Chapter 6: Consciousness: Living in the Vertical Dimension
In the West, because of the linear concept of time and because there is so much obsession with temporal events, they have maintained very accurate records. But now the gap is beginning to be felt. The record is accurate, but something is missing. We know when Christ was born and we know when he died, but we still do not know who Christ is, what this phenomenon of christhood is. The phenomenon itself escapes us. We know the moment; the phenomenon itself is beyond time.
A Buddha is never misunderstood like Jesus because we always know that no matter what he is talking about, he himself is something beyond time. We never misunderstand him, because we know this. But Jesus was very much misunderstood. When he said “the kingdom of God,” people misunderstood this as being a kingdom of this earth. When he said, “I am the king,” he was talking about a phenomenon beyond time, but people understood that he was proclaiming himself the king. Jesus was crucified because his non-temporal words could not be understood. People only knew events; they understood his words in terms of time.
In India, neither Krishna nor Buddha nor Mahavira were crucified, not because their teachings were less revolutionary than Jesus’, but because we knew that they were not talking about this world. We understood that their words were meant for something that is not of this world. If they said, “I am the king,” we knew what they meant.
If Krishna says, “I was, always. There was no time when I was not,” we understand what he means by that. But when Jesus says, “I was, before Abraham,” what he was could not be understood; it was impossible. There is a gap of a thousand years between Abraham and Jesus - how could Jesus have been before? In terms of time it is absurd, but in terms of existence it has a deep meaning. But the West could not understand it.
The Western attitude is still time-obsessed. There are reasons behind it. Why did time become linear in the West? - because the concept of rebirth never became prevalent. The concept was introduced so many times in the West. Pythagorus introduced it, but then it was lost; Jesus hinted about it, he talked indirectly about it - he never talked about it directly, he indicated it. But it could not be understood.
The concept of rebirth is the reason why the East could conceive of history in a circular dimension. If you are to be reborn again and again, there will be birth and death. Then birth will follow, and again there will be death. It will be a repetition. But if there is only life - birth followed by death, but death not followed by birth - then birth becomes absolute, death becomes absolute. Neither will come again. That is why time became so important in the West, and the West became time-obsessed.
These are all related things: history, time, tension. Why has the West become so tense about time? Not a single moment is to be lost, because once lost, you cannot find it again; it cannot be reclaimed.
The East is at ease: nothing is lost, everything can be reclaimed. You cannot lose it even if you try; things will come back. Death will be followed by birth again, you will be young again. Everything will come back, will return to itself.