of ageing is a miracle.
“There are only two ways
to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as
if everything is.”
not be the most desirable, in the physical sense, but for those interested
in understanding the physiological processes, it is best described as
aging is closely intertwined with health. It is a phenomena that affects
all, living, and has a profound influence on well-being of the
individual. A natural consequence of ageing is the slowing down of the
rates, of most body processes of growth and repair. This follows the
immutable law, of the Zarathushtrian concept of Asha.
possesses an enormous force to heal itself. Illness and disability
are not always the inevitable part of growing old, but sometimes they
become dominant largely due to slowdown of the innate healing and
weakening of the immune responses.
The word health is derived from the old Saxon root
‘Hale’, meaning ‘whole’. A healthy person is generally recognized
as a ‘whole person’. this ‘wholeness’ of an individual constitutes a
harmony of several factors, such as, the physical health, the
intellectual and emotional health, and most importantly
-the mental/spiritual health. Any discussion on health in
relation to ageing must necessarily consider all these aspects. It is
important to stress that the spiritual health and the
mental state has a profound influence on the
down of repair and healing can be assisted and augmented through
therapeutic supplements and other means that work in harmony with nature.
The major objective during the eldering must be directed towards the
improvement of the quality of life to maintain the
independence of the lifestyle.
of the therapeutic regimen, is dependent largely on the mind set (vohu
manah) of the individual. The question we need to address is,
spirituality help augment the quality of life?
This is an important
question throughout life in general, however, it takes on a very special
significance with eldering in particular. At a time when the nature
is moving to retard health, how can spirituality help?
Spirituality is inextricably
intertwined to connectedness or oneness that makes a person
complete or whole.
The ‘wholeness’ of
health resides in harmonizing the physical with the ‘spiritual within’.
The existential spirituality for the ageing, is to remain connected,
firstly, to the innate divinity and then to relate that oneness to
the spiritual Reality of the people on the same stage of life.
Spiritual eldering is not a narrowly religious evolution.
It is a search for the divine that can unite people across the
borders of diverse faith affirming the importance of the elder
Zarathushtrian theology is
unequivocal about the presence of the spiritual, as a part of the human
constitution. Recognition of this scriptural fact through the acts of
prayer, meditation and related means of relaxation experiences, can
generate; through strength of ‘will’ - spenta aramaiti - a calm,
fresh and peaceful state of vohu manah to stimulate
imagination, creativity, and synthesis of ideas even at that later stages
In eldering, the emphasis
is more on ‘being than on doing’. Being, is to find the
peace from within. Life in the material world, does not
always school us for that aspect of existence. It is the spiritual
satisfaction gained through innate peace, and its inherent
strength, that can more than make good for the retarding of the physical,
and add the much needed
incentive to the
quality of life.
It is the function of
spiritual counselor to direct the ageing elderly to understand and to
recognize the immanent
divinity, and to help fulfill
their spiritual needs.
The counselor themselves must first come to terms with the
understanding of the problem.
With proper guidelines one
can evolve the love and compassion needed first to accept oneself and
gradually radiate the same goodness
to the family, to
the friends, to
the community and to
all the lives they touch in the universe.
The value of the
quality of life, of elders is an outcome of the self health-care,
coupled with their
A high level of positivism in these two areas can go a long way to
compensate for physical weaknesses.
In contrast, a void in
spiritual strength, at a time when physical frailty tend to dominate,
can cause the negative perceptions to take control. This can result in
isolation, depression, lack
of mobility and of independence;
that can lead to overall deterioration of the physical.
Eldering is not a static state. It is a process of
evolution, and one has to work at it. On
this continent, we have excellent organizations that are dedicated to the
spiritual dimensions of ageing and conscious living.
Through proper guidance, these late stages of life can become the
harvesting time of ones life’s wisdom.
The experiences of youth can be transformed into a
legacy for the future generation.
In his book “Moderen Man in Search of Soul”
Carl Jung has said, “Human being will certainly not grow to be
seventy or eighty …if this longevity had no meaning for the species to
which he belongs”.
This late stage of aging can be converted
into, a sage-ing process.
The elders, in evaluating their successes and mistakes can distill the
wisdom they have gained through years of experiences and direct it to
healing, and work of ‘forgiveness’.
They can share, what they have learnt in this ‘school of
life’ to make a contribution to the Global
The process of spiritual eldering, can begin in midlife,
as that is the period, when mind has a tendency toward the
spiritual aspect of living. That is time to take count of
our spiritual assets, as one is contemplating retirement.
This helps for a smooth transition from the autumn, to the
winter of ones life.
To take an analogy from Zarathushtrian festivals, that is
the time for PAITISHAYA Gahambar, -a time to harvest
the fruits of life’s work, and to experience the joy that can be
radiated to the younger generation.
reminds me of what I read once in Fortune magazine about Lee Ioacocca the
ex-CEO of Chrysler corporation. A man who gets
$20,000 for an after dinner talk, who has a house in Palm
Spring, one in New York, and one on French Riviera. He found his life
falling apart after the dissolution of his third marriage. He wrote “ You
can plan everything in life, and then the roof caves in on you, because
you haven't done enough thinking about who you are? or what you are? and
what you should do with the rest of your life?”
a well established fact, that the sooner you invest
in your IRA
the better the return. Well so it is also with your
– the Spiritual Retirement Account.
never too early to start, identifying your
in life, live with them and to
The sooner you do that, the sooner you will perceive
evolution of a self, that matures in breadth and depth, and before you
know you will have rich spiritual
set aside for your elder years.
Ageing is the time to learn to listen to the inner
voice, the intuition, Zarathushtrian theology identifies that, as –SRAOSHA.
For we learn more from listening than from talking.
It is the time, to direct ones thinking to refresh and renovate the
world as Asho Zarathushtra teaches us in his Gathic hymns
Ys.30.9 and 34.15.
It is the responsibility of the clergy to be fully
aware of the needs, to accept the mortality of the physical and to
guide the elderly through the contemplative techniques to face up to this
Harmony between the physical and spiritual self is a
consequence of the expansion of the conscious mind to encompass its
sub-conscious level. That
is the state of HAURVTAT. Contemplative practices of prayers
and meditation are the tools to expand ones consciousness, to cultivate
the inner calm and to breed wisdom in the winter years to reach that
To accept, that the very source of Wisdom, as
Mazda, is within and that one can work in partnership with that
divine force, to review ones life, and come to terms with growing
older, is the ideal path to inner peace.
let me leave
you with the words of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi,, professor
emeritus of Temple University
and founder of the Spiritual Eldering Institute. In his book ‘
Aging to Saging’ he says,
“Every life matters
immensely; every well-lived and completed life helps in healing the
the jewels of humanity that have been mined from the earth, cut in the
rough, then buffed and polished by the stonecutter’s art into precious
gems that we recognize for their enduring value and beauty.
their radiance in our youth, but we cannot contain it. It requires a
lifetime’s effort to carve out the multifaceted structure that can display
our hidden splendor in all its glory.”
So it helps immensely, to shape the rough within you, as
early as possible to be able to radiate the spiritual enlightenment in
ones later years.
This paper is based on the lecture delivered by Dr. Bagli at the 12th
North American Zarathushtrian congress held in Chicago,
July 4-7, 2002 under the title “SPIRITUAL NEEDS OF SENIOR ZARTATHUSHTIS”