Cormac Brown sent me a PM, which I responded with the following. I thought it would maybe benefit some people (with his permission to post the PM).
Cormac Brown wrote:I found this an interesting and helpful comment that you made on this thread and wanted to thank you for it.
You are welcome. Happy it was of some help.
Regarding the "demolishing" and "wiping out of existence" of unwholesome thoughts, it would be important to see in which Suttas or Sutta these passages are mentioned and most importantly the translator. Further investigation by looking up the Pāḷi would be very useful.
It is true that 'overcoming' (pahāna-padhāna) is one of the 4 Right Efforts (padhāna), however it is one of four (to 'avoid', 'develop' and 'maintain' being the other three). Moreover, it is important to know what is meant by 'overcoming':
(2) “What now is the effort to overcome? The monk does not retain any thought of sensual lust, or any other evil, unwholesome states that may have arisen; he abandons them, dispels them, destroys them, causes them to disappear. This is called the effort to overcome.
A. IV, 14 (trans. Nyanatiloka Thera)
This is a translation of a Pāḷi word, so to get an accurate meaning of the word, a definition would be crucial. I am having difficulty finding the precise definition of the word 'pahāna' in the PTS Dictionary, but parts of entries suggest it means something closer to 'overcome', 'abandonning', 'religinshing', but far from very strong English words such as 'demolishing' and 'wiping out of existence' (the latter possibly was used by the Buddha as a way to put emphasis and energy in his discourse, which is important to identify; again, knowing the passage would be important to understand the context).
pahāna: ‘overcoming’, abandoning. There are 5 kinds of overcoming: (1) overcoming by repression (vikkhambhana-pahāna), i.e. the temporary suspension of the 5 hindrances (nīvaraṇa, q.v.) during the absorptions, (2) overcoming by the opposite (tadanga-pahāna), (3) overcoming by destruction (samuccheda-pahāna), (4) overcoming by tranquillization (paṭipassaddhi-pahāna), (5) overcoming by escape (nissaraṇa-pahāna).
(1) “Among these, ‘overcoming by repression’ is the pushing back of adverse things, such as the 5 mental hindrances (nīvaraṇa, q.v.), etc., through this or that mental concentration (samādhi, q.v.), just as a pot thrown into moss-clad water pushes the moss aside....
(2) “‘Overcoming by the opposite’ is the overcoming by opposing this or that thing that is to be overcome, by this or that factor of knowledge belonging to insight (vipassanā q.v.), just as a lighted lamp dispels the darkness of the night. In this way, the personality- belief (sakkāyadiṭṭhi, s. diṭṭi) is overcome by determining the mental and corporeal phenomena... the view of uncausedness of existence by investigation into the conditions... the idea of eternity by contemplation of impermanency... the idea of happiness by contemplation of misery....
(3) “If through the knowledge of the noble path (s. ariyapuggala) the fetters and other evil things can- not continue any longer, just like a tree destroyed by lightning, then such an overcoming is called ‘overcoming by destruction’ “ (Vis.M. XXII, 110f.).
(4) When, after the disappearing of the fetters at the entrance into the paths, the fetters, from the mom- ent of fruition (phala) onwards, are forever extinct and stilled, such overcoming is called the ‘overcoming by tranquillization’.
(5) “The ‘overcoming by escape’ is identical with the extinction and Nibbāna” (Pts.M. I. 27). (App.).
Furthermore, I think MN 40 is very relevant for the topic: MN. 20, Vitakkasaṇṭhāna Sutta: The Removal of Distracting Thoughts
(trans. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
Note that the last one of clenching one's teeth is considered to be a last resort and is simply a physical way to affect one's mind.
Cormac Brown wrote:
Would the latter part of your comment be an example of this? I.e. by the very act of non-identifying and "continuing on with wholesome thoughts," would you say that one "demolishes" the unwholesome ones?
samseva wrote:An unwholesome thought is just that. When such a thought arises in your mind, by being mindful you can look at it for what it is; it is only an unwholesome thought and nothing else. Don't identify with it or proliferate on it; just notice it and continue on with wholesome thoughts and actions.
No, I would even say it is the opposite. When an unwholesome thought appears and then vanishes, the thought already came into being and nothing can be done about it. To then take action against this thought is to create further thought related to the unwanted one, which simply put, reinforces the unwholesome thought and upon closer examination, doesn't make any sense (reflecting on the thought with mindfulness, like mentioned in MN 20, is fine, but this and what I am referring to are two very different things; deep reflection isn't the best nor possible in some situations).
By doing this, thought and energy is put forth to try to "stop" an unwholesome thought. In some cases, negative emotions are part of this thought pattern, which creates havoc and in a literal and practical sense creates bad kamma, since it creates the exact "loop" which is described in paṭiccasamuppāda (Dependent Origination), where a kind of "neurosis" (for a lack of a less intense word, although highly accurate) is created.
What needs to be done when an unwholesome thought appears, is to see it for what it truly is, a thought, and to observe it with mindfulness and understanding/wisdom. You don't cling to it (like previously described), nor identify with it, but continue on with what you need to do, which is to create wholesome thoughts and actions (unattached to the unwholesome thought).
I am happy you sent me a PM. However, all this would be beneficial for other members interested. Would you mind if I post the message, with your initial PM, in the thread?