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Chapter 13: The Only Holy Approach

Jainas say that once a snake bit Mahavira on his foot, and instead of blood coming out, milk came out. Now, if you say it is a myth, a parable, a poetry, there is no problem.

The first time I spoke in Mumbai, one Jaina monk, Chitrabhanu, had spoken ahead of me. And he mentioned this fact, and gave the reason why milk came out: because Mahavira is so full of love that even when a snake bites him, it is because of his love and compassion that milk comes out - just a little breakfast for the snake: no anger, no violence. And for twenty-five centuries Jainas have been writing in their books that this is factual.

I was to speak after Chitrabhanu, and I said, “If it is factual then many things have to be explained: it means that Mahavira’s body was filled with milk instead of blood. And the snakebite happened when he was nearabout fifty, so for fifty years. All the milk would have certainly turned into curd. And he used to walk naked, on foot. In fifty years’ time, the curd would have turned into butter! And in such heat, in such a hot country, butter is going to become ghee.”

So if ghee had come out of his foot instead of blood, there would be some rationality to it - but milk? And this is so stupid, that a man is full of curd, he would stink of curd! Fifty years filled with curd and butter and ghee - just think of that poor man. In the hot season, he wouldn’t perspire; he would start flowing with ghee!

So I said, “This is nonsense. The only possibility is: milk comes out of a woman’s body, and she has a certain mechanism in her breast to transform the blood into milk. A rational mind could accept it, that Mahavira had the same mechanism in his feet. His feet were nothing but breasts. And strangely, was he expecting that the snake was going to bite him on the foot? Most probably he had breasts all over, so that wherever the snake bit, milk would come out.”

And even a woman’s breast will not give milk unless she has given birth to a child. So I said, “This goes on and on into difficulties. It is better to accept that this is simply poetry. Don’t make it history. Don’t try to theorize it, don’t try to make it scientific. Simply say that it is a poetic way of saying that he was so loving. How to say it in poetry? - so we have expressed it by saying that milk came out, just as the milk comes out of the mother’s breast, in love.”

Milk has a certain association with love, because the child receives the milk and love from the same breast - that is his first experience in the world. And that’s why humanity is so obsessed with the breast. Painters go on painting breasts and breasts, sculptors go on making breasts and breasts. Poets, novelists, all kinds of creative people are obsessed only with one object, and that is the woman’s breast. The reason is clear: it is the child’s first experience of love, of warmth, of the human body, of the other, of the world. It contains so much. So just to give expression to a feeling of love and warmth, milk has been used as a symbol.