In the East, sannyas has a totally different flavor. The moment you become a sannyasin you are no longer a Hindu, you are no longer a Mohammedan, you are no longer a Christian. The moment you become a sannyasin, you drop out of all collectivities. You become yourself. You will be surprised to know that in the East people don’t commit suicide as much as in the West. And the difference is big – too big to be just accidental. In the East we have created a creative kind of suicide, that is sannyas. You can still live, but you can live in your own way. Then the need for suicide disappears, or becomes very much less.
In the West it always has happened that the unique individuals have to commit suicide. The mediocre go on living, the unique have to commit suicide. A van Gogh, a Hemingway. a Mayakovski, a Nijinsky – these are unique individuals. Either they have to commit suicide or they have to go mad – the society drives them mad. The society puts so much pressure on them that either they have to yield to the society and become just anonymous, or they have to go mad, or they have to commit suicide. And all are destructive alternatives.
Nietzsche went mad; that was his way of committing suicide. Nijinsky committed suicide; that was his way of going mad. Nietzsche had the same quality as a buddha. Had he been in the East he would have become a buddha, but the West does not give that alternative at all. He had to go mad. Van Gogh had a unique quality of tremendous intelligence, creativity. He could have moved on the path of sannyas and samadhi, but there was no door open. He got tired; just going on living a compromise was hurting too much. It was not worth it. One day he completed his painting – the painting that he had always wanted to do – and that day he felt, “Now there is no need to make any compromise with anybody for any reason. I have done my paintings, I have done my best. It is time to disappear.”
He had always wanted to paint a sunrise. He had painted sunrises for years, but still something was missing and lacking and he would paint again and again. The day his painting was complete and he was fulfilled and satisfied and contented that it had happened – that very moment it was absolutely clear to him that now there was no need – “I was only waiting for this painting. I am fulfilled in it, I have bloomed. Now why make compromises? For what?” He committed suicide.
He was not mad, he was simply not mediocre. His suicide was not a crime, his suicide was simply a condemnation of your so-called society which asks for so many compromises. Mediocre people are ready to compromise; they have nothing to lose. In fact they feel very good being part of a crowd, of a mob, because in the crowd they need not think about themselves as mediocre; all are just like them. They can lose themselves in the crowd. They can lose themselves and forget themselves in the mass mind, and in the mass mind they have no responsibility. They need not bother whether they are intelligent or unintelligent; they need not bother whether they are asleep or awakened.
But a man who has some soul in him will find it continuously heavy to go on degrading himself, to go on compromising for small ordinary trivia, meaningless things – for bread and butter, for a house, a shelter, for clothes.