|There is only the now, so let's be here now. Stand (or sit) in the place where you are.|
- sensuous desire
The question becomes, What are vitakka and vicara? They have long been misunderstood -- with the consequence that very few people pursue Buddhist meditation according to its ancient definition and even fewer gain the first absorption -- these two terms to mean "thought conception" and "discursive thinking," respectively.
|Meditative absorption, known as jhana, just ahead! (Wisdom Quarterly)|
|Siddhartha began with attention to the breath.|
|Not think about sex? See below.|
|I struggle and flap until I soar and abide.|
|Mother figure (HeyItsWilliam)|
|Choppy poured water (TW)|
|Smooth unbroken oil (TDC)|
|To tame a wild elephant (veoow.com)|
|Be here now? The mind wanders like a wild elephant, drawn to the past by memories of sensual pleasures and to the future by hopes of more (Matt Groening/"Life in Hell").|
|Mind will learn to relax then stay put (MP).|
We have a right to tame our own minds, to get them to serve us, to focus their power in the service of something so useful as enlightenment. But it's our choice. Most will remain wild and never even try to calm down. Never mind them. Let us mind our own minds.
All that effort, all that pole banging, we do not agree that this is the way. Place the post firmly to begin with, and stay with it by the strong chain of bare attention (one meaning sati or mindfulness as a necessary ingredient of right-concentration).
- See post on the Four Absorptions (jhanas) for further references to the sutras
- On mindfulness (sati) see this, this, and this post
- Remembering previous lives
- No virtue – no meditation?
|Zooming in on the breath, calming, collecting, concentrating mind in jhana (isa_adsr/flickr).|
|Ecstatic jhana of St. Teresa, mystic Catholic|
What could be more boring than the breath? I breathe all day long, and I do it again all night! Boooring! But we are not looking at breathing, or the gross breath, not the air, not the movement of the apparatus that makes breathing possible, not even the invisible respiration process going on. No, there is something more fascinating there when we calm down.
We can call it the subtle breath, the prana, the Latin spiritus or what the Gnostic and Catholic contemplative traditions long ago used to call the "holy spirit." (That word has been ruined now as a bunch of other stuff having nothing to do with meditation).
It's like a subtle wriggling under the nose. It exactly mimics whatever the mind is doing. By paying attention to it, one knows whether the breath is long or short (corresponding to shifting mental states). All those details given at the beginning of the Discourse on the Setting Up of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness (Satipatthana Sutta) finally make sense.
|Jhana suffuses the body like water does soap.|
When we want to focus right at this instant, what do we instinctively do? We hold our breath, and for a moment that focuses our mind. A beautiful object arrests our breath. Sometimes in meditation, breathing becomes like osmosis, that subtle, no perceptible movement of the lungs, just that wriggle. One can almost see it. And, indeed, if one keeps up this meditation, the mind will produce a counterpart sign, an inner light, what is technically called a nimitta.
They are very much misunderstood by scholars who do not practice and have no attainments to speak of. (Two American practitioners present the Sayadaw's instructions after their own success in Practicing the Jhanas by Stephen Snyder and Tina Rasmussen).
The words vitakka and vicara mean discursive thinking. What they refer to, as is perfectly clear by the examples the Buddha gave to define them, is initial-attention and sustained-attention, sometimes initial application of mind and sustained application. We turn (advert) the mind to the meditation-object, for example the breath under the nose.
- Vitakka (Pali, Sanskrit vitarkah, Tibetan phonetic tokpa) is a Buddhist term that is translated as "conception," "application of thought," etc.
- The Removal of Distracting Thoughts: Vitakka-Santhana Sutra (Buddhist Publication Society, Wheel 21)
- Five Factors for the First Absorption NOT! (Leigh Brasington)
- Why vitakka doesn't mean "thinking" in jhana (Ven. Sujato's Blog)
- Vitakka and vicāra (The Dharmafarers) For our purposes, we shall broadly define vitakka, vicāra as follows: thought, applied thought; [meditation] (initial) application of mind to object (a mental...
- Vitakka and ReThinking Vitakka (obo.genaud.net)