It feels that to be a witness is also a kind of thought. So what is the difference between the witness and a thought of the witness?
“Witnessing is not a thought, but you can start thinking about witnessing, you can make it a thought. The moment you make it a thought, it is no longer witnessing. Either it is witnessing or it is a thought; it cannot be both together.
“When you are witnessing, you are not thinking that you are witnessing. If you are thinking that you are witnessing, this is not witnessing at all; it is another kind of thought. If the witnessing is simple, there is no thought of witnessing at all. If the thoughts are just passing in front of your vision and you are witnessing them, and no idea arises in you that ‘I am witnessing,’ then it is pure witnessing. It is not a thought at all, it is a state of no-thought, no-mind. You are simply reflecting whatever is passing by.
The moment you say, ‘Aha! This is witnessing. So I am witnessing. This is what meditation is; this is awareness,’ you have missed the point. You have fallen back into the mud of the mind. You are no longer a witness. You have become identified. Witnessing cannot be reduced to a thought.
“But your problem is significant. It is encountered by almost every meditator. We have become so habituated to witnessing in a wrong way. We think that we witness. We judge, we evaluate and think that we are witnessing. We think that we witness; it is not witnessing. We are associated with a wrong kind of witnessing and that idea lingers for a long time. We have become so conditioned to immediately reducing every experience into a thought. We never allow any experience to remain just a pure experience, even for a few moments.
“You come across a beautiful rose flower in the garden. The moment you see it, almost instantly you say inside, ‘How beautiful!’ You can’t let that beauty sink in. The thought of beauty becomes a barrier. The moment you say, ‘How beautiful!’ you have already started comparing it with other roses that you have seen in the past. You have started comparing it with all that you have heard about roses.
“You are no longer seeing this rose. You are missing its suchness. You have gone into the past. You are searching in your memory to find how many roses you have seen before and to declare: ‘This is the best one.’ But this rose is no longer there in your awareness. Your awareness has become very clouded. So much smoke has come from the past, so much dust has arisen that your mirror is no longer reflecting the beauty. You are not now-here.
“Allow the rose and its fragrance, its beauty, its dance in the wind and the sun, to penetrate you. Don’t bring your mind in. There is no need to say it is beautiful. If it is, there is no need to say it; if it is not, then it is false to say it. Either it is or it is not.
Creating a thought about it in any way is creating ripples in your consciousness.
“It is like throwing a pebble into a silent lake. Just a moment ago it was reflecting the moon and the stars so beautifully, but your pebble has created ripples; the moon and the stars have all become distorted. That’s what happens whenever a thought arises in you: your consciousness is disturbed, it starts wavering. Waves start arising in you. Now you are not capable of reflecting that which is.
“You will have to learn this new art of seeing things without judging; of seeing things without verbalizing; of seeing things without evaluating. See the rose, the bird on the wing, the night full of stars; see the river passing by, see the traffic. Listen to the songs of the birds or a train passing by. Start learning a new art of just being reflective, not bringing any thought in, not saying anything at all.
“It will take a little time – old habits die hard – but one day it happens. If you persist, if you are patient enough and if you go on and on working at cleaning your inner world, one day it happens. The benediction of that day is immense. In fact, that day you are born anew. You start seeing the same world with new eyes because your eyes are so clear. Your mirror reflects so deeply, so totally, without distortion, that trees – the same trees that you have seen before thousands of times – are far greener than they have ever been. And their greenness is no ordinary greenness. It is luminous, it is radiating light.
It is the same world, the same people. A Buddha, a Jesus, walks in the same world – the same trees, the same rocks, the same people, the same sky – but he lives in paradise and you live in hell. The difference is created by the mind.
“It will take a little while to drop this mind. It has dominated you for so long that in the beginning it is difficult to suddenly disassociate yourself from it. It clings. It can’t leave its power over you so easily. Hence, it goes on coming in from the back door.
“You are sitting silently and a beautiful stillness arises. The mind comes in from the back door and says, ‘Look, how beautiful this moment is!’ And it has taken you away. It came so silently, without making any noise and you were caught by it in such a subtle way, that you could not have been aware of it. You rejoiced, you thanked the mind, but it has destroyed your stillness.
“When stillness is really true there is no mind to say anything about it. When witnessing is true you are simply a witness. You don’t think, ‘I am witnessing.’ There is no ‘I,’ there is no thinking; there is only the witness – because all thinking and the ‘I’ have all become contents, objects of your witnessing. And witnessing itself cannot be its own object. No mirror can reflect itself. Your eyes cannot see themselves.
Your witness cannot witness itself, that’s impossible.
“Your question is relevant. You will have to be very, very careful, watchful. It is a razor’s edge. One has to be very cautious because if you fall, you fall into a deep abyss. The ordinary people cannot fall; they have nowhere to fall to – they are already at the bottom. But as you start moving higher, the possibility of falling down grows every day. When you reach the Everest of your consciousness, just a little slip, just a little wrong step and you will go rolling down into a deep abyss.
“The greater the meditation, the more is the danger of losing it – naturally. Only a rich man can be robbed, not a poor man. That’s why a beggar can sleep under a tree in the afternoon with the noise of the traffic and the marketplace; nothing disturbs him. He can sleep anywhere, he can sleep deeply. He has nothing to lose – no fear….
“The witness lives in the world just like a mirror, reflecting everything. He may be in a hut, he may be in a palace; it makes no difference. What difference does it make to a mirror, whether the mirror is in a hut or in a palace? What difference does it make to the mirror whether the mirror is reflecting beautiful diamonds or just ordinary stones? It makes no difference to the mirror.
Witnessing is the art of transcending the world.
“Witnessing is the very essence of Zen, of religion itself. But don’t make it a thought – it is not a thought at all. Thoughts have to be witnessed. Even if the thought of witnessing arises, witness that thought. Remember that it is not witnessing, it is only a thought – it has to be witnessed. It is there in front of you. You are not it.
“The witness is irreducible to any thought; it always goes on sliding back. You cannot catch hold of it through any thought. It can witness each and every thought, the thought of witnessing included; hence, it can never itself become a thought.
“Next time when you are meditating remember it. Don’t start enjoying the thought: ‘This is a beautiful moment. My mind is silent, my being is still. This is witnessing!’ The moment you say it, you have lost it.”
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To read the complete talk and see all available media formats:
Osho, Walking in Zen, Sitting in Zen, Talk #5 – Witnessing Is the Very Essence of Zen