The happiest mind may be the empty mind. The mind of pure experience. Empty of thought but full of life itself.
Perhaps an oak tree has such a mind, growing in silent nature in a forest far away from man. Perhaps the bird has it, circling with its wings above the forest.
Man does not have an empty mind but he should seek one if he desires freedom and contentment. The mind of a happy child becomes sullied, trammeled with course habit as he enters an adult world where the mind becomes a tool to survive at all costs.
The work of an adult seeking peace is to regain the purity of childhood, but better it by discarding the baser emotions which even a child must own to.
The intellect does not give peace. Not unless it is largely used in the search for tranquility rather than the pursuit of possessions and status. The work of a scientist may well give insight into why base elements gave rise to our world and ourselves. A philosopher may ponder matters which science can not yet reach.
And yet it is doubtful that such intellect can ever provide the thinker with unity with the world around him or a sense that all is well. With him or the world. To the contrary, he may see himself as separate and superior.
How much less can the business man enjoy peace when his sole aim is competition. Not co-operation, but competition. To defeat his competitors. What a joyless goal. As with the politician, who in most cases seeks power and aggrandizement not peace for all and the common good.
Consciousness is a great gift, some say, and yet used badly it can only be a cause of great suffering.
If consciousness can be said to equate to the self then its absence is a greater joy than its presence. As so many have noted through the millennia, the ego is endlessly restive, endlessly acquisitive. Looking to the past with regret, worrying about the future.
A man who recognizes the truth of this must seek for a way to navigate his life using his mind to achieve better balance with the universe, and integration rather than separation.
Words that are spoken and give pain are words which should not have been uttered. It is better that thoughts remain unthought than that they lead to a life of unhappiness.
In practical terms such realisations, if taken seriously, will lead inevitably to some measure of withdrawal from the world which most humans inhabit.
The path of unthought leads away from factories and offices. Away from airports and motorways. From pollution and commuting. From pointless consumerism and the shackles of the mortgage and the credit card.
How can humanity survive by inaction and unthought? How can man better himself by retaining an empty mind?
It is a matter of degree and attitude. It is a matter of direction and intent.
An empty mind need not always be devoid of thought but such thought should not be heavy with acquisitive intent. Such thought should focus on the beauty and sanctity of life. How to preserve our planet and our universe. How to provide for our modest needs without causing suffering, misery and despoilation.
Such thoughts are likely to bring peace and calm purpose to the mind. A far cry from the usual reward of unfulfilled and insatiable desire.
How such a mode of life may be practiced in the 21st century is probably not that much more of a conundrum than it would have been in any other era.
The urban jungle is not so very different from any setting in man’s history. The same problems have always been there. The same problems remain.
The provision of food and shelter, the need for survival.
Not easy tasks for the man determined to banish thought. And yet harmful thought can be minimised and much thought switched off completely.
On a personal basis it is open to us to opt for a quieter life.
There are those who say that silence is to be found in among great confusion and noise. That it is mind over matter. Maybe so and all the better for that. All the easier for a man who can retain his soul in the midst of the chaos of modern life.
However it is to be achieved, the man who can leave most matters unspoken, unwritten and unthought is likely to sail on calm waters.
The answer must surely be to practice emptiness wherever and whenever we can. And to switch on our powers of thought only when strictly necessary to provide ourselves with what we need to survive.
To restrict ourselves to producing only what is essential and not what we think we want. To forget about keeping up with our neighbor. To ditch snobbery and recognize that while we may appear better off in some fashion than our neighbor, the reality is that we are the same set of elements from the periodic table.
To understand that if we ditched all pretension and wasteful consumerism, if we and lived a quieter and simpler life we would make a better world.
It can only be achieved person by person. If ever.
But the rewards to the individual are substantial even if society at large continues in its well trodden path.