The history of mankind and man’s consciousness do not travel in a straight line. In the West the idea prevails that man’s evolution is linear; Darwin, Marx and many others share this view, but it is a notion that has no substance to it. The Eastern concept is that the evolution of life is circular, not linear. We are not progressing along a straight line, but moving round in a circle. This seems much more fitting.
A child is born, and with his birth the circle is begun. As he grows up and grows old the death happens at the same point where birth had begun – the circle is complete. We do not see a straight line progression in the journey from childhood to old age; it rises to a peak and then gradually descends. In nature the change of seasons follows a circular motion, not a straight line. Summer passes, then it comes again; the winter goes, then it comes again. Each season gives way to the next as though some giant wheel is turning. The sun, the earth, the moon and the stars all travel circular paths.
So the circle seems to be an essential feature of life. Human history too moves in circles: now the heights, now the depths, now the peaks of progress, and now the decline and fall, and so it goes on. But the journey ends where it begins, and it is at such a time, when life takes a leap in the circle, that a crisis happens.
Such a crisis is present today.
To understand this crisis, first two things have to be understood. One, just as life is cyclical, it is also dialectical – that is, nothing is singular, its opposite is always present with it. When the East is religious, the West goes intellectual; when the West becomes religious, the East goes intellectual. This East and West divides one wholeness into two parts. The East was religious in the past, today it is turning to intellectuality; the West was intellectual until very recently, and today it is becoming religious.
The greatest search in the West today is for meditation. People are coming from the West to the East in search of meditation, in search of peace. Whether it is possible to realize soul and God seems to have become their most important quest in life. And the people in the East laugh at them! Money is the real thing, and if anyone goes from the East to the West it is in search of science, not religion. People from the East are going West, but in search of universities, science, technology, nuclear physics, and so on. People from the West are coming East in the search of soul and the divine. Now this is a unique phenomenon that the West is willing to sit at the feet of the East if it can have religion, and the East is willing to sit at the feet of the West if it can have wealth!
It is a time of crisis, where the rotating wheel is ready to take a one hundred eighty degree turn. All that was up will come down, and all that was down will go up. All the values will be reversed: the spokes of the wheel that were up will go down and the ones that were down will come up. This is the hour of crisis. In it, all the old structures will go topsy-turvy and chaos will intensify. Such a chaos has already appeared. In it, all criteria of morality will crumble; all old concepts will be destroyed. What will happen to all the systems we have established up till now is just as if an earthquake comes and flat land turns into craters, hills turn flat and lakes into hills. In this last phase of the twentieth century, enormous dreadful changes are to take place.
And what is the real crisis? It is that the deep, essential treasure that the East has, it may lose it – it is losing it. No matter how often you may recite the Gita every day, its value in your heart is lost. You may be going in search of a master, but it is to find health, to achieve success, to get the position in life you covet, to win the elections, and so on.
Two days ago a friend came here to see me. He said, “I had big businesses, but my eyes gradually became weaker and now I have lost them completely. As a result, I had to move away from my business. Will you please do something so that I can see again.”
The man was over sixty. I said to him, “Now you should search for the inner eye. You can thank God your outer eyes are closed; now the whole energy can turn inwards. The energy that was looking out can now look in!”
But he did not like the idea. It was obvious from the expression on his face that he had not come to hear such things. I said to him, “Forget the business! You have made enough from it – enough for the rest of your life. What will you get by earning more?”
“No,” he replied, “it was a big business, and I had to hand it over to others.”
Now even if the others ruined the business, it would not make any difference to this man. He has plenty; he can live well whatever happens to the business. He would listen to what I was saying but he did not even once nod in agreement. As he was leaving he said again, ”Just give me your blessings that I shall be able to return to my business” – as though the business is his very soul! Now, what does he want to achieve through businesses?
This is the situation of the East. Even when we go to a master, it is in search of things for which we should not go to a master at all. This is why millions gather around so-called masters who have miracle-making tricks. If a man can produce ashes out of thin air, thousands of people gather around him. They are convinced that if they can win his favor, he can make anything happen for them. After all, he makes miracles! Understand this well: when people start to gather around miracle workers, it is a sure sign that religion has been uprooted from their hearts. After all, what connection has religion with miracles?
Lin Chi was a Zen master. One day he was talking among his disciples when a man suddenly interrupted him: “Enough of words,” said the man, “do you have any miracles to perform? I also had a master; he is no more, but he certainly was a man of religion. He used to stand on one bank of a river with a pen in his hand, while I stood on the other bank half a mile away holding a piece of paper. And he would use that pen to write on the paper I was holding! Now you, if you can, show me a miracle as wondrous as this!”
Lin Chi said, “Among us you will find no such miracles. We know only one miracle, and that is that we are content. Yes, this is our single miracle – contentment! The only miracle we can offer is that whoever joins us also becomes content.”
It is very unlikely that the man understood. How could contentment be regarded as a miracle?
But I also tell you, contentment is the only miracle. And the East is all discontent – with whatever wealth it has, with whatever position and prestige it has, the East is discontented. India has also tested its atom bomb, and the whole Indian mind is so joyous, so happy as if this is some great achievement. You don’t stop to consider the fact that even if you have nuclear energy, you will still remain a third-rate power in the world. You will still be only number six, you can never be the first among the nuclear powers; you will always be at the back of the line, a hanger on. What is there to be so pleased about?
But in the field where you can rank first, you are losing your standing. The field where no one in the world can compete with you, the place where India’s tradition of thousands of years of work has put you – you are losing your ground there. You are standing in a queue at sixth place, and you think it is something great! Do you think India can ever surpass America or Japan in material wealth? There you will always remain a beggar. Even the atomic explosion you have carried out is borrowed, and based on foreign aid. Tomorrow, if the foreign aid ceases, your nuclear program will come to a standstill. And it is utterly idiotic – it is like a poor man selling his house to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, who sets off a few fireworks and is very pleased. The children in his house are dying of hunger and outside the house he has arranged a show of fireworks. These atomic explosions are mere fireworks but that is where our interests lie today.
We are eager for money, power, prestige, and when Westerners come to the East in search of religion, we laugh at them thinking they have gone mad. “What is wrong with them?” we want to know. In the West there is a different kind of worry: people arrive from the East to become engineers, doctors, nuclear physicists in the West, and the Westerners wonder: “So, their search is also for the materialistic!” And they feel disappointed: “What can we get from these people who are running to get help from us – who have no food and shelter, whose minds are set only on material desires?”
This is the crisis – that the East is losing what it has gathered over so many centuries, and the West is anxious to find that of which it has come to know only in the past few centuries. So what is the crisis in it? The crisis is that what the East already has will be lost and the West will have to start from ABC. This is a serious crisis, because it takes millions of years for religion to come to maturity.
Religion is no ordinary thing.
There are certain seasonal seeds which can be sown, just as it happens, and soon they start sprouting. The plant may mature in two weeks, the flowers may bloom in four weeks, and then maybe in eight weeks its life is over. All flowers of materialism are seasonal flowers. But religion is not a seasonal flower; it takes thousands of years for the seed of religion to sprout. Hundreds of buddhas are born and gone before the seed of religion sprouts; it is not a one-day affair that you will accomplish today. A very, very long experiment is able to transform consciousness just a little bit. So if at all the East has a little potential of religion, the hands of Mahavira, Buddha, Krishna, and Rama have contributed to it.
There is another point, which is that science can be given birth by even ordinary people; it requires no special soul for this just technical know-how is needed. And for this even soul is not needed, a computer will do it! No Einstein is necessary for the discoveries of the future. Just feed the computer with the appropriate information and it will discover all your new principles for you. Einstein is redundant! All the experimenting, all the inventing, can be done by computers, machines. Actually even now this is the case; your brain that discovers science is purely a mechanical part of your body – a biocomputer.
But religion is your consciousness. Until there is a purity like that of Buddha, until there is an innocence like that of Mahavira, until there is a dancing heart rooted in self-realization like that of Krishna, you do not get even a glimpse of it. Scientific discoveries are made even walking on the plains, but for religion you have to touch the peaks of Everest; only then you attain it.
It takes thousands of years before the seed of religion goes deep enough and sprouts. And the experiment that was carried out in India was such that it not only sprouted, it flowered too. And you are ready to lose that immense treasure of flowers. And you will lose it, because you don’t see anything in it, you have turned your back on it. You no longer see any meaning in it. And the West will have to start from ABC. If it starts on the journey of religion the West will have to start from the point where we started some five thousand years ago, at the time of the Vedas. And for the West to come to the point we reached it will take another five thousand years. But in the meantime the survival of man will become impossible.
This is why I say that there is a great responsibility in India’s hands which is that what we have discovered – the clues, the laws, the methods of entering human consciousness that we developed – even if you want to abandon them, hand them over to someone before doing so. That is the least you must do. But remember, you can only hand over that which has happened within you. We can present the Gita to the West, but it will soon be rubbish, because the song itself is not in the Gita. There are words in the Gita, but these have already been translated into most of the Western languages. That is not going to solve anything. But how can we give that which was in Krishna? The Gita is only the shadow of that, just an echo; how can we hand over that which had happened within Krishna? That can be transmitted only if Krishna goes on happening within us.
