Youth and wisdom

Chogyam Trungpa wrote:

We have the idea that an enlightened person is supposed to be more or less an old-wise-man type: not quite like an old professor, but perhaps an old father who can supply sound advice on how to handle all of life’s problems or an old grandmother who knows all the recipes and all the cures. That seems to be the current fantasy that exists in our culture concerning enlightened beings. They are old and wise, grown-up and solid. Tantra has a different notion of enlightenment, which is connected with youth and innocence. We can see this pattern in Padmasambhava’s life, the life of the great teacher who brought the tantric teachings of Buddhism to Tibet. Here the awakened state of mind is portrayed not as old and adult but as young and free. Youth and freedom in this case are connected with the birth of the awakened state of mind. The awakened state of mind has the quality of morning, of dawn — fresh and sparkling, completely awake.

From “Primordial Innocence,” in CRAZY WISDOM, pages 26 to 27.

Not only does tantra have this notion, so did Jiddu Krishnamurti:

To live fully and completely, there must be freedom, not an acceptance of authority; and there can be freedom only when there is virtue. Virtue is not imitation; virtue is creative living. That is, creativeness comes through the freedom which virtue brings; and virtue is not to be cultivated, it does not come through practice or at the end of your life. Either you are virtuous and free now, or you are not.

In Tibetan Buddhism in general, Chogyam Trungpa’s path, some young people are sought out and trained to be spiritual teachers. The Dalai Lama was raised that way, and that’s given the world a remarkable public figure. That’s what happened to Jiddu Krishnamurti as well.

Obviously not all young people are wise, or on the path to wisdom – but I do wonder: why does the Theosophical Society (which I love BTW) put an age minimum on membership of it’s Esoteric Section (E.S.)?

Disclosure: I was myself too young when I applied and therefor not  allowed into the E.S.

I’ve spoken to many people about this – and most seem to agree: it’s because wisdom comes with age. I agree. People in their teens, even their late teens, are awful. I was very ignorant and foolish at 19. I made some of my worst mistakes back then. But I have to wonder: would I have made those same mistakes if some wise people had taken me on? I will never know, because they didn’t. Instead, a few years later, I got taken on by a scholarly theosophist, Henk Spierenburg, who gave me the Blavatsky Collected Writings among other things, but no practical life advice. Maybe I wasn’t meant to get that. Anyhow, I’m getting off track here.

The main issue with people getting spiritual teachings ought to be their motivation. Young people are often at their most idealistic in their teenage years. Moral issues are seen in black and white at that age. I’ve known quite a few people who were vegetarians in high school but turned back to eating meat in college. In college social realities catch up with them and the issue of animal welfare is suddenly no longer that big a deal. Does that mean they should not be allowed to be vegetarians in high school? Of course not. It just means that life isn’t through testing them yet. But is life ever through testing any of us?

First published and discussed here.