You have talked about how the subtle body can be separated from the physical body using one’s willpower. Can the subtle body of a seeker who follows the discipline of witnessing, or that of a seeker who follows the discipline of tathata, suchness, be separated without exercising the will?
To follow the discipline of witnessing requires a great resolve. Following the discipline of tathata requires even greater resolve. It is the greatest resolution ever. When a man determines to live like a witness, that in itself is a great resolution. For example, a man decides he will not eat. He resolves to remain hungry for the day. Another man decides he will eat, but instead of watching himself eat, he will eat watchfully. This is a more difficult resolution.
It is not too difficult to give up food. The truth is, for those who have plenty to eat, it is easy to go without food for a day or two. That’s why in an affluent society the cults of dieting and fasting become popular. For example, in America the idea of dieting has become very popular. People immediately become attracted to naturopathy.
When people have enough to eat, the idea of fasting once in a while appeals to them. It seems to make one feel lighter and more cheerful. In fact in a poor society, staying hungry may be a kind of use of one’s willpower. But in an affluent society it’s a matter of convenience. Actually, if food becomes sufficiently available throughout the world, fasting will turn out to be a necessity for everyone. People will have to remain with empty stomachs once in a while. But witnessing is a very difficult thing.
Let’s understand it this way. For instance, you make a decision that you won’t walk, that you will remain seated in the same chair for eight hours. Now this is not a big thing. You decided not to walk, so you are not walking. Someone else decides he will walk for eight hours — this is not a big thing either, because since he decided to walk, he is walking. But witnessing means you’ll walk, and at the same time you will also know that ‘you’ are not walking. What does witnessing mean? It means you’ll walk as well as know that it is not ‘you’ who is walking — that ‘you’ are simply witnessing the act of walking. This is a much more subtle resolution, a supreme resolution indeed.
Tathata, suchness, is the supreme most resolution; it’s the ultimate resolve. There is no determination higher than this. Even the resolve to enter death voluntarily is not so great a resolve really. Tathata means accepting things as they are. In a way, even the resolve to die voluntarily has its roots somewhere in non-acceptance. That is, we want to know what death is; we want to verify whether death actually occurs or not.
Tathata means, if death appears we will die; if life remains we’ll continue to live. Neither are we concerned with life, nor with death. If darkness falls we’ll stay in the dark; if the light appears we’ll settle with light. If something good comes to us we’ll receive it; if something bad befalls us we’ll bear it. Whatsoever happens, we are willing to accept it — we deny nothing. Let me explain this to you with an example.
Diogenes was passing through a forest. He walked around naked — had a beautiful body. It seems quite possible man must have started wearing clothes in order to cover his ugliness. This seems highly possible. We are always interested in hiding the ugly parts of our body. But this man Diogenes was a very handsome man. He lived naked.
So as he was passing through the forest, four men engaged in the business of capturing and selling slaves saw him. They figured if they could capture this man — good looking, strong, powerful – they may receive a good price for him. But they felt very apprehensive and couldn’t find any way to capture him without risking their lives.
Somehow, they tried and managed to surround him. Diogenes stood in the middle, calm and unperturbed. He asked, “What do you want to do?” The men were very surprised. They took out chains. Diogenes stretched out his hands. Full of fear and with trembling hands, the captors began to chain him.
Diogenes said, “No need to tremble. Come; let me tie the chains for you.” He helped them put on the chains. The men were simply flabbergasted.
After having chained him firmly, they said, “What sort of a man are you? We are putting you in chains and you are helping us! We were afraid this might lead to some fighting and trouble.”
Diogenes said, “You are having fun chaining me, I am having fun in being chained. Where is the need for any trouble? It’s great! Now tell me, where do we go from here?”
The men said, “We feel very embarrassed in telling you that we are in the business of slavery. We’ll now take you to the marketplace and put you up for sale.”
Diogenes said, “Good, let’s go.” He took off with great excitement and began walking even faster than the captors.
They said, “Please slow down a little. What’s the hurry?”
Diogenes said, “Now that we are going to the marketplace, why not reach in time?”
So finally they reached the marketplace. It was very crowded. Those who had come to buy slaves turned their eyes toward Diogenes. They had rarely seen a slave of this quality, because he looked more like an emperor. A huge crowd gathered around him. He was made to stand on the platform where the slaves were auctioned. Raising his voice, the auctioneer said, “Here is a slave for sale. Come forward and name your price.”
Diogenes said, “Shut up, you fool! Ask these men, did I walk in front, or did they? Did they tie the chains on me or did I let them tie the chains on me?”
