Considering the example of sensual instinct, kindly explain what are the practical ways to encounter the unconscious mind, and how can one know that one has become free from it?
The unconscious is not really unconscious. Rather, it is only less conscious. So the difference between conscious and unconscious is not of polar opposites, but of degrees. Unconscious and conscious are related, joined; they are not two. But our ways of thinking are based on a particular false system of logic which divides everything into polar opposites.
Reality is never divided like that; only logic is divided. Our logic says either yes or no; our logic says either light or darkness – and there is nothing in between as far as logic goes. But life is neither white nor black. It is, rather, a great expanse of grey. One extreme becomes white, another extreme becomes black, and life is a great expanse of grey, degrees of grey. But for logic white and black are realities and there is nothing in between – but life is always in between these two. So, really, every problem should be understood not as a logical problem, but as a life problem – only then can you do something with it. If you are too fixed with this false logic, then you will never be able to solve any problem.
Aristotle has proved to be one of the greatest menaces, blocks to the human mind, because he created a system – which became dominant all over the world – that divides everything into two opposites. Really, this is a strange fact. We have nothing for the in between reality – not even words.
De Bono, a modern non-Aristotelian logician, has created a new word – “po”. He says that we have only two words, “yes” or “no”, and there is no neutral word. “Yes” is one opposite, “no” is another – there is no neutral word. So he has coined a new word – “po”. “Po” means “I am neither for nor against.” If you say something and I say “po” it means, “I have heard you I am neither for nor against. I am not making any judgment.” Or, to say “po” means: “Perhaps you are right, perhaps you are wrong. Both are possible.” Or the use of the word “po” means: “This is also one point of view. I need not be on the ‘yes’ side or the ‘no’. It is not a compulsion.”
De Bono has derived this word from words like hyPOthesis or POtentiality. This “po” is a neutral word, not loaded with any judgment, condemnation or appreciation. Just use the word “po” and you will feel the difference. You are not taking any standpoint in the polar opposites.
So when I say “conscious” and “unconscious”, I don’t mean the Freudian opposition. For Freud, conscious is conscious and unconscious is unconscious. The difference is that of white and black, yes and no, life and death. When I say “unconscious” I mean “less conscious”. When I say “conscious” I mean “less unconscious”. They overlap each other.
So what to do to encounter the unconscious? As far as Freud is concerned the encounter is impossible. Because it is unconscious, how can you encounter it? The question means the same as if someone says, “How to see in darkness?” Mm? The question is irrelevant, meaningless. If you put it in this way, “How to see in darkness?” and if I say, “With light,” then the question has not been answered at all because you ask, “How to see in darkness?” and if there is light then there is no darkness – you are seeing light.
So, really, in darkness no one can see. When we say “darkness” we mean that now seeing is not possible. What do you mean when you say “darkness”? You mean that now seeing is not possible. What do you mean when you say “light”? You mean that now things can be seen. Really, you have never seen light: you have only seen light reflected in things which you can see. You have never seen light itself – no one can see it. We see only things, not light, and because things are seen, we assume, infer, that light is there.
You have not seen darkness; no one has seen it. Really, darkness is just an inference. Because nothing is seen, you say there is darkness. So when someone asks, “How to see in darkness?” the words look meaningful, but they are not. Language is very deceptive, and unless one becomes careful in using language one will never be able to solve any problem. Ninety-nine percent of problems are just linguistic problems, but if you don’t know how to penetrate the garb of language you will never be able to tackle the real problem.
If you ask Freud how to encounter the unconscious, he will say, “It is nonsense; you cannot encounter it. If you encounter it, it will become conscious, because encountering is a conscious phenomenon.” But if you ask me how to encounter the unconscious, I will say, “Yes, there are ways to encounter it” – because for me, the first thing to be noted is that “unconscious” means simply “less conscious”. So if you grow more conscious, you can encounter it – so it depends.
