Does Vitakka have different intensities?

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Does Vitakka have different intensities?

Postby wouter_doorn » Mon Nov 15, 2010 8:44 am

Hey all,

I have a question about vitakka. Is there a basis in the Abhidhamma for 'different levels' or 'intensities' of vitakka?
During meditation on 'Buddho', access concentration is the highest achievable since the qualities of the buddha are so manyfold. This is stated in the Visudhimagga and the abhidhammattha sangaha, as jhana is not attainable, only access concentration. In practice it seems that meditating on (the sound of) buddho means getting citta to be more and more to be first kusala sobhana citta. In the first sobhana kusala citta the jhana factors are present (as factors of concentration) and since 'buddho' (at least how I know it) is samatha meditation, and in practice concentration seems to get deeper an deeper, I wondered if anything is mentioned in the Abhidhamma about Vitakka and its intensities (I mean like piti which has different intensities).
I hope my question is a little bit clear... And of course that somebody can give his/her opinion!

Metta,

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Re: Does Vitakka have different intensities?

Postby cooran » Mon Nov 15, 2010 9:05 am

Hello wouter,

A little light reading on vitakka:

The Mind in Early Buddhism - Bhikkhu Thich Minh Thanh New Delhi, 2001

The five factors, vitakka, vicāra, pīti, sukha, ekaggatā collectively found in the appanā citta, which we will put into consideration in the following pages, constitute what is technically known as jhāna.
In the second jhāna the first factor is eliminated, in the third the first two are eliminated, in the fourth the first three are eliminated, while in the fifth even happiness is abandoned and is substituted by equanimity. Sometimes these five jhānas are treated as four, as mentioned in the Visuddhimagga. In that case the second jhāna consists of three constituents as both vitakka and vicāra are eliminated at once[46].

VITAKKA is derived from 'vi'+√'takk' to think. It is difficult to suggest a suitable rendering for this Pāli term that assumes different meanings in the Suttas and Abhidhamma[47]. Different values are attached to vitakka when it is used in different connections. For instance, vitakka is used in an entirely different sense when it is in connection with the temperaments of individuals: vitakka carita means one of a discursive temperament[48]. Nevertheless, the term is used generally in the sense of thinking or reflection.

In the Abhidhamma exposition of vitakka (initial application of mind), this is called ap-ply-ing in virtue of 'plying' the mind with objects. To what extent is it plied? Vitakka 'supplies' a pot, a cart, a league, half a league - this is what goes on in 'application'. This is the primary notion in the word takka. Vitakka, 'initial application' in virtue of ap-plying, sup-plying, is an emphatic term for 'plying'[49].

Whereas in the Sutta Piṭaka it has been employed in the sense of notions, ideas, thoughts, reasoning, etc. in the Abhidhamma it is used in a specific technical sense. It is that which directs the concomitant states towards the object. Just as a king's favourite would conduct a villager to the palace, even so vitakka directs the mind towards the object. In other words, as someone ascends to the king's palace depending on a king's favourite, relative or friend, likewise consciousness ascends to the object depending on vitakka whose chief characteristic is 'lifting' the concomitants to the object (abhiniropaṇa)[50]. Or, in the other direction in object-mind relation, it is said that the vitakka which arises as if mind were brought to object is really a dragging of object to mind'[51]. It is a bit expansive to give the following example: a villager who visits the king's palace for the first time, needs the introduction of a favourite courtier; for his subsequent visits no such introduction is necessary as he is acquainted with the palace[52].

Vitakka is a mental state which, when associated with a kusala or akusala citta, becomes either moral or immoral. As the ordinary vitakka, it serves just the function of merely throwing the mind to the surface of the object[53]. When it is developed and cultivated it becomes the foremost factor of the first jhāna. When the mind is steadfastly fixed on the object it is termed appanā. It is this developed appanā-vitakka that is known as samādhi or concentration. In the subsequent jhāna, vitakka is, however, inhibited, owing to the habitual association with the object. In metaphoric parlance, this is said that the villager now needs no introduction owing to his acquaintance with the palace.

