Buddha used to tell the story of a man who met a tiger in the jungle. The man ran for his life, and the tiger came after him. Suddenly the man came to huge ravine and found himself standing at the top of a sheer cliff. In desperation – the tiger hot on his heels – the man climbed over the edge of the cliff, and caught hold of the root of a tree so that he was just hanging over the abyss. Above his head was the tiger, peering over the cliff’s edge and waiting. The trembling man looked down and saw yet another tiger waiting for him at the foot of the cliff, and when he glanced at the tree root to which he was clinging, he saw that it was being gnawed away by two rats – a black one and a white one! In this same moment the man noticed a ripe fruit growing there on the cliff. He somehow managed to hang on to the root with just one hand and plucked the fruit with the other. How sweet and delicious was the taste of this fruit!
Could you please explain to us the meaning of this story?
The story is even older than Buddha, but the meaning that Buddha gave to it was entirely his own. Both his meaning and the older meaning are worth understanding. The story represents the essence of the Hindu thinking. But Buddha gave it a totally new meaning, and that gave the story a completely new dimension. The way Buddha defined the story is really unique.
So first we will look into the story from the Hindu point of view. That has its own significance. And then we will also be able to see how the same symbol can become the basis for two different viewpoints. If our way of looking changes, then what we are looking at also changes. The world is in our vision, not in the objects themselves. The way the world is perceived depends entirely on the one who is looking at it.
The basis of Hindu thinking is that the world is maya – illusion. The happiness found in it are ephemeral, they are not real; one moment they are here, the next moment they are gone. Death will wipe clean the slate of life, and in fact it is doing so each moment. Those two rats, the black one and the white one, are day and night, they are eating away at the root of life. All the time we are living we are dying too; the death process begins with birth itself. No sooner is a child born than it begins to die – the two rats have begun gnawing into its life. The infant’s roots have hardly begun to develop, yet already their ending has begun. Here, life and death are together. Birth is one step, and death is the very next step – so what we call our birthday is also our ‘deathday’. Yes, there may be a certain distance in between – seventy years, or even one hundred years – but the actual distance still involves only two steps.
Birth and death are truly of the same nature. Hindus say that whatever is born will die. So whoever can see deeply will see death within birth itself. Hence birth is not really a happy event – or, if it is, then death is not to be mourned over. That you rejoice over birth and weep over death simply shows that you are blind.
Time is eating away at your roots, and with every moment that passes there is a little less of you. And Hindus say that there is no way to save yourself; nothing in the world can help you because the world is only an extension of death. No matter where you run, no matter where you hide, death will find you out. Mind thinks it will be able to find some way to be saved – in some shelter, some security, some mountain in which to hide. So the mind creates walls made of wealth, prestige and position; or knowledge, science and technology, and thinks it is safe. Man thinks there will be some way to avoid death.
But the Hindu view is that there is no way to protect yourself against death, because death is the very nature of this world. Wherever you run, death will be at your heels. The tiger in the story is death. He is after you, and sometime – today or tomorrow – you will arrive at a place where there will be no path ahead of you, and you will have to stop running away. You have reached the impasse – ahead of you is the abyss, and behind you is the tiger. And if you peer over the edge of the cliff you see death awaiting you there too. To jump off the cliff means certain death, just as the tiger means certain death, though there is still a ray of hope in the possibility of climbing down the cliff face. But then you see that another tiger awaits you at the foot of the cliff……….
Hindus say that life is surrounded by death – all the escape routes are covered, there is no way out. You can run if you want to, but it will not help; you will only exhaust yourself and reach a place where you will have to stop. And still man goes on trying! Death is there at the top of the cliff, and at the foot of the cliff, and a single slip of the hand means death. But still man tries – and he will go on searching for a way out until the very last moment of his life. He will cling to the tree root, in itself not so strong because it is being chewed away by the two rats. But man’s hope is such that he will seek aid even from a grass leaf, and find companionship even in a dream. Where nothing is possible, there too mind imagines and says that something will be possible. It is a characteristic of mind to go on hoping.
In the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the poet asks the sages, the wise ones, the knowledgeable ones: Why is it that this life, in which all seem to be unhappy, does not come to a stop? What makes it go on and on and on, although no one is happy? What is the secret?
