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Contemplation of Thoughts

By Ven. Panditha Waturugama Nandasiri Thero



Dear sensible devotees/patrons,

The objective of this sermon is to make you aware as to know what we mean by thought (citta).
The base of this sermon is the four foundations of mindfulness of the Enlightened One.

“chitte chittanu passaviharathi”

“Atapi sampajano”

“Vineyya loke abhijjha domanassam”

– Looking at true nature of thought by thought

- With the firm endeavour to burn out the evil thoughts

- Living with pleasure or displeasure to the world

This is what teaches in the mindfulness of thoughts (Chittanupassana). The Enlightened one discoursed that the pleasure and displeasure is created by misunderstanding of the reality of the world.

He said “Avijja paccaya sankara”. It means that the craving is created due to the unawareness or ignorance of the truth of the world and leads to attachment and becoming rebirth. Therefore to get out of the unawareness or ignorance of the truth you should know the reality of the world. “Kayanupassana” explains the contemplation of the body which enables one to see the true nature of the worldly existence. Wedananupassana, Chittanupassana, and Dhammanupassana are also explaining the same.

Most of the people believe that the solar system including the planets, or universe as the world. This belief covers only 1/5th of what we mean by the term of “the world”. Only matter exists in the so called world. The balance is explained in this sermon. The true nature of the so called world has no liveliness, feeling or knowledge. Blessed one taught us that the world means the combination of “the body” and the “thoughts”. The world is in this fathom long physique and where origin of the world, cessation of the world and the path leading to cessation and realise the final solution is exist. To understand this first we have to have a perfect awareness of what we call the body, because all the craving and the attachments are firstly reaching to the body through mind.

The body is only a matter. It is made up of the combination of solidity, liquidity, heat and motion, which are the natural basic elements. So the matter originate when solidity, liquidity, heat and motion attach together at different ratios and gaining a very high speed. This very fact makes them transient and quickly changeable. It also exists and becomes extinct unendingly and therefore the matter becomes impermanent. It is devoid of life, feeling or knowledge. There is an active process also in the world. The active process is the thought which exists within the body. The body has no energy unless thought is within. The body cannot even raise a finger without the thought and when the thought leaves the body it becomes a mere corpse and would collapse as a dead log. There for the thought can be considered as the active agent of this world.

The thought can also be considered as an action since no movement can be made without thoughts. Therefore we should make an endeavour to know as to how this thought is formulated. The world is divided in to two kinds of matter called internal matter (Bases- eye, ear, tongue, nose, skin and mind) and external matter. Earlier you read that the force created by the combined strength of Solidity, Liquidity, Heat and Motion results in creation of the matter. Thus it is clear all material body brought into being by these changeable elements are invariably transient and that is why we called it as impermanent. When the changeability exists, then the disappearance or void comes in. That means the emptiness. Even this state of void is subjected to change and its disappearance or becoming extinct leaves room for new matter to come into existence. This state of change brings in soullessness. Thus the reality behind the matter is their arising extinction and existence cessation which is the natural feature of matter.

The earlier mentioned bases (eye, ear, tongue, nose, skin and mind), have their spiritual matter or internal matter which has a brilliance that can attract the external matter. This brilliance is like an image creates on a water surface or on a mirror. When one internal matter and one external matter set to contact consciousness is erupted. Consciousness is the strength that creates the thought, but it is also a matter. The external matter we consider here are colour, sound, smell, flavour, feeling and mental. Here the thought means thoughts create by the said six sense bases.

If we explain it in more simple way – The bases can be considered as institutions which can produce something. These institutions have gates to take material in. These materials are colour matter, sound matter, smell matter, flavour matter, feeling matter and mental matter. The transport agent of these raw materials is the brilliantness of the base. The energy for the production is consciousness. The products are thoughts and it is an action. No any other activity is happening rather than the above at the said bases.

The consciousness (strength to create thoughts) is not erupting alone. It comes with five ingredients called NĀMA. They are Contact, Feeling, Perception, Volition and Attention.

