Buddha himself may be deceived or may be a deceiver. There is no way, this way or that, to be totally certain about it. In deep hesitation, in deep confusion, in deep trembling, one has to go with the Buddha. Only those who are yet young, whose minds have yet not gathered too much dust, who are still able of wondering, feeling the awe of life, who are still not absolutely settled, closed, finished, who are not yet dead – only those few people will be able to go with me, with Jesus, with Buddha. Others are bound to be against them.
And then there are many other reasons too. People like to belong to groups. It gives a kind of consolation, satisfaction, “I am on the right track.” If you are a Christian, then millions of Christians are with you; you belong to them, you are not alone.
If you are with me, you are almost alone. You will be uprooted from the crowd to which you had belonged up to now. For few moments you will be nowhere, no one. You will become anonymous. You will not be a Christian nor a Hindu nor a Mohammedan – and that has become your identity.
You have been a Christian or a Hindu or a Jew, and that is your identity, that’s what you know about yourself. If somebody asks, “Who are you?” you can say, “I am a Catholic.” It gives you a certain false feeling as if you know yourself. People go on living in the world of “as if,” but when you live in the world of “as if” long enough it starts looking real; you start believing it.
The child is born – he is not Christian nor Jew nor Hindu, and he is perfectly happy without being a Hindu. But soon he will become a Hindu or a Mohammedan or somebody else. He will have to be taught. He will be given an identity, a label and that label means much to you because behind the label is emptiness.
Once the label is taken away you will fall into an abysmal emptiness. Unless you are really courageous, unless you have real guts to go into that emptiness, you would like to cling to the label.
Some experiments by Henry Tajfel at Bristol University have produced unexpected results. Parties of schoolboys aged fourteen to fifteen were subjected to a quick and bogus psychological test. Then each boy was told that he was either a “Julius person” or an “Augustus person.” No explanation was given of the characteristics of the Julius or Augustus people, nor did the boys know whom the other members of their group were.
Nevertheless, they promptly identified with their fictitious group, proud to be a Julius person or an Augustus person to such an extent that they were willing to make financial sacrifices to benefit their anonymous group brothers, and to cause discomfort in the other camp.
Tajfel says that you can alter a person’s behavior predictably, just by telling him he belongs to a group – even a group of which he has never heard before. Almost automatically the participant in these experiments favors anonymous members of his own group and, given the opportunity, he is likely to go out of his way to put members of another group at a disadvantage. People will stick up for a group to which they happen to be assigned, without any indoctrination about who else is in the group or what its qualities are supposed to be.