There is a question asked regarding the sutra discussed yesterday. The question is significant not merely from the point of view of inquiry but also from the aspect of sadhana. The question is:
"Renunciation of the desire for happiness means relief from all pain. The choice of happiness, of honour, of life, is in our hands. Pain and sorrow, insult and death, are merely results thereof; we cannot escape them. You say the choice of life is in our hands. How is it possible that I should not be born again? How is this in my hands?
We have to bear in mind, two or three things in connection with this. First and foremost, I have not said that the desire for happiness should be renounced. When I was explaining the sutra, many of you must have thought this is what I meant. But I have not suggested renunciation of the desire for happiness Nor does Lao Tzu mean to convey this intention or, for that matter, Buddha or Mahavira.
Even Christ's opinion is not in favour of renunciation. But whenever people like Buddha, Christ and Lao Tzu speak on this issue, we tend to understand it this way. So the first thing to bear in mind is that more often than not we do not understand what people like Buddha say. And what we understand is often what Buddha never said!
Renunciation of the desire for happiness is not the contention of Lao Tzu. To know happiness as sorrow - that is Lao Tzu's contention. There is a difference between the two. A man renounces only to gain something else. Then renunciation becomes a business deal. Deep within such renunciation we find greed. A man renounces the world to attain bliss. But tell this man there is no bliss and renunciation of the world is not possible. A man renounces happiness to attain bliss, but this is not renunciation because our desires remain the same in the quest of bliss; they only change directions.
Happiness is not to be renounced. We have to know that happiness leads to unhappiness. When a person begins to see happiness as unhappiness, he does not have to renounce - renunciation takes place. To renounce and to have renunciation take place - are two basically different things. He who renounces worldly pleasures does so out of greed for another kind of pleasure. Hence, there is no renunciation. When renunciation takes place, it takes place without any desire.
If I am holding pebbles in my hand and someone advises me to renounce them, I am bound to inquire why. Renunciation has no meaning if you cannot explain why. Therefore so-called sannyasins and sadhus advise people to renounce, and hasten to explain why. Lao Tzu does not tell you to renounce.
Nor do I. "You hold pebbles in your hands," Lao Tzu says, "Know that they are pebbles, recognise them as pebbles." He does not talk of renunciation at all because in that case the question 'why'?
If you look upon pebbles as precious stones, you will continue to hold them. But if you can see them as worthless bits of stone, you do not have to make any effort; your hand will open by itself. You do not have to make the least effort, nor will you have to cultivate a new desire in order to get rid of these pebbles. The question does not arise at all. If a stone appears to be a stone, the palm opens effortlessly and the stone falls. When the stones fall, will you go about telling people you have renounced them? If it is a stone you have discarded, there is no question of renunciation. If you acclaim your renunciation, it is proof that you still see diamonds in the stones you discarded.
There is not much difference in the attitude of a man who seeks worldly pleasures and a man who renounces them. They stand back to back with each other. Their view-point is the same. The worldly man believes the stones to be diamonds, so he holds on to them. The renunciate also believes them to be diamonds and therefore he has renounced them. If he did not believe them to be precious, his discarding them would have no meaning for him. So he goes about telling everyone how much he has renounced. The renunciate keeps accounts as much as a businessman. He will tell you how many lakhs he owned, which he has now discarded. The lakhs still remain lakhs; they do not lose their value.
A worldly man does not attach as much importance to things as a so-called renunciate does. Why?
The worldly man is conscious of his hold on transient things and is plagued by the thought that he is ignorant, that he is a sinner. The renunciate enjoys worldly pleasure in the name of renunciation.
Then all that he has renounced becomes a part of his ego. Now there is nothing left to hurt his ego.
The coins he holds now become brighter. A worldly man's wealth can be stolen any time but no one can steal the renunciate's wealth. The wealth of the former can be shared by others, but no one can ever touch the renunciate's wealth; his holdings are well-secured.
Lao Tzu does not advise us to renounce the desire for happiness. He tells us to know what happiness is. As soon as you become aware of what happiness is, it leaves you and renunciation occurs. Those who make a conscious attempt to renounce are people of ignorance. Those in whom renunciation takes place are men of knowledge and wisdom. Sages have never renounced anything.
This may be difficult for the mind to take in, because we are so used to the idea that those who renounce become wise. But the fact is otherwise. When a man becomes wise, renunciation takes place. This renunciation takes place in the natural course of things and no effort is required.
