Gautama the Buddha, waiting at the gates of paradise until the last human being has entered in, is not just a story. It may not be factual, but it has immense truth hidden in it.
The first thing you have to understand is the difference between the fact and the truth. Ordinary history takes care about the facts -- what actually happens in the world of matter, the incidents. It does not take care about the truth, because it does not happen in the world of matter; it happens in consciousness. And man is not yet mature enough to take care about the events of consciousness.
He surely takes care about events happening in time and in space; those are the facts. But he is not mature enough, not insightful enough to take care about what happens beyond time and beyond space -- in other words, what happens beyond mind, what happens in consciousness. One day we will have to write the whole of history with a totally different orientation, because the facts are trivia -- although they are material, they don't matter. And the truths are immaterial but they matter.
The new orientation for a future history will take care about what happened inside Gautam Buddha when he became enlightened, what went on happening while he was in the body for forty-two years after his enlightenment. And what was happening in those forty-two years is not going to be discontinued just because the body drops dead. It had no concern with the body. It was a phenomenon in consciousness, and consciousness continues. The pilgrimage of the consciousness is endless. So what was happening in the consciousness inside the body, will go on happening outside the body. That is a simple understanding.
So this story is a story of inner happenings. For forty-two years Gautam Buddha was nothing but pure compassion. There was no need for him to live any more on this shore. He had attained everything that life is capable of giving, he had reached to the highest peak. But he continued to work, continued for forty-two years, in spite of a fragile body, old age, sickness.
His compassion was great. He was teaching his disciples that "Before you become enlightened you must learn the ways of compassion. If you become enlightened before you have learned the ways of compassion, you will think there is no need for you to linger on this miserable, sad, suffering shore. Your boat has arrived, you can go to the beyond -- beyond all suffering, beyond all misery. And it is not only going beyond suffering and misery, it is going into a deeper blissfulness, eternal ecstasy." He waited here for forty-two years, and he was teaching his students, his disciples, his devotees, the ways of compassion.
Before enlightenment happens... if you are ready to be compassionate, only then will you stay on the shore to help others who are suffering, who are groping in the dark. You were also part of the same people; they are your brothers and your sisters. Wouldn't you like to share your experience of the ultimate and the explosion of light? Now you are capable of giving eyes to those who are blind. You are capable of dispelling the darkness in which they have been living for lives.
And there is no hurry, your boat can stay. It will have to stay till you are ready to go. There is no compulsion to leave immediately -- although the temptation is there, because you have worked for enlightenment only to get to the other shore. And now that the moment has come, to delay it feels difficult. To resist the temptation you need a tremendous compassion for those who are still blind, who are still in tremendous suffering and misery.
Forty-two years, in spite of his fragile body, he continued to move from village to village, in search of those who were ready to receive the gift that he had brought for them. It is a natural conclusion that even after his body's death, his consciousness must be still ready to help those who need the help and who are courageous enough to open their hearts.
This story symbolizes Gautam Buddha's compassion. This story is the story of every great master. All mystics are not masters, although all masters are mystics. A mystic experiences the ultimate blossoming of his being and disappears into the eternal without thinking once about others who are left behind. The master is one who attains the same experience but prevents himself from disappearing into the eternal, into the infinite.
Freedom is the goal of life. Without freedom, life has no meaning at all. By "freedom" is not meant any political, social or economic freedom. By "freedom" is meant freedom from time, freedom from mind, freedom from desire. The moment mind is no more, you are one with the universe, you are as vast as the universe itself.
It is the mind that is the barrier between you and the reality, and because of this barrier you remain confined in a dark cell where no light ever reaches and where no joy can ever penetrate. You live in misery because you are not meant to live in such a small, confined space. Your being wants to expand to the very ultimate source of existence. Your being longs to be oceanic, and you have become a dewdrop. How can you be happy? How can you be blissful? Man lives in misery because man lives imprisoned.
And Gautama the Buddha says that tanha -- desire -- is the root cause of all our misery, because desire creates the mind. Desire means creating future, projecting yourself in the future, bringing tomorrow in. Bring the tomorrow in and the today disappears, you cannot see it anymore; your eyes are clouded by the tomorrow. Bring the tomorrow in and you will have to carry the load of all your yesterdays, because the tomorrow can only be there if the yesterdays go on nourishing it.
Each desire is born out of the past and each desire is projected in the future. The past and the future, they constitute your whole mind. Analyze the mind, dissect it, and you will find only two things: the past and the future. You will not find even an iota of the present, not even a single atom. And the present is the only reality, the only existence, the only dance there is.
The present can be found only when mind has ceased utterly. When the past no more overpowers you and the future no more possesses you, when you are disconnected from the memories and the imaginations, in that moment where are you? who are you? In that moment you are a nobody. And nobody can hurt you when you are a nobody, you cannot be wounded -- because the ego is very ready to receive wounds. The ego is almost seeking and searching to be wounded; it exists through wounds. Its whole existence depends on misery, pain.
When you are a nobody, anguish is impossible, anxiety simply unbelievable. When you are a nobody there is great silence, stillness, no noise inside. Past gone, future disappeared, what is there to create noise? And the silence that is heard is celestial, is sacred. For the first time, in those spaces of no-mind, you become aware of the eternal celebration that goes on and on. That's what the existence is made of.
Except man, the whole existence is blissful. Only man has fallen out of it, has gone astray. Only man can do it because only man has consciousness.
Now, consciousness has two possibilities: either it can become a bright light in you, so bright that even the sun will look pale compared to it.... Buddha says it is as if a thousand suns have risen suddenly -- when you look within with no mind it is all light, eternal light. It is all joy, pure, uncontaminated, unpolluted. It is simple bliss, innocent. It is wonder. Its majesty is indescribable, its beauty inexpressible, and its benediction inexhaustible. Aes dhammo sanantano: so is the ultimate law.
If you can only put your mind aside you will become aware of the cosmic play. Then you are only energy, and the energy is always herenow, it never leaves the herenow. That is one possibility: if you become pure consciousness.
The other possibility is: you can become self-consciousness. Then you fall. Then you become a separate entity from the world. Then you become an island, defined, well defined. Then you are confined, because all definitions confine. Then you are in a prison cell, and the prison cell is dark, utterly dark. There is no light, no possibility of light. And the prison cell cripples you, paralyzes you.
Self-consciousness becomes a bondage; the self is the bondage. And just consciousness becomes freedom.
Drop the self and be conscious! That is the whole message -- the message of all the buddhas of all the ages, past, present, future. The essential core of the message is very simple: drop the self, the ego, the mind, and be.
Just this moment when this silence pervades...who are you? A nobody, a nonentity. You don't have a name, you don't have a form. You are neither man nor woman, neither Hindu nor Mohammedan. You don't belong to any country, to any nation, to any race. You are not the body and you are not the mind.
Then what are you? In this silence, what is your taste? How does it taste to be? Just a peace, just a silence...and out of that peace and silence a great joy starts surfacing, welling up, for no reason at all. It is your spontaneous nature.
The art of putting the mind aside is the whole secret of religion, because as you put the mind aside your being explodes into a thousand and one colors. You become a rainbow, a lotus, a one-thousand-petaled lotus. Suddenly you open up, and then the whole beauty of existence -- which is infinite! -- is yours. Then all the stars in the sky are within you. Then even the sky is not your limit; you don't have any limits anymore.
Silence gives you a chance to melt, merge, disappear, evaporate. And when you are not, you are -- for the first time you are. When you are not, God is, nirvana is, enlightenment is. When you are not, all is found -- and when you are, all is lost.
The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha,