Acharya Prashant: Thought and the thinker are both not needed

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Acharya Prashant: Azaz is saying, “I think a lot in relationship, no matter whom I am related to. Even when I am sitting here, I am thinking a lot about how to frame a question. How to know the right response while being related? How do I know my right response while I sit here? Why is there so much thinking in me?”.

Thought arises as a conscious mechanism to solve something, that is not quite conscious. Thought is like a skin ointment, applied to a heart problem. Thought is a superficial way to solve a problem that is deeper than the surface. Thought always proceeds with images about the world. Thought always tries to find a solution, in the domain of space and time, reasoning, cause and effect, planning, events, addition, reaction, movement. Thought is like trying to find a solution through the leaves when the root is diseased.

One thing that thought can never quite look at is where it is coming from. Thought attempts at finding a solution, without firstly knowing where the problem is coming from. The problem is the deep-deep tendency that is the basis of the human form. The problem is the human form itself. Obviously, without the human form, there is nothing called the mind, there is nothing called consciousness, there is nothing called thought.

Where there is the limited human form, there will be an internal repugnance against the limitation. To get rid of the limitation, the method that the conscious mind adopts is thought. The mind is helpless in that regard. It can only work in the domain of duality. The mind says, “Here am I, out there is the world, and if I am to solve my problem of limitation, then I use the relationship between me and the world as the tool, as the method, as the medium.” That is what one is always thinking of all the time – How to use the world to solve ones limitations? How to modify the relationship between the self and the world to get rid of ones incompleteness? That is one fixed, definite subject matter of thought. One thinks about nothing else, ever! Are you getting it?

Thought cannot solve this problem because the problem is deeper than thought. Thought proceeds at the level of consciousness whereas consciousness itself is the problem. It is like sitting on the fourth floor of a building and trying to correct a problem with the foundation of the building. The very root of identification with dualistic consciousness is the problem then how can the movement in consciousness solve that problem?

If the entire area is polluted, will running about in that area improve your health? Your lungs might be suffering from air pollution. The entire area is polluted. And to help your lungs, you decide to exercise and run. Will running in that same polluted area, help your lungs? That is the mistake that thought makes. To find the solution it keeps running about in the area of the problem itself. To find a solution to the problem of differentiated and limited consciousness, it keeps running about in the area of differences, duality and limited consciousness. Obviously, no solution can be found there. But what else can the poor mind do? It is limited. At least consciousness is highly limited. If the mind has to find a solution, it has no other place to go to. Are you getting it?

We have already put forth a number of analogies. Here’s is another one – ‘Would polishing your car, solve its engine’s problems?’ If the engine is dysfunctional and therefore the exhaust is all soot and smoke, would you solve this problem by polishing the exhaust pipe? Would you?

That is what thought does! Not that thought has malicious intent, it is just powerless. It is strictly confined to its own domain. And its own domain is difference! ‘Here is me, there is the world. The world is both an opportunity and a threat. If I can manage the world, the world can be used to fulfill my needs, give a relief from my pains and sorrows. And if am not clever enough, and not alert enough, and if I fail to manage the world, then the same world is an enemy and will come and harm me, consume me, further my limitations. That is the very premise on which all thoughts stand – Me and the world! Me and my relationship with the world!

And thought doesn’t observe. Thought always wants to do something. Thought doesn’t observe the relationship between the Self and the world. Thought wants to do something! Thought is active! Thought wants to reach somewhere. Thought always says, “The world is there, so that something may be done with it. The world does not just exists, I have to have a purpose with the world”. Whenever you have thought, have you ever thought without an object of thought?

You always think about something, don’t you? And that something is always out there in the world. Even if you are thinking about the so called self, it is an entity in the world, right? You may think about your hand, or your body, or your heart, or your mind, but whatever you may think about is still something that you see as a part of the world, don’t you? So, that is what thought is always busy doing. Looking at the world with eyes of suspicion, and salivation, Both! Parallelly! The enemy is in front of me. How delicious would it be to kill him and how dreadful would it be to be killed by him? This is the only relationship between you and the world when you proceed on the basis of thought.

What one does not see is that, this very distinction that one creates between the self and the world, this very definition that one has of himself, is the fundamental problem. You cannot start from a point where you are assured of yourself as problematic and then preserving yourself you come to a solution. It is just not possible. It will be absurd to even imagine that a problem can be solved this way. Do you see how we proceed to solve the problem of limitation? Do you see that?

We start with the assumption that the problem is real. We start with the  assumption that we are indeed limited. And then we say, “As we move to solve this problem, we will maintain who we are, that is in our limitations or our perception of limitations and then, moving along, by way of reasoning, by way of thinking, analysis and everything; moving along and preserving ourselves and preserving what? The problem itself! We will come to a solution.” Is that possible?

