Buddhism died in India, and one of the basic reasons was Buddha’s way of putting his philosophy. I can understand why he was so insistent on negatives, because all other philosophies were so positivistic, and all their positivism was turning into stronger and stronger egos. Seeing that positivism is going to give you egoistic ideas – and that is a hindrance between you and existence – he moved to the other extreme. To stop this idea he became totally negative.
You cannot complain about it, because the positivistic ideologies were in a strange situation: you have to drop the ego to find your self, you have to drop the ego to find God, you have to drop the ego to become God, you have to drop the ego to find ultimate liberation – liberation of whom? Liberation of your self.
So there was achievement, and achievement is always of the ego. There is a goal, and the goal is always of the ego.
Seeing all this, Buddha said, “There is no self. There is nothing to be achieved, and there is no goal to be found. You have never existed, you do not exist, you will not exist. You can only imagine, you can only dream that you are.”
Chuang Tzu’s story is famous. I never get tired of Chuang Tzu because his small absurd stories have so many aspects to explore that each time I can bring them in with a new light, with a new meaning, with a new perspective:
One morning he wakes up, calls all his disciples and says, “I am in great trouble, and you have to help me.”
The disciples said, “We have come to be helped by you, and you want our help?”
Chuang Tzu said, “It was okay, but this night everything got disturbed: I dreamt that I had become a butterfly.”
They all laughed. They said, “All nonsense! Dreaming does not create any mess.”
Chuang Tzu said, “It has created, because now I am thinking that perhaps I am a butterfly, thinking, dreaming that I am Chuang Tzu. Now, who am I? And I have to be certain, in order to live, whether I am Chuang Tzu or I am a butterfly.”
He looks absurd, but he is really bringing the absurdity of logic to the surface. If a butterfly cannot dream of being a Chuang Tzu, then how can Chuang Tzu dream of being a butterfly? And if Chuang Tzu can dream of being a butterfly, then there is no logical objection to a butterfly falling asleep under the morning sun on a beautiful flower and dreaming of herself being Chuang Tzu.
None of his disciples could help him. For centuries Taoists have been using that as a koan, because it is insoluble – but to Buddha it is not so.
Chuang Tzu and Gautam Buddha were contemporaries, but far away; one was in China, one in India. They were divided by the great Himalayas, so no communication; otherwise Buddha would have solved Chuang Tzu’s problem because he says, “Both are dreams. It does not matter whether Chuang Tzu dreams of being a butterfly or the butterfly dreams of being a Chuang Tzu – both are dreams. You simply don’t exist.”