A graceful old age is your birthright
YOU HAVE NOT BEEN COMING FOR SO LONG THAT NOW THE GOSSIP HAS CHANGED ABOUT ME: THAT I AM NO MORE OLD, I AM REALLY ANCIENT.
WHAT SHOULD I DO NOW?
Devageet, all these days that I have not been coming, I have been watching. An ancient tree, just by the side of my house, has been dancing in the rain, and its old leaves are falling with such grace and such beauty. Not only is the tree dancing in the rain and the wind, the old leaves leaving the tree are also dancing; there is celebration.
Except man, in the whole existence nobody suffers from old age; in fact, existence knows nothing about old age. It knows about ripening; it knows about maturing. It knows that there is a time to dance, to live as intensely and as totally as possible, and there is a time to rest.
Those old leaves of the almond tree by the side of my house are not dying; they are simply going to rest, melting and merging into the same earth from which they have arisen. There is no sadness, no mourning, but an immense peace in falling to rest into eternity. Perhaps another day, another time they may be back again, in some other form, on some other tree. They will dance again; they will sing again; they will rejoice the moment.
Existence knows only a circular change from birth to death, from death to birth, and it is an eternal process. Every birth implies death and every death implies birth. Every birth is preceded by a death and every death is succeeded by a birth. Hence existence is not afraid. There is no fear anywhere except in the mind of man.
Man seems to be the only sick species in the whole cosmos. Where is this sickness? It should really have been otherwise... man should have enjoyed more, loved more, lived more each moment. Whether it is of childhood or of youth or of old age, whether it is of birth or of death, it does not matter at all. You are transcendental to all these small episodes.
Thousands of births have happened to you, and thousands of deaths. And those who can see clearly can understand it even more deeply, as if it is happening every moment.
Something in you dies every moment and something in you is born anew. Life and death are not so separate, not separated by seventy years.
Life and death are just like two wings of a bird, simultaneously happening. Neither can life exist without death, nor can death exist without life. Obviously they are not opposites; obviously they are complementaries. They need each other for their existence; they are interdependent. They are part of one cosmic whole.
But because man is so unaware, so asleep, he is incapable of seeing a simple and obvious fact. Just a little awareness, not much, and you can see you are changing every moment.
And change means something is dying -- something is being reborn. Then birth and death become one; then childhood and its innocence become one with old age and its innocence.
There is a difference, yet there is no opposition. The child's innocence is really poor, because it is almost synonymous with ignorance. The old man, ripe in age, who has passed through all the experiences of darkness and light, of love and hate, of joy and misery, who has been matured through life in different situations, has come to a point where he is no more a participant in any experience. Misery comes... he watches.
Happiness comes and he watches. He has become a watcher on the hill. Everything passes down in the dark valleys, but he remains on the sunlit peak of the mountain, simply watching in utter silence.
The innocence of old age is rich. It is rich from experience; it is rich from failures, from successes; it is rich from right actions, from wrong actions; it is rich from all the failures, from all the successes; it is rich multidimensionally. Its innocence cannot be synonymous with ignorance. Its innocence can only be synonymous with wisdom.
Both are innocent, the child and the old man. But their innocences have a qualitative change, a qualitative difference. The child is innocent because he has not entered yet into the dark night of the soul; the old man is innocent -- he has come out of the tunnel. One is entering into the tunnel; the other is getting out of the tunnel. One is going to suffer much; one has already suffered enough. One cannot avoid the hell that is ahead of him; the other has left the hell behind him.
Devageet, your question is the question of almost every human being. Knowingly or unknowingly, there is a trembling in the heart that you are becoming old, that after old age the deluge -- after old age, death. And for centuries you have been made so much afraid of death that the very idea has become deep-rooted in your unconscious; it has gone deep in your blood, in your bones, in your marrow. The very word frightens you -- not that you know what death is, but just because of thousands of years of conditioning that death is the end of your life, you are afraid.
I want you to be absolutely aware that death is not the end. In existence, nothing begins and nothing ends. Just look all around... the evening is not the end, nor is the morning the beginning. The morning is moving towards the evening and the evening is moving towards the morning. Everything is simply moving into different forms.
There is no beginning and there is no end.
Why should it be otherwise with man? -- man is not an exception. In this idea of being exceptional, in being more special than the other animals and the trees and the birds, man has created his own hell, his paranoia. The idea that we are exceptional beings, we are human beings, has created a rift between you and existence. That rift causes all your fears and your misery, causes unnecessary anguish and angst in you.
