"To prepare oneself for the better next life, one must get out of one's so-called home. The system of varnashrama-dharma, or sanatana-dharma, prescribes retirement from family encumbrances as early as possible after one has passed fifty years of age. Modern civilization is based on family comforts, the highest standard of amenities, and therefore after retirement everyone expects to live a very comfortable life in a well-furnished home decorated with fine ladies and children, without any desire to get out of such a comfortable home.(......) One is recommended to quit home just to get rid of material attachment because one who sticks to family life until death cannot get rid of material attachment and as long as one is materially attached one cannot understand spiritual freedom."
Again and again he mentions the mark of fifty years of age. Certainly, if our devotees receive solid education on the importance of this ashram, then they can plan their lives in such a way, that the family duties are over and done with at this age, and they are free to fully dedicate themselves to deepen their spiritual absorption. And this will empower us to meet death in great joy.
Instead of leaving to the forest we can invite the principles of simple forest life into our flat in the city: simplifying our surroundings and freeing ourselves from so many unnecessary things, which we have most likely accumulated over the years: comfortable and opulent furniture, decorations and so many knickknacks, which occupy some little space in our
mind when being attached to them. Freeing ourselves from unnecessary belongings is indeed a very liberating experience! Sooner or later we will have to leave them behind anyway. Therefore better to voluntarily let go of them by donating them to young devotees who are just about to start with their household life, for example. Thus we at the same time experience the joy and benefits of giving in charity with a generous and happy heart.
Another principle of Vanaprastha life is to keep our externals more and more simple, thus reducing the bodily concept of life. No need to dress in bark, as mentioned in the SB! Yet especially for us ladies it means we can give up our attachment to make-up, decorations and opulent dress and keep ourselves more and more simple, until we reach the point where we want to dress in white with a border. The aging body is already getting less attractive, which is Krsna's perfect arrangement to help us in the process of detachment.
And last but not least we are meant to reduce our fancy eating and simplify our diet - something which would be very natural when living in the forest.
And again, the aging body is helping us along, since the fire of digestion is reduced, and we are forced to keep a more simple diet. As we know, the tongue is the most ferocious sense organ and always demands some satisfaction. And especially in the renounced phase of life we are meant to conquer over the demands of the tongue and develop a higher taste.
The cultivation of these principles is meant to help us to deepen our focus on hearing and chanting the holy name. While cultivating these principles, husband and wife are recommended to also leave home sometimes - either together, or separately. They can travel and preach, visit the holy dham, or simply visit other ISKCON temples to render service. Or he can leave, and she stays in the community and serves there. This can be gradually introduced, by starting to leave for shorter periods, and ongoingly increase them. The main and foremost contribution a Vanaprastha makes to society is by sharing his wealth of life experience with the younger generation: giving guidance and upliftment. In this way the devotees don't have to approach their Sannyasi Diksa Gurus with family issues. These problems are all meant to be taken care of by the Vanaprasthas.
Before leaving Chandigarh I was also invited to give a SB class one morning, which was well received. I felt very inspired to visit Chandigarh every year in order to churn more nectar.....
On the 7th of November I flew off to Bangalore.....
Your servant, Devaki dd