Witnessing is Not a Mental Activity – Osho

Last night you said that the mind cannot do two things together—that is, thinking and witnessing. It seems then that witnessing is a mental faculty and an act of the mind. Is it so? Please explain. Is there anything like partial witnessing and total witnessing?

Witnessing is not a mental activity; thinking is a mental activity. Rather, it would be better to say that thinking is mind. When the mind is not, when the mind is absent, when the mind has disappeared, only then do you have witnessing. It is something behind the mind.

Zen Buddhism uses mind in two ways: the ordinary mind means thinking; then Mind with a capital “M” means the Mind behind thinking. Consciousness is behind the mind; consciousness comes through the mind. If mind is in a state of thinking, it becomes opaque, non-transparent, just like a clouded sky – you cannot see the sky. When the clouds are not, you can see the sky. When thinking is not there, then you can feel the witnessing. It is the pure sky behind.

So when I said that you cannot do two things, I meant either you can think, or you can witness. If you are thinking, then you lose witnessing. Then the mind becomes a cloud on your consciousness.

If you are witnessing, you cannot think simultaneously; then the mind is not there. Thinking is an acquired process; witnessing is your nature. So when I say that you cannot do both or mind cannot do both, I don’t mean that mind is the faculty to witness. Mind is the faculty to think, mind is for “minding.”

Really, many problems are created just by language. There is nothing like mind. There is only a process, not a thing. It is better to call it minding than mind. It is a process of continuous thought, one thought being followed by another. Only in the gaps, only in the intervals between two thoughts, can you have something of the witnessing nature. But thoughts are so speedy that you cannot even feel the gap. If you begin to witness your thoughts, then the thought process is slowed down and then you begin to feel gaps. One thought passes, another has not come yet, and there is an interval. In that interval you have witnessing. And thoughts cannot exist without gaps; otherwise they will begin to overlap each other. They cannot exist! Just like my fingers are there – with gaps in between.

If your thought process is slowed down – and any method of meditation is nothing but a slowing down of the thought process – if the thought process is slowed down, you begin to feel the gaps.

Through these gaps is witnessing. Thought is mind; a thoughtless consciousness is witnessing.

Thought is acquired from the outside; witnessing is inside. Consciousness is born with you: thought is acquired, cultivated. So you can have a Hindu thought, you can have a Mohammedan thought, you can have a Christian thought, but you cannot have a Christian soul, you cannot have a Hindu soul. Soul is just soul – consciousness is consciousness.

Minds have types. You have a particular mind. That particular mind is your upbringing, conditioning, education, culture. Mind means whatsoever has been put into you from the outside, and witnessing means whatsoever has not been put from the outside but is your inside – intrinsically, naturally. It is your nature. Mind is a by-product, a habit. Witnessing, consciousness, awareness, whatsoever you call it, is your nature. But you can acquire so many habits, and the nature can go just underneath.

You can forget it completely. So, really, religion is a fight for nature against habits. It is to uncover that which is natural – the original, the real you.

So remember the first thing: witnessing and thinking are different states. Thinking belongs to your mind; witnessing belongs to your nature. And you cannot do both simultaneously. Mind must cease for your consciousness to be; thought must cease for your real nature to be. So a thinker is one thing, and an Enlightened person is totally different.

A Buddha is not a thinker. Hegel or Kant are thinkers. They use their minds to reach particular conclusions. Buddha is not using his mind to reach any conclusions. Buddha is not using his mind at all. He is really a no-mind. He has stopped using mind. He is using himself, not the mind, to reach any conclusions. So with the mind you can reach conclusions, but all conclusions will be hypothetical, theoretical, because one thought can beget another thought. But thought cannot beget reality, thought cannot beget Truth.

Through witnessing you reach reality – not conclusions, not theories, but direct, immediate facts. For example, I am saying something to you. You can think about it – then you have missed the point.

You can think about it, what witnessing is, what mind is – you can think about it. This is one way; this is the mind’s way. But you can experiment with it and not think. And by “experiment” is meant that you have to know how to stop the mind and feel the witnessing. Then again you reach to something, but then it is not a conclusion; it is not something achieved through the thought process. Then it is something you realize.

Someone was asking Aurobindo, “Do you believe in God?” Aurobindo said, “No, I don’t believe in God at all.” The questioner was perplexed because he had come a long way just because he thought Aurobindo was capable of showing him the path towards God. And now Aurobindo says, “I don’t believe.”

He couldn’t believe his ears, so he asked again. He said, “I am perplexed. I have come a long way just to ask you how to achieve God. And if you don’t believe, then the problem, the question, doesn’t arise.”

