I do not know what this struggle about “stopping thought” is.
Everyone from the most intelligent to the dullest does it several times each night in deep sleep without any effort whatsoever!
It happens all the time when you are stunned by something sudden — a surprise, a life-threatening or life-enhancing situation, a beautiful object (person, scene, painting, art), in love.
Secondly, the world itself is a mentation (thought) — remember, the world includes your body-mind, mental thought etc.
Also, have you not observed that breath is closely related to thought — slow down breath, thoughts slow down; end breathing totally and thought ends – but that is called ‘death’ often. 🙂
Q: “Thought is more or less running my life, instead of me just being…”
There is a subtle but a great mis-understanding in that statement.
It shows as if there is a poor helpless victim, a “me” having a life of my own and there is an extraneous another entity, ‘thought,’ which has usurped the controls of my life and ‘running my life’ as per its whims and fancies, thus ruining my “just being.”
Please notice the presence of how many things you have postulated here — a ‘me’; an extraneous usurper, thought; a life which I suppose is in my possession; the action of ‘running life’ etc. — a multiplicity!
If you understand and use the various “inquiry tools” provided by Advaita, you will know that:
- At any time there is only One – not multiple things.
- There is no separate “me” other than that current thought. (Can you identify the ‘me’ and the current controlling thought as two clear entities at any given moment?)
- There is no activity called “Life” separate from whatever is going on at the moment.
- There is no distinct ‘beingness’ which just will be present only if and iff the thought does not control.
In fact, Life is the entire “whatever-is-going-on + thought + ‘me’ + …”
And that unfragmented Oneness which is not divvied is the “just Beingness” from moment to moment.
That is the natural state. That is the True “ME.”
The True Me which is Infinite (perhaps a better word is Dimensionless) Itself raises at that moment as a finite ‘thought wave’ (a vibration) and perceives “Whatever-Is.” That perceiving of Itself through the finite vibration shows a world much like a single white beam of light appears with multiple colors after passing through a prism.
I will like to give a very approximate analogy to help knowing Oneness.
Think of a large uniform clean, neat shining white bed sheet nicely stretched and spread flat without wrinkles. Is any one particular spot on the sheet distinguishable from the other? No, all spots (locations) are uniform, identical and homogeneous — in fact, there is no possible way to demarcate and distinctly identify a single spot by setting a boundary around it. Every spot you may select is within that One continuous whole sheet which is undivided into parts.
Now give a shake in a corner or a side of the sheet.
What will happen?
Some waves will form and as you lay the sheet down, the flat stretch is gone. The sheet gets folded. It raises up as hills in some places. At some other places, it shows depressions. Some depressions may be big; others narrow and small. Some hills may be conical, some trapezoid-like and so on and on. Many shapes and sizes can be distinguished. The One huge uniform sheet lost its absolute symmetry. Several shapes with some boundaries can be identified. You can give distinct names to those shapes like a hill, a cone, a depression, a long valley etc. The sheet does not look as an undivided whole anymore. It looks like a composite of several shapes conglomerated together.
Imagine one more thing. Think that the sheet is fluorescent. When it was in the undisturbed flat disposition, it would have been appearing like a single sheet of self-luminescent brilliantly shining light plane. Say, this luminescence has also the power to sense and know things like a detector probe. Please note that there is no-thing outside itself as a specially acquired ‘quality’ to sense or detect. It is all intrinsically within that one wholeness. That sensing quality or knowing capacity is It Itself.
But once the perturbation happens (like giving the shake), the hills and valleys produce variations in the shade of the luminescent light. Some spots may appear slightly less bright, others may be more bright (in a relative sense only – remember that the entire sheet is self-luminescent, there are originally no inherent differences in the luminosity).
Now add another layer of imagination.
Think that one little depression, not exactly circular, but having an odd shape, imagines itself to be different and thinks that it exists separate from the rest of the sheet. With that thought arising, it calls everything that is within the imagined thought as “me” and all things outside the boundary of the imagined thought as “not-me” or the “world.”
Its basic ‘ability’ to imagine, sense and know the other things like a hill etc. surrounding it exists because of that self-luminescence at every spot of the big sheet. The small depressed spot begins to feel bad that its shape is odd, it is lying lower to the tall fellow, the hill, next to it. The hill appears to shine with more light and seems to throw its brilliance to a greater distance. The little depression feels sad because it is not like that hill. It wants to become like that hill. When it learns finally that it cannot succeed in its aim, it wants even to destroy that hill.
You can concoct all sorts of stories as further extension on the above theme. Say a sudden gust of wind happened to change the size or shape of that hill. The depression may misappropriate the power to have reduced the size of the hill to itself or think that its worshiping of a powerful ‘wind god’ helped achieve its desire ———- and so on.
