Perhaps because of that reason itself, they decided that he should be killed by giving poison, as was the custom in Greece. They could not tolerate such a man, who was so far above them and so much higher than themselves. His beauty, his truth, his sincerity – all were making them feel inferior. He was stronger than the whole crowd that was going to decide his fate.
You can see the strength. The judges were affected by the strength. They had to concede to the majority but they made a few conditions, just to help Socrates. They said, “If the majority decides to kill you by giving poison, we cannot do anything. But we can suggest a few alternatives – that is within our powers. One is that you can leave Athens and promise that you will not return.”
Socrates says, “That is impossible, because wherever I am, I will be faced with the same situation.” And Athens in those days was at the peak of culture, education, civilization. Perhaps no city has ever been at such a peak. “If Athens cannot tolerate me, I don’t think there is another city which is ready to tolerate me.
“If you are throwing me out, who is going to welcome me? And I don’t want to leave Athens – I love it, and I love its youth, and I love the few intelligent people in this city who have been able to understand me. I don’t care about the crowd, I care about those selected people with whom I have a certain heart-to-heart communion. No, I cannot leave Athens. That will be worse than death.”
The judges said, “The second alternative is that you can remain in Athens, but you stop speaking, you stop teaching.”
Socrates, for the first time in the whole trial, laughed. He said, “You are asking more and more absurd things. What is Socrates without his teaching? What is Socrates without his truth? That’s my life and my being. Please don’t try to be kind to me – death is more respectful than to concede to, and compromise with, anything that goes against my heart.” He accepted death. The alternatives were available.
Certainly there is a strength, a tremendous strength in the man. But just a glass of poison kills the man, because the poison does not take any note of who you are – an idiot or a Socrates. Faced with poison he proves to be very vulnerable.
So these two things are not contradictory.
You feel my love, you feel my strength – it is there. I can stand against the whole world…in fact that’s what I have been doing my whole life. But those who have hearts will certainly feel my vulnerability. Just a bullet is enough. It won’t see whether it is killing an animal, an idiot, or a buddha.
So the idea to protect me arises in your heart from the second possibility. All my sannyasins feel exactly the same. They feel both – they feel my strength and they feel my vulnerability. And all my sannyasins around the earth are in the same dilemma you are: “When there is so much strength in the man, what is the need for us to be worried about protecting him?”
The strength is coming from one source, and the danger of destroying such a man is coming from a different source. There is no contradiction in it.