What is the ego? Are we always functioning through the ego or are there moments when we are free of it?
MAN HAS NO CENTER separate from the center of the whole. There is only one center in existence; the ancients used to call it Tao, dhamma, god. Those words have become old now; you can call it truth. There is only one center of existence. There are not many centers, otherwise the universe would not be really a universe, it would become a multiverse. It is a unity, hence it is called the "universe"; it has only one center.
But this is to be meditated upon a little. That one center is my center, your center, everybody's center. That one center does not mean that you are centerless, that one center simply means that you don't have a separate center. Let us say it in different words. You can make many concentric circles on one center, many circles. You can throw a pebble in a silent lake: one center arises from the fall of the pebble and then many concentric circles arise and they go on spreading to the farthest shore -- millions of concentric circles, but they all have one center.
Each can claim this center as his own. And in a way it is his center, but it is not only his. The ego arises with the claim, "The center is mine, separate. It is not your center, it is my center; it is me." The idea of a separate center is the root of the ego.
When a child is born he comes without a center of his own. For nine months in the mother's womb he functions with the mother's center as his center; he is not separate. Then he is born. Then it is utilitarian to think of oneself as having a separate center; otherwise life will become very difficult, almost impossible.
TO SURVIVE, AND TO STRUGGLE for survival in the fight of life, everybody needs a certain idea of who they are. And nobody has any idea. In fact nobody can ever have any idea, because at the deepest core you are a mystery. You can't have any idea of it. At the deepest core you are not individual, you are universal.
That's why if you ask the Buddha, "Who are you?" he remains silent, he does not answer it. He cannot, because now he is no more separate. He is the whole. But in ordinary life even Buddha has to use the word 'I'. If he feels thirsty he has to say, "I am thirsty. Ananda, bring me a little water, I am thirsty."
To be exactly right, he should say, "Ananda, bring some water. The universal center is a little thirsty." But that will look a little odd. And to say it again and again -- sometimes the universal center is hungry, and sometimes the universal center is feeling a little cold, and sometimes the universal center is tired -- it will be unnecessary, absolutely unnecessary. So he continues to use the old meaningful word 'I'. It is very meaningful; even though a fiction, it is still meaningful. But many fictions are meaningful.
For example, you have a name. That is a fiction. You came without a name, you did not bring a name with you, the name was given to you. Then by constant repetition you start becoming identified with it. You know your name is Rama or Rahim or Krishna. It goes so deep that if all you three thousand sannyasins fall asleep here and somebody comes and calls, "Rama, where are you?" nobody will hear except Rama. Rama will say, "Who has come to disturb my sleep?" Even in sleep he knows his name; it has reached to the unconscious, it has seeped through and through. But it is a fiction.
But when I say it is a fiction I don't mean it is unnecessary. It is necessary fiction, it is useful; otherwise how are you going to address people? If you want to write a letter to somebody, to whom are you going to write?
A SMALL CHILD ONCE wrote a letter to God. His mother was ill and his father had died and they had no money, so he asked God for fifty rupees.
When the letter reached the post office they were at a loss -- what to do with it? Where to send it? It was simply addressed to God. So they opened it. They felt very sorry for the little boy and they decided to collect some money and send it to him. They collected some money -- he had asked for fifty rupees but they could collect only forty.
The next letter came, again addressed to God, and the boy had written, "Dear Sir, please next time when you send the money, send it directly to me, don't send it through the post office. They have taken their commission -- ten rupees!"
It will be difficult if nobody has a name. Although nobody has a name in reality, still, it is a beautiful fiction, helpful. Names are needed for others to call you, 'I' is needed for you to call yourself, but it is just a fiction. If you go deep into yourself you will find the name has disappeared, the idea of 'I' has disappeared; there is left only a pure am-ness, is-ness, existence, being.
And that being is not separate, it is not yours and mine; that being is the being of all. Rocks, rivers, mountains, trees, all are included. It is all-inclusive, it excludes nothing. The whole past, the whole future, this immense universe, everything is included in it. The deeper you go into yourself, the more and more you will find that persons don't exist, that individuals don't exist. Then what exists is a pure universalness. On the circumference we have names, egos, identities. When we jump from the circumference towards the center, all those identities disappear.
THE EGO IS just a useful fiction.
Use it, but don't be deceived by it.
You also ask, "Are we always functioning through the ego or are there moments when we are free of it?"
Because it is a fiction, there are moments when you are free of it. Because it is a fiction, it can remain there only if you go on maintaining it. A fiction needs great maintenance. Truth needs no maintenance, that is the beauty of truth. But a fiction? You have constantly to paint it, to give it a prop here and there, and it is constantly collapsing. By the time you have managed to prop up one side, the other side starts collapsing.
And that's what people go on doing their whole life, trying to make the fiction seem as if it is the truth. Have more money, then you can have a bigger ego, a little more solid than the ego of the poor man. The poor man's ego is thin; he can't afford a thicker ego. Become the prime minister or president of a country, and your ego is puffed up to extremes. Then you don't walk on the earth.
Our whole life, the search for money, power, prestige, this and that, is nothing but a search for new props, a search for new supports, to somehow keep the fiction going. And all the time you know death is coming. Whatsoever you make, death is going to destroy it. But still one goes on hoping against hope -- maybe everybody else dies, but not you.
And in a way it is true. You have always seen other people dying, you have never seen yourself dying, so it seems true also, logical also. This person dies, that person dies, and you never die. You are always there to feel sorry for them, you always go with them to the cemetery to say goodbye, and then you are back home again.
DON'T BE DECEIVED by it, because all those people were doing the same thing. And nobody is an exception. Death comes and destroys the whole fiction of your name, your fame. Death comes and simply effaces all; not even footprints are left. Whatsoever we go on making out of our life is nothing but writing on water -- not even on sand, but on water. You have not even written it, and it is gone. You cannot even read it; before you could have read it, it is gone.
But we go on trying to make these castles in the air. Because it is a fiction, it needs constant maintenance, constant effort, day and night. And nobody can be so careful for twenty-four hours. So sometimes, in spite of you, there are moments when you have a glimpse of reality without the ego functioning as a barrier.
Without the screen of the ego, there are moments -- in spite of you, remember. Everybody once in a while has those moments.
For example, every night when you fall deeply into sleep, and the sleep is so deep that you cannot even dream, then the ego is no more found; all the fictions are gone. Deep dreamless sleep is a kind of small death. In dreams there is a possibility that you may still manage to remember it. People go on managing to maintain their ego even in their dreams.
THAT'S WHY PSYCHOANALYSIS tries to go deep into your dreams, because there is less possibility of you maintaining your identity; more loopholes can be found there. In the daytime you are very alert and on guard, continuously there with a shield to protect your ego. In dreams sometimes you forget. But the people who have been studying dreams say that even in dreams the protection remains; it becomes a little more subtle.
For example, you see in a dream that you have killed your uncle. If you go deep into it you will be surprised: you wanted to kill your father, but you killed your uncle. You deceived yourself, the ego played a game. You are such a good guy, how can you kill your own father? And the uncle looks like your father, although nobody really wants to kill their uncle. Uncles are always nice people -- who wants to kill one's uncle? And who does not want to kill one's own father?
There is bound to be great antagonism between the father and the son. The father has to discipline the son, he has to curb and cut his freedom and order him and force him to obey. And nobody wants to obey and be disciplined and given shoulds and should-nots. The father is so powerful that the son feels jealous. And the greatest jealousy is that the son wants the mother to be completely his own, and this father always comes in between, he is always there. And not only does the son feel jealous of the father, the father also feels jealous of the son because he is always there between his wife and him.
There is an antagonism between the father and the son, between the daughter and the mother -- a natural antagonism, a natural jealousy. The daughter wants to possess the father but the mother is there; she looks like the enemy.
Uncles are very beautiful people, but in a dream you will not kill your own father. Your moral conscience, part of your ego, will prevent you from doing such a thing. You will find a substitute; this is a strategy.
If you minutely observe your dreams you will find many strategies the ego is still trying to play. The ego cannot accept the fact: "I am killing my own father? I am such an obedient son, respectful towards my father, loving him so much -- and I am trying to kill my father?" The ego won't accept the idea; the ego shifts the idea a little bit to the side. The uncle looks almost like the father; kill the uncle, that seems easier. The uncle is only a substitute. This is what goes on even in dreams.
But in dreamless sleep the ego completely disappears, because when there is no thinking, no dreaming, how can you carry a fiction? But dreamless sleep is very small. In eight hours of healthy sleep it is not more than two hours. But only those two hours are revitalizing. If you have two hours of deep dreamless sleep, in the morning you are new, fresh, alive. Life again has a thrill to it, the day seems to be a gift. Everything seems to be new, because you are new. And everything seems to be beautiful, because you are in a beautiful space.
WHAT HAPPENED in these two hours when you fell into deep sleep -- what Patanjali calls sushupti, dreamless sleep? The ego disappeared. And the disappearance of the ego has revitalized you, rejuvenated you. With the disappearance of the ego, even though in deep unconsciousness, you had a taste of god.
Patanjali says there is not much difference between sushupti, dreamless sleep, and samadhi, the ultimate state of buddhahood -- not much difference, although there is a difference. The difference is that of consciousness. In dreamless sleep you are unconscious, in samadhi you are conscious, but the state is the same. You move into god, you move into the universal center. You disappear from the circumference and you go to the center. And just that contact with the center so rejuvenates you.
People who cannot sleep are really miserable people, very miserable people. They have lost a natural source of being in contact with god. They have lost a natural passage into the universal; a door has closed.
THIS CENTURY IS the first century which is suffering from sleeplessness. We have closed all the other doors; now we are closing the last door, the door of sleep. That seems to be the last disconnection from the universal energy -- the greatest danger. And now there are foolish people in the world who are writing books, and with very logical acumen, saying that sleep is not needed at all, it is a wastage of time. They are right, it is a wastage of time. For people who think in terms of money and work, people who are workaholics, for them it is a wastage of time.
Just as there is now Alcoholics Anonymous, soon we will need Workaholics Anonymous. People who are obsessed with work, they have to be constantly on the go. They cannot rest, they cannot relax. Even when they are dying, they will be doing something or other. These people are now suggesting that sleep is unnecessary. They are suggesting that sleep is really an unnecessary hangover from the past. They say that in the past, when there was no electricity and no fire, out of necessity people had to sleep. Now there is no need. It is just an old habit imbibed in millions of years; it has to be dropped. Their idea is that in the future sleep will disappear.
They are even creating new devices so that people can be taught things while they are asleep -- a new kind of education, so time is not wasted. It is the last torture that we are going to invent for children. We invented the school; we are not satisfied with that. Small children, imprisoned in schools....
IN INDIA, SCHOOLS and prisons used to be painted the same way, the same color. And they were the same type of building -- ugly, with no aesthetic sense, with no trees and birds and animals around them, so that children would not be distracted. Otherwise, who will listen to the foolish mathematics teacher when a cuckoo suddenly starts calling from the window? Or a deer comes into the class, and the teacher is teaching you geography or history.... Children will be distracted, so they have to be taken away from nature, away from society. They have to be forced to sit on hard benches for five hours, six hours, seven hours.
This goes on for years together. Almost one third of life is spent in schools. You have made slaves of them. In their remaining life they will remain workaholics; they will not be able to have a real holiday.
Now these people are thinking, why waste the night time? So children can be put into night education. They will be asleep in bed but their ears will be connected to a central school, and in a very very subtle subliminal way, messages will be put into their heads. They will be programmed.
And it has been found that they can learn more easily in this way than they learn while they are awake. Naturally, because when you are awake, howsoever you are protected, a thousand and one things distract your mind. And children are so full of energy that everything attracts them; they are continuously distracted. That is just energy, nothing else; there is no sin in it. They are not dead, that's why they are distracted.
A dog starts barking, somebody starts fighting outside, somebody plays a trick on the teacher or somebody tells a joke -- and there are a thousand and one things which go on distracting them. But when a child is asleep -- and deeply asleep, when dreams are not there -- there is no distraction at all. Now that dreamless sleep can be used as part of pedagogy.
