Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

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Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Feb 26, 2013 10:27 pm

as it says on the tin, "Is critical thinking active vipassana?


it seams to me that it is, but I would like to have your thoughts on this.

I would say it is because it is the application of right effort inwardly to oneself (as described in the video at-least). A looking for the flaws in ones own thoughts, and the philosophies of another (at-least to see if they aim toward the correct place).

Edit -
By Active I am refering to reflective practices within day-to-day activities, reflecting on an action and its motivations/intentions (were they skillful...), or studying a topic such as Kamma (is this understaning coherent...).

PLEASE Watch the video, as the definition for this thread is there.
Last edited by Cittasanto on Wed Feb 27, 2013 5:06 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby twelph » Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:11 am

Cittasanto wrote:as it says on the tin, "Is critical thinking active vipassana?


it seams to me that it is, but I would like to have your thoughts on this.

I would say it is because it is the application of right effort inwardly to oneself (as described in the video at-least). A looking for the flaws in ones own thoughts, and the philosophies of another (at-least to see if they aim toward the correct place).


I just now logged onto these forums to ask almost the exact same question.

Edit: To add a little more substance to my post, it's interesting to compare critical thinking with Sayadaw U Tejaniya's method of asking questions about your thoughts during meditation.

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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby danieLion » Wed Feb 27, 2013 1:23 am

This a great question and one I've been contemplating for a while now. If you take the definition of crtitical thinking in this video and compare it to the way Rev. Thanissaro, e.g., narrates the Buddha's "method of discovery," then I think you have good parallels to yoniso manisikara (and dhamma vicaya), especially as he describes the Buddha's process in the book Skill In Questions and in essays like " One Tool Among Many: The Place of Vipassana in Buddhist Practice".

And if we look at Albert Elllis' work, e.g., whose Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) parallels crtical thinking, the particular aspects of the tilakkhana start popping out. For instance, anicca and dukkha are "covered" in his writings like the chapter in A Guide To Rational Living titled, "Accepting and Coping with the Grim Facts of Life." Anatta, for example, is "covered" in his writings like the chapter in The Road to Tolerance: The Philosophy of REBT titled, "REBT Diminishes Much of the Human Ego." To be fair, there's a chapter in that same book on Zen Buddhism & REBT in which he makes the common mistake of interpreting the Buddha as teaching that life is suffering rather than his actual teaching that here is suffering life. He also critizes "desireleness" there, but I don't think was aware of the distintction in Buddhism betweeen skillfull and unskillful desire. He also criticized Henepola Gunaratana's The Path of Serenity & Insight, but I forget where and what they were specifically. Furthermore, his book, Anger: How to Live With and Without It has helped me tremendously in the Rooting-Out-Hate department. And when you read transcriptions of Thanissaro's talks in his Meditations series like "The Story-telling Mind," "The Path of Mistakes," "Not What You Are, What You Do," "Little Things," "Your Inner Mob," "Inner Voice Lessons," etc..., you have to strongly suspect the Reverend knows a thing or two about REBT and CBT and has incorportated them into his teachings.

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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby danieLion » Wed Feb 27, 2013 1:24 am

twelph wrote:...it's interesting to compare critical thinking with Sayadaw U Tejaniya's method of asking questions about your thoughts during meditation.
For sure. Do you have any of his particular writings or talks in mind?

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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby twelph » Wed Feb 27, 2013 2:02 am

danieLion wrote:
twelph wrote:...it's interesting to compare critical thinking with Sayadaw U Tejaniya's method of asking questions about your thoughts during meditation.
For sure. Do you have any of his particular writings or talks in mind?


Honestly it's throughout all of his teachings. He is constantly offering up questions for meditators to phrase in their mind. Though I don't think he is as worried about coming to a definitive conclusion like critical thinking might. From his little book on right attitude:

6. Why do you focus so hard when you meditate?
Do you want something?
Do you want something to happen?
Do you want something to stop happening?


http://sayadawutejaniya.org/wp-content/ ... points.pdf

If the point of critical thinking is to analyze a thought in order to question and ascertain certain qualities about it, then what the Sayadaw is teaching seems to fall under critical thinking. I would like to hear someone else's take on it though.

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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby danieLion » Wed Feb 27, 2013 2:22 am

twelph wrote:Though I don't think he is as worried about coming to a definitive conclusion like critical thinking might.
Crtical thinking does not pursue definition or conlcusion. It is iterative, something it shares in common with epistemology (science--from a Latin word for "knowledge"--is just an epistemology of iteration).

twelph wrote:If the point of critical thinking is to analyze a thought in order to question and ascertain certain qualities about it, then what the Sayadaw is teaching seems to fall under critical thinking. I would like to hear someone else's take on it though.
Well, according to the video's conclusion, critical thinking is the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a view to improve it. However, It's orientation depends on it's telos, or goal. When combined with Buddhism, the goal becomes quite clear, as you've rightly noticed from Reverend Tejaniya's teachings.

