In order for one to stay awake at the time of death, or in order for one to successfully experience a conscious death in meditation, what preparations should the seeker make in relation to the body system, the breathing system, the way of breathing, his life energy, celibacy, and his state of mind? Please explain in detail.
Before one can remain conscious in the moment of death, first one needs to prepare to stay conscious in pain and suffering. Ordinarily, it is not possible for one who becomes unconscious even in suffering to stay awake at the time of death. One needs to understand what it means to become unconscious when in suffering. That will make one understand what it means to be conscious in suffering too.
Becoming unconscious when one is in misery means one has identified oneself with the misery. When you have a headache, you don’t feel any distance between the headache and yourself; you don’t remain just a distant watcher. Rather, you feel as if you are in pain. When you have a fever, it doesn’t feel as though the body is hot, somewhere at a distance from you, instead you feel as if you have become hot. This is identification. When your foot is hurt and wounded, you don’t feel just the affected foot; rather, you feel as if you are hurt and wounded.
Basically, we don’t feel any distance between our selves and our bodies. We live identified with the body. When hunger arises, one doesn’t say his body is hungry and he is aware of it, instead he says, “I am hungry.” But this is not the truth. The truth is, the body is hungry and he is aware of it. He is simply the center of awareness – continuously aware of whatsoever is happening. If there is a thorn hurting the foot, he knows it; if there is a headache, he knows it; if the stomach needs food, he knows it.
Man is consciousness, consciousness which is continuously aware. He is not the experiencer, he is simply the knower. This is the reality. But our state of mind is not that of the knower, it is that of the experiencer. When the knower turns into being the experiencer; when he knows not, but rather becomes identified with the act itself; when he does not remain a witness watching from a distance, but rather becomes the participant in the act, that is when the identification takes place. Then he becomes one with the act. This identification prevents him from waking up because in order to be awake, in order to be aware, a certain distance is required, a space is needed.
I am able to see you only because there is a distance between you and me. If the whole distance between you and me were to be removed, I wouldn’t be able to see you. I am able to see you because there is a space between us. If this entire space were somehow eliminated, it wouldn’t be possible for me to see you. My eyes can see you, because there is a space in between but my very eyes are unable to see themselves.
Even if I need to see my figure, I have to become the other in a mirror; I have to be at a distance from myself – only then can I see my reflection. Seeing the reflection in a mirror means my image is at a distance, and now it is visible to me. All that a mirror does is present your image at a distance from you. The intervening space thus created enables you to see.
In order to see, a distance is needed. For one who lives identified with the body, or thinks he is the very body, there exists no distance between him and his body.
Once there was a Mohammedan mystic called Farid. A man came to see him one morning and raised the same question you have asked me. He said to Farid, “We have heard that when Jesus was crucified he did not cry out, scream, or grow miserable. We have also heard that when Mansoor’s limbs were cut off, he was laughing. How can this be? This is impossible.”
Farid didn’t say a word. He laughed, and from the coconuts offered to him by his devotees, he picked up one that was lying nearby and gave it to the man. Farid told him, “Take this coconut. It is not ripe yet. Break it open, but make sure you keep the kernel from breaking. Break the outer shell and bring me the unbroken kernel.”
The man said, “This is impossible. Because the coconut is unripe, there is no space between the kernel and the outer shell. If I break open the shell the kernel will break too.”
Farid said, “Forget this coconut. Here is another. Take this one, it is dry. There is a space between its kernel and the outer shell. Can you assure me you can break only the shell and leave the kernel intact?”
The man said, “What’s so difficult about this? I will break the shell and the kernel will be saved without any problem.”
Farid said, “Tell me why the kernel will be saved.”
The man replied, “Because the coconut is dry, there exists a distance between the shell and the kernel.”
Farid said, “Now don’t bother about breaking open the coconut; set it aside too. Did you get your answer or not?”
The man said, “I was asking you something else, and you have gotten me into talking about a coconut. My question is, why didn’t Jesus cry out when he was crucified? Why didn’t he weep? Why didn’t Mansoor writhe in pain when his limbs were cut off? Why did he laugh? Why did he smile?”
Farid answered, “Because they were dry coconuts, while we are wet coconuts – there is no other reason than this.”
The reason why Jesus didn’t weep when crucified, and Mansoor didn’t suffer pain, but rather laughed and smiled, is because they had become totally disidentified with their bodies. There was no other reason than this. It was not really Jesus who was being crucified. Jesus was watching his body being crucified from within, and this he did from the same distance as the people standing around him – outside, away from his body. No one from the crowd screamed, none of them cried, “Don’t kill me!” Why? – Because there was a distance between them and Jesus’ body.
Within Jesus too, there was a distance between the element that watches and his body. Hence Jesus also didn’t cry out, “Don’t kill me!”
Mansoor’s limbs were amputated and he kept laughing. When someone asked him, “What makes you laugh when your limbs are being cut off?” Mansoor said, “I would have cried had you dismembered me, but it is not ‘me’ you are chopping off; the one you are doing it to, you fools, is not me. I laugh at you because you are taking this body to be Mansoor’s, just as you take the bodies you are in to be your authentic selves. You will obviously suffer painful deaths. What you are doing to me is nothing but a repetition of the mistakes you have committed in treating your own selves. Had you been aware that you are separate from your bodies, you wouldn’t have tried to cut my body. You would have known that you and your body are two different things. Then you would have realized that by cutting up the body, Mansoor is not cut.”
The greatest preparation for entering death in a conscious state is to first enter pain consciously, because death does not occur often, it does not come every day. Death will come only once, whether you are prepared for it or not; there cannot be a rehearsal for death. But pain and misery come every day. We can prepare ourselves while going through pain and suffering – and remember, if we can do so while facing them, it will prove useful at the time of death.
Hence, seekers have always welcomed suffering. There is no other reason for it. It is not that suffering is a good thing. The reason is simply that suffering provides the seeker with an opportunity for self-preparation, self-attainment. A seeker has always thanked God for the suffering he undergoes, for the simple reason that, in moments of misery, he gets a chance to dis-identify himself from his body.
Remember, sadhana, spiritual discipline, is a little difficult to follow when you are happy. It is easier when you are miserable, because in moments of happiness one doesn’t want to have even the slightest feeling of separation from one’s body. When you are happy the body feels very dear to you; you don’t feel like being detached from it even for a second.
In moments of happiness we move closer to the body; hence it is not surprising that a seeker of happiness becomes a materialist. It is also not surprising if a person who is continuously seeking happiness believes himself to be nothing more than his body, because in happy times he begins to exist like a green coconut instead of a dry one – the distance between him and his body continues to narrow down.
In moments of pain one wishes he were not the body. Ordinarily, a man who takes himself to be nothing but the body also wishes he were not the body when his head hurts or when his foot is injured or when his body aches. He tends to agree with monks all over the world who go about saying that, “It would have been better if I were not the body.” Feeling the pain in his body, he becomes eager to somehow find out he is not the body too. That’s why I say to you, the moments of pain can become moments of spiritual discipline; they can be turned into moments of sadhana. But ordinarily, what do we do?