Therefore, a sage leaves no trace behind when he renounces. No scars are left behind. Just like a dry leaf falls from a tree, so all that is useless falls away from the man of wisdom. The tree is not aware of the breaking away of the dry leaf. It leaves no wounds behind. But you pluck a green leaf, and the tree is wounded.
So when a person is aware of his renunciation, know that he has not yet reached the stage of renunciation. If so much as a thought passes the mind that "I have renounced", know that you are still very much within the context of worldly experiences.
Says Lao Tzu, "See the unhappiness within the happiness and the death within the birth. Seek out the glimpse of dishonour within honour." You will find it, for it is very much there. All that is needed is to seek carefully, to probe intently, and the unhappiness will manifest within the happiness, and the thorn will become visible behind the flower. Then, the problem of renouncing does not arise.
Lao Tzu, therefore, does not talk of renunciation. The thorn is seen; the flower drops automatically.
The first thing to understand, therefore, is that renunciation of the desire for happiness is no relief from unhappiness. To know happiness as unhappiness is no relief from wretchedness and sorrow.
What is required is relief from both happiness and unhappiness.
Our mind is very wonderful. We are ready to give up happiness if that can relieve us from sorrow.
But remember, there is no one-sided relief. If you wish to be relieved from sorrow, you should be prepared to be relieved from joy also. There is not a single person in this world who would not be eager to give up unhappiness, so this question does not arise. But at times, we are prepared to give up happiness if it brings relief from pain and misery. But then, this also is an attempt to be relieved of unhappiness. Happiness and unhappiness are two sides of the same coin. He who knows them as such also knows that either both will remain or both will go. If detachment takes place, it will be from both; if attachment remains, it will be to both.
Lastly, one friend asks that how can he direct his life so that he will not be born again. And I say why not? Why should there not be rebirth? Is it because there is pain and misery in life that you do not want to be born again?
Thus, the race for happiness continues. Not to be born again is a desire for the future; all desires are always for the future. All desires are future-oriented. Have you ever thought about why there is no desire in the present? Desires have no way to be in the present because desire needs space; and there is no space in the present. The present consists of an infinitesimal moment which is too little to hold the vast quantity of your desires. Therefore, desires spread into the future: tomorrow, the day after, next year and so on.
This is preposterous. It is the height of desires to extend one's desires into after-life! That you may not be born again is also a desire; and as long as desires persist, the cycle of birth and death remains undisturbed. This is the trouble with religion. The most intrinsic trouble with religion is that when we try to understand it, we at once transform it according to the pattern of our desires.
Religion does not exhort us to strive for no rebirth. Religion tells us to understand what life is and then there shall be no rebirth This is a consequence, not a reward. A reward has to be desired; a result is what happens, it is never desired. Something is done, and the result follows.
Buddha is not reborn. Not because he laboured consciously for liberation all his life. If it were so, he would have been bound to be reborn. He whose mind dwells in the future dwells in desires.
The actual fact is that the future has no existence except in the mind of man. It is not a part of time, but a part of man's mind. Therefore, when a man becomes desireless, his future disappears. Not only his future - time itself no longer exists for him.
When Jesus was asked what the nature of the kingdom of heaven was, he replied, "There shall be time no more." Those who asked had something different in mind. They wanted to know whether his heaven had a wishing-tree; whether it had celestial damsels; whether there were springs of wine and enough sources of other pleasures for one to make such a great sacrifice. It is only natural then that they did not find Jesus' answer appealing. Not only would they have found Jesus' answer not appealing, but they must have found it frightening - because where there is no time, there can be no desires, no wishing tree!
The heaven we create is only an extension of our desires. All the religions, beatitudes and heavens of man's creation are nothing but an extension of his desires, a supplement of his worldly wants and longings, and nothing more.
This friend wants no rebirth. Why? Life is so full of pain and misery - this is the reason you do not want to be born again. Is it not so? If life is full of pain and sorrow, then understand its misery fully. He who begins to understand the misery of life finds his desires dwindling slowly; for if there is nothing but pain and suffering, what will you desire? Then there is nothing worth wishing for because all desires lead to suffering.
When all desires appear to be leading to pain; when I realise that wherever I go, my destination turns out to be sorrow; whatever I think, I find myself drowned in pain; whatever I desire leads me to nothing but agony, wherever I turn, whatever I do, I see all paths leading to misery and suffering, then will I desire not to be reborn again? This again will become a desire, and all desires produce pain. No, then I shall desire no more. What will happen is only this: that I shall desire no longer.
And when the moment comes when there is not a single desire within me, time fades away. The future breaks into fragments and the past disintegrates. Then the present moment is everything to me. In this moment, existence is but life is not.
Understand this a little. Existence is, but life is not - in the present moment. He who recognises the existence that is hidden within life, for him there is no rebirth. Rebirth is life. Life is a conglomeration of all desires. Rebirth is a chain series of this very life. It is not anything new. The body changes, but the desires remain the same. The desires are so strong that a new body is required. When there are no desires left, there is no need for a new body. Then rebirth becomes impossible. But do not wish that there be no rebirth, or else there will be no end to it.
Understand desire, the actual reality of desires. Dive deep within the actual fact of desire and you will know that desire alone is suffering. Therefore I have said that the choice of life is in our hands but not so rebirth. If we go on choosing in life and kindling our desires, we are bound to be born again and again, there is no remedy. If I cling to happiness and honour, grief is bound to come, and also dishonour.
If I have desired, I will be sure to come to grief. If I have not desired at all, then it is a different question. But remember, this is an intricate matter, and we are apt to err. We think, "All right, then I shall not desire." Then this becomes our desire. Then we desire to be in a state of desirelessness.
This becomes our desire and we are back in the circle again.
We must try and go deep within each desire, understand it, recognise it, undergo the misery each desire brings. Then when this experience goes deep within you some day and all desires become futile, no new desires will be born - not even the desire to be desireless Desirelessness is the absence of desire; it is not a new desire. Liberation is not a new bondage; it is the recognition of the futility of all ties. Desire is life; desirelessness is beatitude. To be awakened to this is in our hands.
This awakening can take place whenever you wish.
It is strange though, that knowing full well that all desires lead to pain, we knowingly choose not to awaken ourselves. All joys turn into sorrows, all flowers prick like thorns and cause wound within us, but we do not seem to notice. We are forever in search of fresh flowers in our effort to forget those that brought us anguish. One place gives us pain, so we seek other doors for happiness. One opening leads to hell, so we search a new opening to heaven. You do not pause to ponder for a single moment that it was only yesterday that you believed this door would open to heaven and it turned out to be hell. So also with all the other doors you tried before. Wherever you hoped to attain the pleasures of heaven, you found nothing but the suffering of hell. And yet, you are out again seeking new doors to heaven!
You should begin to realise this. This realisation will not come to you through my words, nor through the words of Lao Tzu. But when the constant experience of pain and suffering becomes formidable within you, you will begin to realise the futility of your pursuit.
But our mind is such that we wish to forget our woes and remember our joys. Ask people who indulge in drinking, or who are sitting in a cinema house, or witnessing a concert or dance recital what they are doing, and they will say they are trying to forget - forget some sorrow, some pain. But pain is not meant to be forgotten. It needs to be known and understood properly. He who understands pain properly is freed from desires of all kind. And he who has no desire left in him has no more births to undergo. His being becomes pure and perfect. This perfect and pure existence is bliss. But do not make the error of comparing bliss to happiness. There is no connection between the two. Pain and misery are, of course, lost in bliss, but so is happiness. Buddha, for this reason, has not used the word "bliss" - because bliss carries the suggestion of happiness. If you refer to a dictionary, you will find that whatever the meaning they give for "bliss" there is a suggestion of happiness in it. It may be happiness in the other world, or infinite happiness, eternal happiness, but it will be referred to as happiness. The dictionary may at the most make this differentiation: that worldly happiness is transient whereas this is eternal. So Buddha has left this word out altogether. He has made use of the word SHANTI (peace). He would say: "All will be quiet within, there will be peace." You may call this moment of tranquillity by any name. In this moment there is no future, no journey. It is a meeting with the centre of existence.
This is in our hands. And it is in our hands because we have the power of understanding. If you wish, you can concentrate your flow of understanding on the subject of pain and grief. This is what is called meditation. To focus your understanding on happiness is called meditation. He who directs his understanding on the experiences of life attains renunciation and reaches the state from where there is no rebirth.