And this is my intention – that a meditator is born within you. If India can give birth to even a few dozen meditators, who have the same light as that of Buddha’s wisdom, then there is no harm. The question is not that religion should survive in India or in the West – no, that is not the issue. The question is whether it will survive. On which soil the temple will be erected is not the issue – all soil is alike. But you are ruining the temple. Even if Westerners carried it away, all they would find in their hands is the bricks and the cement, the ruin, the broken pieces. And even if the West erects a temple carefully, it will be suitable only for a museum; it won’t be of life, it won’t be alive. And that is what is happening. That temple will be dead. People will go to the museum and look at it, it will have no purpose more than that; life will have moved out of it.
Here you have a temple which has not fallen down yet. Those who have eyes, they still see it alive. But before long it will have fallen, because you are engaged in demolishing it, you are busy destroying it; you are removing the bricks of this temple and making staircases with it in your house. You have no idea what you are doing! You are selling the very god of the temple and filling your cash box with that money.
There is a reason for all this. Because the fish is born in the ocean, it cannot see the ocean. She is born in it, she is thoroughly acquainted with it; hence she forgets. The same way you are born in a temple, which you are unable to see, and you have forgotten it completely.
My whole effort is to enable you to start seeing that living temple. Either you must become the priest of that temple again – which is natural for you – or, if this is impossible, then you have to hand over the temple in alive condition to those in whom the longing for it has arisen, in whom the thirst for it has been born.
Before the temple of religion falls down, either you take charge of it, or the West takes charge of it, but it should not be allowed to crumble and become the showpiece of a museum. Through it the door to the possibility of man’s survival will open. The race for money only annihilates, ambition just destroys, and leads in the end to insanity. No one has ever come to contentment through ambition. No matter how great the ambition in which you succeed, each success brings only more discontent. Even an Alexander dies weeping; he seems to have attained nothing, in spite of conquering the world. Only religion brings contentment. Contentment is a miracle. Even a beggar can be contented, while even an Alexander dies full of discontent.
Religion has some mysterious keys which open these doors of the heart that can shower nectar. It is these keys I am calling meditation. Through meditation, only one miracle is going to happen: you will become absolutely contented. But there is no greater mystery than this in the world! There is no greater mystery in the world than that of a person becoming contented.
Think about it. Just imagine for a little while that you have become contented, and what that moment will be like where not a single desire is arising, where your interest is not even in the very next moment, where you are totally here and now, as though all the flowers of the heart have opened and you are filled with their fragrance! And the fragrance is such that a gratitude is welling up within you and you can thank God; you can say that a single breath in this bliss is enough, life is fulfilled. Think about it; imagine this state of absolute gratefulness and fulfillment. A single moment of it and the agony of all your lives together was worth going through. This is why Lin Chi says, “We know only one miracle.”
I have a friend who asks me, “Why do you not make ashes appear in your hands? Millions of people will gather.” Maybe, but they would all be the wrong people. Millions might come, but they would be the wrong millions. And in the crowd of those millions even the few right ones who are near me will be lost, because the right ones who are with me won’t be able to remain in the front row of those millions. That crowd will come in the front, because it will be a crowd of ambition-chasers and madmen. People who flock to the hand that makes ashes appear are mad, they should be in the mad houses – they are sick. And once you have invited the sick, they will not let the healthy ones stick around.
It is a simple law of economics that counterfeit coins push the real coins out of the currency. If you are carrying a counterfeit one rupee note in your pocket, you want to use that one at the first opportunity and hang on to the real notes. So the false coins push the real coins out of circulation, because nobody uses the real ones if false ones are available. He uses the real ones only when it is not at all possible to use the false ones. And wherever the pretender appears, he pushes the real man in the back because he wants to move fast, before he is found out.
Religion has no concern with the millions; its concern is only with the few. But remember this, that if even a single person becomes religious unknown rays of peace begin to descend into the lives of millions. Such a person becomes like a sun, giving forth light. Even if a single person becomes contented it creates a crack in the discontented madness of the world. One link in the chain of discontent breaks. Even if just one person becomes a buddha, the degree of madness among all the people is reduced, because a buddha’s peace is contagious, buddhahood is contagious.
Even as diseases spread, and one man infected with a disease can infect the whole town with it, so is buddhahood. When even a single person attains to buddhahood, the whole earth changes its way of being. Its whole behavior, its whole way of life – everything changes. If a buddha passes by your town, even if you were sleeping at the time, you will not remain the same. You cannot remain the same, even if you were asleep in your house at the time of his passing.
