Your birthright: to take flight
SEEING AND HEARING YOU SPEAK, ONE THING CONTINUES TO STRIKE ME: FROM YOUR EARLIEST CHILDHOOD, UP UNTIL THE LATEST SPLIT SECOND, YOU HAVE ALWAYS HAD SO MUCH SELF-RESPECT AND SO MUCH SELF-DELIGHT. ARE WE ALL CAPABLE OF SO MUCH?
MAN is not aware of what he is capable unless he comes to realize it.
It is just like a small young bird. The bird, sitting in the shelter the mother and the father have made, watches them fly, can see the delight of their flight. He himself would also like to fly in the same way, be on the wing in the infinite sky, under the sun. Seeing them going higher, moving with the winds, a great urge arises in him also. But he is not aware that he is capable of the same flight, the same delight, the same dance. He is not even aware that he has wings.
It takes a little time for the mother and the father to persuade him. And they have a certain methodology to persuade him. The mother may sit just a little higher on another branch and give a call to the child. The child tries to fly but is afraid he may fall. But the mother goes on calling him; that gives him confidence. Sometimes it is needed for the father to actually push him out of the shelter.
There is fear, he is nervous, but one thing is certain: for the first time he knows he has wings.
He flutters his wings. He does not know how to fly, but the mother is not far away; he manages to reach her - the miracle has happened. Now the mother's call will be coming from a second tree, 2 and then the call will be coming from a far-off forest. But once he knows that he has wings, then distances don't matter. Slowly there is no need for the mother to call or the father to push him.
One day comes when he simply says goodbye to his father and mother and flies and never comes back. He has become an individual on his own.
Whatever you see in me, feel in me, is there in you, but only as a potential.
Nobody has called you from a distance and given you the confidence that you have wings. Nobody has pushed you and of course in the beginning it will look as if he is your enemy, pushing you to your death: you will fall! But unless you are pushed, and you see that by fluttering your wings you remain in the air and you don't fall.... Then a great potential has become actual: the first vision of your own flying. Now it is no longer a dream, you can realize it.
This is the problem - that man is not as alert as the birds are, that the child has to be made aware of his potentiality.
Man's misfortune is this - that the father is not interested in the child's potentiality. He is interested in his own investment. He would like the child to be part of his business, of his religion, of his politics, of his ideology. The mother is not interested in the child's development because that's an unknown factor. It is not as simple as a bird's; man is a complex being, multi dimensional. The child is capable of becoming so many things, but the mother has her own investment - she would like the child to become someone in particular. I Man's parents, because of their own investment - business, politics, religion, philosophy - are less interested in the potential of the child. They are more interested in how to mold the child so that he fits in their world, becomes respectable in their world, is not an outcast, is not a misfit.
All this arises out of good intentions, but the result is not good. It is almost slaughtering the child, destroying, killing him. Most of his potential will always remain only potential. He will never be even aware what treasures he has brought with his life. He wi!l die, and those treasures will remain unopened.
He lived his whole life according to somebody else's dictates: he lived a borrowed life. He smiled because it was expected; he paid respect to people because that was what he was taught. He went to the church, to the synagogue, to the temple because his parents were going there, everybody else was going there. This was the thing to do, this was the in thing.
With me something went wrong from the very beginning.
The reason was that for seven years I was not with my parents, I lived with my maternal grandfather and grandmother. Those two old persons had no investment - they simply loved me. They knew perfectly well that sooner or later I would be gone, I was only a guest. You don't start investing in a guest - tomorrow morning he will be gone. They acted out of a space which parents cannot. That's where things went wrong with me.
They allowed me total freedom to be myself because they had no desire to mold me. In fact, they wanted me to go back to my parents, so whatsoever my parents wanted me to become I would be available. My maternal grandfather actually said to me many times, "Our whole effort is to return you to your parents the same clean slate as they gave us. We don't want to write anything on you.
Who knows? - it may be against your parents' wishes. You belong to them, to us you are a guest:
all that we can do is give you freedom, our love, space to grow."
But the first seven years are the most important in life; never again will you have that much opportunity. Those seven years decide your seventy years, all the foundation stones are laid in those seven years. So by a strange coincidence I was saved from my parents - and by the time I reached them, I was almost on my own, I was already flying. I knew I had wings. I knew that I didn't need anybody's help to make me fly. I knew that the whole sky is mine.
I never asked for their guidance, and if any guidance was given to me I always retorted, "This is insulting. Do you think I cannot manage it myself? I do understand that there is no bad intention in giving guidance - for that I am thankful - but you do not understand one thing, that I am capable of doing it on my own. Just give me a chance to prove my mettle. Don't interfere."
In those seven years I became really a strong individualist: hard-core. Now it was impossible to put any trip on me.
I used to pass through my father's shop, because the shop was in front - at the back was the house where the family lived. That's how it happens in India: house and shop are together so it is easily manageable. I used to pass through my father's shop with closed eyes.
He asked me, "This is strange. Whenever you pass through the shop into the house, or from the house" - it was just a twelve foot space to pass - "you always keep your eyes closed. What ritual are you practising?"
I said, "I am simply practicing so that this shop does not destroy me as it has destroyed you. I don't want to see it at all; I am absolutely uninterested, totally uninterested." And it was one of the most beautiful cloth shops in that city - the best materials were available there - but I never looked to the side, I simply closed my eyes and passed by.I He said, "But in opening your eyes there is no harm."
I said, "One never knows - one can be distracted. I don't want to be distracted by anything."
Naturally, he wanted me - I was his eldest son - he wanted me to help him. He wanted me, after my education, to come and take charge of the shop. The shop he had managed well; it had become a big place, slowly, slowly. He said, "Of course, who else is going to look after it? I will be getting old; do you want me continually to be here?"
I said, "No, I don't, but you can retire. You have your younger brothers who are interested in the shop, in fact too interested - even afraid that you may give the shop to me. I have told them,'Don't be afraid of me; I am no one's competitor.' Give this shop to your younger brothers."
