You said the ego can be dropped this very moment. Can the ego also be dropped progressively?
The dropping always happens in the moment and always in this moment. There is no progressive, gradual process for it. There cannot be. The happening is instantaneous. You can’t get ready for it, you can’t prepare for it, because whatsoever you do – and I say whatsoever – will strengthen the ego. Any gradual process will be an effort, something done on your part. So you will be strengthened more and more through it. You will become stronger. Everything gradual helps the ego. Only something absolutely non-gradual, something like a jump, not like a process, something discontinuous with the past, not in continuity with it – only then the ego drops.
The problem arises because we cannot understand what this ego is. The ego is the past, the continuity, all that you have done, all that you have accumulated, all the karmas, all the conditionings, all the desires, all the dreams of the past. That whole past is the ego. And if you think in terms of gradual process, you bring the past in. The dropping is non-gradual, sudden. It is a discontinuity – the past is no more, the future is no more. You are left alone here and now. Then the ego cannot exist.
The ego can exist only through the memory: who you are, from where you come, to whom you belong, the country, the race, the religion, the family, the tradition, and all the hurts, wounds, pleasures – all that has happened in the past. All that has happened is the ego. And you are that to whom all this has happened. This distinction has to be understood: you are that to whom all has happened, and the ego is that which has happened. The ego is around you. You are in the center, egoless.
A child is born absolutely fresh and young – no past, no ego. That’s why children are so beautiful. They don’t have any past. They are young and fresh. They cannot say I, because from where will they bring the I? The I has to develop gradually. They will get educated, they will get awards, punishments, they will be appreciated, condemned – then the I will gather.
A child is beautiful because the ego is not there. An old man becomes ugly, not because of old age, but because of too much past, too much of the ego. An old man can also become again beautiful, even more beautiful than a child, if he can drop the ego. Then there is a second childhood, then a rebirth.
This is the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus. It is not an historical fact; it is a parable. Jesus is crucified and then he resurrects. The man who was crucified is no more; that was the son of the carpenter, Jesus. Now Jesus is dead, crucified. A new entity arises out of that. Out of this death a new life is born. This is Christ – not the son of a particular carpenter in Bethlehem, not a Jew, not even a man. This is Christ, something new, egoless.
And the same will happen to you whenever your ego is on the cross. Whenever your ego is crucified, there is a resurrection, a rebirth. You are born again. And this childhood is eternal, because this is a rebirth of the spirit, not of the body. Now you will never become old. Always and always, you will be fresh and young – as fresh as the dewdrop in the morning, as fresh as the first star in the night. You will always remain fresh, young, a child, innocent – because this is a resurrection of the spirit. This always happens in a moment.
Ego is time – the more time, the more ego. Ego needs time. If you penetrate deeply, you may even be able to conceive that time exists only because of the ego. Time is not part of the physical world around you, it is part of the psychic world within you, the mind-world. Time exists just as a space for the ego to evolve and to grow. Room is needed; time gives the room.
If it is said to you that this is the last moment of your life, next moment you are going to be shot dead, suddenly time disappears. You feel very uneasy. You are still alive, but suddenly you feel as if you are dying. And you can’t think what to do. Even to think becomes difficult, because even for thinking, time is needed, future is needed. There is no tomorrow, then where to think, how to desire, how to hope? There is no time. Time is finished.
The greatest agony that can happen to a man happens when his death is fixed and he cannot avoid it; it is certain. A person who is sentenced, imprisoned, waiting for his death – he cannot do anything about it, death is fixed, after a certain period he will die, beyond that time, there is no tomorrow for him – now he cannot desire, he cannot think, he cannot project, he cannot even dream. The barrier is always there. Then much agony follows. That agony is for the ego, because ego cannot exist without time. Ego breathes in time. Time is breath for the ego. The more time, the more possibility for the ego.
In the East much has been worked out, much has been done to understand the ego, much probing has been done. And one of the findings is that unless time drops from you, ego will not drop. If tomorrow exists, the ego will exist. If there is no tomorrow, how can you pull on the ego? It will be just like pulling a boat without the river. That will become a burden. A river is needed, then the boat can function.
