Could There Be Thought Without Thinker?

by Prahlad Singh Shekhawat, Times of India, 10 October 2009

New Delhi, India -- Anxieties, hurts and negative patterns of thought arise from clinging to a fixed self or identity, which, by its very nature, is fluid and impermanent.

Strong attachment to a sense of ego and identity has to be diminished, even overcome completely, because there is no cohesive self and this attachment itself leads to psychological problems.

When we stop struggling with attachment and its consequent wounds and realise the futility of securing and solidifying a sense of permanence, we awaken to a healthy lightness and spaciousness that liberates us from clinging.

The reversal of suffering is achieved by cleansing of perception, by meditation, by ethical conduct, practice of compassion, discipline, self-restraint and above all, by changing of perspective. The wider and more expansive the perspective is, the less the suffering.

The Buddhist teaching of 'Paticca Samuppda' means mutual causality, dependent arising or interconnectedness. We are all part of a whole web of interrelated social and ecological relationships that are not linear but are mutually reinforcing.
The desirable focus should not be attachment to different elements; it should be the process of interrelationships.

Buddhism explains that experience is made up of aggregates or what are called khandhas which consist of five interconnections: rupa or form, vedna or feeling, sanna or perception, sankhara or predisposition, vinnana or consciousness. Sankhara, as habits and impulses, tend to modify our cognition, burdening it with the weight of past experience and association.

With feelings of attraction or aversion the ego consciousness arises. There is a sense of something to defend, represent or enhance. Buddhism says that the so-called needs of the ego proceed to impose fabrications of the external world. But the self is nothing by itself; it is actually interplay of aggregated elements or khandhas. We need to deconstruct the imagined, secure and constructed self into its parts. Their interplay is really what is real and what matters. It is believed that there is thought but no thinker and there is movement without a mover.

The art of non-attached observation of arising of experience and its corresponding ebb and flow in the consciousness is important part of Buddhist psychotherapy. We learn to let go and not hold on to experiences and their constructions as they are transient and in a way, not real. Yet it is also true that the experiences and their consciousness are not random or chaotic but signify patterns including patterns of behaviour which define our personality.

These patterns arising right from the moment of birth through the story of our life and personal history create a strong imprint on our body and mind, and in our beliefs and behaviour. We represent ourselves through these fixed embodied patterns by defending and advancing them. Often, this leads to suffering. Being aware of the process rather than being tied to the form liberates us from the fetish of attachment.

As the western philosopher Schopenhauer concluded, life fluctuates between the pain of desire on the one hand, and the boredom caused by the satisfaction of desire on the other. The challenge for Buddhist style psychotherapy is to break this vicious cycle of painful desire and boredom by going beyond and arriving at another, higher level of changed perspective.