These techniques are concerned with emptiness – they are the most delicate, the most subtle. Even to conceive of emptiness seems impossible. Buddha used all these four techniques for his disciples and bhikkus, and because of these four techniques he was totally misunderstood. Buddhism got completely uprooted from Indian soil just because of these four techniques.
Buddha said that there is no God. If there is God, you cannot be totally empty. You may not be there but the God will be there, the Divine will be there. And your mind can deceive you, because your Divine may be just your mind playing tricks. Buddha said that there is no soul, because if there is any soul, atma, you can hide your ego behind it. Your ego will be difficult to leave if you feel that there is some self within you. Then you cannot be totally empty because you will be there.
Just to prepare the ground for these techniques of emptiness, Buddha denied everything. He was not an atheist but he appeared to be an atheist because he said that there is no God, he said there is no soul, he said there is nothing substantial in existence – existence is empty. But this was just to prepare the ground for these techniques. Once you enter emptiness you have entered all – you may call it the Divine, you may call it God, or atma, soul, whatsoever you like – but you can enter the truth only when you are totally empty. Nothing should be left of you.
Hindus thought that Buddha was destroying religion, that he was teaching irreligion. And people who heard him, even they couldn’t follow, because whenever you go somewhere, you go to seek something – you never go to seek emptiness. So those who went to hear him were seeking something – nirvana, moksha, the other world, heaven, truth – but they were seeking something. They had come to gratify their ultimate desire: to find the truth. That is the last desire. And unless you are completely desireless, you cannot know the truth; the very condition of knowing is to be totally desireless.
So one thing is certain, you cannot desire truth. If you desire it, the very desire will become the barrier. There were masters before Buddha who were teaching, “Don’t desire, be desireless.” But they were talking about God, about the kingdom of God, heaven, paradise, moksha, the ultimate freedom and liberation – and they were saying, “Be desireless.” Buddha felt that you cannot be desireless if there is something to be attained. You may pretend that you are desireless, but this pretension, desirelessness, is also from some desire to be fulfilled. It is false. The masters say that you cannot attain to ultimate bliss with desire, and you want to attain ultimate bliss – so you start being desireless, you try to be desireless, so that you can attain the ultimate bliss. But the desire is there. You are trying to be desireless just because of the desire. So Buddha said that there is no God to be attained. Even if you desire, there is no one to be attained… so be desireless. There is no moksha somewhere, there is no goal. Life is meaningless and goal-less.
His emphasis is beautiful and wonderful – no one has tried that way. He destroyed all the goals just to help you to be desireless. If the goals are there, how can you be desireless? And if you are not desireless, you will not attain to the goal – this is the paradox. He destroyed all the goals – not that those goals are not there, they are there and they can be attained – but if you want to attain them, if you desire to attain them, it becomes impossible. The very basic condition is you must be desireless – then the ultimate happens to you. So Buddha says there is nothing to be desired, desires are futile. Drop all desires and when there is no desire you will be empty.
Just imagine, if there is no desire within you, what will you be? You are nothing but a bundle of desires. If all desires go, you simply disappear. Not that you will not exist – you will exist, but as an emptiness. You will be there, just like a vacant room: no one is there, just a sunya, a nothingness. Buddha has called this nothingness anatma, anatta, no-soulness. You will not feel any center, that “I am”; there will be just “am-ness”, no “I” to it, because “I” is nothing but accumulated desires, condensed desires, crystallized desires – many, many desires have become your “I”.
It is just as in physics. Physicists say that if you analyze matter, then matter is nothing but atoms; there is nothing to join the atoms, each atom is surrounded by vacant space. If you have a rock in your hand, there is no rock, just atoms of energy, and between two atoms, infinite space. Even a rock is spacious, porous. They say that soon we will be able to pull that space out from anything.
H.G. Wells has written a story.
In the twenty-first century, a passenger starts calling for coolies in a big station. Other passengers who are traveling in the same compartment with this passenger cannot understand, because he has no luggage, just a packet of cigarettes and a small matchbox. That is all his luggage. And he goes on calling for coolies. A big group gathers and a passenger asked, “Why? Why are you calling? You don’t have anything. You can carry this matchbox and this packet of cigarettes yourself. What are you going to do with these two dozen coolies?” The passenger laughs and he says, “Try, try that matchbox. That matchbox is not ordinary. One railway engine is condensed into it.”
It is possible soon. Space can be pulled out and then it can be again forced in, and the engine will take its shape again. Then big things can be carried without much problem. The weight will remain the same but the shape, the form, will become smaller and smaller. A matchbox can contain a railway engine, but the weight will remain the same, because space has no weight. You can pull out the space but you cannot pull out the weight. The weight will remain the same because weight is contained by the atoms, not by the space. They say that the whole earth can be condensed into the form, the shape, of one apple, but the weight will remain the same. And if you pull apart all these atoms; if you take one atom out, and then another, and then another; if you take all the atoms out, nothing will be left behind – so matter is just an appearance.
Buddha has analyzed the human mind in a simpler way: he is one of the greatest scientists possible. He says your ego is nothing but desires, atomic desires. There are millions of desires; they make you. If you go on pulling out desires one by one, a moment will come when there is no desire left, you have disappeared… just space, just vacant space remains. And this, Buddha says, is nirvana. This is the cessation of your being completely; you are no more. And Buddha says this is silence: unless you are completely gone, silence cannot descend on you. Buddha says you cannot be silent because you are the problem; you cannot be peaceful because you are the disease; and you can never be blissful because you are the only barrier. The bliss can come at any moment but you are the barrier. When you are not, bliss will be there; when you are not, peace will be there; when you are not, silence will be there, when you are not, ecstasy will be there. When your inner being is totally empty, this emptiness itself is bliss. That’s why Buddha’s teachings are called sunyawad, the philosophy of emptiness, or the philosophy of zero.
These four techniques are to attain this state of being, or you can call it this state of no-being – there is no difference. You can give it a positive term, as Hindus and Jains have called it, soul, or you can give it a more appropriate but negative term, as Buddha has called it, anatta, no-selfness or no-soulness. It depends on you. But whatsoever you call it, there is no one to be named and called, there is just infinite space. That’s why I say that these are the ultimate techniques, the most delicate, the most difficult – but the most wonderful. And if you can work with any of these four techniques, you will gain the unattainable.
From The Book of Secrets, Discourse #79
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See the first technique Suppose Your Passive Form to be an Empty Room.