The vitakka as initial application of the jhāna citta (temporarily) inhibits thīna and middha (sloth and torpor) one of the five nīvaraṇa (hindrances) which is opposed to viriya (diligence)[54]. A still more developed form of vitakka is found in the magga citta (path-consciousness) as sammā saṇkappa (right thoughts). More exactly speaking, when vitakka is present in the lokuttara magga citta (supramundane path citta) it is termed sammā saṅkappa (right thoughts) because it eliminates wrong thoughts and applies the mind to nibbāna. In other words, the vitakka of the maggacitta directs the mental states towards nibbāna and destroys micchā (wrong or evil) vitakka such as vyāpāda (thoughts of hatred), and vihiṃsā (thoughts of cruelty).
As pīti is the precursor of sukha, so is vitakka the precursor of vicāra[55].

Vicāra is derived from 'vi' + 'car' to move or wander. The kernel of the word cāro expresses a going-about the object or that which moves around the object. 'Investigation' is usually its primary meaning indicating general scrutiny. The next terms (in the original Dhamma Sangaṇī) with prefixes -anu-upa-vicāro - indicate order and closeness in the investigation[56].
Here vicāra is used in the sense of sustained application or continued exercise of the mind on the object that is initiated by vitakka. Consequently, the renderings for vitakka and vicāra are so far initial and sustained application respectively. Examination (anumajjana) is its chief characteristic. It inhibits (temporarily) vicikicchā (doubt or indecision)[57].

Like vitakka, vicāra too is employed in a technical sense in the Abhidhamma. Both as jhāna factors, vitakka and vicāra are correlates and should be distinguished. Like a bee alighting on a lotus is vitakka, like its gyrating or buzzing around the lotus is vicāra. Like the flapping of a bird about to fly is vitakka, like its planning movements in the sky is vicāra. Like the beating of a drum or bell is vitakka, like its reverberation is vicāra.
http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/mind/06_chap6.htm

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Re: Does Vitakka have different intensities?

Postby rowyourboat » Thu Dec 09, 2010 2:35 pm

As far as I know abhidhamma deals with intensities only as 'citta viti' (ie how far down a 'thought path' a thought progresses). However when it comes to gradual development of samadhi for example it tends to get a bit unstuck.

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Re: Does Vitakka have different intensities?

Postby starter » Sat Dec 11, 2010 5:44 pm

Hi RYB,

You've probably read the following Sutta:

AN 8.63
PTS: A iv 299
Sankhitta Sutta: In Brief
(Good Will, Mindfulness, & Concentration)
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
© 1997–2010

Translator's note: This discourse is important in that it explicitly refers to the practice of the four frames of reference (the four foundations of mindfulness) as a form of concentration practice, mastered in terms of the levels of jhana.

Then a certain monk went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "It would be good if the Blessed One would teach me the Dhamma in brief so that, having heard the Dhamma from the Blessed One, I might dwell alone in seclusion: heedful, ardent, & resolute."

"But it is in just this way that some worthless men make a request but then, having been told the Dhamma, think they should tag along right behind me."

"May the Blessed One teach me the Dhamma in brief! May the One Well-gone teach me the Dhamma in brief! It may well be that I will understand the Blessed One's words. It may well be that I will become an heir to the Blessed One's words."

"Then, monk, you should train yourself thus: 'My mind will be established inwardly, well-composed. No evil, unskillful qualities, once they have arisen, will remain consuming the mind.' That's how you should train yourself.

"Then you should train yourself thus: 'Good-will [metta], as my awareness-release, will be developed, pursued, handed the reins and taken as a basis, given a grounding, steadied, consolidated, & well-undertaken.' That's how you should train yourself. When you have developed this concentration in this way, you should develop this concentration with directed thought & evaluation, you should develop it with no directed thought & a modicum of evaluation, you should develop it with no directed thought & no evaluation, you should develop it accompanied by rapture... not accompanied by rapture... endowed with a sense of enjoyment; you should develop it endowed with equanimity.

