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What is thought? What is Peace?
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
10 min
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Questioner (Q): What exactly is thought? It seems as if it’s not material. But there is also a heaviness to it at times, especially when done in excess. So what is it?

Acharya Prashant (AP): It is material, there is no doubt about it. Because its content is never anything except material. Further, in purely scientific and material terms, the activity of thought can be measured on a purely material scale. When you are thinking, then there can be a needle sketching a graph and a graph is a pretty material thing, right? A graph that will almost accurately describe your brain waves. Now, only material can probably be accurately described on a piece of paper, not the para-material. So thought is something material. It’s just that we are accustomed to seeing material with eyes. Material can have subtler definitions; thought is that subtle material.

Q: Similarly, can you say that peace is subtler material because you can see it on an MRI scan. I can’t see both thought and peace. Peace seems subtler than thought.

AP: You cannot think about peace; or can you? You can think about your definition of peace. But you cannot think about peace. Peace can, in no way, be depicted on a piece of paper in the way that thought can be.

Q: So there is no way to really quantify or define something that’s not material but it is possible to quantify and define something that is material.

AP: Only material can be quantified. And if it can be quantified, it is material. That’s one way to avoid calling material stuff as mystical. Can it be quantified? If yes, then don’t call it mystical.

Q: What if I can’t suit their levels of peace. There is a shallow peace, there is a deep peace.

AP: There are levels of disturbance, not levels of peace. There are levels of disturbance. Peace and disturbance are not a continuum. You can not say that as disturbance reduces, peace increases. Disturbance has its dimension. Peace does not lie in the dimension of disturbance. Disturbance is a particular dimension. On this dimension, you can have a lot of disturbance and relatively little disturbance. At no point, in this dimension, on this axis, do you have something called peace.

You can not say that as disturbance reduces greatly, then probably at some infinite point, we will have some peace on the same axis - No! It is something very important to be understood. Peace is here (at a higher level), up here, Nowhere in his scale (at the lower level); which means you can have peace in presence of disturbance. If you will hope for disturbance to subside to zero to reach peace, then you will never reach peace. Peace is either with disturbance or never at all. Had peace been a point on the disturbance dimension, disturbance axis; then there is really no difference between disturbance and peace. Or is there? What you are saying is that disturbance is progressively thinning out and therefore peace is increasing. No! Not that kind of a model.

Q: So it's not a dualistic concept like happiness- sadness, peace-disturbance; not that.

AP: Wonderful! It is not a dualistic concept; not at all. There is something called dualistic peace and then there is non-dual peace. What we usually call as peace is just dualistic peace and therefore it is not peace at all. As long as you are alive, your being alive is in itself a disturbance. If you will want total absence of disturbance to be peaceful, then you will never be peaceful.

Q: So is it as simple or at least it sounds simple as it is just recognizing that choosing peace even in the presence of disturbance?

AP: That choice implies dislocating yourself from this axis. Where are you sitting?

Q: On the axis of disturbance.

AP: If you are sitting on the axis of disturbance, you will never have peace. You will be just playing the game of trying to minimize your disturbance. That’s the game everybody is playing. What else do we want from each of our actions? We want peace, right? We want peace while sitting on the axis of disturbance and no wonder we fail. You have to dislocate yourself. You have to disengage yourself from the axis itself. Things will keep happening on the axis.

'Things' must keep happening on the axis. You must not happen on the axis.

Q: What does that mean “I must not be on that axis"? Is it just observing the disturbance?

AP: You have to see who is it who is disturbed. Does that have to be necessarily you? It’s the Prakriti of the disturbed one to be disturbed. You will not succeed with him at all if you want peace because it’s his Praktitik composition, predisposition to stay disturbed. Disturbance is movement. Don’t you see that? Disturbance is a vibration, it’s a movement. And there is continuous movement in Prakriti . The question is, “Must you identify with the disturbed one?” “Are you the disturbed one?” Can’t you let the game of disturbance and composure and such things just play out, when it must play out? Why must it play out in your insides? In other words, in a more Koan-like language, can you stay peaceful and disturbed? That’s a challenge.

