The greatest difficulty in understanding Lao Tzu is our level of thinking. It is very difficult to understand him through our mode of thinking. Lao Tzu's way of looking at things is contrary to ours, his logic is absolutely opposite. He sees life from a different dimension altogether. Therefore all the questions you ask are related more to yourselves and very little to Lao Tzu.
If we wish to understand Lao Tzu, we shall have to set aside our mode of thinking. If we approach Lao Tzu with our view-point, our words, our preconceived notions, it will be difficult to decide whether he is right or not. Set aside your views and concepts. Then only will you understand him. Then you shall be able to judge whether he is right or wrong, but not before that. Just to comprehend is an obstacle because our manner of thinking is one thing and Lao Tzu's is just the opposite. It is as if we discern things by our sense of touch whereas he uses his eyes and sees Or as if we use our eyes and he uses his ears. Then the language becomes different.
As I said yesterday, if consciousness increases, unconsciousness will also increase. Whatever we understand as consciousness is what Mahavira, Krishna or Buddha have explained to us, and this explanation does not hold good with Lao Tzu. So the questions that arise in you are not your questions but questions arising out of a current of concepts that is within you. Now you will be upset.
What does this mean?
This means: if Mahavira attains supreme knowledge, because of him one person must fall into complete insensitivity. This becomes an act of violence. We cannot even think that a person like Mahavira who was non-violence incarnate, could bring such a thing about! It sounds strange that when one person's consciousness develops, another person's consciousness sinks to insensibility through no fault of his.
If we question Lao Tzu on this, he will not say that Mahavira's consciousness increased. He will say, "Mahavira went beyond consciousness and unconsciousness." When a person goes beyond both the opposites, there is no trace left of it in the world. If we ask Lao Tzu about Krishna, he will not say he was a man of super-consciousness. If he was a man of super-consciousness, then another man of super-unconsciousness is needed as a counterbalance.
According to Lao Tzu, there are people who have gone beyond consciousness and unconsciousness, they are outside of dualities. No reaction takes place in this world because of them.
But those who are within the vertex of dualities are bound to think in terms of balance and counterbalance. Lao Tzu will not call Mahavira a 'sadhu' because a sadhu is opposed to a 'non- sadhu'. Good and bad are dualities. Lao Tzu would say that Mahavira has gone beyond both. He is neither good nor bad, for to be good he must be connected with evil. If he is good because he tells no lies, because he does not steal, because he does not get angry, then he has to be connected with lies, with theft, with anger. All good qualities are connected with bad qualities; they cannot stand apart from them. So if we say that Mahavira is good, he is still not outside of dualities. And if he has not transcended dualities, evil can also come out of him. But Mahavira is neither good nor bad. These two classes do not apply to him. He is above both.
It is difficult to follow this line of thought, for we have divided our flow of thinking into two categories.
There is no third category for us, whereas it is this third category which is the authentic category.
He who enters this third category attains the absolute state that Lao Tzu refers to as Tao, which is the natural religion.
So your trouble is the preconceived flow of your thinking. Set this aside and follow Lao Tzu's stream of thought; try to understand what he is trying to say. It is not necessary to agree with him. You may not.
As far as I can see, I do not think anyone who has understood him will ever say he is wrong. One who thinks he is wrong only says so because he has not understood Lao Tzu correctly. Lao Tzu s way of expressing is different, his reach is different, his method of putting forth is different. If you cling to his method you will find yourself in difficulty. This is the difficulty man finds himself in.
Mahavira's way of expressing is different. So is Buddha's. So is Krishna's. And Christ is different from them all. The conflict between religion is caused by these different modes of expression which are not correctly understood by people. Man has not yet become wise enough to understand that the difference of expression makes no difference in the eternal truth. Mahavira expresses truth in his way, Buddha expresses in his own way. They have their own characteristic ways of expression.
The truth they expound is so great that it can absorb Buddha, Mahavira, Krishna, Christ and any number of enlightened people.
We think truth is a given quantity. If one thing is established in it there is no place for another. Truth is vast. It has a place for all, even for those who are contrary to you. But we think otherwise. If I am established in truth, there is no way for others to also be established in truth. Then what I hold is truth; all else is untruth. Truth is a very big happening that envelops the opposite also.
This is interesting: untruth is such a small thing that it cannot contain the opposite. Have you ever realised that when you support an untruth you never accept its opposite? If you do, the untruth is lost. Untruth is a constricted thing that does not have much room within itself. Therefore he who tells an untruth never accepts what the others say. But truth is a vast happening. That which is opposite to what you maintain can also be the truth. Truth has a place for both. He alone attains supreme truth who sees a place for all truths within his truth.
But we have a narrow, constricted vision; we are tied to our own concepts. Mahavira has said that you are not qualified for darshan till you rise above your constricted vision. This sounds contrary.
What Mahavira means is that the right vision is that which rises above all visions. Vision means: my way of looking. If I have become so one with my way of thinking. I shall never be able to appreciate your way of thinking.
If I am not tied to my own way of thinking, I shall be able to understand and appreciate all other ways of looking at things. Then I begin to understand that no matter how and where the rivers flow, one day they all reach the ocean. Then I will not say that the river that flows to the east will never reach the sea, just because my river is flowing to the west. Then I get a glimpse of the ocean in all the rivers. But if the vision is tied down, the difficulty is immense. Then there is no way to understand.
Lao Tzu is difficult to understand in this respect, for his way of thinking, his manner of viewing things, his method of expression are all unique. But there is a definite joy in understanding him, and if you do understand him, you will have evolved, your vision will expand, your consciousness will reach greater heights. If you cannot understand him, you will remain constricted, narrow.
It is always better to understand the viewpoint of those who think contrary to us. He who thinks as you do cannot change you, he can only add something more to you. You had ten reasons to support yourself. Now you will have twelve, fifteen. But one who thinks contrary to you opens up new horizons for you. Then, not only do you add something more to your perception, but you enrich your consciousness also.
To understand Lao Tzu, you have to set aside your mode of perception a little, otherwise your perception will raise questions which will be meaningless for they will not be based on Lao Tzu's understanding.
If you understand this sutra, it will become clear to you. Leave your intelligence to one side. This seems difficult. To seek knowledge - this we can understand. But to shake off your knowledge is difficult.
