Two Kinds of Thought and the Removal of Distracting Thoughts
Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Karuṇadhammo
Upāsikā Day, Jun. 4, 2017
Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery in Redwood Valley, California
3 sessions, 39 excerpts, 1:13:23 total duration

A study and discussion of MN 19: Dvedhāvitakka Sutta and MN 20: Vitakkasaṇṭhāna Sutta.

External website

Session 1: Two Kinds of Thought

Session 2: The Removal of Distracting Thoughts

Session 3: Responses from Small Group Discussions


Session 1: Two Kinds of Thought – Ajahn Pasanno – Jun. 4, 2017 Download audio (3:15:39)
[Directed thought and evaluation]

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1. [33:19] “The term 'sense consciousness' is used in the morning chanting, but I didn't hear that [in MN 19]. When the Buddha recognizes a thought and puts it into a certain bin, this seems like a step beyond sense consciousness.” [Consciousness] [Sense bases] [Investigation of states] // [Mindfulness]


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2. [34:14] Comment: One of my favorite things about the sutta [MN 19] is where [the Buddha] says, 'Before I was awakened, it occured to me, "Suppose I divide my thoughts into two classes."' It's like an experiment. [Buddha/Biography] [Investigation of states] // [Meditation/Techniques] [Desire]


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3. [35:26] “I got a little confused about the part [of MN 19] where it says, 'these thoughts are not to be feared.'” [Fear] // [Right Intention] [Calming meditation] [Happiness]

Quote: “In trying to stop thinking, there's an incredible tension that is created in the mind.” [Suffering]

Follow-up: “[MN 19] mentioned that these thoughts might make you tired.” [Sloth and torpor]


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4. [38:35] Comment: That [MN 19.8] feels like it goes to the Four Foundations of Mindfulness of knowing when the mind is here, knowing what's happening to the body. [Right Mindfulness] [Mindfulness of body]


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5. [39:00] Comment: Appreciation for the similies of poking the cow and the herd of deer (MN 19). [Similes] [Heedfulness]


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6. [39:30] “Sometimes I get very worried and keep thinking about something and get tired and stressed out. Is this what the Buddha meant by 'a day and a night' [in MN 19.8]?” [Restlessness and worry] // [Unskillful qualities] [Suffering] [Similes] [Heedfulness]


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7. [41:40] “Could you give some advice on using directed and sustained thought? Would these thoughts be like reapeating 'Buddho' or are they conceptual?” [Buddho mantra] // [Ajahn Chah]


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8. [43:22] “I'm curious about the wholesome/unwholesome assessment [in MN 19]. If it's a thought of ill-will, greed, hatred, or delusion, but we're not attached to it, we're just seeing it arise, seeing it pass, recognizing it, being aware that it's in the mind. Does the unwholesomeness come from believing it?” [Skillful qualities] [Unskillful qualities] [Investigation of states] [Unwholesome Roots] [Mindfulness of mind] // [Habits] [Hindrances]


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9. [46:03] “How much should we be using that tool of the two categories?” [Investigation of states]


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10. [46:46] Comment: In this teaching [MN 19], the Buddha doesn't talk about any middle ground such as neutral thoughts.

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Teaching Dhamma] [Jhāna]


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11. [47:55] “Where does attachment fit into the Dvedhāvitakka Sutta [MN 19]? Is it also thought?” [Clinging] // [Sutta] [Hearing the true Dhamma]


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12. [49:35] “When [the Buddha] talks about sensual desire, that's craving, right?” [Sensual desire] [Craving]

Follow-up: “Do you know what the Pāli word used for sensual desire [in MN 19] is? I think that craving and sensual desire are different.” [Pāli]


Session 2: The Removal of Distracting Thoughts – Ajahn Pasanno – Jun. 4, 2017 Download audio (3:15:39)

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1. [1:15:37] “The last option [in MN 20] I thought was really interesting because it's reare I hear such agressive terms used. There's almost a sense of violence in some of those terms. Is that just because of the interpretation? Also, is another option to get rid of the thought to get up and actively do something?” Answered by Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Karuṇadhammo. [Language] [Abuse/violence] [Excercise] // [Buddha/Biography] [Similes] [Cleanliness] [Gladdening the mind]


