On which plane does the meditator reach the no-thought state? Are thoughts possible without identifying the consciousness with objects or is identity essential for thought?
The perfect no-thought state is attained in the fifth body but small glimpses begin from the fourth body. Thoughts continue in the fourth body but one begins to observe the gaps between two thoughts. Before the fourth there are thoughts and thoughts and only thoughts; we do not see the gap between the thoughts. In the fourth the intervals begin to appear and the emphasis changes. If you have observed gestalt images you will be able to understand this. Suppose there is a picture of a flight of steps: it can be so drawn that if you look attentively you will observe the steps going up; then if you look again you will see the steps coming down. But the most interesting part is that you cannot observe the steps going up and down simultaneously. You can see only one of the two. When you observe the second picture the first picture will have vanished.
We can make a picture in which two faces can be seen facing each other, complete with nose, eyes and beard. First it will appear as if two men are facing each other. Now paint the faces black leaving the intervening space white. Now you will say that there is a flower pot in this intervening space, and the nose and eyes become the outlines of the pot. You will not be able to see the pot and the two faces at one time. When you see the two faces the pot will not be seen; when the pot is observed the faces will vanish. No matter how hard you try to see them all together the gestalt will change its emphasis. When your emphasis shifts to the faces the pot will vanish; when the emphasis is on the pot the faces will vanish.
Up to the third body the gestalt of our mind has its emphasis on thought. Rama comes, so Rama is visible and his coming is visible. The empty space between Rama and his coming, or the empty space before Rama’s coming and after Rama’s going, is not visible to us. The emphasis is on Rama’s coming; the intervening space is not observed. The change starts from the fourth body. All of a sudden it will strike you that Rama’s coming is no longer very important. When Rama was not coming there was the empty space; when Rama has gone there is the empty space. The empty space begins to come within the focus of your mind: faces disappear; the pot becomes visible. And when your attention is on the empty space you cannot think.
You can do only one of the following two things: as long as you see thoughts you will think, but when you see the empty space you will be empty within. However, this will keep alternating in the fourth body. Sometimes you will see the two faces and sometimes the pot: that is, sometimes you will see thoughts and sometimes the gap. Silence will come and so will thoughts.
The difference between silence and emptiness is only this: silence means thoughts have not yet ended, but the emphasis is changed. The consciousness has shifted from thought and takes pleasure in silence, but thought still remains. It is only that the consciousness has shifted: the attention has shifted from thoughts. Then the attention is on silence. But thought returns sometimes – and when it manages to draw your attention, again silence is lost and thought begins.
In the last moments of the fourth body the mind will keep alternating between the two. On the fifth plane all thoughts will be lost and only silence will remain. This is not the ultimate silence, because this silence exists in comparison to thought and speech. Silence means not speaking; emptiness means a state where there is neither silence nor speech. Neither the faces remain nor the flower pot; only the blank paper. Now if you are asked whether the faces are there or the flower pot, you will say neither.
The state of no-thought occurs in its totality in the fifth body. At the fourth we get glimpses of this state; it will be observed off and on between two thoughts. At the fifth the no-thought state will become evident and thoughts will disappear.
Now the second part of your question is, “Is identification necessary for the formation of thoughts, or can thoughts occur without any identification?” Up to the third body identification and thought come simultaneously. There is your identification and there is the coming of thought: there is no interval between the two. Your thoughts and you are one – not two. Now when you are angry it is wrong to say that you are angry. It would be more correct to say that you have become anger, because in order to be angry it should also be possible for you not to be angry.
For instance, I say, “I am moving my hand.” Then suppose you say, “Now stop your hand,” and I say, “That is not possible; the hands keep moving” – then you may well question what I mean when I say, “I am moving my hand.” I should say, “The hand is moving,” because if I am moving the hand I should be able to stop it. If I cannot stop my hand I cannot claim to be its owner. It has no meaning. Because you cannot stop your thoughts, your identification with them is complete up to the third body. Up to there you are thought.
So up to the third body, by hitting someone’s thoughts we are hitting the person himself. If you tell such a person, “What you say is wrong,” he will never feel that what he says is wrong; he will feel he is wrong. Quarrels and fights take place not because of a statement but because of the ‘I’ – because there is complete identification. To attack your thoughts is to attack you. Even if you say, “It is all right if you do not agree with my way of thinking,” within you will feel that you have been opposed. Many times it happens that the idea in question is left aside and we begin to fight for it merely because we put forth the view and not for any other reason. You support it merely because you have put it forth as your viewpoint – because you have declared it as your scripture, your principle, your argument.
