What is the difference between a rebel and a revolutionary?
Maneesha, there is not only a quantitative difference between a rebel and a revolutionary; there is also a qualitative difference. The revolutionary is part of the political world. His approach is through politics. His understanding is that changing the social structure is enough to change the man.
The rebel is a spiritual phenomenon. His approach is absolutely individual. His vision is that if we want to change the society, we have to change the individual. Society in itself does not exist; it is only a word, like ‘crowd’, but if you go to find it, you will not find it anywhere. Wherever you will encounter someone, you will encounter an individual. Society is only a collective name, just a name, not a reality – with no substance. The individual has a soul, has a possibility of evolution, of change, of transformation. Hence the difference is tremendous.
The rebel is the very essence of religion. He brings into the world a change of consciousness – and if the consciousness changes, then the structure of the society is bound to follow it. But vice versa is not right – and it has been proved by all the revolutions, because they have all failed.
No revolution has yet succeeded in changing man; but it seems man is not aware of the fact. He still goes on thinking in terms of revolution, of changing society, of changing the government, of changing the bureaucracy, of changing laws, political systems. Feudalism, capitalism, communism, socialism, fascism – they are all in their own way revolutionary. They all have failed, and failed utterly, because man has remained the same.
A Gautam Buddha, a Zarathustra, a Jesus – these people are rebels. Their trust is in the individual. They have not succeeded either, but their failure is totally different than the failure of the revolutionary. Revolutionaries have tried their methodology in many countries, in many ways, and have failed. But a Gautam Buddha has not succeeded because he has not been tried. A Jesus has not succeeded because Jews crucified him and Christians buried him. He has not been tried – he has not been given a chance. The rebel is still an un-experimented dimension.
My sannyasins have to be rebels not revolutionaries. The revolutionary belongs to a very mundane sphere. The rebel and his rebelliousness are sacred. The revolutionary cannot stand alone, he needs a crowd, a political party, a government. He needs power, and power corrupts – and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
All the revolutionaries who have succeeded in capturing power have been corrupted by the power. They could not change the power and its institutions; the power changed them and their minds and corrupted them. Only names became different, but the society continued to remain the same.
Man’s consciousness has not grown for centuries. Only once in a while a man blossoms, but in millions of people the blossoming of one man is not a rule, it is the exception. And because he is alone, the crowd cannot tolerate him. He becomes a kind of humiliation; his very presence becomes insulting, because he opens your eyes, makes you aware of your potential and your future. And it hurts your ego that you have done nothing to grow, to be more conscious, to be more loving, to be more ecstatic, to be more creative, to be more silent – to make a beautiful world around you.
You have not contributed to the world, your existence has not been a blessing here but a curse. You introduce your anger, your violence, your jealousy, your competitiveness, your lust for power. You make the world a war field; you are bloodthirsty and you make others bloodthirsty. You deprive humanity of its humanness. You help man to fall below humanity, even sometimes below animals.
Hence a Gautam Buddha or a Kabir or a Chuang Tzu hurts you because he has blossomed, and you are just standing there. Springs come and go, nothing blossoms in you; no birds come and make their nest on you, and sing their songs around you. It is better to crucify a Jesus and poison a Socrates – just to remove them – so that you need not feel in any way spiritually inferior.
The world has known only very few rebels.
But now is the time: if humanity proves incapable of producing a large number of rebels – a rebellious spirit – then our days on the earth are numbered. Then this century may become our graveyard. We are coming very close to that point.
We have to change our consciousness, create more meditative energy in the world, create more lovingness. We have to destroy the old man and his ugliness, his rotten ideologies, his stupid discriminations, idiotic superstitions, and create a new man, with fresh eyes, with new values; a discontinuity with the past – that’s the meaning of rebelliousness.
These three words will help you to understand…
Reform means a modification. The old remains, you give it a new form, a new shape – a kind of renovation of an old building. Its original structure remains; you whitewash it, you clean it, you make a few windows, a few new doors.
Revolution goes deeper than reform. The old remains, but more changes are introduced – even in its basic structure – not only changing its color and opening a few windows and doors, but perhaps making new stories, taking it higher into the sky. But the old is not destroyed, it remains hidden behind the new; in fact, it remains the very foundation of the new. Revolution is a continuity with the old.
Rebellion is a discontinuity. It is not reform, it is not revolution; it is simply disconnecting yourself from all that is old. The old religions, the old political ideologies, the old man – all that is old, you disconnect yourself from it. You start life afresh, from scratch. And unless we prepare humanity to begin life again – a resurrection, a death of the old and a birth of the new…
It is very significant to remember that the day Gautam Buddha was born, his mother died; as he was coming out of the womb, his mother was going out of existence. Perhaps this was historical, because he was brought up by his mother’s sister – he never saw his mother alive. And now it has become a traditional idea in Buddhism that whenever a buddha is born, his mother dies immediately, his mother cannot survive. I take it as a symbolic and very significant indication. It means the birth of a rebel is the death of the old.
