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Ojai, 4th meeting 1980

Questions and Answers 21st Question Ojai, California 4th Question & Answer Meeting 15th May 1980 'Attention'

Question: What is the relationship of attention to thought? Is there a gap between attention and thought?

You know what concentration is - from childhood, we are trained to concentrate. Concentration is the narrowing down of all energy to a particular point and holding to that point. A boy in school looks out of the window at the birds and the trees, at the movement of the leaves, or at the squirrel climbing the tree. And the teacher says: "You are not paying attention, concentrate on the book; or, "Listen to what I am saying". This is to give far more importance to concentration than to attention. If I were the teacher I would help him to watch; I would help him to watch that squirrel completely; watch the movement of the tail, how its claws act, everything. Then if he learns to watch that attentively, he will pay attention to the book.

Attention is a state of mind in which there is no contradiction. There is no entity, or centre, or point, which says, "I must attend". It is a state in which there is no wastage of energy, whereas in concentration there is always the controlling process going on - "I want to concentrate on that page", but thought wanders off and you pull it back - a constant battle going on. Attention is something totally different from concentration.

The questioner asks: What is the relationship of attention to thought? None, obviously. I do not know if you follow that. Concentration has a relationship to thought, because thought directs, "I must learn", "I must concentrate in order to control myself". Thought gives direction from one point to another point. Whereas, in attention, thought has no place, there is simply attending. And the further part of the question: Is there a gap between attention and thought? Once you have grasped the whole movement of thought, you do not put this question. You have to understand what thought is, see what it is and how it comes into being. There is no thought if there is total amnesia. But unfortunately, or fortunately, you are not in a state of amnesia. You want to find out what thought is, what place it has in life, so you begin to examine thinking. Thinking takes place as a reaction of memory. Memory responds to a challenge, to a question, to an action, or in relation to an idea or to a person. You may have trodden on some insect that has bitten you. That pain is registered and stored in the brain as memory; it is not actual pain, the pain is over, but the memory remains. So next time you are careful, for there has been the experience of pain, which has become knowledge, which responds as thought. Memory is thought. Knowledge, however deep, however extensive, must always be limited. There is no complete knowledge.

Thought is always particular, limited, divisive; in itself it is incomplete and can never become complete. It can think about completeness; it can think about wholeness, but thought itself is not whole. Whatever thought creates, philosophically or religiously, it is still partial, limited, fragmentary and is part of ignorance. Knowledge can never be complete, it must always go hand in hand with ignorance. If you understand the nature of thought and understand what concentration is, then you will realize that thought cannot attend because attention is the giving of all your energy without any limitation or restraint of thought.

If you are attending, what takes place? There is no `you' attending. There is no centre that says: "I am attending". You are attending because it is your life. If you are serious and giving attention, you will soon find out that all your problems have gone - at least for the moment. To resolve problems is to attend. It is not a trick.

Questions and Answers

Ojai, 4th meeting 1980

Questions and Answers 21st Question Ojai, California 4th Question & Answer Meeting 15th May 1980 'Attention'

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