Sutta Study Discussion Theme 4­-2-­16

From Craving to Liberation, From Grasping to Emptiness: Excursions into the Thought­World of the Pali Discourses by Bhikkhu Analayo, Chapter 11, Thought/Vitakka, pages 118 ­- 131

Sections to be read outloud:
11.2 Beginning on top of page 121 until end on page 123
11.5 The whole section

Discussion Theme:
The Buddha suggested that we take a pragmatic attitude toward the thoughts that arise
and cease in the mind -­ in other words we should relate to thoughts as capable of being
both skillful and unskillful. Ultimately, we are awakening to what is beyond thought.
However, this awakening happens within the context of a mind with deep habits of
thinking.

The Buddha instructs, first and foremost, that we learn to distinguish between unskillful
and skillful thoughts (see comments on the Buddha’s teaching on right intention on
page 119) and then to learn how to weaken and remove unskillful thoughts from the
heart and to develop and maintain skillful thoughts. Without developing this foundational
set of skills, the mind will not be able to settle down. Without settling down into a more
clear and stable place, the mind will not be able to discern the empty nature of the
conditional unfolding of mind and body.

These skills are learnt best by first addressing the grossest level of disruption and then
gradually addressing the remaining disturbances as each of the grosser levels are
abandoned. Venerable Analayo outlines the priority order at the top of page 123:
– First, thoughts related to overt unwholesome conduct
– Then, thoughts tinged by some degree of sensuality or anger
– Followed by distracted thoughts not indicative of sensuality or anger
– And finally, wholesome thoughts related to the Dhamma (Remember these
thoughts might have been quite useful at earlier stages of the practice.)

This month, let us renew our interest in taking responsibility for this ocean of mental
activity we call thinking. How might we best apply the mind now? How might we learn to
apply the mind in ways that leads beyond any limitations the mind has constructioned?

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