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Choiceless awareness is posited in philosophy, psychology, and spirituality to be the state of unpremeditated, complete awareness of the present without preference, effort, or compulsion. The term was popularized in mid-20th century by Jiddu Krishnamurti, in whose philosophy it signifies a main theme. Similar or related concepts had been previously developed in several religious or spiritual traditions; the term or others like it has also been used to describe traditional and contemporary secular and religious meditation practices. By early 21st century, choiceless awareness as a concept or term had appeared in a variety of fields, including in neuroscience, therapy, sociology, and in art. However, Krishnamurti's approach of the subject was unique, and differs from both prior and later notions.
Choiceless awareness is a major topic in the exposition of Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895–1986). Beginning in the 1930s, he often commented on the subject, which became a recurring theme in his work. He is considered to have been mainly responsible for the subsequent interest in both the term and the concept.
Krishnamurti held that outside of strictly practical, technical matters, the presence and action of choice indicates confusion and subtle bias: an individual who perceives a given situation in an unbiased manner, without distortion, and therefore with complete awareness, will immediately, naturally, act according to this awareness – the action will be the manifestation and result of this awareness, rather than the result of choice. Such action (and quality of mind) is inherently without conflict.
He did not offer any method to achieve such awareness; in his view application of technique cannot possibly evolve into, or result in, true choicelessness – just as unceasing application of effort leads to illusory effortlessness, in reality the action of habit; additionally, in his opinion all methods introduce potential or actual conflict, generated by the practitioner's efforts to comply. According to this analysis, all practices towards achieving choiceless awareness have the opposite effect: they inhibit its action in the present by treating it as a future, premeditated result, and moreover one that is conditioned by the practitioner's implied or expressed expectations. For true choicelessness to be realized, choice – implicit or explicit – has to simply, irrevocably, stop; however, the ceasing of choice is not the result of decision-making, but implies the ceasing of the functioning of the chooser or self as a psychological entity. Krishnamurti proposed that such a state might be approached through inquiry based on total attentiveness: identity is then dissolved in complete, all-encompassing attention. Therefore, he asserted that choiceless awareness is a natural attribute of non-self-centered perception, which he called "observation without the observer".
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