Why vitakka doesn’t mean ‘thinking’ in jhana

I shall give you a simile; for it is by means of a simile that some wise people here understand the meaning of what is said.

—THE BUDDHA

Here’s one of the most often contested issues in Buddhist meditation: can you be thinking while in jhana? We normally think of jhana as a profound state of higher consciousness; yet the standard formula for first jhana says it is a state with ‘vitakka and vicara’. Normally these words mean ‘thinking’ and ‘exploring’, and that is how Bhikkhu Bodhi translates them in jhana, too. This has lead many meditators to believe that in the first jhana one can still be thinking. This is a mistake, and here’s why.

Actually, right now I’m interested in a somewhat subtle linguistic approach to this question. But I’ve found that if you use a complex analysis of a problem, some people, understandably enough, don’t have time or interest to follow it through; and often we tend to assume that if a complex argument is just a sign of sophistry and lack of real evidence. So first up I’ll present the more straightforward reasons why vitakka/vicara don’t mean thinking in jhana, based on the texts and on experience. Then I’ll get into the more subtle question of why this mistake gets made.

For most of this article I’ll just mention vitakka, and you can assume that the analysis for vicara follows similar lines.

Meaning & etymology

Already in the Pali Text Society dictionary we find the combination vitakka & vicara rendered as ‘initial & sustained application’. This was taken up by Ven Nyanamoli in his translations, but was later removed by Bhikkhu Bodhi as he strove to complete Nyanamoli’s project of effectively finding one English word to translate each significant Pali word.

Etymologically, vitakka harks back to a Sanskritic term (vi-)tarka. This appears in both Pali and Sanskrit literature in the sense of ‘thought’; but more pregnantly also as ‘reflection, reasoning’; in some cases more pejoritively as ‘doubt, speculation’. The Pali Dictionary suggests it is from an Indo-European root, originally meaning ‘twisting, turning’, and related to the English ‘trick’. However, I can’t find any support for this is Indo-European dictionaries; nor can I find it in the Vedas.

In the Suttas

The primary source work is the Dvedhavitakka Sutta (MN 19). This is where the Buddha talks in most detail about vitakka specifically, and describes how he discovered and developed it as part of the ‘right thought’ (sammasankappa) of the eightfold path. Note that the terms sankappa and vitakka are often, as here, synonyms.

The Buddha describes how he noticed that thinking unwholesome thoughts leads to suffering, while thinking wholesome thoughts leads to happiness. And he further realized that he could think wholesome thoughts nonstop all day and night, which would not lead to anything bad; but by so doing he could not make his mind still in samadhi. So by abandoning even wholesome thoughts he was able to enter on the four jhanas.

A similar situation is described in AN 3.101. There, the Buddha speaks of a meditator who abandons successively more refined forms of thought, until all that is left are ‘thoughts on the Dhamma’ (dhammavitakka). Even these most subtle of thoughts prevent one from realizing the true peace of samadhi, so they must be abandoned.

Clearly, then, the right thought of the eightfold path, even thoughts of the Dhamma itself, must be abandoned before one can enter jhana.

In experience

Let’s not even worry about experience of the jhanas; then we’d just end up trying to define what a jhana is. Let me give you a test. Sit quietly, now, for five minutes. Watch your mind, and notice what happens when you think and when you don’t think.


Okay, done now? What happened? Well, let me guess: most of the time you were thinking of this or that, but occasionally there were spaces of silence. And those spaces of silence were more peaceful. Even this much, even just a few minutes of sitting quietly, and you can experience the peace of a quiet mind. And yet in jhana you’re still thinking? Impossible!

Not to mention jhana, anyone who has been on a meditation retreat will have experienced those blessed moments, sometimes several minutes or longer, when the mind is clear, still, and silent. Not all the hindrances are gone, and not all the jhana factors may be present, yet there is a degree of stillness.

How language evolves

If vitakka does not mean thinking, then why did the Buddha use such a misleading word? The answer is simple: it was the best he had. Why this is so, and how such situations can arise, is a fascinating question that takes us into areas of linguistic philosophy, specifically, how we develop words for speaking of refined topics.

My understanding in this area was sparked by Julian Jaynes, who devoted quite some time to this topic in his magnum opus, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. I don’t have the book with me, so this comes from my (usually unreliable) recollections.

The basis of his ideas can be expressed in some simple axioms. The first:

  • Axiom 1: All abstract words are derived from more concrete words by way of metaphor.

By metaphor here I don’t mean, of course, the conscious use of metaphor as a poetic device. I mean the embedded use of metaphor that pervades all language; like, say, the use of ‘embedded’ in this very sentence.

The idea is that, whether considering the origins of language in history, or the learning of language by an infant, we must begin with what is concrete. We point to the earth and say, ‘ugh’, then point to the water and say, ‘erg’. I can’t point to ‘solidity’ or ‘liquidity’. We must gradually learn these abstract concepts based on the more concrete ones.

There is a universal pattern we can discern in this process:

  • Axiom 2: Metaphors move from what is better known to what is less known.

We start with knowledge that is shared. But when one person learns something that others have not, they must draw the others on from what is known towards what is unknown. Jaynes called these things the ‘metaphier’—the relatively concrete, well-known thing on which the metaphor is based—and the ‘metaphrand’—the relatively abstract, less-known thing that the metaphor is intended to illustrate.

Which leads us to our third axiom:

  • Axiom 3: A metaphrand brings something over from the metaphier, and leaves something behind.

If the basis on which the metaphor is made (the metaphier) has nothing in common with the object of the metaphor (the metaphrand), then there would be no illumination. On the other hand, if they had nothing different, they would be the same thing.

But what is it that is common, and what is lost? Since we are speaking of the movement of language from the coarse to the subtle, we can say that:

  • Axiom 4: When words are abstracted, subtle aspects of the metaphier carry over to the metaphrand, while coarse aspects are left behind.

This is all very abstract, so how about some ‘concrete’ examples. Let’s look closer at ‘earth’.

In English, we have two different words for ‘earth’ (as in the ground, not the planet) and for ‘solidity’. This is such a natural part of our language that we don’t think that it’s anything special.

