Saturday, February 26, 2005

The Cessation of Thinking

The Cessation of Thinking

"You see, it's all very clear to me now...the whole thing. It's wonderful."

- Astronaut Dave Bowman in 2010: Odyssey Two

The life that we experience is nothing but a continuous stream of thoughts. A person with an undeveloped mind has very little awareness of what goes on inside his mind. He reacts to his world of sight, sound and touch and thoughts arise in his head automatically, which in turn triggers other thoughts, ad infinitum. He usually wields very little control over what he thinks; he merely responds to the situation around him and his reactions are determined by his thinking habits.

If such a person does not make an effort to train and observe his thoughts, then his learning can only come through the conditionings of pain and pleasure. The person has to experience a random course of punishment and reward inflicted by life's experiences for a very long time before his mind can slowly perfect itself. It is certainly not a pleasant way to improve oneself.

We can choose to train ourselves to control our thoughts if we have a better awareness of its processes. Which is the whole point of meditation. Meditation comes in many forms. Often they involve some form visualization or deep concentration on a specific object, sound or thought. In essence meditation is a deliberate act of observing thoughts and thinking itself, so that the mental muscles for controlling them can strengthened. It is an act of halting one's normal stream of thoughts, so that the next thought can be introduced deliberately. And when that can be successfully achieved, the meditator attempts to will himself to not dwell on any thoughts at all, in other words to completely blank his mind.

That is very difficult to do. No matter how hard we try, we cannot free ourselves completely from thinking. The moment we do anything, it is always preceded and followed by a thought. Nothing happens without a thought. Even when we are sleeping, we dream and dreams are just another form of subconscious thinking. Every word, every sentence that I write here are the result of thoughts which comes out of my thinking mind.

Thoughts make the mind and vice versa. To eliminate thought is to eliminate the mind altogether. And what happens when we get rid of the mind and stop thinking altogether? Do we cease to exist? Do we die?

I'm again lapsing into my usual mystical and esoteric mode: When we cease to think, what's left is pure Being, or what Eckhart Tolle calls the Now, or Presence. That is the real you, free from all the cause and effect of thinking and the illusory image of self created by the mind.

Yes we die. But it is the illusory self which dies leaving behind something that is still you--not the old egoic, self-centered self that you formerly identify with--but something that is omniscient, free and boundless. Something divine.

When you glimpse that awareness that is pure Being, you merge with that Godhead that has always been inside you. You've come to the the beginning and end of thinking. And when you do, you'll know with great clarity and insight what all the religions in the world have been trying to tell you.

And you'll probably wonder why we fight so many bloody wars and have so much bitter dispute over something that is fundamentally so simple, so clear, so wonderful.

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