Disciples were in total attention. These were the final few days of their mentoring with the Guru. Ramanathan sat closer to him, as the guru was talking from a higher level of existence for past few weeks and was getting into a trance so very often nowadays. Catching every word of his was crucial; in these last lectures he was revealing secrets never shared. And insights that added new meaning to the lessons Ramanathan learnt all these years.
Guru announced, 'today is the last lesson!'
Everyone knew the end was imminent. But it was too sudden. A murmur of refusal rose through the hall.
The guru raised his hand with a sense of finality and asked them--
'Tell me, what makes one young?'
A few disciples replied, almost together, 'One who is still in Brahmacharya!'
Some said, 'must be below 21 years of age!'
Earlier Ramanathan too would have counted the years. But now, more so because this was the last lesson, he concluded there must be something more to it.
After some hesitation he replied, 'those who have the energy and the stamina!'
His friend added, 'those who are fast, who take action while others are still deciding what to do!'
Guru smiled, nodded his head. But it wasn't an approval of the answers.
After a long silence, Gyani, the eldest among the disciples rose up, 'Guru Ji, one who can cope up with his struggles and yet can stand up for his principles is young!'
Guru nodded again.
In these last days, he was smiling at all the answers.
'Guru Ji, please enlighten us!'
He replied, 'you all are well-read, erudite. I am sure you can deliver lectures about the subject. But I wish you to understand a finer point.'
Everyone sat in rapt attention now, disciples came closer to hear the final words.
Guru said, 'To me, age has no relation with youth. I know many young men who are old. And old people who are young.'
He was going into a trance again, the disciples leaned over one another to catch his faint words.
'Energy is often taken to be a yardstick for youth. But there is one more distinction.'
After a pause he continued--
'Always see which direction the energy is moving to. Whether the energy is feeding the past, or moving to the future?...If a person's sense of identity and esteem comes from his past, if he always talks about the great things he did, then, whatever be his age, consider him to be old!...On the other hand, if you find someone who is creating the future, working relentlessly on plans that will make a better tomorrow, surely he is young. Even if he is older than my Gurudev!'
The lesson was deep. And the gravity of the moment made it even more important.
Guru folded his hands and said, 'I wish you all eternal youth. Go shine!'