In Pali, by contrast, the same word, pathavi, is used for both ‘earth’ and ‘solidity’. (There are other words for these, too, but I will keep it as simple as I can). In, say, a Vinaya text that discusses digging, it is clear that pathavi just means ‘earth’ in the ordinary concrete sense of the dirty stuff in the ground. On the other hand, in a philosophical or meditative text that discusses the contemplation of the ‘earth element’ (pathavidhatu), it is clear that a more abstract notion is meant. Parts of the body such as the skin, bones, and hair, are said to be the ‘earth-element’, so clearly this doesn’t mean ‘dirt’. In fact, pathavi is given an explictly abstract definition in the Suttas as ‘hardness, solidity’.

Both languages have a concrete idea of ‘earth’ and an abstract idea of ‘solidity’. And from the Pali it seems obvious that one rose from the other. However, from the English perspective we can’t see that in this case; the metaphorical roots of ‘solidity’ are lost in the mists of time. We no longer feel it as a metaphor. It is just a word that means what it says. In times long past, however, it must have arisen from its own metaphorical roots, which may or may not be the same ‘earth’; in fact, the etymologists say that ‘solid’ is from an ancient Indo-European root *solo-, originally meaning ‘whole’. Since ‘whole’ is itself an abstract concept it must have come from a still deeper metaphor. Interestingly enough, ‘earth’ is also an Indo-European term, meaning ‘ground’; but neither of these is related to pathavi.

So, while the general process is universal, the historical details are arbitrary. Why a language abstracts a certain word and keeps another close to its roots depends on all kinds of random factors. It is not simply that English is a more evolved language than Pali.

Take, for example, the Sanskrit term trsna. This means ‘thirst’, and the English word is indeed derived from the same Indo-European root (which originally meant ‘dry’) and keeps the same meaning. On the other hand, in Pali trsna is split in two: tasina stayed close to its metaphier, and means primarily ‘thirst’, while tanha has almost totally lost its metaphorical connections and just means ‘craving’.

Notice, also, that these words can themselve be used as the basis for further metaphors. We can speak of a ‘solid’ character, or an ‘earthy’ character; but these are not the same kind of thing. Similarly, we can have a ‘thirst’ for knowledge, or tasina can be used to mean craving, just like tanha.

But in all these cases we still feel the metaphor. The words stay close enough to their concrete roots that we know their meaning is being stretched to new forms.

This topic of how language evolves is a fascinating and profound one, and we could take it in all manner of directions. But for now let’s return to our main topic, the Buddha’s description of jhana.

How did the Buddha speak about jhana?

Following the principles sketched out above, what can we say about how the Buddha spoke of jhana?

One thing that seems clear from the historical record is that the Buddha was the first teacher to describe in straightforward, empirical terms the experiences of higher consciousness. Earlier teachings, such as the Upanishads, seemed so overwhelmed by states of transformed consciousness that they had no choice but recourse to a mystical evocation of a divine encounter.

The Buddha, in what must have been a striking innovation, used only simple, empirical terms to describe jhana and other states of higher consciousness. In common with his typical empiricist approach, this means that he used words that remained as close as possible to their ordinary meanings. He wanted people to understand these states, to refer to their ordinary consciousness, and to see how that can be developed and transformed to become something wonderful.

So there is this twofold tendency. On the one hand, the Buddha emphasized countless times how powerful and radically transformative the jhanas were. They are the ‘higher mind’, the ‘expanded mind’, the ‘unexcelled mind’, the ‘radiant mind’, the ‘liberated mind’, the ‘light’, the ‘bliss of Awakening’, the ‘end of the world’; they are ‘beyond human principles’, and are ‘distinctions of knowledge and vision worthy of the Noble Ones’.

At the same time he emphasized how attainable they were. If one is dedicated to following the full course of training that he outlined in places such as the Samannaphala Sutta, one could realize a gradual evolution of blissful consciousness eventually culminating in the full release of jhana.

Any understanding of jhana must take full account of both these aspects, neither reducing jhana to an mundane state of easily-attained relaxation, nor making them so exalted and abstract that they seem unreachable.

I should notice, incidentally, that the common expression found in Abhidhamma literature of ‘mundane jhana’ is very misleading. This has nothing to do with the experience of jhana itself. It simply means that jhana, when practiced outside the eightfold path, leads to rebirth.

What do the words in the jhana formula mean?

If we look closely at the terms in the jhana formula, then, we find that they are words that have a more coarse physical or psychological meaning in everyday language. They are common words that everyone can understand, and can relate to their own experience. And in every single case, they clearly have a more subtle, abstract, evolved meaning in the context of jhana. We have moved from the ordinary mind to the ‘higher mind’, and everything about the experience is transformed.

So, for example, the first word in the formula is viveka. This normally means physical seclusion; going away from others into the forest or a solitary spot. In jhana, however, it refers to a mental seclusion, where the mind turns away from the senses and withdraws into itself. The Pali texts make this distinction clear, as elsewhere they speak of three kinds of seclusion: physical, mental (i.e. the jhanas), and seclusion from all attachments (Awakening).

The next word in the formula is kama. In ordinary language this means the pleasures of life, especially sex, but also food, drink, luxuries, and other pleasures of the senses. In jhana, however, it has a more subtle nuance, referring to the mind that inclines to taking pleasure in any experience through the five senses.

Then there is the word akusala. Normally this means ‘unskilful’, as, for example, someone who is no good at a certain craft. One who is kusala, on the other hand, is clever and adroit. In the jhana formula, however, kusala includes any tendency of the mind that creates suffering.

Similarly there is the word dhamma, which is what akusala qualifies. Dhamma in ordinary language has a variety of meanings, such as ‘law’, ‘custom’, and so on. In jhana, however, it takes on a far more subtle meaning, that is, any object, quality, or tendency of the mind. The akusala-dhammas, or ‘unskilful qualities’, especially refer to the five hindrances which must be abandoned before entering jhana.

And so on. I could go on through the entire jhana formula and show how each word is related to, but abstracted from, its more concrete everyday basis, its ‘metaphier’. But I think that’s enough examples.

So what do vitakka & vicara mean?

Finally we are ready to return to our original question. Now we can look again at the claim that vitakka must mean thinking in jhana, because that’s what it means in everyday discourse. And I trust that this claim now appears a lot less plausible than it might have earlier.

If this is true, then vitakka (& vicara) are the sole exceptions. Every other term in the jhana formula takes everyday words and transforms them, in what the Buddha emphasizes at every turn is a special, exalted, and refined context. Only vitakka is exempt from this, and means exactly the same thing in higher consciousness as it does in lower consciousness.

