To think or not to think? A debate between East and West


Ramana Maharishi

When there are thoughts, it is distraction: when there are no thoughts, it is meditation.

– Ramana Maharshi

India has studied Human Thought in detail. Gurus have talked about the state of no thought as a very powerful state. The goal of meditation and religious practices is to move beyond the noise and confusion to absolute stillness of mind.

How do you reach a state of no thought?

Human beings consider language as a tool for thought. Except in deep sleep, thoughts appear constantly in mind as words and images. Though there is no physical concept of mind as an organ like the brain, we do experience mind as consciousness. But, how many of us have the luxury of a still mind, so clear like the surface of a still pond?

Consider you are travelling on a highway and see a hoarding of a popular movie star. This reminds you of a scene that touched you a lot, which again reminds you of an incident in your past. Maybe that incident connects you to a friend, which takes your mind to a personal loss. That loss could make you sad and feel how unpredictable life is. This shows the journey of an uncontrolled mind. All of this started from one image on the street.

Saints like Ramana Maharishi told us to look at the place from where the thought arises. Is it memory? Is it feelings? Is it mind? Then look beyond it. Where does this memory come from? What is the cause of this memory? This is called “Self Enquiry”. It is through a very clear inspection of our self that we reach that place where we transcend thought itself. This is a meditative experience. After consciously practicing meditation for a while, there is no need of a physical process of sitting in a silent room with closed eyes. The very mind becomes meditative in nature with no thought, but just an awareness about the task at hand.

But, I think therefore I am. What about that?

The western thought has taught us to constantly indulge in thoughts. The very definition of Self is considered to be the presence of our thoughts about who we are, what we are and where we are going to. There is a lot of action and speed about such a perception about Self. This thought process has lead our consciousness to great confusion. The process of not thinking is almost considered failure. The thinking process is often compared to “mental gymnastics” of sorts that people are not even able to sleep peacefully.

So, to think or not to think. That is the question really.   

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *