To be established in one’s own witnessing nature is akshat – the unpolished and unbroken rice used for the worship.
Witnessing is the technique for centering. We discussed centering. A man can live in two ways: he can live from his periphery or he can live from his center. The periphery belongs to the ego and the center belongs to the being. If you live from the ego, you are always related with the other. The periphery is related with the other.
Whatsoever you do is not an action, it is always a reaction. You do it in response to something done to you. From the periphery there is no action – everything is a reaction; nothing comes from your center. In a way, you are just a slave of the circumstances. You are not doing anything; rather, you are being forced to do. From the center the situation changes diametrically: from the center you begin to act. For the first time you begin to exist not as a relata but in your own right. […]
The moment you begin to act from the center, every act is total, atomic. It is there and then it is not there. You are completely free from it. Then you can move with no burden, unburdened. And only then can you live in the new moment that is always there – by coming to it fresh.
But you can come to it fresh only when there is no past to be carried. And you will have to carry the past if it is unfinished. The mind has a tendency to finish everything. If it is unfinished, then it has to be carried. If something has remained unfinished during the day, then you will dream about it in the night – because the mind has a tendency to finish everything. The moment it is finished, the mind is unburdened from it. Unless it is finished. the mind is bound to come to it again and again.
Whatsoever you are doing – your love, your sex, your friendship – everything is unfinished. And you cannot make it total if you remain on the periphery. So how to be centered in oneself? How to attain this centering so that you are not on the periphery? Witnessing is the technique.
This word “witnessing” is a most significant word. There are hundreds of techniques to achieve centering, but witnessing is bound to be a part, a basic part, in every technique. Whatsoever the technique may be, witnessing will be the essential part in it. So it will be better to call it “the technique of all techniques”. It is not simply a technique. The process of witnessing is the essential part of all the techniques.
One can talk about witnessing as a pure technique also. For example, J. Krishnamurti: he is talking about witnessing as a pure technique. But that talk is just like talking about the spirit without the body. You cannot feel it, you cannot see it. Everywhere the spirit is embodied; you can feel the spirit through the body. Of course, the spirit is not the body, but you can feel it through the body.
Every technique is just a body, and witnessing is the soul. You can talk about witnessing independent of any body, any matter; then it becomes abstract, totally abstract. So Krishnamurti has been talking continuously for half a century, but whatsoever he is saying is so pure, unembodied, that one thinks that one is understanding, but that understanding remains just a concept.
In this world nothing exists as pure spirit. Everything exists embodied. So witnessing is the spirit of all spiritual techniques, and all the techniques are bodies, different bodies. So first we must understand what witnessing is, and then we can understand witnessing through some bodies, some techniques.
We know thinking, and one has to start from thinking to know what witnessing means because one has to start from what one knows. We know thinking. Thinking means judgment: you see something and you judge. You see a flower and you say it is beautiful or not beautiful. You hear a song and you appreciate it or you don’t appreciate it. You appreciate something or you condemn something.
Thinking is judgment. The moment you think, you have begun to judge. Thinking is evaluation.
You cannot think without evaluation. How can you think about a flower without evaluating it? The moment you start thinking you will say it is beautiful or not beautiful. You will have to use some category because thinking is categorizing. The moment you have categorized a thing – labeled it, named it – you have thought about it. Thinking is impossible if you are not going to judge. If you are not going to judge, then you can just remain aware – but you cannot think.
A flower is here, and I say to you, “See it, but don’t think. Look at the flower, but don’t think.” So what can you do? If thinking is not allowed, what can you do? You can only witness; you can only be aware. You can only be conscious of the flower. You can face the fact. The flower is here – now you can encounter it. If thinking is not allowed you cannot say, “It is beautiful. It is not beautiful. I know about it,” or, “It is strange – I have never seen it.” You cannot say anything. Words cannot be used because every word has a value in it. Every word is a judgment.
