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Unraveling the Enigma: Who is the Mysterious Judge?

Updated: Apr 12

Indian philosophers and seers have reiterated through millennia that choiceless awareness or the ability to perceive a given situation in an unbiased manner would make a person more effective and impactful in their response to the situation.


Jiddu Krishnamurthy, one of India’s celebrated modern philosophers, has used choiceless awareness as a recurring theme in his teachings.


“Krishnamurti held that outside of strictly practical, technical matters, the presence and action of choice indicates subtle bias: an individual who perceives a given situation in an unbiased manner, without distortion, and therefore with complete awareness, will immediately, naturally, act according to this awareness – the action will be the manifestation and result of this awareness, rather than the result of choice. Such action (and quality of mind) is inherently without conflict. He did not offer any method to achieve such awareness and in several talks and books has in-fact passionately reiterated that there is no such method.” [Adapted from Wikipedia]


Though Jiddu does point out one activity that would come closed to a technique would be to just watch our thoughts or mental chatter.

 

In this article, we will try to investigate the nature of choice (and therefore choicelessness) and attempt to demystify Jiddu's assessment that there is no method to achieve such awareness. 

 

Awareness without judgment – How do we get there?


We start this enquiry with a logical hypothesis that choices depend on judgments.

Buddha was one of the first to point out mind’s tendency to judge. He also said that these judgments started with the basic judgment of ‘I like it” and “I don’t like it” which then lead to craving and aversion and then a host of other complex judgments, driving our choices.

 

It will be a good place to reiterate the fact that involuntary thoughts are (mostly) driven by craving and aversion, which in turn are triggered by our judgment of liking or disliking. Craving is wanting more of what we like and aversion is wanting less of what we dislike.

Jiddu has pointed out another mechanism that drives choice -  conformance to belief systems. Our past liking’s an disliking’s shape up our belief systems. In some cases we accept these beliefs without judgment like in case of religious, societal or family traditions. In most, if not all cases, genesis of these beliefs do lie in liking or nor liking something in the past!

 

Buddha, unlike Jiddu, recommended specific tricks & techniques to settle down involuntary thoughts that are related to these judgments, which we all can identify with as our monkey mind or mental chatter.  

 

Modern day neuroscience has thrown some more light on the mechanisms of thoughts and mental chatter. Of course since the mind is intangible - we can perceive its existence but cannot touch or feel it – however, the scientists have touched and felt the brain to make some of these inferences.

 

They found out a network known as Default Mode Networks that lights up when we experience mental chatter. Dr. Gary Weber, who is a renowned DMN expert, was part of a study at Yale that demonstrated that folks who knew a specific trick could shut down their DMN therefore shutting down mental chatter.  This trick was what Buddha and Yogic seers had figured out more than 2000 years ago – the trick to handle our mental chatter. 

 

The significance of mental chatter is ageless. In Bhagwad Gita, Arjuna asks Krishna, “The mind is very restless, turbulent, strong and obstinate, O Krishna. It appears to me that it is more difficult to control than the wind.”

 

Krishna Replies,“[Arjuna], what you say is correct; the mind is indeed very difficult to restrain. But by practice and detachment, it can be controlled”

 

And what was this trick? It was very simple, really:  not to have your attention engage with mental chatter. This also aligns with Krishnamuthy’s assessment of watching our thoughts as a ‘semi-technique’ to achieve choiceless awareness that would give an individual the ability to perceive a given situation in an unbiased manner, without distortion and hence be more effective and impactful in their response to the situation.

 

So where do we start?

 

Start with experientially understanding what your attention really is, then explore the nature of thoughts and finally understand the interplay between your thoughts and your attention so that you can see through the nature of mental chatter or thoughts that trigger our judgments.

 

“Tell me more about it!”, you say?

 

Sure!

 

Here is an excerpt from the book Unbox!  Power of Mindful thinking, that explores this trick that has been taught by sages and seers across ages. This excerpt has been reproduced with permission of the author.


Genesis of Judgments


If we watch closely, at the thoughts that we know as mental chatter, contained within it is verdict or summary of a judgment. The ‘feeling’ or emotion in the thought was our response to a situation in the past. The past situation is summarized by a visual or a mental talk. The past feeling is then evoked to capture our attention and influence our actions. Almost like a “cue” from the past, trying to influence our response to our current situation.  Lets call this thought, “Cue-Thought.”


This mechanism is somewhat like how the courts look for previous judgments, to guide current judgments.


Since our current judgments are influenced by older judgments, it would be worthwhile to find out more about the judge that gave the judgments? Who is the person whose judgments we carry in the fabric of our body-mind in the form of cue-thoughts?


In case of our mind, this guidance from past judgments comes unsolicited. To make the matter interesting, most of the past judgments that influence our present choices come from unknown sources. Quite a few come from times when humans were riding on camels and horses and some are even older from the time we just got down from the trees to explore the savanna. These judgments are due to cue-thoughts that we have inherited, like how animals with primitive thinking learn from their previous generations.


