The Highest Form of Thinking is Passive Awareness

Passive Awareness

To solve a problem we must  think. Isn’t this something we all ‘think’? This is what we are taught all the time in schools, colleges and society – thinking.

But is this really so? Are we really being taught how to think? Isn’t all education and social living, the churches, the priests, the scriptures and the scientists, telling you what to think rather than how to think? Aren’t all of them building your knowledge and memory and then asking you to use your memory to think.

However, is one really doing anything creative in this whole process or our thinking process is merely the past modified in ever different forms?

In order to come to something that is totally new, doesn’t it imply that all the past must become silent? But this is so difficult. We are habituated in our responses. The past has acquired an extraordinary momentum in our lives. It seemingly makes our lives easier. It is so much more easy to follow rather than to think everything out for oneself. The past co-opts the present within an imperceptible flash of time, quickly converting the challenge of the present into a framework moulded by the past. In the whole process the mind becomes mechanical. Even the so called creative people, the artists, musicians, painters seem to be caught in the same pattern of past.

So to become creative, one sees the necessity of a mind that is quiet and observant. It is a mind that is neither dull because that allows the past to react to the present, neither can such a mind be aggressive or impatient because impatience is about reaching a result which is again determined by the past. A passive, observant mind does not know where it is going to be led and that is why it is creative. It is a mind that allows thought to unfold it’s own significance. And that is the highest form of thinking.

I am reproducing a talk of J Krishnamurti on the same,

Tenth Talk in Madras, 1947 – J Krishnamurti

Right thinking is essential to dissolve the many problems with which we are confronted each day. It is important to find out how to think rightly, how to understand the problems rightly rather than what should be the thought and attitude regarding the problem. We are accustomed to be told what to think about the problem and not how to think about it. How to think is essential, not what to think. To seek a mere solution to a problem brings about wrong thinking, and right thinking comes about in understanding the problem, what is. Right action can take place only with right thinking, and right thinking comes with self-knowledge.


What is thinking, the process of thinking? As we know it, it is a response of memory, is it not? Memory is the accumulation or residue of experience. So thinking, which is the response of memory, is always conditioned. You have an experience and you respond to it or interpret it according to your background, memories, the residue of previous experiences. This response of memory is called thinking. Such thinking only strengthens conditioning, which only produces more conflict and sorrow. The constant response of the residue of experience is called thinking. Life is a series of challenges and responses but the response is conditioned and this response of memory is called thinking. But the challenge is ever new and the response is of the past.

Believing is not thinking, believing is only conditioned response, which is binding, causing conflict and sorrow. According to your belief, background, conditioning, you experience; this experiencing leads only to further conditioned thinking. The so-called thinking, the response to challenge which is ever new, is limited, within the frame of reference, memory, and so brings further conflict, further confusion, and further sorrow. This so-called thinking is not really thinking, but what, then, is thinking? The response of memory to challenge is not thinking.

Have you ever asked yourself what you mean by thinking? What is thinking? As it is a new question put to you, a new challenge, what is your response to it? Since you have not thought about it, what is your immediate response? You are silent, are you not? Please follow this with a little care. A new problem is presented to you; and since you have not ”thought” about it – that is, since there is as yet no response of the frame of reference, memory – there is a natural, unforced hesitancy, a quietness, a stillness of observation. Is that not so? You are silently watching, you are not interpreting the new problem according to the frame of reference, memory, but your mind is very alert, one-pointed, without effort, and as the question is vital, your mind is not asleep, alert but passive. The mind is alertly passive, awaiting the true answer to the problem.

Now, this alert yet passive state is true thinking; right thinking comes with the ending of the response of memory. Since it is confronted with a new problem, your mind is still, quiet but not dull, asleep, alertly aware but passive. It is not active for it is not even seeking an answer, for it does not know it. This state of alert, passive awareness is thinking, is it not? It is the highest form of thinking, there is neither positive nor negative response of memory.

Now, is it not possible to meet our every human problem with this ever new, alert, passive awareness? When we do, then the problem yields its full significance and thereby comes to an end. But when we try to solve the problem by thinking about it, which is to follow the response of the memory, modified or unchanged, then we further complicate the problem by interpreting it according to our conditioning, and so bring about further conflict and sorrow. You can experiment with this for yourself. Take any problem that you have, any vital and intimate problem; put aside your conditioned responses and look at the problem anew. This passive, alert awareness is the highest form of thinking; this awareness dissolves our problems with their conflicts and pain.

The image has been taken from


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