Language is burdened with judgment; language can never be impartial. The moment you use a word, you have judged. So you cannot use language, you cannot verbalize. If I say, “This is a flower– look at it, but don’t think!” then verbalization is not allowed. So what can you do? You can only be a witness. If you are there without thinking, just facing something, it is witnessing. Then witnessing means a passive awareness. Remember – passive. Thinking is active. You are doing something. Whatsoever you are seeing, you are doing something with it. You are not just passive, you are not like a mirror – you are doing something. And the moment you do something, you have changed the thing.
I see a flower and I say, “It is beautiful!” I have changed it. Now I have imposed something on the flower. Now, whatsoever the flower is, to me it is a flower plus my feeling of its being beautiful. Now the flower is far away. In between the flower and me is my sense of judgment, my evaluation of its being beautiful. Now the flower is not the same to me. The quality has changed. I have come into it. Now my judgment has penetrated into the fact. Now it is more like a fiction and less like a fact.
This feeling that the flower is beautiful doesn’t belong to the flower, it belongs to me. I have entered the fact. Now the fact is not virgin. I have corrupted it. Now my mind has become part of it. Really, to say that my mind has become part of it means: my past has become part, because when I say, “This flower is beautiful,” it means I have judged it through my past knowledge. How can you say that this flower is beautiful? Your experiences of the past, your conceptions of the past, that something like this is beautiful – you have judged it according to your past.
Mind means your past, your memories. The past has come upon the present. You have destroyed a virgin fact; now it is distorted. Now there is no flower. The flower as a reality in itself is no more there. It is corrupted by you, destroyed by you. Your past has come in between. You have interpreted. This is thinking. Thinking means bringing the past to a present fact. That’s why thinking can never lead you to the Truth – because Truth is virgin and has to be faced in its total virginity. The moment you bring your past in you are destroying it. Then it is an interpretation, not a realization of the fact. You have disrupted it. The purity is lost.
Thinking means bringing your past to the present. Witnessing means no past, just the present; no bringing in of the past. Witnessing is passive. You are not doing anything – you are! Simply, you are there. Only you are present. The flower is present, you are present – then there is a relationship of witnessing. When the flower is present and your whole past is present, not you, then it is a relationship of thinking.
So start from thinking. What is thinking? It is the bringing of the mind into the present. You have missed the present then you have missed it totally! The moment past penetrates into the present, you have missed it. When you say, “This flower is beautiful,” really, it has become the past. When you say, “This flower is beautiful,” it is a past experience. You have known, you have judged. When the flower is there and you are there, even to say that this flower is beautiful is not possible. You cannot assert any judgment in the present. Any judgment, any assertion, belongs to the past. If I say, “I love you,” it has become a thing that is past. If I say, “This flower is beautiful.” I have felt, I have judged – it has become past.
Witnessing is always present, never the past. Thinking is always the past. Thinking is dead, witnessing is alive. So the next distinction: first, thinking is active – doing something; witnessing is passive – non-doing, just being. Thinking is always the past, the dead which has gone away, which is no more; witnessing is always the present – that which is. So if you go on thinking, you can never know what witnessing is.
To stop, end thinking, becomes a start in witnessing. Cessation of thinking is witnessing. So what to do? – Because thinking is a long habit with us. It has become just a robot like, mechanical thing. It is not that you think; it is not your decision now. It is a mechanical habit – you cannot do anything else. The moment a flower is there, the thinking has started. We have no non-verbal experiences; only small children have. Non-verbal experience is really experience. Verbalization is escaping from the experience.
When I say, “The flower is beautiful,” the flower has vanished from me. Now it is my mind, not the flower I am concerned with. Now it is the image of the flower in my mind, not the flower itself. Now the flower itself is a picture in the mind, a thought in the mind, and now I can compare with my past experiences and judge. But the flower is no more there. When you verbalize, you are closed to experience.
When you are non-verbally aware, you are open, vulnerable. Witnessing means a constant opening to experience, no closing. What to do? This mechanical habit of so-called thinking has to be broken somewhere. So whatsoever you are doing, try to do it non-verbally. It is difficult, arduous, and in the beginning, it seems absolutely impossible, but it is not. It is not impossible – it is difficult. You are walking on the street: walk non-verbally, just walk, even if just for a few seconds, and you will have a glimpse of a different world – a non-verbal world, the real world, not the world of the mind man has created in himself. […]
You are not! If you are a witness, then you are not. The “I” forms itself through thoughts. So one thing more: accumulated thoughts, piled-up memories, create the feeling of ego – that you are.
