West London Buddhist Centre

Don’t let age fool you

by Maitripushpa

Published on Feb 1st 2024, in Blog

When I read this caution, I starting thinking of the different ways that we use ‘age’ to either criticise or venerate something. And I’m not just talking about cheese and sourdough starters.

Some communities and practices put ‘ancient’ and ‘traditional’ on a pedestal, just because of age. Yet more accurately it’s because communities or teachings or practices have constructively stood the test of time (and changed because of it) that they are worthy of respect, appreciation, even emulation. Not just because they’ve been around a long time.

Like any ‘group’ or ‘label’, age has great variety and diversity. For example, a 30-year-old is old compared to a 15-year-old (remember when you were at school and your teachers were ‘ancient’?) but young compared to someone in their 60s. A neurodivergent teenager may be far wiser (even if less ‘experienced’) than a middle-aged international negotiator. An interwar baby may be tech savvy (my mum was skyping at age 97) whereas someone in their 50s is at a loss with a mobile phone. A neglected old apple tree offers bitter apples whereas one the same age which has been looked after still bears sweet fruit. Beings, things, ideas, approaches: it seems none escape exceptions (funny thing about that…)

So clearly, it’s not a one-size-fits-all formula of Age is good or not good. Darn! Wouldn’t that be easy?

From a Buddhist approach, what we can try to do is step back and take a broader perspective and bring in a more balanced understanding. Whether it’s a case of respect or disappointment, taking in the full picture of a teaching’s or person’s merits and weaknesses, strengths and mistakes. Not just judging or making an assumption based on age, whether infant or ancient. With this more inclusive view, there might arise a little less dismissive criticism (‘throwing out the baby with the bathwater’), far less idolization and hopefully, maybe, if we’re lucky, a more accurate and equanimous attitude.

 

With a bow, Maitripushpa
(someone who is both older and younger)

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