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Story on personal 'significance' and 'insignificance'

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David Edwards
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It is said that when a chakravartin [a world emperor] dies – because a chakravartin happens only in thousands of years, he is a rare being – when he dies he is received in heaven with great rejoicings and he is taken to a special place.

In Jaina mythology, in heaven there is a parallel mountain to the Himalayas. The Himalayas are just made of rocks and earth and ice. The parallel Himalayas in heaven is called Sumeru. Sumeru means the ultimate mountain: nothing can be higher than that, nothing can be better than that. It is solid gold; instead of rocks there are diamonds and rubies and emeralds.

When a chakravartin dies he is led to Sumeru mountain to engrave his name on it. That is a rare opportunity; that happens only once in thousands of years. Of course this man was immensely excited that he was going to write his name on Sumeru. That is the ultimate catalogue of all the great ones that have been, and will also be the catalogue of all the great ones who are going to be. This emperor was becoming party to a lineage of supermen.

The gatekeeper gave him the instruments to engrave his name. He wanted a few of his men who had committed suicide just because their emperor was dying – they could not think of living without him. His wife, his prime minister, his commander-in-chief – all the great people who were around him, they all had committed suicide, so they had come with him.

The emperor wanted the gatekeeper to let them all come to see him engrave his name, because what is the joy if you go alone and engrave your name and nobody is there even to see? – because the real joy is that the whole world should see.

The gatekeeper said, “You listen to my advice, because this is my inherited profession. My father was a gatekeeper, his father was a gatekeeper; for centuries we have been gatekeepers to Sumeru mountain. Listen to my advice: Don’t take them with you; otherwise you will repent.”

The emperor could not understand, but he could not even go against his advice – because what interest could that man have in preventing him?

The gatekeeper said, “If you still want them to see, first go engrave your name; then come back and take them with you if you want. I have no objection even now if you want to take them, but just in case you decide not to, then there will be no place, no chance…they will be with you. You go alone.” This was perfectly sane advice.

The emperor said, “That’s good. I will go alone, engrave my name, come back, and call you all.”

The gatekeeper said, “I am perfectly agreeable to that.”

The emperor went and he saw the Sumeru shining under thousands of suns – because in heaven you cannot be so poor as to have just one sun – thousands of suns, and a golden mountain far bigger than the Himalayas – and the Himalayas are almost two thousands miles long! He could not open his eyes for a moment, it was so glaring there. And then he started looking for a space, the right space, but he was very much puzzled: there was no space; the whole mountain was engraved with names.

He could not believe his eyes. For the first time he became aware what he was. Up to now he was thinking he was a superman who happens once in thousands of years. But time has been from eternity; even thousands of years didn’t make any difference, so many chakravartins had happened already. There was no space on that biggest mountain in the whole universe where he could write his small name.

He came back, and now he understood that the gatekeeper was right not to take his wife and his commander-in-chief and his prime minister and other intimate friends. It was good that they had not seen the situation. They would still believe that their emperor was a rare being.

He took the gatekeeper inside and he said, “But there is no space!”

The gatekeeper said, “That’s what I was telling you. What you have to do is to erase a few names and write down your name. That’s what has been done; my whole life I have been seeing this done, my father used to say this has been done. My father’s father – none of my family have seen Sumeru empty, or any space ever.

“Whenever a chakravartin has come he had to erase a few names and write his own name. So this is not the whole history of the chakravartins. Many times it has been erased, many times it has been engraved. You just do your work, and then if you want to show your friends you can bring them in.”

The emperor said, “No, I don’t want to show them and I don’t want to even write my name. What is the point? – someday somebody will come and erase it.

“My whole life has become utterly meaningless. This was my only hope, that Sumeru, the golden mountain in heaven was going to have my name. For this I have lived, for this I have staked my life; for this I was ready to kill the whole world. And anybody else can erase my name and write his. What is the point of writing it? I will not write it.” The gatekeeper laughed.

The emperor said, “Why are you laughing?”

The gatekeeper said, “This is strange, because this too I have been hearing from my grandfathers – that chakravartins come, and seeing the whole story, just turn back; they don’t write their names. You are not new: anybody having a little intelligence would do the same.”

In this whole world what can you gain?

What can you take away with you?

Your name, your prestige, your respectability? Your money, your power – what? Your scholarship?

You cannot take anything.

Everything will have to be dropped here.

And in that moment you will understand that all that you possessed was not yours; the very idea of possession was wrong. And because of that possession you were corrupted.

To increase that possession – to have more money, to have more power, to conquer more lands – you were doing things which even you cannot say were right. You were lying, you were dishonest. You were having hundreds of faces. You were not true even for a single moment to anybody or to yourself; you could not be.

You had to be false, phony, pretending, because these are things that help you to succeed in the world. Authenticity is not going to help you. Honesty is not going to help you. Truthfulness is not going to help you.

Without possessions, success, fame; who are you?

You don’t know.

You are your name, you are your fame, you are your prestige, your power. But other than these, who are you?

So this whole possessiveness becomes your identity. It gives you a false sense of being.

That’s the ego.

(Osho, Courage, St. Martin's Griffin, 1999, pp.37-41)
Mon Nov 07, 2011 1:44 pm
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