Unwinding the Mind

Birthday of Swiss Philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau

Born on 28 June 1712, Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Swiss-French philosopher, writer, and composer. He moved to Paris at the age of 30, and his work influenced parts of the French Revolution along with the Age of Enlightenment. Rousseau believed in the natural goodness of man and opined that the human race has been corrupted by civilization and society, specially by the social organization and owning of property. He expressed these thoughts in a few of his most notable works- Discourse on the Arts and Sciences (1750) and Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality Among Men (1754).

Rousseau’s work ranged from human philosophy to education treatises, from romanticism to  social subjectivity. He also composed opera and his light piece The Cunning-Man (1752) was widely appreciated. Rousseau was one of the most prominent French philosophers in the 18th century and was recognized as a national hero in the Pantheon in Paris in 1794 (16 years after his death). Some of his other works include The Social Contract (1762), Emile (1762), and his autobiography – Confessions (1782).

Osho mentions Rousseau, “There are persons who feel love as a fever, as a sort of disease. Rousseau says that youth is not the peak of human life, because youth is prone to the disease called love. Unless one becomes so old that love loses all meaning, mind remains muddled and puzzled. So wisdom is possible only in very, very old age. Love will not allow you to be wise — that is his feeling.

There are others who may feel differently. Those who are really wise will become silent about love. They will not say anything — because the feeling is so infinite, so deep, that language is bound to betray it. And if it is expressed then one feels guilty, because one can never do justice to the feeling of the infinite. So one remains silent: the deeper the experience, the less the possibility of expression.

Buddha remained silent about God not because there is no God. And those who are very much vocal about God really show they have no experience. Buddha remained silent. Whenever he would go to any town, he would declare, “Please, do not ask anything about God. You can ask anything, but not about God.”

Osho Says…..

One of the great tantric of this age, George Gurdjieff, says that identification is the only sin. The next sutra, the tenth sutra on centering — which we are going to penetrate tonight — is concerned with identification. So first be crystal clear on what identification means. You were a child once; now you are not. Someone becomes young, someone becomes old, and childhood becomes a past thing. Youth has gone, but still you are identified with your childhood. You cannot see it as happening to someone else; you cannot be a witness to it. Whenever you see your childhood, you are not aloof from it, you are one with it. Whenever someone remembers his youth, he is one with it.

Really, now it is just a dream. And if you can see your childhood as a dream, as a film passing before you and you are not identified with it, you are just a witness, you will achieve a very subtle insight into yourself. If you see your past as a film, as a dream — you are not part of it, you are just out of it… and really you are — then many things will happen. If you are thinking about your childhood, you are not in it — you cannot be. The childhood is just a memory, just a past memory. You are remaining aloof and looking at it. You are different: you are a witness. If you can feel this witnessing and then see your childhood as a film on a screen, many things will happen. One: if childhood has become just a dream which you can see, then whatsoever you are just now will become a dream the next day. If you are young, then your youth will become a dream. If you are old, then your old age also will become a dream. One day you were a child; now the childhood has become just a dream and you can observe it.

It is good to start with the past. Observe the past and disidentify yourself from it; become a witness. Then observe the future, whatsoever you imagine about the future, and be a witness to that also. Then you can observe your present very easily, because then you know that whatsoever is present just now was future yesterday, and tomorrow it will become the past. But your witness is never past, never future. Your witnessing consciousness is eternal; it is not part of time. That is why everything that happens in time becomes a dream.

Remember this also: whenever you are dreaming something in the night you become identified with it, and you can never remember in your dream that this is a dream. Only in the morning, when you have awakened from the dream, can you remember that it was a dream and not a reality. Why? Because then you are aloof, not in it. Then there is a gap. Some space is there, and you can see that it was a dream.

But what is your whole past? The gap is there, the space is there. Try to see it as a dream. Now it is a dream; now it is nothing more than a dream, because just as the dream becomes a memory, your past has become just a memory. You cannot prove really that whatsoever you think was your childhood was real or just a dream. It is difficult to prove. It may have been just a dream, it may have been real. The memory cannot say whether it was real or a dream. Psychologists say that old men occasionally get confused between what they have dreamed and what was real. Children always get confused. In the morning, small children cannot differentiate. Whatsoever they have seen in the dream was not real, but they may weep for a toy destroyed in the dream. And you also, for a few moments after sleep is broken, are still affected by your dream. If someone was murdering you in the dream, even though your sleep is broken and you are wide awake, your heart still beats fast, your blood circulation is fast. You may be still perspiring, and a subtle fear is still there hovering around you. Now you are awake and the dream has passed, but you will take a few minutes to feel that it was simply a dream and nothing else. When you can feel that it was a dream, then you are out of it and there is no fear.