The river of time is needed for the ego. That’s why the ego always thinks in terms of gradual, in terms of degrees. The ego says: Okay, enlightenment is possible – but time is needed, because you will have to work for it, prepare, get ready. And this is a very logical thing! For everything time is needed. If you sow a seed, time is needed for the tree to grow. If a child is to be born, if a child is to be created, time is needed. The womb will need time. The child will have to grow. Everything grows around you. For growth, time is needed. So it seems logical that spiritual growth will also need time.
But this is the point to be understood: spiritual growth is not really a growth like a seed. The seed has to grow to become a tree. Between the seed and the tree there is a gap. That gap has to be traveled, there is distance. You don’t grow like a seed. You are already the growth. It is just a revelation. There is no distance between you as you are, and you as you will be. There is no distance! The ideal, the perfect, is already there.
So it is not really a question of growth, but just a question of unveiling. It is a discovery. Something is hidden – you pull away the screen, and it is there. It is just as if you are sitting with closed eyes, the sun is there on the horizon, but you are in darkness. Suddenly you open the eyes, and it is day, it is light.
The spiritual growth is not really a growth. The word is erroneous. Spiritual growth is a revelation. Something that was hidden becomes unhidden. Something that was already there, you realize it, that it is there. Something that you had never missed, simply forgotten, you remember it. That’s why mystics go on using the word remembrance. They say the divine is not an achievement, it is simply a remembrance. Something you have forgotten, you remember.
Really, no time is needed. But the mind says, the ego says, for everything time is needed, for everything to grow time is needed. And if you become a victim of this logical thought, then you will never achieve it. Then you will go on postponing. You will say tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. And it will never come because tomorrow never comes.
If you can understand what I am saying that the ego can be dropped this very moment, and if it is true, then the question arises: Why is it not dropping? Why can’t you drop it? If there is no question of gradual growth, then why are you not dropping it? Because you don’t want to drop it. This will shock you, because you go on thinking that you want to drop it. Reconsider it, think again. You don’t want to drop it, hence it continues. It is not a question of time. Because you don’t want to drop it, nothing can be done!
Mysterious are the ways of the mind. You think that you want to drop it, and deep down you know you don’t want to drop it. You may want to polish it a little more, you may want it to be more refined, but you don’t really want to drop it. If you want to drop it there is no one who is preventing. No barrier exists. Just for the wanting it can be dropped. But if you don’t want to drop it nothing can be done. Even a thousand Buddhas working on you will fail, because nothing can be done from the outside.
Have you really thought about it, have you ever meditated on it, whether you want to drop it? Do you really want to become a non-being, a nothing? Even in your religious projections you want to be something, you want to achieve something, reach somewhere, be something. Even when you think of being humble, your humility, your humbleness, is just a secret hiding-place for the ego and nothing else.
Look at so-called humble people. They say they are humble and they will try to prove that they are the most humble in their town, in their city, in their locality – the most humble. And if you argue and if you say: No, somebody else is more humble than you, they will feel hurt. Who is feeling hurt?
I was just reading about one Christian saint. He says every day to his god in his prayer: I am the most wicked person on this earth, the greatest sinner. Apparently, he is a very humble man, but he is not. He says the greatest sinner on the earth, and if even God is going to dispute it, he will argue. The interest, the deep interest, is in being the greatest, not in being the sinner. You can be a sinner if you are allowed to be the greatest sinner. You can enjoy it. Greatest sinner – then you become a peak. Virtue or sin is immaterial. You must be someone. Whatsoever the reason for it, your ego must be at the top.
George Bernard Shaw is reported to have said, “I would rather be first in hell than second in heaven. Hell is not a bad place if you are the first and foremost. Even heaven will look dull if you are just standing somewhere in a queue, a nobody.” And Bernard Shaw is right. This is how the human mind functions.
Nobody wants to drop the ego. Otherwise, there is no problem – you can simply drop it right now. And if you feel that time is needed, then time is needed only for your understanding that you are clinging to it. And the moment you can understand that it is your clinging, the thing will happen.
You may take many lives to understand this simple fact. You have already taken many lives, and you have not yet understood. This looks very weird. There is something which is a burden to you, which gives you hell, a continuous hell, but still you cling to it. There must be some deep reason for it, a very deep-rooted cause. I would like to talk about it a little. You may become aware.
The way the human mind is it will always choose occupation rather than being unoccupied. Even if the occupation is painful, even if it is a suffering, the mind will choose to be occupied rather than to be unoccupied – because unoccupied you start feeling that you are dissolving.
Psychologists say that when people retire from their work, their job, their service or business, they die soon. Their life is reduced immediately by almost ten years. Before their death they start dying. There is no more occupation, they are unoccupied. When you are unoccupied you start feeling meaningless, futile. You start feeling that you are not needed, that without you the world can go on easily. When you are occupied, you feel that the world cannot continue without you, that you are a very essential part of it, very significant – without you everything will stop.
If you are unoccupied, suddenly you become aware that without you the world goes on beautifully. Nothing is changing. You have been discarded. You are thrown on the junk pile. You are not needed. The moment you feel you are not needed; the ego becomes uneasy – because it exists only when you are needed. So, all around, the ego goes on forcing this attitude on everybody: You are a must, you are needed, without you nothing can happen, without you the world will dissolve.
Unoccupied, you come to realize that the game continues. You are not an essential part. You can be discarded easily. Nobody will bother about you. Nobody will think about you. Rather, they may even feel relieved. That shatters the ego. So people want occupation, something or other, but they have to remain occupied. They must continue the illusion that they are needed.
Meditation is an unoccupied state of mind. It is a deep retirement. It is not just a superficial retirement like going to the Himalayas. That may not be a retirement at all, because, again, you can become occupied in the Himalayas. You can create fantasies there that you are saving the world. Sitting in the Himalayas meditating, you are saving the world from a third war; or because you are creating such vibrations, the world is reaching towards a utopia, a peaceful state of society. And you can enjoy this occupation there. Nobody is going to argue because you are alone. Nobody is going to dispute the fact that you are in illusion or a hallucinatory state. You can get really involved with it. The ego will assert itself again in a subtle new way.
Meditation is not a superficial retirement. It is a deep, intimate, real retirement, a withdrawal – a withdrawal from occupation. It is not that you will not be occupied, you can continue whatsoever you are doing, but you withdraw yourself and your investment in occupation. Now you start feeling that this constant hankering after being needed is foolish, stupid. The world can continue quite well without you. And there is no depression in it. It is good. So far, so good . . . the world can continue without you. This can become a freedom if you understand. If you don’t understand, then you feel you are being shattered.
So people continue to be occupied, and the ego gives them the greatest occupation possible. Twenty-four hours, the ego gives them occupation. They are thinking how to become a member of parliament. They are thinking – how to become a deputy minister and a minister and a prime minister, and how to become a president. The ego goes on and on and on. It gives you a constant occupation – how to achieve more riches, how to create a kingdom. The ego gives you dreams, continuous inner occupation. And you feel much is going on. Unoccupied, suddenly you become aware of inner emptiness. These dreams fill the inner emptiness.
Now psychologists say that a man can live without food for at least ninety days, but he cannot live without dreaming for ninety days. He will go mad. If dreaming is not allowed within three weeks you will go mad. Without food, three weeks will not harm you – it may even be good for your health. Three weeks without food, a good fast, will rejuvenate your whole system, you will be more alive and younger. But three weeks of non-dreaming . . . you will go mad.
Dreaming must fulfill some deep-rooted need. The need is that it gives you occupation; without real occupation it gives you occupation. You can sit and dream and do whatsoever you like, and the whole world moves according to you – in your dreams at least. Nobody creates a problem. You can kill anybody, you can murder. You can change as you like. You are the master there.
