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Who Is the Thinker?
Jacob: Dear Sundari, I hope you are well. It’s exciting to see all the changes at the website, James’ new book and the additional teachers. Just one question if I could, from, I guess, my inner guru. I’ve identified with the statement “I am thinking” my whole life. As I pursue the self with yours and Ram’s guidance, a more accurate statement comes to mind. I’d like to run it by you to see if I’m possibly headed in the right direction: “I am not thinking.” What I’ve taken for “I am thinking” is me “hearing maya think.” I am not thinking at all, I am simply hearing maya think (if you could call it that). Thanks.
~ Only love for you, Ram and ShiningWorld; Jacob Blakeslee, Lemon Grove, California
Sundari: Hello, good thinking, Jacob. Yes, you are right – all thoughts are generated by maya. It would be more accurate to say that most thoughts think us. Thoughts appear in the mind according to whatever guna is playing out; all thoughts therefore belong to Isvara, and not to the jiva. To be free of the conditioning that thoughts arise from (vasanas), one has to understand the jiva’s conditioning in the light of self-knowledge. In other words, in order to dis-identify with the conditioning, one must first identify it. When one has identified and understood the conditioning, one negates the thoughts as “not-self” and one is free of them. It does not matter then what thoughts are running through the mind; they are all known to be mithya. For self-inquiry to work, the important thing to be clear about is, who does the “I” in your statement “I am not thinking” refer to? Who is the “me” “hearing maya think”? Maya does not think – although it appears to. It simply generates thoughts that are governed by the gunas, which appear in the mind of the doer who identifies with thoughts as originating from “their” mind. Awareness does not think either, but it makes thinking possible for the doer because without awareness the mind does not exist. However, the mind is inert, so it cannot think; it is a lens through which you, awareness, have contact with objects.
The mind thinks because the light of awareness shines on it. It is equipped with an intellect, which gives it the ability to think deliberate thoughts, such as doubting, deliberating, reasoning – and as the mind becomes more sattvic – clear-thinking. Sattva is the main aim if moksa is what you are after, and sattva is the true nature of the mind, so the ability to think clearly is central to self-inquiry. Therefore though all thoughts “belong” to Isvara, deliberate or not, it is important to understand to whom the “I” refers. It is you as awareness making thinking possible for the doer – who is thinking either in self-ignorance or in self-knowledge. The more the mind is subjected to the scripture, the more refined the intellect becomes, the more sattva predominates and the subtler the understanding. This is what purifying the mind for moksa is about, so that all thinking is in line with your goal: moksa. As self-knowledge removes the ignorance that keeps the mind extroverted and in denial, then thinking becomes purified and crystal-clear, but it is not the ego “doing” the thinking. It is awareness no longer under the spell of ignorance, apparently thinking through the purified mind. Although control of mind (and the senses) is an important value and qualification for moksa, it is also important to understand that the presence or absence of thought makes no difference to you, awareness. No matter what is going on in the mind, the self is untouched by it. But for the jiva seeking moksa, the mind has to be understood and purified for self-knowledge to obtain in it. Therefore it is essential to align one’s thinking with thoughts that are in line with your true nature as awareness.
This is what James has to say about thinking:
Four Types of Thinking for Mastery of Mind
To value a controlled mind is to understand the way the mind thinks and to bring it in line with the way the self would think if it was a person living in the apparent reality. It means that although the mind is capricious I need not fulfill its fantasies and yield to its caprices. It means that I (awareness) am the boss, not the mind (Isvara). There are four basic ways of thinking, three of which are necessary to understand and master if I want to prepare my mind for self-knowledge.
1. Impulsive. Unexamined thoughts born of instincts dominate the mind. I do what I feel without thinking about it.
2. Mechanical. Thoughts of which I am conscious, but have no power to control because they are produced by binding vasanas.
3. Deliberate. Thoughts subjected to discrimination that are accepted or dismissed with reference to my value structure.
4. Spontaneous. Without evaluation my thinking automatically conforms to universal values and my actions are always appropriate and timely. This kind of thinking only applies to those for whom self-knowledge has destroyed binding vasanas and negated doer-ship. Spontaneous thought only applies to self-actualized individuals. If my thinking is impulsive, conditioned or deliberate I am not a master but by deliberate thinking I, the doer, can gain control of the mind. Relative mastery is simply alertness (sattva) and involves deliberately submitting all thoughts and feelings to rational scrutiny and substituting the appropriate Vedantic logic whenever ignorance-born mechanical thinking dominates the mind. If I am conscious of my mind I can learn from my mistakes and exercise choice over the way I think, allowing me to fulfill my commitments to my goal in the face of various distractions and to change my behavior so that it conforms with universal values.
Control of the senses and single-pointedness are qualifications for inquiry. In this discussion we present them also as values. Here, mind control is discipline over one’s thinking at the level where the thoughts arise, sense control indicates discretion at the level of the senses and single-pointedness is the consistent capacity to stick with the teachings in the face of unhelpful thought patterns – applying the opposite thought, for example. The first two make the mind capable of single-pointedness.
I hope this helps
~ Love, Sundari