Any suttas addressing the delight or pleasure of thinking

The dangers of the 5 sense pleasures of the body are often highlighted. Are there any specific passages that highlight the danger of delighting in and becoming lost in mind formations, or are these only referred to by inference within right view, right effort and right mindfulness.

Many Thanks :slight_smile:


I did find this

But would welcome any other more explicit resources.


Five times a week I hear the following from DN33:

Four efforts. The efforts to restrain, to give up, to develop, and to preserve. And what is the effort to restrain? When a mendicant sees a sight with their eyes, they don’t get caught up in the features and details. If the faculty of sight were left unrestrained, bad unskillful qualities of desire and aversion would become overwhelming. For this reason, they practice restraint, protecting the faculty of sight, and achieving its restraint. When they hear a sound with their ears … When they smell an odor with their nose … When they taste a flavor with their tongue … When they feel a touch with their body … When they know a thought with their mind, they don’t get caught up in the features and details. If the faculty of mind were left unrestrained, bad unskillful qualities of desire and aversion would become overwhelming. For this reason, they practice restraint, protecting the faculty of mind, and achieving its restraint. This is called the effort to restrain.

I have found it to be exactly the advice needed to bridle thoughts. It feels almost like backing off on an imaginary “thought contact throttle”. Normally we are encouraged to “really think things through” and we get paid and rewarded for being a “deep thinker” with full afterburner on the contact throttle flying through and exploring all the features and details.

Backing off on the features and details, we plan less, trust more, flowing mindfully with the moment. Instead of planning lunch, we open the fridge and notice that there are leftovers, so we eat them. I’ve been trying this for the last six months and it is surprisingly effective. Even with something as heavily thinking as programming, nowadays I just sit down and start typing whatever seems important. I used to agonize and optimize and worry about scenarios. Now I just type mindfully. Then, when the cats bite my toe, I stop typing and feed them. Life smooths out.


There are these;

(MN 137 Salāyatanavibhanga Sutta - The Exposition of the Sixfold Base)
8. “‘The eighteen kinds of mental exploration should be understood.’ So it was said. And with reference to what was this said?

“On seeing a form with the eye, one explores a form productive of joy, one explores a form productive of grief, one explores a form productive of equanimity. On hearing a sound with the ear…On smelling an odor with the nose…On tasting a flavor with the tongue…On touching a tangible with the body…On cognizing a mind-object with the mind, one explores a mind-object productive of joy, one explores a mind-object productive of grief, one explores a mind-object productive of equanimity. Thus there are six kinds of exploration with joy, six kinds of exploration with grief, and six kinds of exploration with equanimity. So it was with reference to this that it was said: ‘The eighteen kinds of mental exploration should be understood.’

Salayatana-vibhanga Sutta: An Analysis of the Six Sense-media
"‘The thirty-six states to which beings are attached should be known’: thus was it said. And in reference to what was it said? Six kinds of household joy & six kinds of renunciation joy; six kinds of household distress & six kinds of renunciation distress; six kinds of household equanimity & six kinds of renunciation equanimity.

"And what are the six kinds of household joy? The joy that arises when one regards as an acquisition the acquisition of forms cognizable by the eye — agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, connected with worldly baits — or when one recalls the previous acquisition of such forms after they have passed, ceased, & changed: That is called household joy. (Similarly with sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, & ideas.)

AN 10.60: Girimānanda (English) - Dasaka Nipāta - SuttaCentral
“And what, Ānanda, is the perception of abandoning? Here, a bhikkhu does not tolerate an arisen sensual thought; he abandons it, dispels it, terminates it, and obliterates it. He does not tolerate an arisen thought of ill will … an arisen thought of harming … bad unwholesome states whenever they arise; he abandons them, dispels them, terminates them, and obliterates them. This is called the perception of abandoning.

Madhupindika Sutta: The Ball of Honey
"Dependent on intellect & ideas, intellect-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition, there is feeling. What one feels, one perceives (labels in the mind). What one perceives, one thinks about. What one thinks about, one objectifies. Based on what a person objectifies, the perceptions & categories of objectification assail him/her with regard to past, present, & future ideas cognizable via the intellect.

The translation of the Honeyball Sutta is problematic and I favor this interpretation;

What one perceives, one thinks about. What one thinks about, one conceptualizes [objectifies]. Based on what a person conceptualizes, derived[related] concepts & perceptions assail him/her with regard to past, present, & future forms cognizable via the eye.

