The other night during darshan, listening to your answer to Nivedano’s question, I had tears running down my face. For the first time in the seven years I’ve been with you, I could not only intellectually understand, but really feel that to look inside oneself is the only way to find the real treasures of life. Even though I am feeling this so strongly, it doesn’t make it easier to meditate, to look inside.
In the past my favorite subject for you to talk about has always been love and relationships. Now, I can’t get enough of hearing you talk about meditation. Beloved Master, could you please speak about Vipassana meditation?
Prem Sampurna, there are hundreds of methods of meditation, but perhaps vipassana has a unique status; just the same way as there have been thousands of mystics, but Gautam Buddha has a uniqueness of his own. In many ways he is incomparable, in many ways he has done more for humanity than anybody else. In many ways his search for truth was more sincere, more authentic than anybody else’s.
Why am I reminded of Gautam Buddha? I am reminded of Gautam Buddha because you have asked a question about vipassana meditation. That is the meditation through which Gautam Buddha became enlightened.
The very word vipassana in Pali, the language in which Gautam Buddha spoke… he was perfectly acquainted with Sanskrit; as a prince he was well educated in the highest literature of those days. But when he started speaking he never used Sanskrit because Sanskrit was the language of the intellectuals, of the brahmins, of the priests, not of the people.
It has never been a living language. It has a uniqueness among all the languages of the world – it has been spoken only by the learned, by the scholarly amongst themselves; and because of its unknowability, the masses have been mystified by it. Translated, it contains nothing special, and sometimes it contains nothing but bullshit, but it has a very musical sound.
Its construction is the most perfect of any language in the world. It is very exhaustive – fifty-two letters in the alphabet, English has only twenty-six; it means the other twenty-six sounds are unavailable in English. Sanskrit is twice as rich because it can express all possible sounds; it has not left a single sound out of its alphabet. Subtle nuances have also been taken into account – sounds which are very difficult to pronounce, sounds which are rarely used by anyone, but which are possible to use, have been included.
But Gautam Buddha decided to speak in the language of the masses. It was a revolutionary step, because the languages of the masses are not grammatically right. Just by use, by ordinary people changing their tone, their sound, the words become easier; they are not complicated.
We have seen this happen to English in India. English was the language of the bureaucracy, of the people who were in power, of the British Empire. But a few words were bound to enter into the local people’s languages. And the transformation is worth seeing; it will explain to you the difference between a language which is really living, alive, because rough people use it… it has the quality of a wildflower, the quality of a forest, not of a well-clipped British garden.
People have an uncanny sense to change words into their simplest form; for example, the English word ‘report’. Even the faraway villagers who don’t come in contact with educated people have to use that word – once in a while they have to go to the police station. But in the villages of India the word ‘report’ has become ‘rapat’. Report is a little difficult, rapat is more alive.
‘Station’ is a word that is bound to be used by the people of the lowest education or no education. In Punjab it has become ‘satation’; in other parts it has become ‘teshan’, but nowhere is it ‘station’.
Pali is a language of the simple and in a way, innocent and ignorant people. Vipassana is their word. In Sanskrit it has its parallel, which the public has changed according to their convenience. In Sanskrit it is ‘vipashyana’ – that is a little difficult. But in Pali it is simply vipassana. The meaning is the same. The meaning – the literal meaning – of the word is ‘to look’, and the metaphorical meaning is ‘to watch, to witness’.
Gautam Buddha has chosen a meditation which can be called the essential meditation. All other meditations are different forms of witnessing, but witnessing is present in every kind of meditation as an essential part; it cannot be avoided. Buddha has deleted everything else and kept only the essential part – to witness.
There are three steps of witnessing – Buddha is a very scientific thinker. He begins with the body, because that is the easiest to witness. It is easy to witness my hand moving, my hand being raised. I can witness myself walking on the road, I can witness each step as I walk. I can witness while I am eating my food.
So the first step in vipassana is witnessing the actions of the body, which is the simplest step. Any scientific method will always begin from the simplest.
