The Aged and the Sages

The Dhammiapada tell us, “He who always greets and constantly reveres the aged, four things will increase to him: life, beauty, happiness, and power. But he who lives a hundred years, vicious and unrestrained, a life of one day is better if a man is virtuous and reflecting.” It then emphasises,  “And he won lives a hundred years, ignorant and unrestrained, a life of one day is better if a man is wise and reflecting.”

What is it with “the aged,” that such a blessing is found in simple greetings and reverence? This, first of all. The wisdom of the ages and, yes, of the ancient sages, is the collection of all the good that the human race has found since the dawn of time, but the “wisdom” of this present age, or of any age which has called itself “present” or “modern” is simply the echo chamber of fools who insist there is nothing for them to learn.

When we celebrate our technology as proof of our great wisdom (falsely so-called), how is it not the same as a workman who venerates his tools while forgetting what it is to build, and throws out both the inherited wisdom of his craft and the received blueprints of what it is he must build? Is he not better off to lay down his hammer and learn from the masters what it means to be a craftsman? It was not so long ago that Mr. Santayana wrote, “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” We are better off, then, to find out what has been learned than to even lay the groundwork for a structure built without the needed wisdom. Does this not apply in the same way to the way we think, plan, and live?

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