Q: Beloved Osho, In Western society, at least, youth is considered to be everything, and to a certain extent, it seems this is as it should be if we are to continue growing in every dimension of life.
But the natural corollary of that is that as one moves away from youth, birthdays are no longer a cause for congratulations, but are an embarrassing and unavoidable fact of life.
It becomes impolite to ask someone their age; gray hair is dyed, teeth capped or replaced entirely, demoralized breasts and faces have to be lifted, tummies made taut, and varicose veins supported – but under cover. You certainly don’t take it as a compliment if someone tells you that you look your age.
But my experience is that as I become older, each year is only better and better; yet nobody told me this would be so, and you never hear people singing the praises of growing older. Would you, for the benefit of your middle-aged sannyasins, speak on the joys of growing older?
Maneesha, the question you have asked implies many things. First, the Western mind is conditioned by the idea that you have only one life – seventy years, and youth will never come again. In the West, the spring comes only once; naturally, there is a deep desire to cling as long as possible, to pretend in every possible way that you are still young.
In the East, the older person was always valued, respected. He was more experienced, he had seen many, many seasons coming and going; he had lived through all kinds of experiences, good and bad. He had become seasoned; he was no more immature. He had a certain integrity that comes only with age. He was not childish, carrying his teddy bears; he was not young, still fooling around thinking that this was love.
He had passed through all these experiences, had seen that beauty fades; he has seen that everything comes to an end, that everything is moving towards the grave. From the very moment he left the cradle, there was only one way – and it is from cradle to the grave. You cannot go anywhere else; you cannot go astray even if you try. You will reach to the grave whatever you do.
The old man was respected, loved; he had attained a certain purity of the heart because he had lived through desires, and seen that every desire leads to frustration. Those desires are past memories. He had lived in all kinds of relationships and had seen that every kind of relationship turns into hell. He had passed through all the dark nights of the soul. He had attained a certain aloofness – the purity of an observer. He was no longer interested in participating in any football game. Just living his life, he had come to a transcendence; hence, he was respected, his wisdom was respected.
But in the East, the idea has been that life is not just a small piece of seventy years in which youth comes only once. The idea has been that just as in existence everything moves eternally – the summer comes, the rains come, the winter comes, and the summer again; everything moves like a wheel – life is not an exception.
Death is the end of one wheel and the beginning of another. Again you will be a child, and again you will be young, and again you will be old. It has been so since the beginning, and it is going to be so to the very end – until you become so enlightened that you can jump out of the vicious circle and can enter into a totally different law. From individuality, you can jump into the universal. So there was no hurry, and there was no clinging.
The West is based on the Judaic tradition which believes only in one life. Christianity is only a branch of the Jews. Jesus was a Jew, born a Jew, lived a Jew, died a Jew; he never knew that he was a Christian. If you meet him somewhere and greet him with, ‘Hello, Jesus Christ’, he will not recognize who you are addressing because he never knew that his name is Jesus and he never knew that he is Christ. His name was Joshua, a Hebrew name, and he was a messiah of God, not a Christ. Jesus Christ is a translation in Greek from Hebrew. Mohammedanism is also a by-product of the same tradition – the Jews.
These three religions believe in one life. To believe in one life is very dangerous because it does not give you chances to make mistakes, it does not give you chances to have enough experience of anything; you are always in a hurry.
The whole Western mind has become the mind of a tourist who is carrying two, three cameras, and rushing to photograph everything because he only has a three-week visa. And in three weeks, he has to cover the whole country – all the great monuments. There is no time for him to see them directly; he will see them at home, at ease, in his album.
Whenever I remember the tourists, I see the old women rushing from one place to another – from Ajanta to Ellora, from Taj Mahal to Kashmir – in a hurry, because life is short.
It is only the Western mind which has created the proverb that time is money. In the East, things go slowly; there is no hurry – one has the whole of eternity. We have been here and we will be here again, so what is the hurry? Enjoy everything with intensity and totality.
So, one thing: because of the idea of one single life, the West has become too concerned about being young, and then everything is done to remain young as long as possible, to prolong the process. That creates hypocrisy, and that destroys an authentic growth. It does not allow you to become really wise in your old age, because you hate old age; old age reminds you only of death, nothing else. Old age means the full stop is not far away; you have come to the terminus – just one whistle more, and the train will stop.
I had an agreement with my grandfather. He loved his feet to be massaged, and I had told him, “Remember, when I say ‘comma,’ that means be alert; the semi-colon is coming close. When I say ‘semi-colon,’ get ready because the full stop is coming close. And once I say ‘full stop,’ I mean it.” So he was so much afraid of “comma” that when I would say, “comma,” he would say, “It is okay, but let the semi-colon be a little longer. Don’t make it short and quick!”
Old age simply reminds you, in the West, that a full stop is coming close – prolong the semi-colon. And who are you trying to deceive? If you have recognized that youth is no longer there, you can go on deceiving the whole world. But you are not young, you are simply being ridiculous.
I have heard… two so-called young people got married – so-called because both were pretending to be young; youth had gone down the drain a long, long time ago. They went for a honeymoon with suitcases, with the tags, ‘Just married’. But both were afraid. There was no joy on their faces, only the fear of exposure.
Immediately they entered the hotel room and closed the doors; the man immediately got into bed, under the blanket, and told the wife, “Put the light off while you are in the bathroom. I will wait in darkness; I like darkness.”
The wife said, “Why do you like darkness? I cannot, because you are a stranger to me. We just met on the beach; I don’t know who you are, you don’t know who I am. I want to keep the light on the whole night.”
The man said, “I will not be able to sleep.”
The woman said, “But at least until I come out of the bathroom, keep the light on.”
And that struggle is always the beginning of every honeymoon, the fight…. Because the woman started insisting, “Why you are so stubborn that the light should be put out?”
The man said, “You are going to know anyway, so what is the point of fighting?”
He threw the blanket away and showed that one of his legs was false.
He said, “I did not want you to know it.”
The woman said, “But it is good.”
She threw off her wig, took out her teeth, and told the man, “My breasts are also false. So now there is no need to be afraid of the light.”
He said, “Now there is no need to be afraid of anything. Now just come on, have a headache, and go to sleep; the honeymoon is over.”
People are trying to remain young, but they don’t know that the very fear of losing youth does not allow you to live it in its totality.
And secondly, the fear of losing youth does not allow you to accept old age with grace. You miss both youth – its joy, its intensity – and you also miss the grace, and the wisdom, and the peace that old age brings. But the whole thing is based on a false conception of life.
Unless the West changes the idea that there is only one life, this hypocrisy, this clinging, and this fear cannot be changed.
In fact, one life is not all; you have lived many times, and you will live many times more. Hence, live each moment as totally as possible; there is no hurry to jump to another moment. Time is not money, time is inexhaustible; it is available to the poor as much as to the rich. The rich are not richer as far as time is concerned, and the poor are not poorer.
Life is an eternal incarnation.
What appears on the surface is very deep-rooted in the religions of the West. They are very miserly in giving you only seventy years. If you try to work it out, almost one third of your life will be lost in sleep, one third of your life will have to be wasted in earning food, clothes, housing. Whatever little is left has to be given to education, football matches, movies, stupid quarrels, fights. If you can save, in seventy years’ time, seven minutes for yourself, I will count you a wise man.
But it is difficult to save even seven minutes in your whole life; so how can you find yourself? How can you know the mystery of your being, of your life? How can you understand that death is not an end?
Because you have missed experiencing life itself, you are going to miss the great experience of death, too; otherwise, there is nothing to be afraid of in death. It is a beautiful sleep, a dreamless sleep, a sleep that is needed for you to move into another body, silently and peacefully. It is a surgical phenomenon; it is almost like anesthesia. Death is a friend, not a foe.
Once you understand death as a friend and start living life without any fear that it is only a very small time span of seventy years – if your perspective opens to the eternity of your life – then everything will slow down; then there is no need to be speedy.
In everything, people are simply rushing. I have seen people taking their office bag, pushing things into it, kissing their wife, not seeing whether she is their wife or somebody else; and saying goodbye to their children. This is not the way of living! And where are you reaching with this speed?
I have heard about a young couple who had purchased a new car, and they were going full speed.
The wife was telling the husband again and again, “Where are we going?” Because women are still old-minded, “Where are we going?”
And the man said, “Stop bothering me, just enjoy the speed we are going with. The real question is not where we are going; the real question is with what great speed we are going?”
Speed has become more important than the destination, and speed has become more important because life is so short. You have to do so many things that unless you do everything with speed, you cannot manage. You cannot sit silently even for a few minutes – it seems a wastage. In those few minutes you could have earned a few bucks.
Just wasting time closing your eyes, and what is there inside you? If you really want to know, you can go to any hospital and see a skeleton. That is what is inside you. Why are you unnecessarily getting into trouble by looking in? Looking in, you will find a skeleton. And once you have seen your skeleton, life will become more difficult; kissing your wife, you know perfectly well what is happening – two skeletons. Somebody just needs to invent x-ray glasses, so people can put on x-ray glasses and see all around skeletons laughing. Most probably, he will not be alive to take his glasses off; so many skeletons laughing is enough to stop anybody’s heartbeat…. “My God, this is the reality! And this is what all these mystics have been telling people, ‘Look inwards’ – avoid them!”
