Maneesha, Friedrich Nietzsche's maxim: "One is punished most for one's virtues" has a very deep and different meaning from what you have seen in it.
The man of virtue is not in any way a hypocrite; he is sincere, truthful. Society consists of hypocrites; they want virtue also to be a hypocrisy, and they have created false virtues which have no relation at all to any authentic virtuousness.
The people who conform to the society's idea of virtues are never punished; they are rewarded, they are respected. They are not stoned to death, they are not crucified. They are crowned as saints, as sages, as wise people; every kind of honor is given to them. But the basic condition is that they should conform to the idea of the society. They should not bother whether it is really virtuous; they should not even inquire.
Absolute surrender is needed by the society, a total enslavement. Only then the society gives respectability -- only to the slaves, only to those who have committed spiritual suicide. They are not really virtuous people. Just look around in different societies so that you can have a sense of how real virtue and the so-called virtue of the societies are diametrically opposite.
In India you will find Hindu monks all getting fat and ugly because it is thought by the Hindus that to eat milk products is a virtue, because the cow is a holy animal. So the Hindu monk goes on eating milk products, goes on gathering fat -- bigger the belly, bigger the saint. If you want to measure the height of the saint you have to measure his belly.
The Jaina monks eat only one time a day -- and that too, standing. To make everything as uncomfortable as possible is a virtue. Now I cannot conceive what sin there is in sitting comfortably and eating. And because they have to eat only one time a day, they eat as much as possible -- to compensate, because then they have to wait twenty-four hours again. So their bodies become thin and their bellies become big -- but it is respected.
One of the sects of the Jainas believes that a saint is perfect only when he starts living naked. But what is the virtue in being naked? All the animals are naked. First these monks torture their bodies in every way. They cannot use anything except their own hands; for eating they will have to make a cup of their hands, they cannot use a plate.
That is thought to be renunciation, great renouncing of the world and worldly things.
Then it goes to the extreme of stupidity. They cannot use razor blades, so they have to pull out their hairs with their own hands. It is such an ugly scene. Thousands of people, men, women, children, gather to see -- this is a very special occasion, a very holy occasion -- when a Jaina monk pulls out his hairs, beard, mustache. Tears are coming from his eyes. He is standing naked, surrounded by people; his whole body is a skeleton except the belly, and all these people are looking at the scene with such respect. They will take those hairs and make lockets of them -- they are holy hairs. They will kiss the ground on which the saint was standing -- it is holy ground.
But I don't see that there is any virtue in it. Certainly the man who is doing this act, performing this stupidity, is a masochist -- and the people who have gathered there to see him do it are certainly sadists. They love to see people being tortured, and when somebody is torturing himself, that is a delicacy. Both are sick. But the masochist becomes a great saint and the sadists become followers.
Authentic virtue is a totally different thing. It needs a deep exploration of your own being, living according to your own insight, even if it goes -- and most often it will -- against the social norms, the ideals, and the conditioning.
Friedrich Nietzsche is saying, "One is punished most for one's virtues." But the virtues have to be your own, they have to be your own discoveries. And you have to be courageous and rebellious enough to live them, whatever the cost.
Socrates was asked by the judges, "We can forgive you if you stop speaking completely.
What you think is truth is not accepted by the people amongst whom you have to live.
They are offended by your truth. If you promise -- and we can trust you, we know you are a man of your word -- if you promise not to speak again, to just be silent, you can save your life."
The answer that Socrates gave is to be remembered forever by all those who, in some way, are interested in truth. He said, "I'm living only to speak the truth. Life was given to me by existence to experience truth, and now I'm repaying life by spreading the truth to those who are groping in the dark. If I cannot speak then I don't see any point -- why should I live? My life and my message of truth are synonymous. Please don't try to seduce me. If I am alive I will speak."
The judges were at a loss. One of the judges said, "You are too stubborn, Socrates."
Socrates said, "It is not I who is stubborn; it is truth, it is virtue which is stubborn. Truth knows no compromise. It is better to die than to be condemned forever because I compromised for a small life. I'm already old; death will come anyway. And it is far more beautiful to accept death, because then death also becomes meaningful. I'm accepting it on the grounds that even death cannot stop me from speaking."
Society has virtues. There are hundreds of societies in the world, so naturally there are hundreds of different kinds of virtues. Something is virtuous in one society and the same thing is unvirtuous in another society.