And while witnessing the body, you will be amazed at the new experiences. When you move your hand with witnessing, watchfulness, alertness, consciousness, you will feel a certain grace and a certain silence in the hand. You can do the movement without witnessing; it will be quicker, but it will lose the grace.
The Buddha used to walk so slowly that many times he was asked why he was walking so slowly.
He said, “This is part of my meditation: always to walk as if you are walking in winter into a cold stream… slowly, alert, because the stream is very cold; aware because the current is very strong; witnessing each of your steps because you can slip on the stones in the stream.”
The method remains the same, only the object changes with each step. The second step is watching the mind. Now you move into a more subtle world – watching your thoughts. If you have been successful in watching your body, there is not going to be any difficulty. Thoughts are subtle waves – electronic waves, radio waves – but they are as material as your body. They are not visible, just as the air is not visible, but the air is as material as the stones; so are your thoughts, material but invisible.
That is the second step, the middle step. You are moving towards invisibility, but still it is material… watching your thoughts. The only condition is, don’t judge. Don’t judge, because the moment you start judging you will forget watching.
There is no antagonism against judging. The reason it is prohibited is that the moment you start judging – “This is a good thought” – for that much space you were not witnessing. You started thinking, you became involved. You could not remain aloof, standing by the side of the road and just seeing the traffic.
Don’t become a participant, either by appraising, valuing, condemning; no attitude should be taken about what is passing in your mind. You should watch your thoughts just as if clouds are passing in the sky. You don’t make judgments about them – this black cloud is very evil, this white cloud looks like a sage. Clouds are clouds; they are neither evil nor good.
So are thoughts – just a small wavelength passing through your mind. Watch without any judgment and you are again in for a great surprise. As your watching becomes settled, thoughts will come less and less. The proportion is exactly the same: if you are fifty percent settled in your witnessing, then fifty percent of your thoughts will disappear. If you are sixty percent settled in your witnessing, then only forty percent of thoughts will be there. When you are ninety-nine percent a pure witness, only once in a while will there be a lonely thought – one percent, passing on the road – otherwise the traffic is gone. That rush-hour traffic is no longer there.
When you are one hundred percent non-judgmental, just a witness, it means you have become just a mirror, because a mirror never makes any judgments. An ugly woman looks into it – the mirror has no judgment. A beautiful woman looks into the mirror, it makes no difference. Nobody looks into it… the mirror is as pure as when somebody is being reflected in it. Neither reflection stirs it, nor no-reflection. Witnessing becomes a mirror.
This is a great achievement in meditation. You have moved halfway, and this was the hardest part. Now you know the secret, and the same secret has just to be applied to different objects.
From thoughts you have to move to more subtle experiences – emotions, feelings, moods… from the mind to the heart, with the same condition: no judgment, just witnessing. And the surprise will be that most of your emotions, feelings and moods which possess you…
Now, when you are feeling sad, you become really sad, you are possessed by sadness. When you are feeling angry, it is not something partial. You become full of anger; every fiber of your being is throbbing with anger.
Watching the heart, the experience will be that now nothing possesses you. Sadness comes and goes; you don’t become sad. Happiness comes and goes; you don’t become happy either.
Whatever moves in the deep layers of your heart does not affect you at all. For the first time you taste something of mastery. You are no longer a slave to be pushed and pulled this way and that way, where any emotion, any feeling, anybody can disturb you for any trivia.
People become disturbed with absolute trivia, meaningless things. Somebody just passes by you, twitching his eye. He has not done anything. It is his eye; he has every right to twitch it. It is his constitutional right. Nobody can prevent anybody from twitching his eyes – but why do you get disturbed? And if he makes it a practice that whenever he sees you he twitches his eyes, you will start becoming enraged. Our consciousness is so small, it gets overpowered and possessed by anything – any mood, any feeling, any emotion.
When you become a witness of the third step, you will become, for the first time, a master: nothing disturbs you, nothing overpowers you, everything remains far away, deep below, and you are on a hilltop.
These are the three steps of vipassana. Vipassana has many kinds of methods – this is only one method. Because Buddhism spread all over Eastern Asia, the Far East vipassana has a different structure. In Japan, it is watching the belly as you breathe in and out. That’s why the Japanese statues of Buddha have big bellies. No Indian statue of Buddha will have a big belly; that is un-athletic, does not look beautiful.
