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Series III - Chapter 12 - ‘There Is No Thinker, Only Conditioned Thinking’
Series III - Chapter 12 - ‘There Is No Thinker, Only Conditioned Thinking’
THE RAINS HAD washed the skies clean; the haze that had hung about was gone, and the sky was clear and intensely blue. The shadows were sharp and deep, and high on the hill a column of smoke was going straight up. They were burning something up there, and you could hear their voices. The little house was on a slope, but well-sheltered, with a small garden of its own to which loving care had been given. But this morning it was part of the whole of existence, and the wall around the garden seemed so unnecessary. Creepers grew on that wall, hiding the rocks, but here and there they were exposed; they were beautiful rocks, washed by many rains, and they had a growth of green-grey moss on them. Beyond the wall was a bit of wilderness, and somehow that wilderness was part of the garden. From the garden gate a path led to the village, where there was a dilapidated old church with a graveyard behind it. Very few came to the church, even on Sundays, mostly the old; and during the week no one came, for the village had other amusements. A small diesel locomotive with two carriages, cream and red, went to the larger town twice a day. The train was almost always filled with a cheerful, chattering crowd. Beyond the village another path led round to the right, gently going up the hill. On that path you would meet an occasional peasant carrying something, and with a grunt he would pass you by. On the other side of the hill, the path led down into a dense wood where the sun never penetrated; and going from the brilliant sunlight into the cool shadow of the wood was like a secret blessing. Nobody seemed to pass that way, and the wood was deserted. The dark green of the thick foliage was refreshing to the eyes and to the mind. One sat there in complete silence. Even the breeze was still; not a leaf moved, and there was that strange quietness which comes in places not frequented by human beings. A dog barked in the distance, and a brown deer crossed the path with easy leisure.
He was an elderly man, pious, and eager for sympathy and blessing. He explained that he had been going regularly for several years to a certain teacher in the north to listen to his explanatory discourses on the Scriptures, and was now on his way to join his family in the south. “A friend told me that you were giving a series of talks here, and I stayed over to attend them. I have been listening with close attention to all that you have been saying, and I am aware of what you think of guides and of authority. I do not entirely agree with you, for we human beings need help from those who can offer it, and the fact that one eagerly accepts such help does not make one a follower.”
Surely, the desire for guidance makes for conformity, and a mind that conforms is incapable of finding the true. “But I am not conforming. I am not credulous, nor do I follow blindly; on the contrary, I use my mind, I question all that’s said by this teacher I go to.”
To look for light from another, without self-knowledge, is to follow blindly. All following is blind. “I do not think I am capable of penetrating the deeper layers of the self, and so I seek help. My coming to you for help does not make me your follower.”
If it may be pointed out, sir, the setting up of authority is a complex affair. Following another is merely an effect of a deeper cause, and without understanding that cause, whether one outwardly follows or not has very little meaning. The desire to arrive to reach the other shore, is the beginning of our human search. We crave success, permanency, comfort, love, an enduring state of peace, and unless the mind is free of this desire, there must be following in direct or devious ways. Following is merely a symptom of a deep longing for security.
“I do want to reach the other shore, as you put it, and I will take any boat that will carry me across the river. To me the boat is not important, but the other shore is.”
It is not the other shore that is important, but the river, and the bank you are on. The river is life, it is everyday living with its extraordinary beauty, its joy and delight, its ugliness, pain and sorrow. Life is a vast complex of all these things, it is not just a passage to be got through somehow, and you must understand it, and not have your eyes on the other shore. You are this life of envy, violence, passing love, ambition, frustration, fear; and you are also the longing to escape from it all to what you call the other shore, the permanent the soul, the Atman, God, and so on. Without understanding this life, without being free of envy, with its pleasures and pains, the other shore is only a myth, an illusion, an ideal invented by a frightened mind in its search for security. A right foundation must be laid, otherwise the house, however noble, will not stand.
“I am already frightened, and you add to my fear, you do not take it away. My friend told me that you are not easy to understand, and I can see why you are not. But I think I’m in earnest, and I do want something more than mere illusion. I quite agree that one must lay the right foundation; but to perceive for oneself what is true and what is false is another matter.”
Not at all, sir. The conflict of envy, with its pleasure and pain, inevitably breeds confusion, both outwardly and within. It is only when there is freedom from this confusion that the mind can discover what is true. All the activities of a confused mind only lead to further confusion.
“How am I to be free from confusion?”
The ‘how’ implies gradual freedom; but confusion cannot be cleared up bit by bit, while the rest of the mind remains confused, for that part which is cleared up soon becomes confused again. The question of how to clear up this confusion arises only when your mind is still concerned with the other shore. You do not see the full significance of greed, or violence, or whatever it is; you only want to get rid of it in order to arrive at something else. If you were wholly concerned with envy, and its resultant misery, you would never ask how to get rid of it. The understanding of envy is a total action, whereas the ‘how’ implies a gradual achievement of freedom, which is only the action of confusion.
“What do you mean by total action?”
To understand total action, we must explore the division between the thinker and his thought. “Is there not a watcher who is above both the thinker and his thought? I feel there is. For one blissful moment, I have experienced that state.”
Such experiences are the result of a mind that has been shaped by tradition, by a thousand influences. The religious visions of a Christian will be quite different from those of a Hindu or a Moslem, since all are essentially based on the mind’s particular conditioning. The criterion of truth is not experience, but that state in which neither the experiencer nor the experience any longer exists.
“You mean the state of Samadhi?”
