I am a gnostic
JUST A FEW DAYS AGO YOU SPOKE TO US OF THREE CATEGORIES OF BELIEF: THEIST, ATHEIST, AND AGNOSTIC. WHAT DO YOU SAY ABOUT GNOSTIC?
I do not consider 'gnostic' a category of belief. The theist believes in God, without knowing, without any experience. His belief is just an escape from doubt.
To remain in doubt needs tremendous courage.
Not to escape from doubt is one of the fundamental qualities of a seeker, and belief is an escape. It covers up your doubt, and it gives you a sense of relief, a false confidence that you know, although deep down you still know that you know not.
So the believer is divided into two split layers. On the surface is the belief which he thinks and projects himself to be. Underneath is his reality, like a wound: the doubt, which he denies but cannot completely eradicate. It is there, part of his reality. So the believer is always in a state of conflict. He is schizophrenic. A small thing goes against his belief - and the doubt comes up.
A man once came to me and said, "I have become a firm believer in God." I said, "What do you mean by 'firm believer'? Are there infirm believers too? The very use of the word firm shows that there is something inside you that you are keeping down forcibly, firmly. But," I said, "that we will discuss later; first let me ask what has made you a firm believer in God." He said, "I go to worship...."
In India there are hundreds of temples devoted to different gods. One of the most common temples you will find - which is very funny to the outsider - is the temple of the monkey-god, Hanumana. He is a monkey, but he served one of the incarnations of God, Rama, so totally that he himself became a symbol of God. Now, it is thought that if you can persuade Hanumana, he can easily persuade Rama. And to persuade the monkey is certainly easier. He is such a devoted servant of Rama that Rama can never say no to him. To persuade Rama directly is difficult, but Hanumana - he is just a poor monkey. Any small gift will be enough, a bribe - a few fruits, sweets - and you can ask him, "Help me."
So this man used to go to the temple of Hanumana, and he asked Hanumana, "If within fifteen days I don't get employed...." He was unemployed; well educated, but in India there are millions of educated people who are unemployed. There are no places for them "... If within fifteen days you can manage through Rama, then I am going to give a feast in your temple to eleven brahmins, and I am going to bring fruits and sweets and flowers for you. But remember, I am passing through a very crucial moment. If within fifteen days you are not able to arrange it, my belief in God will be finished.
It is not only a question of employment, it is a question of my belief in God. So it is up to you."
And he came to tell me that within fifteen days there were so many ups and downs - one day passed, another day passed, no employment - and doubt started arising, and belief was getting shaken. "But on the fifteenth day I received the order - I was employed. This has made me a firm believer in God."
I said, "Your firmness is based on a very superficial thing. You try one, two, three times more.
Even a scientist, before declaring his results, experiments many times until he becomes absolutely convinced that this is the only result that comes. And you have not tried even twice. You try one time more."
He said, "Now I am such a firm believer, you tell me what to try."
I said, "You have so many problems, I don't have to tell you. Your wife is sick" - she had tuberculosis - "and you have tried..." he was a poor man, could not manage, unemployed - "so why don't you give God another try? Just one chance. Tell him if within fifteen days your wife is cured, then you will do all these things again that you are going to do now. But if in fifteen days the wife is not cured, then your belief in God is finished."
He said, "It seems worth trying."
And what was to happen, happened: the wife was not cured. It was just a coincidence. What could that monkey - and that too not alive, just a stone monkey - have done? Just a coincidence. The man became so angry - at me, not at his belief. I said to him, "You cool down, just see the point. I have simply helped you to see the simple fact that it was a coincidence. If it was a reality, Hanumana would have done it again. If you are not convinced, you can try once more. You can try as many times as you want. But your belief is rooted in such a stupid idea - that God arranges an order to be sent to you from the employment exchange, and that too persuaded by the monkey. And now you are angry with me - for what reason? I have not done anything to you. I have simply given you another chance to check. And you have come to know now that it was coincidence. Now the doubt is there - that you befooled yourself, that neither Hanumana had a part in it, nor did Rama. You were simply fooling yourself."
A belief is an escape. I told him, "You are angry because I have showed you your wound. You cannot escape from that wound so easily. And even if you escape the wound is not going to disappear. You can turn your back towards it, that will help it to become worse; it may become a cancer. Something has to be done - escape is not the way."
Belief is an escape. The theist is pretending that he knows. The atheist is pretending he also knows that there is no God. Neither the theist has tried to look into existence, nor has the atheist tried.