Try this experiment: cut your whole past away from you – no memory. You don’t know who your parents are; you don’t know to whom you belong – to which country, to which religion, to which race. You don’t know where you were educated, whether you were educated or not. Just cut the whole past – and remember who you are. You cannot remember who you are. You are, obviously. You are, but who are you? In this moment, you cannot feel an “I”. The ego is just accumulated past. The ego is your thought condensed, crystallized. […]
In witnessing, there is no sense of I; in thinking there is. So if the so-called thinkers are so deeply rooted in their egos. It is not just a coincidence; artists, thinkers, philosophers, literary persons if they are so egoistic, it is not just a coincidence. The more thoughts you have, the greater the ego you have. In witnessing there is no ego, but this comes only if you can transcend language. Language is the barrier. Language is needed to communicate with others; it is not needed to communicate with oneself. It is a useful instrument – rather, the most useful instrument. Man could create a society, a world, only because of language – but because of language, man has forgotten himself.
Language is our world. If for a single moment man forgets his language, then what remains? Culture, society, Hinduism, Christianity, communism – what remains? Nothing remains. If only language is taken out of existence, the whole humanity with its culture, civilization, science, religion, philosophy, disappears.
Language is a communication with others; it is the only communication. It is useful, but it is dangerous – and whenever some instrument is useful, it is in the same proportion dangerous also. The danger is this: that the more mind moves into language the farther away it goes from the center: So one needs a subtle balance and a subtle mastery to be capable of moving into language, and also to be capable of leaving language, of going out of language, of moving out of language.
Witnessing means moving out of language, verbalization, mind. Witnessing means a state of no-mind, no-thinking. So try it! It is a long effort, and nothing is predictable – but try, and the effort will give you some moments when suddenly language disappears. And then a new dimension opens. You become aware of a different world – the world of simultaneity, the world of here and now, the world of no-mind, the world of reality.
Language must evaporate. So try to do ordinary acts, bodily movements, without language. Buddha used this technique to watch the breath. He would say to his bhikkhus, “Go on watching your breath. Don’t do anything: just watch the breath coming in, the breath going out, the breath coming in, the breath going out.” It is not to be said like this – it is to be felt. Mm? The breath coming in, with no words. Feel the breath coming in, move with the breath, let your consciousness go deep with the breath. Then let it move out. Go on moving with your breath. Be alert!
Buddha is reported to have said, “Don’t miss even a single breath. If a single breath is missed physiologically, you will be dead; and if a single breath is missed in awareness, you will be missing the center, you will be dead inside.” So Buddha said, “Breath is essential for the life of the body, and awareness of the breath is essential for the life of the inner center.”
Breathe, be aware. And if you are trying to be aware of your breathing, you cannot think, because the mind cannot do two things simultaneously – thinking and witnessing. The very phenomenon of witnessing is absolutely, diametrically opposite to thinking, so you cannot do both. Just as you cannot be both alive and dead, as you cannot be both asleep and awake, you cannot be both thinking and witnessing. Witness anything, and thinking will stop. Thinking comes in, and witnessing disappears. Witnessing is a passive awareness with no action inside. Awareness itself is not an action.
If you become dead to your past, totally dead, then you can only witness. What else can you do?
Witnessing means becoming dead to your past, memory, thought, everything. Then in the present moment, what can you do? You can only witness. No judgement is possible. Judgement is possible only against past experiences. No evaluation is possible; evaluation is possible only against past evaluations. No thinking is possible; thinking is possible only if the past is there, brought into the present. So what can you do? You can witness.
In the old Sanskrit literature, the Teacher is defined as the death acharya mrityuh. The Teacher is defined as death! In the Katha Upanishad, Nachiketa is sent to Yama, the god of death, to be taught.
And when Yama, the death god, offers many, many allurements to Nachiketa – “Take this, take the kingdom, take so much wealth, so many horses, so many elephants, this and this,” a long list of things – Nachiketa says, “I have come to learn what death is, because unless I know what death is I cannot know what life is.”
So a Teacher was known in the old days as a person who can become a death to the disciple – who can give death, who can help you to die so that you can be reborn.
Nicodemus asked Jesus, “How can I attain to the Kingdom of God?”
Jesus said, “Unless you die first, nothing can be attained. Unless you are reborn, nothing can be attained.”
And this being reborn is not an event, it is a continuous process. One has to be reborn every moment. It is not that you are reborn once and then it is okay and finished. Life is a continuous birth, and death is also continuous. You have to die once because you have not lived at all. If you live, then you will have to die every moment. Die every moment to the past whatsoever it has been, a heaven or a hell. Whatsoever – die to it, and be fresh and young and reborn into the moment.
Witness now! You can only witness now if you are fresh.
This sutra says:
To be established in one’s own witnessing nature is akshat – the unpolished and unbroken rice used for the worship.
This Upanishad is giving deeper meaning to every symbol of worship. akshat – unpolished rice – is used in worship. What is akshat? The word is very meaningful. But translated into English it becomes just an ordinary thing. akshat means “that which has not been penetrated”. Akshat means “virgin”. We say akshatkanya – virgin. akshat means virgin, unpenetrated, and the unpolished rice is used just as a symbol – virgin, fresh, raw. But the word akshat means unpenetrated. What is akshat in you, what has not been penetrated ever? That is your witnessing nature.
Everything has been corrupted; only one thing in you remains uncorrupted. Your body is corrupted, your mind is corrupted, your thinking, your emotions, everything is corrupted. Everything has been influenced, impressed, by the outside. Only one thing remains in you totally uncorrupted, untouched akshat – and that is your witnessing nature. The world cannot touch it. Your thoughts can be influenced, manipulated, but not your witnessing consciousness.
Your thoughts can be changed, you can be converted; you are being converted every moment.
Every influence is a converting influence, because either for or against you react. And even if you react against a particular influence, you have been converted, you have been manipulated. Every moment you are being manipulated by outside situations, impressions, influences. But one thing remains untouched, and that is your witnessing nature.
The sutra says, “It is your nature, it is you.” It is not something taught, it is not something constructed, it is not something given. It is you! When we say nature, it means it is you. You and it cannot be separated. So the last thing: witnessing nature, witnessing consciousness, is not something which has to be achieved. You have it already; otherwise it cannot be said to be your nature. A child is born. If no language is taught, then the child will not be able to know any language. It is not nature – it is nurture. If the child is taught nothing, he will know nothing; if he is taught Hinduism, he will be Hindu; if he is taught communism, he will be a communist. Whatsoever he is taught he will be. It is not his nature. So no one is born as a Hindu, no one is born as a Mohammedan. These are not natures – these are conditionings You are forced to be conditioned into a particular pattern.
So Hinduism is a habit, not nature. Mohammedanism is again a habit, not nature. By “habit” I mean something taught, something learned. You are not born with it.
Witnessing is not like that. You are born with it. Of course. it is hidden. In the deepest depths of your being is the seed. Everything is taught except the witnessing nature. Knowledge is taught, but not knowing. A child is born with knowing, not with knowledge. He has the capacity to know – that’s why you can teach him – but that capacity belongs to him. You will go on conditioning. Many things will be taught, and he will learn many things – languages, religions, ideologies. He will be burdened; and the more burdened, the more experienced, the more he will have a mind. And the society will value it, respect it.
Mind is respected in the society because it is a social product. So whenever there is a brilliant mind – that means one who is efficient in accumulating – society appreciates, respects it. This mind created by society will be there, and this mind will go on growing. And you can die with this mind, burdened with this mind, without knowing the inner nature that you were born with. Witnessing, the effort towards it, means breaking this mind, creating a crack in this mind, to have a peek, a probe into nature – into your nature. You are born as an unknown witnessing energy. Then the society encrusts you, clothes you all around. That clothing is your mind, and if you are identified with this clothing then you will never be able to know that which you are, that which you always have been. And one can die without knowing oneself. That capacity is there. But in a way it has a beauty of its own also.
