What is the difference between madness and enlightenment?
There is a great difference and also a great similarity. The similarity has to be understood first, because without understanding it, it will be difficult to understand the difference.
Both are beyond the mind – madness and enlightenment.
Madness is below the mind.
Enlightenment is above the mind.
But both are out of the mind.
Hence, you have the expression for a madman “out of his mind.” The same expression can be used for the enlightened person; he is also out of his mind.
Mind functions logically, rationally, intellectually. Neither madness nor enlightenment function intellectually. They are similar: madness has fallen below reason, and enlightenment has gone above reason, but both are irrational; hence, sometimes in the East a madman is misunderstood as being an enlightened man. These similarities are there.
And in the West, once in a while – it is not an everyday phenomenon, but once in a while – an enlightened person has been understood as being mad, because the West understands only one thing: if you are out of your mind, you are mad. It has no category for above the mind; it has only one category – below the mind.
In the East the misunderstanding happens because for centuries the East has known people who are out of their mind and at the same time above the mind; hence, they are similar to madmen. For the Eastern masses it creates a confusion, it creates a problem. They have decided it is better to misunderstand a madman as being an enlightened man than to misunderstand an enlightened man as being a madman – because what are you losing by misunderstanding a madman as being an enlightened man? You are not losing anything. But by misunderstanding an enlightened man as being a madman you are certainly losing a tremendous opportunity. But the misunderstanding is possible because of the similarities.
I have come across a few madmen who were thought to be enlightened. One man was just thirty or thirty-five miles away from Jabalpur. Nobody knew his name – he was very old. He used to keep a bell in his hand and – nobody knows for what reasons – sometimes he would ring the bell, sometimes he would not ring the bell. Because of the bell he was called Tuntun Pal Baba: the bell made the sound tuntun, and nobody knew his real name.