Until the third body there is no distance between you and your thoughts. You are the thought. In the fourth wavering begins. You will begin to get glimpses of the fact that you are something apart and your thoughts are something apart. But so far you are unable to stop your thoughts, because deep within the roots the association still exists. Above on the branches you feel the difference. You sit on one branch and the thoughts on the other and you see they are not you. But deep within you and thoughts are one. Therefore, it seems that thoughts are separate, and it also seems that if my association with them is broken thoughts will stop. But they do not stop. At some deeper level the association with thoughts will continue.
Changes begin to take place on the fourth plane. You begin to get a vague notion of thoughts being different and you being different. You still cannot proclaim this, however, and the thought process is still mechanical. You cannot stop your thoughts, nor can you bring them about. If I can say to you, “Stop anger and show that you are the master,” it can also be said, “Bring about anger and prove that you are the master.” You will ask, “How can this be done? We cannot bring about anger.” The moment you can you are its master. Then you can stop it at any moment. When you are the master the process of bringing on anger and stopping it are both in your hands. If you can bring on anger you can stop it also.
It is also interesting to note that stopping it is a little difficult, but bringing it on is easier. So if you want to be the master first begin by bringing on anger, because this is easier. In the situation of bringing it on you are tranquil, but in the situation of having to stop it you are already angry and so you are not even aware of yourself. Then how will you stop it? Therefore, it is always easier to start the experiment by bringing on anger rather than by stopping it. For instance, you begin to laugh but then you find that you cannot stop laughing; it is difficult. But if you are not laughing and you want to bring on laughter you can do it in a minute or two. Then you will know the secret of laughter – from where it comes and how – and then you will know the secret of stopping it also, and it can be stopped.
At the fourth plane you will begin to see that you are separate and thoughts are separate; that you are not your thoughts. Therefore, whenever the no-thought state occurs – as I said before – the witness also comes, and wherever there are thoughts the witness will be lost. In the intervals between thoughts – that is, in the gaps between thoughts – you will realize your separate identity from the thoughts. Then there is no association between you and the thoughts. But even then you will be a helpless observer. You will not be able to do much, though all efforts are to be made in the fourth body only.
So I have defined two possibilities of the fourth body – one that is natural and the other that is obtained through meditations. You will be alternating between these two. The first possibility is thought and the second is understanding. The moment you attain the second potential of the fourth body – vivek, or understanding – the fourth body will drop as well as the identification of consciousness with mind. When you attain the fifth body two things will drop: the fourth body and this identification.
In the fifth body you can bring on thoughts or not bring them on, as you wish. For the first time thoughts will be a means and will not depend on identification. If you wish to bring on anger you can bring on anger; if you wish to bring on love you can do so. If you do not wish to bring on anything you are at liberty not to do so. If you wish to stop anger that is half-formed you can order it to stop. Whatever thought you want to bring will come to you, and that which you do not wish to bring will not have any power to invade your mind.
There are many such instances in the life of Gurdjieff. People considered him a peculiar man. If two people were sitting before him, he would look toward one with the utmost anger and toward the other with the utmost love. So quickly would he change his expression that the two would carry away different reports about him. Though both had met him together, one would say, “He looks like a dangerous man,” while the other would say, “How full of love he is.” This is very easy on the fifth plane. Gurdjieff was beyond the understanding of people around him. He could instantly bring any kind of expression to his face. There was no difficulty for him in this, but there was difficulty for others.
The reason behind this is that in the fifth body you are the master of yourself; you can bring about any feeling you please. Then anger, love, hatred, forgiveness, all your thoughts, become mere play things; therefore, you can relax when you please. To relax after play is very easy but to relax from life is difficult. If I am only playing at anger I will not sit in anger after you leave the room.
If I am playing the game of talking I will no longer be talking after you go. But if talking is my life-breath, then I shall keep on talking even after you leave. Even if nobody listens, I will listen. I will keep on talking because that is my very life; it is not a play after which I can relax. It is my very life, it has taken hold of me. So such a man will talk even at night. In dreams also he will gather a crowd and speak. In dreams also he will quarrel, he will fight and do all that he has been doing in the daytime. He will keep doing this all the twenty-four hours, because that is his life; that is his very existence.
Your identification breaks in the fifth body. Then for the first time you are at peace, you are empty, by your own free will. But when the need arises you think also. So in the fifth body, for the first time you will be putting your power of thinking to use. It would be better to say that before the fifth body thoughts make use of you; after the fifth you make use of thoughts. Before that it is not correct to say, “I think.” In the fifth body you also come to know that your thoughts are not your own: thoughts of people around you also enter your mind. However, you are not even aware that the thoughts you think to be your own could be someone else’s.
A Hitler is born and the whole of Germany is permeated with his thoughts – but each German feels it to be his own thought. A very dynamic person diffuses his thoughts into the minds of others and they become echoes of the same. This dynamism is as serious as it is deep.
For example, it is two thousand years since Jesus died. The thought waves that he left in the world still grasp the minds of Christians who think that these are their own thoughts. The same is the case with Mahavira, Buddha, Krishna and others. Any kind of dynamic person’s thoughts, whether they are of a good person or an evil one, can catch the hold of the human mind. The hold of Tamerlane and Genghis Khan upon our minds has not yet been released, nor has the hold of Krishna and Rama. Their thought waves move forever around us, and you are able to catch those thought waves that are conducive to your particular state of mind.
It always happens that a man who is very good in the morning becomes evil by noon. In the morning he moves in the waves of Rama; in the afternoon he may be caught by the waves of Genghis Khan. Receptivity and time cause the difference. The beggar always comes to beg in the morning, because the effect of evil vibrations is at the minimum at the time of the rising sun. As the day progresses and as the sun gets tired of its long journey in the skies the influence gains strength, so the beggar has no hope of charity from others in the evening. If a beggar asks a man early in the morning to give two rupees he will not be able to refuse right away; as the day progresses it is more difficult to say yes to the beggar. By evening the man is tired with the day’s work so now he is fully prepared to refuse. The condition of his mind is quite different now; so also is the entire atmosphere of his surroundings. So the thoughts we feel to be our own also do not belong to us.
This you will experience only in the fifth body, and you will be surprised to see the way thoughts come and go. The thought comes, then it goes; it catches hold of you, then it leaves you alone. There are a thousand kinds of thoughts – and very contradictory ones too; therefore, there is confusion in our minds. Every single person is confused. If thoughts were entirely yours there would be no question of confusion. Your one hand catches hold of Genghis Khan and the other catches hold of Krishna, so there is bound to be confusion. Both of these sets of thought waves lie in wait for you, and as soon as you show your readiness they enter within. They are present all around you.
All this you will come to know when your identification with thoughts breaks completely. The biggest change will be that until this time you will have thoughts, but now you will have thinking. There is a difference between the two. Thoughts are atomic: they come and go and they are always alien. To say that thoughts are always alien is quite correct. Thinking is ours, but thoughts are alien. This thinking will start within you after the fifth body. Then you will be able to think; you will no longer be merely collecting the thoughts of others. Therefore, the thinking of the fifth body is never a burden upon you, because it is your own. This thinking that is born in the fifth body may be called wisdom or understanding or whatever you like to call it.
At the fifth plane you have your own intuition, your own understanding, your own intelligence. At the fifth the influence of all outside thoughts will end, and in this sense you will be the master of yourself; you will attain your being; you will become your self. Now you will have your own thoughts, your own power of thinking, your own eyes and your own vision. After this only what you wish will come to you; what you do not wish will never come near you. You can think just what you want to think; other thoughts cannot invade you. Now you will be the master. Here the question of identification does not arise.
In the sixth body thinking is also not required. Thoughts are necessary up to the fourth body; thinking and wisdom are necessary in the fifth. On the sixth plane even these end, because there they are not required at all. You become cosmic; you become one with the Brahman. Now there is no other.
In fact, all thoughts are always related to the other. The thoughts before the fourth body are unconscious links with others. The thoughts of the fifth body are conscious links but they are still related to others. After all, why are thoughts necessary? They are required only to establish a relationship with others. Until the fourth they are unconscious links; at the fifth they are conscious links. But at the sixth no “other” remains for establishing links. All relatedness is finished; only the cosmic remains. I and thou are now one. Now there is no place, no reason for thought to exist.
The sixth is the Brahman – the cosmic reality, where there are no thoughts. In the Brahman there are no thoughts; therefore, it can be said that in the Brahman there is knowing. Actually, the thoughts which exist up to the fourth body are unconscious thoughts; they contain a deep ignorance. It shows that we need thoughts to fight with this self-ignorance. At the fifth there is knowing of the self within, but we are still ignorant about that which is other to us; the other is still there for us. Therefore, there is the need to think in the fifth body. At the sixth there is no inside or outside, there is no I or thou, there is no this or that. Now there is no distance to justify thoughts. Now what is, is. Therefore, at the sixth there is only knowing, not thoughts.
At the seventh knowing also does not exist, because he who knew is no more and that which could be known is no more. So even knowing is not on the seventh plane. The seventh plane is not knowing-less, but beyond knowing. If you like you can call it a state of ignorance also. That is why it is always the case that a man of ultimate consciousness and an absolutely ignorant person seem identical – because their behavior is often similar. This is why there is always a great similarity between a small child and an old man who has attained enlightenment: they are not actually the same but superficially they seem alike. Sometimes an enlightened sage acts in a childlike way; sometimes in the behavior of a child we get a glimpse of saintliness. Sometimes an enlightened one looks like an absolutely ignorant person, an absolute fool, and it would seem that no one could be as foolish as he. But the sage has gone beyond knowledge and the child is still below knowledge. The similarity lies in the fact that they both are outside of knowledge.
From In Search of the Miraculous, Discourse #20, Q3
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