Chapter 3: Where Buddha Ends Krishna Begins
As I said, the other way is negative. A seeker on the path of negation goes on negating, renouncing, bit by bit, everything that constitutes the ego and strengthens it. If wealth is one of the factors of ego, he renounces wealth. But it would be wrong to think that only a rich person has an ego, and that only a poor man is egoless. A poor person has a poor ego, but ego is there. And don’t think only the householder is egoistic, and not the sannyasin. Even a sannyasin has his ego. However, if I give up everything that makes up and strengthens the ego; if I give up money, family, relationships; if I renounce all the props of my ego, my ego will be left without any support. But even then the “I” will not disappear; it will now cling to itself, to its own pure I-ness.
This is the most subtle form of “I”, the one that comes through the process of negation. And many people get stuck there and remain hung up on it, because this “I” is subtle, invisible. A rich person’s ego is gross and loud: he says he owns so much money. The ego of a sannyasin, a renunciate, is subtle, invisible, but it is there; he says he has renounced so much money.
A householder’s ego is obvious: he has a house, a family, possessions. These are the ingredients of his ego and its signposts too. But even a monk has his monastery, his ashram, his family of disciples. And besides, he is either a Hindu monk or a Christian monk or a Mohammedan monk. A monk has his own things that bind him and feed his ego; he too is stuck somewhere. But his ego is subtle, invisible: he does not even use the word I; he has dropped it. But it does not make a difference.
One has to go beyond the subtlest form of I-ness, and it is so arduous. Mahavira and Buddha transcend it: it needs very hard work; it calls for tremendous austerity. Even if I have renounced all my possessions, all that I called mine, the pure “I” remains. How can I go beyond it? One in a thousand attains to egolessness through the path of negation; nine hundred and ninety nine will be stuck with the subtle “I”. While Mahavira transcends the subtlest of egos, those following him become stuck, because it is really difficult, very difficult to achieve egolessness the negative way. It is easy to drop the various props that strengthen the “I”, but it is nearly impossible to drop the last vestige of the “I”, the pure “I”.
It is at the last stage of his journey that a seeker on the path of negation encounters his major hurdle, but a seeker on the path of affirmation comes upon it tight at the first stage. Right at the start of his journey a life-affirming seeker finds it very difficult to deny the “thou”, because it is there, it is so obvious. The spiritual discipline of Krishna is most difficult in the beginning, but once you get over that, there is smooth sailing to the end. But in the discipline of Mahavira and Buddha the beginning is easy enough. The real difficulty is at the end when, bereft of all its props, the ego remains in its purified form. How to get rid of this very subtle ego is the real problem.