For example, for a mango tree…. You can decide which manure is good and which manure is bad, because the mango tree has a built-in program: it has to become a mango tree. You can decide which manure will help and which manure will not help, how much water is needed, how much sun is needed, how much space is needed. You can find a pattern, a discipline, for the tree. The pattern and the discipline will be decided by the intrinsic nature of the tree.
But man has no intrinsic nature, so anything goes. Man is free – that is interpreted as man needing no discipline, man being permitted to do whatsoever he wants to do. Adolf Hitler is as good as Gautam Buddha: to kill a man is as good as being compassionate, to hate is as good as to love, because how to decide what is good and what is bad? –there are no criteria. Man is a tabula rasa, man is an emptiness, there is no way to decide. All is good – murder is good, suicide is good, destruction is good.
Now this is a totally different interpretation – and the sentence is the same: Existence precedes essence. With this they abandon all restraint, becoming licentious, indulgent. This indulgence is bound to destroy humanity, but this interpretation is possible.
For still others, there is a fourth meaning: Everything is permissible against man; man has no nature, so you can bend him this way or that, you can make him a soldier or a saint or a sinner. Man is empty, so you can write anything on him. Everything is permissible against man: So what Adolf Hitler did to millions of people, converting them into robots – those Nazi soldiers were robots, they were trained to be machines not men – that’s permissible. And Buddha turned thousands of people into sannyasins, brought them out of their mechanicalness into consciousness. Everything is good: Buddha is doing his thing and Adolf Hitler is doing his thing and there are no criteria to judge.
Language seems to be the medium of communication but it is not. You say something and immediately you will be misinterpreted. You say something and you will be surprised that people have taken such altogether far-out meanings; you had not even dreamt of them, you have not even thought of them. Once you say something you are no more the master of it; then whoever gets hold of it will have his own meaning, will squeeze his own meaning out of it. You are helpless – you cannot do anything.
Language is not the right medium to communicate, but people don’t know silence, so there is no other way. Even a Buddha has to talk, or a Lao Tzu – he has to use words which are inadequate, dangerous. The day Buddha died, his disciples divided into thirty-six schools. The day he died…as if they were just waiting. Thirty-six meanings to each of Buddha’s assertions. On Krishna’s Bhagavadgita there are one thousand commentaries – one thousand meanings to each of Krishna’s statements. If Krishna comes back and reads these commentaries he will go mad, he will not be able to conceive what has happened. He was talking to his disciple and friend, Arjuna. It was a love dialogue. One thousand meanings? – ten thousand more are possible.
I was reading Michael Adam’s memoirs. He writes: