“The fact is that the mind is only a bundle of thoughts. How can you extinguish it by the thought of doing so, or by a desire? Your thoughts and desires are part and parcel of the mind, and the mind is simply fattened by new thoughts rising up, therefore it is foolish to attempt to kill the mind by means of the mind. The only way of doing it is to find its source and hold on to it, the mind will then fade away of its own accord.” ~Ramaṇa Maharshi
Questioner (Q): Acharya Ji, please help me understand what it means to find the source of the mind and hold on to it. When a thought arises in the mind, it demands to be addressed. Otherwise, it keeps hanging and causes trouble. Even this question is coming from my mind and to get an answer, the mind is trying to understand. But that is not leading to the dissolution of the mind rather adding to mental activity. How then, to really understand? How is it different from the usual mental activity?
Acharya Prashant (AP): Ramaṇa Maharshi is saying, “Go to the root of the thought.” You are saying when a thought arises in the mind, it demands to be addressed otherwise it keeps hanging and causes trouble. So, all is good. When a thought arises in the mind, it demands to be addressed, do address it and address it properly and fully. Why don't you do that?
On one hand, we complain that we remain annoyed by, occupied by, pestered by thoughts. On the other hand, we never give thought serious consideration. If thought is so meaningful in your life, if thought is the center of all your activity, if thought is what your inner life is all about, then why don't you give thought the importance it deserves? And as far as you are concerned in your own eyes, thought is pretty important, is it not?
If it is important then do justice to thought. Address it properly. All thoughts have in some direct or oblique way your welfare at the center. All thoughts whether directly or indirectly are about you. Look at your thoughts, many of them you will find very clearly and directly carry the word ‘I’ at their center. In other thoughts ‘I’ is not very obviously visible but if you will probe a little you will find ‘I’ is there. You just don't randomly think of anything.
We make a mistake when we say that thoughts are random. We make a mistake when we say “Oh! Thoughts are like purposeless clouds floating in the sky of the mind”. Thoughts are not purposeless. Thoughts are not random at all. You never randomly think of anything. There is a clear design there. There is a clear pattern and a purpose there.
We think for the sake of our welfare. It's just that thought might not be coming from the conscious mind, often it does not. Conscious thinking is a very small part of the sum total of our thinking. Most of our thinking is quite sub-conscious. We think without having consciously decided on or chosen our thoughts; we just think. Since we have not consciously decided on the content of the thought, so we are tempted into concluding that thoughts are random.
Thoughts are not random. You chose them; it's just that you didn't choose them consciously. They don't just come to you very waywardly. So, all thoughts have a design, a purpose in them. The purpose is your welfare. At the center of all thoughts lies ‘I’, whether directly or indirectly. Even if you are thinking about, let's say the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, you'd be surprised, but you are still thinking about your own welfare. You'll find this amusing, you will say, "Today in 2020 how is my welfare connected to the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s?" It is.
You tell me, you are thinking, I'm not. But it's a clear principle. Surely, you have some relationship with that war. There is some chain of association that connects you with the Iran-Iraq war. The chain might be quite long. All the rungs might not be quite obvious or visible to you.
Between the war and between your conscious welfare, there might lie hundred-and-four associations, and it might not be really possible for you to trace all the hundred-and-four, but it can be done. If you sit down with someone who can really analyze every bit of your life and if all the data is available then there is a good chance that he'll be able to demonstrate to you how you think your welfare is related to the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. So, no thought is random. Getting it?
Hard work is needed. You need to see that thoughts are begging for your welfare. You need to see that through mental activity, you are trying to reach the end of the mind. Ramaṇa Maharshi is saying, “It is not possible.” Obviously, it is not possible. It is not possible yet one thing must become obvious— the mind desires its welfare. The mind is a little foolish, it does not know how to reach that welfare.
But do be a little considerate. The mind is foolish but the mind knows one thing; it is not alright. The mind knows that there is something wrong with it. The mind knows that it's sick. It's not well settled. The mind tries to address its inherent sickness by way of thought.