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2. [1:22:22] Comment: Ajahn Amaro talked about a teacher who was an ex-boxer with rough manners. [Personality] [Fierce/direct teaching]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Unwholesome Roots]

Story: Ajahn Mun admonishes Ajahn Mahā Boowa: "You need to develop some subtlety!" [Ajahn Mun] [Ajahn Mahā Boowa] [Admonishment/feedback]


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3. [1:23:27] “After a long time in practice trying to order thoughts around, which hasn't been so fruitful, there's been an experiment: trying to observe even when thoughts are really spinning, just bringing an awareness and let them spin. If there's a strong sense of watching, where does that fit in [to MN 20]?” [Directed thought and evaluation] [Proliferation] [Present moment awareness] // [Mindfulness] [Tranquility]


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4. [1:24:43] “When you go into your body to feel the underlying emotion behnd a thought, what happens when the bodily feeling is so uncomfortable taht you really don't want to feel it?” Answered by Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Karuṇadhammo. [Mindfulness of body] [Emotion] [Directed thought and evaluation] [Suffering] [Aversion] [Fear] // [Recollection/Buddha] [Recollection/Saṅgha] [Recollection/Virtue] [Faith]

Follow-up: “It seems really difficult to think of Dhamma or the refuges while in such a wrapped-up state. I don't know if I could do that.” [Noble Truth of Suffering] [Visualization] [Goodwill] [Compassion]


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5. [1:30:10] Comment: I've discovered on this path that we can change, but sometimes we can not change, and it's just accepting ourselves better and being more at ease in our bodies. [Eightfold Path] [Judgementalism] [Tranquility]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Karuṇadhammo.


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6. [1:31:00] “I'm struggling with developing a personal faith that I can trust in my body and not hurt myself and accept myself.” [Faith] [Mindfulness of body] // [Faculties] [Language]


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7. [1:32:07] Comment: One time I really to the edge of all kinds of sadness and my mind came up with [audio unclear] and Three Refuges in a way that seemed very useful for me. [Depression] [Three Refuges] // [Mantra] [Determination] [Suffering]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Directed thought and evaluation] [Skillful qualities]


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8. [1:33:33] “All these practices [in MN 20] have been useful to calm the thoughts in the moment, but with ill-will and forgiveness, it hasn't genuinely changed the underlying emotion. I thought I had forgiven somebody, but ill-will comes up towards that person six months later. When do you genuinely change the underlying emotion?” [Calming meditation] [Ill-will] [Forgiveness] [Unwholesome Roots] // [Right Intention] [Conditionality] [Perfectionism]


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9. [1:35:39] “When the word evil comes up in a Buddhist context, it always takes me by surprise. What is the word being translated as evil thoughts [in MN 20]?” [Unskillful qualities] [Pāli] [Translation] // [Thai] [Language]


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10. [1:38:28] “How can you connect the five methods [of MN 20] with the development of insight, which people tend to equate with just observing?” Answered by Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Karuṇadhammo. [Directed thought and evaluation] [Calming meditation] [Insight meditation] // [Investigation of states] [Characteristics of existence] [Dependent origination] [Cessation]


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11. [1:40:32] Comment about developing faith in the practice by watching energies move, change, and dissipate in the body. [Faith] [Mindfulness of body] // [Grief]


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12. [1:42:06] Comment: The language in method five [of MN 20] still catches me. If I'm pushing against a thought and beating it down, I'm actually more attached to it because of that. [Directed thought and evaluation] [Right Effort] [Abuse/violence] [Clinging]

Responses by Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Karuṇadhammo.


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13. [1:44:30] Comment: I find the method of tracing a thought back to its origin in sense contact very useful. [Directed thought and evaluation] [Sense bases] [Contact]


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14. [1:45:09] Comment: The fifth method [of MN 20] is using mind on mind, thought over thought. It's actually kind of subtle. [Directed thought and evaluation] [Mindfulness of mind]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Clinging]


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15. [1:45:57] “My friend is having anxiety about her pregnancy issues. These are understandable but not helpful for her well-being. Do you have any recommendations for dealing with legitimate fears?” [Restlessness and worry] [Health] [Birth] [Fear] // [Visualization] [Goodwill] [Compassion]

Follow-up: “Would this go under the category of taking a smaller peg? (MN 20 method one)” [Directed thought and evaluation]


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16. [1:48:05] Comment: My experience with method five [of MN 20] is that it works when the mind doing the crushing is compassion mind, wisdom mind. [Directed thought and evaluation] [Compassion] [Discernment] [Right Intention]

Responses by Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Karuṇadhammo.


