The second half of life is the time to think about what really matters. Our objective should be spiritual development. This is the true key to happiness.
In India, the old tradition required that, at sixty, the man should abandon his job and retire to take care of his spiritual development. Not that he would start at sixty, but that he would dedicate himself full-time to the task, probably retiring to an ashram. This old custom is more and more overlooked, as the Indians are suffering the influence of our Western ways of life with its exacerbated materialism.
I would say that most of our elders do not embark in the spiritual search; our civilization so materialist that the internal life has been devalued. By many, totally forgotten.
We can divide the elders in two classes: the boring and the wise. The tragedy is that we have a large population of boring elders in our Western countries. They meet you to complain about life. This may explain why sons and daughters refrain from too many contacts with their old parents, even if this attitude is somewhat unconscious.
The second class of elders is what I call the Wise Old Men or Wise Old Women. They have learned their life lessons and they live a happy life. I is a pleasure to talk to them, to learn life lessons. Even if they don’t live a religious life, a life attached to a church, they do live a spiritual life. They are philosophers of life. Unfortunately, they are rare.
It is an immense pleasure to hear from these people. Since our chances of talking personally to them are few, because they are rare birds, I hunt for them in books.
My list of Wise Olds starts obviously with Jesus, the major one, but also largely misunderstood. Some of his sayings are very profound, and we need a high spiritual level to appreciate then. The Gospel of Thomas is one example.
My list also includes Jung, Buddha, and Paramahansa Yogananda. By the way, Yoganada has a correspondence course that I highly recommend.
I would like also to mention a few other Wise Olds that I admire and make a point of reading most of their books. Of the Jungian group, I single out Edward Edinger, a fantastic simplifier of Jung’s ideas. Joseph Campbell, the great mythologist, James Hollis, that I mentioned in a previous post, Robert Johnson, Arnold Mindell, that developed his own school, and Lionel Corbett, that has not written many books but has one masterpiece – Psyche and the Sacred. This book deals with spirituality and Jungian psychology.
Among the Christian writers, I single out John Main, Bede Griffiths, Thomas Merton and Richard Rohr, a very modern Franciscan friar still alive. I suggest that you go into Amazon and search for their books.
On the Buddhist side, I call attention to the books of Chogyam Trungpa, Thich Nhat Hanh and Sogyal Rinpoche, although I know this list is very incomplete. There are many great teachers among the Buddhists.
Among the Sufis, I suggest the books by Hazrat Inayat Khan and his son Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan.
Every time I encounter a Wise One, I try to read all his books. Sorry, I’m sure I forgot to mention a few Wise Olds. Hinduism has many illuminated gurus, but not all of them have edited books.
Many people don’t believe when they hear someone saying that the old life can be the happiest period of life. For the Wise Olds, this is true. They attained happiness by developing a spiritual life or, as Jung used to say, a symbolic life.
I want to stress that you don’t need to join an established religion or church to cultivate a spiritual life. Sometimes a church can even hinder your development. By the way, the subtitle of Corbett’s book mentioned above is Spirituality beyond Religion.
I wish you a happy life, but there is hard work ahead of you if you want to merit it..
Roberto Lima Netto believes that our objective in life is to be happy and that Spirituality and Jungian psychology, his main areas of interest, can help us in this search for happiness. He is the author of several books, including “The Little Prince for Grown-ups” and “The Jungian Bible” that can be found in Amazon. His blog is www.HappinessAcademyOnline.org.
You’re welcome to reprint this post on your website and in your enewsletters free of charge, provided that you don’t change the article in any way and you include the link: www.HappinessAcademyOnline.org.