One thing becomes very clear: although he used, for the first time, all negative terms, the man must have had tremendous charismatic qualities. He influenced millions of people. His philosophy is such that anyone listening to him would freak out. What is the point of all the meditations and all the austerities, renouncing the world, eating one time a day – and ultimately you achieve nothingness, you become zero! We are already better – we may be miserable zeros, but at least we are. Certainly, when you are completely a zero there cannot be any misery; zeros are not known to be miserable – but what is the gain?
But he convinced people, not through his philosophy, but through his individuality, through his presence. He gave people the experience itself, so that they could understand: it is emptiness as far as the world is concerned; it is emptiness for the ego. And it is fullness for the being.
There are many reasons for the disappearance of Buddha’s thought from India, but this is one of the most significant. All other Indian mystics, philosophers, and seers used positive terms. And for centuries before Buddha, the whole of India was accustomed to thinking only in the positive; the negative was something unheard of. Under the influence of Gautam Buddha they followed him, but when he died his following started disappearing, because the following was not intellectually convinced; it was convinced because of his presence.
Because of the eyes of Gautam Buddha they could see: “This man, if he is living in nothingness then there is no fear, we would love to be nothing. If this is where zero-ness leads, if by being nothing such lotuses bloom in the eyes and such grace flows, then we are ready to go with this man. The man has a magic.” But his philosophy alone will not convince you, because it has no appeal for the ego.
And Buddhism survived in China, in Ceylon, in Burma, in Japan, in Korea, in Indochina, in Indonesia – in the whole of Asia except India – because the Buddhists who reached there dropped negative terms. They started speaking in positive terms; then the ultimate, the absolute, the perfect, the old terms, returned. This was the compromise. So as far as I am concerned, Buddhism died with Gautam Buddha. Whatever exists now as Buddhism has nothing to do with Buddha because it has dropped his basic contribution, and that was his negative approach.
I am aware of both traditions. I am certainly in a better position than Gautam Buddha was. Gautam Buddha was aware of only one thing: that the ego can use the positive. And it is his great contribution, his courageous contribution, that he dropped the positive and insisted on the negative, emphasized the negative – knowing perfectly well that people were not going to follow this because it had no appeal for the ego. To me, now both traditions are available. I know what happened to the positive: the ego exploited it. I know what happened to the negative. After the death of Gautam Buddha, the disciples had to compromise, compromise with the same thing which Gautam Buddha was revolting against. So I am trying to explain to you both approaches together: emptiness as far as the world is concerned and fullness, wholeness as far as the inner experience is concerned. And this is a total approach, it takes note of both: that which has to be left behind, and that which is to be gained.