By Bhante Debongshi
The end of the year reminds us to prepare for the new year on the last day of December. This is known as old year’s day or new year’s eve. There is actually no such thing as a day, month or year. It is only for conventional reasons that we use time units which were created by humanity. This fabrication of time is consistent, and according to its construct, every day has the same time period – that is, twenty-four hours. Therefore, day and night, as well the pursuant light and darkness, alternate on a regular basis; in keeping with this system, people record their ages according to the number of years that they have been alive. However, aging is not caused by time; instead, it is the natural process of growing older regardless of the measurement of time.
According to the Buddha, age is not determined by the number of years that one has lived; in fact, this hypothesis is based on ignorance. An enlightened disciple, the Venerable Kaccayana, stated that even if one were a hundred years old but lacked wisdom and participated in sensual thoughts or acts, that person would be seen as a fool and not an elder.
On the other hand, if one is only seven or ten years old and yet is endowed with pure wisdom, and therefore does not partake in sensual entertainments, then that person is known as a wise elder. It is within this context of understanding that wisdom comes with integrity and is not merely a product of age.
Last Saturday Peter invited me to the commemoration day of his father’s death. After having finished the ritual chants, the devotees talked about the end of the year. They asked to give them some advice on the aging process.
The honourable advice given was as follows: Conventional wisdom is only partially true. As was mentioned above, the measurement of time in months and years does not actually exist. It is only for conventional reasons that we use a system of time that has been created by humanity. However, one does not age through time but through the natural process of life and the choices we make.
Therefore reflect on this: If you calculate your age in terms of the number of years that you have been alive, one can say that you are getting older and closer to death – that is, your illusory self is reaching the end of its life. In one way, this is a benefit to mortality, since through this process, death is replaced by a new life supported by karmic energy. Therefore, one should live joyfully, gratefully and gracefully grow old and die so as to have a new life. On the other hand, if you calculate the years of your life in reverse – that is, from 100 to 1, you will see that you are getting younger every day. That concept will create more joy in your life.
However, the reality is this: In whichever way you may look at the aging process, you must have joy in your life. Because either way you will continue to live, and there will be an opportunity to accrue merits through becoming enlightened while you are still alive. That is why it is important to live consciously to increase mental alertness so that you embrace your life with joy as a new dawn of living every day. If you celebrate every day in your heart as if it were the best day of the year and live everyday as if it were the last, you will not waste even a single moment of life. As a result, you will find the sacred meaning of life. This is all you need to do. The ones who heard this advice said, “Excellent! Venerable sir, We thank you! We wish that everyone could hear this message.”