We have three words: one is information, the second is knowledge and the third is wisdom. Mostly, information is regarded as knowledge. The more one knows, the more knowledgeable he considers himself to be. Quantity means quality to him. But what has happened is only that such a person's remembrance has increased. He is now a bigger computer; he has not progressed. Information is not knowledge; remembrance is not knowledge. When information increases, a man becomes knowledgeable, educated, but he does not become wise.
There have been many people in the world who have said, "Do not gather information. Attain knowledge. Information is of no use. However much information you gather, it will all be borrowed.
Knowledge is one's own. Therefore leave the borrowed and attain by your own experience." This is quite understandable to us. But Lao Tzu goes a step further and says. "Leave knowledge also; for this knowing and not knowing is a play of duality. It too is a conflict. Leave this also."
Even this we can understand. Buddha too has said, "What will you gain by knowing? You have studied the shastras. To what avail?" The question is not of knowing, but of developing our wisdom, our inner knowledge. Our understanding should increase. Wisdom is the essence of knowledge.
Just like perfume is attained by squeezing the essence out of flowers, so wisdom is the sum and substance of all knowledge, all experiences. Wisdom is a fragrance. When a thousand experiences and knowledges are compressed, one drop of wisdom is attained.
But Lao Tzu says, "Leave your wisdom also." This is too much! Leave information this we can understand because it is all borrowed knowledge. Leave knowledge this too we can understand because there is the duality of knowledge and ignorance. But if we let go wisdom, the mind will say, "Then I shall become like a stone! Then what will be the difference between me and inert matter?"
Then, you will argue, "what is the difference between me and the chair I sit on?" These questions raised by the mind become a hindrance in our understanding of Lao Tzu.
Lao Tzu says, "Leave your sagacity, your wisdom." What does he mean? He means that what is grasped can be left also, for it does not belong to you. That which you cannot let go of is your true wisdom. Whatever you can drop, and does drop off, let it go. A moment will come when you will say, "I have nothing more to give up." You have no house, no wealth, no information, no knowledge, no wisdom, no experience. The moment you feel you have nothing left that you can renounce, that very moment you attain true wisdom. The wisdom you are afraid to give up for fear of becoming insentient is no wisdom.
Understand well: that which cannot be renounced is true wisdom. Therefore Lao Tzu says, "Leave wisdom" - for that which you can let go off, cannot be wisdom. Wisdom, according to Lao Tzu, is the very nature of the wise. One cannot leave one s nature. That which we can leave cannot be our nature.
Says Lao Tzu, "Only that alone should remain which 'I am'." There should be collection of borrowed information and knowledge. Even if it is my own, it is not worth carrying along. Borrowed experiences are useless. One's own experiences are also dead. What I knew yesterday is dead today. The essence of what I came to know yesterday is wisdom. It has become the past; it has turned to dust.
Live coal turns into ash it was once a part and parcel of a burning fire. But, if the embers are to be kept alive, we have to shake off the ashes.
Lao Tzu says: "your wisdom is like ash, covering your nature." It comes from your very self; you are the ember. Keep flicking off the ashes, let the alive ember remain; let only your nature remain. Let nothing cover it. Whether it is the ashes of borrowed knowledge or your own knowledge - both are ashes - they have to be wiped off. Do not hold on to the ashes of your own embers just because it is your own.
If you live for fifty years, the ashes of fifty years' experience has gathered on you. In this what you have learned from others is information; what you have known yourself is knowledge. The sum total of this information and knowledge, the essence that creates the fragrance within you, is your wisdom. But Lao Tzu says, "Leave this also. Just be your pure self." Become your naked nature - that which you are. This is what Mahavira calls the atman and Buddha calls the emptiness. These are just verbal differences. Lao Tzu calls it nature, Tao.
"DISCARD KNOWLEDGE, BANISH WISDOM AND PEOPLE WILL BENEFIT A HUNDREDFOLD."
If people revert back and become fixed in their pure nature, then sorrow and pain, agony and anxiety, tension and worry shall disappear; and the innocent will flower within themselves. Once the load of your experiences is removed from the consciousness, the soul or consciousness, or whatever we choose to call that which is within us - remains in what Heidegger refers to as its pure being. This is what Lao Tzu is talking about. Then people will prosper a thousandfold.
We feel people will prosper as knowledge increases, as experience and information increase, intelligence increases. Lao Tzu says just the opposite. Actually, as all these increase, their dust begins to gather layer by layer on our nature and the embers within are hidden under their weight.
Then it becomes a Herculean task to reach to oneself. There will be so many layers to uncover that it will be almost impossible to reach the self.
A human being is like an onion. Remove one layer, and there is another layer; remove this and there is yet another. You are nothing but a collection of knowledge, experience, information, understanding, education, impressions, culture and tradition. Where you yourself are, you do not know. A man is hidden by his own coverings. Lao Tzu tells us to remove all our coverings and be in that which you cannot remove. Then you shall really profit. The greatest calamity that can happen to a person is to lose his own self.
The title of this sutra is; Realise the Simple Self. The word 'simple' should be noted. It conveys the quality of naturalness, artlessness.
Jesus and Socrates both said: "Know thyself". The Upanishads have also used this term. "Know thyself, realise the atman." Lao Tzu says: "Realise the simple self." Not the self that theologians talk of, or learned pundits discuss. Know the simple self that exists even within the ignorant. There is no reference to doctrines, scriptures - only the simplest you, in all your nakedness, in all your naturalness, know only that. But to know this, you have to erase all that you already know, eradicate it completely. Whatever you have known up to now you shall have to wipe off. Strip off the layers of the onion till there is nothing more to remove; only emptiness remains. Only then know that you have reached near to your simple self. Therefore, remove knowledge and profit a hundredfold.
"BANISH HUMANITY, DISCARD JUSTICE AND THE PEOPLE SHALL RECOVER LOVE OF THEIR KIN."
It happens usually that one who cannot love anyone begins to love humanity. It is very difficult to love one person; it is very easy to love humanity. It is difficult to love your neighbour; it is very easy to love the human race. To love one person, sets off many problems, whereas there are no problems as far as the whole humanity is concerned. Where is humanity? Man is; mankind is nowhere. Wherever you go you will find human beings; you will not find humanity anywhere. Humanity is an abstract concept, and it is very easy to love a concept. It is very easy to love Mother India, but very difficult to love your own mother. Mother India is a concept; your own mother is a living human being. Any relationship with a living being brings problems in its wake, which leads to conflicts and strife.
Therefore it is generally found that those who are great humanitarians are people who have failed to love any single human being. Then they begin to love a dream, an ideal, a concept. A concept carries no uncertainties, no difficulties. This, however, is a great deception. You cannot love humanity; you can only love a person.
Love is a journey. It is a constant purification, an unceasing test, a fire through which one has to pass incessantly. Where there is humanity, there is no fire because there is no one on the other side; you are alone. To say that you have loved humanity means you have not loved at all. It is only a ruse to hide the fact.
It happens generally that a person who cannot love an individual begins to love God. But if he is unable to love a human being, how can he love God? Love for God is not a contrivance to escape loving human beings. Rather, love for God is a culmination of intense love for individuals. You love a person so much, so much that he becomes an opening. He no longer remains an individual. The infinite begins to come through him - and God stands on your doorstep!
But each of us is a closed door. There are all walls and no windows. Entry is not possible from any side. Then such an individual closes his eyes and begins to love God, a God found only in his imagination and nowhere else. God is everywhere, but wherever we touch him we shall find an individual. If a person wishes to love a non-individualistic God, he is deceiving himself. He is mistaking the lack of love in himself as love for God and is just deceiving himself.
Says Lao Tzu: "Banish humanity so that you can love human beings. Banish all theories and tenets, for they have no worth. Discard all talk of the far-away so that you can love what is near you."
If we set out for a destination, we have to start from where we are. If I have to make a journey, the first step I take will be from where I am standing. I cannot take a stride from hundreds of miles away, because I'm simply not there - i have to start from where I am. If I am to walk towards love, the first step I have to take is very close to myself. If I am to proceed towards religion, the first step has got to be very near myself.
When a person declares that he can only love humanity and not humans, he is trying to start his journey from the goal. He begins his journey from where he is not! Another person says: "I can love only God and no one else." If he has found God, there is no longer any need to love Him. But till then, how can he love one he has not met? People say, "We must love God in order to know Him."
But how can you love one whom you have never met, never known, one whom you are not even acquainted with? Is your love not a deception then? Perhaps it is a trick to escape from those whom you know and can love, a ruse to run away from them.
We can love God, we can love the vast humanity, but the journey always has to be started from where we are. If we want to go up in the sky, we first have to step out of our house. The last step can only be taken if the first has been taken. No journey starts with the last step. But theories and doctrines put the last step first.
Our minds are filled with high-sounding words, and Lao Tzu is an enemy of words. Our minds are filled with doctrines, so much so that even when we are in the deepest hell we are full of words of heaven and bliss. We hold fast to these words lest they fall away and the hell in which we stand becomes clear and visible to us. So that hell may be hidden from our view, we remain engrossed in talk of heaven. To help us to forget the reality of the hell around us, we have spread this net of words around us. But it is just a delusion.
Lao Tzu exhorts us to leave these words, this knowledge, these shastras. If there is no love in your life, never mind. But do not start professing love for mankind.
It is an interesting fact and a profound one too, that man cannot exist without love. If he realises that he cannot love humanity, and he is unable to love a human being, a transformation takes place for the first time in his life. He will be so troubled by the fires of torment and restlessness that these will bring about a transformation within him. When a man finds himself incapable of loving a human being and keeps loving God, he fails to create the gap necessary for transformation. It is incumbent on him to know clearly that God cannot be loved directly. Only human beings can be, and this he is not capable of.
Understand this well. If you are to love your neighbour, you have to change yourself. If you are to love God, no change is required. To love humanity, you need not change yourself at all. You are all right as you are. But if you have to love even a small child, you will have to change yourself. To hold a little hand with love, you have to bring about a change in your life. You cannot remain the same person any more. Love is a fire; it is bound to change you. If love does not change you, it means you are under the illusion of love. There is no love really.
Lao Tzu says: banish all the big, high-sounding words: humanity, God, the universe. Feel that there is no love within you. And remember Lao Tzu's alchemy: you cannot remain without love. If you are honest with yourself you will realise that you will have to love those who are near you.
Lao Tzu goes on to say: "Leave humanity, discard justice and people will begin to love each other again. They will recover love of each other." Today, we find no one who loves his own people. One who loves other countries, but not his own is called an internationalist. One who loves all people except his own is called a humanist. There is no trouble in loving the far away.
If a hungry beggar sits on your doorstep, you are not bothered; but if people in Bangladesh go hungry, you are suddenly concerned about them. This is a strange irony. Some poor man lies dead on the road and we are unconcerned, but when we hear of someone dying in Vietnam it is a spiritual catastrophe. What has happened to man? Why does the distant attract him so?
The reason is simple: you can always hold the other responsible for things far away. A man lying dead on your road is your responsibility but for a man dying in Bangladesh or Vietnam, you hold Bhutto and Nixon responsible.
Tolstoy has written an account of his mother. He says she was a very gentle-hearted lady, her kindness was exceptional. She belonged to the Czar's family and was a countess. She was so sensitive, Tolstoy says, that when she went to the theatre, her tears would flow in torrents when she saw a man on the stage dying of hunger or someone's house catching on fire or someone jilted in love. So much so, that her maids in waiting had a difficult time wiping away her tears.
The coach in which they travelled to the theatre would be out on the road where snow fell continuously. Many a time the coachman would be found dead after the show, covered with snow.
When his mother saw this, she would get him removed and replace him with another coachman whom she kept as a stand-by. She did this without a twinge of conscience. And this after having cried her eyes out in the play! Tolstoy says that he realised then how clever man is in deceiving himself.
We do not see that which is close to us. We are blind and deaf to all that happens around us. We are alert towards things in the distance. Could not this mother of Tolstoy realise that it was a man who was dead? But he was a mere coachman and a coachman is not a human being. She who was so affected by misfortunes in a play, but was not affected by the reality that was so close to her.
It is possible that this did not occur to her. To cry in a play is an escape. Those who cry in plays are blind and deaf towards the great drama of life that takes place around them. To cry for someone in a drama is an easy way to bring out the anguish within. To cry for the coachman would have proved expensive, for then something would have had to be done about the poor man.
Man has developed a clever plan for himself. He has created doctrines for things far away so as to save himself from his immediate responsibilities. This is such an abominable fraud.
Lao Tzu says: "BANISH HUMANITY, DISCARD JUSTICE, AND THE PEOPLE SHALL RECOVER LOVE OF THEIR KIN."
This is quite a different way of looking at life. Lao Tzu exhorts us to stop worrying about distant things. If love is close by it can also spread far and wide. We throw a pebble in the water. It sets off ripples which start close to the point where the pebble touches the water and then grow wider and wider till they are lost. Has it ever happened that the wider, more distant circles were formed first, and then the smaller ones? Never. The day this happens, Lao Tzu will be proved wrong and not before that.
Life has its rules. Everything starts from the nearest point. If there is love within my heart, it will first touch those around me. Those nearest me will be the first to be affected by the ripples created by my love. If the wave of my love is strong enough, it will begin to touch those further away also.
Further and further will it reach if it is strong enough. If my love is so great and strong that it can go beyond the world and up to God, then only is my love worthy to be offered at His feet not before that.
But you are stingy. You say unto yourself, "Why waste such a precious commodity on mere humans?
I shall save it all and offer it straight to God. This way I shall be able to offer more to God and thereby profit more."
There is no way for such love to reach God. Love is not a commodity, it is an evolvement. The more you love, the more loving you become. Love is not wealth that can be spent. If it was, it would get less and less as I distribute it and leave me a pauper by the time I reach God. But this is not so.
Love has the same nature as other deeper activities of life. You breathe. The more you breathe, the more alive you become. The more you walk, the more you develop your strength to walk. The more you see, the more you develop your sight. In the same manner, the more you love, the more your love increases. These are your capabilities. They evolve and develop as you make use of them.
They do not grow less upon use. Do not think that by walking or running you are using up your ability to walk. The more you love, the more capable you will be to love even more. It increases every time.
Each ripple creates another ripple bigger and wider.
He alone can reach the feet of God who lives so much that the waves of his love keep increasing, ever widening, till no one and, nothing remains outside its orbit. His love passes through all. Each being, sentient and non-sentient is bathed in the current of his love. Its flow moves further and further awaY till it touches the feet of the absolute.
The little pebble we threw in the water can raise currents that can touch the boundless shores of the infinite ocean. But if the pebble is not confident of its strength and is not sure how many ripples it will be able to create, if it tries to conserve its ripples till such time that it reaches the other shore, then the current will not rise at all.
Says Lao Tzu: "BANISH HUMANITY, BANISH JUSTICE." Please note: Lao Tzu is against justice.
It is very perplexing why he should be. We on the contrary, say: "So and so is very just." We never think in the manner of Lao Tzu. Let us try to understand him.
Christianity says: "God is just, loving and kind." Lao Tzu would laugh if he heard this because Lao Tzu says, that a lover cannot be kind, nor can he be just.
If God is just, He cannot be kind. How can He be? For then, he who has to be punished must be punished. There is no question of mercy. He who should go to hell must go to hell - there is no way out of it. And if God is kind, and he who should have gone to hell is taken into heaven, then God is unjust to those who are in hell. This would mean that God smuggles His flatterers into heaven.
Jainas have removed God from their doctrines. They say there is only straight and simple action. If your actions are bad, the result is bad. There is no one to sit in judgment on you. Action is its own judge. No individual judgment can be unprejudiced, because one can be swayed by kindness and love, or urged on by cruelty. There is bound to be a difference between mine and thine.
Jainas say, "If God is such that He is not kind, He is not loving, then where is the need to involve Him? Let law take its own course." Put your hand in fire and it is sure to burn. Fire does not love.
It is not kind or just either. Fire has a basic rule, a gross rule that it follows. So Jainas say that all actions follow their own basic rule and there is no ruler.
In a way, this is correct. If we believe in the ruler, we have to understand two things. If the ruler is just and justice is his watch-word, he cannot be kind. Then mercy is impossible and there can be no appeal. No prayers are meaningful because nothing can be forgiven. And if God is kind, then prayer is enough. Then all stress should be on prayer. There is no sense in saying, "Do not steal; do not deceive others." Then you can do what you like and all that is required of you is to pray!
The village-maulvi told Omar Khayyam, "Omar, you have, reached old age. Now give up drinking.
At least, now think of the Day of Judgment, when you shall be standing before God!"
Omar Khayyam was intoxicated. He slowly opened his eyes and, with the cup in his hand, he addressed the maulvi. "I fully believe in God's compassion. God is merciful. Please do not shake my faith in His kindness now that I am near death, My faith is unshakable! This small cup, with a little wine, this insignificant Omar Khayyam - if He cannot forgive such an insignificant being, what will happen to great sinners? No, no, God is all merciful."
If there is compassion, justice is impossible. If there is justice, compassion is impossible. Both cannot exist together. But the majority of religions hold God to be both just and kind.
Lao Tzu says: "Discard justice, Love is enough." This is also a fact that is worthy pondering on: that justice comes when love is not. The whole concept of justice is born out of the lack, the absence, of love. Let us understand it in this way:
You are touching your father's feet. You say that you are doing your duty. You serve your old mother.
You say it is your duty. But have you ever thought about what an ugly word "duty" is? It means: "I am doing something, not because I wish to but because I have to." The heart is not involved at all."
My mother is old and since she is my mother I have to take her to the hospital and get her treated.
It is my duty.
But when you take your beloved to the hospital, do you look upon it as a duty?
Where there is love there is no duty. Where there is no love, duty comes in. It is a substitute for love.
When love dies, the same actions are performed by way of duty. When there is love, there is joy in your actions. When it is a duty, it becomes burden, a load that has to be carried.
Says Lao Tzu: "Justice is the absence of love." If there is love among people, there cannot be injustice. And there will b. no need for justice. Justice is needed because of injustice. Lao Tzu says:
"When injustice exists, you cannot redress it with justice. Let there be no injustice."
There are two kinds of medicine. One is preventive medicine and the other is curative medicine.
