Yuval Noah Harari, the celebrated author of international bestsellers — Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow — is a well-known meditator who practices Vipassana for two hours every day — one hour at the start and one at the end of his workday. He says that he undertakes a meditation retreat of 30 days or longer every year, in silence, with no books or social media. Last year in an interview he was asked by Guardian journalist Andrew Anthony: “What does meditation do for you?” His answer was an eye-opener: “Above all, it enables me to try and see reality as it is. When we try to observe the world, and when we try to observe ourselves, the mind constantly generates stories and fictions and explanations and imposes them on reality, and we cannot see what is really happening because we are blinded by the fictions and stories that we create or other people create and we believe. Meditation for me is just to see reality as it is.”
This reminds me of a beautiful Hindi word tathata originally used by Buddha. This word exactly means what Harari is saying: To see reality as it is; not projecting anything upon it. One who lives in that space of tathata (suchness) is called tathagata, which is also one of the names of Buddha. According to Buddha, the key to going beyond sorrow is to know the truth about yourself — to understand who or what you really are. Most people tend to identify themselves with their feelings, thoughts, likes and dislikes. When one feels anger, s/he thinks: “I am angry”. Yes, the anger is there. But it comes and goes. It is not something permanent. When we can observe this, we realise that we are not our feelings or emotions. This realisation is the freedom from tyranny of our emotions.
Osho explains this in simple words: One word tathagata has to be understood. Buddha preached the philosophy of tathata, and tathata is very close to the word “suchness”. Whatever happens, Buddha says, such is the nature of things. There is no need to be happy, there is no need to be miserable, there is no need to be affected at all by anything that happens. Birth happens, death happens, but you have to remain in suchness, remembering that this is how life functions. This is the way of life. You cannot do anything against it. Harari says that his Vipassana began whilst in Oxford in 2000 and it has transformed his life. He also regards meditation as a way to research. But, as a matter of fact, meditation is in-search, observing our subjectivity, though, through this process, we may accomplish a lot in the outside world also as Harari did. He is certainly an achiever, but he has not forgotten inner quest.