Thought Control

by Vis8
(NJ, USA)

The Buddha described a method of controlling distracting and unwholesome thoughts in the discourse, Vitakkasanthana Sutta:

Essentially, we need to try, a step at a time, the following when confronting an unwholesome thought within:

1.Think of a good thing. In this case, the easiest is to think that not doing this bad thing is good in itself.

If the above attempt fails, and the unwholesome thoughts come up again, go to number 2:

2.Think of the bad repercussions this thought will bring; most of the time, these repercussions will be upon yourself (the law of karma).

If No. 2 is still not working, go to No. 3 and so-fourth:

3.Don’t think about it. (Find something else to do).

4.“Relax” distracting thought formations: As soon as you see an unwholesome thought, stop that thought from forming other thoughts. Essentially the Buddha said to tell yourself to gradually slow down the mental (and physical) mess that this unwholesome thought is creating in you.

5. Fifth and final try: With clenched-teeth, tongue on the palate of the mouth, and fight evil mind with good mind. Just say “STOP” to yourself and stop that unnecessary thought.

The Buddha stopped here, so it means that No. 5 should work… if it is not, you are not trying hard enough.

Note: The above cannot be applied if we are not aware that we are having an unwholesome thought. We need to be aware, at every moment, of what we are doing (i.e. thinking). This is the basic frame of mindfulness that the Buddha told us to cultivate. It is not easy, because the mind tends to drift when you are not mindful, but this essential “basic mindfulness” need to be there to “live in the present moment.”

The key is to become conscious of the thoughts, which flow into your consciousness. When you observe, your "Real I" (RI) is able to judge the quality of those thoughts. When you feel they are unworthy, you will smile and know it to be such. Actually, nothing more is needed. Ever afterwards, your mind will recognize this silly thought and discard it!
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NEED MORE?

For my peace of mind, I earmarked 20 minutes for meditation on the terrace. With my eyes closed, I sense my hands on the chair and feel the numbness in my feet.

I feel my breath flowing through my nose, my throat, my chest and my stomach. I can hear the chirping of birds, the phut phut of auto rickshaws, the occasional roar of a truck and the insistent hooting of horns.

When I open my eyes, I see a pale moon over two hundred thousand miles away. I see the nuclear fires, blazing for millions of years in the pale globe of the setting sun. A star millions of miles away in space.

I can see green shoots coming up on a tree, watch the dives and swoops of birds, the great circles of the hawks and flocks of birds flying home for the night.

Diffused light from the sun reflects off a parrot on the tree and enters my eye through a pinhole opening. I sense the bustling mood of the bird, even though it is smaller than a drop of water in my eyes.

All these things are seen and felt by me in a few brief minutes. In the distance, is the head of a man seeming to be no bigger than a pea. Yet, that head too sees and feels such things. Ten million people in this great city see and feel in ten million ways.

My mind wanders to a misty view of postwar London; an exciting glimpse of Disneyland. An awed view of Tiananmen Square. The looming Himalayan ranges. My mind takes me to distant galaxies.

It carries me into the heart of millions of invisible neurons, where electrical charges flash thousands of times a second powering my contemplation. I see the campaigns of Julius Caesar and Alexander. I feel the longings of Jehangir.

Already my mind has taken me to palaces, battlefields and even the stars. And yet, the 20 minutes hang heavily on me. If I lost everything, but can just see and feel, in just a few brief minutes, my mind can travel the world, or imagine the cosmos.

Life has already blessed me with over twenty million waking minutes. I have an infinity of time on my hands. Have I a right to expect more from life?

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