"When this concentration is thus developed, thus well-developed by you, you should then train yourself thus: 'Compassion, as my awareness-release... Appreciation, as my awareness-release... Equanimity, as my awareness-release, will be developed, pursued, handed the reins and taken as a basis, given a grounding, steadied, consolidated, & well-undertaken.' That's how you should train yourself. When you have developed this concentration in this way, you should develop this concentration with directed thought & evaluation, you should develop it with no directed thought & a modicum of evaluation, you should develop it with no directed thought & no evaluation, you should develop it accompanied by rapture... not accompanied by rapture... endowed with a sense of enjoyment; you should develop it endowed with equanimity.

"When this concentration is thus developed, thus well-developed by you, you should then train yourself thus: 'I will remain focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world.' That's how you should train yourself. When you have developed this concentration in this way, you should develop this concentration with directed thought & evaluation, you should develop it with no directed thought & a modicum of evaluation, you should develop it with no directed thought & no evaluation, you should develop it accompanied by rapture... not accompanied by rapture... endowed with a sense of enjoyment; you should develop it endowed with equanimity.

"When this concentration is thus developed, thus well-developed by you, you should train yourself: 'I will remain focused on feelings in & of themselves... the mind in & of itself... mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world.' That's how you should train yourself. When you have developed this concentration in this way, you should develop this concentration with directed thought & evaluation, you should develop it with no directed thought & a modicum of evaluation, you should develop it with no directed thought & no evaluation, you should develop it accompanied by rapture... not accompanied by rapture... endowed with a sense of enjoyment; you should develop it endowed with equanimity.

"When this concentration is thus developed, thus well-developed by you, then wherever you go, you will go in comfort. Wherever you stand, you will stand in comfort. Wherever you sit, you will sit in comfort. Wherever you lie down, you will lie down in comfort."

Then that monk, having been admonished by an admonishment from the Blessed One, got up from his seat and bowed down to the Blessed One, circled around him, keeping the Blessed One to his right side, and left. Then, dwelling alone, secluded, heedful, ardent, & resolute, he in no long time reached & remained in the supreme goal of the holy life for which clansmen rightly go forth from home into homelessness, knowing & realizing it for himself in the here & now. He knew: "Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for the sake of this world." And thus he became another one of the arahants.

Hope this can help. Metta,

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Re: Does Vitakka have different intensities?

Postby pt1 » Fri Dec 17, 2010 9:00 am

wouter_doorn wrote:Hey all,

I have a question about vitakka... I wondered if anything is mentioned in the Abhidhamma about Vitakka and its intensities (I mean like piti which has different intensities).
I hope my question is a little bit clear... And of course that somebody can give his/her opinion!

Hi, not sure about direct mention, so can only offer an opinion. See for exmple ACMA (trans. Bhikkhu Bodhi) chapter VII, par 17, page 273, on path factors - in the guide to the paragraph, the path factors of right intention, effort, mindfulness and concentration, are equated to the cetasikas of initial application, energy, mindfulness and one-pointedness. Initial application is vitakka. So then, if we consider that at the moment of magga citta vitakka is present as one of the path factors, and that magga citta can be of 4 different kinds (from stream-entry to arahat), then I'd assume that vitakka would also respectively be of 4 different kinds, since all path factors need to be developed to a certain depth for a particular magga citta to occur. Not sure if different kinds would be the same as different intensities, but it seems close.

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Re: Does Vitakka have different intensities?

Postby Akuma » Sun Jan 30, 2011 8:44 am

Intensity is explained as object-duration (Manual of Abhidharma 237). I've not come across citta-intensity anywhere yet, altho it seems plausible that citta-intensity is citta-duration, which would f.e. explain the clearer object-perceptions in concentrated states.
So if you can have series of Vitakka you have Vitakka of different intensities. If you cant, then you cant.
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Re: Does Vitakka have different intensities?

Postby rowyourboat » Tue Feb 01, 2011 8:40 am

This sutta suggests that different intensities of vitakka exists - as evidenced by different methods required to remove them (when a weaker method fails trying a stronger method..)

