I must congratulate Dr. Julius Lipner for organising this summer conference of 1996 under the auspices of Dharam Hinduja Institute of Indic Research. This Conference is the third in the series. The first one was on the Ethics of Bhagvad Gita and the second was on the theme of Yoga as a Body of Knowledge. Both these conferences were successful and they have stimulated a new current of thought, among the academics and also among the members of general public. This third Conference is dedicated to the theme of Youth and Youthfulness as we find it in the long tradition in India beginning with the Vedas right up to the present day, I believe that the theme of this Conference is well chosen, and Dr. Lipner and his colleagues have succeeded in bringing together experts and scholars who have made deep study of the multi-faceted literature of India on the subject of Youth and Youthfulness. I am sure that like the other two previous conferences, this Conference too will be highly successful.
It is significant that the highest ideal that was cherished in the Vedas was that of immortality. And if you study the concept of immortality, you will find that it is a sacred celebration of youthfulness. For immortality is transcendence of death and this can come only when there is a perennial realisation of ever Pure Being of the Supreme, which is indestructible, indivisible, and devoid of any limitations. In one of the verses of the Rigveda, Vibhus, the great Rishis who were able to attain to godhood, were celebrated because they could transform their old parents into a state of youthfulness. The Yajurveda, in one of its prayers, prays to the Brahman for the birth of children who may be illustrious for divine knowledge and who would be heroic warriors, capable of maintaining prosperity and greenery of youthfulness all over the country (see Yajurveda 22.22).
The tradition of the Veda was very well continued in Ramayana and Mahabharata. The youthfulness of Rama has been very well described by Valamiki in glowing terms. His youthfulness is compared to an ocean in depth and to Himalayas in irresistibility; it is compared to Vishnu in prowess and the charm of the moon; it is also compared to the deluge fire in wrath and to the ever-young personified form of dharma which remains steady for ever in truthfulness.
In Mahabharata we have incomparable example of Abhimanyu who at the age of sixteen, could be equal to some of the greatest warriors of his time and who could meet all of them in one single battle and remain blazing right up to the end while fighting with all of them simultaneously single-handed, unhelped and even unarmed. In the story of Vidula again, in Mahabharata, we have a powerful address to a young prince by his mother, where he is asked to blaze up like a brand of fresh wood, and he is told that it is better to blaze up for a moment rather than to continue in a state of smoke forever and ever.