The signs of a saint: he is alert and irresolute, egoless and playful
THE SKILFUL MASTERS (OF THE TAO) IN OLD TIMES, WITH A SUBTLE AND EXQUISITE PENETRATION, COMPREHENDED ITS MYSTERIES, WHICH WERE SO DEEP THAT THEY ELUDED MAN'S KNOWLEDGE. AS THEY WERE THUS BEYOND MAN'S KNOWLEDGE, I WILL MAKE AN EFFORT TO DESCRIBE OF WHAT THEY APPEARED TO BE.
CAUTIOUS, LIKE CROSSING A WINTRY STREAM.
IRRESOLUTE, LIKE ONE FEARING DANGER ALL AROUND.
GRAVE, LIKE ONE ACTING AS A GUEST.
SELF-EFFACING, LIKE ICE BEGINNING TO MELT.
UNPRETENTIOUS, LIKE WOOD THAT HAS NOT BEEN CARVED.
VACANT, LIKE A VALLEY.
AND DULL LIKE MUDDY WATER.
This is a rare sutra. It is an uncommon sutra because it is entirely opposite to our concept of a saint.
Lao Tzu does not look at a saint as we do. Lao Tzu's saint is a more integrated individual, more complete. The one whom we look upon asa saint is an imperfect individual. It would be better to call him a good man rather than a saint. We can understand a good man and an evil man. He who does good is a good man; he who does evil is an evil man. We attribute all that is good to a good man and all that is bad to an evil person. But Lao Tzu talks of a saint as an integrated person. He is not something opposite to the evil man, and he is not only a good man. He is both, and beyond both. He is both good and evil at the same time, and hence he is capable of being beyond both.
We shall have to understand a few things before we try to understand this sutra. Then we shall be able to go into the heart of this sutra.
Lao Tzu tells us a significant fact: "THE SKILFUL MASTERS (OF THE TAO) IN OLD TIMES, WITH A SUBTLE AND EXQUISITE PENETRATION, COMPREHENDED ITS MYSTERIES, WHICH WERE SO DEEP THAT THEY ELUDED MAN'S KNOWLEDGE."
First and foremost, science discovers new truths continually. Therefore, there are original thinkers in the world of Science who discover new things. In the world of religion, original concepts have no meaning, and there are no new discoveries. In the world of religion, truth is neither old nor new. It is eternal. The same truth is discovered again and again. For an individual it can be new because he knows of it for the first time, but it is not new. Truth always is. The discoveries of science are new today and old tomorrow; but the truths of religion are neither new nor do they become old, for that which was never new can never be old. Religion is a personal search for the truth that always is.
Therefore, whether it be Krishna or Christ, Lao Tzu or Mahavira, they all talk of the rishis who have also attained this truth before them.
This is noteworthy. When a scientist talks of his discovery, he will say that no one before him had discovered this fact. If someone else has discovered it before, his search is in vain. If someone else had discovered the law of gravity before Newton, his discovery would have had no meaning.
This is inevitable in science. Therefore, each scientist has to prove the originality of his discovery.
In religion, it is just the other way around. Here, if a thinker tries to prove his originality he will be considered wrong, because the truths of religion are not borrowed, not stale. They are neither dead truths nor false truths. Whenever a person discovers them, they are new and fresh. This does not mean, though, that they were not known before. Thousands have known it before. Truth is always the same.
The truths of science are true today and untrue tomorrow. That is how they can be new. We can understand it this way: that only untruths can be new; truth cannot be new. You can discover new untruths that are unlike the others, because untruths can be your very own. Each man can have his own untruths, but each man cannot have his own truth. Truth is only one. And whenever a man opens his heart, he will discover this truth.
In science, man seems to be opening the door to reality (truth); but in religion, man opens his own heart to reality (truth). That which lies hidden in the depths of the heart is one. Therefore Krishna says, "Long before me, the rishis have said the same." So also says Mahavira: "Before me, the Tirthankaras have known it." Christ also says, and Mohammed also says, that the prophets before them have also known. None among them declares himself the pioneer, the original discoverer.
Lao Tzu also says: "THE SKILFUL MASTERS (OF THE TAO) IN OLD TIMES, WITH A SUBTLE AND EXQUISITE PENETRATION, COMPREHENDED ITS MYSTERIES." But he also does not mention their names. This, again, is noteworthy. Lao Tzu believes that history has been incapable of remembering those who have penetrated into the deep mysteries of Tao, because history takes note of only those people whom it can understand. There have been many in this world who have known the supreme mystery, but this knowledge was so profound and deep that when they lived it and spoke about it, people could not understand. Therefore, these great visionaries of truth were forgotten. We have the words of many of them, but the names were lost. There are still others whose names we have but whose words are lost. There are still others whose words and names are both lost. Lao Tzu talks of those saints who are not mentioned in history at all; because they were so deep that they were beyond the understanding of ordinary people.
Man's understanding covers a very small circle and what he can understand is very gross. The greater the man, the more difficult it is to understand him. It is just like in very bright light the eyes close. When we try to look at the sun, the eyes close. In exactly the same manner, our understanding closes before those who have experienced the supreme truth; we cannot understand them. What is the reason?
In this connection. we must understand the difference between science and religion. To understand science, we do not have to increase our understanding. We simply have to add some more information. If I can count up to ten, I do not have to increase my power of understanding in order to learn to count up to twenty. I only have to become acquainted with the figures up to twenty. My understanding remains the same. I can count up to 1,000. I only have to learn the juxtaposition of the digits. My collection of information will increase, but my understanding remains the same.
Scientists say that a child's understanding does not grow after the age of eighteen. Understanding stops developing after eighteen, but the collection of information goes on. This does not mean that there is no difference between a boy of eighteen and an old man. But the difference is in the accumulation of knowledge only, and not in understanding. The old man has a bigger collection of information, while the young boy has less.
Scientists say the understanding stops developing much earlier in most cases. In the last world war, when the I.Q. of the recruits in the defence forces was taken in America, the shocking result was that the average I.Q. was the I.Q of a thirteen and a half year old. This means that the I.Q. of a thirteen and a half year old and an eighty year old man may be the same.
In science, we have increased only the collection of knowledge. Hence our education depends less on understanding and more on the accumulation of information. Our education, instead of developing our understanding, develops the power of memorisation. So it is that all our examinations are based on memorisation and not on intellect.
But in religion, it is the other way around. Religion is never understood by memorisation.
Understanding has got to develop. The stronger the understanding, the easier it is to understand religion.
