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the qualities of the child
It is the child’s experience that haunts intelligent people their whole life. They want it again—the same innocence, the same wonder, the same beauty. It is now a faraway echo; it seems as if you have seen it in a dream.
But the whole of religion is born out of the haunting childhood experience of wonder, of truth, of beauty, of life in its beautiful dance all around. In the songs of the birds, in the colors of the rainbows, in the fragrance of the flowers the child goes on remembering deep in his being that he has lost a paradise.
It is not a coincidence that all the religions of the world have the idea in parables that once man lived in paradise and somehow, for some reason he has been expelled from that paradise. They are different stories, different parables, but signifying one simple truth: these stories are just a poetic way to say that every man is born in paradise and then loses it. The retarded, the unintelligent completely forget about it.
But the intelligent, the sensitive, the creative go on being haunted by the paradise that they have known once and now only a faint memory, unbelievable, has remained with them. They start searching for it again.
The search for paradise is the search for your childhood again. Of course your body will no more be a child’s, but your consciousness can be as pure as the consciousness of the child. This is the whole secret of the mystical path: to make you a child again, innocent, unpolluted by any knowledge, not knowing anything, still aware of everything that surrounds you, with a deep wonder and a sense of a mystery that cannot be demystified.
Nobody allows their children to dance and to sing and to shout and to jump. For trivial reasons—perhaps something may get broken, perhaps they may get their clothes wet in the rain if they run out; for these small things—a great spiritual quality, playfulness, is completely destroyed.
The obedient child is praised by his parents, by his teachers, by everybody, and the playful child is condemned. His playfulness may be absolutely harmless, but he is condemned because there is potentially a danger of rebellion. If the child goes on growing with full freedom to be playful, he will turn out to be a rebel. He will not be easily enslaved; he will not be easily put into armies to destroy people or to be destroyed himself.
The rebellious child will turn out to be a rebellious youth. Then you cannot force marriage on him; then you cannot force him into a particular job; then the child cannot be forced to fulfill the unfulfilled desires and longings of the parents. The rebellious youth will go his own way. He will live his life according to his own innermost desires, not according to somebody else’s ideals.
For all these reasons playfulness is stifled, crushed from the very beginning. Your nature is never allowed to have its say. Slowly, slowly you start carrying a dead child within yourself. This dead child within you destroys your sense of humor: you cannot laugh with your total heart, you cannot play, you cannot enjoy the small things of life. You become so serious that your life, rather then expanding, starts shrinking.
Life should be, each moment, a precious creativity. What you create does not matter—it may be just sand castles on the seashore, but whatever you do should come out of your playfulness and joy.
Intelligence is not something that is acquired; it is inbuilt, it is inborn, it is intrinsic to life itself. Not only children are intelligent, animals are intelligent in their own way, trees are intelligent in their own way. Of course they all have different kinds of intelligences because their needs differ, but now it is an established fact that all that lives is intelligent. Life cannot be without intelligence; to be alive and to be intelligent are synonymous. But man is in a dilemma for the simple reason that he is not only intelligent, he is also aware of his intelligence. That is something unique about man—his privilege, his prerogative, his glory—but it can turn very easily into his agony. Man is conscious that he is intelligent, and that consciousness brings its own problems. The first problem is that it creates ego.
Ego does not exist anywhere else except in human beings, and ego starts growing as the child grows. The parents, the schools, colleges, universities, they all help to strengthen the ego for the simple reason that for centuries man had to struggle to survive and the idea has become a fixation, a deep unconscious conditioning that only strong egos can survive in the struggle of life. Life has become just a struggle to survive. And scientists have made it even more convincing with the theory of the survival of the fittest. So we help every child to become more and more strong in the ego, and it is there that the problem arises.
As the ego becomes strong it starts surrounding intelligence like a thick layer of darkness. Intelligence is light, ego is darkness. Intelligence is very delicate, ego is very hard. Intelligence is like a rose flower, ego is like a rock. And if you want to survive, they say—the so-called knowers—then you have to become rocklike, you have to be strong, invulnerable. You have to become a citadel, a closed citadel, so you cannot be attacked from outside. You have to become impenetrable.
But then you become closed. Then you start dying as far as your intelligence is concerned because intelligence needs the open sky, the wind, the air, the sun in order to grow, to expand, to flow. To remain alive it needs a constant flow; if it becomes stagnant it slowly becomes a dead phenomenon.
We don’t allow children to remain intelligent. The first thing is that if they are intelligent they will be vulnerable, they will be delicate, they will be open. If they are intelligent they will be able to see many falsities in the society, in the state, in the church, in the educational system. They will become rebellious. They will be individuals; they will not be cowed easily. You can crush them, but you cannot enslave them. You can destroy them, but you cannot force them to compromise.
