Osho on Self-
Remembering and Witnessing Technique
Question: Beloved Master, The Technique,
of Self- Remembering seems easier for me than
witnessing. Do they both lead to the same Goal?
Osho: They both lead to the
same goal, but the technique of self-remembering is
harder, longer and dangerous. Only very few people in
the whole history of mankind have attained to
enlightenment through the technique of self-remembering.
Many have tried, but utterly failed – it looks easy. The
reason is that your self-remembering is not going to be
your self remembering, it will be your ego remembering;
that’s why it looks easy. You don’t know the distinction
between the self and the false self.
The false self is
our ego, and the ego is very subtle, very cunning, and
tries in every way to pretend to be the real self.
That’s why in
the beginning it will look easier than witnessing,
because in witnessing there is no place for the ego.
From the very beginning the ego is avoided. In
witnessing, the ego cannot enter. But in
self-remembering, there is every possibility of the ego
pretending to be your self. Then the more you will
practice, the more your ego will become stronger.
If somebody wants to travel on the path of
self-remembering, he absolutely needs a master. He
cannot move alone, because he cannot make a clear-cut
distinction of what is false and what is true. He knows
only the false, he is not acquainted with his true
being. Unless he is under a very rigorous master it will
be very difficult to create a separation between the ego
and the self.
I will explain it to you by an ancient Chinese story....
A great master had a big monastery – five hundred monks
– and they were all practicing the path of
self-remembering. Self-remembering is one of the paths
Buddha has recommended. One man entered into the
monastery – he wanted to become a disciple. The master
accepted him, but he was a very simple man from a
village, almost uneducated. The master told him, ”Your
job is cleaning the rice in the kitchen.”
It was a big kitchen – five hundred monks. The poor man
was cleaning the rice before sunrise and late into the
night. He had no time to go to the sermons, to go to the
prayers; he had no time to read the scriptures or listen
to the wise talks. Those five hundred monks were great
scholars, and the monastery was known all over the
country. Twenty years passed and the man continued just
cleaning the rice and doing nothing. He forgot even to
count the years – what was the point? He forgot the
days, the dates, and finally he became suspicious about
his own name.
For twenty years nobody had used it,
nobody had called him by his name – perhaps it was his
name, perhaps it was not. For twenty years continuously
he was doing one small thing: cleaning the rice, from
the moment he woke up until he went back to bed again.
The master declared that his time to depart from the
body had come. He wanted to choose his successor, and
the way he did it was this: ”Anybody who thinks he has
succeeded in self- remembering should write on the wall
of my hut some insight which shows that he has seen the
One person, who was thought to be the greatest scholar
in the commune, tried. But he was so afraid to write
that sentence there, because it was not his insight. He
knew – how could he not know it – he knew it was not his
insight, it was just borrowed from scriptures. It was
not his experience – and it was difficult to deceive the
old man. In the morning the old man came out, asked the
servant to erase what had been written, and said, ”Find
out who this idiot is who has spoiled my wall.” It is
said that the great scholar had not even signed, out of
fear that he would be caught.
If the master appreciated
that this was really a great insight, then he would come
out and say, ”I have written it.” Otherwise he would
remain silent... who knows? Out of five hundred people
anybody could have done it!
Almost one dozen great scholars tried, but none of them
had the courage to sign his name. And the master behaved
in the same way; he erased the line and said, ”None of
you has come to the point of self-remembering. You have
all been feeding the ego in the name of self. I reminded
you again and again, but having a big ego is such a joy.
And a spiritual ego, the otherworldly ego, the divine
ego, becomes even more delicious.
Now I will have to
find the person myself.” In the middle of the night the
master went to the man who had come twenty years ago.
For twenty years the master had not seen him, he had
simply been cleaning rice. He woke the man up. The man
asked the master, ”Who are you?” Because twenty years...
he had just seen him once for a few seconds when he was
initiated – ”And what is the idea of disturbing my
The master said, ”I am your master. You have
forgotten...? Do you remember your name?” The man said,
”That is the difficulty. The work you have given me is
such that it needs no name, no fame, no scholarship, no
austerities. It is so simple that I have forgotten
everything. I cannot be certain that this is my name. A
few names come to my mind and I cannot decide which one
is mine, but I am grateful to you.” He touched the feet
of the master. ”Please don’t change my job. I have
forgotten everything, but I have also achieved
I know a peace that I had never dreamed of,
a silence that no word can express. I have known such
moments of ecstasy that even if I had died there would
not have been any complaint that life has not been fair
to me. It has given me more than I was worthy of.
Just DON’T change my job. I am doing it perfectly well.
