The Thinker, thought & the Gunas

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Without going into the metaphysical debate of the thinker & thought let's investigate thinking.

If we notice carefully we would find that at times thinking goes on automatically without our conscious participation & at other times we direct the thinking. This is a good starting point for our investigation.

Now let us look at our sleep and walking states. If we could be watchful we would realise that in dreams the thinker is a reaction to the seen (dream objects). This is an example of passive thinking. Now on the other hand a student fully attentive to the studies is an example of active thinking.

Both are thinking but the difference is vast. In active the thinker is predominant while in the other the thoughts. This could be compared to the three Gunas (property) of the mind. According to Sankhya philosophy which is the basis of yoga, all matter is a mixture of these three primordial qualities of energy. They are Sattva ( tranquility), Rajas (active) and Tamas (passive). Quality of Rajas is said to be active when thinker predominates & Tamas when thought. This leaves us with Sattva which is supposed to be a spiritual quality and equated with Intelligence.

Before i come to Sattva let me tell you a story as told by Ramakrishna Pramhansa. There were three thieves and they caught hold of a traveler in a lonely forest. After robbing him one thief said , "we must kill him". Said another " why kill, we could just tie him with a tree". Then they departed. The third fellow returned quietly and freed the man the next day. He also took the man out of the forest and indicated the way ahead. Now the traveler was very thankful and asked the third thief to come to his home and he would reward him for the kindness that he had shown. The thief said that he would be unable to accompany him any further for the fear of being caught. In this story the three thieves are symbolic of the three Gunas. While Tamas destroys, Rajas binds & Sattva sets free, all the three cannot accompany the Soul to liberation.

From the point of view of energy, Tamas ( Sleeping or Day dreaming) is the state of least energy. Rajas is the state of active energy but its directed towards an object (or goal). Sattva is a state of energy which is not directed towards any object. It is in this passion (Sudha or pure Sattva) which is not directed ( towards anything) that we get a glimpse of reality or our true Self.