जीर्यन्ति जीर्यतः केशाः दन्ता जीर्यन्ति जीर्यतः ।
चक्षुःश्रोत्रे च जीर्येते तृष्णैका तु न जीर्यते ॥
( Source- महाभारत, अनुशासन पर्व, अध्याय ७, श्लोक २४ )
पद विग्रह :
जीर्यन्ति जीर्यतः केशाः दन्ताः जीर्यन्ति जीर्यतः ।
चक्षुः-श्रोत्रे च जीर्येते तृष्णा एका तु न जीर्यते ॥
As one gets older, the hair turn white and fall, the teeth wear out and fall. The eyes and ears get weaker. Despite all this, his greed doesn’t get weaker and doesn’t decrease with age.
Subsequent to the end of the war between the Kauravas and the Pandavas in the epic Mahabharata , Yudhishthira was greatly distressed by the ill effects of the all round destruction. In order that Yudhisthira gets some soothing advice, Shree Krishna takes him to Pitamaha Bhishma. During that period, Bhishma was lying on the the bed made of arrows ( शर शैय्या ), and was waiting for the appropriate constellation of stars to leave his mortal body behind. The purpose of Yudhishtira’s visit to the grand sire was to get lessons on Raaj Dharma and on other secular matters. Yudhishthira puts various questions to Bhishma and listens to his preachings intently. While putting one of his questions to Bhishma, Yudhishthira requests him to explain the results of good deeds. The relevant Shloka is as under.
कर्मणां मे समस्तानां शुभानां भरतर्षभ ।
फलानि महतां श्रेष्ठ परब्रूहि परिपृच्छत ॥ १३/७/१ ||
Answer by Bhishma to this specific question is spread over a number of Shlokas. The ‘ Subhashita ‘ under reference is one of the Shlokas forming part of the answer by Bhishma. Says Bhishma: A man’s hair turn grey and later fall as he grows old. His teeth become week and ultimately fall. His eyesight and hearing power becomes weak. However, inspite of all the age related body and health deterioration, his cravings ( तृष्णा ) for acquiring worldly possessions and enjoyment of sense organs does not get reduced. In fact it increases with the increasing age.
As the ageing process sets in, various parts of the body reach the peak of their strength and then disorder and degradation start in them. Our body gradually starts becoming incapacitated. The skin gets wrinkled, the back gets hunched and the limbs get weak too. The effects of age can be seen on all faculties of the body. At least then, one would think that he has lived his life and realized the impermanence of all material things, including his own body. But no. His desires are stronger and his persistence…well, more persistent than ever. The need for self-gratification and acquisition of material possessions come with much more force as if there is a time crunch and that there exists no tomorrow, to fit all his needs into the short amount of time left. On the other hand, the nature of desires is such that the more they are indulged, the more they grow. There is no end to wants, resulting in attempts of quenching an unquenchable thirst. Strange thing is that, wear and tear to the body does not affect human desires which still remain as intense as ever. Even after being helpless, his life-long desire to earn wealth and longing to enjoy happiness persists. It is a rarity to find a person saying, “ Now I do not want anything more, I am ready to say goodbye to the world at any pre-undisclosed moment.” Strangely, this feeling does not usually wake up in anyone’s mind, which however was well practised as ‘ Sanyas Aashram ( संन्यास आश्रम ) i .e. renunciation phase of life, in Vedic India.
In our everyday life, it is common to see around us and experience the growing misconduct and economic corruption everywhere. Obviously, it is the result of this indomitable craving or unquenchable hunger pervading the human mind. The stomach’s hunger subsides after having good food, but his cravings for pleasure of the sense organs and acquisition of worldly objects increases in direct proportion to the attempts of satiating them. Is this not a strange illusion to which the humans easily fall prey to ?
In the same context, Bhishma said in one of the earlier Shlokas , about the disease called craving for more and more, thus :—
या दुर्त्यजा दुर्मतिभिर्या न जीर्यति जीर्यतः ।
योऽसौ प्राणान्तिको रोगस्तां तृष्णां त्यजतः सुखम् l।
(महाभारत, अनुशासन पर्व, अध्याय ७, श्लोक २१)
Meaning : Those having bad disposition of mind ( दुर्मति ) spend their life in craving for more and more of worldly objects and for sensual pleasures. Though the body starts ageing, craving does not age and does not become old and remains inside the mind like a mortal disease. The real happiness is experienced only after renouncing that craving.
Many of the characters in the epic Mahabharata lived a long life. Long lives are not always happy lives. There is nothing like ‘ lived happily ever after’ for any of the characters in Mahabharata, the greatest mirror to life, that has ever been composed.
The Shloka under reference has been quoted or presented as it is or with some minor variations, the central theme being the same , in many other scriptures like Shree Vishnu Purana, Panchatantra etc. This clearly indicates that statements made on the moral values, find their echo in various scriptures in order that the humans get to know the importance of such statements.
Is there any chance of restricting one’s desires and cravings in the old age ? Not really. It has it’s origin in the training of the mind. If one is used to rolling in likes and dislikes from childhood, youth or adulthood, he cannot magically change in old age and decide to renounce everything to become a saint. One has to keep a level head constantly, always keeping the mind instructed of the higher purpose of life and reminding its ephemeral nature. Keep a tight leash over it, if you crave for peaceful old age and for life well spent.