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Chapter 16: Life Is an Eternal Incarnation

“And I,” said the Jew, “want my ashes scattered over the grave of Comrade Gorbachev.”

“But that is impossible!” he was told. “Gorbachev is not dead yet.”

“Fine,” said the Jew, “I can wait.”

You should not wait.

Start from this moment to listen, to be silent, because the next moment is not certain. Gorbachev may die, may not die. Tomorrow it may not be so easy as it is today, because in twenty-four hours you will have gathered more garbage in your head; so the sooner the better, because you cannot sit silently. If you don’t start now, you will be doing something or other..

Don’t postpone it. Every postponement is suicidal - particularly of those experiences which belong to the beyond.

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.

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