The desire for youth

Related imageYayati was a powerful and handsome king of the ancient times. On being cursed with premature old-age by a sage, Yayati loses all that his youth had been giving him – pleasure, fame and riches. He approaches his dutiful son Puru to exchange his youth for his old-age, to which the boy readily agrees. Thus Yayati indulges in excessive passion for over a thousand years. Eventually Yayati realises the fruitlessness of lustful excesses and returns his youth to his son and renounces worldly pleasures and turns into an ascetic. This story from mythology is a beautiful depiction of the futility of youth if not constructively used.

In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde beautifully brings out the hedonistic pleasures of indulgent youth and the repercussions of the same, especially when innocence is replaced by vile selfishness. At one point in the book Wilde says “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it”. In an unbridled fashion, Gray gratifies his lusts of youth leading to the destruction of people who love him.

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It is said that there are seven persons who are immortal – Ashwathama, Bali, Vyasa, Hanuman, Vibhishana, Kripa and Parashurama. The gift of immortality is presented to the realised soul. All seven of these beings neither crave for youth nor are they worried about the tribulations of senility. The realised being doesn’t crave nor desists. Yayati while exchanging his youth for his old-age at the end of thousand years says to his son “Craving for sense-pleasures is not removed but aggravated by indulgence even as ghee poured into fire increases it…”

Dorian Gray is a story of the victory of senses over intellect and the story of Yayati is the story of victory of intellect over senses. The former character dies a mortal death and the latter progresses towards immortality.

6 thoughts on “The desire for youth

  1. The choice of juxtaposition of Yayati and Dorian Gray, though seemingly obvious in the hindsight, is a brilliant illustration of the differences between oriental and occidental thought. I was only mentioning to a scientist working on the science of aging “My youth is meaningful only because I shall be senile someday.”

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