What is the difference between the old sage and the new rebel?
The old sage was respectable, honored by the society in which he was born. He followed the rules and regulations of the people, he went through all the disciplines required for being a sage. He was part of the social structure – and even though there were thousands of superstitions, ugly institutions, exploitation, philosophies to console the poor and the oppressed, he affirmed them. He was never against any of the institutions the society had lived with for centuries. He was a follower of the old, of the ancient.
In a way he was a simple man, but deep down utterly repressed, because all social structures are repressive. He was not an individual in his own right, he was only a part of a certain society or cultural group. That certain group worshipped him for the simple reason that he was fulfilling their ideals, their cherished goals. He was their representative.
For example, no Hindu sage has denied or condemned the ugly institution of the caste system. It is impossible even to conceive that a man of clarity and enlightenment could not see that the caste system is a special way of exploiting the poor and the oppressed. Man has behaved so inhumanely with these poor and oppressed people; it has not happened anywhere else in the world. And this was happening in this country, which has created the greatest number of sages.
They talked beautifully about God, they sang beautifully about the other world, they lived a life prescribed by the society, absolutely according to the rules. The society was happy that they were so obedient, and they were happy because the society fulfilled their subtle egos – they were thought to be almost incarnations of God. So there was a mutual conspiracy between the so-called old sages and the social structures in which they were born.
The ancientmost scriptures of the Hindus, the Vedas, prescribes rituals in which not only animals have to be sacrificed to satisfy the gods, but even human beings have to be sacrificed – to satisfy a god that nobody has ever seen. But no sage of those days raised his voice to say that this is absolutely ridiculous, utterly irreligious, unspiritual. They all went hand in hand with the society, supporting whatever the society’s beliefs were by their writings and by their living.
Their only satisfaction was that they were worshipped. But to be worshipped is a tremendous nourishment for the ego. If the society wanted them to live naked, they lived naked; if the society wanted them to live in utter poverty, they lived in utter poverty. In a single word, the old sage was just the opposite of the new rebel. The old sage was the obedient, ego-fulfilling, repressed being. According to me, he was sick – spiritually sick.