One is given before the illness, so that you do not contract the disease and the other is given after the illness, in order to cure it. Lao Tzu says: justice is a cure; a medicine that is given after the illness. Because there is injustice, there is need for justice.
Lao Tzu is talking of that religion in which there is no justice and no injustice. Therefore, he says, "Discard justice." Why? - because if you discard justice, you will be able to see injustice clearly.
Injustice is hidden behind the mist of justice, it does not stop injustice but merely helps it to be hidden.
A follower of Lao Tzu by the name of Lieh-Tzu became the minister of a kingdom for a while. The very first case that came before him was of a man who had committed a very big theft in the house of the richest man in town. When Lieh-Tzu was asked to pass judgment, he sentenced the thief to six months' imprisonment and the rich man also to six months' imprisonment. The complainant was horrified. "Are you out of your mind?" he roared at Lieh-Tzu. "This is your very first case as the judge of this court and you sentence me whose wealth has been stolen? I shall complain to the king!"
Lieh-Tzu replied, "You have amassed so much of wealth that there are bound to be thieves now in the kingdom. As long as you exist, there are bound to be thefts. Besides, the thief comes afterwards, you are the first thief. Had you not earned so much wealth, this man would not have turned into a thief. Your hand is clearly behind this theft. You are his partner. Half the work has been done by you and half by him. I aim at removing injustice from its very roots. To remove injustice is what I call justice."
The ordinary course of justice is: the thief is punished and the rich man goes scot-free. Lao Tzu tells us to discard this justice because you are merely covering up the injustice behind it. All our courts, all our laws and ordinances are doing nothing but covering up the constantly occurring injustices in history and because of this injustice more injustice is created which we vainly try to control. All this is because the root of injustice is not destroyed.
Lieh-Tzu was brought before the king. The king said, "I too have never heard of such dispensation of justice. I cannot have you as a minister of law in my kingdom because sooner or later you will get me behind bars also. This is the pattern of our society. If the wealthy man is pronounced guilty, how long can I hope to remain unaffected by such justice?"
Lieh-Tzu replied, "It was just to remind you that I passed this judgment."
We are all offenders but the rich, influential offenders go untouched while the lesser ones are caught. The biggest offenders have the government in their hands while the smaller ones have not. Therefore those who try to go against the bigger offenders are caught. Lieh-Tzu told the king that as long as he was the judge, this is how he would dispense justice. His guru has given him a different definition and explanation of justice.
In other words, underneath our very great, and idealistic concepts lie hidden the deepest sins which are not visible to us. And these are imperceptible to us because we have become so habituated, so accustomed to them. They are so ancient, so hereditary, and traditionalised that they have become an intrinsic part of our habits. Hence we are not aware of them, we are totally unconscious of them. So much have they become a part of our very being that if someone points them out we are confounded and hurt.
When Lieh-Tzu says that the wealthy man whose house was burgled should also be punished, we are alarmed. Is this really an alarming matter or is it because we are conditioned otherwise? Deep down, Lieh-Tzu's statement is correct but because it is against our concept, we find it alarming and disconcerting.
Oscar Wilde writes in his autobiography that he devised various ways and means to alarm people, and he found that people get most disturbed when a truth is told. The biggest lie does not disturb people for they are used to it but the smallest expression of truth is most upsetting.
Let us examine a few words that hide profound untruths. "Justice" is one in the name of justice, there is no limit to the sins we commit. Up till now we have held those who work against our set pattern of order as offenders. But we fail to see that the very pattern of the order of wealth in our society is offensive If we understand this, we can no longer look upon the offender as guilty.
A small child in a primary class picks up his neighbours pencil and puts it in his pocket. This becomes a theft. From his teacher right up to the President in Delhi, all will condemn this as theft.
But let us try to understand the mind of the child. Everyone has a colourful pencil except him. The colours beckon him; all children are attracted to colour. He too wants to possess a coloured pencil and feel the thrill of having one in his pocket. When elders are also not devoid of this weakness to be one better than others, what is one to say to a little child? He also wants to feel the exultation of possessing something new.
Have you not noticed how your style changes when you buy a new car? You feel so exhilarated that you begin to skit like a youngster. If a child wants to do the same, what is the objection? But this child becomes a thief.
If we try to find out the reason why this child does not have a coloured pencil while other children have it, we shall find that the fathers of these other children are bigger frauds, more cunning and clever than the father of this child. If we carry our research in the case of this coloured pen, even further God knows how many sins, how many offences, we shall discover behind it. But these do not seem to have any connection with the pen.
The child picked up the pen because he liked the bright colours on it. What other children had, he too wanted. He too wanted to feel the joy and pride of possessing it, just as the others did. This was very natural. In fact, this is how it should have been. It was no sin. In fact it would have been very unnatural had he not picked up the pencil. But the child is branded a thief.
All our offences are such offences. Then we have institutions of justice sitting in judgment of them.
On one hand our society creates these offences, and on the other, sits in judgment. Justice does not eradicate these offences because in itself, it is an arrangement to cover and hide them. Crime increases and so do concepts of justice. People raise slogans of justice and crime increases and becomes more intricate.
Lao Tzu says: remove hollow words and see the facts of life straight and clear, as they are. Banish the concept of justice. If there is injustice, see it as such. Do not hide it: do not cover it. When injustice stands straight and clear before us, it cannot remain for long. Because we do not see injustice, it remains. If the illness is hidden, it remains. The moment it is known, we try our utmost to destroy it. Any injustice that is clearly seen as injustice cannot remain because we will not be able to put up with it. But if you cover it with flowers and spray it with perfume, it will be conserved.
We have all become experts in covering the leprosy of society with colourful things. Now the leprosy has spread all over, and the colourful covering is coming off a little from here, a little from there. We get a whiff of the awful stench within. Then we seal these cracks as best as we can. But the fact is, there is nothing within except a rotting corpse.
What Lao Tzu means is only this: see things as they are. Do not raise a concept against it.
What is our usual habit? We do not worry about things as they are; we quickly construct a doctrine against it. This opposing doctrine becomes the cause of confusion. There is violence within: we create a doctrine of nonviolence. A violent man quickly puts up a board on his house; "Nonviolence is the supreme religion". By doing this he deludes himself that if he is not non-violent today, he shall become so tomorrow or the day after. He is fully satisfied with his efforts in that direction. Does he not bow before Mahavira, does he not follow Buddha? He is only a weak mortal and therefore succumbs to spasms of violence. He hopes to become nonviolent one day. Do you know what this man is doing? He is evolving methods not to look at the rot that has set within him. His violence is terrible.
If this man were to face the violence within him honestly, he could find it impossible to remain that way. If your house catches on fire, you will not waste a moment. You run out immediately. You do not stop to think how you should run out, whether through the door or through the window, whether from the entrance or from the exit, whether you should jump or throw a rope down. There is no time for any deliberation. The fact is, you will not even know when you came out. It is only when you are out, and safe from the leaping flames, that you will know you are out. Only then will you begin to think, and to breathe freely.
If a person becomes aware of the violence within him, of the decay that has set within him, he will not sit to make plans. When the house is on fire you do not plan. I shall get out today, I shall leave the house tomorrow. In the same way, you will not say, "What is the hurry? I am still young. I have a full life before me." When there is fire within, you are bound to jump out.
But to save himself from the fires of existence, man has evolved an ingenious trick: create the opposite and make a doctrine out of it. Do not concentrate on the rot within, keep your eyes fixed on the doctrine: "Non-violence is the highest religion." Keep contemplating it. Think constantly that one day you will become nonviolent. If not today, tomorrow. If not in this life, then in the next. Your effort should be constant. Then gradually you will become non-violent.
This way, you can never be rid of violence. This is nothing but postponement. The outcome of it will be that violence will remain within you unabated. The real you will remain violent, and the artificial you will become nonviolent. This non-violent man will make his own arrangements for non-violence.
He will strain the water before drinking, he will not eat after sundown. I do not say do not strain the water before drinking. It is very hygienic. But do not mistake it for non-violence. Nonviolence is not so cheap that you can attain it simply by straining water. But I see people who drink water like this and are convinced they have booked seats in heaven. They are confident of moksha for have they not strained the water before drinking, have they not eaten before it got dark?
Sometimes I have the opportunity of staying with such people when it is dark inside the house, they take their plates outside because outside it is still light. Then I see them gobbling their food so fast in order to finish within the prescribed time. Their very eating is so violent! There is no joy, no sign of love in their act of eating. They are only concerned in getting it over with because after dark they cannot eat.
Lakhs of animals and birds do not eat at night. It does not mean they attain moksha. This is no criterion. Don't eat at night, it is good for your health, good for your body. But it has nothing to do with atman.
The pseudo nonviolent man creates a false theory of non-violence. He says he will not eat green vegetables. How clever these people are! I was staying in a Jaina household. It was during the time of Paryushana. These people did not eat green vegetables during these days, but they had bananas. When I asked them why they took bananas, they said they were not green in colour! By green vegetables they meant all vegetables with green colour. This is nothing but cunningness.
"Green" should mean all fresh vegetables. They are actually supposed to eat only dry vegetables but they twisted the meaning and said "green" denotes the colour.
There are some people who contend that only dry food is to be taken. What Mahavira meant was that fruit that falls from the tree by itself and becomes dry should be taken; not plucked fruits. But what people do is they get vegetables, dry them and then eat them when they have dried out. This is no different from those who eat green vegetables. You bring green vegetables and dry them beforehand - what is the difference? Only you can say that you have taken dry food.
One day a Bhikshu of Buddha went for alms. A piece of flesh from an eagle's beak fell into his bowl.
The Bhikshu was in a dilemma because Buddha's orders were to accept whatever fell in the bowl.
He came back and asked Buddha what he should do.
It was rare that Buddha ever thought deeply before answering a question but in this case he closed his eyes for a while and then answered. He said, "It is all right. Accept whatever has fallen in the bowl."
Ananda was horrified. "Are you telling him to accept this piece of flesh?" He asked.
Buddha replied "It is not every day that eagles throw flesh in a bhikshu's bowl. This is a matter of coincidence and may never happen again. But if in this case I waive my rule aside and allow you to select what you wish then that would become the rule. People are clever, Ananda, eagles are not that clever. Because man is more cunning. I am constrained to maintain, the rule."
But Buddha did not know that any number of rules cannot diminish man's cunningness. Today we find China, Japan - the foremost Buddhist countries - completely non-vegetarian. On every Buddhist hotel sign is put up to say: "The meat here is from dead animals, not killed animals." To kill is to commit violence; there is no sin in eating the flesh of a dead animal. So many animals do not die naturally every day, but the killing is done by others. The hoteliers receive only the flesh that is already dead. They are not a party to it for they are Buddhists.
All over the world Buddhists are meat-eaters. The reason is because of this little incident in Buddha's time. Buddha's contention was that the bhikshu had not done the killing. If that were so, it would have been violence. He neither killed, nor did he beg from the eagle. It was a coincidence. So the Buddhist bhikshu does not beg for flesh but if you put in his bowl, he eats it, he accepts it gladly.
Man easily finds ways and means to make his false doctrines. Within, the real mall keeps working, and without, the false man is seen. The false man is a good man, his hopes are all for the future.
The real man within is here and now; all his actions are in the present. As time passes, the gap between the two widens so much that the good man in you is totally ignorant of the real you within.
But the real you is your very self; it is your true self.
Lao Tzu says, "Do not create the opposite. Know yourself as you are and live in it." This is a very profound sutra. If I know the violence within me and know myself to be a violent person, if I do not create any concepts against it or try to be nonviolent, one day I shall become non-violent. If I live with my anger, accept the state of anger within me and keep myself away from theories opposed to anger, this very anger will change me. If I accept my sexuality and do not indulge in celibacy, my very sexuality will make a different man out of me. We cannot remain long in that which is wrong, that which is painful, that which is agonising. It is hell, it is fire. We shall burn in it, we shall singe and scorch in it. The very experience will open our eyes and we will tear ourselves away from it.
If a man who is standing in filth looks down and sees the filth and dirt, the crawling worms and insects, and becomes aware of the stench, how long will he stand in it? But he can devise a way:
He can look up to the stars, to the moon, and the clouds and forget all about what is at his feet.
He can then live comfortably, musing over the sun and the stars. The reason is: the filth in itself is not the cause of pain the cause is the experience of the filth. Violence in itself is not painful. The knowledge, the experience of it is painful. Similarly anger is not painful in itself; the experience of it is painful.
