The Australian Human Rights Commission states:
Age discrimination is when a person is treated less favourably than another person in a similar situation, because of their age.
For example, it could be ‘direct age discrimination’ if an older applicant is not considered for a job because it is assumed that they are not as up to date with technology as a younger person.
It is also age discrimination when there is a rule or policy that is the same for everyone but has an unfair effect on people of a particular age. This is called ‘indirect discrimination’.
For example, it may be indirect age discrimination if an employer requires an older person to meet a physical fitness test – which more young people are able to meet – if the fitness standard is not an inherent requirement of the job.
Similar to passages in the EBTs that appear discriminatory towards women, there appear a number of passages in the EBTs that appear discriminatory towards the elderly. For example:
Dhp 155. Those who in youth have not led the holy life… languish like old cranes in the pond without fish.
Dhp 156. Those who in youth have not lead the holy life… lie sighing over the past, like worn out arrows (shot from) a bow.
There are, bhikkhus, these… favorable occasions for striving… Here, a bhikkhu is young, a black-haired young man endowed with the blessing of youth, in the prime of life. This is the first favorable occasion for striving. AN 5.54
I recall when I was young, also in the prime of life, I was naive in the ways of the world yet with unshakeable trust in the noble path, listening to Ajahn Buddhadasa make fun of Tibetan Buddhism, saying its extravagant teachings about deities, rituals, offerings & reincarnation was for old grandmothers. I was somewhat stunned at AB’s lack of political correctness. I do know many consider Ajahn Buddhadasa was a heretic. However, Ajahn Buddhadasa also started his dedicated Dhamma practise in his ‘youth’. For example, in his book title ‘No Religion’, he said:
How silly it’s that the older a person gets, the more full of
ego he or she becomes. I beg your pardon for speaking so frankly, but
some facts can’t be ignored. Why do people become more egoistic with
age? Because the older they get, the more accustomed they are to
attachment; “I” and “mine” accumulate and pile up inside us as we age.
Further, people have sons and daughters, so they puff themselves with
ego and determine to lord it over their children. "My son! How could
he do that without my permission!" When they have grandchildren, they
become even more puffed up and superior. Thus, elderly people
are more obsessed with “I” and “mine” than children are.
If we look back at childhood, we will find that children have
very little ego. Immediately after birth, it’s very hard to find much
ego in them, while the child in the womb has hardly any traces of “I” or
“mine” at all. However, as we grow into adulthood and become fathers
and mothers, and later grandfathers and grandmothers, “I” and
“mine” develops in a multitude of forms and personalities. These
become deeply rooted in our minds and stick there with such tenacity
that they are very difficult to remove. Therefore, old folks should
be very careful and alert. They should try to return to being like
children again. To be like children is a kind of Dhamma practice
which leads to non-attachment and voidness. Otherwise, the older
they get, the further away from the Buddha and from Nibbana they will
This being said, he did look more favourably upon elderly people in his book titled: ‘Heartwood From the Bo Tree’, where he said:
Against unnatural death, dying not wanting to die, dying unexpectedly, the sublime Dhamma can not only provide an infallible protection, but can provide Nibbana right there at the wheels of the car, beneath the collapsing building, at the horns of the bull or in the pile of bodies charred by the atomic blast. There is no violent unnatural death, instead there is Nibbana.
Those who have studied little, know little, right down to grandma and granddad who can’t read, are all capable of understanding this teaching and should keep training in this correct understanding.
Let the great scholars of the land come and test out what it’s like for the mind to meet death with the authentic feeling that nothing anywhere is worth having or being. Death will be a disintegration accompanied by nirodhadhatu. The mind will be transformed into nibbanadhatu through physical death. If a grandma or grand-dad are unlearned and inarticulate but have this single feeling it’s enough.
Do the EBTs discriminate against the elderly? Or are there examples in the EBTs where elderly people entered the supramundane path & reached enlightenment?
Or do the EBTs teach the elderly (who did not practise in their youth) have senescent &/or rigid/habituated mental faculties thus can only hope to realise anatta & sunnata in a future life?