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Chapter 11: No Higher, No Lower

Religion is nothing but a very unholy trip in the name of holiness. Hence, you will see in the faces of your saints, in their eyes, in their gestures, nothing but the pious ego. But you will have to watch, because it comes from the back door. It is never there in its nudity; it is always hiding behind curtains. Don’t be deceived by the curtains: the curtains may be beautiful, made of beautiful material, but what is behind the curtain has to be looked into.

Your saints have been doing hard work, their austerities are arduous. They are doing almost the impossible: celibacy, fighting with biology; fasting, fighting with their physiology; and doing everything that is unnatural - for a single purpose, because whenever you do something unnatural you are respected. Naturally, you are thought to be a superior kind, a superman. You are no ordinary man. Ordinary men live ordinary lives - they love food, they enjoy food. The religious person is not allowed to enjoy food.

Mahatma Gandhi used a very strange chutney in his ashram which has never been used before - chutney made out of neem leaves. Now, the neem leaves are the most bitter leaves, and if you eat chutney made out of neem leaves, it is going to destroy all your food, it is going to destroy all your joy. The very idea is enough to destroy it.

When Louis Fischer, the American thinker-writer-philosopher, stayed with Gandhi to study his philosophy and life. He was proposing to write a book on Gandhi, so he wanted to be close to him to understand the ways of his working, the ways of his living - everything minutely. Gandhi invited him every day to come with him for food. On the first day he was very happy - Gandhi himself inviting him. But when he tasted the chutney, he could not believe - how he is going to manage? It made his whole tongue so bitter that to eat anything afterwards would not change the taste.

Being a logical man, and being a very polite, cultured man, he could not say no to Gandhi. He thought the best way is swallow the whole chutney in one gulp, and then enjoy the food, rather than destroying the whole food again and again. That chutney has to be tasted and that was a rule in Gandhi’s ashram: you cannot leave anything on the plate, everything has to be eaten. So he swallowed the chutney in one gulp and Gandhi immediately ordered more chutney for him. He said, “Look! A man of understanding can immediately see the medicinal qualities of neem leaves.” For seven days he had to suffer that hell.

The whole idea behind the neem chutney was to destroy your delicate, fragile taste buds, so that you only stuff yourself without tasting: aswad - tastelessness. That has been one of the very cherished goals of religious people. So if you are enjoying your food, you are ordinary. Ordinariness has to be condemned, only then you become extraordinary. And then, certainly, deep down the feeling of holier-than-thou.

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