The West has no tradition of mysticism. It is extrovert: look outward, there is so much to see. But they are not aware that inside there is not only the skeleton; there is something more within the skeleton. That is your consciousness. By closing your eyes you will not come across the skeleton; you will come across your very life source.
The West needs a deep acquaintance with its own life source, then there will be no hurry. One will enjoy when life brings youth, one will enjoy when life brings old age and one will enjoy when life brings death. You simply know one thing – how to enjoy everything that you come across, how to transform it into a celebration.
I call the authentic religion the art of transforming everything into a celebration, into a song, into a dance.
An old man walked into a health clinic and told the doctor, “You have got to do something to lower my sex drive.” The doctor took one look at the feeble old man and said, “Now, now sir, I have got the feeling that your sex drive is all in your head.”
“That’s what I mean sonny,” the old man said. “I have got to lower it a little.”
Even the old man is wanting to be a playboy. It shows one thing with certainty – that he has not lived his youth with totality. He has missed his youth, and he is still thinking about it. Now he cannot do anything about it, but his whole mind is continuously thinking about the days he had in youth which have not been lived; at that time he was in a hurry.
If he had lived his youth, he would be free in his old age of all repressions, sexuality; there would be no need for him to drop his sexual instinct. It disappears, it evaporates in living. One just has to live uninhibited, without any interference from your religions, from your priests and it disappears; otherwise, when you are young you are in church, and when you are old, you are reading the playboy by hiding it in your Holy Bible. Every Holy Bible is used only for one purpose, hiding magazines like playboy, so you are not caught by children – it is embarrassing.
I have heard of three men, old men. One is seventy, the other is eighty and the third is ninety. They are all old friends, retired, who used to go for a walk and sit on a bench in the park, and have all kinds of gossips.
One day the youngest of the three, the seventy-year-old man, looked a little sad. The second one, the eighty-year-old, asked, “What is the matter? You are looking very sad.”
He said, “I am feeling very guilty. It will help me to unburden myself if I tell you. It is an incident. A beautiful lady was taking a bath. She was a guest in our house, and I was looking through the keyhole and my mother caught hold of me.”
Both the old friends laughed; they said, “You are an idiot. Everybody does such things in childhood.”
He said, “It is not a question of childhood; it happened today.”
The second man said, “Then it is really serious. But I will tell you something which has been happening to me for three days, and I am keeping it like a stone, a rock on my heart. Continuously for three days my wife has refused to love me.”
The first man said, “That is really very bad.”
But the third, the oldest laughed and he said, “First you ask him what does he mean by love?”
So he asked, and the second old man said, “Nothing much. Don’t make me feel more embarrassed. It is a simple process. I hold my wife’s hand and press it three times, then she goes to sleep and I go to sleep. But for three days, whenever I try to hold her hand, she says, ‘Not today, not today! Feel ashamed; you are old enough – not today!’; so for three days I have not loved.
The third old man said, “This is nothing. What has been happening to me I must confess, because you are young and it will help you in your future. Last night, as the night was passing and the morning was coming closer, I started to make preparations to make love to my wife and she said to me, ‘What are you trying to do you idiot?’ I said, ‘What am I trying to do? I am simply trying to make love to you,’ and she said, ‘This is the third time in the night; neither you sleep nor you allow me to sleep. Love, love, love.’ So I think it seems I am losing my memory. Your problems are nothing; I have lost my memory.”
If you listen to old people, you will be surprised; they are talking only of things which they should have lived, but the time has passed when it was possible to live them. At that time they were reading the Holy Bible and listening to the priest.
Those priests and those holy scriptures have corrupted people, because they have given them ideas against nature and they cannot allow them to live naturally.
If we need a new humanity, we will have to erase the whole past and start everything anew. And the first basic principle will be: allow everybody, help everybody, teach everybody to live according to his nature, not according to any ideals, and live totally and intensely without any fear. Then children will enjoy their childhood, the young people will enjoy their youth and the old people will have the grace that comes naturally, out of a whole life lived naturally.
Unless your old age is graceful and wise and full of light and joy, contentment, fulfillment, a blissfulness… in your very presence, unless flowers blossom and there is a fragrance of eternity, then it is certain that you have lived. If it is not happening that way, that means somewhere you have gone astray, somewhere you have listened to the priests, who are the corrupters, the criminals, somewhere you have gone against nature; and nature takes revenge. And its revenge is to destroy your old age and make it ugly – ugly to others and ugly in your own eyes. Otherwise old age has a beauty which even youth cannot have.
Youth has a maturity, but it is unwise. It has too much foolishness in it; it is amateurish. Old age has given the last touches to the paintings of his own life. And when one has given the last touches, one is ready to die joyously, dancingly. One is ready to welcome death.
Osho, The Golden Future, Ch 16, Q 2