Then it goes to the extreme of stupidity. They cannot use razor blades, so they have to pull out their hairs with their own hands. It is such an ugly scene. Thousands of people, men, women, children, gather to see – this is a very special occasion, a very holy occasion – when a Jaina monk pulls out his hairs, beard, mustache. Tears are coming from his eyes. He is standing naked, surrounded by people; his whole body is a skeleton except the belly, and all these people are looking at the scene with such respect. They will take those hairs and make lockets of them – they are holy hairs. They will kiss the ground on which the saint was standing – it is holy ground.
But I don’t see that there is any virtue in it. Certainly the man who is doing this act, performing this stupidity, is a masochist – and the people who have gathered there to see him do it are certainly sadists. They love to see people being tortured, and when somebody is torturing himself, that is a delicacy. Both are sick. But the masochist becomes a great saint and the sadists become followers.
Authentic virtue is a totally different thing. It needs a deep exploration of your own being, living according to your own insight, even if it goes – and most often it will – against the social norms, the ideals, and the conditioning.
Friedrich Nietzsche is saying, “One is punished most for one’s virtues.” But the virtues have to be your own, they have to be your own discoveries. And you have to be courageous and rebellious enough to live them, whatever the cost.
Socrates was asked by the judges, “We can forgive you if you stop speaking completely. What you think is truth is not accepted by the people amongst whom you have to live. They are offended by your truth. If you promise – and we can trust you, we know you are a man of your word – if you promise not to speak again, to just be silent, you can save your life.”
The answer that Socrates gave is to be remembered forever by all those who, in some way, are interested in truth. He said, “I’m living only to speak the truth. Life was given to me by existence to experience truth, and now I’m repaying life by spreading the truth to those who are groping in the dark. If I cannot speak then I don’t see any point – why should I live? My life and my message of truth are synonymous. Please don’t try to seduce me. If I am alive I will speak.”
The judges were at a loss. One of the judges said, “You are too stubborn, Socrates.”
Socrates said, “It is not I who is stubborn; it is truth, it is virtue which is stubborn. Truth knows no compromise. It is better to die than to be condemned forever because I compromised for a small life. I’m already old; death will come anyway. And it is far more beautiful to accept death, because then death also becomes meaningful. I’m accepting it on the grounds that even death cannot stop me from speaking.”
Society has virtues. There are hundreds of societies in the world, so naturally there are hundreds of different kinds of virtues. Something is virtuous in one society and the same thing is unvirtuous in another society.