Choose the Flute or Perish
QUESTIONER: SPEAKING IN THE CONTEXT OF KRISHNA AND JESUS, YOU OBSERVED, "THE CIVILIZATION THAT BEGAN WITH THE CROSS HAD TO END UP IN AN ATOMIC WAR, AND THEREFORE THE MODERN CIVILIZATION IS FACED WITH A CHOICE BETWEEN THE CROSS AND THE FLUTE." BUT EH QUESTION IS THAT THE CIVILIZATION THAT BEGAN WITH THE FLUTE ALSO ENDED UP IN A WAR - THE WAR OF MAHABHARAT. PLEASE EXPLAIN THE ANOMALY.
The cross is the symbol of death. It is okay as an emblem of the grave, but it is dangerous to accept it as a symbol of life. But many so-called religious people have treated human life and body as no more than a grave, and it is going to result in a disaster.
A man bearing a crucifix on his breast declares that life is not acceptable to him; he is worshipping death really. For him life is a curse, not a blessing. Christianity - I don't mean Jesus - believes that man is born in sin, that life is the original sin. According to them, what we think of as life is not God's gift, but a form of punishment inflicted on man.
This kind of thinking is essentially masochistic, pessimistic, morbid. Standing near a rosebush a pessimist takes note of every thorn, but he ignores the flowers altogether. Looking at day and night, a pessimist sees two dark nights sandwiching a short day instead of seeing two bright days enclosing a brief dark night. Such a mind gathers together all the hurt and pain of life and completely forgets its delights and pleasures.
In fact, paying too much attention to the miseries of life is the sign of a diseased mind, a neurotic and deranged mind. Of course a philosophy of life that affirms and emphasizes sorrow and suffering is bound to be negative and nihilistic. And this is what the cross represents.
Had he not been crucified, Jesus would have never made such a powerful impact on the world. In all probability the world would have forgotten him. His crucifixion became the foundation of Christianity.
Today nearly a billion people all over the world are within the fold of Christianity. I don't take this to be the triumph of Christ, it is undoubtedly the victory of the cross. Jesus hanging on the cross became a great attraction for our miserable and diseased minds. Our lives are virtually on the cross; we are ridden with anxiety, sorrow and suffering. We are a people who collect only hurt and pain, as some people collect used stamps. We all have our stockpiles of miseries; we don't have any remembrance of having any happy moments in life.
Krishna is absolutely the opposite type of individual, and his flute as a symbol is just the opposite of the cross. There is no sense in putting a flute on a grave; it needs throbbing lips and supple fingers to play it. It needs a singing and dancing heart, a soul brimming with joy and bliss to hold it. And I think it is time man makes a clear choice between the cross of Jesus and the flute of Krishna.
It is not that life is without its hurts and pains; it cannot be. But if a person brings his focus only to the hurt and pain and goes on accumulating them, he will soon cease to meet with any happy moments in life. It is not that there is no happiness in life; it has its fair share of happiness too. And if someone trains his attention on happiness alone and goes on gathering it, he will eventually cease to come across painful moments in life.
Life consists of both pleasure and pain, happiness and misery. And it depends on us what we choose to see and take. My own understanding is that if someone sees rightly and loves rose flowers, then soon the thorns on the rosebush will disappear from his sight. Eyes attuned to the beauty and fragrance of the flower don't take notice of the thorns. Not that the thorns disappear from the bush; they become part and parcel of the grandeur of the roses, and one sees them as something protecting the roses. They are really to protect the flowers, not to hurt anyone.
But if someone sees only thorns he will miss the flowers. He will say, "How can there be any flowers in the midst of so many piercing thorns and thistles?" He cannot even think of flowers where thorns abound. For him thorns become the truth and flowers disappear like dreams. But for a lover of flowers, thorns become illusory and flowers the truth.
It depends on man, what he chooses; he is free to choose. There is a saying of Sartre's which is strange but close to truth. He says, "Man is condemned to be free." It seems freedom is an imposition on us, inflicted on us. It seems we can choose every thing except freedom - because we are free to choose or not to choose it. Never had anyone described freedom as something inflicted on man.
Man is free, and this freedom affirms his being God. But he can choose anything - even not being God. Similarly, he is free to choose pain and misery. Life will be pure suffering for one who makes suffering his choice. We become that which we choose to become. In fact, we see what we want to see; we find what we want to find; we receive what we ask for. So if you seek suffering you are going to have it, without fail.
The irony is that if someone opts for suffering he does not suffer alone, he makes many others suffer with him. And this is where immorality comes into being. Unhappiness is a contagious disease: a single unhappy person can be the cause of the unhappiness of thousands. It is impossible that an unhappy man can make another happy. How can he give happiness to another when he refuses to take it for himself. Remember, we can share with others only that which we have, not what we don't have.
One who has turned his life into a bundle of hurts and wounds is going to be the cause of much suffering in the lives of many people around him. Since suffering has become his life's breath, wherever he goes he will carry the germs of suffering with him. So an unhappy man does not suffer alone, he shares his sorrow with everybody he comes in contact with. Walking or sitting, speaking or silent, active or inactive, he emits and transmits the vibes of unhappiness like nuclear fallout all around him. An unhappy person really adds to the unhappiness of the whole world.
