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How to Replace Unwholesome Thoughts

What can we do after we do discover ourselves experiencing unwholesome states? For instance, what occurs after we see one thing that triggers an disagreeable feeling, and an unwholesome state arises within the thoughts? [We can consider] pahana, which implies elimination or elimination. You may give it some thought as selective pondering. Instead of pondering or entertaining no matter thought arises within the thoughts, we will actively generate and select to suppose the ideas we wish to suppose.

[To this end,] the Buddha speaks of samma sankappa, which is usually referred to as proper pondering or proper motivation and is a part of the eightfold path. Within this he provides us three ideas that we will deal with. The first is nekkhamma, or renunciation. The second is avyapada, a considered non-hatred or non-ill will. (If this sounds too summary, consider it as metta, lovingkindness, or benevolence.) The third is ahimsa, nonviolence or non-cruelty, which is a considered compassion. 

We see this recommendation play out in a sutta within the Majjhima Nikaya referred to as the Dvedhavitakka Sutta, or the sutta on two forms of pondering, when the Buddha was reflecting on the time earlier than he turned a Buddha. (He says, “When I was only a bodhisattva…” Bodhisattva means somebody aspiring to be a Buddha, significantly somebody on the trail to changing into a sammasambuddha [or a fully enlightened one].)

The Buddha was conducting experiments in his thoughts, and considered one of his first experiments was meditating on greediness, hatred, and violence. When he let these ideas play out in his thoughts, he observed he didn’t really feel good. He wasn’t getting additional in his non secular quest, and he was getting even additional away from what he was making an attempt to obtain.

So, then he mentioned, “I’m going to put those thoughts aside. Putting those aside, let me cultivate the opposite kind of thoughts: Instead of greed, a thought of renunciation, or letting go; instead of anger, a thought of lovingkindness; and instead of cruelty or violence, a thought of compassion or kindness towards others.” When he practiced this manner, he observed that he felt higher and was ready to overcome ideas of greed, hatred, and cruelty.

We see two issues on this sutta: sabbapapassa akaranam, avoiding the unhealthy, grasping, indignant, and merciless ideas; and ku salassa upasampada: producing healthful ideas, or ideas of renunciation, lovingkindness, and compassion.

We also can join this to the primary two verses of the Dhammapada. As the Buddha tells us within the first verse of the Dhammapada, “If you think in an unskillful way, then suffering follows you.” Then he says, “But if you think in a skillful way, happiness follows you.” Happiness will come to those that suppose within the correct or healthful method, which is pondering ideas of renunciation, lovingkindness, and compassion. 

We don’t strive to struggle unwholesome ideas, resist them, or push them away. It’s very arduous not to suppose a thought that you just’re not supposed to suppose. If you say, “Don’t think of an elephant,” you begin excited about an elephant. So as an alternative of doing that, we consider one thing skillful, good, nice, or pleasurable, even. We consider one thing that’s going to deliver tranquility and rest (passaddhi), one thing that’s going to deliver pleasure and rapture (piti), or one thing that’s going to deliver happiness (sukha).

And it’s not nearly saying in your thoughts, “May all beings be well, happy, comfortable, and peaceful. ” Then we’re simply parroting, and a parrot doesn’t actually perceive what it’s saying. The necessary half is that pondering on this method and utilizing this idea to set off and really feel that innocent happiness: passaddhi, piti, and sukha within the thoughts.

These ideas of renunciation and letting go really feel excellent. It’s a innocent pleasure as a result of they’re not depending on sensuality. They don’t deliver hurt to anybody else or ourselves. So we want to rejoice—anumodana—in these healthful actions. Even pondering on this method is a meritorious deed. It brings a variety of advantage, or punna. It creates a variety of good actions, or kusalakamma.

In different phrases, after we sit and follow and suppose like this, we actually need to get the style of it. We need to really feel it within the physique. We need to really feel that lovingkindness and compassion, join with it, soak it up, and let it cowl our complete physique. You can bask in it as a result of there’s nothing unhealthy about it. No one’s getting harm. In truth, it’s going to enable you converse kindly, behave kindly, and be on this world in a extra peaceable, compassionate method. 

So don’t be afraid of any nice experiences that come up. Actually deal with that pleasantness. Focus on that feeling of pleasure. Focus on that have, after which you possibly can simply go away the pondering behind. You can push the cognitive facet of the follow of “may I be well, may other beings be well, may they be free from suffering” to the background and get into the experiential a part of lovingkindness and compassion. By doing that, not solely will you have the opportunity to substitute unwholesome states within the thoughts, however you’ll additionally have the opportunity to shield your self as a result of once you’re on this healthful expertise, it is rather troublesome for an unwholesome expertise to take over.

Adapted from Bhante Sanathavihari’s “Right Effort: Understanding an Often Overlooked Mental Discipline on the Eightfold Path.”


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