If you can feel that the past was just a dream — you are not to project this and force the idea that the past was just a dream, it is a consequence — if you can observe this; if you can be aware of it without getting involved in it, without being identified with it; if you can stand aloof and look at it, it will become a dream. Anything that you can look at as a witness is a dream. That is why Shankara and Nagarjuna could say that this world is just a dream. Not that it IS a dream; they were not fools, not simpletons saying this world actually is a dream. They meant by saying this that they have become witnesses. Even to this world which is so actual, they have become witnesses. And once you become a witness of anything, it becomes a dream. That is the reason why the world is called MAYA, an illusion. It is not that it is unreal, but that one can become a witness to it. And once you become a witness — aware, fully aware — the whole thing drops just like a dream for you, because the space is there and you are not identified with it. But we go on being identified.

Just a few days before I was reading Jean Jacques Rousseau’s CONFESSIONS. This is a rare book. It is really the first book in world literature in which someone bares himself, totally naked. Whatsoever sins he has committed, whatsoever immorality, he opens himself up, totally naked. But if you read the CONFESSIONS of Rousseau you are bound to feel that he is enjoying it; he feels very much elated. Talking about his sins, talking about his immoralities, he feels elated. It seems as if he is enjoying it with much relish. In the beginning, in the introduction, Rousseau says, “When the last day of judgement will come, I will say to God, to the almighty, `You need not bother about me. Read this book and you will know everything.'” No one before him has ever confessed so truthfully. And at the end of the book he says, “Almighty God, eternal God, fulfill my only desire. I have confessed everything; now let a big crowd gather to listen to my confessions.”

So it is rightly suspected that he may have confessed some sins also which he has not committed. He feels so elated and he is enjoying the whole thing. He has become identified. And there is only one sin which he has not admitted to — the sin of being identified. With whatsoever sin he has committed or not committed he is identified, and that is the only sin for those who know deeply, how the human mind functions. When for the first time he read his confessions amongst a small group of intellectuals, he was thinking that something earthshaking would happen, because he was the first man to confess so truthfully, as he said. The intellectuals listened, and they became more and more bored. Rousseau felt very uneasy because he was thinking something miraculous was going to happen. When he ended, they all felt relieved, but no one said anything. There was complete silence for a few moments. Rousseau’s heart was shattered. He was thinking that he had created a very revolutionary thing, earthshaking, historical, and there was simply silence. Everyone was just thinking about how to get away from there.

Who is interested in your sins except yourself? No one is interested in your virtues, no one is interested in your sins. Man is such that he becomes elated, he becomes strengthened in his ego, by his virtues and by his sins also. After writing CONFESSIONS, Rousseau began to think himself a sage, a saint, because he had confessed. But the basic sin remained.

The basic sin is being identified with happenings in time. Whatsoever happens in time is dreamlike, and unless you get unattached from it, not identified with it, you will never know what bliss is.

Identification is misery; non-identification is bliss.

This tenth technique is concerned with identification.


You are remembering your past — any happening. Your childhood, your love affairs, the death of your father or mother… anything. Look at it, but do not get involved in it. Remember it as if you are remembering someone else’s life. And when this happening is being filmed again, is on the screen again, be attentive, aware, a witness, remaining aloof. Your past form will be there in the film, in the story. If you are remembering your love affair, your first love affair, you will be there with your beloved; your past form will be there with your beloved. You cannot remember otherwise. Be detached from your past form also. Look at the whole phenomenon as if someone else were loving someone else, as if the whole thing doesn’t belong to you. You are just a witness, an observer.

This is a very, very basic technique. It has been used much, particularly by Buddha. There are many forms of this technique; you can find your own way of approaching this. For example, when you are just falling into sleep at night, just ready to fall into sleep, go backwards through the memories of the whole day. Do not start from the morning. Start right from where you are, just on the bed — the last item — and then go back. Then go back by and by, step by step, just to the first experience in the morning when you first became awake. Go back, and remember continuously that you are not getting involved.

For example, in the afternoon someone insulted you. See yourself, the form of yourself, being insulted by someone, but you remain just an observer. Do not get involved; do not get angry again. If you get angry again, then you are identified. Then you have missed the point of meditation. Do not get angry. He is not insulting you, he is insulting the form that was in the afternoon. That form has gone now.

You are just like a river flowing: the forms are flowing. In your childhood you had one form, and now you do not have that form; that form has gone. River-like, you are changing continuously. So when in the night you are meditating backwards on the happenings of the day, just remember that you are a witness — do not get angry. Someone was praising you — do not get elated. Just look at the whole thing as if you are looking indifferently at a film. And backwards it is very helpful, particularly for those who have any trouble with sleep. If you have any trouble with sleep, insomnia, sleeplessness, if you find it difficult to fall into sleep, this will help deeply. Why? Because this is an unwinding of the mind. When you go back you are unwinding the mind. In the morning you start winding, and the mind becomes tangled in many things, in many places. Unfinished and incomplete, many things will remain on the mind, and there is no time to let them settle at the very moment that they happen. So in the night go back. This is an unwinding process. And when you will be getting back to the morning when you were just on your bed, to the first thing in the morning, you will again have the same fresh mind that you had in the morning. And then you can fall asleep like a very small child.

You can use this technique of going back for your whole life also. Mahavira used this technique of going back very much. And now there is a movement in America called dianetics. They are using this method and finding it very, very useful. This movement, dianetics, says that all your diseases are just hangovers of the past. And they are right. If you can go backwards and unwind your whole life, with that unwinding many diseases will disappear completely. And this has been proven by so many successful incidents; there are so many successful cases now. So many persons suffer from a particular disease, and nothing physiological, nothing medical helps; the disease continues. The disease seems to be psychological. What to do about it? To say to someone that his disease is psychological is no help. Rather, it may prove harmful, because no one feels good when you say his disease is psychological. What can he do then? He feels he is helpless.

This going backwards is a miraculous method. If you go back slowly — slowly unwinding the mind to the first moment when this disease happened — if by and by you go back to when for the first time you were attacked by this disease, if you can unwind to that moment, you will come to know that this disease is basically a complex of certain other things, certain psychological things. By going back those things will bubble up. If you pass through that moment when the disease first attacked you, suddenly you will become aware of what psychological factors contributed to it. And you are not to do anything, you are just to be aware of those psychological factors and go on backwards. Many diseases simply disappear from you because the complex is broken. When you have become aware of the complex, then there is no need of it; you are cleaned of it, purged. This is a deep catharsis.

And if you can do it daily, you will feel a new health, a new freshness coming to you. And if we can teach children to do it daily, they will never be burdened by their past. They will not need ever to go to the past, they will be always here and now. There won’t be any hang-up; nothing will be hovering over them from the past. You can do it daily. It will give you a new insight for going backward through the whole day. The mind would like to start from the morning, but remember, then there is no unwinding. Rather, the whole thing is re-emphasized. If you start from the morning, you are doing a very wrong thing. There are many so-called teachers in India who suggest to do it — to reflect on the whole day — and they always say to do it again from the morning. That is wrong and harmful, because then you are re-emphasizing the whole thing and the trap will be deepened. Never go from the morning to the evening, always go backward. Only then can you clean the whole thing, purge the whole thing. The mind would like to start from the morning because it is easy: the mind knows it and there is no problem. If you start going backward, suddenly you will feel you have jumped into the morning and you have started going forward again. Do not do that — be aware, go back.

You can train your mind to go back through other things also. Just go back from a hundred — 99, 98, 97… go back. Go from a hundred to one, backwards. You will feel a difficulty because the mind has a habit to go from one to hundred, never from a hundred to one. In the same way you have to go backward with this technique. What will happen?

Going backward, unwinding the mind, you are a witness. You are seeing things that happened to you, but now they are not happening to you. Now you are just an observer and they are happening on the screen of the mind. While doing this daily, suddenly one day you will become aware during the day, while working in the market, in your office or anywhere, that you can be a witness to events that are happening just now. If you can be a witness later on, and look back at someone who had insulted you without becoming angry about it, why not right now, to what is presently happening? Someone is insulting you: what is the difficulty? You can pull yourself aside just now and you can see that someone is insulting you, and still you are different from your body,  your mind, that which is insulted. You can witness it. If you can be a witness to this, you will not get angry; then it is impossible. Anger is possible only when you are identified. If you are not identified, anger is impossible — anger means identification.

This technique says, look at any happening of the past — your form will be there. The sutra says your form, not you. You were never there. Always your form is involved; you are never involved. When you insult me, you do not insult ME. You cannot insult me, you can insult only the form. The form i am just here and now for you. You can insult that form and I can detach myself from the form. That is why Hindus have always been insisting on being detached from name and form. You are neither your name nor your form. You are the consciousness who knows the form and the name, and the consciousness is different, totally different. But it is difficult. So start with the past, then it is easy, because now, with the past there is no urgency. Someone insulted you twenty years back, so there is no urgency in it. The man may have died and everything is finished. It is just a dead affair, just dead from the past; it is easy to be aware of it. But once you can become aware there is no difficulty in doing the same with what is happening just here and now.

But to start from here and now is difficult. The problem is so urgent and it is so near that there is no space to move. It is difficult to create space and move away from the incident. That is why the sutra says to start with the past:

look at your own form, detached, standing aloof and different, and be transformed through it. You will be transformed through it because it is a deep cleaning, an unwinding. Then you can know that your body, your mind, your existence in time are not your basic reality. The substantial reality is different. Things come and go upon it without touching it in the least. You remain innocent, untouched; you remain virgin. The whole thing passes, the whole life passes: good and bad, success and failure, praise and blame — everything passes. Disease and health, youth and old age, birth and death — everything passes, and you are untouched by it.

But how to know this untouched reality within you? That is the purpose of this technique. Start with the past. There is a gap when you look at your past; the perspective is possible. Or look at the future. But to look at the future is difficult.  Only for a few persons, observing the future is not difficult — for poets, for people with imagination who can look into the future as if they are looking at reality. But ordinarily the past is good to use; you can look into the past. For young men it may be good to look into the future. It is easier for them to look into the future because youth is future-oriented. For old men there is no future except death. They cannot look into the future; they are afraid. That is why old men always start thinking about the past. They always go again and again into their memories, but they commit the same mistake.   They start from the past toward their present state of being — that is wrong, they should go backward. If they can go backward many times, by and by they will feel that their whole past is washed away from them. And then a person can die without the past clinging to him. If you can die without the past clinging to you, you will die consciously; you will die fully aware. Then death will not be a death to you. Rather, it will be a meeting with the deathless.

Clean the whole consciousness of the depth of the past, and your very being will be transformed through it. Try this. This method is not very difficult, only persistent effort is needed; there is no inherent difficulty in the method. It is simple, and you can start with your day. Just tonight on your bed go backward, and you will feel very beautiful, you will feel very blissful. And then the whole day will have passed. But do not be in a hurry, pass it slowly so that nothing is missed. It is a very strange feeling, because many things will come up before your eyes. Many things you have really missed while passing through the day because you were too much engaged. But the mind goes on collecting even when you are unaware. You were passing through a street. Someone was singing, but you might not have paid any attention. You might not have even been aware that you have heard the sound, just passing in the street. But the mind has heard and recorded it. Now that will cling; that will become a burden to you unnecessarily. So go back, but go very slowly, as if a film is being shown to you in very slow motion. Go back and see the details, and then your one day will look very, very long. It is, really, because for the mind there has been so much information, and the mind has recorded everything. Now go back.

By and by you will become capable of knowing everything that has been recorded. And once you can go back, it is just like a tape recorder: it is washed away. By the time you will reach the morning you will fall asleep, and the quality of the sleep will be different — it will be meditative. Then again, in the morning when you feel that you have awakened, do not open your eyes immediately. Go backward into the night. It will be difficult in the beginning. You may go a little. Some part, some fragment of a dream which you were just dreaming before the sleep was broken may come to your mind. But by and by, with gradual effort, you will be able to penetrate more and more and more, and after a three-month period you will be capable of moving backward to the point when you fell asleep.

And if you can go backward deep within your sleep, your quality of sleep and waking will change completely, because then you cannot dream; dreaming will have become futile. If you can go back in the day and in the night, dreaming is not needed…The quality of your sleep will be changed totally, because without dreams you fall to the very bottom of your being, and without dreams you will be aware in your sleep. That is what Krishna says in the Gita, that while everyone is deeply asleep the yogi is not, the yogi is awake. That doesn’t mean that the yogi is not sleeping — he is also sleeping, but the quality of the sleep is different. Your sleep is just like a drugged unconsciousness. A yogi’s sleep is a deep relaxation with no unconsciousness. His whole body is relaxed; every fiber and cell of his whole body is relaxed, with no tension left. But he is fully aware of the whole phenomenon.

Try this technique. Start from tonight, try it, and then do it in the morning also. And when you feel that you are attuned to the technique, that you can do it, after one week try it for your whole past. Just take one day off. Go to some lonely place. It will be good if you fast — fast and be silent. Lie down on some lonely beach or under some tree, and just move toward your past from this point: you are lying on the beach feeling the sand and the sun, and now move backward. Go on penetrating, penetrating, penetrating, and find out the last thing that you can remember. You will be surprised. Ordinarily you cannot remember much, and you cannot pass the barrier of four or five years of age. Those who have a very good memory may go back to the age barrier of three years, but then suddenly a block comes and everything goes dark. But if you try with this technique, by and by you will break the barrier, and very easily you can come to remember the first day you were born. And that is a revelation.

Back again with your sun and beach, you will be a different man. If you make more effort, you can penetrate to the womb. And you have memories of the womb — nine months of memories with your mother. That nine-month period is also recorded in the mind. When your mother was depressed, you have recorded it because you felt depressed. You were so connected with the mother, so united, so one, that whatsoever happened to your mother was happening to you. When she was angry, you were angry. When she was happy, you were happy. When she was praised, you felt praised. When she was ill, you felt the pain, the suffering, everything.

If you can penetrate to the womb, now you are on the right track. And then, by and by, you can penetrate more and you can remember the first moment when you entered the womb. Only because of this remembrance, Mahavir and Buddha could say that there are past lives, rebirth. Rebirth is not really a principle, it is just a deep psychological experience. And if you can remember the first moment you entered the womb of your mother, then you can penetrate more and you can remember the death of your past life. Once you touch that point then the method is in your hands; then you can move very  easily to all your past lives.

This is an experience, and the result is phenomenal, because then you know that through many, many lives you have lived the same nonsense that you are living now. You have been doing this whole nonsense so many times, repeatedly. The pattern is the same, the format is the same, only the details differ. You loved some other woman, now you love this woman. You gathered money… the coins were of one kind, now the coins are different. But the whole pattern is the same; it is repetitive. Once you can see that for many, many lives you have lived the same nonsense, how stupid has been this whole vicious circle, suddenly you are awakened and the whole thing becomes a dream. You are thrown away from it, and now you do not want to repeat the same thing in the future.

Desire stops, because desire is nothing but the past being projected into the future. Desire is nothing but your past experience in search of another repetition again. Desire means just an old experience that you want to repeat again — nothing else. And you cannot leave desire unless you become aware of this whole phenomenon. How can you leave it? The past is there as a great barrier, a rock-like barrier. It is upon your head; it is pushing you toward the future. Desires are created by the past and projected into the future. If you can know the past as a dream, all desires become impotent. They fall down, they just wither away — and the future disappears. In that disappearance of past and future, you are transformed.


This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune. 

Discourse Series: Vigyan Bhairav Tantra, Vol 1

Chapter #15

Chapter title: Toward the untouched inner reality

18 November 1972 pm in Woodlands, Bombay


Osho has spoken on notable Psychologists and philosophers like Adler, Jung, Sigmund Freud, Assagioli, Wilhelm Reich, Aristotle, Berkeley, Confucius, Descartes, Feuerbach, Hegel, Heidegger, Heraclitus, Huxley, Jaspers, Kant, Kierkegaard, Laing, Marx, Moore, Nietzsche, Plato, Pythagoras, Russell, Sartre, Socrates, Wittgenstein and many others in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. The Hidden Splendour
  2. The Wild Geese and the Water
  3. This, This, A Thousand Times This: The Very Essence of Zen
  4. Nirvana: The Last Nightmare
  5. Beyond Enlightenment
  6. Beyond Psychology
  7. Dang Dang Doko Dang
  8. The Discipline of Transcendence
  9. The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha
  10. From Bondage to Freedom
  11. From Darkness to Light
  12. From Ignorance to Innocence
  13. The Secret of Secrets, Vol 1
  14. From Personality to Individuality
  15. I Celebrate Myself: God Is No Where, Life Is Now Here
  16. Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega, Vol 4
  17. Zen: The Path of Paradox, Vol 1
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