One English historian, Edmund Burke, was writing the history of the world. His effort was to write a complete history of the whole world since the very beginning, not leaving anything out. He had wasted almost fifty years writing it, thousands of pages, and one day, suddenly in the afternoon when he was writing, he heard a great noise behind his house. He opened the window and saw a crowd. He inquired, “What is the matter?”
Somebody said something, somebody else said something else…he came out. A man had been murdered, and there were as many stories as there were people present. Somebody was saying that he committed suicide, somebody was saying he had been murdered, somebody was saying it was just an accident; somebody was saying that he was a man with heart disease, that it was heart failure because twice he had already suffered an attack and this time he was certain to die.
Edmund Burke could not believe it, that just behind his house he could not be certain about a fact. The dead man was lying there, it was not fiction. But how the death had happened…perhaps it would never be decided. “And I am writing a book about thousands of years past, and trying to prove that it is factual.” It was such a revelation that he went in and burned all those thousands of pages.
His colleagues, his students – he was a professor – were all shocked. They said, “What have you done? Fifty years of such concentrated work!”
He said, “It was all just rubbish. If I cannot decide about something which has happened just behind my house, then deciding about Adam and Eve is just foolish.” A great historian…but he dropped history, he resigned from his post. He said, “All history is bunk.”
One evening Gautam Buddha was speaking to his disciples…and this was his everyday evening sermon. After the sermon he used to say to his disciples, “Now, go; and before going to sleep, don’t forget your real work” – and that real work was meditation.
But that night one thief was there listening, one prostitute was there listening. The thief said, “My God, this man is dangerous. He is saying ‘Before going to sleep, don’t forget to do your work.’ It is time, I must go.”
The prostitute thought, “I am sitting so far away, and how did this fellow recognize me…that my work starts in the night?”
The thief went to steal. The prostitute went to her work. The sannyasins went to meditate.
Buddha had said only one thing: “Don’t forget the work,” but the interpretation is going to be yours. The final decision is going to be yours. The word cannot decide for you; you have to decide what it means.