Is that possible?

That is why thought fails miserably when it comes to solving the problem of inner disquiet. And that is why, the more inner disquiet is there, the more you feel like utilizing the thought. It is like putting your vehicle in the neutral gear, and racing it! And when you find no real movement, then you race it even more, thinking that you have not yet raced it enough. All you do is burn fuel, heat up the engine and frustrate yourself.

Thinking is not good or bad! It is just inappropriate, it is just ineffective, it is just irrelevant, when it comes to the deep problems of life. There is nothing called great thinking or small thinking or beautiful thinking or high thoughts. The domain of thought is itself very different from the domain of the real problem. Whatever you do in the domain of thought will not help you reach the real problem, let alone solve it.

But yes, thought gives you consolation that you are busy, that you are trying. You feel that you are not just good for nothing. You feel active, you feel like a warrior. You feel you are involved. You feel that because you are now effortful, so the moment of solution cannot be too far away. Thought gives you hope! Thought gives you something to do. Thought gives you a false sense of power.

You feel you are doing something. You feel something is possible to be done. While not at all realizing that the power that the thought is fueled by is nothing but the power of the problem itself! The more powerful the thought feels, the more in turn it is empowering the problem. The problem itself was one’s perception of the world. The problem itself was the central tendency of limitation that arises right from the moment of conception, right from the moment of birth. The problem was you and the world. The moment that division was made, the moment you opened your eyes to look at the world as something outside of yourself, problem was born. The child when wakes up for the first time upon birth and what does it do? It cries! The birth itself is in that sense, the mother problem. The human form is itself in that sense, the mother problem.

You are born and how big are you? This big! And how big is the Universe? That big! And you are dependent on the Universe and the Universe doesn’t look obliged to fulfill your wishes. Problem begins!

So, this distinction, me and the world, itself is the root problem. To be born is to be born as a problem. To be born into the world, is to be born into a problem! Now, how can thinking more and more about you and the world, solve the problem? The moment you arose, the moment the world arose, the problem arose! Now you keep thinking about you and the world. The thinker himself is the problem. Can the thinker exist without birth? Can the thinker exist without this separation? In that sense, do you see who is born? The problem is born! The root of thought is born!

When you take birth, it is not a baby that is taking birth. It is the root of thought that is taking birth. The ‘I’ tendency is taking birth. This ‘I’ tendency, the moment it takes birth, feels confined, strangulated. It does not quite like what is going on.

If you meet those who study infants, those who study little kids, they will tell you that the moment of birth is like a shock to the child! It is not a great joy. It is not as if you celebrate being born into duality. It is not as if you celebrate taking a human form. The world comes and likes your cute hands and little nose. You do not quite like the world. You are born and it is not even certain whether you would be breathing properly. And you immediately require another human being to take fundamental care of you. It is almost as if your soul is located outside of you in the world. Take away the mother from the child and it is like you have taken away the soul from the body. The child is so helpless and dependent that it can’t do anything on its own. The mother is almost like the soul. The driver, the very route, the engine, it can’t really be great to be born like this, right?

You  have no hair on your body, can’t open your eyes properly, your eyes cannot even distinguish between colors, you can’t hear properly, and you are so very dependent on another human being on whom you have no real control. Mothers come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Who knows what the mother wants? And all you can do to get something from the world is cry! Do you see the horror of being born?

You can’t even petition, you can only cry! You are dry, you cry! You are wet, you cry! You are over-fed, you cry. You are hungry, you cry! You like it, you cry. You dislike it, you cry! You want to sleep, you cry! You wake up, you cry! That is what is called being born. You don’t even know what is food. Even that somebody else decides. You do not even know how frequently must you be fed. Even that somebody else decides!

That which you call as a bliss of living – Love, unlimited freedom, realization, all of that is unavailable to a baby. What realization does a baby know? The baby only knows dependency. It is just a bundle of flesh. Are you getting it?

That is the initial root incompleteness!

You can take the story backwards. You can say, “The problem starts even before human birth.” And that is why religions and myths have gone on to create stories about how birth takes place. Eastern religions would say that unfulfilled desires, they travel, they enter the womb, and then they are born so that they may be fulfilled in life.

