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Discursive vs. Imaginative thought - Dhamma Wheel

Discursive vs. Imaginative thought

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
chownah
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Discursive vs. Imaginative thought

Postby chownah » Wed Nov 09, 2011 4:05 am

It occured to me that the difference between discursive thought and imaginative thought might be a useful tool to use as an overlay to help in understanding various modes of meditation or even modes of understanding of suttas in general.
Example: In first jhana there is discursive thought.....but to climb the jhana ladder you need to drop discursive thought.....could it be that what happens when discursive thought is dropped is that imaginative thought remains or arises or is dominant or is noticeable?
Question: Is contemplation achieved by a short amount of discursive thought which directs the mind to a state of imaginative thought with the imaginative thought being the substance of the contempation?
Question: Could this have some meaning in relation to Mikenz66's "two truths" concept in some way? Could some descriptions be meant to lead to discursive thought and some be meant to lead to imaginative thought?

These ideas just occurred to me...what do you think (both discursively and imaginatively)...
chownah

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retrofuturist
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Re: Discursive vs. Imaginative thought

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Nov 09, 2011 4:09 am

Greetings Chownah,

Before I can address your questions, I would need to know what you mean by "imaginative thought" and how that compares to discursive thought.

(Unless you want this topic to head down a similar path to the "lineage" one, it would be good if you could be forthright with your definitions)

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Re: Discursive vs. Imaginative thought

Postby ground » Wed Nov 09, 2011 4:10 am


alan
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Re: Discursive vs. Imaginative thought

Postby alan » Wed Nov 09, 2011 4:14 am

You are taking advantage of my good nature by asking a question without defining your terms. Sometimes I get upset when people do that.

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Re: Discursive vs. Imaginative thought

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Nov 09, 2011 4:36 am

"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Ben
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Re: Discursive vs. Imaginative thought

Postby Ben » Wed Nov 09, 2011 5:04 am

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

chownah
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Re: Discursive vs. Imaginative thought

Postby chownah » Wed Nov 09, 2011 6:01 am


chownah
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Re: Discursive vs. Imaginative thought

Postby chownah » Wed Nov 09, 2011 1:51 pm

Ok, farmwork is done.....a great day....I have been conditioning the soil in a field which was originally a rather heavy clay soil and after only about four months of organic effort I plowed it today and it is starting to behave like rich black topsoil.....hooray for decaying vegetable material and agricultural lime!!!!
Anyway....I've found a sutta that I think will illustrate what I'm trying to get at...I'll present most of it first and then discuss at the end:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
AN 8.63 PTS: A iv 299
Sankhitta Sutta: In Brief
(Good Will, Mindfulness, & Concentration)
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
"............
"Then, monk, you should train yourself thus: 'My mind will be established inwardly, well-composed. No evil, unskillful qualities, once they have arisen, will remain consuming the mind.' That's how you should train yourself.

"Then you should train yourself thus: 'Good-will, as my awareness-release, will be developed, pursued, handed the reins and taken as a basis, given a grounding, steadied, consolidated, & well-undertaken.' That's how you should train yourself. When you have developed this concentration in this way, you should develop this concentration with directed thought & evaluation, you should develop it with no directed thought & a modicum of evaluation, you should develop it with no directed thought & no evaluation, you should develop it accompanied by rapture... not accompanied by rapture... endowed with a sense of enjoyment; you should develop it endowed with equanimity.

"When this concentration is thus developed, thus well-developed by you, you should then train yourself thus: 'Compassion, as my awareness-release... Appreciation, as my awareness-release... Equanimity, as my awareness-release, will be developed, pursued, handed the reins and taken as a basis, given a grounding, steadied, consolidated, & well-undertaken.' That's how you should train yourself. When you have developed this concentration in this way, you should develop this concentration with directed thought & evaluation, you should develop it with no directed thought & a modicum of evaluation, you should develop it with no directed thought & no evaluation, you should develop it accompanied by rapture... not accompanied by rapture... endowed with a sense of enjoyment; you should develop it endowed with equanimity.

"When this concentration is thus developed, thus well-developed by you, you should then train yourself thus: 'I will remain focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world.' That's how you should train yourself. When you have developed this concentration in this way, you should develop this concentration with directed thought & evaluation, you should develop it with no directed thought & a modicum of evaluation, you should develop it with no directed thought & no evaluation, you should develop it accompanied by rapture... not accompanied by rapture... endowed with a sense of enjoyment; you should develop it endowed with equanimity.

"When this concentration is thus developed, thus well-developed by you, you should train yourself: 'I will remain focused on feelings in & of themselves... the mind in & of itself... mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world.' That's how you should train yourself. When you have developed this concentration in this way, you should develop this concentration with directed thought & evaluation, you should develop it with no directed thought & a modicum of evaluation, you should develop it with no directed thought & no evaluation, you should develop it accompanied by rapture... not accompanied by rapture... endowed with a sense of enjoyment; you should develop it endowed with equanimity.
............."

