V&V = directed-thought & evaluationVitakka is directed thought. Vicara is the evaluation of that very same directed thought, not a separate train of thought.
V&V isn’t a wild excursion of jumping from one random thought to another random, disconnected thought.
Vicara explores, inspects, discriminates, evaluates, ponders, scrutinizes, discerns, considers the very same thought initially fixed upon by vitakka.
Vitakka decides on a topic, then gives it to vicara to analyze it further.
KN Pe on their commentary of V&V in first jhana, does the best job I’ve seen in defining and explaining it in a way that can survive time, history, and the shennanigans and accidents that can corrupt the text. They do it by using fantastic similes. They really nailed it, and I can’t do better than they did. All I did was restate what they already said in a slightly different way. But what I can do is point out the EBT source that probably inspired their similes and strengthens their case as the authoritative and correct definition for V&V.
simile of man seeing person approachingExample: 1. A man sees (passati) a person in the distance approaching. 2. The person approaching has distinguishable characteristics (sañña), such as being male or female, their color, shape. 3. Vitakka is the initial fixing on that line of thinking. 4. The man then considers further (vicara), "is that approaching person virtuous (sila) or non-virtuous? Rich or poor?"
What’s striking about the simile is that it’s not just a simile, that is literally what sati and dhamma-vicaya sambojjhanga do, as the entry point of the 7sb (awakening factors).
note = sati-sambojjhanga same as sati, satipatthana, samma sati
SN 46.3 Sīla-sutta: Virtue
(implied: pamojja and pīti would result from contact with inspiring monks)
(1. Sati: taṃ Dhammaṃ anus-sarati anu-vitakketi)
(2. Dhamma-vicaya: taṃ dhammaṃ paññāya, pa-vicinati pa-vicarati pari-vīmaṃsam-āpajjati )
(3. Vīriya: āraddhaṃ hoti vīriyaṃ a-sallīnaṃ.)
(4. Pīti: Āraddha-vīriyassa uppajjati pīti nir-āmisā,)
(5. Passaddhi: Pīti-man-assa, kāyo-pi passambhati, cittam-pi passambhati )
(6. Samādhi: Passaddha-kāyassa sukhino, cittaṃ samādhiyati.)
(7. Upekkha: sādhukaṃ ajjh-upekkhitā hoti)
Sati, right remembrance, picks a topic (vitakka) to explore (vicara), by “remembering”/recollecting a Dhamma topic. In first jhana, Vitakka, performs this task, and as you can see in SN 46.3, the word “anu-vitakketi” is right there.
The next step in 7sb, dhamma-vicaya, explores the topic remembered by sati (overlapping and sharing duties with vicara for first jhana). In fact the exact word “pa-vicarati” is used in SN 46.3. And in SN 46.2, it describes the duty of dhamma-vicaya as analayzing the topic recollected by sati and discerning whether that Dhamma is wholesome or unwholesome, blameable or blameless, etc. In the KN Pe simile, the man is scrutizing whether the approaching person has virtue (sila) or is not-virtuous. What a perfect simile directly referencing the 7sb suttas!
- For second jhana and higher, “paññāya, vimamsa, pajanati” would do the work of dhamma-vicaya instead of first jhana’s vicara.
The exploration (vicara) of that Dhamma organically leads to rapture, pacification, deepening of the jhanas. As opposed to artificially cultivating samatha by staring at kasinas, for example.
"simile" of person reciting and reflectingIn another noteworthy simile the KN Pe uses, simile of reciting is literally like SN 36.11 voice-speaking (vaca) dropping out of first jhana, leaving vaci-sankhara, i.e. v&v remains!
yathā paliko tuṇhiko sajjhāyaṃ karoti evaṃ vitakko,
583. just-as (a) reciter silently recites, such (is) directed-thoughts,
yathā taṃyeva anupassati evaṃ vicāro.
just-as that-recitation (he) contemplates, such (is) evaluation.
Compare to gradual cessations in SN 36.11 with vocalized-speech ceasing in first jhana. Dropping out in second jhana are V&V, thoughts-&-evaluation, equivalent to the un-vocalized-speech ceasing in first jhana.
And especially in AN 5.26 and understanding how the oral tradition works.
Late Theravada sterilizes 7sbThis is probably why in later Theravada you never hear anyone talking about 7sb and how to practice it. Instead they have a preferred system with samatha segregated as something you should do separately from vipassana. To that end, they emphasize "5 jhana factors", which in the EBT the Buddha never talks about, it's only mentioned 2 or 3 times by Sariputta, often a signal of later Abhidhamma recension. 7sb in later theravada seems to be mischaracterized as not something you practice every moment, but something only ariya possess after their awakening. A careful reading of the EBT reveals the opposite case. Right out of the gate 7sb is something you practice all the time, not a reward that awaits you only after you attain Nirvana. Why would the Buddha bother composing so many suttas detailing practical details if it were only some decorative badges to be awarded after the journey has concluded? That would be the opposite of pragmatic, a waste of time.
The other similes are worth studying as well, unforunately they have textual corruption, from the source palm leaf writing being scrambled or mistranscribed, so there is less confidence in the results.