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Speaker: What is it that makes old age unattractive? Why is it that we are not talking of old men in architecture? What is it that we don’t like in old age? Yes, they do have experiences, an old person’s mind is full of experiences.
Listener 1: The problem with him is that he is pre-occupied with the old and does not allow the person to do something new.
Speaker: So, now we are coming down to something very, very important. The experience itself is curse of the old man, he does exactly as you said he does. He thinks he has learned from his experiences, the old man thinks he has learned from his experiences and hence he is quite equipped to face life from his experience. I already know. Because I have experienced it and just as you said that situations in life are similar so my past experience will help me face life in present, the old man thinks exactly the same way as you are thinking right now. I have had experience and life is repetitive, so that past experience will be useful in the present. And that is why you don’t like old men because they are mistaken, they are making a fundamental mistake thinking that experience is learning. They are thinking that what you have gone through at one point in time is re-producible in other point of time and that is why you would never want to claim that I’m quiet old now, because when you are old, you are actually confining yourself to your experience.
Listener 1: Experience is repetition and as we experience things that becomes our limitations.
Listener 2: Experience also creates fear.
Speaker: Wonderful! Yes, more on that. Very interesting.
Listener 3: When we are experienced, we also feel scared because we want something like this should not happen. I fear that it should not happen in the future tense.
Speaker: Afraid of what?
Listener 3: So, we are very cautious about the future.
Speaker: Cautious that…
Listener 3: …that it doesn’t happen all again.
Speaker: And you want it to happen again. Why do you want it to happen again? Yes, I had an experience of something, now will I have a choice of something new to happen or would I rather prefer that same things happens as I already have experience? What would I want?
Listener 3: Same experience happens again.
Speaker: An old man always wishes for repetition, he says future must be just as the past has been. He says I know the past, I have experience of the past, I’m a specialist in the matters of the past. Would he desire a new future that he has new concept of, or would he repeat the past?
Listener 4: I feel that being old from mind is that just we say that I have experience the problems earlier and I know this kind of solutions can work; what happens to the old mind is that it is implementing solutions, solutions to the existing problems. And the human nature is to make things convenient and a young mind doesn’t look for solution of the problem, he just puts an eye on it, a very innovative eye on it and he comes with more innovative solutions than the old.
Speaker: Tell me, before we talk of solutions, he must first understand the situation. What you are calling as a problem is in fact a situation which you have labelled as a problem. Would an old man really look at the present situation or would he say that it is already similar to what I’ve already experienced? Would the old man really look at anything as new or would he look at it in terms of his past?
Listener 4: The old man will look at the problem and decide.
Speaker: We are talking of old of the mind.
Listener 4: The old of the mind has an experience. So, he knows the things in the past.
Speaker: What do you mean by knowing the things in the past?
Listener 4: How do you consider somebody as being old of the mind?
Speaker: Somebody who has passed through experiences. And to pass through experiences you need not have good mental ability, all you need is time. We are not talking of age. Just ignore that. Look at this, as you are sitting over here, look at your mind, if it is full of experiences of the past, if it has been through such sessions earlier and if it believes that it has had quite a few learnings from there and if it believes that situations in life are similar, then your mind really be able to listen to what she said as she said or would the mind listen to it in terms of what you have already experienced.
Listener 5: Actually Sir, we are architects here, we have a basic instinct that we learn from the experience of elders.We have learned architecture from various architects, what we are saying here is a spiritual thing. I don’t know what this seminar tends to end at.
Speaker: It’s a beautiful thing. See, lets take this as a demonstration. How did our friend come on the word ‘spiritual’? Did any of you so far used the word ‘spiritual’? You have said a few things, many of you, have any of you so far used the word spiritual? Any of you? Have I used the word ‘spiritual’? Then, how is our friend using the word spiritual for this interaction? This is a good demonstration of how the old mind works. How is this word being applied to this ‘interaction’? This itself will explain so many things to us. Because we have passed through certain experiences obviously in the past and right now we are not fully present here, we’re bringing these experiences which are being called as spiritual or whatever, and we are bringing them in right now. It’s an encroachment, unnecessary intervention and applying that old label to the fresh present. Are you seeing this? This is straight forward. How do you name something as something? Why are you calling something as something? Because that name is coming from the past and when something is coming from the past then you cannot understand what is happening right now. All you will do is apply a convenient label from the past and convince yourself that you have understood the present. All you have done is that you have extrapolated the past and made it encroach upon the present. And the present is never past. But the old man’s mind is full of the past and our topic is not old men in architecture, that is why no songs were ever sung in the glory of experience, so that is why what so ever glorious-ness has ever happened in the history of mankind has always been done and achieved by those who are young of the mind, not those who are old of the mind.
