How Does Buddhism Explain Egotism
THE PRIME MINISTER, KUO TZU I, OF THE TANG DYNASTY, WAS AN OUTSTANDING STATESMAN, A DISTINGUISHED GENERAL, AND THE MOST ADMIRED NATIONAL HERO OF HIS DAY. BUT FAME, POWER, WEALTH AND SUCCESS COULD NOT DISTRACT HIM FROM HIS KEEN INTEREST AND DEVOTION TO BUDDHISM. REGARDING HIMSELF AS A PLAIN AND HUMBLE DEVOTED BUDDHIST, HE OFTEN VISITED HIS FAVORITE ZEN MASTER TO STUDY UNDER HIM.
HE AND THE ZEN MASTER SEEMED TO GET ALONG VERY WELL. THE FACT THAT HE WAS THE PRIME MINISTER SEEMED TO HAVE NO INFLUENCE ON THEIR ASSOCIATION.
THERE WAS NO NOTICEABLE TRACE OF POLITENESS ON THE ZEN MASTER'S PART, OR OF VAIN LOFTINESS ON THE PART OF THE MINISTER; THE ASSOCIATION SEEMED TO BE THE PURELY RELIGIOUS ONE OF A REVERED MASTER AND AN OBEDIENT DISCIPLE.
ONE DAY, HOWEVER, WHEN HE WAS PAYING HIS USUAL VISIT TO THE ZEN MASTER, HE ASKED THE FOLLOWING QUESTION: YOUR REVERENCE, HOW DOES BUDDHISM EXPLAIN EGOTISM? THE ZEN MASTER'S FACE SUDDENLY TURNED BLUE, AND IN AN EXTREMELY HAUGHTY AND CONTEMPTUOUS MANNER HE SAID TO THE PREMIER: WHAT ARE YOU SAYING YOU NUMSKULL? THIS UNREASONABLE AND UNEXPECTED DEFIANCE SO HURT THE FEELINGS OF THE PRIME MINISTER THAT A SLIGHT SULLEN EXPRESSION OF ANGER BEGAN TO SHOW ON HIS FACE.
THE ZEN MASTER THEN SMILED AND SAID: YOUR EXCELLENCY, THIS IS EGOTISM.
Ego is the basic problem, the most basic. And unless you solve it, nothing is solved. Unless ego disappears, the Ultimate cannot penetrate you.
The ego is like a closed door. The guest is standing outside. The guest has been knocking, but the door is closed. Not only is the door closed, but the ego goes on interpreting. It says: There is nobody outside, no guest has come, nobody has knocked, just a strong wind is knocking at the door. It goes on interpreting from the inside. without looking at the fact. And the door remains closed. By interpretations, even the possibility of its opening becomes less and less. And a moment comes when you are completely closed in your own ego. Then all sensitivity is lost. Then you are not an opening, and you cannot have a meeting with existence. Then you are almost dead. The ego becomes your grave.
This is the most basic problem. If you solve it, everything is solved. There is no need to seek God.
There is no need to seek Truth. If the ego is not there, suddenly everything is found. If the ego is not there you simply come to know that Truth has always been around you, without and within. It was the ego which wouldn't allow you to see it. It was the ego that was closing your eyes and your being. So the first thing to be understood is what this ego is.
A child is born. A child is born without any knowledge, any consciousness of his own self. And when a child is born the first thing he becomes aware of is not himself. The first thing he becomes aware of is the other. It is natural, because the eyes open outwards; the hands touch others, the ears listen to others, the tongue tastes food and the nose smells the outside. All these senses open outwards.
That is what birth means. Birth means coming into this world, the world of the outside. So when a child is born, he is born into this world. He opens his eyes, sees others. 'Other' means the thou.
He becomes aware of the mother first. Then, by and by, he becomes aware of his own body. That too is the other, that too belongs to the world. He is hungry and he feels the body; his need is satisfied, he forgets the body. This is how a child grows. First he becomes aware of you, thou, the other, and then by and by, in contrast to you, thou, he becomes aware of himself. This awareness is a reflected awareness. He is not aware of who he is. He is simply aware of the mother and what she thinks about him. If she smiles, if she appreciates the child, if she says: You are beautiful; if she hugs and kisses him, the child feels good about himself.
Now an ego is born. Through appreciation, love, care, he feels he is good, he feels he is valuable, he feels he has some significance. A center is born. But this center is a reflected center. It is not his real being. He does not know who he is. He simply knows what others think about him. And this is the ego: the reflection, what others think. If nobody thinks that he is of any use, nobody appreciates him, nobody smiles, then too an ego is born - an ill ego: sad, rejected, like a wound; feeling inferior, worthless. This too is the ego. This too is a reflection. First the mother - and mother means the world in the beginning - then others will join the mother, and the world goes on growing.
And the more the world grows, the more complex the ego becomes, because many others' opinions are reflected.
The ego is an accumulated phenomenon, a by-product of living with others. If a child lives totally alone, he will never come to grow an ego. But that is not going to help. He will remain like an animal.
That doesn't mean that he will come to know the real Self, no. The real can be known only through the false, so ego is a must. One has to pass through it. It is a discipline. The real can be known only through the illusion. You cannot know the Truth directly. First you have to know that which is not true. First you have to encounter the untrue. Through that encounter you become capable of knowing the Truth. If you know the false as the false, Truth will dawn upon you.
Ego is a need; it is a social need, it is a social by-product. The society means all that is around you - not you, but all that is around you. All, minus you, is the society, and everybody reflects. You will go to school and the teacher will reflect who you are. You will be in friendship with other children and they will reflect who you are. By and by, everybody is adding to your ego, and everybody is trying to modify it in such a way that you don't become a problem to the society.
They are not concerned with you. They are concerned with the society. Society is concerned with itself, and that's how it should be. They are not concerned that you should become a self-knower.
They are concerned that you should become an efficient part in the mechanism of the society. You should fit into the pattern. So they are trying to give you an ego that fits with the society. They teach you morality. Morality means giving you an ego which will fit with the society. If you are immoral, you will always be a misfit somewhere or other.
That's why we put criminals in the prisons - not that they have done something wrong - not that by putting them in the prisons we are going to improve them, no. They simply don't fit. They are troublemakers. They have certain types of egos of which the society doesn't approve. If the society approves, everything is good.