There was no response from any source. So many scholars and learned people, but there was no answer. Then the poet asks the sky, since the sky has always been present. Everything else has changed – people have come and gone, great civilizations have lived and died, and all this the sky has seen. There is no greater witness than the sky. So the poet asks the sky, “What is the secret of life? Why does it continue?” And a voice comes from the sky, “Because of hope!”
There may be an abundance of sufferings, but hope is even larger than all of them put together. Life does not continue of happiness – happiness hardly exists at all. And if there was only suffering, then too life would break down, you would commit suicide. This is why every thinking person, at some point or other in his life, contemplates suicide; he considers closing the chapter on this life: “What is the point in every day just getting up in the morning and going to bed at night? The same meals, the same clothes, the same routine of work! There seems to be no purpose at all in constantly revolving on the same wheel. And if one is to die anyway in the end, what is so bad about dying right now? After thirty years or forty years of spinning on the same wheel one has to die, and if the abyss of death is going to engulf me anyway, why not surrender myself to it this very day? Why go through so much worry, anguish and turmoil in the meanwhile?”
So sometime or other, every sensitive person thinks of suicide. Only the stupid never think that this life is worth ending. But the thinkers, the sensitive ones, arrive many times at the point where they think of destroying themselves: “If it has to end, let it be by my own hand!”
So, suffering pervades life abundantly, with not even a trace of happiness anywhere, and yet hope says: “Tomorrow! What you cannot get today you will get tomorrow.” So suicide has to wait, not because of the quality of life, but because of hope – the hope that tomorrow the doors of heaven may open, the hope that the very next moment may bring the treasures of life. The next moment is so tempting! That is why we all live in tomorrow.
Mind is another name for hope in tomorrow. Death is hovering over our head, death is lurking beneath our feet, and we are hanging in between, clinging to roots that can give way at any moment – and even if the roots don’t break, our hands can hold on only for so long, they will soon grow tired. Yet still hope is there. Something can be done – time is still there, and thus the hope continues. In such a moment of hope a fruit, a wild strawberry is seen, or some other kind of fruit, and everything is forgotten – all the nightmarish situation you are surrounded by is forgotten.
Pleasure is ephemeral but it manages to make you forget everything else. It has a deep intoxication of its own. The taste will last only for a moment, but its unconsciousness is supreme. In that one moment it makes you forget the whole world – all the sufferings, all the troubles of the journey, all the anguishes that are past, all the anguishes that are to come. It makes you forget them all. Pleasure is momentary but it obscures the whole truth, the whole reality of Brahman.
Hindus used this story to warn you not to get lost in momentary pleasures. Remain aware, don’t try to forget death; no taste of any fruit can save you from death. Don’t give life any opportunity to make you forget its reality – neither through taste nor through greed. Don’t let life be clouded by any of your senses.
Taste is only one of the senses. The same thing could have happened through any of them. The story could well have been that the man saw a beautiful woman, or a dancing peacock, or a spectacular sunrise, or a rainbow spread across the sky – and in that moment everything was forgotten. Or the man might have suddenly caught the fragrance of an opening flower, forgetting everything as his nostrils filled with the waves of its sweet perfume. The story is only symbolic of how your senses can help you to forget. All the senses are in fact ready to go unconscious – their interest is in unconsciousness. When you are aware, the senses are dead; when the senses are awake, you are unconscious. In your unconsciousness is the awakening of the senses, in the unconsciousness of the senses is your awakening. So one of the senses arose and the taste filled up the mind, and in that moment everything within went unconscious – and in such a critical situation, when death was hovering over the man! […]
Whenever any desire catches hold of the mind, consciousness falls asleep. Or it can be said the other way round: whenever consciousness falls asleep, only then some desire catches hold of the mind. They are both interrelated. Taste is just symbolic; the opening of the door to any of the senses is the closing of the door to consciousness.
Hindus have told this story so that you don’t get lost in the momentary and forget the eternal. Does the moment have the capacity to drown the eternal in forgetfulness? This has been a matter of great debate among Hindu thinkers. They ask, “How is it that maya – the illusory – can obscure Brahman, the ultimate reality? How is it that darkness, the unreal, can cover up the light? How is it that rootless ignorance set the supreme conscious and blissful soul wandering? How could this ever have happened? If maya is illusion, how have we remained lost because of it?”
