The Aged and the Sages – What Can We Learn from Them?

The Aged and the Sages - what can we learn from them?
The Aged and the Sages – what can we learn from them?

Chinese history tells us of Seven Scholars. According to the legends they would gather in a friend’s bamboo grove away from the intrigues of the political life. A corrupt dynasty was using a strict model of Confucian thought to set one’s value on his usefulness to the state.The Scholars’ Taoist philosophy taught otherwise. Each person lives first of all not to the Emperor but to the Tao. This holds true for the King as much as for the farmer.

Free Expression

They would gather, the legend tells us, on a close friend’s estate to discuss the deeper matters of life. Their prose, poetry, and painting extolled the beauty of the simple life – the pleasure and pain of the simple farmer over the pomp of court life. Their host was condemned for writing something that offended the Emperor. He calmly awaited his execution composing songs on his lute.

In years to come pictures of their gatherings would appear from Zen temples to the homes of Japanese samurai. These serve as a reminder of the inner strength of the mind set in the Tao.

The Full Life

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.” The wisdom of the aged and the sages gives us balance and direction in a world driven by ambition and noise.

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. The Aged and the Sages – what can we learn from them?

What is Wisdom?

We celebrate our technology as proof of our so-called great wisdom. How is it not the same as a workman who venerates his tools while forgetting how to build? He 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.” Isn’t it better to find out what has been learned before us first of all? If this is true for building a house or a temple, how much more for building a life?

The Tao of Prayer gives us a simple guidebook for applying the ancient wisdom to our own lives in our complicated, Modern lives. The Aged and the Sages – what can we learn from them?

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