What I learned from Hinduism about aging and dying.
Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside while still alive. Never surrender. - Tupac Shakur
It was half past four in the morning. The cold winter air was creeping around my feet. From my kitchen window, the moon was full and hazy. Skeletal trees were dark as the next neighbours’ dogs barked.
I was browsing through websites and came across the Sanskrit term that made my tongue twist. It is the Tamil word Sathabhishekam or, depending on which part of India you are from, Sahasra Purna Chandrodayam or Sahasra Chandra Darshan. Sathabhishekam refers to a celebration when someone turns a thousand fullmoon of age.
The age of a thousand fullmoon sounds poetic and metaphoric indeed. It’s like something coming out of a fantasy story. But it is a special occasion in many regions in India and Nepal. The mathematical calculation for a thousand fullmoon equals 29,530 days which is 80.849 years or equivalent to 80 years and ten months in our solar dating system, the Gregorian calendar.
When a man turns 80 years old — after seven or eight months, or when he is about to turn 81 — families will come together to celebrate the age of a thousand fullmoon, Sathabhishekam. A man who reaches 81 years old will begin walking on his spiritual journey. Whether you take the celebration literally or metaphorically, the West can learn many things about aging from ancient Eastern wisdom.
Firstly, embrace aging as a blessing in life.
But it’s not India if there’s no celebration. India and celebration are oneness. We can’t talk about the nation by ignoring its Hindust culture of elaborate celebration. But how do they celebrate it?
Just like a wedding, a family can even book a wedding venue. They will worship the family deity, followed by many other elaborate Hindu rituals. At this stage, a man or a couple manifest as the avatars of Shiva and Parvathi. The final ceremony will often involve the older adult or a couple giving their blessing to family and friends.
Only a few nights ago, I heard devastating news from my father. He has been diagnosed with IPF…