For example, the whole world economy depends on the system of charging interest. A society becomes richer if the money moves faster and does not remain stuck in one hand, but the money can move faster only if there is some incentive. Why should I give my money to somebody else unless I can earn something out of it? Interest is nothing but a strategy to make the money move from one hand to another hand. And the faster the money moves, the richer the society becomes.
Mohammedans are poor because interest is condemned by their religion as a sin. To take interest or to give interest is a great sin. Now Mohammedans can never be rich; or if they become rich, they have to be condemned by the society. They cannot take loans from the banks because interest will have to be paid. Mohammedanism is the world's second largest religion after Christianity, and they have remained poor for a single reason: that interest is thought to be a sin.
No other society thinks interest is a sin. What is the sin in it? You take somebody's money, you have to pay something; otherwise why should he give his money to you?
Interest is just a kind of rent. But the Mohammedan considers interest to be so unvirtuous that anybody who commits the sin loses all respect in the society. The same person will gain respect in any other society because he will become richer -- and richness is respected.
The vegetarians are not willing to see a simple fact, that not a single vegetarian has received, up to now, a Nobel prize. Forty percent of Nobel prizes go to the Jews, which is simply out of proportion to their numbers; sixty percent go to the rest of the world and forty percent to the Jews alone. And why have vegetarians not been able to find a single Nobel prize? The reason is in their food, because it lacks a few vitamins which are absolutely necessary for intelligence to grow. It is virtuous, in a vegetarian society, not to eat meat -- but you are losing your intelligence.
Substitutes could have been found and I have been for thirty years continually telling vegetarians, "You should start eating unfertilized eggs. They are absolutely vegetable because there is no life in them. And they contain all the vitamins that intelligence absolutely needs; otherwise you will remain retarded."
Vegetarians stopped asking me to speak at their conferences; they became my enemies, and I was simply suggesting to them something that is purely scientific and in their favor.
But they would rather listen to their tradition; they will not see the facts.
The virtues that society's concepts create are just manufactured by man's mind. If you agree with them you will be rewarded greatly. But what Nietzsche is saying is not about those virtues which are acceptable to any society, but about those virtues which an individual finds in the clarity of his own intelligence, in the silences of his own heart, in the understanding of his own being -- and follows them. He will be crucified, he will be stoned to death, because he will not be acceptable to the crowd.
You are saying, "Nietzsche's maxim: `One is punished most for one's virtues' I see the truth of most clearly in You. But even a man who is virtuous by society's standards is subtly punished too, isn't he? -- punished by jealousy and criticism."
No, Maneesha, he is not punished by jealousy or criticism. He is certainly punished by his own virtue -- that is another thing -- because he will have to do something stupid, he will have to torture himself, he will have to go against his own intelligence. Only then can he fulfill the demands of the society that he should be virtuous.
But these saints and virtuous people are not punished by jealousy and criticism. Criticism is for those who are not following the virtuous; jealousy is for those who are enjoying life and are not being ascetics. The virtuous people are punished, they are punished by their own virtue, but their egos are so immensely satisfied that they are ready to do anything -- they can even commit suicide.
Jainism is the only religion in the world where even suicide is considered a virtue. Of course it has to be done in a certain methodological way: one has to fast unto death. It is a very torturous, long awaiting, because a healthy person can live without food for ninety days. And those ninety days, continuous hunger and waiting for death... and people around him are singing religious songs and worshiping him. His pictures are printed in the newspapers with great respect, as though he is doing something very spiritual; he is leaving the condemned body. And even today, people do it.
So they are punished, but by their own virtue, not by others. Do you think anybody will feel jealous that somebody is committing suicide? Do you think somebody will criticize him? His worshipers will kill whoever criticizes him.
"It is as if one is only meant to strive towards; to attain is an altogether different matter."
That's true. Society talks about, scriptures talk about, great virtues of truth, of love, of silence, of peace, of brotherhood. But they are only to be talked about; you are not supposed to practice them. Yes, in the name of love you can kill as many people as you want. Millions of people have been killed in the name of Christian love; millions of others have been killed in the name of peace, by the Mohammedans.
These beautiful words are just decorative. They give you a good feeling that you have such a beautiful philosophy to live by, such beautiful, distant stars to reach -- but don't try to reach to those stars, because a man of truth will not be acceptable in society!
The society lives by lies, so many lies that the man of truth is going to expose it -- he is a danger. The man of love cannot be acceptable because the society lives by hate: one nation hates another, one religion hates another, one color hates another. There are so many groups, sects, cults and they are all hating each other and are ready to destroy each other. Just talk about love, write about love, but don't practice -- because a man of love is dangerous. That means he will be against you whenever he sees any hatred, any anger.
For a man of love, nationality is nothing but a beautiful name for hatred. Religious organizations are nothing but sophisticated ways of hating others who don't belong to your organization, to your herd, to your crowd.
Friedrich Nietzsche is right; his whole life's experience is condensed in that small statement. He suffered for his virtues.
The Italian priest was preaching about sex and morality to his congregation. "Sex is-a dirty", he shouted. "I wanna see only good-a girls today. I wanna every virgin in-a church to-a stand up."
Not a soul moved. Then after a long pause a sexy looking blond holding an infant in her arms got to her feet. "Virgins is-a what I want," said the outraged priest.
"Hey father," she asked, "you expect a two month old baby to stand by herself?"
I was in Greece and one of my sannyasins, Amrito, who was my hostess, told me that virginity is the most important quality preached by the Greek Orthodox church. I said, "But are there virgins in Greece?"
She said, "That is a different matter. I have not come across any virgins."
As a doctrine it is beautiful, but in reality virginity should not be a virtue; it is going against nature. In fact, a man who has any intelligence should not marry a girl who is a virgin; you should expect some experience.
When you employ a servant you ask, "What are your qualifications? Bring all your certificates." You are going to marry a woman for your whole life; you should at least think that if she has remained a virgin that means no man was attracted to her up to now, so why are you being stupid? First ask how many people she has been in love with. The more experienced she is the better companion she will prove to be, because experience is always valuable. Experience is a virtue in every field!
Prabodh Nityo, the question you have asked raises many other questions too. I would like to cover all the implications in short, because it is important not only to you but for everyone else here.
The first thing: as far as I am concerned, the question-answer sessions are more significant because they relate to you, they relate to your growth. Certainly you are groping in darkness, trying to find a way. You cannot ask questions of the heights of Zarathustra, of Kahlil Gibran -- and I have to answer your reality.
Listening to Zarathustra and Kahlil Gibran is a good and great entertainment: you may sob and you may have tears and you may feel great, but it is all hot air! You remain the same -- nothing changes in you. I speak sometimes on Buddha, on Chuang Tzu, on Zarathustra, just to give you an insight into the heights people have reached, just to make you aware of those distant stars. They are not so distant as they look -- people like us have reached there. It is within your grasp.
That is the reason why, on Zarathustra and Buddha and Bodhidharma and a thousand others, I have spoken: to create a longing in you. But just the longing is not enough. Then I have to give you the path; then I have to sort out the mess that you are, and put your fragments, which are spread all over the space... to find out where your legs are and where your head is and put them all together, and somehow push you on the path.
The question-answer sessions are concerned with you, your growth, your progress -- the place where you are. And the discourses on Zarathustra or Kahlil Gibran are concerned with the places where you should be -- but you are not yet there.
So I disagree with you. I can understand that you enjoy the dream that is created when one is hearing about Buddha.... You have nothing to do; you are just listening to great poetry, listening to a great song, listening to great music, seeing a great dance. But you are not singing, you are not becoming the poetry, you are not becoming the dance. And I want you to become the dance; I want you to reach to the greatest heights that anybody has ever reached.
So I have to keep a balance, talking about the dreamlands and then talking about the dark caves where you are hiding, very reluctant to come out in the light. You want to hear about light and you enjoy, but you remain hiding in your dark cave. You want to hear about strange lands, beautiful stories and parables, but it is mere entertainment.
You should be more concerned when I am answering the questions, because they can change your reality. I have to do both jobs: create the longing, give a glimpse of the goal, and then clean the path and grease your parts -- because you have never moved in many many lives, you are sitting in a junkyard -- to put you back on the wheels and rolling.
The second job is difficult, and not very juicy either. But it is absolutely necessary.
Secondly, I have to remind you of one thing. When I was speaking on Zarathustra... it is a very complicated affair, because I was not speaking directly on Zarathustra; I was speaking on a Zarathustra who is an invention of Friedrich Nietzsche. All the great insights are given by Nietzsche to Zarathustra.
