Thinking vs. Observing

Part of a Satsang with Prabhuji – October 30, 2011

Why is it so hard to understand what fear is, what freedom is, or enlightenment, love, and so on…? To understand this, we should see the way we analyze everything in this life. Which method do we use if we wish to know what love or fear is…? If we analyze it clearly, we will see that, generally, what we do is think about the idea… Thinking implies a mental movement, an activity related to thought which evidently implies the past: the known, ideas, concepts, conclusions, opinions, interpretations, and all the mental material that thought brings with it.
Is it even possible to watch, only watch, with the aim of exploring, investigating, questioning…? Is it possible to see fear, ambition, love, goodness, compassion, or whatever, if this exploration is mental? Is it possible to analyze reality if we make the process on the level of thought? Thought itself is theoretical, because when I think about something I am undoubtedly projecting a past: everything I have heard about this, all that I have been told about it, all that I have read about it, what has happened to me regarding it, what I have seen, etc.
All this past –that is a part of my thought– cannot be excluded in the moment I think about something because what I am doing is analyzing according to that past, that is why we call it “to think about”. That past cannot be exempt from my process of mental speculation; we are speculating, and the most problematic thing is that we cannot base ourselves on reality. Rather we remain on the basis of the speculative, theoretical, the supposed, based on some past experience.
Śaṅkara suggests to us in his Aparokṣānubhūti, notpadyate vinā jñānaṁ vicāreṇānya-sādhanaiḥ… This ātma-vicāra or “self-investigation” cannot, under any circumstances, be a part of a mental process. If I want to realize, I refer to an existential realization of what I really am, this self-investigation cannot be part of a mental process. Rather it should be to watch… a looking.
This looking –and I mean looking in the reality of facts, not theories– should be an observation so attentive, so conscious… completely exempt of preconceived ideas, of the past, of opinions. Observing “what is” means leaving aside “what should be,” “what we expect to be,” “what is expected to be,” or “what we want it to be” and just observing what is… And this is impossible while projecting a past or the known.
Just observe, look… And let the observed be a revelation. To become closer to the revelation is only possible by watching in the silence… I mean the mental silence that we experience when we draw so near to the observed… that the limits between the observed and the observer dissolve.
Observing the Self, in the Self, from the Self, is observing the closest thing to us. It is a self-observation; it is so intimate, free of what comes from the other; deaf to opinions, ideas, and conclusions. That mind is formed by others; it is created by them because it is the others; it is not me, it is them, because in that mind there is nothing that has not been put there by others. And only by looking without an outside opinion ––into yourself, through yourself, at yourself–, without interpretation, without superimposing, will an existential revelation occur, just a watching…
We cannot attempt to know ourselves by thinking about ourselves, because it is by thinking about ourselves that we have created this substitute which we call ahaṅkāra “ego”. This ego is not what I am rather what I think I am, and by thinking about myself I will only fortify myself as an ego or a substitute. But in order to realize existentially what I am, that must be put aside, and in this way… only watch…