But in India the tradition is that the eldest son inherits everything. My father was the eldest son of his father; he inherited everything. All that he had now was for me to take care of Naturally he was worried... but there was no way. He tried in every possible way, somehow to get me interested.
He would say to me, "Even if you become a doctor you cannot earn as much in the whole month as I can earn in a day. If you become an engineer, what salary are you going to get? If you become a professor - I can hire your professors, no problem. And you know there are so many thousands of graduates, post-graduates, Ph.D.s, unemployed."
First he tried to persuade me not to go to the university because he was very much afraid that it would make me absolutely independent for six years - going far away. Then he would not even be able to keep an eye on me. He had already been regretting that for seven years he left me with my mother's parents.
I told him, "Don't be afraid. What has to happen has happened: I am really graduated. Those seven years.... No university is needed to corrupt me; I am corrupted completely - out of your hands. And these means of persuasion - salaries, respect, money - I don't give any value to them. And I am not going to become a doctor or an engineer, so don't be worried. In fact, I am going to remain a vagabond my whole life."
He said, "That is even worse! It is better you be come an engineer or you become a doctor, but vagabond? - that is a new profession. You have got some mind to find such things. You want to become a vagabond! Even those who are vagabonds feel humiliated if you say,'You are a vagabond,' but you are telling your own father that all your life you want to be just a vagabond."
I said, "That is what is going to be."
Then he started saying, "Then why do you want to go to the university?"
I said, "I want to be an educated vagabond, not a vagabond out of weakness. I don't want to do anything in my life out of weakness: because I could not be anything, that's why I am a vagabond - that is not my way. First I want to prove to the world that I can be anything that I want to be, Still I choose to be a vagabond - out of strength. Then there is respectability even if you are a vagabond, because respectability has nothing to do with your vocation, your profession; respectability has something to do with you are acting out of strength, clarity, intelligence.
"So be perfectly aware that I am not going to the university to be able to find some good job; I am not born to do such stupid things. And there are so many to do those things. But a very cultured, sophisticated, educated vagabond is very much needed because you don't see any around. There are vagabonds but they are just third-grade people, they are failures. I want first to be absolutely successful and then to kick all that success and just be a vagabond."
He said, "I cannot understand your logic, but if you have decided to be a vagabond I know that there is no way to change you."
Those seven years... he reminded me again and again, That was our basic fault. That was the time we could have managed to make you something of worth. But your Nana and your Nani, those two old fellows destroyed you completely."
And after my Nana's death, my Nani never went back to the village; she was so heartbroken. I have seen thousands of couples very intimately because I have been staying with so many families, wandering around India, but I could never find anybody who could be compared with those two old people: they really loved each other.
When my Nana died, my Nani - my maternal grandmother - wanted to die with him. It was a difficult task to prevent her. She wanted to sit on the funeral pyre with her husband. She said, "My life is gone - now what is the point of being alive?" Everybody tried, and by that time.... This is an ancient tradition in India called suttee.
The word suttee means the woman who dies sits on the funeral pyre, alive, with her dead husband.
The word suttee means truthfulness. Sut means "truth," also "being"; suttee means "who has a true being - whose being is of truthfulness." She has loved the person so deeply that she has become identified with his life; there is no point in her living. But after the British Raj the suttee tradition was declared illegal.
To the Western eye it looked almost like committing suicide; literally it was so. And for almost ninety- nine percent of women who became suttees it was nothing but suicide. But for one percent I cannot say it was suicide. For one percent, to live without the person whom they had loved totally and from whom they had never thought for a single moment to be separated, living was suicide.
But law is blind and cannot make such fine distinctions. What Britishers saw was certainly ugly and had to be stopped. The one percent went on the funeral pyre of their own accord. But it became such a respectable thing that any woman who was not willing to do it... and it was really a very dangerous, torturous way of dying - just entering the funeral pyre alive!
Ninety-nine percent were not willing to do it but their families, their relatives felt awkward because this meant the woman never loved the man totally. It would be a condemnation of the whole family:
the honor of the family was at stake. So what these people did was they forced the woman; and a certain climate was created in which you would not be able to discover that the woman was being forced. She was of course in a terrible state, in a great shock.
She was taken to the funeral pyre and on the funeral pyre so much ghee, purified butter, was poured that there was a cloud of smoke all over the place; you could not see what is happening. Around that cloud there were hundreds of brahmins loudly chanting Sanskrit sutras, and behind the brahmins there was a big band with all kinds of instruments making as much noise as possible - so to hear the woman screaming or crying or trying to get out of the funeral pyre was impossible. Around the funeral pyre the brahmins were standing with burning torches to push the woman back in.
When Britishers saw this - this was certainly not only suicide but murder too. In fact, it was murder; the woman was not willing. The whole atmosphere was created so that you could not hear her screams, you could not see that she was trying to escape - everybody else was out of the circles of brahmins.
When Britishers found out that this was something criminal and ugly, they made it illegal: if any woman tried it and was found out and caught alive, she would be sentenced for her whole life. And anybody who persuaded her - the family, the priests, the neighbors - they were also partners in the crime and they would also be punished according to whatsoever part they had played in it.
So the institution slowly slowly disappeared; it had to disappear. But once in a while those one percent of women were always there for whom it didn't matter, because their lives were now a sentence unto death. Why not take the chance of finishing it with your loved one?
So they all tried, everybody, to persuade my Nani not to do it, but she said, "I have nothing to live for. I cannot go back to my village because in that same house where we both lived our whole life for sixty years, I cannot live alone. He will be too much there. I have not eaten a single meal before he did; it will be impossible for me to eat. In the first place, impossible to cook because I used to cook for him; he loved delicious foods and I enjoyed cooking for him. Just to see him delighted was my delight. Now for whom am I going to cook?
