The wisdom bridge
DAAJI shares his views and personal experience with ELIZABETH DENLEY, about the transfer of wisdom between generations, between friends, and between organizations, using the concept he has coined called the Wisdom Bridge.
Q: Hello Daaji. Can you please tell us about the Wisdom Bridge?
DAAJI: It’s an interesting concept to ponder – building the wisdom bridge. Will one bridge be enough? Knowing how many hills we carry within ourselves and how many rivers flow through us, we need many bridges to connect all these various aspects. Not only within, but when a friend has an idea, and I have to understand that idea, I have to extend my awareness, respectfully honor it and build some sort of a connection with that person’s idea. I need to build a connection with the other person and their ideas. That is a bridge.
Between hills, bridges help connect people and make life less strenuous. Across rivers, also, we see bridges. It’s easier to cross; it’s easier to connect. How do we build bridges that connect individuals, with a purpose? We need to build bridges with a variety of individuals – those we love, those we don’t like so much, and people who make no difference in our life but with whom we need to interact. The most important is to build a bridge with those who will not be with us for much longer: I mean to say our grandparents.
Many of us who were born in the 50s and 60s were not so fortunate as to have grandparents around for many years, because their life span was shorter, whereas today, millennials especially are familiar with their grandparents. Recently I happened to meet one girl who has grown up in front of me. She is now 26 or 27. Casually I asked her, “How is your family?” and the talk went in the direction of “Who do you like the most in your family?”
She said, “My grandmother.”
I asked, “Why so?”
“Because of the way she was. She taught me so many things, and she shared many stories. Things like that.”
And that reminded me of my grandmother. We did not interact much and we did not speak much. She was a silent person, but I would watch her lifestyle. She would wake up in the morning, respectfully go to one of the deities’ photographs, put one or two flowers, stand in front and remain absorbed for some time. You could see how she melted away. She would get absorbed just standing there and then quietly walk away with a lot of reverence and respect.
She didn’t have to speak about it, because knowledge can be transferred but not wisdom. Wisdom can be witnessed in excellence, in behavior, in work, in thoughts, in attitude. When we witness modern parents – busy the way they are today – do we witness their wisdom or their foolishness? Now, compare them with an individual who is sitting quietly, reading the newspaper or reading a book, listening to music or doing some gardening – I’m specifically hinting at grandparents. When we spend even five minutes with them, they share a treasure with us, and this treasure lasts forever.
Anyway, I asked the girl, “When are you getting married?” She said, “Oh, I have a lot of time. I’m only 26 uncle.”
I said, “All right, so when do you think you’ll get married? Let’s put it that way.”
She said, “Maybe 32 or 33.”
So I asked her, “When you have children, do you want them to have the opportunity of knowing your own mother as a grandmother?”
She started calculating her mother’s age, the age she would have children, and so on.
She said, “It looks unlikely that my mother will see her grandchildren if I do things my way.”
“Then why are you robbing your mother of her grandmotherhood, and robbing your children of a grandmother’s wisdom?”
So she started thinking.
Similar scenarios are arising in many parts of the world – in the Amazonian jungle for example, where elderly people would love to share the knowledge they have gathered for thousands of years. They are the walking encyclopedias of knowledge of the surroundings – what herbs work, what fruits, what animals, how they interact – all these details will be lost when one elderly man from the village goes, with the migration of young people from the villages to the cities. The wisdom transfer is not happening between generations.
Modern-day times rob us of this opportunity of learning something profound from our very near and dear ones. Of course, parents have their duties and they’re doing their best. Grandparents, when available, will be the most wonderful gifts that can happen to any grandchild. Grandparents transfer so much knowledge, which they themselves were not able to transfer to their own children. But now, during the sunset of their lives, they are very happy to transfer such wisdom. So this wisdom bridge is the bridge that we’re trying to build between generations.
I was shocked to hear recently of a girl agreeing to marry only on the condition that her parents-in-laws would not stay with them. She is not understanding the vital role of the wisdom bridge for her children, and even herself, and only thinking of comfort and convenience.
Now, individually we can build bridges between ourselves, sharing knowledge, but how do we build bridges between, say, two universities? At the moment only sports games are being played, but are there other ways of bridging so that this wisdom transfer can happen between universities? Not just knowledge transfer, which we can get anytime from Google, but wisdom transfer. No Google, no search engine, can grant that wisdom. One has to live with such a wise person to imbibe those vibrations of wisdom, so that life is richer and worth living.
The wisdom bridge is to connect oneself. You know I can go from my side to the other side of the hill; from my hill to the other hill; from one side of the bank to the other side of the bank. As well, other people should also be able to come to my hill, to my side of the bank. There’s a mutual connection, mutual bridge, mutual sharing, and only then this bridge will be functional. If it is only one way it will be a tragedy. It will not be called a wisdom bridge, but a foolish bridge.
Grandparents, when available, will be the most wonderful gifts
that can happen to any grandchild. Grandparents transfer so much knowledge,
which they themselves were not able to transfer to their own children.
But now, during the sunset of their lives,
they are very happy to transfer such wisdom.
