From Personality to Individuality 05

Fifth Discourse from the series of 30 discourses - From Personality to Individuality by Osho.
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Our commune is not like any of the traditional ashrams or monasteries. Would you talk to us more about the function of your commune?
It is necessary first to understand the traditional structure of an ashram, and also of a monastery. It will give you the background to understand the meaning of my commune.
The ashram is an Eastern concept based on renouncing society, its comforts, conveniences. An ashram is a group of people living together in austerity, self-imposed poverty, starvation in the name of fasting; torturing the body in order to have control over the physical by the spiritual; doing all kinds of exercises so that they become able to concentrate on the idea of God if they are Hindus, or on the idea of the ultimate growth of human consciousness if they are Buddhists and Jainas.
But the goal is far away for all the three – you can call it God, you can call it the Buddha, you can call it the Jina. They are different words signifying nothing, but pointing toward a further shore, so far away that you cannot even conceive it. It remains just a vague idea, a cloudy idea in your mind. For this cloudy idea you have to sacrifice everything that is real, tangible, touchable, which you can see, which you can feel, which you can live. All that is alive has to be sacrificed for something which is nothing but a utopia.
Do you know the exact literal meaning of the word utopia? Its literal meaning is that which never happens; the hoped for which never happens. It can keep you engaged for centuries, and it has kept millions of people engaged for centuries. They are still engaged in the same effort: losing this for something for which they have no evidence, no proof, not even an argument.
The word ashram is very beautiful, but is used in a very wrong context. Ashram means a place to relax. Yes, in the very beginning, five thousand years ago, in the times of the Vedas, an ashram was actually a place of relaxation; it was not ascetic. You will be surprised to know this, because for five thousand years asceticism has prevailed so strongly that people have completely forgotten how it used to be in the beginning. It was just the opposite of what it is today.
The rishis, the munis – these two words you have to understand. Rishi means “poet of consciousness.” It is only in the East that we have two words for poet: kavi and rishi. Kavi means the poet, but in English there is no equivalent for rishi. The rishi is the awakened poet. He still sings, but those songs are not composed by him; they filter through him, they come from existence. Just as flowers blossom, poems blossom. The poet is a composer: he plays with the words, with their rhythm, with their sound, and he is capable of creating meaningful, rhythmic songs.
It is good not to meet a poet. Take it as a basic policy never to meet a poet because that will be a disappointment. His poetry is so beautiful but the poet so extra-ordinary. I don’t mean extraordinary as one word. I am using the word extra to emphasize the word ordinary: extra ordinary. I don’t know who gave this word extraordinary, because it simply means the last, the very last – not simply ordinary, but extra ordinary. The people who used this word first must have been thinking of extraordinary in the sense of being above the ordinary; but extraordinary can mean both. One thing is certain, the poet is not ordinary: he can be above the ordinary, he can be below the ordinary.
There are many words which have this same ambivalence. For example, psychologists use the word abnormal. Now, abnormal can mean insane, crackpot, nuts and bolts – anything. But abnormal can also mean one who is above normal: a Buddha, a Jesus, a Moses, a Zarathustra. Both are abnormal in the sense that both are not normal, but there are two sides of not being normal. In the same way, the word extraordinary has always been used for those who are above the ordinary. I have tried to find out why it has not been used for those idiots who are below the ordinary. They are also extraordinary. Why this unfairness?
The original ashram, the very word ashram, means time to relax, a place to relax. Shram means labor, work. The word ashram means you have done what was to be done, now it is time to be in a state of nondoing. You have been active your whole life. When are you going to know the strange and extraordinary world of inaction? – so totally silent that nothing moves there. It was a beautiful word and the people who invented it were really doing just that. But it is a five-thousand-year-old story which these five thousand years have been destroying continuously.
You will be shocked to hear that the rishi can be translated as the seer. The ordinary poet is blind, he is groping in darkness; the rishi is one who has eyes. The blind man can also sing songs of beautiful sunrises, sunsets, flowers, colors, rainbows – yes, the blind man can sing…
In fact blind people are good singers for the simple reason that eighty percent of our body’s energy is used by our eyes, and when a man is blind, that eighty percent of his energy starts being distributed to the ears, to the nose, to the mouth – into the other four senses which ordinarily have to share only twenty percent of the energy. With the eyes non-existent, the senses enjoy one hundred percent of the energy among themselves. Hence the blind man has a very subtle way of hearing. You cannot hear what he hears. He remembers through hearing.
I was traveling in a train in the middle of the night and I entered the compartment which was reserved for me. It was a small, two-couch compartment. One, the upper one, was already occupied; the lower was reserved for me. As I sat on the lower bunk, gave the money to the porter and gave instructions to the servant about when I would like to have tea in the morning, and when I would like to have my breakfast, I had no idea who was on the upper berth. But the man said, “Is that not you there, Osho?”
I looked up; I could not recognize the man. I said, “Yes, but who are you?”
He said, “Have you forgotten me? I am Sharanananda.” He was a very famous Hindu sage; but he was blind. I had met him twelve years earlier. In those twelve years I must have met millions of people; it was impossible to remember him. How could he manage to remember me when he was blind, birthblind?
I said, “Sharnananda, you are doing a miracle! You can’t see me, yet you recognize me. And I can see you but I could not recognize you.”
He said, “It is because of your eyes. I cannot see – I remember through my ears. Your sound, your way of speaking: those little things become part of my memory. And the meeting with you and the way you talked was so memorable. I could even hear the same way, the same sound, while you were talking to the servant, to the porter. I immediately recognized you. Nobody else talks like you.
“You said to the servant, ‘Don’t wake me up because my morning begins when I wake, so let the tea wait. When I am awake, I will ring the bell, then you bring the tea.’ The moment you said, ‘My morning begins when I wake,’ I said this man cannot be anybody else. I don’t know anybody else in the whole world whose morning begins when he wakes up – the morning begins when it begins – but you can say that, only you can say that!”
A seer is one who is not groping in darkness and just imagining things. Yes, a blind man’s imagination becomes very powerful because he cannot see; his whole energy is available inward. Otherwise, the energy moves outside from the eyes, eyes are the doors opening outward. When the eyes are closed, the energy moves inward.
