In ninety thousand years Hinduism and Jainism have gone very far apart, so far apart that the twenty-fourth tirthankara, Mahavira – the last tirthankara – is not mentioned in any Hindu scripture…just to ignore him; it was thought not worthwhile to mention him.
But Rishabhdeva they have mentioned with such reverence. That shows something very psychological. Nobody shows reverence to any contemporary, particularly to a contemporary who is cutting the roots of your vested interests, your powers, who is against the brahmins who are writing the Rig Veda. If they had criticized him that would have been perfectly right; but they are so full of reverence.
To me it proves only one thing, that Rishabhdeva must have lived a little before the writing of the Rig Veda – five centuries, six centuries. By that time he had already become well known, worshipped. So even the Rig Veda describes him with reverence. People don’t speak against the dead, but to respect a contemporary needs a very intelligent and innocent mind.
He is the first Jina. Jina means the conqueror, and Mahavira is the twenty-fourth Jina. Those who follow the Jina’s are called Jainas; they are simply followers.
The word jina is equivalent to the word buddha; they are exchangeable, because in many places in Buddhist scriptures Buddha is called a Jina, and in many Jaina scriptures, Mahavira is called Buddha. These words are not anybody’s monopoly. They simply signify a state which can be described in many ways through different aspects.
When I was in America, the ambassador of Sri Lanka to America wrote a letter to me telling me that I should stop calling our discos around the world “Zorba the Buddha” because it hurts the religious feelings of the Buddhists.
I answered him, “You don’t seem to be aware of the fact that ‘Buddha’ is nobody’s monopoly. It simply means ‘the awakened.’ Now, if Zorba becomes awakened – nobody can prevent him; he has a birthright to be awakened. And everybody who is not awakened is a Zorba – he may not be so great a Zorba, but in his own way, in a small measure, he is living a life which has no awakening to it, he is asleep. So there is no question of changing the name. My whole effort is to create a bridge between the Zorbas – the sleeping ones – and the buddhas – the awakened ones. And this word simply signifies an awakening of consciousness.”
But somebody may be an ambassador of a country – that does not mean that he understands. He never replied, because it is absolutely clear that it is nobody’s monopoly. And everybody has to become a buddha. It should not hurt your religious feelings, it should really make you happy that even Zorbas are becoming buddhas. You should rejoice! But somebody may be an ambassador or a president or a prime minister: the sleeping mind is the same.