Why is there such an expression as “The dirty old man”? I am getting on and I suspect people are beginning to think about me in exactly those words.
It is because of a long, long repressive society that the dirty old man exists. It is because of your saints, your priests, your puritans, that the old dirty man exists.
If people are allowed to live their sexual life joyously, by the time they are nearing forty-two—remember, I am saying forty-two, not eighty-four—just when they are nearing forty-two, sex will start losing its grip on them. Just as sex arises and becomes very powerful by the time one is fourteen, in exactly the same way by the time one is forty-two it starts disappearing. It is a natural course. And when sex disappears, the old man has a love, has compassion, of a totally different kind. There is no lust in his love, no desire, he wants to get nothing out of it. His love has a purity, an innocence; his love is a joy.
Sex gives you pleasure. And sex gives you pleasure only when you have gone into sex; then pleasure is the end result. If sex has become irrelevant—not repressed, but because you experienced it so deeply that it is no more of any value…. You have known it, and knowledge always brings freedom. You have known it totally, and because you have known it, the mystery is finished, there is nothing more to explore. In that knowing, the whole energy, the sexual energy, is transmuted into love, compassion. One gives out of joy. Then the old man is the most beautiful man in the world, the cleanest man in the world.
There is no expression in any language as the clean old man. I have never heard it. But this expression, the dirty old man, exists in almost all languages. The reason is that the body becomes old, the body becomes tired, the body wants to get rid of all sexuality, but the mind, because of repressed desires, still hankers. When the body is not capable, and the mind continuously haunts you for something which the body is incapable of doing, really the old man is in a mess. His eyes are sexual, lusty; his body dead and dull. And his mind goes on goading him. He starts having a dirty look, a dirty face; he starts having something ugly in him.
It reminds me of the story of the man who overheard his wife and her sister discussing his frequent out-of-town business trips. The sister kept suggesting that the wife should worry about her husband being unchaperoned at those posh resort convention hotels with so many attractive, unattached career women around.
“Me worry?” said the wife. “Why, he’d never cheat on me. He’s too loyal, too decent… too old.”
The body sooner or later becomes old; it is bound to become old. But if you have not lived your desires they will clamor around you, they are bound to create something ugly in you. Either the old man becomes the most beautiful man in the world, because he attains to an innocence the same as the innocence of a child, or even far deeper than the innocence of a child — he becomes a sage. But if desires are still there, running like an undercurrent, then he is caught in a turmoil.
A very old man was arrested while attempting to sexually molest a young woman. Seeing such an old man, eighty-four, in court, the magistrate reduced the charge from rape to assault with a dead weapon.
If you are becoming old, remember that old age is the climax of life. Remember that old age can be the most beautiful experience, because the child has hopes for the future, he lives in the future, he has great desires to do this, to do that. Every child thinks that he is going to be somebody special — Alexander the Great, Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong — he lives in desires and in the future. The young man is too much possessed by the instincts, all instincts, exploding in him. Sex is there. Modern research says that every man thinks once at least about sex every three seconds. Women are a little better, they think of sex every six seconds. It is a great difference, almost double; that may be the cause of many rifts between husbands and wives.
Once every three seconds sex somehow flashes in the mind. The young man is possessed by such great natural forces that he cannot be free. Ambition is there, and time is running fast, and he has to do something and he has to be something. All those hopes and desires and fantasies of childhood have to be fulfilled; he is in a great rush, in a hurry.
The old man knows that those childish desires were really childish. The old man knows that all those days of youth and turmoil are gone. The old man is in the same state as when the storm has gone and silence prevails. That silence can be of tremendous beauty, depth, richness. If the old man is really mature, which is very rarely the case, then he will be beautiful. But people only grow in age, they don’t grow up. Hence the problem.
Grow up, become more mature, become more alert and aware. And old age is the last opportunity given to you: before death comes, prepare. And how does one prepare for death? By becoming more meditative.
If some lurking desires are still there, and the body is getting old and the body is not capable of fulfilling those desires, don’t be worried. Meditate over those desires, watch, be aware. Just by being aware and watchful and alert, those desires and the energy contained in them can be transmuted. But before death comes, be free of all desires.
When I say be free of all desires I simply mean be free of all objects of desires. Then there is a pure longing. That pure longing is divine, that pure longing is God. Then there is pure creativity with no object, with no address, with no direction, with no destination — just pure energy, a pool of energy, going nowhere. That’s what buddhahood is. Atisha calls it bodhichitta, buddha consciousness.
From The Book of Wisdom, Discourse #26
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