Many religions says that human life is short. Humans are temporary and running behind wealth is waste of time. Are there scriptural evidences in Hinduism saying that human lives are short?
The Vedas are full of life and joy. They contain the idea of living hundred years. Atharva Veda, Khanda 19, Hymn 67 pray for living 100 years.
जीवेम शरदः शतम्
A hundred autumns may we live.
Also Vedas have many hymns for obtaining long life and wealth. But short life span of human is discussed in some Puranas especially in the age of Kali.
Shrimada Bhagavatam, 12th Canto, 2nd Chapter talks about the degradation of human values, increase of materialism and shortening of human lifespan in
tataś cānu-dinaṁ dharmaḥ
satyaṁ śaucaṁ kṣamā dayā
kālena balinā rājan
naṅkṣyaty āyur balaṁ smṛtiḥ (1)
Then, O King, religion, truthfulness, cleanliness, tolerance, mercy, duration of life, physical strength and memory will all diminish day by day because of the powerful influence of the Age of Kali.
vittam eva kalau nṝṇāṁ
kāraṇaṁ balam eva hi (2)
In Kali-yuga, wealth alone will be considered the sign of a man’s good birth, proper behavior and fine qualities. And law and justice will be applied only on the basis of one’s power.
triṁśad viṁśati varṣāṇi
paramāyuḥ kalau nṛṇām (11)
The maximum duration of life for human beings in Kali-yuga will become fifty years.
Same thing has been said in Vishnu Purana, Book 6, Chapter 1.
He who gives away much money will be the master of men; and family descent will no longer be a title of supremacy. Accumulated treasures will be expended on (ostentatious) dwellings. The minds of men will be wholly occupied in acquiring wealth; and wealth will be spent solely on selfish gratifications.
Oppressed by famine and taxation, men will desert their native lands, and go to those countries which are fit for coarser grains. The path of the Vedas being obliterated, and men having deviated into heresy, iniquity will flourish, and the duration of life will therefore decrease. In consequence of horrible penances not enjoined by scripture, and of the vices of the rulers, children will die in their infancy. Women will bear children at the age of five, six, or seven years; and men beget them when they are eight, nine, or ten. A man will be grey when he is twelve; and no one will exceed twenty years of life.
Humans are temporary and running behind wealth is waste of time. Are there scriptural evidences ?
Yes we can find the scriptural reference of Humans are temporary and running behind wealth is waste of time and shortness of human life in our ancient Upanishads.
In Katha-Upanishad there is famous story Nachiketa and Yama , where Nachiketa goes to Yam-Loka , satisfied with him Yama grant Nachiketa 3 boons.Then Nachiketa and asks one questions to Yama ( the death god.)
When **Nachiketa asks Yama about what happens after death.**Yama says to him that “O child ask anything for of material nature women ,wealth ,power ,long life ,kingship of earth , vehicles ,gold ,horses.
Then Nachiketa says this to Yama -:
श्वोभावा मर्त्यस्य यदन्तकैतत्सर्वेंद्रियाणां जरयंति तेजः ।
अपि सर्वं जीवितमल्पमेव तवैव वाहास्तव नृत्यगीते ॥ २६ ॥
śvobhāvā martyasya yadantakaitatsarveṃdriyāṇāṃ jarayaṃti tejaḥ |
api sarvaṃ jīvitamalpameva tavaiva vāhāstava nṛtyagīte || 26 ||
(Nachikêtas says) Ephemeral these; Oh Death, these tend to the decay of the fire (vigour) of all the senses in man. Even the longest life is, indeed, short. Thine alone be the chariots, the dance and music.
Here Nachiketa is refusing all the material pleasures offered to him by Yama in substitute of asking questions about death. But wise Nachiketa says ……Life is short …And all this pleasures are temporary.
And this is Shankara’s Commentary: .—Though thus tempted, Nachikêtas unagitated like a large lake, said: svôbhâvah, enjoyments whose existence the next day is a matter of doubt; the enjoyments enumerated by you are ephemeral; again. Oh Death, they tend to the decline of the vigour of all the organs of man. These nymphs and other enjoyments only tend to harm, because they destroy virtue, strength, intellect, vigour, fame and the rest. As for the longevity that you will give me, hear me on that point. All life, even that of Brahmais, indeed, short. What need be said of our longevity. Therefore, keep the chariots, etc., for thyself alone, as also the dance and music.
also shortening of human life during kali-Yuga also is described in Ling-Purana –Purva Bhaga –Chapter 40 – Extent of Caturyugas. – Page 153 –Shloka 33
प्रनष्टचेष्टना: पुंसो मुक्तकेशाच्श्र शूलिन: |
जना षोडषवर्षाच्श्र प्रजायंते युगाक्षये ||33||
They would be unable to value the things correctly. They shall have disheveled hair. During the time of decline of the Kali-Yuga the people will be born with only sixteen years of age.
