Even today we go on praising the ascetic attitude. The person who tortures himself becomes a great saint. If he fasts starves his body, lies down on a bed of thorns, stands naked in the cold, sits in the hottest season surrounded by fire, then we have great respect for him.
This respect simply shows that our minds are in a very ill state. We are not for health, for wholeness, for joy, for bliss. We are suicidal, murderous. And in the name of religion great suicide has been committed. The whole humanity has become suicidal.
To understand these last sutras of the Upanishad remember one thing: to the Upanishads the beyond is not against the world, it is an intrinsic part of it. The beyond is also the within of the world; it is not far away, it is deep down here and now. Just as a river needs both the banks, life needs both this and that.
When you look at a river you see two banks, but if you dive deep into the river you will find those two banks are not separate; underneath the river they are joined together, they are one. In the same way this and that are one. They appear divided, but that is only an appearance; don’t be deceived by it. Dive deep so that you can find the ultimate unity.
The so-called masochists, ascetic saints have been talking of advait, oneness, but that seems to be only talk, just lip-service, because the way they behave, the way they live, simply shows duality. They renounce the world. If the world is illusory, why renounce it? What is there to renounce? Nobody renounces one’s dreams. When you wake up in the morning you don’t make a great declaration to the world that: “I have renounced all my dreams of the night!” When you wake up you simply know those dreams were not part of reality; they were just fantasies of the mind. There is nothing to renounce; they have evaporated by themselves. And if you insist in renouncing the dreams, that simply shows that you are still dreaming. Now your dream is that of renouncing the dreams – a new dream. The old dreams are replaced by a new dream.
Somebody is trying to conquer the world – a man like Alexander – and somebody else is trying to renounce the world – the man like Shankara. But both are agreed upon one point: that the world exists. Shankara says it is unreal. If it is unreal, then where are you going? Then why you are renouncing it? Then why this insistence, this emphasis? The whole emphasis proves just the contrary of what is emphasized.