Mindset Determines How We Age
by Thrangu Rinpoche
Keep a cheerful, calm state of mind. Try not to overthink
when we are unhappy. This is beneficial to both our body and mind,
and helps to slow down the ageing process.
Elderly Tibetans often circle stupas and make prostrations. This is a kind of dharma practice, and also a type of physical exercise. Due to cultural differences, elderly populations elsewhere have different habits and customs. However, I think the main difference lies in whether or not they have encountered the dharma.
WAVE GOODBYE TO NEGATIVE THINKING
Generally, in their spare time, Buddhists listen to the teachings or stay at home to practice or recite prayers, so they don’t easily become upset. Elderly non-Buddhists mostly reside in places without the dharma or do not have the chance to learn about the dharma. Even though they might lead comfortable lives, they tend to have more negative thinking. Once they retire and have nothing to do, they tend to feel more bored and lonely.
The most important thing for older people is to not be pessimistic. We should not constantly think, “Oh, I am too old. I am really struggling a lot” and focus solely on negative things.
We should often be cautious not to give rise to thoughts of jealousy, pride, and anger. When they do arise, we have to realise that these negative thoughts are of no use to us.
Older people in different situations experience distinct afflictions and suffering. For example, some have more anger and are short-tempered, others suffer more from physical pain. Fortunately, there are ways to face all these afflictions and suffering.
AFFLICTIONS ALSO DEPEND ON CONDITIONS
According to the Treasury of Abhidharma, there are three causes for the afflictions to arise: not abandoning the kernels of the afflictions, the object being present, and inappropriate attention. An older person with more anger in them, for example, has not abandoned the kernel of anger. When they see an object that angers them, they develop inappropriate attention. This means that they persistently think about the person who angered them and the terrible things that person has done. They feel this way even if the person never directly harmed them, due to the influence of inappropriate attention.
Afflictions arise when the causes and conditions, namely the kernels, object, and inappropriate attention are present. We can handle the situation by thinking logically, and approaching it from an objective and positive perspective. The person who angered us might have had no alternative, which is something with which we can empathise. We ourselves probably also behaved wrongly at that time. Using a logical approach, based on reasoning, helps to diminish our anger, and makes it easier for us to cultivate loving-kindness and compassion. This practice is suitable for older people with more anger in them.
CULTIVATE DEVOTION TOWARDS THE DHARMA
Some of us experience mental suffering, but constantly feeling sorry for ourselves is not constructive. We should consider the fact that there are many people in this world suffering just like we are. We are not the only ones experiencing pain.
We should try to think about what we can do to alleviate the pain of others. We can recite prayers and make dedications for them.
Thinking and practising like this also reduces our own worries and suffering.
In general, we should try to cultivate devotion towards the dharma. We can do things like reciting prayers, circling stupas, and meditating to help us develop devotion.
In a way, we can say that people living in Asia are very fortunate. Although it is rare to find stupas in most places, they can visit monasteries, meditate there, and make offerings and aspirations, which are all excellent practices.
In addition, some older people may suffer from serious illnesses and experience various physical discomforts. They should make use of the opportunity to pray to the Medicine Buddha, practice his sadhana, and recite his mantra.
FEELING JOY TOWARDS AGEING
As an older person, I make a habit of reminding myself that being able to age like this is such a wonderful and fortunate thing. It is proof of my longevity. We should make use of our precious time to practice the dharma.
We need to be optimistic and joyful and remind ourselves that not everyone is able to live as long as we have. This is not easy to achieve, so we must treasure our ageing process and give rise to inner joy.
Keep a cheerful, calm state of mind. Try not to overthink when we are unhappy. This is beneficial to both our body and mind and helps to slow down the ageing process. A body and mind that is calm and cheerful is extremely beneficial to us.