In the sixties and seventies neurologists became very interested in an area of the brain stem called the “reticular formation.” It is said that this is the area that filters input into the brain while we are asleep. Thus, a mother sleeps through all sorts of noises, but wakes the instant her child cries – this function was said to be achieved by the reticular formation. It seems that during sleep there is one element within us which remains awake. Does witnessing have any relationship to this phenomenon? Does witnessing belong to a part of the brain?
The witness is not part of the brain, but the witness uses the brain as a mechanism. A part of the brain remains awake, as if the witness is looking through a window. The window itself is not awake, but the witness behind the window keeps it open. Even in the night, a part of the mind is open for the witness to use it. If the mind is completely closed, it is impossible for the witness to look outside. It can be aware of its inner reality, but it cannot be aware of the outer reality. The brain is the mechanism that makes it capable of becoming aware of the outer reality.
But the brain itself has no witnessing power, and the witness has a totally separate reality: it is not part of the brain. It is the master and the brain is only a servant.
Those who have meditated long enough slowly start becoming aware even in their sleep. The body sleeps but there is an awareness underneath the sleeping body. It can be a disturbance in sleep too – if the awareness is too much then sleep will become difficult, almost impossible. For sleep to become possible the awareness has to be very small – just a small window that takes care of the outside world while you are asleep. It is just a guard in case something happens, some emergency: it will wake you up.
But after achieving the ultimate in meditation and awareness, sleep becomes such a thin layer that it is just a restfulness, not a sleep – it is enough.
This reminds me of a few other things which enlightenment disturbs in the ordinary mechanism of body and brain, because it is not an inbuilt process. It is not necessary that one should become enlightened just the way one becomes a youth, one becomes old. These are inbuilt processes. Enlightenment has to be earned. The opportunity is there, the potential is there – but you can miss it, or you can get it. Because it is not an inbuilt process, the body and brain have no way how to adjust with the phenomenon.
And for centuries there has been continuous concern…. Ramakrishna died with a cancer of the throat, Raman Maharshi died with cancer. Krishnamurti suffered almost forty years with the most intense migraine possible. Buddha was often sick, so much so that one of his disciples – an emperor, Prasenjita – had offered him his own personal physician. And his whole life, King Prasenjita’s physician followed Gautam Buddha with a large wagon full of all kinds of medicines, books on medicine, particularly those which could be needed for Buddha. Mahavira continuously suffered from stomach troubles and died finally from the same troubles.