Says Lao Tzu: "Live in yourself, as you are." Then all that is false within will fade of its own and all that is true shall remain.
So Lao Tzu says: "BANISH HUMANITY, DISCARD JUSTICE AND THE PEOPLE SHALL RECOVER LOVE OF THEIR KIN. BANISH CUNNING, DISCARD UTILITY AND THIEVES AND BRIGANDS SHALL DISAPPEAR." These two things are to be understood.
This is an interesting fact: When a man is cunning in acts we look upon as evil, we call it cunningness. But when a man is cunning in acts which we look upon as good, we call him wise, intelligent. But this is a part of cunningness as well. Cleverness, cunningness means: whatever I do, I do with an eye to the result.
When you go along the road, you greet another person only if it is worthwhile to do so. You quickly weigh in your mind the pros and cons: whether he is the son of a minister, or some relation of his, or a relation of his relation, how far is his influence. Even a simple act of greeting is calculated with a clever man. If nothing can be achieved from greeting this man, there is no sense in greeting him.
Turgenev has written a story in this context. He says: "A crowd had gathered outside a hotel where a man had caught hold of a dog by his legs and was about to smash him on the ground because he had bitten him. Just then two policemen arrived on the scene. One looked at the dog and said, "It is just as well. Kill him. He is a nuisance."
But the second policeman looked intently at the dog and said, "This looks like the dog of our boss!"
The first cop at once called the man holding the dog and said, "Do you know what you are doing?
He is no ordinary dog. Leave him at once!"
"Hand-cuff him!" he shouted to his colleague. "This man is creating confusion on the road!" Saying this, he took the dog in his arms.
Then his partner said into his ears, "But this dog does not seem to be the one we thought he was."
So they handed him back to the man and said, "Kill him. It was a mistake."
But then the first cop again picked up the dog and said, "No, no, he is our master's dog."
This went on. This is the story of all cunning people. Cunningness means: the result is significant; the action is calculated. One man counts the beads on his rosary. A lakh of rounds and his salvation is ensured; he will attain his desire.
I went to a temple where there were thousand of books stacked up. The man who took me round said, "I have taken a vow to have billions of Ram-nam written in order to ensure my moksha." What a preposterous undertaking! This man is mad and so are those who write for him. All he is doing is wasting paper and time. Now there are printing presses. He could have made use of them. He could print any number of Ram-nams. But this man is calculating. If a man applies his cunning to repeating the name of Rama, the name is taken in vain.
A son touches his father's feet and calculates what he will inherit from him. It is said that the sons of rich fathers never lament the father's death. They cannot. Perhaps they are happy. The sons of kings have been known to bring about the death of their fathers. All around us there are manipulations and calculations.
Lao Tzu says that as long as this cunningness prevails, not only in wrong things but also in right things, life can never step out of its hollow artificiality into simple naturalness. Live not in result but in action. Live from moment to moment. Live in the act, not in the consequence. When you pass a stranger, greet him with a smile. This act in itself is fulfilling.
When we go to a small village, we are surprised when the village people greet us. How can you greet a person without knowing him? What is their purpose in greeting you? It seems strange. But it is not strange for these simple village folk. They meet you and they greet you. They do not know who you are, nor do they care what you are. Just to wish someone well is a source of joy to them, so they do it.
We are bogged down with calculations. Our love is calculated, our prayer is calculated. Not only are our shops and business centres filled with cunning but our temples are also an expansion of our cunning. There also we calculate.
Lao Tzu says that this cunning will never let you be simple and spontaneous. Therefore: "BANISH CUNNING, DISCARD UTILITY."
This matter of utility goes even deeper. Our cunning is based on utility. We seek utility in everything.
If I develop a new bomb, my name will be paraded in the newspapers. I might even get a Nobel Prize. But if I write a beautiful poem, you will never hear about it in the papers. What is the utility of a song? How many people can it kill; how many people can it provide with work, how many people can be fed and clothed with it? What is the utility of a song or a flower? None whatsoever. They are as good as useless.
This point of view is what is materialisms. An atheist is not one who does not believe in God, but one who believes in utility. A theist is one who does not even glance at utility. Utility is not at all significant. Everything that is best, everything that is excellent in life, is non-utilitarian.
When Galileo wrote his book on the world and its order, he did not mention the word "God" anywhere.
He wrote a book of a thousand pages and did not mention God even once! When his friends questioned him he said, "Where was the necessity? In the construction of my happiness, there was no need of God, so I left him out. He was not needed at all. The various forces carried out their respective works. For example. gravity pulled things down; God was not required at all." To Galileo, God was like a poem. Beautiful, but useless.
If we concentrate on utility, what is the utility of love? None. On the contrary, it creates difficulties.
Therefore those who are clever never fall in love. Money has its uses, a house has its uses but what will you do with a song, or with love? Can you sit in it, sleep in it? What will you do?
There is one concept of life in which everything becomes a commodity, a thing to be used. A wife is a commodity, a husband is a commodity, a mother, a father, a son, a daughter are all objects, commodities. If Lao Tzu were to read our scriptures he would be shocked. Our scriptures say; a son must be born to every man, or who will perform the last rites? The son's utility is only this: that he performs the last rites for the father. So if a man has no son, he adopts one. Otherwise who would light his funeral pyre?
This is the limit to which cunningness can go. A son is necessary in order to break a dead father's skull! So why are we vexed when he tries to break a living father's skull? For is this not their work?
Some do it later; some want to do earlier. Some do at the proper time; some wish to do earlier. But this is just a utilitarian function. No one's life has any value in itself; life in itself is not precious. It is made to be useful for someone else.
In Egypt there are mummies of ancient kings. Their wives and their servants were buried along with the king because they were utilitarian objects for him when he was alive. For thousands of years we forced women in India to commit sati on the death of their husbands for this very reason. The wife was useful as long as the husband lived; otherwise she was useless. She was a means of utility, and nothing more. So she was made to die with her husband. We know how to cover even murder with high-sounding words. We called this murder "SATI". But the man who brought this tradition into being never once thought of ending their lives after their wives' death. Man was always, the owner, the master. The woman only had utilitarian value. A man could get a thousand wives. This manner of looking at life is called materialism.
