For twenty years I lived in a city which was proportionately divided, half and half, into Hindus and Mohammedans. They were equally powerful, and almost every year riots happened. I used to know a professor in the university where I was teaching. I could never have dreamed that this man could put fire to a Hindu temple; he was such a gentleman—nice, well educated, well cultured. When there was a riot between the Hindus and the Mohammedans I was watching, standing by the roadside. Mohammedans were burning a Hindu temple, Hindus were burning a Mohammedan mosque.
I saw this professor engaged in burning the Hindu temple. I pulled him out and I asked, "Professor Farid, what are you doing ?
He became very embarrassed. He said, "I'm sorry, I got lost in the crowd. Because everybody else was doing it, I forgot my own responsibility—everybody else was responsible. I felt for the first time a tremendous freedom from responsibility. Nobody can blame me. It was a Mohammedan crowd, and I was just part of it.
On another occasion, a Mohammedan's watch shop was being looted. It was the most precious collection of watches. An old Hindu priest—the people who were taking away those watches and destroying the shop, had killed the shop owner, were all Hindus—an old priest I was acquainted with was standing on the steps and shouting very angrily at the people, "What are you doing ? This is against our religion, against our morality, against our culture. This is not right.
I was seeing the whole scene from a bookstore, on the first story in a building just in front of the shop on the other side of the road. The greatest surprise was yet to come. When people had taken every valuable article from the shop there was only an old grandfather clock left, very big, very antique. Seeing that people were leaving, the old man took that clock on his shoulders. It was difficult for him to carry because it was too heavy. I could not believe my eyes! He had been preventing people, and this was the last item in the shop.
I had to come down from the bookstore and stop the priest. I said to him, This is strange. The whole time you were shouting, `This is against our morality! This is against our religion, don't do it!' And now you are taking the biggest clock in the shop.
He said, I shouted enough but nobody listened. And then finally the idea arose in me that I am simply shouting and wasting my time, and everybody else is getting something. So it is better to take this clock before somebody else gets it because it was the only item left.
I asked, But what happened to religion, morality, culture ?
He said this with an ashamed face, but he said it: When nobody bothers about religion, culture and morality, why should I be the only victim ? I am also part of the same crowd. I tried my best to convince them, but if nobody is going to follow the religious and the moral and the right way, then I am not going to be just a loser and look stupid standing there. Nobody even listened to me, nobody took any notice of me. He carried that clock away.
I have seen at least a dozen riots in that city, and I have asked individuals who have participated in arson, in murder, in rape, Can you do it alone, on your own ? And they all said, without any exception, On our own we could not do it. It was because so many people were doing it, and there was no responsibility left. We were not answerable, the crowd was answerable.
Man loses his small consciousness so easily into the collective ocean of unconsciousness. That is the cause of all wars, all riots, all crusades, all murders.
I have seen politicians…just a dead cow, they will put in front of a Hindu temple. Naturally the Hindus will think it must have been done by Mohammedans, and immediately there is a riot. And then these same politicians start speeches for peace, for brotherhood.
We are living in a really mad world.
I know the politicians—who have been creating the riots and when hundreds of people have been burned and killed, and mosques and temples have been destroyed, then they will call a public meeting of all the religions and will talk about peace, humanity, progress. And they are the people who are hindering all progress.
In Mohammedanism they went to the very logical end: either you have to be ready to be saved or be ready to die. They don't give you any other choice, because they believe that if you go on living unsaved you may commit sins and you will suffer in hell. By killing you they are at least taking away all the opportunities of falling into hell.
And to be killed by a savior is almost to be saved. That's what Mohammedans have been saying, that if you kill somebody in order to save him, he is saved; God will look after it. He is saved and you are accumulating more virtue in saving so many people. Mohammedans have killed millions of people in the East. And the strange thing is that they believed they were doing the right thing. And whenever somebody does a wrong thing believing that it is right, then it is more dangerous. You cannot persuade him otherwise, he does not give you a chance to be persuaded. In India I tried in every possible way to approach Mohammedan scholars, but they are unapproachable. They don't want to discuss any religious matter with somebody who is not a Mohammedan.
They have a word of condemnation for the person who is not a Mohammedan. Just as Christians call him a heretic, Mohammedans call him kaffir—which is even worse than heretic. Kaffir comes from a word, kufr; kufr means sin, a sinner. Kaffir means a sinner: anybody who is not a Mohammedan is a sinner. There are no other categories, only two categories. Either you are a Mohammedan, then you are a saint…. Just by being a Mohammedan you are a saint, you are saved, because you believe in one God, one prophet—Mohammed—and one holy book, the Koran. These three things believed is enough for you to be a saint. And those who are not Mohammedans are all kaffirs, sinners….
India, although a Hindu country, has the biggest number of Mohammedans. Still it is impossible to communicate. I have tried my best, but if you are not a Mohammedan then how can you understand ? There is no question of any dialogue: you are a kaffir.