Ordinarily, during times of suffering, we try to forget pain. If a man is in trouble, he will drink alcohol. Someone is in pain and he will go and sit in a movie theater. Somebody is miserable and he will try to forget his misery with prayers and devotional songs. These are all different ways and means to forget pain.
Someone drinks; we can say this is one tactic: someone goes and watches a movie, this is another. A person goes to a concert; this is a third way of forgetting pain. Somebody goes to the temple and drowns himself in prayers and hymns; this is a fourth strategy. There can be a thousand and one strategies – they can be religious, nonreligious, or secular. That’s not a big question. Underneath all this, the basic thing is that man wants to forget his misery. He is into forgetting misery.
A person who is out to forget misery can never wake up to misery. How can we become aware of something we tend to forget? Only with an attitude of remembering can we become aware of something. Hence, only by remembering pain can we become aware of it.
So whenever you are in misery, take it as an opportunity. Be totally aware of it, and you will have a wonderful experience. When you become fully aware of your suffering, when you look at it face to face, not escaping the pain, you will have a glimpse of your separateness from it. For example, you fell, were injured, hurt your foot. Now try to locate the pain inside, try to pinpoint the exact spot where it hurts and you will be astonished to discover how you have managed to spread the pain over a much wider area, away from the original spot where its intensity is not so much.
Man exaggerates his suffering. He magnifies his misery, which is never actually that much. The reason behind this is the same – identification with the body. Misery is like the flame of a lamp, but we experience it as the dispersed light of the lamp. Misery is like the flame, limited to a very small section of the body. But we feel it like the very extended light of the lamp, covering a much larger area. Close your eyes and try to locate the pain from inside.
Remember too, we have always known the body from the outside, never from within. Even if you know your body, it is known as others see it. If you have seen your hand, it is always from the outside, but you can feel your hand from within too. It is as if one were to remain contented with seeing his house only from the outside. But there is an inner side to the house as well.
Pain occurs at the inner parts of the body. The point where it hurts is located somewhere in the interior of the body, but the pain spreads to the outer parts of the body. It is like this: the flame of pain is located inside, while the light radiates outward.
Since we are used to seeing the body from outside, the pain appears to be very spread out. It is a wonderful experience, trying to see the body from inside. Close your eyes and try to feel and experience what the body is like from within. The human body has an inner wall too; it has an inner covering as well. This body has an inner limit too. That inner frontier can certainly be experienced with closed eyes.
You have seen your hand lifting. Now, close your eyes sometime and lift your hand, and you will experience the hand rising from within. From the outside you have known what it is to be hungry. Close your eyes and experience hunger from within, and for the first time you will be able to feel it from inside.
As soon as you get hold of the pain from within, two things happen. One is, the pain does not remain as widely spread as it originally seemed to be; it immediately centers on a small point. And the more intensely you concentrate on this point, the more you will find it becoming smaller and smaller. And an incredible thing happens. When the point becomes very small, you find to your amazement it appears and disappears, goes off and on. Gaps begin to appear in between. And finally, when it disappears, you wonder what happened to it. Many times you miss it. The point becomes so small, that often when the consciousness tries to locate it, it is not there.
Just as pain expands in a state of unconsciousness, in the state of awareness it narrows down and becomes small. In such a state of consciousness the feeling will be that although you have gone through so many painful experiences, although you have lived through so much suffering, yet, in fact, the miseries were not really that many. We have suffered exaggerated pains. The same is true with regard to happiness. The happinesses we have been through were not as many as they seemed to be; we have enjoyed them in an exaggerated form too.
If one were to enjoy one’s happiness with awareness, we would find that happiness becomes very small too. If we were to live through misery with the same kind of awareness, we would find it becomes very narrow as well. The greater the awareness, the narrower and smaller the pains and miseries. They become so small that, in a deeper sense, they turn out to be meaningless. In fact, their meaning lies in their expansion. They seem to be encompassing one’s entire life. However, when seen through great awareness, they go on narrowing down, ultimately becoming so meaningless they don’t have anything to do with life as such.
The second thing that will happen is, when you look at your misery very closely, a distance will be created between you and the misery. In fact, whenever you look at a thing, immediately a distance is created between you and the thing itself. Seeing causes the distance. No matter what we look at, a distance immediately begins to take place.
If you look closely at your misery, you will find a separation between the misery and you, because only that which is separate from you can be seen. Obviously, that which is inseparably one with you cannot be seen. One who is aware of his misery, one who is filled with consciousness, one who is full of remembrance, experiences the misery as somewhere else, and he is somewhere at a distance.
The day a man comes to realize the difference between himself and the misery, as soon as he comes to know his pain is happening somewhere at a distance, the unconsciousness caused by misery ceases to exist. And once a person comes to understand that the sufferings as well as the happinesses of the body occur elsewhere, that one is merely a knower of them, his identity with the body is severed. Then he knows he is not the body.
This is the initial preparation. Once this preparation is complete, then it is easy to enter death with awareness. Not only easy, but it will happen most certainly. As such, we are not afraid of death really. After all, even to be afraid of death, one needs to be familiar with death. How can we feel afraid of something we know nothing about?
So, we have no fear of death really; rather, in our minds death exists in the form of a disease. That’s the idea we have of it. When even minor illnesses leave us in so much trouble – the foot hurts and we suffer so much, the head hurts and we suffer so much – what a torture it will be when the entire body will hurt and fall apart!
The fear of death is the sum total of all our illnesses. Death in itself, however, is not an illness. Death has nothing to do with illness – it is not even remotely connected with it. It is a different matter if illnesses precede death, but there is no cause-and-effect relationship between the two. It is beside the point that a man dies following an illness, but one need not be mistaken and think that illness causes death. Perhaps the reverse is the case.
Because a man comes close to death, he grabs on to illness. No one ever dies of illness. As death approaches, he begins to catch illnesses. As death draws near, his body becomes weak, his receptivity toward sickness increases. He becomes vulnerable; he begins to look for illnesses. The same illness would not be able to affect him were the man closer to life. Perhaps it would not have been able to catch hold of him.
Do you know there are some moments when you are more receptive to illnesses, while there are some when you are not? In moments of disappointment and sadness a person becomes vulnerable to illness, while a man full of hope and optimism becomes unreceptive to it. Even illness does not enter you without your willingness to accept it – your inner acceptance is needed.
Hence, no matter how many medicines are given to them, those who are of a suicidal mind can never be cured. Their minds remain unreceptive to medications. Their minds go on seeking illnesses, inviting diseases with open arms, but keeping their doors very tightly closed as far as medications are concerned.
No, no one ever dies of illness. Rather, one becomes vulnerable to illnesses because of approaching death. That’s why illness occurs first, then death follows. We normally think what happens first is the cause, and that which follows it is the effect. That’s erroneous thinking. Illness is not the cause. Invariably the cause is death. The illness is merely the effect.
So the fear of death in our minds is really the fear of illness. First of all, we create the fear of death by adding up all our illnesses. The second thing worth remembering is that all the people we have seen dying, we have not really seen them dying, we have only seen them falling ill. How can we ever see anyone dying? Death is such an utterly inner phenomenon; no one can be a witness to it. Think twice before you ever testify to seeing such and such a person die, because it is a very difficult thing to see someone dying. To this day it has never happened on this earth.
