The way is not given to us by birth. But all the religions have created a system so that as soon as you are born, you are given a religion as well; along with your mother’s milk you are given a religion. When a child has not yet developed his intelligence, when he does not yet think about anything, when he still does not have a mind, when he still does not have any understanding, we instill a religion into the depths of his unconscious. The parents instill their way – which is not their way either; that too was given to them by their parents. So then you are born as a Hindu, a Mohammedan, a Jaina or a Christian. From your very birth you are connected with some path which has been forced upon you.
No one is born a Hindu or a Mohammedan; no one can be. A person can be born into a Hindu house, but no one can be born a Hindu. He can be born into a Mohammedan house, but he cannot be born a Mohammedan. When a man is born he does not have a religion, a way. The way is forced upon him as a child by his parents, by the family, by the caste, by the society. And they are in a great hurry to enforce it, because if the child begins to understand, he will oppose this forcing. That is why it is enforced when he is not yet fully alert.
All religions are in a great hurry to grab children by the neck; a little bit too late, and it will be difficult. Once the child emerges from an unconscious into a conscious state of mind, he knows how to take care of himself and then you will not be able to enforce your religion – the child will seek it out for himself. It may happen that a child from a Hindu household feels that Christianity is his way. A child from a Christian home may have a preference for Hinduism. Now this will create a great disturbance. To prevent a child from turning away from your religion, in your unconsciousness you commit a sin with him – you wrap your conditioning around his neck. Of all the sins that man has committed so far, this is the greatest of them all.
Why do I call it the greatest sin? – because we give the child a false religion which is not of his own choosing. And religion is such a thing that unless you have chosen it for yourself it will not be of any value. Only when you have chosen it – as an outcome of the search from your own being, from your own pain and thirst – can you be religious. The religion which has been given to you by others remains superficial, and because of it your own search is hindered.
That is why while Buddha or Mahavira or Mohammed or Christ is alive, the light of religiousness shines out and there is a revolution in the lives of the people who go to them; but once they are gone, the light slowly begins to fade. The people who went to Buddha to be initiated had made their own decision to follow him. Through reflecting, through experiencing, through considering, through practicing and experimenting, they felt that Buddha’s way was the right way for them too, and so they began to follow him. This was their own personal choice, this was their own surrender. This commitment had not been forced upon them by someone else. They had chosen it themselves so it had a totally different flavor. They could put their whole lives at stake for it – because one puts one’s life at stake only for something that one feels oneself is right.
But their children will be Buddhists by birth – it will not be from their own choice. They will not have made their own decision, they will not have even thought about it. The Buddhist religion will have been forced upon them.