I said that our average age of intelligence is thirteen and a ha!f years. There is a beautiful story about Lao Tzu, that he was born old. This is very symbolic, because from childhood Lao Tzu had the I.Q. of a hundred year old man whose understanding had developed along with his age.
Collection of information, and understanding, is the difference between knowledge and wisdom.
Knowledge can increase even without developing wisdom, but wisdom is not possible without developing understanding. Religion talks of a totally different realm which only comes within our understanding when our intellect undergoes a total transformation.
Says Lao Tzu: "THE SKILFUL MASTERS (OF THE TAO) IN OLD TIMES, WITH A SUBTLE AND EXQUISITE PENETRATION, COMPREHENDED ITS MYSTERIES, WHICH WERE SO DEEP THAT THEY ELUDED MAN'S KNOWLEDGE." Even today, religion is beyond man's knowledge.
Perhaps religion will always be beyond man's understanding, for man's understanding is adequate only to comprehend objects but not competent enough to understand experiences. It is suitable for understanding others, but not capable of helping us to understand ourselves.
It is very easy for us to understand others, but very difficult to understand our own self. We do not have the understanding to understand ourselves. It is like this. If my eye-sight gets weak and I can only see objects at a distance and not at close quarters, it means that my vision has got fixed at a long distance. If I want to see objects closer to me, I shall have to make use of spectacles. So long-range objects are easier for me to see than short-range objects. In almost the same manner, man's understanding is fixed on the long-range, so that it is easier for us to see others, to understand others. The further a thing is away from us, the wiser we are about it, the closer it comes, the lesser becomes our understanding of it. And when it comes to our very self, we are absolutely ignorant.
This is why we find we are so clever in advising others, but not our own selves. When we see a man advising another, he appears very wise, but what he does when the same situation occurs to him is very idiotic. What is the reason we can advise others? The other is at a distance. Our understanding gets focused at a distance, and we can see things clearly. As our understanding draws nearer and nearer to us, our eyes become unfocused. When our eyes try to see things closer and closer to our own selves, when we finally look towards our centre, everything becomes dark. A different kind of understanding is required, an understanding that can focus on the self.
Religion means the power to become centred on our own selves: a profound, self-centering understanding that gives the power to look at one's own self as we look at others, as we advise others. The ability to go beyond oneself, to be apart from oneself, to be untouched and unaffected by oneself, gives us the strength and power to enter into the deep mysteries of religion.
We are very wise people, especially where useless things are concerned. The more useless a thing, the greater is our understanding. The more purposeful a thing, the more dumb our intellect becomes. We are master craftsmen in discerning all the trash in life but when faced with a diamond, we go blind!
Says Lao Tzu: "Many have entered the world of religion, but they were beyond the understanding of the ordinary man." Why? He gives reasons also.
There were many misunderstandings regarding these men, because they were beyond the ordinary intelligence. We shall realise how profound our misunderstandings are when Lao Tzu explains the attributes of the e persons. And because they are beyond our understanding, their attributes cannot be defined clearly. We can only make an effort to understand their behaviour. Why?
We have a language that is capable of comprehending life as we live it, but we have no language to comprehend that life which we have never lived. If a useless thing has to be explained, we have clever words to express it. Do you realise that when you are angry you become so garrulous, but when it comes to expressing love; you fumble for words? You can hardly find words when it comes to prayer! We have language for anger but no language for love. The language of love can only develop if we have a closer understanding of ourselves. The language of anger is easy because it concerns the other, who is apart and away from us.
We cannot express our love half as much as we can express our anger. The lover is always lost for words. What should he say, how should he say it? But the same lover will not find himself lacking for words when he is filled with anger or hate. He will have enough to say, and more. We have no language to express that which is closest to us.
Therefore, says Lao Tzu, we can only endeavour to say something about these people. It is difficult to be precise about them; we can only surmise. And then, too, it will only be a faint inference that is derived after groping in the dark. And remember, no inference, no guesswork, is strong enough to go by. The world within is so tender, so subtle, so delicate that if your grasp is a little hard it will be lost. To grasp the mystery, your palm should be open. Do not try to tighten your grasp.
"CAUTIOUS, LIKE CROSSING A WINTRY STREAM..." Lao Tzu tries to paint a cloudy picture. And knowingly so, so that our intellect may rise and enter into the haziness of that mystery. Lao Tzu gives no precise words; he only gives suggestions. He says, "They are as alert as man would be when crossing a frozen stream on a cold wintry morning, when the waters seem to freeze the blood as one steps into it."
Let us ponder over this. The very thought of crossing an icy stream will cause each hair on your body to stand up. You will be mindful of each step you take, lest you fall into the stream. You will forget everything: the past, the future. Each step in the present will alone remain significant. Or say you are crossing a narrow mountain path where one wrong step would send you hurtling down into the yawning abyss below. At such a time would you remember your past or think of the future?
Impossible, for the slightest distraction would cause you to lose your life. You would be alert and awake, perhaps for the first time in your life. Each step you take will be taken in full consciousness, with one-pointed attention.
The Zen fakirs of Japan, who have been greatly influenced by Lao Tzu, have improvised many methods to teach mao vigilance, alertness. One of these methods is the method of the sword. One cannot imagine the use of a sword in meditation, but this sutra of Lao Tzu's is the reason behind it.
The Japanese fakirs knew that if you tell a man to sit and be tranquil, he cannot be; he becomes even more restless than he normally is. Those who have tried to quiet the mind this way have experienced that the mind becomes more restless than ever. It begins to run faster. All the things you normally would not think of rush to the mind. All kinds of thoughts invade the mind and there is utter chaos and confusion within. Try to sit quiet for half an hour. That half an hour will be like a mad dance within. People may think you are absorbed in meditation, but you will know that you have gone berserk within. What is the reason?
Says Lao Tzu: "Total awareness can only be there in the face of danger." In life there is danger every moment, only we do not know it. Therefore, we go about oblivious, unconscious of this danger. It is as if a man is blindfolded and he does not know he is walking on the edge of a precipice. One false step and life will come to an end. Such a man would be lost in thought even as he walked on a precipice. Remove the bandage from his eyes and his thought will stop at once and he will become aware of the danger that faces him.
So the Zen fakirs say, "Wield a sword, and wield it so that only the sword remains. The danger should become so terrible that the mind has no chance to go backward or forward. It should stop that very moment." That is why we see emblems of swords before Zen temples. Where the art of swordsmanship is taught - such a place is called a meditation class.
Lao Tzu says: "Such persons have become alert. This is their first characteristic."
If we are asked to define a saint, we would say that saint is one who does not partake of alcohol, who does not eat meat, who does not eat at night, who lives in a hut, who goes about naked....
