[NOTE: This is a translation from the Hindi series BHAJ GOVINDAM, literally: Singing the Song of the Divine. This version is the final edit pending publication, and is for research only.]
The first question:
Through argument and debate, through logic and debate, dialogue is never possible. Dialogue means the talk of two hearts; debate means the conflict of two intellects. Dialogue means the meeting of two individuals; debate means the conflict of two individuals. Nobody gets defeated in dialogue, both win; in debate both get defeated, nobody wins.
But there was no other alternative for Shankara. He had to debate, because at that time dialogue could be possible only after the debate. Shankara did not debate to explain truth. The fact was that people were so full of their own intellect, their ego, their scholarliness, that they were not ready to listen to any talk of the heart till their scholarliness and intellect were defeated. Shankara did not explain truth to them by debate, he destroyed their ego by debate. And dialogue is only possible with that person who is ready to bow down.
Shankara's debate of the scriptures was only negative; it was like taking out a thorn with another thorn. A mind which is full of logic can understand the language of logic only. A mind full of scholarliness can only understand the language of scholarliness, it cannot even hear the language of love - and even if it hears it it cannot understand the meaning and, there is just no question of understanding the language of msilence.
The scholarliness of this country was at its zenith when Shankara was born. That very scholarliness has ruined this country. It just got stuck in the head and there was no way to reach the heart. To reach the heart it was necessary to first cut off the heads. This disease was so acute that it could not be treated by medicines, so an operation was needed.
So Shankara was compelled to debate - that was his compulsion. Shankara is not at all the debating or the argumentative type. It is just not possible for Shankara to be argumentative. He is not interested in logic at all; otherwise he could not have sung songs like Bhaj Govindam. He wanted to sing the songs of the divine from his very heart. If the time had been ripe, if the people could have understood the language of the heart, then Shankara would not have argued or debated at all. If he had got the opportunity he would have danced.
But the country was sick; scholarliness was at its climax, people's heads were really heavy with learning and knowledge so it was necessary to remove that useless weight from their heads. And scholarliness can only understand argument. Scholars may listen to the language of the heart after being defeated by logic. So Shankara defeated them in debate.
And remember that a person who has known the truth can utilize logic in a right way, but logic can be dangerous if used by a person who does not know truth. Logic is the end, logic is everything for the one who does not know truth, but if one knows truth, he can use logic in the service of truth.
One who knows truth can make logic the servant. Truth can ride on logic also.
Usually logic is like a sword in the hands of children. They will harm others and harm themselves with it. But a person with knowledge can use logic in a sensible way - like a grown-up person using the sword. He will not harm anyone with it, but will protect others from any mishap.
Shankara made the right use of logic. If used properly even poison can become medicine. An intelligent person can always turn the poison into medicine. And Shankara did utilize logic in the service of truth. He toured the whole of the country - he went from one corner to the other corner.
He debated and he used logic; he argued with people whose sick minds could not go beyond the intellect and who had forgotten the language of the heart. He debated whenever he saw that some genius was lost in words and could not find the door to truth. He argued with people who were overburdened with scriptures and who were struggling to come out of it. It was only the prologue.
Whenever someone was defeated in the debate of the meaning of the scriptures, at once Shankara made him a disciple. The real, important thing is this: as soon as someone was defeated in argument, Shankara utilized his defeat. In the moment of that defeat, when the individual was stunned, when his ego was shattered, when his intellect and his logic did not work, when he became helpless and started sinking, Shankara at once put the other boat in front of him. If the boat of your logic is sinking, let it sink. I have got another boat, the boat of the heart - the boat of love, the boat of devotion.
During such moments he must have sung: OH IDIOT! SING THE SONG OF THE DIVINE, SING THE SONG OF THE DIVINE, SING THE SONG OF THE DIVINE.
He has called these pundits idiots. You must understand that he debated so that your idiocy could be cut off. All illusions disappear as soon as your idiocy is destroyed. And he utilized that moment of transition when your mind becomes thoughtless - all the clouds disappear and for the first time you are looking at the open sky. Shankara did not debate to explain truth. By debate he removed the clouds so that the sun of truth could be seen.
There is no need to prove truth, it is proof by itself. It is self-evident. And remember that if anything has to be proved by logic, it can be disproved also by logic. Logic is only a play, it is not a strength.
Anything which is proved by logic can be disproved by logic. Logic is just like a lawyer; logic is like a prostitute; it is not attached to anyone - it can take any side, it can be used on both sides, for and against anything. Just as a sword does not belong to anyone, logic also does not belong to anyone.
Your own sword can be used by your enemy to cut your throat. You cannot say, "It is my sword, how can it cut my throat?" The sword belongs to no one.
Similarly, logic too belongs to no one. That is why people who depend too much on logic will find one day that it is not dependable at all. One day they will realize that they were riding a paper boat.
One day they will discover that the logic which acted as a support for them to stand became the cause of their downfall.