His captors said, “The man is right. Left to ourselves, we don’t believe we could have captured him. And indeed he walked ahead of us so fast that we could not keep pace with him — we had to practically run behind him. So it is not correct to say we have brought him to the marketplace. The truth is, we have followed him to this place. And it is not right to say we have made him a slave. The fact is, this man agreed lo become a slave, we didn’t make him.”
Diogenes said, “Stop talking nonsense you fools, and let me do my own auctioneering! Besides, this man’s voice is not loud enough, no one will be able to hear him in this large crowd.”
So Diogenes raised his voice and said, “A master has come here for sale. Anyone interested in buying him should come forward.” Someone from the crowd asked, “You call yourself a master?”
Diogenes said, “Yes, I call myself a master. I tied the chains on my own. I have come here on my own, willingly. I stand here for sale of my own free will. And I shall leave whenever I choose to leave. Nothing can happen against my will, because whatsoever happens I make that my will.”
Diogenes is saying, “Whatsoever happens, I make that my will.” This man has indeed attained to tathata, suchness. What it means is: whatever goes on, he is ready for it. He resists nothing at all. In no way can you defeat him, because he will already be a defeated man; you cannot beat him because he will readily allow you to hurt him; you cannot subjugate him because he will readily submit. You can’t do anything to such a man, because no matter what you do, he will not resist. This is indeed a demonstration of a truly supreme resolve.
So tathata is the ultimate will. One who has attained tathata has attained God. Therefore, the question is not whether a seeker who follows the discipline of witnessing, or one who follows the discipline of tathata would attain the same as a seeker who attains by following the discipline of will. It is already attained by him without any problem.
The discipline of will is the most elementary. The discipline of witnessing is of the intermediary kind, and tathata is the ultimate sadhana, the ultimate discipline. So start with the practice of will, take a voyage through witnessing, and reach ultimately to tathata, suchness. There is no conflict among the three.
Please explain the difference between witnessing and tathata.
In witnessing, the duality is present. The witness finds himself separate from that which he experiences.
If a thorn pricks his foot, the witnessing man says, “The thorn has not pricked me, it has pricked my body — I am only the knower of it. The piercing has occurred at one place, while the awareness of it is present somewhere else.”
So in the mind of a witness there exists a duality, a separation between the experiencing of an event and the actual occurrence of it. Therefore, he cannot rise up to the state of advaita, nonduality. And this is why the seeker who stops at the level of being a witness, a watcher, remains confined to a kind of dualism. He ultimately divides the existence into conscious and unconscious. Conscious means the one who knows, and the unconscious means that which is known. So eventually he is bound to end up dividing existence into purusha and prakriti.
Both of these words, purusha and prakriti, are highly significant. Perhaps the true meaning of prakriti may not have occurred to you, prakriti doesn’t mean ‘nature’; in fact, there is no word for prakriti In English. Prakriti means that which was in existence before everything came to be — pra-kriti. Prakriti does not mean srishti or nature, because srishti means that which exists after creation. The word prakriti means that which was before creation.
The word purusha is also very meaningful. The equivalents of such words are extremely difficult to find in any other language of the world, because all these words are born out of very special experiences. You know what pur means; pur means the city. For example, Kanpur, Nagpur. So pur indicates the city, and the one who resides in the city is the purusha. The human body is like a town, a city, and there is someone who resides in it — he is the purusha. Prakriti, therefore, is the pur, and the one who lives in it – – separate, unattached — is the purusha.
So the witness comes as far as the separation of purusha and prakriti. He will set them apart as two entities — the conscious and the unconscious, and a distance will be created between the knower and the known.
Tathata is even more remarkable — the ultimate. Tathata means, there is no duality. There is neither a knower nor is there anything to be known. Or, in other words, the knower is the known. Now it is not that the thorn is hurting me and I am aware of it; or that the thorn and I are separate from each other. It is not even that it would have been better if the thorn had not pierced me, or that it would be good if the thorn came out — no, there is nothing of this sort. Now, everything is accepted: the presence of the thorn, the pricking of it, the awareness of being pricked by it, the experience of pain — everything. And they are different parts of the same thing. Therefore, I am the thorn. I am the very occurrence of pricking. I am the awareness of this occurrence. I myself am the very realization of this all — I am all of this.
That’s why there is no going beyond this ‘I’, my very being. I cannot think, “It would have been better if the thorn had not pricked me” — how can I? For I am the very thorn, the pricking of it, and the knowing of being pricked as well. Nor can I think, “It would be good if the thorn didn’t prick me,” because that would be tantamount to tearing myself apart from my very own being.