Phassa – Contact

Vedana – feeling

Sanna – Perception

Chetana – Volition

Manasikata – Attention

When external matter and internal matter is set to contact the consciousness too comes in simultaneously with the contact. Then attention comes into the front and reminds feeling, perception and volition how to react on it. Perception realises whether it is a colour matter, sound matter, smell matter, flavour matter, feeling matter or mental matter. Feeling realises whether the external matter in contact is like or dislike. The volition does the continuation of the said action. If the attraction is a colour object we say seeing. If it is sound the action is hearing. But the reality is that a thought is being created. In short we can say the creation of thought means one of the six sense bases attract one of the external matter at a time simultaneously with the consciousness. Then it becomes an action adding a doer. So you can understand well that thought is an action (seeing, hearing, touching, thinking etc.) But what we say is “we see, I think” “I hear” by adding a doer to a natural phenomenon. This chain of activities is common to all the sense bases.

In the above expression you can see that the attention moves out of the chain of action after reminding feeling, perception, and volition to act on and the consciousness is still mixed up with them. When the contact is in action means it is attached to the external matter continuously and it is called group of contact. Likewise feeling presents with group of feeling, perception presents with the group of perception. Attention presents with group of attention. Consciousness is everywhere. Therefore you can now see five aggregates are in the thought. That means five aggregates are in the thought at its inception.


Now we have two definitions to the thought

They are:

1. It is “an action”

2. It is five aggregates “pancaskhanda”

The five aggregate state of the Thought is brilliant and pure. Buddha said. Pahassara meedam bhikkave cittam…….. “Oh. Bhikku, Thought is brilliant. It is spoilt by the evil thoughts that enter from outside.

We have to explore more as to how the first stage of thought becomes serene and pure. To study this we should know what “Consciousness” is. Consciousness is the strength to create thoughts. Consciousness is a matter which cannot be discerned by the eye of a layman. But the eyes of certain personage can discern it. The world is synonymous with the living beings. Accordingly consciousness is present in every living being. Consciousness is also serene and pure at its first origin. It is brilliant. Similarly all the ingredients in consciousness - contact, feeling, perception, volition and attention (passa, vedana, sanna, cetana, and manasikara) are serene and pure. Covetousness or craving is present in the feeling which is one of the ingredients. There are no afflictions or clashes within them either. Only likes and dislikes are present in them. When ignorance comes into thought is reckoned as ever-lasting. This is the faulty vision which makes the person to think that the thought is permanent. This is called errant vision (“athma ditthi or sakkaya ditthi”) which creates desire, or wish, or liking and/ or clashes with the contrary which means the dislike. That leads to clash bringing in craving. The errant vision leads to craving and craving leads to grasping which in turn to bring in the process of existence. Existence leads to birth, Birth leads to old age, old age leads to death following invariably.

We elude to the minds of the Arahaths the noble ones who are fully liberated. But there are substances which even the Arahaths like and dislike thoughts but are pure and brilliant. Lord Buddha had such distinctions. Even there is no covetousness within them and they are not afflicted by the clashes with them or they are not after pleasure or displeasure. Consciousness also made up of the blend of contact, feeling, perception, volition and attention and matter. Since both consciousness and matter are under impermanence the constituent result too comes under impermanence. Hence thought is said to be pure and brilliant but impermanent. That is the truth and the reality. Only like or dislike for certain substances are available in these noble minds. Such thoughts are called brilliant thoughts. (Prabhasvara citta).

Let’s take an example; a friend comes to your dwelling to settle down permanently. Such a thought makes you exceedingly happy love and you accept his company even without any hesitation, if an enemy were to do so there will definitely be a clash in between you and your enemy. Intimate acceptance of the friend and clash occurring out of hatred resulted from acceptance on the part of the latter bring hatred. The Thought too is quite the same. The acceptance of the liking makes you to stick to it and hate it over disliking it. Attachment and hatred are really experiences. One is pleasant and is appreciated while the other is painful and is hatred. The source that is appreciated brings in craving which soaks the “five aggregates” resulting in the accumulation “kamma”. (Kamma – is the force that controls person’s existence). At the inception there is only an active nature. What is meant by accumulation “kamma” or result of oppose ignorance or own ignorance? It is the formulation of rebirth. “Kamma is formed due to misunderstanding of the mental state. When “kamma” action is soaked with covetousness, its rigidness results in attachment. It is the turn brings in the groups of foul grasping.

The initial stage of thought is a formation of five groups of aggregates which is pure and brilliant. Ignorance brought in craving and craving leads to five groups of foul grasping. Therefore the second stage of thought is five foul grasping groups of aggregates.

Now we have found out another definition to question “what is thought?” A thought synonymous with “an action”. An action in return is a “five groups of aggregates” (pancaskandha). Consequently thought turns to “five foul grasping groups of aggregates” (Pancaupadanaskandha) and this leads to rebirth.

Look at a pen. What are you doing now? It is an action. It is a thought. There exist matter, feeling, perception, mental state and consciousness. What is the group of matter in action? Recognised as a colour object. What is the group of feeling? Attached or in conflict. What is the group of perception? It is a colour object. What is mental state? Keep on looking and eye is active. What is the group of consciousness? Eye consciousness (chakku vinnana). Now five foul grasping groups of aggregates is created here.

Now let’s hear a sound. You can hear the sound of a bird. You are hearing. It is creation of thought. It is an action. It is five foul grasping groups of ingredients. What is the group of matter in it? It is sound matter. What is the group of feeling in it? Attached or in conflict. What is done by perception? Recognise as a sound object. What is the metal state? Keep on hearing and ear is active. What are the five foul grasping groups of ingredients? Ear consciousness (sota vinnana).

Now recollect something. It can be an incident of the past or likely to come off in the future. You are thinking. That is happening with the thought. It is an action. What is the group of matter? It is mental matter. What is group of feelings in it? Attached or in conflict. What is the group of perception? Recognise as a mind object. What is the mental state? Keep on thinking and mind is active. What is the group of consciousness? Mind consciousness (mano vinnana). Now here also five foul grasping groups of ingredients are created.

We examined the Thought splitting into five segments. Now let us reduce this division to three. They are “matter”, “nāma” and “consciousness”. These three contains the above said all five segments matter, feeling, perception, mental formulation (sankhara) and consciousness. We call them group of consciousness, group of nama , group of matter .

Now let’s listen to a sound once again. What is there in? “Ear consciousness”. What is the metal formulation “namaskandha”? It is five mental states create with the eruption of ear consciousness. The matter is sound. It is connected with the “nama" called contact. Now you can see all five ingredients arisen spontaneously along with the creation of ear consciousness. Now you can see there is no deference when you say thought or matter, feeling, perception, mental formulation and consciousness, or matter, metal formation, consciousness

Similarly, on the same basis we can conclude no thought or an action can ever take place without the combined effects of consciousness, nama and matter. Hence we should not see an action, but the combined effect of consciousness, nama and matter. At first we saw a thought means the five foul grasping groups of ingredients. Now we should took it as the combined effect of “consciousness, mental formation, and matter”. No doer is presented there. Now there is nothing in existence except a combination of consciousness, mental formation and matter. These are the only available substances in the world. That too comes to existence arises and ceases. That means consciousness that created thoughts is impermanence. The matter created though is impermanent. Hence we get a beautiful answer. That is thoughts are also impermanent. Earlier we concluded five elements in a thought and subsequently we reduced the number on constituent parts to three and at last now we see only one segment in a thought. That is impermanence. If one takes thought as permanent due to ignorance, such a conclusion brings forth selfness through which one goes to craving due to attachment and conflict. Craving leads to attachment, Attachment to birth, birth to rebirth and finally rebirth to death.

The origin of the thought is pure, yet due to absence of the understanding of reality one may turn it to impurity or evil. Wrong views are arising out of ignorance. It is soaked in craving, resulting in thought turning to “kamma”.

Arahat’s thought are constitute of an action only which does not turn to a “kamma” because their Thought will not be soaked in craving. As such we should not leave room to turn a thought to a kamma allowing it to be soaked in craving. The solution for this is to understand the fact that thought is nothing but impermanence the moment it occurs.

Subsequent to forty five years of mastery the Buddha summed it up as follows.

“Handadami Bikkhave amantayami vo; vayadhamma nankhara appamadena sampadetha”

“Oh! Bhikkhus! This is my last sermon to you. I am vying to contract (84000) eighty four thousand segments of teachings. All conditioned things are transient and subject to change. Act wills diligence. Act or live will diligence means live with mindfulness. It helps you to recollect what you have learnt.

Finally let’s come to this conclusion.

 Thought is an element to ignorance. Then how does thought help us? The very inception of thought is impermanent. So let’s live on that concept. Living with that concept in mind is called punctuality. Think about punctuality. We can discern the reality of life and the world in which we live. This understanding of reality does not allow our thought to soak in craving which invariably prevents the formation of “kamma”. Neither such actions nor “kamma” lead to attachment or to rebirth and they become to the path of enlightenment. Let this sermon lead you to understand the extinction “Niruddha”. Bless you with the well being of Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. I conclude my sermon.

Sri Lanka