The people in the Arabian countries believed in God, so they could not raise the basic question. They only argued that, “You are not the right messenger.” But how can you prove who is the right messenger and who is the wrong messenger? You are fighting on very secondary issues. The real fight has to be on the primary issue.
In Jainism there is no possibility of a messiah. Nobody can declare that “I am a messiah”; people will simply laugh and say that you have gone mad. Nobody can declare that “I am a messenger of God”; he will be just a laughingstock, people will just joke around. He cannot say, “I am an incarnation of God,” because God does not exist. From where are you getting this incarnation – an incarnation of nobody?
So in Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism, Confucianism, no problem arises about the messiahs, messengers. And then how can you have popes and bishops and priests? This is the whole ladder. If you accept the highest rung on the ladder you will have to accept the ladder. But if the ladder is going nowhere, if it is just standing on the ground and leading nowhere, reaching nowhere, all the rungs on the ladder will become meaningless.
I have denied the idea of God.
And with God disappears all messiahhood.
You cannot declare me a messiah even when I am dead.
You cannot declare me an incarnation, even when I am dead.
You cannot declare me a messenger.
Do you see the simple fact? – that even when I am dead you cannot go against me. How can you create a cult? – because I am denying all the necessary ingredients for a cult. I am saying there is no messenger. I am saying there is no avatara.
But although Mahavira saved Jainism from the priesthood, he could not save it from becoming a cult, because he brought in a new concept – the tirthankara.
You have to understand: that concept is totally different from a messiah. A messiah is one who comes from God; that’s the exact meaning of avatara. Literally it means descendance – coming down from above. Tirthankara means growing up from below. It is man who has blossomed to his fullness, who has achieved the ultimate. It is not a descendance of anybody; it is a growth. It is from the roots, it grows like a tree.
The avatara is upside down, the messiah is upside down, hanging from above, coming downwards; they are a kind of fall. A tirthankara is man risen up to his full potential.
Mahavira thought…and that was the concept of Buddha, the same – they were contemporaries, and they both thought, “This way we avoid the priesthood, God, because we have made man the central point.”