And all your so-called leaders, whether religious or political or social, have emphasized the rift; they have widened it. There has not been a single effort in the whole history of man to bridge the rift, to bring man back to the earth, to bring man back with the animals and with the birds and with the trees, and to declare an absolute unity with existence.
That is the truth of our being. Once it is understood, you are neither worried about old age nor worried about death, because looking around you, you can be absolutely satisfied that nothing ever begins, it has been always there; nothing ever ends, it will remain always there.
The idea of being old fills you with great anxiety. It means now your days of life, of love, of rejoicings are over, that now you will exist only in name. It will not be a rejoicing, but only a dragging towards the grave. Obviously you cannot enjoy the idea that you are just a burden in existence, just standing in a queue which is moving every moment towards the graveyard.
It is one of the greatest failures of all cultures and all civilizations in the world that they have not been able to provide a meaningful life, a creative existence for their old; that they have not been able to provide a subtle beauty and grace, not only to old age, but to death itself.
And the problem becomes more complicated because the more you are afraid of death, the more you will be afraid of life too. Each moment lived, death comes closer.... A man who is afraid of death cannot be in love with life, because it is life finally that takes you to the doors of death. How can you love life? It was for this reason that all the religions started renouncing life: renounce life because that is the only way to renounce death. If you don't live life, if you are already finished with the job of living, loving, dancing, singing, then naturally you need not be afraid of death; you have died already.
We have called these dead people saints; we have worshiped them. We have worshiped them because we knew we would also like to be like them, although we don't have that much courage. At least we can worship and show our intentions. If we had courage or one day if we gather courage, we would also like to live like you: utterly dead. The saint cannot die because he has already died. He has renounced all the pleasures, all the joys; all that life offers he has rejected. He has returned the ticket to existence saying, "I am no more part of the show." He has closed his eyes.
It happened once that a so-called saint was visiting me. I took him into the garden -- there were so many beautiful dahlias, and I showed him those beautiful flowers in the morning sun. He looked very strangely at me, a little annoyed, irritated, and he could not resist the temptation to condemn me, saying, "I thought you were a religious person... and you are still enjoying the beauty of the flowers?"
On one point he is right, that if you are enjoying the beauty of the flowers, you cannot avoid enjoying the beauty of human beings; you cannot avoid enjoying the beauty of women; you cannot avoid enjoying the beauty of music and dance. If you are interested in the beauty of the flowers, you have shown that you are still interested in life, that you cannot yet renounce love. If you are aware of beauty, how can you avoid love?
Beauty provokes love; love imparts beauty.
I said, "On this point you are right, but on the second point you are wrong. Who ever told you that I am a religious person? I am not yet dead! -- to be religious the basic requirement is to be dead. If you are alive you can only be a hypocrite, you cannot be really religious."
When you will see a bird on the wing, it is impossible not to rejoice in its freedom. And when you will see the sunset with all the colors spread on the horizon -- even if you close your eyes, your very effort of closing the eyes will show your interest. You have been overwhelmed by the beauty of it.
Life is another name of love.
And love is nothing but being sensitive to beauty.
I said to that so-called saint, "I can renounce religion but I cannot renounce life, because life has been given to me by existence itself, and religion is just man-made, manufactured by the priests and the politicians; manufactured to deprive man of his joy, to deprive man of his dignity, to deprive man of his humanity itself.
"I am not a religious person in your sense. I have a totally different definition of being religious. To me the religious person is one who is totally alive, intensely alive, aflame with love, aware of tremendous beauty all around; has the courage to rejoice each moment of life and death together. Only a man who is so capable of rejoicing in life and death -- his song continues. It does not matter whether life is happening or death is happening, his song is not disturbed, his dance does not waver?"
Only such an adventurous soul, only such a pilgrim of existence is religious. But in the name of religion man has been given poor substitutes, false, phony, meaningless, just toys to play with. Worshiping statues, chanting man-made mantras, paying tributes to those who have been cowards and escapists and who were not able to live life because they were so afraid of death, and calling them saints, religion has distracted man from true and authentic religiousness.
Devageet, you need not be worried about old age. And it is even more beautiful that people have starting thinking about you as ancient. That means you have attained to the real transcendence, you have lived everything. Now it is your maturity. You have not renounced anything, but you have simply passed through every experience. You have grown so experienced that now you need not repeat those experiences again and again.
