“At the start of sneezing, during fright, in anxiety, above a chasm, flying in battle, in extreme curiosity, at the beginning of hunger, at the end of hunger, be uninterruptedly aware.”
It looks so simple: at the start of sneezing, during fright, in anxiety or before hunger or after hunger, “be uninterruptedly aware.” Many things have to be understood. Very simple acts like sneezing can be used as devices, because howsoever simple they look, they are very complex, and the inner mechanism is a very delicate thing. Whenever you feel that a sneeze is coming become alert, and the sneeze may not come at all. It may simply disappear, because a sneeze is a non-voluntary thing — unconscious, non-voluntary.
You cannot sneeze voluntarily; you cannot “will” it. How can you? How helpless man is! You cannot “will” a single sneeze. Howsoever you may try, you cannot bring it out. A single sneeze — such a small thing, but you cannot will it. It is non-voluntary; volition is not needed. It does not happen because of your mind; it is because of your total organism, your total body.
And the second thing: when you become alert, when the sneeze is coming — you cannot bring it, but when it is coming — if you become alert, it may not come, because you are bringing something new to the process: the alertness. It may disappear, but when the sneeze disappears and you are alert, there is a third thing. First, a sneeze is non-voluntary. You bring in a new thing — alertness. When the alertness comes, the sneeze may not come. If really you are alert, it will not; it may not happen at all. Then a third thing happens. The energy that was going to be released through a sneeze, where does it move? It moves to your alertness. Suddenly there is a flash, a lightning. You become more alert. The energy, that was going to be thrown by the sneeze moves into alertness. Suddenly you become more alert.
Even a sneeze
is a cosmic
In that flash, in that lightning, even enlightenment is possible. That is why I say that these matters are so simple, they look absurd. Their promise seems to be too much. Just through sneezing, how can one become enlightened? But sneezing is not just sneezing; you are totally involved in it. Whatsoever you do or whatsoever happens to you is a total involvement. Observe again: whenever a sneeze happens, you are totally in it with the whole body, the whole mind. It is not just your nose in which the sneeze is happening; every fiber, every cell of your body is involved in it. A subtle trembling, a subtle wavering goes all over the body, and with it the whole body becomes concentrated. And when the sneeze has happened, the whole body relaxes. But it is difficult to bring alertness to it. If you bring alertness to it, it will not happen, and if it happens you can know that the alertness was not there. That is why you should be alert.
“At the start of sneezing…“, because if it has started, nothing can be done. The arrow has gone; you cannot change it now. The mechanism has started. The energy is on its way to being released, it cannot be stopped. Can you stop a sneeze in the middle? How can you stop it in the middle? By the time you are ready, it has already happened. You cannot stop it in the middle.
Just at the beginning, become alert. The moment you feel the sensation that it is coming, become alert. Close your eyes and be meditative. Bring your total consciousness to the focus just where you are feeling the sensation of an oncoming sneeze. Just at the beginning, remain alert. The sneeze will disappear, and the energy will be transformed into more alertness. And because in the sneeze the whole body is involved, the whole mechanism is involved — it is a release mechanism and you are alert at this moment — there will be no mind, there will be no thought, no meditation.
In a sneeze, thinking stops. That is why so many people like snuff. It unburdens them, their minds feel more relaxed because for a moment thinking stops. Snuff gives them a glimpse of no-thinking. Through snuff, when the sneeze comes, they are not minds, they become bodies. The head disappears for a single moment, but it feels good.
If you become habituated to snuff, it is very difficult to leave it. It is more penetrating a habit than smoking; smoking is nothing before it. It penetrates more deeply, because smoking is conscious and sneezing is unconscious. To leave snuff is more difficult than to leave smoking. And smoking can be changed, substitutes can be found — but there is no substitute for snuff, because, really, sneezing is a very unique phenomenon in the body.
The only other thing that can be compared and which has been compared is the sex act. Those who think in terms of physiology, they say that the sex act is just sneezing through the sex organ — and the similarity is there. It is not one hundred percent right because much more is involved in sex, greater things are involved in it. But in the beginning, just in the beginning, the similarity is there.
Something is thrown out from the nose and you feel relieved, and something is thrown out from the sex organ and you feel relieved. And both are non-voluntary. You cannot move into sex with will. If you try, you will be a failure — particularly men, because man’s sex organ has to do something. It is active. You cannot “will” its act, and if you try, then the more you try, the more it will be impossible. It can happen, but you cannot make it happen. Because of this, in the West sex has become a problem. This half century in the West sex knowledge has developed, and everyone has become so conscious about it that the sex act is becoming more and more impossible.
If you are alert, sex will be impossible. If a man is alert while making love, the more he is alert, the more it will be difficult. He will not be able to get an erection. It cannot be willed, and if you will it you will lose it. The same method, the same technique, can be used in sex. Just in the beginning, when you feel the sensation of an erection just coming to you but it has not yet come, you just feel the vibration, become alert. The vibration will be lost, and the same energy will move into alertness.