If you believe in God you say that there must be someone who created this world. Your logic is that this world must have been created by someone, so there should be a God. But then the other argument is: Who made God? ... Because how can God exist without being created? There is no difference between the two arguments. One believes in God and the other is an atheist. But I see no difference between the two because both of them depend on the logic that how can anything exist without being created?
You get annoyed with an atheist and you tell him, "Keep quiet! Nobody has made God." But the atheist is only saying that if God can exist without being made, why cannot the world exist without being made? The logic is the same, the argument is the same, so nobody wins.
Nothing is ever proved by logic. What is, is beyond logic; what is, is self-evident. But if you go to Shankara with logic he will counter all your logic. There are very few people who are as logical as Shankara. You can meet people who have known the divine - like Ramakrishna - but such people are rare who have known the divine and can counter the arguments of the atheist.
Ramakrishna could not counter the argument of an atheist. He did not know logic. He was a simple and a pure person. Vivekananda could counter the logic, but Vivekananda does not have any experience of truth. People like Shankara are unique. He has in him the qualities of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda both. He has known just as Ramakrishna has known, and he can use arguments in favor of what he has known, just as Vivekananda can do without knowing.
But Shankara has been misunderstood. The irony is that all his life Shankara tried to destroy the egos of the pundits, and those very pundits took him to be a pundit also! These pundits go on saying that Shankara conquered all. Shankara must be having a hearty laugh at this! The victory of logic is no victory at all. To defeat anyone with logic means nothing. If anyone gets defeated in argument he just keeps quiet, he does not feel defeated at heart.
If you put a lot of arguments before someone, he may not be able to reply to you in the same way, so he will keep quiet at that time but in his mind he will go on waiting to take his revenge on you.
To defeat someone with logic is like using the sword to make him surrender. He will surrender for the time being but will wait for the right time to take his revenge. One who is defeated with a sword is not defeated at all. Only the one who is defeated with love is really defeated, because no other surrender is meaningful until you surrender from the heart.
So Shankara defeated with logic those people who existed on logic. He cut down logic with logic.
But in that moment of defeat Shankara told them, "Your logic is futile, my logic is also futile. I took out your thorn with my thorn, but my thorn is not more valuable than yours. And don't try to keep my thorn in your wound, otherwise this will also cause you as much pain as your thorn was giving you.
It is better to throw away both the thorns."
This was the meaning of being his disciple: to move away from the intellect and come down to the heart. Truth has to be sought not with thinking but with emotion. Truth has to be discovered not with logic, scriptures and principles, but with an open heart. When the flower of the heart blossoms then the sun of truth shines on it. The rays of truth dance on the blossoming flower of the heart. This was the meaning of disciplehood. But those who could not understand this were made to understand in their own language by Shankara.
Shankara is a unique person. And it is very easy to misunderstand the unique person because he is beyond your common understanding. It seemed to people that he was also a logician, a great logician. But can a great logician say, "Sing! Dance! Sing the song of the divine"? It is just not possible for the logician to say so. Such words can be spoken only by a lover of the divine from the depth of his heart. So remember this.
"You have said many times that a dialogue is not possible through debate." It is never possible.
Shankara cleaned the ground for dialogue by logic and debate. You were full of debate so he humbled you with debate. You were full of arguments so he humbled you with arguments. He cleared the ground with these and then sowed the seeds of love and devotion.
Many people have been thinking that Shankara is contradictory. He is not contradictory. He seems contradictory in the same way as you see someone in your neighborhood demolishing his house.
It takes him months to demolish it and then to clear the debris; then he lays the foundation and he builds a new house. Will you call this person contradictory? One day he demolishes his house and the next day he builds it. It may seem contradictory, but you know that if a new house is to be constructed then the old one has to be demolished. There is no contradiction in this contradiction.
The new house can be built only after demolishing the old one.
Shankara is not contradictory, he is fighting logic with logic. When the old house is demolished then he gives the invitation to dance. You will say that this is contradictory - first he talks about thought and logic, then he talks about love and dance.
No, he used logic to destroy the old and built the new with emotion. He cleared the ground with logic and now is sowing the seeds of love. There is no contradiction.
You say, "But Shankara announced his universal victory." This announcement also was not made by Shankara; this announcement was made by people who were following Shankara but could not understand him. You cannot understand anyone just by following. It is very easy to follow anyone, but it is difficult to be a disciple. It is very easy to follow or to copy others, but it is difficult to understand someone and then to develop your life according to that understanding.
So those who followed Shankara announced his universal victory. They are still doing so. The Shankaracharya of Puri is still doing so, Karpatri is still doing so. They still go on saying that Shankara defeated the whole world. The Shankaracharya of Puri still says that he is Jagat Guru, master of the world. This is not Shankara's announcement, because Shankara knew that nobody wins and nobody is defeated with logic - it only means that the other person's logic was weaker than yours and you were more skilled. But tomorrow the other person can also become more skilled in logic.