This is exactly what has happened, and you will understand it if you understand this story. Brahman disappears in the same moment precisely that we disappear. Our sleep is its disappearance. It is just like closing the eyes when the sun is rising. Compared to the sun, the eye has very little power, but even, in its powerlessness it can shut out the sun. Can the power of the eyelids be compared to that of the sun? They are so small, but they can shut out the sun! Close the eyes, and the sun disappears. You can face the Himalayas, but the moment you close your eyes, the Himalayas disappear. A tiny dust particle can cause the eyes to close – a tiny particle can bring about the disappearance of the Himalayas!
Brahman is in its place, but for us it disappears when our eyes are closed. And all our sense organs are ways to make us go to sleep. The interest of the senses is in sleep, in unconsciousness. That is why there is such objection to tamas, the state of unconscious living.
Tamas means the attitude of sleepiness; it means the sleepy state, or unconscious living. Anything that draws you into tamas enhances the world for you. The moment the man in the story tasted the fruit was the moment of his drowning in tamas. Now his consciousness is covered up – lost in taste. Except for taste everything disappeared for him – Brahman, truth, the reality that is present all around; nothing could be seen by him any more. And it often happens that when life is pain and misery, we seek unconsciousness. This is why there is such a pull for alcohol all over the world. And no matter how much the preachers go on preaching against alcohol, it does not help people at all to stop drinking, because there is so much sorrow in his life, and the preachers’ sermons do not in any way remove it. And the sorrow is so much that if a man cannot try to escape from it, what else is he supposed to do? He must either go beyond suffering, which becomes possible only once in a while for some buddha, or he must try to forget it, which is possible through alcohol. In fact all the numerous ways to get intoxicated do the same thing.
Any kind of sensuality is intoxication. When you see a beautiful woman or a beautiful man, for a moment you are in the grip of intoxication. And when I say this I don’t mean it only symbolically; now psychologists and scientists are discovering that when you look at a beautiful woman or man, the balance of hormones in your body changes. There are glands which release intoxicants into your bloodstream – so in looking at a beautiful woman, you become intoxicated. Hence it may happen that you go after her, forgetting the world and its codes of conduct, its laws and morality, and even attack her. In the law court you may maintain that you did not do anything – and this too will be true. Your body was so overwhelmingly intoxicated from within you that you did not do anything, you were not the master of the act, it just happened on its own. You did not take a conscious decision to do it, the responsibility rests with the hormones, with your body’s chemistry. Or, seeing money may drive you crazy, so much so that you may completely forget what you are doing.
Hindus used this story to indicate that even a moment of sensuality hides the eternal Brahman. But Buddha used the story quite differently. It will help if you understood some of the basic differences between Hindu and Buddhist thinking.
Hindus say that the moment is untrue; it is the eternal which is true. They say that the moment is only a dream, because “the moment” means that a moment ago it was not and a moment later it will not be. Hindu thought contends that if anything was not there the previous moment and will not be there the next moment, then its being now cannot be real. Something which was unreal at both ends cannot be real in the middle. The real – and this is the Hindu definition of truth – is only that which is eternal; that which always is, always was, and always will be; that which cannot perish and cannot be destroyed.
But the Buddhist definition is different. Hindus are eternalists, Buddha is a momentist. Buddha says that it is the moment that is true. Nothing is permanent, nothing is eternal; permanence is only a thought, an invention, a hypothesis of the philosophers; the moment alone is real. Only that which is here and now is true, there is no other truth than the moment. Buddha’s meaning is to guide us into the present. The real is here and now! This is what Buddha means by truth. There is no other time than the moment; it is always this moment that is available to us. Eternity is a concept, the moment is the reality.
What is so interesting about these two diametrically opposite points of view is that the end result of both of them is one and the same.
So let us come now to an understanding of the reality of the moment and this story as it is presented by Buddha.