Remember, when you choose unhappiness, you are not choosing it for yourself alone, but for the whole world as such.
As I said, it is man's preference for pain and suffering which the cross symbolizes. And that has led him to the doorstep of war - a war that is going to be a total war. For the first time, mankind is on the brink of committing global suicide. But he has asked for it by opting for misery.
We know very well that sometimes individuals driven up the wall commit suicide in despair. But for the first time a situation for collective suicide has arisen, when the whole of mankind has become so miserable that it is going to commit global hara-kiri.
It seems war has become our way of life, and the mounting number of wars are nothing but our mounting steps to collective death and destruction. And this destruction is the cumulative effect of mankind's choice of suffering. Really, war is of our own choosing, it does not descend out of the blue.
And when we court suffering religiously, when we accept it as something religious, then no thing remains to be chosen irreligiously. When we turn sorrow into a religion, then there is nothing like irreligion on the earth. Sorrow is really enshrined when it is made part of religion.
A whole milieu of unhappiness and misery was created around the cross. I don't say it was created around Jesus, because Jesus is not necessarily connected with the cross; he could very well do without the cross. The fact is, that Christianity was created not by Jesus, but by the people who crucified him.
I always say Christianity was not founded by Jesus; its real founders were those Jewish theologians and priests who crucified him. Christianity comes from the cross, not Christ. Poor Jesus was simply hanged on the cross - so he is secondary. First comes the cross in relation to the religion founded after his name. In fact, it should be called "crossianity," not Christianity. It is the cross that occupies the place of honor in the hearts and minds of people whose life is every day on the cross.
Man as he is, is in suffering; he is perpetually on the cross. It is not much different whether it is the cross of the family or of relationships, of friendships or of enmities, of religions or of nationalities. For man, life is a cross that he has to carry on his shoulders from the cradle to the grave. For him, life is really a curse, a sin, not a blessing. And the cross became increasingly important to him, and he clung to it. In fact, Christianity is a worldwide conglomeration of all such pessimistic and miserable people.
It is relevant to note that the last two world wars were mostly fought by Christian countries. A few non-Christian countries that were involved in these wars were dragged into them by their imperialist masters, who were all Christians.
Japan was the only non-Christian country that willingly joined the war as an aggressor. But Japan has ceased to be an eastern country except geographically; it is now virtually a part of the western world. And Japan has a long tradition of suicide which in Japanese is called hara-kiri. A Japanese kills himself on very small excuses; his wife has died, or he has committed an act of misdemeanor and he thinks he is finished with life. Then there is no way for him but to end his life - as if there is no hope of his redemption.
According to this thinking, a tree should commit hara-kiri when its flowers wither - who knows if new flowers will open the next morning? The Japanese don't have even this much hope and patience in their hearts. So the last two world wars were fought by peoples who have been traditionally associated with the cross and the custom of hara-kiri.
If the Third World War happens, it will spell the destruction of mankind; it will be a case of collective crucifixion of the human race. So what began with the crucifixion of a single individual is going to end in the collective crucifixion - the crucifixion of the entire race of homo sapiens. I don't say that Jesus is responsible for it; the responsibility belongs to those who hanged him on the cross.
I also don't say that people rallied round the cross because they were influenced by Jesus; the contrary is the truth. They came to Jesus because they were influenced by the cross. But it is undeniably true that a civilization based on crossianism, on sado-masochism, was destined to lead mankind to self-destruction. Actually there is no sense in accepting the cross and worshipping it.
Even if life bears a cross, it is in our hands to replace the cross with a flower.
In my view, Krishna's flute is exactly the opposite of the cross. And it is important to know that while it is others who hang Jesus on the cross, they really impose it on him; Krishna chooses the flute for himself. It is necessary to bear in mind that while the flute is intrinsic to Krishna and his life - it symbolizes him - the cross is extrinsic to Christ; it does not represent him. It is others, the Jewish priests and the Roman governor, who force the cross on Christ.
Krishna plays the flute for the love of it. Nobody has forced it on him; he has chosen it for himself.
I see Krishna's flute symbolizing life's benediction and man's gratefulness to life for this blessing.
Krishna has made his choice for happiness, for bliss. In fact, when life is so good and great, Krishna cannot but choose to be happy, and he says it with the flute.
And just as an unhappy person does not suffer alone, he makes many others unhappy, similarly a happy person becomes the source of happiness for countless numbers of people. So when Krishna plays his flute, its melody, its bliss, does not remain con fined to him, it gladdens all those whose hearts come to hear it. And it is as it should be.
If you happen to pass by a cross with Jesus hanging on it, you will immediately be depressed and sad. On the other hand, seeing Krishna dancing in ecstasy on the banks of the river Yamuna will fill your heart with delight and joy. Pleasure and pain, happiness and unhappiness are contagious; they are communicable from one to another; they spread and escalate like wildfire.
