Yesterday, I was telling you of the incident that happened between me and the Jaina monk. It was not the end of that story, because that next day he had to come again to beg for his food from my grandfather’s house.
It will be difficult for you to understand why he had to come again when he had left our house in such anger. I have to explain the context to you. A Jaina monk cannot take food from anybody except another Jaina, and unfortunately for him, we were the only Jaina family in that small village. He could not beg elsewhere for his food, although he would have liked to, but it was against his discipline. So, in spite of himself, he came again.
I and my Nani were both waiting upstairs, watching from the window because we knew he had to come. My Nani said to me, “Look, he is coming. Now, what are you going to ask him today?”
I said, “I don’t know. First, let him at least eat, and then conventionally he is bound to address the family and the people who have gathered.” After each meal, a Jaina monk delivers a sermon of thanks. “Then don’t be worried,” I told her, “I will find something or other to ask. First let him speak.”
He was very cautious in speaking, and very brief, which was unusual. But whether you speak or not, if someone wants to question you, he can. He can question your silence. The monk was speaking about the beauty of existence, thinking perhaps that it could not create any trouble, but it did.
I stood up. My Nani was laughing at the back of the room – I can still hear her laughter. I asked him, “Who created this beautiful universe?”
Jainas do not believe in God. It is difficult for the Western Christian mind to even comprehend a religion that does not believe in God. Jainism is far superior to Christianity; at least it does not believe in God, and the Holy Ghost, and the whole nonsense that follows. Jainism is, believe me or not, an atheistic religion, because to be atheist and yet religious seems to be contradictory, a contradiction in terms. Jainism is pure ethics, pure morality, with no God. So when I asked the Jaina monk, “Who created this beauty?” obviously, as I knew he would, he answered, “Nobody.”
That was what I was waiting for. I then said, “Can such beauty be created by no one?”
He said, “Please don’t misunderstand me….” This time he had come prepared; he looked more together. “Please don’t misunderstand me,” he said, “I am not saying that no one is someone.”
Remember the story in Alice Through the Looking Glass? The Queen asks Alice, “On the way here, did you meet anybody coming to see me?”
Alice said, “I saw nobody.”
The Queen looked puzzled, then said, “It is strange; then nobody should have arrived here before you, and he is not here yet.”
Alice, just like an English lady, of course, giggled, only spiritually. Her face remained grave. She said, “Ma’am, nobody is nobody.”