Not Indifference, but Witnessing

Osho on Witnessing


 Nicolaas,  THE DIFFERENCE IS VERY CLEARCUT, but subtle and delicate. To be indifferent means to be dead; it does not mean that you are a witness, it simply means you are disconnected from life and all the sources that nourish you. You are only uprooted; that is alienation. Uproot a tree and it will start dying. Its greenness will be gone, soon the foliage will wither away, flowers will not come any more. The spring will come and go but the tree will know nothing of it; it has become alienated from existence. It is no longer rooted in the earth, it is no longer related to the sun, it no longer has any bridge. It is surrounded by walls, all bridges are broken.

That’s what has happened to the modern man: he is an uprooted tree. He has forgotten how to relate with existence, he has forgotten how to whisper with the clouds and the trees and the mountains. He has completely forgotten the language of silence… because it is the language of silence that becomes a bridge between you and the universe that surrounds you. The universe knows no other language. On the earth there are three thousand languages; existence knows no language except the language of silence.

An English general was talking to a German general after the Second World War. The German was very puzzled; he said, “We had the best equipped army in the world, the best war technology, the greatest leader that history has ever known, the best of generals, and such a devoted army. Why? — why couldn’t we win? It seems simply Impossible that we have been defeated! It is unbelievable — although it has happened — but we cannot believe it!”

The English general laughed and said, “There is one thing you have forgotten: before starting any battle we used to pray to God; that is the secret of our victory.”

The German said, “But we also used to pray to God, every morning!”

The English general laughed and he said, “We know that you used to pray, but you pray in German and we pray in English — and who told you that God knows German?”

 Everybody thinks his language is the language of God. Hindus say Sanskrit is the holy language, the divine language — DEVA VANI — God understands only Sanskrit. And ask the Mohammedans — then God understands only Arabic; otherwise, why should he have revealed the Koran in Arabic? And ask the Jews — then God understands only Hebrew. God understands no language because God means this total existence. God understands only silence — and we have forgotten silence.

Nicolaas, because we have forgotten silence, forgotten the art of meditation, we have become alienated. We have become small, dirty, muddy pools and we don’t know how to go and be one with the ocean. We go on becoming dirtier every day, shallower every day, because the water goes on evaporating. We are just muddy, our life has no clarity. Our eyes cannot see and our hearts cannot feel. This state is the state of indifference; it is a negative state. The mystics have called it ‘the dark night of the soul’. It is not witnessing, it is just the opposite of witnessing.

When I say be a witness I am not saying become uprooted from life. I am saying live life in all its multi-dimensionality, and YET remain aware. Drink the juices of life, but remember that while you are drinking the juices of life there is a consciousness in you beyond all action, all doing. Drinking, eating, walking, sleeping, are all acts, and there is a consciousness in you which simply reflects, a mirror-like phenomenon. It is not indifference. The mirror is not indifferent to you, otherwise why should it bother to reflect you at all? It is immensely interested in you, it reflects you, but it does not become attached. The moment you are gone, you are gone; the mirror does not remain remembering you; the mirror now reflects that which is in front of it. A witnessing consciousness lives in life but with tremendous non-attachment, with great non-possessiveness; it possesses nothing. It lives totally, it lives passionately, but still knowing that “I don’t possess anything.” The witnessing consciousness is not an island separate from the ocean; it is ONE with the ocean. But still a miracle, a paradox: even being one with the ocean there is a part that remains above the ocean like the tip of the iceberg. That part is your witnessing soul. To create it is the greatest treasure in the world; one becomes a Buddha by creating it.

Falling into indifference you become simply unconscious, you go into a coma. You lose all joy in life; the celebration of life stops for you. Then you don’t exist, you only vegetate. Then you are not a man but only a cabbage — and that too uprooted. You become more and more rotten every day, you stink; no fragrance comes out of you. The same energy that could have become fragrance passing through a witnessing soul becomes a stinking phenomenon by becoming indifferent. But I can understand your question, Nicolaas. From the outside sometimes indifference and witnessing may appear alike. This has been one of the greatest calamities — because they APPEAR alike. Hence true Sannyas was lost and a phony Sannyas became predominant. I call Sannyas phony if it lives in indifference. The phony Sannyas is escapist. It teaches you not to enjoy life, it teaches you not to love music, it teaches you not to cherish beauty. It teaches you to destroy all the sources that beautify your existence. It teaches you to escape to the caves, ugly caves, to turn your back towards the world that God has given as a gift to you.

The phony sannyas is not only against the world, it is against God too, because to be against the world is to be against the creator of the world. If you hate the painting you are bound to hate the painter. If you dislike the dance, how can you like the dancer? God is the painter, the world is his painting. God is the musician, the world is his music. God is the dancer, NATARAJ, and the world is his dance. If you renounce the world, indirectly you are renouncing God. The phony sannyas is escapist; cheap it is, easy it is. It is very easy to escape from the world and live in a cave and feel holy — because there is no opportunity for you to be unholy, no challenge. Nobody insults you, nobody criticizes you. There is nobody present, so you can think that now there is no anger in you, you can feel that now there is no ego in you. Come back to the world!

I know people who have lived for thirty years in the Himalayas, and when they come back to the world they are surprised to find that they are the same people, nothing has changed. Thirty years of Himalayas — a sheer wastage! But while they were in the Himalayas they were thinking they had become very sacred, very holy, they had become great saints. And there were reasons for them to think so, because no anger, no ego, no greed… there is nothing to possess so you feel non-possessive, nobody to compete with so you feel non-competitive, nobody hurts your ego so you don’t feel the ego at all. Things are felt only when there is some hurt. For example, you feel your head only when there is a headache. When the headache disappears, the head also disappears from your consciousness; you cannot feel your head without a headache. You become headless when there is no headache. Living in the Himalayan cave you have escaped from all the hurts of the world which make you aware again and again of the ego, of the anger, of the greed, of jealousy…. Coming back into the world you will find everything is back again — and back with a vengeance, because for thirty years it has been accumulating. You will bring a bigger ego than you had ever taken with you to the Himalayas.

The sannyas that teaches indifference is phony. The sannyas that teaches you how to live in the world and yet float above it like a lotus flower, like a lotus leaf, remaining in the water and yet untouched by the water, remaining in the world and yet not allowing the world to enter into you, being in the world yet not being OF the world, that is true renunciation. That true renunciation comes through witnessing; it is not indifference. Indifference will make you alienated, being alienated you will feel meaningless, joyless, accidental.

Feeling accidental, the desire to commit suicide will arise, is bound to arise. Why go on living a meaningless life? Why go on repeating the same rut, the same routine, every day? If there is no meaning, why not end it all, why not be finished with it all? Hence many many more people are committing suicide every day, many many people are going mad every day. The rate of suicide and madness is increasing. Psychoanalysis seems to be of no help. Psychoanalysts, in fact, commit suicide more, go mad more, than any other profession.

Nothing seems to help the modern man — because the indifference is too heavy; it has created a dark cloud around him. He cannot see beyond his own nose; he is suffocating in his lonely world. The walls are so thick, thicker than the China Wall, that even when you love you are hidden behind your wall, your beloved is hidden behind her wall. There are two China Walls between you. You shout, but no communication seems to be possible. You say one thing, something else is understood; she says something, you understand something else. Husbands and wives sooner or later come to one understanding: that it is better not to talk. It is better to keep silent, because the moment you utter a word misunderstanding is bound to follow…People are becoming more and more lonely, and out of desperation they are trying every possible way to communicate. Nothing seems to help. Nothing can help unless they start learning the art of silence. Unless a man and woman know what silence is, unless they can sit together in deep silence, they cannot merge into each other’s being. Their bodies may penetrate each other, but their souls will remain far apart. And when souls meet there is communion, there is understanding.

Indifference makes you dull, makes you mediocre, makes you unintelligent. If you are indifferent your sword will lose all sharpness. That’s how it happens to the monks in the monasteries. Look at their faces, in their eyes, and you can see that something is dead. They are like corpses walking, doing things robot-like because those things have to be done. They are not really involved; they have become utterly incapable of getting involved in anything. This is a very sad situation, and if it continues, man has no future. If it continues, then the third world war is bound to happen — so that we can commit a global suicide; so there is no need to commit suicide retail, we can commit it wholesale. In one single moment the whole earth can die. Hence meditation has become something absolutely needed, the only hope for humanity to be saved, for the earth to still remain alive.

Hence meditation has become something absolutely needed, the only hope for humanity to be saved, for the earth to still remain alive.

Meditation simply means the capacity to get involved yet remain unattached.

. It looks paradoxical — all great truths ARE paradoxical. You have to experience the paradox; that is the only way to understand it. You can do a thing joyously and yet just be a witness that you are doing it, that you are not the doer. Try with small things, Nicolaas, and you will understand. Tomorrow when you go for a morning walk, enjoy the walk — the birds in the trees and the sunrays and the clouds and the wind. Enjoy, and still remember that you are a mirror; you are reflecting the clouds and the trees and the birds and the people.

This self-remembering Buddha calls sammasati — right mindfulness. Krishnamurti calls it ‘choiceless awareness’, the Upanishads call it ‘witnessing’, Gurdjieff calls it ‘self-remembering’, but they all mean the same. But it does not mean that you have to become indifferent; if you become indifferent you lose the opportunity to self-remember. Go on a morning walk and still remember that you are not it. You are not the walker but the watcher. And slowly slowly you will have the taste of it — it is a taste, it comes slowly. And it is the most delicate phenomenon in the world; you cannot get it in a hurry. Patience is needed. Eat, taste the food, and still remember that you are the watcher. In the beginning it will create a little trouble in you because you have not done these two things together. In the beginning, I know, if you start watching you will feel like stopping eating, or if you start eating you will forget watching.

Our consciousness is one-way — right now, as it is — it goes only towards the target. But it can become two-way: it can eat and yet watch. You can remain settled in your center and you can see the storm around you; you can become the center of the cyclone. And that is the greatest miracle that can happen to a human being, because that brings freedom, liberation, truth, God, bliss, benediction.


Listen to complete discourse at mentioned below link.

Discourse Series: Be Still and Know

Chapter #1

Chapter title: Always on the Rocks

1 September 1979 am in Buddha Hall


Osho has spoken on ‘witnessing, watching, silence, awareness, Watcher on the Hill’ in many of His discourses. More on the subject can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. Beyond Enlightenment
  2. The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol 1, 3, 6
  3. Dogen, the Zen Master: A Search and a Fulfillment
  4. From Misery to Enlightenment
  5. From Unconciousness to Consciousness
  6. From the False to the Truth
  7. The Hidden Harmony
  8. Hsin Hsin Ming: The Book of Nothing
  9. The Invitation
  10. Nirvana: The Last Nightmare
  11. The Rebel
  12. Sufis: The People of the Path, Vol 2
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