What is religion? Religion, dharma, has nothing to do with thoughts or with thinking.
“It has to do with no-thinking. Thinking is philosophy. It gives you conclusions but does not bring any solution. Dharma is solution. Logic is the doorway to thought while enlightenment is the doorway to solution. Enlightenment is a contentless consciousness.
“The mind is empty but watchful, alert. In that peaceful state the door to truth opens. It is only in emptiness that truth is realized, and as a result one’s whole life is transformed.
“We reach this state of emptiness, this enlightenment, through meditation.
But what is generally understood as meditation is not really meditation. That too is a process of thinking. Maybe the thoughts relate to the soul or to the divine but they are still thoughts.
“It makes no difference what the thoughts are about. In fact thought by its very nature pertains to the other, to the outer. It relates to what is not the self. There can be no thought about the self because for thought to exist, two are needed. That is why thought does not take you beyond duality. If one is to move into and know non-duality – the self – then meditation is the way, not thinking.
“Thought and meditation go in totally opposite directions. One is outward going; the other, inward going. Thought is the way to know the other; meditation, the way to know the self. But generally thought, contemplation, has been taken for meditation. This is a very serious and widespread mistake and I want to caution you against this fundamental error.
Meditation means to be in non-doing. Meditation is not a doing but a state of being. It is a state of being in one’s own self.
“In action we come into contact with the outside world; in no-action, with ourselves. When we are not doing anything we become aware of what we are. Otherwise, remaining involved in all sorts of doings, we never get to meet ourselves. We don’t even remember that we exist. Our busyness is very deep.
“Perhaps our bodies may get to rest but our minds never do. Awake, we think; asleep, we dream. Engrossed in these constant preoccupations and doings, we simply forget ourselves. We lose ourselves amidst the crowd of our own activity.
How strange this is – but this is our reality. We have become lost, not in the crowds of other people, but in our own thoughts, in our own dreams, in our own preoccupations and activities. We have become lost in ourselves.
“Meditation is the way to extricate ourselves from this self-created crowd, from this mental wanderlust.
“By its nature, meditation cannot be an activity. It is not a busyness, it is the term for an unoccupied mind…. This is what I teach. It looks rather odd to say that I teach non-doing, but this is what I teach. We have gathered here to practice non-doing.
“The language of man is very poor and very limited, designed to express action only; that is why it is never able to express the soul. How can what is tailored for speech express silence? The word meditation suggests that it is some sort of a doing but it is by no means a doing of any kind. It would be wrong to say ‘I was doing meditation’; it would be correct to say ‘I was in meditation.’ It is just like love.
One can be ‘in’ love, one cannot ‘do’ love. Hence I say meditation is a state of mind.
“It is of prime importance to be clear about this from the very beginning….
“Meditation is non-doing. Doing is something we may do if we want to or may not do if we don’t want to. But self-nature is not a doing. It is neither doing nor non-doing. For example, knowing and seeing are parts of our self-nature, parts of our being. Even if we don’t do anything they will still be there. Self-nature is constantly present in us. Only that which is constant and continuous in us is called self-nature. Self-nature is not something of our creation, it is our foundation. We are it. We do not create it, we are sustained by it. Hence, we call it dharma, that which sustains. Dharma means self-nature; dharma means pure isness, existence.
“This continuous nature of ours becomes suppressed in our fragmentary stream of actions. Just as the ocean becomes covered by waves and the sun by clouds, we become covered by our own actions. The layer of activities on the surface hides that which is deep inside.
Insignificant waves hide the ocean’s unfathomable depths. How strange it is that the mighty is suppressed by the trivial, that a speck in the eye makes mountains invisible!
“But the ocean does not cease to exist because of the waves. It is the very life of the waves and is present in them as well. Those who know will even recognize the ocean in the waves, but those who do not know must wait until the waves subside. They can only see the ocean after the waves disperse.
“We have to dive into this very self-nature. We have to forget about the waves and jump into the ocean. We have to know our own depths where there is isness, where there is ocean without waves, where there is being, not becoming.
“This world of waveless and motionless knowing is always present in us, but we are not present to it. We have turned away from it – we are looking outside, we are looking at things, we are looking at the world. But bear one thing in mind: we are looking; what is seen is the world, but the one who is seeing is not the world, it is the self.
