Why Is Critical-Thinking A Prerequisite Here?

Critical-thinking is a valuable life skill, and it is essential for navigating through the complexities of Yoga-Meditation practice/studies and the world.

By practical definition, critical thinking is the ability to analyze information objectively, evaluate evidence honestly, and to make informed decisions based on facts and logic rather than emotions, conditioning, and/or biases. This vital skill is not only useful when presented with information and observations in your everyday life, but, it is also necessary in, and strengthened by, the effective application of Yoga-Meditation practice that facilitates higher inner development and greater Self-Awareness.

In today’s fast-paced, digitally-centered, world filled with a constant barrage of information from a variety of different sources–and in a number of different ways that range from broadcasts on television to live-streams on the internet–critical-thinking is becoming an even more incredibly important, and indispensable internal resource each day.

Since there is so much distracting, biased, and blatantly incorrect information being shared and transmitted in our world every second, you, as one who wishes to advance your level of consciousness, striving to not get dragged into the ignorance and idiocy of the world, are best served being able to effectively sift through the noise of the emotion and commotion around you to see/understand, and pay attention to, undistorted Truth.

You Need To Have Shraddha…But Please Don’t You Be Dumb…ha

The skill of critical-thinking, which in Yoga can be equated to what in Sanskrit is known as Viveka, or “discrimination” (the technical, not the social/colloquial, definition of the word), or, better yet, can be translated as “discernment” (to avoid confusion based on the unfortunate distortion/manifestation of the latter word’s commonly adopted meaning within certain social-political-cultural contexts), is crucial for being able to tell the difference between what is Real and unreal. Critical-thinking ensures that you not only stay firmly on your path to True inner purification and Liberation through your Yoga-Meditation practice (without too many obstacles that can arise from lack of effective thinking and/or it’s appropriate application to decision-making in your life), but, it also ensures that you do so with greater ease and efficiency.

In this article, I will be exploring the concept of critical-thinking, or Viveka, and how you can employ it in your daily life and Yoga-Meditation practice, using an important and simple tool called the scientific method.

What is Thinking And Critical-Thinking?

DECONSTRUCTED DEFINITIONS: Critical-exercising or involving careful judgment or judicious evaluation. | Thinking-the action of using one’s mind to produce thoughts. (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

Critical-thinking (or Viveka) is the ability to think clearly and rationally about a particular subject or issue. It involves analyzing information objectively, considering different perspectives, and evaluating evidence to reach a well-informed conclusion.

Critical-thinking is a complex process that requires a clear, neutral, and unattached mind, curiosity, and a willingness to challenge your assumptions and to discard incorrect, faulty, and/or troublesome thought-patterns/beliefs when you identify them.

This skill is a commitment to intelligently and effectively use your higher-functioning cognitive abilities (your Buddhi mind) to bypass the distractions of your ego-sense-of I (Ahamkara), and the grasping, outward-facing, mind of your senses (Manas) and its pulls, to discern–and live by–higher Truths and by the unchanging facts of Reality. This living in Truth, in essence, is the point of Yoga-Meditation practice.

A Little Background On The Mind In Yoga-Meditation (And Modern Scientific) Language

Your mind, or Chitta, which is made up of the afore-mentioned parts–Manas, Ahamkara, Buddhi–is composed of materials called Vrittis (or “mind-stuff”) that can be strung together to create connected, patterned, and/or “cohesive” (whether sensical or nonsensical) thoughts (like electrochemical signals in the brain form neurological connections).

These thoughts (“things,” or “stuff,” that you have, and form, in your mind) can then create networks that construct beliefs–and belief systems–that influence your conscious (active waking) state of awareness, and imprint your subconscious (latent, unquestioned, deep sleep) state of mind.

Together, these two levels of your mental expression, paired with the dream state that your mind also assumes while both sleeping and “awake,” construct and shape your perception, and, therefore, your experience, of “reality.”

And, interestingly and importantly–which is why critical-thinking is so important–much of the materials that you use in your fabrication of the perceived cohesive world that you call your “reality” is simply inherited thought-forms and patterns that come from “others” through DNA, past experiences, social conditioning, etc, that you may have never questioned or evaluated for Truth. The subconscious impressions, called Samskaras, that you inherited without questioning, which are like deep social, genetic, and experiential neurological connections in your brain that are the hardest to identify and break, are mainly taken for granted as the way, “you,” others, the world, and “things are.” Due to these impressions, it is pretty much like you are operating from a default (and often faulty) program/system that you were born with, and which you run indefinitely until you crash, burn-out, or die, if you are not, or never become, conscious that some files need to be deleted, and your software needs an upgrade/update. Running Scared Cave-Man software in 2023, for example, is not an ideal survival mechanism when Sabretooth Tigers are not lurking in the bushes, since your boss is (hopefully) not that dangerous or terrifying.

