If it had been understood the way I understand it, the whole history of Buddhism would have been totally different, and not only the history of Buddhism but the whole face of humanity would have been totally different. Because the sutra was understood as against the world, the Buddhists became life-negative. They became more interested in dying than in living. They became more interested in suicide – slow suicide, gradual suicide. Suicide became their goal. This is a perversion; a perversion of a great master and his great words.
The words are clear: Do not live in the world in distraction and false dreams, outside the law. Live in the world without distraction, without dreams, and in communion with the law. His expression is a little negative. His expression is always a little negative, for a certain reason. Rather than speaking in an affirmative way, Buddha always says the same thing in a negative way. The reason is that when you affirm something it becomes so definite, so solid, that people tend to follow it blindly; hence Buddha uses the negative expression. That way he gives you freedom to analyze, to meditate, to find out on your own. He never says what is, he always says what is not; he defines through the negative. It is a beautiful device for those who can understand, but for those who cannot understand, it is a dangerous device because they will become victims of negativity.
Buddha had to choose the negative way of expression, because for centuries before him religion was always expressed in the affirmative way, and the affirmative way had become a burden on people’s being. He changed the whole of religious expression. He would not say: “God is”; he would only say: “Become absolutely empty and then see what is.” This is just indicating a way very vaguely, so you cannot cling to it. Otherwise people are clingers: they will fall upon anything and they will possess it.
Buddha is elusive, you cannot catch hold of him. He says: “Be empty and see.” He says: “Let there be no mind and then see.” He never defines exactly what will happen when there is no mind. He knows that if he says what will happen when there is no mind, you will start desiring it. And to desire it is never to achieve it, because desiring is a process of the mind.
For example, if Buddha says, just like the Upanishads say, that when there is no mind there will be great bliss, listening to this a great desire for bliss is bound to arise. But desire is mind, even the desire for bliss. If, just like the Upanishads, Buddha says: “If you drop the mind you will find godliness, freedom, absolute freedom” immediately the desire enters from the back door: “How to find this eternity, this deathlessness, this joy, this godliness? How to attain to paradise?”
Now it will be impossible to drop the mind. The mind has taken a new form, a new desire, new garments, but it is the same old mind. First it was desiring money, power, prestige; now it desires godliness, samadhi, enlightenment, bliss, truth, freedom. The objects have changed – but the mind is not in the objects; the mind is in the process of desiring.