What is meditation?
Meditation is not only a method; it is not simply a technique. You cannot learn it. It is a growth: a growth of your total living, out of your total living. Meditation is not something that can be added to you as you are. It can come to you only through a basic transformation, a mutation. It is a flowering, a growth. Growth is always out of the total; it is not an addition. You must grow toward meditation.
This total flowering of the personality must be understood correctly. Otherwise, one can play games with oneself; one can occupy oneself with mental tricks. And there are so many tricks! Not only can you be fooled by them, not only will you not gain anything, but in a real sense you will be harmed. The very attitude that there is some trick to meditation – to conceive of meditation in terms of method – is basically wrong. And when one begins to play with mental tricks, the very quality of the mind begins to deteriorate.
As mind exists, it is not meditative. The total mind must change before meditation can happen. Then what is the mind as it now exists? How does it function?
The mind is always verbalizing. You can know words, you can know language, you can know the conceptual structure of thinking, but that is not thinking. On the contrary, it is an escape from thinking. You see a flower and you verbalize it; you see a man crossing the street and you verbalize it. The mind can transform every existential thing into words. Then the words become a barrier, an imprisonment. This constant transformation of things into words, of existence into words, is the obstacle to a meditative mind.
So the first requirement toward a meditative mind is to be aware of your constant verbalizing and to be able to stop it. Just see things; do not verbalize. Be aware of their presence, but do not change them into words. Let things be, without language; let persons be, without language; let situations be, without language. It is not impossible; it is natural. It is the situation as it now exists that is artificial, but we have become so habituated to it, it has become so mechanical, that we are not even aware that we are constantly transforming experience into words.
The sunrise is there. You are never aware of the gap between seeing it and verbalizing. You see the sun, you feel it, and immediately you verbalize it. The gap between seeing and verbalizing is lost. One must become aware of the fact that the sunrise is not a word. It is a fact, a presence. The mind automatically changes experiences into words. These words then come between you and the experience.
Meditation means living without words, living non-linguistically. Sometimes it happens spontaneously. When you are in love, presence is felt, not language. Whenever two lovers are intimate with one another they become silent. It is not that there is nothing to express. On the contrary, there is an overwhelming amount to be expressed. But words are never there; they cannot be. They come only when love has gone.
If two lovers are never silent, it is an indication that love has died. Now they are filling the gap with words. When love is alive, words are not there because the very existence of love is so overwhelming, so penetrating, that the barrier of language and words is crossed. And ordinarily, it is only crossed in love.
Meditation is the culmination of love: love not for a single person, but for the total existence. To me, meditation is a living relationship with the total existence that surrounds you. If you can be in love with any situation, then you are in meditation.
And this is not a mental trick. It is not a method of stilling the mind. Rather, it requires a deep understanding of the mechanism of the mind. The moment you understand your mechanical habit of verbalization, of changing existence into words, a gap is created. It comes spontaneously. It follows understanding like a shadow. The real problem is not how to be in meditation, but to know why you are not in meditation. The real problem is not how to love, but to know why we are not in love. The very process of meditation is negative. It is not adding something to you; it is negating something that has already been added.
Society cannot exist without language; it needs language. But existence does not need it. I am not saying that you should exist without language. You will have to use it. But you must be able to turn the mechanism of verbalization on and off. When you are existing as a social being, the mechanism of language is needed; but when you are alone with existence, you must be able to turn it off. If you can’t turn it off – if it goes on and on, and you are incapable of stopping it – then you have become a slave to it. Mind must be an instrument, not the master.
When mind is the master, a non-meditative state exists. When you are the master, your consciousness is the master, a meditative state exists. So meditation means becoming a master of the mechanism of the mind.
Mind, and the linguistic functioning of the mind, is not the ultimate. You are beyond it; existence is beyond it. Consciousness is beyond linguistics; existence is beyond linguistics. When consciousness and existence are one, they are in communion. This communion is meditation.
Language must be dropped. I don’t mean that you have to suppress it or eliminate it. I only mean that it does not have to be a twenty-four-hour-a-day habit for you. When you walk, you need to move your legs. But if they go on moving when you are sitting, then you are mad. You must be able to turn them off. In the same way, when you are not talking with anyone, language must not be there. It is a technique to communicate. When you are not communicating with anybody it should not be there.
If you are able to do this, you can grow into meditation. Meditation is a growing process, not a technique. A technique is always dead, so it can be added to you, but a process is always alive. It grows, it expands.
Language is needed, but you must not always remain in it. There must be moments when there is no verbalizing, when you just exist. […]
So what is to be done? In fact, you cannot do anything at all except to understand. Whatever you are able to do can only come from where you are. You are confused, you are not in meditation, your mind is not silent, so anything that comes out of you will only create more confusion. All that can be done right now is to begin to be aware of how the mind functions. That’s all – just be aware. Awareness has nothing to do with words. It is an existential act, not a mental act.
So the first thing is to be aware. Be aware of your mental processes, how your mind works. The moment you become aware of the functioning of your mind, you are not the mind. The very awareness means that you are beyond: aloof, a witness. And the more aware you become, the more you will be able to see the gaps between the experience and the words. Gaps are there, but you are so unaware that they are never seen.
Between two words there is always a gap, however imperceptible, however small. Otherwise the two words cannot remain two; they will become one. Between two notes of music there is always a gap, a silence. Two words or two notes cannot be two unless there is an interval between them. A silence is always there but one has to be really aware, really attentive, to feel it.
The more aware you become, the slower the mind becomes. It is always relative. The less aware you are, the faster the mind is; the more aware you are, the slower the process of the mind is. When you are more aware of the mind, the mind slows down and the gaps between thoughts widen. Then you can see them.
It is just like a film. When a projector is run in slow motion, you see the gaps. If I raise my hand, this has to be shot in a thousand parts. Each part will be a single photograph. If these thousands of single photographs pass before your eyes so fast that you cannot see the gaps, then you see the hand raised as a process. But in slow motion, the gaps can be seen.
Mind is just like a film. Gaps are there. The more attentive you are to your mind, the more you will see them. It is just like a gestalt picture: a picture that contains two distinct images at the same time. One image can be seen or the other can be seen, but you cannot see both simultaneously. It can be a picture of an old lady, and at the same time a picture of a young lady. But if you are focused on one, you will not see the other; and when you are focused on the other, the first is lost. Even if you know perfectly well that you have seen both images, you cannot see them simultaneously.
The same thing happens with the mind. If you see the words you cannot see the gaps, and if you see the gaps you cannot see the words. Every word is followed by a gap and every gap is followed by a word, but you cannot see both simultaneously. If you are focused on the gaps, words will be lost and you will be thrown into meditation.
A consciousness that is focused only on words is non-meditative and a consciousness that is focused only on gaps is meditative. Whenever you become aware of the gaps, the words will be lost. If you observe carefully, you will not find words; you will only find a gap.
You can feel the difference between two words, but you cannot feel the difference between two gaps. Words are always plural and the gap is always singular: “the” gap. They merge and become one. Meditation is a focusing on the gap. Then, the whole gestalt changes.
Another thing is to be understood. If you are looking at the gestalt picture and your concentration is focused on the old lady, you cannot see the other picture. But if you continue to concentrate on the old lady – if you go on focusing on her, if you become totally attentive to her – a moment will come when the focus changes and suddenly the old lady has disappeared and the other picture is there.
Why does this happen? It happens because the mind cannot be focused continuously for a long time. It has to change or it will go to sleep. These are the only two possibilities. If you go on concentrating on one thing, the mind will fall asleep. It cannot remain fixed; it is a living process. If you let it become bored it will go to sleep in order to escape from the stagnancy of your focus. Then it can continue living, in dreams.
This is meditation Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Style. It’s peaceful, refreshing, it can help your physical health and mental equilibrium, but it is not meditation. The same thing can be done by autohypnosis. The Indian word ‘mantra’ means suggestion, nothing else. To take this as meditation is a serious mistake. It is not. And if you think of it as meditation, you will never search for authentic meditation. That is the real harm that is done by such practices and propagandists of such practices. It is just drugging yourself psychologically.
