Defining 'Contemplation'

Anyone care to offer their own understanding or definition of ‘Contemplation’ in context of practising the Dhamma?

Just curious…


I really like how Ven. Anālayo put it in his book “Satipaṭṭhāna, the direct path to realization”, p. 32 (section II.1 contemplation):

[…] The corresponding Pāli verb anupassati can be derived from the verb “to see”, passati, and the emphatic prefix anu, so that anupassati means “to repeatedly look at”, that is, “to contemplate” or “to closely observe”. […]

This is not my own, but I adopted it.


I like the word “observe”. I think the practice is not dissimilar to the process of scientific observation, looking closely, consistently and as objectively as possible.


In times like these the etymology of a word often helps to understand its meaning. The English word “concentrate” comes from the Latin centrum, meaning center, which itself comes from the Greek kentron, earlier kentein, having its roots in the Indo-European root kent- meaning to prick or jab.

Inasmuch as the abstract idea of concentration has its origins in a metaphor of the center-point where something has been pricked or jabbed, it’s reasonable to infer that humans conceptualize the act of thinking hard as centering their thoughts on some focal point, e.g, the center area of a pinprick or a place on their body where they have been jabbed. The center of the mind, as it were, is where thoughts jab at our consciosnesss, and thus we concentrate our minds there.


Oops, the original post was a bout defining “contemplate,” not “concentrate.”

No worries. The English “contemplate” comes from the Latin contmplat, having its origins in com+ templum, that is to say “temple” or place to observe augeries.

The Latin templum comes from the Indo-European tem- which means a small piece of timber cut out from something larger.

So to contemplate is metaphorically to observe in a temple, a place built from materials cut out from something larger.

The old saying is that the body is a temple, but metaphorically it would be more accurate to say that the mind is a temple, the place where we “contemplate.”

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Thank you!