And now to our sutra for today. What is meant by the statement that honour and dishonour are both within us.
We are plagued by fear because we have taken our ego to be our authentic self. If we do not take the ego to be our soul, then where is the fear? This sutra is a little difficult. We shall try to understand it from different directions.
Lao Tzu does not believe in an individual soul. This is exactly the belief of Buddha. It is also an interesting fact that, tor this very reason, Buddhism did not hold ground in India; whereas for this very reason Lao Tzu's philosophy held a firm footing in China. Buddha has pronounced the profoundest words that a human being could utter. But his saying was so deep and profound that it was beyond the understanding of those nearby. His utterance was so profound that no sound reached our ears; and when it did reach, it was completely changed and deformed. Then the meanings we got out of his words were our own meanings.
Buddha said, "Stop all this talk of atman, because this very thought that 'I am the atman', breaks me from existences and makes me a separate entity." This seems difficult because if the atman is not, then everything seems to be lost.
People would ask Buddha, "If there is no atman, then to what avail samadhi, to what avail sadhana and virtue? Why all these? If the atman is there, one can understand that these are needed in order to attain the ATMAN." It is the same old language of greed. If a man does penance, if he renounces wealth to gain the soul, this comes within their understanding.
They asked Buddha, "If there is no soul, what is the reason for penance? If there is no soul, what shall be liberated? If we attain enlightenment and there is no atman, what will be left?" This inquiry is only natural, because people understand only the language of greed and no other language.
Buddha said, "Your sorrow is that you are. As long as 'you' are, you shall remain miserable."
This was a very difficult piece of advice. To leave desires is understandable because then at least 'I' will be there, the one who desires. Everything can be renounced, but 'I' should remain. But Buddha says, "If you remain, everything remains. Your very being is where the world is, because you are nothing but a collection of desires."
Do you realize that if you set your desires aside one by one and stand apart from them, your state will be like an onion? You remove one skin of the onion after another, and what is left in the end? Put aside your desires one by one, and you will find that you no longer are. At least, that which you think you are will not be there. What remains is far beyond your conception, far beyond your knowledge.
Therefore, as far as you are concerned, what is left is the void. You will be lost.
The words of Buddha could not take root in India because Buddha denied the atman. He said there is no atman. To know that you are not is knowledge - according to Buddha. This was too difficult to accept. But Buddha's words found a fertile ground in China, because Lao Tzu had already prepared the ground before him. Lao Tzu had taught that man is fearful because of greed, man is fearful because he has taken his ego to be everything.
The 'I' within us, this feeling that 'I am'. is the cause of all our greed and sorrow. In fact, 'I' am not; everything is. And in this everything, I too am. But not as 'I'. I am, as a wave is in the ocean. The wave is in the ocean; it is a part of the ocean. Though it appears apart from the ocean, it is not. It is one with the ocean below, only it assumes some kind of form on the surface. We know that the wave is a part of the ocean, and yet we look upon it as separate from the water below.
I am a wave. But if a wave assumes its own individuality, its misery starts. If a wave considers itself to be a separate entity, its birth becomes significant and its death becomes significant. Now who else except itself can save it from the fear of death? All around, it sees waves falling; all around it sees the grave of its companions. It also knows that its end is near. As it rises high to touch the skies, it feels its feet losing ground underneath and it knows the end is near.
This fear of extinction, this fear of death - what is the reason for it? The fear is not because the wave will be no more; it is because the wave has considered itself apart from the ocean. If it had considered itself one with the ocean, where would the fear be? The ocean existed. It was when the wave arose, and it still exists when the wave ebbs. Then the time in between of the rising and falling of the wave will become a mere play which is not to be taken seriously. The wave is the ocean, once this is understood, there can be no fear.
The fear is only because I consider myself alone and apart. Then I have to protect myself against everything else; I have to fight death. And in fighting, man exhausts himself and is finished, for there is no way of escaping death.
Says Lao Tzu, "What is meant by the statement 'Insult and honour are both within ourselves?'" We are afraid because we have taken the ego to be our very self. We have fear because we have a self.
When we do not regard the self to be the self, what have we to fear? The basis of our fear is the assumption that 'I am'. If I am, the fear of the extinction of myself will always be with me. If I am, the fear is always there that one day I may not be.
