As I have told you, it is difficult to know when a leader becomes the follower of his own followers. To become a leader he has to satisfy his followers, and in trying to satisfy them he has to follow his followers; to remain ahead, first he has to follow. If you don’t follow the followers whom you are to lead, they will not be ready to accept you as their leader. This is a very interesting happening: the leader has to follow because he has to lead. The leader gets lost in the very process of becoming a leader, because he has to appease those whom he rules and without noticing it, slowly, slowly during this appeasement, he becomes enslaved.
The same happens with the I. It is needed. As I told you it is necessary for our life-system, it is functional. But the I has no existence, it is just functional – functional in the sense that it is representative of and indicating towards something. It is like our names – one person is called Rama and another is called Krishna; nobody is born with a name, the name is altogether a lie. But it is very difficult to function without names. There are six billion people on this enormous earth, and if we tried to live without names it would be very difficult, it would be impossible to know who is who. So we have to be labeled. The labels are false, but they are functional.
When I say they are functional I mean that it is convenient. We know that this man is called Krishna and that man is called Rama – although no one is Rama and no one is Krishna; all names are absolutely false. We are born without names and we die without names. We adopt the name on earth and we abandon it when we depart, but it has a utility in between. There is no harm in it, as long as there is an understanding of its utility. But you know how easily you can forget that the name has only a utilitarian purpose.
When a man is ready to die for his name trouble arises. He says, “It is a question of my name. I will not let my name be sullied even at the cost of my life.” This shows that the name has not remained a mere utility. You are being used by the name; save the name and you are saved, lose the name and you are lost.
One evening, when Swami Ramateertha was in America, he returned home laughing and his friends asked, “What happened? What are you laughing at?”
He replied, “Some people met me on the way and they began to abuse Rama. I laughed loudly because they were insulting Rama – as if I were Rama.”
His friends were new people, unacquainted with his way of speaking, so they asked, “What are you saying? Aren’t you Rama? You are Rama. If they were insulting someone, they were insulting you.”
Ramateertha replied, “If the name is not just utilitarian and I identify myself with this name then the insults are meant for me, then I have to react. But I am well aware that a name is only functional. If tomorrow I become Krishna instead of Rama, it will not make any difference to me; only the name will change and I will remain the same. I can have a thou-sand names and they will all be superficial. To insult the name does not mean to insult me. I am more than a name, and separate from the name.”