I was telling you that Jainism is the most ancient religion. It is not a value to me, remember it, it is a disvalue. But a fact is a fact; value or disvalue, that is our attitude. Jainism is rarely known in the West. Not only in the West, but even in the East, except for a few parts of India. The reason is that the Jaina monks are naked. They cannot move into communities which are not already Jaina. They would be stoned, killed, even in the twentieth century.
The British government, which remained in India until 1947, had a special law for Jaina monks, that before they enter a city their followers had to ask for permission. Without a permit they can’t enter. And even with a permit they cannot enter great cities like Bombay, New Delhi or Calcutta. Their followers should surround them in such a way that nobody can see that they are naked.
I am using “they” because a Jaina monk is not allowed to travel alone. He has to travel with a group of monks, at least five; that is the minimum limit. The limit is placed so that they can spy on each other. It is a very what you would call “suspicious” religion – suspicious naturally, because everything it prescribes to be done is unnatural.
It is winter, and one is shivering, and would like to sit by the side of a fire – but a Jaina monk cannot sit by the side of a fire, because fire is violence. Fire kills, because trees are needed for it, so they are killed. The ecologists perhaps may agree. And when you are burning a fire, many very small creatures, alive but invisible to the naked eye, are burned. And sometimes even the wood carries ants within it, and other kinds of insects which have made their houses in it.
So, in short, the Jaina monk is not allowed to come close to a fire. Of course he cannot use a blanket – it is made of wool; that is again violence. Of course something else could be found, but because he cannot possess anything…Nonpossessiveness is very fundamental, and the Jainas are extremists. They have taken the logic of nonpossessing to its very extreme. It is really a sight to see a Jaina monk. One can see what logic can do to a man.
He is ugly, because he is undernourished: just bones, almost dead, just his belly is big, though his whole body is shrunken. That is strange, but you can understand. It happens wherever there is famine and people are starving. You must have seen pictures of children with big bellies; such big bellies, and all their limbs, hands and legs, are just bones covered by skin, and that too not very beautiful…almost dead skin. The same happens to a Jaina monk.
Why? I can understand because I have known both. The bellies of both starving children and Jaina monks immediately became my interest. Why? – because they both have the same kind of bellies, and also their bodies are similar. Their faces too are similar. Forgive me for saying it, but their faces are faceless. They don’t say anything, they don’t show anything. They are not only empty pages, but pages which have waited and waited for something to be written on them, to make them significant…but they became sore because nobody ever came.