Now, if just the other day it happened again that you exchanged it for somebody else’s umbrella and you still call it thirty years old, that is another matter. But India has not changed its umbrella for ten thousand years – and that is according to the very conventional, orthodox historians. If you listen to the Hindu chauvinists, then India has lived at least ninety thousand years. That was the calculation of Lokmanya Tilak – he also lived in Pune. Ninety thousand years was his calculation. Whether it is ten thousand or ninety thousand it does not matter. All that matters is it has a very long past and that past has never been broken; it still continues.
During this long past, India has lived a very repressed life. At least twenty-five centuries are perfectly well-known, historically well-known; before that things are a little vague. But these twenty-five centuries after Gautam Buddha and Mahavira are perfectly well-known. In these twenty-five centuries no other country, no other culture, no other race, has been so life-negative as India. A strange disease entered into India’s heart, something like a cancer – incurable. It became obsessed with the idea that if you want to attain to God or liberation you have to be life-negative, you have to renounce life – as if God is against life.
Now this is the most stupid thing that can happen to any country. On the one hand people go on saying, “God created life, God created existence, God created us – God created everything that is,” and on the other hand the same people, very illogically, go on insisting that “If you want to come closer to God you will have to renounce the world that he has created.”
It is almost saying something like this: that if you want to love Rabindranath Tagore you will have to hate his poetry, or if you want to love Picasso you have to destroy his paintings. If God is the creator, if God is the poet, the musician, the dancer, then this whole existence is his dance, his painting, his music, his poetry, his song. This whole existence is Shrimad Bhagavadgita, God’s song. If you want to come close to God you will have to come closer to this existence.
But India has lived with this denial. Why did this denial appeal to India so much? Denial always appeals to the ego. The ego lives surrounded by no’s: no, no, no. It lives in a forest of no’s. The moment you are full of yes the ego starts dying – a natural death, a very effortless death; you have not to kill it. Yes is the death of the ego.
The Indian mind became egoistic about its spirituality, about its religiousness, about its sacredness, about its ancient heritage. And the more egoistic it became, the more it had to live and nourish the ego through denials.
In India, a man is thought to be a saint according to the quantity of things around him that he denies. He denies himself food, he denies himself all the comforts of the body, he denies himself shelter, he denies himself even clothes – he denies himself everything that human nature feels comfortable with – then he becomes a great saint, a mahatma.
That’s why I appear almost like a sinner; it is a natural conclusion. If denial, saying no to life, is to be a saint, then certainly I am not a saint. I say yes to life, to all its joys and beauties, to all its splendor. I say a total, wholehearted yes. I am ready to accept being called a sinner, but I am not ready to deny life.