No one has ever seen anyone dying. Only this much has been seen: a man fell ill, grew more ill, and more and more ill, and one day it became known that the man is no longer alive. But basically, no one has ever seen when a person died. No one has ever been able to pinpoint at which moment a person died, and what exactly happened in the process of dying. The only thing we have seen is a man being set free from life.
We have not seen a boat touching the other shore; we have only seen it leaving this shore. We have seen a consciousness move away from the shores of life, and then after a certain point we have lost sight of it. The body that remains with us is no longer alive, as it was until yesterday, and so we think the man is dead.
For us, death is an inference; it is not an event that occurs right before us. We have seen sick people, we have seen the suffering of a dying man – the cramping of his limbs, his eyes rolling up, his face deforming, his jaws clenching; we have seen that perhaps the man wants to say something but cannot – we have seen all this. We have with us the sum of all this; it has become part of our collective mind. Whatsoever has been happening at the time of death over millions of years, we have collected it all. We are afraid of that.
We are also frightened of facing the same difficulties at the time of our death. Hence, man has devised very clever means. He has dismissed the fact of death from the whole idea of life. We create cemeteries outside the town so that we are not reminded of death more often. Really, ideally a cemetery should be created in the middle of the town, because there is nothing in life more certain than death itself: everything else is uncertain. Other things may or may not be. The only thing which one can believe in definitively is death. Death is the most certain thing; no one can doubt its existence.
We can doubt the existence of God; we can doubt the existence of the soul; we can doubt life itself, but there is no way to doubt death. Death is. That which is so certain we have put outside the town. If a funeral passes by, the mother calls her children to come inside the house, because somebody is dead. Actually, if someone is dead everyone should be asked to come out so they can watch the greatest fact of life passing by. Everyone is bound to pass through death. There is no need to deny it. But we are so scared of death we don’t even want to mention it.
I have heard…
An old woman came to see a monk and said. “The soul is indeed immortal.” Old people often talk about the immortality of the soul for no other reason than the fear of death. That’s the only reason why we find such a large number of old folks in temples, mosques, churches. Why aren’t young people and children interested in going to these places? It will be a while before they get the news of death. It will take a little time. They can afford to deny death for now; they can forget it for a while.
How can an old man forget death? He gets reminders every day. One day he finds his legs refuse to walk, another day his vision fails, sometimes his ears lose their hearing power. He receives hints from all around that, one by one, parts of his body seem to be giving in to death. Now he begins to rush toward the church, the temple, the mosque. He is not concerned with God; he goes there simply to make sure that, even though what he has understood life to be is coming to an end, will he perish too?
It is strange that societies which believe in the immortality of the soul are more frightened of death than ones which do not believe in the soul’s existence. Take our country, for example. For ages we have been firm believers in the immortality of the soul. And yet, no race on earth is more cowardly than ours, no people are more dead than we are.
A nation, which proclaims the soul is immortal, suffers in slavery for a thousand years. How strange! One wonders how a nation, which declares the soul is immortal and which is inhabited by eight hundred million souls, can live in slavery under the domination of three million. Those who believe the soul is immortal, that it can never die, what fear can they have of becoming slaves? What fear can they have of fighting the enemy? What fear can they have of facing death by hanging? How can guns and cannons frighten them? But no, something else is involved here.
Believing in the immortality of the soul is not the same as knowing the immortality of the soul. Believing in it is just a strategy for erasing the fear of death, for falsifying it – the same as creating a cemetery outside the town.
Every day people open their scriptures and read the teachings on the immortality of the soul so that they can be absolutely sure there is no death, so that they can carry the hope that they will survive – so there is no need to worry. They assert, “The body will die, but we will still survive!”
Who are you asserting as your existence other than the body? You have no knowledge of it. You announce, “The body may die, I will continue to live,” and the fact is you have absolutely no idea who you are other than the body! You don’t know what it is that will survive when the body is no more. If you should ever really think, “Who am l?” you will come to know that you know nothing about yourself except that you are the body.
So the old woman said to the monk, “I believe the soul is immortal. The soul is indeed imperishable. What do you say?”
About the immortality of the soul, the monk answered nothing. He merely looked at the woman, took her hand in his and said, “What do you think about death? Not much time is left.”
The woman was annoyed. She said, “What kind of ominous talk is this? Please don’t say such things. Being a monk, a good man, you should not talk about such ominous things.”
The monk said, “If the soul is immortal, then how can death be ominous? Death can be inauspicious only if the soul is mortal.”
But the woman continued, “Drop this and talk about something else. Talk about God, talk about moksha. I haven’t come to hear you speak about death.”
Actually, people go to monks precisely to hear things which can somehow comfort them and alleviate their fears. They want someone who can tell them, “You are not going to die.” They want to be told, “You are not a sinner; the soul is eternally pure, uncorrupted. Did you say you are a thief? Forget it, no one is a thief. Did you say you are a black marketeer? That’s all nonsense. Can the soul ever engage in black-marketing?”
The result is, all the black marketeers gather around monks who keep saying, “The soul is pure, without blemish. It has always been incorruptible, it can never be defiled.” And the man sitting in front, an old thief, nods his head in agreement and says, “You are absolutely right, your holiness! How true, your holiness!” He wants to believe, he wants someone to assure him that the soul is absolutely pure, so he can be free from the bother of becoming pure, so he won’t have to be worried about becoming impure – so there will be no more fear.
We need to have a good understanding of the reality on which this mental condition is fundamentally based. We are not afraid of death, we are afraid of illness. And we are afraid to part with what we call life.
For example, you push me out of this house. I have no idea what lies outside this house – whether there is a big palace, a forest, a desolate place, a desert – I haven’t the faintest idea. I am not sure whether I will be happy or unhappy outside the house. I don’t know at all. Although outside the door lies the unknown, yet the fear of leaving the house makes me miserable. The house was dependable, known, familiar. It is frightening to leave the familiar and go into the unfamiliar. The fear is not really of the unknown, because I have absolutely no knowledge of the unknown. The fear is having to leave the known.
You will be surprised, but the mind is so possessed by the known that we find it difficult even to let go of our known illnesses. It is even difficult to give up our known miseries. Most physicians hardly ever cure your illness, they merely persuade you to drop the illness. Most medicines do nothing to your illness, they simply give you courage to get rid of it.
Recently, a well-known scientist conducted many experiments in this area. He took twenty patients suffering from the same illness. Ten of them he treated with medicine, while he kept the other ten only on water. The interesting thing was that the patients in both categories recovered together. Now what does this mean? What it means is simply that it is neither a question of medicine nor of water. The big question is that of persuading a man to drop his illness. If water does this work, then the patient can be cured by water. If homeopathic sugar pills succeed, then he is cured by the pills. If a charm proves effective, then it can cure too. If a patient has faith in a pinch of ash given by a fakir, then it can cure him too. Faith in the water of the Ganges also does the trick. Everything works.
Even a highly intelligent man such as Aristotle has proposed remedies which make us laugh. He was, one should say, the father of logic. He has proposed incredible cures; he could not have suggested them had they not been effective. The cures did work. For example, he has written that when a woman is in labor, apply horse dung on her stomach and the pain will stop completely – a wise and intelligent man like Aristotle says this. Can it ever be possible that a woman can get over the pain of labor by applying horse dung on her stomach? But apparently it did work. The reason why a woman recovered from her labor pains is that basically a pregnant woman never has a pain in the stomach; she simply creates it while giving birth to a child.
The more frightened a woman is of giving birth the more her pain grows. And as she becomes fearful of the pain, she contracts the entire reproductive system. The child pushes its way out of her body, while the woman goes on contracting the whole system. This creates a conflict between the two, and the conflict causes pain. That’s why most babies are born at night – seventy percent of the babies – because the mother won’t allow the birth to happen in the daytime. She remains alert during the day and hinders the birth from happening. Hence, the baby is forced to take birth at night when the mother is asleep, when she is unaware. Therefore, seventy percent of the poor babies are unable to take birth in the daylight; they have to be born in the darkness of night.
There is a man called Levin. He teaches women to cooperate with their labor. He asks them to cooperate during childbirth, and has succeeded in having thousands of women deliver babies without any pain. He neither applies horse dung, nor gives an injection, nor ties a charm about a woman, nor brings any offering from a guru – he does nothing of the sort. He merely persuades the woman to cooperate. He advises women, “Allow the child to take birth without creating any hindrance; cooperate with the child. Be filled with the feeling of giving birth to the child. That will be enough, you won’t have any pain.”
There are hundreds of tribes where women do not go through any labor pains. They go on working in the fields, and when the time comes they give birth to the child. The mother places the infant in a basket and resumes her work in the field.
Man does not even give up those illnesses he has been suffering for so long, he holds tightly to them. People even insist on keeping their chains. This fact came to light during the French revolution. Some of the most dangerous prisoners were kept in a large prison. They were sentenced to life imprisonment. Their chains were never to be taken off; they were to remain in them forever. Only when they died would the shackles be removed.
The revolutionaries broke down the prison walls and brought the prisoners out of their cells. The prisoners had given up all hope of ever coming out. Some were imprisoned for twenty years, some for thirty, and some were in there for fifty years. They had become almost blind. Their chains had almost become parts of their bodies; one could not say they were separate from their bodies. There was no longer any separation left between their bodies and the chains. Do you think chains tied around one’s hands for fifty years would remain separate? They are bound to become part of one’s hands.
The man forgets the chains are not part of his body. He takes care of them in the same way he does his hands. He cleans and shines the chains every morning as he does his body – after all, the chains are to stay with him his whole life. If this is the case, then the whole matter is over.
So when the revolutionaries began cutting the chains from these prisoners, many of them objected. They told the revolutionaries that without chains they would feel very uncomfortable outside. But revolutionaries are always very pigheaded. They haven’t learned yet that you can’t be stubborn with people. If you force people to give up their existing chains, they will put on new ones. So the revolutionaries forcibly cut the chains and released the prisoners. What followed was incredible. By nightfall, more than half the prisoners returned, saying they didn’t like it outside, they felt they were naked without their chains on them.
Obviously, if you remove the many golden ornaments worn by a woman, she will feel naked, weightless. She will feel as if she has lost something, as if she has lost weight. So the prisoners said, “Give us our chains back. We couldn’t take a nap in the afternoon without the chains on us, how could we?” Even the sound of those chains became part of their psychological state. The added weight of chains had become so much a part of their psyche, their subconscious, that even while changing sides in sleep they felt it.
Man becomes so tied to the familiar that he feels hurt even breaking his chains. We are caught in the familiar, which we take as life. It is because of the grip of the familiar that we are so scared of death. In the first place, we have no knowledge of death. And the first principle for awakening is awareness of misery, so that one can know one is separate from the body.
The second thing is the ability to witness. It has never occurred to us that… Sometimes, walking in the middle of the marketplace, suddenly give a little jolt to yourself, and for two minutes just stand still. Just watch without doing anything – simply be a witness. The moment you stand as a watcher in the middle of the street, suddenly you will be severed from your surroundings and out of them. The moment you become a witness to something, you transcend it, you jump out of it. But it is very difficult to stand on a street and be a witness. It is not easy to be a witness even while watching a movie.
The darkness in the movie theater becomes quite convenient for people watching the movie. One can cry in that darkness without any feeling of embarrassment. If we examine the handkerchiefs of people as they leave the theater, we can find out what went on inside, how many people cried. We know very well nothing really takes place on the screen, it is just a screen. We also know perfectly well that what we see on the screen is merely an appearance, that nothing is happening there. It is simply a play of light and shadow, just a network of rays projected from the rear of the theater. The screen shows nothing except pictures. And yet, everything comes off on the screen, and we don’t remain a witness even to the screen; we become a part of it.
Don’t be under the illusion that while watching the film you really remain a watcher. Don’t be mistaken. You become a participant too; you don’t remain outside the film. Once you are inside the theater, for a short while you enter into the film as well. You begin to like someone in the film, and you dislike someone else. You feel sorry for somebody, while you feel happy about someone else. After a little while you become identified, you become a participant in the film.
It will be indeed difficult to remain a witness in life if we cannot manage to do so while watching a film. As such, life is nothing more than a film. If you look a little deeper, life is not very different from a movie. If you look even more deeply, you will find that just as the network of rays appears on the movie screen, the network of electricity appears on the screen of life.
Life is made up of a profound network of electricity. It is a great interplay of electrons. If the human body were to be dissected in every way, at the end you would find nothing except electrons. If we were to break down the wall of this room and look for the element it is made of, we would find that what is ultimately left is nothing but electricity. Then what is the big difference?
Really, what is the difference between a movie screen and the screen of life? We find the interplay of electrons on the movie screen too. The only difference is, on the movie screen the pictures are two-dimensional whereas on the screen of life they are three-dimensional. But that’s not much of a problem. It won’t be too long before other dimensions, now lacking in films, will be met.
Just as I see you now, someday one will be able to see people on the screen exactly like that. Without any difficulty, it will soon become possible for an actor to step out of the screen and walk around in the movie theater. It won’t be too long. It’s just a matter of developing the technique, which is not too difficult. If a three-dimensional man can move around on the screen, his stepping just ten feet off the screen and walking around the hall is simply a matter of a little advancement in technology. It’s not too difficult to foresee a film actress stepping from the screen, shaking hands with you, or caressing you.
Now, the reverse is happening: the heroine does not step out of the screen; rather, you enter the screen and pat her. You can be saved this trouble! It’s not good to cause you so much bother: you need not go through the inconvenience. It will become possible for you to remain seated in your chair and the heroine will come and caress you!
What goes on in life anyway? What transpires when I take your hand in my hand? When I hold your hand in my hand, you see it either as an expression of love or of enmity. It is just a matter of interpretation. In both cases the hand is held; the difference arises only in the interpretation.
When a hand is being held, in a moment both things can happen without much difficulty: initially the holding of hands can take place with the feeling of love, while in the end, the feeling of enmity may set them apart. This is not difficult to conceive. So much change comes about in a second.
When I hold your hand, you take it as my expression of love. But what is actually happening? Really, what is transpiring? If both our hands were to be examined, what seems to be going on? Some electrons are pressing against some other electrons. And the interesting thing is, my hand never touches yours. A space inevitably remains between the two. And sometimes it shrinks. When there is a distance the space becomes visible. As the distance shrinks, the space becomes less and less visible. If the distance becomes too narrow, the space disappears.
So when one hand is holding the other, there is always a space between the two. The pressure works on that very space, not on your hand. And in effect, the pressure of that empty space works on your hand. We interpret this pressure of the empty space as either love or enmity.
It is all a matter of interpretation. However, if one could become a witness and watch this holding of hands, an incredible thing happens. When someone holds your hand, don’t be in a hurry to see it as either love or enmity. Just remain a witness to the holding of hands, and you will feel a total transformation in your consciousness.
When someone’s lips are pressed on yours, forget about love etcetera, simply become a witness for a moment. You will have such a strange experience in your consciousness, one you may have never had before. Then it is possible you may laugh at yourself.
As long as you laugh at others, you are not a witness. The day you laugh at yourself, you become a witness. From that day on you begin witnessing. People all over the world laugh at others, only a sannyasin laughs at himself. And one who can laugh at himself has begun to see something.
Another thing is, be a witness in life – anywhere, any moment. For example, while eating, suddenly become a watcher for a moment: watch your hand picking up the food; watch your mouth chewing the food; watch the food reaching your stomach. Stand at a distance and simply watch. You will suddenly find the taste has disappeared. All of a sudden, the act of eating will take on a different meaning. You will find that you are not eating – food is being taken and you are merely watching.
There is a wonderful story. The story is…
Once a monk arrived on the outskirts of the town where Krishna lived. It was the rainy season and the river was flooded. The monk was on the other shore. The women of the village were anxious to feed the monk, but the river stood in the way. On their way they stopped by to see Krishna. They asked Krishna, “How are we to cross the river? The current is very strong, boats cannot cross. The monk has been without food for the last few days. Occasionally we receive some news about him. He is waiting on the other side, which is covered with thick forest. We must bring him food. Please show us a way to cross the river.”
Krishna said, “Go to the river and tell her if the monk has never had any food in his entire life, if he has always been on a fast, she should make way for you.” Since these were Krishna’s words, the women believed him.
The women went ahead. Addressing the river they said, “O river! If the monk has been on a fast for all of his life, then please give way so we can bring him food.”
The story goes that the river gave way. The women crossed the river and fed the monk. The food they had brought was more than enough, but the monk ate it all. When it was time to return, they realized all of a sudden they had not asked Krishna the key to finding their way back. Now they found themselves in great difficulty.
Earlier they had said to the river that the monk had been fasting his whole life, how could they say the same thing now? The monk was not an ordinary eater; saying he was on a fast was far from the truth – he had consumed all the food the women had brought. The monk didn’t even wait for the women to offer him second or third helpings. There were no leftovers.
The women became very concerned. The monk asked, “Why do you look so troubled? What is the matter?”
The women said, “We are in great difficulty. We only knew the device for coming here, we don’t know the key that will take us back.” The monk asked what the device was that had brought them to him. The women said, “Krishna told us if we wanted to cross the river, we should tell the river that if the monk is on a fast, it should make a way for us.”
The monk said, “So what is the problem? The same device will work again. The key which can lock can also unlock, and the one which can unlock can also lock. Use the same key again.”
The women said, “How can we use it now? You have already eaten the food.”
The monk burst into laughter, a striking sound on the bank of that river. The women were very puzzled. They said, “Here we are in trouble, and you are laughing!”
The monk said, “I am not laughing at you, I am laughing at myself. Go ahead and tell the river the same thing you said before. The river must have understood my laughter. Go and tell her once again.”
With great fear, great hesitation and uncertainty, they approached the river and said, “O river, please give way if this monk has not had any food his whole life.” They knew inside what they were saying was not at all true, but the river did make way for them.
The women were very puzzled. The miracle they had seen coming to this shore was nothing compared to what they saw on their way back. They went straight to Krishna and said, “This is too much! We thought you performed the miracle when we crossed the river the first time. But it is really the monk who performed the miracle. It was all right what we said on our way to see the monk, and it worked. But we said the same thing on our way back and the river gave way!”
Krishna said, “Of course, the river was bound to give way, because only he is a monk who never eats.”
“But we saw him with our own eyes devouring all the food we carried with us.”
Krishna said, “Just as you were watching him eat, the monk was watching himself eat as well – he was not the doer of his action of eating.”
This is only a story. Don’t ever try to cross a river like this, you might put some monk in trouble unnecessarily! No river will give way. And yet the fact remains, if we could also see ourselves in all our actions not as a doer but as a watcher, in all our actions, then dying is an act too – the final act.
If you can succeed in keeping yourself removed from your actions, you will be able to stay removed at the moment of death too. Then you will see. The one who was eating until yesterday; the one who was attending to his business, walking down the street; the one who quarreled, fought, loved, it is he who is dying. Then you will be able to watch one additional act, the act of dying. Exactly as other acts involved loving, running one’s business, being in the marketplace, dying will also be an act. You will be able to see the same person who did all these other things dying.
There was a Mohammedan fakir by the name of Sarmad. A very sweet but strange incident took place in his life. As has always happened, the maulvis, the priests, filed a suit against him. The priest has always been against the mystic. Sarmad was summoned to appear in the emperor’s court.
Mohammedans express their belief through a sutra, a maxim, and that is, “There is only one God; other than him there is no God. There is only one messenger of God and he is Mohammed.” But the Sufi mystics drop the latter half of the sutra. They repeat, “There is no other God than the one God,” but they drop the other half, “There is only one messenger of God and he is Mohammed,” because they believe there are many messengers of God. That’s why the Mohammedan theology has always been against the Sufis.
Sarmad was even more dangerous. He would not even repeat the Sufi sutra fully. He had even dropped half of that too. That sutra is, “Other than the one God, there is no God.” Sarmad used to repeat only the latter half “…there is no God.” Now this was too much. It was okay to drop Mohammed’s name; that would not have made him an atheist, it would have simply amounted to his not being a Mohammedan. However, just because one is not a Mohammedan does not mean one ceases to be a religious person. But what can you do with a man like Sarmad? He said, “There is no God!”
Sarmad was brought to the court. The emperor asked, “You say there is no God. Is it true?”
Sarmad answered, “I do say so.” And he proclaimed in a loud voice, “There is no God!”
The emperor asked, “Are you an atheist?”
Sarmad said, “No, I am not an atheist. But I have not known any God as yet, so how can I say God is? I say only as much as I know. In this sutra, so far I have come to know only one half of it, that there is no God. I don’t know anything of the other half. The day I come to know it, I will let everyone know. How can I lie about it if I don’t know? A religious man cannot lie.”
