What is pure attention?

What K calls the ‘field of understanding and love’ - or the ‘emptiness, space, and freedom’ of the mind - in which thought is ‘non-existent’, can be considered (according to K) a state of pure attention:

love is a state of pure attention in which thought is absent

freedom is a state of pure attention in which thought is absent

beauty is a state of pure attention in which thought is absent

intelligence is a state of pure attention in which thought is absent

insight is a state of pure attention in which thought is absent

mind is a state of pure attention in which thought is absent

creation is a state of pure attention in which thought is absent

So what is this pure attention, and can the brain be in a state of pure attention?

By pure attention I also mean total attention, absolute attention, complete attention, holistic attention, complete or total awareness, etc - there are different ways of putting it.

It may be that the brain is not free of what prevents it from being “in a state of pure attention” because it’s attached to content that keeps it from pure attention. That is to say, the brain is attached to itself, and this it can only do when it divides itself into keeper and kept.

It’s like Gollum with the ring, his “precious”. As long as the brain believes it is nothing without its precious belief (whatever it may be) the brain belongs to Belief, held in a state of submission to Belief.

But does this mean the brain cannot be free until it cannot believe, or, until it knows, understands, when or if belief is necessary? If thought can’t function without belief, belief is necessary. But if thought can’t stop and be silent, is it because it believes that to stop is to die, to cease to be what it is?

If thought is forced into a constant stream of consciousness by the fear of being nothing but a practical problem solver, it is not afraid of dying, ceasing to exist, but afraid of being nothing more important than survival as an individual and a species.

So the question is, If the brain believes that its survival is the unbroken continuity of thought, and is under the influence of this false belief, why doesn’t the brain acknowledge this fact?

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Attending purely to what is? Without thought? Without effort? The brain silent, moving with the “constant unfolding of the unknown “?

Is pure attention sans objects? Does it attend to or simply attend? Is there intention in attention?

Which is thought, essentially.

Yes - this is what I understand to be the key aspect of what constitutes pure attention.

Sans thought. The non-existence of thought is the key feature of pure attention, as I have understood this.

Can there be a state of mind, a state of brain, in which thought, psychological ‘thinking-feeling’, is wholly inoperative?

Another aspect of this that interests me is that in the brave new world of AI chatbots, the Bards and Chatbot GPTs of the near future, the claims on human attention are going be tremendous - as we have already witnessed with the phenomenal rise and reach of social media.

When AI chatbots can successfully imitate human intimacy, friendship, companionship, or even transcend the scope of ordinary human intimacy due to AIs infinite resources of patience, computer-learning, consideration, memory of previous conversations, etc - then what is going to happen to people’s capacity for attention? Will it be entirely occupied with artificial relationships?

As all businesses know, human attention is a powerful resource, and AI is coming for those human beings whose innate capacity for attention is wanting. As K said, in a world of total entertainment, will the brain’s attention be completely absorbed, or will it turn its attention inwardly, to the exploration of consciousness?

This is a bit of a tangent from the main thread topic, but I thought it worth mentioning.

We are talking here of a brain that is silent. There is no factor that can silence thought. K suggests a silence that comes about naturally from an “understanding “ that arises from ‘watching’ (choicelessly) our conditioned states?

No not without ‘things’ only the movement of thought? Simple pure attention, without choice, without intention; a quiet watching, listening, sensing?

Is the ‘reason’ that psychological thought has no place in the brain that, it is the past and has no place in the perception of the Now? Thought is the known and has no place in the, as Bohm put it, “the constant unfolding of the unknown”?

I should have added silence in the opening post to make this clear:

Silence is a state of pure attention in which thought is absent.

Understanding is also a state of pure attention in which thought is absent.

It is not a matter of silencing thought artificially, but of having an insight into the inherent limitations of thought - an insight that naturally and spontaneously quietens the mind (according to K).

So inquiring into thought is part of the inquiry into the nature of pure attention.

Yes, this is part of it.

So can the brain :brain: become aware of this habit? Can there be a break, a gap, in the continuity of thought?

If there is such a break, gap, is this the beginning of attention?

What is the difference between a thing and a thought (my conception of the thing)?
Are there objects in our conciousness? (during pure attention - this is the same question)
Is there a difference between what I know about things (that it is a chair for example) and how I feel about things? Or are all thought/things absent?

Apart from thinking, is the central function of the brain :brain: to be awake? (by which I mean be aware, attentive - not just the opposite of sleep).

In the Dhammapada the Buddha is supposed to have said:

Wakefulness is the way to life

He watches…

For he sees that wakefulness is life.

So awake, reflect, watch.

Work with care and attention…

By watching Indra became the chief of the gods.

How wonderful it is to watch

How foolish to sleep.

(By sleep here it means to be unaware, inattentive)

‘Things’ that I can see, feel, touch; material things. Thought may be a material process but it is a finer materiality. I don’t consider it a thing, or an object.

I’m wondering more about the things that I am experiencing.
Not the things that might exist in a separate space from me or the dictionary definition of things.

Are the things that I am conscious of, that I am experiencing, do they appear in pure attention?
If so do I recognise them?
If so, is this still pure attention?

Not clear what things you are referring to.

If there is the movement of memory, of active recognition, then this wouldn’t be a state of pure attention would it?

By ‘thing’ is Douglas talking about apples and oranges, or thoughts about apples and oranges?

As far as I understand it attention is compatible with the actuality of apples and oranges, but it is incompatible with the movement of memory and association - i.e. thoughts and images associated with the words ‘apples’ and ‘oranges’.

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Yes - when it comes to our relationship to the world, its tricky to define the frontier between things and thought. Maybe we can’t, but I’m wondering about how we might.

And I’m very happy no one has mentioned the concept of “psychological thought” as if that provides any instant resolution.

Psychological thought, I suppose is about separation maybe. The separation between things and thought.
Purity of attention is about the absence of separation?

I would say it is about the absence of thought. Thought creates a sense of separation where there needn’t be one.

I don’t mean to go into a Buddhist discussion about Chan/Zen here, but I think it is interesting that this muddying quality of thought has been noted by people hundreds of years ago in the past.

So, for example, Huangbo said:

Mind is the Buddha, while the cessation of thought is the Way. Once you stop arousing concepts and thinking… you will find that your Mind is intrinsically the Buddha.


If you can only rid yourself of conceptual thought, you will have accomplished everything.

It is the interference of memory that muddies with simple attention/perception. I think this is likely the crucial factor - which is why K was constantly asking his audience whether they could look at something - a tree, a flower, the sky, a cloud - without the interference of memory, thought.

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The non-existence of psychological thought, I assume? Because practical thought is always going to be there to some extent doing low-level sensory processing, and sometimes doing high-level processing as well, attending to a math problem for example. So pure attention is attention free of the intrusion of the self. ?