Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Don’t Believe Your Thoughts. Project Eudemonia Part Two: The Second Principle.

Don’t believe your thoughts, is a Zen quote, that comes up time and again in the discourse of meditation. I cannot find the origins of the quote, however it probably traces back to an ancient master, maybe even Bodidarma

This neatly dovetails with the last principle I blogged on, “All is as thinking makes it so.” While the kernel of that principle recognises the fact that we can “direct the mind” as Marcus Aurelius might say, (we can view events and experiences positively, negatively, or indifferently) “don’t believe you thoughts” seems a more radical, sceptical principle.

Some qualification is needed here. What the quote means, is that when sitting in Zazen (meditation) or simply observing your mental experience, you will see that, thoughts, feelings, and judgements arise spontaneously and disappear. Thoughts start out like little seeds, at the periphery of our consciousness, they then become recognised, the seeds have now grown into weeds, more thoughts and judgments pour forth, they then envelop and entangle the mind like ivy, then we have emotional reactions to those thoughts and judgments. For example we remember someone at sometime criticizing us, either we believe what they say and get all upset about it, or we think how wrong that person is, and what all their faults are - why they are at fault etc etc. In the end we are caught up in a perpetual cycle of thought, reaction, judgment, emotion, thought, reaction ad infinitum.

Not “believing” thoughts is simply to see them as impermanent, and insubstantial. When you calm the mind in meditation you are able to see, feel, understand, that thoughts or concepts just arise, and then just fade out. You are untroubled by them, you don’t “believe” or need to follow them up with more thinking, you simply observe the thought or judgement dispassionately, and let it go on its way.

The practice of meditation is not achieving a thought free state, but being able to break our emotional attachment to the thinking process. Freedom, like I said in my last post is being free from the opinions of ourselves and others; thought is not reality, there is the world as it is and the world as we want it to be. There is a disconnect here, a kind of ought and is fallacy, when we see this fact and henceforth integrate into our lives - we will experience the liberation of non-duality. That is to say - “you don’t believe your thoughts”.

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