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Dhammapada-Buddhism-Buddha

THE DHAMMAPADA: THE WAY OF THE BUDDHA, VOL. 1

Chapter 4: Just lucky, I guess!!

Question 2

 

Energy Enhancement         Enlightened Texts         Dhammapada         The Way of the Buddha, Vol. 1

 

The second question:

Question 2

BELOVED MASTER,

WHY ARE THERE SO MANY RELIGIONS IN THE WORLD, AND WHY DO THESE RELIGIONS CONTINUOUSLY QUARREL WITH EACH OTHER?

Geetam, it is natural that there should be so many religions. In fact, more are needed. As I see it, each individual should have his own religion; there should be as many religions as there are people. The number is not so much: there are only three hundred religions -- and how many people on the earth?

Each individual should have his own religion, because each individual is so unique, so different from anybody else. How can two persons have one religion? It is impossible. But we have been asking the impossible. Each individual has to reach God in his own way, and that way is never going to be traveled by anybody else again.

Hence, buddhas can only indicate, can only give you hints. They cannot provide you with certain, absolutely certain maps -- just hints, a few hints. And those hints have not to be taken very seriously -- very playfully. You are not to become a fanatic. If you become a fanatic you are no longer religious.

A religious person is humble, available to all kinds of hints; he is a seeker, a searcher, an explorer, and he will learn from every possible source. He will learn from the Bible, and he will learn from the Vedas, and he will learn from THE DHAMMAPADA. He will listen to Buddha, to Jesus, to Zarathustra. He will learn from all possible sources, but still he will remain himself. He will not become an imitation, he will not become a carbon copy. He will retain his authenticity. He will be humble, sincere, authentic; he will not become pseudo. He will not be a follower, he will be a lover.

He will love the buddha, but he will not follow him; he will not follow him in the details. How can you follow a buddha in the details? He is a totally different kind of person. You have never been before, nobody like you has ever been before, and nobody who is exactly like you will ever be there again. Hence your religion has to be your religion, your truth has to be your truth.

And that is the beauty of truth, that it always comes in such a unique form that you can say, "This is a special gift from God to me." Hence there are so many religions. And it is beautiful! -- there should be many more. Many people have been trying to make one religion; that is utter stupidity. You cannot create one religion. You can enforce one religion on people, but that will destroy their spirit, their freedom; that will cripple their being and paralyze their growth.

Just as there are so many languages, there are so many religions. The variety is beautiful, the variety makes it possible for you to choose according to your type. Religion is not and cannot be decided by birth, and those who decide their religion by their birth are utter fools. You cannot be born a Hindu and you cannot be born a Christian; birth has nothing to do with your religion. Religion is an inquiry. You may be born to Hindu parents -- that is one thing -- but if your parents really love you they will not convert you into a Hindu. Of course they will tell you all they have known and experienced, but they will leave you free. And they will tell you, "Become more alert, watchful, mature, and when you are mature enough and you want to decide, choose your own religion."

Go to the mosque, go to the church, go to the temple, go to the gurudwara. Listen to all kinds of things, see all kinds of flowers: the garden of God is so full of variety, is so rich because of variety. There are roses and lotuses and a thousand and one other flowers. Go and choose your own perfume, your own fragrance, because unless you yourself choose you will not be dedicated to it, you will not be surrendered to it.

The world is not religious because religion is imposed upon us. The parents are in a hurry to impose; the church, the state, the country -- everybody is in a hurry to impose a certain religion on the child. How foolish! How stupid! Religion needs maturity, great understanding, before one can choose.

Nobody is born a Hindu or a Mohammedan or a Parsi. Everybody is born clean, innocent, a TABULA RASA, and then everyone has to seek and search. This is the beauty of life because life is an inquiry. And don't be settled too early; there is no need. It is possible that no existing religion may satisfy you. But that is good; that means a new religion is born in you. The world becomes richer: one more religion, one more flower, one more tree -- a new phenomenon.

Buddha brings a new religion into the world; the world was poorer before Buddha because it was missing Buddhism. Buddha could have followed the religion of his parents; then the world would have been still poor. The world would have missed something immensely valuable, a new door to God. Buddha opened a new door, a new vision, a new insight. He was not convinced by his parents' religion; otherwise, he would have remained a Hindu. He rebelled. All religious people are rebellious people.

He went on an individual search -- all religious people are explorers, all religious people are adventurers. It would have been easy and convenient and comfortable to believe in the religion that had been believed in by the parents and the parents' parents, and for centuries. It would have been more convenient because you need not inquire, you need not go through the whole effort of finding the truth. It has been found by some seer in the past -- you can simply borrow it. But a borrowed truth is not a truth at all. A borrowed truth is a lie.

Buddha went on a search; arduous was the inquiry. He risked all -- his kingdom, his life. But when you risk so much, life showers new treasures on you. A new religion, a new insight, a new vision, was born into the world.

Mohammed could have followed his parents' religion. Jesus could have followed Judaism. Become a Jesus, become a Buddha, become a Mohammed! Don't be a Mohammedan and don't be a Buddhist and don't be a Christian -- explore! Don't waste life in imitating, because then you will remain pseudo. And a pseudo person cannot be religious. Great authenticity, sincerity is needed.

So, Geetam, it is good that there are three hundred religions -- there should be more! I am always for variety. I want the world richer in every possible way. Would you like the whole world to have only one kind of flower -- just roses, or just lotuses? Will it not be an impoverished world, very poor? Would you like the world to have only one language? Then the different nuances of the different languages will disappear.

There are things which can be said only in Arabic and cannot be said in any other language; and there are things which can be said only in Hebrew and cannot be said in any other language. There are things which can be said only in Chinese and cannot be said in any other language. If the world has only one language, many many beautiful things will remain unsaid.

Lao Tzu can speak only Chinese. You may not have pondered over the problem: just think of Lao Tzu writing his TAO TEH CHING in English...and the book will be totally different. It will miss something of immense value; it will have something different, a totally different color to it, but it will miss the flavor that it has in Chinese.

Now, Chinese has no alphabet; it is written in symbols. Because there is no alphabet, symbols can be interpreted in a thousand and one ways; symbols are more fluid, less fixed, more poetic, less prosaic. One symbol can mean many things. It is not scientific; it is very difficult to write scientific treatises in Chinese. For that, English is a far more adequate language.

But what Lao Tzu has given to the world would not have been possible without Chinese. Each symbol has many meanings, a multiplicity of meanings. You can choose your meaning according to your state of mind. Each symbol has many layers of meaning. As you grow in your understanding, the meaning of the symbols changes.

Hence, in the East a totally different kind of reading has existed which is nonexistent in the West. You would not like to read the same Bernard Shaw book again and again and again, or would you? Unless you are insane you would not like to read it again and again and again. What is the point? Once you have read it, it is finished! That's why the paperback has come into existence: read it and throw it. But in the East a different kind of reading exists: the same book is read again and again the whole life long.

The TAO TEH CHING is not a book which can be published in paperback -- they are doing that now. It should not be published in paperback -- it cannot be, because it is a totally different kind of book. It has layers and layers of meaning. When for the first time you read it, it is one book because you know only one meaning, the superficial. After meditating for a few months you read it again; another meaning reveals itself; after meditating a few months more you read it again...a third meaning. It has to go on, it has to become a life's study.

And you will go on finding the meanings -- they are inexhaustible. Aes dhammo sanantano: the ultimate is eternal and inexhaustible. It is not a fiction; you cannot just read it and be finished with it. One reading is not going to help you at all; it simply introduces you, it does not give you the core of it. It takes a whole life to come to the core of it.

Now we need all kinds of languages. English is needed for its definiteness, for its certainty. Each word has a definition. Science cannot develop without such a language.

Science could not be born in India because of the language; Sanskrit is a poetic language. You can sing it -- it has that quality -- you can chant it, but you cannot make much of a syllogism out of it. Many songs, certainly, but it is not argumentative; expressive but nonargumentative.

Arabic has a very haunting quality. If you chant it, it will become a haunting in your heart. Stop chanting it and the chanting continues in the heart. Arabic has that quality in it because it is a desert language; desert languages have a haunting quality. When you are calling somebody in a desert, far away, you have to call in a certain way -- and in a desert you can call people who are very far away; if you call them in a rhythmic way your sound will reach them.

Hence the beauty of the Koran. It is not a book to be read -- those who read the Koran will miss its meaning -- it is a book to be sung. It is not a book to be studied: it is a book to be danced, only then will you reach its inner spirit.

It is beautiful that there are many languages because there are many things to be said, expressed, communicated. And as the world grows, many more languages are needed, because as the world grows, many more things people are feeling, people are going through, people are reaching.

Religion is nothing but a language for expressing the ultimate. Geetam, there is nothing wrong in there being many religions. Of course, there is certainly something wrong in their constant quarreling with each other. That shows that the so-called religions have lost their religious quality, they have become political; that these so-called religions no longer have alive masters in them but only dead, dull, mediocre priests. They go on quarreling, they go on trying to convert, because numbers create power. If there are more Christians then Christianity has more power and the pope in the Vatican becomes more powerful. If Hindus are more in number, of course they are more in power.

Numbers give power. So Christianity wants everybody to be a Christian, and Mohammedans would like everybody to be a Mohammedan, Their ways and means may differ, but the effort and the desire is the same, a very deep political desire -- it is power politics. Then naturally quarreling will arise. Politics is quarreling; it has nothing to do with religion.

Religions should be as many as possible. And there is no question of any conflict: it is a question of like and dislike. If I like roses, you don't try to come and convince me that I should like marigolds -- you simply accept my liking. And if you like marigolds, it's perfectly okay; there is no question of arguing, quarreling. We need not fight with each other -- actually or intellectually. I can leave you to your choice, and I don't feel offended because you like marigolds and I don't like them.

Likes and dislikes are individual affairs. One may like the Bhagavadgita, another may like the Koran, somebody else may like THE DHAMMAPADA -- it's perfectly okay, absolutely okay. We should share our likings with each other, but we should not try to convert the other, to force the other into our fold. Yes, share by all means, because sharing shows your love. If you have found a source, share! But the sharing should be out of love, not for power politics. It is not to convince the other and to drag him into your fold. Religions have been doing such ugly things. People have been converted at the point of the bayonet; people are being converted by money, by bribing them...by any means, right or wrong. Become a Christian! Become a Mohammedan! Become a Hindu! Grab more and more people so you become more powerful, and don't allow anybody else to leave your fold.

Mulla Nasruddin's son was asking him, "Papa, when a Christian becomes a Mohammedan, what do you call him?"

Nasruddin smiled and said, "He has come to his senses, he is a man of understanding, wisdom. He has understood what is false as false and what is truth as truth."

The boy asks again, "And Papa, if a Mohammedan becomes a Christian what do you call him?"

Nasruddin was very angry and said, "He is a traitor! He has betrayed. He is stupid!"

Now, if a Christian becomes a Mohammedan, he is a man of intelligence, a wise man; and if a Mohammedan becomes a Christian he is a traitor, stupid. And the same is the situation if you ask the Christian.

A Hindu became a Christian. All the Hindus were against him, naturally -- he had betrayed them! But Christians made him a saint. Sadhu Sunder Singh was his name. They almost worshipped him as if he was an incarnation of Jesus, because he proved the truth of Christianity. And Hindus? -- they were so angry with the man that they wanted to kill him. And there is every possibility that they did kill him, because one day he suddenly disappeared and his body has not been found since then. It is still a mystery what happened to Sadhu Sunder Singh.

I know a man who was a Hindu and became a Jaina. Hindus were very much against him, naturally, obviously. They tried in every way to destroy the man, but he became the most famous Jaina saint. Ganesh Varni was his name. He defeated all other Jaina saints; he reached the highest pinnacle. What was his real quality? Why did he reach the highest pinnacle? Because basically he was a Hindu and became a Jaina. "He proved that Jainism is far higher than Hinduism; otherwise, why has this man, such a wise man, come to our fold?"

Geetam, these religions quarrel because they are not religious; they have become more and more political. And when you quarrel, then everything is right -- in love and war everything is right.

A Catholic is trying to convert a Jew and tells him that if he becomes a Catholic his prayers will certainly be answered -- because the priest will give them to the bishop, who will give them to the cardinal, who will give them to the pope, who will shove them up into heaven through a hole at the top of the Vatican, which just matches a hole in the floor of heaven, where Saint Peter will take them to the Virgin Mary, who will intercede on their behalf with Jesus, who will say a good word for them to God.

The Jew repeats this whole itinerary with an astonished air, ending, "You know it must be true, because I have always wondered what they do with all the shit in heaven. They must throw it down that little hole in the Vatican, where the pope gives it to the cardinal, who gives it to the bishop, who gives it to the priest, who gives it to you -- and you are trying to hand it to me?"

Religions are good -- many more are needed -- but quarreling religions are not religions. The very quarreling attitude makes them political. And the priest and the politician have been in a very subtle conspiracy down the ages -- because the politician can dominate the people through the priest very easily. The priest possesses the souls of the people and the politician possesses the bodies of the people. Both are oppressors, exploiters. Both are in the same business, both are partners. Both can help each other. The politician can help the priest because he has temporal power, and the priest can help the politician because people listen to him, worship him, take his word as divine.

Do you know, Buddhism did not become a great religion because of Buddha; it became a great religion because of the emperor Ashoka. It was not because of Buddha that millions of people became Buddhists, no. While Buddha was alive, only a few, a few chosen people were courageous enough to walk with him in his light, to commune with him. And they were courageous -- because they had to suffer, they had to suffer much ridicule, opposition, because the established Hindu church was against this man Buddha.

Buddhism became a world religion not because of Buddha but because of the emperor Ashoka. When the Buddhist priests joined hands with the emperor Ashoka, then the religion became a world religion. The whole of Asia was converted. Now the priests would help Ashoka to retain his power, and Ashoka would help the priests become more and more powerful.

Christianity became a world religion not because of Jesus. Jesus was very alone -- only a few disciples, twelve disciples, and a few hundred sympathizers, that's all. And even those disciples disappeared when Jesus was being crucified, and the sympathizers simply forgot about him; they stopped talking about the man because it was dangerous even to show sympathy.

It is said that the people who had sympathized with Jesus came to spit on his face while he was dying to show the people, "We are against, we are not for him." To prove to the people...because this man is dying -- now they will be in trouble. They have to live, they still have to live. They have to give some proof that they are against this man.

They denied Jesus while he was dying. They threw mud, stones, they spat on his face, just to show the crowds, "See, isn't this enough proof that the rumors that you have heard that we are sympathizers are absolutely wrong, unfounded? We are against him as much as you are -- in fact, we are more against him than you are."

The enemies were not spitting on him but the friends. Jesus became a world force not because of himself but only when the Roman emperors and Christian priests joined hands. Now, this is an irony. Jesus was crucified by a Roman emperor -- see how history moves! Pontius Pilate was just a representative of the Roman power, of the Roman emperor; he simply followed the orders from Rome. Who would ever have thought that Rome would become the central place of Christianity? Who would ever have thought while Jesus was being crucified that Rome would be the residence of the pope? But that's how it happened. When priests joined hands with Emperor Constantine and other Roman emperors, Christianity became a world force.

Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism -- they have all depended on politics. They are not true religions anymore but political games being played in the name of religion.

I would like the world to have many more religions, so many that each individual has his own religion -- then no priest will be needed. That is the only way to drop the priests. If you have your own religion, no priest is needed -- you are the priest and you are the follower and you are everything.

You have to listen to your inner voice. Buddha says: Follow your own nature; there is no need for anybody to intercede on your behalf.

But I am not in favor of creating one religion; enough of that nonsense! In the past we have been trying to do that: make one religion so that quarreling can stop. But it is not possible. Even if you can enforce one religion, if the whole world becomes Christian, then again there will be Protestants and Catholics and a thousand and one sects. And the same game will start again: people will start quarreling -- because their needs are different, their understandings are different.

I have heard:

A beautiful young woman came home from London. She belonged to a small village, was from a Catholic family. After three or four years of living in London she had become very rich; she came back to see her parents. The mother could not believe her eyes. She asked, "How did you manage? You have become so rich -- such beautiful clothes, a diamond ring, a beautiful car!"

And the girl said, "Mother, I have become a prostitute."

Just hearing this the mother fainted, became unconscious. When she came back she asked again, "What did you say?"

The girl said, "Mother, I said I have become a prostitute."

And the mother started laughing and she said, "I misunderstood you -- I thought you said you had become a Protestant."

To be a prostitute is okay, but to become a Protestant...? The same quarreling will start. Even small religions -- for example, Jainism, one of the smallest religions in the world -- have so many sects, sects within sects. In fact, we have not yet become aware of the great necessity that each individual needs his own version of God, and each individual has his own way of approaching God.

A man picked up by a prostitute in a bar is amazed by the college pennants and diplomas ornamenting the walls of her room.

"Are these your diplomas?" he asks.

"Sure," she says airily. "I have my Master of Arts from Columbia, and took my Ph.D. in Shakespeare at Oxford."

The man is incredulous. "But how did a girl like you get into a profession like this?"

"I don't know," she says. "Just lucky, I guess."

People have different understandings, different ways of looking at things, different interpretations. And they have to be allowed this freedom.

 

Next: Chapter 4: Just lucky, I guess!!, Question 3

 

    Energy Enhancement         Enlightened Texts          Dhammapada         The Way of the Buddha, Vol. 1     

 

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