MN 20 PTS: M i 118
Vitakkasanthana Sutta: The Relaxation of Thoughts
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
© 1997–2010
Alternate translation: Soma
I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying at Savatthi, in Jeta's Grove, Anathapindika's monastery. There he addressed the monks, "Monks!"

"Yes, lord," the monks replied.

The Blessed One said: "When a monk is intent on the heightened mind, there are five themes he should attend to at the appropriate times. Which five?

"There is the case where evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — arise in a monk while he is referring to and attending to a particular theme. He should attend to another theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful. When he is attending to this other theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful, then those evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it. Just as a skilled carpenter or his apprentice would use a small peg to knock out, drive out, and pull out a large one; in the same way, if evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — arise in a monk while he is referring to and attending to a particular theme, he should attend to another theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful. When he is attending to this other theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful, then those evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it.

"If evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is attending to this other theme, connected with what is skillful, he should scrutinize the drawbacks of those thoughts: 'Truly, these thoughts of mine are unskillful, these thoughts of mine are blameworthy, these thoughts of mine result in stress.' As he is scrutinizing the drawbacks of those thoughts, those evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it. Just as a young woman — or man — fond of adornment, would be horrified, humiliated, and disgusted if the carcass of a snake or a dog or a human being were hung from her neck; in the same way, if evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is attending to this other theme, connected with what is skillful, he should scrutinize the drawbacks of those thoughts: 'Truly, these thoughts of mine are unskillful, these thoughts of mine are blameworthy, these thoughts of mine result in stress.' As he is scrutinizing the drawbacks of those thoughts, those evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it.

"If evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is scrutinizing the drawbacks of those thoughts, he should pay no mind and pay no attention to those thoughts. As he is paying no mind and paying no attention to them, those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it. Just as a man with good eyes, not wanting to see forms that had come into range, would close his eyes or look away; in the same way, if evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is scrutinizing the drawbacks of those thoughts, he should pay no mind and pay no attention to those thoughts. As he is paying no mind and paying no attention to them, those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it.

"If evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is paying no mind and paying no attention to those thoughts, he should attend to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts. As he is attending to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts, those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it. Just as the thought would occur to a man walking quickly, 'Why am I walking quickly? Why don't I walk slowly?' So he walks slowly. The thought occurs to him, 'Why am I walking slowly? Why don't I stand?' So he stands. The thought occurs to him, 'Why am I standing? Why don't I sit down?' So he sits down. The thought occurs to him, 'Why am I sitting? Why don't I lie down?' So he lies down. In this way, giving up the grosser posture, he takes up the more refined one. In the same way, if evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is paying no mind and paying no attention to those thoughts, he should attend to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts. As he is attending to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts, those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it.

"If evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is attending to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts, then — with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth — he should beat down, constrain, and crush his mind with his awareness. As — with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth — he is beating down, constraining, and crushing his mind with his awareness, those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it. Just as a strong man, seizing a weaker man by the head or the throat or the shoulders, would beat him down, constrain, and crush him; in the same way, if evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion or delusion — still arise in the monk while he is attending to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts, then — with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth — he should beat down, constrain, and crush his mind with his awareness. As — with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth — he is beating down, constraining, and crushing his mind with his awareness, those evil, unskillful thoughts are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it.

"Now when a monk... attending to another theme... scrutinizing the drawbacks of those thoughts... paying no mind and paying no attention to those thoughts... attending to the relaxing of thought-fabrication with regard to those thoughts... beating down, constraining and crushing his mind with his awareness... steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it and concentrates it: He is then called a monk with mastery over the ways of thought sequences. He thinks whatever thought he wants to, and doesn't think whatever thought he doesn't. He has severed craving, thrown off the fetters, and — through the right penetration of conceit — has made an end of suffering and stress."

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, the monks delighted in the Blessed One's words.

Provenance: ©1997 Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
Transcribed from a file provided by the translator. This Access to Insight edition is ©1997–2010.
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