One man kills somebody - he is a murderer. And the same man in wartime kills thousands - he becomes a great hero. The society is not bothered by a murder, but the murder should be committed for the society - then it is okay. The society doesn't bother about morality. Morality means only that you should fit with the society. If the society is at war, then the morality changes. If the society is at peace, then there is a different morality.
Morality is a social politics. It is diplomacy. And each child has to be brought up in such a way that he fits into the society, that's all. Because society is interested in efficient members. Society is not interested that you should attain to self-knowledge. Society is always against religion. Hence, the crucifixion of Jesus. the murder of Socrates - because they also didn't fit.
Two types of people don't fit. One: someone who has developed an anti-social ego; he will never fit.
But he can be put on trial. There is that possibility. You can torture that man, you can punish him, and he may come to his senses. The torture may be too much, and he may be converted. Then there is another type of man who is impossible for the society - a Jesus. He is not a criminal, but he has no ego. How can you make a man who has no ego fit? He looks absolutely irresponsible, but he is not. He has a greater commitment to God. He has no commitment to the society.
One who is committed to God doesn't bother. He has a different depth of morality. It doesn't come from codes - it comes from his self-knowledge.
But then a problem arises because societies have created their moral codes. Those moral codes are man-made. Whenever a Jesus or a Buddha happens, he doesn't bother about the man-made conventions. He has a greater commitment; he is involved with the Whole. Each moment he decides his response through his awareness, not through conditioning; so nobody knows about him, about what he will do. He is unpredictable.
Societies can forgive criminals, but they cannot forgive Jesus and Socrates - that's impossible. And these people are almost impossible. You cannot do anything:about them because they are not wrong. And if you try to understand then, they will convert you - you cannot convert them. So it is better to kill them immediately. The moment the society becomes aware, it kills them immediately because if you listen to them there is danger. If you listen to them, you will be converted. And there is no possibility of converting them, so it is better to be completely finished, to have no relationship with them. You cannot put them in prisons, because there also they will remain in relationship with the society. They will exist. Just their existence is too much - they have to be murdered. And then, when priests take over, then there is no problem. The Pope of the Vatican is part of the society; Jesus never was.
That is the difference between a sect and a religion. Religion is never part of any society. It is universal, it is existential, and very, very dangerous. You cannot find a more dangerous man than a religious man, a more rebellious man than a religious man, a more revolutionary man than a religious man. Because his revolution is so absolute that there is no possibility for any compromise with him.
And because he knows what he is doing, he is so absolutely certain, that you cannot convert him.
And he is infectious. If he is there he will spread like a disease, he will infect many people.
Jesus had to be killed. Christianity can be accepted, but not Christ. What is Christianity? Christianity is society's effort to replace Christ. Christ is dangerous, so society creates a Christianity around him.
Christianity is okay because it is a social phenomenon, a social politics. The Church is okay, the priest is okay - the prophet is dangerous. That's why three hundred religions exist on the earth.
How can there be three hundred religions!
Science is one. You cannot have a Catholic science and a Protestant science. You cannot have a Mohammedan science and a Hindu science. Science is one. How can religion be three hundred?
Truth cannot be sectarian. Truth is one and universal. Only one religion exists. Buddha belongs to that religion. Jesus belongs to that religion. Krishna, Mohammed, they all belong to that religion.
And then there are three hundred religions - these are false religions, these are tricks the society has played with you, these are substitutes, imitations.
Look, Jesus is crucified on the cross, and what is the Pope of the Vatican doing? He has a gold cross around his neck. Jesus is hanged on the cross, and around the Pope's neck the cross is hanging. And it is a gold cross. Jesus had to carry his own cross - that cross was not golden.
How can crosses be golden? His was very, very heavy. He fell while carrying it on the hillock of Golgotha. Under the weight, he fell, he fainted. Have you seen any priest fainting under the weight of the golden cross? No, it is a false substitute. It is a trick. Now this is no longer religion.
This is part of the social politics. Christianity is politics, Hinduism is politics, Buddhism is politics.
Buddha, Jesus, Krishna, they are not social at all. They are not anti-social - they are beyond society.
So there are two dangers for society: anti-social people, criminals; you can tackle them. They may be dangerous, but something can be done about them; they are not that dangerous. Then there is a group of people which is beyond society. They are impossible. You cannot change them. They will not be ready to make any compromise.
The society creates an ego because the ego can be controlled and manipulated. The Self can never be controlled and manipulated. Nobody has ever heard of the society controlling a Self - not possible. And the child needs a center; the child is completely unaware of his own center. The society gives him a center and the child is by and by convinced that this is his center, the ego that society gives.
A child comes back to his home. If he has come first in his class, the whole family is happy. You hug and kiss him, and you take the child on your shoulders and dance and you say: What a beautiful child! You are a pride to us. You are giving him an ego, a subtle ego. And if the child comes home dejected, unsuccessful, a failure, he couldn't pass, or he has just been on the back-bench, then nobody appreciates him and the child feels rejected. He will try hard next time, because the center feels shaken.
Ego is always shaken, always in search of food, that somebody should appreciate it. That's why you continuously ask for attention.
If the husband comes into the room and doesn't look at his wife, the trouble is there. If he is more interested in his newspaper, the trouble is there. How dare you be more interested in the newspaper when your wife is there? That's why it has always been a misery. If a man is very, very great, then his wife is always a problem. The contrary will also be so: if a wife is very, very great, her husband will be a problem. Ask the wives of great men. A great man has many deeper things to do. A Socrates; he was more interested in meditation than in his wife, and that was a wound. Socrates' wife was continuously nagging. He was more attentive to somewhere else. 'Something is more important than me?' This shakes the ego.
I have heard:. Mulla Nasrudin and his wife were coming out from a cocktail party, and Mulla said:
Darling, has anybody ever said to you: How fascinating, how beautiful, how wonderful you are? His wife felt very, very good, was very happy. She said: I wonder why nobody has ever told me this.
Nasrudin said: Then from where did you get the idea?
You get the idea of who you are from others. It is not a direct experience. It is from others that you get the idea of who you are. They shape your center. This center is false, because you CARRY your real center. That is nobody's business. Nobody shapes it. You come with it. You are born with it.
