Why “understanding” isn’t enough?

In the occidental culture or the west, the thought is the epitome of human existence and a shining symbol of years of evolutionary refinement of our neural network. In fact, so much is the emphasis on thought process that the much celebrated statue of the Le Penseur or ‘The Thinker’ sculpted by the 19th century sculptor Auguste Rodin became the iconic symbol of modern occidental philosophy. Inspired by Dante’s epic work – Divine Comedy, he created the statue of a pensive and poetic melange of a thinker sitting at the gates of hell with all the writhing bodies and hellfire in the background. In my opinion, it could symbolize the power of deep thought which keeps the hell of living in the background and isolates you from the scorching ground realities of mundane existence.

In due course, the thought process has manifested itself through diverse modes of human activity. We, the Homo sapiens have managed to harness the power of thought over several millennium  and slowly pulled out the species from being subject to the mercy of the planet to being active moulders of ecology and environment. Human thought process has made it the master of planetary resources and hence the reflection in Bible

“He made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.”

–   Jeremiah 51:15

In the old testament, we find the following saying from “God” itself

“Be fruitful and multiply, cultivate the earth, and control it. Rule over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth!”                                                                                                                     – Torah

The words written above are just a reflection of our intense desire to control and manipulate things around us to the maximum and hence minimize our insecurity and uncertainty entrenched deeply  in our evolutionary psychology. The intellect is the prized possession of our species and we “rule” the planet solely due to the power of thought process. Our understanding of the things around us has helped us to stimulate a change in our life as well as those who share the planet with us. This has engendered a false sense of being overlords of the planet and take things for granted. This type of behavior is a natural  outcome of uncontrolled thought process and we are now paying dearly in terms of global climate change which no supposed “God” is going to change.

Since the dawn of Industrial revolution, which succeeded the age of renaissance in Europe, the technology has advanced at a prolific rate due to the efforts of perhaps 1% of humanity. The scientists have unearthed a lot of mechanisms of things happening around us. We do not see the thunder as an act of god or gods nor do we see fire as something extraordinary to be worshiped. With the help of a cigarette lighter we carry the fire in our pocket. We don’t have to bother about carrying flint stones around and look for dry grass to light fire. The secret of the Sun is known to us and would soon be within our domain to have fusion reactors as perpetual source of our energy. The power of thought has seeped so much into our modern consciousness that we have given full faith to our intellect as the final destination of human development.

Despite what we have accomplished, we have managed to screw up much. Why? because there was no prior guidance about things. The “God” was busy telling us (at least in the middle east) that how to pray to him, his likes and dislikes, his preferred people and the derided ones and didn’t bother to educate humans via his boys “The Prophets” about other things. There is no commandment asking humans not to dabble with the secret of the atom and create atom bomb. There was no commandment about how to handle Radioactive material in the modern age. Null. We must understand that we have created this kind of religion from human thought process and it might have catered to the needs to human society back in the days but is not sufficient now. We create our own ghosts and keep fighting with them for the rest of our lives. This is the Human Mind!

Gautama the Buddha has said in his teachings- upadhi dukkhassa mūlanti, which means “Attachment is the root of suffering.”  We attach ourselves to the much celebrated thought process too much and forget that life is not just a thought process. This brings us psychological discord; an imbalance created within ourselves which spills over in our daily life and poisons everything. The most vital things that happen inside us are not held by any thought process, they happen in thoughtlessness. We don’t have to keep track of our breath and heartbeat. We should however keep track of our thought process itself and strive to compliment the haywire brain with a dose of silence. This shall balance the nature of things and bring harmony in human life. Understanding and nodding isn’t enough. It doesn’t bring any change at the deepest level because the thoughts of active mind stay at the periphery of our being and do not transform our core. So, what is the way?


       “Meditate … do not delay, lest you later regret it.” 

  – Buddha


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