stopping thought completely

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

Re: stopping thought completely

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Wed Dec 19, 2012 4:33 am

Jinzang wrote:As you get better at practice thoughts get fewer and further apart. There are gaps between your thoughts. It's easy for someone who craves this to fall into a subtle dullness which is thought free but lacks the clarity that meditation is supposed to have. The remedy is to keep a balance between concentration and alertness, something which is learned through practice. This is explained in the standard texts on shamatha meditation. Which is the only reason I know this, as my own meditation practice is very poor.

^^^

Good advise.

The "increasing space between the thoughts" is a metaphor often used by the teachers - I also find useful the idea that the entire aggregate of mental thoughts as a whole, slowly subsides, until it is very, very difficult to discern at all, if it is even there. However I think some of you peeps are saying that as soon as awareness kicks back in the silence is lost. I am a mere beginner however I would really strongly suggest that this is incorrect - awareness is never lost. IMHO the whole trick is to maintain awareness very steadily, as Jinzang says, between dullness and agitation, as the whole thought aggregate calms down. It's totally, totally possible to do this. The result is a profound (and profoundly odd) experience of groundlessness. Good ol' emptiness. Nice tasty and delicious silence. And the more you can maintain this shamatha, the deeper and deeper into awareness and emptiness you can go.

There are two main obstacles to the tranquility of the mind. One is becoming too relaxed and the other is becoming too tense. When we become too relaxed, we start to follow our thoughts and become absorbed in them. When we are too tense, we make too much effort focusing on the idea of concentrating and being tranquil so that in the end our mind cannot remain tranquil and we become distracted. We have to constantly try to find the balance between being too tense and too relaxed by finding just the right amount of effort to put into our meditation. Saraha, a great mahasiddha, said that when we meditate, the mind should be like a thread of the Brahmin. In India the Brahmins used to spin a lot of thread. If one puts too much tension on it, the thread breaks. If the thread is too loose, then it won't be strong enough. In the same way, when we meditate, the mind should maintain the right amount of alertness; neither too tight, nor too loose.
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby viniketa » Wed Dec 19, 2012 4:46 am

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:...awareness is never lost. IMHO the whole trick is to maintain awareness very steadily, as Jinzang says, between dullness and agitation, as the whole thought aggregate calms down. It's totally, totally possible to do this. The result is a profound (and profoundly odd) experience of groundlessness.


Yes, this is a very nice description. The "groundlessness" experience does eventually subside as this samādhi becomes the "ground". Needless to say, I'm aways from that at this point.

:namaste:
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Dec 19, 2012 7:00 am

Right "abandon hope and fear" I heard somewhere recently..

Vinetka, I get what you are saying - I wasn't thinking of stuff like deep shamatha states as "thought" - mainly just discrete entities that can be labelled as thoughts, though maybe even that is a grey area. Also, "for the sake of argument" was meant as an expression lol, I don't really want one either.
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby Azidonis » Wed Dec 19, 2012 7:04 am

viniketa wrote:
Azidonis wrote:I would be interesting in seeing that instruction.


It could be some time before I can retrieve it, if I can retrieve it.

Azidonis wrote:As I understand it, when the subject and object (observer/observed, thinker/thought) unite and dissolve, everything goes bye-bye. Then it comes back.

When it first happened to me, the subject and object became each other for an instant, and then there was no awareness at all, period. Then, some time later (I have no idea how long), everything came back gradually. Awareness was much different for a time, until the experience "wore off".


Yes, this "gap" can become consuming. It may or may not be accompanied by this "subject and object became each other" recollection. There is no awareness. The "different awareness", afterward, is what some term "meditative equipoise" which they try to "stretch" into daily life.

My teacher taught this is not the high samādhi - not the dharmamegha - and one should avoid becoming trapped there. If there is no awareness, there is no compassion, no bliss, no nothing.

I apologize for not having references ready at hand.

:namaste:


I wholeheartedly agree with your teacher!

When I said this, "The realization occurs that one could verily "make samadhi" on anything at all. Such a realization can bring one to the meaning of emptiness, impermanence, and the stability within change," I meant to infer that the practices do not stop there. It's not the "end of the road". I wouldn't even dare say it is a kind of enlightenment. It's more of a next step along the path.

The first time it happened (April 2011), the meanings weren't apparent. It was after noting, that when everything does come back, it all comes back at once, not in pieces. Because of this I learned the meaning of pratityasamutpada.

But, I remembered, "If you see Buddha on the road, kill him."

So, I used "neti neti", and went past the experiences. Also, the Surangama Sutra helped a lot. The entire ordeal really fueled a desire to learn more about Buddhism, as Buddhism seemed to be the only religon/philosophy/whatever-you-want-to-call-it that explained it both satisfactorily and clearly, while providing assistance with the next phases.

