Chapter 21: Leaves of a Single Tree
The emperor said, “It is my fault. That man was trying hard to persuade me. He told me, ‘Don’t put me in the seat of the chief justice, because my ways of seeing and understanding are totally different from your ways of seeing and understanding. You live in utter darkness and blindness. You don’t see simple facts - that the thief is not the criminal but a victim. He needs all the sympathy possible but, on the contrary, he gets punishment. And the rich man needs nobody’s sympathy, but nobody will ever think that he has to be punished. Your whole gang makes all the laws, which are favorable to you and unfavorable to the poor whose blood you all have been sucking.’”
Lao Tzu was relieved from his duties, and the emperor said, “You were right. Please forgive me. Our ways of thinking are totally different.”
Lao Tzu said, “Have you ever thought about it? You are saying our ways of thinking are totally different. If you had ever thought about it they would not have been different. They are different because I try to see the root cause - why there is so much evil, why there is so much wrong. And you are only interested in collecting more and more power, more and more riches. Greed is not thinking; ambition is blind. And it is good that you have come to some understanding on the first day because in my eyes you are a criminal, and sooner or later I was going to send you to jail. It is better that you have relieved me of the trouble of sending you to jail. But remember that you are the cause of all the crimes and you are never punished for it, and the poor victims are punished.”
What is wrong? Who is going to define it?
To the Jainas, violence is wrong. Any act which destroys life is a crime, it is sin. But to the Hindus, to the Mohammedans, to the Christians, violence is a way of life.
How many lives have you destroyed just for your food? - and without ever thinking twice, “What am I doing?” And even the greatest amongst you are so blind and so tethered with the past that I sometimes wonder whether humanity will ever come out of this darkness or not.
Even a man like Ramakrishna kills fish to eat. Even a man like Jesus is a meat-eater. On the one hand they go on talking about love, about God, and about great things and they don’t have the right even to talk about love, because they don’t have any reverence for life.
Christians don’t see anything wrong in drinking alcohol. Even Jesus himself was drinking alcohol. For centuries all the so-called saints of the Hindus have been using drugs - marijuana, hashish - and they were worshipped, and nobody ever thought that a man who is a drug addict cannot be a saint. Yes, you can use drugs as medicine - that is a totally different matter, but not as addiction.
And this is the case about everything. What is wrong? And what is right? And who is going to decide?
So the first thing, of immense concern to me, is how to decide for yourself. Don’t be bothered about others - their problem is their problem. Don’t judge them; it is none of your business. But for yourself, what is the criterion?