And the atheist's work is even more difficult than the theist's work, because the theist is trying to find something - its presence, its existence; at least he has a hypothesis to work upon. The atheist has no hypothesis at all; he begins with the idea, "There is no God." Then what are you going to search and seek for? For no-God? It is difficult to have the idea of what God is; it is more difficult to have the idea of what no-God is.
Perhaps the theist may stumble by chance on God, but the atheist cannot stumble on no-God by chance, because no-God simply means something absent. You cannot stumble on something absent. The theist at least has a possibility of transforming his belief into a hypothesis that, "I don't believe that God exists, but hypothetically I assume God exists, and I will try to search for him." What hypothesis can the atheist have? He is denying. Negativity cannot be the hypothesis. Positivity can be the hypothesis. The atheist is in a much more difficult situation. But he is also, in another way, more comfortable than the theist.
The theist cannot get rid of the doubt. It is going to remain always underneath his belief. He cannot throw it away. Belief and doubt are two aspects of the same coin. You throw one, and the other also is thrown. You save one, and the other is also saved. But the atheist, in another way, is more comfortable: there is no God - so there is no question of doubt. You cannot doubt something which is not. You can doubt something which is, or may be. But if you have decided there is nothing like God, you cannot doubt. You cannot believe; you cannot doubt. But you cannot progress in your search either.
The atheist has thrown away the doubt far more deeply, far more profoundly than the theist. With the theist the doubt is just hiding behind his belief. With the atheist there is no belief to hide behind; he has thrown the doubt very far away, very deep in the unconscious. Of course you cannot get rid of it unless you know. But you can deceive. The atheist can deceive more easily than the theist. Hence atheism has been growing, theism shrinking.
As man has become more intelligent, more educated, more cultured, atheism has become more prominent and theism has become something out of date. Even those who go to churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, know deep down that it is all just social conformity. It is good; they use these places just like clubs. They don't believe; they don't even bother.
I have been a professor in two universities. The last university from where I left had almost one hundred and fifty professors, and the commonroom of the professors was agog with all kinds of rumors. I remained in that university for almost nine years, and I continued watching, listening:
Would anybody start a discussion about God?
One hundred and fifty professors, of which perhaps seven belonged to the department of philosophy, five belonged to the department of psychology, four belonged to the department of theology - at least these people? But no. Actors were discussed, actresses were discussed, films were discussed, novels were discussed, even love affairs between students were discussed - and all kinds of politics were there.
You will be surprised: of those one hundred and fifty people.... For nine years I waited that somebody would one day ask whether God exists or not. No, nobody. And they all are Hindus, Mohammedans, Christians, Jainas. They all go to the temple, to the church; they all pay their respects. But they are all formalities - it is nothing to do with their inner search.
In fact, in that big commonroom, which was meant to be for one hundred and fifty people, my chair had become reserved for me, because I was not interested in their gossips and in their politics and their love affairs and backbiting and all kind of things. I was not interested. My chair had become permanent - nobody else's chair was permanent. Whenever I went there it was available for me, nobody would sit on it. And slowly they had all taken away their chairs farther from my chair, because I was not interested in their things, and they were not interested in the things which I am interested in.
Whenever I passed through the commonroom, they would become silent, as if they were being caught like small children doing something wrong. I would say, "You continue. Don't be bothered about me. I really fail to see why you become suddenly silent as I enter the room. I avoid as much as possible coming in the room, so as not to become a nuisance to you people, but sometimes there is no other way. I have two periods, and one period in between is empty. Where can I go for forty minutes? So I have to come to sit here. You just take it for granted that I am not here; my chair is always empty. Whether I am sitting there or not, you need not bother. You continue all kinds of neurotic things that you want to continue. Continue; don't be afraid of me."
Even the head of my department, an old man, seventy years old, already retired from one university.... But because he was such an authority on his subject, this university asked him just to give a little of his time. He was also talking about the same things. He would become silent, seeing me. I would say, "It makes me feel a saint, that a man of seventy years old has to become silent, seeing me. These are the things I should be talking about. You are talking about them, okay.
At least somebody is talking about them. Continue."
Theists are almost bogus; atheists, a little more solid, because they have not covered their wound with a belief. If the wound is there and it hurts, they have accepted the hurt and the wound. A little more courageous, a little closer to beginning the search - because you can deceive yourself your whole life in believing and thinking that you know, but how long can you go on saying, "There is no God"?
One of my friends, a very famous Gandhian, was an atheist. He said, "Unless I experience, there is no God. At least to me, there is no God."
One day his son, who was the attorney general of the state, came running to me and said, "My father is very, very sick - a sudden heart attack - and the doctors don't think that he will survive. He has asked for you."
I went with him - they were not very far away, just a five-minute drive from my house. And when I entered the room the old man, with his closed eyes, was doing a Hindu JAPA... Rama, Rama, Rama.... I was amazed. This man has been always saying there is no God. What happened? I shook him and told him, "Open your eyes. Before your heart fails, let me ask you one question.
What are you doing? Have you forgotten you are an atheist? You are not supposed to repeat the name of God."
He said, "I know, but at this point, when the doctors think I don't have much time left - perhaps a few hours, or maybe a few minutes, who knows.... And what is the harm, lying down, if I repeat Rama, Rama, Rama...? If God is, at least I did come back home. If I was lost in the morning, in the evening I came back." And in India they have a saying that if you come back in the evening, you are not lost - at last you are back. "And if there is no God, what is the harm in repeating Rama, Rama, Rama...?"
I told him, "This is what I have been telling you continuously for years - that you think that you have got rid of the doubt. It is not possible, you have simply drowned it deep in the unconscious. Now death has brought it up."
The man survived; he is still alive. And again when he survived and became okay, again he started talking about atheism, but at least not before me. Before me he would say, "Man is weak and that was a moment of weakness."
I said, "That was the moment which proved something immensely significant about your whole personality, that what you are saying is all bogus. That moment brought your reality, exposed you in your nudity. And strange: you are still trying to cover it again. The heart attack will come again, because a heart attack is not such a thing that it comes only once. And that was your first attack, remember; you have the possibility of at least three."
He said, "What kind of friend are you? You are telling me that I will have two heart attacks more?"
I said, "Certainly. You cannot deceive... and whom are you trying to deceive? - yourself? In the moment of death you were deceiving yourself with the idea that, 'Who knows, if God is there, pray; if he is not there, the prayer is gone, useless, but what is the harm?' You have not paid anything for it.
You were being cunning even with God. Now that you are healthy, you are back again. And before me you don't talk too much, but I have heard from others that you are again talking about atheism.
Let the heart attack come... and it will come. To a man like you it has to come because only a heart attack will help." And it came. I went to him and I told him... and he was doing his japa again. I told him, "Look! What are you doing now?"
He said, "You keep quiet! Particularly when the heart attack comes, you should not come. Two heart attacks together is too much."
I said to him, "Remember, I have just come to remind you about all that bogus philosophy that you were talking about between these two heart attacks. You will be back soon, because the third attack...."
He said, "Wait! I am not finished with the second, and the doctors are not hopeful... and you are thinking of the third."
I said, "I want you to know, and recognize deeply, that the doubt is there and you are repressing it.
Why do you want to repress the doubt in the first place? - because you don't want to risk inquiry."
Inquiry is a risk. It is moving into the unknown. One knows not what is going to happen.
One leaves everything that one is acquainted with, is comfortable with, and one moves into the unknown, not even perfectly certain whether there is anything on the other shore, or whether there is another shore even.
So people cling either to theism, or those who are a little stronger, intellectual, the intelligentsia - they cling to atheism. But both are escapes from doubt. And to escape from doubt is to escape from inquiry - because what is doubt? It is only a question mark. It is not your enemy. It is simply a question mark within you which prepares you to inquire.
Doubt is your friend.
And I had talked about the third category, the agnostic. The theist is the weakest of the three: less cultured, less educated, less intellectual - just a mediocre person. The second category, the atheist, is more intellectual, more cultured, and tries hard not to be bothered by the question, and puts the question absolutely away as far as he is concerned, by arguing that there is no God.
If an atheist and theist discuss and debate, the atheist is always bound to win. The theist cannot win; his arguments are poor. He is not argumentative. His belief is very simple, but the atheist is more complex. He also has a belief: his belief is that there is no God. You can call it an unbelief, a nonbelief, but it is a belief. He fights for it with the same fanatic attitude as the theist. You discuss with any communist - all communists are atheists - and they have that same fanatic attitude as any theist. The agnostic is the most superior of the three. The agnostic says, "I have no grounds to say yes, I have no grounds to say no; hence, I will keep my mouth shut about God."
Ludwig Wittgenstein, a disciple of Bertrand Russe ll... Bertrand Russell is one of the significant agnostics of this age, and Ludwig Wittgenstein was his best disciple. Russell has praised Wittgenstein so generously; it rarely happens from a teacher's mouth to so praise a disciple, a student. Wittgenstein was just a student in Russell's philosophy class. Russell was teaching philosophy in the university of Cambridge, and Wittgenstein was just a student. But Russell had the penetrating eyes to find if there was something, and Wittgenstein was something of a genius.
Wittgenstein showed him his notes. And Russell said, "Publish them!" Just his notes that he was taking in the class, any idea that was occurring to him - just his notes and Russell said, "Publish it.
It is far superior to any of my books. I will never get such a student as you again. I am proud, and I am fulfilled, in a certain sense, that you came to my class."
Wittgenstein has not written much, just two or three books, and those are all maxims, small sentences. One sentence says, "You should not speak about something that you know not - either for, or against. One should be silent if one has not a solid yes or no in his experience." In another passage he says, "There are things which cannot be spoken of, hence you should resist the temptation to speak about them."
The agnostic is the most superior. He does not commit himself, he remains uncommitted. It is better to remain uncommitted, because that keeps you alert that you have not started the search yet. The theist has arrived at a conclusion, the atheist has arrived at a conclusion; you have not even begun the search. The agnostic is the best of the three, comes closer to me. The theist is the farthest from me, the atheist a little closer, the agnostic much closer - but you can remain there. There is no necessity that you will move into the enquiry. You can say it is an ultimate question. That is what agnostics say. Whenever the question is ultimate, you cannot say yes or no about it. But his silence is not the silence of a gnostic.
I had not included gnostic in the three categories I discussed, knowingly. The word agnostic comes from the word gnostic. Agnostic means one who declares that, "I am not certain this way or that."
Who is a gnostic? A gnostic is one who knows. That is the meaning of gnostic: the knower. The agnostic is silent because he does not know what is right and what is wrong; what is yes, what is no.
The gnostic is also silent - because he has come to experience a reality which is inexpressible.
I am a gnostic.
And I would like you all to be gnostics, to come to a point of experience where things beyond words happen, where language is left far away back, light years back, where there is no possibility to conceptualize your experience.
You cannot say, "God is," you cannot say, "God is not." You cannot say, "I cannot say these things."
You can be simply silent. And those who can understand silence will understand the answer. You can help people - that's what gnostics can do - you can help people to come to silence. Call it meditativeness, awareness - those are just names, but the essential quality is absolute silence, nothing stirring in you, nothing wavering in you. And in that state, godliness is. It is all over the place. It is within you, it is without you.
So I had left out the category 'gnostic' knowingly because the gnostic cannot be put with the other three categories. He is a totally different person. He knows - these three know not. One believes that he knows. One believes that he knows not; he knows that God does not exist. One knows certainly that he is not in a position to say yes or no. But all the three are ignorant.
The gnostic knows - but because he knows, he is in a difficulty which only a knower can be in. He cannot accept any category because all categories fall short. Even to say, "God is," is not enough.
It does not cover the whole experience of godliness. To say, "God is not," that too is not enough - because certainly there is no person, so you can say, "God is not," but there is such a presence! The person is not, but such a tremendous presence that who cares for the person. And the presence is infinite, eternal. Once tasted, it is going to remain with you forever.
The gnostic is the really religious man.
IF THERE IS NO GOD, WHAT IS PRAYER?
Prayer is a byproduct of theism. You start with a belief in God, then naturally some kind of relationship between you and God is needed. That is prayer. You start praising him. Of course there is some motivation, you are asking for something through your prayer. Your prayer is not just a pure love affair, no - it is business. Hence, when you are in trouble you pray; when you are out of trouble you forget it. When you are in some difficulty, incapable of managing, you pray because you need God's help. The moment you are out of difficulty, you forget God and prayer both.
A famous Sufi story is that a ship is coming back to its home country. Suddenly the ocean goes mad... great winds, and the ship is almost on the verge of sinking. Everybody starts praying. At such a moment who will not pray? - even the atheist will pray, the agnostic will pray, and pray, "Forgive what I have been saying, it was all nonsense. Forgive me, but let me reach the shore."
But the Sufi was simply sitting there, not praying. The people became angry; they said, "You are a religious man, wearing the robe, the green robe of a Sufi. What kind of a Sufi are you? You should have been the first to pray. And we are not religious people, we are just business people, and to us this prayer is, too, nothing but business. We are offering God, that 'We will give you this, we will give you that, just save us.' Why are you sitting silently? Why are you not praying?"
