To think or not to think,that is the question

One has to be thinking to be aware that one is thinking. One can not be aware that one is not thinking. Does it follow that because we can only be aware that we are thinking when we are thinking, the impression that we are thinking all the time is created?

1 Like

Are we admitting that there is an aspect of ‘will’ that’s free to choose outside the contradiction of thought? Despite the connotation that choiceless awareness and choice can co-exist. As I see, we need to understand that there is a process involved and therefore not cease inquiring.
How’s Enso doing?

Good point, @JohnT . One can only be aware of “what is”. There cannot be awareness of "something that is NOT” only of something that IS. Awareness of “something that is not” is thought, isn’t it. And so awareness reveals - it is understood - that it is thought which produces the illusion of the thinker, isn’t it. This illusion includes the illusions of continuity, separateness, individuality, autonomy in action, and so on.

And is the very understanding of this — the understanding about thought and the thinker, awareness and the relationship between thought, the thinker and awareness — is that understanding itself thought? Or is it beyond thought? Thought is accumulated, but understanding cannot be accumulated, stored, recorded or held onto. It can only be let go, released. What is recorded or remembered is not understanding, is it.


Dear JohnT,

Let’s take a look at the logic of your first two statements. Let’s leave ‘thinking’ to one side and choose any other subject, such as ‘water’ and see where the logic leads.

‘There has to be water to be aware of water. One cannot be aware of water if there is no water.’

If you look carefully you will see that the second statement merely repeats the first. In general, what you seem to be saying is that awareness has to be of something actual, whether that may be something ‘material’ or something such as thought. It boils down to saying that awareness is only of the actual.

Yet we can also be unaware of the actual. We can be unaware that we are thinking. Thought can proceed without an awareness that it is proceeding. For example, you can have a tune or a song playing in your head (which is thought) and only suddenly become aware that it has been playing for some time. Similarly, you may have been hearing the birds singing for some time but suddenly become aware that you have been hearing them.

We are really looking at the nature of awareness. It is easy to use the term ‘awareness’ but more problematic to delve into what we’re referring to exactly. The word ‘awareness’ is not the thing it points to. It is only a representation. So, what are we trying to represent with the word 'awareness?

If we can understand awareness in general then we can look at awareness of thought in particular


Maybe we are neither aware, nor are we thinking, in the sense of activities deliberately undertaken? Thought and awareness simply occur?

When the ‘effortless action’ brings about the ending of thought,choiceless awareness comes into being. The choiceless refers to the choice not to convert perception into an image. Thus becoming is avoided.
Thanks for asking after Enzo unfortunately illness got the better of him 18months ago. Do you have a dog yourself?

Used to have, but no more. Peace be with Enzo.


@PaulDavidson, good to see you again.

1 Like


Certainly it is that way for awareness. There IS or there is NOT awareness. Awareness cannot BE deliberately undertaken. Whatever is deliberately undertaken cannot be awareness.

And out of the understanding that awareness brings - from a flash of insight - there might also be an unsought, choiceless, effortless flash of thought which simply occurs, expressing the insight. No?

Effortless, choiceless thinking also arises or simply occurs automatically in reaction to a trigger or challenge which confronts one. There, fear arises, anger arises, and words expressing fear or anger might arise, without effort or choice in the moment, as I see it.

But the mind which does not understand itself ruminates on the fear or anger. It is preoccupied by it and it wants to take action to resolve it. In the will and desire to achieve a certain result, there is choice and effort - deliberate action - isn’t there?

1 Like

Thank you Natarajan.

Why do you say so Huguette? I may be unaware of something but then choose to make myself aware of it. I may be unaware of the weather and decide to find out. I look out of the window and see.

I wonder if we mean the same thing when using the term ‘awareness.’ What to you mean by the term?

Hello Huguette

I’m not sure - I’d say when we feel angry or anxious the wish to resolve is already included in the naming of something as fear or anger, so there is no choice in it, but rather an automatically reaction away from fear -no?

I would say awareness is the basis of cognition, in the same way as life is the basis for activity. Another definition would be, that which endows matter with the property of consciousness or subjectivity. And going by the first definition, as you say, it is not completely an independent function to the extent of being able to disengage itself from the action of will (i.e. can be deliberately undertaken). I think what’s obscured in defining it in terms of absolutes is the fact that it can be subjected to refinement, meaning sensitivity could be altered which in other-words translates to a relative independence in it’s essence from the influence of will.

Yes, and isn’t that the function of attention? The more you attend, the more you are aware of. Attention might be the active while awareness may be the passive, in that sense. Two aspects of the same outward reach of the mind.

There is another distinction we are not dealing with Natarajan. There is awareness and then there is conscious awareness. Perhaps there is no ‘Chinese Wall’ between them but it does seem to be appropriate to discern between the one and the other. When I am consciously aware of something I seem to be processing the information in a different way, a more deliberative way with a heightened sense of awareness. This processing function is definitely not passive. Awareness moves from a passive phase to an active phase, in some sense. Here the ‘self’ can more actively play a part, measuring, judging, censoring etc. Maybe it is here that awareness becomes thinking.

1 Like

For a moment, I substituted ‘thinking’ with ‘feeling’ to better understand and instantly found it unacceptable. A mature use of those words might imply a thinking together / work together/ or love (not constrained by subjective feeling alone but in the sense of relationship).
Maybe attention is when thinking stops and we remain in silence past that last possible logical step made as a part of thinking process, the quality of attention then is a little more heightened because we stay in that very basis which is silence, a movement (such as thinking) from which could then be justified.

I agree that there is no effort in the arising of desire. Desire arises automatically. And desire engenders the will “to do something" about desire, doesn’t it? So, like you, I see that anger, fear, desire and will also arise automatically, mechanically, choicelessly.

One can observe this chain of desire, will, choice/effort to satisfy desire and will. Choice and effort are not automatic or choiceless, are they?

Choice is thought and thought is conditioned and automatic, isn’t it? I don’t choose to think about my problem/s or my fear…or to decide what to do about it. The thought to ‘do something!’ is automatic. And the planning of what to do is also based upon conditioned thinking. It’s based upon the past. Today’s QOTD is a good one. Perhaps it applies here…not sure, but I want to share it anyway so we don’t lose track of it:

Question : Is the process of cleansing the mind a process of thought?

Krishnamurti : Can thought ever be clean? Is not all thought unclean? Because thought is born of memory, it is already contaminated. However logical, however rational it may be, it is contaminated, it is mechanical. Therefore there is no such thing as pure thought, or ‘‘free’’ thought. Now to see the truth of that demands going into the whole process of memory, which is to see that memory is mechanical, based on the many yesterdays. Thought can never make the mind pure, and seeing that fact is the purification of the mind. Please do not agree or disagree. Go into it, go after it as you go after money, position, authority, and power. Put your teeth into it, and out of that comes a marvelous mind, a mind that is purged, innocent, fresh, a thing that is new, and so in a state of creation and therefore in revolution.

Talks by Krishnamurti in Europe 1961 | 12th Talk in London, 1961


I understand that both the thought which immediately reacts to a trigger and the thought which tries to solve the problem over time - are conditioned, based on the past. But is there no difference between immediate anger, let’s say, which arises in response to a challenge or a provocation from the environment, and choice/effort which comes from within to resolve the problem? By making a choice, an effort, the conditioned mind thinks it will solve the problem, challenge or provocation. “Self” doesn’t think that anger will solve anything. Anger arises automatically. You see no difference between immediate reaction and making a “reasoned” effort over time to resolve anger?

All thought is conditioned. Does that mean that all thought is divisive, conflictual, that all thought is toxic and psychological? Aren’t we going around in circles?

[DB: What is wrong with choice?

JK: Choice means confusion … we are talking of the psyche that chooses.

DB: That chooses to become.

JK: Yes. Chooses to become. And choice exists where there is confusion.

DB: Are you saying that out of confusion the psyche makes a choice to become one thing or another? Being confused, it tries to become something better?

JK: And choice implies a duality.]


1 Like

I don’t know, Huguette, but thought won’'t resolve anger will it…whether the immediate reaction caused by thought nor the ‘reasoned’ effort? As I see it. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding your point. I apologize if I am.Are you perhaps referring to inquiring or questioning when you talk of a ‘reasoned effort’?


When I say reasoned effort or reasoned thinking, I don’t mean that by reasoning, the thinker/actor can solve any of man’s/woman’s problems of relationship. We have often talked about this and we see that thought - as the thinker - does not have the ability to act rightly, harmoniously, peacefully.

I’m making a distinction between reacting and reasoning because there is a sequence - reaction and then effort. “The thinker” sees the reaction - fear, anger, jealousy, desire, pleasure, etc. - as something separate from himself which happens TO him, which overcomes him or acts ON him. And he sees effort of thought not as something that HAPPENS TO him, but as something that HE DOES. It is HIS effort, HIS action. So there is a division between the reaction and the thinker, and also a division between reaction and effort, whereas it all comes from the recorded, accumulated past.

But effort, being based on the illusion of the separate thinker/actor, is NOT action. The thinker/actor is himself based on the past, constituted by the past, as we see; and his reaction is based on the past. And effort too is based on the past. Right action can’t BE based on the past, can it? The past is repetition of the old, the old (the past) applying itself to solving the new (the living moment).

Creative action is needed to solve mankind’s problems, isn’t it? “Creative” meaning that it must be action that is completely new, not an adaptation of the old - which is still the old. Obviously, the old cannot be new, and the new cannot be produced by the old, can it. That is, action which is based on the past and determined by the illusory thinker cannot be creative.

Action based wholly on the past as the thinker/actor is cut off from awareness and intelligence, isn’t it. Old action - action based on the past - is war, violence, reform, authority, exploitation, injustice, propaganda/spinning, and so on. The old, the past cannot produce a new quality of action.

So self-understanding is not only understanding the nature of self, of consciousness, reaction, desire, time, condemnation, and so on. There must also be specifically understanding of the nature and significance of effort, as I see it. As we have also seen, understanding cannot come about through the efforts of consciousness, which is the accumulated past.