If your hand is hurt and there is pain, you will feel that you are in pain. If you feel that you are in pain, then there is no witness yet. If you feel that your hand is in pain and that you are also aware of it, then the witness has entered into your perception. There is hunger in your stomach, and if you feel that you are hungry, then there is no witness; you are identified with hunger. If you notice that there is hunger, if you are aware of it and you simply remain aware; when you don’t become lost in the experience and you remain outside of it, at a distance; when you have a distance between you and the experience, then the bigger this distance, the greater will be the witnessing. The less distance there is, the more the witness will be lost. The word that is used for the absence of witnessing is identification – to become lost in something.
Witnessing means to be separate from something, not identified. When a person remains separate from all his experiences – whether it is pain or pleasure, whether it is death or birth, no matter what is happening – when his consciousness does not become one with anything that is happening but remains outside of it, a taste of the witness has begun. If somebody uses abusive language, it immediately takes hold of you; the distance is broken. The arrow of the abuse pierces you and the distance is broken. Then you don’t remember that there is someone who is abusing, there is someone who is being abused – and you are the one who is watching both the abuser and the abused.
In his constant experiments with witnessing, slowly, slowly Swami Ramateertha even changed his language. Perhaps, his language changed on its own because he was experimenting so much.
He was in New York. Some people insulted him on the road, but he returned home laughing. He said to his friends, “There was great fun today! Rama went to the market” – Rama was what he called himself – “and some people started swearing at him and abusing him, and he was put through quite some trouble!”
His friends said, “You are talking as if someone else has been abused and put through trouble.”
Ramateertha said, “But that is exactly what happened! Because I was watching both – the abuser and the abused.”
It is very difficult to remain aloof when you are being verbally abused. You will suddenly become completely identified and absorb the abuse.
It is the potential of consciousness that it can either become identified, or it can move away and stand at a distance. This is the whole potential of religion. If this potential were not there, then there would be no possibility for religion to exist. And if there were no possibility for the state of witnessing to happen, there would also be no way to end misery.
There was a philosopher in Greece, Epitectus. There were rumors about him that he had reached to the state of witnessing, but the king was not convinced. The king said, “How can anyone be just a witness? – but we will find out….”
Epitectus was called. The king also called for two wrestlers and told them to break both of Epitectus’s legs. Epitectus stretched out both legs and the king said, “Why won’t you resist or fight?”