Buddha says, you are running through a jungle, chased by a tiger. With death on your heels, you find yourself at the edge of a cliff, at the foot of which another tiger awaits you. Buddha does not wish to frighten you with all this. This, he says, is the very nature of life. In the Hindu explanation of the story, there is a shadow of fear in it – it has to be so because only if you fear the world of maya will you set out in search of the Brahmans. But Buddha says, “Here there is no brahma to be sought. And this alone is, whether you call it maya or whatever else. It is a fact of life that death is following you. It is your mind that causes the fear. Otherwise you will simply take it as the very nature of life, that either way death is there and we have arrived at the impasse of the cliff.”
According to Buddha, you are always at the cliff’s edge. There is never any road ahead. Movement is possible only if two moments are available. If there is only enough ground for you to stand on, where will be the road? For movement, space is needed. For the mind to move, time is needed. And this very moment is all.
So, where can you go? Where can you walk to? At the most you can be jumping up and down on the same spot, but there is no coming and going anywhere. According to Buddha, there is no journey. You are simply jogging on the spot! Buddha says you have only this moment, and in it your mind goes on jumping up and down. This is how it is that you are standing always with no road ahead anywhere. The day you see it you will stop; all your futile jumping up and down will cease.
The world is nothing but the futile jumping up and down of man’s mind and no solution comes out of it. Lives upon lives we have been doing this. Running so much, but never reaching anywhere! Walking so much, but arriving to no destination. And yet we never stop to look at what we have been doing all this time, to consider the possibility that we could have been jogging on the same spot. Otherwise one ought to reach somewhere after so much walking!
Man travels throughout his whole life, only to find himself exactly where he was at the moment of his birth. This whole journey seems to be dream stuff. It is as though, asleep at night, you dreamt that you boarded a plane and flew to New York. This is a great journey to have made, involving all kinds of preparations and procedures; but when you wake up in the morning and find yourself at home in bed, then you say it was all a dream. Why do you say it was only a dream? Because you didn’t really go anywhere. If you opened your eyes and found you were actually in New York, then you could not say it was all a dream. The very meaning of dreaming is that all the movement happens, and yet you go nowhere. Then, in the morning, you say, “It was only a dream.” If you could be tricked, so that, having dreamed of flying to New York, you awoke in the morning to find that you were actually in New York, then you would be in a dilemma! Now you would not be able to call your dream a dream, because it would be reality!
Buddha says, “The real is that which, when you walk upon it, brings you to your destination. The unreal is that which will never bring you to your destination. The unreal is that which will never bring you anywhere, no matter how far you walk upon it.” Only when your eyes are opened can you see that this long journey reaches nowhere, and that you have not moved at all! This is what Buddha means when he says that the world is a dream. Buddha also calls this world maya, illusion, but not in opposition to Brahman. For Buddha there is no Brahman at all – only maya is. And it is worth understanding.
Buddha is saying that Brahman, too, is only a new hope of your mind. You think you have dropped hoping because you have given up your hopes in wealth and the world, but really you have only transferred them to Brahman. You have come to understand that the world is worthless and offers you nothing worth having, and all of a sudden everything that is worth having is there instead in Brahman.
Previously the world was to be achieved, now the Brahman is to be achieved, but your mind has not deviated from achieving. And Buddha says that as long as there is anything to be achieved the mind is still there.
This is why Buddha says, “Spare the Brahman! Don’t bring him in, because you will turn him also into an object of your race of desires.” Until yesterday you were going towards the marketplace, now you will go towards the temple, but the going continues. Until yesterday you were accumulating wealth – counting the piles of money again and again everyday – now you will accumulate virtue, but the accumulation continues. Virtue is as much of a wealth to you as money.
And remember, just as money is also a social recognition and virtue is also a social recognition. That one hundred rupee bill of yours is a one hundred rupee bill because the society recognizes that it is so. Tomorrow if the society says, the state declares, that one hundred rupee bills are invalid; its value is not even a paise then. What we call virtue is also nothing but society’s recognition.
In India, to marry one woman is a virtue. If you marry four, you will be in trouble. So if a Hindu marries one woman it is a virtue, because without marriage you won’t be free of paternal debt – you will have no children so how can you be free of paternal debt? A Hindu marrying four women is a sin. If a Mohammedan marries four women, it is a virtue; there is no sin in it at all. The currency of four wives is recognized by Mohammedans, not by Hindus.