Session 3: Responses from Small Group Discussions – Ajahn Pasanno – Jun. 4, 2017 Download audio (3:15:39)
[Directed thought and evaluation]

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1. [2:47:07] “Are the teachings in MN 19: Two Kinds of Thought and MN 20: The Removal of Distracting Thoughts meant to be used just during meditation or 24/7?” [Right Effort] [Continuity of mindfulness] // [Everyday life]


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2. [2:48:03] Comment: Our group talked about body scanning, coming back to the body, as a way to find your center. Everyone was conscious of skillful means in knowing themselves. We all had different ways of knowing what works and adapting to different circumstances that arise. [Body scanning] [Mindfulness of body] [Right Effort]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Long-term practice]


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3. [2:50:25] Comment: Our group talked about what we use to deal with our thoughts, the Four Noble Truths, and perfectionism. [Four Noble Truths]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno: "You can't go wrong by coming back to the Four Noble Truths."

Simile: The footprint of all animals fit within the footprint of an elephant. In the same way, all the teachings of the Buddha will fit into the Four Noble Truths. — Sariputta, MN 28 [Similes] [Teaching Dhamma] [Great disciples]


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4. [2:52:07] Comment: Our group talked about our suffering, the kind of thoughts that we're laboring under, the nature of obsessive and addictive thoughts, and how these teachings might help us choose freedom. [Suffering] [Addiction] [Liberation]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Mindfulness of body] [Four Noble Truths]


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5. [2:53:22] “Where does allowing the thought to be there for a little bit come in? For example, if you're thinking about a past event that means something to you, and you're trying to stop it, and all of a sudden you realize, 'Oh, it's okay. This is meaningful to you.' And it really loses power.” [Present moment awareness] // [Ill-will] [Craving not to become] [Mindfulness] [Clear comprehension]


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6. [2:55:28] Comment: I've been reflecting on freedom from as opposed to freedom within. Sometimes there's a secret hope that those thoughts will go away, vibhava-taṇha, as opposed to freedom within, meaning releasing the identification with painful thoughts. [Craving not to become] [Self-identity view] [Release] // [Hindrances]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Suffering]

Quote: “Just that much.” — Ajahn Chah [Ajahn Chah] [Disenchantment]


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7. [2:58:05] “Do thoughts by themselves have karmic consequences?” Answered by Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Karuṇadhammo. [Kamma] // [Perception] [Feeling] [Volition] [Self-identity view]

Sutta: MN 56: Upāli

Follow-up: “Is it good kamma to decide not to act on an unskillful thought?” [Skillful qualities]

Story: A person talks with Ajahn Liem, analyzing their consistently bad thoughts and obsessions. He replies, "If you see a pile of excrement, why would you want to stick your nose in it?" Told by Ajahn Karuṇadhammo. [Ajahn Liem] [Unskillful qualities] [Similes] [Fierce/direct teaching] [Culture/Thailand] [Thai Forest Tradition]

Comment: I think my problem is that my nose is already in there, and I don't want to realize that I'm so stupid that it's hard to get it out. [Delusion]


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8. [3:05:01] Story: When visiting Abhayagiri, Ajahn Liem learns that Ukiah is the nearest town. Khya means "the garbage" in Thai. He later tells the monks, "Don't live in Khya." [Ajahn Liem] [Abhayagiri] [Thai] [Humor]


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9. [3:06:10] Comment: It's so hard not to identify with the contents of the mind, to not make it me and mine. Realizing how useless so many of my thoughts are helps. [Self-identity view] [Guilt/shame/inadequacy] [Suffering] [Disenchantment]

Response by Ajahn Pasanno. [Mindfulness] [Pāli]

Response by Ajahn Karuṇadhammo. [Not-self] [Humility]


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10. [3:09:26] “Is there a reason why mindfulness is number seven in the Path?” [Right Mindfulness] [Eightfold Path] // [Right View] [Right Effort]


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11. [3:11:04] “Is this recorded?” [Dhamma online]