"And I have never taken my meal before him. Even if it was very late if he had gone to some other village for some work, or to the court in a faraway town - I had to wait the whole day, but it was a joy to wait for him. In sixty years of married life I have not eaten a single meal before him."
That has been a tradition in India: how can you eat unless the person you love and for whom you have cooked and prepared has eaten? Just the other day my mother was saying.... She told me that she had wanted to tell me before but could not gather courage to tell, that day she wanted to say it because it was like a heavy weight on her heart.
I said, "You should have told me before; if just by telling me that weight disappears, why should you keep it?"
She said, "l felt so ashamed to mention it to you, but I cannot bear it any more, for the simple reason that if any day I die, I will die with this heavy weight, so it is better I should tell it."
And what was the matter? The matter was nothing - to the Western eye it is meaningless. The matter was this, that she had also never eaten before my father, but on the last day, when my father died.... She used to come from the hospital in the night and in the early morning she used to go back. She was just preparing tea before she went to the hospital, just about to take a cup of tea when the phone call came that my father's condition was serious, so without drinking the tea she went to the hospital. He was going up and down the whole day, so she completely forgot about eating.
By the evening my father was better. I went to see him nearabout three, and he was as good as one could hope - and that was a dangerous signal because it always happens before a man dies that he becomes absolutely okay. When death is coming, somehow the whole life flame gathers together to face death as the last challenge. That's why before death people become almost cured. It is just like before a flame disappears from the candle: in that last moment before disappearing it burns really bright, and with full vigor, with intensity.
Life is almost a flame. Even scientifically too it is a flame; that's why you need constant oxygen - oxygen is needed by every flame. If you cover a candle with a glass, soon the candle will be gone because inside the glass there is only a little bit of oxygen. Once that oxygen is burned by the flame, the flame is finished. You need constant oxygen just to keep your flame burning. So scientifically also you are a flame, not only poetically.
When I went to see him at three o'clock he was perfectly cured. He was laughing, sitting up, enjoying himself; and he said to me, "Now I am feeling perfectly good, and I think tomorrow I can come home."
I could see what was going to happen. He was going home but he was not coming home.
So I tried to change the subject of home, because it was difficult for me to say, "Yes, tomorrow you are coming home" - because what I was seeing was that he was going home that day. But I said, "That is perfectly okay. Why wait for tomorrow? If you are feeling good and there is no problem, and the doctor allows it, you can come today." And I tried to talk about mundane things. I told him, "We have brought a new, very big car for you. It has come, and whenever you are ready you will be coming home in your own new car."
He was almost childlike as he went deeper into meditation. And he took sannyas only when he had touched the rock bottom of meditation, not before it. People take sannyas to enter into meditation; he waited. My mother took sannyas, my uncles took sannyas, but he waited.
Everybody was asking me, "Why don't you tell your father?" My uncle was saying it, my mother was saying it. I said, "He has never told anything to me, never forced me to do anything. Now this would be absolutely unfair on my part to tell him to do something - and particularly to take sannyas.
Whenever he wants, he will say; I am not going to tell him. And I know he is waiting" - because he was continuously reporting about his meditation to me: how he was going, what he experienced, for how many seconds his thoughts disappeared and what kind of thoughts came when they came.
Whenever he came to me he was mentioning his meditation - and that was a clear indication that he was waiting; until he had touched rock bottom he would not say anything about sannyas. And he knew perfectly well that I was not going to say anything.
One day, in the morning... he used to meditate from three o'clock in the night up to six - three hours.
So just nearabout six, Laxmi came running and said, "Your father wants you immediately, and he also says,'Bring a mala and the sannyas form.' I don't know what has happened to him." He had been sitting for three hours; he was staying in the room where afterwards Laxmi stayed - in Lao Tzu house in Poona, the same room. He had just come for a few days, so Laxmi had moved out and he was staying there. I went into the room. He said, "Now the time has come: give me sannyas.
After that day he became more and more childlike - interested in any small thing, just like a child. But that day when I mentioned, "We have brought a very big car for you, perhaps the biggest available in India" - and you can find the biggest cars in India because elsewhere, all over the world, they have disappeared - "and now you will not feel any discomfort, any trouble," he took no notice. That was another indication to me that he was feeling something. I left him after ten minutes and I told him, "I will inquire of the doctor, and if you are cured then why wait for tomorrow? - you come home today."
When my mother saw him he was looking perfectly well. He said that he wanted to go out and sit on the veranda and just see the outside world. After my leaving they took him out. At that time my mother realized that she had not eaten the whole day. She felt so hungry that she told Sohan, or somebody who was there, "I am feeling very hungry, my stomach is almost hurting." She told my father, "Sohan is coming soon with the food so you eat first - my stomach is hurting."
But my father said, "I am not feeling like eating. I am feeling so good that I don't want to disturb my body by anything; I simply want to sit and look at the sky. Don't be worried - you go and eat" - and she was so hungry that she ate before my father.
This weight she had been carrying - that for the whole of her life she never ate before my father, and on the last day she did. As she finished, my father came in and she brought his food: he took one bite and said, "My body doesn't feel to take anything." Within half an hour he was gone; his body came home that night - he came home in that car that Laxmi had been trying to bring.
But my mother just said the other day, "Relieve me of this pain because this hurts. That last day I completely forgot that he has to eat first."
I said, "Perhaps he could see better, that now you will be eating alone; it will not be possible any longer to give him food first and then eat. So just out of compassion he told you,'You eat, don't be worried. There is nothing in it - who eats first, and who eats later. It is all the same.'
"My feeling is that he was also feeling that there was not much time left, and then you would have to eat afterwards without giving food to him. He must have been happy to see that you had eaten, that you would not be in the same position as my mother's mother was."
For almost ten or twelve days my grandmother didn't eat. First it was difficult to prevent her from going on the funeral pyre. Finally they all, my whole family, told me, "Only you can persuade her; you have been with her for seven years." And certainly I succeeded. All that I had to do - I said to her, "You are saying constantly,'For what do I have to live?' Not for me? Just tell me: you don't want to live for me? Then I will tell the whole family that we both are going on the funeral pyre."