Many verses said by Lord Shiva in KulArnava Tantram's (which is a ShAkta Agama) Ullasa 1 can be used to answer this question.
He discusses the shortness of human life ( or the shortage of years we have to accomplish our goals) in great details in that chapter.
I am posting only four such verses here:
Even the full life span of 100 years is not sufficient
Satam jivitamatyalpam nidrA swyAdardhshArini | VAlyarogajarAdukkhairardham tadapi nisphalam ||
The lifespan of even 100 years (which is also known as parama Ayu) is too short. Half of which is taken by sleep. And, the remaining half is rendered fruitless by childhood, diseases and grief.
The temporary and short-lived nature of wealth, longevity and youth
Sampadah swapnasamkAshA yauvanam kusumopamam | TaricchanchalamAyuscha kasya syAjjAnato dhriti ||
Wealth (Sampada) is [illusive] like dreams. Youth (Yauvanam) is like a flower [that withers within no time]. Longevity (Ayu) is unstable (chanchala) like Vidyut [it comes and goes]. After knowing all that how can one still remain patient
Don't waste time thinking about petty matters
Apatyam me kalatram me dhanam me vandhavAscha me | Lapantamiti martyam hi hanti kAlabriko valAt ||
My son; my wife; my wealth; my friends;- Kala forcefully takes his life away who wastes time in thinking like that.
Death (Kala) does not wait for anyone, so better hurry up
Swayah kAryamadya karttabyam purvAnhe chAparAnhikam | Na hi pratikshate mrityuh kritam vAhasya na vA kritam ||
What is supposed to be done tomorrow has to be done today only. What is supposed to be done in the afternoon should be done in the morning. Mrityu (or death) does not wait thinking what a person has done what he has yet to do.
KulArnava Tantram's Chapter 1 verses
So, that's why we should be ever agile to make life's every moment count.
This is one of the essences of Lord Shiva's discourses found in the aforementioned chapter.
Scriptures mention the age of humans as 100 years.
Isha Upanishad, Verse 2:
कुर्वन्नेवेह कर्माणि जिजीविषेत् सतं समाः
एवं त्वयि नान्यथेतोऽस्ति न कर्म लिप्यते नरे
Meaning: In the world, one should desire to live a hundred years, but only by performing actions. Thus, and in no other way, can man be free from the taint of actions.
Vedas say the same thing:
Shatāyur vai purushah
Man lives for 100 years.
Adi Shankara also says in his commentary:
tavad hi purushashya paramayuh nirupitam
that long, verily, has been determined to be the length of human life.
In the Brahmacharya ceremony, the boy is blessed with the words:
May you live a hundred years
Puranas might say that human lifespan is different or decreases but because Vedas and Upanishads clearly say that human life is 100 years, Puranas should be rejected in this case.
The rigvedic seers prayed for long life of 100 autumns, large (male) progeny who will be brave (suveerAH) and, of course, for wealth, cows and so on. In that respect, I feel that at least our earliest Veda did not consider life in this world as short or chasing material prosperity as bad. There could be isolated instances contrary to the above, in the vast ocean that is rigveda; scholarly members may come forward to correct my impression as above.
My impression is that it was the Upanishadic phase of the vedas which started this illusoriness of the worldly life, chasing material wealth as wasting your life, etc. May be, contemplation about human life might have revealed to the Upanishadic sages/seers/rishis, the impermanence of the worldly life and the human intellect's inability/impossibility of knowing about our past (before birth) or our future after death. Given this background, human existence will appear to be transcient and meaningless, so to say. The Upanishads, therefore, give us a mixed picture — following the veda and diverging from the veda. It is the commonly held belief that Adishankara gave his advaita philosophy as the gist of all the Upanishadic advancements in philosophical thoughts and so this was called as Vedanta (end of the Veda/s). एकं सद्विप्रा नैव जानन्ति ।
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