Shoonya – The Significance of Doing No-Thing
In this Spot, Sadhguru writes about the universal phenomenon of Shoonya, which occupies ninety-nine percent of ourselves and the whole cosmos, and yet is not in our awareness. He goes on to explain the meditative approach he offers to experience this no-thingness. Shoonya is also the basis of Samyama, which is currently underway at Isha Institute of Inner-sciences in Tennessee. View images of the “silence program” in our slideshow.
What is the significance of Shoonya? Shoonya as a word could be translated as “emptiness,” though the English word “emptiness” does not do justice to Shoonya. Emptiness is a sort of negative word – it suggests an absence of something that was supposed to be there. Shoonya is not an absence – it is a limitless presence. The zero was invented in India. When we invented the zero, we did not see it as an absence but as the ultimate number. Zero means nothing, but it can add value to any other number. Shoonya is like that. To put it into a certain perspective – modern cosmologists say that over ninety-nine percent of the cosmos is empty. Over ninety-nine percent of an atom is empty. Ninety-nine percent of existence is empty. This is what we refer to as Shoonya. As the life that you are, you have a choice: Either you can be a small creature in this vast emptiness, or you can be that emptiness which is the source of all creation. That is what we are approaching with Shoonya meditation.
In your personal opinion, you are the most important life in this creation. In your family structure, you are one of the important lives. In the city, you may be somewhat important, but they can do without you. In the nation, you are a person of very small importance – if you are gone, no one will notice. In the world, you are an even tinier piece of life. In the cosmic space, you are almost non-existent. Even if you do not think about it consciously – somewhere deep down, everyone knows this. That is why all the bravado, all the decoration, all the accumulation – because in some way, there is a desperation to make yourself a substantial life.
Whether it is wealth, money, ego, education, or family – all these are just efforts to somehow make yourself feel like you are a worthwhile life. But when every atom in your body is ninety-nine percent empty and the whole universe is ninety-nine percent empty, it means this no-thingness which is the source of creation is throbbing within you, in every cell of the body. If this becomes a living experience, then you will live very differently. In search of that, kings chose to become beggars. Gautama Buddha walked as a beggar. Shiva walks as a beggar. This demonstrates that they have found something which does not need decoration, amplification, or additions of any kind. It is the thing that occupies the entire cosmos. As I just sit here, this is complete by itself.
This dimension of life would generally need lots of preparation. But today, people are only willing to give a very small amount of time. This is the plight of being a Guru in the twenty-first century. As no-thingness is packaged in every atom and every cell of your body, we package Shoonya into a meditation. It is like a Shoonya pill. I am making it ridiculous, because the way most people in the world go about life is ridiculous. In this vast existence, you are so small, but you think you are big. I have seen many people, to whom their home, their family, their nonsense, their jewelry, their property were so important, they were fighting for it until the last day. And suddenly, they were dead. I tried to point it out to them while they were alive, but they were not interested. It is unfortunate that only with death, people come to their senses.
Suppose you got ninety-nine percent in an examination, you would be very happy with the ninety-nine percent and willing to ignore that one percent. Right now, ninety-nine percent is Shoonya. One percent is creation. In Shoonya meditation, you put this one percent aside for some time and enjoy the ninety-nine percent. You have been ignoring the ninety-nine percent till now, which is ridiculous. Running after fullness, so many frustrations have come. If someone’s pocket is fuller than yours, you get frustrated. If someone’s granary is fuller than yours, you get frustrated. Someone’s heart is fuller than yours, you get frustrated. That is why we are teaching a new game where you can anyway win. After all, emptiness is easier than fullness.
Shoonya means “emptiness,” or, more precisely, “nothingness.” An even more appropriate way of putting it is with a hyphen between “no” and “thing.” It is “no-thingness.” That means it is a dimension beyond physical nature. Shoonya means doing nothing. If I just keep telling you, “Don’t do anything, don’t do anything,” you will go crazy. The more you try to do nothing, the crazier you will go. To do nothing, you need some support. If you want to swim in nothingness, we give you a rope that you can hold on to. What kind of rope is this? No-thingness also means silence. Some-thingness also means sound. The rope that we offer to you is a particular sound or mantra. When nothingness gets too overwhelming, you can hold on to this sound.
There are various kinds of mantras. One mantra that all of you are familiar with is AUM. It is a kind of mantra that acquires power when you utter it loudly and clearly. Then there are other kinds of mantras that are referred to as beeja mantras. A beeja mantra is a meaningless, pure sound. Mantra means pure sound, beeja means seed. A seed has to be kept in a certain way. Once you put it in the soil, you must give it the right amount of moisture – only then will it sprout. A seed will do what it has to do; the soil will do what it has to do. Your business is just to maintain the needed conditions. Similarly with Shoonya meditation – if you handle it right, it will sprout, grow, become a magnificent tree, and bear fruit.