It was a difficult situation. He was ultimately executed, beheaded in front of the Jama Masjid in Delhi.
This is not a story. Millions of people watched him executed. As he was beheaded at the front door of the masjid, the mosque, and as the head started rolling down the steps of the mosque, a voice came out of the rolling head, “There is only one God. There is no God other than the one God.”
His lovers standing in the crowd said, “You crazy Sarmad, if you had to say it, why didn’t you say such a simple thing before?”
Sarmad said, “How can one know him until one has lost his head? Now that I know, I say there is God, that no God exists other than him. But how could I have said this without knowing?”
There are truths we come to know only by passing through them. The truth of death is one of these. But in order that one may know death, one needs to prepare while one is still alive. The preparation for death has to be done while one is still alive. One who fails to do so, dies a wrong death.
Living a wrong life may be forgiven, but dying wrongly can never be forgiven, because it is the ultimate point, it is the very quintessence, the finale of life. Some mistakes committed here and there in life may be overlooked, but a mistake at the last moment of life will become firmly and permanently established forever. And the interesting thing is, you can repent for the mistakes committed in life – they can be rectified – but there is no way one can rectify his mistake, repent and ask forgiveness for it after death. Death becomes the final seal. Hence, a life lived wrongly may be excused, but a wrong death cannot be.
Remember, how can one who has lived wrongly in the first place die rightly? After all, life is bound to come to an end; it is life which will ultimately reach a point from where it departs. In fact, whatsoever I was during my lifetime, I shall depart as the sum total of that at the final moment of death. At that moment everything in my life will stand before me cumulatively. At the moment of death I will be the sum of my whole life.
Let me put it this way: life is a spread out phenomenon; death is a condensed one. In other words, life is a vast expanse, while death is the total, cumulative, condensation of this whole expanse – the abridgment of it. Death is very atomic. Everything has come together in one atom; that’s why there is no other phenomenon greater than death. But it occurs only once. This does not mean, however, that you have not died before. No, it has occurred many times before, but it occurs only once in one lifetime. And if you have lived this life remaining asleep, then death also takes place in the state of sleep. It comes anew in the next life, and again occurs only once.
So keep in mind, one who dies a conscious death takes a conscious birth in the next life – that becomes the other part of his dying. And the life of one who dies and takes birth consciously functions on a totally different plane. For the first time, he is able to grab hold of the entire meaning of life, of the whole purpose of life, of the heights and depths of life, precisely and consciously. He is able to grasp the whole truth of life.
So, I have mentioned two things. First, in order that you may have a conscious death, become alert to the suffering, be aware of it. Don’t run away from pain, don’t escape from misery. The second thing I said, while moving around and performing your day-to-day activities, suddenly stop and become a witness for a moment. Then resume your activity. If you can become a witness even for a few moments in twenty-four hours, you will find all of a sudden what a big madhouse this world is, and how, by becoming a witness, you step out of it.
When someone swears at you, immediately you become such a recipient you lose sight of the person swearing at you. As soon as he swears at you, you receive it. In fact, you receive it even before the words leave his lips. You receive the whole of it before the swearer has even managed to complete it. Actually, you receive twice as much as is sworn at you. Even the person swearing is taken aback to see how you received more than he swore. You completely fail to see what is happening.
If you could really see… Next time when someone swears at you, become a watcher, don’t be a receiver. Just be there and watch the person swearing at you. It will cause you to laugh at yourself, and the laughter will be liberating. You will laugh at your being the constant recipient of profanities all through your life. Perhaps you may even thank him and go your way. Doing so, you may leave the poor man guessing, because such an act would be beyond his comprehension. He would be totally at a loss.
In a period of twenty-four hours, whatsoever may happen – in anger, in hate, in love, in friendship, in enmity, while walking, resting, whatever – watch it sometimes for a moment, just for a moment. Give yourself a jolt just for one moment and watch what’s happening with awareness. At that moment don’t be a recipient, simply be a watcher of whatever is happening. Such calm will surround you in that moment: you will become so very aware, because at that moment you will be filled with meditation. That very moment of awareness is the moment of meditation.
If one could carry on these two experiments, then the rest of the things you have asked will follow. For instance, you ask, “If a seeker practices celibacy, will it help in death? Will he attain awareness?” In fact, he alone can attain celibacy who becomes a witness, not otherwise.
One who indulges is sure to remain sexual. An indulgent person means one who is lustful. He wants to indulge in sex. If one could be a witness, lust and sex would slowly and gradually disappear from one’s life. If a man could become a witness during intercourse, perhaps he would never enter into it again because everything would seem so meaningless, so worthless. Everything would look so childish that he might come to feel, “What’s going on? What’s happening? What’s all this anyway? How have I managed to do this up to now? Why has all of this such a hold over me?” But since we don’t become a witness, we keep on repeating it.
Actually, don’t ever be a witness if you wish to continue repeating your mistakes. Every mistake will then repeat itself. Then again, every mistake has its own season, just goes on recurring. If you could keep a daily record of your life for a few months, you would immediately find yourself to be one of those who are periodically mad.
Just this afternoon I received a letter from a friend. He becomes insane every six months, and for the other six months he remains sane. He often used to ask me why this happens to him. I said, “You are able to know the difference because the duration of your sane and insane states is clearly defined. This is not so with other people. They remain insane half a dozen times and are sane half a dozen times during the day; hence they are not able to figure it out. You stay insane for a solid period of six months and remain sane for another whole six months. The contrast is very clear.” Ordinarily, a person goes mad ten times a day and behaves normally the other ten. Neither does he know nor do other people know when he is sane and when he is insane.
If, for a few months, you could keep a complete record of what goes on in your life, it will immediately become clear to you that all things repeat themselves. For example, anger recurs at almost the same time each day. Each day, you not only feel hungry at a fixed time, you get angry at a fixed time too. You feel hungry exactly at eleven o’clock. As soon as the clock strikes eleven or twelve or one in the afternoon, whatever, you feel hungry. At whichever time you take your meals, you feel hungry at that particular time. The body tells you it is hungry. In the same manner, you feel angry, sexual, loving, at a set time. These are all hungers too, and they arise at a fixed time.
You go on repeating the same mistakes, because you have never tried to realize the fact that whatsoever you do is all mechanical routine. And occasionally, this creates a problem. For example, you are hungry and there is no food around. Only then do you come to know you are hungry. If you find food when you are hungry, you will never know what hunger is. The matter is taken care of.
Similarly, when you are angry and there is no one around to vent your anger upon, only then can you know what anger is. But you do find someone around. Sometimes it happens that you are hungry and there is no food around, but it is very rare that you may not find anyone on whom you can air your anger. And when there is no one at hand, a person takes his anger out on inanimate objects. If nothing else, he bangs his fountain pen, swearing at it. If this man ever becomes aware of what he has done, what will he think of himself? What will this man think, really?
A great deal of research is being done in America to find the psychological causes for car accidents – in a large number we seem to be responsible. In a state of anger, a man presses the accelerator harder without being aware of it. Perhaps, mentally, he may be pressing his wife’s head, or his son’s throat, but in that particular moment his foot is on the accelerator. In this case the accelerator is a substitute for his wife or son. He goes on pressing and forgets he is driving a car. In fact, he is riding on his anger, but no one knows what he is doing. The danger is obvious.
