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June 15, 2005

Thoughtless Mindfulness

The session started with two Shanti Mantras:

The first one is for contemplating the wholeness of existence:

Oum purnamadah purnamidam
purnat purnamudachyate
purnasya purnamadaya

Oum shanti shanti shanti hi


purnam-adah � That is complete. Here, �that� could refer to everything that is not part of one�s perceived identity.

purnam-idam � This is complete. Here, �this� could refer to everything that is part of one�s perceived identitiy.

purnat-purnam-udachyate � From one complete entity, another complete entity is born. The first entity refers to �that� and the second entity refers to �this�.

purnasya purnamadaya � When a complete entity is taken away from a complete entity

purnameva-vashishyate � What remains is also complete

Prasad gave one interpretation from relationship point of view:

When we engage with another person, if we feel we lack something or the other person lacks something, then the engagement will be a transactional one. This kind of engagement sets expectations and encourages thinking, feelings and actions that are selfish in nature.

Whereas, when we engage with another person with the understanding that no one lacks anything and both are complete regardless of appearances, then all thinking, feelings and actions from such an engagement will be complete and selfless. Therefore, the person who is giving does not lose anything and remains complete, and the person who is receiving does not become �more� than who he or she already is and remains complete.

One could then ask, �What is the purpose of this kind of an engagement?�

To this, I can only quote the Buddhist monk Suzuki: "We are all perfect as we are. And we could use a little improvement.�

This is in contrast to the more prevalent view that no one is perfect.

I guess, when we make or hear such statements, the focus should be on what such a statement does to us than on whether the statement is true according any method of exploring truth.

The second mantra is for creating a field around two or more people that supports a peaceful engagement that is beneficial for everyone.

Oum saha navavatu
saha nou bhunaktu
saha viryam karavavahai
ma vidvishavahai

Oum shanti shanti shanti hi


saha navavatu: May the Brahman (God, Universal energy) protect both of us.
saha nou bhunaktu: May both of us be granted the knowledge equally.
saha viryam karavavahai: My both of us equally posses the powers to acquire knowledge.
tehasvinavadhitamastu: May our learning be successful.
ma vidvishavahai: May we not hate each other.

* Translations are from the book The Upanishads by Bibek Debroy and Deepali Debroy.

After some participants shared what�s happening in their lives recently, the dialogue coalesced around a provoking question from Jags: �Can we be thoughtless in our actions?� He said that we generally think of being �thoughtful� as being intelligent and matured and being �thoughtless� as being careless and immature. But from a spiritual perspective, being thoughtless means not bringing our past (because all thoughts are from the past) to influence our present, and hence being able to see and deal with the present reality fully and with fresh thinking generated from the present context.

Prasad commented that thinking is different from thought. Thinking is that which emerges out of paying full attention to the present and thought is that which surfaces to our mind from our memory.

So if we are truly thoughtless, then we could be mindful!

As I write this, it occurs to me that if there is no thought in the mind, then the mind can be full of itself (mindful). Meaning, the mind can be 100% capable of all its qualities. On the other hand, if the mind is full of thoughts (thoughtful), then the mind is less capable of being all that it can be.

At this point, a question came up: If we are to be thoughtless/mindful constantly, then should we prepare ourselves before we do something?

Vijay said that one could break the rules only after one has mastered the rules. Meaning, one can bring fresh thinking through mindfulness to a task only if one has mastered what is already true, already learnt and demonstrated by others.

Prasad shared a recent experience he had when he went to Seattle to make a presentation to 90 people in Boeing. He said just before the presentation, their projector set up did not work. So the presentation he had prepared could not be used. He said he just put the computer aside and talked to the audience straight. That talk received excited feedback from 40 people within 2 hours of requesting for the feedback. Further, Prasad was invited to conduct a few workshops for Boeing employees a week later.

Prasad used to tell me that all preparations are just a backup, just in case the �magic� does not happen in the present moment.

I suppose, preparations are for us to feel secure and confident. They are helpful for us to �show up� somewhere in peace. But once we show up, then it is best to be thoughtless and mindful and let the present guide all our thinking, feelings and actions.

Another insight that came up was �thoughtless� is not the opposite of �thoughtful�. Perhaps, thoughtless is not even the absence of thought because unless we are asleep or deeply meditating, thoughts from our memory keep moving around in our mind all the time. Thoughtless could be taken as not letting our mind getting attached to and hence stick with the thoughts that arise from our memory. So, whatever thoughts come up, we should let them go as they came.

Ashish then shared a real story that illustrates the effect of not letting go. In some parts of India, people who catch monkey have devised a trick: They would put some nuts in a pot and fix the pot strongly to the ground in a place where the monkeys frequent. When a monkey spots the pot, it puts its hand inside the pot and feels the nuts. When it tries to take its hand outside the pot, it cannot because the mouth of the pot is designed to be small so that it allows only an empty hand to go in and out. With a handful of nuts, and not wanting to let go of the nuts, the monkey is stuck to the place and the people catch the monkey at their convenience.

To this, Jeff quipped, �If you don�t let go, you are nuts!�

Prasad then suggested a practice:

Notice over the next few weeks, moments when you are actually thinking and are not merely holding on to thoughts. Notice what enables you to do that.

Posted by Ragu at June 15, 2005 02:20 PM

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