Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa


Introduction to 3.3.3
Vitakkasuttaṃ
(Thoughts to Avoid and to Engage in)


The next two suttas, both from Saṃyuttanikāyo, Māhāvaggo, Saccasaṃyuttaṃ, Samādhivaggo, are placed in sequence because they both express a warning of the Buddha, where he emphasizes the importance of realizing the quality of the thought process, recognizing unwholesome intention, differentiating it from the wholesome in order to abandon the first and develop the latter: ‘‘Tathāgatassa, bhikkhave, arahato sammāsambuddhassa dve dhammadesanā pariyāyena[1] bhavanti. Katamā dve? ‘Pāpaṃ pāpakato passathā’ti – ayaṃ paṭhamā dhammadesanā; ‘pāpaṃ pāpakato disvā tattha nibbindatha virajjatha vimuccathā’ti – ayaṃ dutiyā dhammadesanā. Tathāgatassa, bhikkhave, arahato sammāsambuddhassa imā dve dhammadesanā pariyāyena bhavantī’’ti[2]. – “Two Dhamma-teachings of the Tathāgata, the Arahato, the Sammāsambuddha, Bhikkhus, develop in succession. Which two? ‘Behold what is evil as evil!’ - this is the first Dhamma-teaching. ‘Having thus understood what is evil as evil you should repulse it and rid yourselves of it and become liberated therefrom!’ - this is the second Dhamma-teaching. These are the two Dhamma-teachings of the Tathāgata, the Arahato, the Sammāsambuddha, Bhikkhus, that develop in succession.”

In this Vitakkasuttaṃ emphasis is given on the three characteristics of micchāsaṅkappo. The avoidance of any thoughts that derive from wrong intention and their realizing them as not beneficial fosters the development of the understanding of the Four Noble Truths. Thoughts are defined as thoughts that people think but also as what thinks by itself or mere thinking: Tattha vitakkenti etena, sayaṃ vā vitakketi, vitakkanamattameva[3] vāti vitakko[4]. Thoughts are also explained as having as their characteristic hanging onto an object, as their function striking and thrashing it and as their manifestation conveying the mind onto that object[5]: - “Svāyaṃ ārammaṇābhiniropanalakkhaṇo[6], āhananapariyāhananaraso[7], ārammaṇe cittassa ānayanapaccupaṭṭhāno[8].”

Strong determination, arduous effort along with thorough observation and vigilant examination of the thought process is needed to accomplish the first teaching of the Buddha: ‘Pāpaṃ pāpakato passathā’ti in order to leave those states behind:

Thoughts that are related with the element of desire are unwholesome: Tattha katamā kāmadhātu? Kāmapaṭisaṃyutto takko vitakko saṅkappo appanā byappanā[9] cetaso abhiniropanā[10] micchāsaṅkappo – ayaṃ vuccati kāmadhātu. Heṭṭhato avīcinirayaṃ pariyantaṃ karitvā uparito paranimmitavasavattī deve anto karitvā yaṃ etasmiṃ antare etthāvacarā[11] ettha pariyāpannā[12] khandhadhātuāyatanā rūpā vedanā saññā saṅkhārā viññāṇaṃ – ayaṃ vuccati ‘‘kāmadhātu’’.[13] – “Thus what is the element of desire? It is thinking, investigating, directing of thought, considering it, mental fixation on one’s thoughts, mental focused application of one’s mind, wrong thought, all mingled with desire – this is what is called the element of desire. Between the hell, making it the lower end and the plane of the Paranimmitavasadevas[14] as the upper limit, whatever is within these realms, whatever is included therein, the aggregates, the elements, the sense spheres, perception, material characteristics, sensations, perceptions, conditioned formations and concomitants, consciousness – this is what is called the element of desire.”

Thoughts that are related with the element of ill will are unwholesome: Tattha katamā byāpādadhātu? Byāpādapaṭisaṃyutto takko vitakko saṅkappo appanā byappanā cetaso abhiniropanā micchāsaṅkappo – ayaṃ vuccati ‘‘byāpādadhātu’’. Dasasu vā āghātavatthūsu cittassa āghāto paṭighāto paṭighaṃ paṭivirodho kopo pakopo sampakopo doso padoso sampadoso cittassa byāpatti[15] manopadoso kodho kujjhanā kujjhitattaṃ doso dussanā dussitattaṃ byāpatti byāpajjanā virodho paṭivirodho caṇḍikkaṃ[16] asuropo[17] anattamanatā[18] cittassa – ayaṃ vuccati ‘‘byāpādadhātu’’ “Thus what is the element of ill will? It is thinking, investigating, directing of thought, considering it, mental fixation on one’s thoughts, mental focused application of one’s mind, wrong thought, all mingled with anger – this is what is called the element of ill will. Or a vexed mind on account of the ten reasons for anger[19], anger, hatred, hostility, ebullition, fury, boiling fury, anger, annoyance, infuriation of mind, malevolence, mental annoyance, wrath, the state of being angry, the state of being full of hostility, hatred, enmity, state of being full of ferocity, animosity, filled with malice, loathing, abhorrence, detestation, repugnance, discontentness of mind – this is what is called the element of ill will.”

