The Thinker, Controller, Commentator vs the Observer: A Dialogue

Introduction

In my previous posts The Difference Between Thinker and Observer in Advaita: A Dialogue and The Network of Thought and the Mind’s Need for Answers: A Dialogue, I presented two dialogues on the difference between thinker and observer and the difficulties a seeker of self inquiry has in coming to identify oneself as the mental observer. By now means this is an easy task. It requires great persistence, subtlety of observation and the ability to take the risk of losing control. It’s almost an energetic transformation. As can be seen in this dialogue, it goes so deep to even raise questions of life and death.

As I have written in my previous articles, coming to the observer stage is the most vital step before coming to any form of non-dual inquiry. Many people rush into non-dual inquiries before coming to this stage. In such cases, even non-dual inquiries become articles of faith, a ground for the mind to cling, rather than a real deconstructive inquiry.

The dialogue that I am presenting here is a living inquiry with a student of my Psycho-Philosophical Inquiry Facebook Group. It illustrates the tremendous difficulties involved in letting go of the identification with the thinker. When one starts observing, the thinker actually refines itself into a commentator. People feel that this is a distraction to observation. Since the commentator is not dense as the thinker, seekers tend to think that the commentator is a disturbance to observation, more like the irritating buzzing of a fly, that one wants to swat and silence. They don’t realize that if the commentator has come on, the thinker is starting to let loose off it’s controlling grip. I myself struggled with the issue of the commentator in my own inquiry till I realized that the commentator is nothing other than thought arisings that just “seem to” or “impute themselves” to be at a higher level than the thoughts. This issue is also dealt with in this dialogue.

For anyone who wants to enter into serious non-dual inquiry of any school, the deconstructive dialogue in this article shall certainly be of great help.

Dialogue

Student : Hello Sir, I was just observing my thoughts today and suddenly all the thoughts stopped. It was like I dropped a level down. Silence, and then I tried holding on to it and then again the thoughts started and then again silence. I was lying down when it happened, and eventually I just fell asleep.

Anurag : So silence is only when thoughts stop? 🙂

Student : It was amazing

Anurag : Well. Hang on to it !

Student : It wasn’t that I realized something, but it was just peace. It happened on its own. I want to be there.

Anurag : But you created a memory of it. It’s the same with all pleasures.

Student : True

Anurag : This is how we make silence conditional. Real silence is unconditional, irrespective of the absence and presence of anything.

Student : Means that it is always there?

Anurag : Yes

Student : But it wasn’t like I realized my self, which we are trying to do. It was just silence. Like a full stop.

Anurag : Yes. So what you have found is still not silence.

Student : It was like I was having this thought and boom, I just dropped a level down.

Anurag : If you hang on to this experience it is actually an impediment 🙂

Student : Silence is impediment to self realization?

Anurag : You did not find silence. You found a state. The same state you can get by drugs, alcohol, sex, a beautiful sunrise……

Student : Yes. Exactly. It was how when I did Marijuana. Although that wasn’t a great experience

Anurag : 🙂 Right. So when you divide experience into silence and not silence, great and not so great, that is not ultimate silence.

Student : OK.

Anurag : All experiences are actually silence. This you can see when you have insight into the true nature of experience.

Student : OK. I know this is not right to think about progress or no progress. But am I progressing?

Anurag : Progress is in terms of understanding, not states.

Student : And that will come by being with what is.

Anurag : Yes. So you don’t cling to a state. You let it arise and pass.

Student : OK, so I think it’s a far way to go.

Anurag : Near and far are standards only when there is an aim. When you are watching ‘what is’, where is there any aim or goal to reach?

Student : No. But I am still always comparing.

Anurag : Right, so see these as thoughts arising to awareness and release them. When you measure and compare, you are not actually with what is. Then, there is still a thinker trying to steer and subtly manipulate thoughts in a particular predetermined direction.

Student : OK. The problem is that the observation and not judging has to be done with will. The mind forgets that it has to observe. Then the commentator starts speaking. It says that I am not doing the observation part properly. And then the train of thoughts start

Anurag : What do you mean by “proper observation”. This is where we start applying unconscious standards as a thinker.

Student : I am not able to watch the commentary. I feel like it is me.

Anurag : What do you mean by it is me. The commentary keeps changing. Right?

Anurag : You are identified with the thinker.

Student : Yes. I am identified with the thinker

Anurag : Because you still have an aim or goal in observation. That’s fine. Just keep unearthing and releasing all these goals.

