Chapter 5: Renounce the Past, Not the World
Escapists are cowards, they are not rebels - although that’s what has been thought up to now, that they are rebellious spirits. They are not, they are simply cowards. They could not cope with life. They knew their weaknesses, their frailties, and they thought it was better to escape; because then you will never have to face your weakness, your frailty, you will never come to know any challenge. But without challenges how are you going to grow?
No, the rebel cannot renounce the world and the society, but he certainly renounces many other things. He renounces the so-called morality imposed upon him by the society; he renounces the so-called values imposed by the society; he renounces the knowledge given by the society. He does not renounce the society as such, but he renounces everything that the society has given to him. This is true renunciation.
The rebel lives in the society, fighting, struggling. To remain in the crowd and not to be obedient to the crowd but to be obedient to one’s own conscience, is a tremendous opportunity for growth. It makes you bring out your best; it gives you a dignity.
A rebel is a fighter, a warrior. But how can you be a warrior in a cave in the Himalayas? With whom are you going to fight? The rebel remains in the society, but he is no longer part of the society - that is his renunciation and that is his rebelliousness. He is not stubborn, he is not adamant, he is not an egoist; he does not just go on fighting blindly.
If he finds something is right he obeys it, but he obeys his own feeling of rightness, not the commandment given by others. And if he sees that it is not right he disobeys it, whatsoever the cost may be. He may accept a crucifixion, but he will not accept any spiritual slavery.
The situation of the rebel is tremendously exciting: each moment he is faced with problems because the society has a fixed mode, a fixed pattern, fixed ideals. And the rebel cannot go with those fixed ideals - he has to follow his own still small voice. If his heart is saying no, there is no way, no power, to force him to say yes. You can kill him, but you cannot destroy his rebellious spirit.
His renunciation is far greater than the renunciation of Gautam Buddha, Mahavira and millions of others - they simply renounced the society, escaped into the forest, into the mountains. It was an easier way, but very dangerous because it goes against your growth.
The rebel renounces the society and still remains in it, fighting moment to moment. In this way he not only grows, he also allows the society to learn that there are many things which are not right, but have been thought to be right. There are many things which are immoral but have been thought moral; there are many things which have been thought very wise, but they are really otherwise.
For example, all the societies of the world have praised virginity in women. It is a universally accepted ideal that the woman should remain a virgin before marriage. Sometimes there is a small, thin barrier of skin in a woman’s vagina and if the woman makes love to somebody, that small barrier prevents the sperm from going to the egg.