Secondly, unconscious and conscious are not fixed boundaries. They change every moment – just like the retina of the eye. It is changing constantly. If there is more light, it is narrowed down. If there is less light, then it widens. It is constantly making an equilibrium with the light outside. So your eye is not really a fixed thing; it is constantly changing. Just like that is your consciousness. Really, to understand the phenomenon of consciousness by the analogy of the eye is very relevant, because consciousness is the inner eye, the eye of the soul. So just like your eye, your consciousness is constantly expanding or shrinking. It depends.
For example, if you are angry, you become more unconscious. The unconscious is now more spread, and only a very minor part of you remains conscious. Sometimes even that part is not there either – you become completely unconscious. But in a sudden accident: you are on the road and suddenly you feel that an accident is going to be there and you are on the verge of death – you suddenly become conscious and there is no unconscious at all. The whole mind is conscious. And this change is continuously taking place.
So when I say conscious and unconscious, I don’t mean any fixed boundaries. There are none, there are no fixed boundaries. It is a fluctuating phenomenon. It depends on you to be less conscious or more conscious. You can create consciousness; you can train and discipline yourself for more consciousness or for less consciousness. If you train yourself for less consciousness, you will never be able to encounter the unconscious. Really, you will even become incapable of encountering the conscious.
When someone has taken some intoxicant, he is training his mind to be totally unconscious. When you go into sleep, or if you can be hypnotized, or if you can auto hypnotize yourself, then you lose consciousness. There are many tricks, and many of those tricks which help you to be more unconscious are even known as religious practices. If you do any monotonous, repetitive thing – for example, if you go on continuously saying “Ram-Ram-Ram-ram”, in a very monotonous tone, you will become less conscious. And this constant repetition of “Ram-Ram-Ram”, in a monotonous tone, will be just auto-hypnotic. You will go to sleep: it is good for sleep.
If you can create monotony then you will be less conscious, because a bored mind cannot remain conscious. The boredom is too much, and the mind would like to go to sleep.
We know, every mother knows, how to put a child to sleep. A lullaby does nothing but create boredom. Every mother knows how to put a child to sleep. With a lullaby – a constant repetition of certain words – the child is bored, so he goes into sleep. This lullaby can be created by movement, by anything which is monotonous – by anything! Just move the child monotonously, rotate the child monotonously, and he will go to sleep because he feels bored. Even if you put the child’s head near your heart he will go to sleep, because your heartbeat is a very boring thing. So put the child near your heart, and he will feel bored because of the constant repetition of the heartbeat. The child knows it very well because for nine months continuously he has heard it. Even old persons can use the “tick-tick” of a clock for going into sleep, and the reason is only the resemblance to the heartbeat. So if you feel that sleep is not coming, just concentrate on your clock and feel the beat, and soon you will drop into sleep.
You can create unconsciousness by creating boredom. By taking any intoxicant, by taking any drug, any sedative, any tranquillizer, you can create unconsciousness. Consciousness also can be created, but then quite different methods have to be used.
Sufi mystics use whirling dances. With such vigorous whirling you cannot sleep. It is impossible. How can you fall asleep when dancing? Someone seeing your dance may go to sleep; for him it may become a boring thing – but you cannot go. So Sufis use dance to create more activity inside, more vitality, so that consciousness spreads. And these dances are not really dances. They look like dances. The Sufi who is doing the dance is constantly remembering every movement of the body. No movement should be done unconsciously. Even if a hand is raised, then this hand must be raised with full consciousness that you are raising the hand – now the hand is raised; now you are dropping it again. No movement should be allowed unconsciously. You are whirling around, dancing vigorously; no movement is to be made unconsciously. Every movement must be done consciously, with full alertness.
