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Message for the Youth
Message for the youth of Dubai, conveyed at the Youth Seminar on 16th October 2009
I am always happy to be with the youth, because old men, you know, they have nothing but memories to live with, and memories are generally of youth and subsequent ages. But for an old man to sit with young people, it recaptures memory in a sort of a live situation, living sense. And I do not want you all to do what most old men do, which is to regret an ill-spent youth, a youth badly spent in wasting time, in pleasure seeking.
Some of you at least must be aware or know of Kabir, the famous saint of India, who in one of his famous compositions says our childhood is wasted in play, and our youth in the pursuit of pleasure which brings us ill-fame, where we lose our name, our reputation.
So I think it is appropriate that one who has passed over the dangers … understanding that every opportunity has a danger in it, every opportunity has a responsibility in it, and a time of great promise is also a time of great danger. So it is good that old and young meet: one, to exchange his experiences of life, and the other, Insha-Allah, to profit by the experience of the old, avoid the pitfalls and dangers that he has gone through, and make use of opportunities which he might have made, and at least come to an age satisfied with what we have done in the past.
Youth is a time of great promise. In fact it is the only time of great promise. Subsequently, we are only on top of the plateau, walking, walking, walking, until the decline starts. From childhood to youth, it is like this [a gentle incline], and from youth, it is like this [a steep incline]. We can reach the peak of our potential by the time our youthfulness is ended, say in the mid-twenties, and that is the time in which we must work to consolidate our future.
The future is belonging to the youth. The middle age is a place of consolidation of what we have achieved, making sure that what we have got, what we have attained, what we have achieved is not lost: mentally, physically, in terms of property, in terms of happiness. But if you have not made it in your youth, your life is going to be humdrum — no excitement, no sense of achievement, no inner satisfaction that “I lived; I did not merely exist, but I lived. I lived a purposeful life. I lived a life where I could plan with wisdom, so that hope would be satisfied, hope would be achieved or substantiated, by the wisdom that I expressed and used in my youth.” Because youth is a time when we need wisdom most. Subsequently, intelligence is enough. But in the time of youth, we need wisdom.
Unfortunately, most people become wise only after the event, after they are sixty, seventy years old. Then they say, “This, you should not do. I know by experience.” Wisdom comes by experience, but generally accompanied by frustration, by depression. Whereas if wisdom precedes experience, it is what the old sages say, that a fool realizes only after the event, an intelligent man realizes during the event, but a wise man knows before the event.
So, youth is a time when we have to change from the ignorance of childhood, the innocence of childhood to the knowledgeableness of the school age, and ripen that into wisdom of youth. Then we have a successful future — a success not because of events but because of our ability to plan our own future.
I pray that all of you will be blessed by using your youth successfully, with an orientation to the future, avoiding pitfalls, following a straight course, very much like a ship has to chart its voyage. Make sure you do it properly, wisely. Achieve what you have to achieve: the potential of your nature, inner nature as a human being, which ensures you not pleasure but inner satisfaction.