19. A crane stands on the edge of a pond that is always disturbed by flowing water, mud, and stones. The crane is like a householder who is disturbed in the shelter of his home but who, because of too much attachment, does not want to change his position.
The forgetful householder life of the conditioned soul is a soul-killing dark well. This is the opinion of Śrī Prahlāda Mahārāja, the celebrated devotee of the Lord. Too much attachment for hearth and home is never recommended by a self-realized soul. Therefore the span of human life should be methodically divided.
The first stage is called the brahmacarya-āśrama, or the order of life in childhood, when the man-to-be is trained in the ultimate goal of life. The next stage is the gṛhastha-āśrama, in which the man is trained to enter into the Transcendence. Then comes the vānaprastha-āśrama, the preliminary stage of renounced life. The last stage recommended is the sannyāsa order, or the renounced order of life. In this way one accepts a gradual process of spiritual activities for the ultimate goal of liberation.
Unfortunately, for want of sufficient culture of the human spirit, no one wants to give up the householder life, even though it is full of pinpricks and mud. And those who are too attached amidst the pinpricks of muddy householder life are compared to the cranes that stand on the bank of the river for some sense enjoyment despite all the inconveniences there. We should always remember that the society, friendship, only shadowy representations of the real society, friendship, and love reciprocated in the kingdom of God. There is no reality in the conditioned life of material existence, but because of our ignorance we are attached to the mirage. The idea of society, friendship, and love is not at all false, but the place where we search for it is false. We have to give up this false position and rise to the reality. That should be the aim of life, and that is the result of cultivating the human spirit.
Unfortunately, for want of sufficient culture of this spirit, the materialistic man always sticks to this false place in spite of all its turmoils. It is said that a man should give up the order of householder life at the age of fifty. But in this era of ignorance even an old man wants to rejuvenate his bodily functions, put on artificial teeth, and make a pretense of youthful life, even on the verge of death. Cranelike politicians especially are too much attached to the false prestige of position and rank, and so they always seek reelection, even at the fag end of life. These are some of the symptoms of an uncultured life.