Student : Yes, I do observation to get out of the misery. It has a purpose, to end misery. It is not spontaneous. Actually a part of me is scared that if I come to the truth about self and it is not in line with my expectation what will happen.

Anurag : See again: “it’s not spontaneous”. See how you have a measuring rod with you. It is this standard of measure which is the main problem. Nothing else.

Student : OK. I am always measuring.

Anurag : Yes. This is the fear of unknown. Of losing control. Losing control of what? All that we cling to 🙂 And this is where inquiry is going to take you. To the edge of the cliff. If you stop there and not plunge, you shall never ever do it. This is the make or break. And it shall come many times

Student : Who does the inquiry? Do I even have a choice to take the plunge?

Anurag : These are just the deceptions of the mind playing out. Why are you doing inquiry, if everything is predestined? Just go and live 🙂

Student : I think it sometimes.

Anurag : To what purpose? Does it release you from suffering? Or does it actually lock you into suffering and helplessness?

Student : Locks me into suffering.

Anurag : In which you had already locked yourself for so many years. You know why. Because it is a golden cage. I am willing to suffer with the known rather than risk seeing the unknown.

Student : Yes.

Student : The biggest trouble is the thinker telling me that I am not observing.

Anurag : So you observe this thought and it passes. Simple.

Student : Yes.

Anurag : 👍

Student : When I understand something I try to hold onto it, scared that I might forget it when I need it.

Anurag : If it were an understanding it shall stay. Need for what?!

Student : Like I understand that the label to thoughts is the problem. Then I keep thinking it, thinking that when a thought of some sort will come I will not label it. Thus labeling the same thought.😅

Anurag : So please allow yourself to forget all these accumulations. The blackboard can only serve its purpose when it is clean. You keep discovering one by one, all the ways and means by which the thinker tries to perpetuate itself, filling the blackboard all the time

Student : How do I know it is me observing and not the thinker? Because the thinker always has his commentary on.

Anurag : When you have any purpose to observation, it is the thinker. The commentary IS the thing to be observed. 🙂

Student : So there are two levels to thought. One is thought itself and then the other thought is the thinker’s commentary. I feel the thinker is me.

Anurag : No. There is only one level. The thinker/commentator imputes itself to be at a higher level.

Student : OK. But when I try to observe the thoughts stop. So it means it is the thinker. Giving me an impression that it is observer.

Anurag : Yes, that is the delusion. That is the identification which we are trying to see through.

Student : Holy cow. I have been made fool for past years

Anurag : 🙂 Many lifetimes actually.

Student : ☹

Anurag : This should have made you happy that you uncovered a big delusion.

Student : I am sadly happy. When I am thinking the thinker comments and then again the thinker comments that it commented. How shall I observe if it keeps commenting?

Anurag : Dear, dear… The commentary is thought only. When you identify with the thought/commentary, you become the thinker.

Student : I can’t observe that commentary. Like I don’t have an aerial view of it. It feels like I am in the game. How to loose this identification. The thinker keeps giving the impression that it is observing.

Anurag : How do you know that you are commenting?

Student : It feels to be me.

Anurag : Feeling is another arising to the observer. Watch this too.

Student : Yes.

Anurag : So “I feel I am a thinker” is just another thought arising.

Student : Yes

Anurag : 👍

Student : And this keeps going on

Anurag : Yes

Student : And then I try to stop it. Which is another thought

Anurag : Absolutely. Because observer just simply observes all that is happening. It does not have any agenda.

Student : You know, I think if everything ends what will I do. My existence will end.

Anurag : 🙂 This is another thought arising to the observer.

Student : Yes. But if this keeps happening what will happen. I will not be able to get out of this maze.

Anurag : This is another thought arising to the observer 🙂

Student : It is so scary to be the observer.

Anurag : This is also another thought arising to the observer.

Student : Yes it is. But I don’t like such thoughts.

Anurag : This is also another thought arising to the observer.

Student : When I see this, the thinker says yes it is another thought and then it is another thought.

Anurag : Yes. This is also another thought arising to the observer.

Student : But I am not able to abide as the observer. Which is another thought.

Anurag : 😂 you wrote it before me this time.

Student : Hahaha, I am getting hang of it.

Anurag : Good 🙂

Student : But if my identity is observer then I have nothing in control.

Anurag : Control is based on fear and desire.

Student : If somebody truly stays with what is then he/she should have no thought. Because ‘what is’ is the present, right here right now.

