I was talking about my visits to school. Yes, I call them visits because they were certainly not attendance. I was only there to create some mischief. In a strange way I have always loved to be involved in some mischievous act. Perhaps it was the beginning of how I was to be for my whole life.
I have never taken anything seriously. I cannot, even now. Even at my own death I will, if allowed, still have a good laugh. But in India for the last twenty-five years I have had to play the role of a serious man. It has been my most difficult role, and the longest drawn. But I did it in such a way that although I have remained serious, I have never allowed anybody around me to be serious. That has kept me above water, otherwise those serious people are far more poisonous than snakes.
You can catch snakes, but serious people catch you. You have to run away from them as fast as possible. But I am fortunate that no serious person will even try to approach me. I quickly made myself notorious enough, and it all began when I was not even thinking where it was going to land me.
Whenever they saw me coming, everybody was alerted, as if I was going to create some danger. At least to them it must have looked dangerous. For me it was just fun - and that word summarizes my whole life.
For example, another incident from my primary school. I must have been in the last class, the fourth.
They never failed me, for the simple reason that no teacher wanted me in his class again. Naturally, the only way to get rid of me was to pass me on to somebody else. At least for one whole year let him have the trouble too. That's how they called me, "the trouble." On my part I could not see what trouble I created for anybody.
I was going to give you an example. The station was two miles from my town and divides it from another small village called Cheechli, six miles away.
By the way, Cheechli was the birthplace of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He never mentions it. There are reasons why he does not mention where he was born, because he belongs to the sudra class in India. Just to mention that you come from a certain village, certain caste, or profession - and Indians are very uncultured about that. They may just stop you on the road and ask you, "What is your caste?" Nobody thinks that this is an interference.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was born on the other side of the station, but because he is a sudra, he can neither mention the village - because it is a village of only sudras, the lowest caste in the Indian hierarchy - nor can he use his surname. That too will immediately reveal who he is.
His full name is Mahesh Kumar Shrivastava, but "Shrivastava" would put a stop to all his pretensions, at least in India, and that would affect others too. He is not an initiated sannyasin in any of the old orders, because again, there are only ten sannyasin orders in India. I have been trying to destroy them, that is why they are all angry with me.
These orders are again castes, but of sannyasins. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi cannot be a sannyasin because no sudra can become an initiate. That's why he does not write "Swami" before his name. He cannot, nobody has given him that name. He does not write behind his name, as Hindu sannyasins do, Bharti, Saraswati, Giri et cetera; they have their ten names.
He has created his own name - "Yogi." It does not mean anything. Anybody trying to stand on his head, and of course falling again and again, can call himself a yogi, there is no restriction on it.
A sudra can be a yogi, and the name Maharishi is something to replace "Swami," because in India things are such that if the name "Swami" is missing, then people would suspect something is wrong.
You have to put something else there just to cover up the gap.
He invented "Maharishi." He is not even a rishi; rishi means "seer," and maharishi means "great seer."
He can't even see beyond his nose. All he can do when you ask him relevant questions is giggle.
In fact, I will call him "Swami Gigglananda," that will fit him perfectly. That giggling is not something respectable, it is really a strategy to avoid questions. He cannot answer any question.
I have met him, just by chance, and in a strange place - Pahalgam. He was leading a meditation camp there, and so was I. Naturally my people and his were meeting each other. They first tried to bring him to my camp, but he made so many excuses: that he had not time, he wanted to but it would not be possible.
But he said, "One thing can be done: you can bring Bhagwan here so that my time and my scheduled work is not disturbed. He can speak with me from my stage." And they agreed.
When they told me I said, "This is stupid of you; now I will be in unnecessary trouble. I will be in front of his crowd. I don't have to worry about the questions; the only problem is that it will not be right for the guest to hit his host, especially before his own crowd. And once I see him I cannot refrain from hitting him; any decision I make not to hit him will be gone."
But they said, "We have promised."
I said, "Okay. I'm not bothered, and I am ready to come." It was not very far, just a two-minutes' walk away. You just had to get in the car, and then get out again, that was the distance. So I said, "Okay, I will come."
I went there, and as I had expected he was not there. But I don't care about anything; I started the camp - and it was his camp! He was not there, he was just trying to avoid me as much as he could.
Somebody must have told him because he was staying in the hotel just nearby. He must have heard what I was saying from his room. I started hitting him hard, because when I saw that he was not there, I could hit him as much as I wanted to, and enjoy doing it. Perhaps I hit him too hard and he could not stay away. He came out giggling.