Of course these are mere stories! But you must understand, what these stories are pointing at. The east says, “Once you are liberated, you do not enter the womb again. You are out from this cycle. So, the fundamental assumption is, ‘only the unfulfillment takes birth. The fulfilled one has no need to enter the womb and then to be born as a baby.’ What do I mean by the unfulfilled one, that is a separate matter. But stay with the essence of all the stories, all the myths. Essentially, the stories are saying that unfulfillment is born and to be born is to be unfulfilled. Only incompleteness is born, only a problem is born! And because man has a unique brain, So this problem finds expression, and seeks solution through that brain.

Man’s brain, unlike the brains of other sentient beings is a uniquely thinking brain. Man’s consciousness is a little different. Fundamentally it is the same. Fundamentally all consciousness is dualistic! But man’s consciousness is a very active consciousness. What you keep doing in your personal mind is not something that a dog or a rabbit keeps doing.

Man is a busy body. The rest of the Universe is not. We are just too active here. So been born, man becomes active here. Doing what? Trying to find the solution of the problem of being born. The entire life, we just spent trying to come to terms with the question, why did I first of all take life? After being born, there is only one fundamental question, “Why the hell was I born?” And the entire birth is spent negotiating the question. There is no other question, “Why the hell does one take birth?” It is the problem of the root that the entire tree keeps on attempting to solve. It is like a train starting from its starting station, from the origin point and then travelling across the globe just to find out why it started at all!

Obviously, the journey cannot provide you the answer. Obviously, you cannot get the answer about starting out by journeying at a faster and even faster rate. That is why you keep thinking it. And you will keep thinking, is there a way out of this loop! The way out is not the thought. So, you better not think about freedom from thought. It is so attractive to think about it, right? How to be free from thought? Thinking hard, to get freedom from thought!

Don’t just smirk! Great thinkers and philosophers have been doing nothing but this. Great thinkers have been thinking greatly about how to get freedom from thought, how to get freedom from thinking! They think that if they think hard enough, they are thinking no more! They feel that if they are running fast enough, they are running no more.

So, Azaz, you are not the first one, you are not the last one, and certainly you are not alone. You have most great people of this world, accompanying you! It’s a mass marathon! With no end at all. The entire world is running. To be born is to be born as a marathon runner. You are born so you may start running and never end running! And why are you running? To know why you were born! And to run away from the fact that you were born! Both!

If one is asking, why was I born? Certainly, he is not at peace with his birth. So, when you ask, “Why was I born, you are also resentful of the fact of your birth.” Are you getting it?

Life without problem would be terrifying. Isn’t it terrible to have no problems? That is why you keep thinking; to sustain yourself, to assure yourself, that you are not jobless. Like a worker who indeed have no work at all but still keeps doing something. For the sake of it and to convince himself and to convince others that he is purposeful, fruitful, that he is not out of place. If he stops doing what he is doing then it is apparent that he is not needed. That life can go on even without him. That is why you must think. To convince yourself that the thinker is necessary. If the thinker goes out of the window, you go out of the window!

There was a very dedicated employee. And how was it known that he was very dedicated? He would never take even a day’s leave. All other employees, including those from the most committed cadres would take at least some leaves. This one would never be found away from work, even for an hour.

So, one day somebody requested him and respectfully questioned him, ‘Sir, is the work really so much? And are you so deeply absorbed in your work that you are never found away from work?’. He said, “Let me tell you the secret! The fact is I have no work at all. And it is so obvious that I don’t have work at all that I have to continuously keep hiding the obviosity of the fact. It is so very obvious that there is no work to do that I have to continuously keep covering the fact and that is why I am always at work. If I leave my work even for one day, it will become clear to everybody that I have no work at all. So, every day I arrive before everybody else in the office to work hard to prevent people from knowing that I have…” That is thought!

Thought works very-very hard because it has some point to prove. It has to really do the impossible. It has to prove that it is needed. When you are not needed, then it is a great task to keep yourself needed! Relevant! Wanted! When you are just an auditee, just a needlessness, and deep within you know that you are all the time in suspicion and horror. You know that you can be thrown out anytime. You know that the fact is so apparent, so direct, so obvious that the fact can be disclosed anytime. So, you fear keeps your feet running. That is thought, always moving to do the impossible. Always running around to show that something is happening through it.

Take a child, who has been given a problem to solve, but he dares not admit that the problem is beyond his comprehension. And he is just too afraid of forth rightly acknowledging. So what does he do? He puts his head down and keeps scribbling something on his notebook. So that the teacher or the father thinks that he is at work. That some progress is taking place. The child fully know that he is jotting down the nonsense. Child even fully knows that half an hour or half a century of what he is doing is exactly the same.

But that business, that show-off occupation, prevents him from getting slapped at least for a few minutes. For the interim, at least he has saved his skin. The child thinks that those who are observing him can be deceived. And they might as well be deceived, and say, “Look how diligent he is! See how immersed he is in solving the problem.” And when you are immersed deeply, are you not solving problem? Are you not just like that child?