Reducing Your “Stinking Thinking”

Electrical signals in your brain, triggered by your attention and focus, activate/energize mind-stuff/Vrittis via neurological pathways, that come from experiencing (in) the world. These signals, which come together to create thought patterns that eventually form beliefs/belief-systems, manifest in 5 primary forms (right knowledge, wrong knowledge, verbal delusions, sleep, and memory).

These Vrittis, however, by themselves are just “stuff” (like sand at the beach) and they only become a “relevant” thought when your energy/attention/focus is applied to them for any extended period of time, giving them shape and validity (like a sandcastle made from the sand at the beach), whether these thoughts and thought-patterns that you energize are accurate, inaccurate, “good,” or “bad.”

Weak-thinking that leads to faulty assumptions and negative thought-patterns that reinforce faulty assumptions, are a form of pain-inducing Karmas (often manifesting as suffering as soon as an unconscious thought is energized in your mind and signals a “bad” feeling in your body and/or psyche–if you are extra sensitive and/or still have an active conscience).

Effective-thinking, on the other hand, that comes from developing your mind through the Eight-Limbed path, and particularly Samyama (focus and concentration that leads to Samadhi/Self-Realization), can lead to more balanced (Sattvic) thought-patterns that eventually support you to break the cycle of suffering-Karma altogether.

Critical-thinking, or Viveka, is an important tool in the process of Liberation from suffering because it supports both mental purification (clearing out erroneous and weak-thinking), and empowers higher development through effective and clear thinking that comes from activating your Buddhi mind (Budh meaning “to awaken,” “to know,” “to learn,” “to understand,” and Dhi meaning “thought”), before you master the art of “putting it all aside” to dwell in the direct experience of being your True Self, beyond your unconditioned thinking-self, through a process called Nirodha.

More About Why Critical-Thinking Is Important In Yoga-Meditation And In Life

In essence, you cannot master your mind if you do not/cannot see, or understand, it.

And, the bottom line is that every ignorant thought that you energize through your focus/attention, binds you to destruction and suffering in the world via Karma (whether it feels “good” or “bad” in the moment or not). Heck, even intelligent thought can bind you to bondage to form if you never develop the discernment/critical-thinking skill to know your Self, beyond your thoughts, beliefs/mental-modifications, and so forth, by observing your thoughts and seeing them for what they are: basic materials for interpreting and understanding/making-sense of the illusions (perceptions and fleeting appearances) of the world.

Critical-thinking enables you to make better decisions, solve problems effectively, and to know/be your undistorted Self more purely/fully in the world, which ultimately leads to freedom from suffering and unbounded joy.

In daily life, this practical skill helps you to avoid making rash and incorrect decisions based on emotions or biases, supports you to consider alternative viewpoints and solutions, and it gives you the advantage of accurately being able to distinguish between what is Real or unreal (especially when what is unreal appears to be very “real” in your mind, because of your underlying/unquestioned beliefs about certain people, and things, etc, which have you navigating through your “existence” and experience in/of the world based on faulty and or distorted information/programming).

Simply put, critical-thinking will help you to evaluate information objectively, distinguish between fact and fiction, and identify misinformation and propaganda when you see it, which can save you much unnecessary stress and misery in life.

How To Employ Critical Thinking In Your Daily Life And Yoga-Meditation Studies/Practice

There are several ways in which you can employ critical-thinking in your daily life and in your Yoga-Meditation studies and practice. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Question everything: Don’t take information at face value, but, instead, intelligently question the previously unexamined claims that you are using to shape your thoughts, words, and behaviors in the world. And, in your Yoga-Meditation practice, if a technique or idea is obviously not unsafe to begin with, simply test it out. In everything, strive to always ask yourself whether that given thing makes sense, whether there is evidence to support it, and whether there are alternative explanations to the one that you are hearing/seeing at anytime.
  2. Consider different perspectives: Try to see things from different perspectives, and be open to alternative viewpoints. Consider the implications of different ways of looking at things and how they might affect your decisions.
  3. Evaluate evidence: Look for evidence to support, and to refute, claims or arguments, and evaluate everything with neutral discernment. Consider the source of any given information or evidence that you are presented with. Ask whether any given source or information is reliable (unbiased, unemotional, not tied to agendas, etc), and whether what you are seeing/hearing/being told is relevant to any issue/practice/intention at hand.
  4. Avoid emotional reasoning: Do not let emotions cloud your judgment. Try to approach issues objectively and avoid making decisions based on emotional responses, or emotional manipulation.
  5. Consider the consequences: Think about the consequences of your decisions, and weigh the pros and cons before making a decision/taking any action.