Has somebody complained about my work?”
The master said,
”No, nobody has complained, but your job has to be
changed because I am choosing you as my successor.” The
man said, ”I am only a rice cleaner. I don’t know
anything about being a master or a disciple. I know
nothing. Please forgive me, I don’t want to be your
successor because I cannot handle such a big job, I can
only handle this rice cleaning.”
The master still
insisted, ”You have achieved that which others have been
trying to achieve but have failed. You have achieved it
because you were not trying. You were simply doing your
Slowly, slowly there was no need for thinking, no need
for emotions, no need for anger, no fight, no
comparison, no ambition – your ego died. And with the
ego died your name. You are not born with a name. It is
the ego that is given a name – that is the beginning of
the ego. With the death of the ego, you even forgot your
own master, because it was the ego that brought you to
me. ”Up to that moment you were on a spiritually
ambitious trip. You are absolutely the right person, so
take my robe, my hat, my sword, which have always been
given by the master to the successor.
But remember one
thing: take them and escape from this monastery as far
away as you can, because your life will be in danger.
All these five hundred egoists will kill you. You are so
simple and you have become so innocent that if they ask
you for the robe, the sword, the cap, you will give
You simply take them and go as far away as you can into
the mountains. ”Soon people will start arriving to you
just as bees start finding their way towards the flowers
when the flowers blossom. You have blossomed. You need
not bother about the disciples, you simply remain
silently in a faraway place. People will come to you;
you simply teach them whatever you have been doing.”
”But,” he said, ”I have received no teaching and I don’t
know what to teach them.” The master said, ”Just teach
them to do small things, silently, peacefully, without
any ambition, without any motivation to gain something
in this world or in the other world, so that you can
become innocent like a child. That innocence is real
Not being Hindu, not being Mohammedan, but being utterly
innocent – just a tabula rasa, a clean sheet on which
written. No Bhagavadgita, no Koran, no Bible...” It is
possible... a few people have attained through
self-remembering. One of the great masters of this age,
George Gurdjieff, used the method self-remembering, but
you have to be aware that not a single person of his
disciples became enlightened – and he was one of the
most perfect masters. But the problem is that the ego
and the self are so close and so similar that whatever
you think is your self is most probably, in ninety-nine
percent of cases, just your ego.
The master’s function is
absolutely necessary for this method, because he
has to destroy your ego. And he has to be hard,
harsh. Unless he destroys your ego, self-remembering is
going to lead you, not to enlightenment, but to darker
spaces of being.
It will strengthen your ego more – you will become a
very strong ego, very assertive. In any ordinary field
of life you will be very successful. You can become an
Adolf Hitler, you can become a Joseph Stalin... Stalin
was not his real name, it was given to him because he
was such a strong man. ‘Stalin’ means man of steel. But
these people are not a benediction to humanity, they are
a curse. If they had not been there man would have been
in a far better space, in a far better consciousness.
So if you feel that it is easier for you, then be very
careful. I will still suggest that though witnessing may
be difficult in the beginning, it is the most safe
method without any dangers. It cannot lead you anywhere
other than towards enlightenment. So it can even be
practiced without a master. I would like to give you
something in which you are not to be dependent on
somebody else. How long have you lived, how many lives?
In all these lives you may have come across many saints,
many masters, but where have you reached?
is the same, your unconsciousness is the same. Perhaps
they all gave you methods, but the methods were such
that they needed constant supervision. Those methods are
called school methods. You have to enter into a
monastery, live in a monastery, function under a strict
discipline – then perhaps you may be able to achieve
from a school method.
And there are such monasteries. In Europe, there is a
monastery in Mount Athos; it is one thousand years old.
There are almost
three thousand monks inside the monastery, and anybody
who wants to become a monk in that monastery can decide
to enter, but only his dead body will go out. If there
is such a commitment, only then is a person accepted.
Once a person enters Mount Athos, you will never see him
till he is dead. This is a school for absolute
self-remembering, but you cannot put the whole world in
Who will take care of these monasteries?
Hence my preference is to use a method which keeps you
free from any commitment, from any dependence – which
keeps you in the world and yet not of the world.
Witnessing is the most simple and the most infallible
method; it is the essence of all meditations. Even
self-remembering, finally, is witnessing – but at a
later stage, when you have dropped the ego. And if you
start looking inside yourself, you can understand what I
am saying. Can you see your ego and self separately? You
simply know one thing: that is I. You don’t know two
things: that I is the ego, and that the ego is capable
of nursing itself through anything.
I have heard...