Zarathustra... many times his original books have been brought to me, and they are so ordinary that I have never spoken on them. Nietzsche has used Zarathustra only as a symbolic figure, just as Kahlil Gibran was using Almustafa, which was a completely fictitious name. Nietzsche has used a historical name, but in a very fictitious way. He is putting his insights into the mouth of Zarathustra.
So first you should remember it is Nietzsche's Zarathustra; it has nothing much to do with the original Zarathustra. And secondly, when I am speaking on it, I don't care what Nietzsche means, and I don't even have any way to know what he means; the way he used Zarathustra, I am using him! So it is a very complicated story. It is my Nietzsche, and via Nietzsche it is my Zarathustra. So whatever heights you are flying in have nothing to do with Zarathustra.
I have been speaking on hundreds of mystics, but it is always that I am speaking. And I know perfectly well that if by chance, somewhere, I meet these people, they are going to be very angry. They are going to be really enraged and say, "I never meant that." But my problem is, "How can I know what you had meant?" I can only mean what I mean. So whether it is Zarathustra or Buddha or Jesus or Chuang Tzu, once they pass through me they have my signature on them. You are always listening to me.
When I am answering your questions I am more concerned with your growth, with your actual problems; they are more earthly. So don't be deceived; many people have been deceived. I have been reminding you, but people's memories are not great.
I was speaking on Gautam Buddha in Varanasi and one Buddhist, a very renowned scholar in Buddhism, said to me, "I have been reading the same scriptures. But you have revealed such great depths and heights that I was never aware of; you have confirmed my faith in Gautam Buddha."
I said, "If you don't get angry with me... you should confirm your faith in me."
He said, "What?"
I said, "Yes, because whatever you were reading was perhaps exactly what Buddha meant, and the depths and heights I am talking about are my experiences."
But what to do? There are idiots all over the world. If you want Buddhist idiots to listen to you, you just have to say the name "Buddha" and that's enough; then you can say anything you want. If you want Hindus to listen to you, you have to talk about Krishna.
I am always talking about myself; I cannot talk about anybody else -- how can I? Five thousand years ago, what was Krishna thinking, what was in his mind?... but when they listen to me they think, "My God, we were not aware that Krishna had such depths, such heights." Krishna had nothing. Those heights and those depths are my experiences that I am hanging on anybody; these people function like hooks, I simply hang my idea on them.
And even great scholars... this man was Bhikshu Jagdish Kashyap; he was dean of the faculty of Buddhism in the University of Varanasi, a very learned man. But when I said this to him, he became a permanent enemy. I said, "What happened to the heights and to the depths?"
People are much more concerned with names. If I say to you that "Zarathustra said this," you listen with great attention. The very name Zarathustra looks so ancient, so prophetic, that he must have said something... and trust me, I know him, he is a poor guy. But don't tell this to anybody! This is just a private conversation with you.
Michelangelo was painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. He was getting tired of lying on his back, so he rolled over and saw an old woman praying, down in the chapel. He leaned over the edge of the scaffold and shouted, "I'm Jesus Christ! I'm Jesus Christ!
Listen to me and I will perform miracles!"
The Italian lady looked up and clasping her rosary answered back, "Shut up-a your mouth. I'm talking to your mother!"
Michelangelo must have been thinking that he was joking with the old woman, but he was at a loss when he heard this. Of course, a mother is a mother, and you should not interfere between two old women talking... just go on and play outside!
So don't be disturbed. If you want I can go on talking about any historical, mythological, fictitious figure; I can create my own fictions. Do you think all the stories that I have told you have happened? They should have happened! -- they are so significant. But if I tell you that I am just making up this story, you will not be very interested; you will not be flying high.
Once in a while I want you to fly high, but it is just an imaginary flight. Really, I want you to be one day actually on those heights but for that, practical work is needed, pragmatic work is needed.
Just for you to fly a little high....
Goldstein, a string merchant from New York, was trying desperately to sell some of his goods in Alabama, but wherever he went he kept encountering anti-semitism. In one department store the manager taunted him, "Alright, Goldstein. I will buy some of your string -- as much as reaches from the top of your nose to the tip of your Jewish prick."
Two weeks later, the manager was startled to receive a shipment containing eight hundred cartons of grade-A string. Attached was a note: "Many thanks for your generous order. Invoice to follow. Signed: Jacob Goldstein, residing in New York, circumcised in Kiev."
The Golden Future