Shankara knew that the victory of logic and argument is no victory, it is only a deception. And Shankara is not attempting to defeat anyone with logic. His attempt is unique, but this unique attempt cannot be seen by those who are following him; they will only see that he defeated another man. Those who are following him can understand only the language of the ego. They cannot see that actually Shankara did not defeat the person but made him victorious, he brought him on the path of the heart. A person was losing, sinking deep into logic - Shankara saved him and showed him the path of victory. Now that person will be victorious.
That is why people like Kumaril Bhatt, who was defeated by Shankara, became his disciple - he did not become his disciple in misery and anguish. If Kumaril Bhatt had become a disciple after being defeated then it would have hurt his ego and he would have tried to take the revenge of his defeat. Kumaril was as great a logician as Shankara. By debating with Shankara Kumaril realized that debating is futile. Shankara was not victorious, Kumaril was not defeated. Logic was defeated and emotion won.
It is necessary to understand this - by debating with Shankara, by playing with an expert player, Kumaril saw clearly that those things on which he depended fell down with just the blowing of a breeze. This does not mean that he accepted Shankara's logic. Shankara's skill is only that, through debate, he shows you that your arguments are futile, that my arguments are futile; logic becomes meaningless. Neither Kumaril was defeated nor Shankara won - logic was defeated. Because this defeat of logic came through the medium of Shankara, Kumaril bowed and fell down at his feet.
And these debates were full of sweetness, these debates were full of love, there was no bitterness in them. They were not fighting like enemies, it was like playing chess: an army of arguments was put at stake. Kumaril prepared the best of his logic and the best of his intellect, and Shankara went on destroying all his arguments one by one. He did not try to put his own argument in Kumaril's mind, he just went on negating Kumaril's arguments until a space was left, and in that space discipleship was born. The opponent saw that the person standing in front of him has not brought any theory but truth. He has destroyed all my arguments but has not established any new argument in their place. Empty space was left. There was an interval, there was emptiness, there was a void. In that state meditation happened. In this moment of meditation he bowed down. Do not think that he bowed down before Shankara; he bowed down before the truth which was expressed through Shankara. Shankara was only an image, a symbol. Kumaril was bowing down before truth. Kumaril was bowing down not because he was defeated but because he was awakened.
But those people who were standing behind, all they saw was that he was defeated and was bowing down. The people who followed him announced tha, "Shankara has become victorious, he has defeated the world." Because of these stupid people Shankara's image was polluted. The unique approach of Shankara was lost and instead of it a very ordinary tradition, a narrow path came into existence. The vast path of the open sky was lost - that openness was lost. Therefore you will find that if a sannyasin of Shankara is a logician, he will not accept Bhaj Govindam and such things.
There are people who say that songs like Bhaj Govindam are not written by Shankara, that they are written by others and are given the name of Shankara. They say, "How can Shankara write such songs?" Yes, Meera could write such songs, Chaitanya could write such songs, but how could Shankara write them?... because he was a sharp logician, it was not possible for him to sing such devotional songs. These people say that those songs have been made by others who have taken advantage of Shankara's name. They think that these songs are not authentic and they believe in arguments which really have no value.
Shankara used logic to destroy the old building and gave these songs to construct the new building.
This process of his is not contradictory; if you think so then you will not be able to understand him.
Shankara never announced his universal victory. Those who know truth are not ambitious, those who know truth are not egoist. Such announcements of victory are very childish: little children indulge in such things. Who is there to win and who is there to lose? Shankara sees that there is only the divine; the multiplicity of things is an illusion, unity is the truth. Who will win and who will lose? If anyone wins it is only the divine who will win, and if anyone loses it is only the divine who will be defeated. When it is he who is winning and it is he who is losing, then who is going to announce the universal victory? No, Shankara cannot make this mistake, and if he has made it then he has no value. Shankara has awakened and not defeated others.
No, Shankara made innumerable intellectuals really intelligent. Before this they had been involved with false intellect; they were taking care of bad coins. Now they were shown the real coins. You can only make out the bad coin after seeing the real one: there is no other way to prove that a bad coin is bad. Shankara showed the real coins and then the bad coins could be recognized. These debates were not like those which are popular in the West. These debates were also not like the ones which go on in the East these days. These debates were very sweet. These were the debates of the seekers of truth.
There are two types of debates: one is that whatever you say is correct because you are saying it - because you cannot be wrong. Whatever you say it does not matter, but it has to be correct because you have said it. This type of debate is futile, useless. If you are seeking truth then you do not insist that what you say is correct. Then you say that from whatever you have known up to now, this seems correct to you: "I am ready to know more if there is anything more to be known. I am open, I am not closed. I have not yet arrived at any conclusion. But up to now, wherever I have searched, this seems to be the most truthful. But if truth is revealed to me I am ready to accept it and be transformed and to give up whatever I knew before this." Then debate becomes the process of approaching truth.
