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Brockwood Park, 1st meeting 1980

Questions and Answers 44th Question Brockwood Park 1st Question & Answer Meeting 2nd September 1980 'Thought and Consciousness'

Question: What is the relationship between thought and consciousness? why do we seem unable to go beyond thought?

What is thought and what is consciousness? Are the two different? When you say what is the relationship between thought and consciousness, it implies, does it not, that there are two different entities, or two different movements? First we have to consider together what thought is, for it is upon this whole question of thinking that all our conduct, our activities, are based. Thought is part of our emotions, sentiments, reactions and the recognition of those reactions. And what is consciousness? To be conscious of something, to be aware of, to be able to recognise, to understand, that is the whole field in which the mind is in operation, and that is more or less what we mean by consciousness.

The questioner asks: What is the relationship between the two? All our activities are based on thought, with its images, past remembrances or future projections and the enormous activity in every direction, technological, psychological, physical. And our relationship with each other is based on thought, the thought which has created your image about another and the other's image about you. That thought surely is based on knowledge, experience, memory. The reaction of that memory is thinking. And experience, knowledge, memory and the movement of thought is a material process. So thought is always limited because knowledge is always limited. There is no complete knowledge about anything - except the ending of knowledge, which is a different matter. So where there is the operation of knowledge and the movement of memory, thought is limited, finite, definite.

And what part does thought play in consciousness? All the knowledge which we have accumulated, all the experiences, not only the personal but the collective memories, genetic responses, the accumulated experience of generation after generation, all the travail, anxiety, fear and the pleasures, the dogmas, the beliefs, the attachments, the pain of sorrow - all that is our consciousness. You can add to or take away from it but it is still the movement of thought as consciousness. One can say there is a super consciousness but it would still be part of thought. Consciousness is in constant movement, breaking up the `you' and the `me'. Our consciousness is made up of its content; without that content what is our consciousness? Is there a consciousness totally differing from that which is made up of the various activities of thought which we call consciousness? To come to that point one has to find out if thought can end, not temporarily, not between two thoughts as a gap, or a period of silence or unconscious movement. Can thought ever end? This has been the problem of those serious people who have gone into it very deeply through meditation. Can thought, which is so enormously powerful, which has got such a volume of energy behind it, energy created through millennia - in the scientific field, the economic, religious, social and personal fields - can all that activity come to an end? Which means: can those things that thought has built into our consciousness, of which we are made up, which are the content of consciousness, end?

Why do we want to end it? What is the motive behind this desire to end thought? Is it that we have discovered for ourselves how thought creates such great travail, great anxiety for the future, from the past, in the present, and brings about such a sense of utter isolation and loneliness?

When you ask that question: "Can thought come to an end?" are you seeking a method to end it, a system which you practise day after day so as to end thought? If you practise day after day, that very practise intensifies thought - naturally. So what is one to do? One realizes the nature of thought, its superficiality, the intellectual games it plays. One knows how thought divides, divides into nationalities, into religious beliefs and so on; and the perpetual conflict it produces from the moment we are born until we die. Is that the reason why you want to end thought? One has to be very clear about the motive for wanting to end thought - if that is possible - because the motive will dictate and direct. One can live in the illusion that thought has come to an end. Many people do, but that illusion is merely another projection of thought which desires to end itself.

Thought and the things that thought has built as consciousness with its content, can all that come to an end? If the speaker says it can, what value has that? None whatever. But can one realize the nature of consciousness and the movement of thought as a material process and observe it - can one do this? Can one observe the movement of thought, not as an observer looking at thought, but thought itself becoming aware of its own movement; the awakening of thought and thought itself observing its movement? Take a very simple example, greed: observe it as it arises in one and then ask oneself, "Is the observer, is the thinker, different from thought?" To observe thinking is fairly easy. I separate myself as an observer and watch my thinking, which most of us do. But this division is illusory, is fallacious, because the thinker is thought. So can the observer be absent in his observation? The observer, the thinker is the past - the remembrances, images, knowledge, experiences, all the things that he has accumulated in time is the observer. The observer names a reaction as greed and in naming it he is already caught in the past. By the very naming of the reaction we call greed, we have established it in the past. Whereas if there is no naming but pure observation - in which there is no division as the observer and the observed, the thinker and the thought, the experiencer and the experience - then what takes place? Our conditioning is to make this division between the observer and the observed and that is why we take such enormous trouble to control the thing that is observed. I am greedy, that is the reaction. But we say, "I am different from greed and therefore I can control it, I can operate on it, I can suppress it, I can enjoy it, I can do something about it". The fact is, the thinker is the thought. There is no thinker without thought.

So observe without past memories and reactions projecting themselves immediately in observation; observe purely, without any direction, without any motive; then one will find, if one has gone into it deeply, that thought does come to an end. Thought is a movement and time is a movement, so time is thought. This is real meditation: for thought to see its own movement, how it arises, how it creates the image and pursues that image; it is to observe so that there is no recognition of what is being observed. To make it very simple: observe a tree without naming it, without wondering to what use it can be put, just observe it. Then the division between the tree and you comes to an end - but you do not become the tree, I hope not! The word with the neurological responses creates the division. That is, can one observe one's wife or another, without the word and so without the image and all the remembrances of that relationship? - which is, to observe purely? Then, in that observation, which is complete attention, has not thought come to an end? This requires a great deal of attention, step by step watching, like a good scientist who watches very, very carefully. When one does that, thought does come to an end and therefore time has a stop.

Questions and Answers

Brockwood Park, 1st meeting 1980

Questions and Answers 44th Question Brockwood Park 1st Question & Answer Meeting 2nd September 1980 'Thought and Consciousness'

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