The ego feels most vital while dreaming, because there is nobody who can antagonize you, who can say: No, this is wrong. You are whole and sole. Whatsoever you want, you create. Whatsoever you don’t want, you destroy. You are absolutely powerful. You are omnipotent in your dreams.
Dreams stop only when ego drops. So this is the sign, really; in old yoga scriptures, this is the sign of a man who has become enlightened: he cannot dream. Dreaming stops because there is no need. It was an ego-need. You want to be occupied. That’s why you cannot drop the ego.
Unless you are ready to be empty, unoccupied, unless you are ready to be nobody, unless you are ready to enjoy and celebrate life even if you are not needed, ego cannot be dropped. You have a need to be needed. Somebody must need you – then you feel good. If more and more people need you, you feel better and better. That’s why leadership is so much enjoyed, because so many people need you. A leader can become very humble. There is no need to assert his ego. His ego is already so deeply fulfilled because so many people need him, so many people depend on him. He has become the life of so many people, so he can be humble, he can afford to be humble.
You must remember this fact that people who assert their egos too much are always people who cannot influence others. Then they become assertive because that is their only way to say: I am somebody. If they can influence people, if they can persuade, they will never be assertive. They will be very humble – apparently, at least. They will not look egoistic, because, in a very subtle way, so many people depend on them – they have become significant, their life appears meaningful to them. If your ego is your meaning, if your ego is your significance, how can you drop it?
Listening to me, you start thinking to drop it. But just by thinking you cannot drop the ego. You have to come to understand the roots – where it is, where it exists, why it exists. These are the unconscious forces working within you without your knowledge. They have to be made conscious. You have to bring all the roots of your ego out of the soil and earth so you can look and see.
If you can remain unoccupied, if you can remain satisfied without being needed, the ego can drop this very moment. But these ifs are big. Meditation will prepare you for these big ifs. The happening will happen in a moment, but the understanding will take time. It is just like when you heat water. It becomes hotter and hotter and hotter; then, at a particular degree, at one hundred degrees, it starts evaporating. Evaporation happens in a single moment. It is not gradual, it is sudden. From water to vapor there is a jump. Suddenly the water disappears, but time is involved because the water has to be heated up to boiling-point. Evaporation happens suddenly, but heating takes time. Understanding is just like heating. It takes time. Dropping of the ego happens like evaporation. It happens suddenly.
So don’t try to drop the ego. Rather, try to deepen your understanding. Don’t try to make water change into vapor. Heat it. The second thing will follow automatically, it will happen.
Grow in understanding. Make it more intense, more focused. Bring all your energy to understand the phenomenon of your being, your ego, your mind, your unconscious. Become more and more alert. And whatsoever happens, make it a point to try to understand it also. Somebody insults you and you feel anger. Don’t miss this opportunity; try to understand why, why this anger. And don’t make it a philosophical thing. Don’t go to the library to consult about anger. Anger is happening to you – it is an experience, a live experience. Focus your whole attention on it and try to understand why it is happening to you. It is not a philosophical problem. No Freud is to be consulted about it. There is no need! It is just foolish to consult somebody else while anger is happening to you. You can touch it. You can taste it. You will be burned by it.
Try to understand why it is happening, from where it is coming, where the roots are, how it happens, how it functions, how it overpowers you, how in anger you become mad. Anger has happened before, it is happening now, but now add a new element to it, the element of understanding – and then the quality will change. Then, by and by, you will see that the more you understand anger, the less it happens. And when you understand it perfectly, it disappears. Understanding is like heat. When the heat comes to a particular point – one hundred degrees – the water disappears. Sex is there – try to understand it. The more there is understanding, the less you will be sexual. And a moment will come when understanding is perfect – and sex disappears.
This is my criterion: whatsoever the phenomenon of inner energy, if it disappears through understanding, it is sin; if through understanding it deepens, it is virtue. The more you understand, the wrong will disappear and the right will become more rooted. Sex will disappear and love will deepen. Anger will disappear and compassion will deepen. Greed will disappear, sharing will deepen.