Virtue and sin are also currencies; they too are recognized by society. If you are alone in a jungle, what is a virtue and what is a sin there? And what will you make of your hundred rupee bill there? What is the use of your one rupee bill there? In the jungle the hundred rupee bill is nothing but a piece of paper. Your virtue is a piece of paper there, your sin a piece of paper there. Howsoever good a person you may be, you cannot earn any goodness in the forest. And how will you become good in the forest? There is no one there on whom you may bestow your kindness; there is no one there whom you may serve. How will you become bad there? There is no one there you may call names or murder. You are alone there so the sin and virtue have both disappeared. Sin and virtue are coins of the society.
So man first accumulates wealth, enlarges his bank balance; and with that too he announces only his ego: “Look how much wealth I have!” Then when he moves away from that, Buddha says, then he accumulates virtue; then he creates a bank balance of virtue. And remember, this is a matter of far more cleverness, because the ordinary bank balance may be left behind here, but the bank balance of virtue, it is hoped, will go along with you; death won’t be able to separate you from that it.
I was in a town. A sect of Mohammedans in the town believes that when their priest writes down a slip showing how many virtuous deeds a person has done, how many donations he has given in charity, and puts his signature on it, then if this slip is kept with the man in his grave when he dies, the slip travels with him and he can show it to God as a testimonial of all his good deeds and virtues.
Buddha says, do not fall into such stupidity, because this God of yours will be nothing but an extension of your own business mentality, and your ego is neither disappearing because of this nor even getting any less. Now it is attaching itself to Brahman, now you will have to achieve Brahman at any cost. Now you won’t be at rest until Brahman is in your hand, until you are able to declare, that “Look, I have not only conquered the world, I have also brought home Brahman with me.”
Your ‘I’ does not allow you to see anything else but you. Your Brahman is confined with you, your wealth confined within you; your desire will be confined with you, your prayer is confined within you.
I have heard: A rich Jew went to a Hassid mystic and said, “I want to pray, but however much I try my desires don’t leave me alone. I want to give, I want to donate in charity, but even behind this charity my greed is present, my desire to gain is present. I can forfeit but that too is a bargain, hope to get something, a hope to get even more; then I can forfeit. And however much I close my eyes, I don’t see any God. I remain full of my ‘I’. What should I do? And what is the reason for all this trouble?”
The mystic said, “You come with me.” Then he led the rich man to a window. There is clear glass on the window; outside there are trees, birds, white herons flying in the sky; the sun is shining and a few clouds are also floating in the sky. He said, “Look outside. Do you see everything?”
The rich man said, “I see everything. The glass on the window is so clear and transparent.”
Then the mystic took the man to another wall by which a mirror was hanging. He asked the man, “Do you see any difference between this glass and the previous one?”
The rich man stood in front of the mirror and nothing except his own figure was visible in the glass.
“Both are glasses;” said the mystic, “what is the difference then?”
The rich man started laughing. He said, “I get it! The difference is of a thin silver layer. On that glass there is no silver layer, on this glass there is a silver layer on its back. Because of that layer nothing is seen through it, only my own figure is seen in it. I get it! A silver layer is all around me. This is why whenever I look, nothing, no God, no Brahman is seen; only I am seen.”
This silver can be of many kinds. It can be worldly, it can be spiritual. But as long as there is any layer of desire on you – and that is the silver – you are surrounded by yourself.
Buddha made a profound declaration in the purest form ever on earth: that your Brahman is nothing but an extension of your own ego. And this is why Buddha also said that, there is no Brahman. Do not deduce by this that there is no Brahman. Because Buddha said there is no God, do not take this to mean – otherwise it will be a mistake – that Buddha denied God. When Buddha said there is no God, there is no Brahman, what he really was saying is that as far as your God, your Brahman is concerned, it is nothing more than you, it is your own game. It is a new door, a new extension, a new expansion to your own ego; there too you have set out to propagate only yourself.
This is why Buddha is so hard, because his compassion is great. He says: Neither there is any God nor any soul nor any liberation. There is nothing. Only this moment is everything. And if you come to understand Buddha’s statement that this moment is everything, and there is no time ahead, no time behind – no eternal, no timeless – then where will you go? Where will be the space for your desires to run? All means have been taken away, all passages demolished, all bridges dismantled. You will be simply standing here.