So the one who decides to be unhappy is condemning the whole world to be unhappy; he might as well say he has decided to punish the whole earth by choosing to be unhappy. And the person who decides to be happy is going to bless the whole to be happy, he is going to add to the song and music of life all over this planet. Therefore a happy person is a religious person; and an unhappy person is utterly irreligious.
I call the man religious who brings happiness to himself and to others. For me, nothing except happiness, blissfulness, is a religious quality. In this sense Krishna is truly a religious person, whose whole being exudes nothing but happiness and bliss. And such a person can bless the whole of mankind, he is a living blessing to the world.
But you ask why did the war of the Mahabharat happen in a civilization that had accepted the flute as its symbol? I say, this happened in spite of Krishna's flute. Krishna is not the cause of the Mahabharat. There is no relationship whatsoever between the flute and war. But there exists a logical relationship between the cross and war.
The Mahabharat took place in spite of Krishna and his flute. It simply means we are so attached to sorrow, so steeped in misery that even Krishna's flute fails to bring a ray of hope and joy to our hearts. The flute continued to play, and we plunged into the vortex of war. The flute could not change our sado-masochistic minds; Krishna's flute could not become our flute too.
It is interesting to know how difficult it is for someone to share in another's happiness. It is so easy to share in another's sorrow. You can easily cry with someone crying, but it is so hard to laugh with some one laughing. You can easily sympathize with one whose house has been burned down, but it is arduous to participate in the joys of one who has built himself a beautiful new house. And it is not without some fundamental reasons.
It is easy to come close to Jesus' cross, because it strikes a note of empathy in our hearts, which are already filled with pain and misery. On the other hand Krishna's flute will fill our hearts with envy and we will escape from him. Krishna's bliss will bring up envy in us; it will not find an empathic response from our hearts.
Conversely, the cross will not make us jealous; it will certainly bring up our empathy. The happiness of another creates jealousy, and jealousy turns into misery. So to participate in another's happiness is really arduous.
It needs extraordinary intelligence to participate in another's happiness. To share in the joys of another, to make them one's own is a rare quality; it is of the highest. But to share in another's sorrow is not that difficult. It is so because we are ourselves burdened with sorrow and suffering; we are already in misery. So we have no difficulty in identifying ourselves with the suffering of others.
But if someone is happy we fail to connect with him for the simple reason that we don't know what happiness is, we are only unhappy in ourselves.
I repeat, the Mahabharat happens in spite of the flute. It is interesting to note that after the advent of the cross it takes two thousand years for war to grow to its present dimensions of a massive war enveloping the whole earth, but the Mahabharat takes place even when Krishna is playing his flute.
The truth is that the flute and its message is not rightly understood and appreciated. It fails to make an impression on the sado-masochistic minds of the people.
Another thing worth considering in this context is that Krishna participates personally in the war. You cannot think of Jesus joining a war of any kind. If someone suggests to him to do so, he will say, "Have you gone mad? Don't you know what I teach?" Jesus has said, "The prophets of the past have said that if someone gouges out your one eye you should take out his both, but I tell you if someone slaps you on the tight cheek, turn to him the other one too. And I tell you if someone takes your shirt, let him have your coat as well. And if someone asks you to carry his bag one mile, go with him two miles - maybe out of shyness he does not ask for more than a mile." Now this person cannot be goaded into fighting a war.
It looks somewhat paradoxical and complex that while Jesus refuses even to resist evil, Krishna feels no compunction in leading a destructive war like the Mahabharat. But the reason is obvious.
For Jesus, life is so miserable and meaningless that it is not worth fighting for. For Krishna, on the other hand, life is so blissful that even a war can be risked for it.
I would like to go into this matter rather deeply, because it is significant for us and our times.
For Jesus, life as it is is so utterly miserable and meaningless that a slap or two on the cheek will not add to its pile of miseries. It can be said that his cup of suffering is so full that any more suffering will not make a difference. So he turns his other cheek to you so you don't have to take the trouble of turning it yourself. He is already so miserable that you cannot make him any more miserable.
For this reason, Jesus cannot be persuaded to take part in war. He alone can agree to fight who declares that life is a blessing and not a curse, that life is bliss and not suffering. He will stake everything to defend the joy and bliss of life. He will do anything for the sake of life.
Not only Jesus, even Mahavira and Buddha will not say yes to war. Only Krishna is capable of doing it. If there is any other person in the world of spiritualism and religion who can come near Krishna in this respect, it is Mohammed. At some level, at some depth Mohammed is closer to Krishna than others, although he cannot be fully with Krishna.
Whosoever feels that there is something precious and worthwhile in life which needs to be preserved, to be fought for - he will join hands with Krishna. For those who think otherwise, who see nothing in life worth preserving, the question simply does not arise.
But remember, Krishna is not a warmonger. He is not a hawk, as some pacifists would like to call him. He is a supporter of life, he stands by life, and he will fight for it if need be. If the great values of life - without which life would cease to be life - are in peril, Krishna will not hesitate to defend them with missiles. Not that he relishes violence or war, but if it becomes unavoidable he will not shirk the responsibility.
