Hanging from a branch above the abyss


An experience shared in a newsletter sent out by the Italian Osho Times.


My mind is still busy thinking about a science documentary I saw a while ago on RAI TV, about “the Void” – vacuum, or nothingness. Only since the seventeenth century, I learned, has the Void been considered as scientific reality. Prior to that it had been thought logically impossible, so, therefore, it simply could not exist. Almost by accident, while working on something else in the laboratory – studying pump suction – was the reality of a vacuum established

Today it might seem like a minor discovery, but it has had an enormous influence, both in terms of practical developments as well as theoretical studies – all the way to the mysterious Quantum Void…

For us, a vacuum implies nothingness… but quantum physicists have discovered, not only through theoretical calculations but also with practical experiments, that when a vacuum is created mysterious things happen: from who knows what other dimensions, matter appears and then immediately disappears. And this happens all the time.

Modern physics is a truly fascinating world that, as Osho also says, is increasingly approaching the world of the mystics. The two explorations, outward and inward, are more and more in agreement with each other.

According to Osho, emptiness is the final state of being from which radiates everything that can be seen in life. It is not at all a dead dimension – as the common-sense mind might suppose – but is the very foundation of the creative force.

I suspect that in my life I have been “saved” several times by the creative force of the Void…

A few days ago I took a wonderful hot bath during which I relaxed very deeply indeed. Then, coming out of the bathroom in my bathrobe, with my muscles all relaxed from the hot water – and also a bit distracted – I tripped over a wet flip-flop and tumbled head over heels down the stairs. Very scary, you might well think.

I experience all this in slow motion: my foot slips and I am no longer in contact with the ground. For a moment I’m floating weightless, untethered. The mind stops completely. There is no fear, no attempt to save myself, just a pure moment of emptiness. Awake, present, relaxed.

According to Zen stories, this would be the perfect trigger for satori, for enlightenment. Well, it didn’t happen to me, but nonetheless this has stayed in my memory as a precious experience, certainly the most special of my recent life.

From a practical point of view, my landing on the steps was like a miracle… I could have broken my skull, or an arm, or my spine. Instead, I touched down almost like a feather, with my weight perfectly distributed. I got up immediately, continuing what I was doing as if nothing had happened. Okay, maybe it had just been good luck. But still, that moment of emptiness…

It was something I had already experienced many years ago in a very similar situation, and there it was clear that something had saved me.

I was 13 years old. After dinner, I felt irresistibly attracted by the idea of conquering the summit of the mountain just behind the hotel where I was holidaying with my parents. It was July and the day was still bright. Without saying anything to anybody, I left, full of energy, and climbed the mountain. It was one of those follies typical of reckless youth.

To my great satisfaction, I reached the top but by then it had grown dark. On my way back down I immediately lost the path. With no light at all coming from the village below, panic overwhelmed me. “Oh, my God, I’m lost!” I started to run downhill – my emotions in turmoil, desperate with fear.

In my chaotic flight, I went completely off track, through bushes and undergrowth, over large protruding roots and boulders, eventually arriving at the edge of a terrifying precipice.

At this point, there is a mental void. I have no memory. I shut down completely. Inside me is darkness.

When the light switched back on, or rather when my vision of the world was restored – it could have been many minutes later, but more likely was just a few seconds – this is what I witnessed: I am dangling over an abyss, at least 20 metres deep, looking down into a void and seeing my feet swaying in the air. I look up: I am hanging by my arms, my hands grasping onto a large branch of a tree that had grown right at the edge of the ravine. I notice that my feet are swaying a metre from the overhanging edge from which I had fallen.

At this point, having returned to myself, I swing myself a little so that I can plant my feet on the edge of the ravine. I let go of the branch and crouch for a moment in the grass to contemplate the enormous danger I had mysteriously escaped. Then I burst into tears of liberation, letting all tension go.

But what had really happened? How did I manage to get hold of the big branch that had grown on the exact spot where it should save my life? I hadn’t even seen that branch; my fear-filled eyes had only seen the chasm. What happened between that moment and the next, when I “woke up” hanging on the branch, is a mystery.

It can’t have been just good luck; something had arisen out of my mental emptiness, from my inner darkness, to make me save myself.

Osho has often pointed out that emptiness, darkness, nothingness, the absence of everything is in fact the presence of something else:

“If you look at the stars, by and by it is not only that you see the stars; by and by the meaning of the darkness is transformed too. You start looking at darkness as something beautiful, something that allows the stars to be. Then the darkness becomes the very mother of the stars. And that life that can see darkness as the very mother of light, that consciousness that can see nothingness as the source of all… is religious.”
(Osho, The Further Shore, Ch 18)

One of the great gifts of meditation is precisely to learn to make friends with the void, with what seems at first like darkness. It is more than friendship; there is a great reverence: we are face to face with the mystery of life!

Translated from a newsletter sent out by the Italian Osho Times (www.oshotimes.it)

Image credit exoteric.roach.org

Comments are closed.