The car has nothing to do with this man’s anger; the car has no knowledge of his anger. So far, we have not been able to create a built-in system, such that the car will refuse to move if the driver is angry. We have not been able to develop any such mechanism. The man presses the accelerator, and the car takes it to mean he wants to raise the speed. The car doesn’t know it needs to go slow at that moment. It doesn’t realize the man is in a dangerous situation, that the man is unable to see anything at that moment.
Within a period of twenty-four hours, the moments of anger, the moments of sex, keep recurring. We move in a set pattern like a machine. If you wake up and see, you may ask, “Am I really living, or am I just moving in a circle like an ox at a wheel?” Living, obviously, cannot be similar to being an ox at a wheel. How can there be any life in moving round and round like an ox at a wheel? The ox simply moves mechanically. Has this ever occurred to you?
I was reading a book about a marvelous man who has done a wonderful experiment. He observed that you come across a man on the street and he says, “Hello, how are you?” and you answer, “I am fine, thank you.” You may not have realized that the man neither cared to listen to your reply, nor had he asked the question with the intent of hearing your answer. He must be wanting to ask something else. Since it would have looked a little odd to start off abruptly, he began by asking, “How are you?”
Even on the phone, the man asks, “How is your health?” – Although he couldn’t care less about your health; he has never been concerned about your health, nor will he ever be. Hence, no matter what reply you give, he is never going to listen to it. He will skip your answer and start talking about something else.
So the man decided to perform an experiment. One morning, someone called him on the phone and asked, “Hello, how are you?” And the man answered, “My cow gives a lot of milk.”
The other fellow said, “That’s good! How is your wife?” Hearing this, the man found out that no one really listens to what you say. We take things absolutely mechanically.
For example, there is a man who overeats. Now he is not even aware why he overeats. Has it ever occurred to you that when you are angry you eat too much? Have you ever kept account of it? Have you ever noticed consciously that you eat more when you feel the lack of love? Have you ever kept any record of it? Have you ever discovered consciously that when one’s life is filled with love, one doesn’t eat much? When a man meets his beloved, he loses his appetite. The hunger disappears in moments of love. But when love is absent, he begins to eat voraciously. Why? There is a mechanical system, a long lasting psychological conditioning at work behind it.
A child receives both love and food from his mother. The very first experience of love for a child is that of receiving food. If the child does not receive food from the mother, he feels a lack of love; when she offers him food he feels love. So food and love are not two separate things in the child’s initial experience; food and love are synonymous for him. For a child, the first experience of food and love is one and the same.
If a mother loves her child a lot, he drinks less milk, because he is always assured that he will have milk anytime, that he need not worry about the future. Hence, he doesn’t find any necessity to overfill his stomach. So a child whose mother loves him a great deal will take less milk. A mother who does not love her child, who feeds him milk unwillingly, indifferently, who is always pushing the child away – that child drinks more milk, because he is not sure. The mother may give him milk after a while, or may not. Who knows how long he may have to remain hungry?
Lack of love prompts the child to take in more food, while the abundance of love makes him take in less. This becomes part of his psychological conditioning. Whenever love flows in his life, he eats less. He begins to overeat when love stops coming to him, although now the connection is not so apparent, now it is just a mechanical routine.
I was reading someone’s biography. This man has traveled all over the world. In whichever country he went, he had to fill in all kinds of forms. He couldn’t understand why he had to undergo the torture of filling out all these forms. So he started filling in absurd details. He did this everywhere he traveled. No government questioned him. He would write his age as five thousand years, and no one objected. Who reads these forms? Who bothers? Who is interested? Nobody cares. Life goes on absolutely off guard, mechanically. All answers are mechanical. Someone asks, “How are you?” You answer, “I am okay.” Even computers can do this job. One computer asking, “How are you?” Another computer answering, “I am okay.” That’s how it is going on really. There is no consciousness, no alertness, no awareness – nothing.
One needs to become a little aware of all this. One needs to be a witness. Just stop for a moment. Make any moment the moment to become alert. Give yourself a sudden jerk and look around in amazement. Just remain a watcher.
If you can prepare yourself in these two areas, you will become less and less angry because a witnessing consciousness can never be angry. In order to be angry, one has to become identified, one has to become unconscious. A witnessing consciousness will go on attaining to celibacy because it cannot be consumed by sexual desire. A man of witnessing consciousness can never over eat; hence he doesn’t need to take a vow to diet. Although we are not aware of it, food in itself is not the cause of our overeating. The reason lies much deeper.
Hence, people who feel a lack of love start overeating. But if you become aware of it, you will be greatly amazed. The question is not of taking a vow to eat less when you are overeating; the question is that something like love has not happened in your life. If you realize this, then you are able to catch hold of the root causes of the fundamental problem. Where does the trouble lie? What is really the matter?
One man suffers from overeating. He goes to a temple and vows before a muni, a monk, to eat once a day. However, he now consumes twice or three times more food during his once-a-day meal. He suffers from hunger the whole day and contemplates food the whole time. He turns into a maniac. Then he no longer remains just hungry, he goes crazy. He develops a craze for food. Then for twenty-four hours food becomes his sole concern.
Now in this country there are thousands of monks who live, brooding twenty-four hours a day about food. They are maniacs, they are mad. They don’t realize what they have done to themselves, what kind of madness they are into. They are preoccupied with the thought of food all the time, as if that is the only subject left in the world to worry about, as if brooding about food from dawn to dusk is the only object in life. They think the problem will be taken care of if they work out the eating arrangement exactly as they want it to be.
When he was in America, Vivekananda had said, “My country would not have been ruined had our religion not become a religion of the kitchen. That caused its disaster.” Can a religion remain worth its name if it turns out to be a religion confined to the kitchen? The reason why this happens is because we don’t wake up and see our inner conditioning – what we do, and when.
For example, there is a man and he is an alcoholic. People are after him: they want him to give up drinking. The man wants to give up drinking too, but he never cares to figure out why he goes on drinking anyway. Why does he wish to become unconscious? There must be something in his life he wants to forget all about, something which he would rather not remember. There is something in life he would like to draw the curtain on.
If this man could become aware of the thing he is trying to forget, perhaps some solution might be found. But instead he puts a cover on it. He goes on putting cover after cover, because there is something hidden behind it which he does not want to be exposed. Then his life becomes a continuous running about to cover things, and everything turns out a lie. Finally, a day arrives when it becomes difficult for the man even to figure out why he had wanted to forget things in the first place. He himself will have forgotten all about it. He himself will have no idea when and why he started drinking.
A man goes on puffing, dragging on a cigarette the whole day. Someone may ask, “What can the reason be? Why does he go on inhaling and exhaling smoke like that? There must be a secret behind this taking in and letting out smoke, because it is hard to imagine people all over the world smoking for nothing.”