In one sense intelligence is very soft, like a rose flower, in another sense it has its own strength. But that strength is subtle, not gross. That strength is the strength of rebellion, of a noncompromising attitude. One is not ready to sell one’s soul.
Watch small children and then you will see their intelligence. Yes, they are not knowledgeable—if you want them to be knowledgeable, then you will not think that they are intelligent. If you ask them questions that depend on information, then they will look not intelligent. But ask them real questions, which have nothing to do with information, which need an immediate response, and see—they are far more intelligent than you are. Of course your ego won’t allow you to accept it, but if you can accept it, it will help tremendously. It will help you, it will help your children, because if you can see their intelligence you can learn much from them.
Even though the society destroys your intelligence it cannot destroy it totally; it only covers it with many layers of information.
And that’s the whole function of meditation: to take you deeper into yourself. It is a method of digging into your own being to the point when you come to the living waters of your own intelligence, when you discover the springs of your own intelligence. When you have discovered your child again, only then will you understand what I mean by emphasizing again and again that children are really intelligent.
The mother was preparing little Pedro to go to a party. When she finished combing his hair she straightened his shirt collar and said, “Go now, son. Have a good time … and behave yourself!”
“Come on, mother!” said Pedro. “Please decide before I leave which it is going to be!”
You see the point? The mother was saying, “Have a good time … and behave yourself.” Now, both things cannot be done together. And the child’s response is really of tremendous value. He says, “Please decide before I leave which it is going to be. If you allow me to have a good time, then I cannot behave; if you want me to behave, then I cannot have a good time.” The child can see the contradiction so clearly; it may not have been apparent to the mother.
A passerby asks a boy, “Son, can you please tell me what time it is?”
“Yes, of course,” replies the boy, “but what do you need it for? It changes continuously!”
A new transit sign was put in front of the school. It read: Drive Slowly. Do Not Kill a Student!
The following day there was another sign under it scribbled in a childish writing: Wait for the Teacher!
Little Pierino comes home from school with a big smile on his face.
“Well, dear, you look very happy. So you like school, do you?”
“Don’t be silly, Mom,” replies the boy. “We must not confuse the going with the coming back!”
While slowly walking to school the little boy prays, “Dear God, please do not let me arrive at school late. I pray you, God, let me arrive at school on time…”
At this moment he slips on a banana peel and slides down the path for a few meters. Pulling himself up he looks at the sky annoyed and says, “Okay, okay, God, there is no need to push!”
The young teacher wrote on the blackboard, “I ain’t had no fun all summer.” Then she asked the children, “What is wrong with that sentence and what do I do to correct it?”
Little Ernie shouted from the back, “Get a boyfriend.”
The father was telling stories to his sons in the living room after dinner. “My great-grandfather fought in the war against the dictator Rosas, my uncle fought in the war against the Kaiser, my grandfather fought in the war of Spain against the Republicans and my father fought in the Second World War against the Germans.”
To which the smallest son replied, “What’s wrong with this family? They can’t relate to anybody!”
Small children are innocent but they have not earned it; it is natural. They are ignorant really, but their ignorance is better than the so-called learning because the learned person is simply covering his ignorance with words, theories, ideologies, philosophies, dogmas, creeds. He is trying to cover up his ignorance, but just scratch him a little bit and you will find inside nothing but darkness, nothing but ignorance.
A child is in a far better state than the learned person because they can see things. Even though they are ignorant they are spontaneous, even though they are ignorant they have insights of tremendous value.
A little boy, seized with hiccups, cried, “Mommy, I am coughing backwards!”
A small boy was brought to a psychiatrist’s office for an examination by the mother who was a chatterbox. The psychiatrist examined the little fellow and was surprised that he hardly paid any attention to the questions.
“Do you have trouble hearing?” the psychiatrist asked him.
“No,” replied the lad. “I have trouble listening.”
You see the insight? Hearing and listening are tremendously different. The child was saying, “I have no difficulty in hearing, but I am tired of listening. One has to hear—the chatterbox mother is there—but I have trouble listening. I cannot pay attention.” The mother being a chatterbox has destroyed something valuable in the child: his attentiveness. He is utterly bored.
The second-grade teacher had sent the children to the board to work out arithmetic problems. One little fellow said, “I ain’t got no chalk.”
“That’s not right,” the teacher said. “The right way to say it is, ‘I don’t have any chalk. You don’t have any chalk, we don’t have any chalk, they don’t have any chalk…’ Now do you understand?”
“No,” said the little boy. “What happened to all the chalk?”
The clock had just struck 3 a.m. when the minister’s teenage daughter returned from a dance. The minister and his wife had been waiting up for the girl, and as she came in the front door he said to her rather scornfully, “Good morning, child of the devil.”
Speaking sweetly, as any child should, she said, “Good morning, Father.”