Then suddenly the unconscious drops, and with three months of dancing continuously, for hours, you encounter the unconscious. You penetrate deep, deep, deep, and suddenly you become aware of everything that is inside. That is what I mean by encountering the unconscious. Nothing remains which is not in clear vision. Your totality, all your instincts, all your suppressions, your whole biological structure, everything – not only of this life, but of all lives – suddenly is revealed. You are thrown into a new world which was hidden or, rather, to which you were not alert. It was there, but you were asleep – or your consciousness was so narrowed down that it escaped.
Your consciousness is just like a torch – narrowed. You enter darkness with a torch; you have a light, but it is a narrow, focused light. You can see something, but all else remains in darkness. When I say that nothing unconscious remains, I mean unfocused consciousness – unfocused. A focused consciousness will always choose something to see and choose many things not to see; it is a choice. So I use the similarity: just like a torch, narrowed down. One point will become very clear, but everything else will be in darkness. This is what we ordinarily do through concentration.
The more you concentrate, the less you will be able to encounter the unconscious. You will be able to know something very definitely at the cost of not knowing many things. That’s why experts, by and by, become just ignorant – ignorant of the whole world: because they have narrowed down their minds to a particular thing in order to know more about it. So it has been said that an expert is a person who knows more and more about less and less. In the end, only a point remains focused which he knows at the cost of ignoring everything else.
This is how concentration works. So through concentration you can never encounter the unconscious. You can encounter the unconscious only with meditation – and this is the difference between concentration and meditation. Meditation means your mind working not as a torch but like a flame: everything is enlightened around it – everything. It is not narrowed down; the light is diffused. It is not moving in one direction – it is moving in all directions simultaneously so the whole is enlightened.
How to do it? I said Sufis use dance as an active meditation and then they can encounter the unconscious. Zen monks in Japan use absurd problems to encounter it. You face some problem which cannot be solved – which cannot be solved at all! Howsoever you try, the problem is such that it cannot be solved. They call such problems “koans” – absurd problems.
For example, they will say to some seeker, “Find out what your original face is.” And by original face they mean the face you had before you were born, or the face you will have after you die – the original face. They will say, “Find out how your original face looks.” How can you find it out? One has to meditate on it. The problem is such that you cannot solve it by intellect, by reason. You have to ponder over it, meditate over it, go on meditating and searching: “What is my original face?” And the teacher will be there with his staff, and he will look around to see if someone is going into sleep. Then the teacher’s staff will be on your head. You cannot sleep; sleep is not allowed at all. You have to be constantly awake.
So a Zen teacher is a hard taskmaster. You have to meditate before him, and he will not allow you to drop into sleep – because the moment when you are dropping into sleep is the moment to encounter the unconscious. If you can remain out of sleep, then the unconscious will be revealed – because that is the line. The very line from where you drop into sleep is the line where you can enter into the unconscious.
You can try this. You have been sleeping every day, but you have not encountered sleep yet. You have not seen it – what it is, how it comes, how you drop into it. You have not known anything about it. You have been dropping into it daily, coming out of it, but you have not felt the moment when sleep comes on the mind – what happens. So try this, and with three months’ effort, suddenly, one day, you will enter sleep knowingly: drop on your bed, close your eyes, and then remember, remember that sleep is coming and “I am to remain awake when the sleep comes.” It is very arduous, but it happens. One day it will not happen, one week it will not happen. Persist every day, constantly remembering that sleep is coming and, “I am not to allow it without knowing. I must be aware when sleep enters. I must go on feeling how sleep takes over, what it is.”
And one day, suddenly, sleep is there and you are still awake. That very moment you become aware of your unconscious also. And once you become aware of your unconscious you will never be asleep again in the old way. Sleep will be there, but you will be awake simultaneously. A center in you will go on knowing. All around will be sleep, and a center will go on knowing. When this center knows dreams become impossible. And when dreams become impossible, daydreams also become impossible. Then you are asleep in a different sense, and then you will be awake in the morning in a different sense. That different quality comes by the encounter.
But this may look difficult, so I suggest to you a simpler exercise to encounter the unconscious. Close the doors of your room and put a big mirror just in front of you. The room must be dark. And then put a small flame by the side of the mirror in such a way that it is not directly reflected in it. Just your face is reflected in the mirror, not the flame. Then constantly stare into your own eyes in the mirror. Do not blink. This is a forty-minute experiment, and within two or three days you will be able to keep your eyes unblinking.
Even if tears come, let them come, but persist in not blinking and go on staring constantly into your eyes. Do not change the stare. Go on staring into the eyes, your own, and within two or three days you will become aware of a very strange phenomenon. Your face will begin to take new shapes. You may even be scared. The face in the mirror will begin to change. Sometimes a very different face will be there which you have never known as yours.
But, really, all these faces belong to you. Now the subconscious mind is beginning to explode. These faces, these masks, are yours. Sometimes even a face that belongs to a past life may come in. After one week of constant staring for forty minutes, your face will become a flux, just a film-like flux. Many faces will be coming and going constantly. After three weeks, you will not be able to remember which is your face. You will not be able to remember your own face, because you have seen so many faces coming and going.
If you continue, then any day, after three weeks, the most strange thing happens: suddenly there is no face in the mirror. The mirror is vacant, you are staring into emptiness. There is no face at all. This is the moment: close your eyes and encounter the unconscious. When there is no face in the mirror, just close the eyes – this is the most significant moment – close the eyes, look inside, and you will face the unconscious. You will be naked – completely naked, as you are. All deceptions will fall.
This is the reality, but the society has created many, many layers in order that you will not be aware of it. Once you know yourself in your nakedness, your total nakedness, you begin to be a different person. Then you cannot deceive yourself. Then you know what you are. And unless you know what you are you can never become transformed, because any transformation becomes possible only in this naked reality: this naked reality is potential for any transformation. No deception can be transformed. Your original face is now here and you can transform it. And, really, just a will to transform it will affect the transformation.
But you cannot become transformed! You cannot transform your false faces. You can change them, but you cannot transform them: by “change” I mean you can replace them with another false face. A thief can become a monk, a criminal can become a saint. It is very easy to change, to replace the masks, the faces. These are not transformations at all.
Transformation means becoming that which you really are. So the moment you face the unconscious, encounter the unconscious, you are face to face with your reality, with your authentic being.
The false societal being is not there, your name is not there, your form is not there, your face is not there. The naked forces of nature are there, and with these naked forces any transformation is possible – and by just willing it! Nothing is to be done. You just will, and things begin to happen. If you face yourself in this nakedness, just will whatsoever you like, and it will be.
In the Bible it is said: “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” In the Koran it is said: “God said, ‘Let there be the world,’ and there was the world.” Really, these are parables – parables of the willpower which is hidden in you. When you encounter your naked reality, the basic, elemental forces, you become a creator, a god. Just say, utter a word, and it happens. Say, “Let there be light,” and there will be light. Before the encounter, if you are trying to transform darkness into light it is not possible. So this encounter is basic, foundational, for any religious happening.
Many, many methods have been invented. There are sudden methods, there are gradual methods. I have told you about a gradual method. There are sudden methods, but with a sudden method it is always very difficult – because with a sudden method it can happen that you may simply die. With a sudden method it can happen that you may suddenly go mad – because the phenomenon is so sudden that you cannot conceive of it. You just drop, shattered.
This happened in the Gita. Arjuna is forcing Krishna to reveal his cosmic form. Krishna goes on talking about other things, but Arjuna is persistent and he says, “I must see. I cannot believe unless I see. If you are really a god, then reveal to me your cosmic from!” Krishna reveals it, but it is so sudden, and Arjuna is not prepared at all. He begins to cry and says to Krishna, “Close it! Close it! I am scared to death!”
