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Chapter 9: On the Wise Ones of Old

A few things more before we enter these sutras of Lao Tzu. In the East the past has always been revered; with deep respect we remember the past. In the West respect for the past has completely disappeared; rather, on the contrary, a certain respect for the future has come into being. Parallel to it, old people are not respected in the West - if the past is not respected how can you respect old people? You just anyhow tolerate them; even parents are only tolerated. When they are old, deep down a desire arises in you: if they were dead it would be better. Because now what is the use of them? The West thinks in terms of use; of course a young man is more useful than an old man.

If you think of utility, a young man is more useful than an old man. An old man has lost his energy, his body is crippled, he is ill, he is going to die any day. He is not useful - he is just a burden. All respect for old people has disappeared. It is a corollary: when you don’t respect the past you cannot respect your father, your grandfather, and you don’t remember even the name of your great-grandfather. It is as if he never existed. You start thinking and feeling more for your children - they are the future. And they will think of their children, remember. They will not think about you. So don’t suffer and don’t feel the pain and the hurt of it. In the West the future has become significant; in the East it has always been the past.

There are many things to be understood. Why in the West has the future become more significant? The West is dominated by men of knowledge: professors, scientists, novelists, theologians, political demagogues. The West is dominated by men of knowledge - and of course there is a possibility for a young man to know more than the old man, because he is always standing on the shoulders of the old man - he can look a little farther away.

Your father was studying in the university thirty or forty years ago. In these forty years everything has changed. Whatsoever your father knows is almost out of date. The copyright on the books that he was reading at university is no more there. Nobody bothers about those books, you can find them only in second hand bookstalls. They are useless. Whatsoever he has accumulated in forty years is useless, because in forty years an explosion of knowledge has happened. And it is going on and on and on. Your children will know more than you - in fact, already they know more.

I was reading a small anecdote. Two small children went to a zoo with their old grandmother. The old grandmother was explaining what was what to them. Then they came to a bird, the stork, and the old woman said, “This is the bird which brings children from heaven, which brought you, which always brings children.”

These two small children started giggling, and they whispered into each other’s ears, “Should we tell this old thing the truth?”

But one of them said, “Why disturb her? Let her remain in her belief.”

Mulla Nasruddin called his boy because now the time was ripe and things about life had to be told to him. So he told him, “You come with me to my room, I would like to discuss a few facts about life with you. Now you are mature and a few things have to be told to you.” Mulla was feeling a little nervous - as every father feels when facts of life have to be told to children. As old, out-dated minds do, he was feeling a little nervous.

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