John the Baptist is not much known. He is overshadowed by Jesus Christ and Christianity. He was certainly more powerful and a greater revolutionary than Jesus himself.
It is very unfortunate that Jews won't talk about him because he was declaring that the old Judaism has come to an end and a new message is just on the way.
This is an old way of saying that he declared that he is preparing the ground for the new messiah.
Symbols change as time changes, but to be more exact and true about the man, it will be better to say that he was preparing the ground for the new message, not the new messiah; and proof for this exists.
I will talk about it.
Jews, out of necessity, have not taken note of John the Baptist. He was declaring the death of the old and the birth of the new, which really the old, the orthodox, the traditional, cannot respect.
And Christians have ignored him for another reason - because he baptized Jesus, initiated him into religion. Christians don't want to mention the fact that Jesus had a master because that lowers the status of Jesus in the eyes of Christians - the only begotten son of God need not have any master, he is born a master and he is born with the message. So although it is mentioned - it is just a mention that John the Baptist initiated Jesus.
But it is ugly that they will not talk much about the master of their master. They make so much fuss about the crucifixion of Jesus. Their whole religion depends on the crucifixion of Jesus; if he was not crucified there would have been no Christianity at all. But they don't talk about the fact that John the Baptist also was beheaded.
Neither do the Jews take any note that the man was murdered. They were happy about it because he was declaring the death of the old.
Nor are the Christians interested in him because he was not a Christian. He initiated Jesus into Judaism, not into Christianity.
And the man must have had a tremendous charisma, that even a man like Jesus felt to become his disciple.
Thousands of people were baptized by John. He must have had a great magic around him, and at the same time he was a very humble man - because he did not declare himself to be the messiah.
That point has to be remembered. A tremendous beauty... he has every characteristic to call himself a messiah. He influenced more people than Jesus.
Jesus was crucified by the Jews because he was talking - talking against their conception of God, saying that he is the only begotten son of God. He was claiming something for which he had no evidence, and he was also claiming that he is the long-awaited messiah. Jews have been waiting for that savior since Moses.
John the Baptist was a charismatic personality. He could have declared himself to be the messiah, to be the only begotten son of God; but he was a humble man. He did not declare anything. On the contrary, he simply said, "I am making the way for the new messiah to come."
In the Jewish psychology nobody can ever be accepted as the awaited messiah. There is a very fundamental reason for it. Jews have suffered so much.
First they suffered in Egypt in slavery.... Those great pyramids that you see, which even science thinks impossible to make - four thousand years old, such big blocks of stone - it is impossible because powerful enough cranes did not exist, neither do they exist today; and these powerful stones, huge stones, were carried to heights by human beings. Each stone has taken hundreds of lives. Those pyramids were not made by Egyptians, they were made for the Egyptian kings and queens but they were made by Jews under slavery; they carried those stones, with the soldiers on horses whipping them all the time so they don't feel the burden. And if somebody fell and died, he was immediately replaced by another Jew.
Since those days, Jews have been suffering. Forty years wandering in the desert with Moses to find a place, and finally they settled on Israel - which was called in those days Judea - and immediately it was invaded by the Romans. And the Romans were not less cruel than the Egyptians, perhaps they were more cruel.
John the Baptist was not killed by the Jews, because he never claimed himself to be a messiah, and they cannot accept anybody as a messiah because that is their only hope. And when people are in great suffering, the hope functions as an immense help but it has to be far away - but not too far away that it becomes beyond reach. It has to remain within reach and yet as you move towards it it also goes on receding. It always remains within your reach but you never attain it.
So Jews have been hoping. Their whole hope has been that the messiah will come, that he will redeem them from all suffering.
Now it is impossible for them to accept anyone as a messiah. First, because nobody can redeem anybody from suffering. So it may look to others that walking on water is a miracle, but the Jews were not waiting for a messiah who walks on water. They had a deep hope for a messiah who would take away all their pain and anguish, all their suffering; not someone who raises one man from the grave - that doesn't matter. These things don't make sense because their hope is not fulfilled by them.
Secondly, accepting anybody as the messiah means now there is no hope. This man certainly is a kind of magician - he turns water into wine, walks on water, feeds hundreds of people out of two loaves, raises a man from the dead, cures a few sick people. But if this is the messiah, what about their suffering and anguish, thousands of years old? Now even the hope is finished. The messiah has come, and the messiah has failed.
Rather than see the messiah fail, they would like the messiah to be crucified - because that keeps their hope alive.
Nobody bothered about the psychology of the Jews. They were not cruel people, they are not cruel people. They have not tortured anybody.
Why suddenly did they turn upon Jesus? He was destroying their hope, and that was all that they had - no joy in their life, no freedom in their life, simply a hope that one day all this suffering will end.
This night cannot remain forever; the dawn is going to come, the messiah will come and redeem God's chosen people, the Jews.
They could not sacrifice that hope. That hope was such a big solace, consolation; that hope was their only future.
And just a carpenter's son comes and wants to destroy it.
They could not forgive Jesus.
But they were not against John the Baptist, although he declared the end of the old and the beginning of the new, although he declared that he is preparing the path for the new messiah to come.
He was killed by the Romans, particularly Pontius Pilate's wife. That is a very strange thing. She was a beautiful woman, and Pontius Pilate was a powerful man in the Roman Empire... and politics works in strange ways. He was so powerful that the king of the Romans was afraid - he was getting old, and when he dies his son has no chances to become the king if Pontius Pilate remains in Rome.
He had such influence on people so he had to be sent far away - in such a graceful way that nobody thinks that he has been simply removed from the path of the king's son. And when the king orders Pontius Pilate to go.... A powerful man, an intelligent man, and he has a powerful wife.
But the more beautiful a woman is the more egoistic she is.
Man becomes egoistic if he is rich, he becomes egoistic if he has political power in his hands, he becomes egoistic if he has great knowledge, scholarship, he becomes egoistic if he is worshipped as a saint, as a prophet. He has not left the woman any area except beauty to fulfill her ego - a very limited scope, one dimensional.
But because the scope is limited, the ego becomes very strong. A beautiful woman has a stronger ego than any man can have.
Pontius Pilate's wife heard about John the Baptist - and she has known only men who immediately became interested in her beauty, she has never known a man like John the Baptist. When she went to see John the Baptist, he wouldn't even look at her, and he simply said, "Come some other day. I have to see many other people and they have their appointments before you. And here everybody is equal. It doesn't matter that you are Pontius Pilate's wife; take an appointment because I have to see thousands of people." And he did not look at her, and she felt so insulted. She was politically powerful, the first lady of the land, and she was a beautiful lady. She became so angry that she ordered the arrest of John the Baptist through Pontius Pilate.
Pontius Pilate tried to persuade her, "You don't know this kind of people. They are not to be overpowered by beauty or power or anything. You should be patient. Go again."
She simply refused. Against his will he has to arrest John the Baptist, and the woman was so much nagging him that she wants to see John the Baptist's head brought to her on a plate, she will not feel satisfied without it.
It took almost twelve years - because Pontius Pilate did not see any reasonableness in it.
But this is the problem with every husband. Whether the wife is reasonable or not, you cannot logically convince her. And she will go on nagging and torturing you, and finally just to get finished with the matter his head was cut off and was brought on a plate before the lady.
From the jail John the Baptist heard these declarations of Jesus. The declarations I have been criticizing were criticized by his own master too. When he heard that Jesus had been declaring himself as the only begotten son of God - that he is saying to people, "Those who believe in me shall inherit the kingdom of God and those who don't believe in me will fall into eternal hell" - when he started declaring such egoistic statements, John the Baptist, who was a humble man, could not believe that any religious man, any sensitive man could utter such statements.
And when Jesus started doing these so-called miracles - which are below the status of an awakened being, street magicians do such things - he sent a message from the jail by one prisoner who was being released, to ask Jesus a simple question: "This is from John the Baptist who initiated you; he has a question and the question is, are you really the messiah?" Just a simple question mark, "Are you really the messiah?"
It contains much. It says, "What you are saying, what you are doing is not worthy of a messiah."
Christians have not paid much respect to John the Baptist because of his suspicion.
But when a man like John the Baptist suspects, it cannot be meaningless. I can see that his suspicion is right.
The messiah cannot even declare himself a messiah. Those declarations are childish.
Your very being, your presence, your words, your actions, will themselves declare who you are.
You need not declare again and again that you are the only begotten son of God, that you are the messiah, that you are the one for whom the whole Jewish race has been waiting. Repeating these things again and again he makes it clear that he himself is psychologically insecure.