She said, "What!"
I said, "Then why am I going to be here? For what? It is good we both go."
She said, "Stop this nonsense. Who has ever heard of a boy, seven years old...? It is not for you, it is for a woman whose husband has died."
I said, "Your husband has died, my Nana has died, and my Nani is going to die - it is enough reason for me. And anyway, any day I will have to die, so why wait so long? Finish it quickly."
She said, "I know you are mischievous and even though your Nana is dead you are playing a trick on me."
I said, "Then stop harassing the whole family, otherwise I am coming with you." She agreed that she wouldn't go to the funeral, she would live for me.
She stayed in my father's town, but she was a very independent woman: she did not like the big joint family; my father's brothers, their wives, their children - it was a huge caravan. She said, "This is not the place for me. I have lived my whole life with my husband, in silence. Only for seven years were you there, otherwise there has not been much conversation either, because there was nothing to say. We had talked about all those things before, so there was nothing to say - we just sat silently."
And it was a beautiful place where they lived, facing a very big lake, so they would sit looking at the lake and the water birds flying, coming in thousands in certain seasons. She said, "I would like to live alone." So a house was found for her near the river where she would find some similarity; in this town we had no lake but we had a beautiful river.
The whole day I was in school or roaming around the town or doing a thousand and one things, and at night I always stayed with my Nani. Many times she said, "Your parents may feel bad. We took you from them for seven years, for which they cannot forgive us. We thought that we should return you as clean as we had got you, not trying to impose anything on you. But they are angry; they don't say so but I can feel it and I hear from other people that we spoiled you. And now you don't go to sleep with your father and mother and your family; you come here every night. They will think that the spoiling is continuing - the old man is gone but the old woman is still here."
I said to her, "But if I don't come can you really sleep? For whom do you prepare the second bed every night before I come? - because I do not tell you that tomorrow I will be coming. About tomorrow, from the very beginning I have been uncertain because who knows what will happen tomorrow? Why do you prepare the second bed? And not only the second bed...."
I had a long habit which Devaraj somehow had to manage to finish; it took him almost two or three years. I had, from my very childhood, as long as I remember, needed sweets before going to bed, otherwise I could not sleep. So she was not only preparing my bed, she used to go out and buy sweets, the sweets that I liked, and she would keep the sweets by my bed so that I could eat; even in the middle of the night if I felt like it again, I could eat. She would put enough so that if you ate the whole night there would be no problem.
I asked her, "For whom do you bring these sweets? - you don't eat them; since Nana died you have not tasted sweets." My Nana loved sweets. In fact it seems he gave me this idea of sweets; he also used to eat before going to sleep. That is not done in any Jaina family. Jainas don't eat in the night; they don't even drink water or milk or anything. But he lived in a village where he was the only Jaina, so there was no problem. And it is perhaps from him that I got the habit. I don't remember even how I started it: it must have been he, eating and calling me also to join him. I must have joined him, and by and by it became a routine thing. For seven years he trained me!
I could not go to my house for two reasons. One reason was those sweets - because in my mother's place it was not possible: there were so many children that if you allowed one child, then all the children would ask. And anyway it was against the religion - you simply could not even ask. But my difficulty was this, that I could not go to sleep without them.
Secondly, I felt, "My Nani must be feeling to be alone, and here it is difficult to be alone so many people, it is always a marketplace. Nobody will be missing me if I am not here" - nobody ever missed me. They just made certain that I was sleeping with my Nani, then there was no problem.
So even after those seven years I was not under the influence of my parents. It was just accidental that from the very beginning I was on my own. Doing right or wrong - that was not the important thing, but doing on my own. And slowly slowly, that became my style of life, about everything - for example, about clothes.
In my town I was the only non-Mohammedan dressed liked a Mohammedan. My father said, "You can do anything but at least don't do this, because I have to live in the society, I have to think of the other children. And from where did you get this idea?"
Mohammedans in my town used instead of the dhoti that Indians use, a certain kind of pajama that is called a salvar. That is used by Pakhtoons in Afghanistan and Pakhtoonistan - those faraway places near the Himalayas, beyond the Himalayas. But it is a beautiful pajama, and not made in a miserly way, like a pajama; it has so many folds. If you have a real salvar you can make at least ten pajamas out of it; it has so many folds. Those folds give it its beauty, when they all become gathered. And I wore a long Pakhtoon kurtha - not an Indian kurtha. The Indian kurtha is short and the sleeves are not very loose. The Pakhtoon kurtha sleeves are very loose and the kurtha is very long; it goes below the knees. And I had got a Turkish cap.
My father used to tell me, "You enter the shop anyway with closed eyes, and with closed eyes you go out. Why don't you use the back door?" He said, "You can come in from the back door, you can go out from the back door; you can have the key to yourself because nobody uses the back door.
At least we will be saved the trouble of answering every customer,'Who is the Mohammedan going inside with closed eyes?' And you get these strange ideas. We have a cloth shop - all kinds of cloths are there, ready-made clothes are there - you can have any style, but Mohammedan?"
In India, a Mohammedan is the worst thing. I said, "This is why, because all you people think that the Mohammedan is the worst thing. I am protesting against you all, that the dress of the Mohammedan is the best. And you can see it; wherever I go only I am noticed, nobody else is notice&. Whenever I enter the classroom I am noticed; anywhere I go I am immediately noticed."
And the way I was using that dress.... It was a really graceful dress, and with a Turkish cap. The Turkish cap is long and has a tassel of hair hanging by the side; very rich Turkish people use it. I was so small, but that dress helped me in many ways.
I might go to meet the collector, and the man, the peon, guarding the gate would just look at me and he would tell me, "Come on." Seeing that dress.... He would not have allowed me, a small boy, to enter, but, "With this dress he must be a sheik or somebody very important." And even the collector would stand up, seeing my dress. "Sheik" is used for very respectable people, and he would say, "Sheikji, betye - Sheikji, please sit down."
I told my father, "This dress helps me in so many ways. Just the other day I went to see a minister and he also thought that I am a sheik belonging to some rich Arabian family or Persian family. And you want me to drop this dress and just use a dhoti and kurtha which nobody is going to notice?" I continued to wear that dress up to my matriculation.
They tried hard to stop me, but the harder they tried, the more.... I said, "If you stop trying perhaps I may drop it; while you continue to try I am the last person to drop it."
One day my father put all my salvars and my kurthas and my three Turkish caps in a bundle and went into the godown, the basement, and put them there somewhere where many kinds of things were broken, useless. I could not find anything, so when I came out of the bathroom I simply went naked, with my eyes closed into the shop. As I was going out my father said, "Wait! Just come in.
Take your clothes."
I said, "You bring them, wherever they are."
He said, "I had never thought you would do this. I thought you would look around and search for the clothes; and you would not find them because I had put them in such a place you wouldn't find them.
Then naturally you would wear the normal clothes that you are supposed to wear. I never thought that this would be your action."
I said, "I take direct action. I don't believe in unnecessary talk; I didn't even ask anybody where my clothes were. Why should I ask? My nakedness will serve the same purpose."
He said, "You have your clothes, and nobody is going to bother you about your clothes, but please, don't start walking naked because that will create more trouble - that a cloth-merchant's son has no clothes to wear. You are notorious and you will make us notorious also with you:'Look at the poor child!' Everybody will think that we are not giving you clothes."
Since they had stopped, by the time I passed matriculation I dropped that dress. As I left the town I changed my dress to be more suited to my college life. I had found that in the first college I went to, the cap was compulsory - you could not come without a cap. That was a great idea. You have to come very properly dressed: shoes, buttons closed, with a cap. I went there with no buttons, with no cap, with my wooden sandals - and immediately I became a celebrity.
The principal immediately called me. He said, "What is this?"
I said, "This is just a way to get introduced to you, otherwise it may take years. Who bothers about a first-year student?"
He said, "You have some idea behind it, but it is not allowed; you will have to wear a cap, and buttons have to be closed."
I said, "You will have to prove to me what the scientific grounds are for wearing a cap. Does it help in any way to increase your intelligence? Then I can even use a turban - why a cap? - if it increases your brain power. But the fact is that the most idiots in India are in Punjab, and they use a turban, tied tightly. Perhaps they are the only people in the whole world who use the turban so tightly; their mind is completely imprisoned, finished. And the most intelligent people in India are the Bengalis, who don't use caps." I said, "You just tell me what are the fundamental, scientific reasons that I have to wear a cap."
He said, "This is strange - nobody ever asked the fundamental, scientific reasons about caps. This is simply our convention in this college."
I said, "I don't bother about convention. If the convention is unscientific and destroys people's intelligence, I am the first to rebel against it. And soon you will see caps disappearing from the college because I am going to tell people,'Look - Bengalis have the best intelligence and they don't use caps.'
"In India, two Nobel prizes have gone to Bengal. To Punjab, I don't think ever in the future there is going to be a single Nobel prize. I am going to spread this movement, but if you keep silent and allow me the way I am, I won't create a nuisance; otherwise there will be a movement. You will see bonfires, caps burning, in front of your office."
He looked at me and he said, "Okay, don't create any nuisance, just go on the way you are. But I will be in trouble because sooner or later others are going to ask, 'Why did you allow him?"'
I said, "The fact is that if you are an honest man, you should stop wearing the cap yourself, because you don't have any scientific grounds for it. Otherwise, whosoever comes, tell him to find scientific, fundamental reasons for it - that in some way it helps intelligence. The college is meant to help people's intelligence; it should be sharpened. In what way does the cap help? It imprisons."
But he said, "At least buttons...."
I said, "I don't like them. I like the air going directly to my chest, I enjoy it; I don't like buttons. And nowhere in your college code is a cap mentioned, so for the cap I need scientific reasons. Nowhere is it mentioned that you have to have buttons." But nobody there had ever thought that people would come to college without buttons. I said, "You can see: I don't even have the holes for the buttons."
I won the first prize in my first year in an inter-university debate competition, and this principal was very happy. He said, "I knew that you would win because you find proofs and reasons which nobody even suspects exist. But now there is a problem: we need your photograph with the trophy and everything; it is going to be published. The cap I cannot say anything about, leave it; but buttons, without buttons.... The picture will be going to all the newspapers."
I said, "Then you can stand in my place, with buttons, proper dress and cap. I am not interested.
And when I was debating I did not have buttons; I won the trophy without buttons. And in the photo I have to be without the buttons, otherwise you are not being fair. You should have told me there that without buttons I could not participate in the debate.
"You had chosen me to participate out of all the candidates in the college - at that time also I had no buttons. I participated in the debate, I won the competition; now the trophy is there. If you cannot stand in my place because everybody will recognize that you are the principal, then just hang your coat with the buttons by the side of it. I have no interest in it. But if I am going to stand, I am going to stand the way I am. Even with the buttons I am not the same person."
He was shocked but he agreed that it was true. Even with buttons it would not be the same person.
The personality consists of very small things; just a slight change.... I said, "Just think" - he had a good mustache - "if we shave your mustache and tell you, 'Please pose for us because your photo is going to be printed,' would you be willing?"
He said, "But that would not be like me."
I said, "Exactly. With buttons it would not be me."
It went on - I never missed a single opportunity to sharpen my intelligence. I turned every possible opportunity to sharpening my intelligence, individuality. You can understand now, looking at the whole picture, but in fragments.... The people who had come in contact with me of course were unable to understand what kind of man I am - crazy, nuts - but I was going very methodically.
Each fragment may not give you the idea because it is out of context, but if you put it in the whole context.... I was being expelled from one college, another college, but I was enjoying it - and that's what was shocking to them.
When I was expelled from one college, my first college, it was this same principal who had to expel me. He felt very sorry, because it was not right to expel me; and by and by he had come to have a certain liking for me, for my absolute determination to be myself whatsoever the cost. He had grown, by and by, a certain respect: "This man can sacrifice anything even for buttons, just for the cap."
He tried to persuade me, "If you wear the cap I guarantee you that you will get the first class first in the intermediate examination, because it is in my hands."
I said, "I would prefer to be failed now, but the cap I am not going to use. I am ready for the consequences: it is in your hands; fail me." But before he could fail or pass me he had to expel me, because one professor insisted he would resign or I had to be expelled. He felt sorry because the professor was just being illogical - and strangely, he was the professor of logic! He was being absolutely illogical, because all his complaint was, was that I continually argued.
I told the principal, "The class of logic is meant to argue. We have come to learn logic, not to sit there like dodos. And that old fellow goes on saying any absurd thing. I cannot tolerate it. If anything illogical is said in the logic class, I am going to fight, I am going to stand for logic. It is a question of defending logic and its reputation. Just for an ordinary professor I cannot tolerate any illogical thing.
"And this is absolutely illogical: he gives no reason why I should be expelled, what crime I have committed. He just says that I argue - but is argument a crime? And ask him whether he has been able to answer my argument. Is it my argument that hurts him or that he cannot answer it?"
He said, "I can understand and I feel sorry for you."
I said, "Never feel sorry for me, because I enjoy being expelled - it is creditable - and expelled for no reason at all, expelled for being right. I feel proud.
Don't feel sorry for me, I feel sorry for you all that none of you have guts. You are the principal of the college and you don't have guts. And remember that Life is a very strange phenomenon: today you are in a position of power; tomorrow I may be in a position of power."
He said, "What do you mean?"
I said, "I don't mean anything, I am simply saying that one day it is possible you may be in trouble and only I can save you."
He said, "That is almost impossible. What trouble could I be in? Don't try to confuse me." He was already becoming afraid: "What trouble and what power is he talking about?"
I said, "One day, God willing, we will see."
And, strangely, it happened that ten years after that incident I became a professor. One of the colleges near Gwalior was opened by a Jaina family. The family donated all the money, all that the college needed. And they were very much in love with me, so they put me on their managing committee. This principal - I had completely forgotten about him. Ten years is a long time, and in ten years I had been expelled so many times. There had been so many principals and vice-chancellors that I had been fighting and fighting; but it went on helping me to become more and more solid, confident.
This principal had lost his job; his was a private college, and the managing committee decided to throw him out, so he applied for this new college. I had no idea. I was on the committee to interview principals and professors for the college. When he came up - his name was Principal Paranjape...
when he came up and saw me sitting in the place of the chairman of the managing committee he started trembling.
I said, "Principal Paranjape, don't be afraid."
Then he said, "Forgive me. What I did with you was absolutely unfair and wrong. Please forget about it."
I said, "There is no question... I cannot forget it, I am going to reward you for it. You are chosen as the principal for this college because you expelled me. Now I cannot in any case not choose you because that would be simply, in your mind, revenge. Although you are not the best candidate - there are more qualified people than you - I have to choose you.
"Do you remember, I had said to you that one day things can be just upside down? That day you were sitting in the chair and I was standing in front of you. Today I am sitting in the chair and you are standing in front of me.
"Life is a very strange drama... but I appoint you to be the principal of this college, only because you expelled me. How can I forget it? Forgive?, that is perfectly okay - I have forgiven you long ago because no harm has been done to me - but forget?, that I cannot do. If I forget it you will not be appointed. Now tell me, should I forget it? - then you cannot be appointed. There are far better candidates, you can see. This is the list: there are Ph.D.s there are D.Litt.s - you are only a double M.A.
"Your only qualification is that I remember that you expelled me without any reason. Now being the principal of this college don't do any idiotic thing like that."
He could not believe it. In the evening he came to see me where I was staying, in the family who had made this college. He had tears in his eyes; he said, "I cannot believe it! I was certain that I was finished. Seeing you there I had lost all hope. I have been out of a job for one and a half years - I am in a terrible state. And you saved me, knowing perfectly well that I have been unfair to you."
I said, "Forget about it. That is your problem - to be fair or to be unfair - but it helped me immensely. If you had not expelled me I would not have found a better college, a better principal, better professors. I am really thankful to you."
Actually that was the thing: because of his expulsion I found a better college. But from there also I was expelled, and finally I had to leave Jabalpur because no college was ready to give me admission.
But that was also a great blessing. In my whole life, looking backwards, I find that if you are just a little alert everything turns into a blessing. I don't remember anything in my whole life which turned out to be a curse. All nights have proved to be the beginnings of a brighter day.
When all the colleges refused me, I was living in Jabalpur with one of my father's sisters who was married. She started crying and her husband was in tears. They said, "We have been telling you; why do you unnecessarily get into trouble? And it is not just one college - in four years how many colleges have there been? And you again do something. It surprises us that whatever you do you are righteous about it. And in fact we cannot say that you are wrong; you are right too. We have never seen such a thing happening to any student - who is always right and is expelled. If you are wrong and expelled it is understandable." I said, "This is the beauty in my case. I am never wrong; but in this whole wrong society, to be right is to be wrong. Here, wrong is acceptable, right is not acceptable; hence I don't feel that it is any insult. These are all certificates for my character." And that's how it turned out to be.
I moved to another city, Saugar, and gave all my certificates of expulsion to the vice-chancellor of the university. He said, "But why are you telling me all these terrible things?"
I said, "I am telling you: these are my character certificates. And I don't want to keep you in the dark; first you should know about me, only then give me admission. Otherwise it is safer not to give me admission, rather than expel me later on, because then it will be your responsibility. And you will be condemned for it, because I always do the right thing; perhaps at the right moment, the right thing done rightly is too much, and the people who have been continually doing wrong things freak out.