Each thing has a value of its own. This value is not based on utility. To be, in itself, is valuable. For instance, a woman is precious in herself, and not because she is somebody's wife or somebody's mother or somebody's daughter. She is valuable in herself. You are not more valuable according to what you do. Your value is not the sum total of your actions. What you are is enough. Your actions have nothing to do with it.
Religion is that which relieves you from materialism. The concept that deals with life in terms of utility turns life into a marketplace, where everything is bought and sold. Since everything has its utility, everything has its value.
Emerson has said somewhere. "We do not know the value of things. We only know their price." The price shows the utility of things. The flowering of life, the flowering of existence that is the only thing of love the worth, the only thing of value.
If we try to measure Buddha against Einstein, his value will be less. If both are for sale, who will buy Buddha? Anybody would buy Einstein for he would be useful in making bombs. Buddha would only create confusion. No one will buy him. Buddha can only be bought when people understand the meaning of value, and not the price. Then the flowering of Buddha would have value. He is a person in whose life existence has flowered. If we set aside his utilitarian value, Einstein will appear to be an ordinary man, like any other. What Einstein could do was of value. What he is, is of no value. Hence he is a pauper. But when it came to doing, he is a king. Buddha is rich in his being; there is no question of his doing anything. He is established in non-action.
Says Lao Tzu: "Because non-action is the highest state, reduce the value of actions and increase the value of your being." Lay stress on what you are, and not on what you are doing. Do not worry what a person does, concern yourself with what he is. His being in itself is of value, he is not worthwhile for any other reason. If we try to look at Buddha in terms of utilitarian values, where will we place him? Nowhere. And yet one Buddha is worth a thousand Einsteins but let there be one Buddha! Why is it so? It is because Buddha's being is of intrinsic value. He cannot be valued in the marketplace.
There is an interesting story about the Sufi fakir Fariuddin Attar. The town he lived in was raided by Tamerlane and he was caught by his soldiers. As they were tying his hands, a passerby recognised him. Attar was a wonderful man. Sufi fakirs always tried to hide their identity. He had made himself known as a perfume-maker, but those who knew, knew him to be the perfume itself. He was the ultimate essence of life. This man knew him as such.
He told the soldiers that he would give a thousand dinars if they let this man go. The soldiers were tempted: a thousand gold coins for an ordinary man! But Attar intervened. "Wait awhile. Others will give a better price."
The man said, "I shall give 5,000 dinars, 10,000 dinars! Let this man go!" But as the price increased the soldiers were certain that this was no ordinary man. Attar advised them to be patient and wait for a still better price. The soldiers refused to let him go at any price. The passerby left.
Then along came a grass-cutter. "Call that man," Attar told them, "and accept whatever he gives for me." They called him and asked what price he was willing to pay for him. The grass cutter looked at Attar, took out a sheaf of grass and offered it as his price. Attar said, "He knows my worth correctly, Sell me to him." The soldiers were filled with dismay.
Then Attar explained: "The first man knew my worth and yet he talked in terms of price. Therefore, I stopped you. This grass-cutter has no knowledge of value. He looks upon me as a commodity. He looked at me and felt I might be useful to cut grass. This man can think only in terms of utility. That other man knew I was beyond the pale of utility. Therefore I stopped you. It was not right to accept his bid. He was pricing me too low. This man has priced me correctly. I have no utilitarian value. He is not even sure whether I shall be able to cut grass or not. The other man priced me wrong because he knew my worth. Whatever price he offered was too little. In life there is one value and one price."
Lao Tzu says that the value will be discernible only when the cacophony of the marketplace dies down, when prices no longer exist. "DISCARD UTILITY, AND THIEVES AND BRIGANDS SHALL DISAPPEAR." We have turned life into a big marketplace where everything has its price. Each man bears a price tag on his forehead. Each man is for sale. Some for more, some for less. In such a place, what will there be if not thieves and dacoits?
What do we mean by thieves and brigands? They too are people who believe in the utility of things, only they do not have the money to pay. So they try to steal things without paying for them. When everything carries a price and there are people who can pay and people who cannot pay then the latter are bound to obtain things by foul means.
Lao Tzu says: "Let value be, but discard pricing. Then there will be no thefts." Let us try to understand this.
If the values of things remain but no price is fixed on them, what will be the worth of diamonds? In itself, the diamond is just another stone. But it is very expensive. What is so valuable about it? Yet it is always in danger of being stolen; people even kill for it. Why?
The value of a diamond is man-made. If you find yourself in a jungle, hungry and tired, and someone offers you a price of bread, you will willingly exchange it for a diamond. If you are dying of thirst in a desert and someone offers you a glass of water in exchange for a diamond you will not think twice.
That is the value of diamonds. Man has set the price on everything. This makes a worthless thing seem precious and a valuable thing look worthless. Therefore says Lao Tzu: "BANISH CUNNING, DISCARD UTILITY, AND THIEVES AND BRIGANDS SHALL DISAPPEAR."
If life is natural and is based on intrinsic values then what Lao Tzu says is hundred per cent correct.
There shall be no thieves and brigands. They exist because of the materialistic concept we have given to life. When life is reduced to the utilitarian then thefts will take place; but when life is based on its own value, there can be no thefts. Thefts can only take place in bazaars. All our life is lived in the centre of these bazaars. The result of man's efforts for the last 5,000 years have brought all facets of life into the marketplace. Nothing is outside the marketplace, so we know nothing of nature or truth or atman - we cannot know.
Lao Tzu says: "Banish all calculations, discard price. Banish cunning, banish knowledge. Banish all your justice, humanity, morality and doctrines and become natural." When he says: "Know the simple self," he is not speaking of any great universal spirit within you that you should realise. He tells us not to involve ourselves in these things; but to try and discover the tiny ray of consciousness within ourselves. Do not give it big names. When you discover the natural lake of existence within you be absorbed in its music, flow in it. The day you open the door within, you come upon the temple within yourself.
When this tiny secret within you comes into your hand, you will attain the majesty of a king. This can only be attained when you succeed in destroying the web you have created around you. This web is intricate and we keep adding unto it every day. The result is that the music of life within us is completely lost to us, so much so that we do not even know of its existence.