The East has utilized this type of debate. This tradition is thousands of years old. In seeking the truth intellectuals used to think over and debate - not because they had found the truth but because they were searching for it. This continued for thousands of years. Whenever a person showed the other's untruth, then he had the courage to bow down at that person's feet, because in the search for truth whosoever showed it was the master. So those who were defeated by Shankara became his disciples.
Discipleship means: you have taken me one step farther than where I was, you have made me see farther than where my eyes could see, you have made me see the open sky by carrying me on your shoulders.
The search for truth is absolutely a different thing. If the aim is the search for truth, then debate can also be utilized. That is why I say that even poison can become medicine.
There have been debates in the West also, but they are not like the ones in the East. In the West they go on fighting, debating, and it can never be judged who has won and who has lost. They have never become anyone's disciples.
Shankara traveled to Mandala, Mandan Mishra's city; Mandala was named after Mandan. As he entered the city he asked the women at the well, "Where is Mandan Mishra's house?"
They laughed and said, "You do not have to ask this because you will be able to recognize it yourself.
The very atmosphere of that house will tell you. Even the parrots in the cage hanging in front of the house recite the words of the Upanishads. The aura of that house is ancient and sacred." The women laughed and said, "Stranger, you will be able to locate that house. Nobody needs to ask for it."
Shankara arrived at the house. It was true, the birds were singing at the door and they were reciting words from the Upanishads and the Vedas. Shankara went inside and invited Mandan Mishra to debate with him.
Mandan Mishra was very famous. He was older than Shankara, and his prestige and fame were much more than Shankara's. He also had more disciples than Shankara. Shankara invited him to a debate on the search for truth. They welcomed him and made him stay in the house. He was not an enemy. Mandan was more than fifty years old at that time and Shankara was about thirty years old.
So Mandan said, "I am much more experienced than you. You are young. I am of your father's age so we are not equal - this debate is not equal. So I give you the advantage of choosing the judge.
You are young so you choose the judge - he will decide who has won and who has lost."
This was not a fight at all, it was a very loving contest. The older person welcomed the younger one like his own son and gave him an advantage also. Shankara looked around for a judge who could be of the same repute as Mandan but could not find one. So he decided on Mandan's wife, whose name was Bharati. Shankara said, "Your wife will make the judgment."
Do you think that this is a fight? This is not the language of enemies. If the wife is to make the judgment then there is the possibility of her taking the side of her husband. This is quite natural if the debate is based on enmity. But this debate was for the search for truth, and was full of love.
The wife became the judge, and after the debate she gave the judgment that Mandan had lost and Shankara had won. Bharati then said, "But wait, this defeat is incomplete. You have defeated only one half of Mandan - I am his other half. You now have to debate with me." This sounded like a joke but it was a beautiful fact - the wife being the other half of the husband, only half of Mandan had been defeated and now the other half, the wife, had to be defeated. This wife who gave the judgment of her husband's defeat must have been unique. She said to Shankara, "Your victory is incomplete. You have to defeat me too to make it complete."
Shankara agreed to debate with Bharati. But he found he could not reply to the questions asked by her, because she did not ask any question regarding Brahma or knowledge of Brahma. As he had already defeated Mandan on that topic. She had understood from the debate with Mandan that it was useless to talk to this young man about Brahma. She thought "This young-looking person is actually a very ancient being."
And Mandan certainly knew more than Bharati. That is why Bharati had fallen in love with him, married him, and was looking after him. She had seen him defeated by Shankara on the subject of Brahma, so she asked Shankara questions regarding sex. Shankara was young. He was thirty years old and was unmarried. He found himself in a difficult situation. He said, "I want six months' time to reply to these questions because I am unmarried and a celibate - I do not know love, I do not know sex. So if I reply now it will not be from my own experience and answers which are not based on experience cannot be true or correct. Just as Mandan has lost by talking about Brahma based on his knowledge of the scriptures, the same way I can also talk about sex based on my knowledge of the scriptures and I am sure to be defeated because I have no experience of sex. You will win because you are experienced. I have only heard about it, mine is only second-hand knowledge. So I need six months' time to have that experience. After that I shall be able to answer your questions."
These debates were really full of love and affection. Bharati said, "Alright, you go for six months, gain the experience and come back."
It is a strange story. Shankara was in a great dilemma. He had taken the vow of celibacy - he had given this promise to his master. Now if he gets married or he looks out for a woman then the whole pattern of his life will change. So, according to the story, Shankara left his own body and entered another dead body. A king was dying, so Shankara entered his body and stayed in that body for six months and he understood the need of the body and the meaning of sex. When he came back after six months Bharati looked at him and said, "There is no need of debate now. You have known it. I am ready to be your disciple." Mandan and Bharati became Shankara's disciples.
