In November 1993, I was appointed as a Central Observer of the Election Commission for the Himachal Pradesh Assembly Elections. Just before leaving for my first visit to the state, I developed a severe pain in my wisdom tooth. I consulted a senior dentist who advised immediate extraction of the tooth and called me the next day. I was not prepared for this because I didn’t want to lose the tooth so early. Though I had crossed 44, my teeth had been in a good condition. So I consulted another dentist friend who advised me to wait for some time more as the pain could be managed with the help of medicines. Somehow the election duty was carried out without much difficulty.
The problem became acute once again next year and this time again, the dentist advised extraction of the wisdom tooth. He told me that there was no function of wisdom teeth after a certain age and that I need not be unduly concerned about losing one of them. I wanted to know the reason for these teeth being called wisdom teeth. He told me that these teeth grow after crossing the teens, i.e., in the early twenties and generally have to be removed in the forties. This information was enough for me to contemplate over the matter and I arrived at certain conclusions which I am going to share here.
Human Life has always been divided in four phases. In our scriptures these phases are called ‘Brahmacharya’, ‘Grastha’, ‘Van Prastha’ and ‘Sanyasa’, respectively. Assuming an ideal lifespan of 100 years each phase comes to about 25 years. However, in real life, a good lifespan may be taken as about 80 years. So each phase of life is of about 20 years. The first phase of life, ‘Brahmacharya’, is a phase of restraint and learning. Those who wish to acquire anything in life have to remain disciplined and work hard during this period. The full meaning of life is hardly understood in this period. In a way it is good also. If life is understood in totality during this period, perhaps the urge to learn and acquire knowledge would be lost. Acquisition of mundane knowledge during this period is essential to successfully live the subsequent phases of life. This phase is like the running of an aeroplane on the ground before take-off. If sufficient speed is not acquired on the runway, the plane cannot take off and at times may meet with an accident.
The second phase of life is the most difficult one and can be compared to the take-off of an aeroplane. During this phase, one has to rise above the ground and achieve worldly success. Maximum energy is consumed during this period and the knowledge acquired during the first phase of life is to be applied. One comes across a variety of experiences and we gain maturity and wisdom as a result of these interactions. While in the first phase of our life, one only acquires knowledge and remains on ground, in the second phase one acquires wisdom and gains height. That is why the wisdom teeth grow only in the early twenties. Their appearance thus indicates that the time for acquiring wisdom has come.
The acquisition of wisdom has also to come to an end. A period of 20-25 years in the second phase of life should be sufficient for a person to understand life fully and to acquire wisdom. It is like acquiring full height by an aeroplane during a flight. After acquiring this height, there is no need of going higher and the acquired height should be enjoyed. In human life this stage should reach at the age of 40-45 years and one should be able to grow fully wise by this time. At this stage, there is no need of wisdom teeth and that is why they are no more required. I feel that this could be the reason behind these teeth being called wisdom teeth.
Having grown wise, one enters the third phase of life. For a truly wise person life should become smooth in this phase and he should be able to enjoy it like an aeroplane journey in the third stage. There is no need of any imposed restrictions in this phase and the gains of life are to be shared. A wise person should share his acquisitions including wisdom for his inner expansion as the outer expansion is no more required. If one does not share, in all probability he is heading for a miserable fourth phase of life.
The fourth phase of life is like the landing of an aeroplane. In this phase the acquired height is to be lost in order to land safely. If it is not done, a crash is inevitable. It means that a time comes in life when even wisdom has to be transcended. After all, in this cycle of birth and death, there are others in the queue and one should voluntarily make way for them. If one does not do so, he will either be pushed or crushed. A truly wise person should avoid this situation. That is why this phase of life is called ‘Sanyasa’ ashrarn. One has to give up everything for a happy end. Thus the four phases of life are the phases of acquiring knowledge, acquiring wisdom, sharing wisdom and transcending wisdom.