Gautam Buddha’s whole life’s experience was that finally the device of surrender has to be dropped, because in the majority of cases it has not been of any help, it has been a hindrance. This was his whole life’s experience – seeing people changing the color of their ego. From a worldly ego it becomes an otherworldly ego; from a materialistic ego it becomes a spiritualistic ego – which is far more dangerous. The first one was very gross; it was easy to see it and to catch hold of it. The second is more difficult because it is more subtle, it will elude you.
Hence Buddha’s last message was: “When I come back again, I will come not as a master to you, and you will not be a disciple to me; I will come as a friend. And you have to rise to the standard of being a friend of a buddha.” A great challenge to the whole tradition of initiation, to the whole relationship of master and disciplehood. He could see that it has helped once in a while but in most cases it has blocked people’s growth.
And we can see that he was right. There are millions of people in the world who think they are religious, they are spiritual, they are saints, they are great spiritual beings. All that is nothing but feeding the ego. They have gone far away from their real being.
One thing is to be remembered: Gautam Buddha cannot come back. He has said, “I will be coming back.” That’s purely symbolic – he cannot come back. A man of that stature, a being who has reached to the ultimate experience of existence cannot come back; it is just not possible in the very nature of things. He cannot take another form, another body. He cannot be born again in the womb of a mother; he cannot become again flesh and bones. Once you have reached the state of being where you realize yourself as pure consciousness, it is no longer possible for you to be born again.
So when Buddha says, “Next time when I come back…” it has to be understood only symbolically. All the Buddhists of the world have been waiting – they are waiting unnecessarily. They will never find Gautam Buddha back in the body again. And if they can find him back in the body again, then he was not a real buddha in the first place. This is the dilemma: he can be born again only if he was not a buddha, if he was not yet awakened.
Once you are awakened, you cannot dream again; you can dream only in sleep. You cannot dream again – and all our lives are just dreams and we are fast asleep.
The Buddhists have missed the symbolic meaning. When Gautam Buddha said, “When I will be coming back,” he simply meant the next time when there is an awakened man – and the quality of two awakened men doesn’t differ. There is not even a bit of difference. So he is perfectly right in saying, “I will come back.”
In fact, each time a man is awakened, Buddha will be coming back in this sense – that it is the same consciousness again. Again the same flower has blossomed, and the same fragrance and the same message! He sees it, that within twenty-five centuries man will be capable of taking the buddha as a friend.