V&V in Sphuṭārthā Abhidharmakośavyākhyā


For diligence, I just read AN5.26, and it is basically a part of what I hear everyday listening to DN33. And from that I disagree with your sentence “Vitakka thinks about it”. That is too vague. It is sloppy. Using this definition I cannot accomplish anything. We need to be precise.

My experience is that every word spoken (i.e., every name), summons up a form or forms and associated names. Yes we can wave our hands at that being “thinking”. But so is daydreaming and we do not daydream while meditating. So let us instead be very very precise.

When the suttas say “blue,” I see blueness. The name “blue” brings up all the associations for blue in my head. For me this is vitakka, the summoning of the named. When the suttas say “red”, I see redness and the blueness disappears. This is very precise and useful. The word “thinking” is not helpful to me so it must not be the exact translation of vitakka. In programming there is a very precise definition for name and form. They are different. The name is not the form. A form can have many names. Names can be associated and reassociated with different forms. Even the bringing up of a form from the name has a very precise definition in programming. We can name associations. We call them “bindings”.

Let us be precise and clear. How shall we define vitakka?


These 3 suttas as a group, talk about V&V at the level of precision the Buddha uses. Any more precision than that, that’s your own field and your own needs and preferences.

MN 18, 19, 20

from MN 18:

Cakkhu + rūpe + viññāṇaṃ → phasso → vedeti (vedanā) → sañjānāti → vitakketi → papañceti
eye + forms + consciousness → contact → feel → perceive → think → proliferate

from MN 19,
we know first jhana, and prior to first jhana, it’s the same 3 exact types of skillful vitakka he talks about:

  1. nekkhamma: renunciation
  2. abyapada: non ill will
  3. vihimsa: non harm

so for first jhana and before first jhana, vitakka could be for example:
“May all beings be happy”. That’s also a vaci-sankhara ,vocalization-fabrication, the thoughts you think right before you speak, verbal words, verbal labels.

now second jhana, V&V drop out, but you can still have a residual perception of
“may all beings be happy.”, which is non verbal, not a vitakka, but it’s still a metta type of sañña/perception.


This is actually quite helpful! Thank you. I will add MN18 to weekly study. :pray:

And the use of “think” here also does not work for me as too vague. I prefer “naming/summoning of the named”. For example, let us take two cases of seeing a face:

  1. The face is of someone I know. The eye sees the forms on the face and consciousness resolves those as being the form of a face with brown eyes, large nose, etc. In other words, there is contact. Next comes feeling “pleasant, unpleasant, neutral”. A familiar face is pleasant. And then gradually the familiar face resolves to a single remembered person. And then we have “vitakketi”, which is the resolving of the name as “My friend Bob!”. From there we have the proliferation of discourse.

  2. With a stranger, everything happens similarily (with a neutral feeling), but we have to create a new name, for “vitakketi”. So “the naming process” works here too. It provides a consistent understanding.

Since I have no validated experience of jhana. I would be speculating. But my experience of speechlessness and the loss of naming matches MN44 as the cessation of verbal processes distinct from mental processes, which, by the way, are also “thinking” (!). :rofl::scream: Do you see what a mess we get into by just using “think?”

However I believe that MN44 does not align verbal processes directly to any specific jhana.

Understanding vitakka in terms of the sequence you posted works for me. And I know that I will always be unhappy about the vague imprecision of “think” as used here and elsewhere. Fortunately, the context provides clarity with the steps described. This is why I find myself drawn to the Pali because I need that precision. And I shall continue with “naming and the contemplation of the named” for V&V until meditation or spiritual companions dissuade.

Thank you.


Hello there. Can you say what you mean by “Yoga type meditation practice,” which I assume you are classifying as an incorrect meditation practice according to the EBTs? And can you explain what you see as as a correct meditation practice according to the same? Thanks in advance.


yogaś citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ ||1.2||
(Yoga is the cessation of mental activities)

Yoga Sūtra, 1.2

Whole books have been written on the subject, so to answer your questions I would better refer you to those more competent than me to elaborate on this issue. I would suggest to start with M. Eliade’s ‘Yoga’, or J. Bronkhorst’s ‘The Two Traditions of Meditation in Ancient India’, and then go through his other publications and references on this topic. G. Polak’s ‘Reexamining Jhāna’ illustrates the point by means of current Theravāda meditation techniques derived from the Thai ‘kammaṭṭhāna’ movement. So let’s have a look at some relevant passages of Polak’s book:

Phra Ajahn Phut Thaniyo has maintained the following recollection of Ajahn Sao’s teaching style:
How did Phra Ajahn Sao teach? If it so happened that someone came to him, saying, ‘Ajahn, sir, I want to practice meditation. How should I go about it?’ he would answer, 'Meditate on the word ‘Buddho’. If the person asked, ‘What does ‘Buddho’ mean?’ Ajahn Sao would answer, ‘Don’t ask.’ 'What will happen after I’ve meditated on ‘Buddho’? ‘Don’t ask. Your only duty is simply to repeat the word ‘Buddho’ over and over in your mind.’ That’s how he taught: no long, drawn-out explanations (Phut Thaniyo, 1997: Access to Insight Website).

It appears that this form of meditation occupied a special place in the ‘kammaṭṭhāna’ tradition. It was also taught by Ajahn Chah, who advised the meditators to recite ‘Buddho’ until it penetrates deep into the heart of the consciousness (citta). The word ‘Buddho’ is supposed to represent the awareness and the wisdom of the Buddha. In practice, a meditator should depend on this word more than on anything else. The awareness it brings is supposed to lead the meditator to the understanding of the truth about one’s own mind (Chah, 2004: 300).

‘Buddho’ meditation was also taught by Ajahn Thate, Ajahn Maha Boowa, and Ajahn Lee. Ajahn Brahm has summed up this method of meditation in a following way:
In the Thai forest tradition, they add a mantra to breathing. As you breath in you think 'Bud” and as breath out you think ‘Dho’ (Brahm, 2006: 84).

Ajahn Brahm has rightly identified the true character of this form of meditation. ‘Buddho’ is indeed a mantra, just like ‘OM’ was a mantra. But this also means that we are not dealing here with the original Buddhist practice of ‘jhāna’, but with a practice of yoga. The basic method of yogic meditation is exactly the same.

The meditation on ‘Buddho’ is not present in any of the Suttas of the Pāli Canon. Even Buddhaghosa knew nothing about this form of meditation. The Visuddhimagga describes the subject of meditation known as ‘the recollection of the Buddha’, but it is developed in a completely different way. One should recollect the Buddha, by bringing to the mind his numerous unique qualities. These qualities should be then contemplated by active thinking and pondering. Due to the complexity of this method, it leads only to the attainment of ‘upacāra samādhi’. Ajahn Chah has stated that ‘Buddho’ should penetrate deep into the heart of consciousness. The idea that the mantra ‘Buddho’ should be merged into the heart was also preached by Ajahn Maha Boowa (cf. Kornfield, 1996: 167) and by Ajahn Thate. This notion is in fact a very old yogic idea. The Amṛtabindu Upaniṣad states that the mind should be controlled to such an extent, in which it gets merged in the heart. This is achieved by the meditation on the mantra ‘OM’ (ABU 5–7).

Ajahn Brahm has made several important comments about the state of ‘jhāna’, which is attained by his method of meditation. He points out, that all the five senses are totally shut down during ‘jhāna’. A meditator cannot feel, hear, see, smell of feel touch. Even if someone tapped a meditator absorbed in ‘jhāna’ on the shoulder, he wouldn’t feel a thing (Brahm, 2006: 154). In the state of ‘jhāna’, one cannot experience his own body, or feel any pain. As Ajahn Brahm points out, once the meditator is inside the ‘jhāna’, there is no more choice. One will be able to emerge only when the fuel of relinquishment will be all used up. Higher ‘jhāna’ usually persist for several hours (Brahm, 2006: 24–25). To illustrate his point, Ajahn Brahm recollects a fascinating story:

A lay disciple once told me how, completely by chance, he had fallen into a deep ‘jhāna’ while meditating at home. His wife thought he had died and sent for an ambulance. He was rushed to hospital in a loud wail of sirens. In the emergency room, no heartbeat registered on the ECG, and no brain activity was seen by EEG So the doctor on duty put defibrillators on his chest to reactivate his heart. Even though he was being bounced up and down on the hospital bed through the force of the electric shocks, he didn’t feel a thing. When he emerged from the ‘jhāna’ in the emergency room, perfectly all right, he had no knowledge of how he got there, nothing of ambulances and sirens. Nothing of body-jerking defibrillator (Brahm 2006, 154–155).

This account must seem all too familiar to us by now, but contrary to what Ajahn Brahm writes, it is not ‘jhāna’ that we are reminded of here. The complete inactivity of the senses, the resemblance to a dead person, the halt in the functioning of the most basic bodily operations are all the features of the highest yogic state of meditation, the very same state that was introduced by the later Buddhists under the name of ‘saññāvedayitanirodha’. There can be no doubt that Ajahn Brahm’s ‘jhāna’ possesses all the distinct features of yogic meditation.

The analysis of the meditative teachings of modern meditation masters shows that they contain many elements which have very little to do with the original form of early Buddhist meditation. In fact, many of these elements are explicitly criticized and rejected in the Suttapiṭaka. This is particularly the case with Ajahn Brahm’s view of ‘jhāna’ as a state in which the activity of the body comes to a halt, and with the painful methods of meditation developed by Sunlun Sayadaw.

(‘Reexamining Jhāna - Towards a Critical Reconstruction of Early Buddhist Soteriology’, 181-185)

I believe this also should answer your second question, since the topic of this thread relates to ‘jhāna’ meditation and the ‘jhāna’ factors ‘vitakka’ and ‘vicāra’ as they are understood in the EBT, and in the exegetical literature of the early Buddhist schools.


This seems to be an attack on Ajahn Brahm suggesting he’s promoting meditation teachings illegitimately. This post also appears to say he’s being completely unethical. Is this a correct understanding of this post?

I have found similar posts in this thread to be distracting from the wholesome and from the dhamma. I was disappointed to see this post and similar ones here at sutta central. I look forward to reading more helpful ones that have really inspired my practice since I started participating in these forums. Hope we can find a way to put an end to the apparent disharmony among us.

That said, I appreciate the discussion on the different approaches to jhana and how they related to the EBTs. This tone of this thread just seems “harsh and bordering on anger.” It’s hard not to get sucked in.

may we all be free of anger and ill will. may we support the dhamma and each other’s practice. wishing all peace.


I can only say I’m shocked by your comments. What are we supposed to do here, sing Christmas songs?


On-line manners 101.


We are aware that Pali words are broad in their meanings.

Some have the same word regardless of whether they are in a meditative context or not. For example happiness is different in a day to day context when compared to meditation.

First the two environments:

[From the Satipatthana sutta…]

32.5 When they feel a carnal pleasant feeling, they know: ‘I feel a carnal pleasant feeling.’Sāmisaṃ vā sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘sāmisaṃ sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’ti pajānāti. (4)

32.6 When they feel a spiritual pleasant feeling, they know: ‘I feel a spiritual pleasant feeling.’Nirāmisaṃ vā sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayamāno ‘nirāmisaṃ sukhaṃ vedanaṃ vedayāmī’ti pajānāti.

Here the word sukha is used for both meditative and day to day happiness. Sukha is a jhana factor and it would not be right to say that sukha in jhana is equal in experience to sukha in daily life. Now lets consider piti or rapture.

1.1 “Mendicants, there is carnal rapture, spiritual rapture, and even more spiritual rapture.“Atthi, bhikkhave, sāmisā pīti, atthi nirāmisā pīti, atthi nirāmisā nirāmisatarā pīti;

1.2 There is carnal pleasure, spiritual pleasure, and even more spiritual pleasure. Atthi sāmisaṃ sukhaṃ, atthi nirāmisaṃ sukhaṃ, atthi nirāmisā nirāmisataraṃ sukhaṃ;

Any rapture found in daily life is different to that found in jhanas.

Vitakka vicara are found along with happiness and rapture, in the jhana blended together.


Please explain?