So you have two centers. One center you come with, which is given by existence itself. That is the Self. And the other center, which is created by the society, is the ego - it is a false thing - and it is a very great trick. Through the ego the society is controlling you. You have to behave in a certain way, because only then does the society appreciate you. You have to walk in a certain way; you have to laugh in a certain way; you have to follow certain manners, a morality, a code. Only then will the society appreciate you, and if it doesn't, your ego will be shaken. And when the ego is shaken, you don't know where you are, who you are. The others have given you the idea. That idea is the ego.
Try to understand it as deeply as possible, because this has to be thrown. And unless you throw it you will never be able to attain to the Self. Because you are addicted to the center, you cannot move, and you cannot look at the Self.
And remember, there is going to be an interim period, an interval, when the ego will be shattered, when you will not know who you are, when you will not know where you are going, when all boundaries will melt. You will be simply confused, a chaos. Because of this chaos, you are afraid to lose the ego. But it has to be so. One has to pass through the chaos before one attains to the real center.
And if you are daring, the period will be small. If you are afraid, and you again fall back to the ego, and you again start arranging it, then it can be very, very long; many lives can be wasted.
Enlightenment is always sudden. There is nothing like gradual Enlightenment. The gradualness comes if you are not daring, it comes out of your fear. Then you take one step towards the center, the real center, and you become afraid - you come back. It is just like a small child standing on the door thinking to go, but there is darkness. He looks out, comes back, again gathers a little courage, again looks.
I have heard: One small child was visiting his grandparents. He was just four years old. In the night when the grandmother was putting him to sleep, he suddenly started crying and weeping and said:
I want to go home. I am afraid of darkness. But the grandmother said: I know well that at home also you sleep in the dark, I have never seen a light on. So why are you afraid here? The boy said: Yes, that's right - but that is my darkness. This darkness is completely unknown.
Even with darkness you feel: This is mine. Outside - an unknown darkness. With the ego you feel: This is my darkness. It may be troublesome, maybe it creates many miseries, but still - mine.
Something to hold to, something to cling to, something underneath the feet; you are not in a vacuum, not in an emptiness. You may be miserable, but at least you ARE. Even being miserable gives you a feeling of 'I am'. Moving from it, fear takes over; you start feeling afraid of the unknown darkness and chaos - because society has managed to clear a small part of your being.
It is just like going to a forest. You make a little clearance, you clear a little ground; you make fencing, you make a small hut; you make a small garden, a lawn, and you are okay. Beyond your fence - the forest, the wild. Here everything is okay; you have planned everything. This is how it has happened.
Society has made a little clearing in your consciousness. It has cleaned just a little part completely, fenced it. Everything is okay there. That's what all your universities are doing. The whole culture and conditioning is just to clear a part so that you can feel at home there.
And then you become afraid. Beyond the fence there is danger. Beyond the fence you are, as within the fence you are - and your conscious mind is just one part, one-tenth of your whole being. Nine- tenths is waiting in the darkness. And in that nine-tenths, somewhere your real center is hidden.
One has to be daring, courageous. One has to take a step into the Unknown. For a while all boundaries will be lost. For a while you will feel dizzy. For a while, you will feel very afraid and shaken, as if an earthquake has happened. But if you are courageous and you don't go backwards, if you don't fall back to the ego and you go on and on, there is a hidden center within you that you have been carrying for many lives. That is your soul, the atma, the Self. Once you come near it, everything changes, everything settles again. But now this settling is not done by the society. Now everything becomes a cosmos, not a chaos; a new order arises. But this is no longer the order of the society - it is the very order of existence itself.
It is what Buddha calls dhamma, Lao Tzu calls tao, Heraclitus calls logos. It is not man-made. It is the very order of existence itself. Then everything is suddenly beautiful again, and for the first time really beautiful, because man-made things cannot be beautiful. At the most you can hide the ugliness of them, that's all. You can decorate them but they can never be beautiful.
The difference is just like the difference between a real flower and a plastic or a paper flower. The ego is a plastic flower - dead. It just looks like a flower, it is not a flower. You cannot really call it a flower. Even linguistically, to call it a flower is wrong, because a flower is something which flowers.
And this plastic thing is just a thing, not a flowering. It is dead. There is no life in it.
You have a flowering center within. That's why Hindus call it a lotus - it is a flowering. They call it the one-thousand-petalled lotus. One thousand' means infinite petals. And it goes on flowering, it never stops, it never dies.
But you are satisfied with a plastic ego. There are some reasons why you are satisfied. With a dead thing, there are many conveniences. One is that a dead thing never dies. It cannot - it was never alive. So you can have plastic flowers, they are good in a way. They are permanent; they are not eternal, but they are permanent. The real flower outside in the garden is eternal, but not permanent.
And the eternal has its own way of being eternal. The way of the eternal is to be born again and again and to die. Through death it refreshes itself, rejuvenates itself. To us it appears that the real flower has died - it never dies. It simply changes bodies, so it is ever fresh. It leaves the old body, it enters a new body. It flowers somewhere else; it goes on flowering. But we cannot see the continuity because the continuity is invisible. We see only one flower, another flower; we never see the continuity. It is the same flower which flowered yesterday. It is the same sun, but in a different garb.
You need very penetrating eyes to see the invisible continuity. The invisible continuity is God. If you can see, this is the same flower in a different body. That's what Hindus call the theory of reincarnation. Christianity, Judaism, Mohammedanism, they all miss the beauty of it, so all the three religions by and by became materialistic. They had to, because the invisible had been missed.
I am here. You are here. You have been here millions of times before. It is an eternal recurrence; in different bodies, different shapes - but the continuity is the same. And we call that continuity the soul. Not this body, forms change; the formless, it remains. And this is the way for it to be eternal; otherwise it cannot be eternal.
Death is a way to rejuvenate oneself again. You exhale; this is the way to inhale again. You die; this is the way to be reborn. Each moment you die; the body is doing the same.
You ask the physiologists - they say the body dies and renews itself every moment. Every cell will die. If you live seventy years, then at least ten times the body will have died completely. But gradually it changes. One cell dies, another is replaced, leaves fall down. It goes on.
Just a few days ago, the almond tree outside became completely naked. All the leaves fell down.
