Chapter 4: An Experience of Deathlessness
There is a particular episode in Abraham Lincoln’s life. He was invited to a special conference of scientists. He went, but people were waiting for him at the door near the dais, because of course, the president of the country was coming, so the highest place on the dais had been reserved for him. But he came in through the same door through which the throngs of ordinary people were entering - people who had no name, no fame, no status - and he took a seat at the very back.
It started getting late for the meeting to begin. The organizers announced: “We are in a little difficulty. We have invited our president, Abraham Lincoln, but he has not yet arrived. And to begin the conference without him would be disgraceful, and it is getting late..”
The person sitting next to Abraham Lincoln nudged him and said, “Sir, why don’t you stand up and announce that you are present and the conference can begin?”
Abraham Lincoln said, “I wanted it to be a quiet affair. It is a conference of scientists. What question is there of me being the center of it?”
But by this time others had also noticed him. The organizers came running up and said, “What are you doing, sir? This is not a blessing, but a disgrace upon our conference, that you should sit at the back.”
Abraham Lincoln answered, “No. I am only sitting from where I cannot be pushed back any further.”
This statement that “I am only sitting from where I cannot be pushed back any further” is the statement of a man who really takes a pride in himself. Such a man does not want to disgrace anyone, but he also does not give anyone the chance to disgrace him. Pride in oneself is a very simple matter.
The disease of ego is commonplace. The health of taking pride in oneself is rare, and when it is born in someone it is difficult to even recognize it, because it makes no claim. But the miracle is that this very “no claim” of pride in oneself becomes its very claim. A man who takes pride in himself never wants to hold himself above anyone, and he will never allow anyone else to impose any slavery upon him. Hence it can seem a little complex, and misinterpretations can happen.
Because of this misunderstanding, there have been a tremendously adverse effects upon India. For two thousand years we have remained slaves. What was the cause of our slavery? India is the only country in the history of the whole world that has never attacked anybody, because for centuries the seers, the sages, the enlightened ones of this country taught people only one thing: non-aggression, nonviolence, compassion, love. But this teaching remained somewhat incomplete. India understood the point that it should not attack, but it could not see that attack upon itself should also not be allowed. Because of this missing part, we remained slaves for two thousand years. India learnt that it should not commit violence, but it completely forgot that violence toward itself should also not be allowed. What difference does it make whether I commit violence to someone or I allow someone to commit violence to me? In both the cases I am allowing violence to take place.