So if you come to it through some sudden method, it is dangerous. Sudden methods are there, but they can be practiced only in a group – in a group where others can help you. Really, ashrams were created for these sudden methods because they cannot be practiced alone. A group is needed, adepts are needed, and a constant vigilance is needed, because sometimes you may drop unconscious for months continuously. Then if there is no one who knows what to do, you may be taken for dead. You may be buried or burnt. Many times, Ramakrishna happened to go into deep Samadhi. For six days or for two weeks continuously he had to be forcefully spoon-fed because he was just as if unconscious. A group is needed for sudden methods, and a teacher becomes an absolute necessity.
Sudden methods dropped from Indian practices because of Buddha, Mahavir and Shankaracharya because they insisted that monks should travel continuously. They didn’t allow monks to be in ashrams. They were not to remain anywhere for more than three days. There was a need for this because at the time of Mahavir and Buddha, ashrams became just exploitation centers; they became just big businesses. So Mahavir and Buddha both insisted that a sannyasin shouldn’t remain anywhere more than three days. And three days is a very psychological limit, because in order to be attuned with some place or with some people you need more than three days.
In a new house, you cannot feel at ease unless three days have passed. This is a psychological attuning time. If you remain in a house for more than three days, then the house begins to look as if it is yours. So a sannyasin must not remain anywhere more than three days. Buddha and Mahavir insisted. But because of their insistence, ashrams were destroyed and school methods dropped out of practice – because a wandering monk cannot practice sudden methods. He may be in a village, but no one may know anything about it, and if he practices a sudden method and the happening happens, then he will be in danger: he will have to die.
So Mahavir, Buddha and, later on, Shankaracharya, all these three, insisted that monks go on wandering continuously. They must not remain in one place; they should be homeless wanderers. So it was good in one way, and it proved bad in another. It proved good because establishments were destroyed, but it proved bad also because with establishments certain very, very significant practices, methods, just went into oblivion.
Sudden methods require the constant vigilance of a group. A teacher becomes a necessity. So Buddha could say, “You can know even without me,” but a Patanjali cannot say that. Krishnamurti can say, “No teacher is needed,” but a Gurdjieff cannot say that. And the real reason for these differences is their methods: Gurdjieff has school methods and Krishnamurti belongs to the tradition of wanderers, no school methods, so no teacher is needed.
With gradual methods you can proceed alone because there is no danger. You have to proceed inch by inch, and as far as a one-inch happening is concerned, you can control it yourself. But if you have to take a jump with no steps in between, then you will need someone who knows where you are going to fall, who knows what can happen. A teacher is not really needed to show you the methods; he is needed really, afterwards when the method has done something and you have moved into the unknown.
So there are sudden methods, but I will not talk about them. I have given you one gradual method, and there are many. I will not talk about the sudden methods because it is dangerous to talk about them. If someone is interested, then he can be led – but talking is impossible. That’s why school teaching has always insisted that nothing should be written – because once you write something it becomes public and anyone can do it. Anyone can become just a victim of his own curiosity, and then no help will be coming. So even when something is written about sudden practices, a basic link is always missing.
So those who begin practices through scriptures are always in danger, and many times it happens that they just go mad – because a missing link is always bound to be there, and that missing link is always supplied by word of mouth from the teacher to the disciple. And it is a private and secret process, the missing link. because that is the key. No scripture is really complete and no scripture can ever be really complete, because those who know can never write a thing completely. Something must remain hidden, as a key, so no one can use it. You can read about it, you can comment on it, you can write a thesis upon it, but you cannot practice it because a certain key is not given in the scripture itself. Or, if it is given, it is given in such a way that you cannot decode it; the technique to decode it is not given in it.
So nothing about sudden practices – but you can do something gradually. And this mirror meditation is a very powerful method – very powerful – to know one’s own abyss and to know one’s own naked reality. And once you have known it, you become the master. Then just say something, and things begin to take shape. In that encounter, if you say, “I must die this moment,” you will die that very moment. If you say, “I must become a Buddha this very moment,” you will become a Buddha that very moment. Time is not required at all – just a will.
