Chapter 9: On the Wise Ones of Old
The wise ones of old.. In the East it is always the old, the ancient who are wise. There is a humbleness about oneself and the present. How can you be more wise than your father? How can you be more wise than your grandfather, great-grandfather? No, you can know more. You can know more than Buddha - you may already know more than Buddha - but you cannot be more wise. In fact, in wisdom more doesn’t exist. One is wise or not - there is no more to it, no less to it. In knowledge more and less exist. Knowledge is relative, wisdom is absolute. You cannot be more wise, and in fact if you are wise you will feel very very humble.
Lao Tzu feels so humble about himself and about his own age that he always talks about the wise ones of old. And if you go to the wise ones of old you will find them talking about the wise ones of older days again.
If you try to understand Eastern scriptures they always say that whatsoever they are saying is not new, it was told to them, they have heard it. That’s why Hindus have two names for their scriptures, shruti and smriti. Shruti means: We have heard it, we have heard those who knew. Smriti means: We have stored it from those who know.
There is no claim on anyone’s part that they have known, because the very claim “I have known” is the claim of ignorance, the “I” is the condensed ignorance. They go back and back and back. In the Upanishads, if you go back, they will say: I learned from my teacher. My teacher learned from his teacher, he learned from his teacher.. And they go on and on, and in the beginning: Brahma, the creator of the world, learned from the cosmic existence itself, from brahman.
He learned from brahman; brahman is the invisible divinity and Brahma is the visible divinity. The visible divinity learned it from the invisible divinity, and from Brahma starts the Ganges. And then teacher and teacher and teacher, a long procession - and “I have just heard it.”
This is a beautiful phenomenon. It simply says that no man is an island, and there is interdependence. The whole past is involved in you - this is the meaning of it. You are not alone here, you have not suddenly bubbled up. The whole past is carried by you - your consciousness is in a chain, related with the whole past. From the very beginning up to now, everything that has happened has happened to you and you are the carrier of the whole past. In this way, in time a relationship, the feeling of a relationship, arises.