Anurag : Which is just another thought to the observer. Lol ! Which is present right here, right now.

Student : Hahahaha. Yes. So the truth is that I am the observer who is stupid to listen to the thinker.

Anurag : This is another thought arising to the observer.

Student : You know I feel if I get to know myself what will happen to my goals, my responsibilities etc etc.

Anurag : This is another thought arising to the observer

Student : The thinker thinks if it dies who will take decisions.

Anurag : This is another thought arising to the observer

Student : Will I keep functioning if I stop thinking?

Anurag : This is another thought arising to the observer.

Student : No thoughts now. But where is the observer, I am not getting to know😅

Anurag : Yet another thought arising to the observer.

Student : Will the thinker find out observer. Or is it an intuitive feeling of being an observer

Anurag : Another thought arising to the observer. Dear, how are you saying, thinking, feeling all this without observing them?

Student : Sir I can’t go there. I am unable to.

Anurag : ?! Dear, how are you saying, thinking, feeling all this without observing them?

Student : Yes I am not observing. I am only thinking.

Anurag : Phew !! Please read again, “How are you saying, thinking, feeling all this without observing them?

Student : By thinking.

Anurag : And who is observing all this thinking.

Student : Me

Anurag : Which is tbe observer.

Student : Yes but it does not feel separate. It is affected by all of it.

Anurag : These are all thoughts arising to the observer 🙂 Can you have a thought without observing it ??!! Can you have an “unobserved” thought?

Student : No. I am always observing

Student : No

Anurag : 👍 So, you are already the observer.

Student : Yes.

Anurag : You are getting identified with thoughts and thinking yourself to be the thinker. Nothing else. It’s like you are seeing a movie while missing the screen on which it is being played. And yet the movie cannot take place without the screen.

Student : OK. But how shall I not do that. Will this come with time? I am too engrossed in the movie.

Anurag : Just understand. There is nothing to do. You are already the observer. Spend time with choiceless awareness of what is.

Student : I am trying to tackle everything with thought.

Anurag : Which is another thought arising to the observer. You have to see this each moment.

Student : I miss it.

Anurag : You don’t “become” the observer. You just negate identification with the thinker by understanding it’s falsity.

Student : I think, “Oh I figured out, I just watched the last thought” and then not watching the present thought.

Anurag : No harm. Come back to observation. The observer has not gone anywhere. You just get thoughts that impute that it missed observation. That is all.

Student : Now I get it. So observer is always there.

Anurag : 👍 Absolutely

Student : It is just the mind loosing the attention which is also seen by the observer. And then it sees the mind worrying about loosing the attention. But it is always there. It cannot go anywhere.

Anurag : Yes, but the mind is the observer.

Student : If mind is observer then who am I?

Anurag : The observer.

Student : ??

Anurag : The mind as observer appears to be a thinker when it gets identifies with thoughts

Student : Yes. But I am not the mind.

Anurag : So you can observe without mind ??!!

Student : Lol! No.

Anurag : Then 🙂 So when you stand as observer rather than thinker, you shall see through all the deceptions of the thinker-thought duality.

Student: Confused

Anurag : Yes. This is another thought arising to the observer.

Student : Thinker will keep thinking and the observer will keep observing unless the observer gets identified with the thinker.

Anurag : When you stand as observer, is there a thinker? Or just thoughts arising?

Student : Thoughts stop when I observe. When I realize that I have to observe the mind stops. It is now worried about being the observer.

Anurag : Yes. Thoughts stop only momentarily. But they start again. Moreover, you don’t have to observe. You realize that there is already choiceless observation happening. You cannot have an “unobserved” thought. The problem is that the thought is grasped by thinker. If it is not, it shall just drop and the next thought arises.

Student : Yes. But by then I have already identified myself.

Anurag : Yes. But you can dis-identify any time. Whenever you see you have got identified.

Student : Yes. OK I will do that.

Anurag : 👍

Student : Thank you. Looking forward to talk to you.

Anurag : Sure 🙂

Student : Good night sir! Thanks a lot.

Anurag : Good night and welcome.

2 thoughts on “The Thinker, Controller, Commentator vs the Observer: A Dialogue

    1. Dear Javi,

      Yes, one can put things that way. But it takes a lot of energetic transformations to become effortless in choiceless observation. You also need to keep discussing your progress with your teacher to be clear that you may not be subconsciously withholding thoughts/feelings from arising in your observation.

      Warm wishes,
      Anurag

      Like

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