This is transcendence.
You should rejoice, and I would like the whole world to understand the rejoicing that is our birthright in accepting with deep gratitude the old age and the final consummation of old age into death.
If you are not graceful about it, if you cannot laugh at it, if you cannot disappear into the eternal leaving a laughter behind, you have not lived rightly. You have been dominated and directed by wrong people. They may have been your prophets, your messiahs, your saviors, your tirthankaras; they may have been your incarnations of gods, but they have all been criminals in the sense that they have deprived you of life and they have filled your hearts with fear.
My effort here is to fill your heart with laughter. Your every fiber of being should love to dance in every situation, whether it is day or night, whether you are down or up.
Irrespective of the situation, an undercurrent of cheerfulness should continue. That is authentic religiousness to me.
A few sutras for you, Devageet...
An ancient man is one who wears his glasses in bed so he can get a better look at the girls he dreams about.
An ancient man is one who only flirts with young girls at parties so his wife will take him home.
The beauty of being ancient is that since you are too old to set a bad example, you can start giving good advice.
Only a really old man, well-versed in the wisdom of life, can say, "Puppy love is lots of fun but few men realize it is the beginning of a dog's life."
Women like the simple things in life -- for example, the old men. Once the women start liking you, it means you are finished. They are no longer afraid of you; you are perfectly acceptable.
Women have their own reasons, although women's reason is like eternity: it passeth all understanding.
Devageet, if you have really become old, then you are in a wrong place. The right place for you will only be a Catholic monastery, because a Catholic monastery is a home for unmarried fathers.
Devageet, if you are really old, start loving your enemies; it makes them so angry.
An old married man's best friend is his wife's husband.
Get it? ... No. I have to give you some explanation.
A man was sitting with his best friend and told him, "My wife has escaped with my best friend."
The friend said, "What are you talking about? I'M your best friend."
The man said, "No, no more."
For ancient ones there is a new thing in the world to do; its name is punk yoga. Punk yoga is where you stand on someone else's head.
Inside every older person there is a younger person wondering what happened.
And remember, Devageet, if you are not going all the way, why go at all? And don't be worried at all about your old age, your ancientness. At least as far as enlightenment is concerned, it does not care how you get there: young, old, ancient; man, woman, all are accepted without any exception, because the ultimate experience is welcoming everybody from every direction. One need not be concerned about these small matters; moreover, they are not facts. You are simply getting paranoid about gossips.
Naturally, here there are so many beautiful people, gossips are bound to happen. And what else will meditators do? -- you cannot meditate for twenty-four hours. Just to relax, just for a change... the best relaxation for a meditator is gossip. It hurts nobody and it gives you free entertainment.
The truckdriver pulled into the truck stop, went inside, and ordered a cup of coffee and a piece of cake. Sitting next to him was a member of the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang, who looked at him and said, "Hey man, I don't like you sitting next to me. Move over!"
The truckdriver did not say a word, so the Hell's Angel reached over and put his cigarette out in the driver's coffee. But still the truckdriver was silent and continued eating his cake. When he had finished he got up, paid his bill and left.
When he had gone, the Hell's Angel said to the waiter, "Man, that guy was a pushover.
Did you see what a coward he was?"
"Yes," said the waiter, looking out of the window, "a real coward. And a terrible driver too. He just drove over some poor guy's motorcycle."
The English couple had not made love for years. The wife was very suspicious: What is the matter? Is he having an affair with somebody? The lady was surprised to see the maid very happy that day, wearing a beautiful new dress and preparing her bedroom as if she was expecting someone to come in the night.
So that evening she sent the maid to her mother's for the night and then climbed into the maid's bed herself and switched off the light. Soon a shadowy figure climbed in through the window, slipped into bed and made passionate love to the lady.
When he had finished she felt satisfied like never before, but still wanting revenge she snapped on the bedside light. "I will bet you are surprised to see me," she said triumphantly.
"I sure am," said the chauffeur.
It is perfectly okay for meditators -- they are involved in such a serious research -- to relax once in a while, gossip, joke, laugh. It is not contrary to their meditations; it is immensely helpful. It takes away your seriousness, it gives you back your innocence, simplicity, relaxedness. It helps you to go back into the deeper realms of meditations.
HOW DID YOU KNOW WHEN YOU SAID THE QUESTION WAS FROM AN INDIAN?