Q: You know this statement, “It takes a whole village to raise a child,” but today parents are busy, and sometimes grandparents aren’t around. How do we create this in our current social fabric? It is no longer the traditional way. Do teachers and mentors take on this role? How do we re-establish the wisdom bridge in a dysfunctional society?
DAAJI: It’s very difficult now. Yes, it takes a village to raise a child. And now when migration is happening – from village to city – you’re entering into a totally different environment where people are unknown to each other. Even in a highrise building with 200 apartments, do you know your neighbor? When such is the situation, how are we going to come together and share knowledge? Moreover when there is no trust left, when you don’t even trust your uncles and aunts, when pedophiles are everywhere, it’s so difficult to trust someone with your child. What happens as a result? Where is the transfer of knowledge and wisdom among families?
So I really don’t have an easy solution to offer, but let’s make use of technology and share something worthwhile instead of surfing and wasting time in unproductive things. I don’t say that all are wasting time in unproductive things, but we can make it even better. Life can be enriched using technology. I think technology is the only way many families can come together and make a virtual village, and share knowledge, share wisdom, share activities that can be taken up at an individual level. I think that’s the only way we can proceed forward. Of course it will not be as good as the whole community of a village coming together.
Q: On a personal note, you’re a father, and you’re a grandfather. From your own experience, how has being a parent and then a grandparent changed you?
DAAJI: Well, I’m the father of two sons and the grandfather of one granddaughter. It’s a big difference raising sons and raising a grandchild, especially when she happens to be a girl. Maybe it is different for a mother or a grandmother, but I find a great difference raising children and grandchildren. And another great difference I find is in raising a girl child. So much of tenderness is involved in raising a girl, because some sort of vibratory level comes into play. There is much more that can logically be explained. I have started thinking, “What will happen to this little girl?” who has not crossed even two years. “Where will she marry? Whom will she marry? How will she be treated?” Things like that. “And how should she be prepared from now on to love the world the way it is?”
When I was raising boys I didn’t worry much about them. Though now, in retrospect, I think that one also has to shower a lot of tenderness while raising them. We cannot take things for granted with boys either, as they are also vulnerable. I see already that a girl who is less than two years old bounces back faster than boys when she is sad. When boys are too ecstatic, also, it is difficult to bring them back to a normal state. It becomes quite challenging, whereas a girl child understands a lot better, so less energy is invested in correcting her course. This is what I have found.
I have observed another interesting thing, while holding her on my lap so that she can watch rhymes being played on my computer. She scans through a dozen of them and already, at this very early age, she chooses which rhyme to listen to and watch. She doesn’t speak yet, but she expresses herself. She’ll gesture “Not this.” Earlier, she used to just look up, trying to say, “Let’s move to the next,” but now she demands. She gestures, asking me to fast forward to the next one. If this tendency continues, I think it will not be very good for her. We are feeding a fast culture: if you don’t like this, you can fast-forward. You can fast-forward a video, but you cannot fast-forward your life. So this is a valuable lesson that I have learned by observing my grandchild.
When we are raising children,
we often don’t expose them to the realities of life,
trying to avoid even the slightest inconvenience.
Of course, as parents we love the fact that
our children don’t go through any inconvenience.
There is no need to create inconveniences knowingly,
but when they happen, it is good to let children face them.
At a whim, at a snap, we are ready to satisfy every little gesture and thing they demand. One toy is not enough. The whole room is full of them. There are clothes galore. “You don’t like this fruit?” You offer another fruit. Many choices are offered at a very early age instead of helping a child to make do with things, and training a child to be happy with what little is there. I think that will prepare them mentally and emotionally to face life in a real sense.
Even though you may have plenty of things in life, and you may not have to worry about curtailment or restricted offerings, what happens to the mind of a child? Expectation increases manifoldly. Later on, one car won’t be enough. One house won’t be enough. One boat won’t be enough. Psychologically, it is translated into demanding things at all levels. We rob children of getting used to certain impulses, certain stimuli.
Recently, while cutting the ribbon at a grand opening of one meditation hall, I found that the scissors were not working. They were quite blunt and I had to really pull the ribbon to cut it. So I learnt that just as overused scissors become blunt, our overused faculty of happiness and joy makes that faculty dull and blunt. It requires sequentially greater and greater impulses of happiness and joy to make us happy. When such is the case, we are not using the other side of the blade – sadness, pain, misery and unhappiness. We try to avoid them; even a little bit of inconvenience is avoided. So that part of the scissors remains very sharp. The slightest inconvenience and our balance is lost.
So when we are raising children, we often don’t expose them to the realities of life, trying to avoid even the slightest inconvenience. Of course, as parents we love the fact that our children don’t go through any inconvenience. There is no need to create inconveniences knowingly, but when they happen, it is good to let children face them. There can be multiple situations: a child doesn’t want to eat a certain food, or wear an item of clothing, or play with a toy. Don’t try to circumvent those inconvenient moments. Let children go through them, and let them learn from them.
Well, anyway, you are all very smart and very intelligent. You may decide how to make each part of the blade or the scissors sharp or dull – it depends on you. How will you transfer your wisdom?
Interviewed by ELIZABETH DENLEY
May 31, 2020
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