Stop here for a minute. Hold your horses of weaving imaginative stories.
Question yourself now.
Was that ‘depression’ at any point of time existing separately from the totality of the sheet? Is it really different and independent of the hills and other shapes it imagines to be external to itself?
Is there any action it can take to become the whole one sheet again? Has it at any point of time stopped being the whole sheet?
What action should it take to feel itself within the Totality of Oneness?
It has to just remember that it never left the whole oneness. It is only its fanciful thinking that it is separate brings in the separation. There are strictly speaking no rigid brick-wall like rigid boundaries around itself but for its own mistaking of the ‘shades’ (caused by the changes in relief) as walls of separation.
Yes, when the depression feels hungry needing some energy input, it may look for food. It eats what it gets. But it knows one day, the imaginary boundary wall around itself will collapse and it will die. It then automatically is within the whole Oneness.
The most important key element in this is to first totally totally UNDERSTAND and be convinced that the small luminescent depression is non-different from and within the totality of the planar sheet.
And then stay with that understanding.
Q: “In deep sleep, there is no thought. True freedom, our natural state. “
All states are natural as they are. Whatever appears as Deep Sleep is Itself taking other states like Awake and Dream. Have you at anytime observed some “foreign elements from an unknown place outside” coming and taking over the deep sleep and changing it into another form?
Q: “To be natural is what we are meant to be, is it not.”
As Shankara puts it, You are nitya suddha buddha mukta svabhAvaH.
You are by your very svabhAva (natural state) eternally pure, ever-knowing and ever-free. There is no moment when you are not. The apparent ‘form’ taken at any moment is not substantive.
It’s a pleasant coincidence to share.
I found that Ted Thompson posted with the title “The Natural State” just today at the FB his translation in the form of a free verse of the four shloka-s from Chapter 14 of the Ashtavakra Gita.
The content of my Post here perhaps reflects the verses 11, 12, 19 and 20 of the Chapter 15 of the Ashtavakra Gita.
The meaning of those four verses is given below:
11. In you, who are an ocean that is limitless, let there arise and let subside each wave of world that happens of its own accord. This does not add to what you are. Nor does it take from what is yours.
12. You are pure consciousness itself. This changing world is nothing different from what you are yourself. Then how and where does thought arise of what to take or to reject? To whom can such a thought occur?
19. Being pure consciousness, do not disturb your mind with thoughts of for and against. Be at peace and remain happily in yourself, the embodiment of joy.
20. Give up dhyana completely but don’t let the mind hold on to anything. You are free by nature, so what will you achieve by forcing the mind?
(The translations are adopted from Ananda Wood and/or John Richards).
From what I’ve noticed, the term ‘Natural State’ is something that was popularized by U.G. Krishnamurti in modern times. He used the term to describe how he functioned after a sudden and profound ‘event’, which he called his ‘calamity’, took place in 1967. The term, which I don’t recall being used by anyone else, may have appeared before, but not in the sense and scope that U.G. popularized and described it.
I know that you are somewhat familiar with U.G. and his conversations about this whole business, but you never seem to quote him or use what he has said regarding ‘the natural state’ in your posts. If there has been anyone in the history of religion or spirituality who has described the natural state with more clarity and conviction and spoken in layman’s terms, I don’t know about it. I don’t know why you’re biased towards him. Why not use some of his descriptions and explanations to get your points across? Do you think he was ‘unAdvaitic’? If you do, you are overlooking something very vital that U.G. brought to the table.
Ha, Anon, you wouldn’t put down the UG glasses anytime! 🙂
Even if you like something, you don’t say so but bemoan that UG’s name does not appear in the ‘Credits!’
No, I have no prejudices against UG.
But the only thing is, as Dennis pointed out several times in these columns, there are few teachers that can surpass the systematic, logical and comprehensive approach in ‘unambiguously and effectively communicating’ the Advaita message like the traditional texts do.
Further, you yourself could not have stopped wondering whenever UG referred vaguely to a ‘thought sphere’ or talked sometimes of ‘thought as the enemy,’ or was never able to say what the actual ‘substance’ a thought was made up of. And his constant tirade of JK ? Not that I am defending anything; nor am I searching for excuses, but just curious to know how a knowledgeable person like you feels.
As per the usage of the phrase “The Natural State,” I am not certain you can give sole credit to UG. The same sense has been there from times immemorial in Advaita. Different terms were popular as appropriate to the times. Maybe the word ‘brahmI shtiti’ of BG conveyed the same meaning. We find the equivalent ‘sahaja’ appearing in the Gaudapada kArikA on mANDUkya in its Chapter 4, verses 9 and 10 that explain the natural condition.
Nisargadatta Maharaj (okay, his translator Maurice) used the term ‘Natural state’ in his dialogs with foreigners all the time (See “I Am That”). Ramana used ‘shaja samAdhi’ in the same sense. We find this term in the Direct path teachings of Atmananda literature too. And the list goes on.
I’m afraid your putting your own words in my mouth. I don’t feel that way at all.
I also did not say that U.G. ‘coined’ the phrase, just that I don’t recall anyone using it and describing it to the extent that he did. I knew Maurice and he also knew U.G. Neither Nisargadatta or Ramana, ever described the moment to moment life of the Natural State of the body. All their efforts were pointed at Mind. The Natural State has to do with how the body operates without a ‘self’. The mind is no longer asking questions about ‘how to’ do or become this or that. It is not about I am this or that. All of that is absent. It is a transformed state of the body, the senses, NOT the mind. The mind, thought, becomes the servant, not the master, in U.G.’s words.
Maybe I am wrong, but I don’t think you are very familiar with U.G. and what he was all about. This is reflected in your comments and inability to have a dialog regarding him. I wonder whose wearing the glasses, Ramesam?
My remark about ‘glasses’ was made in jest; sorry, it wasn’t meant to offend.
My comments on UG were also not in all seriousness. Of course, each human frame comes with its own infirmities.
I also did not talk about who “coined” the term ‘natural state.’ I sort of tried to substantiate the hunch you had about the likely occurrence of the phrase in the older literature.
“The Natural State has to do with how the body operates without a ‘self’. The mind is no longer asking questions about ‘how to’ do or become this or that.”
When you clarify as above that your observation was more towards UG discussing the natural state with reference to the gross body, I agree you have a point. I remember that he used to say that the sensory system becomes highly sensitive (“I can see each individual hair strand on the head of a man sitting at a distance in the audience” or some such words). The Upanishads and Advaita scriptures did not pay much heed to describing the physiology of the gross body of a liberated man. They always regarded it to be one more of the ‘phenomenal’ objects seen by the unenlightened. brihadAranyaka even says that the gross body is just ignored like a snake ignores the slough after it sheds the skin. They did not consider it to be important to discuss the physical body, other than saying that it will live its time.
I am not knowledgeable if any tantric texts speak of the kind of ‘ash-like’ production from the skin or the death-regeneration cycles each night he occasionally mentioned.
Maybe you can make a write up on this topic of the natural state of the gross body and how it functions in the absence of a mind as a driver — I will be personally interested because, as you know, I do refer to the “Active body – Mind at rest” combination as the fourth possibility of the Four Outcomes Model I often discuss (for example : https://www.advaita-vision.org/anesthesia-deep-sleep-death-and-consciousness-part-13/ ).
“The next time you think ‘I am this or that’, ‘I have a problem’ or whatever, just drop the apparent problem and ask ‘Who is this “I” that I think I am? Is this what I really am?’ You can even investigate and try to find this ‘I’ in your direct experience. Is there a sensation, a thought or a feeling that you can call ‘I’? We say ‘I’ but precisely what is it? Then it will dawn on you, ‘Hey! Am I not aware? Am I not present? Is not the presence of my true nature here, perfectly untouched, unsullied, like the sun shining above the clouds, completely untouched by the appearance (and disappearance) of thought?”
from ‘Awakening to… The Natural State’, John Wheeler
Thank you very much Dennis for the very apt and excellent quote from Johns’ 2004 book. It says all.
Perhaps that is the key recipe a One-Minute-Manager is likely to pick as the most appropriate exercise in the present times if s/he is tasked to spread Advaita.
Here is how John justified his use of the term ‘natural state’ for the title of his book:
“I use the term ‘natural state’ because this true nature that we are is effortlessly present, spontaneously available and requires no pursuit or acquisition. To me, ‘natural’ implies something outside the influence of or not a product of conceptual thought. It is easy and natural. This terminology is by no means original. I just happen to like it. ‘Natural’ is also the meaning of the term ‘nisarga’ (as in the name ‘Nisargadatta’), so there is for me a remembrance of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, whom I admire and who was Bob Adamson’s teacher. The term ‘natural state’ also appears in other traditions, so it seems like a good non-denominational term.
“Whenever you use words, you have to pick something, so the term ‘natural state’ seems as good as any. There are many good ones: presence-awareness, cognizing emptiness, the clear light, the Self, consciousness, the one mind, God or reality. They are all pointers. As Bob Adamson says, ‘The word is not the thing’. So there is no need to get hung up on the words.”
Thank you Ramesam and Dennis for a very useful and pragmatic presentation on the ‘natural state’. The peaks and valleys on the crumpled plastic sheet (causing either envy or exhilaration) will remain indelibly printed in my mind.