The Observer is the Observed – Osho

There is a statement by J. Krishnamurti that “the observer is the observed.” Will you please kindly elaborate and explain what it means?

The statement that “the observer is the observed” is one of the most significant things ever said by any man on the earth. The statement is as extraordinary as J. Krishnamurti was.

It is difficult to understand it only intellectually, because the way of the intellect is dialectical, dualistic.

On the path of intellect the subject can never be the object, the seer can never be the seen. The observer cannot be the observed. As far as intellect is concerned, it is an absurd statement, meaningless – not only meaningless, but insane.

The intellectual approach towards reality is that of division: the knower and the known have to be separate. Only then is there a possibility of knowledge between the two. The scientist cannot become science, the scientist has to remain separate from what he is doing. The experimenter is not allowed to become the experiment itself. As far as intellect is concerned, logic is concerned, it looks absolutely valid.

But there is a knowledge that passeth understanding, there is a knowing that goes beyond science.

Only because that kind of knowing which goes beyond science is possible, is mysticism possible, is religiousness possible.

Let us move from a different direction. Science divides the whole of human experience and existence into two parts: the known and the unknown. That which is known today was unknown yesterday. That which is unknown today may become known tomorrow, so the distance is not impossible, unbridgeable. The distance is only because man’s knowledge is growing, and as his knowledge grows the area of his ignorance diminishes. In other words, as he knows more, the area of the unknown becomes less and the area of the known becomes bigger.

If we follow this logic, the ultimate result will be that one day there will be nothing left as unknown.

Slowly, slowly, the unknown will change into the known, and the moment will come when there is nothing left as unknown. That is the goal of science, to destroy ignorance – but to destroy ignorance means to destroy all possibilities of exploration, all possibilities of the unknown challenging you to move forward.

The destruction of ignorance means the death of all intelligence, because there will be no need for intelligence anymore. It will be simply something which was useful in the past – you can put it in a museum – but it is of no use anymore. This is not a very exciting picture.

Mysticism does not agree with science, it goes beyond it.

According to mysticism, existence and experience is divided into three parts: the known, the unknown, and the unknowable. The known was unknown one day, the unknown will become known one day, but the unknowable will remain unknowable; it will remain mysterious. Whatever you do, the mystery will always surround existence. The mystery will always be there around life, around love, around meditation.

The mystery cannot be destroyed.

Ignorance can be destroyed, but by destroying ignorance you cannot destroy the miraculous, the mysterious.

J. Krishnamurti’s statement belongs to the unknowable.

I have been telling you that as you meditate… and by meditation I simply mean as you become more and more aware of your mind process. If the mind process is one hundred percent, taking your whole energy, you will be fast asleep inside – there will be no alertness.

One morning Gautam Buddha is talking to his disciples. The king, Prasenjita, has also come to listen to him; he is sitting just in front of Buddha. He is not accustomed to sitting on the floor – he is a king – so he is feeling uncomfortable, fidgety, changing sides, somehow trying not to disturb and not to be noticed by Buddha because he is not sitting silently, peacefully. He is continuously moving the big toe of his foot, for no reason, just to be busy without business. There are people who cannot be without business; they will still be busy.

Gautam Buddha stopped talking and asked Prasenjita, “Can you tell me, why are you moving your big toe?” In fact, Prasenjita himself was not aware of it.

You are doing a thousand and one things you are not aware of. Unless somebody points at them, you may not take any note of it.

The moment Buddha asked him, the toe stopped moving. Buddha said, “Why have you stopped moving the toe?”

He said, “You are putting me in an embarrassing situation. I don’t know why that toe was moving.

This much I know: that as you asked the question it stopped. I have not done anything – neither was I moving it, nor have I stopped it.”

Buddha said to his disciples, “Do you see the point? The toe belongs to the man. It moves, but he is not aware of its movement. And the moment he becomes aware – because I asked the question – the very awareness immediately stops the toe. He does not stop it. The very awareness, that ‘It is stupid, why are you moving it?’ – just the awareness is enough to stop it.”

Your mind is a constant traffic of thoughts, and it is always rush hour, day in, day out.

Meditation means to watch the movement of thoughts in the mind.

Just be an observer, as if you are standing by the side of the road watching the traffic – no judgment, no evaluation, no condemnation, no appreciation – just pure observation.

As you become more and more accustomed to observation, a strange phenomenon starts happening. If you are ten percent aware, that much energy has moved from the mind process to the observer; now the mind has only ninety percent energy available. A moment comes… you have fifty percent of energy. And your energy goes on growing as mind goes on losing its energy.

The traffic becomes less and less and less, and you become more and more and more.

