Chapter 10: The Eternal Religion
This is true prayer! And because of this I say Rabindranath is not a Hindu. He was so much against renunciation that he dared even to write a poem against Gautam the Buddha. The poem is of immense beauty and of great meaning too.
Buddha has left his young wife and a child who was just one day old. Buddha was only twenty-nine years of age and he escaped - that was the ancient Hindu way. He escaped into the forest to find out God.
Rabindranath describes his renunciation and describes that when he become enlightened he came back home to share his experience.
Yashodhara, his wife, asked him one question which he could not answer. He stood before Yashodhara with his eyes looking at the earth, ashamed. Only Rabindranath could have dared such a poem. What was the question that Yashodhara had asked? She had asked a very simple question: that, “Now that you have become enlightened, please answer one of my questions that has been haunting my days and my nights for all these years that you have been away. Since you left I have been tortured by this question and I have been waiting, because only you can answer it.
“The question is: whatsoever you have found in the deep silence of the forest, was it not possible to find it here in the palace with me, with your child, with your old father who has almost gone blind crying and weeping for you? And just look at me! I have become so old within these six years, just waiting every moment for you, waking up in the night again and again, maybe - you had left in the night, you may have come again - dreaming about you. Ask your son; he has been continuously asking me, ‘Where is my father?’ The whole kingdom is sad, the palace is sad; it has become a cemetery. Just answer one of my questions: Whatsoever you have found in the forest, was it not possible to find it here?”
And Buddha stood ashamed. He could not answer.
This is a parable invented by Rabindranath, but has great significance. Rabindranath is saying God can be found now and here. There is no need to go into the forest; there is no need to renounce the wife, the children, the old parents. There is no need to go against life. Going against life is like trying to go upstream, fighting with the river - an unnecessary fight. Relax, rest, enjoy.and God can be found anywhere because he is everywhere.
Hinduism is life-negative; that’s why it has respected the ascetics. Now, the ascetics are nothing but masochist people, absolutely ill, psychologically ill. The ascetic is the person who enjoys torturing himself, and Hindus have respected the ascetics. The more you torture yourself, the greater a saint you are. So if you lie down on a bed of thorns, thousands will gather to worship you. If you fast for months, then your name and fame will spread to all the corners of the country.
And one of the strangest things is, nobody ever asks, “What this man has contributed to life?” Lying on the bed of thorns is not a contribution; it does not make life more beautiful. it does not enrich existence in any way. Just by fasting for months is not any creative act - it is destructive, it is really suicidal.