That’s why meditators close their eyes. It is a simple strategy: close the eyes and you block the doors; the energy cannot move out, it moves in. So, blind people become very imaginative. They can talk of color although they have never seen it. They can talk of light although they have never seen it. But still, howsoever beautiful their imagination, it is untrue, it is not real.
In India we call these people kavis, poets. But don’t go to see them, because the poet will be a very ordinary person. It has happened so many times I feel it almost a rule to be followed: just the other day I saw for the first time a film of an Urdu singer, Gulam Ali. He is one of the topmost Urdu singers in the East, he has his own way and style. There are many singers, but Gulam Ali stands far above any of them. But I had always heard Gulam Ali; it had never happened that I had seen him.
We were both moving around the same country but by chance it never happened that we were in the same city. He wanted to meet me. In India a great musician, a great singer, is called ustad, maestro. He has disciples just as spiritual masters have disciples, because Eastern music needs a long discipline. It is not like jazz music, that any idiot can start jumping and shouting and it becomes music; it is not the music of the Beatles. It takes twenty or thirty years of training, eight hours or ten hours a day. It is a whole life’s work.
Gulam Ali has worked hard and still works hard. It is said that if you don’t practice Eastern music for three days, people will recognize something is missing. If you don’t practice for two days, only your disciples will recognize something is missing. And if you don’t practice for one day, only you are certain to feel that it was not the same thing. Not even a single day has to be missed.
But just the other day somebody from Pakistan sent me a film of Gulam Ali. And what I was expecting, happened. His personality is so poor that it is difficult to connect that beautiful voice with this man who looks like a clerk in a post office, or a ticket collector in a railway company, or a conductor in a bus, that type of man. I had to keep my eyes closed because his face, his eyes, his hands, his gestures – everything was disturbing. I thought that I should send him a suggestion, “You should sing behind a curtain. You are not worth presenting, you destroy your music. The music is almost divine, then you see a donkey standing behind – you cannot connect them.”
The same happened a few days ago. I have never seen Mehdi Hasan – another great singer, far more modern than Gulam Ali. Gulam Ali is very orthodox, his training is orthodox. But Mehdi Hasan has a very innovative genius. He is trained in orthodox music but he has not kept himself confined to it. He has improvised new ways, new styles, and he is a really creative man. Gulam Ali is not a creative man; he recites those songs exactly as they have been recited for thousands of years. Listening to him you are listening to thousands of years, the whole tradition behind him.
These singers all have what is called gharanasgharana means family. They don’t belong to the family of their father and mother, they belong to the family of the master from whom they have learned. That is their gharana. They are known by the name of their master, their master is known by his master. Their gharanas are thousands of years old, and each generation teaches to the next generation exactly the same tone, the same wavelength.
But Mehdi Hasan is ultra-modern, and he has a creative genius which is far more significant. I have loved him because he has brought a new light, new ways of singing the same old songs. He is so creative that the whole song seems almost new, reborn, fresh, like a just-opened flower with the dewdrops still on it.
But what a misery to see him. He is far worse than Gulam Ali! Gulam Ali at least seems to be a conductor on a bus, but Mehdi Hasan is not even worthy to be conductor. Gulam Ali does not fit with what he is singing, but Mehdi Hasan is exactly contradicting what he is singing. Strange that the two persons I have seen on the screen, I have not met. This has been my general practice my whole life in India. I have read poets, heard poets on the radio, but I have not met them because my early experiences of meeting poets were just shipwrecked.
Maitreyaji is sitting there – he knows a great Indian poet, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar. They belong to the same place, Patna, and they were friends. He has written some high-flying songs. He has contributed much to Indian poetry. He was known as the great poet, mahakavi; not just kavi, a poet, but the great poet. He was the only man known as the great poet.
He used to come to see me, unfortunately. He loved me, I loved him, but I could not like him. Love is spiritual, you can love anybody, but liking is far more physical. Whenever he came he would talk of such stupid things that I told him, “Dinkar, one expects something poetic from you.”
He said, “But I am not a poet twenty-four hours a day.”
I said, “That’s right! But come to me when you are! – otherwise don’t come, because my acquaintance is with the poet Dinkar, not with you.” Whenever he came, he would talk about politics – he was a nominated member of parliament – or he would talk continually about his sickness. He was making me sick! I told him, “Stop talking about your sicknesses, because people come to me to ask something of value, and you come to describe your sicknesses.”
But if I prohibited him from talking politics, he would talk of sicknesses. If I prohibited him from talking of sicknesses, then he would talk about his sons: “They are destroying my life. Nobody listens to me. I am going to send them to you.”
I told him, “You are too much. And you are spoiling my joy for when your book comes out: I cannot read it without remembering you. In between the lines you are standing there talking about your diabetes, your politics…”
He would talk about diabetes, and he would ask for sweets! “These,” he would say, “I cannot leave.” He died because he continued to eat things that the doctors were prohibiting. And he knew it; he would tell me everything that the doctors had prohibited and ask me, “Osho, can you tell me some way that I can have diabetes manage to eat all these things?” Maitreyaji knew him perfectly well.
In Jabalpur there was a famous poetess, Shubhadra Kumari Chauhan. I had read her poetry from my very childhood; she was continuously fighting for freedom and revolution. Her songs had become so popular because of the freedom struggle that even small children were reciting them. Even before I was able to read, I knew a few of her songs. When I went to the university I discovered that she had also moved to Jabalpur. It was not her original place; her original place happened to be near my village. That I discovered later on, that she was from just twenty miles away from my village and that she had moved to Jabalpur just two years before I moved there.
But seeing that woman, I said, “My God! Such beautiful poetry, and such an utterly homeless – no, I mean homely… I got so distracted by her that I forgot even the word homely! Because she was worse than that, and I don’t know any other word that is worse than that. Ugly does not look right to use for anybody; it seems to be condemning, and I only want to describe, not to condemn, hence homely. Homely means you need not pay any attention; let her pass, let her go.
Then there was another poet, of all-India fame, Bhavani Prasad Tiwari, who was in immense love with me. I was very young when I started delivering public discourses; I must have been twenty when I delivered my first public discourse, in 1950 and he was the president there. He could not believe it. He was so overwhelmed that rather than delivering his presidential address he said, “Now I don’t want to disturb what this boy has said. I would like you to go home with what he has said, meditating over it. And I don’t want to give my presidential address – in fact, he should have presided, and I should have spoken.” And he closed the meeting.
Everybody was in a shock because he was an old man and famous. He took me in his car and asked me where he could leave me. That day I became acquainted with him. I said, “It is a shock to me. You are certainly a loving person and also an understanding person. I have read your poems and I have always loved them. They are simple but have the quality of raw diamonds, unpolished. One needs the eye of a jeweler to see the beauty of an uncut, unpolished, raw diamond just coming out from the mine – just born.
“I can also say I have always felt, reading your poetry, like when the rainy season first begins in India, and the clouds start showering, and the earth has a sweet smell of fresh, thirsty earth; and the smell of that earth getting wet gives you a feeling of thirst being satisfied.
“That’s how I have always felt reading your poetry. But seeing you I am disillusioned” – because the man had on both sides, inside his mouth, two pans, betel leaves, and the red, blood-like juice of the betel leaves was coming from both sides of his mouth onto his clothes. That was a chain thing, the whole day. All that he was doing was making new pans. He used to carry a small bag with everything in it. And whenever I saw him he was always… This is the way: tobacco in his hand, rubbing the tobacco, preparing it, chewing the pan, and the red juice was all around.
I said, “You have destroyed my whole idea of a poet.” Since then I have avoided poets because I came to know that they are blind people; once in a while they have a flight of imagination. But five thousand years ago, in the East, they must have understood that we have to make a distinction between the poet who is blind, and the poet who has eyes.
A rishi is one who speaks because he sees. His poetry also has a different name; it is called richa because it comes from a rishi. Richa means poetry coming from the awakened consciousness of a being.
These people were not ascetics. They had wives, they had children, they had beautiful ashrams – so beautiful that even kings used to go there for their holidays. Kings used to send their children to live with the family of a rishi in an ashram, because there was nothing more beautiful than an ashram.
Ashrams were deep in the forest, in the mountains, near the great rivers of India, and with an awakened being. He had a wife, he had children. He was just as simple and ordinary as you are – he was not on any power trip. And he was not worried about God, and paradise; he was enjoying life here.
Even kings were jealous, and they used to come for advice because these people were not just spiritual guides, they had eyesight that they could use for anything. They were not averse to riches. All the ashrams were, in the beginning, tremendously rich, because the kings continued to pour in as much money as possible. And it was not only one king coming to one rishi, because rishis and their ashrams were not part of any kingdom.
That much respect the East knew; that you could not claim the ashram of a rishi as part of your kingdom. So a rishi was independent; other kings were also coming to him. He was not possessed by any king who could say, “You can only advise me. I have given you the land and I have given you so much money, and so much luxury and so much comfort and protection, so you are to be my adviser only.” No, such a thing was inconceivable.
If the rishi has accepted all that you have offered, he has obliged you. He could have refused. You were to be thankful to him that he did not refuse you. You were to be obliged to him that he gave you the honor to serve him. He was nobody’s possession. His territory was an independent territory, and in his territory anybody could take refuge, even a criminal. Then the criminal was beyond the powers of the rulers from whom he had escaped. You could not catch hold of him or bring the police and the army into the rishi’s campus. That campus was sacred.
It was literally true that there was no comparison between the ancient Eastern ashram and anything else, even a palace of a king. On each special occasion, the king would go to receive blessings. He would touch the feet of the rishi, because he knew he himself was blind, and that it was good to be blessed by someone who had eyes, and to be guided. It happened many times that wars were avoided simply because both kings went to the same rishi to ask, “Our armies are standing face to face – what to do?”
The rishi would say, “You ask me what to do? Just take your armies back to your homes! There is not going to be any fight. While I am still alive your armies are not going to face each other again.” And that was so. The war was delayed till his death; before, that war could not happen. There was no question of denying him. He had no political power, no army, but they both knew that he had eyes, and if he saw that this was going to be blissful for both, then let it be so. “We are blind. We will step back.”
But the birth of Buddhism and Jainism, the two other religions in India, created trouble. They transformed the whole character of the ashram. The first thing to be noted is that Buddhists and Jainas don’t have ashrams. To destroy the ashram – because the ashram was the stronghold of brahminism, Hinduism and yet without somebody being a pope, chosen, elected…
You cannot elect a buddha. How can you even think of electing a buddha? What grounds, what criteria will you use? Just think of blind people electing someone who has eyes. Now, how can they determine that he has eyes? They don’t have eyes so they can’t see. Two persons are standing as candidates, saying “We have eyes, give us votes.” Do you see the absurdity? Now, blind people will say, “How can we decide? We don’t have any eyes so we don’t see whether you are both blind, both have eyes, or one has eyes and one is blind. We cannot determine in any way.”
A buddha, an awakened human being, has to declare himself. There is no question of anybody selecting, nominating. Who can select? Who can nominate? Who can elect?
There is a poem sung by this man I referred to, Mehdi Hasan, in which a sentence comes: I am a man with eyes selling glasses in the city of the blind. When I heard the line, I am a man with eyes selling glasses in the city of the blind, I said, “You cannot have eyes; one thing is certain, you don’t have eyes. Otherwise a man with eyes, selling eye-glasses in the city of the blind simply proves that he is far blinder than the people to whom he is selling the glasses! Blind people cannot tell who has eyes and who has not.”
So these rishis were not popes. The pope is an elected person; two hundred cardinals elect him. All those two hundred cardinals are secretly campaigning for themselves to be elected. It is a secret thing. For twenty-four hours the doors of a particular place in the Vatican are closed. For twenty-four hours those two hundred people are inside, just so that the world does not know how the selection happens, how the person is elected.