If he is the messiah it does not matter whether anybody believes in it or not. Even if the whole world disbelieves, it will not make any difference, he will still be the messiah. And if he is not, even if the whole world believes he is, he will not be the messiah.
No scripture about John the Baptist survives - about his sayings, statements, about his actions.
There are just these few incidents, but these incidents are enough to give you the quality of the man - his humbleness, and at the same time his indifference to power, to beauty.
His doubt about his own disciple is very significant. He does not think himself infallible. He has declared that now that Jesus is initiated he has found a man of great charisma and now he can retire - he was getting old, "Now he will take my place and I will retire."
His trust in a person who has just met him, the first day.... And he retired, went into the wilderness.
His great trust and yet his capacity, when he heard all these things about Jesus in jail, to doubt him.
The doubt is not about Jesus. The doubt is about his own feeling that Jesus will be able to take his place. Perhaps he was wrong.
Just see it in that light. He is saying, "I am not infallible. Perhaps I was wrong. You were not the right person I have chosen to succeed me."
Although nothing much is known about the man, just a few incidents, those few incidents make him a very loving individual, a very charismatic individual.
And he is one of those who have been sacrificed for humanity's sake, but there is nobody even to remember them. And there have been many such people - because they never created an organization. They remained individuals. They shared their insight with people without making any kind of bondage.
Thousands of people were baptized by John. That's why he became famous as John the Baptist.
But no organization arose, no religion. He never tried to make any organization to go on preaching his message to the world after him.
There have been many people like that, and they were the very salt of the earth.
There is no need. If existence is capable to create a John the Baptist, it will be able to create other John the Baptists in other names. There is no need to create a dead organization which creates popes, Ayatollah Khomeiniacs, shankaracharyas and all kinds of idiots.
It is better to leave the space only for the authentic ones to appear.
Life is not only that which you know, which you feel, which you experience. It is vast. It is so vast it can contain contradictions very easily.
It has many dimensions.
Never condemn anybody as mad because you cannot be certain whether his madness is a higher form of sanity or something which you are incapable of conceiving.
Never judge anybody as imaginative because it is not your business to judge people. It is always helpful to remain non-judgmental.
Experienced people try to understand people - perhaps they are experiencing some other dimension of life, some other aspect of life, and understanding them you will be richer.
Judgment stops you.
You label somebody as mad and then there is no need to understand them.
Your constant judgmental attitude is nothing but to close yourself into your small world and keep every other possibility of life out of it.
Learn to be open. Learn to be vulnerable. Try to experience putting yourself in the other person's place.
In this world there are as many worlds as there are people, every person is a world unto himself.
It is not his skin that makes him different from you, it is his inner experience, his ways of looking at things.
Even if a person commits suicide, beware, don't judge.
Vincent van Gogh, one of the greatest painters of the contemporary world, committed suicide at the age of thirty-three, and before committing suicide he was one year in a madhouse because his friends and family - particularly his younger brother - were very much concerned that he can go mad, he can do anything.
In a certain part of France, I think Arles, where the sun shines the hottest and the brightest, for one year he was painting all possible positions of the sun - a whole series of paintings, just sun, the whole day from morning to evening. And doctors thought that too much sun has driven him crazy.
But in the madhouse also he continued to paint, and the problem is that in the madhouse the paintings he has done are the best out of all the paintings that he has done before and after. In that one year in the madhouse he has done his best paintings.
And people were afraid he was going mad - because his paintings were becoming a little bizarre.
Nobody could understand what they are, what is their meaning.
One of his paintings - a copy of it - I saw just a few days ago. A little while ago modern physics has come to find that many of the stars that you see in the sky are spirals, although you don't see them as spirals. And he has painted, in one of his paintings, stars as spirals. And every critic thought that he is mad because stars are not spirals. Van Gogh said, "What can I do? Whenever I want to paint a star, my whole being says it is a spiral."
After one hundred years science has come to the conclusion that they are really spirals.
Now what to make of it? Was that man mad, or was that man one hundred years ahead of his time?
Was that man mad, or did he have a certain insight which others don't have, and even now don't have? Even the scientists who have found it have found it only through the latest developments in instruments; they don't see them as spirals, it is through the instruments they have discovered it.
Perhaps he had a consciousness totally different from the ordinary man.
One thing is certain; a sannyasin, a seeker of truth, should not be judgmental. He should allow everybody to be himself without making in his mind any kind of idea whether it is right or wrong.