In these incidents they were full of love and regard for each other; there was no enmity between them. Not that Shankara defeated intellectuals - he gave real intelligence to these intellectuals and he shook and awakened the defeated ones, he gave light to the people who were living in darkness.
And the people who bowed down at his feet did not do so out of any humiliation. They bowed down out of gratitude and thankfulness.
You say, "After the defeat they had to become Shankara's disciples."
Do not say "had to." We are in the habit of using the language of the ego. Even if Shankara had refused they would have become his disciples. Not "had to" - they became disciples with gratitude and with great joy. That bowing down was not done on being defeated. That bowing down was out of a deep understanding. That was surrender and not defeat; they found happiness in bowing down at his feet. This bowing down gave them self-respect. In this bowing down they understood the meaning of life for the first time, in this bowing down they found the first glimpse of the divine.
Do not use the words "had to bow down." They bowed down out of gratitude, out of bliss, out of thankfulness.
The second question:
An ordinary person cannot fall down. Where will he fall? Where can a person fall who is walking on even ground? Only a person who is trying to climb the summit of the mountain can fall down. You need mountain peaks to fall down. And there are hidden abysses and ditches near the mountain peaks. But how can a person walking on the flat, even ground, on the main road, fall down? Where will he fall down to? He has already fallen down.
An ordinary person cannot fall down because there is no more scope for him to fall down. So you have not understood what you have said: "The fall of an ordinary person can be understood." How can an ordinary person fall down?... because he is living at the point from where no more fall is possible. He is living at the zero degree. He is already living in the abyss.
Only extraordinary people fall down - those who try to reach the mountain peaks, those who accept the challenges of the heights, those who are not ready to live in the abyss, who say that their life is meaningless until they have reached the golden mountain peaks; who do not accept to live in the darkness of the abyss, who say, "We will fly in the sky and we will go on a faraway journey." The longer the journey, the greater is the danger of falling down.
We have a word yoga bhrashta, one who has fallen from yoga. Have you ever heard the word bhoga bhrashta, one who has fallen from indulgence? There is no meaning to bhoga bhrashta. Yoga bhrashta is meaningful; it means that the attempt to climb the height was made but one missed it.
The danger of missing is always there with climbing. Perhaps that is why many people do not try to climb the heights at all. They forget the heights. They take the abyss to be the height. In fact they do not look at the peaks, because by looking at them they may have to accept the challenge.
I have heard that in countries where the mountain birds come from faraway places, the pet birds also start feeling like taking the challenge. In the southern parts of Europe ducks from Siberia come to spend the winter. When the winter is over these ducks go back. The domestic ducks were also wild and free a few generations ago. When flocks of wild ducks begin to go back, and the ducks in the farms and fields see them flying in the sky, they also start fluttering their wings, they also try to fly for a few feet and then they fall down. Their wings are no longer strong. But when they see these mountain birds - birds like themselves flying - then something in them gives them the challenge and then they also remember the height of the sky and the unknown country. There is a very faint remembrance of Siberia in their minds. Though they fall down, yet they do try to fly.
Whenever a Buddha or a Shankara passes among you, you also flutter your wings a little in your fields and in your barns because his presence wakes up the sound of some sleeping music in you.
Then you know that you can also fly to those heights, that that is your destination also - but you flutter a little and forget everything after falling down. Or those among you who are very cunning will say that this is just not possible. They do not look at Buddha at all. They keep their back towards him. They do not look at Buddha directly, they just listen to the rumors about him. They do not look into the eyes of Buddha because it is dangerous to do so. They sit in their shops and go on saying that all this is nonsense - nobody has ever realized the divine, there is no Brahma; these are all tall tales to impress people. This man must have become mad, or this type of talk is very poetic. They just cannot accept that there are such mountains, such heights, such virgin snow-clad peaks where few have ever reached, because they are afraid that if they believe it then they will also try to fly.
But they have no confidence in their own wings; they go on doubting. Will they be able to fly? Will they be able to reach? Or will they fall down? With flying the possibility of falling down is there, the possibility of slipping is there while moving forwards. But the creatures who crawl on the land cannot fall down - where will they fall?
So do not say that you can understand the fall of an ordinary man. Have you ever heard of the fall of an ordinary person? Only the seeker who is treading the path of renunciation, detachment and austerity can fall down, and that danger becomes more and more as he is nearing his destination.
Then there is danger at every inch. You may miss a little and you will fall down. The miss is small, the fall is big. If you make a mistake it does not matter, but if Mahavira makes the same mistake then he will have a big fall. Your mistakes are of no consequence because you live in mistakes, but if that mistake is made by Buddha....
Buddha was passing through a village. Ananda was with him. A fly sat on his shoulder while he was talking, and he removed it like anyone else. Then he stopped suddenly as if he had made a big mistake, he then raised his hand and very consciously he brought it towards the shoulder and removed the fly which was not there now.
Ananda asked him, "What are you doing?"
Buddha said, "I had removed the fly unconsciously, mechanically. I should have done it consciously."