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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby Ben » Wed Feb 27, 2013 2:24 am

Hi Cittasanto,

That looks good.
A couple of thoughts - it looks similar to mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.
Also, you might be interested in the section in Ven Analayo's seminal work "Satipatthana", on "Investigation of Dhammas" which can be interpreted as self-reflexive analysis.
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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby ground » Wed Feb 27, 2013 2:26 am

What is "Active Vipassana"? :sage:

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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby twelph » Wed Feb 27, 2013 2:47 am

danieLion wrote:Well, according to the video's conclusion, critical thinking is the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a view to improve it. However, It's orientation depends on it's telos, or goal. When combined with Buddhism, the goal becomes quite clear, as you've rightly noticed from Reverend Tejaniya's teachings.


As a side note, meditation has the benefit of stilling the mind to the point where evaluating one's thinking can be directly linked to different sensations in the body. When critical thinking talks about trying to determine your own bias, using the body as a frame of reference to notice when you feel strongly about something will help you from falling into these traps.

I believe that several teachers have mentioned that in the west there is a stigmatism associated with being aware of your body. Taking this into consideration, it makes sense that critical thinking (with the current iteration being developed mostly from western philosophy) would lack this portion of the Dhamma.

It starts to get really interesting if you view Plato's "The One" and "The Good" as a form of enlightenment like some scholars have chosen to do.

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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Feb 27, 2013 7:22 am

ground wrote:What is "Active Vipassana"? :sage:

not formal so more active.
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"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."

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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Feb 27, 2013 7:36 am

I will have a proper read of the posts tonight and reply to any.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."

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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby polarbuddha101 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 7:45 am

I don't think of Vipassana as a type of meditation (although the word does apply to a meditative movement) but I think that it is pretty clear that critical thinking is of the utmost importance if we want to develop vipassana. As Ben already pointed out, critical thinking can apply to the investigation of dhammas factor of awakening. Another good use of critical thinking with the aim of improving one's thinking comes from the Dvedhavitakka Sutta (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html). And as pointed out critical thinking should play a significant role in cultivating right effort as well as appropriate attention.

Hearing the Dhamma, he remembers it. Remembering it, he penetrates the meaning of those dhammas. Penetrating the meaning, he comes to an agreement through pondering those dhammas. There being an agreement through pondering those dhammas, desire arises. With the arising of desire, he becomes willing. Willing, he contemplates (lit: "weighs," "compares"). Contemplating, he makes an exertion. Exerting himself, he both realizes the ultimate meaning of the truth with his body and sees by penetrating it with discernment.

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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby kirk5a » Wed Feb 27, 2013 9:07 am

If the analysis doesn't result in stilling, it's papañca.
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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby Mr Man » Wed Feb 27, 2013 9:12 am

No it isn't. critical thinking is about thought based solutions to thought created problems. Vipassana is transformative. It creates a shift. Critical thinking is of the world.

Would be interested to hear from robertk and also from those with a strong "classical" sutta understanding would have to say?

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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Feb 27, 2013 9:57 am

Mr Man wrote:No it isn't. critical thinking is about thought based solutions to thought created problems. Vipassana is transformative. It creates a shift. Critical thinking is of the world.
A sutta response:


"When for you there will be only the seen in the seen, only the heard in the
heard, only the sensed in the sensed, only the cognized in the cognized,
then, Bahiya, there is no you in terms of that. When there is no you in terms
of that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither
here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of suffering."


-- Ud I 10
This is not a matter of conceptual, critical thinking, and it is something that can be cultivated.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Feb 27, 2013 10:08 am

A brief definition of "critical thinking" would be helpful - or at least what it means in this thread.
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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby Dan74 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:13 pm

I understand critical thinking to mean an objective logical examination of a matter at hand. Objective usually implies 'from the outside', impartial. Logical implies using facts and inferences in accordance with a set of rules that describe permissible deductions, etc

Vipassana, I understand to be, becoming aware, discerning clearly, particularly vis-a-vis mental patterns that have up until now remained obscure. A necessary foundation is lack of clinging/investment in what is discerned. This corresponds to impartiality in critical thinking. Another necessary condition is clarity and a subtle sensitivity, which are cultivated through practice. The inquiry in vipassana is typically of an inner sort, where all matter of personal clinging may render the matter completely obscure. Many people adept at critical thinking fail miserably in inner inquiry, so I think they are quite different.
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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:38 pm

kirk5a wrote:If the analysis doesn't result in stilling, it's papañca.
I agree. In my opinion insight meditation requires the mind to be still — not dull and uncritical, but not constantly doubting and speculating either.

