To understand something, observe without concluding || Acharya Prashant (2015)

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Question: Sir, in your blogs it is explained that the mind goes behind what it values, which is what ‘I’ value. But sometimes it happens is when I restrict it not to do certain things; there is an even greater temptation to do those things.

I was reading the Bible and it said that, “The forbidden fruit was eaten by Eve out of temptation”.

Why is the mind so tempted?

Speaker: The mind cannot really be understood by itself. The mind can at most observe itself. It cannot understand.  The mind can at most go close to its functioning and note the details. That is the maximum the mind is equipped to do. No machine is blessed with power of understanding. But yes, the mind is a very nicely designed machine that can observe, register, make notes, store and compare. These are the things that the mind can surely do. The mind should be utilized to these purposes and nothing more should be expected from the mind.

Let us understand a few basics here. Understanding is the dissolution of all observation, comparison, analysis and conclusion. These are the things that the mind does. When these activities of the mind either reach their climax or come to their eventual defeat. That is called dissolution of mental activity.

That dissolution of mental activity is, understanding.

Now what is the mind equipped to do? The mind is equipped for activity. The mind is equipped only for activity. There is nothing called a still mind or a silent mind. When you say mind, what you mean is a mechanism that is functional, moving, changing. Things are coming and going; thoughts are rising and falling. Mind is activity. And understanding is the sublimation or dissolution of all activity. Mind cannot understand but mind is a nice machine that can do what it can do, what it is designed to do.

The mind is designed to ask questions like the one you are asking. You are asking, “Why is the mind tempted”? Now if you keep asking why is the mind tempted? You will only get an answer within the lexicon of the mind. It seems like an important and intelligent question but it is actually a worthless question. Why is the mind tempted?

You will get some answer. If you ask this question, you will get some answer. But that answer will just be a rephrasing of the basic fact that the mind is tempted. Your answer will not take you ahead; your answer will not take you towards silence. Your answer will only rephrase your question and keep you moving in circles. And that will not help you; that will not help you. It will be a chicken and egg story.

Observation is not about asking the question, why? Right now you are standing at a point, if I go by the quality of the question you have asked. Right now you are standing at a point which is not even observation. Your question is below the level of observation. You are not observing, one cannot observe with curiosity. One cannot observe with a motive in mind. Observation is not about asking questions because every question is a motivated question.

No question is an innocent question. Behind every question there is a hidden expectation of some kind of answer. No question is so innocent question that it will admit all possible answers including silence. No question is so honest and innocent. Every question is a tainted question.

And observation is not tainted. So right now you are not even asking a question which pertains to observation. Right now you are just trying to satisfy mental curiosity, which will only continue mental activity and mind in activity. You are only seeking to continue mental activity, through this question.

First thing will be to drop the question which asks, “Why is mind tempted”? Drop this question and just concern yourself with the fact of temptation. The mind is tempted and that is sufficient. Not why? ‘Why’ seeks for a cause. And you will never get a cause. You will never get rather, a true cause. All cause and effect is within the same mental activity that is bothering you.

And you are asking ‘why’? ‘Why’ means time. ‘Why’ means something that pre-exists what you are seeing. Do not ask why? Just ask, “What is this that is happening”? What is this temptation? And if you can be a little more subtle, do not even ask, “What is temptation”? Just observe the fact of temptation namelessly. You do not even need to call it temptation.

Just see that this is what the mind is. Something that is restless, something that wants to go somewhere and hence it is always being tempted in different directions. And when you observe all this, you need not even use the words that I have used. Observation is more, much more subtle than words. Behind every word there is some thought. And observation has to be as thoughtless as possible.

So I have said that, “Firstly your question is not even at the level of observation”. Then I said that, “Observe without asking ‘why’”. And then I go back to what I had previously said, “That even observation is not understanding”. Because observation will deal with an object; mind is watching mind, mind is observing mind, and yet there is a subject and an object. The mind itself is fragmented into two. Mind is observing mind, mind is observing itself and yet there is a fragmentation, a final fragmentation, nevertheless but yes.

Understanding will come, when even this fragmentation stops, when observation reaches its zenith. That would actually simply be the point where you are not even asking, “Why is the mind tempted”? Where you are not even observing that the mind is tempted? It is so. It is so.