Death exists in the past, according to Buddha, because death has to precede birth. Had you not died first, how would you be born? Just as there is death after birth, so is it before birth. Death and birth are two sides of the same coin. You died in the past life, so you are born in this life. You are born in this life, so you will die again. No sooner do you die, than you will be born again. If death is one step, the other step is always present there. If birth is one step, the other step is always present there. So Buddha says: Death in the back, death in the front, in between is the birth. Between two deaths is a birth; between two births is a death. Wherever you are standing there is death on both sides – in the front as well as in the back. This is the situation. You are hanging over cliffs and ravines, and suddenly you see a beehive – in Buddha’s story it is not a fruit, it is a beehive – and a drop of honey is hanging from it which can fall any moment. Your eyes are caught with it, you have opened your mouth and you are waiting for it – and then the drop falls and Buddha says you feel: How sweet! How tasty!
If you can forget both the deaths – this is the meaning of Buddha’s story. Your hands are growing weaker and weaker and your grip is loosening; if not today then tomorrow you will lose your grip on the roots you are hanging onto – you can forget even all this and the taste in this moment can be so intense in you that nothing else remains in this moment but the taste. When you forget death, you forget yourself too. So when neither there is death, nor time, nor are you aware of the surroundings, this taste has become your enlightenment, this taste has become your meditation. And in this very moment you have become liberated; in this very moment you have known what Brahman is.
So for Buddha this story carries a very different meaning. For Buddha the very meaning of meditation is to live moment to moment, and to taste each moment with such totality that even the taster does not remain within – because that too hinders the totality. If when the drop of honey falls in your mouth and you too are present in that moment, the tasting won’t be total. No, only the taste remains, only the sweetness of the honey spreading in your mouth remains; your whole being becomes nothing but the sweetness of the honey. Nothing else remains there: no knower, no experiencer, no doer, nobody, only the sweetness of the honey goes on spreading – in that moment is enlightenment.
So, Buddha says, each sense can become a door to enlightenment. According to Buddha the trouble is not in the senses, it is in the ego. If ego uses the senses, every sense becomes a bondage. And if the ego within has faded away, then every sense becomes a liberation.
These are very contradicting things, but the ultimate result of them both is one. Whatever feels right to you. I don’t want to put you in confusion but it is necessary to tell you both the meanings of the story. Then you can yourself choose. If the first idea appeals to you, then the path of your life will be completely different. Then you will have to travel a different route. Call it the path of austerity; call it the path of will – that is the path you will have to travel: the struggle. To denounce the senses one by one and to awaken oneself from each sense. Then absorption, merging, won’t be your path; your path will be of struggle, of total will to protect and establish oneself. And the biggest difficulty that you will face in the end is that when you have gone past all the senses and no sense has any influence over you, you will find that this ’I’ which has survived in its purest form, how to merge this into Brahman? Because in fighting with each sense your ‘I’ will go on becoming stronger and purer.
This is the why in the Hindu system of spiritual discipline the last problem that arises is that how is the ascetic to dissolve his ego? – Because the ego of an ascetic is very solidified. What has an ordinary worldly person got in the name of ego? But an ascetic has……
Hindu spiritual discipline is very easy in the beginning stages, because fighting is always an easy thing. We are always to fight. We very much want to fight – fight either with others or with ourselves. Violence comes easily. Chopping off, beating up, all these make sense. We are all eager to destroy. In destruction lies our interest. So asceticism deeply appeals to us. Seeing somebody lying in a bed of thorns you too stop to look, you too get filled with awe. Somebody is standing and has not sat down since years; seeing him your head bows down. Somebody is fasting, has not drunk even water for months; you feel like going and being lost at his feet. Asceticism appeals because it is like self-torture in order to destroy oneself. But the one who is destroying is himself getting crystalized within. The body will be destroyed but the ego will be strengthened.