This is the way. Now it is young again. Now new leaves have come. The old have gone, the new leaves have come. But the leaves are not the tree. The tree is that source from which leaves come, and that source is hidden.
The old drops so that the new can come. The old body dies so that the new body can come. This is how existence exists eternally, always dying always coming back. It is a wheel; the spokes go up, then they go down. This is how the wheel moves.
The ego is a plastic thing, but it looks permanent. Remember, eternity is not permanence. Eternity moves through movements. Eternity moves through change. Eternity is continuous change, and yet it remains the same: changing, yet remaining the same, moving, yet never moving.
The ego has a certain quality - it is dead. It is a plastic thing. And it is very easy to get it, because others give it. You need not seek it. There is no search involved. That's why unless you become a seeker after the Unknown, you have not yet become an individual. You are just a part of the crowd.
You are just a mob. When you don't have a real center, how can you be an individual?
The ego is not individual. Ego is a social phenomenon - it is society, it is not you. But it gives you a function in the society, a hierarchy in the society. And if you remain satisfied with it, you will miss the whole opportunity of finding the Self.
And that's why you are so miserable. With a plastic life, how can you be happy? With a false life, how can you be ecstatic and blissful? And then this ego creates many miseries, millions of them.
You cannot see, because it is 'your own darkness'. You are attuned to it.
Have you ever noticed that all types of miseries enter through the ego? It cannot make you blissful; it can only make you miserable. Ego is hell. Whenever you suffer, just try to watch and analyze, and you will find, somewhere the ego is the cause of it. And the ego goes on finding causes to suffer.
I was staying at Mulla Nasrudin's house once. The wife was saying very nasty things about Mulla Nasrudin, very angry, rude, aggressive, just on the verge of exploding, very violent. And Mulla Nasrudin was just sitting silently and listening. Then suddenly she turned towards him and said: So again, you are arguing with me! Mulla said: But I have not even said a single word. The wife said:
That I know - but you are listening very aggressively.
You are an egoist, as everyone is. Some are very gross, just on the surface, and they are not so difficult. Some are very subtle, deep down, and they are the real problems. This ego comes continuously in conflict with others because every ego is so unconfident about itself. It has to be - it is a false thing. When you don't have anything in your hand and you just think that something is there, then there will be a problem. If somebody says: There is nothing, immediately the fight will start, because you also feel that there is nothing. The other makes you aware of the fact.
Ego is false, it is nothing. That you also know. How can you miss knowing it? It is impossible! A conscious being, how can he miss knowing that this ego is just false? And then others say that there is nothing - and whenever the others say that there is nothing they hit a wound, they say a truth - and nothing hits like truth. You have to defend, because if you don't defend, if you don't become defensive, then where will you be? You will be lost. The identity will be broken. So you have to defend and fight - that is the clash.
A man who attains to the Self is never in any clash. Others may come and clash with him, but he is never in clash with anybody.
It happened that one Zen Master was passing through a street. A man came running and hit him hard. The Master fell down. Then he got up and started to walk in the same direction in which he was going before, not even looking back. A disciple was with the Master. He was simply shocked.
He said: Who is this man? What is this? If one lives in such a way, then anybody can come and kill you. And you have not even looked at that person, who he is, and why he did it. The Master said:
That is his problem, not mine. You can clash with an Enlightened man, but that is your problem, not his. And if you are hurt in that clash, that too is your own problem. He cannot hurt you. And it is like knocking against a wall - you will be hurt, but the wall has not hurt you.
The ego is always looking for some trouble. Why? Because if nobody pays attention to you, the ego feels hungry. It lives on attention. So even if somebody is fighting and angry with you, that too is good because at least the attention is paid. If somebody loves, it is okay. If somebody is not loving you, then even anger will be good. At least the attention will come to you. But if nobody is paying any attention to you, nobody thinks you are somebody important, significant, then how will you feed your ego? Others' attention is needed.
In millions of ways you attract the attention of others: you dress in a certain way, you try to look beautiful, you behave, you become very polite, you change. When you feel what type of situation is there, you immediately change so that people pay attention to you.
This is a deep begging. A real beggar is one who asks for and demands attention. And a real emperor is one who lives in himself; he has a center of his own, he doesn't depend on anybody else. Buddha sitting under his Bodhi Tree... if the whole world suddenly disappears, will it make any difference to Buddha? - none. It will not make any difference at all. If the whole world disappears, it will not make any difference because he has attained to the center.
But you, if the wife escapes, divorces you, goes to somebody else, you are completely shattered - because she had been paying attention to you, caring, loving, moving around you, helping you to feel that you were somebody. Your whole empire is lost, you are simply shattered. You start thinking about suicide. Why? Why, if a wife leaves you, should you commit suicide? Why, if a husband leaves you, should you commit suicide? Because you don't have any center of your own. The wife was giving you the center; the husband was giving you the center.
This is how people exist. This is how people become dependent on others. It is a deep slavery. Ego HAS to be a slave. It depends on others. And only a person who has no ego is for the first time a Master; he is no longer a slave.
Try to understand this. And start looking for the ego, not in others, that is not your business, but in yourself. Whenever you feel miserable, immediately close your eyes and try to find out from where the misery is coming and you will always find it is the false center which has clashed with someone.
You expected something, and it didn't happen. You expected something, and just the contrary happened - your ego is shaken, you are in misery. Just look, whenever you are miserable, try to find out why.
Causes are not outside you. The basic cause is within you - but you always look outside, you always ask: Who is making me miserable? Who is the cause of my anger? Who is the cause of my anguish? And if you look outside, you will miss. Just close the eyes and always look within. The source of all misery, anger, anguish, is hidden in you, your ego. And if you find the source, it will be easy to move beyond it. If you can see that it is your own ego that gives you trouble, you will like to drop it - because nobody can carry the source of misery if he understands it.
And remember, there is no need to drop the ego. You cannot drop it. If you try to drop it, you will attain to a certain subtle ego again which says: I have become humble. Don't try to be humble.
That's again ego in hiding - but it is not dead.
Don't try to be humble. Nobody can try humility. And nobody can create humility through any effort of his own - no. When the ego is no more, a humbleness comes to you. It is not a creation. It is a shadow of the real center. And a really humble man is neither humble nor egoistic. He is simply simple. He's not even aware that he is humble. If you are aware that you are humble, the ego is there.