But the Japanese Buddha has to have it, because the whole method of vipassana is to practice the belly coming up, not the chest. The chest remains silent, unmoving; only the belly goes up as you breathe in and the belly goes in as you breathe out. Watching it is a single-step vipassana prevalent in Japan.
In Ceylon there are two steps: first watching the same breathing, not at the belly point, but at the nose point. When you breathe in, the air touches your nostrils; be aware of it. And when the hot air goes out, be watchful. This is the first step.
And the second step: when you breathe in, there is a gap before the breath returns – just a rest period, a few seconds. Watch those few seconds when the breath is not moving. If you become capable of watching those moments, you will be able to watch them outside also. When the breath goes out, before it comes in, there is a small interval – the same interval as inside. Watch that too, just be aware of it.
In Tibet they have a different way, in Korea another way, in China another way, but the essential point is to be a witness. And my feeling is that what I have described as three steps is the most easy, most simple – everybody can do it. It needs no scholarship, no austerity, no great understanding.
And after these three steps comes the real experience. These three steps take you to the door of the temple, which is open.
When you have become perfectly watchful of your body, mind and heart, then you cannot do anything more, then you have to wait. When perfection is complete on these three steps, the fourth step happens on its own accord as a reward. It is a quantum leap from the heart to the being, to the very center of your existence. You cannot do it; it happens – you have to remember that.
Don’t try to do it, because if you try to do it your failure is absolutely certain. It is a happening. You prepare three steps, the fourth step is a reward from existence itself; it is a quantum leap.
Suddenly your life force, your witnessing, enters into the very center of your being. You have come home. You can call it self-realization, you can call it enlightenment, you can call it ultimate liberation, but there is nothing more than that. You have come to the very end in your search, you have found the very truth of existence and the great ecstasy that it brings as a shadow, by and around itself.
The Jew and the Irishman are arguing about sex. The Irishman says that, according to his priest, sex is work and solely for the purpose of procreation.
“No,” says the Jew, ”my rabbi says sex is pleasure. If it was work we would let the Irish do it.”
Meditation is not work.
Meditation is purest blissfulness.
As you go deeper, you come across more and more beautiful spaces, more and more luminous spots. They are your treasure… deeper and deeper silences, which are not only the absence of noise, but the presence of a soundless song – musical, alive and dancing.
As you reach to the ultimate point of your being, the center of the cyclone, you have found god; not as a person, but as light, as consciousness, as truth, as beauty – as all that man has been dreaming of for centuries. And those dreamed-of treasures are hidden within himself.
It is not a troublesome, torturous, ascetic practice; it is very pleasant, musical, poetic, and it goes on becoming more and more of a sheer joy. It is not work, it is prayer – the only prayer I know of. To me prayer means: when you have achieved your being, you feel a tremendous gratitude towards existence. That gratitude is the only real, authentic prayer; all other prayers are fake, pseudo, manufactured. This gratitude will arise within you just like a fragrance arising out of roses.
It is good that you are dropping your childish questions about boyfriend, girlfriend, your so-called relationships; you don’t know yourself and you have started relating with another!
It is good that you are asking about meditation. That will not only bring transformation to you, it will also bring transformation to your relationships. It will also bring an authentic overflow of love, and only then will you be able to see that what you used to call love was not love; it was simply lust, biological lust, based on your hormones. Only a meditator knows a love that is not biological, that comes as a spiritual abundance, with a great urge to share – because the more you share it, the more you have it.
A Jewish swami, Goldstein, takes a gorgeous ma out to dinner. They go to the most expensive restaurant in Poona and feast on Italian spaghetti, Japanese sushi and French wine. For dessert they choose German chocolate cake and finish with Brazilian coffee.
When the waiter brings them the bill, Goldstein finds he has left his wallet at home. So he takes out his picture of Rajneesh and hands it to the waiter.
“What is this?” demands the waiter.
“My mastercard,” replies Goldstein.
Meditation is your mastercard!
From The Rebel, Chapter 17
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