Aurobindo said, “Who says that the question doesn’t arise? I don’t believe because I know that God is. But that is not my belief, that is not a conclusion reached by thought. It is not my belief. I know! That is my knowing.”

Mind can, at the most, believe. It can never know. It can believe either that there is God or there is no God, but both are beliefs. These both are beliefs.  Both have reached to these conclusions through “minding,” through thinking. They have thought, they have tried to probe logically, and then they have come to certain conclusions.

A Buddha is not a believer – he knows! And when I say he knows, knowing is possible only in one way. It is not through mind. It is through throwing mind completely. It is difficult to conceive because we have to conceive through the mind; that is the difficulty. I have to talk to you through the medium of the mind, and you have to listen to me through the medium of the mind. So when I say it is not to be achieved through mind, your mind takes it – but it is inconceivable for the mind. It can even create a theory about it. You may begin to believe that the Truth cannot be achieved through mind. If you begin to believe, you are in mind again. You can say, “I am not convinced. I don’t believe that there is anything beyond the mind.” Then again you are within the mind.

You can never go beyond the mind if you go on using it. You have to take a jump, and meditation means that jump. That’s why meditation is illogical, irrational. And it cannot be made logical; it cannot be reduced to reason. You have to experience it. If you experience, only then do you know.

So try this: don’t think about it, try – try to be a witness to your own thoughts. Sit down, relaxed, close your eyes, let your thoughts run just like on a screen pictures run. See them, look at them, make them your objects. One thought arises: look at it deeply. Don’t think about it, just look at it. If you begin to think about it then you are not a witness – you have fallen in the trap.

There is a horn outside; a thought arises – some car is passing; or a dog barks or something happens. Don’t think about it; just look at the thought. The thought has arisen, taken form. Now it is before you. Soon it will pass. Another thought will replace it. Go on looking at this thought process.

Even for a single moment, if you are capable of looking at this thought process without thinking about it, you will have gained something in witnessing and you will have known something in witnessing. This is a taste, a different taste than thinking – totally different. But one has to experiment with it.

Religion and science are poles apart, but in one thing they are similar and their emphasis is the same: science depends on experiments, and religion also. Only philosophy is non-experimental. Philosophy depends just on thinking. Religion and science both depend on experiment: science on objects, religion on your subjectivity. Science depends on experimenting with other things than you, and religion depends on experimenting directly with you.

It is difficult, because in science the experimenter is there, the experiment is there and the object to be experimented upon is there. There are three things: the object, the subject and the experiment. In religion you are all the three simultaneously. You are to experiment upon yourself. You are the subject and you are the object and you are the lab.

Don’t go on thinking. Begin, start somewhere, to experiment. Then you will have a direct feeling of what thinking is and what witnessing is. And then you will come to know that you cannot do both simultaneously, just as you cannot run and sit simultaneously. If you run, then you cannot sit, then you are not sitting. And if you are sitting, then you cannot run. But sitting is not a function of the legs.

Running is a function of the legs; sitting is not a function of legs. Rather, sitting is a non-function of the legs. When the legs are functioning, then you are not sitting. Sitting is a non-function of the legs; running is the function.

The same is with the mind: thinking is a function of the mind; witnessing a non-function of the mind. When the mind is not functioning, you have the witnessing, then you have the awareness. That’s why I said you cannot do both with your mind. You cannot both sit and run with your legs. But that doesn’t mean that sitting is a function of your legs. It is not a function at all; it is a nonfunctioning of your legs.

And you ask, “Is there anything like partial witnessing and total witnessing?” No – there is nothing like partial witnessing and total witnessing. Witnessing is total. It may be for a single moment and then it may go, but when it is there, it is total. Can you sit partially or totally? What can we understand by sitting partially? Witnessing is a total thing. Really, in life, nothing is partial – in life. Only with mind everything is partial. Understand this: with mind, nothing is total and never can be total. And when mind is not there, everything is total, nothing can be partial.

So mind is the faculty to bring partialness and fragmentariness in life. For example, watch a child in anger. The child is yet raw, uncultured. Look at his anger: the anger is total; it is not partial. Nothing is suppressed, it is a full flowering. That’s why children in anger are so beautiful.

Every totality has a beauty of its own.

When you are in anger, your anger is never total. The mind has come in – it is going to be partial. Something is bound to be suppressed, and that something suppressed will become a poison. Then your love also cannot be total. It is going to be partial. Neither can you hate nor can you love. Whatsoever you do will be partial because the mind is functioning.

