Old age is a mysterious experience, but all these laws have been found by the Western mind. I have not been able to discover anybody in the whole literature of the East talking about old age. On the contrary, old age has been praised immensely, because in the East it has been thought that you are not old. If your life has simply moved on the horizontal line, you are only aged. But if your life, your consciousness, has moved vertically, upwards, then you have attained the beauty, the glory of old age. Old age in the East has been synonymous with wisdom.
These are the two paths: one is horizontal, from childhood to youth, to old age and to death; another is vertical, from childhood to youth, to old age, and to immortality. The difference in quality of both the dimensions is immense, incalculable. The man who simply becomes young, and old, and dead, has remained identified with his body. He has not known anything about his being, because being is never born and never dies; it is always, it has been always, it will be always, it is the whole of eternity.
On the vertical line the child becomes young, but the youth on the vertical line will be different from the youth on the horizontal line. Childhood is innocent, but that is the point from where these two different dimensions open up. The youth on the horizontal line is nothing but sensuality, sexuality and all kinds of other stupidities. The youth on the vertical line is a search for truth, is a search for life – it is a longing to know oneself.
A man on the vertical line cannot be called young if he is not meditative, and the same is true about old age. On the horizontal line, old age is simply trembling, afraid of death; I cannot think of anything except a graveyard, and darkness which goes on becoming darker and darker. It cannot conceive of himself except as a skeleton.
On the vertical line, old age is a celebration; it is as beautiful as man has ever been. Youth is a little foolish – is bound to be; it is inexperienced, but old age has passed through all the experiences – good and bad, right and wrong – and has come to a state where it is no longer affected by anything concerned with body or mind.
It is a welcome! Old age on the vertical line is keeping its door open for the ultimate guest to come in. It is not an end, it is a beginning of a real life, of an authentic being.
Hence, I continuously make the distinction between growing old and growing up. Very few people have been fortunate to grow up; the remainder of humanity has only been growing old. And naturally they are all moving towards death. Only on the vertical line does death not exist; that is the way to immortality, to divinity. And naturally, when one becomes old on that dimension, he has a grace and a beauty and a compassion and love.
It has been noted again and again… There is a statement in Buddhist scriptures that as Buddha became older, he became more beautiful. This I call a true miracle. Not walking on water – any drunkard can try that. Not turning water into wine – any criminal can do that. This is a true miracle: Buddha became more beautiful than he was in his youth; he became more innocent than he was in his childhood – this is growth.