This Sutta when taken together with

(The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha - Selections | Wisdom Publications)
6. “Bhikkhus, whatever a bhikkhu frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination of his mind. If he frequently thinks and ponders upon thoughts of sensual desire, he has abandoned the thought of renunciation to cultivate the thought of sensual desire, and then his mind inclines to thoughts of sensual desire. If he frequently thinks and ponders upon thoughts of ill will … upon thoughts of cruelty, he has abandoned the thought of non-cruelty to cultivate the thought of cruelty, and then his mind inclines to thoughts of cruelty.

Becomes a quite complete explaination of the origination of thoughts;

What one perceives, one thinks about. What one thinks about, one conceptualizes [objectifies]. Based on what a person conceptualizes, derived[related] concepts & perceptions (to which there is inclination due to frequent giving of attention & pondering) assail him/her with regard to past, present, & future forms cognizable via the eye .

I think this is quite awesome and illustrates the importance of appropriate attention and complements these Sutta;
(Vitakkasanthana Sutta: The Removal of Distracting Thoughts )
(Dvedhavitakka Sutta: Two Sorts of Thinking)


There is a sutta that says something along the lines that householders quarrel over sensual pleasures and ascetics/brahmins quarrel about views. One way of reading this is that when one pursues renunciation of the pleasures of the 5 senses, those habits of indulgence can easily transfer over to the 6th sense and give rise to strong defilement. AFAICT, this seems to be the case with some people who are able to renounce gross sensual pleasures rather well but then become puffed up and conceited about their views. It’s definitely something to be aware of.


Yes, I was thinking of MN20 myself, in relation to appropriate and inappropriate attention.


Many Thanks to everybody for the thoughtful input (pun intended) :smiley:

I just realised that I was supposed to tick the solution - The solution is shared by you all .



My experience has been that the problem is thought arising from the five hindrances, or as in MN20 above, craving, aversion and delusion. Thoughts arise wisdom compassion etc (or from the broader non-craving, non-aversion and non-delusion) too and tend to be calm and not a disruption to a calm mind. Thoughts per se can be wholesome or unwholesome as can sankhara and I think fall into the category of sankhara; more specifically vaci-sankhara/verbal fabrications are vitakka vicara. Note that suttas dealing with the five hindrances are dealing with thoughts.


Many Thanks @Mat
I suppose the closest to what I was enquiring about is the resources about restraint. The brain does what the brain does - reacts to contact from the senses. But becoming enamoured in the intellectual process, becoming delighted and indulging in intellect and ones own thinking process, is certainly a danger in todays society - where this is usually seen as a sign of superiority and status. As such seeing it for the ‘danger’ it is and applying restraint as per

Is what I was looking for in particular



Ah, you mean the delight of intellectual thought! Yes, thinkers often think ‘I think therefore I am’!

“Mendicants, there are these five grasping aggregates. What five? The grasping aggregates of form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness. These are the five grasping aggregates.

To give up these five grasping aggregates you should develop the four kinds of mindfulness meditation. …”

Its said that sometimes some practitioners don’t become arahanths as they still have delight in the dhamma, as per Satipatthana sutta.

I find that it’s a hindrance to meditation, when mindfulness is overcome by discursive thought, pleasant or otherwise.

We could look at the drawbacks of intellectual thought. People identify with their ability to think and this can lead to conceit and looking down on others, and it becomes a obstacle to the path but equally being able to reflect is a great boon to the path, when it is ‘wise reflection’. Mindfulness is lost and we are reminded not to think too much about what we are being mindful of (as per Bahiya sutta). I find we also develop aversion to others of a lesser intellectual bent. Vitakka vicara is leads to distraction and dispersion of the mind of samadhi, and and results in a weakening of the ability to absorb insights from mindfulness.

Noble silence has always been recommended or the ten types of talk that lead to silencing of the mind, thought and eventually all phenomena.


It’s an interesting question but, it gives rise to new questions.

In order to answer the question, whether the answer comes from a Sutta or, somewhere else, we will still be thinking.

The answer must lie in not-thinking. However, to read about how to stop thinking is just more of the same?

Thinking is stressful but, so is not-thinking if we are still worldlings. If our not-thinking/discursive breaks were perfectly satisfying we would be reluctant to think as much as we do?

No ‘answers’ from any book or Sutta is gonna stop us from thinking - is it?

But it’s uncanny as a bhikkhuni just shared this with me:


A further complication IMO is that thinking is usually symptomatic of an underlying mood or mind-state, and quite often related to one of the hindrances, directly or directly. So for example, if I’m in an anxious mood I will probably be having anxious thoughts, which in turn compound and prolong the mood.
I find that practising the third frame of satipatthana is helpful in this context.


I have a question about the third frame of MN10. When I listen mindfully to DN33 is it “constricted mind”? Because when my mind wanders it is definitely “scattered mind.”

They know constricted mind as ‘constricted mind,’ and scattered mind as ‘scattered mind.’

How do you address this phrase in your own practice? I.e., how does “constricted mind” present itself to you? As translated I flash on constipated mind and somehow that doesn’t quite fit.

(…some time later…)

Actually it does fit. The root word is saṅkhitta and a telling translation from SN51.20 provides another use of saṅkhitta:

22.1And what is inquiry that’s constricted internally?
Katamā ca, bhikkhave, ajjhattaṃ saṅkhittā vīmaṃsā?
22.2It’s when inquiry is combined with dullness and drowsiness.
Yā, bhikkhave, vīmaṃsā thinamiddhasahagatā thinamiddhasampayuttā—

Therefore constricted/scattered are both bad extremes as they would be with…erm…the product of digestion.


Something I notice is a difference between “small” mind and “enlarged” mind. Small mind feels self-centred, while enlarged mind feels spacious and open ( I work with the space element sometimes, which seems to have an effect ). I have the sense that with a more spacious mind, thoughts and feelings seem smaller, and less significant.

From MN10:
“When the mind is enlarged, he discerns that the mind is enlarged. When the mind is not enlarged, he discerns that the mind is not enlarged.”

More generally I think it’s useful to distinguish between mind-states and mental objects. I think of the mind as a space in which stuff arises.


Wow! Thanks for sharing that insight. I also am working with space and had never noticed what you mentioned. For me space is formless but encompasses the infinite possibility of all forms. This becomes painfully evident when walking with eyes closed through a strange room. One gets smacked by reality. Literally, to your point on “stuff arises”, pain arises.

Now that you mention it, I also find that when sitting with eyes closed, thoughts and feelings seem smaller and less significant in that vast space.

When walkng with eyes closed, it is much harder to find such equanimity–yet it is there to be found after the terror is dealt with. Terror is such a … useful teacher. Terror is the scream of identity. :scream_cat:


Terror is the scream of identity… being destroyed :slight_smile:

What emerges afterwards is lighter, easier, happier and freer :butterfly:

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I find that one can shift focus from thoughts arising and ceasing to feelings arising and ceasing. They happen in quick succession and feedback on each other. eg specific thought > anxious feeling > another ‘anxiety arousing’ thought etc.

a causal loop. and then focusing on the gaps between cause and effect, one can interrupt the process. Or to begin with one can set off the process which is easier.

EG calling up a thought (eg the moment my dog died) and watching as the sad feeling arises as a result… then one can increase the repertoire and ‘watch’ this process take place (not being self). As a result one must become removed from ownership or identity… as the fact that it is a conditioned process becomes clear.

Maybe a little weird but I’ve always loved this stuff… mind analyses, training and ‘control’ :nerd_face:
Thank-you past kamma :smiley:


It is indeed. … And writing can’t be done without thinking. … It seems that if we stop reading and writing this forum will naturally fall away and allow us to be silent.

There’s food for thought there !

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Oooops! I just can’t stop thinking … How about you?

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A though just came up and, here it is:
I was once waiting for a Dhamma-interview with ‘Ayya Khema’ a few days into a retreat. A friend was also waiting and I asked him what he was going to report. He said: he had this dumb song going round and round in his mind and, he was going to ask for help to help him let it go.

It seemed that he had got annoyed with it happening and, the annoyance hadn’t made it go away. Instead, of relaxing and, letting things be, he had gone into crisis-mode.

I am not sure that problematising thought is all that useful. I don’t see how we would feed ourselves or, land on the cushion to meditate if we were completely thought-free. Sure, thinking is not satisfying, like pretty much everything else that happens as a worldling.

It’s a great opportunity to apprehend the three characteristics in real-time. Seeing that thoughts are thinking themselves is a liberating insight that can make a difference in our lives but, we need to have thoughts before we can make that discovery.