He said, "You have already said it: because I am not a businessman. If he wants to finish us all, good. If he wants to save us, good. I am in total agreement with him. Why should I pray? For what?
Prayer means some disagreement, something is happening which you don't want to happen. You want God to intercede, to interfere, to stop it, to change it."
The Sufi said, "I have no business of my own. It is his business to bother whether to save or to drown us. If he wants this Sufi to be saved, it is his business, not my business. And if he wants me to die, that is his business. I had not asked for birth; suddenly I was here. I cannot ask about death.
If birth is not in my control, how can death be in my control?"
Those people thought, "This man is mad." They said, "We will take care of you later on. Let us get to the shore somehow and then we will take care of you. You are not a Sufi, you are not religious; you are a very dangerous man. But this is not the time to bother and quarrel with you."
On board was the most wealthy, most famous man of the country, and he was coming with millions of diamonds and precious stones. He had earned much. He had a beautiful palace in the town - the most beautiful marble palace. Even the king was jealous. Even the king had asked him many times, "You give this palace to me - any price, and I will pay for it."
But the madman, the rich man, said, "That is not possible. That palace is my pride." When the ship was almost sinking, the man shouted to God, "Listen, I give that palace to you - just save me!" And as it happened, the winds disappeared, the ocean became calm, the ship was saved. They reached the bank.
Now, the rich man was in a very difficult position because of what he had said. And he had been angry with the Sufi - now he was not angry. He said, "Perhaps you were right just to keep quiet. If I had followed you I would not have lost my palace. But I am a businessman, and I will find a way."
And he found a way.
Next day he put the palace up for auction. He informed all the nearby kingdoms, whoever was interested. Many kings, queens and rich people came; everybody was interested. They were all puzzled to see that, just in front of the palace, there was a cat chained to a marble pillar of the palace. The rich man came out and he said, "This palace and the cat, both are up for auction together. The price of the cat is one million dinars" - their dollars, one million dollars - "the price of the cat one million dollars, and the price of the palace, one dollar: one million and one dollars."
The people said, "For this cat one million dollars, and for this palace just one dollar?"
The businessman said, "You don't bother about it. If you are interested, both are going to be sold together. Less, I will not accept. If anybody is interested, this is my minimum price."
The king of the country said, "Yes, I will give you the price, but please tell me, what is the secret of this cat and the palace?"
And he said, "No secret - I just got into trouble because of a prayer. I have told God that 'I will give you the palace.' And I am a businessman; if he is a businessman, I am also a businessman. The cat, one million dollars - that I will keep. And the palace: one dollar - that will go to God's fund."
Prayer is just your effort to persuade God to do things according to you. And it is absolutely your imagination. In the first place you don't know God. You don't know his likes and dislikes. You don't know whether he exists or not, and you are praying. This is a poor state of affairs, and this is happening all over the world.
I am against prayer because it is basically business. It is bribing God. It is hoping that you can buttress his ego: "You are great, you are compassionate, you can do anything you want." And all this is being said because you want something. There is a motivation behind it; otherwise you would not pray, if there is no motivation.
I am against prayer. I am for meditation.
And these are the only two dimensions: prayer, the false dimension; meditation, the right dimension.
In prayer you try first to imagine a God there, and then you project a prayer. In meditation you don't have to project any God, you don't have to believe in any God, you don't have to utter a single word of prayer. On the contrary, you move inwards. In prayer you are moving outwards: a God there...
and then a bridge of prayer between you and God.
In meditation you have no God, there. You search within. You search within for what is there.
Who am I? What is this life energy? What is this consciousness in me? If only I can know this consciousness, this life in me, I have known the universal life, I am part of it.
Just taste the ocean from anywhere and it is salty. Taste yourself - it is the closest place, within yourself - taste your consciousness in silence and peace.
Prayer will be wordy. Again you will be talking, chanting, using a mantra or something. No, in meditation words have to be dropped and you have to learn to remain wordless, even for small moments. But in those small moments so much blessing descends. From those small gaps the whole universe starts pouring upon you.
I am for meditation and against prayer.
The meditator comes to know - feels reality throbbing within himself - the heartbeat of existence.
And then there is a thankfulness that is without any motive, a gratitude to nobody in particular, simply a gratitude for all, for all that is. To me, if you want something like prayer... but then that is a love affair, authentic, without any motive. It is just a thankyou, not addressed to anybody in particular, addressed to the whole.