Therefore, all thoughts have your prospective health at its center. I said, “All thought has your welfare at the center”. In other words, all thoughts are centered around the ‘I’. Now instead of thinking so much why don't you pick up your thoughts and give some attention to them? What is the point in just watching this unhealthy stream keep flowing past you? And you don't merely even watch, you know, because all thoughts have ‘I’ at their center, it means that you are actively riding all your thoughts.
You are the ‘I’. You are not even watching your thoughts, you are riding your thoughts. It must be quite tiring, won't it be? A million thoughts are crossing your mind, you are trying to hop on to each of them, you ride your thought for a while, and then you de-board. And when you de-board you have another 80 choices and then you hop on to some other thought and after a while you again de-board. This boarding and de-boarding must be quite taxing and frustrating.
Now, instead of boarding, de-boarding, all this fickle business, why don't you travel the entire difference either way? Ramaṇa Maharshi used to say, “Go to the root of the thought.” He used to say, “See where all the traffic is coming from.” It's a great approach. And an equally great approach, a complementary approach is to see where all this traffic is going to. Both ways will work. Both the methods are equally good.
If you could see where the entire train of thought is coming from, you will know who you are and what you want. And this realization will not let you remain who you think you are. Equally, if you can see where all this traffic is headed towards, you will again reach the same place where the traffic is coming from. It's a circular thing, you see.
Ramaṇa Maharshi used to say, “Go to the root of the ‘I’”, you could equally say, “Go to the fruit of the ‘I’.” The root of the ‘I’ is the Truth, the desired fruit of the ‘I’ is also the Truth.
When you see the falseness of what you are, you also see the falseness of what you want to become. When you go backward, all you see is your falseness. When you go forward, again all that you see is your falseness. Whether you go backward or forward one thing is needed, you can call it attention, you can call it honesty. And you will have to put in some effort. That is what I mean by addressing the thought.
When you say that thought encumbers you, thought troubles you, thought remains like a weight on the head, do treat it nicely. You talk of thought like an unwanted, unwelcome guest. If the guest is so very obstinate and he keeps knocking so very frequently, why don't you call him in? Make him sit across the table over a cup of tea. Ask where is he coming from, or ask where he is going to. In either case, you will find relief.
We think without really thinking.
We say that we are sufferers of thought. We will let ourselves suffer from thought but we will never go to the depth of thought. We will keep thinking but we will never allow deep thinking. What nonsense is this?
In fact, the antidote to thinking is deep thinking.
Do you know what is deep thinking? It does not mean coming up with great, exotic, fabulous thoughts of the kind that you read in books from grave intellectuals. No, no, that is not deep thinking.
Deep thinking means honest thinking because after all, thinking has the problemed ‘I’ at its center. Therefore, all thinking is in itself, a problem-solving mechanism. Thought exists in its own eyes, to solve a problem. Don't you see that? When you have a problem then you start thinking.
Therefore, if thought is really a problem-solving mechanism, then the thought should solve the problem and end. Thought cannot be unending. Why is our thought unending? It means that even though thought is a problem-solving mechanism, we keep the problem alive so that we can keep thinking. Such deep inner dishonesty. If thought was really honest, what would thought do? Thought would solve the problem and then subside, no thought. Problem gone thought gone, over!
But we have a great fascination for problems. We create problems where there are none. So that we can keep thinking. We are attached to our suffering. We are attached to our sense of incompletion. This is called the ego. Are you getting it?
So, more thinking cannot solve the so-called problem of thinking, Ramaṇa Maharshi is absolutely right, but deep thinking can solve the problem of thinking. But don't be misled, I am again cautioning, deep thinking does not mean complex thinking.
Deep thinking means when you think, you must know that thought is a tool that you are using. Once the matter is settled, why do you need the tool? Or is it so that you are so fond of using the tool that you do not let the matter ever be settled? Are you getting it?
All thought aims at its own dissolution. Thought does not want to continue. We force it to continue. The mother of thought: Ego is such a schizophrenic personality. On one hand, it exists not to continue, on the other hand, it keeps existing not to continue. Such madness!
The Ego keeps existing because it has a deep desire to not exist, you see. The Ego loves the desire to not exist, so it keeps existing. If it won't exist how will it keep having the lovely desire? Are you getting it?
