I was reading the life of a very famous bishop. He went to St. Mary’s Church in Cambridge to deliver a university sermon. Thirty, forty years before, when he was a young man, he was an undergraduate there. And he was full of reminiscences, memories of his young age. He looked around – could he recognize anybody who was there when he was an undergraduate? He recognized an old verger. After the sermon he went to him and said, “Do you recognize me? I was a student here forty years before. Everybody else has gone, I can only recognize your face. Thank God you have good health. You served him well.”
The verger said, “Yes, I thank God, I thank him very much, because after listening – and I have been listening to each and every sermon that has been delivered in this church for fifty years! – thank God after listening to all sorts of nonsense for fifty years, I am still a Christian.”
It is difficult to be a Christian if you listen to all sorts of nonsense that has been preached in the name of Christianity. It is difficult to be a Hindu if you know all the nonsense that has been written in the name of Hinduism. It is difficult to be a Mohammedan if you know what it means to be a Mohammedan. Because you don’t know, it is easy. You remain a Hindu because you don’t know what it means. You don’t know the hatred implied in it, you don’t know the politics intrinsic to it.
It is easy to be a Christian, not knowing what Christianity has done in the past. It has been murderous. Christianity killed more people than communism. But it is easy if you don’t know. The more you know, the more it will become difficult to be a Christian, to be a Mohammedan, to be a Hindu. In fact, you will understand that these are the ways of not being religious, these are the ways which prevent you from being religious, these are the ways which are the barriers. They deceive you that you are religious, they give you a false coin; they are fakers, counterfeits. To be religious is not to be a Mohammedan, not to be a Christian, not to be a Hindu. To be religious is just to be religious, nothing else is needed. That is conversion. If you repent, conversion happens. Conversion is the by-product of repentance. One does not have to repent for his acts, because that is not real repentance. One has to repent for his whole being. Only then transformation is possible.
Now, listen to these words of the gospel:
In those days came John the Baptist,
preaching in the wilderness of Judaea…
John’s name has become “John the Baptist.” Nobody else’s name in the whole history of the world has become so connected with baptism. He initiated hundreds of seekers, and his way of initiation was something unique. He initiated them in the River Jordan. First they would meditate with him for a few days, a few months, or sometimes for a few years. When they would be ready, then he would take them into the river. They would stand in the river and he would pour water on their heads – and something would transpire, something would happen in their hidden-most being and they would no longer be the same people as they were before. It was a secret rite, a secret ceremony. Something was being transferred from the master to the disciple. The water was used as a medium.