Drupon Rinpoche has been kindly explaining this text by Arya Nagarjuna this week during the afternoons of the meditation retreat. Nagarjuna had a childhood friend who became a king by the name of Surabhibhadra. Thus he wrote his friend this letter of advice, which has become a commonly taught text.
In the afternoon teaching session today we turned our attention to verses 9 and 10. Verse 9 concerns the need to return the kindness of parents, teachers, and protectors. Khen Rinpoche drew a thought-provoking comparison between the lifestyles of the elderly in traditional Tibetan households with that of some of the aged living in the West. Elderly Tibetans would live with their families and spend their time with prayer wheels and malas; and with huge faith in the value of mantra recitation, would feel they had something very worthwhile to accomplish. This is in sharp contrast to the way that many elderly people in developed countries live out their final years.
Thus we were exhorted to get used to using our malas, so that when old age arrives, we already have the positive habit of the accumulation of mantra.