Earth and Sky Apart

First Question



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The first question:

Question 1


The question is from Prageet.

First, there are suicides and suicides. Each suicide has something unique about it -- as each life has something unique about it. Your life is yours and your death is also going to be yours. Sometimes it is possible that your life may not be yours, but it is not possible that your death may not be yours.

Life can be anonymous. If you live with others, you can compromise too much, you can imitate -- but death is always unique because death is alone. You die alone. There is no society. They don't exist in your death. The crowd, the mass, is there when you are alive, but when you die you die absolutely alone, utterly alone.

Death has a quality.

So sometimes it happens that a man may commit suicide because he has become tired of the anonymous existence. He has become tired of all the compromises that one has to make in order to live. That's why van Gogh committed suicide -- he was a rare man, one of the greatest painters ever. But he had to make compromises every moment of his life. He got tired of those compromises; he could no longer tolerate being part of the crowd mind. He killed himself in order to be himself. He was only thirty-three or something when he killed himself. If he had been in the East there would have been another alternative: suicide or sannyas. These are the two alternatives which every man who has some sense of life, of individuality, has to choose between.

In the West nothing like sannyas has been in existence. If you become a Christian monk that is again a compromise; you still remain part of the society. Even if you go out of the society you remain part of It. The society goes on controlling you -- it has a remote control system. It does not allow you to really go out of it. You remain a Christian, you remain a Catholic, even when you have moved to a monastery. It does not make much difference.

In the East, sannyas has a totally different flavour. The moment you become a sannyasin you are no longer a Hindu, you are no longer a Mohammedan, you are no longer a Christian. The moment you become a sannyasin, you drop out of all collectivities. You become yourself. You will be surprised to know that in the East people don't commit suicide as much as in the West. And the difference is big -- too big to be just accidental. In the East we have created a creative kind of suicide, that is sannyas. You can still live, but you can live in your own way. Then the need for suicide disappears, or becomes very much less.

In the West it always has happened that the unique individuals have to commit suicide. The mediocre go on living, the unique have to commit suicide. A van Gogh, a Hemingway. a Mayakovski, a Nijinsky -- these are unique individuals. Either they have to commit suicide or they have to go mad -- the society drives them mad. The society puts so much pressure on them that either they have to yield to the society and become just anonymous, or they have to go mad, or they have to commit suicide. And all are destructive alternatives.

Nietzsche went mad; that was his way of committing suicide. Nijinsky committed suicide; that was his way of going mad. Nietzsche had the same quality as a Buddha. Had he been in the East he would have become a Buddha, but the West does not give that alternative at all. He had to go mad. Van Gogh had a unique quality of tremendous intelligence, creativity. He could have moved on the path of sannyas and samadhi, but there was no door open. He got tired; just going on living a compromise was hurting too much. It was not worth it. One day he completed his painting -- the painting that he had always wanted to do -- and that day he felt, 'Now there is no need to make any compromise with anybody for any reason. I have done my paintings, I have done my best. It is time to disappear.'

He had always wanted to paint a sunrise. He had painted sunrises for years, but still something was missing and lacking and he would paint again and again. The day his painting was complete and he was fulfilled and satisfied and contented that it had happened -- that very moment it was absolutely clear to him that now there was no need -- 'I was only waiting for this painting. I am fulfilled in it, I have bloomed. Now why make compromises? For what?' He committed suicide.

He was not mad, he was simply not mediocre. His suicide was not a crime, his suicide was simply a condemnation of your so-called society which asks for so many compromises. Mediocre people are ready to compromise; they have nothing to lose. In fact they feel very good being part of a crowd, of a mob, because in the crowd they need not think about themselves as mediocre; all are just like them. They can lose themselves in the crowd. They can lose themselves and forget themselves in the mass mind, and in the mass mind they have no responsibility. They need not bother whether they are intelligent or unintelligent; they need not bother whether they are asleep or awakened.

But a man who has some soul in him will find it continuously heavy to go on degrading himself, to go on compromising for small ordinary trivia, meaningless things -- for bread and butter, for a house, a shelter, for clothes.

Van Gogh was very poor because his paintings wouldn't sell. His paintings were at least a hundred years ahead of his time. That is always so. The greater a man's intelligence, the bigger is the distance between the people that exist by his side and the people for whom his painting, his poetry, his assertions, will be meaningful. He comes before his time.

That's why Buddha's assertions are still relevant, still fresh; not rotten, not old. His time is coming now. It is as if he came two thousand five hundred years before his time.

Vincent van Gogh's paintings are now becoming great paintings; great appreciation has arisen for him. He came a little early. They always do. His brother used to give him enough money just to keep his body and soul together, because his paintings wouldn't sell. So just enough money.... And van Gogh would eat for half the week and for half the week he would fast to save money to paint.

Just think how difficult it was for him to live. Nobody would appreciate his painting. Once it happened that his brother made an arrangement. He told a friend, 'You go and purchase at least one painting. At least once in his life he should have the joy of somebody purchasing his painting. You take money from me. Go and purchase a painting.'

The friend went. Van Gogh was very happy. This was the first man who had come to appreciate his painting. But soon he recognised the fact that the man was not interested.... Van Gogh was thrilled! He was dancing and he was showing his paintings, all the paintings that he had done. But the man was not interested, he was just fulfilling a duty. He said, 'Anyone will do. You just give me any painting and take this money.'

It hurt van Gogh even more. He threw the man out with his money and he said, 'I suspect it is my brother behind it. He always wanted somebody to purchase my painting and it seems he has sent you. You get out from here! I am not going to sell. I wanted somebody to love my painting, to see what I have done, but you are not the person. You don't have any perception, you don't have any aesthetic sense, you don't know what paintings mean. You simply get out!'

So not a single painting was sold. Starving, fasting, he was painting three days, four days a week. And for three, four days he would be able to eat. The day he completed the painting that he always wanted to complete....

He was madly in love with the sun. The sun is the source of life. Maybe the sun was his symbol for God, maybe through the sun he was searching for God. The day he painted his sunrise, he committed suicide. This suicide is not a crime, it is simply a shout against the mediocre society that we have created in the world. It is simply a protest that for those who have life. this society is not worth living in. This society is only for the mediocre. This society is only for those who really don't want to love, who just want to drag.

But each suicide will have a different quality to it.

You ask why Hemingway committed suicide. Hemingway's suicide has another flavour, different from van Gogh's. Hemingway's whole search was the search for freedom. Birth happened; it was not your choice. You were thrown into life -- as the existentialists say. You were thrown into it, it was not your choice. Nobody ever asked you whether you wanted to be born or not. So birth is not freedom. It has already happened.

The next most important thing is love, but that is also not possible to do. When it happens, it happens; you cannot manage it, you cannot will it. If you want to love a person just through will, it is impossible. It happens when it happens -- -suddenly you are in love, That's why we use the phrase 'falling in love'. You 'fall' into it. But you cannot will it; it comes from the unknown. It is just like birth. It is as if God manages that you fall in love with this person; it is as if the decision comes from the blue. You are not the decisive factor, you are more like a victim. You cannot do anything against it. If it happens you have to go into it; if it does not happen you can do whatsoever you want and it will not happen. Nobody can produce love on order.

And the most important three things in life are birth, love, death. Death is the only thing that you can do something about -- you can commit suicide.

Hemingway's search was for freedom. He wanted to do something that HE had done. He had not managed birth, he had not managed love, now there was only death. There was only one thing which if you wanted to do, you could do. It would be your act, an individual act, done by you.

Death has a mysterious quality about it; it is a very strange paradox. If you are standing by the side of a small baby, just born, and if somebody asks you to say something absolutely certain about the baby -- the baby is in his crib, asleep, relaxing -- what can you say absolutely certainly? You can say only one thing: that he will die.

This is a very strange thing to say. Anything else is uncertain. He may love, he may not love. He may succeed, he may fail. He may be a sinner, he may be a saint. All are 'maybes', there is nothing certain about anything. It is not possible to predict anything. There is only one thing you can say -- and it looks very absurd at the side of a baby who has just been born -- only one thing is absolutely certain: that he will die. This prediction can be made, and your prediction is never going to be wrong.

So death has a certain quality of certainty about it -- it is going to happen. And at the same time it has something absolutely uncertain about it too. One never knows when it is going to happen. There is certainty that it is going to happen and uncertainty about when it is going to happen. Both this certainty and uncertainty about death make it a mystery, a paradox. If you go on living, it will happen -- but then again it will come from out of the blue. You will not be the decisive factor. Birth happened, love happened -- was death also to happen? That made Hemingway uneasy. He wanted to do at least one thing in life to which he could have his own signature, about which he could say 'This I did'. That's why he committed suicide. Suicide was an exercise in freedom.

You cannot know anything about death unless you go into it. Hemingway's attitude was that if it is going to happen then why be dragged into it? Why not go into it on your own? It is going to happen. His whole life's concern was death, that's why he became so interested in bullfights. Death was very close by. He was constantly. attracted by the theme of death -- what it was. But you cannot know. Even if somebody is dying in front of you, you don't know anything about death. You simply know that the breathing has disappeared, that this man's eyes won't open again, that this man will never speak again, that his heart is no longer beating -- that's all. But this is nothing. How can you know about death from these things? The mystery remains a mystery, you have not even touched it.

You can know it only by going into it. But if you are dragged into it there are more possibilities of your becoming unconscious -- because you are being dragged into it. Almost always people die unconsciously. Before death happens they become so afraid, so very afraid, that a kind of coma surrounds them and protects them. It is a natural anaesthetic. When you go for an operation, you need an anaesthetic -- and death is the greatest operation there is: the soul and body will be torn apart. So nature has some built-in mechanism -- before you start dying you go into a coma; all consciousness disappears. In the first place your consciousness was not very much. Even while you were alive, it was just a tiny flicker. When the wind of death comes, that flicker is gone -- there is complete darkness.

Hemingway wanted to go into death fully conscious. It was a conscious exercise in dying. But that is possible only through suicide or through samadhi. These are the only two possibilities. You can die consciously in only two ways. You can commit suicide; you can manage your own death. You can have your revolver ready, contemplate it, put it to your chest or your head, pull the trigger yourself consciously, see the explosion and see death. This is one possibility. It is a very destructive possibility.

Another possibility is to go more and more into meditation, to attain to a state of awareness that cannot be drowned by death. Then there is no need to commit suicide. Then whenever death comes, let it come. You will be dying fully alert, aware, watchful.

So it is suicide or sannyas, suicide or samadhi.

And in the West, sannyas and samadhi have not been available. That's why these two very rare people committed suicide. And they have not been understood. People think that they were kind of ill, neurotic, mad, morbid, unhealthy. They were not. I am not saying that all people who commit suicide are the same. There are neurotic people who will commit suicide. There are morbid people who are more concerned with death than they are concerned with life, who enjoy destructiveness. They are self-destructive mechanisms who go on poisoning themselves.

I'm not talking about all suicides -- but you have asked about these two. And there are as many as people commit suicide. But these two are very rare. These two are very potential. If Vincent van Gogh or Hemingway had been in the East or had had the Eastern attitude, they would have flowered as great sannyasins.

And then you ask: WHY DO THEY POISON THEIR RIVERS, THEIR AIR AND THEIR OWN FOOD? That is again creating a mass suicide very slowly.

When you live unintelligently, insensitively, you live such a dull kind of life that your interest naturally starts moving towards death. That's why there are constant wars. And the periods that you call days of peace are not much concerned with peace, they are only preparations for a new war. So either you are in war or you prepare for war. There are only two kinds of periods in history: actual fighting and preparation for the fighting. There has never been a period of peace. The peace is absolutely false, pretentious. Underneath the peace, underground, you are preparing for another war.

Why is there so much attraction for war? -- because only when people are dying do they become a little alert. When there is danger you become a little alert. You don't know how to be alert in any other way. That's why when there is war you will see people's faces more alive. Something is happening. Otherwise nothing happens. It is the same old tale told by an idiot, full of fury and noise, signifying nothing. Every day you get up and the same life starts in the same rut. Every night you go to bed and you have again ended a repetition of a day. And you can be certain that tomorrow you will do the same again. When war happens, things are no longer a routine; suddenly there is news in the air; something new is happening. So people are destructive -- they create war.

And they create many kinds of war. They have been constantly fighting with nature. And nature is our life, nature is our very source. But even a man like Bertrand Russell writes a book with a title, CONQUEST OF NATURE. Conquest? the very idea is aggressive. It is as if we are against nature or nature is against us. We are one. We are nature. The trees are nature -- are people not nature? The air is nature and the sun and moon are nature -- are the eyes and the smiles and the tears not nature?

Just as the earth goes on growing into trees, so it goes on growing into people too. It is the same nature, it is the same ecology, it is one whole -- and it is interdependent. And everything depends on everything else.

But the Western mind has been very aggressive. Nature has to be conquered. You have to fight amongst yourselves, you have to fight with nature; not only that, you have to fight with yourself. These are the three fights: man fights with other men, man fights with nature, man fights with himself. When man fights with other men it is politics. When man fights with nature it is science. And when man fights with himself it is religion. This is a foolish kind of approach -- as if the whole thing depends on fighting.

Whom do you call the religious man? -- the one who fights with himself continuously, repressing, cutting his life into fragments, choosing, judging, destroying, becoming split and schizophrenic. This is the same attitude -- an aggressive, violent attitude. It shows in politics because it is the same man. It shows in religion because it is the same man. It shows in what you do with nature.

You ask me: WHY DO THEY POISON THEIR RIVERS, THEIR AIR AND THEIR OWN FOOD? -- because they are poisoned with violence. So whatsoever they do becomes poisonous. They are suicidal because they don't know what life is and they don't know how to live it. They don't know the joy and the celebration. They don't know that it is a gift, that it is a great gift. They don't know gratitude. So they go on being destructive in every possible way.

The Western attitude has been growing more and more towards death and every day it is bringing death closer to this planet. Any day this planet can explode into utter annihilation. The whole intelligence -- technology, science, politics, everything -- is directed towards one thing: how to commit a global suicide.

But it is the same man. I would like you to become just the contrary: the man who loves, who does not fight; the man who loves himself. That's why my religion is a love for yourself. The man who loves himself loves others. Then there will be a totally different kind of politics; it will be based on love. The man who loves himself and loves other people, loves nature too -- because trees are people, birds are people, animals are people. Then there will be a different kind of science in the world. But the science has to come from religion, because religion is the deepest core. Because you hate yourself, you hate others, you hate nature. Those are just reverberations of the original hate that you go on carrying with yourself.

WHY DO THEY JUSTIFY IT ALL WITH THEIR REASONING, PSYCHOLOGY AND LAWS? What else can they do? One has to justify everything. In fact, when you are doing something wrong, you have to justify it immediately, otherwise you yourself will become aware of the wrong that you have done. And you will be a criminal in your own eyes. To avoid that, you have to find rationalisations.

Once a scientist was staying with me. I love my garden to be a jungle, so I had a beautiful jungle around my house. The scientist said to me, 'Are you aware of what you are doing? If you allow these trees to grow so close to the house they will run over the house. These are dangerous things. There is a constant fight between man and trees. If you don't keep them away, within years their roots will enter into your walls and they will destroy your house.' He said, 'I hate trees.'

That has been the attitude of man: destroy. If you take that attitude then everything becomes inimical -- even poor trees, innocent trees. And there is some fact to it, so you can base your reasoning on it. Yes, it is true that if trees are left to grow completely in freedom then they will run over your towns and your houses. That's true, it is factual. But to base your whole life on that small fact and make it a philosophy, is wrong.

The other thing is as much a fact as this -- we exist with the trees. Destroy all the trees and you will die. You breathe oxygen in, trees exhale oxygen. You exhale carbon dioxide, trees inhale carbon dioxide. So when you are surrounded by trees you are more alive. It is not just poetry. 'When you go into a jungle and a great jubilation comes to your heart, you suddenly feel more alive -- as if the greenery makes you also green. It is not just poetry, it is pure science. It is because there is more oxygen, more life throbbing all around, more vitality. And when you breathe that oxygen in, your blood is purified; you can throw the toxins out more easily and you live at the maximum.

So there is a partnership with the trees: they take your poison in and purify it and create oxygen for you; you take oxygen in, you use the oxygen and throw the carbon dioxide outside. Trees use carbon dioxide as their food. So there is an absolute partnership. Man cannot live without trees and trees cannot live without man.

Animals are needed for trees and trees are needed for animals. They are not separate; they are part of one rhythm. This too is a fact. And life should not avoid this. One has to understand the totality of it; and one has to live in such a way that no one fact becomes, or pretends to become, the whole. There is no need to destroy. There is no need to fight. That is the approach of Tao, the approach of Sufism, Zen.

There is a famous Zen story....

A king told his old carpenter that he would like a certain table. The old man said, 'I am very old and my son is yet not ready. He is learning by and by. But I will try, I will do my best. Give me time.'

For three days the old man disappeared in the forest. After three days he came back.

The king asked, 'It takes three days to bring a little wood for the table?'

The old carpenter said, 'Sometimes it takes three days, sometimes three months. And sometimes you may not find wood for three years. It is a difficult art.'

The king was puzzled. He said, 'Explain it. 'What do you mean? Explain in detail.'