India today is a very discontented country, full of grief, and yet Westerners come here and experience peace through being among you. You will be astonished to learn that these travelers when they return to their countries write books and articles saying, “If you want to see man at peace, he is to be found in India.”
Now this is very strange! One wonders what kind of peace they must be seeing in you, because there is certainly no peace within you. Nevertheless, so many buddhas have wandered amongst you that some shadow of them is left on you. You yourself are not aware of it. The shadow of the buddhas is left in your bones, in your flesh, in your tissues, without your knowing it, without any effort by you – in fact, in spite of all your protests. It is like a man passing through a garden unintentionally and his clothes catching the fragrance of the flowers of which he may not be aware at all. It is even possible that he may be unable to smell that fragrance; his nose may be used to stink.
A man fell unconscious on the street. It was a hot day and he got sunstroke. A crowd of people gathered around him, trying to revive him. Someone took his shoe off and put it to the man’s nose in the hope that this would bring him round, but to no avail.
The place was a perfume-sellers’ market and a nearby shopkeeper hurried to the scene with a very precious perfume in his hand. “Give him this to sniff,” he said; ”it dispels unconsciousness.”
The scent bottle was waved under the man’s nose and immediately, even in the depths of his coma, the man began to writhe throwing his arms and legs this way and that as though he was choking.
A man who was standing in the crowd jumped forward and said, “Don’t kill him! I know the man, and I know what he needs.” The unconscious man was a fisherman and his empty fish basket was lying beside him. This man picked it up. “There are no fish in it now,” he said, “but just sprinkle some water into it and the basket will be the perfect thing for him to smell. This fishy smell is perfume to him.”
Sure enough, as soon as the fish basket was raised to the fisherman’s nose, he took a deep breath, came back to his senses, and shouted, “You idiots, you were killing me!”
A man to whom the smell of fish is perfume will pass through a garden of flowers as though he is passing through a stink. This is exactly how you have passed by the buddhas. But still, without your knowledge and in spite of your opposition, the fragrance of the buddhas has permeated you. It is in your flesh and in your bones, and this is why people coming from the West see peace in you. You don’t see it yourselves. They are in search of it, they have set out in search of the buddha, and in you, faintly, they see a ray.
But there is nothing in it for you to be proud about; it is not your virtue. You are unfortunate in the sense that where you could have been a buddha yourself, you are carrying around just a shadow of the buddha. And that shadow too you are ready to sell. If we have a buddha and the West wants to purchase him, we will take an atom bomb and give the buddha in exchange. After all, what can you do with a buddha? You can’t fight wars with him, or plough fields, or run factories.
So this is the crisis: that the East has a temple already built which embodies in it the efforts of thousands of buddhas. The West has no such temple. But while the West is in search of it, you are in a coma. So either give this temple alive to the West…. Remember, the temple belongs to the one who is ready to pray; there is no hereditary right over a temple.
There was a church at Jabalpur that had stood closed for a long time. It was the church of a minority group and stood closed now. The priests had left when the British were leaving India and now lived in London. Some local Christians, who do not belong to that particular sect to which the church belonged, came to me to ask for my advice. They said, ”We don’t have a church. Do you think it would be alright for us to start using this church for our worship?”
I said, “A church belongs to the one who worships in it. So you start using it!”
They opened the lock, and began worshipping in the church. And I came and inaugurated it for them. But neither the police nor the court believes in this logic. I also had to go to court, because the vicar in London claimed that our action in opening the church was illegal – that we had taken possession of another’s wealth.
All I said to the court was, “I know only one thing: a temple, a place of worship, belongs to those who worship in it. Is there any other heredity of a temple? Can you possess a place of worship like a property? Is a temple a piece of real estate? Those who are sitting in London, those who locked this church up, cannot worship here. So which is better: a locked-up temple, or an unlocked temple in which people are worshipping?”
The magistrate said, “We are not here to discuss such tricky things. Our concern is with the law.
This estate belongs to somebody else.”
I said, “Your concern may be for the law; my concern is for the prayer. So what shall we do now?”
If India cannot look after this temple, then let it be handed over alive to those who are in search of it.
People ask me, “Why is it that so many foreigners are seen with you and so few Indians?” How can I help this? I am handing over the temple to them. The temple is yours, but you have stopped praying in it. And if this was a visible temple, there could be trouble in the courts; but this is an invisible temple and I will hand it over to them. Those who want to worship in it will take it away with them.
All that India has discovered has to reach alive to the West, or else India has to be reawakened, in which case there is no need to send it to the West. But it has to be saved! The heritage of Buddha, Krishna, Mahavira, Rama has to be saved. If it is lost it will again take five thousand years of hard work. To save it is precisely my effort!
Excerpt from Nowhere to Go but In, Discourse #16
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