An Indian Civilizational Perspective

The Art of Thinking

This guest article has been written by Prakash Vishnubotla. He has been a tremendous influence on me in spiritual topics. This piece is an example of how profound his thinking is. Enjoy.

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“I would learn the arts that you have to teach, but I refuse to learn the art of thinking!”

This perhaps should be the motto of every individual walking this green insignificant planet, that we call earth. Yet, can this be possible? Or rather it would be right to ask if we can “let this be possible”? To understand the question lets first ask ourselves what thought is to begin with.

A simple introspection will lead us to a very simple yet vital clue to the process of thinking itself. “The brain is a reactor”. Simple isnt it? Or maybe not, but that is exactly what it is doing every moment of our lives other than of course, doing another vital act of survival, that of storing information as memory. Just think about it, every nano second of our lives , brain is bombarded with information, through the senses of perception, what we normally call stimulus. The brain is simply deciding the appropriate response to these impulses and sensations through what we call thought. When we shut out these physical inputs, like say in the act of meditation, the brain finds its stimulus in memory itself! In other words, the brain does not know how to function other than a) responding to stimulus – which it does by additionally using memory that it feels is useful b) It fundamentally cannot function coherently without the memory that helps it make sense of these stimulus.

This however leaves a gap. The gap is how is the brain deciding how to use the memory in aiding the individual to deal with the current moment at hand. It is one thing to say that brain fundamentally triggers a search through the memory or more often reinforced memory to see how to respond appropriately. However, in reality there is something more acting there, which is yet to be understood. We are yet to discover the faculty that governs the correlation of memory with the current situation at hand, we largely call it brain, either left centric or right centric, yet the co-ordinator is still at large.

If we side step the above problem, and look further, we can see that “A thought is memory in progression”. Take a minute to pause and let that sink!

When I say a thought is memory in progression, what do I mean? I mean that when the individual is born he is in a state of “tabula Rasa” of a state of no mind or memory. Even though this definition itself is limited because genetic coding is already present to give the individual a base to work with, it is a safely accurate estimation. From that moment on, every sensation given to the mind finds the mind acting in two ways: a) using the existing memory to deal with the moment b) forming (new) or reinforcing (existing) memory to store for future use. Hence your thought becomes a memory the moment you thought it out! This is true both with verbal memory (memory formed as a sequence of words to form concepts) or sensations that we experience along with the emotions it triggers. So memory is both the verbal thoughts that you repeatedly reinforce, and the sensations that you experience while doing so.

If all that I said above has sunk in, lets try to look at what thinking is then. Thinking is then brains reaction to: memory and reality (every stimulus comes from reality). Of this the memory perhaps forms a very key role, because, memory overrides the stimulus of reality, there by affects the way we deal with reality. Now what is the strongest input to memory? Social conditioning and genetic makeup. By social conditioning, I mean everything that we carry in our brain as collective history of mankind. This includes, religion, morals, ethics, socially acceptable behavior patterns. Or in other words – our thinking is severely impaired by the memory that is not essentially a part of our thinking but what is fed into our minds through our lifetimes.

By conditioning this memory that we possess, we are taught to think! Social conditioning at large and the genetic code that we carry forms a part of this memory that forms the basis for thought. Look around you, this is exactly the trait that is exploited by all forms of terrorism, the mind of man is severely programmed with limits to its ability to make it confirm to a pattern of thought – totally ignoring the reality around. Do I have to elaborate on the results?

What then is the correct way of thinking? The correct way of thinking is refusal to let someone teach you the art of thinking – either in the form of religious dictates or by a set of irrational ethics. Does this mean we have to be an atheist? Not essentially, but that is out of the scope of what I intend to discuss today.

Then what is the right source of thinking? Reality itself! In other words, we cannot but use our memory, yet, there is the intellect that can accept or reject memory, thereby there is a possibility that we take the stimulus that brain gets from reality as the true basis for thinking using it in conjunction with purified memory. Purified memory? Memory that we form based on reality – for example, the memory that sachin uses to play a 150 kmph delivery from Brett Lee – the memory rooted in the reality of a million balls he faced before it!

Now that leaves another important question – what actually is reality? what is the nature of reality? That my friends would be a discussion for another day!

Thought is memory in progression, make the memory worthwhile!

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