Hegel, one of the greatest philosophers, dropped the idea of past lives – because in Christian, Mohammedan and Jewish philosophies there is only one life. So either God has to decide, or life becomes free. Hegel could not throw the whole responsibility on God because he was a logician, a great philosopher. He could not find arguments for why God should decide that somebody be a Buddha and somebody be a Christ and somebody be a Judas. Why? For what reason? It seemed to be very arbitrary. And why should God go on playing this game – millions of people in misery and he is the one who has decided that they should be miserable?
Only once in a while there is somebody who blossoms, is blissful, but that too is not much to brag about, because that too is decided. You are programmed, you are conditioned, so you are happy. Somebody else is conditioned, that’s why he is unhappy. But how does God decide that somebody has to be unhappy and somebody has to be happy? At least Jainas and Buddhists have some rationalization – past lives.
Hegel decided on History – history with a capital H, it becomes God itself. It is History that decides, it is no longer the individual past, but the past of the society which is decisive. Now History plays the role of God, or the role of the philosophy of karma.
And then one of his disciples, Karl Marx, decided that it is not history but economic structure. It is economics, the class struggle that is decisive. But they all agree on one thing, that it is somebody else who decides. Call it God, call it History, call it karma, call it economics – but about one thing they are in absolute agreement, that you are not free.
And that’s where I disagree with this whole tradition. Man is absolutely free. Man is born free and if he decides to be in chains, that too is his decision. If he decides to be a prisoner that is his decision. Otherwise he has the whole multidimensional existence in which to grow, in whatsoever direction he chooses.
Man is freedom, absolute freedom, but with freedom comes great responsibility. With freedom you become responsible for the first time, and each act has to be done very consciously. You have to be aware and alert about what you are doing, what you are thinking, what you are dreaming, because even your dreams are going to affect your life.
In one way it feels like a great burden, this great responsibility of creating yourself, but on the other hand it is weightlessness, because then if something has gone wrong it can be changed. You can undo everything that you have done, you can again start afresh, you can cancel your past, you can begin anew.
Initiation into sannyas means that you are breaking away from your past, whatsoever it was – communist, Catholic, Hindu, Mohammedan. You are breaking away from your past. You are closing your past completely and starting afresh. This is a resurrection – a death and a resurrection: the death of the past and the resurrection of something absolutely new, so absolutely new that it has nothing to do with the past, it is discontinuous with the past.
Man is a ladder. One part of the ladder, the lowest, touches the earth, the world, and the other end touches paradise itself. And there are many rungs to the ladder. At least three rungs are very important; there are many rungs, but they can all be divided into three categories.