The basic thing in religion is not what to do, the basic thing is what to be. “Being” means your innermost core, “doing” means your surface activities on the circumference. Doing means your relationship with others, with the outer world, and being means you as you are, unrelated, as you are within.
You can be without doing anything, but you cannot be without the being. Doing is secondary, dispensable. A man can remain inactive, not doing anything, but a man cannot be without being: so being is the essence. Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, they all talk about being; and the temples, churches, mosques, organizations, sects, the so-called gurus and teachers and priests all talk about doing. If you ask Jesus, he will talk about your being and how to transform it. If you ask the pope of the Vatican he will talk about what to do, about morality. Morality is concerned with doing, religion with being.
This distinction has to be kept as clear as possible, because everything else depends on it. Whenever a person like Jesus is born we misunderstand him. And the misunderstanding is because we miss this distinction: he talks about the being, and we listen to him and interpret as if he is talking about doing.
If you understand this, then this saying will be very clear, very useful. It can become a light on your path. Otherwise it is very strange and contradictory and will look anti-religious. When Jesus spoke it must have seemed to the priests that his sayings were anti-religious, that’s why they crucified him. They thought he was the man who was going to destroy religion.
Look at the saying, it apparently appears so:
Jesus said to them: If you fast you will beget sin for yourselves.
And we have always heard that religion teaches fasting, because it has been said again and again that when you fast you are purified through it. The whole religion of the Jainas depends on fasting. If they hear this saying from Jesus they will say, “This man is dangerous, and the Jews did well to crucify him!”
The Jews were also disturbed: such sayings are rebellious and their whole morality would be lost. If you say to people: If you fast you will beget sin for yourselves, fasting becomes a sin! And if you pray you will be condemned. Have you ever heard that if you pray you will be condemned? Then what is religion? We think religion is going to church and praying to God, and Jesus says:
If you pray you will be condemned; and if you give alms you will do evil to your spirits.
The strangest of sayings, but very meaningful. Jesus is saying that as you are you cannot do anything right. The emphasis is not on fasting or not fasting; the emphasis is not on giving alms or not; the emphasis is not to pray or not. The emphasis is: whatsoever you are right now, as you are, everything will go wrong.