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Yayati then approached his eldest son Yadu and requested him to exchange his youth with old age so that he may satisfy his sensual needs and enjoy the pleasures of youth for a few more years. Yadu refused to do so citing the fact that he had not been young long enough to experience the bodily happiness of youth and would therefore not be able to become indifferent to material pleasures, having never experienced them.
Yayati then approached his other sons Turvasu, Druhyu and Anu who refused his offer as they did not know the true nature of the human soul and accorded too much importance to their temporal human body and its youth.
The old king finally found in his young son Puru someone who was willing to take on his old age in exchange for youth. The following were Puru’s words when he accepted Sukracharya’s curse
Not too many people in this world get a chance to repay their fathers who have given them their body. He who acts as per his father’s wishes is surely destined to be blessed even by the Gods.
As a young man again, King Yayati then enjoyed sensual pleasures and pleasures of the flesh for many more years. Years later he realized that the craving for sensual pleasures is not satiated by indulgence and if anything such indulgence only serves to increase the cravings even more. Upon achieving this realization, he goes back to his son Puru and gives back his youth to him and gladly accepts old age.
Dr Devdutt Pattanaik, eminent mythologist in this article [Link to article] describes how the events in Yayati’s story contribute to the inherent struggle between the older and younger generations. In this case, the older generation in the form of Yayati has his way and how the defeat of the younger generation in the form of Puru is often glorified and celebrated as a large sacrifice.
This is what is termed the Yayati Complex by many Indian psychologists, where the son sacrifices his pleasures to heed to the demands of his father, in order to obtain the goodwill and appreciation of his father. This is a clear contrast to the Western psychological precept of The Oedipus Complex discussed in my earlier posts [Link to post].
Another wonderful example of the Yayati Complex is found in the Mahabharata where Bhishma takes on two terrible vows – one to make Satyavati’s sons the heirs to the throne of Hastinapur and two never to marry so that his children might never stake a claim to the throne themselves. Bhishma takes these vows to ensure that his father Santanu’s desire to marry Satyavati is fulfilled, and is therefore a classic example of the Yayati Complex.