Youth is often blind and deaf to the warnings of oncoming old age and death. A passionate young person may think that such admonitions are for old-timers who do not know how to enjoy. Many so-called philosophers encourage this hedonistic attitude, which is precisely the attitude King Kulaśekhara is condemning in this verse. The hedonists advise, "Enjoy as much as you can while you're young, because you only live once." Not only is this advice morally unsound, but its premise is untrue: according to Vedic wisdom, our present life is only one in a series of innumerable lives we've experienced and will experience in innumerable bodies. Thus hedonism is a prescription for disaster, for the karmic reactions to a misspent youth will cause us to suffer in this lifetime and the next. In his poem Śaraṇāgati, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura outlines the story of the conditioned soul who wastes a brief lifetime:
I drank the deadly poison of worldliness, pretending it was nectar, and now the sun is setting on the horizon of my life. So soon has old age arrived and all happiness departed! Wracked by disease, troubled and weak, I find all my senses feeble now, my body wrecked and exhausted and my spirits downcast in the absence of youthful pleasures.
Since I lack even a particle of devotion and am devoid of all enlightenment, what help is there for me now? Only You, O Lord, O friend of the fallen, can help me. I am certainly fallen, the lowest of men. So please lift me up and place me at Your lotus feet.
King Kulaśekhara berates the foolish old person whose only response to his failing health is to seek some medicine. No medicine in the material world can prevent old age and disease, though modern allopathic medicine may temporarily cover the symptoms. The only medicine that can actually bring relief is the Kṛṣṇa elixir—Kṛṣṇa consciousness. It is sheer folly to turn solely to doctors in old age instead of to Kṛṣṇa.
One can see enlightenment among the elderly at pilgrimage sites in India, especially in Vṛndāvana. There one sees many old people visiting temples with intense devotion early in the morning. Hundreds of old people walk the circumambulation (parikrama) paths despite physical debilities. Some are bent nearly double! Someone might criticize that these people are not being provided with the Western medical treatment that could add a few years to their lives or ease their pain. But the sincere bābājīs and widows of Vṛndāvana who somehow make their way every morning to see Kṛṣṇa in the temples and who call out "Jaya Rādhe!" are actually fortunate and most intelligent. They are taking the kṛṣṇa-rasāyana, the elixir that will grant them eternal life in Kṛṣṇa's spiritual abode. The Vedic śāstras recommend that one drink this elixir from the beginning of life, but even if one neglects to do so earlier, one should by all means drink it during the waning days of life and thus cure the disease of repeated birth and death.