Self Enquiry a New Take
Self-enquiry according to Sri Ramana Maharshi, is basically asking the question to whom does this thought appear? It aims as focusing attention at consciousness itself. To abide in consciousness without thought. A very useful exercise no doubt.
But you can also also ask to whom am I talking? Because thought is nothing but unspoken words see Useful thinking and What is Ego. I think it is rubbish that thoughts are picked up from the collective mind, that they are not 'your' thoughts as Eckhart Tolle claims. The thoughts are your thoughts, they are generated by the mind from its knowledge base as if explaining something to somebody else. Commentating yes, and comments can be useful if the commentator has superior knowledge about the topic being commented over the listener. The listener can then appreciate more depth, learn something about the topic. Thoughts are generated on the fly just as a dream is generated. It is a narrative. The mind is apt at creating narratives. Now this somebody else is some identification we have. We are talking to an imaginary friend. Except it is not your friend. So the question is: to whom are we talking? Not so much to whom does the thought appear as the answer to this question is crystal clear: to consciousness. So whenever a thought is generated we should ask to whom are we trying to explain to something? And why are we trying to explain something. The answer is often to fortify an identification we have. I think that if we see through the ludicrousness of trying to explain something to some aspect of ourselves (basically a soliloquy) we can disregard it, and refuse to pay attention to it, refuse to attach any belief to it, unless it is some form of Useful thinking. Again the Ego is not generating thought, but thought is directed at Ego. Ego therefore is that imaginary entity to whom our thoughts (speech) are directed. Generating thought is generating speech and since speech is useful it is a useful function of the mind. But it should be used with care especially when there is nobody listening.
Ego is the identity that wants to be talked to. It craves attention. Having the identities which are beliefs spur thought as we continuously want to assert the identity. Thinking to it is asserting the identity.
One could say that trying to understand, contemplation, is catering to the 'know-er' Ego or the Seeker. I am the know-er. I want knowledge. Is the Seeker an acceptable form of Ego? Or is the Seeker also to be discarded? I think like all identifications it needs to be discarded as well but perhaps as the very last identification. It serves a certain purpose but it needs to be surrendered. Even the observer needs to be surrendered. As that is also an identification.
Just so there are useful thoughts, so there are useful identities. Roles rather. Like the one having a duty, the father, the traveler, the customer and so on. It is unavoidable in society. But we should be be able to adopt and just as quickly shed those identities. We do not refer to those identities when we use the term Ego. Ego refers to the problematic identities, beliefs about ourselves, the ones that stick and are uncalled for by the situation. Thoughts which are directed at and also rooted in those identities then can point us to those identities. And we can shed ourselves from these uncalled for identities by investigating them.