So I am telling you these are my character certificates."
He said, "You are a strange young man but I cannot refuse you, because who else would give such character certificates? And I am the last to think of expelling you, because each time you are right.
I am not going to deny you admission."
He gave me admission - not only admission, he gave me scholarships. He gave me free food, lodging, boarding, everything free. He said, "You should be given all respect, because so much injustice has been done to you."
I told him, "One thing you should remember: you are doing all these things; it is so compassionate of you; but if sometimes a problem arises then I am going to give you a tough time. I will not think of your favors - that you must keep in your mind - I cannot be bribed."
He said, "l am not bribing you, these are not bribes. I really am impressed." He was the only person who did not expel me for two years continuously. And those two years were the hardest for my professors because those were the two last years, the post-graduate years. So many complaints....
But that man, Doctor Tripathi - he was a very great historian. He was a professor of history at Oxford, and from there, when he retired, he became vice-chancellor of Saugar university. He kept his word.
He simply went on throwing all complaints into the wastepaper basket, although every day when I used to go for a morning walk, passing his house, he would tell me, "So many complaints came yesterday; they are all in the wastepaper basket." And he was so happy that he had been able to keep his word against all odds. It was really difficult for him; there were complaints from students, from superintendents, from the proctor, from professors. But he went on inquiring, "Was he wrong or right?"
One professor was delivering a lecture. He said in his lecture - it was the anniversary celebration of the founder of the university - he said, "There was a time when India was known as a golden bird.
It was so rich and so religious that there was no need to lock your doors - locks were not invented even."
I stood up and asked him, "If this is true - that people were not keeping locks on their houses because there was no question of anybody stealing, of thieves, of criminals - then why does Gautam Buddha go on continually teaching people, 'Don't steal, don't be a thief'? Do you think you are saner than Gautam Buddha? Mahavira continues, all the teachers from the VEDAS.... If there was no stealing happening then these people seem to be utterly mad. For forty years Buddha teaches against stealing - to whom?"
I said, "Take your statement back. I can accept the idea that locks were not invented; that may be the reason why people were not locking their doors. A second reason is: there was nothing to be stolen, people were so poor. And poverty has existed since the days of the VEDAS; it is mentioned in every scripture.
So the only explanation is that people were poor, so poor that what could you steal? - they had nothing. Moreover, to invent locks some kind of technology is needed - they don't just grow on trees. The technology was missing. Of course the rich people had no need of locks because they had naked swords guarding their palaces and houses. But guarding against whom? There must have been poverty just on the other side of the road."
He complained. But at the lecture he said, "Okay. I don't want to make this celebration a place of argumentation or discussion. I take my statement back."
I said, "You are not taking it back, you are just trying to save your face. But okay, this will do."
Later he complained, "This man insulted me before the whole university." By chance, when he was complaining I went to see the vice-chancellor for some other reason. I was the prefect of the hostels, and the superintendent of the hostels was continually issuing orders - of course they had to pass through me. If I found they were not right I threw them away; if they were right then I pasted them on the board. He was very angry.
He told me, "lt is not within your power to throw away my orders."
I said, "You prove that it is not within my power." So I had gone just to explain the whole thing, and that the superintendent would be coming, and that this was the situation: "He issues stupid orders.
Now I am not so stupid as to put those orders on the board of the hostel. So either you accept my resignation as a prefect, or when he comes make it clear to him that these orders are stupid and the prefect is doing right."
For example, one order was that exactly at nine all the lights should be out. I said, "This is nonsense.
I read up to three o'clock in the night; and I have come to the university to study as much as possible.
I am not doing any harm to anybody. I am not going to put my light off at nine o'clock. It will be put off at three o'clock. He can put his lights off at eight o'clock or nine o'clock or whenever he wants.
He should put them off forever - I have no problem.
"And no student has reported that they have any trouble - because all the students have their own times and their freedom. Somebody studies up to ten, somebody studies up to twelve. Somebody goes to bed early, gets up early and starts reading at three o'clock; when I am going to sleep he is going to start reading and puts his light on. Now to change this is nonsense. And I have told the superintendent,'You are trying to control even our sleep. In the day you control us: what to do, how to do it, where to go, where not to go. Even in the night - soon you will be starting to control our dreams and asking us, "Why did you dream of this?"'"
I told the vice-chancellor, "You are a man of history, you must know that one emperor of Egypt issued an order - this is an historical fact - a pharaoh issued an order to the whole kingdom that nobody should enter his dreams. If anybody tried he would be sentenced to death. Naturally, nobody should interfere with his sleep.
"Now, this was a troublesome thing. One of his courtiers appeared the next night in his dream.
Immediately he was caught. He tried hard to explain,'I had not gone out of my house.'
The pharaoh said,'That is not the point. Why did you appear in my dream? Who are you to disturb my sleep?' Now, it is the pharaoh's dream, his imagination - that poor fellow had nothing to do with it; he had not even thought about the pharaoh, but he was given a punishment. Because he was part of the court, of course he was not given the death sentence but just a few years' imprisonment."
I said to the vice-chancellor, "You must remember that. Now this man will soon start ordering,'You have to dream this, you have to dream that'; and 'you should dream only up to this point and then all dreams stop.' I cannot put up with this kind of nonsense - students are free. There is no trouble and no problem. Nobody is disturbing anybody."
So I had gone to tell him, "Soon there is going to be trouble and a fight between me and the superintendent. Either you will have to change me or the superintendent; we cannot coexist. And if you remember your word, you have to change the superintendent because he cannot prove that he is right."
At that same time he said, "You see this other professor sitting here - he says that you disturbed his meeting.