If seeing is identified with the object that is seen, it is thought; if seeing is free from the object that is seen and turns toward the seer, it is meditation.
“Do you follow my distinction between thought and meditation? Seeing is present in both thought and meditation but in the former it is objective and in the latter it is subjective. But whether we are in thought or in meditation, whether we are in action or in no-action, seeing is a constant factor. Awake, we see the world; asleep, we see dreams; in meditation, we see ourselves – but in each of these conditions there is seeing. Seeing is constant and continuous. It is our nature. It is never absent no matter what the condition.
Seeing is even present in unconsciousness. After regaining consciousness one says, ‘I don’t remember anything, I don’t know where I was.’ Do not think that this is a not-knowing. This is also knowing.
If seeing had been totally absent, then this knowing that ‘I don’t know where I was’ would not have been possible either.
“If that were the case, then the time that passed by while you were unconscious would have become nonexistent for you. In no way would it have remained a part of your life; it could not have left any trace on your memory. But you know you were in some state where you were not aware of any knowing. This too is a knowing; seeing is also present here. The memory has not recorded any internal or external phenomena happening during this period, but your seeing has definitely noted, has definitely experienced this gap, this interval. And this experience of the interval, of the gap in the recording of events, later becomes known to the memory as well. Similarly, during deep sleep when there are not even dreams, seeing is always present. When we wake up in the morning we are able to say we had such a sound sleep that we did not even dream. This condition too has been observed.
“You must realize from all of this that situations change, that the object, the content for the consciousness changes, but that seeing does not change. Everything in the realm of our experience changes; all things are in a flux, seeing and seeing alone is ever-present. That alone is the witness to all this change, to all this flow. To realize this ever-present and eternal seeing is to know one’s self.
That alone is one’s self-nature. All else is alien, the other. All else is sansara, the world.
“This witness cannot be attained or realized by any doing, by any kind of worship or adoration, by any mantra or technique, because it is the witness of all those things as well. It is separate and apart from all those things. It is separate and different from all that can be seen or done. It cannot be realized by doing but by non-doing; not by action but by emptiness. It will be realized only when there is no activity, when there is no object to be seen, when only the witness remains, when only seeing remains….
“This ocean and this sky, this empty space is there within everyone and if we wish to know this sky, this space, we can. There is a path that leads there and that too is present within us all. And each one also knows how to walk on this path. But we know how to walk on it in only one direction. Have you ever thought of the fact that there can be no path that leads in one direction only? Each path inevitably goes in two directions, in two opposite directions. Otherwise it is not a path; it cannot exist. The path that has brought you here to the seclusion of these hills is the same path that will take you back. There is only one path for coming as well as for going. The same path will serve both purposes. The path will be the same but the direction will not be the same.
The path to sansara, the world, and the path to the self is one and the same. The same path leads either to sansara or to the self: only the direction changes.
“What has been in front of you so far will now be behind you and you will have to direct your attention to what was at your back. The road is the same, you must simply turn, do an about-face. You must turn your back on what you were facing and face that which was behind you.
“Ask yourself where you are facing now. What are you seeing now? In what direction is the current of your vision, of your consciousness flowing? Experience it. Observe it. You will find it is flowing outwardly. All your thoughts are about the outer. All the time you are thinking about the outer, about the world outside. When your eyes are open you see the outside. When you close them you still see the outside because the imprints of the outside forms and images surround you once again. There is a world of objects outside you; there is another world inside you, a world of thoughts – the echo of these outer things. Although it is found inside, this world of thoughts is still the outer because the “I” as a witness is also apart from it. Your “I” sees it as well, so therefore this world of thoughts is also outside.
We are surrounded by things and by thoughts. But on looking more deeply, you will find that it is not being encircled by things that hinders us on the path of self-realization, it is being encircled by thoughts.
“In the first place, how can things encircle the soul – matter can only encircle matter. Thoughts encircle the soul. The current of seeing, of consciousness, is flowing toward thoughts. Thoughts and thoughts alone are in front of us; our entire seeing is veiled by them.
We have to turn from thoughts toward thoughtlessness. This change of direction is the revolution!
“How can it be done? First we must know how thoughts are born and only then can they be stopped from being born. Generally seekers set about suppressing thoughts without bothering to understand the process of how they are born. This can certainly bring madness, but not liberation. The suppression of thoughts makes no difference because new thoughts are being born every moment. They are like those demons of mythology who, when one head was chopped off, grew ten more.
“I don’t ask you to kill thoughts because they go on dying each moment of their own accord.
Thoughts are very short-lived; no thought endures for long. A particular thought does not endure, but the thought process does.
“Thoughts die on their own one after another, but the flow of thoughts does not. Hardly has one thought died before another one takes its place. This replacement is very quick, and this is the problem. The real problem does not concern the death of a thought but its quick rebirth.
“So I don’t ask you to kill thoughts, I ask you to understand the process of their conception and be rid of it. One who understands the process of the conception of thoughts easily finds the path to be free of it. But one who does not understand the process goes on creating fresh thoughts and at the same time tries to resist them. Instead of thoughts coming to an end, the consequence is that the person who is fighting them breaks down himself.
Again I repeat:
Thoughts are not the problem, the birth of thoughts is the problem. How they are born is the question.
“If we can stop their coming into being, if we can exercise thought birth control, then the thoughts that have already been born will disappear in a moment. Thoughts are dying out every second, but their total destruction does not happen because new thoughts keep springing up continuously.
“I want to say it is not that we have to destroy thoughts but that we have to stop their coming into being. Stopping their birth is their complete elimination. We all know that the mind is constantly in motion, changing. But what does this mean? It means that a thought doesn’t live long. It only has a momentary life: it is born and it passes away. If we can only stop its birth, we will be saved from the violence involved in killing it and it will have ceased of its own accord.
How is thought born? The conception and birth of a thought is the result of our reaction to the outside world. There is a world of events and objects outside and our reaction to this world is alone responsible for the birth of thoughts.
“I look at a flower. Looking is not a thinking, and if I simply go on looking, no thought will arise. But as soon as we look at it we say, ‘It is a very beautiful flower,’ and a thought has been born. If on the other hand I merely look at the flower, I will experience its beauty, but no thought will be born. But as soon as we glimpse an experience we begin to give it words. As soon as an experience is given words, thought has taken birth.
This reaction, this habit of giving words to experience covers up the experience, the seeing, with thoughts.
“The experience is suppressed, the seeing is suppressed and only words are left floating in the mind. These words themselves are our thoughts. These thoughts are very short-lived so before one thought dies away we transform another experience into thoughts. This process continues throughout our lifetimes, and we become so filled with words and so burdened under them that we lose ourselves in them. To drop the habit of giving words to our experiences is to eliminate the birth of thoughts. Try and understand this.”
“I am looking at you, and if I just keep on looking at you without giving any word to this seeing, what will happen? As you are now you cannot even imagine what will happen.
There will be such a great revolution in your life that it has no parallel.
“Words get in the way and stop that revolution from taking place. The birth of thoughts becomes a barrier to that revolution. If I keep on looking at you and do not give any words to it, if I simply keep on looking, I will find during the process that a peace from beyond this world is descending upon me and that an emptiness, a void is spreading all over, because the absence of words is the void.
“In this emptiness, in this void, the direction of consciousness takes a new turning and then I do not see only you, but gradually the one who is seeing also begins to emerge.
There is a new awakening on the horizon of one’s consciousness, as if one is waking from a dream, and one’s heart is filled with pure light and infinite peace. It is in this light that the self is seen. It is in this void that the truth is experienced….”
“I call this the experiment of right remembrance, right mindfulness. You must keep this remembrance, this awareness that words are not formulated, that words do not come in between.
It is possible, because words are only our habit. A newborn child sees the world without the intermediary of words. This is pure, direct seeing.
“Later he gradually learns the habit of using words, because words are helpful and useful in his external life, in his outer life. But what is useful in the outer life becomes a hindrance to knowing the inner life. And that is why an old man must reawaken in himself the child’s capacity of pure seeing in order to know his ‘self.’
He has known the world with the help of words, and now he must come to know his self with the help of the void, the emptiness.”
Excerpted and abridged from the complete talk: Osho, The Perfect Way, Talk #3 – Thought Birth Control