Are thoughts things?

The word “thing” has multiple meanings. It can refer to an object, especially an inanimate object, as in: “There wasn’t a thing in sight.” If we equate things with physical objects, thoughts are not things, though they may give rise to things — the thought of building a skyscraper in the mind of an entrepreneur may lead to the thing we call a skyscraper. 

Additionally, we also use “thing” to refer to something subtler, such as a matter of concern, as in: “She has many things on her mind.” Here, things clearly doesn’t imply physical objects; it implies issues or more specifically thoughts about issues. 

If we consider the opposite of a thing to be a no-thing or a nothing, then thoughts are certainly not nothing. Even from a physical perspective, they are electrochemical changes in our brain cells. However, the physical perspective is far from complete. Thoughts are essentially events in the mental domain. 

The Bhagavad-gita (15.07) explains that we are souls who are presently conditioned by physical and mental coverings. Is the soul a thing? No, in the sense of a physical thing; yes, in the sense of that it has its own distinctive existence. Consciousness is the energy of the soul — is consciousness a thing? Again, yes in the second sense above: it is an actual entity, not just a metaphorical reference to our nonmaterial essence. In a similar sense, thoughts are also things. They have their own existence and they can grow to enormous proportions if we feed them our attention till they can manifest as gross things. 

The key point for analyzing whether thoughts are things is that by recognizing the reality and gravity of thoughts, we can learn to take greater responsibility to manage them. 

One-sentence summary: 

Thoughts are things not in the sense that they are physical entities but in the sense that they have their self-existence and can influence other things. 

Think it over:

  • How are thoughts not things?
  • How are thoughts things?
  • What is the point of analyzing whether thoughts are things?


15.07: The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.


Author: Chaitanya Charan

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