After the madhouse Vincent van Gogh painted his last painting, again about the sun. And he wrote a small letter to his brother, "My work is completed. I was painting a series of all the positions of the sun. Only one painting has remained incomplete because you forced me into the madhouse and they prevented me from painting the sun because they thought it was the sun that has driven me crazy. Now I am released, I have painted the painting, completed it. My work is finished. I am absolutely feeling fulfilled. Now there is no need of this body; hence, I commit suicide."
Who can say that this suicide is wrong or right? Who has the authority to say that?
Millions of people are living uselessly and nobody says to them, "What are you living for?"
I used to know a retired professor who, once in a while, met me on the road in the morning when I was going for a morning walk. And he would ask only one thing, thousands of times. Whenever we met, he would say, "Listen" - and he was a retired professor of philosophy, a well-known man, who had written many books - "just tell me one thing. I don't find any reason for going on living. Can you help me?"
I used to ask him, "If you don't find any reason for going on living then why do you live?"
He said, "That is the difficulty. I don't find any reason for committing suicide either. I am in such a dilemma and nobody seems to help me. People think I am going crazy, and for the first time I am feeling very clear - that there is no reason for me to die either. You help me any way!"
I said, "If I help you to commit suicide I will be committing a crime; you will be gone but I will be in jail. So it is very difficult to help you in that way. As far as living is concerned, I also don't see, for you, any point in living - because you are retired, you don't have a wife, you don't have children, you don't have friends; you are old enough, living alone in a cold house, no coziness, no love, no warmth, nobody to take care of you. You have become too weak, you cannot do anything on your own. You have to eat the rotten food from a hotel. Your eyes are weak, you cannot read any more, you cannot write any more. So you are creating a dilemma for me too.
"You certainly don't have any reason to live. And as far as committing suicide, I don't know what happens after suicide so I cannot say whether there will be any reason, whether things will be bettered or will become worse. So you can just forgive me, but don't harass me about this question.
You can ask me anything else you want."
He said, "I don't want to ask you anything else. This is the only question."
And finally he committed suicide.
And he wrote a letter to me. In his letter he said, "I am writing it to you because I don't think anybody else will be able to understand it. They all will judge it but nobody will understand it. I tried hard to find any reason to live, I could not; and life was becoming more and more difficult, it was almost dragging. I had not found yet any reason to commit suicide, but at least one thing was in favor of suicide and that was that it will be at least a new experience, not the old rotten everyday. For years I have been moving in a wheel. At least something new - better or worse, whatever it is - but something new."
I cannot say he did anything wrong.
In fact, I have been in favor of euthanasia, that people after a certain age, if they feel that they don't have any reason to live, should not be forced to commit suicide, but they should be provided in nursing homes or hospitals with at least one month of rest, a peaceful atmosphere and a help to meditation, care of their body by the doctors. And one month's time so their friends can meet them, faraway people can come and see them, and they can learn how to be silent, how to be peaceful, how to die with awareness. That is not suicide.
Only one religion, Jainism, has accepted it for almost ten thousand years. They call it santhara. They don't call it suicide. Santhara simply means a man has become ripe; just as a fruit becomes ripe and falls from a tree, a man has become ripe, has no need to live in the world. He has experienced all that the world provides and now to go on living seems to be unnecessarily troublesome for himself and for others.
He should be allowed to leave his body.
That is the only spiritual philosophy which gives euthanasia a validity.
And I also feel it is valid. It should be man's birthright - but not that a young man wants to die because his girlfriend has gone with somebody else. That will not be enough for euthanasia. That simply means he has to find another girlfriend.
When there is no reason, no complaint, no grudge, no grumbling, if one is not against life, one simply finds that all that has to be lived has been lived - now what are you doing here?
Up to now society has been forcing such people to commit suicide, which is ugly. And the responsibility is of the society because the society does not provide proper means for a man to have a beautiful death.
I am in favor of beautifying everything - death included.
Chetana, if you have friendly experiences of ghosts then ghosts exist. Friends are such a valuable thing that even if ghosts need to exist for friendship, they have to be allowed to exist! If you are having friendly relationships, that's great.
Just Milarepa has to be afraid now.
Do you think Milarepa is a ghost? Poor Milarepa, he is a real man.
And if you have other ghosts as friends then he should be alert.