Hindu spiritual discipline is very easy at the first step but very difficult at the last step, because the final jump will have become an accumulated thing. That ego which you preserved and practiced for so many days, ornamented, decorated, polished and purified it so much that it has become like a clear and solid crystal – had you thrown it away on the very first day when it was like an uncut stone, then, perhaps there would have been no difficulty in throwing it away then. But now after so much asceticism you have purified it so much that there will be great difficulty in dropping it. So a Hindu seeker experiences great difficulty at the final step – how to drop this clear crystal in the feet of god?
Buddhist spiritual discipline is very difficult in the beginning – because to make the taste of senses a meditation is an arduous task. The very nature of the senses is unconsciousness, and what is meant by meditation is consciousness. So, to indulge in the pleasure of senses consciously, to indulge so totally that no ego remains within, that no indulger remains, is arduous because the senses make us go to sleep; it is for the purpose of falling asleep that we take shelter in them. And Buddha says to stay awake from the very beginning, and that one has not to control the senses with the ego but the very ego itself has to be removed. This is why Buddha says neither is there any soul inside nor any ‘I-ness’ – There simply is none within. Only you as a chariot are; there is no other charioteer within you. Move on with this very understanding.
So the beginning is very arduous, but the end is easy – Because whosoever will proceed with this understanding will not come to a day when all of a sudden he will have to throw away his enhanced ego into God. Such a man will slowly discover one day that the ego is no more there.
His disappearance will be so easy. One day he will suddenly find that “I am not, only Brahman, the ultimate reality, is.” This state Buddha has called nirvana.
But if we look at the system of spiritual discipline as a whole then both are the same. Whether it is difficulty in the beginning and easiness in the end, or easiness in the beginning and difficulty in the end, altogether both are the same thing. Both weigh equal.
Hence every seeker has to think for himself. If you want to walk with Buddha the difficulty is at the very beginning; if you want to walk with Shankara the difficulty is at the end. So it all depends on you. The difficulty itself is there, that you will have to cross over. It all depends on you – on your own inclination, your own attitude, your own life, your own type of personality. Understand them clearly and proceed accordingly – you will reach to the same place. Buddha calls it nirvana, Shankara calls it Brahman. Shankara takes you there through refining the eternal; Buddha takes you there through refining the moment.
This is why Buddha’s thinking could not take roots in India because there was a long tradition of Hindu thinking here and Hindu thinking had opposed the moment so much that it was difficult to even conceive that one can attain to truth through the moment. And Hindu thinking had opposed and controlled the senses so much – because the very definition Patanjali gave to yoga was: Chittavritti nirodhah, controlling the dispositions of the senses. This was nothing less than putting chitta, the mind, and vritti, the dispositions, into fight. There was a long tradition of it. Buddha’s statements looked contradictory to this stream and it appeared as if they would shatter the whole edifice of Hindu thinking.
Hence Hindus saw in Buddha the kind of enemy they have not been able to see in anybody else. Hindus did not oppose Mahavira that much – that is why Jainas could survive in India – because Mahavira’s spiritual discipline also is of will, of overcoming the senses. Its basic form is Hindu. Hence there is no basic gap between Jainas and Hindus. There may be differences in an ideological conversation but their structure of the personality is the same. This is why Jainas could survive in India, but it became impossible to let Buddhists survive. Buddha had to be uprooted. There was reason to uproot him: his view of the spiritual journey was absolutely contrary. That drop of honey that has dripped, one has to be dissolved in its taste so absolutely that the very drop of honey becomes Brahman. Here, in the Hindu concept, the drop of Honey which represents the senses is an illusion. In Buddha’s concept, the very drop of honey is Brahman, the ultimate truth.
Both are right. And when I say both are right, this creates even greater difficulty. It is always easy to say one right and the other wrong, because the two look opposites. And the greatest art of religion is wherever you find opposites, don’t be in a hurry to call one wrong. Religion is nothing but a name of the synthesis of the opposites. So don’t be in a hurry. The mind wants to call the opposite wrong. According to mind only one of the two can be right – how can both be right?
Life is much vaster than the mind. Mind is very narrow. In it, only one of the opposites can be right. In life, both can be right. Intellect is very small. There is no place in it to accommodate the opposites. Existence is vast, and in it are contained all opposites; there the opposites are side by side. The more your spiritual vision sharpens the more you will find that all opposites merge.
From Nowhere to Go But In, Chapter Eight
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