A small child was passing by the side of a palace. He
had failed his examination and was feeling very angry
with the teachers. He was ready to do something, and
suddenly, he found a pile of stones by the side of the
road. He took one big stone from the pile and threw it
at the palace. Now the palace had nothing to do with his
failing, nor had the stone anything to do with it, but
he was in such anger he wanted to do something; the
energy was there, and it needed to be released. The boy
went on his way, but what happened to the stone?
stone started rising up he looked down – his brothers
and sisters and cousins were all there.
And the stone said to them, ”I am going on a pilgrimage.
I have been thinking about it for a long time.
God willing, I will succeed in my adventures and come
back to you to relate all that I experience on the way.”
All the other stones looked at this stone with their
mouths open: ”What is happening? He has no wings.” He
was just a stone like themselves. They also wanted to
fly, but they knew that they could not. ”But he is
flying, you cannot deny it...”
So they all said, ”Okay,
just remember us; don’t forget us. You are a hero. In
the centuries of time sometimes one stone gets wings the
way you have, and we
are proud that you belong to us, to our family.” They
were even feeling great pride because one of the stones
was flying towards the palace. The stone hit against a
glass window, and naturally, when a stone hits glass it
is the glass that is broken, not the stone – it is just
the nature of things. But the stone said to the pieces
of glass, ”You idiots. I have always said, ‘Never come
in my way. Whoever comes in my way will be shattered to
Now look what happened to you. Let this be a lesson to
everyone who is listening.” At that very moment the
guard on the gate heard the noise of the stone falling
on the floor, the glass being broken... he rushed in. He
took the stone in his hands, and the stone said –
although the guard could not understand his language,
because he talked in Nepalese...! He said, ”Thank you
my lord, you are the owner of this palace – I can see
from your beautiful dress. I will never forget this
honor that you have given to me – taken me in your own
The situation was totally different, but the ego
goes on turning every situation in its favor. The guard
was afraid that if the king came to know then he would
be caught: ”What are you doing?
Who has thrown the stone?” He threw the stone back out
of the window. And these are the ways of the ego: the
stone said, ”Thank you! You are not only a great host,
you understand the hurts of other people too. You know I
am longing to meet my friends. I want to tell them the
whole story of my visiting the palace of the king – the
meeting with the king, the conversation with the king,
the destruction of the enemies who came in my way.”
as he was falling back into the pile of the stones, he
said to them, ”Brothers and sisters, I am back. You
should all be proud. My name should go down in history,
and with me, my family’s name. This pile of stones is no
ordinary pile, it is something historical.” The ego has
its ways of fulfilling itself even in situations where
it should be shattered. So beware of it.
Self-remembering can be done
only in a school where you are devoting yourself
to the discipline twenty-four hours a day, because it is
the moment you remember yourself... While walking you
remember, ”I am walking” – then walking is no longer
natural. It becomes divided: you are separate, and the
walking is separate. Walking is a simple process, but in
life you are doing a thousand and one things which are
very complex. If you are going to remember yourself
while using a machine, while driving a car... it could
be very dangerous because your whole focus is in
remembering yourself. You could cause an accident which
could be dangerous to you, which could be dangerous to
Life has its own wisdom. The body has its own wisdom.
For example, try one thing and you will understand what
I mean: you have been eating every day your whole life
but you have never thought about what happens to the
food when it goes down your throat – you forget about
it. Don’t forget about it. Just for three days try to
remember that the food has gone in. Remember that the
food is being digested, that juices, chemicals and other
things are coming in from different directions, that the
food is being mixed with them and the food is being
transformed into different things. It is becoming blood,
it is becoming your flesh, it is becoming your bones.
In three days’ time you will have such a disturbed
stomach, you cannot imagine. It will take at least three
months to get it back to its normal state. You are not
needed to remember it. It knows its function, and it
does its function perfectly well without your
remembering. That’s why when you are sick it is better
to rest, because the body needs you to sleep so it can
work better without any disturbance from you.
You must have heard the famous story about a
A centipede has one hundred legs – that’s why it is
called centipede. And for centuries, centipedes have
been in the world, walking perfectly well – no problem.
But one day a rabbit became curious. He saw the
centipede, he tried to count his legs and said, ”My God!
One hundred legs! How does he manage to remember which
one to put first, which one to put second? ”If I had one
hundred legs,” the rabbit thought, ”I would get
entangled and I would fall immediately; I could not walk
at all. This centipede is performing a miracle.”
He said, ”Uncle, uncle, wait, wait! I have a question if
you don’t mind...”
The centipede said, ”There is no hurry. I was just going
for a morning walk. You can ask your question.”