Arup Krishna, it is very simple. The question does not arise out of the blue; the question arises in the heart of the questioner.
The question says so much about the questioner that if you don't start immediately figuring out the answer... which is done all over the world; people start searching in their memory for the answer.
I don't have any ready-made answers. When I listen to your question, I have to go deeper into the question to find you first, because unless I know the questioner, I cannot respond.
I am not a holy book; I am a living being. I am not a computer that you ask the question and the answer comes irrespective of who is asking the question.
I can answer you, not your question. Your question is secondary. So when I hear your question, my first search is for the person who has asked it. Without knowing the person who has asked it my answer is going to be irrelevant. It will answer the question, but it will not answer the questioner, who is the real problem.
I have to go to the very roots. And it is not very difficult to know whether the question has come from a German or from a Jew or from an Indian or from an American; whether the question has come from a Jaina or a Hindu or a Mohammedan or a Christian. It is very simple because the question contains the questioner. It has come with all the colors and all the conditionings of the questioner contained in it. It is absolutely indicative about the personality.
You are wondering, "How did you know when you said the question was from an Indian?" That kind of question cannot be asked by anyone else.
I will give you a few examples. For example, if somebody asks, "What is NIGOD?" that question can come only from someone who belongs to Jainism, because even the word 'nigod' will not be known to anybody else. It is part of the Jaina philosophy and it is not part of any other philosophy in the world. In fact nothing parallel to it exists anywhere. It is almost impossible to translate the word 'nigod' into any other language because no parallel words exist. The idea has never existed anywhere else; hence, there cannot be any word for it. I will have to explain to you what nigod is.
For Jainism it has been a problem, but for no other religion, because Jainism does not believe in God the creator. Then the problem arises: from where do souls go on coming?
The population goes on increasing... in Mahavira's time the population of India was only two million; today it is nine hundred million. If there is nobody manufacturing souls, from where do these souls go on coming? God is out of the question.
Other religions can answer, "God goes on creating..." Jainism cannot answer it that way, because there is no God in its philosophical framework and there is no creation; hence, it has to create another hypothesis like God. That hypothesis is nigod. Nigod means there is an infinite number of souls dormant in existence. Out of that immense, infinite number of sleeping souls a few go on waking up. That is from where people continuously go on coming, and they will go on coming. And the source of their coming is inexhaustible. The name of that source is nigod.
If somebody asks a question about nigod, I can easily know the question can come only from a follower of Mahavira. It cannot come from anybody else -- the followers of Moses may not even have heard the word.
Nigod does not explain anything; it is as stupid as the idea of God. This is something to be understood, because you will come across such things again and again. Jainas refuse the hypothesis of God because it does not answer the question. The question is: Who created the existence? -- because without creating, how can the existence come into being?
All the religions have agreed on the hypothesis of a God as the creator except Jainism, because they say that if we accept God as the creator, then the question again comes up:
Who created God? God cannot be the answer, because the question still remains relevant:
Who created God? And if you say that God is not created by anyone -- he is self- sufficient, he is eternal, not created by anyone else -- then Jainism laughs and says that if God can be without any creator, why cannot the whole existence be without any creator?
What is the problem? Why unnecessarily create a hypothesis? And on that point they are right.
This is the scientific approach. Never accept any unnecessary hypothesis unless it explains something. Why go on burdening yourself with hypotheses?
So Jainism rejected the idea of God because it does not answer the question. Then they were in the same trouble. People started asking, "From where do the new souls go on coming?" The doors of God were closed; they had to find a new hypothesis, but it is as stupid as the hypothesis of God. That's the beauty -- that nobody sees his own stupidity, but everybody is capable of seeing the stupidity of anybody else. Jainism says, "Souls go on coming from a dormant, infinite source, where billions and billions of souls are asleep.
As they go on waking up they start moving, finding wombs."
But no Jaina thinker asks, "Who created this nigod? From where came this infinite source of sleeping souls?" It raises as many questions as Jainism raises about God, but it never raises questions about nigod... from where did it come?
Secondly, if these souls are asleep, were they awake before or have they always been asleep from eternity? If they were awake before, then it is very dangerous, because those who are awake can fall asleep and get into nigod, for infinity. Nobody knows whether they will be awake again or not.