So don’t use any mantra to push words out of the way. Just become aware of the words and the focus of your mind will change automatically to the gaps.
If you identify with words, you will go on jumping from one word to another and you will miss the gap. Another word is something new to focus on. The mind goes on changing; the focus changes. But if you are not identified with words, if you are just a witness – aloof, just watching the words as they go by in a procession – then the whole focus will change and you will become aware of the gap. It is just as if you are on the street, watching people as they pass by. One person has passed and another has not yet come. There is a gap; the street is vacant. If you are watching, then you will know the gap.
And once you know the gap, you are in it; you have jumped into it. It is an abyss – so peace-giving, so consciousness-creating. It is meditation to be in the gap; it is transformation. Now language is not needed; you will drop it. It is a conscious dropping. You are conscious of the silence, the infinite silence. You are part of it, one with it. You are not conscious of the abyss as the other; you are conscious of the abyss as yourself. You know, but now you are the knowing. You observe the gap, but now the observer is the observed.
As far as words and thoughts are concerned, you are a witness, separate, and words are the other. But when there are no words, you are the gap – yet still conscious that you are. Between you and the gap, between consciousness and existence, there is no barrier now. Only words are the barrier. Now you are in an existential situation. This is meditation: to be one with existence, to be totally in it and still conscious. This is the contradiction, this is the paradox. Now you have known a situation in which you were conscious, and yet one with it.
Ordinarily, when we are conscious of anything, the thing becomes the other. If we are identified with something, then it is not the other, but then we are not conscious – as in anger, in sex. We become one only when we are unconscious.
Sex has so much appeal because in sex you become one for a moment. But in that moment, you are unconscious. You seek the unconsciousness because you seek the oneness. But the more you seek it, the more conscious you become. Then you will not feel the bliss of sex, because the bliss was coming from the unconsciousness.
You could become unconscious in a moment of passion. Your consciousness dropped. For a single moment you were in the abyss – but unconscious. But the more you seek it, the more it is lost. Finally a moment comes when you are in sex and the moment of unconsciousness no longer happens. The abyss is lost, the bliss is lost. Then the act becomes stupid. It is just a mechanical release; there is nothing spiritual about it.
We have known only unconscious oneness; we have never known conscious oneness. Meditation is conscious oneness. It is the other pole of sexuality. Sex is one pole, unconscious oneness; meditation is the other pole, conscious oneness. Sex is the lowest point of oneness and meditation is the peak, the highest peak of oneness. The difference is a difference of consciousness.
The Western mind is thinking about meditation now because the appeal of sex has been lost. Whenever a society becomes non-suppressive sexually, meditation will follow, because uninhibited sex will kill the charm and romance of sex; it will kill the spiritual side of it. Much sex is there, but you cannot continue to be unconscious in it.
A sexually suppressed society can remain sexual, but a non-suppressive, uninhibited society cannot remain with sexuality forever. It will have to be transcended. So if a society is sexual, meditation will follow. To me, a sexually free society is the first step toward seeking, searching.
But of course, because the search is there, it can be exploited. It is being exploited by the East. Gurus can be supplied; they can be exported. And they are being exported. But only tricks can be learned through these gurus. Understanding comes through life, through living. It cannot be given, transferred.
I cannot give you my understanding. I can talk about it, but I cannot give it to you. You will have to find it. You will have to go into life. You will have to err; you will have to fail; you will have to pass through many frustrations. But only through failures, errors, frustrations, only through the encounter of real living, will you come to meditation. That is why I say it is a growth. Something can be understood, but understanding that comes through another can never be more than intellectual. That is why Krishnamurti demands the impossible. He says, “Do not understand me intellectually” – but nothing except intellectual understanding can come from someone else. That is why Krishnamurti’s effort has been absurd. What he is saying is authentic, but when he demands more than intellectual understanding from the listener, it is impossible. Nothing more can come from someone else, nothing more can be delivered. But intellectual understanding can be enough. If you can understand what I am saying intellectually, you can also understand what has not been said. You can also understand the gaps: what I am not saying, what I cannot say. The first understanding is bound to be intellectual, because the intellect is the door. It can never be spiritual. Spirituality is the inner shrine.
