Does witnessing always bring joy? The moments that I call witnessing sometimes feel distant—almost cold in their neutrality. Other times it is like sprouting wings and soaring in joy over the open sea.
The state of witnessing is neither cold nor hot. It is neither happiness, nor unhappiness. It is neither dark nor light. It is neither life nor death. The Upanishads say Neti Neti — neither this nor that.
If you feel joy you have already become identified; witnessing is gone. If you feel sad you are no more a witness; you have forgotten witnessing, you have become involved. You are colored by your psychology of the moment. Joy, sadness, all these qualities, are part of your psychology. And witnessing is a transcendence; it is not psychological.
The whole art of meditation consists in witnessing. Then what does it bring? At the most we can say it brings total peace; it simply brings eternal silence. You cannot define it as joy. The moment you define it as joy you have fallen into the world of duality again. Then you have become part of what is passing, you have started clinging to it.
The state of witnessing remains indefinable. That’s why Buddha has not used the word ‘bliss’ at all, because it can give you a wrong idea — because in your mind bliss will mean happiness. That’s how you are going to translate it, to interpret it. Buddha has not used the word ‘bliss’; he has not used the word ‘God’.
The word that he has used is ‘absolute void’ — Shunyam. There will be nothing left, just absolute silence, absolute emptiness — but not emptiness in the English meaning of the word. Shunyam has a totally different connotation; it has been translated and can only be translated as emptiness. But emptiness is negative, emptiness means something is missing, emptiness means loneliness. Emptiness is not a life quality but a death quality.
Shunyam is not negative; it is not even positive, how can it be negative? It simply means you are alone — not lonely, but alone. You are not missing anything. You are spacious, there is great space in you, but it is not empty of something. On the contrary, it is utter plenitude. It is full of emptiness — if you allow me the expression It is full of emptiness, but one is fulfilled.
Shunyam is blossoming in you. There is great peace but not joy, because joy becomes positive; but not sadness, because sadness becomes Negative. Peace is exactly the middle, neither cold nor hot. It is not neutrality, it is not indifference. It is not a state where you turn your back towards something, you are no more interested No, there is no question of disinterest, indifference or neutrality. You are utterly there, absolutely there, totally there, but like a mirror, just reflecting whatsoever is the case.
Joy passes by and the mirror reflects it, but the mirror does not become joy itself; it never becomes identified. And sadness comes like a cloud, a dark cloud, and passes by, and the mirror reflects it. The mirror has no prejudice against it. The mirror is not favorable to joy and unfavorable to sadness. The mirror has no liking, no disliking; it simply reflects whatsoever is the case. It is not neutral, otherwise it will not reflect; it does not turn its back towards things. It is not indifferent, because indifference again means you are already prejudiced; you have a certain conclusion. It is not disinterested and you cannot say it is interested -either. It is a transcendence.
Abhiyana, don’t get identified with the joy that comes — watch it. Remain a watcher on the hills, a mirror. Reflect it but don’t cling to it. A bird on the wing…and the lake reflects it.
The Zen people say this is the state of Buddha-hood. The bird has no mind to be reflected in the lake and the lake has no mind to reflect the bird, but the bird on the wing…and the lake reflects it. You see the point: the bird has no mind to be reflected and the lake has no mind to reflect the bird, but the bird IS reflected. It simply happens that the lake is there and the bird is on the wing…the reflection is bound to happen — it is natural! The bird is gone; the lake does not miss the bird, it does not hanker for it, it does not long for it, it does not hope that it will come again. It does not go into the past, into the memories, or into the future projections. The bird has flown; it never thinks of the lake again, it never desires to be there again. One day it may be there again, and again it will be reflected, but no relationship is created. The happening is there but no relationship is there.
This is what I call relating, not relationship. It is a fluid phenomenon. This is witnessing.
From Be Still and Know, Discourse #2
Here you can listen to the discourse excerpt Does Witnessing Always Brings Joy.