I often hear you saying that every child comes to this world with an empty mind, as a tabula rasa.
Q: I often hear you saying that every child comes to this world with an empty mind, as a tabula rasa. How is it possible that we, in spite of this, carry memories and conditionings from past lives? Would you please say something about this?
One distinction has to be understood, the distinction between brain and mind. The brain is part of the body. Every child is born with a fresh brain but not with a fresh mind. Mind is a layer of conditioning around the consciousness. You will not remember it; that is why there is a discontinuity.
In each life when a person dies the brain dies, but the mind is released from the brain and becomes a layer on the consciousness. It is nonmaterial; it is just a certain vibe. So on our consciousness there are thousands of layers.
Whenever I have said that a child is born with a mind as a tabula rasa, I meant the brain. The mind is very ancient, as ancient as existence. It has no beginning but it has an end. The day you are able to drop all those layers accumulated in centuries, mind dies. It has an end. In the same reference it has to be understood that enlightenment has a beginning but no end. Then you connect them both.
Mind has no beginning; it has been always there with you. Then at a certain moment you drop it.
The end of the mind is enlightenment.
Then enlightenment continues. It has a beginning but no end. Together they cover the whole eternity, from the past to the future.
But the brain is born every time you enter a body and it dies every time you leave the body. But its content – that is the mind – does not die; it remains with the consciousness. That’s why it is possible to remember your past lives – even when you were animals or trees or rocks. All those minds are still with you. But because psychology makes no distinction between mind and brain, and science accepts no distinction… in the English language mind and brain are almost synonymous. That’s why sometimes I forget and instead of using brain, I use the word mind.
In languages where a deep search has been made into the inner reality there are many words describing different phenomena. In those languages there is a word for brain which cannot be in any way confused with mind. The English word has also come from Sanskrit, manas – it has come as mind – but manas means each layer; then there will be animal manas, vegetable manas, as many different stages of evolution as you have passed.
And in Sanskrit the whole is not called manas, the whole is called chittam. It is called chittam because it is not part and parcel of the body, but part and parcel of consciousness. Consciousness in Sanskrit is chetana. Because it clings to chetana it is chittam. Those languages are clear-cut about the words, their meanings. But the reason is clear: they have worked and found these differences.
Chittam is the whole past, all the minds that are clinging collectively to chetana, to consciousness. They will be dropped collectively, and once they are dropped it is as if you have dropped your clothes and your consciousness is naked. This naked consciousness is the ultimate experience of being.
The dropped minds will remain in the basement of your brain, so even if an enlightened person wants to go through them he can go through them, just the way you can go to the basement of your house and look through all the junk you have been throwing there.
The brain is the latest layer, but the brain itself is not the layer, the content. The brain itself is only a mechanism; it is a biocomputer. When you purchase a computer it is empty; it has no input, it is new. Then you start putting things into it, whatever you want – history, science, religion, mathematics, anything that you want to feed the computer. It collects it, it has a memory system, just as the brain has a memory system. And whenever you want any information you can ask the computer and it will give you the information.
There is a danger that in the future the computer is going to destroy people’s capacity for memory, because it will be far more accurate, and just a small remote controller that you can keep always with you… Either you can have your own computer in the house or you can be joined with the collective computer in the city, and on your remote controller you can figure out anything. You can even find out on what date Socrates was married! But it can give you only that information which has been fed into it. If you ask it any new question that has not been programmed before, the computer is helpless; no answer will be coming.
The same is the situation of the brain. The brain is a computer, just like a memory system. And all of our education is nothing but feeding the computer. It will be able to answer only that which has been fed into it. If you have not learned physics and some question is asked about it, the mind cannot answer because it is not in your memory. So what you call thinking is just futile: you are just going through the memory system finding some answer for a question it has no answer for. Any new question and it stops; it is helpless.
That’s why I insist you cannot think about truth, you cannot think about enlightenment, you cannot think about love. You cannot think of all great things in life because they cannot be fed into the computer ahead of time.
A scholar has a more full computer; his memory is richer. A professor has more. There are people who are respected only for their memory. Our whole education is nothing but a training in memory, it is not an education for intelligence. Intelligence will be a totally different thing. Our education simply tells you what has to be memorized.
In the Soviet Union they realized the fact that the brain is exactly like a computer. Then why torture it and why unnecessarily harass it? Hence in examinations students are allowed to go into the library to consult books or to bring any book they want. All the books that may be needed are available in the examination hall. What is the need to unnecessarily remember something when it is written in the books? But one thing was discovered, and it changed the whole situation: people who were not coming in first started coming in first. People who had been coming in first started losing their grip, started going down – second class, third class.
What happened? In order to search for the answer you need intelligence and those books are big and the time is limited – three hours. You have to answer five questions. You have to be very alert and intelligent to find all the relevant facts and figures to give an answer. The people who had always been coming in first started losing ground because they don’t have any intelligence, they have only memory. Now that memory was of no use.
This is all so primitive. Each student can be supplied with a small remote controller and he can just check what answer is needed. His intelligence will be in how to use the remote controller – how to use it wisely, how not to get mixed up, how to understand the question intelligently so that he can find the answer intelligently. But it is not a question of memory. A different kind of education will be needed which teaches you intelligence.
It is a known fact that people of great intelligence don’t have that great a memory. And there have been people of great memory, but they don’t have any intelligence at all. Their memory is almost miraculous, unbelievable, but it is absolutely mechanical.When the fountain pen was invented it was found that people started losing their beautiful handwriting. With just a simple old-fashioned pen you can write better than with a fountain pen. The fountain pen is speedy and you need not dip it again and again into the ink; it has ink in it. Because of the speed and the ink supply people started writing fast. The grace that was there in writing slowly, suddenly disappeared.
The same is going to happen with computers. It will help you immensely to remember, but it will help also in a negative way – you will not have memory. Even the names of your friends you will have to check on the computer. Even the street number where you live you will have to check on the computer, because now there is no need for your own computer to work – you have a mechanical device.
The brain is not a problem because the brain is only a machine. The problem is the contents in the brain which is the mind. The brain is only a container, and each life you get a new container. The old content is shifted as a layer surrounding your consciousness.
So when I say you get a fresh beginning I mean in the brain, not the mind. But in English they are being used synonymously. If you start going into past lives you will be entering the world of the mind, which is immense, and each layer will reveal one life. When all the layers have been passed through consciously, only then you come to the center of your consciousness.
The Hindu temple is called mandir. The boundary wall represents the mind, and if you go inside, at the center there is the statue of God. The Jaina temple is called chaityalaya for the same reason. If you can pass totally through chitta, the layers of mind, you will reach to consciousness which is the center of the temple.
In Japan there is only one temple which represents more precisely than any other temple the reality of mind and no-mind, mind and consciousness. It has only walls. Inside it is empty; there is no statue of Buddha, there is nothing. You simply go inside and sit in silence. It has been asked why this is so, but even the priests cannot say why, because they have forgotten the symbology. It has nothing to do with the temple, it has something to do with human mind.
For five hundred years after Gautam Buddha’s death, in no temple was there any statue of Gautam Buddha. Instead, on the wall inside the temple the bodhi tree was engraved in the marble. And underneath the tree where Buddha had sat and become enlightened it was empty. It was a strange symbolism but very significant: by the tree they have indicated the place where Gautam Buddha became enlightened – but when he became enlightened there was no Gautam Buddha. It was empty, it was nothingness, it was just silence. Those temples were beautiful, but they have all disappeared, been destroyed.
I have seen one temple in India… it is difficult to comprehend how they have made it. It has no foundation. It is a huge temple – a round temple, very high, maybe fifty feet high – and it has no foundation. You can take a thread, pass it underneath the wall, and then you can move around the whole temple. And you can find that the wall has no foundation anywhere, no connection with the earth!
I asked the priest, “What is the meaning of it?” They have a stupid story… and I said, “This is not the meaning. You are saying something which will appeal only to idiots – that this is a temple from heaven and two parties of gods…” In Jainism and Buddhism there is no God, but anybody who is in heaven is called a god, so there is a plurality of gods. “Two parties of gods were fighting for the temple and the temple slipped from their hands and fell on the earth. That’s why it has no foundation.”
I said, “This is such a stupid story. In the first place you don’t understand where heaven is and if it is somewhere beyond the stars this temple would have burned on the way – it is such a small thing.” Every night we see thousands of stars falling, but no stars are really falling because stars are very big – these are just big stones which are wandering in space.
Whenever a star is created or a planet is created… It is liquid but it goes on turning on its axis, and because it is liquid, and moving, many parts of it are thrown away…
The moon was taken out of the earth in the same way; it used to be part of the earth. And it is because of the moon that we have such big oceans. These oceans are the places from where the liquid earth has dropped out. Thousands of small pieces have fallen into space until they came into some gravitational field.
When the gravitation pulls those small pieces the force is such and the speed is such that they burn up. So when you see a star falling, it is just a stone that is burning. Because of the speed it becomes so hot that at some point it simply bursts into flames. Mostly it is finished in the sky. Only very big stones have been able to reach the earth, for example the stone in Kaaba. Mohammedans think it is divine; it is nothing divine, it is a big stone that could not get burned completely and reached the earth. And there are many other places where such stones are.
So I said, “This temple would have disappeared. It is not possible. And there are no gods – and what kind of gods will be fighting for this rotten temple? There is nothing special in this temple, except that it has no foundation.”
But my understanding is that the walls represent the mind, and inside… there is no statue inside. The inside emptiness represents consciousness. And no foundation represents that your mind has no foundation; it can be dropped any moment you decide to drop it. It is unfounded. It is just clinging around the consciousness, glued to it, but it has no foundation.
A great philosophical insight has been translated into architecture, and those idiots are talking about the gods fighting and the temple slipping out of their hands and falling on the earth. They have destroyed the whole meaning. But the people who created the temple must have had the insight into what they were doing. It must have taken tremendous effort to make it without any foundation. It is a huge structure and it has survived almost fifteen centuries.
There is the brain which comes every life, new, fresh; it is part of the body. There is the mind which is as eternal as life. Until you become enlightened it remains clinging to you. It is just the dust of all the lives that you have lived, the memories that the mind releases after you die. And those memories go on sticking around the consciousness. It becomes a thick layer.
Meditation is the way to dig a hole into this thick layer to reach to the waters of consciousness. Hence meditation has a beginning but no end.
Osho, The Path of the Mystic, Ch 8, Q 1