Even a fly should be removed consciously, because if the act of removing it is done unconsciously then other things are also done unconsciously. There was nothing to be worried about - the fly had not died - there was no violence. But Buddha was certainly worried. Even this little black spot is too much on his white sheet.
But nothing is visible on your black sheet. That is why many people buy such clothes that the dirt is not visible on them. Even a small spot is visible on a white cloth. Buddha's white sheet shows the spot immediately. That is why even the fly has to be removed consciously.
At night Buddha sleeps only on one side. Ananda asked him one day, "Whenever I get up at night you are sleeping on the same side. Even your hands do not move - they also remain in the same position. Do you sleep consciously? Do you not relax in your sleep?"
Buddha replied, "One who wakes up does not sleep. One has to sleep consciously. I sleep, but someone within me is always awake because if there is no wakefulness within then dreaming starts.
And if dreaming goes on inside then thoughts will go on during the daytime. If one is not awake at night then it is difficult to be awake even during the daytime. Waking should be natural all the time - day and night. The inner flow of wakefulness should continue."
So even at night Buddha sleeps consciously, he keeps his hands in the same position. He does not let unconsciousness come in even in his sleep. For Buddha, unconsciousness in sleep means falling down. The danger of falling down goes on increasing as you go nearer to your destination.
As the height increases the summit goes on becoming narrower and narrower. Right on the top of Gourishankar, Everest, only one man can stand - there is only that much space there.
Just recently, when an expedition of Japanese women had gone to Gourishankar, the Chinese claimed that their expedition of seven people had also reached Gourishankar just two days before them. The Japanese women refused to believe this claim from China, because seven people cannot stand there at one time.
The summit goes on narrowing. This is your ordinary Gourishankar - what can you say about Buddha's peaks? They become so narrow that even one person cannot stand. If you stand there with your ego then you will fall down; there you can stand only if you are absolutely empty. On that summit of fulfillment, of wholeness, only emptiness can stand. A little bit of ego will cause the fall.
Always remember that the danger of falling down increases as you grow. But this challenge has to be accepted. This will show your inner strength and inner depth. It does not matter if you have to fall down a thousand times but you have to reach the summit, and you cannot be contented until you have reached the summit. You may gain anything, but you will remain a beggar until you realize the divine within you.
Happiness is not possible until you become that which you are ultimately capable of becoming, until your future becomes the present; you cannot be in ecstasy until all your flowers blossom. That is why for ecstasy, in Hindi we use the word prafullata, which means the blossoming of the flower. This full blossoming is ecstasy. So never accept anything which is even a little less than this blossoming, otherwise you will remain unhappy and will live in hell.
An ordinary person does not fall down but he lives in darkness, in pain, in misery. It is better to take the risk of falling down - instead of living in misery it is better to get one glimpse of happiness; instead of crawling on the ground it is better to fly in the sky for once. By flying even once you will get confidence in your wings. You will certainly fall and rise many times, but every fall is a lesson and every rise is a new strength. Your falling down now means that in the future your possibility of falling down will be less because you will become expert in rising.
The journey is long and the destination is the divine. Do not accept anything less, do not be satisfied sooner, and do not sit on the roadside with closed eyes imagining that you have come to the destination. This journey is uncomfortable, so many people have done this - it is easy and convenient to sit by the roadside. To continue the journey means to stake yourself, to work hard, to labor. Life is a gamble and only the big gamblers can reach the divine.
The third question:
There is no contradiction at all. The so-called sannyasins do business in the name of religion because they have been forced to give up their shops. They were not mature yet, they were still interested in running the shop but they were forced to sit down in the temple. So they turn the temple into a shop.
That is why I do not ask my sannyasins to give up their businesses or their shops. I say that if the temple has to be changed into a shop then it is better to change the shop into a temple. I do not force them to give up their shops, because I have seen that such sannyasins turn the temple into a shop. It is futile to take you away from the shop or from business till you yourself have lost interest in it. The moment you lose interest in the shop there will be no need to take you away from it - you yourself will turn the shop into a temple.
Remember, if a temple can turn into a shop then why cannot a shop turn into a temple? The process is the same in both cases. I insist on the second one: if you have to change, then change the shop into a temple. And if you still have interest in the shop, in business, it just does not matter, please continue it; then at least the temple will not get polluted.
I want you to become mature. Be mature wherever you are. The basic thing is maturity. The most important fact of life is this, that if you are forced to give up something while you are immature, you may give it up physically but mentally you will not be able to do so. Your mind will continue to desire the thing which you had to give up. So you may live or go anywhere but that interest will create its own world. The seed is in your desire, not in your circumstances; it is in your mental conditioning.
Sannyas is the inner revolution. It is the declaration that, "I am going to change myself from within."
And I believe that it is more convenient to change in the marketplace than in the Himalayas, because in the market every moment there is a challenge and every moment there is a chance of falling down and every moment there is struggle where you cannot deceive yourself for long. The market is the mirror. Every person whom you meet lights some corner of your mind.
Try to understand this. You will not be able to know many things about yourself if you do not meet people. If you do not meet anyone who abuses you, then how can you know whether there is anger in you or not? If nobody insults you, then you will think that you are without anger. You will know the anger within you only when someone abuses you. So in a way the person who abused you has helped you to understand yourself, he has helped you to realize that there is anger within you which was kept suppressed. That dark corner came into light by his abuse.
But the sannyasin who runs away to the jungle does not get these opportunities of understanding his inner characteristics because he is alone there, because there there is no one to abuse him, no one to give him respect, no one to entice him with money. No one gives him any opportunity - he is alone there. Self-observation becomes difficult.
This world is the place where you can observe and understand yourself. Otherwise God would have made innumerable jungles and would have kept one person in one jungle. But you will have to admit that the divine is more intelligent than you. Listen to him and be careful of these so-called saints who are pretending to be more intelligent than even God. They are trying to be very clever. They say that they will do sadhana, spiritual practice, in the jungle.
But sadhana cannot be done in the jungle, it has to be in this world. You will only vegetate in a jungle. But here in this world thorns will prick you the moment you walk on them. When you walk on these thorns and they are not able to prick you, that means that now you have become capable of going to the jungle - now if you want to, you can go. Then I will not stop you. But then you yourself will say that there is no need to go to the jungle; for me there is a jungle in the midst of this very crowd. Wisdom will be born when you become mature.
How is wisdom born? It is born out of conflict, it is born by accepting the challenges of life; by getting defeated, by falling down and by rising again. When you are abused a thousand times and you get angry a thousand times, a moment comes when you will not become angry on being abused. The experience of a thousand times will make you understand that there is no point in burning with anger - somebody else is abusing, so why should I punish myself for that? Then surely one day you will not react when somebody abuses you, you will not get angry. That very day the thorn in you will become a flower and you will be a changed person. The peace which you will experience that day cannot be given to you by any jungle.
The peace of a jungle is a dead peace. If you become peaceful amidst these abuses, then your peace is real peace. The peace of a jungle is like the peace of a graveyard: the place is quiet and deserted, there is no one. It is negative. If you become peaceful in this world then it is positive. The peace of the jungle is like death, and the peace of the world is very lively.
I am telling you that if you want to attain the divine then do not run away. There can be no relationship of the divine with cowards or with escapists. The only path is the path of courage. There is a possibility of falling down in courage. There is no other alternative.
Have you ever noticed that the children of rich families are not very sharp or very intelligent? They cannot be, because there is no challenge for them. The intelligent children always belong to the families where they have to struggle to attain even small things. The children of millionaires are usually mediocre.
Henry Ford used to send his sons to polish boots on the roadsides. He used to tell them to earn their own pocket-money like this. He was a billionaire, and yet he made his sons polish the shoes of other people. His friends said that this is a bit too much! He said, "I myself have earned money by polishing shoes. People who were rich when I was a child have now become beggars. I was like a beggar, but today I am the richest man in the world. I do not want my children to become beggars, so I send them to polish shoes on the road."
Certainly it was very intelligent of him, very clever of him to make his sons work like this. Usually the children of rich people are lifeless, absolute idiots - because there is no struggle and no challenge in their lives. And if there is no struggle and there is too much security they become spineless. The spine becomes strong with struggle. The more the struggle, the stronger the spine becomes.
So I do not ask you to run away from the world. I ask you to wake up from this world. Sannyas is not an escape from the world, sannyas is a great struggle and an awakening. And never avoid challenge; always face the challenge till the work is completed. If you do not run away then you will wake up soon, because the energy which is spent in running away is turned towards awakening. I am not asking you for the peace of the graveyard. I am asking for the peace which one gets by one's labor, by one's effort. I am for the positive peace which is attained by living to the maximum.
The fourth question:
What is the meaning of vanaprastha? Vanaprastha means "facing the jungle." Everyone is facing the jungle. If not today then tomorrow, if not tomorrow then the day after tomorrow - one day that ultimate solitude which is called godliness has to be found. All are vanaprastha. Sometime or other, everyone has to enter that ultimate solitude; that inner jungle has to be found. Vanaprastha has nothing to do with your physical age; otherwise how can you explain Shankaracharya? He left his body at the age of thirty-three. Long before that he had become a vanaprasthi and a sannyasin.
You are clever, and this cleverness is your misery. You are clever so you say that this is only for old people. When there is nothing left for you to do in this world, when people will forcibly retire you and when you will be at your last stage, do you think you will be able to sing the song of the divine?
People do not want to give up anything till the last moment.
