There was a precedent in a small province, that the king was elected for a period of five years. Thereafter he was sent to the jungle. Once the five years were over, he had to fend for himself. He could take nothing along. No money, food, shelter, clothing, servants; not even family. It was a strange custom, but it had been prevalent since long.
The former king in the jungle would eventually be consumed by the hunger of wild animals or the harshness of the elements.
One particular king, when he was coronated to the throne, thought about what would happen to him, five years hence. In the years while he was in power, he got the neighbouring jungle cleared of carnivorous animals. He got a comfortable guest house built there. He got sufficient clothing and bedding placed for a long time to come. A well was dug for drinking water. Some fruit trees, edible greens and legumes were planted around the vicinity. When his term as king was over, he happily went to the retreat he had prepared for himself and lived there comfortably and spent his time in prayer and meditation.
The story has a powerful message. While we are young and able, we should make arrangements for our old age. Plan your finances such that you have enough to support you, when you can no longer earn. It is unwise to ‘Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you might die!’
Here is another perspective, a millionaire pays income-tax with tears in his eyes; a headmaster joyfully gives up the furniture and laboratory appliances of his school when he is transferred to some other place or retires from service. Why? Because the headmaster knows that he is only the caretaker, not the owner. He is not attached to these articles; he knows that they belong to the government. So too, feel that your family, house, property, car, etc. are all the Lord’s property and that you are only the trustee; be ready to give them up without a murmur at a moment’s notice.
On a spiritual plane too, our sacred scriptures contain the drugs to cure attachment and endow you with the strength of detachment.
Sacrifice (Tyaga) does not mean that you should not value things, or that you should not care for them. We just need to constantly remember that they are transient, that the joy they give is trivial and temporary. We need to understand their real worth and not over-estimate them. We need to stay unattached from them, at the same time accumulate good karma so that our after-life is taken care of.
Perhaps we can think of the five years of the king as the last five years of our life. We should leave attachments and spend time in doing good deeds, helping others and praying etc. But how does one know when it is that the last five years commence?
There is no way to know. So the only way is to do good karma and walk the right path each day of our lives. Who knows when our call may come?
It would do good to remember that the merits of the good deeds we do in this world shall be available to us in the next!