You may begin to think that then it is very easy, but it is a difficult problem. First, to reach it is difficult, though not so difficult, but to will in that moment is very difficult. Such a vital silence takes you over, you cannot even think. Your mind cannot even move. You are in such awe, everything stops – even breathing. A very still moment, totally silent, and will becomes impossible. So one has to train oneself how to will in that still moment – how to will without words, how to will without thoughts. That is possible, but then one has to practice for it.
You are looking at a flower: look at the flower, feel the beauty of it – but don’t use the word “beautiful”, not even in the mind. Look at it, let it be absorbed in you, reach to it, but don’t use words. Feel the beauty of it, but don’t say, “It is beautiful,” not even in the mind. Don’t verbalize, and gradually you will become capable of feeling a flower as beautiful without using the word.
Really, it is not difficult: it is natural. You feel first; then the word comes. But we are so habituated with words that there is no gap. The feeling is there, and suddenly, you have not even felt, and the word comes. So create a gap. Just feel the beauty of it, but don’t use the word.
If you can dissociate words from feeling, then you can dissociate even feeling from Existence. Then let the flower be there and you be there as two presences, but don’t allow the feeling to come in. Don’t even feel now that the flower is beautiful. Don’t feel! Let the flower be there and you be there arrowed in a deep embrace without any ripple of feeling. Then you will feel beauty without feeling. Really, then you will be the beauty of the flower. It will not be a feeling; you will be the flower. Then you have existentially felt something. When you can do this, you can will. When everything is lost – thought, words, feeling – then you can will existentially.
To help this will, many things have been used. One is that the seeker must constantly go on thinking, “When the thing comes, when that happening happens, what am I going to be?” The sutras of the Upanishads like “Aham brahmasmi” – I am the Brahman – are not meant as literal statements. These sutras are not meant as statements, they are not meant as philosophical theories, they are meant to engrave a deep will in the very cells of your being. So when that moment comes, you don’t need your mind to tell you, “I am the Brahman.” Your body begins to feel it, your cells begin to feel it, your every fiber begins to feel it: “Aham brahmasmi.” And this feeling does not need to be created by you. It will have gone deep into your existence. Then suddenly when you encounter the unconscious and the moment of will has come, and you can become a creator – your whole existence begins to vibrate “Aham brahmasmi.” And the moment your existence begins to vibrate “Aham brahmasmi,” you become a Brahma – you become! Whatsoever you can feel, you become.
This should not be known as metaphysics – it is not! It is an experience. So you can know it only through experiencing. Do not decide whether it is right or wrong; do not think in terms of yes and no. Just say, “Po – okay,” and make some effort. Just say, “Okay! It may be.” Don’t decide – because we are very hasty deciders. Someone will say, “No, it is not possible.” Really, he is saying. “I am not going to try”; he is not saying it is not possible. He is deceiving himself. He is saying, “I am not going to try,” and because of this “I am not going to try”, how can it be possible? He is rationalizing for himself.
Someone else says, “Yes, it is possible. It has happened to many. It has happened to my guru, to my teacher, it has happened to this one and that.” He is also not going to try because he is making it a trivial fact: “It has happened to many, so it is not such a thing for which one has to try!” He feels, “It can happen to me also.” No, don’t say yes or no. Just take it as an experiment, a hypothesis, to be worked out. Religion is not a given thing; one has to create it in oneself. It is not something which is given to you or which can be given; it is something which you have to uncover in yourself.
So don’t decide unless you experience, don’t decide unless you know. Never decide beforehand. Otherwise, you can go on continuously listening to things, thinking about them, and doing nothing – because thinking is not doing; thinking is just an escape from doing.
From The Ultimate Alchemy, V.1 #6, Q1
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For a related post see A Still Mind: The Door to the Divine.