They are all campaigning for themselves, each campaigning for himself, or for somebody who will help them. It takes twenty-four hours to find one person; that too is not a unanimous choice. Sometimes there are two candidates, then a vote has to be taken; sometimes there are three candidates and none are ready to withdraw. By voting, two hundred fallible cardinals can choose one infallible pope! This world is really strange.
That was not the case with the rishis. But Jainism and Buddhism transformed the whole character of the Eastern way of life. First, to destroy the ashrams they decided that they wouldn’t have any ashrams. So Jaina monks, Buddhist monks, are wandering monks; they don’t have any ashrams – because if you have an ashram there is a possibility that you will start collecting conveniences, comforts, luxuries. It is very natural.
People will love you, respect you and they will go on giving you things. And you will keep things for certain seasons: the rains will be coming, and you will need an umbrella so you keep the umbrella even in the season when it is not needed. So you will start possessing things. In the rains it will be difficult to go out, so you will collect food, foodstuff. In winter you will need clothes, woolen clothes, so you collect woolen clothes.
You cannot avoid possessions, and both Jainism and Buddhism were determined that the monk should not possess anything – and the Jaina monk, absolutely nothing. He was naked, without even a begging bowl, which had always been accepted. Nobody had even questioned whether a begging bowl was a possession.
But Jainism did not even allow a begging bowl; you had just to eat from your hands. If all the animals can do without begging bowls – you are men, far more intelligent – you can do it. So they drink from the hands, they eat from the hands; that is their begging bowl. They were not allowed to have ashrams because ashrams would become properties, possessions. They had to continually move. A Jaina monk cannot stay more than three days in one place.
Certainly there is some idea behind it, because I have watched: if you stay in a place, it takes some time to get comfortable. For example, the first night you may not be able to sleep at all – a new place, a new house… Nothing is uncomfortable, it’s just the newness. Perhaps you are accustomed to sleeping in a round bed, and this is a square bed, and that is enough! You are accustomed to sleeping in a square room, and this is a round room; you almost feel as if you have fallen in a well or something. Even in your sleep you will wake up many times.
The first night is very difficult, the second night is easier, and by the third night you are comfortable. This is my experience, because I have been traveling for thirty years, staying in strange places, strange houses. You will not believe it – I have been a guest from the most rotten house you can imagine to the best palace in the world.
It was really a problem because I was continually moving about, not staying for even three days. I am not a Jaina monk; not even three days were available to me. In the morning I was in Kolkata, in the evening I was in Mumbai; by the night I had moved toward Delhi. Mostly I was in trains, planes, cars, but rarely in houses. In fact I have to confess to you, that I became so accustomed to sleeping in air-conditioned trains that in houses I felt uncomfortable. I felt comfortable only on the train, with all the noise, the movement, the hustle and bustle of each station, and the passengers coming in and getting out. All that became part of my comfort.
When I used to sleep in a room, I would wake up a few times, and, “No station?” Because Indian stations are very noisy: all kinds of things are being sold, even in the middle of the night. The whole station is agog, alive, and full of people, because except for the air-conditioned class, all the classes are so cramped. The third class, which is the class for everybody, is always overcrowded. You can see, it is written on the compartment that it is reserved only for thirty people – and you will find sixty, ninety. How they manage…
Once or twice just to have the experience I have traveled third class. And it really is a great experience to travel in the third class in India. A compartment made for thirty people, and ninety or a hundred people are in it, with not even a single inch anywhere can you move. You cannot go to the bathroom – in fact people are also stuck in the bathroom. In the first place there is no way to reach there. Even if you do reach, somehow, treading over people, there is no space in the bathroom; it is already full. People are traveling even on the roof of the train. They are hanging out of the doors, the windows.
Once I traveled third class from Gwalior to Delhi, just to enjoy it. Because I had slept, and there was now no need to sleep – and it was night, a full-moon night – I said to myself, “Enjoy yourself, go third class.”
I had an air-conditioned-class ticket. When the ticket collector looked at my air-conditioned-class ticket and then looked at me, he thought I was crazy. I said, “You are right” He handed the ticket back to me.
He said, “This is strange. What are you doing here? Your seat is reserved and it is empty.”
I said, “Let it be empty. If I get fed up with this experience I will come along.”
He said, “What experience?”
I said, “You don’t know what is happening here. If you want, you can stay with me just for one station.”
He stayed and he said, “Really, it is an experience.”
What was happening was, at the station the lights of the compartment would come on, and as we left the station behind the lights would go out. Ninety people in that small space… And who is pulling whose leg? It was such a joy! I enjoyed it like nothing else in my life.
A Hindu monk was sitting by my side. I was hitting his head, and he would tell me, “Osho, somebody is hitting me.”
I said, “In the dark it is very difficult. Remain patient, and if you want to hit, hit anybody! There is no question of who is hitting who.”
Somebody pulled the leg of a woman who was sitting in an upper berth and she fell down. And she said, “This is strange – someone is doing this to a woman. Who is this nasty fellow?” In the darkness nobody could be identified as nasty, and as the next station appeared, everybody was sitting perfectly correctly. In the station the lights would come on. If it had been the other way round things would have been simpler. If the compartment lights had gone out at the station, there would have been no problem because there were lights at the station.
The train was going really crazy, and people were shouting in the darkness, “Somebody is pulling on my leg.” And, “Who is this fellow?” And, “I will try to find out, but it will be difficult.” “Please don’t pull my leg!” – but no answer came. In the third class you certainly meet the real India. In the air-conditioned compartment it is not part of India.
In saying three days, the Indian Jaina monks decided very psychologically, because it is my experience too that after the third day you feel at ease. Not to allow you to feel at ease they decided on three days. There must have been somebody among them who had experienced this. It is exactly so because I have told a few of my friends to try it, and they all said, “It is true: after the third day you start feeling relaxed, at home. The new place is no longer new. It takes that much time to be acquainted with it, to have a certain rapport.”
