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Thinking [in words]

See also Vicara


See discussions: "Rethinking Vitakka"
Words and Thoughts
SN 2.21.1: Moggallāna describes how vitakka and vicara obstructed his ability to sustain the second jhāna
MN 111 §6-10: where various factors of jhāna including perception, wanting, and mental study remain even after vitakka and vicara have been suppressed.
MN 19: where vitakka and vicara are described as of two sorts, those concerning unskillful states which should be suppressed and those which cause no fear, but which, nevertheless, if overdone, cause bodily fatigue. The simile likens vitakka and vicara to cows that need to be restrained but once restrained can be managed by mindfulness.
DN 34 §5.9 which does not mention vitakka and vicara specifically but which describes situations of verbal thinking in a context identical to the first jhana.

Pāḷi MO Hare Horner Punnaji Bodhi Nanamoli Rhys Davids (Mrs)Rhys Davids Thanissaro Walshe Woodward
Vitakkā thinking, re-thinking, thought, word-thought speculative thought [AN 7.50], applied thought, reflections, thought, perceptions initial thought, thought, thoughts conceptual thought (with vicara) thinking, applied thought applied thought mental application, thoughts thoughts, initial application directed thought thinking


Pāḷi Text Society
Pāḷi English Dictionary
Edited by T. W. Rhys Davids and William Stede


Vitakka: [vi+takka] reflection, thought, thinking; "initial application".... - kāma-, vihiṃsā-, vyāpāda- (sensual, malign, cruel thought): D III.226; S II.151 sq.; III.93; A I.148, 274 sq.; II.16, 117, 252; III.390, 428. Opp. nekkhamma-, avyāpāda-, avihiṃsā- A I.275; II.76; III.429. - vitakka is often combd with vicāra or "initial and sustained application" Mrs. Rh. D.; Cpd. 282; "reflection and investigation" Rh. D.; to denote the whole of the mental process of thinking (viz. fixing one's attention and reasoning out, or as Cpd. 17 expls it "vitakka is the directing of concomitant properties towards the object; vicāra is the continued exercise of the mind on that object."... Both are properties of the first jhāna (called sa-vitakka sa-vicāra) but are discarded in the second jhāna (called a-). See e. g. D. I.37; S IV.360 sq.; A IV.300; Vin III.4;... Note. Looking at the combn vitakka+vicāra in earlier and later works one comes to the conclusion that they were once used to denote one and the same thing: just thought, thinking, only in an emphatic way (as they are also semantically synonymous), and that one has to take them as one expression, like jānāti passati, without being able to state their difference. With the advance in the Saṅgha of intensive study of terminology they became distinguished mutually. Vitakka became the inception of mind, or attending, and was no longer applied, as in the Suttas, to thinking in general. The explns of Commentators are mostly of an edifying nature and based more on popular etymology than on natural psychological grounds.


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