The revolutionary tries to change the old; the rebel simply comes out of the old, just as the snake slips out of the old skin, and never looks back. Unless we create such rebellious people around the earth, man has no future. The old man has brought man to his ultimate death. It is the old mind, the old ideologies, the old religions – they have all combined together to bring about this situation of global suicide. Only a new man can save humanity and this planet, and the beautiful life of this planet.
I teach rebellion, not revolution. To me, rebelliousness is the essential quality of a religious man. It is spirituality in its absolute purity.
The days of revolution are over. The French revolution failed, the Russian revolution failed, the Chinese revolution failed. In this country we have seen the Gandhian revolution fail, and it failed in front of Gandhi’s own eyes. Gandhi was teaching nonviolence his whole life, and in front of his own eyes the country was divided; millions of people were killed, burned alive; millions of women were raped. And Gandhi himself was shot dead. That is a strange end of a nonviolent saint.
And he himself forgot all his teachings. Before his revolution was secured, Gandhi was asked by an American thinker, Louis Fischer, “What are you going to do with the arms, armies, and all the different weapons, when India becomes an independent country?”
Gandhi said, “I’m going to throw all the arms into the ocean, and send all the armies to work in the fields and in the gardens.”
And Louis Fischer asked, “But have you forgotten? Somebody can invade your country.”
Gandhi said, “We will welcome him. If somebody invades us, we will accept him as a guest and tell him, ‘You can also live here, just the way we are living. There is no need to fight.’”
But he completely forgot all his philosophy – that’s how revolutions fail. It is very beautiful to talk about these things, but when power comes into your hands… First, Mahatma Gandhi did not accept any post in the government. It was out of fear, because how was he going to answer the whole world? What about throwing the arms into the ocean? What about sending the armies to work in the fields? He escaped from the responsibility for which he had been fighting his whole life, seeing that it was going to create tremendous trouble for him; he would have to contradict his own philosophy.
But the government was made up of his own disciples, chosen by him. He did not ask them to dissolve the armies, on the contrary. When Pakistan attacked India, he did not say to the Indian government, “Now go to the borders and welcome the invaders as guests.” Instead, he blessed the first three airplanes that were going to bomb Pakistan. The three airplanes flew over the villa where he was staying in New Delhi, and he came out into the garden to bless them. And with his blessings they went ahead to destroy our own people, who just a few days before were our brothers and our sisters. Unashamedly, without ever seeing the contradiction…
The Russian revolution failed in front of the very eyes of Lenin. He was preaching according to Karl Marx, that “When the revolution comes, we will dissolve marriage, because marriage is part of private property; as private property goes out, marriage will also go out. People can be lovers, can live together; children will be taken care of by the society.”
But as the revolution succeeded, he saw the enormousness of the problem: to take care of so many children… who is going to take care of those children? And to dissolve marriage… for the first time he saw that your society depends on the family. The family is a basic unit – without the family, your society will be dissolved. And it will be dangerous – dangerous to creating a dictatorship of the proletariat, because people will become more independent if they don’t have the responsibilities of the family.
You can see the logic. If people have the responsibilities of a wife, of an old father, an old mother, of children, they are so burdened they cannot be rebellious. They cannot go against the government, they have too many responsibilities. But if people have no responsibilities, if the old people are taken care of by the government – as they had been promising before the revolution – if children are taken care of by the government, and people can live together for as long as they love each other, they don’t need permission for marriage, and they don’t need any divorce; it is their private personal affair and the government has no business to interfere….
But when it came about that the power was in the hands of the Communist Party, and Lenin was the leader, everything changed. Once power comes into their hands, people start thinking differently. Now the thinking was that to make people so independent of responsibilities is dangerous – they will become too individualistic. So let them be burdened with a family. They will remain enslaved just because of an old mother, an old father, a sick wife, or children and their education. Then they don’t have the time or the courage to go against the government in any matter.
The family is one of the greatest traps that society has used for millennia to keep man a slave. Lenin forgot all about dissolving families.
It is very strange how revolutions have failed. They have failed at the hands of the revolutionaries themselves, because once the power comes into their hands, they start thinking in different ways. Then they become too attached to the power. Then their whole effort is how to keep the power forever in their hands, and how to keep the people enslaved.
The future needs no other revolutions. The future needs a new experiment which has not been tried yet. Although for thousands of years there have been rebels, they remained alone – individuals.
Perhaps the time was not ripe for them. But now the time is not only ripe… if you don’t hurry, the time has come to an end.
By the end of this century, either man will disappear, or a new man with a new vision will appear on the earth. He will be a rebel.
From The Rebel, Discourse #1
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