Look at humble persons. There are millions who think that they are very humble. They bow down very low, but watch them - they are the subtlest egoists. Now humility is their source of food. They say: I am humble, and then they look at you and they wait for you to appreciate them. 'You are really humble.' They would like you to say: In fact, you are the most humble man in the world; nobody is as humble as you are. Then see the smile that comes on their faces.
What is ego? Ego is a hierarchy that says: No one is like me. It can feed on humbleness - 'Nobody is like me, I am the most humble man.'
Once it happened: A monk came to me and he was talking about his humility, and I said: You are nothing. I know a man who is more humble than you. Suddenly anger, ego, and he said: Who is that man? Show him to me. That is not the point - I told him: That is not the point. I am not going to show him to you. But try to understand, because suddenly the ego comes in and says: How is somebody else daring to be more humble than me?
It happened once: A fakir, a beggar, was praying in a mosque, just early in the morning when it was still dark. It was a certain religious day for Mohammedans, and he was praying, and he was saying:
I am nobody. I am the poorest of the poor, the greatest sinner of sinners. Suddenly there was one more person who was praying. He was the emperor of that country, and he was not aware that there was somebody else there who was praying - it was dark, and the emperor was also saying: I am nobody. I am nothing. I am just empty, a beggar at your door. When he heard that somebody else was saying the same thing, he said: Stop! Who is trying to overtake me? Who are you? How dare you say before the emperor that you are nobody when he is saying that he is nobody.
This is how the ego goes. It is so subtle. Its ways are so subtle and cunning, you have to be very, very alert, only then will you see it. Don't try to be humble. Just try to see that all misery, all anguish comes through it. Just watch! No need to drop it. You cannot drop it. Who will drop it? Then the DROPPER will become the ego. It always comes back.
Whatsoever you do, stand out of it, and look and watch. whatsoever you do - humbleness, humility, simplicity - nothing will help. Only one thing is possible, and that is just watch and see that it is the source of all misery. Don't say, don't repeat 'watch', because if I say it is the source of all misery and you repeat it, then it is useless. YOU have to come to that understanding.
Whenever you are miserable, just close the eyes and don't try to find some cause outside. Try to see from where this misery is coming. It is your own ego. If you continuously feel and understand, and the understanding that the ego is the cause becomes so deep-rooted, one day you will suddenly see that it has disappeared.
Nobody drops it - nobody can drop it. You simply see; it has simply disappeared, because the very understanding that ego causes all misery becomes the dropping. The very understanding is the disappearance of the ego.
And you are so clever in seeing the ego in others. Anybody can see someone else's ego. When it comes to your own, then the problem arises - because you don't know the territory, you have never travelled on it. The whole path towards the Divine, the Ultimate, has to pass through this territory of the ego. The false has to be understood as false. The source of misery has to be understood as the source of misery - then it simply drops. When you know it is poison, it drops. When you know it is fire, it drops. When you know this is the hell, it drops. And then you never say: I have dropped the ego. Then you simply laugh at the whole thing, the joke that you were the creator of all misery.
I was just looking at a few cartoons on Charlie Brown. In one cartoon he is playing with blocks, making a house out of children's blocks. He is sitting in the middle of the blocks building the walls.
Then a moment comes when he is enclosed; all around he has made a wall. Then he cries: Help, help! He has done the whole thing. Now he is enclosed, imprisoned. This is childish, but this is all that you have done also. You have made a house all around you, and now you are crying: Help, help! And the misery becomes millionfold - because there are helpers who are also in the same boat.
It happened that one very beautiful woman went to see her psychiatrist for the first time. The psychiatrist said: Come closer please. When she came closer, he simply jumped and hugged and kissed the woman. She was shocked. Then he said: Now sit down. This takes care of my problem, now what is your problem? The problem becomes multifold, because there are helpers who are in the same boat. And they would like to help, because when you help somebody the ego feels very good, very, very good - because you are a great helper, a great guru, a Master; you are helping so many people. The greater the crowd of your followers, the better you feel. But you are in the same boat - you cannot help. Rather, you will harm.
People who still have their own problems cannot be of much help. Only someone who has no problems of his own can help you. Only then is there the clarity to see, to see through you. A mind that has no problems of its own can see you, you become transparent. A mind that has no problems of its own can see through itself, that's why it becomes capable of seeing through others.
In the West, there are many schools of psychoanalysis, many schools, and no help is reaching people, but rather, harm. Because the people who are helping others, or trying to help, or posing as helpers are in the same boat.
I was reading Wilhelm Reich's wife's memoirs. He was one of the most significant psychoanalysts, one of the most revolutionary - but when the question comes to one's own problems, the difficulty arises. His wife has written in her memoirs that he was teaching others not to be jealous - that love is not possession, it is freedom. But about his own wife, he was always jealous. If she would laugh with someone, there would be misery immediately. And he was making love to many women, but would not allow his own wife even to smile with someone; even to just sit and talk he wouldn't allow.
Whenever he would go out - sometimes he had to go to see his patients - the first thing he would do when he came home was to inquire about where his wife had gone, who she had met, who had come to the house, and there would be a cross-examination. His wife says that she was simply surprised. This man was so wise with others - but with his own....
It is difficult to see one's own ego. It is very easy to see others' egos. But that is not the point, you cannot help them. Try to see your own ego. Just watch it. Don't be in a hurry to drop it, just watch it. The more you watch, the more capable you will become. Suddenly one day, you simply see that it has dropped. And when it drops by itself, only then does it drop. There is no other way.
Prematurely you cannot drop it. It drops just like a dead leaf. The tree is not doing anything. Just a breeze, a situation, and the dead leaf simply drops. The tree is not even aware that the dead leaf has dropped. It makes no noise, it makes no claim - nothing. The dead leaf simply drops and shatters on the ground, just like that.
When you are mature through understanding, awareness, and you have felt totally that ego is the cause of all your misery, simply one day you see the dead leaf dropping. It settles into the ground, dies of its own accord. You have not done anything so you cannot claim that you have dropped it.
You see that it has simply disappeared, and then the real center arises. And that real center is the soul, the Self, the God, the Truth, or whatsoever you want to call it. It is nameless, so all names are good. You can give it any name of your own liking. Now listen to this beautiful story.
THE PRIME MINISTER, KUO TZU I, OF THE TANG DYNASTY, WAS AN OUTSTANDING STATESMAN, A DISTINGUISHED GENERAL, AND THE MOST ADMIRED NATIONAL HERO OF HIS DAY.
Remember, when you are at the peak, it is very easy to be humble. I will repeat it - when you are successful, when you have come to the peak, it is very easy to be humble. When you are nowhere, nowhere in the hierarchy, it is very difficult to be humble. A poor man finds it more difficult to be humble than a rich man. A politician who is defeated finds it more difficult to be humble than the politician who has won. Look at the top people in the world. They are always humble. They can afford to be. Now there is no danger to their egos. They have already attained. They don't bother about your attention. You don't mean anything to them - now they have attained. They can be humble; they can afford to be. That's why great leaders are always humble. But that humility is not the humility of a Buddha, not that of a Lao Tzu; that humility is false.
When you are no one, then to be humble is very difficult. When you are defeated, then to be humble is very difficult because the ego is so hurt - it needs food, it is hungry. When you have won, you are victorious, you are on the crest of a wave reaching higher and higher; you can bow down because everybody knows without anything being said, who you are. There is no need for you to declare it, the whole world knows it already. Then you can bow down and be humble.
Kings are more humble than beggars. And then people think: What beautiful persons these kings are, these leaders. Nothing is beautiful. You can see their real face when they are defeated, never before. Then to be humble is very, very difficult. When the whole of life is humiliating, then to be humble is difficult. When everybody appreciates and everybody cheers you, then you can bow down with a smiling face. There is no need for you to claim - it is already established. This has been my experience with people. If somebody comes to me, and he has already arrived somewhere in life, he is always humble. He bows down deeply, he sits on the floor. He is established. This humbleness is good for his ego. Whenever somebody comes who is frustrated, who has gambled and lost, who is nobody, then it is hard for him to sit on the floor.
One man wrote a letter to me saying: I can come and see you only if I also have a chair, otherwise I will not come. I know this man is very, very defeated, humiliated by life. He cannot bow, he cannot surrender, he cannot be humble. He is so humiliated that it has become a wound. Now humility looks like humiliation.
But both are in the same boat. One is defeated, one feels hurt; one feels that he has to stand, he has to claim, he has to fight for it, the other is established, there is no fight - he already knows.
It happened that Henry Ford once went to England. At the airport he inquired about the cheapest hotel in London. And the man recognized him, because just on another day there had been pictures in the newspapers about Henry Ford's coming. So he said: If I haven't forgotten, if I remember well, you look to me to be Henry Ford. But you are dressed so shabbily; your coat looks so old, rotten, and why are you inquiring about the cheapest hotel? Henry Ford said: Whether I have a new coat or old, I am Henry Ford and everybody knows about it. It makes no difference - I am Henry Ford.
Whether the coat is old or new makes no difference. The man said: And I know well that when your sons come, they ask for the costliest hotel. Henry Ford laughed and said: They are still not established and they feel insecure. They are known as 'sons of Henry Ford', they are nothing by themselves. I am something by myself, so the cheapest hotel won't make any difference.
A rich man need not declare that he is rich. A poor man always declares. The richer you grow, the less declaration there is. Have you observed it in life? Everywhere it happens. An ugly woman will have more ornaments, a beautiful woman need not. The more a country becomes beautiful, the more women become beautiful, the more things drop, by and by. There is no need for ornaments and gold. By themselves, they are enough. But an ugly woman cannot afford that. She has to carry many, many ornaments - diamonds, rubies, because only through those ornaments is she somebody, otherwise not. This happens in all the dimensions of life. But both are in the same boat.
This Prime Minister was a very humble man.
BUT FAME, POWER, WEALTH AND SUCCESS COULD NOT DISTRACT HIM FROM HIS KEEN INTEREST AND DEVOTION TO BUDDHISM.
REGARDING HIMSELF AS A PLAIN AND HUMBLE DEVOTED BUDDHIST, HE OFTEN VISITED HIS FAVORITE ZEN MASTER TO STUDY UNDER HIM.
This too has to be understood: but fame, power, wealth and success could not distract him from his keen interest.... They never distract anybody. It is difficult to be devoted to religion when you are poor, a failure. It is very, very easy when you are a success to have a keen interest in religion, because you have succeeded in this life, you have reached to the top. And this man is a Prime Minister, he has reached to the top; there is nowhere else to go now. Now he will take a keen interest in meditation, religion, God - because a man like Kuo Tzu I, a Prime Minister, a hero, has to possess God also. A man so successful has to succeed in the other world also. That's why whenever a country becomes rich, affluent, immediately a keen interest in religion arises.
Now nowhere else in the world is there so much keen interest in religion as in America. It has to be so. If you ask poor Indians why so many Westerners come to India, they simply think them crazy - there is nothing here.
I am here in Poona; how many people do you see here from Poona? - not a single one that you can recognize: They are simply wondering why you madmen have come from the West to listen to me. You must have gone crazy, or I must have hypnotized you. Something is wrong. They need not bother even to come and listen and to see whether something is wrong or not. They are already convinced of it. Why?
They are not rich, they are not successful, they are not established. When you fail in this world - you struggle to succeed here in this materialist world first. When you succeed, then you would like to succeed in the other world also.
So this is my understanding: that only a rich country can be religious; poor countries can never be religious. Sometimes poor persons can be religious, because individuals can be exceptions, but masses - never. Sometimes it happens that a poor person becomes religious and achieves to the Ultimate - a Nanak, a Kabir, a Jesus - but ordinarily masses cannot afford to be religious unless they are established. Religion is the last luxury. And I am saying it not in any condemnatory tone.
It is so; you have to be able to afford it. And when you have got everything and you feel you have nothing, then for the first time a keen interest arises to seek the Unknown.
HE AND THE ZEN MASTER SEEMED TO GET ALONG VERY WELL. THE FACT THAT HE WAS THE PRIME MINISTER SEEMED TO HAVE NO INFLUENCE ON THEIR ASSOCIATION.
THERE WAS NO NOTICEABLE TRACE OF POLITENESS ON THE ZEN MASTER'S PART, OR OF VAIN LOFTINESS ON THE PART OF THE MINISTER; THE ASSOCIATION SEEMED TO BE THE PURELY RELIGIOUS ONE OF A REVERED MASTER AND AN OBEDIENT DISCIPLE.
But this is only on the surface. Deep down the prime minister is the Prime Minister. Deep down he is somebody very, very important. Deep down he has the same ego as everybody else. This situation, this appearance on the surface is just skin-deep. To find the reality you will have to go a little deeper.
The Prime Minister may have been fooled, but the Master is not fooled by it. Others may have been fooled; they may have thought: What a great man this Prime Minister is, so humble, comes and sits at the feet of the Master, so religious, rare to find such a man - but the Master is not fooled by the appearance. Appearance means nothing.
The real thing is that which is deeper. And this Prime Minister is a polished man. He has succeeded with the world, now he is trying to succeed with this Master also with his polished mannerisms. But you cannot deceive a Master. If you can deceive a Master, he is not a Master at all.
ONE DAY, HOWEVER, WHEN HE WAS PAYING HIS USUAL VISIT TO THE ZEN MASTER, HE ASKED THE FOLLOWING QUESTION: YOUR REVERENCE, HOW DOES BUDDHISM EXPLAIN EGOTISM?
Deep down, you cannot really fool yourself either. How can you? You know what you are doing.
While you are deceiving, then too you know that you are deceiving. You can deceive the whole world, but how can you deceive yourself? It is impossible. You may not be alert, but the moment you become alert, you know what you have been doing.
This too is a deception. He doesn't ask a direct question. He doesn't say: I am an egoist, so Master, tell me what to do about it. These cunning people always ask indirect questions. I know many of them. One man came to me and he said: One of my friends is impotent. So what to do? And I could see that this man was impotent, but he was talking about his friend. So I asked him: Why didn't you send the friend? He could have told me that one of his friends is impotent - What about it? What to do? Why did you trouble to come? Your friend could have come and told me the same. Then he became disturbed.
People talk indirectly and problems are personal. And they talk philosophy; they ask questions like:
How in Buddhism is egotism explained? What nonsense! What has it to do with Buddhism? Egotism is your problem. Why make it indirect? If you make it indirect, you will miss. You will not be able to understand because from the very beginning you are deceiving. And you may be thinking that you are asking about Buddhism and egotism, then a theory can be given to you, a hypothesis, a philosophy, a system, but that won't help - because each individual has his own problem, and each individual has his own problem in a unique way.
If you say: I am an egoist, what to do about it? my answer will be different. If you ask what Buddhism says, the answer will again be different. Buddhism - then it becomes a, generalized thing, and no individual is a general thing. Every individual is so individual, so authentically individual, unique, that you cannot help an individual by a general theory. No, it will not suit. Every individual needs a direct approach.
Never ask a philosophical question. It is useless. Just ask a personal question, just ask directly.
And that's what the Master had to do with this Prime Minister. He had to bring him down from the peaks of Buddhism to the reality of his own being, because those peaks didn't belong to him. That was not his problem really.
People come to me; they ask whether God exists or not. What are you going to do with God? Leave Him to Himself. What are you going to do? If He exists, what will you do? If He doesn't exist, what will you do? It looks like your mind is not facing real problems and is avoiding them through imaginary problems.
God is an imaginary problem for you. Anger, ego, sex, passion, hate: they are real problems.
You don't ask about them - you ask about God. How are you concerned with God? There is no relationship. I see people who believe in God and people who don't believe in God. I don't see any difference. Can you detect whether a man is an atheist just by looking at his behavior? - no. How can you know whether this man believes in God and that man doesn't believe in God? They both behave the same way. If you insult them, they will both get angry. What is the difference? If you hurt their egos, they will both get mad. So where does God come in? This is a trick - you want to avoid real problems. The words 'god', 'moksha', 'truth', are like blankets. You cover all the problems with them and hide them. They are not problems, they are blankets. And those who answer them help you to avoid the reality YOUR REVERENCE, HOW DOES BUDDHISM EXPLAIN EGOTISM? THE ZEN MASTER'S FACE SUDDENLY TURNED BLUE, AND IN AN EXTREMELY HAUGHTY AND CONTEMPTUOUS MANNER HE SAID TO THE PREMIER: WHAT ARE YOU SAYING YOU NUMSKULL?
Everything has changed immediately now. The Master has beautifully brought the Prime Minister to the reality, to the earth, just with a single word, 'you numskull'. A single word can make that miracle happen - because you are not aware, that's why. Otherwise, the Premier would have laughed, and he would have said: Yes, you are right. Now what about Buddhism and how it explains egotism?
But just a single word....
How much you are addicted to words! A single word, and the whole situation changes? And what is a word? Just a sound with no meaning really, because meaning is just a contract of the society, between people: We will mean this by this. It is just a social contract. What does 'numskull' mean?
- nothing, just a sound. If you don't understand English, what does it mean?nothing, just a sound.
If you understand English, then there is trouble. Somebody calling you 'numskull'? - immediately philosophy disappears and reality comes up. All mannerism was skin-deep. 'Your Reverence' - all skin-deep. He was bowing down and saying 'your Reverence'. What type of reverence is this which a single word can destroy? Skillful are the Zen Masters.
WHAT ARE YOU SAYING YOU NUMBSKULL? THIS UNREASONABLE AND UNEXPECTED DEFIANCE SO HURT THE FEELINGS OF THE MINISTER THAT A SLIGHT AND SULLEN EXPRESSION OF ANGER BEGAN TO SHOW ON HIS FACE.
Yes, it was unreasonable. And unexpected. Masters are unreasonable and unexpected. You cannot predict them. They are like the wind, or like the clouds moving in the sky. Where they are going nobody can say, because they don't follow any map. They simply go wherever the wind moves. They have no goal, they have no direction. They simply live in the moment. You cannot say what a Master is going to do - never. A Master is unpredictable because he is not planned for the future. He is not prepared in any way. He moves in the moment, looks at the situation, and responds. A Master never reacts, he responds. A man who is aware never reacts, he responds. You react. Try to understand the difference.
Reaction is a deep-rooted habit. Response is not a habit. It is an alive sensitivity to the moment.