I said, "Stop giggling! That is okay on American television, it won't do here with me!" And his smile disappeared. I have never seen such anger. It was as if that giggling was a curtain, hiding behind it all that was not supposed to be there.
Naturally it was too much for him, and he said, "I have other things to do, please excuse me."
I said, "There is no need. As far as I am concerned you never came here. You came for the wrong reasons, and I don't come into it at all. But remember, I have got plenty of time."
Then I really hit him because I knew he had gone back into his hotel room. I could even see his face watching from the window. I even told his people: "Look! This man says he has much work to do. Is this his work? Watching somebody else work from his window. He should at least hide himself, just as he hides behind his giggle."
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is the most cunning of all the so-called spiritual gurus. But cunningness succeeds; nothing succeeds like cunningness. If you fail, it simply means you have come across somebody who is more cunning than you - but cunningness still succeeds. He never mentions his village, but I remembered because I was going to tell you about an incident. This incident had some concern with his village, and my story is always going in all directions.
Cheechli was a small state. It was not part of the British Raj. It was a very small state, but the king, after all, was a king even though he could only afford one elephant. That's how they used to measure how much kingliness you had, by the number of elephants you owned.
Now, I have told you about the Elephant Gate that stood in front of the school. One day, for no reason, I approached the maharaja of Cheechli and asked, "I would like to have your elephant for just one hour."
He said, "What! What will you do with my elephant?"
I said, "I don't want your elephant, I only want to make the gate feel good. You must have seen that gate, perhaps you even studied there yourself?"
He said, "Yes. In my day it was the only primary school; now there are four."
I said, "I want to make that gate feel good, at least once. It is called the 'Elephant Gate' but not even a donkey ever passes through it."
He said, "You are a strange boy, but I like the idea."
His secretary said, "What do you mean, you like the idea? He is crazy."
I said, "You are both right, but crazy or not, I have come to ask for your elephant for just one hour. I want to ride it into the school."
He liked the idea so much he said, "You ride on the elephant, and I will follow in my old Ford."
He owned a very ancient Ford, perhaps a T-model - I think it was the T-model which was the most ancient one. He wanted to come just to see what happened.
Of course, as I passed through the town on the elephant everybody wondered, and people gathered, saying to themselves, "What's the matter? And how did this boy get the elephant?"
When I reached the school there was a big crowd. Even the elephant found it difficult to enter because of all the people. And the children were jumping - do you know where? - on the roof of the school! They were shouting, "He has come! We knew he would bring some trick, but this one is too big."
The headmaster had to tell the peon to ring the bell signaling that the school was closed, otherwise the crowd would destroy the garden, or even the roof may give way with so many children on it. Even my own teachers were on the roof! And the strange thing is even I, foolishly, felt like going up on the roof to see what was happening.
The school was closed. The elephant had entered and passed through and I made the gate relevant.
At least it could now say to the other gates: "Once upon a time, a boy passed through me on an elephant, and there was such a crowd to see it happen...." Of course the gate will say "... to see me, the gate."
The raja also came. When he saw the crowd he could not believe it. He asked me, "How did you manage to gather so many people so quickly?"
I said, "I did nothing. Just my entry into school was enough. Don't think it was your elephant. If you think that, tomorrow you go on the elephant, and I will see that not a single soul reaches here."
He said, "I don't want to look like a fool. Whether they come or not, I would look foolish if I was sitting on my elephant for no reason, in front of a primary school. You, at least, belong to the school. I know about you. I have heard many stories. Now, when are you going to ask for my Ford?"
I said, "Just you wait."
I never went, although he had invited me himself, and it would have been a great occasion, because in the whole town there was no other car. But this car was too... what to say about it? Every twenty yards you had to get out and push it. That's the reason I never went.
I said to him, "What kind of car is this?"
He said, "I am a poor man, a king of a small state. I have to have a car, and this is the only one I can afford."
It was absolutely worthless. I still wonder how it managed to even move for a few yards. The whole town used to enjoy it, and laughed when the raja came past in his car, and of course everybody had to push!
I said to him, "No. Right now I am not in a position to take your car, but someday, maybe." I said it just not to hurt his feelings. But I still remember that car. It must still be there in that house.
In India they have such antique cars.... What do you call them? Vintage? The government of India has had to make a law that no vintage car can be taken outside India. There is no need to make any law, the cars could not go anyway. But Americans are ready to purchase them at any price.
In India you can find even the first model of all kinds of cars. In fact in Bombay or Calcutta you will still see such ancient cars that you cannot believe that you are still in the twentieth century.
Once, by the way, the raja and I accidentally met in a train, and his first question to me was, "Why didn't you come?"
I could not immediately remember what he meant by "did not come"... so I said, "I don't remember that I had to come."
He said, "Yes, it must have been forty years ago, you promised to come and take my car to the school." Then I remembered! He was right.
I said, "Wonderful!"... because he must have been about ninety-five and he still had such a good memory. After forty years, "Why did you not come?" I said, "You are a miracle."
I think if we meet somewhere in the other world the first question he will ask me will be the same, "Why didn't you come?" because I again promised saying, "Okay, I forgot, forgive me. I will come."
He said, "When?"
I said, "You want me to give you a date? For that car? After forty years! Even forty years ago it was a car in name only. What can have happened to it after another forty years?"
He said, "It is in perfect order."
I said, "Great! Why don't you say it is just like new, as if it had just come from the showroom? But I will come; I would love a ride in that car." But unfortunately by the time I got there, the raja had died... or fortunately, because I saw the car! Forty years before it used to go at least a few feet; now, even if the raja had been alive, the car was dead.
His old servant said, "You came a little late, the raja is dead."
I said, "Thank God! Otherwise that fool would have made me sit in this car, and it could not possibly move."
He said, "That's true. I have never seen it move, but I have only been in his service for fifteen years, and it has not moved in that time. It just stands there in the porch to show that the maharaja has a car."
I said, "The ride would have been really great, and very quick too. You would enter from one door and get out the other, no time wasted."
But these visits to the school are still remembered by the few teachers still alive. And none of them believed that I could have been first in the whole university, because they all knew how I had passed from their class. It was all due to their favor, or fear, or whatsoever. They simply could not believe how I could get to be the first in the whole university. When I came home, all the newspapers reported it with my picture, saying, "This schoolboy has won the gold medal." My teachers were astounded, they all looked at me as if I were from some other planet.
I said to them, "Why are you looking like that?"
They said, "We don't believe it even now, seeing you. You must have played some trick."
I said, "In a way you are right, it certainly was a trick." And they knew because all that I ever did with them was to play tricks.
Once a man came to the town with a horse - you may have heard about a very famous horse in Germany; I think his name was Hans.
Devageet, how do you pronounce it? Hands? H-a-n-s.
Hans had become world-famous at that time, so much so that great mathematicians, scientists, and all kinds of thinkers and philosophers went to see this horse. And what was all the fuss about? I know, but I came to know about this "Hans affair" only very late, because in my village there was a man with a horse which did the same trick. I bugged him so much that finally he gave in and agreed to tell me how he did it.
His horse... but first let me tell you about this famous horse in Germany, so you can understand how even great scientists can be fooled by a horse. This horse, Hans, was able to do any small mathematical problem: you could ask him how much two plus four is, and he would tap six times with his right foot.
What the horse was doing was really something, although the problem was very small: How much is two plus four? - but the horse solved it without any mistake. Slowly he began to solve bigger problems involving greater figures. Nobody was able to figure out what the secret was. Even biologists started saying that perhaps horses have intelligence just like man and all they need is training.
I too have seen this type of horse in my village. He was not world-famous; he belonged to a poor man, but he could do the same trick. The horse was the man's only income. He would move with his horse from village to village, and people would ask it questions. Sometimes the horse would say yes, sometimes the horse would say no, by just moving its head... not like the Japanese, but like everybody else in the world. Only the Japanese are strange.
When I give sannyas to a Japanese, that is a problem. They move their heads oppositely to the way everybody else does. When they nod up and down, they mean no, and vice versa. Although I know it, again and again I get so involved talking to them that when they say yes I think they are saying no.
For a moment I am shocked, then Nartan, who translates for me, says, "They are doing their thing.
Neither they learn, nor do you. And I am in such a difficulty. I know it is going to happen. I even push them, pinch them to remind them. They even tell me that they will remember, and yet when you ask them a question...."
The habit becomes so much part of your structure. Why did it only happen to the Japanese? Perhaps they belonged to a different kind of monkey, that can be the only explanation. In the beginning there were two monkeys, and one of them was Japanese.
I was always asking this man with the horse to tell me the trick. His horse could also do what the famous Hans was known to do, but the man was poor. I knew it was his whole livelihood, but finally the man had to give up. I promised him saying, "I will never tell anybody your secret, but there is just one favor you will have to do for me; let me have your horse for one hour so I can take it to school.