This argument is not merely implausible, it is totally impossible. Words just don’t do that. And they specially don’t do that in a context like jhana, where the very point of the state of mind is that it is integrated and whole. How can such a coarse, ragged, disturbing thing as ‘thought’ continue, while everything else has become so refined?

Let us consider again our Axiom 4: When words are abstracted, subtle aspects of the metaphier carry over to the metaphrand, while coarse aspects are left behind.

Sit again for a couple of minutes. This time, don’t be quiet: have a think. Look at what thinking is like. Raise a question: what is the nature of thought? Then stop: be silent: look at the space that reverberates after the words have ended.

When you think, the most obvious aspect, the coarsest aspect, is the verbalizations. But they don’t happen alone. There is a kind of lifting of the mind onto an object. This is normally quite subtle, and we don’t notice it because we are interested in the words. It becomes more obvious sometimes when you try to think about something, but your mind is not really interested. It’s as if you keep moving the mind towards that topic, but nothing much happens. You can also feel it when the words stop. The ‘thought’ in some sense is there, apart from the verbalizations. It’s a subverbal thought, a placing or hovering of the mind in a certain way.

This is what vitakka refers to in jhana. This is the subtle aspect of ‘thought’ that is carried over into jhana, when the coarse aspect, the verbalization, is left behind.

And as with vitakka, so with vicara. Vicara is the ‘exploring’ of something, and in ordinary language refers to wandering about a place on foot. Psychologically, it normally means a more sustained reflection or examination of a thought, a keeping in mind of the topic that vitakka has brought to mind. In jhana, it follows the same process. The coarse verbal reflection is long gone, and in its place is the gentle holding or pressing of the mind with its object.

Early definitions

Unfortunately, there are no further definitions of these terms in the very early strata of texts. However, in the next strata, the late sutta/early Abhidhamma phase, we do have definitions. Our first example comes from a sutta in the Majjhima Nikaya; on text-critical grounds, however, it seems this should be viewed as a proto-Abhidhamma work. Sankappa is defined in the Mahacattarisaka Sutta (MN 117) as takko vitakko saṅkappo appanā byappanā cetaso abhiniropanā vacīsaṅkhāro. Vitakka is included in this definition; and notice the last term, cetaso abhiniropanā, which means ‘application of the heart’.

The earliest Abhidhamma text, the Vibhanga, gives a similar definition of vitakka in the context of jhana: takko vitakko saṅkappo appanā byappanā cetaso abhiniropanā sammāsaṅkappo. This text also adds a similar definition of vicara: cāro vicāro anuvicāro upavicāro cittassa anusandhanatā anupekkhanatā. Notice the last terms here: ‘sustained (anu- application (sandh) of the mind, sustained (equanimous) observation (ikkh)’.

Don’t be fooled by the fact that these definitions include both ordinary and abstract terms. This is merely a feature of the Abhidhamma definitions in general. They are concerned to show the range of meanings that terms have in different contexts, so that one can understand what terms have the same or different meanings in various sutta passages. It is a means of referring to and defining terminology, and it is not meant to imply that they have the same meaning in all these cases. On the contrary;, the overall tendency of these definitions is exactly as we have been describing: they move from the relatively coarse to the relatively subtle.

Those who are proponents of the ‘vitakka always means thinking and nothing else’ school of interpretation will, of course, reject these texts as inauthentic. And they are quite right; I would not try to argue that these definitions came directly from the Buddha. But that does not mean that the definitions are wrong. They come from a time shortly after the Buddha, likely within a couple of hundred years, when the monks were still immersed in the early Suttas and, crucially, spoke Pali (or something very like it) as a native tongue. They had access to a far more diverse and richer linguistic context than we do, and their opinions must be taken seriously. While on a doctrinal level it is true we can see certain (minor) shifts from the Suttas to the early Abhidhamma, linguistically they belong to the same period, and we would need strong and clear grounds before rejecting their linguistic explanations.

The waywardness of language

Consider once more the process of the gradual abstraction of words from a more concrete metaphorical basis (metaphier) towards a more abstract metaphorical object (metaphrand); from the relatively coarse thing that provides the illumination to the relatively subtle thing that is illuminated. As we saw above, this process is largely arbitrary. Accidents of history, anthropology, and usage will influence which words get used in which sense, and this process will occur in different ways in different languages; and even within the same language.

One of the consequences of this arbitrariness is that there is a certain unpredictability, even obfuscation, in how abstract words are formed. The speaker intended certain aspects of the underlying metaphier to be carried across to the metaphrand, while the listener understood something else. This happens all the time, and is the main reason why, in any higher discipline, experts spend a lot of time arguing over terminology. We can’t simply agree on the meaning of a word by pointing to what it stands for and saying it.

One of the most intriguing ideas that Jaynes introduced was the notion of ‘paraphiers’ and ‘paraphrands’. These are unintended implications or connotations that are carried over from the original idea to the subsequent one. Central to Jaynes’ thesis, in fact, is the highly challenging notion that our ability to consciously reflect on ourselves as subjects arose in just such a way.

Leaving aside this intriguingly counter-intuitive idea, Jaynes’ essential point is that the paraphiers direct our attention in unexpected ways. And attention creates realities. This is not merely a matter of a kind of poetic allusion or idea. When our minds are drawn towards something—perhaps a new way of seeing or thinking—this creates a new world in our mind, and as we know from our basic Buddhism, such new mental worlds create the world outside.

In the context of jhana, the notion that vitakka always means thinking and nothing else creates realities in meditation. It encourages certain kinds of expectations and responses. By doing so it shapes the nature of the meditative experience. This in turn effects speech about meditation, and a whole range of more concrete realities: books, retreat centers, teaching careers, relationships, organizations.

This is another fascinating aspect of Jaynes’ theory. The process of abstraction creates powerful mental worlds that then become expressed in material forms, thus returning from the abstract to the concrete. The forms that emerge as expressions of the mind then serve to reinforce and validate the particular mental abstractions that gave rise to them in the first place. Jaynes discusses how this happens in religions through the creation of idols, temples, and the like. When enough people share an idea, they band together to create physical representations of their own mental world; and these physical representations in turn confirm and reinforce the idea.