One has to throw the society from inside; one has to be free from society. And when I say that one has to be free from society, I don’t mean to be free from the outside society. You cannot be. Wherever you move, the outside society will be there. Even if you move to a forest, the trees and the animals will become your society. And when a monk, a hermit, moves to a forest and begins to live with animals, you say, “What beauty!” But he is again creating a society. When a hermit lives in the forest and begins to talk with trees, you say, “What a religious man!” But, really. he is again creating a society.
You cannot live without society as far as your outside world is concerned. You exist in society! But you can throw the society from inside, you can be free from society inside. And those who try to free themselves from the society which exists outside are just in a futile effort. They are in a futile effort – they cannot succeed. and they are deceiving themselves, because the real problem is not how to get away from the society which exists outside; the real problem is how not to be burdened inside by the society.
If there are no thoughts, if there are no memories, if there are no past burdens of experience, you are freed from society inside. You become virgin, pure, innocent. You are reborn. And then you know what your nature is, what your Tao is, what your dharma is. Dharma is translated again and again as “religion’. It is not; it is not religion. dharma means nature; dharma means that which you are already – your essence.
Two words will be useful to understand: Gurdjieff uses these two words – “essence” and “personality”. Essence is your nature and personality is the construct, the social structure given to you. We are all personalities, unaware, completely unaware of the essence. This sutra saying “witnessing nature” means essence – the essential you. So witnessing is not something which you achieve; it is not something like an attainment. Rather, it is a discovery, an uncovering. Something is there which you have forgotten – you uncover it. So Gurdjieff never uses the word “witnessing”; rather, he uses “remembering”.
Kabir, Nanak, they also use “remembering” – surati. Surati means remembering. surati is smriti – remembering. Nanak, Kabir or Gurdjieff, they use the word “remembering” only because, really, your essence is not a new thing to be achieved – it is already there. You have only to remember it; you have only to become aware of something which is already present. But you cannot be aware of it if you are crowded by thoughts, if you are lost in the crowd of thoughts.
The sky is there – but when there are clouds, dark clouds all over, you cannot see the sky. Clouds are just incidental. They are now, they were not before, and they will not be again. They come and go, and the sky remains always. And the sky is akshat; no cloud can corrupt it. The sky remains virgin, pure, innocent. No cloud can corrupt it. Clouds come and go, but the sky is that which is always – unperturbed, untouched, just an inner space, an inner sky is there. That is called your nature.
Societies will come and go. You will take birth and you will die and many lives will come and go, and many, many clouds will pass through you. But the inner sky – akshat – remains uncorrupted, virgin. But you can become identified with clouds. You can begin to feel that “I am the clouds”.
Everyone is identified with his own thoughts which are nothing more than clouds. You say, “my thought,” and if someone attacks your thought, you never feel that your thought is being attacked – you are being attacked. The sky is fighting – fighting for clouds because some cloud has been attacked. The sky feels, “I am attacked!” The sky was there when there was no cloud, the sky will be there when there is no cloud. Clouds add nothing to the sky. And when clouds are no more, nothing is lost. The sky remains itself totally.
This is the nature – the inner sky, the inner space. One uncovers it, discovers it, through witnessing.
Witnessing is the basic, essential thing. It can be used in many, many techniques.
In the Chinese Taoist tradition, they have a method known as “Tai-Chi”. It is a method of centering, a method of witnessing. They say do whatsoever, but remain conscious of the center at the navel. Walking, be conscious of the center at the navel. Eating, be conscious of the center at the navel. Fighting, be conscious of the center at the navel. Do whatsoever you are doing, but remain conscious of one thing: that you are centered in the navel. Again, if you are conscious of the navel, you cannot think. The moment you begin to think, you will not be conscious of the navel. This is a body technique. Buddha uses breathing, breath; Taoists use hara. They call the center at the navel hara. That’s why Japanese suicide is known as hara-kiri. It means committing suicide remaining centered in the hara so it is not suicide, it is not just suicide. They call it hara-kiri only if a person commits suicide remaining continuously aware of the center at the hara. Then it is not suicide at all – he is doing it so consciously. You cannot commit suicide so consciously. With you, suicide is committed only when you are so much disturbed that you have become absolutely unconscious.
