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Old age

October 6, 2014 ·
Old Age and Wisdom

“Behind my work was ambition, behind my love was personality, behind my purity was fear. Now they are vanishing and I drift.” (written in his last days)

It is an advice handed down to us by tradition that we should respect the old and obey them. It is stressed every now and then understandably because it is not followed. How important is the advice?

The old have been through life and must have learnt a few lessons and it may be useful for avoiding the pitfalls that they warn of and follow the course they have found working. This must be the basis why the prescription of obeying elders’ advice must have come about if it has to have a rationale. The old has become a surrogate for ‘the wise’. It is the wisdom in elders that deserves respect and not old age. If the old are simply repeating what they have heard or read, it is not wisdom.

Actually, it is not true that the older one gets the wiser one becomes. It is a question of learning and trying that adds value, not mere longevity. If senility sets in, old age becomes a matter of coping and caring. Any use of wisdom of someone that has lost his moorings does not arise.

It is a different issue sociologically. The old must be cared for and one should give them utmost respect and make them feel wanted. It is different from acting on their advice.

The process of ageing is common to an ordinary man as well as to a saint. A person who has had saintliness in him may lose it if he lives to the time when his faculties are no longer in his command. The body survives for some reason though the active soul had become quiet. They still deserve veneration, but the veneration is to the halo they created, not for the body which is waiting to decompose. A few left us even when their saintliness was still ablaze. Ramana in intense pain was still inspirational till he became one with the reality he made many glimpse. Vivekananda left us in the prime of youth. His words in the beginning of this piece convey a pregnant message. The saint is not in the body, but in the spirit.

July 9, 2014 ·
Old Age

I receive mails intended to comfort, but reminding me rudely that I am old. The senders of mails are indeed considerate and want to tell me that I am only as old as I think, but it happens to wake me up from my reverie of an inner sense of imbibing the essentials of the world unmindful how old I am.
I may also refer to the affront felt by a contact when I used the expression, ‘behaving our age’. In fact, I got this from my brother-in-law who narrated a conversation with his father. He asked his father as a boy how long one could keep playing. His father replied, ‘You have to play differently at different years of your life.’ That meant growing up in the paradigm that existed a generation ago, and the current generation, mine being sandwiched in-between, has changed the paradigm. To grow old has become old-fashioned. It is not as though they are acting on a whim. They have scholarly essays on Ageless Body and Timeless Mind. And, the forwards I have referred to are fortified with quotes from highly valued sources.
Buddha, so the story used to be though later I learnt it to be apocryphal, met with the issues of old age, suffering and death in one of his visits outside the palace, and quit the palace to find a solution to them. He perhaps conquered the first two quests because we have no account of Buddha in decrepitude or in suffering. The third, we may believe otherwise. But, for us ordinary folks, the issues are as alive, and old age (a mere number, let me hasten to correct) catches up with a number of us now unlike fifty years ago when many had the pleasure of dying young.
What is it to get old? Would Shakespeare have rewritten these lines if he were to be of the current generation?
“And that which should accompany old age,
As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends.”
One should have read this while still young (sticking to the old usage), if one wanted to realize it, as these are not gained at a moment’s notice. I have been bold to quote this though it talks of obedience, which stirs up images of dark ages and which Oxford may seriously be considering to expunge.
Sankara talks of balya (boyhood), youvana (youth) and vardhika (old age) and laments that at each age one is concerned with something other than Brahman. He never went beyond budding youth and so must be incompetent to talk of old age. Brahman? Who cares? Did he invent something like internet?
I do not know who would read an old man’s (I still gravitate to my earlier generation, a friend of mine observed this 50 years ago at school) blabbering.
As for me, I am content to be old and eagerly look forward to visit
‘The undiscovered country from whose bourn

No traveller returns.’

Age and Wisdom

Aug, 2001

A man becomes an animal as he grows old. An elder is respected only 
if he has become wise. It is the wisdom that deserves respect, not the age. 
Wisdom comes out as goodwill and blessings. An old man who only demands 
attention and that he be respected has lost himself. We show greater kindness 
 to elders as a matter of principle or sometimes affection.