Tathata is the ultimate state there is. In that state, whatsoever is, is. It’s a state of the ultimate acceptance of that-which-is. It contains no distinctions. But one cannot reach tathata without having been first a witness. However, one can stop at the level of witnessing, if he so desires, and choose not to arrive at tathata. Similarly, without the use of will, one cannot attain the state of witnessing. Although, having gained willpower, one may wish to stay there and not come to the point of witnessing.
One who stops with attaining firmness of resolve would of course become very powerful, but he won’t be able to attain wisdom. And therefore, the ability to make a resolve can be misused, because wisdom is not required to attain it. One will surely gain a lot of power, but that is precisely why he can abuse it.
The entire black magic is a product of willpower. One who practices it gains a lot of power, but he lacks wisdom totally. He can end up using that power without any discrimination.
A man of will becomes filled with power. It is difficult to predict right away what use he will make of it. He can obviously put it to bad use. Power in itself is neutral. Nevertheless, it is necessary — whether one intends to use it for good or for evil. And as I see it, rather than remaining a weakling, it is better if one uses his power for evil purposes — for the simple reason that one who commits an evil act now may someday use the same power for a good cause. One who cannot do evil can never do good either. That’s why I say it’s better to be powerful than to be impotent and a wimp.
So a man of power can set out on the path of good as well as evil. It is better to follow the course of goodness, because if followed rightly, it will bring you to the state of witnessing. You won’t end up as a witness if you follow the course of evil; rather, you will simply wander around within the confines of your willpower. Then you will get into mesmerism and hypnotism, tantras and mantras, witchcraft and voodooism. All kinds of things will crop up, but they won’t lead you on a journey toward the soul.
This is becoming lost. The power will indeed be there, but gone astray. If the power is put on the course of goodness, it is sure to give rise to the witness within you, and ultimately that power can be used to know and attain oneself. This is what I call the course of goodness. By the course of evil I mean controlling, possessing, enslaving the other. This is what black magic is. Making use of the power for the purpose of attaining oneself, knowing who am I, what am I, and living authentically, is moving in goodness. And it will indeed lead one toward becoming a witness.
If the urge to attain the state of witnessing is satisfied with the knowing of oneself, the seeker reaches up to the fifth body and stops there. However, if the urge is further intensified, one discovers that he is not alone, he contains everything; that the sun and the moon and the stars, the rocks, the soil, the flowers are all part of him; that his very being, his existence incorporates all the rest. If the seeker proceeds with such an intense feeling, he reaches tathata.
Tathata, suchness, is the ultimate flowering of religion, it is the supreme achievement. It is total acceptance. Whatsoever happens, one is open and agreeable to it. Only such an individual can become totally silent, because even a little bit of resentment can prolong the restlessness. One’s restlessness and tension will continue to remain if he carries even a small degree of complaint. Even the slightest idea, “It didn’t happen the way it should have,” and the tension will continue to persist.
The experience of supreme silence, the experience of the greatest freedom from tension, and that of the ultimate liberation is possible only in the state of tathata. However, only a man of will can eventually attain the state of witnessing, and only his going deeper into witnessing can bring him to the state of tathata. One who has not yet known what being a witness means can never know what total acceptance is.
One who hasn’t realized that he is separate from the thorn which is pricking him is not yet ready to know that the thorn is a part of him. In fact, one who comes to experience the separateness of the thorn can take the next step of feeling one with the thorn as well.
So tathata is the fundamental principle. Among all the spiritual disciplines discovered all over the world, tathata is the greatest. That’s why one of Buddha’s names is Tathagat. It would be good to have some understanding of what this word tathagat means. It will be useful in comprehending the meaning of tathata.
Buddha has used the word Tathagat for himself. He would say, for instance, “Tathagat said….” Tathagat means thus came, thus gone. Just as a breeze comes and goes away without any purpose, without any meaning. Just as a breath of air enters your room and goes out — without any reason. So the one whose coming and going away is as unmotivated, as desireless as the breeze, such a being is called Tathagat. But who would come and go like a breeze?
He alone can pass like a breeze who has attained to tathata. Only he to whom the coming and the going makes no difference can move like a breeze. If he needs to come, he comes; if he needs to go, he goes — the same as Diogenes did. It made no difference to him whether people put him in chains or did not put him in chains. Diogenes said later on, “Only one who is prone to be a slave can be nervous about becoming a slave. Since no one can make me a slave, why should I be afraid I might be taken as a slave?
One who carries even the slightest anxiety that he may be turned into a slave, he alone will remain in fear of it. And one who has such a fear is indeed a slave. Since I happen to be the lord and master myself, you can never enslave me. Even in chains, I am the master, and will remain so in your prison as well. It makes no difference where you throw me; I still remain the lord and master. My mastership is total and complete.”
So the journey consists of this: from will to witness, and from witness to tathata.
From And Now and Here, Chapter 15
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