Q: I like the way you put it because I was thinking that if I am not disturbed, I would not want to do anything about animal rights or do anything about anything in my life.

AP: If you are disturbed and you want to do something about animal rights in that disturbed state, then yours would be a disturbed effort. How would you succeed? So you have to stay peaceful and disturbed; you have to stay peaceful while disturbed; peaceful in the middle of disturbance. And that disturbance is not purely external, as in external to your body. That disturbance can even be internal - in the way we use the words 'external' and 'internal' - That disturbance can even be internal. Your mind is disturbed and yet you are peaceful. Do you have to be your mind? Do you necessarily have to be your mind? "Mind is disturbed, I am peaceful." And that’s the only way you can play this game. Otherwise, you are imposing a very, very tight condition. If you will ask your mind to be peaceful for you to operate in a healthy way, that’s a very stringent condition. That condition will not be met. You will be frustrated.

Q: So is it possible that the mind is moving and disturbed and yet there is a sense of peacefulness or even amusement at being able to watch how disturbed it is?

AP: It has to be made possible. And you know, when there is peace and disturbance, then that disturbance becomes subservient to peace. And then that disturbance becomes a harmonious movement. When there is just disturbance, then disturbance is just noise, chaos. With peace, disturbance becomes a harmony, it becomes musical, dance-like.

Q: You said it has to be made. Does that imply that there is a way to make it?

AP: That implies that there must be the will to make it. When there is that will, that way will appear.

Q: Very Koan-like.

AP: Yeah! It’s not necessarily complicated. It’s just that we are conditioned to dualistic thoughts. So it is easier for us to operate in the language of A versus B. A and B together is something that we just can’t wrap our hand around. And it’s so easy. You can either hold this (a pen) or you can hold this ( something on the table). That is something we understand. This is the language of exclusion. This is the language in which you don’t really have to make the effort to go beyond your dimension.

In your dimension, you can hold one thing. Yours is a dualistic dimension. In that, you can hold only one thing. So you are not being challenged at all when you are said to either hold this (pen) or this (other thing kept on the table). You are comfortable. But when you are told to hold this (pen) and this (other thing), then you have to go not beyond this (pen) and this (other thing), you have to go beyond your hand. Because as far as this hand is concerned, it’s designed by Prakriti in a way so that it can hold either this (pen) or this (other thing). So the challenge is not about this (pen) or this (other thing); the challenge is about this (the hand). And if we take ourselves to be this (the hand), then it’s either this (pen) or this (other thing). It cannot be this (pen) in the presence of this (other thing), this (pen) and this (other thing), this (pen) while this (other thing). And if it can’t be this (pen) while this (other thing), then we will just keep hoping from this (pen) to this (other thing).

Q: So does non-dualistic simply means this 'and' this as opposed to this 'or' the other?

AP: Non-dualistic means you are what you are. Everything else is where it is. This and that are both at their own place; the right place. And that’s health, that’s Sahaj .

Q: What do you mean when you say this and that are at the right place?

AP: The body is doing what it must- thinking, breathing, eating. Mind is doing what it must. You are relaxing where you must. And isn’t it possible? Ask yourself. Challenge yourself. Isn’t it possible to be peaceful while agitated? Isn’t it possible to be in rest in the middle of fierce activity?

Q: I notice my mind just wants to come to conclusion by saying “Maybe it’s possible, I haven’t experienced it" or, "No it’s not possible.”

AP: You have experienced it. The same game is being played out on the screen. How agitated are you? Aren’t your eyes looking at the activity? Isn’t your mind comprehending everything that is going on? Why aren’t you agitated? But the moment it's about your favorite team, see how agitated you are. So it’s not as if you do not know what it means to be peaceful in the middle of activity. You have experienced that. Now can you experience that even when it’s about your favorite team, even when the “I” is involved? That’s a challenge.

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