It is in this way, I believe, that the innocent term vitakka has taken on a whole new life. In Pali it had a certain spectrum or flexibility of meaning, such that the Buddha could prod it out of its everyday meaning of ‘thought’ and tease it into a new meaning, ‘application of the mind on to its object in profound meditation’. The English word ‘thought’, however, lacks such flexibility, and remains stubbornly and exclusively verbal. When used as a metaphier for the less-knowable ancient word vitakka, the unexpected and unintended connotations of thought, its paraphiers, are transferred over.

The process of jhana is, at its heart, nothing more than the deepening stillness of the mind that lets go of all pre-occupations and worries. The Buddha used, as he must, everyday words to point to something that moved beyond the everyday. And it is no small irony that one of the crucial terms in this journey from perplexity to stillness, a word whose less edifying connotations include ‘doubt, speculation, the endless twists and turns of the mind’, has itself provoked such doubts and endless discussions.

About these ads

37 thoughts on “Why vitakka doesn’t mean ‘thinking’ in jhana

  1. Dear Bhante Sujato,

    When I start meditating I hear lots of sounds. I’m suppose to be mindful of those right? How can I be mindful when I hear lots of sounds/noises at the same time. Do I have to be mindful of all those sounds at the same time or do I have to pay attention to only one sound?

    I’m trying to follow Ajahn Brahm’s method of meditation. I only succeeded on 2 days. :’(

    Metta to you
    (sorry for asking this question in the wrong post)

  2. So do you agree with the book the experience of samadhi by Richard Shankman? I bought it but haven’t read it yet.

    Although i really enjoy your articles and books they also contribute to doubt. Ofcourse you have the best of intentions but your method of decontructing errors in translation etc just leaves me empty handed. The problem is that you do not deliver enough practical counterparts. For example, why not include a meditation manual in a swift pair of messengers?

    I think you pretty much agree with Ajahn Brahms views on jhana and i think he is probably right. But his mindfulness bliss and beyond book is so thick on religion that i find it almost unreadable. I’m devoted to Gotama Buddha. I believe in the dhamma because it works and yes i am willing to accept the buddhist idea of rebirth. However it is healthy to be critical and not to believe everything blindly that is written in these ancient texts. Ajahn Brahm seems to have forgotten that and i think this unnecessarily spoiles the book. It is not necesarry to present psychic powers and mind reading as absolute facts in a book about the jhanas.

    If i remember correctly you mentioned in one of your talks that there are essentially no english translations of suttas that are very good. Again that creates doubt for a practitioner that has no time to study pali. Look, if it’s true it’s true but then the more compassionate way is to deliver translations that are accurate.

    The work you are doing is very important but i can’t fail to mention that after reading this article my mind is consumed with thoughts of me having bought faulty translations of suttas by bhikkhu Bodhi and having no proper meditation manual.

    with metta,

    Gotamist

  3. I think I did well to get this far “But I’ve found that if you use a complex analysis of a problem, some people, understandably enough, don’t have time or interest to follow it through”

  4. _/\_

    Some references which you might find helpful. But nothing can beat having a teacher guiding in person.

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.118.than.html

    Mindfulness of In-&-Out Breathing
    “Now how is mindfulness of in-&-out breathing developed & pursued so as to be of great fruit, of great benefit?

    “There is the case where a monk, having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building, sits down folding his legs crosswise, holding his body erect, and setting mindfulness to the fore.[1] Always mindful, he breathes in; mindful he breathes out.

    “[1] Breathing in long, he discerns, ‘I am breathing in long’; or breathing out long, he discerns, ‘I am breathing out long.’ [2] Or breathing in short, he discerns, ‘I am breathing in short’; or breathing out short, he discerns, ‘I am breathing out short.’

    The Connected Discourses of the Buddha. A Translation of the Samyutta Nikaaya by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Part V: The Great Book (Mahaavagga) Chap. X Aanaapaanasamyutta: Connected Discourse on Breathing 1 (1) One Thing.

    Bhante Javanna Panna Thero;

    Mindfully, when sound comes to the ear, mind comes to receive. Mindfully, note hearing, hearing, hearing and return to the breath.

    Metta

  5. Hi Chester,

    No problem, your question is very welcome.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about the sounds. Let them just go through you. The idea that we should pay close attention to whatever sound arises is part of the Burmese approach to vipassana. If you want to still your mind, you don’t have to do that. Just let go and relax. Pay attention to your breath, or whatever meditation object you use. Let sounds take care of themselves. They’re not your problem. Let yourself be peaceful, and be content with whatever happens.

  6. The first word in the formula is viveka. This normally means physical seclusion; going away from others into the forest or a solitary spot. In jhana, however, it refers to a mental seclusion, where the mind turns away from the senses and withdraws into itself.

    At the early stage of first jhana, the mind turns attention away from objects arising at only five of the sense doors. Noise is more typically a problem for me at first than the subtle movements of mind that might be called “thought” in the early stage of first jhana. These movements are, in fact, helpful, and they only become a problem for me when other factors start to become more prominent nearer to the final stage of first jhana.

    Anyway, I agree with Bhante when he says that the English word “thought” lacks flexibility and that the Buddha took many words from everyday language and gave them subtle meanings.

  7. Hi Bhante,

    I think it’s worth noting that at the end of the introduction to the Connected Discourses of the Buddha, Bhikkhu Bodhi himself, in the passage “Other Changes” when Bhikkhu Bodhi talks about the change from ‘Initial and Sustained Application’ he himself stresses:
    “When vitakka is translated as ‘thought,’ however, a word of caution if necessary. In common usage, vitakka corresponds so closely to our ‘thought’ that no other rendering seems feasible; for example in kamavitakka, sensual thought, or it’s opposite, nekkhammavitakka, thought of renunciation. When, however, vitakka and vicara occur as constitutes of the first jhana, they do not exercise the function of discursive thinking characteristic of ordinary consciousness. Here, rather, vitakka is the mental factor with the function of applying the mind to the object, and vicara the factor with the function of examining the object nondiscursively in order to anchor the mind in the object”.

    I think this is a particularly useful factette to bop people over the head with if they are basing their belief that jhana contains thought simply on the basis of their confidence in Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translations.

    metta,
    Ven. Nandiya.

  8. Hi Gotamist,

    I nearly finished a reply to you yesterday, and then the power got cut. O, well.

    Let me answer your points one by one.

    do you agree with the book the experience of samadhi by Richard Shankman?

    I don’t know, I’ve not heard of this book. To be honest, i don’t read many books on Buddhism; just the Suttas and meditation, and keeping up with the academic work. Anyway, when you’ve had a read, let us know what you think.

    why not include a meditation manual in a swift pair of messengers?

    Because it was a book on the theory and texts of meditation, not a how-to. There’s lots of basic guides to meditation, and I’ve never felt any particular need to write another one. I also don’t connect, somehow, with writing about meditation experience. It’s something that comes easily in the spontaneity of a Dhamma talk, but for me writing is too structured, too deliberate. Maybe that’s why I don’t read books on meditation, either.

    However it is healthy to be critical and not to believe everything blindly that is written in these ancient texts. Ajahn Brahm seems to have forgotten that and i think this unnecessarily spoiles the book. It is not necesarry to present psychic powers and mind reading as absolute facts in a book about the jhanas.

    I would agree with this, although I haven’t read the book (been there live, much better!) I actually raised this with him a few days ago. Someone at one of his talks asked about whether there was any proof that devas existed, and he responded by saying yes, and then telling a story. I found this totally unconvincing. Who knows whether the story was true, but in any case we should expect a much higher standard of proof. Personally I think there is good evidence to establish that rebirth is a fact, but much less on the question of other realms.

    But to me it is a little unmannerly to criticize this too much; Ajahn Brahm does so many things so well. And anyway, how many monastics anywhere engage in a critical examination of such things?

    Ajahn Brahm and the community here in Bodhinyana are immersed in a culture that, while forward-thinking, is still close to its traditional community roots. After years in the more secular environment of Buddhism in Sydney, I came to understand a little better how alienating such ideas can be. This doesn’t mean they should be avoided (which is what too many teachers do) but for me it means that one should engage with directness and respect.

    you mentioned in one of your talks that there are essentially no english translations of suttas that are very good.

    No, I think you must have misheard. Actually most of the recent generation of translations have been excellent. Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translations will, I am convinced, become the timeless standard and will not be replaced as long as the English language remains as it is. (Which means we can look forward to a translation in the new world language, Chinglish, in a hundred years or so.) Other translators have also done a superb job, such as John Ireland, and KR Norman.

    But no translation is perfect, and if we are to understand the translation we must pay close attention to the methods and means of the translator, and especially to what they themselves say about their translations. As Ven Nandiya showed, Ven Bodhi himself has explained how he thinks vitakka and vicara should be understood.

    So I hope this has gone some way towards alleviating your doubts. The problem is, we don’t have choice. We can’t go back and just believe everything because the tradition says so. The only thing more absurd than that is the arch-scepticism of those who pretend we can’t know anything. This is nothing more than a refusal to understand; it’s a barren, fruitless desert of views.

    We have to stay true to reality, with all its doubts and complexities and confusions. There’s no easy answers, but thankfully there’s plenty of cheerful ones.

  9. So some further comments.

    I’ve thought more about the nature of ‘vitakka’ and ‘thought’. It seems that in terms of the basic meaning spectrum, vitakka is very close to the verb ‘think’. For example “I am thinking about that donut”, the mind is taking up the donut for reflection. “I think that would be a bad idea”, the pronoun ‘that’, is referring to something, which is being evaluated by the mind. “I thought it over”, the ‘it’ a pronoun referring to something.

    The tricky bit is that ‘thought’ or ‘thinking’ can also be used to refer to discursiveness of mind, almost precisely opposite in meaning to the previous uses I just cited which involve focus. “I can’t stop thinking in meditation”. Here the word ‘thinking’ is not taking any object at all. In this case ‘thinking’ is almost synonymous with the everyday expression ‘stream of consciousness’, in other words, the tendency of the mind to take up one thing after another.

    Frankly I lack the linguistic expertise to take this line of investigation further. I know there are nouns and verbs and participles involved…

    But I do know that when we speak of thinking about something, as in taking it up and holding it in mind, of focusing on something, the meaning is extremely close to vitakka, and even blends seamlessly into the meaning in jhana. The problem is the opposite meaning, discursiveness of mind, verbosity of mind. If in english, to think, only had the meaning of ‘thinking about something’, then it would work really well as a translation for vitakka, as then vitakka in first jhana would simply be a refinement of everyday vitakka. It is interesting to ask whether ‘vitakka’ ever has the meaning of ‘discursiveness of mind’ in pali. I looked up Analayo’s entry, and it seems to reference only uses of vitakka which takes an object or is focused on a theme (for good or for bad). There are also definitely good words which can be used for ‘discursive thinking’, such as papañca, and perhaps uddhacca and/or vicikiccha.

    So I think that this double-meaning of ‘to think’ in english is another complicating factor.

  10. While “vitakka” in the context of first jhana most likely has a far more subtle meaning than the “coarse, ragged, disturbing” type of everyday thinking, the Buddha probably did not mean total absence of thought either. Had he wanted to say that there is a complete absence of the movement of mind that is at the root of thinking, he would have said “avitakka” in reference to first jhana.

    Avitakka (adj.) [a + vitakka] free from thought D iii.219, 274; Th 2, 75 (“where reasonings cease” trsl.); Dhs 161 (“free from the working of conception” trsl.), 504 etc.

  11. Ahh, but there is a difference between the “movement of the mind that is at the root of thinking” and thinking, i.e. inner verbalizations. (Notwithstanding Ven Nadiya’s interesting remarks on this point.) That is what the nuance of “initial application” is getting at.

    And re the reference from the Pali Dictionary, that needs to be seen in light of the much fuller definition of vitakka itself, which actually introduces the idea “initial application”. In any case, the real issue is not what the dictionary says, because for all their strengths, the authors were not meditators. I mentioned it originally because some people dismiss the whole idea of “initial application” and I wanted to show that, at least, it has an impressive pedigree.

  12. Thank you for the reply. I went to the dictionary after taking a look at how samadhi and the jhana factors are described in Pali in the suttas. For first jhana, the Buddha used the terms “savitakka” and “savicāra.” And he used the terms “avitakka” and “avicāra” when describing what gets left behind upon leaving first jhana and abiding in second jhana. Not only do I agree with you on the whole idea of “initial application,” I’d take it a step further and say that there must be some movement of mind and some degree of subtle investigation in all of the jhanas, otherwise there would be no movement from one to the other and no recognition that what seemed subtle in first jhana turns out to appear coarse in second jhana, that what seemed subtle in second jhana turns out to appear coarse in third jhana, etc.