That's all. Then I will keep completely mum."
He said, "That's okay."
He wanted to get rid of me somehow, so he told me the trick. It was very simple: he had trained the horse so that when he moved his head one way, the horse also moved his head in the same way.
And of course everybody would be watching the horse, and nobody would be watching the owner who would be standing in the corner. And he moved his head so slightly that even if you watched you may not have noticed; but the horse sensed it. When the owner did not move his head, the horse had been trained to move his head from side to side. The same was true about tapping.
The horse did not know any figures, what to say about arithmetic. When asked, "What is two plus two?" he would tap four times, then stop. The whole trick was that when the owner closed his eyes, the horse stopped tapping - while the eyes were open, the horse went on tapping.
And this was the same trick that was found out about the famous Hans. But this was a poor man, living in a poor village, whereas Hans was really a famous horse, and German. When the Germans do something, they do it thoroughly. A German mathematician researched for three years to find out these secrets that I am telling you.
After he had shown me the tricks, I took the horse to school. Of course there was great festivity among the children, but the headmaster said to me, "How do you manage to find these strange things? I have lived in this village my whole life yet I never knew about this horse."
I said, "One needs a certain insight, and one has to be on the lookout continuously. That's why I cannot come to school every day."
He said, "That's very good. Don't come. Searching is good for everybody, because when you do come it means that the whole day is disturbed. You are bound to do something disturbing. I have never seen you sitting doing your work as everybody else does."
I said, "The work is not worth doing. The fact that everybody else is doing it is enough proof that it is not worth doing. In this school everybody is doing this work. In India there are seven million villages, and in every village everybody is doing the same work. It is not worth doing. I try to find something which nobody else is doing, and I bring it to you free of charge. Whenever I come it is almost a carnival, and yet you are looking at me so sadly. I am perfectly okay."
He said, "I am not sad about you. I am sad about myself, that I have to be the headmaster of this school."
He was not a bad man. My last days in the primary school were in his class, that was the fourth class. I never brought him any big troubles, but small ones I can't help; they just come my way on their own. But just looking at his sad eyes, I said, "Okay, so now I will not bring you anything that disturbs you; that means that I will not be coming here anymore. I will just come to take my certificate at the end. If you can give it to the peon, I will take it from him, and I won't enter this school again."
And I did not enter to get my certificate. I sent the peon for it. He told the headmaster, "The boy says, 'Why should I go in for my certificate when I was never appreciated for my visits? You can bring it and give it to me at the Elephant Gate.'"
I loved that peon. He was such a beautiful soul. He died in 1960. Just by chance I was in the town, but to me it was as if I was only there for him, so that I could see him die. And that has been my deep interest from my very childhood. Death is such a mystery, far deeper than life can ever be.
I am not saying that you should commit suicide, but remember that death is not the enemy, and not the end either. It is not a film which finishes with "The End." There is no end. Birth and death, both are events in the stream of life, just waves. And certainly death is richer than birth, because birth is empty. Death is one's whole life's experience. It depends on you how much you make your death significant. It depends on how much you live, not in terms of time but in terms of depth.
I went back to the primary school years later. I could not believe that everything had disappeared except the Elephant Gate. All the trees - and there were so many trees - had been cut. And there had been so many beautiful flowering trees, but not a single one was there.
I had gone only for that old man, the peon, who had just died. He lived by the side of the gate, next to the school. But it would have been better if I had not gone because in my memory it was beautiful, and I would have remembered it that way, but now it is difficult. It looked like a faded picture, all colors gone - perhaps even the lines are disappearing - just an old picture, only the frame is intact.
Only one man has come to visit me in Poona who had been my teacher in that school. Then too, he had been very loving towards me, but I never thought that he would come to Poona to see me. It is a long and costly journey for a poor man.
I asked him, "What prompted you to come?"
He said, "I just wanted to see what, deep down, I had always dreamed - that you are not what you appeared to be. You are somebody else."
I said, "Strange that you never told me before."
He said, "I myself thought it strange to tell somebody that they are somebody else other than who they appeared to be, so I kept it to myself. But it came again and again. And now I am old, and I wanted to see whether it had happened, or was I just a fool wasting my time in thinking about it."
By the time he left he was a sannyasin. He said, "Now there is no point in not becoming a sannyasin.
I have seen you, and I have seen your people. I am old and will not live long, but even a few days as a sannyasin and I will feel that my life has not been in vain."
Just ten minutes for me....
It is beautiful, but no more. I know there is time but I have something else to do.