No, sir; in using that word, you are merely quoting the description of another’s experience. “But is there not a watcher beyond and above the thinker and his thought? I most definitely feel that there is.”
To start with a conclusion puts a stop to all thinking, doesn’t it? “But this is not a conclusion, sir. I know, I have felt the truth of it.”
He who says he knows does not know. What you know or feel to be true is what you have been taught; another, who happens to have been taught differently by his society, by his culture, will assert with equal confidence that his knowledge and experience show him that there is no ultimate watcher. Both of you, the believer and the non-believer, are in the same category, are you not? You both start with a conclusion, and with experiences based on your conditioning, don’t you?
“When you put it that way, it does seem to put me in the wrong, but I am still not convinced.”
I am not trying to put you in the wrong, or to convince you of anything; I am only pointing out certain things for you to examine. “After considerable reading and study, I imagined I had thought out pretty thoroughly this question of the watcher and the watched. It seems to me that as the eye sees the flower, and the mind watches through the eye, so, behind the mind, there must be an entity who is aware of the whole process, that is of the mind, the eye, and the flower.”
Let us inquire into it without assertiveness, without haste or dogmatism.
How does thinking arise? There is perception, contact, sensation, and then thought, based on memory, says, “That is a rose.” Thought creates the thinker; it is the thinking process that brings the thinker into being. Thought comes first, and later the thinker; it is not the other way round. If we do not see this to be a fact, we shall be led into all kinds of confusion.
“But there is a division, a gap, narrow or wide, between the thinker and his thought; and does this not indicate that the thinker came into being first?”
Let’s see. perceiving itself to be impermanent, insecure, and desiring permanency, security, thought brings into being the thinker, and then pushes the thinker on to higher and higher levels of permanency. So there is seemingly an unbridgeable gap between the thinker and his thought, between the watcher and the watched; but this whole process is still within the area of thought, is it not? “Do you mean to say, sir, that the watcher has no reality, that he is as impermanent as thought? I can hardly believe this.”
You may call him the soul, the Atman, or by what name you will, but the watcher is still the product of thought. As long as thought is related in some way to the watcher, or the watcher is controlling, shaping thought, he is still within the field of thought, within the process of time. “How my mind objects to this! Yet, in spite of myself, I am beginning to see it to be a fact; and if it is a fact then there’s only a process of thinking, and no thinker.”
That is so, isn’t it? Thought has bred the watcher the thinker, the conscious or unconscious censor who is everlastingly judging, condemning, comparing. It is this watcher who is ever in conflict with his thoughts, ever making an effort to guide them.
“Please go a little slower; I really want to feel my way through this. You are indicating – aren’t you? – that every form of effort, noble or ignoble, is the result of this artificial, illusory division between the thinker and his thoughts. But are you trying to eliminate effort? Isn’t effort necessary to all change?”
We shall go into that presently. We have seen that there’s only thinking, which has put together the thinker, the watcher, the censor, the controller. Between the watcher and the watched there is the conflict of effort made by the one to overcome or at least to change the other. This effort is vain, it can never produce a fundamental change in thought, because the thinker, the censor, is himself part of that which he wishes to change. One part of the mind cannot possibly transform another part, which is but a continuity of itself. One desire may, and often does, overcome another desire. But the desire that is dominant breeds still another desire, which in its turn becomes the loser or the gainer, and so the conflict of duality is set going. There’s no end to this process.
“It seems to me you are saying that only through the elimination of conflict is there a possibility of fundamental change. I don’t quite follow this. Would you kindly go into it a little further?”
The thinker and his thought are a unitary process, neither has an independent continuance; the watcher and the watched are inseparable. All the qualities of the watcher are contained in his thinking; if there’s no thinking, there’s no watcher, no thinker. This is a fact, is it not? “Yes, so far I have understood.”
If understanding is merely verbal, intellectual, it is of little significance. There must be an actual experiencing of the thinker and his thought as one, an integration of the two. Then there’s only the process of thinking. “What do you mean by the process of thinking?”
The way or direction in which thought has been set going: personal or impersonal, individualistic or collective, religious or worldly, Hindu or Christian, Buddhist or Moslem, and so on. There is no thinker who is a Moslem, but only thinking which has been given a Moslem conditioning. Thinking is the outcome of its own conditioning. The process or way of thinking must inevitably create conflict, and when effort is made to overcome this conflict through various means, it only builds up other forms of resistance and conflict.
“That’s clear, at least I think so.”
This way of thinking must wholly cease, for it breeds confusion and misery. There’s no better or nobler way of thinking. All thinking is conditioned. “You seem to imply that only when thought ceases is there a radical change. But is this so?”
Thought is conditioned. The mind, being the storehouse of experiences, memories, from which thought arises, is itself conditioned; and any movement of the mind, in any direction, produces its own limited results. When the mind makes an effort to transform itself, it merely builds another pattern, different perhaps, but still a pattern. Every effort of the mind to free itself is the continuance of thought; it may be at a higher level, but it is still within its own circle, the circle of thought, of time.
“Yes, sir, I am beginning to understand. please proceed.”
Any movement of any kind on the part of the mind only gives strength to the continuance of thought, with its envious, ambitious, acquisitive pursuits. When the mind is totally aware of this fact, as it is totally aware of a poisonous snake, then you will see that the movement of thought comes to an end. Then only is there a total revolution, not the continuance of the old in a different form. This state is not to be described; he who describes it is not aware of it.
“I really feel that I have understood, not just your words, but the total implication of what you have been saying. Whether I have understood or not will show in my daily life.”