Since all these judgments are a summary of how the judge felt like in a situation, can you just review these individual judgments and get an idea of the personality of the judge? Well, you may not exactly see him or her but you can deduce a lot about the judge’s personality.


“How about we see how this works with an example?” I ask pulling out an imaginary old book containing a collection of cue-thoughts belonging to a person from 500 BC. “Be careful, this page is ancient.”


We look at the tattered yellow page and squint our eyes as we skim through the collection of cue-thoughts - through each image and feeling that was recorded in the past.


“I see a familiar pattern”, you may frown in concentration. “A lot of these cue-thoughts have an image of a fruit in their visual. Different type of fruits. This person used to judge fruits?” you mumble as you sift through the cues again. “And I also see a consistent feeling of liking and craving across all these cue-thoughts …” your eyes brighten up.


“Therefore, we can perhaps conclude that this particular Judge loved fruits!” you flash a smile.

 

Then going through several others of judgments, made by this person from the past, we build a rich profile of the judge. What he likes, dislikes loves, craves for, etc.

Now the judge’s profile and personality can be inferred from all these judgments. All this is quite logical?


 “Now show me that judge!” I ask.


“There is no judge who can be shown since we are inferring the personality of the judge from the past from the judgments”, you reply, maybe a bit surprised by my illogical question.


“Brilliant!”, I smile, “You will be surprised how much of confusion this simple inference – or lack of it to be accurate – has caused the humanity”



“We can see the judgments – but not the judge. The judgments are from past. The judge is inferred. All that remains at this moment are judgments – in the form of the thought impressions that we see here”, I say pointing at the document.


So there are real judgments, but a virtual Judge!


There is no Judge?


“Wait a minute”, you reply skeptically, “How about the judgments that I created. Ones I am sure that were made by me, like this one”, you ask pointing to a cue-thought that was created when a spider crawled on your legs when you were four years old. The cue-thought had a visual of very scary looking spider and a feeling of fear.


“That four-year-old who made the judgment about the spider is also not here anymore? Is he?” I ask.


“Hmmm maybe not …” you nod.


“The person who created that thought is not you anymore.” I encourage you to explore this fact further and respond from a place of clarity without the influence of cue-thoughts.

You may be a thirty-year-old who is rationally convinced about your fear of spiders. The judgment from a four-year-old is now part of your personality. That judgment still plays an important part in your present. And this is just one of the numerous past judgments that has shape your current actions. These cue-thoughts make up your personality.


The entity that I had assumed as ‘me’ was inferred from all these cue-thought judgments. New verdicts, especially the stronger ones reinforced this impression as I continued to believe that this ‘judge’ was a real personality when in fact it was just a concept. There was no judge. Just judgments.


Stored over the ages, older judgments had influenced recent ones – many times erroneously. The judgments gradually began to reinforce a pattern and then the pattern itself overrode the utility of the judgment.


“Sounds Interesting,” do I hear you say?


Let's dive deeper!


Past Judgments

We carry cue-thoughts somewhere in our mind-body. These cues act as the foundation of all our habitual pattern based behaviors, including our addictions.


Cue-thoughts are created from our past experiences. Every time we have judged something or someone knowingly or unknowingly, we have created a brief summary of our judgment in the form of these cues.


Unknown to us, these judgments remain in the mysterious realms of our mind-body, revealed only when they interrupt our thought-factory at an appropriate time.


All judgments from the past, stems from primarily two very basic judgments:

1.     I like this thing, this person, or these things about myself

2.     I do not like this thing, this person or these things about myself.


There is also a third mechanism that drives choice -  conformance to belief systems. Our past likings an disliking shape up our belief systems but in some cases we accept these beliefs without judgment like in case of religious, societal of family traditions. In most if not all cases genesis of these beliefs do lie in liking or nor liking something.


These judgments then consolidate over time taking on different flavors. Beginning with craving and aversion (which is directly correlated to basic judgment of liking and disliking) they gradually acquire more complex shades. Almost all our emotions and feelings stem out of an initial judgment of liking or disliking.


I hated someone in the past and the judgment of ‘hate’ stays encoded as a cue within me. The cue-thought has the image of the person and a feeling of hate encoded within it. This cue is just waiting to spring up at a later time when I see that (or similar looking) person again.


These ‘distractions’ would not occur if my attention had the ability to not get engaged by cue-thoughts.  As pointed out by Jiddu in his talks and books.


But unlike him, we will humbly attempt to understand how to handle these cue-thoughts.

So how do we handle these distracting cue-thoughts?


I am pretty sure that you now know the answer. In the ideal case, my attention would just look at the arriving stream of thoughts and give each one a polite acknowledgment and continue with whatever it was doing earlier. It would not judge these cue-thoughts even as it acknowledges them.


If I do this correctly, the sensation expressed by the cue-thought would linger around for some time and then the entire thought with its shadow of sensation would dissolve!