Yes, what we call as the mind is nothing but temptation. It is so.

But that understanding again, is not mere words. I may say a few nice things, wise phrases. But that is not, understanding. Understanding is a different quality all together.

Observation turns into understanding when the distance between you and your object reduces.

How does that happens? That happens when the boundary that you have built, the boundary that you call as ‘I’, the boundary that separates you from the object, that comes down.

That is the point when you understand.

Remember, understanding is not something that happens when you come to a conclusion. Usually that is what people mean by understanding. They say that now we have come to a frozen and settled conclusion. So we can say that we understand the matter. In fact the mind feels very secure in dishing out one particular statement, as the statement of understanding.

Understanding is not about coming to conclusions.

Understanding is about being free from the need to have conclusion.

There is no conclusion. It is just like this and I am alright with it. Have you ever noticed that whenever people state something, it is never complete? Never, never complete. Whenever you say that, “You are going somewhere”. It is never a complete statement. There is expectation hidden in it. There is hope or motivation hidden in it.


For example, at this moment if one of you utters that this room is quite cold. This statement is not at all complete in itself. The moment you utter this there would be an expectation that somebody would take care of the air conditioning. Now that I have expressed the room is too cold for me, something would be done about it. Are you getting it? You never say, it is just so. It is just so.

Understanding is, I repeat, “Being free from the need to conclude”.

It is just so and it does not mean anything. Yes, it is quite cold and that does not mean anything. Yes, it is quite cold and that does not demand any follow up action. It is just cold, that is it. Full stop. That full stop, is ‘understanding’.

That deep, deep object-less settling down, is ‘understanding’.

 It is this way.

Yes! And then somebody who is not initiated will say, ‘So’? And you will say, “Nothing. That stops here.” There is no question of so, it is this way. That is it! And then you know; that you understand. But remember, you being you, there would be demands and there would be extensions into future. It is very rare when you can just know what it is like and not extend it this way or that way. That is understanding.

Now, do you see; what your question is doing? Your question is actually trying to extend and prolong the whole drama; now why is the mind tempted? Will this question settle down the mind or is this question is going to extend and prolong and stretch the mind?

Listeners: Stretch the mind.

Speaker: There is temptation. Now why is there temptation? So, ten things about temptation. And then, ten things about those ten things. There is temptation, is it bad? Silence. Is it good? Silence. Where did it come from? Silence. What would it lead to? Silence. But there is?

Listeners: Temptation.

Speaker: Temptation. And you know when it does not come from anywhere and when it does not lead to anything; you find that it becomes absurd to give it even any meaning on its own. Because whatever meaning you assign to anything, have to be dependent on others and time. Are you getting it?

You cannot have a thing without it being linked to other things.

The moment you sever those linkages now, not only the thing is not related to other things. Actually the thing in itself also ceases to exist.      

You see, a man walks in and you say, “He is a family man”. Now you have created the whole story including others. The thing is depending on other things. The husband is depending on wife, the father is depending on kids, the son is depending upon parents. When this thing stops depending on other things; when this thing is no more linked to other things, will this thing stand by itself?

The groom walks in. The story is not complete for you. Is it ever complete? The groom has just walked in. It requires a Zen master to say, “That is it”! The worldly man will say, “Where is the bride”? Now the story is not yet complete. The groom is here, how do I this is it say, full stop? I cannot say this is it, full stop. I have to ask for the bride, I also have to ask for the wedding party. I also have to ask for the celebrations and the dinner because the thing is related to many other things. As is the nature of things; no things exist by itself.

That is the very definition of a thing, a concept; a thing is something that depends on other things for its existence. What is a thing? Something that depends on other things for its being. What is a concept? Something that depends on other concepts for its being.

Now when you come to this point where something is not related to other things and you are able to say, “Full stop”. Temptation means, temptation. Temptation does not mean sex, temptation does not mean money; temptation does not mean the biblical stories; temptation does not mean what is forbidden in the scriptures; temptation does not remind me of my past. Temptation is temptation.

Then not only do the other things related to temptation fall.

A miracle happens, temptation itself falls.

