The first question:
You have placed Gorakhnath among the top four enlightened ones of India. But it is surprising that even the place of birth and the period in which such a great and exalted one lived are unknown. Why is this so?
In these matters the visions of the West and the East are different. The West thinks in the language of history and the East thinks in the language of myth. History is of facts, whereas myths and parables are of truths. A fact happens in a particular place and at a particular time. A fact has limits. A fact is temporal, an event in time. Truth is eternal. Its expression is also in time, nevertheless it is not limited by time.
This is why in the East we have not been at all concerned that there is neither an accurate history of Rama nor of Krishna. What we have in our hands are stories. If you look from the Western perspective they are mere stories, fantasies. The West is not ready to accept anything as history unless there is solid proof. The twenty-four tirthankaras of the Jainas appear to be just imaginary. There is no proof.
It is difficult to ascertain even the exact date of the Buddha’s birth, we have never bothered about this. What difference does it make? What is the difference if Buddha was born in village A or in village B? And if Buddha was born in this year or that, what difference does it make? We have tried to understand buddhahood. What has this to do with Buddha’s personal history? His body was momentary – here one day and gone the next. His message is eternal. And it is not the message of only one buddha, it the message of all the buddhas.
Hence note this too: when we made the statue of Buddha we were not concerned about whether it looked like Buddha or not. We didn’t create the statue of the Buddha by looking at Gautama the Buddha. This statue of the Buddha has been created to represent the essence of all the buddhas. How the buddhas live each and every moment – how do they sit, how do they rise – what we have cast in Buddha’s statues is the accumulation of the essence of all the buddhas. The statue of Buddha is the symbol of all the buddhas.
If you go to a Jaina temple you will be surprised when you see the twenty-four statues of the Jaina tirthankaras – they all look exactly the same. These twenty-four individuals could not have been alike. In the whole world no two individuals can be exactly alike, so how can these twenty-four individuals be exactly the same? Even identical twins are not exactly the same, so how can these twenty-four individuals whose lives were spread out over a long period of time, at very remote distances, with thousands of years between them, how can they all look exactly alike?