We would define him in terms that have nothing to do with saintliness. But Lao Tzu lays stress on awareness. This is the underlying principle of everything that is mentioned in our general definition of a saint, but our definition does not include awareness itself.
A man can be a non-vegetarian in his state of unconsciousness. He can be a vegetarian in his state of unconsciousness. A child born in a vegetarian household is a vegetarian; another is born in a non- vegetarian family and remains a non-vegetarian. Both are equally in a state of unconsciousness.
If these two children are interchanged in childhood, they would easily pick up the habits of their environments, and feel no difficulty in doing so. One man drinks blood as easily as another drinks milk. The unconsciousness in both cases is equal. If the one who eats meat thinks he is doing it in full awareness, he is mistaken; if the one who drinks milk thinks he is doing so in full awareness, he too is mistaken.
Our whole pattern of life is insensitive. Whatever we do is done in a state of insensitivity. In this insensitivity we can be tutored in a very competent manner to do anything. If meat is placed before a vegetarian, he will be sickened at the sight of it. This is not because of any spiritual quality, but only because of previous influence. He is simply not trained to eat meat. In a like manner, some people turn sick at the sight of milk. Both are in an equal state of unconsciousness.
You will never feel sick at the sight of milk; you will say it is a perfect drink. But there are sects who believe that milk is a part of blood. And it is. That is why blood increases on the intake of milk. Blood consists of white corpuscles and red corpuscles. The white corpuscles gather together and form milk. Therefore milk is a complete food, because the body obtains blood through the intake of milk.
Those who are taught to look upon milk as a part of the blood are upset at the sight of milk.
There are others who claim that eggs are vegetarian. They argue that as long as life has not become manifest, an egg can be eaten as much as a vegetable. Such people, who consider themselves vegetarians, are not upset at the sight of an egg. All this does not depend upon your awareness.
Rather, it depends upon your education the way you are brought up.
A person like Lao Tzu does not lay much store by what you eat and what you drink, or when you sleep and when you rise. His emphasis is on the deeper facts: do you go through life with such alertness and awareness as comes to a man who has to cross an icy stream on a winter's morning?
Is every act of yours performed in complete wakefulness?
It is an interesting fact that whenever a person becomes fully aware of his inherent characteristics, his life undergoes a transformation. Then it does not matter what you eat. Rather, it becomes more important and significant for you whether or not you eat in a state of complete awareness. In a state of awareness, it is only inevitable that what is useless drops on its own and only that which is authentic remains. There is no way for the inauthentic to remain with such a person. In fact a thing's authenticity can be proven by the fact that it remains with a person of full awareness. If it falls away it was inauthentic.
Whatever I do in full awareness is a deed of virtue. That action for which I must be in a state of unconsciousness is a sin. Non-awareness is sin; awareness is virtue. So in the first definition of saintliness that Lao Tzu makes, he says: "He is extremely alert - like a man who has to cross a stream in the winter season." Here the emphasis is on quality and not action. The emphasis is entirely on inner wisdom, rather than on the outer behaviour of the person.
Each man has his own way of acting in a situation.
For example, one man who has to cross the icy stream on a winter's morning may run through it; another may just wade through; yet another may whistle loudly to take his mind off the cold water; and still another may silently cross the stream. But one thing common among all these persons is the quality of alertness within. How each performs the act is secondary. what is incumbent upon each is the quality of alertness.
There was a well-known fakir in the time of Lao Tzu. But by profession, he was the royal butcher. For thirty years, this man used to slaughter animals for the royal table. Lao Tzu would tell his disciples that if they wanted to know what an alert person was Like, they should see this man. No one could believe him. A butcher - how could he be alert?
One disciple, however, volunteered to go to him. He saw him slaughtering hundreds of animals.
One thing was certain - he was an expert in his job. The disciple asked him how often he changed the knife he used. He replied, "Never. I use the same knife my father and forefathers used. I am so aware and alert when killing the animal, that the blade falls exactly in between two particular bones.
As the blade passes between these bones, it automatically gets sharpened. So you see, we have no problem of blunt blades!"
When the man questioned again whether he felt nothing when he slaughtered the animals, he replied, "Only that is killed which can be killed. There is no way to kill that which cannot be killed.
What I kill is already dead. That which is alive cannot be destroyed by any weapon."
This fakir spoke the same words that Krishna has spoken in the Gita. But Krishna's words we can comprehend; not so the words of this fakir. Lao Tzu's disciple went back and told him, "The man speaks words of wisdom, but his actions do not corroborate his words. Perhaps he is only talking."
Lao Tzu told him, "Go with your sword and cut off the butcher's hand."
The man went as he was bidden. As soon as he lifted his sword, the butcher stopped him saying, "Be careful to strike exactly at the joint, or else the sword will lose its edge. You are but a novice.
Hence I warn you." The sword fell from the disciple's hand. He left. This fakir was alert not only when he slaughtered animals. When it came to his own hand, he was equally as alert.
The emphasis of Lao Tzu is on alertness and not action. To be vigilant is an inner quality, an inner happening, an inner perception, a wakefulness. Actions pertain to the outside; they can be different.
Even two saints do not behave alike - they cannot. But the inner quality of wakefulness of even a thousand saints is one.
Two fools can behave alike. Even a thousand fools can show the same behaviour. Their inner wakefulness is not the same. It is like this. The movements of a battalion of soldiers are uniform.
On being ordered to turn right, a thousand men will turn right simultaneously. On being ordered to turn left, they will at once turn left. A soldier's actions have got to be so in uniform with the rest of the troop that he loses all his individuality. His intellect decreases to the same extent that his uniformity of action increases; this is but natural. A soldier has no use for his intellect. If he used his intellect, there would be no wars in the world. So a soldier is not required to use his intelligence. The less intelligence, the better the soldier, the more obedient, the more uniform.
On one side we see a battalion of soldiers acting as one man. On the other hand we see two saints who, even though they may be together, behave differently. Buddha and Mahavira will not act in the same manner even if they happen to be in the same situation but the inner alertness will be the same in both.
Saints are known by their alertness, while ordinary people are recognised by their actions. Since we are recognised by their actions. Since we are recognised by our actions, we tend to recognise saints in a like manner. Then, the difficulty arises. This is the reason behind all the controversies regarding saints. How can a person who regards Mahavira as a saint look upon Buddha as a saint? And how can one who worships Buddha acclaim Krishna to be a saint? Their actions are so different! We have no way of putting Mahavira, Krishna and Christ in the same category because we judge a man by his actions. That is the difficulty.