I had a professor as my colleague in the university, who loved me very much. He was a Mohammedan. I asked him, Farid, can't you manage…?" Because Jabalpur is one of the big centers of Mohammedans and it has great scholars. One very famous scholar, Burhanuddin, was there. He was old, and famous all over India and outside India also as a scholar of Mohammedanism. I asked Farid, find some way for me to have a dialogue with him.
He said, it is really difficult—unless you can pretend to be a Mohammedan.
I said, that too is very difficult, because then you have to teach me a few basic things of Mohammedanism—their prayer and what they do. And moreover that Burhanuddin knows me—we have spoken many times from the same platform—so it will be very difficult for me to act. I can try, there is no harm. At the most we may get caught and we can laugh at the whole thing.
He said, You can laugh, but my position will be very bad. They will kill me because 'you are a Mohammedan and you are supporting a kaffir, and deceiving one of your great masters. But he was willing to do it. He started teaching me the language, Urdu. It was difficult to learn because it is just absolutely the opposite of any language that is born of Sanskrit. An Urdu book starts from the back and the sentence starts from the right corner and goes towards the left.
It is so difficult to get adjusted: it is just upside down, the whole thing. You have to open the book from the end; that is the beginning. And then the sentence starts from the right and moves towards the left. And because of the way the Urdu language is written a perfect way has not yet been found to print it or type it. The way it is written is not scientific at all; most of it has to be guessed. So those who are accustomed to read it, they can read it because they can guess what it will be. But for somebody who is learning, it is very difficult to guess.
But for six months I tried. I learned enough so that I could deceive somebody into thinking that I was not very educated, but a little bit. I learned their prayers; Farid managed to get a wig for me and cut my beard like the Mohammedans cut theirs. And their beard is so strange that even when I think of it again now my stomach starts churning. But I went through it; they cut my mustache off completely and left just my beard.
I said, "my God" If you had told me before then I would not have wasted these six months. In a way they were right, because I know that a mustache is such a difficult thing—particularly a mustache like mine which is not trimmed but is wild. I don't allow anyone to trim it. It is difficult even to drink tea or to drink fruit juice because half of it will remain on the mustache. So Mohammedans have found a way: they cut off the mustache, they shave the mustache, and they keep the beard. But that looks so ugly.
But I said, okay, we will do it. Now, for a few days I will not leave my house. Just give me a wig and let me see Burhanuddin. It certainly changed my face completely when Farid cut my beard like the Mohammedans'—very thin along the jawline and just a little bit of beard on the chin—like Lenin's, a little less. Without a mustache and with a wig I looked different.
We went there, but the old man detected something about my eyes. He said, "I have seen those eyes somewhere.
I said, "My God! Farid, where could Maulana , maulana means master; he was known as Maulana Burhanuddin— have seen me ? because I have never been to this city.
Farid was trembling, he was having a nervous breakdown: we had never thought about the eyes. That old man continued to look, and he said, I suspect something.
I said, Farid, he suspects something. Farid just fell at his feet and he said, There is no need to suspect—you know this man. And forgive me, I was just trying to help him because he wanted to have a dialogue with you.
But he said, First tell me who he is, because as far as I can remember, I have known the man and I have seen him many times. You have just cut off his mustache.
I said; Now it is better, Farid, that you tell the whole thing, that not only have you cut off my mustache…. I took off the wig and I said, Look at the wig.
The moment I was without the wig, Burhanuddin immediately recognized me, and he said, You.
I said, What else to do ? You know me perfectly but you will not have a personal talk with me. Do you think that just being a Mohammedan is enough to be a saint ? And what sin have I committed ?
Certainly I am not a Mohammedan, but Mohammed himself was not a Mohammedan when he was born. Was he a kaffir, a sinner ? And can you tell me who converted Mohammed to Islam ? He was never converted. Just as Jesus remained a Jew, Mohammed remained a pagan all his life; Mohammedanism is something that started after his death. So if Mohammed, a kaffir, can become the messenger of God, can't I discuss the message ?
Burhanuddin said, This is what I was afraid of. That is why we don't encourage any dialogue between Mohammedans and non-Mohammedans.
I said That simply shows your weakness. What is the fear ? I am opening myself to you, to be saved by you. Save me—and if you cannot save me then let me try to save you.
But that man simply turned towards Farid and said, Take him away. I don't want to talk any more. And you have to come tomorrow to see me.
And Farid was punished, beaten. I could not believe it: he was a professor at the university, a well-known scholar who was a guide to many research students working on Mohammedanism, on Urdu literature, the Koran. Burhanuddin had a few hooligans there—they gave Farid a good beating. He showed me his body; all over his body were signatures of the Mohammedan attitude.
He said, I told you before, that if something goes wrong…. They have only beaten me because I am a well-known person. If I were somebody else they would have killed me...
I have commented on hundreds of mystics, many of them Sufis who are in revolt against the orthodox Mohammedan structure. When Sufis heard about my commentaries on Sufism, at least two or three times a year I received beautiful printed copies of the Koran, with letters saying, You are the only person who can write a commentary, because you are not a Mohammedan. Mohammedans cannot do anything against you; they cannot expel you.
If you ask Mohammedans, they will say I have no right to talk on Sufis or on the Koran. Once in a town I was talking about Sufis, and the maulvi of the town approached me and he said, You have no right. You are not a Mohammedan, you don't know Arabic. How can you talk on the Sufis and on the Koran ?
I said, The Koran has nothing to do with Arabic. It has something to do with the heart, not with the language.
I have enjoyed thousands of encounters; Jaina, Hindu, Mohammedan, Christian, and I was ready to do anything just to have a good argument.
You will not believe me, but I went through circumcision at the age of twenty-seven, after I was already enlightened, just to enter a Mohammedan Sufi order where they would not allow anybody in who had not been circumcised. I said, Okay, then do it! This body is going to be destroyed anyway, and you are only cutting off just a little piece of skin. Cut it, but I want to enter the school.
Even they were unable to believe me. I said, Believe me, I am ready. And when I started arguing they said, You were so willing to be circumcised and yet you are so unwilling to accept anything we say at all.
I said, That's my way. About the nonessential I am always ready to say yes. About the essential I am absolutely adamant, nobody can force me to say yes.
Of course they had to expel me from their so-called Sufi order, but I told them, Expelling me, you are simply declaring to the world that you are pseudo-Sufis. The only real Sufi is being expelled. In fact, I expel you all.
Bewildered, they looked at each other. But that's the truth. I had gone to their order not to know the truth; I knew that already. Then why had I entered ? Just to have good company to argue with.
Argument has been my joy from my very childhood. I will do anything just to have a good argument. But how rare it is to find a really good milieu for argument. entered the Sufi order—this I am confessing for the first time—and even allowed those fools to circumcise me. They did it by such primitive methods that I had to suffer for at least six months. But I didn't care about that; my whole concern was to know Sufism from within. Also I could not find a real Sufi in my life. But that is true not only about the Sufis; I have not found a real Christian either, or a real Hassid...
I have been with Sufis and I have loved those people. But they are still one step away from being a buddha. Even though their poetry is beautiful—it has to be, because it is coming out of their love—their experience is a hallucination created by their own mind. In Sufism, mind is stretched to the point that you become almost mad for the beloved. Those days of separation from the beloved create the sensation of burning...
It happened that one Sufi master was brought to me. He was master of thousands of Mohammedans, and once a year he used to come to the city. A few of the Mohammedans of his group had become interested in me and they wanted a meeting. They highly appreciated that their master sees God everywhere, in everything, and he is always joyful: We have been with him for twenty years and we have never seen him in any other state except ecstasy.
I told them, It will be good that he becomes a guest in my house. For three days you leave him with me. I will take care of your master. He was an old man, a very good man.
I asked him, Have you used any technique for this constant ecstasy, or has it come on its own without any technique ?
He said, I have certainly used a technique. The technique is to remember, looking at everything, that there is God in it. In the beginning it looked ridiculous, but slowly slowly the mind became accustomed: now I see God everywhere in everything.
Then I said, You do one thing…How long have you been practicing it ?
Forty years , he must have been nearabout seventy.
I asked, Can you trust your experience of ecstasy ?
He said, Absolutely.
Then I said, "Do one thing: for three days you stop the technique…no more remembering that God is in everything. For three days look at things as they are; don't impose your idea of God. A table is a table, a chair is a chair, a tree is a tree, a man is a man.
He asked, But what is the purpose of it ?
I said, I will tell you after three days.
But not even three days were needed; after only one day he was angry at me, ferociously angry that, You have destroyed my forty years' discipline. You are a dangerous man. I have been told that you are a master, and rather than helping me…Now I see in a chair nothing but a chair, in a man nothing but a man; God has disappeared, and with the disappearance of God my ecstasy that I am surrounded by an ocean of God has also disappeared.
I said, This was the specific purpose. I wanted you to understand that your technique has produced an hallucination; otherwise forty years' discipline cannot disappear in one day. You had to continue the technique, so it would continue to create the illusion. Now it is up to you: if you want to live your remaining life in an hallucinatory ecstasy, it is up to you. But if you want to wake up, then no technique is needed....
The Sufi master could not stay with me for three days, but leaving me he finally said to me, I am grateful. I will have to start my journey again. I can see what has happened: first I just started projecting. I knew that a table is a table, a chair is a chair, but I started projecting that it is God, that it is luminous with God's existence. And I knew that it is just my idea. But forty years! Slowly slowly it became the reality. But you have shown me that that technique was simply creating an hallucination....