Tantra has used this. It has tried in many ways. A beautiful naked woman will be there just as an object for meditation, and the seeker, the meditator, will sit before the nude woman meditating on her body, her form, her proportions, just waiting for the first sensation in his sex center. The moment the sensation is there, he will close his eyes. He will forget the woman. He will close his eyes, and he will become alert of the sensation. Then sex energy is being transformed into alertness.
He is allowed to meditate on the nude woman only up to the point when the sensation is felt. When he has to close his eyes and move to his own sensation and become alert there, the same as is done in sneezing. And why does this flash happen? Because mind is not there. The basic thing is that if the mind is not there and you are alert, you will have satori, you will have the first glimpse of samadhi.
Thought is the barrier. So if thought disappears in any way, the thing will happen. But thought must disappear; only then is alertness there. Thought can disappear even in sleep; thought can disappear when you go unconscious; thought can disappear when you take some drug. Thought disappears, but then there is no alertness to be aware of the phenomenon that is hidden behind thought. So I define meditation as thoughtless consciousness. You can become thoughtless and unconscious; then there is no meaning. You can be conscious with thought; you are already that.
Bring these two things together — consciousness and thoughtlessness. When they meet, meditation happens, meditation is born. And you can try with very small things because nothing is really small. Even a sneeze is a cosmic phenomenon. In existence, nothing is great and nothing is small. Even a minute atom can destroy the whole world, and even a sneeze, a very atomic phenomenon, can transform you.
So don’t see things as small or big. There is nothing small and nothing big. If you have the penetrating eye, then very small things are vital. Between atoms universes are hidden, and between the universe and an atom you cannot say which is great and which is small. Even a single atom is a universe in itself, and the greatest universe is nothing but atoms. So don’t think in terms of great and small. Just try. Don’t say, “What can happen in a sneeze? I have been sneezing the whole life, and nothing has happened.”
Bring in this technique: Just “at the start of sneezing, during fright…“, when you feel afraid and fear enters, just when you feel the fear enter, become aware and fear will disappear. With alertness, there can be no fear. How can you be afraid when you are alert? You can be afraid only when you lose alertness. Really, a coward is not a person who is afraid; a coward is a person who is asleep, and a brave man is a person who can bring his alertness to the moments of fear. So fear disappears.
In Japan, they train their warriors for alertness. The basic training is for alertness, and everything else is secondary: swordsmanship, archery, everything is secondary. It is known, it is said about the great Zen master Rinzai that he never succeeded — never succeeded in his archery — to get to the right point, to the right aim. His arrow always missed; it never reached to the right point. And he is known as one of the greatest archers, so it is asked, “How is Rinzai known as the greatest archer when he never succeeded in any aim and the point was always missed? His arrow never reached to the right point, so how is he known as one of the greatest archers?”
The followers of Rinzai say, “It is not the end, it is the beginning. We are not concerned with the arrow reaching to the end, we are concerned with when the arrow starts its journey. We are concerned with Rinzai. When the arrow leaves the bow, he is alert; that is all. It is not the result, that is irrelevant.”
One man was a disciple to Rinzai. He was a great archer himself, he never missed his aim, and then he came to Rinzai to learn, so someone said, “To whom are you going to learn? He is not a master; he is not even a disciple. He is a failure, and you are a great master and you are going to Rinzai to learn?”
So that archer said, “Yes, because I have succeeded technically. But as far as my consciousness is concerned, I am a failure. He is technically a failure, but as far as his consciousness is concerned he is the archer and the master — because when the arrow leaves he is alert, and that is the point.”
This archer who was a master technically had to learn, for years under Rinzai, and every day he was one hundred percent accurate in his aiming. Rinzai would say, “No, you are a failure. Technically the arrow leaves rightly. But you are not there, you are not alert. You loose it in your sleep.”
In Japan they have been training their warriors to be alert first, and everything else is secondary. A warrior is a brave man if he can be alert. And it was felt in the Second World War that you cannot match Japan’s warriors; their bravery is incomparable. From where does it come? Physically they are not so strong, but in consciousness, in alertness, fear cannot enter. They are not afraid, and whenever fear comes they will try Zen methods.
This sutra says, “during fright, in anxiety…” When you feel anxious, much anxiety-ridden, try it. What is one to do? What do you ordinarily do when anxiety is there? What do you do? You try to solve it. You try alternatives, and you get more and more into it. You will create a bigger mess because anxiety cannot be solved through thinking. It cannot be dissolved through thinking because thinking itself is a sort of anxiety. So you help it to grow more. Through thinking, you cannot come out of it; you will go deeper into it. This technique says don’t do anything with anxiety. Just be alert. Just be alert!
I will tell you one old anecdote about Bokuju, another Zen master. He lived alone in a cave, all alone, but during the day, or even in the night, he would sometimes say loudly, “Bokuju” — his own name, and then he would say, “Yes, I am here.” And no one else was there.
Then his disciples used to ask him, “Why are you calling `Bokuju’, your own name, and then saying, `Yes sir, I am here’?”
