The first thing is: when a child is born he has no ego. He does not know who he is. He is simply blank. Then we start writing on him. We tell him that he is a boy or that she is a girl, that he is a Mohammedan or a Hindu, that he is good or bad, that he is intelligent or stupid. We start feeding ideas to him. We start giving him ideas about who he is: he is beautiful or not beautiful, obedient or disobedient, loved or not loved, needed or not needed – there is a continuous feeding of ideas. These ideas gather in his consciousness, the mirror becomes surrounded by much dust, and certain ideas start getting fixed, getting rooted in the being of the child. He starts thinking the way you are teaching, him.
By and by he completely forgets that he came into the world as pure emptiness. He starts believing. And a child trusts infinitely. Whatsoever you say he trusts you. He loves you. He does not know doubt yet, he does not suspect. How can he suspect? He is such purity, he is just pure consciousness, he is pure love. So when the mother says something, he trusts her.
Now psychologists say that if you go on telling a person something continuously, he will become that. You become that which you think you are. Or, it is not that you become it, but that the idea gets very deeply rooted – and that’s what all conditioning is. If you tell a small boy continuously that he is stupid, he will become stupid, he will start thinking that he is stupid. Not only that, he will start behaving in a stupid way. He has to adjust to a certain idea that is being given to him. When everybody thinks that he is stupid he also thinks that he must be stupid. It is very difficult to think something which nobody thinks about you. It is impossible. Some support is needed.
The child is very, very unsupported. He looks around, he looks into your eyes. Your eyes function like a mirror and he sees his face there and what you are saying. A child can become beautiful, can become ugly, can become a saint, can become a criminal. It depends on the conditioning, on how you condition him.
But whether he becomes a saint or a sinner does not matter – as far as the misery is concerned he will be miserable either way. Whether he becomes stupid or intelligent does not matter. Remember this point. Conditioning brings misery. You can condition him to be a saint and he will become a saint, but he will remain miserable.
You can go and see your so-called saints. You will not find more miserable people anywhere else. Sometimes sinners may be joyous, but never saints. They are such great saints – how can they laugh, how can they enjoy, how can they dance, how can they sing? How can they be so ordinary and human? They are superhuman and they remain frozen in that super-humanity. It is nothing but pure ego.
Zen is a totally different kind of religion. It brings humanness to religion. It is not bothered about anything superhuman, its whole concern is how to make ordinary life a blessing. Other religions try to destroy your ordinary life and make you somebody extraordinary. These are ego trips and they will not make you happy. They condition you, they respect you – because you are good the society respects you, because you are good the parents respect you, because you are good the teachers respect you – and by and by the idea gets into your mind that if you remain good everybody is going to respect you and if you are not good nobody is going to respect you.