By operating from a place of healthy neutrality, you can avoid getting swept into, or further dragged down by, thoughts and information that can be detrimental to your life, practice, and inner progress, and, you can, therefore, remain firmly on your path to success in Yoga-Meditation.

Using The Scientific Method For Critical-Thinking To Ensure That You Stay Firmly And Intelligently On Your Path

The scientific method is a systematic approach to investigating phenomena and answering questions that involves observation, hypothesis-testing, data-analysis, and drawing intelligent and educated, well-informed, conclusions backed by evidence as opposed to assumptions, beliefs, superstitions, and/or desires…So, in essence, the scientific method is basically like a rigorously structured Yoga-Meditation mindfulness practice.

The method is a powerful tool for critical-thinking that can be applied to a wide range of situations, from scientific research to everyday decision-making.

So, here is a breakdown of how to use the scientific method for critical-thinking in your life and practice:

  1. Observe: Start by neutrally and fully observing any phenomenon, technique, understanding, or issue that you are investigating. Collect data and information through your observation and research.
  2. Formulate a hypothesis: Based on your observations, formulate a hypothesis or a tentative explanation for the phenomenon or issue.
  3. Test the hypothesis: Design experiments or collect further information/data to test your hypothesis. Analyze the data and evaluate the evidence to see whether it supports or refutes your hypothesis.
  4. Draw conclusions: Based on the evidence that you have collected, draw conclusions about the phenomenon, technique, understanding, or issue that you have investigated. Consider the implications of the conclusions and whether they are supported by the evidence.
  5. Contemplate and/or communicate your results: Ponder and analyze your results/conclusions, and if inspired or required, communicate your findings and conclusions to others, and be open to appropriate informed feedback.
  6. [Bonus] Rinse and repeat: Follow these steps again if necessary, and with every new phenomenon, technique, understanding, or issue that you are observing.

Before you get to a point of deep unwavering intuitive understanding that is uncontaminated by conditioning and/or worldly/lowly thinking that is guided by the pulls of socialization, inherited cultural and other norms, and your own compulsions/desires/emotions, and so forth, it is best to approach your life, studies, and Yoga-Meditation practices with curiosity and the spirit of intelligent inquiry as opposed to simply believing everything that you think, or hear other people professing as “plain fact.” In fact, as always, even question everything you read here!

And, most importantly, never lie to yourself about where you are in your exploration/understanding of Truth, either. If you are still doing some work on clearing your distortions, acknowledge this, since lying to yourself only harms you in the end. Knowing that you might possess some underlying biases, for example, will help you to avoid having them unconsciously sabotage your words, thoughts, actions, and observations in the world, and will further support you to acknowledge any limitations in any “study” that you may conduct around a given subject, idea, practice, or phenomena.

The beauty, and challenge, of Yoga-Meditation practice is that you are tasked with the responsibility of testing everything for yourself, so, it is always best to also observe yourself as well (especially since this is technically your main/only subject of focus to begin with). Acknowledge how the way you may be looking at things may be distorted (or not). And always question how your thoughts may be taking you closer to, or further away from, the Truth.

If the Truth is anywhere to be found, Yoga says, then it is verifiable, and does not change over time (kind of like a replicatable scientific study that always has the same outcome/conclusion, even while new experiments can potentially provide deeper insights depending on the observer and the type of test being done). And only when a Truth is solid can it then be considered as Truly Absolute.

As you progress in your life and in your Yoga-Meditation practice, you will be tasked with sifting through the noise of the world, wading past the stench of random, often nonsensical or emotion-fueled, opinions and distorted perceptions and perspectives on a daily basis.

When you are interacting with the external world this will likely come in the form of observing others and yourself in relationship to others. And when you are looking inward, you are essentially doing the same thing, since you may have picked up ideas and thought patterns from living in the world that may be downright erroneous or may not even be True to/for you, and yet, you may still somehow believe these thoughts and live your life as if they were True.

But, as you can hopefully see, critical-thinking is your friend along your journey, so never fear!

You can always use your discerning mind to enable yourself to walk through the noise of the world intelligently and with greater efficiency.

With critical thinking, or Viveka, you can make better decisions, solve problems more effectively, and navigate through the complexities of the “inner and outer” landscape with greater ease that will turn into mastery one day with continued practice.

By employing critical-thinking in your daily life, and using the scientific method as a tool for inquiry, you can evaluate information and experiences more objectively, consider different perspectives, and make well-informed decisions based on evidence rather than emotion or bias, effectively using and strengthening the indispensable resource that is your Buddhi mind.

With practice, critical-thinking can become a habit, and once critical-thinking becomes a habit, you can use this ability to not only become a more effective thinker and decision-maker, but to also fully know and be your True Self in the world as well. You can employ Viveka to break free from the cycle of ignorance and suffering that plagues humanity, and become a fully Liberated being in this lifetime.

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