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Chapter 1: Zen: The Koan of Life

I have never thought that I am tolerant. Why should I think of tolerance at all? If intolerance is not there somewhere in the unconscious then tolerance is not needed, you are simply yourself. But this idea of “holier than thou,” this holy ego is the basic characteristic of the Hindu mind.

But it is not only in the Hindu mind; it permeates all religions in different ways. The Jews think they are the chosen people of God. The Christians think that Jesus is the only-begotten son of God and they are his followers, and at the ultimate time of the Judgment Day, Jesus will separate his flock, his sheep, from the others, and only his sheep will be saved - the others will be thrown into hellfire.

And the same is true of the Mohammedans, and the same is true of the Jainas and the Buddhists and the Confucians and the Taoists and the Sikhs. Everybody has that idea somewhere. So it is nothing special to the Hindus, but they have developed it, refined it, cultivated it, made it look very beautiful: they have decorated it.

The Mohammedan is basically fanatical, utterly fanatical - he has developed that aspect of the mind. Every mind is fanatical: if you are living in the mind you cannot go beyond fanaticism, but the Mohammedan has developed it to its highest peak. His religion is the latest arrival on the earth: Mohammed is the last prophet, now there is not going to be any other prophet. God has sent the last edition of his message - there have been other messages before, but they are all canceled. The last message has come and it is so absolutely correct that there is no need for any other prophet to arrive on the earth again. This is pure fanaticism. But this is present in everybody.

I used to live with one of my professors. On a winter morning just like this, I was sitting in his garden reading a book. His old mother came out - very old, eighty years old - and she asked, “What are you reading?”

Just to annoy her I said, “The Koran.”

That eighty-year-old woman suddenly snapped the book away from my hand, threw it outside of the garden. Suddenly she became so young! It was beautiful to see her back in her youth. She was so ferocious. She said, “Don’t bring the Koran into my house! We are pure brahmins. And if you want to read, can’t you read the Bhagavadgita? Can’t you read the Vedas? We have thousands of scriptures, why read the Koran? Never again bring that book inside my house!”

Her son, my professor, ran from his room, came out: “What is happening?”

And I told my professor, “Your mother is a Mohammedan.”

The mother looked at me, she said, “What do you mean? I, and a Mohammedan?”

I said, “Yes, because this is the characteristic of a Mohammedan, this fanaticism. And you are a fool too because that was the Bhagavadgita!”

She rushed out, bowed down to the book, cleaned it, brought it back and gave it to me, and said, “What kind of joke is this?” - trembling, shaken.

I said, “This is the Koran, and you have bowed down to the Koran!”

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