That is called the fragmentation of the Ego. It is split. We all are split personalities. It is not that only a few people are schizophrenic. We all are split. If you are not split then we would not be what we are.
Therefore, realization was named as ‘Advaita'. ‘Advaita’ means now the fellow is not split. Now the mind does not have a fissure running through it.
Realize what is it that you really want and then like a good boy, take it. It is on offer. Don't keep throwing tantrums. You're bringing the entire house down with your continuous nonsense. All that you really want is an apple. The Apple is right there, on the table. Pick it, eat it and go to sleep. It’s just that you have been spoiled by bad parenting. The world is the parent, you see.
Do you know what bad parenting really means? To be raised by the wrong parents. We assume that the world is our father and mother, that is what is meant by bad parenting. And if the world you take as your source then you will grow up in a very spoilt way. Take the apple, that's all that you want.
Q: Acharya Ji, I have been following your teachings for quite a long time. So, one basic difference I could probably see is that or rather I would want to say this way that the very different way of looking at things, which I came across your teachings was that by now teachers like Ramaṇa Maharshi and scriptures have been talking about getting to the root of the problem or getting to the root of the thought.
So, on the other hand, you have been rather more talking about getting to the fruit of the problem, the fruit of the thought.
So, like in this context, my question is that do you think that because it's a very new way of, you know, looking at this particular age-old question of thoughts? So, do you think this particular method that you are giving us, which is helping us, is probably more befitted to the kind of generation we are, and the kind of people we are now or equally suffice?
But if I talk about myself, it looks quite easy for me to go forward wherein I am talking about what is the reason for this particular thought? So in this context, if you can shed some light and make it help us understand that in what context and what is the reason that you have quite been professing about going to the fruit of the thought. Thank you!
AP: It is a very simple thing you see, what do I mean by going to the fruit of thought? So, you are thinking about something, ask thought, "What will you get from it?" The thought will say, "I'll get this from it", alright. What will you get from that? I will get that from that. What will you get from that? I will get that from that.
What do you will get from A? B. What do I will get from B? C. What do you get from C? D. Keep probing, go to the ultimate fruit that thought wants. What do you get from E? F. What do you want F for? G. Ultimately, the chain will stop somewhere, and thought will say, "All that I want is to come to the end of all wants."
Then you look at thought in its eye and smile a little mischievously. "So, you continue to be a serial wanter so that you may stop wanting. Is that your situation Mr. Thought?" And now Thought will be a little, you know, uneasy with itself. Thought will say, “I, yeah, yes, but, no, no, but, yes, yes, yes…” Then you can, you know, scold it a little. "Come on! Accept it. You have been raising this entire spectacle just so that ultimately there is nothing spectacular at all. You have been running all this while so that ultimately you can come to rest, right? That's what you want Mr. Thought?" And thought will have to agree. This is what I mean by coming to the fruit of the problem.
So, if ultimately all you want is rest, sir, why don't you rest right now? That's the bed. I'll make some good tea for you, without milk of course.
Pick up any thought and at the end of thought if you can pursue the thought to its fruit, if you can pursue the thought to its end, all that you want is freedom. Freedom from thinking itself.
And if freedom is all that you want in everything that you do or think, then why don't you have it right now? The Apple is there on the table, pick it. This is the approach that I'm talking of.
Q: Do you think this is easier for today’s world than one who is awake?
AP: Comparisons can be kept aside. It depends on the personality. Depends on what suits you.
Q: Acharya Ji, you talk about going to the root. What exactly is the way of going to the root? Because… like… it is the same thing. This is quite like logic saying that what am I aiming that? But how do we interact back to the root pattern?
AP: Then you will have to take the help of identities. I say, “I want to", let's say, "go to the temple.” "Why do you want to go to the temple?" "Oh because I'm a Hindu. Okay, how am I a Hindu?" You keep going backwards, and ultimately you find that everything starts from a certain incompleteness.
Even you find that this entire train comes from a certain incompleteness then you lose faith in the train. The moment you lose faith in it, you are free. You pick up any sequence of thoughts, you pick up any thought and you go to the base of it, you discover a certain incompleteness. Then you say, “What the hell! All this is arising from a disease.” I don't think I want to have much to do with it.