But there are phenomenal levels to "not thinking". It can go from mediocre to extreme . . . If you want Enlightenment you know what those ingredients are.
[SIZE="3"]I'll offer my experience, distilled from 30+ years of daily samadhi meditation, on how "not thinking" fits into a devoted meditation practice. Possibly you practice something other than samadhi, but I think for this thread we have to discuss that specific meditation because it is what the Buddha taught.
Let me start with an analogy. If I want to develop a perfect tennis backhand shot, but I have a habit of stiffening up every time I take swing, then relaxing is necessary for me to learn. Let's say I have such a habit of tensing up that years later all I do is practice relaxing, to the point that I have completely forgotten that a great backhand stroke was my objective.
Similarly, we have a habit of thinking, but "not thinking" doesn't achieve samadhi even though the ability to quiet the mind is an important step toward samadhi. To explain this I'll have to break this idea into several bite-sized portions.
First, it isn't thinking that's the problem exactly, it is that we can't stop thinking when we want to
. Most people know that if they close their eyes and try to stop, it is hopeless. Further, patterns of thought established by our life history not only has us thinking non-stop, but thinking in ways we don't control. That's why a guy raised by parents who were too strict might react angrily to authority, where someone else would be just fine. Essentially, that conditioning combined with the inability to stop the mind adds up to a mind that isn't under our control, and mental experiences we aren't necessarily so pleased about.
Intelligent people put their mind in order, learn to be logical and other feats of intelligence. While it may help thinking to be more reasonable, it doesn't free the mind from conditioning or run-away thinking. Yet thinking, when under full conscious control, can be a wonderful tool. It is a mistake to believe thinking is the enemy of enlightenment.
That brings us to what samadhi is, and why not thinking won't achieve it. As you surely know, the term "samadhi" is sanskrit for integrated or wholeness, and often translated as an inner practice as union
. (In Western monastic settings we find many of the great saints who referred to the practice actually as "union.") Of course, the question becomes, what exactly does one unite with?
I have in threads at this site many times quoted the Buddha saying, "There is, monks, that plane where there is neither extension nor motion. . . there is no coming or going or remaining or deceasing or uprising. . . . There is, monks, an unborn, not become, not made, uncompounded . . . [and] because [that exists] . . . an escape can be shown for what is born, has become, is made, is compounded."
What samadhi practitioners discover is that there is a foundation of consciousness behind the operations of the mind, a "plane" from which the mind itself emerges. Because it is the origin of mind, mind can rejoin its foundation. That plane, as the Buddha says, is one and absolutely still ("not coming or going . . . or uprising"), so when a practitioner's mind is joined with that rock-steady foundation, the mind is automatically brought to stillness.
Yet stillness is just part of the experience because in joining one experiences a vastness, and a freedom, and a joy unlike any other. That is why I say not thinking isn't samadhi; plus, one can't "not think" anyway without discovering the foundation of consciousness because one is trying to stop the moving mind with one's mind itself (which is moving) . . . utter futility!
In samadhi, one turns one's attention around 180 degrees, experiences the light and vibrancy of that foundational plane, feels the subtle throb of it, and waits in patience in its presence to be absorbed. It is true the mind must still to be absorbed, but approaching the inner foundation with patience daily has a quieting effect on mind, which in turn allows one to move closer to the foundation, which again then quiets the mind a little more, and so on until union/samadhi occurs.
It's funny because after the first time it happens, most people (I know it was true for me) try to pursue union during practice because they want it again so badly. All that does is send it flying off further the way chasing a wild bird chases him off. The ability to wait quietly, very subtly letting go towards the foundation is a skill that takes many hours of practice to master. Interesting too is how much clearer one can think when one can think from a mind that is still, and when thinking follows what you want rather from being unconsciously propelled in various directions by conditioning.[/SIZE]