In the Middle Ages in Europe it was thought that kings and queens didn’t have two legs, because nobody had ever seen them naked. It was thought that they had only one leg. They were not human; they were living at a distance. Ego always tries to live at a distance, and the distance makes you insensitive. You cannot come and touch a child playing on the road. You cannot come near a tree and embrace the tree. You cannot come nearer to life; you are pretending that you are higher than life, greater than life, bigger than life. The distance has to be created and only then can you pose as being bigger than life. But life is not losing anything by your foolishness; you are only becoming more and more insensitive. You are already dead. Life needs you to be more alive.
When Patanjali says “austerity” he means, “Be simple, don’t cultivate it.” Because cultivated simplicity is not simplicity. How can a cultivated simplicity be simple? It is very complex; you have been trying, calculating, cultivating.
I know a man; I happened to pass by the village where he was living. My driver said, “Your friend lives here, just outside the village.” So I said, “It is good. Just for a few minutes I will go and see him, and see what he is doing now.” He was a Jaina monk. When I reached near his house, through the window I could see him walking naked inside. Jaina monks have five stages; by and by they cultivate simplicity. At the fifth stage, the last, they become naked. First they will wear three articles of clothing, then two, then one, and then that too will be dropped. That is the highest ideal of simplicity, when one becomes absolutely nude; nothing to carry – no burden, no clothes, no things. But I knew that this man was only in the second stage, so why was he nude?
I knocked on the door. He opened the door, but now he was wrapped in a lunghi. So I asked, “What is the matter? Just now I saw you through the window and you were nude.”
He said, “Yes, I am practicing for the fifth, the last stage. First, I will practice inside the house, then with friends; then, by and by, I will move to the village, and then to the larger world. I have to practice. It will take at least a few years for me to drop the shyness, to be courageous enough to move naked in the world.”
I told him, “You had better join a circus. You will be nude, but a practiced nudity is not simple; it is very calculated. You are very cunning, and you are moving step by step with cleverness. In fact, you will never become nude. A practiced nudity will be like clothes again, very subtle clothing. You are creating them by practice.
“If you feel like an innocent child, you simply drop the clothes and move into the world. What is the fear – that people will laugh? What is wrong in their laughter? – let them laugh. You also can participate, you also can laugh with them. They will make fun of you – so far, so good, because nothing kills ego like people making fun of you. It is good, they are helping you. But by this practice for five years, you will miss the whole thing. Nudity should be innocent like a child’s. Nudity should be an understanding, not a practice. Through practice, you are finding a substitute for understanding. Innocence is not of the mind, it is not a part of your calculating, your reasoning. Innocence is an understanding of the heart.”