In Soviet Russia, before the revolution, there was a Christian sect which believed that sexual organs should be cut, only then are you real Christians. The statement of Jesus was taken literally. Jesus has said: Be eunuchs of God. And these fools followed it literally. Every year they would gather in thousands and in a mad frenzy they would cut their sexual organs. Men would cut their genital organs, women would cut their breasts. And those who were able to do it were thought to be saints; they were very much respected – they had made a great sacrifice. Now, anywhere else they would have been thought utterly insane; but because in that particular society it was respected, they were saints.
In India you can find many people lying down on beds of thorns or needles, and they are thought to be great sages. If you look into their eyes, they are just stupid people. Lying down on a bed of thorns can’t make one spiritual. It will simply deaden your body, your sensitivity. Your body will become more and more dull; it will not feel.
That’s how it happens. Your face does not feel the cold because it remains open; it becomes insensitive to the cold. Your hands don’t feel the cold so much because they are open; they become insensitive to the cold. Exactly in the same way you can live naked. Only for the beginning few months will you feel the cold; slowly slowly your body will adjust.
That’s how the Jaina monks live naked. And their followers praise them like anything; they think: “This is what real spirituality is. Look, they have gone beyond the body!” They have gone nowhere; the body has just become dull. And when the body becomes dull it naturally creates a dullness of the mind too, because body and mind are deeply one. The body is the outer shell of the mind and the mind is the inner core of the body.
If you really want to be a sensitive, intelligent mind, you need a sensitive, intelligent body too. Yes, the body has its own intelligence. Don’t kill it, don’t destroy it, otherwise you will be destroying your intelligence. But if it is respected, then it becomes something religious, spiritual, holy.
Anything that the society respects becomes a nourishment for your ego. And people are ready to do any stupid thing. The only joy is that it will bring respectability.
Self-cultivation is nothing but another name for ego-cultivation. It is not a real path. In fact, no real path is needed. It looks like a long long, arduous path; it needs many lives. The people who have been preaching self-cultivation know perfectly well that one life is not enough; otherwise they will be exposed. So they imagine many many lives, a long, arduous journey of many lives. Then finally, after an unimaginable time, you arrive. In fact, you never arrive. You cannot arrive because you are already there. Hence this very idea of a path leading to a goal is meaningless.
Try to understand the paradox; it is very significant in understanding the spirit of Zen.
Zen is not a way, is not a path. Hence they call it the gateless gate, the pathless path, the effortless effort, the actionless action. They use these contradictory terms just to point towards a certain truth: that a path means there is a goal and the goal has to be in the future. You are here, the goal is there, and between you and the goal a path is needed, a bridge, to join you. The very idea of a path means you have yet to arrive home, that you are not at home already.