catmoon wrote: puthujjana wrote:
this is the classical explanation of vitakka-vicāra:
'thought-conception and discursive thinking', (or 'applied and sustained thought') are verbal functions (vacī-sankhāra: s. sankhāra) of the mind, the so-called 'inner speech ('parole interieure'). They are constituents of the 1st absorption (s. jhāna), but absent in the higher absorptions.
(1) "Thought-conception (vitakka) is the laying hold of a thought, giving it attention. Its characteristic consists in fixing the consciousness to the object.
(2) "Discursive thinking (vicāra) is the roaming about and moving to and fro of the mind.... It manifests itself as continued activity of mind" (Vis.M. IV).
(1) is compared with the striking against a bell, (2) with its resounding; (1) with the seizing of a pot, (2) with wiping it. (Cf. Vis . IV.).http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/u_ ... icaara.htm
Wow, finally a clear answer, and in perfect accord with experience and what little Dharma i know too. Good stuff.
Don't get your bloomers in too much of a ruffle over this until you understand some subtle differences with regard to how it is applied. The way that vitakka
are applied to absorption meditation is a bit different than the impression given by the classical definition above (although I'm not at all discounting the definition above). It took me some time to understand this (principally because no one ever explained it in any of the literature I came across before), but I eventually figured it out for myself.
If you read the discourses where the Buddha is giving instruction on entering absorption, he talks about becoming mindful of the breath first, which relates to applied thought (vittaka
) — or directed thought or attention to the breath. Then comes examination or evaluation (vicara
; or sustained thought, sometimes described as "discursive thinking") of the breath: "Breathing in long, he discerns that he is breathing in long; or breathing out long, he discerns that he is breathing out long."
Thanissaro Bhikkhu has given an excellent example of this instruction in his book Mind Like Fire Unbound
. Rather than explain this myself, I'll let Thanissaro's explanation of it stand, as it is relatively clear and unambiguous. When you come to the final two paragraphs in the quotation below you will find out what this difference is:
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote: The first step is simply being mindful of the breath in the present:
There is the case of a monk who, having gone to a forest, to the shade of a tree or to an empty building, sits down folding his legs crosswise, holding his body erect, & keeping mindfulness to the fore. Always mindful, he breathes in; mindful he breathes out.
Then comes evaluation: He begins to discern variations in the breath:
Breathing in long, he discerns that he is breathing in long; or breathing out long, he discerns that he is breathing out long. Or breathing in short, he discerns that he is breathing in short; or breathing out short, he discerns that he is breathing out short.
The remaining steps are willed, or determined: He 'trains himself,' first by manipulating his sense of conscious awareness, making it sensitive to the body as a whole. (This accounts for the term 'mahaggatam' — enlarged or expanded — used to describe the mind in the state of jhana.)
He trains himself to breathe in sensitive to the entire body, and to breathe out sensitive to the entire body.
Now that he is aware of the body as a whole, he can begin to manipulate the physical sensations of which he is aware, calming them — i.e., calming the breath — so as to create a sense of rapture & ease.
He trains himself to breathe in calming the bodily processes, and to breathe out calming the bodily processes. He trains himself to breathe in sensitive to rapture, and to breathe out sensitive to rapture. He trains himself to breathe in sensitive to pleasure and breathe out sensitive to pleasure.
(As we will see below, he maximizes this sense of rapture & pleasure, making it suffuse the entire body.)
Now that bodily processes are stilled, mental processes become apparent as they occur. These too are calmed, leaving — as we will see below — a radiant awareness of the mind itself.
He trains himself to breathe in sensitive to mental processes, and to breathe out sensitive to mental processes. He trains himself to breathe in calming mental processes and to breathe out calming mental processes. He trains himself to breathe in sensitive to the mind, and to breathe out sensitive to the mind...
— MN 118
The standard description of jhana, however, does not refer to any particular object as its basis, but simply divides it into four levels determined by the way the mind relates to the object as it becomes more & more absorbed in it....
'Directed thought' mentioned in the reference to the first level of jhana corresponds, in the description of breath meditation, to the mindfulness directed to the breath in the present. 'Evaluation' corresponds to the discernment of variations in the breath, and to the manipulation of awareness & the breath so as to create a sense of rapture & pleasure throughout the body (the bathman kneading moisture throughout the ball of bath powder). The still waters in the simile for the third level of jhana, as opposed to the spring waters welling up in the second level, correspond to the stilling of mental processes. And the pure, bright awareness in the fourth level corresponds to the stage of breath meditation where the meditator is sensitive to the mind.
Thus as the mind progresses through the first four levels of jhana, it sheds the various mental activities surrounding its one object: Directed thought & evaluation are stilled, rapture fades, and pleasure is abandoned. After reaching a state of pure, bright, mindful, equanimous awareness in the fourth level of jhana, the mind can start shedding its perception (mental label) of the form of its object, the space around its object, itself, & the lack of activity within itself. This process takes four steps — the four formlessnesses beyond form — culminating in a state where perception is so refined that it can hardly be called perception at all.
The reference above in the last paragraph to "directed thought and examination are stilled" refers to the manipulation of this process
becoming stilled as an automatic feedback loop is created in the mind which continues this process without the need to will it into existence. This is the key
to recognizing that you are in the second level of jhana: you no longer have to will (with intention) directed thought and evaluation in order to bring on absorption. The mind has automatically, of its own accord, switched over its awareness of the absorption just in the process of your attending to the breath. And wah-lah. You're in the second jhana! It's that simple.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV