Bertrand Russell was a very impartial man. But still, childhood prejudices dominate you even in your eighties, nineties. He had long before denied his Christianity. He had written a book, Why I Am Not A Christian, and before the Christian religion expelled him, he had expelled the religion himself. So he was not an orthodox Christian, or even a Christian, but when the question came before him, of what to do with Jesus Christ and Gautam Buddha, he writes in his diaries: “For days I could not sleep. I knew that it was Gautam Buddha, but my deep conditioning, of which I had never been aware, insisted that it had to be Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is ours; Gautam Buddha is a foreigner.” Finally he conceded to his conditioning.
Nobody before or after Bertrand Russell has confronted the problem. It still continues. Even the non-Christians have accepted the idea that history is divided by Jesus Christ.
I want to make it clear to you that Gautam Buddha is the dividing line from the past – his past, not our past. Now the time has come again; twenty-five centuries are enough. And that is what his calculation was, that after twenty-five centuries a new humanity should start, a new man, a new culture, a new vision, a new consciousness. According to him we are living in a very fortunate time – a time of tremendous crisis, but of great challenges and uncountable possibilities.
I am talking about Zen simply to make the point that all religions are now out of date. Zen has no clinging with the past. It is not a by-product of the past, but rather an opening towards the future. I am not unnecessarily wasting my time and your time. It is not just by chance that I have chosen to speak on Zen.
We have come to a point of departure from the society in which we have lived, a moment of tremendous departure for consciousness. The way man has felt up to now has not been healthy. The way societies have structured themselves has been very sick. The whole civilization is almost non-existential.
When H.G. Wells was asked, he said that civilization is a good idea, but somebody has to do it – it has not happened yet. We are still living in the shadows of barbarianism. Gautam Buddha has not been heard, he has not been received around the world. It seems almost as if he is a mythological figure. He is one of the most integrated persons, the most awakened human beings that we have produced.
The future can be a discontinuity with our past only if the buddha is not a difficult and arduous achievement – and he is not. We can create a society where everyone is a buddha. I don’t say Buddhist, that is an ugly word. The future has not to be dominated by any “ism.” But just the purity and grandeur of the man Buddha is so alluring; he has touched the highest peak possible to man. And he has made it possible now for every man to touch that highest peak. Whenever one man reaches to a certain point in consciousness, that point becomes easily available to anybody who wants to seek it. Gautam Buddha is a pioneer. You don’t have to go through all the difficulties which he moved through. He had to, because there was no precedent. But for you there are a thousand and one precedents.
Zen has produced the finest masters, and they are all proclaiming a discontinuity with the past and bringing a new man – the buddha, the awakened man, a man who lives consciously. We are doing this great experiment. These are not ordinary discourses or talks. I am not interested in any philosophy or any political ideology. I am interested directly in transforming you who have gathered around me.