Chapter 11: Truth: Not a Dogma but a Dance
You need a little intelligence, and Galileo must have been intelligent. He was one of the greatest scientists of the world, but he must be counted as one of the most religious persons also. He said, “Of course God cannot be wrong, Jesus cannot be wrong, all the infallible popes cannot be wrong, but poor Galileo can always be wrong. There is no problem about it - I will change it in my book. But one thing you should remember: the earth will still go around the sun. About that I cannot do anything - it does not follow my orders. As far as my book is concerned I will change it, but in the note I will have to write this: ‘The earth does not follow my orders, it still goes around the sun.’”
Religion was against each step of science. The earth is flat, according to the Bible, not round. When Columbus started thinking of going on a trip with the idea that the earth is round, his arithmetic was simple: “If I continue journeying directly, one day I am bound to come back to the same point from where I started - the whole circle.” But everybody was against it.
The pope called Columbus and told him, “Don’t be foolish! The Bible says it clearly: it is flat. Soon you will reach the edge of this flat earth and you will fall from there. And do you know where you will fall? Heaven is above, and you cannot fall upward - or can you? You will fall downward into hell. So don’t go on this journey and don’t persuade other people to go on this journey.”
Columbus insisted that he was going; he went on the journey and opened the doors of the new world. We owe so much to Columbus that we are not aware of: the world that we know was brought to light by Columbus. If he had listened to the pope, the infallible pope who was talking just nonsense.but his nonsense was very holy, religious.
All the religions of the world are bound to pretend that whatsoever there is, they know it. And they know it exactly as it is; it cannot be otherwise. Jainas say their tirthankara, their prophet, their messiah, is omniscient. He knows everything: past, present and future, so whatsoever he says is absolute truth. Buddha has joked about Mahavira, the Jaina messiah. They were contemporaries twenty-five centuries ago. Mahavira was getting old, but Buddha was young and was still capable of joking and laughing. He was still young and alive; he was not yet established.
Once you become an established religion, then you have your vested interests. Mahavira had an established religion thousands of years old, perhaps the oldest religion of the world - because Hindus say, and say rightly, that they have the oldest book in the world, the Rig Veda. Certainly it is now scientifically proven that the Rig Veda is the oldest scripture that has survived. And in the Rig Veda, the first Jaina messiah is mentioned; that is proof enough that the Jaina messiah has preceded the Rig Veda. And he is mentioned; his name is Rishabhdeva.
He is mentioned with a respect that it is impossible to have towards a contemporary. It is just human weakness, but it is very difficult to be respectful toward somebody who is contemporary and alive, just like you. It is easy to be respectful to somebody who has died long ago. The way the Rig Veda remembers Rishabhdeva is so respectful that it seems that he must have been dead for at least a thousand years, not less than that, so Jainism is a very long-established religion.