Monday, February 25, 2008

Gray Hairs & the Dhamma

Posted by Gary
at Forest Wisdom

The other day, my wife let out a wail whilst peering in the mirror. She was upset at the sight of gray hairs mixed in with the usual black color of her locks. Paew (that’s her name) was genuinely shocked and disturbed by the gray hairs reflected in the mirror. Today, I went to the hairdressers and had a trim. As I looked down at the hair falling from my head, the majority of it seemed to be gray, rather than brown. This has been part of a process that’s been going on for a number of years now, as each time I have my hair cut, it appears a higher percentage of the hairs removed are gray not brown.

Reflecting on the aging process over a period of time helps one to accept the fact that one isn’t getting any younger. It’s a natural aspect of life that all phenomena deteriorate with time: even million year old wine won’t be a vintage! And it’s not just living beings that wither with time: looking at the ruins of Angkor Wat, the Coliseum, or the Sphinx, it can be seen how they all are subject to the same forces that whiten our hair over the years. Everything is impermanent (anicca).

Getting shocked, depressed, or resentful over this process of aging is ultimately pointless, if not understandable. None of us want to get old, to have gray hair or lose it altogether. No one desires wrinkled skin, aching bones, and the loss of memories. But, if we live long enough, we’ll see most or all of these conditions arise, and many more that I haven’t mentioned here.

So, what to do? Use the graying head, the wrinkling skin, the forgetful mind as objects for reflection, so that insight into the way the world is may grow in us. This is the way of Dhamma. To notice the facts of existence in both one’s self and the world at large, and to accept them, rather than judge them as being good or bad is the path of wisdom. Sure enough, getting old isn’t something that humans usually enjoy or think is great, but every gray or white hair that appears is a sign to wake up to the way of things and accept it. In that acceptance lies the path to the deathless state that never ages.


Anonymous said...

it's either get old or die young. and you'd always get to chose

G said...

People do die unexpectedly, though, "anonymous". I don't know that anyone chooses to die in an airplane crash, or get run over by a speeding car, or swept away in a tsunami.

This is why it's good to contemplate death & reflect on our mortality before we face it. Then we will be ready for it, whether we expect it or not.

G at 'Forest Wisdom'.