Youth: The State of Transition
YOU ARE STRONG, YOU ARE YOUNG.
IT IS TIME TO ARISE.
LEST THROUGH IRRESOLUTION AND IDLENESS
YOU LOSE THE WAY.
In ancient India, when Buddha was delivering these sutras to his disciples, this was the accepted tradition, that a man should become a seeker only in the last stage of his life. If you assume life to be a hundred-year span, then the Hindu idea is to divide life in four parts of twenty-five years each. The first twenty-five years are for education, BRAHMACHARYA. You go to the university, you live with a master to learn the skills of the world, the arts, the craft, the science. And after twenty-five years you come back into the world, you get married. And for twenty-five years now — the second stage — you live as a householder, as a husband, as a father, fulfilling the duties of life.
And then comes the third stage, twenty-five years again: you prepare to renounce the world. The third stage is called VANPRASTHA. First is brahmacharya — celibacy — so that you can devote your whole mind to your studies, no distractions. Your whole sexual energies have to be concentrated in studies. Then the second stage is called GARHASTHYA — the stage of the householder. You devote your whole energies to the family life: make a house, create a big business, earn money, raise children. And then the third is called vanprastha. Vanprastha means “facing towards the forest.” Now prepare yourself to leave the world — prepare for twenty-five years! Live still in the house, but turn towards the forest. Slowly slowly, disconnect yourself. Go on giving your responsibilities to your children, who will now be coming back from the university. And the fourth stage — after seventy-five years — the last twenty-five years, you become a sannyasin. This was the routine, accepted, conventional thing in India.
In the first place, people don’t live a hundred years, and particularly in those days not at all. All the scientific research that has been gone into proves that people in Buddha’s time lived at the most an average of forty years; forty years was the average life. And it does not seem too bad because even now in India, thirty-six years is the average life. With all the new medicine, medical help, hospitals, if India has only thirty-six years as average age, then in those days, with no science, with no medical facilities, if people lived forty years average they were doing perfectly well! So people were not living for a hundred years. By the time one was seventy-five, one was gone. So for the majority of the people, the time for sannyas will never come. It seems it was just an effort to postpone it. And even if somebody lived after seventy-five — a few people lived, Buddha himself lived for eighty years — if a few people lived after seventy-five, their life will be almost without energy. They will be dead, walking corpses. They won’t have energy enough to meditate, to rise to the highest peaks of consciousness. They will not be able to transform their beings into buddhahood; that will be impossible for them.
Buddha brought a great revolution and India has never forgiven him for that. He destroyed the whole nonsense idea of stages. It is nonsense, because there are a few intelligent people who can be sannyasins even while they are young, and there are a few superintelligent people who can be sannyasins even while they are small children. Shankaracharya became a sannyasin when he was only nine years of age. Buddha became a sannyasin when he was twenty-nine years old. So it is foolish to postpone it. And why go on postponing truth to the very end when you will be almost a corpse, no energy left? And then you will try to soar high into the sky? When the days have come to go into the grave, you will try to take flight towards the sun? It is impossible.
Buddha was the first in India to introduce the idea of a young sannyasin. His emphasis was that youth is the best time to be a sannyasin because it is great energy that will be needed for the inner transformation, for inner work.
It can’t be postponed. And who knows about the future? Who knows about even tomorrow or even about the next moment? He says: YOU ARE YOUNG, YOU ARE STRONG — then this is the time. IT IS TIME TO ARISE. Don’t postpone. There is no need to postpone. Don’t say that “I will wake up only after seventy-five years of age.” A person who has been dreaming for seventy-five years will find it very difficult to wake up after seventy-five years of dreaming. Dreaming would have become almost a second nature to him.
As you grow old you become more and more stubborn, less and less flexible. As you grow old you become more and more mechanical, less and less alive. Your ways of life become so settled, your ways of thinking become so fixated, that it becomes impossible to change them. That’s why it is so difficult for an old man to learn any new thing.
They say: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Children learn very easily; old men find it very difficult to learn because they already think they know. Their whole life’s experience is there, and their life’s experience starts dominating them; it goes on dominating them to the very end…The whole life, if you are miserly… even in death you will be the same. As you grow old you become more and more settled.
Youth is the best time for inner transformation because youth is the most flexible time. Children are more flexible than young people, but they are not so understanding. They need a little experience. Youth is exactly the middle; you are no longer a child, no longer ignorant of life and its ways and not yet settled as an old man. You are in a state of transition, and the state of transition is the best time that you can jump out of the wheel of life and death. Youth is the most significant time to take any jump, because the jump needs courage, it needs energy, it needs risk, it needs daring.
Buddha says: YOU ARE STRONG, YOU ARE YOUNG. IT IS TIME TO ARISE.
To be youthful, to be young, to be fresh, is a great benediction. It is the time of rebellion. And if you miss your youth, it will be more and more difficult later on.
Not that it is impossible — it can happen even when you are old — but it will take more arduous effort and things will not be so easy. It is just like climbing a mountain: when you are young it is easier, when you become old it becomes difficult. Breathing is hard, rising up is tiring, you perspire, you feel exhausted very soon, you will need more rest and the journey will look very long. When you are young you can run up; you can run up to the peak and each step will release more energy in you, because to be young is to be a reservoir of energy.
Many people come to me and ask why I am giving sannyas to young people. … Because of this:
youth is the time for sannyas, because sannyas is the greatest rebellion; no other rebellion is so great.
Don’t waste your youthfulness on other ordinary revolutions — political, social, economic. Don’t waste your life energy on those stupid games. Put your total energy, focus your total energy, on a single point — the spiritual revolution — because that is a radical change, and other changes can follow that change. If your inner being changes, your whole outer life will be totally different. It will have a different fragrance, a different beauty, a different grace. And when your inner being is changed and becomes a flame of light, you will become a light unto others too. You will become a beckoning light, a great herald of a new dawn. Your very presence will trigger revolutions in other people’s lives.
Buddha says: SO ARISE! Don’t waste a single moment! — LEST THROUGH IRRESOLUTION AND IDLENESS YOU LOSE THE WAY.
The only danger is irresolution. A life uncommitted, uninvolved, is not worth calling life. It is only through commitment, involvement, that your life attains sharpness, your intelligence becomes a sword. Through idleness you gather rust; your sharpness disappears. You become old even while you are young. And if you remain sharp and you remain rebellious, even when you are old you will not be old. Only physically you will be old, but your inner being will remain young. And that is one of the greatest experiences of life: when your body becomes old, but your inner being keeps its youthfulness. That means you have not lost track of life, that you are keeping yourself in step with life. You are not left behind, you are not lagging behind.”
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse series: The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol 8
Chapter title: Discontent is Divine
21 December 1979 am in Buddha Hall
Osho has spoken on ‘Youth, Sannyas, Transformation’ in many of His discourses. More on the subject can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- The Guest
- Vedanta: Seven Steps to Samadhi
- Socrates Poisoned Again After 25 Centuries
- Beyond Psychology
- The Book of Wisdom
- From Bondage to Freedom
- The Golden Future
- The Great Pilgrimage: From Here to Here
- The Messiah, Vol 1, 2
- Zen: The Path of Paradox, Vol 3
- The Mustard Seed: My Most Loved Gospel on Jesus
- The Rebel
- Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega, Vol 1, 2, 4, 7