IT SEEMS WE ARE in every way ready to disconnect ourselves from the universal source of being. Now, these children will be the ugliest possible, because even when there was a possibility of being lost completely beyond the ego, that has also been taken away. The last possibility of ego disappearance is then no longer available. When they could have been in contact with god, they will be taught some rubbish history. The dates when Genghis Khan was born -- who bothers, who cares? In fact if Genghis Khan had never been born, that would have been far better. That's what I wrote in my paper, and my teacher was very angry. I had to stand for twenty-four hours outside the class, because I had written, "It is unfortunate that he was born. It would have been very fortunate if he had not been born at all."
But kings and emperors, they go on and on being born just to torture small children; they have to remember the dates and the names for no reason at all. A better kind of education will drop all this crap. Ninety percent of it is crap, and the remaining ten percent can be very much improved. And then life can have more joy, more rest, more relaxation.
BECAUSE THE EGO is a fiction, it disappears sometimes. The greatest time is dreamless sleep. So make it a point that sleep is very valuable; don't miss it for any reason. Slowly slowly, make sleep a regular thing. Because the body is a mechanism, if you follow a regular pattern of sleep the body will find it easier and the mind will find it easier to disappear.
Go to bed at exactly the same time. Don't take it literally -- if one day you are late you will not be sent to hell or anything! I have to be cautious, because there are a few people here who are health freaks. Their only disease is that they are continuously thinking of health. If they stop thinking of health they will be perfectly well. But if you can make your sleep a regular thing, going to bed at almost the same time and getting up at almost the same time... the body is a mechanism, the mind is too, and it simply slips into dreamless sleep at a certain moment.
THE SECOND GREATEST source of egoless experiences is sex, love. That too has been destroyed by the priests; they have condemned it, so it is no longer such a great experience. Such a condemnation for so long, it has conditioned the minds of people. Even while they are making love, they know deep down that they are doing something wrong. Some guilt is lurking somewhere. And this is so even for the most modern, the most contemporary, even the younger generation.
On the surface you may have revolted against the society, on the surface you may be a conformist no more. But things have gone very deep; it is not a question of revolting on the surface. You can grow long hair, that won't help much. You can become a hippy and stop taking baths, that won't help much. You can become a dropout in every possible way that you can imagine and think of, but that won't help really, because things have gone too deep and all these are superficial measures.
For thousands of years we have been told that sex is the greatest sin. It has become part of our blood, bone and marrow. So even if you know consciously that there is nothing wrong in it, the unconscious keeps you a little detached, afraid, guilt-ridden, and you cannot move into it totally.
IF YOU CAN MOVE into lovemaking totally, the ego disappears, because at the highest peak, at the highest climax of lovemaking, you are pure energy. The mind cannot function. With such joy, with such an outburst of energy, the mind simply stops. It is such an upsurge of energy that the mind is at a loss, it does not know what to do now. It is perfectly capable of remaining in function in normal situations, but when anything very new and very vital happens it stops. And sex is the most vital thing.
If you can go deeply into lovemaking, the ego disappears. That is the beauty of lovemaking, that it is another source of a glimpse of god -- just like deep sleep but far more valuable, because in deep sleep you will be unconscious. In lovemaking you will be conscious -- conscious yet without the mind.
Hence the great science of Tantra became possible. Patanjali and yoga worked on the lines of deep sleep; they chose that path to transform deep sleep into a conscious state so you know who you are, so you know what you are at the center. Tantra chose lovemaking as a window towards god.
THE PATH OF YOGA is very long, because to transform unconscious sleep into consciousness is very arduous; it may take many lives. And who knows, you may or may not be able to persist for so long, persevere for so long, be patient for so long. So the fate that has fallen on yoga is this, that the so-called yogis go on only doing body postures. They never go deeper than that; that takes their whole life. Of course they get better health, a longer life -- but that is not the point! You can have better health by jogging, running, swimming; you can have a longer life through medical care. That is not the point. The point was to become conscious in deep sleep. And your so-called yogis go on teaching you how to stand on your head and how to distort and contort your body. Yoga has become a kind of circus -- meaningless. It has lost its real dimension.