That is why, from the beginning, he does everything to avoid the Mahabharat. He leaves no stone unturned to avert war and save life and peace. But when all his efforts for peace fail, he realizes that the recalcitrant forces of death and destruction - forces that are against righteousness and religion - are not amenable to an honorable peace. He readies himself to fight on behalf of life and religion.
As I see it, life and religion are not two different things for Krishna. And therefore he can fight as naturally as he can dance. It is remarkable that a man like Krishna, even when he goes to the battlefield, is happy and joyful; he never loses his bliss. And men like Jesus are sad even as they keep a distance from the battlefield. Krishna can be blissful even on the battlefield, because war comes to him as part of life; it cannot be segregated from life.
As I said earlier, Krishna does not divide life into black and white, good and evil, as the moralists and monks do. He does not subscribe to the view that war is purely evil. He says that nothing is good or evil under all circumstances. There are occasions when poison can work like nectar and nectar can work like poison. There are moments when blessings turn into curses and curses into blessings.
Nothing is certain for all time and space, under all circumstances. The same thing can be good in one time and bad in another; it is really determined by the moment at hand. Nothing can be predetermined and prejudged. If someone does so. he is in for troubles in life, because life is a flux where everything changes from moment to moment. So Krishna lives in the moment; nothing is predetermined for him.
For long, Krishna does his best to avert war, but when he finds that it is inescapable he accepts it without hesitation. He does not want that one should go to war with a heavy heart, he does not believe in doing anything reluctantly in fact. If war becomes inescapable he will go to it with all his heart and mind.
With all his heart he tries to avert it, and when he fails, he goes to war whole-heartedly. In the beginning of war, as you know, he has no mind to take any active part in it. He tells Arjuna that he will not use his particular weapon - sudarshan - on the battlefield, he will only work as Arjuna's charioteer. But then a moment comes when he takes the sudarshan in his hand and becomes an active participant in the war.
As I said, Krishna lives in the moment; he lives moment to moment. In fact, every blissful person lives in the moment; that is, he lives in a timeless space.
But those who choose unhappiness and are pessimistic and miserable cannot afford to live in the moment; they live in time, they have a time-continuum. They have a long span of time - not chronological but psychological - which extends both to the past and the future. And it is this time- continuum that makes for their abiding misery and anguish. They carry with them the heavy load of all the miseries of the dead past - which is no more, and all the imagi-nable miseries of the endless future - which is yet to come. So of course they feel crushed under the dead weight of their psychological pain and agony.
On the other hand, a man of bliss does not accept the existence of any other time except the present, the living moment. He has no past and no future; for him the whole of existence is squeezed into the moment, in the now. For him the moment is eternity itself, and he journeys from one moment through another. He dies totally to the past - which is not. And he does not take into account the future - which is yet to come. For him both past and future are non-existential. Such a person is fully responsible to this moment. To be open to the living moment is his way of life, his joy, his bliss.
A masochist, a seeker of pain and misery, is utterly blind to the present, to the moment. He is closed in himself, like a cocoon; he is not responsive to that which is. If you take him to a rosebush and say to him, "Hey, man! Look at these blossoms, how enchanting they are!" he will say, "What worth is this beauty which is going to wither away by the evening?" Speak to him about the splendor of youth and his reaction will be, "It is nothing; soon it will pass into old age and to the grave." About happiness he will say, "It is nothing more than a mirage, an illusion; the more you chase it, the more distant it becomes. I am not going to be deceived by it." His mind is always set on time, the future; he never lives in the moment.
A hedonist, on the other hand, lives totally in the moment. He is finished with his past, and so he does not think of the future either, which is psychologically nothing but a projection of the past.
Coming to a garden in bloom, the blissful person will be totally with the riot of colors, he will dance and sing with the dancing flowers. And he will tell the pessimist, "Why should I worry about the evening which is not yet here, when even these flowers which are going to wither away are not the least concerned about it? Look at them, how festive they are!"
And the wonder of wonders is that when the evening comes, the man of bliss celebrates the withering of the flowers with the same enthusiasm with which he had celebrated their blossoming in the morning. Who says that only blooming flowers are enchanting? The withering ones are as beautiful to look at! They are as beautiful as they were in the morning, but our sorrow-filled eyes fail to perceive that beauty.
Who says only sunrise is beautiful? Sunset is not a whit less beautiful. Who says only children are beautiful and not the old people? Old age has its own beauty, its own grace. When a person like Ravindranath or Walt Whitman, really grows into old age, his beauty is immeasurable.
Looking at Walt Whitman in his old age, one feels to have come across a beauty that cannot be surpassed. In fact, if childhood has a beauty of its own, youth and old age each have some distinctive beauty which is no less fascinating. When one's hair becomes snow-white, when one is about to complete his life's journey, when one is loose and relaxed, he radiates a beauty and grace that you find in the sunset. But a pessimist cannot know it.
