The Ten Grounds of the Way: “How do you measure the length of a man’s life?” The monk answered: “By the breath.” (part 2)
To read the first part of this discourse go to: How do you measure the length of a man’s life?
The Buddha asked a third monk. “How do you measure the length of a man’s life?
The monk answered, “By the breath.”
The Buddha said: Very well, you know the Way.
Now, in an English translation, saying ‘by breath’ does not seem to be so significant as it appeared to Buddha when the monk said, “By prana.” ‘Breath’ is a translation of ‘prana‘, but prana is much more meaningful than breath. The actual translation, closer to truth, would be ‘spirit’, not ‘breath’. And the word ‘spirit’ exists in such words as ‘inspiration’, ‘expiration’. ‘Spirit’ seems to be closer to home, but still not exactly true. So let me first explain to you what prana is; then you will be able to understand. Otherwise it looks a little absurd: the man says, “By breath,” and Buddha says: Very well, you know the Way. The man just says, “By breath.”
The first thing: if you look at yourself you will find there is the body; the first circle around you, your outermost circle. Then there is your mind: the second circle within the first circle. And then you will come to a bridge: that bridge is your breath, prana. By that bridge you are joined with the soul. That’s why when a person stops breathing we say he is dead, the bridge is broken. Now the soul is separate and the body is separate. When a child is born the first thing he is expected to do is to breathe. Through breath the soul and body become joined together. And again, the last thing he will do when he dies will be to stop breathing. Again there will be a divorce; the body and soul will be separate.
Prana is the bridge, the glue by which you are glued together. A man can live without food for many days; you can live without water for many hours; but without breath you cannot live even for many minutes. Even seconds will seem difficult.
Breath is the bridge between matter and no-matter, between the form and the formless, between the world and God – or whatsoever terms you choose. Breath is the bridge, and much depends on the breath. How you breathe, what the quality of your prana is: much depends on it.
Watch… when you are angry you breathe in one way, when you are silent you breathe in another way. The pulse is different, the rhythm is different, the quality is different. When you are angry your breath is not rhythmic, not musical, not harmonious. It is bumpy. When you are in a passion, in sexual passion, again the breath is feverish. It is not in tune; something goes wrong with breathing. When you are sitting silently, just being peaceful, not doing anything – no desire, no passion, no anger – just full of compassion, full of love, your breathing is very soft. Your breathing has a rhythm to it, a dance to it. It has no violence, no aggression; it is very delicate.
Have you watched it? – when you are in passion your breath will have a very bad odor to it; when you are peaceful your breath will have a very sweet smell to it. Because you are at ease, the whole being is at ease, you are at home; the breathing will carry the message that you are at home.
There are moments of deep meditation when breathing almost stops. I say almost; it does not stop really. But it becomes so silent that you cannot feel it. You can feel it only if you put a mirror close to your nose. Then on the mirror you can feel it; otherwise you cannot feel it. Those are rare moments of blessing and benediction.
All the Yoga systems of the world have worked on breathing, because it is through the breathing that you will pass from the body to no-body. It is through breathing that you will enter into the innermost core of your existence.
The monk is right when he says, “A man’s life is to be measured by the way he breathes, by how he breathes.” If you are afraid, your breathing is different; you are nervous, your breathing is different; you are sad, your breathing is different. With every mood your breathing changes. The breathing goes on showing where you are. If you can watch your breathing, you will learn the whole alphabet of your inner changing climates. You can see all the moods reflected in the breathing. Breathing is a great way to measure where you are, what you are, what you are doing. Buddha emphasized breathing very much. And his emphasis is unique: it is very different from Patanjali, it is very different from Hatha Yoga, it is very different from other systems, all other systems. He says: Don’t use any system for breathing, because if you do something with breathing, you will create something artificial. Let breathing be natural – you simply watch it. You don’t do anything to it, you simply be a witness, you simply look at it.
Now, if you watch breathing. by and by you will see that you are different from breathing. Certainly – because the watcher cannot be the watched, the subject cannot be the object, the observer cannot be the observed.
When you start watching your breathing – and Buddha says to continuously do it: walking, sitting, whenever you are not doing anything else, just watch your breathing, go on seeing it – by seeing it, a great serenity will arise in you. Because you will be standing behind breathing, and behind the breathing is your soul; you will be centered in your soul.
And if you watch breathing, you will learn: subtle changes in breathing show where you are, and breathing continuously functions as a measuring-rod. A slight change in breathing will be noted when awareness is full. And you can drop then and there: you can become more alert. If you feel your breathing is wavering a little, and you feel that this wavering is the wavering that comes when sex takes possession, then it is the moment to become more aware. And if the wavering breathing settles again, you have passed. That desire that was going to possess you will not be able to possess you. By and by, you become aware of what type of changes happen in breathing when you become angry. They are so subtle that if you can become aware when the breathing changes slightly they can be dropped from there – because they are right in the seed and the seed can be dropped easily. When they become big trees it is very difficult to drop them. You become aware of anger only when it has already possessed you. Your diagnosis is too late.
In Soviet Russia they have developed a new photography; they call it Kirlian. And now Kirlian photographers say that we can catch hold of a disease six months before it really happens to the person. And if it can be done, then there will be no need for anybody to be ill. The person himself is not aware that he will be falling a victim of tuberculosis in six months. How can you be aware of that? But before it enters into the body, first it enters prana. Before it enters the body, first it enters your energy. They call it ‘bioplasma’ in Russia; it is exactly what we mean by prana – bioplasma: your vitality, your body electricity.
First it enters into the body electricity, and then it takes six months to be transformed into a physical phenomenon. Then it becomes solid in the body. Then it is already too late. When you start treating it, it is already too late. If you could have caught it when it was in the bioplasma, you could have destroyed it very, very easily. There would have been no problem in it. And the body would never have suffered, the body would not even have known about it.
Buddha says that anything that enters into the bioplasma first happens in your breathing. Anything that happens to your body, to your mind, first happens to your breathing. Maybe some day Kirlian photographers will be able to re-discover the fact that there is a certain association between the pulse of bioplasma and breathing. It has to be so – because when you breathe deeply you have a bigger aura. That has been photographed. When you breathe deeply you have more oxygen and more flowing energy, and your body has a bigger aura, more luminosity to it. When you breathe in a dull way, the whole of your lungs are not full of oxygen and you go on carrying much stale carbon dioxide; then your aura shrinks and becomes very small.
A really alive person has a very big aura, so big that when he comes close to you his aura touches your aura. And you will feel it: there are people with whom you will suddenly feel that you are attracted, pulled. They are irresistible, you would like to come close to them, closer and closer.
Their aura has touched your aura.
Then there are people whose auras are almost dead, whose auras do not exist at all. They repel, they don’t attract. They are like dead people; nobody feels attracted towards them.
Buddha says: Watch, become aware of your breathing.
His Yoga is called Anapanasati Yoga – the Yoga of watching the breath coming in and watching the breath going out. He says: This is enough. So when the monk said, “By the breath,” Buddha said: Very well, you know the Way.
The Buddha’s Way has ten grounds called bhumis. Bhumi means ground. Buddha has said that if you understand these ten grounds, and if you practice these ten grounds, you will attain to the ultimate. And I would like to go into these ten bhumis, these ten grounds. They are very practical.
The first bhumi is pramudita: it means joyousness. Now, you will be surprised. People have a misunderstanding about Buddha and his teaching – they think that he is a very sad, pessimistic thinker. He is not. His first grounding is joyousness. He says: Unless you are joyous you will never reach to the truth. Joyousness, delight, celebration; that is the meaning of pramudita.
Be like a flower – open, dancing in the breeze, and joyous. Only joy can take you to the other shore. If you are not joyous, your very sadness will function like a rock around your neck and will drown you. People are not drowned by anything else but their own sadness and pessimistic outlooks. Life has to be joyous; then life becomes spiritual.
If your church is sad, then that church exists for death, not for life. A church, a temple, has to be joyous. If you come to a saint and he has no sense of humor, escape from him, beware. He can kill you, he will prove poisonous. If he cannot laugh, then you can be certain that he does not know what truth is. Truth brings a sense of humor; truth brings laughter; truth brings a subtle happiness, for no reason at all.
Pramu-gita means: joyous for no reason at all. You are sometimes joyous, but that is not pramudita – because it has a reason. Some day you have won the race and you are very happy. What will you do? It is not going to happen every day. What are you going to do tomorrow? Or you have won a lottery and you are very happy, but this is not going to happen every day.
One day I saw Mulla Nasrudin very sad, sitting on his verandah. I asked, “What is the matter Nasrudin? Why are you so sad?”
He said, “Two weeks ago one of my uncles died and left me fifty thousand rupees.”
So I said, “This is nothing to be sad about. You should be happy.”
He said, “Yes, I was. And then the next week another uncle died and left me one lakh of rupees.”
So I said, “Why are you sad? You should be dancing!”
He said, “I know. But now… no more uncles left.”
It cannot happen every day; uncles cannot die.…
Your joyousness, if it is caused, is bound to turn into unhappiness sooner or later. It is on the way already; watch out. If you have a cause to be happy you are already getting into unhappiness – because the cause will disappear. Only uncaused joyousness can be yours; and then nobody can take it away.
Only saints and madmen are joyous for no reason at all. That’s why there is a similarity between mad people and saints, a little similarity, an overlapping. Their boundaries overlap. Both are very different: the saint is aware, the madman is absolutely unaware. But one thing is certain: both are happy for no reason at all.
The madman is happy because he is so unaware that he does not know how to be unhappy; he is so unconscious that he cannot create misery. To create misery you need a little consciousness. And the saint is happy because he is so fully aware; how can he create misery? When you are fully aware you create happiness for yourself, you become a source of your happiness.
That’s what Buddha means by pramudita, and he says this is the first ground.
Osho, The Discipline of Transcendence, Vol 4, Ch 7 (excerpt part 2)
To read the other parts of the discourse go to: The Ten Grounds of the Way
Update 29.8.2022; Corrected spelling of ‘pramudita’. Ot previously read ‘pramu-gita’. Thanks to Tarpan.
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