For me it’s either high-energy excitement where life is wonderful and a joy to be alone; or very often these days there’s a quietness that’s dull and boring. In the one there’s juice but no awareness, and in the other there’s awareness but no juice. Is there a knack in bringing these two together?
It is a very simple thing. You say you have moments of great ecstasy, full of juice, but you become drowned in that juice; the ecstasy is so overwhelming you forget to be watchful. You become immersed in that ecstasy; the witness is not there. And then you say there are moments when you are sad, bored, but the witness is there.
You just have to put things in their right place. Start from your boredom and sadness, because the witness is there and the witness is going to be the bridge. So when you are sad and bored, just watch it, as if it is something outside of you – it is. You are always a witness – now you are witnessing sadness and boredom.
It is easy to witness sadness and boredom, because who wants to get immersed in boredom? But this is of tremendous importance because you can learn the whole art while you are bored.
Just watch it, and as your witnessing grows you will see there is a distance between you and the boredom, the sadness, the misery, the pain, the anguish. You are not part of all that experience; you are standing high above on the hills, a watcher on the hills, and everything else is moving down deep in the dark valley.
You already have the secret, just practice it more and more. Just sit by the side of a donkey, sit by the side of a buffalo; go on looking at the buffalo and you will be bored! All around you can find objects which will be immensely helpful for you. You need not wait for moments to come, because who knows when the buffalo will come to you? Why not go to the buffalo?
You can just go to our cattle, sit amongst them, and you will be bored. Those cattle will go on munching the grass – do you think you will start munching the grass? You will not get involved in that. Sitting amongst the cattle, amongst the buffaloes, you will find yourself just a witness.
Don’t become sad, don’t become bored. Let the boredom be there, let the sadness be there; you remain just a witness. And it is easier in such situations.
Once you have strengthened your witness, then let those moments of ecstasy, heights… try your witnessing then. It will be a little difficult there; one wants to jump into that groovy space. Who wants to sit on the bank and watch? – because one is afraid one may be simply watching and the moment will go.
Don’t be worried. If you witness, the moment will remain there and will grow deeper, bigger, more colorful. But not at any point have you to become identified with it. Remain detached, just a spectator.
The art is the same; whether it is boredom or ecstasy does not matter. What matters is that you are not involved, you remain aloof, you remain standing there.
There is a Zen story I have loved very much. Three friends had gone for a morning walk, and then they suddenly saw on the hill a Zen monk standing.
One of the friends said, “I think he must have come with his friends; they must have been left behind and he is waiting for them.”
The other said, “I cannot agree with you, because seeing that man I can say one thing is certain; he is not waiting for somebody who has been left behind, because he never looks back. He is just standing like a statue. Anybody who is waiting for somebody who is left behind will once in a while look, to see whether the fellow has come or not. But he is unmoving.
“He is not waiting for any friend. I think… I know this monk; he has a cow and the cow must have been lost in the thick forest. And that is the highest place from where he can look all over the forest and find the cow.”
The third man said, “You have forgotten your own argument. If he was looking for the cow then he would be looking all around. He would not just stand there like a statue, focused in one direction; that is not the way of looking for a lost cow.” He said, “As far as I can tell, he is doing his morning meditation.”
But the other two said that the basic philosophy of Zen is that you can meditate anywhere, you can meditate doing anything. What was the need to go to that hill in the early morning, in the cold, and stand there to meditate? “He could have meditated in his cozy monastery where they have a special meditation temple. He could have been there – what was the need to go? No, we cannot agree.”
They argued; finally they said, “It is better we go to the hill. It will be a waste of time but there is no other way to settle what he is doing.” Such is the curiosity of the human mind – very monkeyish.
Now why trouble yourself? Let him do whatever he is doing. If he is searching for his cow it is his business; if he is waiting for his friend, it is his friend; if he is meditating it is his business – why should you poke your nose into it? But that’s how people are.
They became so excited arguing with each other that they decided, “We have to go.” They forgot that they had come just for a small morning walk, and going to the hill will take hours, then coming down the hill… the sun will be almost directly overhead. But the question… they have to come to a conclusion. And in fact they want to prove that “I am right.” Each of them wants to prove that “I am right.” Now the only man who can decide is that monk.
They reached – huffing, puffing. The monk was standing there with half-closed eyes. That is the Buddhist way – to keep the eyes half closed when you are meditating, because if you close your eyes completely you may doze into sleep; that is more possible than going into meditation. If you keep your eyes fully open you will get interested in thousands of things. A beautiful woman passes by, and meditation is lost, anything can disturb. So keep the eyes half closed so you don’t see exactly what is happening outside, and you have to keep your eyes half open so you don’t fall asleep.
The first man asked, “Master, we have heard much about you but we never had any chance to come to your monastery. Fortunately, we had come for a morning walk and we saw you. We have a question I want you to answer: Are you not waiting for somebody who has been left behind?”
The monk with half-closed eyes said, “I have nobody, I am alone. I was born alone, I will die alone, and between these two alonenesses I am not trying to fool myself that somebody is with me. I am alone and I am not waiting for anybody.”
The second man said happily, “Then certainly your cow has got lost in the thick forest and you must be looking for it.”
The monk said, “It seems strange idiots have come here! I don’t possess a single thing. I don’t have any cow, the monastery has it; that is not my business. And why should I waste my time looking for a cow?”
The third man was immensely happy. He said, “Now you cannot deny: you must be meditating. Is it not so? – you are doing your morning meditation!”
The monk laughed; he said, “You are the worst idiot of the three! Meditation is not done, it is not a doing. You can be in meditation but you cannot do it. It is a state. So certainly I am not doing meditation. I am in meditation, but for that I need not come to this hill; anywhere I am in meditation.
Meditation is my consciousness.
“So you all get lost! And never disturb anybody who is standing with half-closed eyes, remember it.”
But they all three said, “Forgive us – we are stupid, certainly we are stupid to walk miles and to ask you such…. We are feeling embarrassed. But now that we have come and now that we accept we are stupid, just one question from all of the three, not separate: Then what are you doing?”
And the master said nothing.
In that nothing is the witness.
When you witness, you will be surprised that the boredom, the sadness, the blissfulness, the ecstasy – whatever it is – starts moving away from you. As your witnessing goes deeper, stronger, becomes more crystallized, any experience – good or bad, beautiful or ugly – disappears. There is pure nothingness all around you.
Witnessing is the only thing that can make you aware of an immense nothingness surrounding you.
And in that immense nothingness…. It is not empty, remember. In English there is no word to translate the Buddhist word shunyata. In that nothingness… it is not empty, it is full of your witness, full of your witnessing, full of the light of your witness.
You become almost a sun, and rays from the sun are moving into the nothingness to infinity.
One of the Indian mystics, Kabir, has said, “My first experience was that of a sun, and as my experience went on growing… the outer sun is nothing; the inner sun is infinite. Its light fills the whole infinity of existence. And in that moment I am only a witness; I am there.”
So start witnessing your boredom, sadness, because the question is not the object, the question is the art of witnessing. So use any object – anger, hate, love, jealousy – anything will do. If you cannot find anything just put up a mirror and look at your face and witness it. And you will be surprised, immensely surprised; when you are in a complete state of witnessing the mirror becomes empty, you are not there.
In total witnessing the object disappears.
You will be able for the first time to see the mirror just as nothingness.
Start from things which are easier, and then go on moving to things which are groovier. The bridge is simple.
From From Death to Deathlessness, Discourse #24
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