The child is a lesser case. He is at least displaying it to somebody else, cheating somebody else. When we are immersed in thought, we are, but cheating ourselves! Proving to ourselves that we are sincere about finding the solution. Half a century of scribbling and what do you get? Half a century of nonsense! That is what human life is. Half a century or a complete century of nonsense, well thought out nonsense!

If you didn’t have so many problems, why would you think? If you were not a problem, why would you have so any problems? Only problem has problems. When you are the mother problem, then you have lots of baby problems. What else can a mother produce? Do you see ever closely the face of your problems? Have you ever looked closely at the face of your problems? If you ever look closely to the face of your problems, that would look identical to your face! Every problem that you carry, carries your own face! You know what you are trying to do? You are like the mother trying to change the DNA of the child. You are the one who gave birth to your child. The child will carry your DNA! How can the mother change the DNA of the child? The most that the mother can do is not give birth to the child. But ones the child is born, the DNA is the mother’s and unchangeable. Are you getting it?

Come to terms with yourself. I repeat, the solution is not the thought. Come to terms with yourself. You are alright. You need not depend on the world. The world is not coming to eat you up. Neither can the world add something to you. I may even venture out to accept that being born is a misfortune.  Misfortune in the sense that you were born as limited helpless being and that limitation plagues you all your life. But even if you are born as a limited being, still, you are carried by the unlimited as much as you carry the unlimited within you. The proof of that, is your unsuitable hunger.

Don’t you see you have an unlimited thirst for love? Obviously! You carry the unlimited within you. Don’t you see that you are not satisfied by anything other than the absolute truth? Obviously! You have the taste for the absolute. Are you getting it? Don’t you see how purity attracts you? Obviously! you have something in your heart for purity. So, Don’t be too bothered by or intimidated by your apparent littleness. In-spite of the littleness, the unlimited, the absolute, the pure, is still with you, within you and around you.

You don’t need to therefore find the solution to the problem of littleness. The littleness is just one aspect of living. And it is no more a real aspect of living is the aspect of infinitude!  When you look at it one way, you will feel confined and small and when you look in a deeper way and a more real way, you will find that you’re already colossal! Unlimited! Too large for description. You are capable of that which is beyond imagination. You do not know yourself! Whenever you know yourself, you only know your limitations. That is what you call as self-knowledge. Knowledge of your limitations. Self-awareness you hardly have. That is the difference between self-knowledge and self-awareness!

Self-knowledge is the knowledge of your limitations. And Self-awareness is the abidance in your limitlessness. Have Self-knowledge! That is alright. You must know that your finger is fragile. You must know that you cannot move mountains with your little finger. That is alright to know the facts of ones mortal limitations. But you must also abide in your immortality. That is far more important, deeper, and indispensable. When you know that your little finger is limited, but you are not, then the problem loses its stink. Then the problem is de facto solved! Now you need not rely upon thought. Then the problem is not there. Then what will you do with the problem solving mechanism? Are you getting it?

If you keep on taking yourself as the little child you were born into a problematic world, and his just trying to navigate his way through the problematic world, and navigate his way to death; Well that’s the icing on the cake!

First of all, he was born little in the humongous big and problematic world. And then you find your way through the problematic world, and as you find your way, you only find that you are finding your way to death! That is the human condition. That is how fortunate we all are to be born as human beings. Of-course along your way, as you journey, you meet some people. You come across eateries if you are hungry, you can have some food. But even as you have the food, you are served a bill!

That is the fact, that is human predicament.

To be born into a problem! To negotiate through the problem! To come to death!

If you keep taking yourself as that then there is no end to the problem and therefore to thought! Because thought proceeds on problems! Are you getting it?

But if you can panic a little less, if you can gather your wits, if you can relax a little, if you can just sit down and feel a little settled, if you can just take a deep breath you will feel that a lot of your troubles are needless. You are unnecessarily panicking!

I repeat, you are unnecessarily packing! The sky is not falling upon your head! Not at-least in your lifetime. You don’t need to think about your head ensured against the falling skies.

Have you ever seen a totally frenzied man, overtaken, overwhelmed, by the immensity of some problem-hurrying, rushing, spoiling, falling over, mad with anxiety? Have you seen? Come on! Don’t you ever look at the mirror?

Next time you want to bless the new born, tell him, “May you be unborn!” That is the rightful purpose of taking birth – ‘After being born, be unborn!’ Unless you move into your unborn nature, there is no peace for you.



-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity

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