It seems to me that in each of these paragraphs there is a progression in the type of thought applied to the object of focus:
directed and evaluative=>no directed and some evaluative=>no directed and no evaluative
I guess this is what I call discursive thought and this progression is a gradual decline in discursive mode accomplished by ceasing the direction first (once proper direction is achieved then it is not needed at all) and then diminishment of evaluation until it is dropped too....which to me signifies the end of discursive thought.........so at this point I guess one could say that thought ceases but I will not make that assertion. Instead I want to point out that the object of focus remains and is accompanied by different factors at different times and I want to point out that the object of focus and the accompanying factor(s) are all fabrications so I assert that there must be some mental process occuring for these to remain...so I guess I'll call this "imaginative thought"....I use "imaginative" because I associate "imagination" with the arising of mental activity which is not initiated by intellectual activity but arises from some unknown source or process. Probably many people will take exception to the term "imaginative" because it is associated with "imagine" which is something that can of course be a product of discursive thought as well....but I'm not meaning it in that sense. Frankly I don't know what term to use for what I see as the second mode of thought after the discursive stops arising......to me this is not an issue....I am not interested in exact definitions of terms but in the understanding of processes so whatever terms people want is ok so long as we can use them consistently and with understanding of what is their intended referents then I'm good to go on that.....bottom line is it seems like there are two kinds of thought process which I have labeled in a way so that in discussing what is going on we have some terms to use (we could just call them thought mode "a" and thought mode "b" but that is not very mnemonic).....and it seems to me that there is a gradual shift from one mode to the other....perhaps it is a movement from the analytical to the intuitive Notice that I have mentioned that it is not just in the context of suttas that I see this...it is also in my daily experience of the world.?.......just wondering what other people's thoughts are on this.
chownah

chownah
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Re: Discursive vs. Imaginative thought

Postby chownah » Wed Nov 09, 2011 2:13 pm


chownah
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Re: Discursive vs. Imaginative thought

Postby chownah » Mon Nov 14, 2011 12:06 pm

Today I picked some dry beans....what you do is to pick the pods which contain the beans....I picked a couple of buckets full of the dried pods very quickly and went to where I dry them in the sun even more so that the pods are very brittle and thus easy to break open to get the dry beans out. Before spreading the pods in the sun I was picking out the pieces of stem which you always inadvertently pick along with the pods. These pieces of stem are about he same length as the pods and for an untrained eye you have to concentrate to see and remove them. I have done this process alot and today as I was picking out the stems I notice that my hand would move to pick out a piece of stem before I even realized that there was a piece of stem there.....it was as if my eye and hand already sensed the stem and were cooperating to grasp it before I was even aware of the stem.....this is an example of what I think of as imaginative thinking......probably a bad name for it but it seems to be some thought processes which are seperate from discursive thought.....seems as if there must be some thought process which happened first in order for the coordinated effort to grasp the stem to occur...but it was not until a fraction of a second later that discursive thought chimed in with "oh, there is another one".
I'm hoping that Ben can find Venerable Bodhi 's ideas on imagination as it may shed some light on what I'm describing......it seems to me that this is related to instances when during meditation things arise through some non-discursive thought process.....maybe not....
chownah

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ground
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Re: Discursive vs. Imaginative thought

Postby ground » Mon Nov 14, 2011 12:33 pm

What you describe may be a good example for a habit. A habit occurs sort of spontaneously but one has to have learned it and repeatedly exercised the corresponding activity (mental or physical or both). To become aware of habits one has to focus on the "gap" (it's a metaphor because there is not gap) between "past" and "future" continuously. Discursive thought is too tardy because it needs to fabricate words and ideas first.

Kind regards

chownah
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Re: Discursive vs. Imaginative thought

Postby chownah » Tue Nov 15, 2011 3:06 am

TMingyur,
Interesting idea....I'll have to try to observe a habit more closely.
chownah

chownah
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Re: Discursive vs. Imaginative thought

Postby chownah » Tue Nov 15, 2011 1:51 pm

TMingyur,
Today I tried to observe a habit but am having difficulty doing so. I do from time to time observe habits but not today. In my recollection of observing habits it seems that there is a qualitative difference (difference between habits and the process I'm trying to investigate) in what happens....I think the difference is that the "imaginative" thought process I refer to (again, not a very good term and I'm hoping to find another) happens as a result of attention being focused...in the sutta example it is obvious that attention is being focused as this is essential for meditation...in the motion of ant example and the twig removal example I was focusing my attention and in both of these examples it was a visual focus (with perhaps other elements...I'm not sure) which gave rise to an understanding (I sensed or understood that there was movement of something for the ant example and I sensed the presence of a twig and directed my fingers towards it in the bean pod/twig example) and after that understanding arose and it seems that discursive thought was engaged and in both examples athe discursive thought had the quality of objectifying and identifying that which was sensed(it created the ants as objects to explain the movement and it created the twigs towards which my fingers had already been directed)....I guess.....I sorted some more twigs out of the bean pods today and tried to conjure up the same experience but I was in a hurry and was sort of preoccupied with what I need to accomplish next so I found that my concentration on the task at hand was poor but I did get a very poorly developed sense of it....from this I take that to experience this phenomenon I must not be preoccupied with other things....which makes sense in that in alot of the Buddha's instructions for meditation one of the first things he says is to withdraw from the world.......I guess.....I don't know...
Anyway....my suspicion is that habits are different but I'll keep trying....I don't have any really obvious habits like nail chewing, smoking, drumming fingers, etc....but I do some thing certain ways by habit....things like how I grasp a gate when opening it and thing like that.......I'll keep trying as I think there might be something there....
chownah

chownah
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Re: Discursive vs. Imaginative thought

Postby chownah » Wed Nov 16, 2011 7:38 am

Maybe "Discovery thought" is better than "Imaginative thought"....or "Discovery-Imaginative thought"....so it might be "Discursive vs. Discovery thought"....or some such.
chownah

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Re: Discursive vs. Imaginative thought

Postby dhamma follower » Wed Nov 16, 2011 3:37 pm



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