What is a Thought?
You could have very well asked, “What is life?” or, “What is the universe?” A thought is not an isolated phenomenon – it is not some thing. A thought is not an object that you can point to and say, “This is a thought.” One has to look at the question, “What is a thought?” from the perspective of the questioner. To the one who is questioning, a thought is a mystery, and he wants to understand what it is. Now, who is the questioner? Who really wants to know what a thought is and why?
If you actually think about it, you are not the questioner here. The question is coming from a thought. It is as if a thought is seeking to know more about thoughts. Even the question, “What is a thought?” is a part of your thought process, so obviously this cannot be your question. Of course you are asking the question, but in reality the question is simply being asked through you. It is not your desire to know what a thought is, but it is the desire of a thought.
This is how deep you are lost in your thoughts. Knowing the difference between you and your thoughts is one of the hardest things to do. Since you are so deeply lost in your thoughts, it is impossible to answer the question, “What is a thought?” directly. The only way for you to understand what a thought is, is by going beyond thoughts completely. When you reach a zone of your mind where there are no thoughts, when you reach the absolute silence of your mind, you will know what a thought is.
For a moment, imagine that this light has been on forever. Without turning it off, how can I explain what light is? I can at the most say that light makes things visible, but I can never truly explain what light is. Light is not something you can point to, like an object, and say, “This is light.” Light is a phenomenon that can be recognized only through its effects.
The effect of light is that it makes things visible. If you don’t believe that there is such a thing as light, or if you don’t understand what light is, the simplest thing I can do is just switch off this light. In a single moment, you will know what light is – not in terms of what it is made of – but you will know what its function is. Similarly, when your thoughts are turned off, even for a single moment, you will know what a thought is. You will know the purpose of a thought, the meaning of a thought, and why you think so much.
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