I repeat: a Krishna lives in the moment. The journey of bliss is the journey of the moment. It is really wrong to call it a journey, because you cannot travel in the moment; you can only drown in it. You can travel in time, but in the moment you can only sink deeper and deeper.
The way of the moment is vertical, it is not horizontal. The moment has only depth, and no length at all; whereas time has only length, and no depth at all. Therefore one who sinks into the moment transcends time, he goes beyond time. One who reaches the timeless, achieves the eternal. So Krishna is in the moment and eternity together. The moment is eternity itself.
But one who lives in time can never know the eternal, because time is a series, a continuity; it stretches from the dead past to an unborn and unknown future. Time is tension, time is anxiety and misery. One who lives in time does not live really, because all the time he is either brooding over his past, which is gone forever, or he is worrying about a future which is yet to be born. When it is morning he is thinking of the evening; when he is alive he is worrying about death. The moment he meets a loved one, he begins to grieve over the separation that is going to happen in some future.
Krishna is accused of breaking promises he makes from time to time. A moment comes in the battle of Mahabharat when he takes up arms, his sudarshan chakra, although he had given his word that he would not take an active part in the fighting, he would only act as Arjuna's charioteer.
In answer to the charge, Krishna would say, "The one who made the promise is no more, nor is the moment which had brought forth the promise." He will ask, "Where is the Ganges that was there at the time my promise was being made? Where are the flowers that had bloomed at that moment?
Where are those clouds that had glided through the sky when I had given the assurance in question?
Everything has changed, everything has moved away since then. How can you bind me with that moment which too is gone? I am now existing in the moment that is before me, and I am responding to it totally."
Krishna does not apologize for the so-called breach of promise, nor does he regret it. He never repents; he never recants. He is true to the moment.
What do I mean when I say he is true to the moment? He is so utterly true to the existing moment that even if it confronts him with an unthought-of eventuality he goes into it without flinching and as totally as ever.
Of course, he will seem, at times, to be some what unfaithful to us, to the conventional society, because he does not keep his promises. That is the difficulty with a person like Krishna who is true to existence. Such a person cannot be as true to the society he lives in - because while the society lives in time, he lives in the timeless, in eternity. The society has a past and a future to care for, while Krishna has none. He is free, absolutely free, A young man came to Rinzai, a celebrated Zen sage who lived in the mountains. The young man said to Rinzai, "I am in search of truth, and it is this search that has brought me to you from a long distance."
Rinzai said to him, "Leave aside this matte of truth for the present. I want to know something else from you since you are coming from Peking. Can you say what is the price of rice in Peking?"
The youth was flabbergasted to hear such a question from a great Master like Rinzai, who supposedly had nothing to do with such mundane matters as the price of rice in Peking. He had made a long and arduous journey in search of the highest. He had never imagined that a great sage like Rinzai would talk about such a petty thing in place of truth.
So the young man said to Rinzai, "Excuse me, sir, for my impertinence. But I say it so you don't ask any more questions like the one before me. I don't carry any past with me, I leave behind me the paths that I travel, burn the bridges that I cross, pull down the stairs that I climb. I die to the past totally, even to the minutes just gone by."
"Then sit down." said Rinzai patting the youth's back. "Now we will talk about truth. I brought up the question of the price of rice only to know if you yet carry your past with you. Had you remembered the price of rice in Peking when you left it, I would have flatly refused to talk about truth. One who clings to his past cannot come to truth, because truth is always now and here, it is in the moment.
Truth has nothing to do with the past nor with the future. Truth is really timeless, and one who lives in the past can never be in the present. Truth and time don't walk together."
The Mahabharat happens in spite of Krishna. And yet Krishna becomes a participant in the war, because a partisan of bliss can become a partisan of war too. And Krishna believes that war is as much part of life as peace is. One cannot be without the other. And war will be with us as long as life exists on this earth. Maybe, the character of war will change, its structure and shape will vary, its plane, strategy, and style will be different, but war will continue.
It is impossible that war will ever disappear from the earth. It can only disappear from the earth if man himself disappears from here. Or it can disappear if man becomes perfect. Unless the human race as a whole reaches its perfection, or becomes extinct as a species, there is no way to abolish war. Man as he is cannot do without war. War has always been with us; it is with us now, and it is going to be with us in the future. Then what is the problem in regard to war.
Krishna's answer to this question is, war should be righteous, it should be waged for the highest values of life like freedom and truth.
In the same way, peace needs to be righteous. Remember, some kinds of peace can be unrighteous, irreligious, and war can be made to uphold religion and truth.
The pacifist thinks that peace is always righteous, and the warmonger thinks that war is right in every case. Krishna is neither a partisan of peace nor of war; he really has no "isms." He is not bound to any ideology, he is liquid like water. He is never stagnant, he is always moving with life. He is not solid and immobile like a rock; he is fluid like air. So he says, "Peace can be evil too."
For example, a pacifist who is religiously committed to peace is passing a street where someone is being robbed. He can say that he has nothing to do with others' feuds and strifes, and he refuses to interfere in the matter, going peacefully on his way. This peace is irreligious, because it is indirectly helping someone rob another person who may be innocent and helpless. It is not necessary that peace is right in every case. Men like Bertrand Russell think that peace is always right, it is inviolable.