In MN44, the nun Dhammadinna says:

“But ma’am, which cease first for a mendicant who is entering the cessation of perception and feeling: physical, verbal, or mental processes?”
“Verbal processes cease first, then physical, then mental.”

I believe MN44 is EBT. What is your dispute with what is written?


To echo what @karl_lew posted above. Yes, the 4 āyatana/samāpatti (sometimes including a fifth ‘saññāvedayitanirodha’, cessation of perception and feeling) are not jhāna, but the Buddha in the EBT’s teaches them throughout. The suggestion in the EBT’s is that they are earlier practices, not later. From Gotama’s previous meditation teachers, incorporated into his wisdom teachings (as were other samādhi practices like jhāna). There are a few passages that suggest one can be liberated by wisdom through jhāna OR jhāna+samāpatti (if someone can dig these up, I might be misquoting).


(regarding MN 44)
samadhi attainment #9, which is not the 4 jhanas, is where it talks about the 3 types of sankhara ceasing in a particular order before attainment, and the order they come back online after emerging.

If you want to know the role of vaci-sankhara (vocalized-speech fabrication) role in the 4 jhanas are, you should be studying SN 36.11.

  • vaci-sankhara = vitakka & vicara (thinking & evaluation, not placing the mind…)
  • vaca (vocalized-speech) ceases in first jhana. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to speak while you’re in first jhana. What this means is if you choose to speak out, vibrate the vocal chords, flap the lips and make speech, then the energetic disruption would bring you out of first jhana.
  • vaci-sankhara (also known as V&V) ceases in 2nd jhana. This doesn’t mean you can’t think and ponder in second jhana. What this means is if you make the conscious decision to think and ponder, the energetic disruption would take you out of second jhana, back into first jhana. (see SN 40.1 and 40.2)

first jhana is vocal silence. second jhana is noble silence because thinking and pondering stop.



Thank you. I shall.


No, it’s not an attack. It’s a calm and cool description of what he is doing, and I have a mountain of evidence in pali & english audits posted here publicly, organized neatly, easy to check and confirm the claims for yourself.


In EBTs Parivitakka is questioning.
Anuvitakka and vitakka look the same and deal with thinking about craving, anger and delusion. Because those defilements are not found in jhana it is a different creature.


I’m sorry, but is there a war going on that requires munitions? :thinking:
The Buddha teaches relinquishment, not hoarding.


see post #78 in this thread where i quote many passages using anu-vitakketi. it’s ‘thinking’ and pondering Dhamma, after hearing it. The pali+english are there.

pari-vitakka is not just related to questions.

I really don’t know where you get your ideas sometimes. kāma-chanda (sensual desire) is bad. Chanda-samadhi is good. Chanda (desire) on its own doesn’t mean good or bad, or can’t happen in jhana. Vitakka is also good or bad, and doesn’t mean it can’t happen in first jhana. If you have an akusala thought in first jhana, then you’ve exited first jhana. If you have a kusala vitakka related to Dhamma, then it’s perfectly legal. Even in second jhana, you could have perceptions and attention of a vitakka that’s bubbling underneath but hasn’t fully formed yet. that would make it an impure second jhana. See SN 40.1, SN 40.2


I’m not talking about Chanda but Kaama-vitakka.

Vitakka happens in the first jhana but if it linked to craving or aversion then it isn’t part of the first jhana.

You cannot have an akusala thought there; all akusala thoughts occur outside the first jhana.

That would make it impure. In fact, that is what a purified first jhana vitakka vicara is experienced as. There is the potential for thinking.

If there is no distinction between the thinking of the first jhana and daily thinking, there’s no distinct entity.


You might want to actually read the EBT suttas, english + pali next to each other so you can clear up your misconceptions. You may have some wrong ideas because you’re relying on wrong English translations.

Even just studying MN 19 in english + pali is enough to clear up your confusion. Track vitakka very carefully there, and see what happens before the first jhana formula.

Also keep in mind the Chinese Agama parallel to MN 19. It’s identical to MN 19, but they completely omit the first jhana formula, and start right from second jhana. THINK about what that means.


I can’t see anything in MN19 except that akusala vitakka are removed. It doesn’t discuss how the phase shift into the first jhana affect happiness, rapture, and thinking.