The teacher was trying to teach subtraction. “Now, Hugh,” she said, “if your father earned $180 a week and if they deducted $6 for insurance, $10.80 for social security, and $24 for taxes, and then if he gave your mother half, what would she have?”
“A heart attack!” the kid said.
Supper was over. The father of the house and his nine-year-old son were in the living room watching television. Mother and daughter were in the kitchen, washing up the supper dishes. Suddenly the father and son heard a terrible crashing sound of something being broken in the kitchen. They waited for a moment in shock but did not hear a sound.
“It was Mom who broke the dish,” said the boy.
“How do you know?” his father asked.
“Because,” replied his son, “she’s not saying anything!”
From the kitchen came the sound of the crash of either broken glass or broken china.
“Willy,” cried his mother from the living room. “What on earth are you doing in the kitchen?”
“Nothing,” Willy said, “it’s already done!”
A salesman who had been working in the New England area was being transferred to California. The move had been the principal topic of conversation around the house for weeks.
Then the night before the big move, when his five-year-old daughter was saying her prayers, she said, “And now, God, I will have to say good-bye forever because tomorrow we are moving to California!”
How did you manage to stay with your innocence and clarity as a child and not let yourself become intimidated by the grown-ups around you? Where did you get that courage from?
Innocence is courage and clarity both. There is no need to have courage if you are innocent. There is no need, either, for any clarity because nothing can be more crystal clear than innocence. So the whole question is how to protect one’s own innocence. Innocence is not something to be achieved. It is not something to be learned. It is not something like a talent for painting, music, poetry, sculpture. It is not like those things. It is more like breathing, something you are born with. Innocence is everybody’s nature.
Nobody is born other than innocent. How can one be born other than innocent? Birth means you have entered the world as a tabula rasa, nothing is written on you. You have only future, no past. That is the meaning of innocence. So first try to understand all the meanings of innocence.
The first is: no past, only future. You come as an innocent watcher into the world. Everybody comes in the same way, with the same quality of consciousness.
The question is, how did I manage so that nobody could corrupt my innocence, clarity; from where did I get this courage? How could I manage not to be humiliated by grown-ups and their world? I have not done anything, so there is no question of how. It simply happened, so I cannot take the credit for it. Perhaps it happens to everybody but you become interested in other things. You start bargaining with the grown-up world. They have many things to give to you; you have only one thing to give, and that is your integrity, your self-respect. You don’t have much, a single thing—you can call it anything: innocence, intelligence, authenticity. You have only one thing.
And the child is naturally very much interested in everything he sees around. He is continuously wanting to have this, to have that; that is part of human nature. If you look at the small child, even a just-born baby, you can see he has started groping for something; his hands are trying to find out something. He has started the journey.
In the journey he will lose himself, because you can’t get anything in this world without paying for it. And the poor child cannot understand that what he is giving is so valuable that if the whole world is on one side and his integrity is on the other side, then too his integrity will be more weighty, more valuable. The child has no way to know about it. This is the problem—because what he has, he simply has; he takes it for granted.
You are asking me how I managed not to lose my innocence and clarity. I have not done anything; just simply, from the very beginning … I was a lonely child because I was brought up by my maternal grandfather and grandmother; I was not with my father and mother. Those two old people were alone and they wanted a child who would be the joy of their last days. So my father and mother agreed: I was their eldest child, the firstborn, and they sent me to live with my grandparents.
I don’t remember any relationship with my father’s family in the early years of my childhood. I lived with these two old men—my grandfather and his old servant, who was really a beautiful man—and my old grandmother … three people. And the gap was so great, I was absolutely alone. They were not company for me, could not be company. They tried their hardest to be as friendly to me as possible but it was just not possible.
I was left to myself. I could not say things to them. I had nobody else, because in that small village my family was the richest. And it was such a small village—not more than two hundred people in all—and so poor that my grandparents would not allow me to mix with the village children. They were dirty, and of course they were almost beggars. So there was no way to have friends. That caused a great impact. In my whole life I have never been a friend and I have never known anybody to be a friend. Yes, acquaintances I had.
In those first, early years I was so lonely that I started enjoying it; and it is really a joy. So it was not a curse to me, it proved a blessing. I started enjoying it and I started feeling self-sufficient; I was not dependent on anybody.
I have never been interested in games for the simple reason that from my very childhood there was no way to play, there was nobody to play with. I can still see myself in those earliest years, just sitting.
We had a beautiful spot where our house was, just in front of a lake. Far away for miles, the lake stretched … and it was so beautiful and so silent. Only once in a while would you see a line of white cranes flying, or hear them making love calls, and the peace would be disturbed; otherwise, it was exactly the right place for meditation. And when they would disturb the peace … a love call from a bird, and after his call the peace would deepen, it would become deeper.
The lake was full of lotus flowers, and I would sit for hours so self-content, as if the world did not matter: the lotuses, the white cranes, the silence.… And my grandparents became very aware of one thing, that I enjoyed my aloneness. They had seen that I never had any desire to go to the village to meet anybody, or to talk with anybody. Even if they wanted to talk to me, my answers were yes or no; I was not interested in talking either. So they became aware of one thing, that I enjoyed my aloneness, and it was their sacred duty not to disturb me.
It happens with children that you tell them, “Be silent because your father is thinking, your grandfather is resting. Be quiet, sit silently.” In my childhood it happened the opposite way. Now I cannot answer why and how; it simply happened. That’s why I said it simply happened—the credit does not go to me.
All those three old people were continually making signs to each other: “Don’t disturb him, he is enjoying so much.” And they started loving my silence.
Silence has its vibe; it is infectious, particularly a child’s silence which is not forced, which is not because you are saying, “I will beat you if you create any nuisance or noise.” No, that is not silence. That will not create the joyous vibration that I am talking about, when a child is silent on his own, enjoying for no reason, his happiness is uncaused; that creates great ripples all around.
In a better world, every family will learn from children. You are in such a hurry to teach them. Nobody seems to learn from them, and they have much to teach you. And you have nothing to teach them.
Just because you are older and powerful you start making them just like you without ever thinking about what you are, where you have reached, what your status is in the inner world. You are a pauper, and you want the same for your child also? But nobody thinks; otherwise people would learn from small children. Children bring so much from the other world because they are such fresh arrivals. They still carry the silence of the womb, the silence of the very existence.
So it was just a coincidence that for seven years I remained undisturbed with no one to nag me, to prepare me for the world of business, politics, diplomacy. My grandparents were more interested in leaving me as natural as possible—particularly my grandmother. She is one of the causes—these small things affect all your life patterns—she is one of the causes of my respect for the whole of womanhood. She was a simple woman, uneducated, but immensely sensitive. She made it clear to my grandfather and the servant: “We all have lived a certain kind of life which has not led us anywhere. We are as empty as ever, and now death is coming close.” She insisted, “Let this child be uninfluenced by us. What influence can we contribute? We can only make him like us, and we are nothing. Give him an opportunity to be himself.”
I am tremendously grateful to that old woman. My grandfather was again and again worried that sooner or later he was going to be responsible: “They will say, ‘We left our child with you and you have not taught him anything.’”
My grandmother did not even allow me to be educated. Because there was one man in the village who could at least teach me the beginnings of language, mathematics, a little geography. He was educated to the fourth grade—the lowest four of what was called primary education in India. But he was the most educated man in the town. My grandfather tried hard: “He can come and he can teach him. At least he will know the alphabet, some mathematics, so when he goes to his parents they will not say that we just wasted seven years completely.”
But my grandmother said, “Let them do whatsoever they want to do after seven years. For seven years he has to be just his natural self, and we are not going to interfere.” And her argument was always, “You know the alphabet, so what? You know mathematics, so what? You have earned a little money; do you want him also to earn a little money and live just like you?”
That was enough to keep that old man silent. What to do? He was in a difficulty because he could not argue, but he knew that he would be held responsible, not she, because my father would ask him, “What have you done?” And actually that would have been the case, but fortunately he died before my father could ask.
When I went back to my parents, my father continually was saying, “That old man is responsible, he has spoiled the child.” But now I was strong enough, and I made it clear to him: “Before me, never say a single word against my maternal grandfather. He has saved me from being spoiled by you—that is your real anger. But you have other children—spoil them. And at the final stage you will see who is spoiled.”
He had other children, and more and more children went on coming. I used to tease him, “You please bring one child more, make it a dozen.” Eleven children? People ask, ‘How many children?’ Eleven does not look right; one dozen is more impressive.”
And in later years I used to tell him, “You go on spoiling all your children; I am wild, and I will remain wild.”
What you see as innocence is nothing but wildness. What you see as clarity is nothing but wildness. Somehow I remained out of the grip of civilization.
Once I was strong enough … and that’s why people insist, “Take hold of the child as quickly as possible, don’t waste time because the earlier you take hold of the child, the easier it is. Once the child becomes strong enough, then to bend him according to your desires will be difficult.”
And life moves in seven-year circles. By the seventh year the child is perfectly strong; now you cannot do anything. Now he knows where to go, what to do. He is capable of arguing. He is capable of seeing what is right and what is wrong. And his clarity will be at the climax when he is seven. If you don’t disturb his earlier years, then at the seventh he is so crystal clear about everything that his whole life will be lived without any repentance.
I have lived without any repentance. I have tried to find: Have I done anything wrong, ever? Not that people have been thinking that all that I have done is right, that is not the point: I have never thought anything that I have done was wrong. The whole world may think it was wrong, but to me there is absolute certainty that it was right; it was the right thing to do.
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