To teach anybody to imitate Christ is to destroy that person. One Christ is enough, more than enough. Many, many Christs carrying their crosses on their shoulders would make a very hilarious scene…and everybody proclaiming himself to be the only begotten son of God!
The word imitation has never been condemned, but it should be condemned. The religious founders have been wanting people to imitate them, the parents have been wanting their children to imitate them; the teachers, the professors, the priests – everybody is wanting children to imitate them. The children become a mass phenomenon; carbon copies of many people…much ado about nothing!
I remember, I must have been seven years old and a friend of my father’s who had not seen me, who had not come for seven years…he had gone for a long pilgrimage around the Ganges. Hindus do that – go around the whole Ganges, both sides. That is thousands of miles, deep in the Himalayas, dangerous valleys, mountains…. After seven years he came and he wanted to see me. He said to my father, “His eyes look like yours,” and to my grandfather, “His nose looks like yours,” and to my uncle, “His face looks like yours.”
I said, “Wait! Does anything look like me? Am I here or not? You are being utterly disrespectful to me.” He was shocked. He could not conceive that it would be a disrespect, because this is commonly done, every day, in every home: the child’s eyes look like the mother’s, his face looks like the father’s. And they all feel proud; and nobody bothers about the child, whether anything looks like him or not.
But I made it clear to him, “Just take your words back, because I can say to you that my eyes don’t look like my father’s. You have another look. And my face does not look like my uncle’s – how can it look…? I have my own eyes and I have my own face, and I am going into the world with my face and with my eyes.”
He asked to be forgiven. Later on he told my father, “Your son seems to be dangerous. I have never seen anybody so assertive – and at this age!”
My father said, “At first we used to feel very embarrassed by the things he did or said, but now we have started feeling proud, because he seems to be right. You are not the first man who has compared my eyes with his – many others have done that. And he has taken me to the mirror and told me, ‘Look, they are not the same.’ And I have to say to you that they are not the same; he is right.”
The whole of humanity has lived in such a wrong way, and for so long, that we have completely forgotten that there can be some other way, that there can be an alternative.
You are here with me. In fact, you should make your children understand that this is a great opportunity for you to be yourself: “If I was with you, there is every possibility that knowingly, unknowingly, I may treat you habitually – just the old things, behaving the way my parents have behaved with me – and that would be ugly.”