From a quick look at the video, it seems to me that that kind of critical thinking would lead to more speculation and discursive thought. The factor of enlightenment called "Investigation of Phenomena" (Dhammavicaya), by means of which a meditator gains insight, does not speculate, it just observes things as they truly are, without any prejudice or bias.

Venerable Mahāsi Sayadaw had this to say in his Discourse on Dependent Origination:
Beyond Reasoning and Speculation

When the Buddha was first considering whether or not to teach, he thought, “This truth that I have realised is very profound. Though it is sublime and conducive to inner peace, it is hard to understand. Since it is subtle and not accessible to mere intellect and logic, it can be realised only by the wise.” Great thinkers from all cultures have thought deeply about freedom from the misery of aging, disease, and death, but such freedom would mean nibbāna, which is beyond the scope of reason and intellect. It can be realised only by practising the right method of insight meditation. Most great thinkers have relied on intellect and logical reasoning to conceive various principles for the well-being of humanity. As these principles are based on speculations, they do not help anyone to attain insight, let alone the supreme goal of nibbāna. Even the lowest stage of insight, namely, analytical knowledge of mind and matter (nāmarūpa-pariccheda-ñāna), cannot be realised intellectually. This insight dawns only when one observes the mental and physical process using the systematic method of mindfulness (satipatthāna), and when, with the development of concentration, one distinguishes between mental and physical phenomena — for example, between the desire to bend the hand and the bent hand, or between the sound and the hearing. Such knowledge is not vague and speculative, but vivid and empirical.

The Pāli texts say that mind and matter are constantly changing, and that we should observe their arising and passing away. However, for the beginner in meditation, this is easier said than done. One has to exert strenuous effort to overcome mental hindrances (nīvarana). Even freedom from such hindrances only helps one to distinguish between mind and matter; it does not ensure insight into the process of their arising and passing away. This insight is attained only on the basis of strong concentration and keen perception developed through the practice of mindfulness. Constant mindfulness of the arising and passing away of phenomena leads to insight into their characteristics of impermanence (anicca), unsatisfactoriness (dukkha), and not-self (anattā). However, this is merely a lower stage of insight, which is still far from the Path and its Fruition. So, the Dhamma is described as something beyond logic and intellect.
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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby robertk » Wed Feb 27, 2013 1:13 pm

Mr Man wrote:No it isn't. critical thinking is about thought based solutions to thought created problems. Vipassana is transformative. It creates a shift. Critical thinking is of the world.

Would be interested to hear from robertk and also from those with a strong "classical" sutta understanding would have to say?

Dear mr man
vipassana is as you say not thinking about a subject. see below from sujin boriharnwanaket.
Here is an extract from Dhamma talk:

Acharn:seeing arising and seeing sees but acctually how come to be seeing? No
self, No body. While one is fast asleep no one there at all. No friend, no
possesion, no name, no world.
But how come sound appearing? See, it indicates anattaness, when there is right
time for hearing to hear whatever sound is there it has to arise..by conditions.
And than goes away instantly. Unknowingly from birth to death. So it's not
understanding reality at all. There is always thinking, about realities or about
subject, different subject like medicine, and architecture and history. But not
the understanding any reality at all. But one has to be born and die. For sure.
Because acctually there is no one who is born, and no one who dies. But this is
a conditioned reality.

No one can stop it. The arising and falling away of a reality.

What about at this moment of seeing. It is so real, because whatever is seen is
seen, now...We dont need to say this is nama, which sees and the ruupa is seen.
Not necessery at all. That is not the way. But the way to understand is that
when there is seeing right now, there is seeing. What does it sees? What is
seen? The thing that is seen is not the seeing. So there is beginning of
understanding, the nature of reality.

Be http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dhammastu ... age/129346

on the other hand without understanding correctly intellectually what the Buddha taught their couldn't be direct insight.

so if there is wise thinking about Dhamma there is at that time the factor of panna, wisdom. it is a a prequisite for deeper levels as i see it.

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Re: Is Critical Thinking Active Vipassana?

Postby danieLion » Wed Feb 27, 2013 3:05 pm

twelph wrote:It starts to get really interesting if you view Plato's "The One" and "The Good" as a form of enlightenment like some scholars have chosen to do.
Plato was a fascist and fascism is completely incompatible with critical thinking and vipassana. Who are thes bone-head scholars you refer to?


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