One of the most important qualities of a religious man is his honesty about himself, his humbleness, his egolessness. He is as if he is not. He does not feel gratified by appraisal, he does not feel any superiority in his spirituality. But the ordinary religious people find trivia to fulfill their egos.
I have heard there were three institutions belonging to Christians of different sects. One day three churchmen, walking in the early morning, just by chance met on the crossroad. They welcomed each other and they bragged. One who belonged to the Baptist college said, “Your monasteries are good, but you cannot beat us in our scholarship. Our students are the most scholarly.”
The second one was a Catholic. He said, “You are right; it is true your students are very scholarly. But scholarship has nothing to do with spirituality. Real spirituality is discipline, asceticism; on that point you cannot beat us. Our monks are the most ascetic, the most disciplined.”
The third one from a Protestant monastery said, “That is all nothing. As far as humbleness is concerned we are the tops.”
Even humbleness can be used to fulfill the ego. And in the name of religion all kinds of stupidities are being perpetuated because they fulfill the ego. For example, the Catholic abbot has said that nobody can beat their monks – as if it is an ego game! Nobody can win in ascetic disciplines. But it is true; compared to anybody else the Catholic monk is the most masochistic. He tortures himself so much, just to be praised by people.
I am reminded of a story. A young man entered a Catholic monastery. He was told by the abbot, “I have to warn you this is a Catholic monastery. Great discipline is needed; for example, you are allowed to speak only once in seven years.
The man said, “I have come with great decision. Every discipline I am ready to follow.” But he was not aware what was going to be his fate. He entered his cell and found that there was no mattress. Now he cannot speak. For seven years he has to wait for the mattress. He said, “My God, I will not survive seven years in this cold weather. Outside snow is falling. There is no mattress, just a small blanket.” But he had promised and it had become an ego-point. He remained for seven years, suffering.
When seven years had passed he was very happy; he went to the abbot and he said, “By God’s grace I have survived. There is no mattress in my cell.”
The abbot said, “The mattress will be sent. You go back, and for seven years no more complaints.” The poor fellow had not complained for seven years!
The mattress came, but the mattress was big; the room was not that big, and the door was very small, so while pushing the mattress in, the workers broke the glass of the window. Somehow they fixed the mattress, but the window was broken.
He had suffered through cold, now he started suffering from rain. Water would come directly into the cell where he was sitting covered with his tattered blanket. Seven years again before the glass can be fixed in the window! After seven years he went to the abbot, and the abbot said, “Again? Have you got a complaint again?”