Monkeys, Parrots and Contemplative Thought

Article by Ajahn Sucitto

For the current three-month retreat this year, we have a lot of people who are quite new (less than five years’ experience) to meditation, and so I thought it would be good to go back to some basics. And of course in doing that, looked more fully into an area that I’d never adequately explored myself. The area is thought, or what I’m calling ‘contemplative thought’. For most people (I suppose) who enter Buddha-Dhamma through ‘meditation’ – i.e. sit up straight, close your eyes, focus on the breath – thinking is configured as a constant distraction, a mad monkey that one has to repeatedly drag down to the ground and tether. It’s either that or the restless parrot of obsessive thought; a presence that sits on your shoulder and chirps on and on while you’re trying to be quiet. Best kill these creatures altogether, and rely on the soundless angel of non-conceptual awareness to carry you to nibbāna, right? Well, that’s not the approach of the Buddha.

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