Try to understand this. If I am, I may not be. Then fear catches hold. Buddha says, "Know that you are not." Then life holds no fear for you, because the greatest fear in the world is the fear of extinction. All other fears are born out of this one fear. Lao Tzu also says the same: "When there is the self. pride, the feeling that I am, then there is fear." If the 'I' is not, then where is the fear?
There is one thing however that must be taken into consideration. Should we believe that 'I am not'?
Nothing comes of mere believing. Who will believe? The believer who believes that 'I am not' still remains. If I believe that I am not, I still am - I am the believer. This becomes my belief. So Buddha says, "It is not a matter of belief. Seek and find out whether you really are. Search for the self. Are you in the body? Then search the body. Are you in your thoughts? Then search your thoughts. Are you in your emotions? Then search there too. Search, search tirelessly. Where are you? Then, in the end, when you have examined all sources, you will find that you are lost - you no longer are!"
This, your non-being, is not a belief, nor a mere concept or dogma. This is the mistake committed by the pundits. They have understood Buddha wrongly. They have said, "The doctrine of Buddha is that there is no atman (self)." The pundits of India then set out to prove Buddha wrong. This was not a tenet with Buddha; it was a deep, profound experience. If it were a mere doctrine, it would be wrong.
Nagarjuna, a disciple of Buddha, has written a shastra called, MOOL MADHYAMIC KARIKA. This book has no equal in the world. Naturally, for it is next to impossible to find, again, a person like Nagarjuna. He has proved in this book that nothing exists. Neither you nor I, nor the mundane world - nothing is. It was only natural that such a person would find himself in difficulty with the world. It was so easy to prove him wrong. Anybody could question, "If nothing is, then what is this book for?
If even you are not, who has written this book? Who is the one who argues? And if the readers are non-existent, whom are you trying to reach?"
This was Nagarjuna's difficulty. What he says is the result of his deep experience. In truth, what he means to say is that there is no individual existence. There is nothing like the wave; only the ocean is. But when we say 'ocean', we set a boundary. "Therefore," Nagarjuna says, "no analogy can be given to that which is because whatever simile we give can only be within some boundary." So Nagarjuna says that we should recount, one by one, all that we are not. Understand the negation, not this, not this. Recognise it. Then, when you come to the end of this journey of negation, what remains is what is, there is nothing else.
Lao Tse says, "What is our fear?" Why do we recoil from criticism and long for praise? Praise means that someone has described you as a big wave, and blame means that someone has described you as a small, insignificant wave. And Lao Tzu says: "You are not." As long as you believe yourself to be the wave, praise will give joy and blame will be painful. Those who seem to be your friends will be those who appreciate your wave, while those who try to crush it will seem to be your enemies.
Buddha was unknowingly served poison by someone. This brought about his death. The man was a poor man who had lovingly invited Buddha to his house. People in Bihar gather mushrooms in the rainy season and dry them for later use. Sometimes they become poisonous, This poor man could offer Buddha nothing but these mushrooms, which he did not know had become poisonous. Buddha knew with the first morsel, but he ate all the same. By the time he reached back to his dwelling, the poison had spread into his blood stream. As he lay on his deathbed, his friends asked him, "Why didn't you tell the man that the mushrooms were bad?"
Buddha said, "They were bad, but who was there to say?" When they insisted that it was a question of life and death, Buddha replied, "If I was there, I could have died. But I am not, so the question of death did not occur to me. If I am, I must die."
But should we believe this? This is the difficulty. People believe; there are crores of Buddhists who go about with the belief propounded by Buddha that 'I am not'. But this makes no difference. No one reaches the state of Buddhahood by mere belief. This has no value. What is required is that one should know.
Go deep within and inquire, 'Am I?" As your search goes deeper, you shall know. On the surface it seems that I am the body. But Buddha says, "He who believes that he is, knows nothing - whether he believes he is the body or whether he believes in the soul. He who knows that he is not, knows his being."
When I say I am not, my being still is but this being has no connection with the ego. When I say the wave is not, the wave is there all the same but it is not limited to being a wave; it is the ocean. If a wave were to delve within itself, in search of itself, it would soon find that the wave is lost and what it finds is the ocean. In exactly the same manner, when a person delves within himself, he finds that the individual is lost and God is attained.
Lao Tzu does not use the name of God, because in the languages of man, this word also proves false. We have spoken His name with so many lips, we have identified His name with such innumerable stupidities and we have caused so many disasters on account of this name, that Lao Tzu chose to be silent on this point. He says, "Know only this: That you are not. Then praise will not affect you, because who is being praised? Then scorn will not hurt you, because who is being scorned? Then life itself will not affect you, because then whose life is not?"
Be one with the untouched, unspoiled ocean. When we do not consider the ego to be the self, then what is the fear? What is meant by fear? To consider oneself apart is to fear.
"Therefore, he who honours the world as he honours himself...." When can this be? It can only be when there is no ego in me, when there is no feeling of the individual self in me. If I am, I cannot give you the same honour as I give myself. Why?
The words of Nietzsche, spoken out of pain, though strange, are true all the same. He says, "If there be a God somewhere, he can only be second to me. How can I rate anyone above myself?" This is an interesting fact. Even if you want to, you cannot rate anyone above you. There is no way of doing it, because the inner mechanism does not allow it. Even if you consider someone above you, it will be you who has given him this status. He who appoints the status is always above the appointee.
If I go and surrender myself at someone's feet, even then it is I who am surrendering. I am the master of the surrender, it is my action. If I so wish, I can withdraw my surrender. Who can stop me? It is I who have taken the decision to place my head at someone's feet. The resolve to surrender is entirely mine. So even by surrendering to someone, I do not place him above me; this is an impossibility.
But does this mean that surrender has never taken place in the world? It has happened, and it does happen, but only when it dawns on me that 'I am not'. As long as the 'I' exists, this surrender is my resolve.
Buddha's cousin-brother Ananda received initiation from Buddha. He told Buddha that after initiation Buddha's orders would be the ultimate command for him. While he was still uninitiated, he wished him to grant him three favours which, as an elder brother, he expected by right. He took three promises from Buddha. This was a very profound incident; the one who received the initiation (Ananda) was one of the most wonderful people on earth.
Buddha said, "Where is the hurry? Even if you ask me later on, I shall never refuse you."
But Ananda said, "But who will ask, when I no longer will be? As yet I am ignorant and consider myself your elder brother, and take it to be my right. So it is better to ask now."
The promise was given, and Buddha kept his word till the end of his life. And for forty years Ananda followed Buddha like his shadow. He was closest to Buddha, as no one else could be.
Then Buddha died. A conference was held to compile all of Buddha's teachings. Ananda was the one person who knew everything that Buddha said, to whom he said it and when. His statements should have been considered the most authentic, because nothing ever happened around Buddha that Ananda did not know. Yet he was refused permission to take part in the conference. The bhikshus were of the opinion that Ananda has as yet not attained enlightenment. Ananda pleaded with them, but they were adamant. When he asked them why he was debarred, they said, "The thin line of ego that you drew (by asking for three promises from Buddha) before you annihilated your ego, is still the obstruction."
Ananda accepted their verdict. He vowed that he would not step into the hall before he destroyed this last vestige of his ego. For twenty-four hours he sat outside the hall, lost in meditation.
The conference went on within the hall. After twenty-four hours. Ananda knocked at the door. It was opened. The bhikshus were surprised to see a completely new Ananda standing before them. His face was filled with a strange lustre, his whole personality - the way he walked, the way he carried himself - was different! The bhikshus exclaimed. "Ananda, you are no longer the person we knew.
You have become a totally new personality."
Ananda said, "In this meditation, I became conscious of this fact: Who was the big brother and who was the younger brother? What promise? What assurance? My surrender was so conditional. A slight bargaining became a condition! Today I have asked forgiveness. I no longer persist, I no longer insist. If you let me in, I am happy. If you do not, I accept your judgment. I shall be content to sit outside."
All the members assured him that now there was no trouble in taking him in. "Your insistence before, of being the only authentic witness of Buddha, forced us to close the door on you. Now you can come in, for there is no difference now between within and without," they told him.
If surrender is conditional, if it is an act on my part, then I am still the master. This - the sense that 'I am' - is what comes in the way of surrender. When this is no longer there, then what happens is surrender.
Lao Tzu says: "This sense of 'I am' is the root of all suffering." But how is one to annihilate this?
Many people have tried their utmost to destroy it, but have found that all their efforts have made it even stronger. That which does not exist cannot be destroyed. Understand well: that which exists can be destroyed. but that which does not exist can never be destroyed. He who tries to destroy that which does not exist toils in vain.