In fact you will find it difficult, to even call it temptation any more.

Just as it is very difficult to call one man, one solitary man as a groom; when neither a bride nor fireworks, nor the wedding parties, nor the guests, nor the food, nor the dress associated with groom. When nothing else is to be seen? When other things are nowhere to be seen? It becomes difficult to call that solitary man as groom.

Similarly temptation would be difficult to be called as temptation, when there would be nothing that temptation is associated with. But you will not be able to come to this, if you keep asking, “Why is mind tempted”? Do you see what you are trying to do? The groom is here and you are inviting the wedding party. ‘Why’ means come all the other thoughts. Through ‘why’ you are doing the exact opposite of what you ought to be doing. Through a ‘why’ you are inviting all sundry.

Don’t invite anybody, don’t ask, “Why this? Why that? Why have I been selected for punishment? Why is everybody else so lucky? What is this”?

This is it. This is it.

And this is it firstly destroys the world around what is. And then what is, in absence of worldly support itself falls.

And all you are left with the silence called understanding. Now you understand.

 Do you get this?

Listener: Sir, does this mean if we attach any meaning or any conclusion it prolongs the mental activity?

Speaker: Yes, of course. Whenever you will try to understand something using mental logic, comparison, this and that; you will end up achieving the opposite of what you really want. You really want to understand, right? And understanding is the cessation of turbulence, not the prolonging of turbulence.

Instead of getting turbulence to cease, you end up adding fuel to it. This is it. I have come to this point and this is it, does not matter from where I came, doesn’t matter what it would lead to. This is the point. This is the point. And this, this is. Whatever it refers to, could be anything because anyway it has no sanctity or truth about it.

There is anyway no sanctity or truth about it. If she is thinking about temptation then temptation is it. Nobody has a right to go and tell her that, “No! No! You should stay in here and now”. And here we have a sacred session going on. So, why are you thinking of temptation? If the mind is in temptation, this is it. Now do not bring in guests like moral police, comparison or whatever.

See, the whole thing around here and now has been badly misunderstood. Here and now does not really pertain to an objective reality because there is no objective reality. Here and now pertains to the state of mind that the mind is in. All that here and now means is that when the mind is in a particular state, then that state is all that there is. Mind is in temptation; then temptation is all that there is. Mind is anger; anger is all that there is.

Here and now is meaningless. Even though we all are sitting in this physical location right now yet here and now means different things to all of us. So here and now cannot mean something objective because what is objective then should not vary with the subject. Because it is objective not subjective so how can it vary with the subject? Here if you have these many subjects then here and now will be different for all these subjects.

Here and now simple means that be alert to what is in the mind. Full stop.

 And whatever is in the mind? That is in the mind.

Here and now

Now do not try to suppress it and do not try to find justifications for it. Just know that this is what is there in the mind? And that we said in the beginning is the appropriate mental activity. The mind is the machine, well tuned, nicely designed for both analysis and observation.

Use it for observation. You use it only for analysis and comparisons.

Use it for observation. And if the observation is honest then the object of observation will drop.

With the marriage party gone and the bride nowhere how will the groom stand on his own? Observe honestly and you will soon find that you have gone beyond observation. Observe without motive and you will transcend observation.

So in a nutshell, what we have said is that the base level of mental activity is motivated analysis. We stay there. Even in spiritual matters all we do is analysis and no analysis can be spiritual analysis. All we do is analysis.

Then a higher level would be motiveless observation. I am asking you to move from the third level to second level. What is the third level? Motivated analysis. And mind is capable we said of both, analysis and observation. Mind is capable of being in both state two and state three. We usually live in state three. Which is? Motivated analysis.

I am asking you to move from state three to state two. State two is? Motiveless observation. And then I am saying that a miracle happens on its own if you are honestly in state two. You are pulled to state one and state one is silent understanding. It is you prerogative and your personal responsibility to move from three to two. This much you will have to do. This much you will have to do, move from three to two.

But if you have really moved to two then some mystical power will carry you to one.

Two to one cannot come through your effort; it comes on its own.

It is Grace.

Watch the session at : To understand something, observe without concluding || Acharya Prashant (2015) The transcription has been edited for clarity.

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