I asked the professor, "You had taken your statement back and I told you that you had not taken it back. If you had taken it back, why are you here, complaining? If you had not taken it back you should have been courageous enough to argue. I cannot sit there just listening to stupid things - it is insulting to the university. I was not disturbing the meeting. You started the disturbance - I was trying to put it right."
And the vice-chancellor said to that professor, "Now prove him wrong, because this is my promise to him, that if he is proved wrong only then can any action be taken against him."
But everything helped me. The more I went into conflicts with people of intelligence, education, culture, sharpness, the more I found it immensely helpful... not the textbooks, not the class lectures, but what I used to call - they don't call them - extra-curricular activities. I used to call my activities, extra-curricular; and they were really paying.
When on the first day I entered the university's philosophy class, I met Doctor Saxena for the first time. Only for a few professors did I have really great love and respect. These two were my most loved professors - Doctor S.K. Saxena and Doctor S.S.Roy - and for the simple reason that they never treated me like a student.
When I entered Doctor Saxena's class the first day, with my wooden sandals, he looked a little puzzled. He looked at my sandals and asked me, "Why are you using wooden sandals? - they make so much noise." I said, "Just to keep my consciousness alert."
He said, "Consciousness? Are you trying to keep your consciousness alert in other ways too?"
I said, "Twenty-four hours a day I am trying to do that, in every possible way: walking, sitting, eating, even sleeping. And you may believe it or you may not, that just lately I have succeeded to be aware and alert even in sleep."
He said, "The class is dismissed - you just come with me to the office." The whole class thought I had created trouble for myself the first day. He took me into his office and took from the shelf his thesis for a doctorate that he had written thirty years before. It was on consciousness. He said, "Take it. It has been published in English, and so many people in India have asked to translate it into Hindi - great scholars, knowing both languages, English and Hindi, perfectly well. But I have not allowed anybody, because the question is not whether you know the language well or not; I was looking for a man who knows what consciousness is - and I can see in your eyes, on your face, by the way you answered... you have to translate this book."
I said, "This is difficult because I don't know English much, I don't know Hindi much either. Hindi is my mother tongue, but I know only as much as everybody knows his mother tongue. And I believe in the definition of the mother tongue. Why is every language called the mother tongue? - because the mother speaks and the father listens - and that's how the children learn. That's how I have learned.
"My father is a silent man; my mother speaks and he listens - and I learned the language. It is just a mother tongue, I don't know much; Hindi has never been my subject of study. English I know just a little bit, and that is enough for your so-called examinations, but for translating a book which is a Ph.D. thesis.... And you are giving it to a student?"
He said, "Don't be worried - I know you will be able to do it."
I said, "lf you trust me, I will do my best. But one thing I must tell you, that if I find something wrong in it then I am going to make an editorial note underneath, putting a star on it, that this is wrong, and how it should be. If I find something missing, I am going to put a star again and a footnote that something is missing, and this is the part that is missing."
He said, "l agree to that. I know there are many things missing in it. But you surprise me: you have not even seen the book, you have not even opened it. How do you know that things will be missing in it?"
I said, "Looking at you... in the way you can see by looking at me, that I am the right person to translate it, I can see perfectly, Doctor Saxena, you are not the right person to write it!"
And he loved that so much that he told it to everybody. The whole university knew about it - this dialogue that had happened between me and him. In the next two-month summer vacation I translated the book, and I made those editorial notes. When I showed him, there were tears of joy in his eyes.
He said, "I knew perfectly well that something is missing here, but I could not figure it out because I have never practiced it. I was just trying to collect all the information about consciousness in Eastern scriptures. I had collected a lot, and then from that I started sorting it out. It took me almost seven years to finish my thesis." He had done really a great scholarly job - but only scholarly. I said, "It is scholarly, but it is not the work of a meditator. And I have made all these notes - that this can be written only by a scholar, not by a meditator."
He looked at all those pages and he said to me, "If you had been one of my examiners for the thesis I would not have got the doctorate! You have found exactly the right places that I was doubtful about, but those fools who examined it were not even suspicious. It has been praised very much."
He was a professor in America for many years, and his book is really a monumental work of scholarship; but nobody criticized him, nobody has pointed.... So I asked him, "Now what are you going to do with the translation?"
He said, "I cannot publish it. I have found a translator - but you are more an examiner than a translator! I will keep it but I cannot publish it. With your notes and with your editorial commentary it will destroy my whole reputation - but I agree with you. In fact," he said, "if it were in my power I would have given you a doctorate just for your editorial notes and footnotes, because you have found exactly the places which only a meditator can find; a non-meditator has no way to find them."
So my whole life from the very beginning has been concerned with two things: never to allow any unintelligent thing to be imposed upon me, to fight against all kinds of stupidities, whatsoever the consequences, and to be rational, logical, to the very end. This was one side, that I was using with all those people with whom I was in contact. And the other was absolutely private, my own: to become more and more alert, so that I didn't end up just being an intellectual.
Intellect and meditation, meeting together, growing together, give you the wholeness of being.
There have been meditators who have not had very grown-up intellects. They enjoyed their meditation, they were fulfilled, but they were incapable of conveying the message to anyone - because for that a very sharp intelligence is needed. You will have to cut the whole jungle of the other person's mind, you will have to make a path in the jungle of thoughts. You will need a really sharp, sword-like intelligence.
But if you just create the path, that is not the purpose. A path is meaningless unless there is a traveler.
Intellect can make the path but meditation travels on it.
You ask me, Is that the same potential of all? Yes, absolutely yes. It is everybody's birthright. You have just never tried it.
You have wings but nobody has pushed you.
You have not taken the jump on your own: you are still sitting in the shelter.
The whole sky is yours - but you are not claiming it.
My function here is to drag you out of your shelter.
Whatever is needed to be done, I am ready to do it If you need a push, good; if you need a hit, good.
I am ready to do anything to give you just a little experience - to experience that you have wings, then my work is finished.
If you can just flutter from one tree to another, you have got the golden secret in your hands.