It can be understood; it can be explored. Where is this 'I'? The sadhana that Ramana Maharshi taught his disciples to: "Ask yourself, 'Who am I?'" If we were to describe Lao Tzu's method of sadhana, it would be: where am I? When we ask "Who am I?" we have taken for granted that 'I am'.
Now, the only thing left is to know who I am. Lao Tzu says, "First find out whether you are. Then find out where you are." So inch by inch, ask at every step, 'Where am I?' The fun of it all is that I am nowhere! Then, when a person seeks everywhere - the body, the mind, the life-breath, the soul - and finds he is not there, he knows that something is. Something is there, but the 'I' is nowhere.
This something - the unknown, the 'X' quantity - is the ocean.
Even when we discover the 'I am' - this unknown, this ocean - it is still in the capacity of a wave, however big, however deep. He who says he is nothing but the body is an atheist. He who says he is the mind - he too is an atheist. He who says, "I am the soul," is also an atheist. Lao Tzu and Buddha go a step further. They say, "I am not." When everything is annihilated - "neti, neti" - when nothing is left behind, something still remains, something that has no name.
As soon as one enters this unknown, fear vanishes. Then there are no temptations.
"Therefore, he who respects the world as he respects his own self...." When does this take place?
The world can be respected only when our own self is completely lost. As long as the 'I' remains, nothing can be more valuable or significant. Then all outside expressions of humility and surrender cannot move the ego one inch from its position. 'I' shall always be above whatever I say. Then even if I surrender at someone's feet and say I am the dust under his feet, it leaves my ego untouched, all-powerful. All my declarations to the contrary do not affect my ego at all.
When can this happening take place when I consider the world worthy of the same respect I hold for myself? The day when 'I' no longer am, there will be no distance between the world and me. Then I shall feel that it is my own self that has expanded and spread into everything, or that everything has penetrated within me and manifested itself. Then there will be no distance between 'I' and 'you'.
That day, the very being of everything and everyone, will be my own being. Then only can I respect everything and everybody as my own self.
Jesus has said, "Love thy neighbour as thyself." But as long a the 'I' exists, this cannot be When the 'I' is annihilated, then only can the neighbour be loved as much as thyself.
"AND SUCH A PERSON CAN BE ENTRUSTED WITH THE GOVERNMENT OF THE WORLD."
This is a very difficult arrangement suggested by Lao Tzu. Lao Tzu says that such a man can be entrusted with the government of the world because power in his hands can never be dangerous.
But such a person does not desire power. Those who desire power are persons in whose hands power is most harmful. There is a famous saying of Bacon: "Power corrupts." This is only half the fact. Power corrupts, because only the corrupt seek power. If you are immoral within, your immorality cannot manifest without power. Therefore, when power is attained, the corruption that is within becomes manifest.
Generally people are surprised when an erstwhile servant of the people becomes a changed man on attaining power. Then they say power corrupts everyone. It is not so. He served the people while he was weak. The service was out of weakness and not because of an intrinsic quality of the man.
As soon as he comes into power, the real person within him stands revealed. Therefore, the real quality of a person is only known when he wields some power. Power gives him the freedom to do what he chooses; he no longer has to pretend. Thus, power does not corrupt a man. Rather, it gives freedom of action to the immoral.
Lao Tzu says, "Only he can be entrusted with the government of the world whose ego is annihilated."
When the ego and power join together, immorality results. If the 'I' is dissolved, power alone cannot produce immorality. It is the ego alone that can become unchaste, immoral.
He who loves the world as much as his self can be entrusted to look after the world. But the difficulty is that such a person will not accept power. Then what does Lao Tzu mean? Lao Tzu says, "Do not give power into the hands of those who seek power because it is dangerous. Do not revere those who seek respect, for that too, is dangerous. Do not glorify one who seeks fame because it is like feeding his illness. Rather, honour one who seeks no honour and entrust power into the hands of one whose ego no longer is."
A few things need to be cleared up in connection with this sutra. In the 2500 years after Lao Tzu, many revolutions took place in the world but they were all unsuccessful. All revolutions are failures.
Each revolution declares that power is now in the right hands, and each time those hands prove to be the hands of false men. There is something more than revolution required for the right type of government, and perhaps revolutions have no connection with it because they all turned out to be failures. No type of revolution can fulfil the conditions of Lao Tzu's sutra, because power goes to him who seeks it.
