On Dropping Thought

November Project: Question #1 The first question this year comes from Cat:

My question is about thoughts. My current strategy for dealing with the minutiae of mental chatter is to remember Nisargadatta's admonition to see thought as illusion and just drop it.

I have heard many statements and phrases on dropping thought over the years. I find it fascinating people are so interested in this, as it is such a superficial thing. Not superficial in the sense of it being unimportant, because it must be seen for what it is. But many think of the dropping of thought as the end of all ends without looking into it, or even questioning if it is, in fact, a possibility.

Many questions arise from this, which is good. We'll take a look at a few of those...

Why does one hope to drop thought? Forget about whether or not it is possible for the moment. Why does one want to be free from the movement of thought? Is it to free oneself from a discomfort of some kind? Or perhaps because a respected teacher says to drop thought is of the highest importance?

You mentioned chatter, Cat. But what is wrong with chatter, or with thinking? Is there something wrong with chatter, or is there a thought thinking something is wrong with chatter?

This leads into another line of questioning...

What hopes to free itself of thought and thinking, and who is the one wanting to drop it? You might say, "It is me!" but what is 'me'? What is the 'me' that hopes to drop thought?

I am not trying to point out that the 'me' is an illusion. (If one hopes to free oneself of thought, the 'me' is clearly there, illusory or not.) I just want to know what it is. What is this thing that wants to free itself of chatter, that wants to drop thought?

Most likely, you only feel the 'me' through conflict. In other words, you only really know it is there when it rises to resist something. I am not saying this is true, but look within yourself and try to find this thing called 'I'. If the 'I' rises in reaction, rises in conflict, is the problem really with thinking or chatter? Or is it a problem of resistance to thinking and chatter?

Is there ever a problem with thinking? Or is it merely a problem of resistance and interference?

You'll have to go into this on your own, but you may find that the 'me' is no different from what it hopes to be free from. If that happens to be true, just relax into the loving arms of those beautiful sisters and brothers you've resisted for so long!

Akiko in Shadows

Do you have any other advice? Does it get quieter "in there" when one continues to just drop thought? Your thoughts (!) on the matter are deeply appreciated.

Nice last sentence, Cat. ;-)

As long as one hopes to drop thinking and thought, it will never be quiet. The noise comes from the interference, from the resistance.

Look within and tell me, tell us, what you see. Is there really a problem of thinking, or a problem of the chatter? I am not trying to lead you in one direction or another. Where do YOU see the problem. Where is the issue?

I hope this is not frustrating for you. I know it would be great if someone were to say, "Do this, this, and this, and your thoughts will drop!" (If you look online for a bit, I'm sure you'll find plenty of people telling you how, haha.) But why anyone would want to do that is beyond me. To grab someone's answer to thought and thinking and try to put it on like an ill-fitting hat...I just don't get it. (I'm not saying you have, or will do, any of that, by the way.)

But you've asked me, so I will tell you how thought and thinking appears to Takuin. As far as knowledge and memory is concerned, thought arises as it is needed. It works, I imagine, as it should. If I need particular information, and if those grooves have been dug deeply enough, the answer is readily at hand.

However, in the last five years, as far as I know, I have never hoped for there to be any more or less of thinking or thought. I cannot see that as an actual possibility anyway, but what I think about it is really irrelevant. There is thinking, and there is no thinking, and it is all a part of the same movement much like living and dying. I can't really imagine what it is to resist, or to hope for a better thought.

Thought is a necessary function of the organism. Belief in, or resistance to thought, is not.

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I don't know that I have answered your question satisfactorily, but I at least hope is begins a dialogue...if not with me or the commentors here, with yourself. If you have any other questions, or if I should clarify something, please let me know in the comments below.

I look forward to hearing from you again, Cat! :-)