He said, ”My question is simple: you have one hundred
The centipede said, ”One hundred? In fact, I have never
counted. It would be too difficult for me to count them,
but if you say so then perhaps I must have.”
The rabbit said, ”My curiosity is: how do you manage to
walk with such a trail of one hundred legs?
How do you manage which one comes first, then second,
then third, then fourth...?”
The centipede said, ”I have never thought about it. I
will try. Just now – I will try here.”
And then and there he fell on the ground. He called the
rabbit and said, ”You idiot! Never ask another centipede
such a question, otherwise centipedes will die. We
cannot live with this curiosity. I have been doing
perfectly well up to now, and just as I started becoming
alert about what leg is going when... as I started
remembering one hundred legs, my mind got very much
Self-remembering is a school method. And school method
means you are in a safe monastery, not doing work that
could be dangerous. Otherwise your remembering...
working in a factory, working in a carpentry shop and
trying to remember, you are bound to get into the same
position as the
I don’t want anybody to get into any trouble in the name
of spirituality, hence my suggestion again is just pure
witnessing – no question of I. And that too, very
playfully, not seriously, with a sense of humor. If you
forget, there is no harm. Whenever you remember, again
you start. You will forget many times, you will remember
many times. There is no question of guilt; it is human.
Very slowly, bigger and bigger gaps of witnessing will
arise in you, and as the gaps of witnessing become
bigger, your thoughts will become smaller, less. The
moment your witnessing comes to a peak – at certain
times with a crystal clarity – the thoughts will simply
disappear. You will be in an absolute silence. Whatever
you are doing will not be disturbed by your silence, but
on the contrary, your workmanship, your creative effort
will be enhanced.
If you are making statues, or painting, or playing
music... with such a mad mind, with all kinds of
thoughts running around, and you can still manage to
create beautiful music – just think of a silent mind,
how much deeper and higher music you could create.
The same applies to every area of life.
I make it a point to be remembered
that if your
meditation is right, everything in your
life will start falling into better shape. That is the
only criterion. No need to ask anybody else; you
can see yourself. Everything in your life will become
better with your meditation. When your meditation is at
its highest peak, all your efforts will have a beauty
and a grace and a creativeness that you cannot imagine.
That’s why I say, don’t divide spiritual life from the
ordinary life. Don’t create any division at all.
this life remain one single whole. So if your
consciousness changes, then everything that surrounds
you also changes. I cannot imagine a man of meditation
renouncing his wife. No, a man of meditativeness will
love his wife more. Perhaps his love will become more
and more purified, less and less sexual, more and more
But he cannot renounce her, that is ugly. Leaving a poor
woman and escaping – that is not the work of a brave
man. It fits to a coward, but not to a man who is
meditating. In my village I loved to sit in an old man’s
small shop. He used to sell sweets. I was attracted, not
by his sweets, but by the sweetness of the man. He would
say, ”The cost price of this many sweets is one rupee,
and if you are willing, just for my labors and for my
family, you can give me one anna more – that is my
First he would tell the cost price, and then he would
tell his profit. And that too he would leave up to you:
”If you don’t want to give it to me, you can take it at
the cost price – of course, I am a poor man, I cannot
give it to you below the cost price. I can give you my
labor, I can give you my profit, but I cannot go below
the cost price.” And I inquired – because it was a sweet
market and there were many shops, I inquired in other
shops about what he was saying cost one rupee. And
others were selling for two rupees, two and a half
rupees – the same quantity, but not the same quality,
not the same love. While he was preparing his sweets, I
used to sit. He even asked me, ”You are the only one.
Why do you come and sit here?”
I said, ”I simply like it – to see you work. You work so
lovingly, as if you were preparing these sweets for your
beloved who is coming after many years – and you don’t
know who the customer will be.” And he laughed. He said,
”As far as I know it is the same customer who always
comes – different faces, but the customer is the same.
That’s why I cannot deceive. I cannot cheat, I cannot
exploit because it is the same customer with different
faces. I have recognized him.”
His whole life I would describe as the life of a great
saint, although nobody in the world would recognize him
as a saint because we have this idea so deeply rooted in
our minds that a saint should renounce life, get away
from life. That anti-life attitude has proved so
poisonous that it has destroyed the whole beauty of
human existence. It has taken away the whole dignity of
Hence I still insist – even if you feel self-remembering
is easier – that you try witnessing. Even though it is
difficult in the beginning, it becomes very easy as you
Gautam Buddha has said, ”My teaching is bitter
in the beginning but sweet in the end.”
Source: “The Sword and the Lotus “ - Osho
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