A child can be angry this moment, and the second moment he can be in love. And when he is in anger it is a total thing, and when he is in love it is again a total thing. Every moment is total! The mind is still undeveloped. Again, a sage is just like a child. There are many, many differences, but the childhood comes again – he is total again. But he cannot be in anger. The child is without a mind as far as this life is concerned, but past lives and many minds accumulated in the unconscious, they go on working. So a child appears total, but he cannot be really total. This life’s mind is still growing, but he has many, many minds hidden in the subconscious, in the unconscious, in the deeper realms of the mind.

A sage is totally without mind – of this life or of past lives – so he can be only total in anything. He cannot be angry, he cannot be in hate, and the reason is again that no one can be totally in anger.

Anger is painful and you cannot be totally in anything which gives pain to you. He cannot be in hate because now he cannot be in anything in which he cannot be total. It is not a question of good and evil; it is not a moral question. Really, for a sage, it is not a question of being total. He cannot be otherwise.

Lao Tzu says, “I call that good in which you can be total and that bad in which you can never be total.” Partiality is sin. If you look at it in this way, then mind becomes sin – mind is the faculty of being partial. Witnessing is total, but in our lives nothing is total – nothing. We are partial in everything. That’s why there is no bliss, no ecstasy – because only when you are total in something do you have a blissful moment and never otherwise. Bliss means being total in something, and we are never total in anything. Only a part of us goes into something and a part of us remains outside. This creates a tension: one part somewhere and another part somewhere else. So whatsoever we do, even if we love, it is a tension, it is an anguish.

Psychologists say that if you study someone in love, then love appears just like any disease. Even love is not a blissful thing. It is anguish, a heavy burden. And that’s why one gets bored even with love, fed up – because the mind is not in bliss, it is in anguish. In whatsoever we are partial we are bound to be tense, in anguish. ”Partial” means we are divided, and mind is bound to be partial. Why? Because mind is not one thing. Mind means many things. Mind is a collection; it is not a unity.

Your nature is a unity. Your mind is a collection; it is not a unity at all. It has been collected by the way. So many persons have influenced your mind; so many influences have made it. Nothing goes by which is not impressing your mind. Everything that passes you impresses itself upon you: your friends impress you, your enemies also; your attractions impress you, your repulsions also; what you like impresses you and what you don’t like also impresses you. You go on collecting in multi-dimensional ways. So mind is just a junkyard. It is not unitary. It is a “multiverse,” it is not a universe, so it can never be total. How can it be total? It is a crowd with many, many contradictory, self-contradictory openings.

Old psychology believed in one mind, but new psychology says this is a false concept. Mind is a multiplicity, it is not one. You don’t have one mind. It is only a linguistic habit that we go on talking about one mind. We go on saying “my mind,” but this is wrong, factually wrong. It is better to say “my minds.”

Mahavir came upon this fact two thousand years ago. He is reported to have said: “Man is not uni-psychic, man is poly-psychic – many minds.” That’s why you cannot be total with the mind.

Either the majority of your mind is with you or the minority. Any mind decision is bound to be a parliamentary decision and nothing more. At the most you can hope for a majority decision.

And then a second thing comes in: it is not a fixed crowd – it is a changing crowd. It is not a fixed crowd! Every moment something is being added and something is being lost, so every moment you have new minds.

Buddha is passing through a city and someone comes to him and says, “I want to serve humanity. Show me the path!” Buddha closes his eyes and remains silent. The man feels bewildered. He asks again: “I am saying that I want to serve humanity. Why have you become silent? Is there something wrong in my asking this?”

Buddha opens his eyes and says, “You want to serve humanity, but where are you? First BE! You are not! You are a crowd. This moment you want to serve humanity, the second moment you may want to murder humanity. First be! You cannot do anything unless you are. So don’t think of doings – first contemplate about your being.”

This “being” can happen only through witnessing, never through thinking. Witnessing is total because your nature is one. You are born as one. Then you accumulate many minds. Then you begin to feel these many minds as you – then you are identified. This identification is to be broken.


From The Ultimate Alchemy, Vol. 1, Discourse #16, Q1

Copyright© OSHO International Foundation

Listen to the discourse excerpt Witnessing is Not a Mental Activity.

For a related post see Established in One’s Own Witnessing Nature.

An MP3 audio file of this discourse can be downloaded from Osho.com or you can read the entire book online at the Osho Library.

Many of Osho’s books are available in the U.S. online from Amazon.com and Viha Osho Book Distributors. In India they are available from Amazon.in and Oshoworld.com.

3 thoughts on “Witnessing is Not a Mental Activity – Osho”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: