one should lead in the Third Stage of Life. This should religiously be followed in this age. However the material aspect of life has not been ignored while discussing the spiritual factor. At this age the materialistic problems can be dealt with in two ways, firstly materialistic solution of the materialistic problems and secondly a spiritual solution of the said problems. The materialistic solutions do solve the problem for a while but they crop up again and again, whereas the spiritual solutions solve the problem permanently.
Actually the materialistic problems are born out of ignorance of one’s true self; it is ignorance again which magnifies them. If one does not know the solution, it leads to sorrow.
The main purpose of spiritual knowledge is the removal of this ignorance. As clouds of ignorance drift away the Sun of knowledge shines in all its glory. In this light of knowledge delusion, illusion, doubts and ignorance vanish just as the owls and bats shun the daylight or just as the illusory ghost seen in the post in the twilight vanishes in daylight.
One should understand the benefits and glory of the spiritual life and practice it in Third Age (Vanaprastha) of life and thus be free from all problems, including materialistic problems and enjoy a blissful life. In fact, this is the bounden duty or Dharma of one in the Vanaprastha stage of life. A brief but clear guidance about it has been presented in this textbook.
In this book, whatever the reader finds useful for his life is the Grace of Poojya Gurudeva and whatever mistakes occur in it, should be considered as the doings of this humble writer.
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