Response is real. Reaction is always unreal. Somebody insults you and you react. Reaction means: between the insult and what you do, between these two, there is not a single moment of awareness. You react through habit as you have reacted in the past - but the situation is totally different. Somebody insults you on the street and then a Master insults you. The situations are totally different. Somebody insulting you on the street is just like you. It is a totally different situation.
And then a Master, a Buddha insults you - he insults in a totally different way. He is creating a situation. He is giving you a chance not to react, not to follow the old pattern of habits, not to move and behave like a robot, but to become alert and aware.
If this man had been a little alert, a little aware, a little mindful, he would have laughed, he would have bowed down and touched the feet of the Master, because a Master insults you only when there is deep love and compassion. Otherwise, what is the use? A Master insults you to show you something. A Master can get angry in some moments, but he is not angry - it is part of his compassion.
Just the other day, one sannyasin told me that he had been in contact with a Gurdjieff group, and he said there seemed to be no compassion in that system. He is right. Gurdjieff was deeply compassionate; he never showed it. He was very ferocious - even Zen Masters could not beat him. But if you could tolerate him a little, if you could be with him in spite of him, then by and by you would feel what deep compassion he had. And it was only because of deep compassion that he was so hard, because he knew that with you compassion wouldn't help. Your hearts have gone so dead, they have become stony. Much hard work is needed.
If one is simply kind to you, he will not be able to change you. He has to be very hard. But if you can be a little aware, and live with a man like Gurdjieff, be around him, be in his presence for a few days, by and by you will see the inner core - one of the most deep people - deep in compassion, but he has become hard through experience. If he shows compassion from the beginning, you think you are allowed to have your weaknesses, you think you are allowed to remain as you are; you think there is no need for any transformation. His compassion becomes a food for your weaknesses. No, that won't do.
When a Master insults or becomes angry, don't judge by ordinary standards, don't judge by your ordinary experience. Wait a little and don't react. The Prime Minister reacted immediately.
THIS UNREASONABLE AND UNEXPECTED DEFIANCE SO HURT THE FEELINGS OF THE MINISTER THAT A SLIGHT AND SULLEN EXPRESSION OF ANGER BEGAN TO SHOW ON HIS FACE.
He must have really been a polished man. Even anger was coming, but very slightly. It was not exploding.
He must have suppressed himself very deeply. He was a cultured man, really cultured. But even to that cultured man, just a small word, 'numskull', and a sullen expression and a slight anger started to show on his face. Now the situation is real. A Master is there, without any ego; and the Prime Minister is there - now the ego is showing up, now the real has surfaced.
THE ZEN MASTER THEN SMILED AND SAID: YOUR EXCELLENCY THIS IS EGOTISM.
And it has nothing to do with Buddhism. It has something to do with you. The Master was really skillful. He created such a situation by just using a single word.
Once it happened that a press reporter went to see Gurdjieff. And you cannot find greater numskulls than press reporters. They are the most surface people; they have to be because newspapers exist on the surface. Gurdjieff looked at the man, then looked at one woman who was sitting just by his side, a disciple, and he asked the woman: What day is it today? She said: Saturday. Gurdjieff became suddenly angry and said: How is it possible? Yesterday was Friday, so how can today be Saturday, you fool! The woman was shocked. Had he gone suddenly mad? And the reporter simply left. Then Gurdjieff laughed. What a way to get rid of numskulls! And he said: If this person cannot see the point of my being unreasonable and mad, he will not be able to understand what I am doing here. It will be impossible, because it is without reason. It is unreasonable, it is irrational. And you cannot sort it out through the head. If he cannot wait. if he judges so immediately, then he will not be able to judge what I am doing here. So it is better to get rid of him in the very beginning.
You live through reason, and whenever you see something irrational, you immediately make a judgment. Immediately! That is a reaction. Otherwise there are millions of possibilities.
This press reporter could have thought: It may be just a joke, no need to judge. This press reporter could have thought: This man seems mysterious. Let's see - wait. And the whole thing is so absurd, this Gurdjieff asserting that this can't be Saturday when just yesterday it was Friday. The whole thing is so absurd. There must be some deep hidden meaning in it. Wait, don't judge. But this needs awareness. And what are you going to lose if you wait? Gurdjieff created many situations, and millions of misunderstandings are still rumored about him around the world. Nobody knows what type of man he was. Nobody can know, because you try to reach through reason, and the work that a Master is doing is beyond reason - it is supra-rational. But to you it will look irrational because you don't know what supra-rational is. To you it will look irrational; that is because of your standpoint, the place where you are standing, from where you are looking, your attitude, your over-addiction to reason. It will look irrational. If you follow a Master, by and by you start feeling that it is not irrational, it is supra-rational. It is not rational, that is right, but it is not irrational either. It may not look rational to you, but when your quality of being changes, then a new vision, a new clarity, a new perceptiveness happens to you. And then things settle in a different way. Then it starts seeming to be supra-rational; not irrational, but superior to reason, greater than reason, vaster than reason. But then one has to wait. And Masters always try to create situations, because through situations reality surfaces.
And what a beautiful thing the Master said. Then the Master smiled. You cannot smile immediately after anger - no, because you are not a Master. Even if you try to smile. you will feel so much tension in your lips, that you will not be able to relax them. After anger you cannot smile immediately; you will need time, so the anger subsides.
It is said of Gurdjieff that sometimes he would create two impressions on two people in a single situation. If somebody was sitting to his right and somebody to his left, he would look to the left with such anger, and then he would look to the right with such a beautiful smiling face - then both friends would carry different interpretations. One man would say: This man is dangerous, looks like a murderer. The other would say: I have never seen such a gentle, smiling, Buddha-like face. To some, he would look like a Rasputin, a Ghenghis Khan, a Tamurlaine; to some, he would look like a Buddha, a Jesus, a Socrates - and he could create this immediately just by turning left and right.
This is possible. This is not possible for you, because you react. When you react, you are a victim, you are possessed by the emotion, you are not a Master. When you don't react, you simply create a situation.
The Master looked angry, condemning, when he insulted the Prime Minister. And when the insult had done its work, and the real Prime Minister had surfaced, he smiled and said: Your Excellency, this is egotism.