 The lingering time can vary based on the intensity of the sensation and the purity of non-judgment; while we watch the sensation. So a beginner may take several minutes to dissolve the average intensity sensation, whereas a seasoned practitioner may be able to dissolve these sensations in a few seconds.


Not judging the arriving cue-thoughts, especially the emotionally heavy ones, takes practice. This is the part that often frustrates the beginners who are training to become masters of this art. But with practice our attention will be able to watch the cues without labeling them as good or bad.

 

This secret about mental chatter forms the core of all mindfulness related teachings across ages. And when you are ready for the next level of exploration, be assured that you will have a guide to help you.

 

Where do I start?

Here is one of the techniques that are taught in our  free workshops.  You can also access free guided meditations that are based on this technique on our website and YouTube channel.  We recommend that you read through this section before practicing with the guided mediation.

 

Mind-Gym Technique : Hover & Anchor


Sit comfortably and erect with your back straight. Close your eyes.

Now say the word hum loudly. Draw this word out. “Hhhaummm.” The entire word should take three to five seconds. Use this drawn out version of “Hum” for this technique.

Observe the vibrations the word creates in the body. Does the “Hhha” part cause a vibration in the abdomen – around the solar plexus area? And the ‘mmm’ part, create vibrations in your chest, neck & head?

Now think, “Hum” without vocalizing. Observe that the vibration pattern that you observed earlier would still exist in a fainter form.

[Once you have practiced this technique a few times, you can skip the part above and directly start from this point onwards]

[Main Routine]

Set up a timer for ten minutes.

Observe that your vocal chords are moving involuntarily - ever so lightly – even as you think about the word “Hum” – which is your anchor-thought. Get this ‘thinking of Hum’ to a lower volume where the involuntary movement of vocal chords is barely perceptible.

Observe the subtle sensations the anchor-thought causes in the body when you think about it. This subtle sensation combined with ‘thinking of Hum’ will be the anchor for your attention.

If your attention wanders into other thoughts, get it back to the anchor “Hum” whenever you become aware of the fact that you have wandered.

If your attention does not wander, wait for five-six seconds and think “Hum” again (repeat the procedure).

You may ‘zone out’, or move into the gap between thoughts sometime during the practice. As soon as you realize you are in the zone – bring the attention back to the anchor.

Continue this until the ten-minute timer rings. Continue sitting still with your eyes closed for one more minute before resuming other activities.


Notes:

·       It may take a few days for you to settle down and feel comfortable with the exercise. Please perform this routine with as much diligence as you can because it is the main exercise of Mind-Gym.

·       Breathe naturally during the exercise. Your attention will be on the anchor and not on the pattern of your breathing. The breathing may slow down and can occasionally pause.

·       If your attention wanders into thoughts, bring it back to the anchor (Hum) whenever you realize it. Try not to judge or get frustrated if you wander into thoughts excessively. Even if you end up wandering into thought stories for most of the session, as long as you have the intention to come back to the anchor-thought, you will be building your mind muscles. It is very important to understand this point and therefore not give-up.

·       Make sure that you do not think about the anchor-thought in the ‘background’ while the attention is still on thought stories. Your attention should be sharp enough to be exclusively on the anchor in each cycle even if it wanders shortly after.

·       You may feel a ‘sinking’ or ‘falling’ feeling when you let go of the thought stories and get back to the anchor. This is a common response as a result of ‘letting-go’ of a thought stream. Gradually, you will be able to do the letting-go without getting this sensation.

·       You may ‘zone out’, or move into a gap sometime during the practice. As soon as you realize you are in the zone – bring the attention back to the anchor-thought. You may feel tempted to hover around in this silent zone, but you need to come back to the anchor-thought as soon as you realize you are in the zone. This is an important instruction that needs to be closely followed for the exercise to be effective.

·       Of course, you can (and will) stay in the zone as long as you do not realize you are there.

·       It is important to note that we are not practicing to stay in the zone during the exercise. Our routine is to practice getting back at the anchor, as a result of which we will start experiencing the silent ‘zone’ naturally outside the practices.

·       The anchor may become less pronounced as you gain practice. The phonetics may become altered and may just reduce to “aaaa” or ‘”hhhh”. This stage will usually happen after the practice is a bit established.

 

Our practice with the anchor-thought develops the ability of our attention to ‘let go’ of the cue-thoughts without judging them. This technique develops our ability to let-go of the image heavy thoughts (mental talk) with ease.


If we can watch the sensation that a cue-thought creates without getting entangled in it, it counts as non-judging. Thus the practice of watching the sensation gives us an additional level of skill that allows us to let-go of the sensation heavy cue thoughts.


Please note that judging these cues (each of which is a summary of the judgment made in the past) – by either-defending, negating or even trying to assess their logic is a sure-shot way of engaging with them.

 

MindGym Initiative conducts free workshops where participants can explore the nature of mental chatter and learn the skill of Mindful thinking. The upcoming workshops are posted in the events section. 

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