Thoughts that are related with the element of violence are unwholesome: Tattha katamā vihiṃsādhātu? Vihiṃsāpaṭisaṃyutto takko vitakko saṅkappo appanā byappanā cetaso abhiniropanā micchāsaṅkappo – ayaṃ vuccati ‘‘vihiṃsādhātu’’. Idhekacco pāṇinā vā leḍḍunā[20] vā daṇḍena vā satthena vā rajjuyā[21] vā aññataraññatarena[22] satte viheṭheti[23], yā evarūpā heṭhanā viheṭhanā hiṃsanā vihiṃsanā rosanā virosanā parūpaghāto[24] – ayaṃ vuccati ‘‘vihiṃsādhātu’’. Thus what is the element of violence? It is thinking, investigating, directing of thought, considering it, mental fixation on one’s thoughts, mental focused application of one’s mind, wrong thought, all mingled with cruelty – this is what is called the element of violence. Here someone hurts beings by hand, with clods, with a stick, with a sword, a rope or with something rather similar, in this way harassing, hurting, injuring, violating, infuriating, enraging and inflicting others – this is what is called the element of violence.”

These manifold characteristics of the three unwholesome elements forming the base of unwholesome thoughts that may strike in its multifarious presentations – it is the job of an ardent meditator to be aware of their occurrence, understand their unwholesome quality, repulse them and remain aloof!
What difficult but gratifying job to do! May all be successful!

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[1] pariyāya : lit: ‘going round’ a) turn, course; b) teaching, exposition; c) cause, reason – here: in succession, in turn, by means of which
[2] Desanāsuttaṃ, Itivuttakapāḷi
[3] vitakkanamattameva: vitakkanaṃ + mattam + eva: thinking + mere + just
[4] Vitakkasuttavaṇṇanā, Itivuttaka-aṭṭhakathā
[5] Vitakkasuttavaṇṇanā, Itivuttaka-aṭṭhakathā
[6] ārammaṇābhiniropanalakkhaṇo: ārammaṇā + abhiniropana + lakkhaṇo: object, support + fixation, application of mind + characteristic
[7] āhananapariyāhananaraso: āhanana + pariyāhanana + raso: striking + heavy striking + substance, essence
[8] ānayanapaccupaṭṭhāno: ānayana + paccupaṭṭhāno: escorting + appearance, manifesting
[9] appanā; byappanā/ vyappanā: thought, reasoning; application, fixing of mind
[10] abhiniropanā: abhi + ni + ropanā: firmly + planting: mental fixity
[11] etthāvacarā: ettha + avacarā: therein + spheres, realms
[12] pariyāpannā: included
[13] This and the following quotes are from Vibhaṅgapāḷi, Dhātuvibhaṅgo, Suttantabhājanīyaṃ
[14] These are the kāmaloka-devās, the first six field of beings that are enjoying sensual pleasures: Bhummānaṃ devānaṃ - saddamanussāvesuṃ - cātumahārājikānaṃ devānaṃ - yāmā devā - tusitā devā - nimmānaratī devā - paranimmitavasavattī devā (see lesson 3.2.3)
[15] byāpatti: malevolence
[16] caṇḍikka: ferocity, anger
[17] asuropo: malice, abruptness
[18] anattamanatā: an + attamanatā: discontentedness, displeasure
[19] see Āghātavatthusuttaṃ, (see lesson 3.3.2)
[20] leḍḍu: clod of earth
[21] rajju: string, rope
[22] aññataraññatarena: aññatara + aññatarena: (instr.) a certain + one other/similar
[23] viheṭheti: harass, hurt
[24] parūpaghāto: para + upaghāto: others + injuring

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Pāli lesson (with audio) 3.3.3

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Last modified: Tuesday, 21 February 2017, 7:14 PM