The same experience in the East would have been a totally different phenomenon. Instead of being a nervous breakdown, it would have been a breakthrough. The East has been working for thousands of years; its whole genius has been devoted to only one thing, and that is meditation. It has looked into all possible nooks and corners of meditation, and it has become capable to allow poetry, to allow philosophy, without any problem, without any opposition and tension. On the contrary they all become, under meditation, a kind of orchestra – different musical instruments, but playing the same tune.
There have been many misfortunes in the world, but I feel the most sorry for Friedrich Nietzsche because I can see what great potential he had. But being in a wrong atmosphere, having no precedent and having no way to work it out by himself, alone…. It was certainly too much for an individual, for any individual, to work it out alone.
Thousands of people have worked from different corners, and now, in the East, we have a whole atmosphere in which any kind of genius can be absorbed. And meditation will not be disturbed by genius; meditation will be enhanced, and his own particular dimension – poetry, literature, science – will also be enhanced.
Nietzsche was just in a wrong place, surrounded by wrong people who could only think of him as mad. And to them, he appeared mad.
Two kids were playing on the sea beach. One of them asked the other, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
He said, “When I grow up I want to be a great prophet. I’m going to speak of profound truths.”
The first boy said, “But they say nobody listens to the prophets, so why become a prophet?”
“Ah,” he said, “us prophets are very obstinate.”
This very obstinacy became a problem, because the whole society was against him, a single man single-handedly fighting for truths which people cannot even understand, but are absolutely ready to misunderstand. If a man is sincere and if he cannot understand a thing he should say, “I do not understand it.” But people are not so sincere. When they don’t understand a thing they immediately start misunderstanding it. Misunderstanding is their way of hiding their ignorance.
The people who have come to know some truth are certainly obstinate. You can crucify them, but you cannot change their minds. You can throw them into madhouses, but they will go on repeating their insights. Their insights become more valuable than their lives themselves.
The East, at least in the past, has been the best soil for prophets, for philosophers, for poets, for mystics. It is no longer the case, but still something of the past goes on echoing in the atmosphere. The West has corrupted the East too. The West knows the tradition of Socrates being poisoned, it knows Jesus Christ’s crucifixion; the East was absolutely innocent. It was an accepted fact that everybody had the right to say his truth. If you don’t agree with him, that does not mean that you have to kill him. Don’t agree – that is your right; at least we can agree to disagree with each other, but there is no need to bring swords when you don’t have arguments. Swords cannot become arguments.