Listener 5: Sir, mostly all of us as architects study legends in architecture so that we can take a glimpse of their work and device new techniques.
Speaker: Name a famous legend.
Listener 5: Le Corbusier
Speaker: Was Corbusier picking up experiences of another legends? Is this why he is a legend? Because he had experiences and it was coming from what others have done, or are you special when you are the first one?
Listener 5: Sir, I’m not talking about picking up experiences but to do something that caters to the social needs is our prime duty.
Speaker: Whatever you are catering to you are doing something, even currently as you said you are catering to a need or you would be catering to a need, am I not catering to a need, and how would you feel if I repeat the things that I keep speaking to other people, nothing that you have said so far is coming from experience, the fact of the matter is that whatever 10 of you have said so far I have already had an experience of so far, I speak 4 – 5 days in a week and listen to 20 questions everyday, so the experience is already there but how would it be if I start repeating the answers to the same question 5 days back. So, you might be fulfilling a social need that you are designing a hospital and there are lakhs of hospitals but the type hospital that you are designing is the first hospital that you are designing in this moment, so the questions that I have heard are surely many, many, many, but for me this is the first question that I’m hearing in this moment. Experience will not help, in fact if I’ll bring in an experience, my experience will become stale, it will be of no use to you. And so, most works done by most professionals are of very little value. It is repetitive, it is stale, but it is convenient, see it is very easy to pick up things that a legend has done and make some cosmetic modifications to it and then pass it on.
Listener 5: Sir, we do case studies in our course, but then, that becomes point less at the end of the day as you say we are catering should become new to us right now.
Speaker: It will not be meaningful till the time I’m saying it. Do you feel this clarity that whatever you are doing is the first thing that you are doing right now and is happening for the first time and will never happen again? Will this moment be coming back in your life? Will you again be standing in front of me asking the same question and looking puzzled exactly the same way?
Listener 5: Not at all.
Speaker: Not at all! Let this ‘not at all’ sink deeply. Let it sink very, very deeply, only then we can realize what is the correct place of experience. The entire mistake of the old man is that he does not understand the correct place of accumulated experience. He starts giving it the exaggerated space that experience doesn’t deserve. experience has some utility but not the utility that the old mind assigns to it. The old mind, lets not remain in the illusion that our syllabi, that our curricula are all coming from young and fresh minds.Yes, you might be reading about the same things that a student 50 years ago was reading but that doesn’t justify what you are reading, young men are rare, old men are in large amount especially in universities, colleges all you have is old men, old from here. So, it is no wonder, a misplaced emphasis is put upon the time that you have spent in life, the experience that you have had with the result, with the unfortunate consequence, that many young people; young of age become absolutely limited from the mind, they start saying some legend has done this, some legend has said that, so it must be something absolutely great. And that’s exactly what the whole mind wants, the old mind has spent a lot of time, all it has memories and it wants a lot of returns on his memories. It says it has lots of memories and give me respect for that. Age only gives you memories, learning is something entirely different.
Alright, let me ask you something demonstrable right now. We have been talking since an hour, right now, as you speak to me I’m learning right now, as I speak to you, you are learning what you are saying. Does it have something to do with what you have experienced in the last 20 years? The learning that is happening, you said experience is learning, learning is happening right now. And is this learning depending upon 20 years of your physical existence. Is this learning depend upon that, tell me? Are you sitting over here recalling what you were doing 2 years back, 4 years back or 10 years back and if you are still in your experiences can you learn what I’m saying? Who will learn, who will really learn? In this hall only that person will only learn who is free of experiences. That is why the old man cannot learn. That is why, you hear so many old men saying, I already know, don’t teach me. You have seen old men, you the starter, a young man, what will you teach me. The old man can never learn.
So, kindly be very careful when you again use the phrase, ‘Learning from experience’, learning never happens from experience, learning happens always in the now. Learning is the process of presence, in here. That is what is learning. Past and experience will not give you learning, it will give you knowledge. And knowledge is entirely different thing, knowledge is not learning. And if you are talking of a young man, then you must talk of real learning, not accumulated knowledge. Incidentally, that brings us to quite amusing, the child is dependent upon others, the old man is dependent upon himself, himself in the sense of his past, memories, experiences; both are highly dependent beings.
Excerpted from a ‘Shabd-Yog’ session. Edited for clarity.
Watch the session video: Youth and Creativity-2 || Acharya Prashant (2013)
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