There is a medical college in London where they have kept a dead body. Two hundred years ago that man had given some money to the college with the condition that he will preside over the board of trustees not only while he lives but also after his death! So even today his skeleton is put in the chair of the chairman to preside over the meeting of the board of trustees! Even after death he is presiding! Even now, he is the president. Do you think such people would ever be vanaprastha? You are asking about living people, but he is presiding even though he is dead. Even now the trustees have to stand up and address him as "Mr. President." This is a trust deed which cannot be changed.
This is his legal right. The corpse is full of straw but still it is holding on to that position. There is nothing but straw inside his body now. He is straw-stuffed, yet he is holding the chairman's position.
You do not want to be vanaprastha; vanaprastha and sannyas seem unpleasant to you. You want to do these things at the end of life. But the person who wants to do them later will never be able to do then. Only that person can do them who wants to do them now. There is no other time except now.
Even minor things create obstacles.
A friend had taken sannyas. He came yesterday and said that his wife would not let him wear orange clothes and a mala and he agreed not to! Listening to his plight I said, "When you are defeated by your wife, you cannot win anywhere else." It is surprising that a man gives up the challenge so easily.
I am telling you that now is the time. There is no other way for the time to come - it is always now. If you can utilize this moment and your consciousness can turn towards the jungle - the jungle is only a symbol - if you can turn towards solitude, towards the divine, then the result will be sannyas.
Vanaprastha is the preparation for sannyas. If your back is turned towards the world, if you gradually lose interest in the world - happiness and unhappiness seem equal to you, when losing or winning makes no difference to you - then it means that you have become a vanaprasthi. It has nothing to do with the age of your body, it is related to your mental maturity. Some people are eighty years old but their mental age is not more than eight or ten years old. But sometimes even a child of eight or ten years old has the maturity of an eighty-year-old. It all depends on the sharpness and intensity of consciousness.
The words which were spoken by Shankaracharya at the age of ten cannot be spoken by people even at the age of one hundred years. The commentary on the Upanishads by Shankaracharya at the age of ten cannot be made by people who are one hundred years old. It all depends on sharpness, depth and maturity.
Awaken all your energy and allow it to flow and you will find that vanaprastha has happened at that very moment, sannyas has happened at that very moment. But if you go on postponing it till tomorrow... today you want to see a movie so you will go to the temple tomorrow. If at all you have to postpone something then postpone the movie, see it in your old age, but you are postponing the divine till your old age! You give your youth to the world and old age to the divine. From this your values are quite clear: your youth is spent in useless things and your old age is meant for the divine.
When you have energy you do wrong, and when you do not have any energy you want to do good.
When you are incapable of doing anything, you intend to do good. You think of surrendering when you are about to die but you did not think of surrendering when you had all the vitality. Whom are you deceiving? That is why Shankara, says, "Blind in the eye." Whom are you trying to deceive?
You should remember the divine when you have energy, because great energy is needed for this remembrance. There is no greater action than this - it needs your totality, every breath of yours, every cell of yours. When you become weak and old, when you walk with the help of a stick, when you are not able to see properly, will you then be able to remember the divine? Then your voice will become so weak that it will not be able to utter properly the song of the divine. What is needed is intensity, is a flooding of energy. For the remembrance of the divine you have to stake the whole energy of your life, and that can only be done today. The day you understand this, it will be vanaprastha for you.
The last question:
Only a person who has cosmic consciousness can really enjoy. Only he can enjoy the ultimate bliss.
Only he enjoys - the rest of the people are under the false notion of enjoying. They are carrying false coins; actually, they are suffering. Your happiness and pleasures are nothing but the misery and agony which you have experienced. You say and you think that you are experiencing happiness, but in reality you are experiencing misery.
Only the enlightened one enjoys. Ten tyakten bhunjithan - those who renounced, only they enjoyed.
He enjoys the divine. You are enjoying trivia, and the so-called enjoyment of the trivial is causing you great misery.
One day a man came and put a lot of money at Ramakrishna's feet. Ramakrishna said, "Please take it away."
That man said, "This is another proof of your being a great renouncer."
Ramakrishna said, "You are a great renouncer, not I, because I am enjoying the divine and you are giving him up. You are collecting money and I am collecting the divine. So tell me, who is the renouncer and who is enjoying? I am the lover of happiness and you are the renouncer."
A person who is not bothered about diamonds and is collecting stones must be a renouncer. One who is giving up the valuable and is taking care of the nonessential must be called a renouncer.
Cosmic consciousness is the ultimate enjoyment. It is entering into the ultimate bliss of life. There is no greater bliss than this. Without it everything else is misery.
So do not ask, "Can a person who has cosmic consciousness really enjoy pleasures?" He cannot enjoy your pleasures because your pleasures are not pleasures. He is enjoyment, he is bliss, but his enjoyment is different from yours.
To know it you will have to give up your enjoyment and you will have to wake up your consciousness.
You are in a dream at present; you have not experienced pleasure or happiness, you have only dreamt about it. But the enlightened one enjoys the truth. He enjoys bliss.
Enough for today.