So whatsoever disappears through understanding is wrong; whatsoever becomes more rooted is right. And this is how I define good and evil, virtue and sin – punya and paap. A holy man is a man of understanding, nothing else. A sinner is a man of no understanding, that’s all. Between a holy man and a sinner the distinction is not of sin and holiness, it is of understanding.
Understanding works as a heating process. A moment comes, a right moment, when the heating has come to the boiling-point. Suddenly the ego drops. You cannot drop it directly – you can prepare the situation in which it happens. That situation will take time.
Two schools have always existed. One school is of sudden enlightenment which says enlightenment happens suddenly, it is non-temporal. Another school, just contradicting the first, is of gradual enlightenment; it says enlightenment comes gradually; nothing happens suddenly. And both are right, because both have chosen one part of the phenomenon.
The gradual school has chosen the first part, the understanding part. They say it has to be through time, understanding will come through time. And they are right! They say you need not worry about the sudden. You simply follow the process, and if the water is heated rightly it will evaporate. You need not bother about evaporation. You simply leave it completely out of your mind. You simply heat the water.
The other school, quite the opposite, which says enlightenment is sudden, has taken the end part. It says the first thing is not very essential: the real thing is that that explosion happens in a no-time gap. The first thing is just the periphery. The real, the second thing, is the center.
But I tell you both are right. Enlightenment happens suddenly. It has always happened suddenly. But understanding takes time. Both are right and both can be interpreted wrongly also. You can play tricks with yourself. You can deceive yourself. If you don’t want to do anything, it is beautiful to believe in sudden enlightenment. Then you say: “There is no need to do anything. If it happens suddenly, it will happen suddenly. What can I do? I can simply wait.” That may be a self-deception. Because of this, in Japan particularly, religion simply disappeared.
Japan has a long tradition of sudden enlightenment. Zen says enlightenment is sudden. Because of this, the whole country became irreligious. By and by, people came to believe that sudden enlightenment is the only possibility: Nothing can be done about it – whenever it is going to happen, it will happen. If it is going to happen, it will happen. If it is not going to happen, it will not happen. And we cannot do anything, so why bother?
In the East, Japan is the most materialistic country. In the East, Japan exists as a part of the West. This is strange, because Japan has one of the most beautiful traditions of dhyan, chan – Zen. Why did it disappear? It disappeared because of this concept of sudden enlightenment. People started deceiving themselves. In India, another phenomenon has happened . . . and that’s why I go on saying again and again that the human mind is so deceptive and cunning. You have to be constantly alert, otherwise you will be deceived.
In India, we have another tradition, that of gradual enlightenment. That’s what yoga means. You have to work for it, work hard through many lives. Discipline is needed, work is needed, and unless you work hard you will not achieve it. So, it is a long process, a very long process – so long that India says one life is not enough, you will need many lives. Nothing is wrong with this. As far as understanding is concerned, it is true.
But then India believed that if it is going to be so long then there is no hurry. Then why be in such a hurry? Then enjoy the world . . . there is no hurry and there is enough time. And it is such a long process that you cannot achieve it today. And if you cannot achieve it today then the interest is lost. Nobody is so keen that he can wait for many lives. He will simply forget it. The gradual concept has destroyed India; the sudden concept has destroyed Japan.
To me, both are true, because both are half-parts of a whole process. And you have to be constantly alert so that you are not deceiving yourself. It will look contradictory, but this is what I would like to say to you: It can happen this very moment, but this very moment may take many lives to come. It can happen this very moment, but you may have to wait for many lives for this moment to come.
So work hard, as if it is going to happen this very moment. And wait patiently . . . because it is not predictable. Nobody can say when this will happen – this may not happen for many lives. So wait patiently as if the whole process is a long gradual development. And work hard, as hard as possible, as if this can happen this very moment.
From My Way: The Way of the White Clouds, Discourse #5, Q1
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