Your witnessing self goes on increasing in integrity, expanding; it becomes stronger and stronger.

And the mind goes on becoming weaker and weaker: ninety percent observer and ten percent mind, ninety-nine percent observer and only one percent mind.

One hundred percent observer and the mind disappears, the road is empty; the screen of the mind becomes completely empty, nothing moves. There is only the observer.

This is the state J. Krishnamurti’s statement is pointing at. When there is nothing to observe, when there is only the observer left, then the observer itself becomes the observed – because there is nothing else to observe, what else to do? The knower simply knows itself. The seer sees himself.

The energy that was going towards objects, thoughts… there are no thoughts, no objects. The energy has no way to go anywhere; it simply becomes a light unto itself. There is nothing that it lights, it lights only itself – a flame surrounded by silence, surrounded by nothingness.

That is Krishnamurti’s way of saying it, that the observer becomes the observed. You can call it enlightenment, it is the same thing: the light simply lights itself, there is nothing else to fall upon. You have dissolved the mind. You are alone, fully alert and aware.

Krishnamurti is using a phrase of his own. He was a little fussy about it… not to use anybody else’s phrase, anybody else’s word – not to use anything that has been used by other masters. So his whole life, he was coining his own phrases.

But you can change only the expression, you cannot change the experience. The experience is eternal. It makes no difference whether somebody calls it enlightenment, somebody calls it nirvana, somebody calls it samadhi, somebody calls it something else. You can give it your own name but remember, the experience should not be changed by your words.

And it is not changed by J. Krishnamurti’s words. They are perfectly applicable, although they are not so glamorous as nirvana, Gautam Buddha’s word, or samadhi, Patanjali’s word, or il’aham, Mohammed’s word. ”The observer is the observed” looks too mundane. It certainly points to the reality, but the words in themselves are not very poetic, are very ordinary. And the extraordinary should not be indicated by the ordinary; that is sacrilegious.

So there are many people around the world who have been listening to J. Krishnamurti. They will listen to these words, “The observer becomes the observed,” and they will not have even a far-off notion of nirvana or enlightenment or samadhi.

I don’t like this fussiness. I don’t want to say anything against that old man because he is dead. If he were alive I would say something against him, certainly. His whole effort – and he lived long, ninety years – was somehow to prove that he was original in everything, even in expressions.

I don’t feel the necessity. If you are original, you are original. There is no need to shout from the housetops that “I am original,” that “I am fortunate that I have not read any sacred scriptures.”

And this is not true, because even to avoid samadhi, nirvana, enlightenment, you have to know those words; otherwise, how can you avoid them? He may not have read them himself; somebody else may have read them, and he must have heard it.

And that’s what actually had happened: from his childhood he was being taught to become a world teacher, so others were telling him…. He was just nine years old, so he was not telling a lie by saying that he had not read the sacred scriptures; but the sacred scriptures were read to him.

This reminds me of a milkman. I was a student in the university and he used to come to the hostel with his small son to give milk to the students. And everybody was suspicious that his milk was at least fifty percent water. Already the purest milk is eighty percent water; then fifty percent more….

So it is just the name milk, otherwise it is all water. So everybody was telling him, “You are mixing in too much water.”

And he was a very religious man, worshipping for hours in the temple. And he would say, “I am a religious man. I cannot do this. I can take an oath. This is my son” – and he would put his hand on his son’s head – “Under oath I am saying that if I lie, my son should die. I have never mixed water into milk.”

I listened many times. One day I called him inside my room and closed the door. He said, “What are you doing?”

I said, “You need not be worried, I am also a religious man. Just a little dialogue….”

He said, “But why are you closing the door?”

I said, “It has to be very private; otherwise, you will be in difficulty.”

He said, “Strange… why should I be in difficulty?”

I said, “Now just tell me exactly. I have seen you mixing water with my own eyes…. I had to miss one morning walk just to hide near your place to see it. Just this morning I have seen it. And if you don’t listen to me… I don’t have a son, but I can use your son, under oath.”

He said, “Wait! Don’t do that. You are a dangerous man. You can do it to your son but not to my son.”

I said, “What is the harm? Your son is not going to be harmed; truth is truth.”

He said, “That means I will have to tell you the truth.”

I said, “You will have to tell me the truth.”

He said, “The truth is that I never mix water into milk, I always mix milk into water – and that makes all the difference. My oath is absolutely correct. But please don’t say it to anybody, otherwise they will start asking me to take the oath the other way, and that I cannot do. I mix them, but I always mix milk into the water. I am making the water also milky. I am not destroying milk; I am just changing the quality of the water!”

I said, “You are really a religious man.” Now what he is saying is simply the same.

For thousands of years, anybody who has reached to the point of no-mind and only awareness has given names which are far more meaningful than J. Krishnamurti’s words. For example, Patanjali’s word is the most important and the most ancient: samadhi. In Sanskrit, sickness is called vyadhi, and to go beyond all sickness is called samadhi. It has a beauty – going beyond all sickness; attaining wholeness, perfection. It has a beauty and a meaning.

Gautam Buddha used the word nirvana… because he was trying to make an effort twenty-five centuries after Patanjali. In these twenty-five centuries Patanjali had been misused. The people who were trying to reach samadhi made it some kind of ego trip. The word ‘samadhi’ is very positive – beyond all illness, wholeness. There is a loophole in it: it can give you an idea that “I will become perfect, beyond all limitations, all sicknesses. I will become whole.” But the danger is that this “I” may be your ego – most probably it will be, because your mind is still there.

The samadhi is true when the mind is gone. Then you can say, “I have gone beyond sickness” because the ego was also a sickness – in fact, the greatest sickness that man suffers from. Now your “I” does not mean ego. It simply means your individuality, not your personality. It simply means the universal in you, just the dewdrop which contains the ocean. The emphasis has changed completely. It is not the dewdrop that is claiming; it is the ocean that is proclaiming.

But because many people became egoistic… and you can see those people even today. Your saints, sages, mahatmas, are so full of ego that one is surprised – even ordinary people are not so full of ego. But their egos are very subtle, very refined.

Gautam Buddha had to find a new word, and the word had to be negative so that ego could not make a trick for itself. ‘Nirvana’ is a negative word; it simply means “blowing out the candle”… a very beautiful word. Blowing out the candle, what happens? – Just pure darkness remains.

Buddha is saying that when your ego has disappeared like the flame of the candle, what remains – that silence, that peace, that eternal bliss – is nirvana.

And certainly he was successful: nobody has been able to make nirvana an ego-trip. How can you make nirvana an ego-trip? The ego has to die. It is implied in the word itself, that you will have to disappear in smoke. What will be left behind is your true reality, is your pure existence, is your truth, is your being – and to find it is to find all.

But Buddha had a reason to change the word ‘samadhi’ into ‘nirvana’. J. Krishnamurti had no reason at all, except that he was obsessed with being original. What he says describes the fact: the observer is the observed – but it has no poetry. It is true, but it has no music.

But that is true about J. Krishnamurti’s whole philosophy: it has no music, it has no poetry. It is purely a rational, logical, intellectual approach. He was trying hard somehow to express the mystic experience in rational and logical terms, and he has been successful in many ways, but he has destroyed the beauty.

He has brought the mystic experience closer to rational philosophizing; but the mystic experience is not philosophy, it is always poetry. It is closer to painting, closer to singing, closer to dancing, but not closer to logic – and that’s what he was doing. And my opposition to him is based on this ground. My effort is to bring mysticism to your dance, to your song, to your love, to your poetry, to your painting – not to your logic.

Logic is good for business, it is good for mathematics. It is absolutely useless as far as higher values are concerned.


From The Osho Upanishad, Chapter 14 

Copyright© OSHO International Foundation

Here you can listen to the discourse excerpt The Observer is the Observed.

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

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23 thoughts on “The Observer is the Observed – Osho”

  1. Krishnamurti didn’t mean “enlightenment” at all with this statement. Osho didn’t understand. He meant that the one who is observing can realize that he is not observing something outside of him, but he is actually what is being observed. What usually happens is that the observation is fictional, because you separate yourself from everything which arises. When you say to yourself: “I’ll start observing everything right now” , you failed to see that there is the intention to observe. But when one realises that the observer is actually observed, than the observetion is already taking place and there is nothing outside of it, so “I’ll start observing everything right now” is also observed. If such observation is taking place, there is no importance in doing, not doing, allowing something or not allowing…because the intention to accept or reject is being observed too, etc….In such observation, the conflict ceases naturally. But it doesn’t mean that the mind is quiet. Instead one is learning about oneself through everything which arises, through the little game one plays, like “I will observe now to make my mind quiet”.


    1. Both Krishnamurti and Osho hinting towards same entity. Krishnamurti says : When Observer has no image at all then the Observer is the observed “What is” is the observer not the observer is looking at “What is” .


  2. In my opinion J Krishnamurti used this expression when he saw the truth at a very subtle level. Not the apparent truth but the ultimate reality of the physical and sensual world. The truth that nothing is permanent but ephemeral. Everything just arises and passes away. In fact he saw that mind and body are of the same phenomena. Impermanence is the ultimate reality. So why to have clinging, attachment at all ? He realized the truth at experiential level and not merely philosophically. That’s reason he said that the observer is the observed.


  3. if the observer is the observed then how does osho or krishnamurti even exist to argue? there is just awareness of osho and krishnamurti as separate, when in face they are just impermanence and observer is observed collapsing everything into just awareness. which means…oh shit. JUST awareness exists. I AM that awareness. oh…shit. 🙂


  4. Osho’s opinion on JK appears to be not correct since the emphasis on the observer is nothing but observing the innermost activity of the mind then eventually dilute the “I”. When “I” is diluted there nothing remains but only the observer. JK is one of the greatest philosophers and his teachings cannot be undermined by unjustified wrong interpretation of his words.


  5. I walked for 30 kms to reach a very beautiful place in one of my treks , I was exhausted , luckily this place has a Tibetian shepherd hut, they fed me and gave me a wam dry bed to sleep, I went for a stroll after dinner, the magnificent kanchunga in the background and thick forest around me…there was no observer only the beauty of this place and a bit of tiredness… Everyone wants to make statements and show their intellectual wisdom to sell spirituality as their own …I already have it, i just need to discover it for myself….that’s the mantra…
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  6. witnessing but no witness. consciousness arising in awareness.
    ‘Though you have eaten the whole day through, see that not a grain of food has passed your lips.’ Huang Po

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The observer becomes the observed is actually a very simple statement. Have you ever felt someone staring at you? This is simply you the observed noticing the observer. By you noticing them they become the observed.

    The true female just wants to be the observed. The ultimate man is the observer. His best gift he can give is observation. So the ultimate man would stare at his female. Just observing the observed completely. This is the best gift and reaction she could want. But you aren’t worried in this, rather you are consumed in your desire to observe her. Too see this marvelous beauty for who she is. She in turn wants to see if she is being observed. So she stares back at the observer. At this point she is now the observed and observer. And too the observer is now observed in this this glorious moment. Such is how this statement is intellectually known.


  8. u can only see anything by involving yourself. that is why observer is the observed. the scene depends on our measurement, our observation. Reality is something else- its the possibility! the observer shrinks it by observing hence observer is the observed. when there is no observation, there’s no scene.


  9. Let me put this very simply, You see a flower, say a rose, and when you see it, you instantly recognize and name it “This is a rose, and I am looking at the Rose”. This is a function of memory. Memory is of the past. And if you can’t see the thing without depending on the past memory then “The observer is the observed”. Because when the total observation is going on, there is no division between the observer and the observed. There is no “I” there who is observing, there is only observation going on. This division comes later only as a function of memory. But if there is the division between the observer and the observed while the process of observation is ongoing, then the observer is nothing but the past (memory) who is observing.

    I love Osho, but it appears that he didn’t understand the immensity of this statement by J. Krishnamurti.


      1. Then I must say that you really don’t understand what Love is. Osho made me realize what it is. If you follow his discourses properly, the you should know it. Even one of his sannyasin said to/asked him something like, “Osho, I don’t believe you, but I trust you fully, can you help me understand this?”, and his response was, “This is the sign of the flowering of true love…”
        If you got offended by my comment then pardon me. But my love is for the vyakta in him, the vyakti seems infinitesimal compared to it. And moreover the vyakti or the personality is not one’s true being, one has to forcibly put it together for sake of the surrounding and society, so if I criticized something that his personality had expressed, it does not necessarily mean that I am criticizing him, nor does it degenerate my love for him. 🙂


    1. What? I don’t understand any of this. If you observe an entity which you know to be a flower (after having observed it), and then you say, “This is a flower,” yes, you are relying on your conception of a flower, hence your ability to categorize it–but that doesn’t mean you didn’t use your sense perception to observe it. What happened was your eyes perceived the object and then your mind quickly categorized the object as a “flower” based upon previous observations.

      What about first observations before concepts? Are all babies then primary observers? If you aren’t observing, what exactly are you doing? You can be aware of something, but I think there’s a distinction between awareness and observation; namely, one of categorization. Observation seems to presuppose higher level thinking/conceptualization to some degree.

      So I am utterly loss in this “observe” discussion, or the whole “the observer becomes the observed.” Perhaps you can further elucidate.


  10. I feel that people have not understood Rajneesh intention in explaining JK sutra. He is not giving the meaning. What JK meant is only known to him. What Rajneesh is driving towards is how we can to the point of reaching the witnessing conscious so that you can come to the point of observing your self. Observation is double edged. What’s is being observed is one vector and the second vector faces the person observing . We focus always on the first or on the second vectors. Try and focus on both at the same time. That is the master key. Going outwards is easy. Reversing and going is also easy. Balancing both is tricky. Then u are in the middle.

    Liked by 1 person

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