Then also, we each have different concepts regarding behaviour. If I am born in a Jaina household, my mind will be prejudiced by the conduct of Mahavira. Then I will go about the whole world with this code of conduct. Jesus will not fit into my concept of behaviour, so I will think that Jesus was not a wise man. Jainas do not believe that Buddha attained ultimate knowledge, for if he did, he would have behaved like Mahavira.
A profound Jaina thinker has written a book in which, in all good faith, he has taken considerable pains to prove that Mahavira and Buddha have given the same message to the world. But the title of his book is BHAGWAN MAHAVIRA AND MAHATMA BUDDHA. When I asked him why this differentiation, he replied; "Buddha did not reach the state of Mahavira, Therefore, at the most, we can call him a Mahatma. We cannot place him in the category of Bhagwan, with Mahavira." I asked him whether he had made this distinction knowingly. He replied, "No, but since you asked, it came to my mind."
Thus, our concepts are moulded. Mahavira stands naked. One who looks upon Mahavira as Bhagwan thinks that Buddha must still be attached to his clothes. This is only natural. If he cannot even renounce clothes, what else can he renounce? So Buddha can be looked upon as a good man, a mahatma, a saint, but he cannot be compared with Mahavira.
The same argument holds good for Krishna or Mohammed or Jesus. The same prejudice exists for a Christian. He feels that only Christ could sacrifice himself for the sake of the world. What has Mahavira sacrificed? Nothing. So however great Mahavira was, he was a selfish man. He meditated for his own self; he sought liberation for himself alone. Whatever he attained, he attained for himself.
Christ was a different entity. He gave up his very life for mankind. He suffered himself to be hung on the cross for the well-being of man. Therefore, a follower of Christ finds that Mahavira and Buddha served no one except themselves; and this, according to him, is deep selfishness. He who is not rid of his selfishness, how can he be rid of his ego? A Christian believes that only one who laid aside all his self interest and sacrificed himself in the interest of others can become egoless.
A follower of Mahavira would say, "The cross was the result of some past actions. Jesus must have committed some sins in his past life for which he had to hang on the cross. And here was Mahavira.
Not even a thorn dared to prick him!"
Jainas believe that when Mahavira walked, even upright thorns laid flat on the ground. How could the world dare even so much as by a pinprick to hurt so holy and virtuous a person?
These are the types of behaviour and conduct into which we are moulded; and all problems start from them. Each one of us designs the frame of our conduct around some saint or other. This frame of conduct will never tally with any other saint. Then each of us stands by our own choice and excludes everything else. And so, we become poor and miserable in spirit.
Lao Tzu does not discuss outer conduct at all. He talks only of things within. If Mahavira chooses to go about naked and if Buddha chooses to put on clothes, that makes no difference between the two.
Buddha is as alert within his clothes as Mahavira is without them. If Mahavira is alert in meditating on the self, Jesus is as watchful and awake in his meditation on the entire world.
This inner quality of alertness is the most valuable thing. If this quality is missing, all selfishness of selflessness is beside the point. If this quality is present within a person, his self-interest and non self-interest are equally virtuous. If I, in my blindness, set about to serve others, it is as bad as being blindly selfish. It is not that self-interest is bad and non-self-interest is good. To be blind is bad; to be alert is good.
Understand this well, for a great deal depends on this. Our way of thinking, our way of living and all our responses depend on this. What is of importance is the 'within' and not the without. The actions without are but a shadow of the state within us. The shadows are bound to be different, because each individual is different.
Meera dances. Buddha could not dance even if he tried. Mahavira dancing would be ridiculous. But Meera is nonetheless as alert in her act of dancing as Mahavira is in his silent meditation. A devotee of Meera would say; "How dry and colourless Mahavira is - like the stump of a tree! There is not a single green leaf in his life. Not a flower blooms, not a bird sings; there is no fragrance around him.
He is dead to the outside world. Look at Meera, hear the sound of her ankle bracelets, the melody of her love songs, the strains of her Veena! Life stands out in all its splendid joy!"
But the follower of Mahavira will say, "Meera's devotion smacks of desire and love. This sighing and pining for Krishna is the sign of a troubled and unhappy mind. This desire for Krishna is a longing for passion. Why else should she cry out, 'When will you come, oh Lord? My bed is empty without you!' What else can it be but an outpouring of desires; desires that are suppressed? This is nothing but desire in the form of prayer."
If we rate conduct as all important, and as the first inevitable requisite, we shall do justice to one saint but we shall be doing injustice to all the rest of the saints of this world. And this is what is happening everyday. Unless and until we accept the inner self and realise its value, we shall never be able to understand the various saints who appear in this world.
Lao Tzu is concerned with the inner qualities of a person. He says: "He is extremely alert and wide awake, as a person would be when crossing a stream in the cold season. Within him is a lighted flame, alert and vigilant."
"THEY ARE IRRESOLUTE, LIKE ONE FEARING DANGER ALL AROUND." This is a priceless sutra.
They are always irresolute, like one feeling danger all around. We would normally feel that a saint should be resolute, he should be strong of purpose, but Lao Tzu says the opposite. He says that a saint is irresolute. This is difficult to understand because we do not have a deep perception of life.
Let us try to understand this sutra.
One man says, "I have made a firm resolve never to lie again." Against whom does he make this resolve? Against his own self. Where is the need for such stringent rigidity? Because he knows that the liar within him is stronger than him. If he is not stern with him, he is bound to lie. So he says that he has vowed strongly, and the stronger the oath, the earlier it is broken. The more his vows break, the more resolutions he makes; but against whom does he raise his defences? He within whom the opposite no longer exist has no need for vows and oaths.
We take a vow against the opposite that is hidden within us. I vow not to give vent to anger, for I know that anger resides in me. I vow not to indulge in sex, for I know the sex-desire lies hidden within me. I swear to be a celibate for I know that sexual desire is within me and to suppress it, I have to be very resolute. And so I go along, suppressing all the opposite tendencies within me. But what about those people within whom there is no opposite strain to make resolutions against? They are bound to be without any resolutions. Do not take this to mean that they are always wavering, or that they do not have the courage and therefore are irresolute. They are so brave that they have no need to be resolute.
Mahavira did not get up each morning and resolve to practise non-violence. Non-violence was so natural to him that it required no resolve on his part. If he was shaken out of sleep, even then nonviolence would be present in him. Therefore, Mahavira did not have to take any vows.
Buddha never prepared himself for the questions he might be asked. That is only necessary when the person does not have the capability to respond. Then he has to prepare himself against all contingencies - how he will answer when he is asked this and that. But one whose mind is alert has no resolutions. He is asked and the answer comes; there are no pre-resolutions.
Bernard Shaw was asked by a friend what he had decided to speak about at the meeting he was going to attend. Shaw replied, "Since it is I who am to decide, and I who am to speak, I shall decide what to speak about when I am called upon to do so. If someone else had to decide and I had to speak, then preparation would be necessary. Since it is all up to me, I shall decide at the right moment."
The friend advised him that it was always better to come prepared, in order to avoid mistakes and errors. The man was right. If he had to speak, he would be able to speak only if he had prepared his speech. And the fun of it is, that such a man invariably makes mistakes. But he who speaks extemporaneously can never fumble or go wrong, for he speaks what comes from within.
Irresolute means: I am prepared to accept whatever the moment brings. I shall respond to the moment as best I can and shall make no provisions beforehand. I shall not decide today how I am to live tomorrow. He who decides today how he is to live tomorrow, kills his tomorrow today. His future becomes the past. If I decide each word I speak beforehand, I become a machine and not a human being. A man who makes pre-resolutions is a man who has no confidence in himself. Such people can only live by pre-resolutions.
Those who are fully confident in themselves make no resolutions. Each step they take is self- deciding. When Jesus was about to be crucified, one of his disciples asked him, "What will you do when you are crucified?"
Jesus replied, "Let them put me on the cross at least. I have no idea what I shall do. I shall witness the happening just as you will, so how can I decide now?"
Our weak mind decides first before it acts. Remember, only a weak mind makes decisions. It is a general belief that a strong mind is a decisive mind. That is as it should be. If a weak mind makes a decision, it will be stronger than those weak minds which make no decisions. But Lao Tzu talks of saints whose minds are no more. There is no question of a weak mind. There is no mind at all!
Weakness remains as long as the mind remains. The mind is the weakness.
What have saints to decide about? Nothing. They live each moment as it comes; they live from moment to moment. There is no provision for the moment which is to come.
There is a well-known prayer of Jesus in which he says, "Give us this day our daily bread." Jesus says to the Lord to give him his bread for the day; that is enough. Why should he worry about the morrow? Today means now, this moment; this moment is enough. Jesus is always irresolute. He has no resolutions because he has his own self within him. Those who do not live with their self can only live by decisions.
A person comes to Buddha and asks a question. Buddha gives him a reply. Another man comes and asks the same question. Buddha gives him a different reply. Ananda, his disciple, would ask him, "Don't you think you are inconsistent? A moment ago you gave one answer to one man and a moment later you gave a different answer to another man; and yet they both asked the same question."
Buddha replied, "The question they asked was the same but they were both different individuals.
Besides, the first man asked me in the morning and the second put the question to me in the afternoon. How much Ganges water has flowed away from morning till noon? I am not bound to what I said in the morning. It is now afternoon, so my answer shall be of the afternoon. When it is evening, the answer will be of the evening."
If we set out to find consistency in Buddha's words we shall have to search deep. Then only will the consistency appear. On the surface there is nothing but inconsistency. We shall find one statement contradicting another. Only mediocre people are consistent. If you probe into them you will find that their views at the time of death are the same as they were born with. In other words, they have never left their cradles. One who is alive is inconsistent in a mundane manner but he has an intrinsic consistency within. This is difficult to recognise except by those who are in search of inner consistency.
Buddha tells one man, "There is no God." To another he says, "God is." When a third asks, he remains silent. Now all three answers - God is not; God is; God both is and is not - look very inconsistent, but there is a deep consistency within. When Ananda insists on an explanation, Buddha says, "What was not told to you, you should not have heard. It was not your question.
You did not ask it. So why have you taken in the answer? If you take upon yourself all the answers I give others, you will find it impossible to sleep! Why are you so restless and upset about them, when I, who gave the answers, am sleeping comfortably?"
Ananda says, "It may be all right for you, but I cannot rest. How can you give three answers to the same question? In the morning you said, 'God is not'. At noon you said, 'God is.' In the evening, to the same question, you gave no reply! How can this be?"
Buddha replied, "How can I be inconsistent? An inconsistent man is one who has a decided doctrine.
I am like a mirror. This mirror took on the form of the first man who asked in the morning. I have no doctrine of my own. Can you ask the same of a mirror: that you showed one face in the morning and quite another in the evening?"
Buddha says further, "The man who came in the morning was an atheist. He believed that God is not. He came to ask me so that he could quote me as a witness if I said, 'God is not.' He was wrong. Without seeking, he assumed that God is not. I had to shake him out of his belief so I said firmly, 'God is!' Now he will have to begin his search anew. Now I shall follow him wherever he goes.
Whenever the thought comes to him that God is not, my form will come before his eyes and he will remember: this man said that God is.
"The man who came in the afternoon was a theist, just as the previous one was an atheist. He too has not searched, but only assumed that God is. He is as full of ignorance as the atheist. I had to shake him out of his ignorance also and start him in his search for truth. I told him, just as firmly, that God is not. Now, when this man goes to the temple, he will see my face before his mind's eye as he offers worship to the idol. He too had come to ask me in order to add weight to his belief and go deeper into puja. But his worship was false because his belief lacks the authenticity of experience.
He knows nothing.
"One believed, without knowing, that God is not. Another believed, without knowing, that God is.
They are both the same. This seems contradictory to you, Ananda, but that is why I had to give contradicting answers. There is an underlying consistency in both answers. Both had to be shaken out of their state of ignorance.
"The man who came in the evening was neither a theist nor an atheist. His search was not to find a witness for his belief. His curiosity was plain and innocent. He had asked, "Does God exist?" He had no belief of his own. If I were to answer this man either in the affirmative or the negative, perhaps my yes or no would have become his belief. He was so innocent that the use of words would have proved dangerous. Therefore I kept silent. My silence has shaken him also, and he has got his answer: if you want to know whether God is or is not, do not ask; be silent.
"These answers seem inconsistent - seen from the surface. Deep within there is a thread of consistency that is too deep, too mysterious to understand; it is beyond the grasp of mere words."
Such persons are irresolute. They have no rules and doctrines to go by. They have no strong ties.
Rather, they have no ties. They are free, as if they are always ready to fly away in the skies. They are always alert and watchful. The more certain a person, the more insensitive he is. The more irresolute a person, the more alert he is. You want to be certain so that you can sleep peacefully.
You do not wish to be alert all twenty-four hours of the day.
People come to me and say, "Tell us for certain that God is."
I say to them: "However much I may say, what difference is that going to make to you?"