He said, “Whenever I get into thinking, I have to remember to be alert, and so I call my own name, ‘Bokuju.’ The moment I call ‘Bokuju’ and I say, `Yes sir, I am here,’ the thinking, the anxiety disappears.”
Then, in his last days, for two or three years, he never called “Bokuju,” his name, and never had to reply, “Yes sir, I am here.”
The disciples asked, “Master, now you never do this.”
So he said, “But now Bokuju is always there. He is always there, and there is no need. Before I used to miss him. Sometimes the anxiety would take me, cloud me all over, and Bokuju was not there. So I had to remember ‘Bokuju,’ and the anxiety would disappear.” Try your name. When you feel deep anxiety, just call. Try this. This is a beautiful thing.
Try your name. When you feel deep anxiety, just call your name — “Bokuju” or any name, but your name — and then reply to it, “Yes sir, I am here,” and feel the difference. Anxiety will not be there. At least for a single moment you will have a glimpse beyond the clouds, and that glimpse can be deepened. Once you know that if you become alert anxiety is not there, it disappears; you have come to a deep knowing of your own self and the mechanism of inner working.
“… Above a chasm, flying in battle, in extreme curiosity, at the beginning of hunger, at the end of hunger, be uninterruptedly aware.”
You can use anything. Hunger is there, become alert. What to do when you feel hunger is there? What has happened? When you feel hunger you never see it as something happening to you. You become the hunger. You feel, “I am hungry.” The real feeling is that “I am hunger,” but you are not hunger; you are only conscious of it. It is something happening on the boundary. You are the center, you have become aware of it. It is an object. You remain the subject, you are a witness. You are not hunger; hunger is happening to you. You were there when hunger was not and you will be there when hunger will have gone. So hunger is an accident; it happens to you.
Become alert, then you will not be identified with it. If you feel hunger, become alert that hunger is there. Look at it, encounter it, face it. What will happen? The more you become alert, the farther away will the hunger be felt; the less alert, the nearer. If you are not alert, exactly at the center you will feel, “I am hunger.” If you become alert, hunger is thrown away. Hunger is there, you are here. Hunger is an object, you are a witness.
Fasting has been used only because of this, for this technique. Fasting in itself is of no use. If you are not doing this technique with the hunger, fasting is foolish — just foolish, of no use. Mahavira used fasting with this technique, and Jainas have been simply using fasting without this technique. Then it is foolish. You are just destructive, and it cannot be of any help. You can be hungry for months and identified with hunger, feeling that “I am hungry.” It is useless, harmful. There is no need to go on a fast. Every day you can feel it, but there are problems. That is why fasting may be helpful.
Ordinarily, we stuff ourselves with food before we feel hunger. In the modern world there is no need to feel hunger. You have a time fixed for your meals, and you take them. You never ask whether the body is feeling hungry or not; at a fixed hour you take your meals. Hunger is not felt. You may say, “No, when it is one o’clock I feel hungry.” That may be a false hunger; you feel it because it is one o’clock, your time. Someday you can play a trick. Tell your wife or your husband to change the clock. It is twelve, and the clock will show that it is one. You will feel hunger. Or it is already one hour fast: it is two exactly, and the clock shows one; then you will feel hunger. You look at the clock, and you feel hunger. This is artificial, false, it is not real.
So fasting may be helpful. If you fast, then for two or three days you will feel a false hunger. Only after the third or fourth day will real hunger be felt; your body will demand, not the mind. When mind demands, it is false. When the body demands, it is real. And when it is real and you become alert, you become totally different from your body. Hunger is a body phenomenon. Once you can feel that hunger is different from you and you are a witness to it, you have transcended the body.
But you can use anything, these are just examples. This technique can be used in many ways; you can devise your own way. But insist on one thing: if you are trying with hunger, then go on at least for three months with hunger. Then only will you be disidentified with your body someday. Don’t change the device every day because a deepening is needed with any technique.
So choose anything for three months. Stick to it, apply the technique, go on working with it, and always remember to be aware in the beginning. In the middle it will be very difficult, because once the identity is felt that you are hungry, you cannot change it. You can get changed mentally. You can say, “No, I am not hunger, I am a witness.” That is false. This is the mind talking, this is not a feeling experience. Just try to be aware in the beginning, and, remember, you are not to say that “I am not hunger.” This is how mind can deceive. You can say, “The hunger is there, but I am not hunger. I am not body, I am the brahman.” You are not to say anything. Whatsoever you say will be false because you are false.
This chanting that “I am not the body” will not help. You go on saying “I am not the body” because you know that you are body. If you really know that you are not the body, what is the use of saying “I am not the body”? There is no use, it will look stupid. Be aware, and then the feeling that “I am not the body” will be there. This will not be a thought, this will be a feeling. This will not be felt in the head, this will be felt all over your being. You will feel the distance — that the body is far away, that “I am absolutely different.” And there is not even a possibility of mixing both. You cannot. The body is the body; it is matter, and you are consciousness. They can live together, but they never mix. They cannot become mixed.
Osho, The Book of Secrets