  13. Hi Gotamist,

    You may watch this dhamma talk on “Benefits of Reading the Suttas” by Ajahn brahmali. This talk might also answer some of your questions.

    Cheer

  14. Dear Bhante,

    “A similar situation is described in AN 3.101. There, the Buddha speaks of a meditator who abandons successively more refined forms of thought, until all that is left are ‘thoughts on the Dhamma’ (dhammavitakka). Even these most subtle of thoughts prevent one from realizing the true peace of samadhi, so they must be abandoned.”

    I prefer to translate dhammavitakka as “thoughts that accord with the Dhamma”. It is clear from the context that dhammavitakka here refer to wholesome thoughts, perhaps even including the vitakka of first jhāna. It is not clear to me, however, that “thoughts on the Dhamma” by nature must be wholesome.

    With metta.

  15. Sadhu Bhante,

    This is a valuable piece on a crucial aspect of the Buddha-Dhamma.Thanks for that.

    I think there is a typo in this part of the text:

    “Then there is the word akusala. Normally this means ‘unskilful’, as, for example, someone who is no good at a certain craft. One who is kusala, on the other hand, is clever and adroit. In the jhana formula, however, *kusala* includes any tendency of the mind that creates suffering.”

    It seems to me that instead of the *kusala* above it should be *akusala*, right?

    Kind regards,

    GNL

  16. Dear Bhante Sujato,

    Thank you for discussing the distinguishing characteristics of jhanna. I have read through this post several times because a few things just don’t sit right with me. Your speculative conclusions may very well be correct but your argument is unsound. You seem to be misrepresenting the Buddha and the dhamma when in your own words you say that “In the suttas

    Sujato> The primary source work is the Dvedhavitakka
    Sujato> Sutta (MN 19). This is where the Buddha talks in
    Sujato> most detail about vitakka …
    Sujato> The Buddha describes how he noticed that
    Sujato> thinking unwholesome thoughts leads to
    Sujato> suffering, while thinking wholesome thoughts
    Sujato> leads to happiness. And he further realized
    Sujato> that he could think wholesome thoughts nonstop
    Sujato> all day and night, which would not lead to
    Sujato> anything bad; but by so doing he could not make
    Sujato> his mind still in samadhi. So by abandoning even
    Sujato> wholesome thoughts he was able to enter on the
    Sujato> four jhanas.

    Perhaps you summarize from memory, but there is no such thing in MN 19, nor Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s translation to which you linked. The last several lines quoted above have no foundation in the text, which I quote below (brackets and ellipses [...] are mine):

    [11] MN19-TB> “Whatever a monk keeps pursuing with his
    MN19-TB> thinking & pondering, that becomes the
    MN19-TB> inclination of his awareness. If a monk keeps
    MN19-TB> pursuing thinking imbued with [renunciation,
    MN19-TB> non-ill will, harmlessness] abandoning thinking
    MN19-TB> imbued with [sensuality, ill will, harmfulness]
    MN19-TB> his mind is bent by that thinking imbued with
    MN19-TB> [renunciation, non-ill will, harmlessness].
    MN19-TB>
    [12] MN19-TB> “Just as … a cowherd … simply keeps himself
    MN19-TB> mindful of ‘those cows.’ In the same way, I simply
    MN19-TB> kept myself mindful of ‘those mental qualities.’
    MN19-TB>
    [13] MN19-TB> “Unflagging persistence was aroused in me, and
    MN19-TB> unmuddled mindfulness established. My body was
    MN19-TB> calm & unaroused, my mind concentrated & single.
    MN19-TB> Quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from
    MN19-TB> unskillful mental qualities, I entered & remained
    MN19-TB> in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from
    MN19-TB> withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought &
    MN19-TB> evaluation. With the stilling of directed
    MN19-TB> thoughts & evaluations, I entered & remained in
    MN19-TB> the second jhana

    Whatever you may believe about the meaning of vitakka or the Buddha’s intentions does not change the simple clarity in the sutta that skilful ‘stuff’ enters and remains in the first jhana. It is only in the second jhana that this ‘stuff’ is stilled. I agree the vitakka’ing of ‘those cows’ is not what we would normally ‘think of’ by the English word ‘thinking’. But I don’t think we need to read anything more into the topic than was said by the Buddha himself. The first jhanna includes wholesome skillful thinking just as a cowherd ‘thinks on’ or is mindful of his cows. Upon entering the second jhana however, the cows could be dancing tango without our awareness.

    [MN 19 : 12] Seyyathaapi, bhikkhave, gimhaana.m pacchime maase sabbasassesu gaamantasambhatesu gopaalako gaavo rakkheyya. Tassa rukkhamuulagatassa vaa abbhokaasagatassa vaa satikara.niiyameva hoti: eta.m gaavoti. Evam eva kho bhikkhave satikara.niiyameva ahosi: ete dhammaati.|| ||
    [MN 19 : 13] Aaraddha.m kho pana me bhikkhave viriya.m ahosi asalliina.m. Upa.t.thitaa sati asammu.t.thaa. Passaddho kaayo asaaraddho. Samaahita.m citta.m ekagga.m.|| ||
    [MN 19 : 14] So kho aha.m bhikkhave vivicc’eva kaamehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakka.m savicaara.m vivekaja.m piiti-sukha.m pa.thama.m-jhaana.m upasampajja vihaasi.m.|| ||
    [MN 19 : 15] Vitakkavicaaraana.m vuupasamaa ajjhatta.m sampasaadana.m cetaso ekodibhaava.m avitakka.m avicaara.m samaadhija.m piiti-sukha.m dutiya.m-jhaana.m upasampajja vihaasi.m.|| ||

    Cheers,
    Alex

  17. Hi Alex,

    Thanks for the comment, and thanks for taking the time to quote the passage you’re referring to, this is very helpful.

    You are quite right, I was making a quick summary from memory, so for more details we needto look more closely at the text itself. But the parts of the text that I was thinking of were not the ones you quote, which may be the source of the difficulty. Here is the full Pali text of the passage, followed by a summary of the relevant portions:

    So evaṃ pajānāmi – ‘uppanno kho me ayaṃ avihiṃsāvitakko. So ca kho nevattabyābādhāya saṃvattati, na parabyābādhāya saṃvattati, na ubhayabyābādhāya saṃvattati, paññāvuddhiko avighātapakkhiko nibbānasaṃvattaniko’. Rattiṃ cepi naṃ, bhikkhave, anuvitakkeyyaṃ anuvicāreyyaṃ, neva tatonidānaṃ bhayaṃ samanupassāmi. Divasaṃ cepi naṃ, bhikkhave, anuvitakkeyyaṃ anuvicāreyyaṃ, neva tatonidānaṃ bhayaṃ samanupassāmi. Rattindivaṃ cepi naṃ, bhikkhave, anuvitakkeyyaṃ anuvicāreyyaṃ, neva tatonidānaṃ bhayaṃ samanupassāmi. Api ca kho me aticiraṃ anuvitakkayato anuvicārayato kāyo kilameyya. Kāye kilante cittaṃ ūhaññeyya. Ūhate citte ārā cittaṃ samādhimhāti. So kho ahaṃ, bhikkhave, ajjhattameva cittaṃ saṇṭhapemi, sannisādemi, ekodiṃ karomi samādahāmi. Taṃ kissa hetu? ‘Mā me cittaṃ ūhaññī’ti. ‘‘Yaññadeva, bhikkhave, bhikkhu bahulamanuvitakketi anuvicāreti, tathā tathā nati hoti cetaso. Nekkhammavitakkañce, bhikkhave, bhikkhu bahulamanuvitakketi anuvicāreti, pahāsi kāmavitakkaṃ, nekkhammavitakkaṃ bahulamakāsi, tassaṃ taṃ nekkhammavitakkāya cittaṃ namati. Abyāpādavitakkañce, bhikkhave…pe… avihiṃsāvitakkañce, bhikkhave, bhikkhu bahulamanuvitakketi anuvicāreti, pahāsi vihiṃsāvitakkaṃ, avihiṃsāvitakkaṃ bahulamakāsi, tassa taṃ avihiṃsāvitakkāya cittaṃ namati. Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, gimhānaṃ pacchime māse sabbasassesu gāmantasambhatesu gopālako gāvo rakkheyya , tassa rukkhamūlagatassa vā abbhokāsagatassa vā satikaraṇīyameva hoti – ‘etā ete (ka.) gāvo’ti. Evamevaṃ kho, bhikkhave, satikaraṇīyameva ahosi – ‘ete dhammā’ti. 211. ‘‘Āraddhaṃ kho pana me, bhikkhave, vīriyaṃ ahosi asallīnaṃ, upaṭṭhitā sati asammuṭṭhā , passaddho kāyo asāraddho, samāhitaṃ cittaṃ ekaggaṃ. So kho ahaṃ, bhikkhave, vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaṃ savicāraṃ vivekajaṃ pītisukhaṃ paṭhamaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja vihāsiṃ.

    I understood: “I have a thought of non-harm. This does not lead to affliction for myself or others, increases wisdom, and leads to nibbana.” I could keep on thinking and reflecting (anuvitakketi anuvicareti) in this way all day and night and see no fear in that. But by thinking and reflecting too long my body gets tired, the mind is distressed, and one is far from samadhi. So I settled, stabilized, unified, and stilled (samadahati) my mind internally. Whatever the mind keeps on thing and reflecting on a lot, there the mind inclines…. (simile of the cowherd)… In the same way, I just had to be mindful, “these dhammas”. My energy was aroused, mindfulness established, body tranquil, mind unified and still, I enetered on and abode in the first jhana, with vitakka and vicara….”

    So the text is clear. Thinking continually distresses the body and mind; which is perfectly verifiable in all of our meditation experience! So he abandoned thinking and reflecting (vitakka, vicara), and stilled the mind, i.e. went into jhana. The passage on “energy aroused” and so on is, of course, the normal description of the process of entering jhana. And, to repeat the main argument of the article, as soon as we start the jhana formula, every single term has a more refined meaning than in everyday language: “seclusion” means mental solitude, not physical aloneness; “kama” is the subtle pleasure of sense experience, not sex and food; and so on. We have shifted from one of the basic aspects of the path–right thought–to the most advanced–right samadhi. So this passage is really just making clear what should be obvious throughout: vitakka and vicara have different, more subtle and refined, meanings in the more subtle and refined context of jhana.

  18. Hi Sujato, Haven’t looked at your blog for a while, but there are some really good posts lately I must try to catch up on.

    Re the etymology of P. takka / Skt. tarka. Mayrhofer’s Concise Etymological Dictionary of Sanskrit (in German) also relates tarka to a root tark ‘turn’ (drehen). Whitney lists this root only as ‘think’ and suggests it might be a denominative (from tarku ‘spindle’?)

    However take a look at the entry for “thwart” in the Online Etymology Dictionary: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=thwart&allowed_in_frame=0

    The PIE Root in OEtD is *twork-/*twerk- and related to the Skt word tarku ‘spindle’. Mayrhofer confirms that tarka and the verb tarkayatu are cognates.

    The American Heritage Etymological Dictionary lists *terkw ‘to twist’. Pokorny *terk (with variants: trek-, tork-, trok- ) – http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/lrc/ielex/X/P2009.html AHED speculates on the relationship with t(w)erk.

    Here I think we have confirmation; PIE *terkw > Skt. tarku is one easy hop. PED is obviously on slightly the wrong track, which is unusual, but all this work is quite speculative and more recent sources are generally more reliable.

    It would interesting to explore the metaphorical connection of twisting to thought, but intuitively I think it works.

    Best Wishes
    jayarava

  19. That’s fascinating, thanks. Twisting thought makes perfect sense, of course, to us, but as you say the metaphorical origins are not that obvious.

    On another topic, how’s your work on Babylonian connections going?

  20. My article on a possible Iranian connection for the Śākyas was published in the Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, Vol.3 2012.

    You may recall that I found the Babylonian connection implausible. I never did find any evidence for it.

  21. Dear Sujato

    I don’t understand the point of this post. The semantic range that you outline for “vitakka” and “vicara” is the same as that of the English word “thought”. The range covers not only verbal mental activity but also non-verbal mental activity and the selective training and focussing of attention on particular topics or objects. You just have to be clear which part of the range you mean to as not to be misunderstood.

