Acharya Prashant is dedicated to building a brighter future for you
Thoughts, Understanding and Realization || Acharya Prashant, with youth (2012)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
9 min
122 reads

Acharya Prashant: We rarely understand. We only keep thinking. And we think that we are understanding.Naresh, there is a humongous difference between ‘thinking’ and ‘understanding’.

We ‘think’, but we rarely ‘understand’.When you look at that mobile phone, you are ‘thinking’, you are not ‘understanding’. ‘Understanding’ is a totally different thing.

‘Understanding’ happens when thoughts have been quietened.

You think about the mobile, have you ever thought about the ‘Tack Sheek’? Is there anyone here who thinks about ‘Tack Sheek’?

Listener: We don’t know what that is!

AP: You think about the ‘mobile’, because you know about the mobile already. No one here has ever heard of ‘Tack Sheek’ before! And that’s why you don’t know about it.

All thoughts come from the past. When you are looking at something, the only thing happening is, that your mind is recalling something that it already has recorded previously.

And that is why, when I said ‘Tack Sheek’, you all were clueless about it. Because there is nothing to recall. This is not ‘understanding’. This is just a recalling of the past.There is something previously fed into your brain, and you just recalled it again. This is not called understanding. This is highly mechanical. This can be easily done by a computer’s hard drive, which has no intelligence at all, which is purely instrumental.

So, when you are looking at this mobile, then you are just dealing in an image. That is merely a thought, not ‘understanding’.

L: So, what then is ‘Real Understanding’?


‘Understanding is the fruit of intelligence.’ It operates only in an environment of attention. When you are completely still, then the process that happens instantaneously, that is called ‘Understanding.’

See, if I look at this, and I say ‘mobile’, remember that I have given it a name. And that name, because of memory, carries a thousand images with it. For example, the moment I asked you, what’s your name, you said, Naresh. You said, ‘Naresh’ means King. And the moment I hear the word ‘King’, a thousand images can come to my mind. For example, I might recall that in the reign of King Gyanendra of Nepal someone was murdered. Then ‘murder’ might ignite some ten other memories! This is how the mind works. Right? It jumps from one thing to another.As soon as you give a name to something, you are letting a thought enter there.

Understanding operates in deep attention, deep stillness; that is your nature.

L: Acharya ji, any example of understanding?

AP: Example of understanding- If I say something, you listen to it. And what did we say earlier? That anything that can be seen and heard, what is that?

L: Thinking.

AP: Yes. So, can there ever be an example of understanding? ‘Understanding’ itself can only exist. There can never be an example of it.Okay, Naresh, are you listening to me right now, or thinking? L: Both.

AP: If you are doing both, then you are not listening to me, because both of them cannot happen at once.If there is anyone here, who has listened with attention even for once, were you thinking right at the time of deep listening?You can think afterwards, yes. But exactly when you were listening, were you also thinking?‘When that thinking stops, and only listening is happening, then that inner process is called understanding.’

L: Acharya ji, someone must have listened in understanding here.

AP: I cannot say!

L: For example, I will talk about my own self, that at particular time, I was listening and not thinking. So, the understanding happened. But what happens, when later I don’t remember when my understanding happened?

AP: The thing you are talking about is a part of recalling. In Understanding – That was a moment of attention. In that moment, there was a particular understanding. Now, what you are doing is ‘recalling’. There is no benefit you are going to derive from that recalling. Recalling means, you are regurgitating something from your memory. There is no benefit at all from that. Whatever can be understood, is understood ‘right now’.

Now, you can clearly see, as I am speaking right now, and if some of you are still ‘thinking of something;’ there are many people amongst us who are lost in their own thoughts. They cannot understand. Because thoughts are already present. They are doing something in your mind. Are you getting it?Isn’t it very simple? When you are thinking about something, your mind is occupied; then understanding cannot happen!

L: Sir, Whatever was happening, it was not understanding. I was listening and something came in my mind, I was analyzing and parallelly listening. Is it inevitable for us to understand and analyze both parallelly?

AP: Realization, comes from thinking or will it come from observation?

L: Observation.

AP: And from that ‘observation’, if it has to come, will it come after a period of time or will it come instantaneously?

L: Period of time.

AP: You know, were I observing it right now, for example, if I have to look at thought and the way it operates, when will I understand it?When that thought comes, and right at the moment I say, alright! So, someone said something and as a result of that, like a reaction only, a thought was born. Immediately. And where is that thought coming from? Some memory of the past, stored in my mind, and it is springing out from there. Now, this thing, will I observe only right then, or will I keep thinking about it?

L: Observe.

AP: Observation.See the word you used, ‘realization’, that is very close to understanding.In fact, ‘realization’ IS ‘understanding.’

Realization does not come as a result of being lost in thoughts. ‘Realization’ is the spontaneous output of ‘observation,’ of deep observation, of thoughtless observation.

By ‘thinking’ a lot about something, you can only go back and travel into the past. And do a limited amount of work with it. But you cannot come to an understanding about it.

Okay, for the next one minute, try not to think about monkeys. For the next one minute, try not to think about monkeys with long tail, with black faces, Langoors. Try not to think about monkeys sitting on a branch of tree. Imagine that you are at all thinking about them. A female monkey with little monkeys is going around, and just do not think about her.

L: Acharya ji, as soon as you talk about it, the thought comes to our mind.

AP: Observe this.

All thought, comes from outside. And all thought happens without your permission. In a very unconscious way. You might think, some of you champions here, might think that ‘I was the one who thought about the monkey’, it was ‘my’ doing, it was ‘my’ thought.

Really? Is it your thought? Or was it me who planted that thought in your mind?

L: Yes, you planted it

AP: Right?So, thought is like that only.

You keep on thinking that you are the one who is thinking. You are not thinking. It is an automatic process. Which is happening in accordance with the environment.A little higher than thought is ‘thinking’. Thought is purely unconscious. If there are 50 people sitting here, only 1 or 2 might be there, who don’t get started thinking about the monkey. Rest will definitely have the thought of monkey in their head.So, thought is purely unconscious. A little above that comes thinking. Thinking, is partly conscious. Thinking, is a little better than thought. When you are able to consciously apply thinking. But thinking too is beneficial only when it sublimates very quickly, finishes soon. And transforms into ‘understanding’ soon.

But thinking as such, is a very poor substitute for understanding. At best, if you find that you are obsessed with thinking, so the maximum you can do is to think until a point where ‘thinking sublimates into understanding.’ Why do you think? Just to continue with thinking? Is the purpose of thinking, just to continue thinking forever?

Firstly, you must know that ‘thought itself is completely useless.’ Have you seen, sometimes when you are walking, just random thoughts keep on coming. That is totally useless, totally conditioned and governed by outside.Now, thought is completely useless, and thinking is semi-useless. The little it is, in measured amount, the more useful can it be. The lesser the thinking is, the more useful will it be. Less means, that it transforms immediately into understanding.

If you say, Oh he is a great thinker, then you are actually saying that he is a great idiot. If somebody is thinking all his life, then what is he doing? This is something like, someone is just walking and walking. Can walking be ever the only motive?

~ Acharya Prashant Ji speaking at ITM University, Gurgaon on 19th Nov’12

Have you benefited from Acharya Prashant's teachings?
Only through your contribution will this mission move forward.
Donate to spread the light
View All Articles