Chapter 13: What Is the Question?
Don’t try to force anybody to take your help while he can manage on his own. Don’t force anybody to see through your eyes when he has eyes. And at least, please, don’t place your specs on anybody’s eyes; your numbers are different. You will drive that person blind, you will distort his vision. But not only specs are being put on you, people are putting their eyes on top of your eyes - and they are all doing it for your good, for your sake. And after twenty years, thirty years of continuous conditioning, you start forgetting that you had never asked the question in the first place.
I am reminded of a very creative person, Gertrude Stein. She was dying; her friends were around her. Suddenly she opened her eyes and asked, “What is the answer?” And the friends looked puzzled. Had she gone mad just before death? Had she lost her reason? What kind of thing was she asking: “What is the answer?”
One of them said, “But you have not asked the question, so how can we say what the answer is?”
So she said, “Okay then, tell me, what is the question?” And she died.
To me it is of tremendous significance. It relates to almost every human being. You have forgotten that you had not asked the question, and the answer has already been forced into you. And of course it is a simple process of conditioning: go on telling the person, go on telling the person the same thing again and again. Soon the person starts repeating it like a gramophone record. And the person has forgotten that he had not asked the question.
Perhaps at the very end Stein discovered her fresh childhood. It happens to many people when they are dying. The circle completes, they come to the same point from where they had begun. So she is asking, “What is the answer?” because only answers were given. And nobody had bothered about the question. And now when, at this last moment, somebody asked, “But first tell us what the question is” - she becomes aware.but now it is too late. And the answers have been so much, so heavy, such a load on the being, that to ask an authentic question now has also become impossible. So she asks, “Okay, if a question is needed, then I ask you: ‘What is the question?’”
To me, this small incident is immensely significant. It is everybody’s life. You talk about God, you talk about the soul, you talk about heaven, hell, but have you ever thought - are these your questions? Are you really interested in God? What interest can you have in God? On what grounds can God become your quest?
I was born in a Jaina family. In Jainism, God is not believed in; there is no God as creator; because the conditioning of Jainism does not enforce the idea of God on its children, no Jaina child, or old Jaina ever asks, “Who created the world?” They have been conditioned, from the very beginning, that the world exists from eternity to eternity; there is nobody who is a creator, and there is no need. Hence the question does not arise.