    You use the word that way yourself: “It’s as if you keep moving the mind towards that topic, but nothing much happens. You can also feel it when the words stop. The ‘thought’ in some sense is there, apart from the verbalizations. It’s a subverbal thought, a placing or hovering of the mind in a certain way.”

    This disproves what you say later: “The English word ‘thought’, however, lacks such flexibility, and remains stubbornly and exclusively verbal.” Obviously not, even in your own usage in this post.

    Regards

    David

  22. Thanks, David, that’s a fair point. Something similar was pointed out by Ven Nandiya earlier. Perhaps it would be better to say that “thought” in English, while potentially having a similar range to vitakka, tends to be interpreted as exclusively verbal.

  23. In quoting your section entitled “In the Suttas” above, I erred on the side of too much context. I accept your loose summary up to and including that the [Bodhisatta] “could think wholesome thoughts nonstop all day and night, which would not lead to anything bad; but by so doing he could not make his mind still …” but you continued with:

    >> “… in samadhi. So by abandoning
    >> even wholesome thoughts he was
    >> able to enter on the four jhanas.”

    There is no mention in MN 19 of abandoning wholesome thoughts prior to entering the first jhana (and it should go without saying that the first jhana precedes the fourth). Rather the Bodhisatta abandons sensual un-wholesome thoughts and abandons the “tap & poke & check & curb”-ing of his mind as a cowherd fearing punishment hits his cows “with a stick on this side & that”.

    In fact, immediately prior to entering the first jhana, the sutta discusses inclining one’s awareness to [renunciation, non-ill will, harmlessness] by “pursuing thinking imbued with [renunciation, non-ill will, harmlessness]” like a cowherd resting under the shade of a tree looking after his cows, “In the same way, I simply kept myself mindful of ‘those mental qualities.’”

    You make the same mistake in your summarised response:

    >> (simile of the cowherd)… In the same way,
    >> I just had to be mindful, “these dhammas”.
    >> My energy was aroused, mindfulness established,
    >> body tranquil, mind unified and still, I
    >> enetered on and abode in the first jhana,
    >> with vitakka and vicara…”
    >
    > So the text is clear. Thinking continually
    > distresses the body and mind; which is perfectly
    > verifiable in all of our meditation experience!
    > So he abandoned thinking and reflecting (vitakka,
    > vicara), and stilled the mind, i.e. went into jhana.

    I must allow you to withdraw that statement because it is precisely false and contradicts your own translation. The Buddha does not abandon vitakka and vicara in the first jhana.

    If you replaced most instances of ‘thinking’ in your post with your own personal English definition of ‘verbal’ mental qualities there would be no confusion as to what you mean. Thereafter, we could discuss what the Buddha meant by ‘vitakka’.

  24. In MN 19, immediately before entering jhana, the last line of [12] is (ete dhammā ti) corresponding exactly with the simile/cowherd’s (etaṃ gāvo ti) two lines above. Now, I won’t go so far as to claim “ti” is precisely the same as “vitakka” or “thought”, but it is at least somewhat and most often verbal and English translators have little option but to quote it as in “those cows” or “these dhammas”. It’s interesting then to note other suttas where for example Sāriputta ti’nks “neither-perception-nor-non-perception” ti or “‘there is a further escape” ti.

  25. Hi Alex,

    Thanks for this, it’s made me look more closely at what the Sutta is saying, although I’m still not entirely sure I understand all your points.

    The thing about “abandoning even wholesome thoughts”, you are quite right, the sutta does not say this explicitly: but surely that is the intent of the passage.

    But by thinking and reflecting too long my body gets tired, the mind is distressed, and one is far from samadhi. So I settled, stabilized, unified, and stilled (samadahati) my mind internally.

    This is of course made explicit in the other sutta I quoted originally.

    I think the reason we are seeing the sutta differently is a structural problem, which may be due to the way the sutta is edited. As we have it, the text says that he entered samadhi (the passage quoted above), then a reflection on how thinking much creates habits of mind, then the (second) cow simile, ending with “I was mindful, “These dhammas”.

    It then goes on to speak of entering samadhi again, this time leading into it with a stock passage, “My energy was aroused…”

    When I read this, I do not read too much of a connection between the “much thinking/cow simile” section and the samadhi section (because the samadhi section occurs independently many times). In other words, I do not think that being mindful of “These dhammas” has any particular relationship with entering samadhi, it just happens to come before it in the text. (Wheareas normally, of course, one is not simply mindful of wholesome thoughts to enter jhana, one has to develop a meditation object.)

    It also seems to me that, because of the separation between the two mentions of samadhi, the sequence of events is not entirely clear, and may have been disordered. I have checked Analayo’s study, and there is indeed some difference between the two versions here, but I am not able to tell from how he describes it whether it is relevant for this particular point. (The study is interesting in a number of other respects, though, including an interesting discussion of vitakka: the Chinese used two different terms for vitakka in and out of jhana.)

    So I read the Sutta as saying:

    1. If we divide thoughts into wholesome and unwholesome we should abandon unwholesome and think only wholesome. Which is good,

    2. But we still can’t get into samadhi if we are thinking.

    3. So the mind is settled in samadhi, following the usual sequence of energy, mindfulness, tranquillity (Implied in this is that even wholesome thoughts have been abandoned.)

    Whereas, if I understand you correctly, you see more of an organic connection between the “much thinking/cow simile” section and the samadhi section. Is that right? If so, I have already given my reasons above why I don’t think this is the case.

  26. Dhamma Greetings Venerable Sujato,

    sure, vitakkā does not have to remain exclusively verbal. But also, it does not necessarily has got to do with the object of meditation, nor does vicāra. There is no evidence for a meaning like‘application of the mind on to its object in profound meditation’. It’s meaning is general and also can be applied for mind’s movements not related to the object of meditation. What do you think?

    Much Mettā,
    Mirco

  27. Hi Mirco,

    Okay, that’s a good point, but I’m not sure what you’re suggesting this implies. What else could it mean? There must be some relation between the ordinary language meaning and the higher meaning. And the evolution from one to the other should be natural within the context of meditation experience (as, for example, the evolution from coarse to refined forms of sukha).

    Regarding “mind” and “object”, incidentally, I would rephrase that now: I have come to think that the notion of “object” is entirely alien to Early Buddhism.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s