And the man said, 'First I have to go on a fast -- because only when I am on a fast does my mind by and by slow down. When my mind slows down, all thoughts disappear. all aggression disappears. Then I am no longer violent, then there is pure compassion and love -- a different vibe. When I feel that vibe of no-mind, then I go into the forest, because only through that vibe can I find the right tree. With aggression, how can you find the right tree?' And I have to ask the trees themselves whether one of them is willing to become a table. I go, I look around, and when I feel that this tree is willing.... That willingness can be felt only when I have no mind. So there is fasting, meditating -- and when I become absolutely empty, I simply roam around with the trees to have a feel. 'When I feel that this tree fits, I sit by its side and ask its permission -- "I am going to cut a branch from you. Are you willing?" If the tree says yes wholeheartedly only then do I cut -- otherwise who am I to cut its branch?'

Now this is a totally different approach. There is no fight between the man and the tree, there is a friendship. The man tries to fall en rapport with the trees, and he asks their permission. This is absurd for a Western mind. The Western mind says, 'What nonsense are you talking about? Asking a tree? Have you gone crazy? And how can the tree say yes or no?' But now even Western science is gradually becoming aware that the tree can say yes or no. Now sophisticated instruments exist which can detect the moods of a tree -- whether the tree is willing, whether the tree is unwilling, whether the tree is happy or unhappy? Now subtle instruments have been developed -- just like a cardiogram. You can have a cardiogram of the tree. Electronic instruments can detect the moods of the tree.

When a woodcutter comes around the tree the tree is shaken with fear, is sad, is afraid, clings to her life. No Taoist will cut a tree in that state, no, not at all. If the tree is not willing, then who are we? When the tree on its own is ready to share, then only can it be cut.

Now this table will have a different quality to it. It has been a gift from the tree; it has not been taken away. The tree has not been robbed, it has not been conquered. It will not be difficult to understand that this table will have a different vibe to it. It will have something sacred about it. If you put this table in your room you will create a certain kind of space around the table which will not be possible with other tables. It will be there befriending you because you befriended it. It will be there as part of your family, not as a limb cut from an enemy.

The Western mind has been too aggressive against itself and against nature. It has created schizophrenia against people, it has created politics, war, and it has created the ecological crisis.

But things have gone now to the extreme. Either man has to turn back and drop the Western aggressive attitude or man has to get ready to say goodbye to this planet. This planet cannot tolerate man any more; it has already tolerated him for long enough.


They need compassion because only through compassion will they learn compassion. There is no other way to learn it. If they can feel my compassion and my love, they will start being compassionate and being loving. It is only in the milieu of love that one learns love. I am just creating a climate here. It is not a teaching, it is a climate.

And I don't have anything else to give. To whosoever comes I can give my love and my compassion -- because that is all that I have.

And Prageet says: I AM SICK AND TIRED OF THEM.

If you are sick and tired of them then you are one of them. That very attitude of being sick and tired is violent.

Why this question? Such a long question has arisen in Prageet's mind, and this is his first question. He has been here for almost two years. Why has such a long question arisen? He has a very violent mind. He is a good groupleader, but a very violent one. He runs the gestalt and the bio-energetic groups and he goes on beating people. And he had never asked this question up to now. But just a few days ago one guy beat him really hard. Hence the question.

If you are tired and sick of them, you are one of them. Feel compassion, feel love. Help people through love and compassion. I know that sometimes you have to be hard too, just because of compassion, but that is another quality of hardness. Sometimes you have to push their buttons, but when you push their buttons, naturally they can go to the extreme -- they can hit you. A real groupleader is always in danger. That is the risk. You provoke people to bring their negativities to the surface, and when those negativities come to the surface, naturally you can be one of the targets. You are in danger.

But a groupleader will accept it with gratitude. When somebody hits a groupleader, he will bow down to him and say thank you -- because that is what he wanted. He was creating a situation in which the anger could bubble up and burst. Once that anger has gone, the man will have a totally different kind of energy. The group process is a catharsis; it is a process of taking the pus out of your system. But when you are taking pus out of a system, sometimes a few drops of pus may fall upon your clothes -- that's natural. When you do surgery your hands will be bloody and you will need a good bath after it.

Don't be angry. Otherwise you become part of them.

Now Prageet says, 'I don't want to lead any groups nor do I want to rolf people. Maybe I could work in the garden?' No, not at all. I love my trees!


Next: Chapter 4, Earth and Sky Apart, The second question


Energy Enhancement          Enlightened Texts          Sufism          Sufis: The People Of The Path



Chapter 4


  • Sufism, Vol. 2 Sufis: The People Of The Path Chapter 4: Earth and Sky Apart, Question 1





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