The Intoxication with Youth Entirely Dropping Away

baby buddha, agingI’ve been thinking about aging a lot recently. I don’t mean growing elderly (though of course that is a period of aging unlike any other). From the perspective of Buddhist teachings, aging is any period of life change, any period where you are whispered and beckoned by the ghosts of absence, where the past feels more cluttered, and maybe richer than present or future prospects. In the words of the Buddha (below), I am experiencing “the intoxication with youth entirely dropping away.” What comes to replace this intoxication? Perhaps just a harmful nostalgia. Or maybe the exquisite palette of the present moment’s “nobody home” quality. of emptiness. Or maybe I just end up hanging out with ghosts a while longer, wishing I was as young and free as the guy to my left.

Jon Rubinstein sent me this great article from Huffington Post “Is Death the End” about what else, the subjective (and illusory?) nature of time. Check it out.

And here’s a great quote from the original gangster about aging.

“Even though I was endowed with such fortune, such total refinement, the thought occurred to me: ‘When an untaught, run-of-the-mill person, himself subject to aging, not beyond aging, sees another who is aged, he is horrified, humiliated, & disgusted, oblivious to himself that he too is subject to aging, not beyond aging. If I — who am subject to aging, not beyond aging — were to be horrified, humiliated, & disgusted on seeing another person who is aged, that would not be fitting for me.’ As I noticed this, the [typical] young person’s intoxication with youth entirely dropped away.”

Shakyamuni Buddha
-Sukhamala Sutta

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