Yes, a rapport is needed, even with the walls, the furniture, the people, the food. A certain kind of acquaintance and it takes a little time. What they decided was perfectly right – they measured it perfectly correctly – that the Jaina monk is not to stay more than three days, so no attachment grows. Once you start liking a place, that is the beginning of attachment, desire; then you would like to stay a little longer, then…
I am reminded of a story:

A great master was dying. He called his chief disciple to his side and whispered in his ear, “Remember one thing, never, never allow a cat in the house” – and he died.
“What kind of message…? And for this you called me: ‘Never allow a cat in the house?’” The chief disciple inquired with a few old, elderly people, because perhaps there was some meaning in it. “Perhaps it is a code word, otherwise why should he say that? And he died without giving any explanation. I was just going to ask, ‘Why are you against cats your whole life? And this is the ultimate conclusion of all your discipline, practices, scriptures, scholarship: don’t allow a cat in the house.’”
One old man said, “I know what the matter is. This is the message given to him by his master too, because his master got into trouble because of a cat.” The old master had lived outside the village. He had only two… In English it is difficult to translate because nothing like that exists: you have underwear, in India they have langoti – they are just strips of cloth. It needs a little practice to put on. It is just a long strip of cloth which you simply wind around yourself and that functions as underwear, or the onlywear. For a monk that is the onlywear.
He had two onlywears – that is my translation for langoti – but the trouble was there were a few rats, and they used to destroy his onlywear. He asked somebody from the village, “What to do with these rats? They are very cunning.”
The man said, “It is very simple. What we do in the village is just keep a cat. Keep a cat; I will bring you one. She will finish off those rats and your onlywear will be saved.”
The old master said, “This is a simple solution.” The cat was brought. She really did her job, she finished off the rats, but the problem was the cat was hungry and she needed milk. She was always sitting in front of the monk, hungry. Cats, when they are hungry, look really poor. She had done her job, and without saying it she was saying, “I have done all your business, all the rats are finished, but I am hungry now.”
So the old master asked again, “Now what to do? The cat sits in front of me, looking hungrily at me: ‘Provide food, otherwise I am going and then the rats will come back.’ She does not say all that but I can see in her eyes that she is threatening me, challenging me. I need some milk.”
The man said, “You would have to come every day for milk, so I will give you my cow. I have many cows, you can take one.”
He took the cow but his problems went on increasing: now the cow needed grass. He again went to the town, and the townspeople said, “You are a strange fellow – problem after problem, problem after problem. Why don’t you start growing something around your hut? – there is so much land lying fallow. We will give you seeds; take the seeds and start growing something. It will help you also; you can eat some of it and the cow can eat some.”
So he, poor man, started sowing some seeds. But this was great trouble: now the crops had to be cut. And he was a monk; he was not supposed to do all these things. But now one thing was leading to another. He went to the village and he said, “This is difficult. Now those crops have to be cut; I don’t have any instruments, and I will need helpers.”
The people said, “Listen, we are tired of you. You are worthless; you can’t find any solution for anything. Do we have to solve everything? It is simple: a woman has become a widow and she is perfectly capable of taking care of you, your cow, your crops, your kitchen, everything – cat, rats… She is a perfectly experienced woman.”
“But,” he said, “I am a monk.”
They said, “Forget all about that monkhood. What kind of monk are you! You have a cat, you have a cow, you have a field, a crop – and you think you are a monk! Forget about it. And anyway this marriage is just a bogus marriage; you need not have any kind of relationship with the woman. She is poor and in difficulty, you are in difficulty; both of you together will be good.”
The man said, “That’s right. If it is just a legal thing, there’s no harm, because my master never said anything against that. He said, ‘Don’t get married’ but I am not getting married; it is just for show, for the village, so nobody raises any objection that I am living with a woman. I can say that she is my wife, but I don’t have to be her husband really, nor does she have to be my wife really.”
He talked to the woman. The woman said, “I am not interested in a husband – one was enough – but I am in trouble, you are in trouble; and this is good, we can help each other.”
So they got married. Now things went on growing… Sometimes he was sick and the woman would massage his feet. Slowly, slowly, he started liking the woman. A man is, after all, a man; a woman is, after all, a woman. The woman started liking the man. They were both feeling lonely. In the cold winter nights they were both waiting for somebody to say, “It is too cold – why can’t we get close?”
Finally the woman said, “It is too cold here.”
The monk said, “It is cold here too.”
The woman said, “It seems you don’t have any guts.”
He said, “That’s right. You come here – I don’t have any guts. I am a poor monk, and you are an experienced woman: you come here. Together it will be warmer.”
Of course it was warmer! That’s where his whole monkhood went down the drain. When he was dying he told to his disciples, “Don’t let any cat stay with you.”
And the old man told the chief disciple, “Since then, it is traditional on your path that each master says to the disciple, ‘Beware of the cat.’”

It is very difficult to be aware of the cat – the cat comes in somehow or other. Life is so strange.
But Jainas and Buddhists have tried to avoid the cats, all kinds of cats: “Don’t stay longer than three days. Don’t stay in any family, because the warmth, the coziness of the family, may distract you. Always stay in the temple which is always cold, never warm.” Jaina monks are not allowed to burn wood, to have a bonfire in the night as Hindu monks are allowed, because any experience of warmth is dangerous. And it is violent too because you are killing trees, cutting trees, burning wood; and in burning wood you may be burning insects, flies – anything is possible. So they can’t have a bonfire, they can’t even have a lamp in the temple.
I used to visit Jaina monks sometimes because they invited me, and I would say, “In the day I don’t have any time, I can come only at night.” And in the night I became aware that they don’t have any lamps or any candles – no light. I had to sit with them and to talk with them in darkness. It felt so strange. I told them, “But somebody else can put the switch on; I can put it on, you will not have done anything.”
First they went on refusing, telling me, “No, that is not right. There will be light and it is prohibited.”
But I was continually hammering on the idea: “If you don’t do it then there is no harm.” Finally one Jaina monk, the head of a big sect, agreed for the simple reason that during the day I had spoken and he had spoken, but he could not use the microphone – electricity! Now, there was no electricity in Mahavira’s time. Of course he had not prohibited it, but he had not said that it should be used either. But he was clever enough. He had said, “Things which are not mentioned are not meant to be used. Only things which are mentioned are to be used.” So although he had no idea what, he was clever enough to say, “Many things will be coming later on, which I cannot prohibit because I don’t know about them.”
I told that to the monk but he said, “Mahavira has prohibited it.”
When I spoke there were at least twenty thousand people there, and everybody could hear me. They applauded and they were laughing and they enjoyed it. But when he spoke, who could hear? – not more than two or three rows in front. Twenty thousand people were just yawning. I said, “Just look: this is what your Mahavira has done to you. Now allow me.” I just took the microphone, put it in front of him and said, “Simply speak. It is none of your business if someone puts something somewhere – who are you to prevent me? Just start!”
He got the idea – he thought the idea was good – and the fool started speaking. I condemned him later on and said, “You fell into the trap. You saw that I was putting the microphone in front of you, you knew what it was and you knew that everybody was able to hear you. You cannot befool anymore. Do you think that you are befooling Mahavira who is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent? He was present, watching you doing it. You have fallen.”
But the Jainas destroyed the ashrams completely and they created the wandering monks. It is a strange thing about the human mind that it is very much impressed by somebody who goes through austerities. It is a sadistic, masochistic psychology. Why should you be so respectful to a person who is torturing himself? But strangely, everywhere around the world, the martyr is honored. If he is starving, fasting for a great cause, you respect him. You will not respect a man who is feasting for a great cause.
You are not concerned with the cause, remember, otherwise you should respect the feasting also, because he is feasting for a great cause. You are not concerned with the cause; the cause is only an explanation, a rationalization. You are interested in the fasting: the man is capable of having control over his body.
Mahatma Gandhi was the uncrowned king of India for the simple reason that he was able to torture himself more than anybody else could. For any small reason he would go on a fast “unto death.” Every fast was “unto death,” but within three, four days, it would be broken – there were methods to break it – and soon there would be a breakfast; everything was arranged.
But people can be deceived very easily. He goes on a fast, and the whole country prays to God that he should not die. All the great leaders rush toward his ashram and pray to him to stop but he won’t listen unless his conditions are accepted – any conditions, undemocratic, dictatorial, idiotic, any conditions. For example he fasted against Doctor Ambedkar who was the leader of the untouchables. Ambedkar wanted the untouchables to have their own constituencies and their own candidates, otherwise they would never be represented in any parliament anywhere. Who would give votes to a shoemaker? In India a shoemaker is untouchable – who is going to give him the vote?
Ambedkar was absolutely right. One fourth of the country is untouchable. They are not allowed in schools because no other student is ready to sit with them, no teacher is ready to teach them. The government says the schools are open, but in reality no student is willing… If one untouchable enters, all thirty students leave the class, the teacher leaves the class. Then how are these poor people – one fourth of the country – going to be represented? They should be given separate constituencies where only they can stand and only they can vote.
Ambedkar was perfectly logical and perfectly human. But Gandhi went on a fast, saying, “He is trying to create a division within the Hindu society.” The division has existed for ten thousand years. That poor Ambedkar was not creating the division; he was simply saying that one fourth of the people of the country had been tortured for thousands of years, now at least give them a chance to move upward. At least let them voice their problems in the parliament, in the assemblies. But Gandhi said, “I will not allow it while I am alive. They are part of Hindu society, hence they cannot have a separate voting system” – and he went on a fast.
For twenty-one days Ambedkar remained reluctant, but every day the pressure of the whole country was building, and he started feeling that if this old man dies there is going to be great bloodshed. It was clear he would be killed immediately, and millions of the untouchables would be killed everywhere, all over the country: “It is because of you that Gandhi died.” When the whole arithmetic of how it would work out was explained to him – “Figure it out soon, because there is not much time, he cannot survive more than three days” – Ambedkar hesitated.
He was perfectly right; Gandhi was perfectly wrong. But what to do? Should he take the risk? He was not worried about his life – if he was killed it was okay – but he was worried about those millions of poor people who didn’t know anything about what was going on. Their houses would be burned, their women would be raped, their children would be butchered, and it would be something that had never happened before.
Finally he had to accept the conditions. He went with breakfast in his hand to Mahatma Gandhi, “I accept your conditions. We will not ask for a separate vote or separate candidates. Please accept this orange juice.” And Gandhi accepted the orange juice. But this orange juice, this one glass of orange juice, contains millions of people’s blood.
I have met Doctor Ambedkar. He was one of the most intelligent men I have ever met. But I said, “You proved weak.”
He said, “You don’t understand: the situation was such that I knew I was right and he was wrong, but what to do with that stubborn old man? He was going to die, and if he died then I would have been responsible for his death, and the untouchables would have suffered.”
I said, “That is not the point. Even an idiot could have suggested a simple thing to you. You should have gone on a fast unto death. And you are so overweight” He was a fat man, four or five times heavier than Gandhi. “If you had asked me I would have said a simple solution: just put another cot by the side of Mahatma Gandhi, lie down, and fast unto death. Then let them see! I promise you that Gandhi would have accepted all your conditions within three days.”
Ambedkar said, “But this idea never occurred to me.”
I said, “You are a fool if this idea never occurred to you! That was the idea with which that man was controlling the whole country – and it never occurred to you. The only difficulty would have been to go on a fast, particularly for a fat man like you, eating four times a day. Naturally you would not have been able to manage it. Gandhi has practiced his whole life, he is an experienced faster; and you may not have ever missed a single breakfast.”
He said, “That is true.”
I said, “Otherwise if it had been my problem and he was being so illogical, I would have just lain down, even if I was going to die, and let him be responsible. He would not have allowed that, because my death would have taken away all his mahatmahood, all his aura, all his leadership of the people. He would not have allowed me to die; he would have accepted my conditions.
“But unfortunately I am not an untouchable, and anyway why should I be bothered with you two idiots? To me both of you are idiots. You have one fourth of the country in your hands and you can’t do anything; that man has nothing in his hands – but just by fasting… He has learned a womanly trick. Yes, I call his whole philosophy a feminine psychology.”
That’s what women do every day. Gandhi must have learned it from his wife. In India women do it every day. The wife will fast, she won’t eat, she will lie down. And then the husband starts shaking. He may be right, but that is not the point. Now there is no point of right or wrong; now the point is how to persuade her to eat, because she is not eating, the children are not eating – and who is going to cook in the first place? Is he also going to fast? The children are weeping and they want food, and the wife is on a fast – so you agree. She needs a new sari, you bring it. First you bring the sari, then she goes into the kitchen. This is an old strategy of all the women in India. Gandhi must have learned it from his wife, and he used it really very cleverly.
But there is a strange side of the human mind which, for some strange reason, is impressed by anybody who is capable of torturing himself. I know the reason. The reason is your own fear – you cannot do it. You go to the circus to see a man jumping from sixty feet high, pouring spirit on himself, setting fire to the spirit. Burning, he drops from sixty feet; he falls into a small pool of water, and you watch it with your breathing stopped. At that moment nobody breathes.
I have watched it: the people were watching a poor circus fellow, I was watching the people. Was anybody blinking, anybody breathing? No, nobody blinks an eye, they completely forget. Even an unconscious process that goes on automatically – you need not blink, your eye blinks; you need not breathe, your chest breathes. But even the automatic processes of blinking and breathing simply stop, you are in awe.
And there is nothing in it. Those sixty feet are calculated. That man has been practicing continually: it is calculated that within the sixty foot fall, he is not going to be burned. And it is not kerosene, it is not petrol, it is pure spirit. Falling in the water, within seconds the fire is gone, and the man comes up. And he is a hero because you cannot do it. Just a little practice is needed and a calculation of how long it will take for spirit to burn you: the time limit has to be less than that. And you have to be able to jump.
I used to love jumping into the river from the railway bridge, because the railway bridge over my river was the highest place from where to jump. But I slowly worked up from small hills to bigger and bigger hills, until finally I was jumping from the bridge. The bridge was continuously guarded by the army because it was in the days of the British Empire and some revolutionary may have blown up the bridge. So they would catch me, and I would say, “I am not going to blow up the bridge. Just see – I don’t have anything. You have nothing to be worried about. I want this bridge to be here, and I am happy that you are guarding it because I need it every day.”
Once they said, “For what do you need it?”
I said, “Just see” – and I would jump! And they would be standing there in awe. Once they knew that this boy simply came to jump, they didn’t bother. I told the revolutionaries of my town, “If any time you need… I am the best man because the guards don’t even look at me now. They say, ‘That boy is just crazy. One day he is going to kill himself. But it seems that he is growing more and more accustomed to it. It will be difficult for him to die; this bridge is very small. He needs a bridge at least four times higher – perhaps that may do it.’”
I told the revolutionaries that I knew – they used to visit my house; my uncles were part of their conspiracy. I said, “Any time you need to blow up the bridge, I am the best man. Nobody will ever suspect me, nobody will ever prevent me. I can take your bombs there, leave them wherever you want and simply jump into the river and swim downstream. Then you can do whatsoever you want to do.”
They said, “You are not reliable. You may go and give the bombs to the guards; you will show them where we are hiding, and you will certainly jump and swim down the river.” They never gave me the bombs. I requested them to again and again. They said, “We don’t believe you. We know that you are the best person to reach that bridge because nobody else can reach it; it is continuously guarded.”
A guard was continuously moving up and down, and at both ends there were guard rooms. It was an important bridge: all the main trains crossed over it. If you blew it up, you would cut one half of the country from the other. But they never relied on me.
I said, “You can rely on me, even those guards rely on me.”
They said, “That’s the fear. They rely on you, we rely on you – and what you will do, only you know.”
For any austerity you need only a little practice. Fasting is very simple – just the first five days are difficult. I have fasted. The first five days are the most difficult, the fifth is the worst; you are almost ready to break the fast. But if you pass the fifth, you have passed the most dangerous, the most vulnerable period. From the sixth day your body starts functioning in a new way. It starts eating itself. From the sixth day onward things become simple. On the fifteenth day, you are absolutely unconcerned with food; you don’t have any hunger. The body is absorbing its own fat, so hunger does not arise.
A man who is perfectly healthy can fast for ninety days without dying. Of course he will become just a skeleton, but for ninety days he can stay alive because a perfectly healthy body goes on accumulating fat for any emergency. This is an emergency situation so the body has an emergency system. If food is not coming from the outside, then the body starts eating from the inside. That’s why you go on losing weight every day.
In the beginning you will lose two pounds per day. Then the body becomes aware that perhaps the emergency is going to last longer: then you lose one and a half pounds a day. Strange, the body has its own wisdom. Then you will lose one pound a day, then half a pound a day, because the body will start trying to save as much as possible, and to live on as little as possible; to keep you alive as long as it is in the body’s hands.
So it is not something like a miracle, but people get impressed because deep down they feel, “We cannot do this.” If somebody is enjoying a feast, you don’t have that feeling because you could also enjoy the feast. It is just that you are not invited, that’s why you feel angry against that man who is enjoying himself – he is just a glutton; he believes only in the philosophy of eat, drink, and be merry; he is not a spiritual man. This is jealousy, anger because you have not been invited. You are also capable of enjoying the feast, but a fast? You have never tried it.
In the beginning a fast is not a joy. Five days seem like five months. It seems that the clock no longer moves, and the hunger goes on growing. It hurts in the stomach; the intestines feel as if they are shrinking. Your whole body is in turmoil because it is not getting its daily ration. All the parts of the body are in a strange situation; they cannot figure out what has happened, why the ration has been stopped. You have not informed them; you cannot because you don’t know their language, they don’t know your language.
There is chaos in the body – but only for five days. After that the body automatically moves itself onto the emergency system; then there is no problem. All these mahatmas have learned only that: the strategy of five days. Once you have learned it, then it is not very difficult to last five days.
Jaina and Buddhist monks both impressed the whole of the East so much that the Hindu ashram, which was really a beautiful place, became condemned. Those seers, those sages, became condemned by people: “They are as materialistic as we are. The real mahatmas and sages are the Jainas, the Buddhists. These people are nothing compared to them.” Naturally Hinduism had to change its whole structure.