I can only communicate to you intellectually. If you can really understand it, then what has not been said can be felt. I cannot communicate without words, but when I am using words I am also using silences. You will have to be aware of both. If only words are being understood then it is a communication; but if you can be aware of the gaps also, then it is a communion.
One has to begin somewhere. Every beginning is bound to be a false beginning, but one has to begin. Through the false, through the groping, the door is found. One who thinks that he will begin only when the right beginning is there will never begin at all. Even a false step is a step in the right direction because it is a step, a beginning. You begin to grope in the dark and, through groping, the door is found.
That is why I said to be aware of the linguistic process – the process of words – and to seek an awareness of the gaps, the intervals. There will be moments when there will be no conscious effort on your part and you will become aware of the gaps. That is the encounter with the divine, the encounter with the existential. Whenever there is an encounter, do not escape from it. Be with it. It will be fearful at first; it is bound to be. Whenever the unknown is encountered, fear is created because to us the unknown is death. So whenever there is a gap, you will feel death coming to you. Then be dead! Just be in it, and die completely in the gap. And you will be resurrected. By dying your death in silence, life is resurrected. You are alive for the first time, really alive.
So to me, meditation is not a method but a process; meditation is not a technique but an understanding. It cannot be taught; it can only be indicated. You cannot be informed about it because no information is really information. It is from the outside, and meditation comes from your own inner depths.
So search, be a seeker, and do not be a disciple. Then you will not be a disciple of some guru, but a disciple of the total life. Then you will not just be learning words. Spiritual learning cannot come from words but from the gaps, the silences that are always surrounding you. They are there even in the crowd, in the market, in the bazaar. Seek the silences; seek the gaps within and without, and one day you will find that you are in meditation.
Meditation comes to you. It always comes; you cannot bring it. But one has to be in search of it, because only when you are in search will you be open to it, vulnerable to it. You are a host to it. Meditation is a guest. You can invite it and wait for it. It comes to Buddha, it comes to Jesus, it comes to everybody who is ready, who is open and seeking.
But do not learn it from somewhere; otherwise you will be tricked. The mind is always searching for something easier. This becomes the source for exploitation. Then there are gurus and gurudoms, and spiritual life is poisoned.
The most dangerous person is the one who exploits someone’s spiritual urge. If someone robs you of your wealth it is not so serious, if someone fails you it is not so serious, but if someone tricks you and kills, or even postpones, your urge toward meditation, toward the divine, toward ecstasy, then the sin is great and unforgivable.
But that is being done. So be aware of it, and don’t ask anybody, “What is meditation? How do I meditate?” Instead, ask what the hindrances are, what the obstacles are. Ask why we aren’t always in meditation, where the growth has been stopped, where we have been crippled. And do not seek a guru because gurus are crippling. Anyone who gives you ready-made formulas is not a friend but an enemy.
Grope in the dark. Nothing else can be done. The very groping will become the understanding that will liberate you from darkness. Jesus said: “Truth is freedom.” Understand this freedom. Truth is always through understanding. It is not something that you meet and encounter; it is something you grow into. So be in search of understanding, because the more understanding you become, the nearer you will be to truth. And in some unknown, expected, unpredictable moment, when understanding comes to a peak, you are in the abyss. You are no more, and meditation is.
When you are no more, you are in meditation. Meditation is not more of you; it is always beyond you. When you are in the abyss, meditation is there. Then the ego is not; then you are not. Then the being is. That is what religions mean by God: the ultimate being. It is the essence of all religions, all searches, but it is not to be found anywhere ready-made. So be aware of anyone who makes claims about it.
Go on groping and don’t be afraid of failure. Admit failures, but do not commit the same failures again.
Once is all; that is enough. The person who goes on erring in the search for truth is always forgiven. It is a promise from the very depths of existence.
From The Psychology of the Esoteric, Discourse #2
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Here you can listen to the discourse excerpt The Mystery of Meditation.