Chapter 11: Words Don't Answer; Only Silence Does
And if any woman resisted, and was powerful enough or rich enough and the Hindu priesthood could not manage to force her to commit suicide, she was condemned for her whole life like a servant. She had to shave her hair, she could not wear any ornament; she could only use white clothes, without any color; she could not participate in any religious festivals; she could not even participate in somebody’s marriage; she could not be present at somebody’s birth. She was simply thrown out of all ceremonials, she had to live like a shadow in the servants’ quarters behind the house.
This was much more painful than just to take a jump onto the funeral pyre, because it was finished within minutes. So every intelligent woman, rather than living for sixty years or seventy years in utter slavery and condemnation, chose to commit suicide. It is not sati.
And this fellow, the shankaracharya of Puri, was speaking on the occasion where a six-year-old girl. In fact it is illegal even for her to be married, but she was burned on the funeral pyre of her husband. Both were not of an age to be married. Their marriage was invalid, illegal, unconstitutional, and this murder is supported by the shankaracharya of Puri.
On this occasion he was asking the government to make sati pratha legal. I am asking the Indian government to make it legal that every shankaracharya should commit sati first. There are eight shankaracharyas in India. Only then can any woman be forced to commit suicide. And it should be out of love, not because of ritual.
Suigan was repeating a ritualistic answer - just as the shankaracharya of Puri is doing - without even understanding the meaning. The master was angry, because it is time that Suigan should understand the essential, existential experience that makes a man a buddha; to still be a parrot makes him angry. He asked:
-How can you escape birth and death?”
A very essential point to be remembered: what words could not do, tears did.
Tears washed Suigan’s face.
He could see the compassion of the master even in his anger. And he could see that he was simply repeating the sutra. It was not his own understanding.
Tears washed Suigan’s face as he bent his head.
After a few minutes he asked,
“Please tell me the summary of Buddhism.”
He is now accepting that: “I don’t know; please you tell me.” And the master says the same thing. But something has changed in Suigan that you have to understand. Tears have washed not only his face, but also his mind. And bending his head was a gesture saying, “I was pretending to be a knower, but I’m utterly ignorant. I am not even worthy of touching your feet.” This acceptance of innocence and these tears create a totally new situation in the same sentence: