What is meditation and who is Osho
A talk given by Anando at the annual conference of Edizione Mediterranee, Italy 2002
Osho is the author of ‘Meditation, the First and Last Freedom’ and ‘The Orange Book’ published by Ed Mediterranee. These, by the way, are just 2 of more than 600 titles by Osho published in over 30 countries.
So, who is Osho?
He has been called many things by many people. And since his death he has become a national icon in India, with a special place in the Parliament library reserved for his books. Just recently on the audiobookcafe website, the best-selling philosopher and ‘new age’ musician Myron McClellan, talks about Osho as “the late pioneer of the science of consciousness, who has created a methodology for people to discover themselves”. And Elle magazine in Italy said about Osho: “His greatness was that he didn't give solutions, only tools for people to realize themselves.…”
That, I think, sums up rather nicely the direction of Osho’s work.
His books cover every topic known to man, and some that weren’t known, and he has been called one of the intellectual giants of the 21st century. But regardless of which subject he is discussing, his basic insistence, his main message, is that every person has the potential to rise above the constraints of their mind to experience a higher consciousness, or if you like, to have an awareness of their authentic reality, rather than the identity they have been given by society. And he says that the way to do so is meditation.
Why, in the first place, should we be interested in rising above our minds?
First you need to understand how the mind functions. It is a brilliant tool that essentially analyses information by breaking it down into its smallest parts, always comparing and contrasting one part with the other. Good/bad, higher/lower, lighter/darker, day/night… this is the beauty of the mind.
However, for appreciating any phenomenon which depends on its wholeness for its quality, then to run this experience through a mechanism which breaks things into pieces is not smart.
An example: you might be looking over a beautiful valley, the mist, the low clouds, the trees, perhaps a stream running down the middle… some birds… Or you could look at this valley like a real estate developer and all you would see is how many subdivisions you can make…. Or perhaps you are listening to music, or watching a sunset…. It is one whole experience that gives the music or the sunset its beauty. Is it useful to break it into pieces?
Essentially it is like using, say, a microscope to smell good Italian cheese! Great instrument. Wrong function.
So, it is with the mind. As a tool it has wonderful applications. As a guide to living a whole life, it is useless.
The mind also has a great memory system. Again wonderful if you need it, not so great if you don’t. And above all the mind is a compulsive habitual workaholic. Out of habit, it just runs 24 hours a day, playing recorded messages from the past, inventing fears about tomorrow, comparing and contrasting everyone you meet… in fact it is a bit like having your mother in law implanted just behind your left ear!
The one thing the mind is incapable of, is just relaxing quietly into the delights of the present moment. But life only comes one moment at a time. What has gone has gone, and what hasn’t happened yet, hasn’t happened yet. This is the only reality we have.
Imagine you were taking a country walk. The sound of the birds, the smell of the flowers, the crunch of grass beneath your feet…and suddenly you see someone in the distance standing in the next field. Looks like Antonio…hell, I owe him that money, perhaps I will tell him the cheque is in the mail…or I will post it next week… or maybe he won’t mention it…how embarrassing, I promised to pay him last week…. On and on. Then you arrive at the gate, it is not Antonio…or Antonio has moved on… or you do meet him and he doesn’t even mention the money.
Whatever, you have missed that whole walk…the whole flavor and smells of the countryside, unnecessarily thinking about Antonio’s money. And even if you had met him and he had mentioned the money, you would have been better to have just been honest and authentic in the moment. Either way… just like that walk is lost, so 70 years of our lives are similarly wasted. Then we are gone, Antonio is gone…and another life is unlived.
So the choice is very simple. If we let the mind run the show, we will spend our 70 years unnecessarily thinking – about tomorrow and yesterday. We will be endlessly agitated about becoming something or somebody, and unable to just be as we are.
Or we can learn to find the “off” button and use the mind as required, and let it rest when it is not. (And then when we do need it, it will work much better after the rest.) And learn to live our lives, one moment at a time. In real time.
And of course, out of this moment, comes the next moment. And by living this moment to the fullest, giving it our maximum awareness and attention, we give the next moment the best chance of being beautiful too. And by being present, we get the most out of each moment.
So, it is common sense really. Who wants to live a miserable posthumous life if you don’t have to!
Most people are not very happy or contented...
I think it is fair to say that at some point in our lives, most of us come to the conclusion that there has got to be something more, that living the way we do, there seems no point in life – we work our butts off to achieve material success and recognition, and we are still miserable.
We have tried all the panacea recommended by the chemists, the philosophers and the church, and still we have the same insecurities and doubts, the same fears and shames, the same disillusions (maybe even more), the same miseries and complaints, the same nagging feeling that something is wrong, either with us, or with life.
If we imagine looking back on our life from our deathbed, its like, ‘What was that all about? I can’t take anything with me, I am leaving life as alone and empty-handed as when I entered it’.
This is a great point to reach (hopefully before we get to our deathbeds), because it is the point when we begin to turn inwards, to look inside ourselves for answers rather than outside.
Osho says that we all have a basic longing for something higher, that the seed of transformation is planted in us all. This longing propels us to explore many things in life. And usually it is only when we have tried all the outer paths without finding fulfilment, that we are ready to look in, to start the inner journey.
This is when we decide to try meditation.
So, what is meditation?
It is not contemplation, or concentration – those are activities of the mind, and meditation is about going beyond the mind and entering into dimensions of the unknowable.
Osho describes meditation as a state of silent witnessing – witnessing that you are not the body, not the mind, not your emotions or sensations, in fact, that you are not even the ‘you’ you thought you were.
This experience, of witnessing, is a knack – it is just a question of finding and practicing a technique that works for you, and it comes. Because it is something our being already knows. It is just blocked by the logic, rationality and control of our minds, which cannot conceive of anything unknowable.
We all know that meditation has been scientifically proved to be good for us – it lowers blood pressure, relieves stress, helps prevent heart attacks, calms nerves, and brings a sense of balance and harmony to the body/mind, creating a feeling of well-being.
How does it work? Basically because, as the medical experts tell us, most of our illnesses originate in the mind, you can say that disease is a result of a ‘dis-easeiness’ we have with ourselves and with our surroundings. The stresses and tensions and repressed emotions accumulated because of the increasingly unnatural way we live our lives. Meditation works because it takes us beyond the mind, to a place of stillness and silence and peace.
Sounds good, but how to get there?
Osho has given us many different techniques, because we are many different types. The basis of all the techniques is meditation itself - witnessing, but the path to meditation/witnessing can be anything. In fact, Osho says that once you have got the knack, you can make anything in your life a meditation – eating, sleeping, walking, cooking, making love…. Because meditation is simply a state of relaxed awareness.
The mind full of thoughts and emotions only dominate us because we remain attached to them, because we identify with them. The knack of witnessing allows you to “watch” the mind. “It” is watched, there. And “you” are watching, here. In that gap your indentification with the thoughts and feelings disappears. And as you stop giving energy to them, as if they were “you” they slowly go their own way and let you go yours!
The techniques to getting there are utterly scientific.
Meditation is a science – it is the science of discovering and exploring the inner world of consciousness. But Osho’s techniques are also revolutionary. Osho says meditation is nothing short of a revolution – a revolution against all the ideas we have about ourselves and the world we live in, a revolution against all the ideas fed to us by society, a revolution against everything that is borrowed from others, that is not our own personal experience. For such a major revolution we need absolute totality – we need to bring all our energy and awareness to whichever technique we are practising.
Osho says it is like when you boil water – to change it from water to vapour requires a certain intensity, the water needs to heat up to a point where it bubbles and is in a great turmoil. Then the transformation automatically happens. It is the same with us. we have to discover a way past the damping controls of our mind.
To help us do this, Osho created ‘active’ meditation techniques. He was well aware that the ancient techniques of sitting silently watching the grass grow are quite irrelevant to our lifestyle of today, where our busy minds, stressed out bodies and repressed emotions make it almost impossible to sit still in peace. So he created techniques that are scientifically designed to help us let go of our accumulated tensions, to consciously express and experience repressed feelings and emotions, and learn the knack of watching our habitual patterns in a new way.
Osho's famous Dynamic meditation technique
The most famous of these techniques, which is now practiced in thousands of clinics, hospitals, sports clubs and other institutions around the world, is Dynamic meditation.
This starts with deep fast chaotic breathing, because it is the breath that we use to hold down and repress our feelings and emotions. Just watch, the next time you are insulted or hurt, watch and see that the very first thing you do is take a sharp in-breath which you hold. We do it unconsciously, but its effect is to hold down the emotional reaction we would have otherwise had – the hurt feeling, or the anger or whatever. We do this because we have been trained that it is not good to show our feelings. But the body is not aware of that – the body has been trained, by nature, to react in a certain way whenever the mind registers danger. Scientists call it the ‘flight or fight syndrome’ – as soon as the mind registers danger, the body goes on full alert to deal with it – the blood pressure and heart rate go up, adrenalin and other stress hormones are pumped into the muscles, the body shuts down non-essential functions like digestion so that all the energy can go into fighting with, or fleeing from, the danger.
A great system, which was obviously very effective in saving us from sabre toothed tigers.
The problem is that the mind can also register non-existent dangers – probably we have all had experiences of being scared by a rope we thought was a snake, or a dog we thought was a chingialle, or something like that. Do you remember what happens to the body in those situations? The rush of adrenalin, etc? Well the same thing also happens when we are insulted or hurt, because the mind also registers those as danger- threats to our ego or social standing or whatever. And then the flight or fight syndrome kicks in, because it is automatically triggered as soon as the mind perceives any danger.
So when we are hurt or insulted, our body immediately gets ready to fight (maybe we are even aware of our hands tightening into fists). But it’s just not politically correct, what to say about economically wise, to punch the boss or one of our colleagues, on the nose, or to say, excuse me, you have provoked my fight or flight syndrome so I need top go run around the office a few times to wear it off. So what do we do?
We repress this reaction. How? By holding our breath. So all those feelings, of anger or shame or fear or hurt, are locked into the body somewhere – we all have our favorite place, usually the belly or the shoulders or the jaw, or all of the above. And the stress hormones, which are toxic, are also left roaming around the body, unspent. If you think about it, incidents provoking this syndrome happen many times during a single day – we are not aware of how often because our immediate repression has become so automatic. We just grit our teeth and get on with things. But the accumulation of repression, day after day, week after week, year after year… its not surprising that we end up with digestion problems, sleeping problems, restless and irritated bodies, and finally diseases like heart attacks.
Dynamic meditation is specially designed to get rid of these accumulated tensions and poisons. It starts with deep fast chaotic breathing, to take the lid off the things we have been holding down, and to bring oxygen into the parts of our bodies which have become numb or even dead from holding so much stress.
This is followed by catharsis – a chance to throw out all the rubbish that has come up to the surface through the breathing. It is a such a wonderful experience – to shout and scream and throw off the stuff we have been accumulating. Utterly refreshing. The body feels full of energy afterwards. This stage is followed by jumping with arms raised, shouting the sufi mantra ‘hoo’. The effect is to send waves of new energy up through the body from the earth. The ‘hoo’ hits on the sex center, which is the primary energy center, so it is a tremendously cleansing process. Then comes a “STOP” where you freeze like a stone statue. The whole body is pumping with energy, the heart and the breathing are full-on from the jumping, and you suddenly stop the body. But energy never stops. So what happens, is that if you don’t give the energy any outlet, through looking (your eyes are closed throughout the meditation), through listening, through talking, through moving, then the energy turns in. this is the what is symbolised by the curved serpent in mysticism – signifying the energy turning in. there is one other way the energu can move out, which is through thoughts. And this is the part that needs practice. The idea is to watch the thoughts, without getting caught up in them as we usually do. The thoughts will continue, in fact they may seem to be magnified in the silence, but if you can learn to watch them as if they are cars in traffic, or a movie on the screen, then you are not giving energy to them, then all your energy goes inside. And that is where you get a taste of a whole new dimension, a taste of something of the ‘beyond’. Beyond the mind, beyond anything previously known or experienced. Because in that silence, in that turning in, you realise that you are not the mind, nor the body, you are witnessing them so you cannot be them. This allows you to celebrate in the final stage of the meditation – dancing to celebrate a new sense of yourself.
Listening as a Meditation
Dynamic is just one of hundreds of techniques for meditation Osho has given. Another is listening... because sound is in the present moment. What is the big deal about that? And what does that have to do with meditation?
Usually when we listen, we are analysing what we listen to, constantly filtering it through our past experiences and memories, comparing and judging. Then we are in the mind, not in the present. The mind is incapable of being in the present moment, of experiencing the present reality. If you look, you will see that our minds are always chattering away about something related to the past or to the future. How can we live totally the present moment when our minds are chattering like this? It is impossible. In fact, usually our only experiences of being totally in the present moment are when the mind is left in the lurch suddenly – maybe in an accident or a moment of danger, or a moment when we are overwhelmed by great beauty or love. So when we are in our minds, which is most of the time because we have been taught to function through our minds, so much so that we have come to think we are our minds, then we are incapable of really just being in the present moment.
Meditation is about stopping the struggle of trying to be a certain kind of person, and just relaxing into who we are, living life in the present from moment to moment, without being burdened by the past or concerned about the future. Listening, really listening to sounds as sounds, without using the mind to judge or analyse them, is a way of bringing us to the present moment. It is a way of being in meditation. And it is utterly relaxing, because in the present moment there are no problems. There are simply situations to be dealt with.
And if we can slowly come to realise, through meditation, that we are more than our minds, then we can also see that it is possible to dis-identify with our old patterns of reacting. We can start to experience the simple and natural way of responding to situations in the present, rather than reacting automatically from past memories, experiences and ideas. This makes life so much easier!