Chapter 6: Is This the Way It Is?
Gautam Buddha was the son of a king. He had all the joys - that’s why he became aware of the misery of life. It is not accidental that all the twenty-four tirthankaras of the Jainas were kings. Buddha was a king, Rama and Krishna were kings, all the Hindu avataras were kings. There is something in it, something very fundamental. Why have beggars not become tirthankaras, avataras, buddhas? For the simple reason that they don’t know what happiness is - how can they be aware of the misery of life?
Buddha says: Life is dukkha - pure misery. Only a buddha can say it because he has known the peaks. Knowing the peaks is simultaneously becoming aware of the valleys. If you live intensely, passionately, you will be more aware of death than the person who lives in a lukewarm way, who lives only so-so, who is not intense and passionate in his life. He cannot be very alert about death. The deeper you plunge into life, the greater will be your awareness of death. The positive and the negative continuously balance each other.
The Indians have played a trick upon themselves. They have become neutral: “Don’t go to the heights of joy; that is the way to avoid the depths of misery, pain, sorrow.” But this is not true revolution. True revolution is not by becoming indifferent, by becoming lukewarm, by living a very, very dull life. Real revolution happens through transcendence.
These two words have to be understood because the difference is very delicate and subtle: “indifference” and “transcendence”. Indifference simply means you avoid the positive to avoid the negative. Transcendence means you avoid nothing, neither the positive nor the negative. You live the positive in its totality and you live the negative in its totality, with a new quality - and that quality is that of a witness. You live totally but at the same time you remain silently alert, aware.
You know happiness surrounds you but you are not it; you know unhappiness surrounds you but you are not it. You know it is day but you are not it, and you know it is night but you are not it. You know now you are alive but you are not it; then when you will be dying you will know you are not it. This is transcendence.
Neti, neti - neither this nor that - is the secret formula of transcendence: neither positive nor negative. But it does not mean not to live the positive and the negative. If you avoid living you will become dull, very dull; you will lose all intelligence.
That’s the difference between the old sannyas and my new vision of sannyas. The old sannyas teaches you indifference, neutrality: “Don’t go to the heights so you need not fall into the depths.” Simple mathematics! “Don’t be happy, then you will not be unhappy.” How can you be unhappy if you have never been happy? “Don’t rejoice, then there will be no sorrow, and don’t laugh, then tears will not be possible.” This is simple mathematics, but not the truth of transcendence, not the truth of real sannyas.
The real sannyas means: laugh deeply, but remember you are not the laughter; and cry and weep deeply, let the tears flow, be total in it, and yet alert, a flame inside watching it all.