One thing that is good to keep in mind, I think, when going through them, is to know a set of checks and balances, things that help "keep you grounded". Otherwise, one might get lost in the samadhis and not come back! :)
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby futerko » Wed Dec 19, 2012 9:41 am

Just as phenomena are unsatisfactory, the same applies to thoughts/words. Every word/thought takes its meaning from other words and we start to get caught up in the network of interdependent origination - getting caught in Mara's web, so when we start to follow thoughts it starts to appear as if we have an aim (discursiveness), but really the cycle is endless as the only "thing" which anchors meaning can only be found by its absence from the network (i.e. no self).
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby lowlydog » Wed Dec 19, 2012 11:39 am

Thought is time (past and future), the practice of meditation is to simply be present.

As ones mind sharpens and concentrates gaps between thoughts widen, if the mind is perfectly pure (just for an instant, no time),

Nibbana.
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby futerko » Wed Dec 19, 2012 11:58 am

lowlydog wrote:Thought is time (past and future), the practice of meditation is to simply be present.

As ones mind sharpens and concentrates gaps between thoughts widen, if the mind is perfectly pure (just for an instant, no time),

Nibbana.


There are 3 times, present also being one of them.
If thoughts were self-contained, with gaps in between, then they would not be subject to dependent origination, is that what you are suggesting here?
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby lowlydog » Wed Dec 19, 2012 12:11 pm

Hi futerko,

I would not call the present moment "time", time is derived from thought(concept).

No "I" to concieve in the absolute present.
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby futerko » Wed Dec 19, 2012 12:38 pm

lowlydog wrote:Hi futerko,

I would not call the present moment "time", time is derived from thought(concept).

No "I" to concieve in the absolute present.


Surely time is derived from the perception of cause and effect?
Thoughts as empty phenomena leading to dependent origination means that there is no separate layer of emptiness/gaps between them, but rather the gap in internal to the thought itself.
As a teleology only appears due to the appearance of an aim - an illusory effect of causality - then stopping the eternal cycle means that even the present becomes a meaningless concept in this case...
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby lowlydog » Wed Dec 19, 2012 1:43 pm

futerko wrote:
lowlydog wrote:Hi futerko,

I would not call the present moment "time", time is derived from thought(concept).

No "I" to concieve in the absolute present.


Surely time is derived from the perception of cause and effect?
Thoughts as empty phenomena leading to dependent origination means that there is no separate layer of emptiness/gaps between them, but rather the gap in internal to the thought itself.
As a teleology only appears due to the appearance of an aim - an illusory effect of causality - then stopping the eternal cycle means that even the present becomes a meaningless concept in this case...


Ya lost me, buddy??? :smile:
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby seeker242 » Wed Dec 19, 2012 2:08 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Can you do this?

I often hear people talk about states of clarity with no thought...I have never done this.

My thoughts are always going, I can view them, kind of makes them go "poof" by analyzing their qualities, I can detach from them and just watch them, sometimes it seems like I can move "far away" from them to a kind of stillness, but they are always there in one form or another, even if it's just self-referencing thoughts of knowing I am doing meditation - even if I try to not actively meditate, and just sit this is there most of the time. Sometimes I do try to just sit with no thought of what i'm doing, this is the closest i've gotten.. I can keep a state like this for a couple minutes, but eventually concentration starts to slowly wain.

Also, if one does succeed in not having thought at all, how does one know the difference between simple thought-free clarity or just obliviousness?


I would not say that "thought stopping" is something that "you do". But rather something that just happens by itself with continued practice in meditation. Trying to "stop thoughts" is itself a thought and you really can't stop thinking by engaging in thinking.
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby futerko » Wed Dec 19, 2012 2:27 pm

lowlydog wrote:
futerko wrote:
lowlydog wrote:Hi futerko,

I would not call the present moment "time", time is derived from thought(concept).

No "I" to concieve in the absolute present.


Surely time is derived from the perception of cause and effect?
Thoughts as empty phenomena leading to dependent origination means that there is no separate layer of emptiness/gaps between them, but rather the gap in internal to the thought itself.
As a teleology only appears due to the appearance of an aim - an illusory effect of causality - then stopping the eternal cycle means that even the present becomes a meaningless concept in this case...


Ya lost me, buddy??? :smile:


maybe another way of putting it... just as meditation on a single object can lead one to realise emptiness, the same can be done with a single thought...
so there are 2 possible paths to take, the "normal" one, where one thought leads to another thought and we follow the train of thoughts and get caught in an endless cycle...
or if we take a single thought as a meditation object, gain insight into its empty nature - that is the gap "between" thoughts...

So its not like there are two layers, one of thought and one of non-thought... but instead, the "non-thought" is actually part of thought itself - in the same way as there aren't two separate truths of emptiness and dependant origination, but in fact a unity of the two.
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby lowlydog » Wed Dec 19, 2012 3:46 pm

Hi futerko,
As seeker 242 pointed out, you can't stop thinking by engaging in thinking.

The object of meditation is very important it must be one free from craving, the breath or bodily sensations work well as you don't have to imagine them you just have to remain aware of them.