They say that they will then rest assured and their belief will get stronger. Their decision that God is will be confirmed by me. Why do they do this? It is not that they are keen to seek God. It is only to reassure themselves of their belief so that they do not need to go through the arduous task of seeking; they do not then need to be alert.
There is danger in the path of the search for the self. It requires hard labour and all your energy. You need untold courage; you have to pay the price. To save themselves from all this bother, it is easier to go to a man of wisdom and get his confirmation. So they say: "Please only say yes. Why do you hesitate? Assure us of His existence so that we can be freed from anxiety."
Why does a man want to set his mind at rest? Because then he can revel in his insensibility; he does not have to do anything. The more undecided a man, the more spontaneous are his actions, because the more alert he is.
You may not have noticed the fact that when a stranger comes and sits next to you, you are at once on your guard. You sit up, you are alert! Then you begin a conversation with him. You find out his name, where he stays, what he does. And then, your back slides back into the chair. You are now satisfied and assured that he is just "one of us". There is no need to be alarmed. Our eagerness for acquaintance is not because we are keen to know people. We are only eager to place the stranger in one of the manifold categories we have created - to find out whether he is a Sikh or a Muslim or a Jaina - and be relieved of our anxiety. The mind asks, 'Who is this man?' This is only a trick of the mind in order to keep us insensible. Our religion, our scriptures, our so-called saints - they all help us and pacify us so that we can remain asleep.
Says Lao Tzu: "Undecided, irresolute they are, and extremely alert." Nothing about them is predetermined, so they have to be absolutely alert. The whole universe is unknown, a stranger.
No one is acquainted with the other. all acquaintanceships are false, so one has to be alert. Every inch we walk, we walk on unknown paths. All routes are unchartered, like a sailor at sea who has no compass to guide him. He has to be alert. The more irresolute a person, the more alert he will be; the more resolute a person, the more secure and insensible he is.
Here again Lao Tzu talks of things within: irresoluteness, alertness. To be alert means to be on guard, as if you are surrounded by danger on all sides. Have you ever had a chance to observe a deer in the forest? The slightest sound, the rustle of a leaf and he is at once on the alert. His whole being becomes fully awakened, and he listens keenly with all his senses geared to this slight sound.
Observe a rabbit: how alert he becomes at the faintest sound. Or the cat in your house, sleeping on the doormat. A slight sound and she jumps to attention. Her whole being takes an immediate jump from sleep into a wakefulness for danger is everywhere.
Man is the most protected animal. He has made such arrangements for his security that he has lost the quality of alertness which comes so naturally to other animals. He lives in a house which he can secure with a lock, he has money which he can secure in a bank, everything is secure. Even if he dies there is no worry for his successors because his life insurance will take care of them. He has no anxiety and fear; everything is taken care of. All this security destroys the sense of alertness. In this respect, animals are better off than human beings.
Lao Tzu says: a saint is as alert as a wild animal. He makes no provisions for his security. He lives, keenly alive to the dangers that surround him every moment. And danger there is, always. No matter how many precautions we take, the danger remains. Death is present every moment, everywhere, and can descend on us at any moment. But we try to overlook it, to avoid this unavoidable fact.
We believe that death is for others, not for us. We see others die, and not ourselves. Hence the feeling that it is always someone else who dies. But those who die were under the same illusion.
Death is all around us. Any moment, life's drama can come to an end. If a man points a dagger at you and says, "You have one moment to live. Think whatever you want to think," what will you think?
All thinking will stop, for all your defence barriers will crumble before your eyes. That one moment is all you have, death is standing before you. You become alert.
Buddha always sent his bhikshus to the cremation ground because he used to say that unless and until a person realises the proximity of death, he cannot go into meditation. He ordered them to go and live there and see the bodies burning and the bones scattered about. When he gets up in the morning, he will see a body burning; in the afternoon yet another corpse burning; and he will fall to sleep at night seeing another corpse burning. Wherever he goes he confronts evidence of death; bones, ashes, flames. He experiences death all around him.
When Moggalayan first went to Buddha, he first told him to go and meditate in a cremation ground.
Moggalayan was surprised and said, "When you are with me, why should I go elsewhere? I will meditate here with you. What is special about a burning ground?"
Buddha said, "You will not be able to meditate as yet, for I also am a protection for you. You will always feel, 'What is there to fear when Buddha himself is with me?' Go and see death standing by your side; feel its presence near you and around you each moment. The day you find death by your side, you will find me also with you, and not before this." Moggalayan said he was afraid of the burning ground, and implored Buddha not to send him away. When we go to a saint, it is only to seek protection. When we go to a temple or a mosque or a gurudwara, it is for the same reason.
We are always trying to fortify our defences; we make long-term plans to be sure of our safety.
People come to me and say, "That the soul is eternal is an absolute certainty!" They lay stress on this certainty, feeling most uncertain within themselves. They are scared even when saying this.
A woman once came to me. She was doing some research on the immortality of the soul, and life after death. I was a little puzzled when I noticed that while she talked about the immortality of the soul and life after death, her hands were trembling. I told her to put her hands up so that I could see them. She was surprised and asked the reason. I gave her a piece of paper and told her to hold it in her hands as she talked. I also told her I wanted to see the trembling of her hands. She admitted that her hands trembled, they even sweated profusely, whenever she discussed this topic. She also felt very nervous. All the same, she maintained very forcefully that the soul was immortal: it is the body that dies.
I asked her how she was inspired to carry out this research. Had she studied this subject, meditated on it, experienced it a little? She said, "No. But my mother died when I was a child. My father, and death, became a heavy burden on me." Then, in the same breath, she continued. "But death is only of the body; the soul never dies."
Her fear is of death, but she clings to the immortality of the soul. This is a defence measure against death. She wants someone to assure her. So she has involved herself in this research, not to prove that the soul is immortal because only if it can be proven can she be rid of the fear of death that plagues her.
Buddha said to Maudgalyan, "First experience death. Then only will you develop the quality of vigilance. And when you are vigilant, then alone can you go into meditation, never otherwise."
Meditation means an alertness, a freshness, a constant wakefulness, not a single moment of insensibility - like a person surrounded by danger on all sides. These saints are as irresolute as alert.
"GRAVE, LIKE ONE ACTING AS A GUEST...." When a guest whom you have not known at all arrives at your house, he has to be on his best behaviour. Even you, the host, put your best front forward.
You will give him the best room in your house, make arrangements for his meals and attend to his smallest requirement. As days pass by, the guest becomes familiar and gradually your hospitality wanes. When the guest becomes too familiar, you even employ ways and means to be rid of him.
There is play-acting when two strangers meet. And when they meet, it is not their real selves who meet but the masks that each has put on. After a short time, when they become familiar with each other, the false masks fall off and the real face is seen. Then we feel cheated. No one has cheated you. When there is a sense of unfamiliarity people put up a grave front in their dealings with each other so that only that is visible which is disciplined, refined and orderly. Then, as familiarity develops. all controls are gone. When two people become great friends, it only means that they can freely abuse each other and not take it amiss. All propriety is gone.
Says Lao Tzu: "They live throughout their lives as if they were guests." Saints never acknowledge this world as their own. They are never at home in it. Throughout their lives they remain an outsider, a visitor. Colin Wilson has written a wonderful book called THE OUTSIDER. He took great pains in this book to show that all the people who have mattered in this world, be it Socrates or Buddha or Lao Tzu, were all outsiders. They lived in the world like a guest would stay in the house of people he did not know. This feeling of being a guest remained with them, for the feeling of the unknown never left them.
It is an interesting fact that the less we know of ourselves, the more we feel we know others. When we begin to get familiar with our own self, we stop knowing others. Look at it in this way. One who says, "I know so many people" is invariably a person who does not know himself. He who has known himself knows at once that he knows nobody. Such a man lives, throughout life, like a stranger, a guest.
Lao Tzu says, "Their life is a profound performance. They are but guests in this world, so their conduct is only play-acting, not real." Let us try to understand this by an example.
After twelve long years, Buddha returned home. His brother. Ananda, had taken a promise from him that he would always be where Buddha was. Buddha had given the promise. At the border of his father's kingdom, people were gathered to welcome him. Only Yashodhara, his wife, was not in the crowd. Buddha said to Ananda. "See, Ananda, Yashodhara did not come." Ananda was worried: after attaining Buddhahood, Buddha was still concerned about his wife! It had been twelve years since he attained supreme knowledge, and yet his wife remained in his thoughts! He held his patience, and decided to question Buddha at the right moment.
Buddha reached the palace. No sign of Yoshodhara. He went inside. There was still no sign of her.
Buddha then said to Ananda, "I have promised to keep you with me wherever I go. I do not wish to break my pledge, but I have to make a request today. I left Yashodhara and ran away, for there was no other way. If after this long period of separation, I go to meet her with a crowd around me, she will be displeased. Let me give her a chance to work out the anger that she has harboured all these long years. Please, allow me to be with her alone."
Ananda was terrified by his request. Where was the need now for Buddha to meet his wife alone?
But Buddha was right. His meeting with Yashodhara in private was fruitful. Yashodhara vented all her anger on him. She accused him of having deserted her, of not having so much as told her before he left. Buddha stood calm and serene and listened to her patiently. When her anger was spent, she broke into tears; and in the flow of those tears, she released the pain and suffering she had undergone. Then the tears stopped. She looked up at the serene face. "You came alone to see me,"
she said, "and that has changed me completely. Had you come with the crowd, I would have known that there was no place for me in your heart."
Buddha still stood quiet and serene. Yashodhara fell at his feet. All complaints had vanished; all pain had fled. She asked his forgiveness. Buddha said to her, "There was only one desire in me:
that you accept what I have brought along with me." This was all play-acting on the part of Buddha, but it brought about the initiation of his wife. She became a bhikshuni.
After seven years, she went into deep meditation. Then one day she told him: "A fine act you put up that day! My joy knew no bounds when I heard that you had inquired after me when you entered the kingdom. The long suffering of loneliness left me that very moment. Then how happy I was when you left Ananda outside and came along to see me! All my complaints, all my anger towards you, melted away. But now I know it was just an act you put up and it was this that brought about the change in me."
Says Lao Tzu: "Such people can never become an intrinsic part of this world, but they always act as if they were." Such people establish no relationships, but always pretend to deep relationships. This acting on their part is very serious and impressive. If it were not so, it could not last.
This is an inner characteristic of a Saint that being all outsider, he lives as if he is very much within life. He lives like a guest, enacting a profound role in life. He is no longer the doer. Now, whatever is, is outside of him. He is only enacting the role of Rama in the RAMA LEELA. He is not the real Rama.
If we investigate onto the life of the authentic Rama, we shall be surprised to know that even he was a mere actor in the whole saga of the RAMAYANA. This is his greatness! It is because of this that he could leave Sita in the jungle, on the basis of the words of an ignorant washerman, this same Sita whom he had wagered his life to find. And it is because of this that he could hand over to another the kingdom he won with such great difficulties - just like that! If all this was real to Rama, he would have found it difficult - nay impossible, to act in this manner. But this was all part of a big play.
Rama is absolutely serious. There was no need for him to discard Sita on the mere words of a dhobi! But he is serious, in his act; he enacts his role seriously. When Sita is lost, he cries for her; he is beside himself with grief. He asks the trees and the insects whether they have seen his Sita!
Also, he runs after a golden deer! Even we know there are no golden deer; Rama must also be knowing. Yet he runs after a golden deer. And later? he calls out to Lakshman for help!
Sita also played her part well. Lakshman refuses to leave Sita and go to Rama's aid, because Rama had ordered him not to leave her when he was gone. But Rama's cry for help goads her to say hard words to Lakshman, to whom Rama's word was law. She says "I know you wish your brother to die so that you can have me!" These are words that Sita could only have spoken if she was enacting the role of Sita; otherwise they have no meaning.
Poor Lakshman is caught between the two. He is filled with anger! In refusing to go, he was obeying Rama's orders, yet here was Sita accusing him of ulterior motives! In his terrible anger, he forgot Rama, he forgot Sita. His ego was hurt; he was filled with rage. He left Sita and went away. This was a part of a very great act.
Such harsh words from such a one as Sita seem most unbecoming but only to those who have not understood the whole arrangement of this play and who have taken it to be an authentic happening.
They will find her words hard and cruel, such as they sounded to Lakshman for whom this was not acting. To him, everything was real.
In the whole saga of the Ramayana, we have acknowledged Rama to be the main character and have called it the RAMA LEELA. There is a reason to this. In the whole epic, Bharata, his brother, has played an equally important part. For that matter even Ravana could have been considered the main character, for there would have been no RAMA LEELA without him. And Sita, of course, was the centre of the whole drama; all events are woven round her. But Rama has been considered the hero of the Ramayana for the simple reason that he was only person who knew this all to be nothing more than a drama, a mere play.
"SELF-EFFACING, LIKE ICE BEGINNING TO MELT..." Just like snow melts in the sun, the saint's feeling of 'I am' is forever melting. This needs to be understood, for this is a profound difference.
A saint is called a saint because he becomes the universal spirit (Paramatman). This ego, this feeling of the self can be taken in two ways. Within us is the ego.: 'I am'. This is an absolutely false 'I'. If this melts, we attain sainthood. In the saint, the stress is not on the 'I' but on the 'am'. When we say 'I am', our stress is on the ego; the 'am' is merely a tail that trails along with the 'I' a shadow. The 'I' of the saint's 'I am' drops and only the 'am' remains. This is asmita the sense of being. 'I' is the ego; am-ness is the sense of just being. But this am-ness of the saint is melting continuously. The day he loses his am-ness, he himself is lost. The saint is gone. Only ishwara remains - existence.
Lao Tzu says, "Their am-ness melts each moment, like ice melts with the rays of the sun." This is an internal happening. If we examine Buddha, Mahavira, Krishna or Christ minutely, we shall not find this am-ness in them anywhere.
Mahavira was going along a road when people stopped him and said, "Do not go this way; it is a deserted road. A fearful snake lives there whose very hiss can kill a man."
Mahavira said, "If no one goes that way, what about the snake's food? How does he subsist? Now if we were thus warned, even if it was a rat and not a snake, the first thought that would come to us would be about ourselves: whether we should go or should not go. The very fact that Mahavira's first concern was for the snake - that perhaps he is hungry - shows that his am-ness had melted.
The thought of his own self does not come to him. The thought of the snake, catches hold of him.
Mahavira said, "You did well to tell me. Now I shall have to go. Who will go if even I do not go?"
Mahavira set out in search of the snake, so goes this touching tale. The snake bites his toe. But instead of blood, milk flowed! This is poetry. It is symbolic of love, the symbol of 'the mother.' Only in a mother resides the rare capacity of blood turning into milk.
Psychologists say if a mother is bereft of love, her blood does not change into milk. The intense love of a mother for her child changes her blood into milk (food) for him.
This story is symbolic: Mahavira's blood turns into milk. This symbolism can be only understood when we understand Mahavira's concern for the snake. "The snake is hungry. I must go. Who would go if I didn't?" This is the anxiety, the deep concern of a mother towards the child.
Buddha was passing by a place. People warned him not to go any further. "A ruthless killer, Angulimal, lives there," they told him. He had sworn to wear a garland of a thousand fingers. He had nine hundred and ninety-nine. He was now restless. If no man came his way tonight, he would kill his mother to complete his garland. No one dared to go that way, for this man was completely mad.
When Buddha heard this, he set out to meet him. His followers tried to stop him. "Please do not go this way! If he is ready to kill his mother, he will not spare you either."
Buddha replied, "Let him kill me so his mother can be spared." This is a proof of the am-ness dissolving. The idea of being was dropping off within Buddha.
When the 'I' is not, a saint comes into being. When the 'am' is lost, he becomes God himself. The saint's am-ness begins to dissolve gradually and his being disperses into the universal being.
"UNPRETENTIOUS, LIKE WOOD THAT HAS NOT BEEN CARVED...." The saint makes no claim for himself. He is like a piece of wood that has not been given any form. There is a chair made of wood, a table, an idol - all these pieces of wood can claim to be the form they are shaped into. Lao Tzu says: "The saint is like uncarved wood." He makes no assumptions about who he is. He looks upon himself as a freshly cut piece of wood from the jungle which can become anything but as yet is nothing.
Says Lao Tzu, "A saint is always undetermined about himself." He never states that he is such.
Remember, as soon as he makes any claim about himself, he draws a boundary. The unacclaimed is always infinite; and the infinite has got to remain unacclaimed.
Generally, people make it a point to say who they are. One says he is a doctor; another says he is a judge or a politician or this or that. Ask a saint. He claims nothing for himself.
When Bodhidharma was asked by the king of China, "Who are you?" he replied, "I do not know."
The king was shocked. "I came to you for self-knowledge, but you do not even know who you are!" It is difficult to understand Bodhidharma. That is why Lao Tzu says, "Saints are beyond our understanding." The king took Bodhidharma's statement as he would take the statement of any ordinary person.
Bodhidharma laughed and said to the king, "Stay awhile with people who talk a different language so that you can understand me." Bodhidharma was trying to convey that he had no proclamations to make. What could he say to the question about who he was?
Saints remain unproclaimed. It is he who is not a saint who is always eager to proclaim who he is because he is afraid that otherwise there will be no other way to recognise him. The saint is assured within himself. Whatever he is is silent, unproclaimed.
"VACANT LIKE A VALLEY...." Saints are not like the peaks of the mountains. They do not tower high above in the sky; they do not make themselves prominent They are like a valley - deep, hidden in darkness.
Then, the last part of the sutra: "AND DULL LIKE MUDDY WATER." Can you imagine a saint this way? "VACANT LIKE A VALLEY AND DULL LIKE MUDDY WATER"? Imagine the muddy rain water.
There is no claim to cleanliness or purity, leave aside saintliness. The saint is not likened to the pure waters of the Ganges. He is likened to the muddy rain water that can flow with equal ease in a gutter or in the Ganges; it makes no difference. A saint can live with the lowliest and most insignificant with as much ease as with the most excellent, the most pure. He does not differentiate between heaven and hell.
One last point. A king of Japan was in search of a saint. After reading Lao Tzu, he set out to find a saint who was as vacant as a valley and dull like muddy water. He went to temples that had golden pinnacles. The saints he met there were all like the peaks of mountains. He returned to his kingdom, disappointed. As he was entering the gates of his city, a beggar stopped him and said, "I have seen you coming and going from here many times. What is it you seek?"
The king said, "I am in search of a saint who is deep and empty like a valley and dull like muddy water, as Lao Tzu has described."
The fakir laughed and said, "Go on your way." The king said, "It was you who asked. And now you say, "Go away!"
The fakir laughed and said again, "Go on your way."
The king was puzzled. He looked deep into the man's eyes and was shocked to see deep emptiness within them. He said, "You are but a beggar. How come your eyes are vacant like a valley? I never cared to look at you for you are only a beggar and might ask for alms. Oh God, I have searched every where!"
The fakir said, "You searched where there were mountain peaks. You never cared to look here, in the valley. But please tell no one. I have taken the form of a beggar to hide myself."
The king ran to his palace and spread the news around. The next day he came with his full retinue, but the fakir was gone. Other beggars told him that before leaving he said, "My guru ordered me not to proclaim myself. I have erred. I talked to the king and he saw in my eyes. My guru told me to keep my eyes cast down, lest someone sees the valley. And he told me to don the garb of a beggar so as to live like muddy water." This is a very personal hint given by Lao Tzu.