It is a competitive world; to remain in existence, Hinduism changed the whole style of the ashram. The ashram became ascetic but they still retained the old name, they forgot to change the name. It is no longer an ashram because there is no relaxation, no rest, no joy, no blissfulness. Go to an ashram today and you will find self-torturing people, psychologically sick, masochistic, suicidal – but egoistic, because all this torture is bringing them one thing: great respect from the people. The whole country pays tremendous respect for what they are doing. But the beauty of the real ashram has disappeared.
The monastery is the Western equivalent of the modern Hindu ashram, because at the time when the real Hindu ashrams were in existence, the West was absolutely barbarous: it had no religion, no culture, no civilization. Your greatest man was born only two thousand years ago. In India it is difficult to decide this, because Mahavira, who was born twenty-five centuries ago, is the last and the greatest Jaina tirthankara, the twenty-fourth. Before him twenty-three tirthankaras had passed; and that must have taken at least ten thousand years if in twenty-five centuries there was only one tirthankara. And there are relics of cities discovered at Mohanjodaro and at Harappa where Jaina statues have been found.
Now, a Jaina statue can be immediately recognized – the naked statue – because Jainas are the only people with these statues. Romans have made naked statues but they are sensuous, sexual, provocative. They are Playboy magazines in marble. You can see that this statue is just a sensuous, sexual statue: all Roman statues are. The Jaina tirthankara statue is nude but not naked. Yes, it has no clothes, but it won’t give you any idea, any vague idea of sexuality, of sensuality. No, just the contrary.
The whole structure of the Jaina statue is nonsensuous, non-sexual. The eyes are closed, the hands are hanging loose on either side. The body is standing. In the ears birds have made small nests, because the man has been standing for six months in the same position, he has not moved his head. He is not going to scare the bird away saying, “What are you doing? – this is my ear that you are making a nest in.” Creepers have started moving up his body. It has a beauty of its own. Creepers, green creepers, have reached up to his neck or up to his head. They have blossomed, their season has come.
Now, this statue is not the Roman type. It has no parallel in the whole world. This kind of statue has been found at Mohanjodaro, which by very strict and orthodox scientific methods was found to have existed at least seven thousand years before Jesus Christ was born. So from today, ten thousand years back is not claiming much.
The Western monastery is a copy of the ashram that exists in the East now. It had been brought to the West by Western travelers, Western philosophers. Jesus himself went to Buddhist universities, Tibetan lamaseries, Ladakh monasteries; Pythagoras traveled deeply in the East – and these people brought all these ideas to the West. The Western monastery is, in a way, nothing but a carbon copy of the Eastern ashram. It has nothing unique to contribute.
My commune is a totally different phenomenon. It is neither an ashram, modern or ancient, nor a monastery, Christian or Mohammedan. My commune is, in the first place, non-ascetic. It basically tries to destroy all psychological sicknesses in you – in which sado-masochist ideas are included. It teaches you to be healthy and not to feel guilty for being healthy. It teaches you to be human, because my experience is that people who have been trying to be divine have not become divine, but have fallen far lower than human. They were trying to go up beyond humanity – yes, they have gone beyond humanity, but below it. In the monasteries, people are almost animals, because the more you torture yourself, the more you start losing your intelligence; intelligence needs comfort.
Intelligence is a very delicate flower. Don’t try to grow roses in the desert. Intelligence is a very delicate flower; it grows in luxury. It needs a luxurious ground, fertile, creative, full of juice; only then can it blossom. And without intelligence, what are you?
My effort is first to help your intelligence become a flame, and to help that flame to consume all that is not your authentic self. You become a fire and you burn everything that is rubbish, thrown onto you by others.
So first intelligence, and second meditation.
Meditation comes out of intelligence – burning all crap from your being. Then you are pure, alone, just the way existence wants you to be.
The commune is just a place where people who are interested in this journey, in this odyssey inward, live together – helping everybody to be himself, allowing everybody enough space, not interfering in any way, not imposing in any way. If they can support you, good; if support also becomes a hindrance then they will not even support you, they will withdraw themselves. They respect your integrity, your individuality, your freedom. I have chosen the word commune because it is a communion: a communion of rebellious spirits.
It is not another society, it is not a monastery, an ashram. It is individuals remaining individuals, Still being together; being alone and still interacting, responding; leaving the other also alone. Aloneness, to me, is the greatest religious quality.
So we are together but not in any kind of bondage, very loose. No relationship is binding in my commune. No relationship is really a relationship, it is only a relating, a process. As long as it goes, good, and when paths divert, change their course, that too is perfectly good because that’s how, perhaps, your being is going to grow. One never knows. We may walk together for a few feet, a few miles, and then depart in gratitude: “It was a joy to be together. Now let us celebrate separation; you helped me, I helped you. Now let us help each other to move in the directions that our beings want us to take.”
The commune is a totally new phenomenon. It has nothing to do with anything that has preceded it. The old, ancient ashrams were beautiful but they were part of the society. They propagated the same structure of the society: the four-caste system. The untouchable was untouchable. The untouchable could not enter the ancient Hindu ashram. Only the brahmin could be the seer. That is strange, that only the brahmin could have eyes. That was a brahmin strategy to remain in power, and they were powerful. But they were good people, although not revolutionaries; nice, but not rebels.
The rebel is both. He is a sword and also a song. It depends on the situation. He can become a song or he can become a sword.
This is a communion of rebels. We are not supporting any society, any politics, any nation, any race, any religion. We have left all that far behind. We have come alone, to be with those who have also come for the same reason – to be alone.
So remember, aloneness is something sacred. You should not trespass on anybody’s aloneness, freedom, individuality. Commune, love, be together, rejoice, but remember always you are alone. You are born alone, you will die alone, you have to live alone. All those who are here are all individuals, alone. They are not following any doctrine, any dogma, they are simply following their own inner voice. Try to hear it and follow it.
Yes, it is a very still small voice, but once heard, you cannot do anything other than what it says for you to do.

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