The "normal" or old habit pattern of the mind is to blindly react to these thoughts and emotions, constantly creating layers of ego(mental formations), with awareness and a calm balanced mind we simply observe this process, and not react to it. When the mind is pure the gates open.

I don't really understand your layers of thought comment, I'm not critisising it, but it seems a bit complex for my underdeveloped brain. I'm not being a smart ass here, I'm just not that studious and am having a hard time following your comment.

Makes mongo's head hurt :smile:
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby viniketa » Wed Dec 19, 2012 4:05 pm

lowlydog wrote:you can't stop thinking by engaging in thinking


What is visualization if not thought? A thought can be an "object" of one-pointed meditation.

Queequeg wrote:relevant?


Indeed. One would be fortunate to have Daniel Ingram as a teacher. :smile:

:namaste:
If they can sever like and dislike, along with greed, anger, and delusion, regardless of their difference in nature, they will all accomplish the Buddha Path.. ~ Sutra of Complete Enlightenment
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby futerko » Wed Dec 19, 2012 4:59 pm



Thanks, I feel like I'm drowning in words now! :tongue:
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby wayland » Wed Dec 19, 2012 5:32 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Alot of times I feel like calm abiding is disturbed by thoughts about non-thought, or self-referencing thoughts about mediation..if that makes any sense.

Hi Johnny,
It's good that you're aware of what's going on.
I guess I need to just relax a bit.

Yeah but you can't 'force' yourself to relax, so a good thing to do in the mean time is just observe (dispassionately) what is churning around in there. And maybe just be aware of your breath.

the purpose is not to be free of thought or anything.

Agree.

For the sake of argument, how would you classify non-conceptual thought?

I wouldn't do that. It's just laying a bit more papanca onto it. :smile:
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby Azidonis » Wed Dec 19, 2012 5:38 pm

Looks like the thread went from practical experience, to theory.

If you try to stop it, it gains momentum and doesn't stop.

Why would the thing who's illusory existence depends upon perpetuation and continuation willingly stop itself? It wouldn't.

One can't just drop it. It has to fall away on its own.

As for time, past is just a memory, and future is never a reality. The only moment is now, and thought cannot abide in the now, as all thought is past tense.
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby futerko » Wed Dec 19, 2012 5:41 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:For the sake of argument, how would you classify non-conceptual thought?


There is a nice download here listing the cetasikas (mental states) and showing how some do not require an agency - a thought without a thinker.
http://archive.org/details/Cetasikas
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Re: stopping thought completely

Postby Azidonis » Wed Dec 19, 2012 5:46 pm

futerko wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:For the sake of argument, how would you classify non-conceptual thought?


There is a nice download here listing the cetasikas (mental states) and showing how some do not require an agency - a thought without a thinker.
http://archive.org/details/Cetasikas


Are you sure? The description says:

"Cetasika means belonging to the mind. It is a mental factor which accompanies consciousness (citta) and experiences an object."

The experiencer is the thinker. I'll give it a read though.
_________________________

Edit: I'm reading the book in the link. Thus far, it's marvelous. I've found where some confusion may exist, and want to address it now, before reading further.

I said the experiencer is the thinker. By this, I'm not implying a self. On page 15, in Chapter I, the author says this, "It will help us to understand in theory that citta and cetasikas act according to their own conditions, and that an abiding agent who could direct mental activities is not to be found."

The abiding agent that is not found would be the self. But it is not found, not there, hence no self. I do not disagree with that. However, what is searching? That's what I'm talking about when I say the thinker. I'm not talking about a central core, or self, or Atman, or any of that. I'm talking strictly about a something that perceives any of the phenomena, and calling it the thinker.

That is not to indicate that a thinker is actually "in there somewhere". It's not. The awareness of arisings then cognated is the thinker.

If the bird chirps, I do not say in my head, "That was a bird, and it just chirped." I do not say anything in my head about it. But, the moment that I do recognize that something, anything, has occurred, there is also something that is recognizing the occurrence. I do not think it is a self, but rather that the thinker is a reflection or creation of thought.

If thought is a mirror, and any perception that occurs inside is but a reflection of what has occurred outside, then the thinker too is a mirror, attempting to examine the mirror of thought. Instead of reflecting the nature of reality, it is reflecting what occurs on the mirror.

I don't know if this is a clear way to put it, but just trying to explain what I mean by 'thinker', and that I am not meaning 'self' when I say it.
____________________
Edit 2:

In Chapter 2, he says, "A citta cannot arise alone, it has to be accompanied by cetasikas. When there is seeing citta cognizes visible object and the cetasikas which accompany the citta also experience visible object. The citta is the “leader”, while the cetasikas which share the same object perform each their own task."

It is possible that what he is calling citta I am calling thinker, but I'm not quite sure they are the same.
Last edited by Azidonis on Wed Dec 19, 2012 6:45 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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