I have the vision of reviving yoga again in its true flavor, in its true dimension. And the goal is to become conscious while you are deeply asleep. That is the essential thing in yoga, and if any yogi is teaching anything else it is all useless.
BUT TANTRA HAS CHOSEN a far shorter way, the shortest, and far more pleasant too! Lovemaking can open the window. All that is needed is to uproot the conditionings that the priests have put into you. The priests put those conditionings into you so that they could become mediators and agents between you and god, so that your direct contact was cut. Naturally you would need somebody else to connect you, and the priest would become powerful. And the priest has been powerful down the ages.
Whosoever can put you in contact with power, real power, will become powerful. God is real power, the source of all power. The priest remained down the ages so powerful -- more powerful than kings. Now the scientist has taken the place of the priest, because now he knows how to unlock the doors of the power hidden in nature. The priest knew how to connect you with god, the scientist knows how to connect you with nature. But the priest has to disconnect you first, so no individual private line remains between you and god. He has spoiled your inner sources, poisoned them. He became very powerful but the whole humanity became lustless, loveless, full of guilt.
My people have to drop that guilt completely. While making love, think of prayer, meditation, god. While making love, burn incense, chant, sing, dance. Your bedroom should be a temple, a sacred place. And lovemaking should not be a hurried thing. Go deeper into it; savor it as slowly and as gracefully as possible. And you will be surprised. You have the key.
God has not sent you into the world without keys. But those keys have to be used, you have to put them into the lock and turn them.
LOVE IS another phenomenon, one of the most potential, where the ego disappears and you are conscious, fully conscious, pulsating, vibrating. You are no more an individual, you are lost into the energy of the whole.
Then, slowly slowly, let this become your very way of life. What happens at the peak of love has to become your discipline -- not just an experience but a discipline. Then whatsoever you are doing and wherever you are walking... early in the morning with the sun rising, have the same feeling, the same merger with existence. Lying down on the ground, the sky full of stars, have the same merger again. Lying down on the earth, feel one with the earth.
Slowly slowly, lovemaking should give you the clue for how to be in love with existence itself. And then the ego is known as a fiction, is used as a fiction. And if you use it as a fiction, there is no danger.
THERE ARE A FEW other moments when the ego slips of its own accord. In moments of great danger: you are driving, and suddenly you see an accident is going to happen. You have lost control of the car and there seems to be no possibility of saving yourself. You are going to crash into the tree or into the oncoming truck, or you are going to fall in the river, it is absolutely certain. In those moments suddenly the ego will disappear.
That's why there is a great attraction to move into dangerous situations. People climb Everest. It is a deep meditation, although they may or may not understand this. Mountaineering is of great importance. Climbing mountains is dangerous -- the more dangerous it is, the more beautiful. You will have glimpses, great glimpses of egolessness. Whenever danger is very close, the mind stops. Mind can think only when you are not in danger; it has nothing to say in danger. Danger makes you spontaneous, and in that spontaneity you suddenly know that you are not the ego.
Or -- these will be for different people, because people are different -- if you have an aesthetic heart, then beauty will open the doors. Just seeing a beautiful woman or a man passing by, just for a single moment a flash of beauty, and suddenly the ego disappears. You are overwhelmed.
Or seeing a lotus in the pond, or seeing the sunset or a bird on the wing -- anything that triggers your inner sensitivity, anything that possesses you for the moment so deeply that you forget yourself, that you are and yet you are not, that you abandon yourself -- then too, the ego slips. It is a fiction; you have to carry it. If you forget it for a moment, it slips.
And it is good that there are a few moments when it slips and you have a glimpse of the true and the real. It is because of these glimpses that religion has not died. It is not because of the priests -- they have done everything to kill it. It is not because of the so-called religious, those who go to the church and the mosque and the temple. They are not religious at all, they are pretenders.
Religion has not died because of these few moments which happen more or less to almost everybody. Take more note of them, imbibe the spirit of those moments more, allow those moments more, create spaces for those moments to happen more. This is the true way to seek god. Not to be in the ego is to be in god.
Osho The Book of Wisdom, Chapter 16