A Deeper Dive into the practice of Meditation

In an ongoing effort to understand the practice of meditation, I have come across a couple of passages which are beyond my understanding. Your wisdom is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

From MN 118 " Clear Knowing & Release
“And how are the seven factors for awakening developed & pursued so as to bring clear knowing & release to their culmination? There is the case where a monk develops mindfulness as a factor for awakening dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion, dependent on cessation, resulting in relinquishment. He develops analysis of qualities as a factor for awakening… persistence as a factor for awakening… rapture as a factor for awakening… calm as a factor for awakening… concentration as a factor for awakening… equanimity as a factor for awakening dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion, dependent on cessation, resulting in relinquishment.

“This is how the seven factors for awakening are developed & pursued so as to bring clear knowing & release to their culmination.”

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, the monks delighted in the Blessed One’s words."

Then, regarding “analysis of qualities as a factor for awakening” what does this ‘analysis of qualities’ refer to?

AND from MN 119
" The Four Jhānas

“And further, quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities, he enters & remains in the first jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation"
What is 'directed thought and evaluation"? What does this mean?

Thanks again?


It means investigation. The factors of awakening are divided into two groups, active and passive, with mindfulness the regulator (Samyutta Nikaya 46.53), and investigation is the initiating factor in the active (insight) group. From the successful outcome of investigation results the tranquillity factors. Going through the factors of awakening there is a causal sequence one to the next, with the exception of mindfulness, which is a free agent.

The Buddha-to-be’s investigation looked into the consequences of two opposite types of thought, wholesome and unwholesome, as related in Majjhima Nikaya 19. This is how the effects of wholesome thoughts are described:

" I discerned that 'Thinking imbued with renunciation has arisen in me; and that leads neither to my own affliction, nor to the affliction of others, nor to the affliction of both. It fosters discernment, promotes lack of vexation, & leads to Unbinding."

“Promotes lack of vexation” means wholesome thoughts have a relaxed effect. Elsewhere the Buddha describes unwholesome thoughts as being limited, meaning having a constrained feeling, and wholesome thoughts being expansive:

“Just as a strong conch-trumpet blower can notify the four directions without any difficulty, in the same way, when the awareness-release through good will is thus developed, thus pursued, any deed done to a limited extent no longer remains there, no longer stays there.”

—Samyutta nikaya 42.8

There should be investigation of the different feelings of unwholesome and wholesome thoughts.

So the subject of investigation is sila and its benefits contrasted with conventional patterns of behaviour:

" “And what is the food for the arising of unarisen analysis of qualities as a factor for Awakening, or for the growth & increase of analysis of qualities… once it has arisen? There are mental qualities that are skillful & unskillful, blameworthy & blameless, gross & refined, siding with darkness & with light. To foster appropriate attention to them: This is the food for the arising of unarisen analysis of qualities as a factor for Awakening, or for the growth & increase of analysis of qualities… once it has arisen.”

—Samyutta Nikaya 46.51

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As Paul mentioned, the word translated as “analysis” (vicaya) has the meaning of investigation or examination. And the word translated as “qualities” is dhamma, which has a broad range of meanings, but in this case could be understood as “phenomena”, things that are experienced.

So this investigation of dhammas would be the quality of curiosity and close observation of some aspect of your experience, be it the body (via contemplations like the anatomical parts, the elements, the corpse contemplations, etc.), or closely observing vedanā, or mind states, hindrances, sense contacts, etc., etc. Investigation should eventually lead to seeing any and all phenomena as impermanent, unsatisfying, and without a self or anything belonging to a self. Seeing things in this way (insight) is what allows us to let go of them.

“Directed thought and evaluation” is a translation of vitakka and vicāra, and how these should be translated is a somewhat contentious issue, as it ties in with the debates about what qualifies as an official jhāna. These two terms mean, respectively, “thinking” and “exploring, examining.”

Some people think that these two words carry a different, technical meaning in the context of jhāna, like “initial application of mind” and “sustained application of mind” (putting your mind on the meditation subject and keeping it there). Other people think that these terms indicate that in the first jhāna there can be light background discursive thinking that doesn’t really pull you away from your meditation subject.

From what I understand of how samādhi and jhāna are presented in the early discourses, I think these terms refer to thinking about and exploring a meditation theme or subject—which is more active than just applying and sustaining one’s attention, but not discursive or wandering in any way. It’s the kind of contemplation that’s done when practicing satipaṭṭhāna—turned inward, detached, and wholly focused on exploring a certain theme.


Thanks for that, and this goes right to the meat of the subject where I get confused-without a meditation teacher, and only the vastness of the various approaches to meditation that one finds o the internet.
Seems lke no matter how I approach my meditation, discursive thoughts are a persistent distraction or interruption into that clear meditative space I strive for.
I shall persevere.
With Metta


You might appreciate Shaila Catherine’s book/class/webinar, “Beyond Distraction,” sutta based strategies for working with discursive thinking. Here is a starting point.


Hey! Good morning my friend, and I hope this finds you doing well and happy! Thanks for the book tip. I will definitely check that out. And please give my best to our fellow moderators! :pray: :pray: :pray:


How about changing a significant skilful symbol like “let go!” into another, and in my experience, the more powerful symbol “surrender!”

Try. to see if there’s a difference in the mind when these two symbols drop.

I experience that the first one gives space for the mind to bargain, and procrastinate the process. But when “surrender” drops into presence, the mind goes silent, and leaves a lovely perfume that has the scent of “busted Mara”

Be a loser and have fun! :heart:


Thanks for that. I have been trying the silent mantra of "I know I am breathing my long breath in [or out]. But it has had little impact on the restless aspect of my mind. But I am willing to try anything.

I AM a loser! LOL

When you find inner-peace while meditating, no matter how small it may be, enjoy and embrace it. This should overcome any restlesness.


Seek nothing, just sit, mindfully breathe out and mindfully breathe in (cf. SN54.1 = SA 803).

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I recommend watching Bikkhu Bodhi’s zoom sutta study group series, the Q&A session at the end. These questions come from people only a bit more advanced than you, being an ideal situation for learning.

Start at 51 min:



I find this very helpful, using things like “all good”, “it’s ok” (translated to my language), basically things you kindly told to a child, deal with my mind like if it was a child helps me a lot :slight_smile:


2 posts were split to a new topic: Death contemplation

Hi Rosie,

Along with Shaila Catherine’s books, I highly recommend Beth Upton’s YouTubes on jhana, meditation practice and objects below. They both have the same root teacher.

She offers guidance, instruction and retreats on a donation basis:


Best regards!

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I will definitely check this out. Thanks! May you be well and happy!

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OOOH… Vitakka and Vicara!
The subject of much past debate on this forum… see (now banned) @Frankk and his Vitakka and Vicara chronicles!

Bikkhu Bodhi says the first jhana is at a level where directed thought & evaluation are possible, but in the succeeding ones it is not possible due to the depth of concentration. However directed thought& evaluation are necessary as a means of progressing to a higher level by seeing the disadvantages of the current level (Anguttara Nikaya 5.28). This is achieved by partially withdrawing from the higher jhanas to obtain an objective view.

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