The man said, “Yes, I know.”
He said, “When you take a dip in the Ganges your sins will leave you, but they will sit on the trees. How long can you remain under the water? You will have to come out, you will have to come home. And when you are dressed and ready to go home, those sins jump back on you. So it is futile, but it is up to you.”
He will not say that this is stupid – that the Ganges cannot take your sins away. But he says it in his own way, without hurting the man’s feelings. And he has said it in a beautiful way: “You can go. The Ganges will do its work, it will purify you – but how long you will remain in the Ganges? Sooner or later you will have to come out. And what do you think? Those trees are standing there, they are the resting places for the sins.
“And sometimes it happens that even other people’s sins jump upon you. Seeing a better man, they change. So I will not suggest it. Find some other way. This is dangerous – so many people are taking a bath in the Ganges, and all their sins are on the trees; they get mixed up. And then it is up to them to choose. It is better to have your own sins. At least you are acquainted with them. You may come back with some new sins, more dangerous.
“But I will not prevent you; I never prevent anybody. You can go and try, but I have told you the whole story. Nobody talks about the trees because the priests who are sitting on the banks of the Ganges, their whole business will flop if people come to know about the trees and the real secret. And sins, nobody can see, they are invisible; so they sit on the trees and wait.”
This man, in India, became paramahansa. Paramahansa means literally “the greatest swan”…because in Indian mythology it is thought that the swan eats only pearls; that is his food. And the swan is the only bird in existence that, if you put milk mixed with water before him, will drink the milk and leave the water behind. He has the capacity to discriminate between water and milk.
Paramahansa means “the greatest swan” who has become capable of discriminating between darkness and light, between right and wrong. It is not an effort on his part; it has become simply his nature. But his behavior may look mad.
This is my feeling, that there are many madmen in India who are really mad, who have not gone beyond mind – I have seen a few – but they are worshipped as paramahansas. Their irrational acts are interpreted by great scholars in such a way that they start having meaning. I have watched these people and they are really mad, they are not paramahansas.