Symbols are significant because a symbol creates its own center in you, and starts creating a reality around it. For example, if you believe that you are a soul, your whole life is going to be different. It will be settled by that symbol of the soul. If you believe that you are a no-self, anatta, a silent nothingness, an utter emptiness, that you are a nobody, that will transform your whole life. It is going to be different.
The person who thinks “I am a soul” will live differently from the person who thinks “There is nobody inside me.” What will be the difference? The person who thinks “I am a soul” will be alienated. He will think himself separate from existence. That’s what alienation is.
The word alienation comes from a Latin root, alienare, which means “to make strange or to separate what once was united.” The person who thinks “I am” certainly will have to draw lines around himself to make it clear who he is – “I am not the tree, I am not the rock, I am not the woman I love, I am not the child I have given birth to, I am not this earth, I am not the sun.” He will have to go on defining himself, “what I am not.” He will have to eliminate millions of things; then a tiny space will be left of which he will think “I am.” This is alienation.
The positive language used down the ages by the religious people has created great alienation. Man has become a stranger in a world which is his home. He feels homeless, uprooted, an outsider.
And the reason is a wrong symbol. Change the symbol, and you see how your life starts changing. Small changes sometimes bring great revolutions. Just a slight change. Symbols are significant; they create their own world. Each symbol creates a world. A symbol is a seed.
Just think that you are a no-self. Now, there is no need to draw any boundary around you. How can you draw one? You are not. You cannot draw a boundary when you are not. You need not think “I am not the tree, and I am not the rock, and I am not the earth, and I am not the people who are here.” You will have to think in a totally different way. You will have to say, “Because I am not, that means I am all. Because I am not, that means I am not a wave in the ocean, but the ocean itself. “I am not” means God is.” And suddenly you belong to the world and the world belongs to you, and it is your home. And that brings great peace and great joy: you are not alienated.
Alienation is bound to create some kind of neurosis, schizophrenia, some kind of great paranoia, because if you are, then you are against this whole world. And you are so small, and the world is so vast, there is no possibility of your ever being the conqueror. Now the whole stupid idea of conquering nature arises. Once you accept that you are a self, now you have to conquer, you have to prove. You have to conquer other selves; you have to conquer nature; you have to prove yourself.
The greatest teachers have always been negative. They don’t say that you are, they say you are not; and the beauty of that negativity is immense, incalculable, immeasurable.