We must be very clear how our brain operates… thought is the expression of memory… of the brain, which is experience, knowledge, memory, thought, action (Q&A 1, Chennai, 1981)
I want to raise a question about a part of K’s teaching (concerning the origins of thought) that I personally struggle to verbally grasp.
K says that all knowledge is based on experience, and that all experience is limited (which is the reason why knowledge is limited, which is in turn the reason why thought is limited).
So my question is: what is it about experience itself that makes it intrinsically limited?
Sometimes K said that the word “experience” means “to go all the way through to the end of something” - which means that most of us never truly experience anything at all. Yet K mostly talks about experience as being a universally limiting factor, which is different from the above sense.
So what is it that is limiting about experience?
When asked this people (who have read K) usually reply by saying that there is nothing in experience besides thought and knowledge.
But is this true?
That is to say, if by the word experience one merely means thought, comparison, memory and recognition, then why use the word experience as though it pointed to some distinct process?
As K never really spells out what is involved in experience, I am forced to ask: When K talks about experience, is he in fact talking about our ordinary sense-perceptions of the world?
And yet he has also elsewhere said that if the senses are left to themselves, without the interference of thought (that is, without concentrating on a particular sense at the expense of all the others), then perception can be whole, complete, unlimited. So this is not what K means by experience.
So is K really just saying that our current sense-experience of the world - which is dominated by thought - is the limiting factor?
That is to say, our sense-experience of the world is currently limited because we are habitually dominated by thought, and so we are never holistically aware with all our senses.
And it is this partial meeting of the world with our thought-dominated sense-perceptions which is what K means by experience.
Does this sound reasonable?
In an example K sometimes used to explain the causal chain leading from experience to knowledge to memory to thought (and action), he begins by saying something like:
‘yesterday I was involved in a car accident’. The accident actually happened - it is a fact that I had an experience of an accident. The accident has been recorded by my brain, and that recording becomes my knowledge (which in turn becomes memory, and then thought acting from that memory).
But what is going on in the initial experience of my having an accident?
The senses are obviously active - the seeing, hearing, sensing of what is taking place (the car suddenly coming to a stop, the sound of crashing, the pain of being bruised by the sudden jolt, etc).
But, as we already said, it is the way that our senses are limited by our habitual mode of perceiving (which is dominated by thought) which is the limiting factor - not sense-experience per se, right?
So it isn’t experience per se which is limited (which is otherwise just a sensory happening): it is the activity of thought, which introduces memory and knowledge, which is the limiting factor, is it not?
Thought begets thought, and turns in that circle.
So if there can be an experiencing without the interference of knowledge and thought, must such an experiencing be intrinsically limited?
And could this be what K means by perceiving with all one’s senses fully alert (perceiving without the perceiver created by thought)?
When there is observation of that kind one sees the whole picture, not just a fragment of that picture and when the mind sees the whole picture there is freedom. (Public Talk 2, Saanen, 1967)