Osho emphasised witnessing, a meditative watching of thoughts, emerging emotions and states of being, and here Lokesh maintains there’s a lot more to come beyond that…
“Just remember one thing, just the one thing that is the only quality of the buddha — witnessing. Witness that you are not the body. Witness that you are not the mind. Witness that you are not the other subtle bodies, layer upon layer. You are only a witness, nothing else.
The moment you are simply a witness, you are a buddha. This buddha has been hiding deep within you for millions of lives. He has to be brought out. He has to change your whole life. He has to bring his grace to your gestures, beauty to your eyes, agelessness to your being, to your feeling. But first make sure that you are simply a witness.”
Witnessing has always been a key element in Osho’s teachings. Due to Osho’s influence I practised witnessing for many years. Then, twenty years ago, I came across a transcript in a Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj book where someone told SNM that he was practising witnessing. The master asked the person, who could have easily been a Rajneesh sannyasin, where he had learnt this from. The man replied that he had been taught this by his guru. SNM then said, “You have been given an incomplete teaching.”
An incomplete teaching? That stayed with me and over the years I have studied what it is that makes witnessing an incomplete teaching. Here’s my take on it.
When it comes to mapping out the twisting paths, pitfalls, and whatever is to be encountered on one’s journey through the mountains and valleys of the inner world, I find that Buddhism, in particular Tibetan Buddhism, has drawn up the clearest charts. The foundation of Buddhism is the understanding of ego. How ego is formed is the subject of what are called ‘skandhas’. As far as my understanding goes, there are five skandhas to go through until the ego is fully formed. It is a complex and mechanical process wherein it can be said that the primordial intelligence, which hums along in the background for all eternity, is being employed by the dualistic fixation, ignorance.
What exactly does that mean? You are an ego, a product of ignorance. I do not mean that in a negative way. In a certain sense ignorance is intelligent, albeit a two-way intelligence that reacts to projections rather than seeing what is.
It appears that we have fallen foul of an illusionary state which makes us believe that we are concrete entities, selves, egos, when in reality we are something beyond that. It is as if a vast flowing river has become frozen solid. Whatever you want to call the nature of our true being it is not the witness, for being a witness requires someone, something, to know that witnessing is taking place. Who or what might that be? The ego, of course. Very spiritual and beyond it all, but it is still the ego.
Osho understood this. Nonetheless, he insisted that we become witnesses. Watchers in the hills. I suspect that he did this because he knew that one day something would pop and the real point of witnessing would reveal itself, wherein there is only awareness with no centralized ‘I’. A field of pure awareness with nobody to lay claim to it.
The doors of the fifth skandha factory rumbles open and rolling off the end of a conveyer belt comes yet another brand new ego, as perfect and glittering as a golden ball-bearing studded in diamonds. Its name is ME NUMBER ONE. The time to party hearty and rock n’ roll has arrived. I know it’s only rock n’ roll. but I like it, like it, yes I do!
If you are an intelligent and discerning ego you one day tire of the material and sensual pleasures of this world. It’s all so transient. There must be something more to life than this. There must we some way outta here, said the joker to the thief. The good news for the ego is that there is. The world of mental and psychological pleasures beckons, a place where the ego can maintain its solid form, expand its horizons beyond the horizon to include the whole cosmos and maybe go beyond death. Far out! Sounds groovy. Where to begin?
There are many starting places. The way is one but the paths are many. A common one is Hatha Yoga, sometimes known as sitting bolt upright in the full lotus posture, while remaining fast asleep. I need a good yoga teacher. Or maybe you take some LSD when a hookah-smoking caterpillar gives you the call and disappear down a rabbit hole and reappear in an ashram in India, chanting “Om” in a magic circle and saying “Namaste” to everyone you meet. I need a guru, a fully realized being to steer me on the right course. You hear about Osho and run, run, run to his feet, even if singing the song hurts your teeth.
One of the things you adore about Osho is how easy he makes everything sound. Easy is right, right? Osho says, “The moment you are simply a witness, you are a Buddha.” Wow! The lazy man’s guide to enlightenment. I like the sound of that. Impress your friends with the ultimate accolade. “I am a Buddha.” You start wearing orange clothes, join The Way of The White Cloud Club and become a diligent watcher on the hills. You begin by watching your thoughts, then on to emotions, tricky because they move much faster than thoughts, and pretty soon you graduate to watching infinite inner space with an all-knowing smile pasted on your face. You can’t get enough of this limitless space shit. It’s pure bliss!
Osho gives you a spiritual name. ‘Your new name will be Anand…’ The sky is not the limit. Limitless space gives way to limitless consciousness. Yahoo! You, the ego, have become huge, a bit of a beast, but so what? Osho says… You can always find a suitable Osho quote to back you up if you find yourself on shaky ground. The size of your inner empire knows no boundaries. It includes everything and is so unimaginably vast it cannot be defined as this or that. Sound familiar? Let me be who I am and kick out the jams.
You start to dwell on the idea of not, not this and not, not that. Yes, yes, enlightenment, the ultimate golden carrot, is almost within reach. Follow your feelings. I can feel it, so it must be true. What is really happening is that you have reached the greatest achievement that your confused mind can attain. You are actually so delusional that you have managed to convince yourself that you have attained Buddhahood. Once in a while you get the sneaky suspicion that you are missing something important. You look around and find yourself in a Buddhafield, surrounded by thousands of budding Buddhas wearing white robes, just like you. You have made it. There is so much magnificence…
Meanwhile, Zorba the Buddha sits in his air-conditioned cave, flicking through the latest Rolls Royce catalogue. He looks up, gazes through a triple-glazed window at the rose garden outside, smiles and thinks to himself, “Nobody can say I didn’t warn them. They did not read the small print, wherein I told them that witnessing is only the beginning and that they must become acquainted with the essence of the witnessing consciousness before they strike real gold.
Why, just the other day I spoke about how as long as the ‘I’ is growing, as long as you still feel you are the doer, you have made no contact at all with the witness. When one is really empty, there is nothing other than emptiness, not even the awareness of emptiness.
Maybe, just like my cousin Jesus, I am casting pearls before swine, no matter how lovable the silly creatures are. Don’t they understand I have work to do, that I am endeavouring to bring a new element of spirituality into this dark world? That requires numbers. Big numbers of people to get my crazy wisdom out there. Only those who have gone beyond the world can really change the world for the better. Really, if it were just up to me, I would only have a few disciples and get right down to brass tacks by telling those disciples that there is no witness, because there is nothing to be witness to. Dealing with the masses I have to keep it simple. Oh well, what the fuck!”
“Mmmmmh”, Osho intones, “Great word, ‘FUCK’. Maybe I should compose an anecdote about the word ‘fuck’ for tomorrow morning’s discourse. That should be good for a few laughs. The master looks away from the window and calls out, “Will somebody hurry up and bring me a cup of hot chai! I’m freezing my fucking nuts off in here!”