All our lives, we have been thought-bound, thought-defined and mind-confined. How then can we possibly do without thinking and thoughts? The notion is almost inconceivable, for our thoughts are as much our identity as our own skin.
As Sri Ramakrishna observed, sometimes to remove a thorn from our foot, we must use another thorn. If we are to transcend thoughts, we have to use the powers and capacities in our arsenal: to employ the mind against itself, and thoughts to conquer thought.
To clear the mind of thoughts, we need to concentrate the mind. We associate concentration very closely with thought itself. ‘Thinking’ is generally regarded as concentrated or organised thought. So, if we set about to use concentration to clear the mind of thoughts, on what shall we concentrate? Since it is virtually impossible for us to concentrate on ‘nothing’, we must concentrate on something we know how to concentrate on – a thought!
If there are no direct flights to our chosen destination, we will proceed via one or more stopover destinations along the way. If our goal is to reach a state of “no thoughts” – an empty mind – and we have no means of reaching that goal directly, let us aim first at an intermediary goal. In this case, let us narrow our focus down from numberless thoughts to just one thought: once we have reached that goal, from our new vantage point we will seek a way to our ultimate goal of zero thoughts.
This is the power of concentration in action: focusing exclusively on one chosen thought, we employ that thought as a shield to protect us, to ward off and filter out the multitudes of unnecessary, distracting thoughts. Thus, one thought can save and liberate us from the scourge of thoughts.