But he is only being dogmatic about peace.
Sometimes cowardice and impotence can take shelter behind the facade of peace. Krishna tells Arjuna again and again, "Give up faint-heartedness, O Arjuna. I had never thought that you could be as unmanly and impotent as your words reveal you to be. When war faces you, war that forces of unrighteousness have unleashed, it does not become you to talk like a coward. Where is your manliness, your skill?"
Peace is not necessarily righteous, nor is war unrighteous. It depends on the conditions that bring the forces of peace and war into play. But then you can say that warmongers are right in claiming that war is righteous. They can claim so, and nobody can prevent them. Life is very complex. But they will find it increasingly difficult to make such a claim if understanding grows among the people of what religion is.
Let me explain to you what religion and irreligion are according to Krishna. That which helps life grow, flower and dance ecstatically is religion. And that which impedes life's growth, which distorts and stifles life's flowering, which smothers life's joy and festivity is irreligion. Irreligion is what blocks and suffocates life; religion is what helps it to come to its fulfillment.
QUESTIONER: WHO HAS EVER UNDERSTOOD AND IMBIBED KRISHNA RIGHTLY? WHAT SHOULD ONE DO TO IMBIBE HIM? CAN YOU GIVE AN OUTLINE OF HUMAN CIVILIZATION AND CULTURE PATTERNED ON. KRISHNA'S LIFE AND TEACHINGS?
How can one imbibe another? How can one take after Krishna or anyone else? And why? Is it incumbent on me to imbibe another, become like another? I can only imbibe and be myself, not Krishna.
Krishna does not pattern himself after another. He imbibes himself and remains himself. Why should another try to pattern himself after Krishna, to be like him? It is enough that I imbibe myself and am totally myself. No, to imbibe another, to be like another, is the worst kind of corruption, and it is the greatest injustice that someone can do to himself.
The whole idea of imitation is mistaken and wrong. I have my own soul which should come to its full flowering. What will happen to it, to my own soul if I imbibe another and copy him? It is true, I can impose another's personality on myself, which can overpower me, but what will happen to me, to my own being? I owe a responsibility to myself, and if I become like someone else I will be betraying myself.
No, it is enough if one understands Krishna. Trying to be like him is utterly uncalled for.
Understanding is enough. And one should understand him, not with a view to imbibe and imitate him, to be his carbon-copy, but to understand himself and be himself.
You certainly have to know how a person like Krishna is fulfilled and also know the laws of this fulfillment. You certainly have to understand how Krishna attains to his naturalness and spontaneity, so that you can come to your own naturalness and spontaneity. Krishna's life can give you a cue, a clue to know yourself and come to yourself. If Krishna can flower, why not you? If Krishna's self- nature can blossom, why should you go on withering and wasting as you do? If Krishna can laugh and sing and dance, why should you continue to shed tears and be miserable?
It is not that you will dance the way Krishna dances. Your dance will be different, it will be your own; you will uncover your own innate dance. You don't have to copy Krishna's dance, you have only to know the law that helped him to find his dance and be fulfilled. Krishna's life can help you in self discovery, which is of the highest. Self discovery, and not assimilation or imitation, is what you have to seek. And Krishna's life can be of tremendous help in this adventure.
So the first thing to know is that no one can be your ideal, not even Krishna. And you need not follow and imitate another, Krishna included.
It is true that any number of people have wasted their lives following and imitating others. In reality, no one can wholly succeed in becoming like another; it is impossible. You can impose another's personality on yourself, wear his mask and look like him, but you cannot make your very soul into him. Do what you can, you cannot succeed; at best you can enact him, but it will not be more than acting. Being cannot be borrowed; it is always one's own. In spite of all efforts, you will remain what you innately are.
Imitation is dangerous in many ways. To imitate someone you have to suppress yourself, suppress your individuality, your self-nature. And this suppression can be so deep that you will lose all con tact with yourself - which is the worst thing that can happen to any individual. Although you will yet survive at your innermost core as yourself, you will now be far removed from yourself. That is the problem.
Millions of people down the ages have tried to imitate Krishna, Buddha, Christ and others, but none has succeeded so far. Success is impossible. Five thousand years have passed since Krishna happened, but there has not been a second Krishna in all history. Twenty-five hundred years have passed after Buddha, and there has not yet been another Buddha. Nor has there been another Zarathustra, Jesus, or Mohammed.
Whosoever tries to imitate others is destined to court failure. It is really worse than failure, it is disaster, it is suicide. Even as suicide it is the worst kind. In ordinary suicide, as we know, only one's physical form is destroyed. In this suicide the very soul is sought to be destroyed. So all followers, all disciples, all imitators are suicidal.
Many people try to imitate Krishna, and in the process they not only injure themselves but they also injure Krishna. If you copy Krishna, you will, with all your efforts, make yourself a caricature of him.
And this thing will not only distort you, but it will also distort Krishna's image. You will imitate him in your own way, and to that extent you will distort him, you will adulterate him.
So you are not only insulting and abusing yourself, but you are also insulting and abusing Krishna.
So this imitation is really outrageous. All theologians, all priests - whether they follow Krishna or Christ - are guilty of this crime. And they all tell the same story - the story of man's failure to be himself, the story of man's attempts at suicide.
But we cannot say the same thing about Meera and Chaitanya. They are a class by themselves, and they are certainly no imitators. Through understanding Krishna's ways of expressing himself, his self nature, Meera and Chaitanya express themselves as they are; they reveal their own distinctive self natures. They don't impose Krishna on themselves, nor do they ape his lifestyle, his demeanor, his songs and dances. They sing their own songs; they dance their own dances.
So Meera remains Meera and Chaitanya re mains Chaitanya. Of course they carry with them their love of Krishna, and as this love grows Chaitanya and Meera disappear as egos. As this love grows even Krishna disappears and only love remains. If you ask Chaitanya if he is Chaitanya or Krishna in that moment, he will say, "I really don't know who I am; I even don't know if I am." In this moment even the "I" disappears, and only an "am-ness" remains. This is pure existence. And this achievement of Chaitanya is the flowering and fruition of his own self-nature. There is nothing of imitation about it, We are all prone to imitate others. And there is a good reason for it. Imitation is like ready-made garments: buy and wear garments. You don't have to do a thing, not even to wait for them. It suits our easygoing minds which want everything gratuitously.
To explore ant find one's own innate being is arduous, to imitate Krishna is easy enough. It takes time to be oneself, but imitation comes in handy, Self nature, self-fulfillment, has to be earned, borrow ing is effortless, convenient.
But this pursuit of convenience is disastrous; it really lands one into the very vortex of sorrow and misery. So never commit the mistake of imitating others; it is utterly disastrous. It is calamitous.
I call him a religious person who goes on a voyage of self-discovery, who really discovers himself.
In this adventure of self-discovery, understanding Krishna or Mahavira, Buddha or Jesus, can be helpful. Because in understanding others we lay the foundation of self-knowledge which is central to spiritualism. Instead of knowing oneself directly, it is easier to know through knowing others, because others provide you with a distance, a perspective to know.
Because there is a lack of distance between the knower and the known, direct self-knowledge is really arduous. So in understanding oneself, the other is helpful. But when you go to understand another - Krishna, Buddha or Mahavira - remember, he is only a means to self understanding and self discovery. He is not your goal.
You might have observed on many occasions that when somebody comes to consult you about a complex problem of his own, you advise him so competently. But when it comes to your own problem, even a simple problem, you begin to shake in your shoes.
What is the matter? You are considered to be a very wise man by many who rush to you in their hours of difficulty for your sage advice, and you have the reputation of solving many of their problems. But when you are yourself in a mess you rush to others - perhaps to those very people you have helped - for their advice. The reason is that you are so close to your problem, you are so involved in it, that you can't have the perspective to correctly figure it out.
It is comparatively easy to understand others and if we see others as a medium for self- understanding then the lives of men like Krishna and Buddha are of immense value. Then as we grow in self-understanding, Krishna and Christ, Mahavira and Buddha will drop by the wayside and we will be left with ourselves in our utter purity.
This purity of the self, this virginity, this un spoiled innocence is what matters. And attainment of this innocence, purity, is freedom. This ultimate purity or aloneness is called nirvana or ultimate liberation. This primeval innocence is called Krishna consciousness or God or what you will.
One who reaches this supreme state of being with the help of Krishna will say that he has attained to Krishna. This is a way of repaying an old debt that he owes to Krishna, this is a way of expressing one's gratitude to him. One who attains to this ultimate state with the help of Buddha, will say that he has attained Buddhahood. He is only expressing his gratitude to one whose life and teachings helped him in his arduous journey of self-discovery.
Ultimately, every seeker - whether he walks with Krishna or Christ - discovers himself. He cannot discover the other, because the other is not. The day I find myself, when I know who I am, the other, the "thou" ceases to be. But I will need some name to describe my experience, and certainly I will use one which helped me in coming to myself, in coming home.
One last thing, and then we will sit for meditation.
QUESTIONER: A PART OF THE QUESTION YET REMAINS TO BE ANSWERED. PLEASE GIVE US AN OUTLINE OF HUMAN CIVILIZATION AND CULTURE PATTERNED ON KRISHNA'S LIFE AND TEACHING.
It will need a lengthy answer. All these days, however, I have been doing the same thing - drawing an outline of human civilization reflecting Krishna's vision. Yet I would like to say a few things in this regard.
Human civilization, according to Krishna's vision, will be life-affirmative and natural in the first place. This is my vision too, that affirmation of life and nature should be the cornerstone of human civilization if it wants to be healthy and holistic. Such a civilization will be dedicated to the moment, to bliss and to celebration.
This civilization will refuse to be life negative, renunciatory, masochistic and time-oriented. It will reject all fragmentation of life. Life will be accepted as a blessing, and there will be no division whatsoever, between life and God.
