For example, to a man or a woman whose heart is the heart of a devotee, the heart of a lover, athato will mean, “Enough of love; now begins the inquiry into the ultimate. Enough of this world and its pleasures, now begins the inquiry into the ultimate.” To the logician, the same word will mean: “Enough of logic, enough of rationality, enough of philosophy; now begins the real inquiry into the existential” – not into words, not into philosophical investigations, but into an existential experience.
To a poet it may mean: “Enough of the poetry, enough of all that life I have lived up to now; the time has come to enter on the path in search of light, in search of the truth. I have sung songs of joy, I have sung songs of beauty.”
But a time comes when you are tired even of your own creativity – how long? Just as you become tired of the woman you loved so much, of the man you loved so much, you become tired of your creative dimension for which you would have sacrificed your life. A moment comes when it seems that you have been playing like a child, collecting seashells on the sea beach, or making castles of sand. Beautiful utopias, but it is enough!
You have not gained anything of the eternal, of the timeless, of the immortal. How long are you going to wait? Now is the moment to change the direction of all your genius and intelligence. Then athato will mean something different, different from what it can mean to a businessman, to what it can mean to a king. He has been on a power trip, he has conquered as much as he wanted, he is tired.
I am reminded of one of the greatest emperors, perhaps in the whole of world history. He was Ashoka. He could have become a world conqueror far more easily than Alexander the Great. He had far bigger armies, far more developed technology, far more riches. And he was on the way to becoming a world conqueror, but the first victory was enough. He conquered what is now the state of Orissa. In his days it was called the land of Kalinga. He conquered the country of Kalinga.
Millions of people had to be killed, massacred, because the people of that place were ready to die but not to be conquered. The situation was such that the fight would continue until not a single man remained and Ashoka would be victorious only over millions of corpses. Halfway, Ashoka trembled, seeing millions of people massacred, and seeing the point that these are not the people who are going to give way. Either life in freedom, or death – there is no other alternative for them. They will not accept any kind of slavery.
When he became absolutely certain of it, he thought for a moment – just in the middle of millions of corpses – “Is it worthwhile? What will be the point? Killing these brave people and just becoming victorious over a country of the dead…You will feel repentant your whole life, because you have destroyed so much life. And not the life of ordinary people, but people of tremendous courage, who have given you absolute alternatives: ‘Either we will live in freedom or we will die in freedom. Slavery is not acceptable. You may be a great king, you may have great power, but we have at least the power to die – you cannot take it away from us.’”