If you say that they have always been asleep from the very beginning, then what made them asleep? People need sleep when they have worked hard in the day; they are tired, and they go to sleep. Eternal sleep... Even to sleep twenty-four hours is very difficult -- after six, eight hours you start thinking about tea or coffee or some breakfast. These people have not taken even breakfast for infinity, and you still call them alive?
Even more important, the question arises: Why have a few of them suddenly become awake? What happens? Some mosquitoes disturb their sleep? Because millions of others are fast asleep, and suddenly one becomes awake -- you have to provide some reason why particularly this person and not somebody else. You cannot say that he was having a nightmare. He has never been awake, he knows nothing, he cannot dream. For dreaming you need some experiences of waking. About what will these people be dreaming?
People dream about things because those are the things they have missed when they were awake. People dream of beautiful women because when they are awake they have only their wife. It is the wife which is the cause of many saints: they renounce the world, because without renouncing the world they could not renounce the wife! The poor fellows had to renounce everything, just to escape from the wife.
Perhaps the proverb is true, that every great man has a wife behind him. Because she goes on nagging and harassing him and finding no other way he goes on succeeding, becoming richer, climbing ladders. The wife goes on hitting: "Go on!"... she never allows any rest for the poor fellow.
What can they dream about? They have never been hungry, they have never eaten anything; they cannot dream about ice cream. And certainly they cannot have nightmares which can awaken them.
Aesop has a beautiful parable. A cat is sitting on a tree, giggling and smiling. And a dog looks up and asks, "What is the matter, you idiot?"
And the cat says, "I was just having a beautiful afternoon nap and I dreamed that it is raining, very fast, strong rain, and the most amazing part is, it is not water that is raining, it is mice."
The dog was very angry. He said, "You idiot. You will never grow out of your retardedness. In my holy scriptures there are instances when it has rained, but it has rained always cats, never rats!"
Obviously, a cat cannot think the way a dog can think, and they cannot agree. But if somebody is seeing rats and mice raining you can know that the person who is seeing the dream is a cat. There is not much logic involved in it.
An Indian went to Singapore to buy a video. He went into a shop and asked, "What is the price of this video near the window?"
The seller answered, "Sorry sir, we don't sell to Indians."
The Indian went back to his hotel and dressed in his best clothes. Back at the shop, again he asked, "What is the price of this video near the window?"
To his dismay, the seller replied, "Sorry sir, we don't sell to Indians."
The Indian went back to his hotel and dressed in Western-style clothes -- shorts, T-shirt, sunglasses. Returning again to the shop, the Indian was most upset to receive the same answer to his enquiry. In exasperation he asked, "How do you know that I'm an Indian?"
"Oh," said the seller, "that's easy. The machine near the window is not a video, it is a washing machine."
Paddy was convinced he was a cannibal. His wife finally persuaded him to visit a psychiatrist.
When Paddy returned home after his first visit, his wife asked, "So tell me, what is a fancy psychiatrist like?"
"Delicious," beamed Paddy.
If the man thinks himself to be a cannibal, then you can expect the answer that he has given.
You can expect the question, you can expect the answer. And from the question or from the answer, from both the sides, you can find out whose is the mind, of what kind of conditioning.
The Indian always asks questions about his repressed sexuality -- not directly that he is suffering from repressed sexuality, but in a very indirect way. He does not even think that in his question he is showing himself. He asks questions about other people who are not completely dressed; other people who are hugging each other in public; other people who are holding the hands of their girlfriends. He never thinks that all these questions show only one thing, that he is sexually repressed. These are not questions about other people; these are questions about his own unconscious.
Now, no American will ask that question. That is absolutely out of the question. People ask about things which they are missing.
Just a few days ago a therapist enquired of me, "I am at a loss, because so many Japanese sannyasins are coming to the groups, and it is absolutely impossible to work with them.
And the impossibility is that psychoanalysis and other sister systems of therapies have been evolved in the West. They are not applicable to the Far Eastern people. These people have a different conditioning, centuries old."
The therapist became afraid because Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis says that every child, if the child is a boy, wants to make love to his mother. And because the father goes on making love to his mother and he is not allowed, he hates the father. He is jealous of the father; he thinks and dreams of killing him. If the baby is a girl she wants to make love to her father, and obviously the mother is the enemy, because the mother goes on making love to the father and the girl is never allowed -- not even allowed to think about it.
Sigmund Freud was very much condemned for his ideas, but there is some truth in them.
And after a struggle of one century, slowly, slowly Western society has accepted the idea.
Now there is no resistance against it. If you say to someone that you hate your father, that you wanted to make love to your mother, he will accept it.
But if you say that to a Japanese, either he will kill himself or he will kill you -- those are the only two alternatives. He will immediately challenge you to a fight because it is absolutely inconceivable to a Japanese that he has even dreamt of making love to his mother or he was jealous of his father; that he was antagonistic and hated his father, that he wanted to kill his father. Because the Japanese conditioning is that the very idea, even the idea of being disrespectful to your father is enough to feel so ashamed that you don't have any worth even to live a single moment more. Hara-kiri, suicide is the only way.
In Japan millions of people down the ages have committed suicide over such small matters that you cannot conceive. Rarely, once in a while, somebody commits suicide, but you can see that he has reasons: his business went bankrupt, his wife eloped, he was the richest man and now he has to live like a beggar on the street. It is so against his ego that he would rather kill himself.
But hara-kiri, suicide in Japan is inconceivable to anybody else in the whole world. You misbehaved, you were disrespectful towards your father; when it was expected of you to bow down to your father you did not. That's enough. Now if you have any dignity, you should commit hara-kiri -- nothing less than that!
So the therapists are in a difficulty because those poor fellows are talking whatever they have learned from Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung and Alfred Adler. And they think they are talking very sensible things, but to the Japanese... He immediately stands up saying, "Take your words back! What do you think of me?... I wanted to make love to my mother? I will kill myself, even if the idea happens to me. Even if I dream it in the night, in the morning I will finish myself. What nonsense are you talking?" Now the therapist does not know what to do.
In the beginning, when Japanese sannyasins started to come, I was at a loss, because they have a different symbology, different gestures, different from anybody else in the world.
Everywhere nodding your head up and down means yes. In Japan it means no. Nodding your head side to side everywhere in the world means no. In Japan it means yes.
So when I used to ask, I was at a loss. The person has come to be initiated into sannyas, and when I asked him, "Have you really thought about it? Do you really want to take sannyas?" he would say no. He was saying yes -- I was thinking he was saying no. He looked amazed -- I looked amazed. Finally, I had to make one Japanese sannyasin sit near me. I said, "You translate all these strange gestures because I cannot figure them out."
Conditions all over the world are different.
Your question comes from your conditionings.
If somebody has a clarity and transparency of eyes, he can see from where the question has arisen. It is not difficult to know, Arup Krishna, that the question is from an Indian.
The Indian court was in session and the attractive blond took the stand. As the prosecuting attorney approached the girl he coughed nervously, and while fixing his tie asked, "Where were you on the night before last?"
"I was with a gentleman friend," she answered, looking down shyly.
"And where were you last night?" continued the attorney.
"I was with another gentleman friend," she answered coyly.
Then, his voice very gentle and low, he asked, "Where are you going tonight?"
The defense attorney jumped to his feet and shouted, "Objection! I asked her first."
It is not difficult to know that you are in an Indian court where everybody is sexually starved.
Questions coming out of sexual starvation will indicate the religious conditioning against life. And India has suffered most; it has the deepest conditioning against life, that's why it also has the biggest ego of being spiritual. And it is sheer nonsense, because having such a deeply repressed sexuality and then the claim for being spiritual is just a contradiction.
You can be spiritual only when all sex is transformed, not repressed -- understood, transmuted. When there is no sex lurking in your mind somewhere, when the whole energy involved in sex has become luminous, only then can you be spiritual, because sex at the lowest point when it becomes aflame is the same energy as enlightenment at the ultimate point. At the alpha point it is sex; at the omega point it is samadhi, it is superconsciousness.
So whatever you ask, you show without knowing your unconscious. I have to look into your unconscious and only then I can answer you relevantly. Then my answer is no more academic, then my answer becomes intimate: the answer out of love and compassion, not out of knowledge and ready-made wisdom.
A pair of good friends, Frenchmen... Now even if the mention of Frenchmen is not made, looking at the whole episode you can conclude it is about Frenchmen.
A pair of good friends were strolling down the street in Paris one day when they spied two women approaching.
"Sacre bleu, Pierre," cried one. "There comes my wife and mistress walking towards us arm in arm!"
"Mon Dieu, Henri," cried the second, "I was about to say the same thing!"
But that can happen only in Paris, and that can happen only about the Frenchman. You cannot expect this happening in Poona.
The Great Pilgrimage: From Here to Here