This civilization will declare that life is God, and there is no other God in opposition to life or separate from life. That life itself is God will be the overall truth of man. This man will declare there is no creator other than creation; creativity itself is God.
This summing up will be clear to you if you take it in the context of the whole discussion we have had here for these ten days. During these days I said many things, some of which might have pleased you and some others which might have displeased you. But remember, both pleasant and unpleasant feelings come in the way of right understanding. Without trying to understand, we gullibly accept that which is pleasant and reject off-hand all that is unpleasant. I don't want you either to accept or to reject; all I want is that you should understand simply, effortlessly, and naturally.
I don't want that you should collect my words and take them home. That will not be worthwhile. What is worthwhile then? If in the course of listening to my words, some understanding, some wisdom has dawned on you - and it that understanding, that wisdom is really worthwhile, then it will go with you naturally, effortlessly.
It is like you visit a garden full of flowers and fragrance, and when you leave it, the garden is left behind but some of its fragrance goes with you - clinging in your nostrils, in your hair, in your clothes.
So leave the flowers of words behind and take their essence, if you have gathered it, with you.
My words are as useless as all words are, but if in your encounter with them something has clicked in your being it is certainly of great significance.
My words, or any words for that matter, can have significance if you listen to them with an open mind, an unprejudiced and empty mind, without judging them, without identifying with them or condemning them. They can give rise to some understanding of wisdom in you if you listen without saying, "This is right and that is wrong. That is what I believe too, and that is what is against my belief."
If you think that I am for Krishna and against Mahavira or whoever is your favorite, you will only earn unhappiness, and not understanding. But I will not be responsible for your sorrow; nor will Krishna or Mahavira. The responsibility will be entirely yours. Even if you happily think that I am in support of Krishna, who is your favored avatara or incarnation of God, you have missed me, you will remain as ignorant as you were when you came here.
I have nothing to do with Krishna: I am neither for him nor against him. I have unfolded his life and teachings exactly as I see them, and I am not concerned with what you think about it.
And remember, I live in the moment, I live moment to moment; I am not at all predictable or dependable. From what I say today one should not and cannot infer what I am going to say tomorrow.
What I say today is exactly how I see it today. And what I will say tomorrow will be exactly how I see it tomorrow. And what you understand while listening to me today or any day is not important. But if this listening adds to your understanding, your intelligence, it has done its work. Understanding is important, all-important.
I hope these ten days have helped you grow in understanding, in clarity, and in some degree opened you to the sun of life and truth. I don't say by what name - Krishna or Buddha or Christ - you should call him when that sun of understanding comes to you.
I say this much: that if your mind is uncluttered and empty, if your heart is vulnerable and your perception is clear, there is no doubt whatsoever that the sun will rise and you will see light, you will be illumined. What you will call it will depend on you. The sun will not come saying, "I am so and so"; he is really without a name.
But remember, he alone has an open heart mind who lives with understanding, who lives in understanding, who lives without ideas and ideals, concepts and beliefs, creeds, doctrines and dogmas. He alone is vulnerable to life and truth who is not a partisan of some belief-system like Hinduism Catholicism or communism.
In fact, ideas and concepts, doctrines and dogmas are meant for those who have no intelligence and understanding of their own. They go to the market of ready-made ideologies and philosophies and buy them from theologians, priests and philosophers by mortgaging their own minds. Understanding is like a river - fluid and alive and flowing. All philosophies and theologies, all doctrines and dogmas are like stagnating pools of water, dead and stinking.
So if you have listened to me through the screen of your thoughts and beliefs - it makes no difference whether you are their partisans or enemies - you have not listened to me at all. Then you will never understand that which I have said.
The last thing that I have to say is this: I have nothing to do with Krishna; I have no relationship with him. I am not for him or against him; neither have I intention of converting you into his partisans or enemies. I have used Krishna exactly as a painter uses a canvas. The painter has nothing more to do with the canvas than to express himself through some colors daubed on it. I too had a few colors to spread on Krishna's canvas, and I am finished with it. Even Mahavira's or Buddha's canvas would have served my purpose.
And it is not necessary for me that I should use the same kind of colors on every canvas; nor am I committed to create the same kind of portraits on every canvas. I am free to express myself the way I am, and in the way I choose to express. If I am a real painter, I will create a different kind of painting, even a contradictory painting, each time I take paint and brush in my hands. He is only an imitator who repeats the same work again and again.
It is not necessary that you should cling rigidly to my statements. It is enough that you understand them and move ahead of them, You should leave the statements and live with their understanding, their essence.
If you do so you will not ever be in danger of clinging to my words. It will do me no harm if you cling to them, but it will certainly harm you immensely, because when one clings to some person or idea or thing, he immediately loses himself. And when one is free of all clingings and attachments, when one is utterly empty, he is immediately filled with himself, with the eternal, or God, or call it what you will.
It is with this hope that I talked to you these few days sitting in the lap of the Himalayas. I am grateful to you for having listened to me with such love, patience and peace, and I bow to God sitting inside each one of you.