Free of the grasp of thought! – that is liberation – pure and simple.
This is not to say that thought is a problem or that it is something bad. It is to say that thought as an unseen controlling entity is the only obstacle to the experience of liberation. The only issue here is one of the clarity of presence, because thoughts come in several different forms and we tend to retreat to some personal “position” that is also a form of thought/psyche identification.
It’s easiest to see how thought works through an example.
This morning as I was walking my dog, I noticed that she wouldn’t stop sniffing. I know that dogs need to sniff to set their metabolism, but after several times I became a little annoyed with her as she refused to walk. I wanted to get back home to get my coffee and finish the day’s recycling. I thought about the dog’s age, that she is very elderly, that she needs medication which she resists taking, that I have to dispose of her waste in a way that won’t bother me or my neighbors, etc. etc. etc.
Also, I organized these various thoughts to create an important “inner” thought. Do you know what that thought was?
It was this, that I could understand what was going on and that I was capable of providing compelling explanations for what was happening. Maybe yes and maybe no, but this example shows how deeply embedded our self-image and ego are in every operation of thought. Often a thought refers not to an object, but to a personal self-image. As long as our personal psyche is engaged with any thought identification, the direct experience of liberation will elude us. This example shows how I aligned my sense of self with a level of analysis based on reasonable perceptions and evaluations of those perceptions. This might sound complicated, but it’s just everyday life – the same everyday life we all experience.
Again, this is not a problem. It is only a problem when it is unseen and we are in its grasp. This is what is called attachment in Buddhism.
Now here’s the nexus of the issue.
What is it like to be free of the grasp of all thought?
It is to be absolutely nothing – empty – vacant – just light or awareness. Free of the control by any thought, no matter what form it takes, no matter how subtle. Thought takes these forms (among others):
Identification with an object;Analysis of a situation;Self-assessment; andMoods that connect with the given thought “cluster”.
These are the many layers of thought. This is the stratigraphy of thought. They can be seen all at once. In fact, to “get” this, they must be seen all at once. In the seeing of everything as thought, we are free. This is not the thought of liberation, but the direct experience of liberation. It is to be nothing before the array of thought – each thought calling us to become them – to fall into their spell.
This is not an issue of doing anything. We don’t seek to do away with thought. If we tried doing that, we would be playing the role of the “judge” of thought and therefore occupy a new identity. This is an error. It is just another identification with the stream of thinking. We just see the process like a scientist. We see how thoughts become entangled with personality. This is the only task of liberation.
Moreover, as nothing, the goal is never to persist as nothing – that is, yet again, another thought role. It is false samadhi.
You see, there is no one seeing. Even the one asserted as “seeing” is another thought. See it all at once and you are free and once you experience the taste of this liberation, then you see that you’ve always been at the very place you must be. You can be nowhere else! There is no getting anywhere by anyone. There is just this incredible moment streaming to this moment. Literally, it can’t be anything but what it is – uncreated and mysterious. Thought cannot “know” this. It’s absolute direct experience.
Of course, the bodymind operates in this world and is motivated by thought/feeling. That too happens just as it does. We can reflect on how the bodymind operates in this world, as we must, but first we are grounded in the experience of utter selflessness (where there is no “we”). We operate from the taste (experience) of liberation – free of all apparent knowing, direction, and purpose.
See and be free.
Know that it is only the ego or the conditioned self that needs to identify with any thought. No thought is ever needed by anyone. The you that needs a thought is not the authentic you. Rather, the authentic you sees thoughts and uses them without personal investment in their veracity, purpose, or meaning. Do you see the difference?