Some people, like Kropotkin or Bukharin (Bakunin?) were so troubled and harassed that they said, "Power should no longer be in anyone's hands. There should be anarchy." All power turns out to be too costly ultimately, and new revolutions are required each time in order to halt the powers that be. Then again, the government formed thereafter has to be overthrown by yet another revolution.
Those that are installed into power with so much toil and labour, and against such odds, have to be brought down the next day with as much difficulty.
For 2500 years, the people of the world have been engaged in one single work. That is to raise people to power, thinking that they are the right people. When they come to power it becomes clear that the wrong men have been chosen - and so, the circle continues. When I say for the last 2500 years, it is only because the history of mankind is not clear before that.
Lao Tzu says this vicious circle cannot be broken by revolutions but by individuals. Whenever power falls into the hands of such a person, as Lao Tzu is talking about whatever be the direction in which he attains power - this power can never be dangerous or harmful; it can never prove too costly.
Perhaps that is why the power in God's hands does not prove harmful or costly on earth, because it is as if it is not.
Can you feel the presence of God anywhere? His very absence is His presence. He is present in His absence. How many times have people cried and said, "If Thou art, reveal Thyself!" How many challenges have been thrown to Him? But no challenge reaches Him, because that which can hear the challenge is pride. Pride does not exist in God. So God is forever non-present. This whole vast universe is directed by His hands only because there is no director; there is no ego.
People like Lao Tzu believe that such a state of the world as mankind dreams of, can only come to be when we place the affairs of the world in the hands of an egoless person. But Lao Tzu has said this with other things in view also. His main purpose for saying this is that when there is no ego within, whether one is seated on a throne or on the dusty ground makes no difference.
So observe yourself within. See the mercury of your emotions rise and fall. Then observe when it rises and when it falls. One person vilifies you; another puts a garland around your neck. Observe the fluctuations within. When the abuses and the garlands create no disturbance within, and the mercury level remains the same, then know that you are balanced.
I shall now tell you of a secret sutra from Lao Tzu. It is not written anywhere, but has been handed down by word of mouth to his disciples down the ages. It is a sutra on the method of meditation. Lao Tzu says: "Sit cross-legged. Feel that there is a weighing scale within you. Each side of the scale is near each breast. The pointer is between both your eyes, where the third eye is supposed to be.
The strings of the scale are in your brain." Lao Tzu says, "Be conscious of this scale within you for all twenty-four hours of the day and be mindful that the pans on both sides are at the same level, and the pointer is straight in the middle." Lao Tzu says: "If you can balance these scales within, you have accomplished your sadhana."
But it is very difficult. You will find that a slight breath, and the sides of the scale go up and down.
You are sitting quietly. Suddenly a person enters and the weighing scales move up and down. Lao Tzu says, "Balance your consciousness. The opposites should be equalised and the middle hand should remain fixed in the centre."
Lao Tzu's disciple Lieh-Tzu was on his death-bed. He was one of the very special disciples of Lao Tzu; the other was Chuang-Tse. People were gathered around Lieh-Tzu. They asked questions; he answered. In between, he shut his eyes and smiled. Those around him were restless. "The time is running out; death is approaching. Do not waste time by shutting your eyes. Answer all our questions," they told him.
Lieh-Tzu said, "What you say is right. All my life you asked these questions, and all my life I answered you. Yet nothing has fallen on your ears. Let me concentrate on the weighing scales within me in my hour of death." So he looked within and checked his scales. Then he answered their questions.
"But your balance within has been steady for a long time. What is the need to check it time and again? Especially now when there is no occasion to do so. There is no one abusing you; there is no one falling at your feet. And here we are, eager to hear you!"
Lieh-Tzu said, "That is the thing! I know each one of you. For the last sixty years you have been listening to me. I am checking my scales to see whether they have been affected. For sixty years these foolish creatures have been asking the same questions and I have been giving the same answers. I am afraid my balance may be disturbed. I look within; the balance is unaffected. I smile to myself. But when I look at you again, I am reminded of my balance within and I check it once more lest it is disturbed."
Whether life brings happiness or unhappiness, light or darkness, honour or dishonour, keep your eye on the balance within and keep adjusting it. One day it will reach the perfect balance, where there is not life but existence; where there are no waves but the ocean; where there is no 'I' but all.