Whether you use the hara or you use breathing, you must remain conscious. Krishnamurti says, “Remain conscious of your thought process.” Whether it is the process of breathing or the palpitation of the hara or the thought process, it makes no difference. The basic thing remains the same.
Remain conscious of your thought process. A thought arises: know that it has arisen. A thought is there: know that the thought is there. When the thought moves and goes out of existence, then know, witness that it has disappeared. Whenever a thought goes and another thought comes, there is a gap in between. Be conscious of the gap. Remain conscious of the thought process – a thought moving, a gap, again a thought. Be conscious!
Use thought as an object for your witnessing. It makes no difference: you can use breathing, you can use thought, you can use the hara – you can use anything. There are many methods and each country has developed its own. And sometimes there is very much conflict about methods – but if you go deep, one thing is essential and that is witnessing – whatsoever the method may be.
The difference is only of the body.
And Krishnamurti says, “I have no method,” but he has. This witnessing of the thought process is as much a method as the witnessing of breathing. You can witness breathing, you can witness the thought process. And then, then you can appreciate that if someone is using a rosary, he can witness it. Then there is no difference between witnessing the movement of the rosary or witnessing breathing or the thought process.
Sufis use dancing, dervish dancing. They use dancing as the method. You might have heard the name “whirling dervishes”. They move on their heels just like children move sometimes. If you move like that you will get dizzy – just moving on your heels, whirling. And they say, “Go on whirling, know that the body is whirling, and remain conscious. Inside, remain aware! Don’t get identified with the whirling body. The body is whirling – don’t get identified, remain conscious. Then the witnessing will happen.”
And I think that the Sufi method is more sudden than any, because to witness thought process is difficult, it is very subtle. To witness breathing is again difficult because breathing is a non-voluntary process. But whirling you are doing voluntarily. Dancing, whirling round and round and round, the mind gets dizzy. If you remain aware, suddenly you find a center. Then the body becomes a wheel and you become the hub, and the body goes on whirling and the center stands alone, untouched – akshat – uncorrupted So there are hundreds and hundreds of methods, but the soul, the significant, the essential, the foundational thing in all of them, is witnessing.
This sutra says that unless you go to worship with a witnessing nature inside, your going is futile.
Unpolished, raw rice will not do. That can be purchased, that is only a symbol, a symbolic thing. Unless you bring something unpolished, untouched by society, uncreated, from your own nature, your worship is just stupid, it is foolish. And you can go on worshipping and you can go on using symbols without knowing what they mean.
Remember this word akshat – uncorrupted, fresh, virgin. What is virgin in you? Find it out and bring it to the Divine feet. Only that virginity can be used – only that virginity, that freshness, that constant youngness, can be used for worship.
This witnessing you can understand intellectually. It is not difficult. But that is the difficulty! If you understand it intellectually and think that the work is done – that is the difficulty. You can understand it. Then again it becomes a theory in the mind; then again it becomes a thought in the mind; then again you have made it a part of the accumulation. Then you can discuss it, you can philosophize about it, but then it is still a part of the mind – it is not virgin.
If I say something about witnessing, it goes into your mind, becomes part of your mind, but it is not from you; it has come from the outside. If you read this Upanishad and then you are impressed, convinced, and you say inside yourself, “Right, this is the thing,” it becomes a theory. It is not from you, it has come from outside. It is not akshat; it is not virgin. No theory can be virgin. No thought can be virgin. Every thought is borrowed. Thought can never be original – never! The very nature of it is borrowed. No one’s thought is original. It cannot be because language is not original, concepts are not original. You learn them.
Akshat means “the original” – that which you have not learned, the discovery within yourself of something which belongs to you, which is unique to you, individual to you, which has not been given to you. So intellectual understanding won’t do. Practice it! Only then, someday, something explodes in you and you become aware of a different realm of purity, innocence, bliss.
From The Ultimate Alchemy, V.1, Discourse #15
Copyright© OSHO International Foundation
Here you can listen to the discourse excerpt Witnessing: The Base of All Techniques.