Questioner: What is the subtle difference, if any, between Mahavira’s transcendence of attachment, Christ’s holy indifference, Buddha’s indifference and Krishna’s non attachment? And in what way are they the same?
There is a good deal of similarity between Christ’s concept of neutrality, Buddha’s idea of indifference, Mahavira’s transcendence of attachment, and Krishna’s non attachment. These are the ways of looking at and meeting the world. But there are some basic differences too. While their end-points are similar, their approaches are very different. While their ultimate goal is the same, they differ much in the ways and means they use to achieve their ends.
There is deep similarity between what Christ calls neutrality or non-alignment with the world at large, and what Buddha calls indifference to it. As the world is, with all its strange goings-on, its contradictions and conflicts, its struggles and trials, a seeker on the spiritual path will do well to keep a distance from it. But remember, neutrality can never be blissful; deep down it makes one sad and dull and drab. Therefore Jesus looks sad; even if he attains to some bliss he comes to it by way of his sadness. And his whole path is dull and dreary; he cannot walk it singing and dancing. Neutrality is bound to turn into sadness; Jesus cannot help it.
If I don’t choose life, if I reject it completely, if I say I take neither this nor that, then I will soon stop flowing, I will stagnate. If a river refuses to move in any of the directions – east, west, north or south – it will cease to flow, it will stagnate. It will turn into a closed pool.
It is true that a stagnant pool of water too will reach the ocean, but not in the way the river reaches it. It will first have to turn into vapor and then into clouds and then descend on the ocean in the form of rains. It will not have the joys of a river, pushing its way to the ocean singing, dancing, celebrating.
A pool of dead water, a pond, dries up under the scorching sun, becomes vapor, clouds, and then reaches the ocean through a detour. It is deprived of the delight, beauty and ecstasy a river has. Such a pool of water is nothing more than a pond of listlessness and boredom.
Jesus is like a wandering cloud – somber and sad – not like a river, rejoicing, exulting, singing.
There is something common to the lifestyles of Jesus and Buddha, but the difference between them is as great. Buddha is very different from Jesus. While Jesus’ neutrality looks sad, Buddha’s indifference is silent, peaceful and quiet. Buddha is never sad, he is quiet, serene and silent. If he lacks the dance of Krishna, and the secret bliss of Mahavira, he is also free of the sadness of Jesus; he is utterly settled in his peace, his silence.