Religion has nothing to do with character. In fact, the really religious person is absolutely characterless. But try to understand the word characterless; it does not mean without character, it means with fluid character. He lives moment to moment, responding to new situations, new challenges, with no ready-made answers.
The so-called man of character has ready-made answers. He never bothers what is the challenge, he goes on responding in the old, learned ways. Hence he is always falling short and that is his misery. He is never in tune with existence; he cannot be, because he is more interested in keeping his character than in being in tune with existence. What was right yesterday may not be right today, and what is right this moment may not be right the next moment. And the man of character has fixed ideas of what is right and what is wrong; his fixation is the problem.
That must be keeping you miserable. You are not flexible, you cannot be. The so-called man of character is absolutely inflexible. He is like dry wood. He is not like a green tree which moves with the wind, dances with the wind, bows down to let the wind pass and then stands back.
The real religious man is like a green tree – in fact, more like green grass. That’s how Lao Tzu defines the religious man: he is like the grass. Let the wind come, and the grass bows down, falls on the earth, is not in any way fighting with the wind. Why fight it? We are part of one organic unity; the wind is not our enemy. The grass bows down; the wind is gone and the grass is back again dancing. The wind has been a help, it has taken all the dust away. The grass is greener, fresher, it enjoyed the whole play with the wind.
But a big tree, egoistic, stiff, rigid, unable to bow down, will fall in the strong wind and will not be able to get back again; it is bound to be miserable. A man of character is always miserable. His only happiness is that he is a man of character, that’s all. And what does character have to do with religion? You may eat something, you may not eat something; you may drink something, you may not drink something else; you may smoke, you may not smoke…. Such trivia is thought to be of immense value! And you practice it – and what do you mean by practicing it?
It must be a repression – and a man who represses is bound to be miserable, because all that he has repressed is struggling within him to come back, to be powerful again. And even though you have repressed it, it goes on pulling your strings from the unconscious. It will keep you always in a state of conflict, inner turmoil; a civil war continues inside you. You will remain tense, anxious, worried, and always afraid – because you know the enemy is there – that you have repressed and the enemy is trying every moment to take revenge. And there is a point beyond which you cannot repress any more because you cannot contain any more; there is a limit to everything. Then all that you have repressed explodes, like pus oozing out of you.
This is what we have been told is the state of a religious man – this repressive character.