If he watches closely, a smoker can find out what makes him smoke a cigarette. Whenever he feels lonely, whenever he is without company, he immediately goes for a cigarette. He uses the cigarette as a companion, a rather inexpensive companion. It causes no problems. You can put it in your pocket, carry it wherever you like. You can sit alone and start working on it anytime. It’s an occupation. In a sense, it’s an innocent occupation; you are not causing any harm to anyone. You are harming yourself, more or less. You are just throwing the smoke out; you are just being occupied – that’s all.
Once I was traveling in a train. When traveling by train, it is my habit to sleep quietly as much as I can. A man traveling with me in the same compartment was bothered very much by my sleeping. He tried to wake me up several times. When I got up after six hours, took a bath, and got ready to go back to sleep again, the man could contain himself no longer. He said, “What in the world are you doing? I have read the same newspaper ten times, opened and shut this window several times, and here you are sleeping blissfully. I have never smoked as many cigarettes. It would be good if you stayed up.”
He was right. Man is lonely even in a crowd. There are so many people around – the wife, the sons, the daughters, the father, the mother, the whole family, such a mob, and everything else…. And yet man is lonely.
So far we have not been able to eliminate man’s loneliness, so he goes on doing something or other to escape his loneliness. He smokes, he plays cards. He plays cards not only with others, but even with himself. The craziness reaches its limit when a man plays both hands. You can find even the most intelligent man doing this.
It seems even the so-called most intelligent man is not really intelligent. Why? One will have to become aware of this state; one will have to witness it. If this man, who plays both hands, could be filled with awareness for a moment and see the whole thing as a witness, would he not laugh at himself as you just did? Indeed he would laugh. He would wonder, “What is happening? What am I doing to my life?”
If this should become apparent, then one doesn’t have to take a vow or an oath. Then one doesn’t have to renounce anything; things which are worthless drop by themselves. If a man grasps the root causes and goes on becoming deeply aware of them, he reaches the point from where the causes can be rooted out without any difficulty.
Remember, you will be in trouble if you begin pruning the leaves of a tree, because once a leaf is pruned it is replaced by four new leaves. The tree believes you are interested in grafting, it is not at fault. The tree feels maybe you want four leaves, that’s why you are pruning one, so it produces four leaves. When you see the four leaves, you panic and prune all four of them. That gives rise to sixteen new leaves!
No, things are to be rooted out – simply pruning the leaves won’t help. We have no idea of roots; we merely go on playing with leaves.
There are people who take a vow of celibacy. Once a friend of mine and I were guests in Calcutta. Our host was a seventy-year-old man, one of the most honest people I have known. Confiding in me one day, he said, “Please tell me, what shall I do? I have taken a vow of celibacy three times in my life.”
What the old man said was fine, but the amazing thing was that my friend became very impressed by him. He exclaimed, “Three times?”
I told my friend, “Do you understand what taking a vow three times means?” Then I asked the old man, “Why didn’t you take it a fourth time? Did your vow succeed the third time?”
He said, “No, the third time I lost my nerve.” He was an honest man indeed. Taking the vow three times obviously means he broke it each time. And breaking the vow each time, the disappointment and frustration was bound to become profound. Breaking the vow three times, the loss of his self-confidence was sure to intensify. There was no way he could have shown any more courage to take the vow a fourth time.
So I told the man, “The monk who made you take the vow was, in fact, your enemy. You took him for a friend. He broke your will completely. Now even at the age of seventy you have no courage left to take a vow of celibacy.” What’s the reason? The leaves. You pluck one leaf, and three more come out. Can there be any vows of celibacy?
There are no vows of celibacy. One only needs to have an understanding of what sexual desire is. You need to become aware of sex. The fruit of celibacy comes from the awareness of sex. When a person becomes aware of his sexual desire, probes into it, understands it, lives it, recognizes it, he suddenly realizes the game in which he is engaged.
This game is no different from the game of cards I mentioned earlier. This whole game of sex is nothing but laying down playing cards. When this awareness reaches the depths of his being like an arrow, all of a sudden a man finds himself rising to celibacy, brahmacharya, celibacy is not some kind of a vow.
Remember, religion has nothing to do with taking vows. People who take vows are never religious; they can never be. A religious man is one in whose life vows blossom like fruits – as a consequence. The more he goes on watching life, the more he sees certain things constantly changing.
For example, a man is holding colored stones. You may cry in vain and tell him to throw the stones away, but he won’t listen. Although they are colored stones, he sees them as colored diamonds. Looking at their shine and luster, he thinks they are diamonds. Obviously, how can he let them go? The man says, “We consider those people who gave them up, as gods. We are ordinary people, we can’t cast them away.”
The same man, when he comes across a diamond mine, sees diamonds all over. Now, will we need to convince him he should get rid of his colored stones? Before he realizes what has happened, he will have already dropped the stones, run and filled his hands with diamonds. If one were to ask him later on what he did with the stones he was holding in his hands, he might say, “I am glad you reminded me. I had completely forgotten about them. I don’t know what happened to them. I don’t know when they were dropped.” When diamonds are in sight, one needs to empty his hands immediately.
Life is a positive ascent; it is not a negative descent. Life is a positive achievement, not a negative renunciation. As the witnessing consciousness grows deeper, new planes of bliss come to light. The layers of misery go on falling away; much garbage is thrown out. You keep throwing pebbles away, and diamonds begin to appear in your hands. These two things, the dropping of the nonessential and the acquiring of the essential, will always apply in following the points you have raised in your question.
So let your awareness of misery become intense, sharp. In that state, stop identifying with your body. Let your consciousness not become one with your body. And in all your day-to-day activities and operations, be a witness, not an experiencer.
Let me tell you a short story to explain to you what I mean. I have always loved this story.
Just recently, it seems the birthday of Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar was celebrated. Once he went to see a play. Ishwarchandra was a very well-known figure of his time, a very intelligent man. He was the honored guest and was seated in the first row. The play was in progress and there was a scene in which the villain is after the heroine to harass her. He tries to give her a hard time in every possible way. The scene reaches its climax when, finally, on a dark night in a thick forest, the villain catches hold of the woman. It is a very dark night. Everything is quiet; there is not a soul around. The villain grabs the woman. The woman screams, but her cry simply echoes in the stillness of the forest.
Ishwarchandra was watching the scene. He was a nice man. He couldn’t take the villain’s behavior any more. He lost his control. He got so enraged that he completely forgot it was just a play. He took off his shoe, jumped on the stage, and began pounding the villain. He started beating the actor! The actor took Ishwarchandra’s shoe and placed it on his forehead to show his gratitude.
The actor showed more understanding than Ishwarchandra. Addressing the audience, he said, “Never before have I received a greater award than this. It is indeed a tribute to an actor’s skills that an intelligent man such as Ishwarchandra should take the play to be real.”
Addressing Vidyasagar, the actor said, “Sir, I shall treasure this shoe; I won’t return it to you. This is my greatest reward.”
If a person such as Vidyasagar took a play to be real, how can ordinary people like us comprehend what it means to take as play what we hold to be real? But with a few experiments of being a witness, we will be able to understand what it means: reality will begin to look like a drama. If this happens, then it is possible to enter death with awareness.
From And Now and Here, Chapter Twelve
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