To differentiate between samadhi and jhana is really to differentiate between samadhi and first jhana. Understanding vitaka and vicara play a large part in the understanding of "what is first jhana?". . .
Is not vicara worthy of at least the "equal time and effort" given to vitaka? Would you "grease the skids" regarding vicara?
I will endeavor to provide an answer to your question, but first you must acknowledge where I am coming from and keep it in mind as regards the answer given. But note: This is not Analayo's take, but rather my personal take.
I take a different approach than most here when endeavoring to decide what is meant by any particular meditation instruction or the Dhamma in general. That is, I attempt to find out, through the portal of my own experience, what the instruction was originally referring to according to how I have come to experience it in action through my own practice. There are so many little nuances that could
come into play when attempting to understand what a written instruction intends to mean that it is difficult to say with any precision what was actually meant if you don't have the speaker in front of you to ask clarification of. And since the Buddha has long been dead, I do the best I can with the tools I'm given to work with. And one of those tools is the half century or more of life experience I have under my belt. That life experience has pulled my bacon out of the fire on more than one occasion. So, what I have to say on this subject may or may not have much of a following from those here who may not have experienced the same insights into the practice as I.
When I first started out I went through all the traditional explanations about what vitakka
are. I had to start somewhere, and the existing commentary on these terms seemed like the most logical place to start, when I was first looking into this area a few years ago. And through my practice I've come to take and then had to relinquish many positions in matters like this. All I can share with you is my current understanding according to the insights I have gained. In this present case, I think I've come to the end of the road with regard to the issues at hand, but I'm always open to another take if it can be shown to make sense.
It seems to me that some of the explanations I've come across about vitakka
can be somewhat forced or fanciful thinking depending upon the person who is doing the explaining. But for me, this question all came together one day as I was reading a piece done by Thanissaro Bhikkhu in his book Mind Like Fire Unbound
. I had never thought to look at it in the way he was describing, but suddenly it made all the sense in the world, and it opened up a door of understanding for me about these two terms that made sense in a way that many of the other explanations did not. Yet because the suttas are often translated in a wooden and kind of stilted manner (not necessarily the fault of the translators, as the discourses were originally meant to be spoken and memorized, which can call for a rather wooden construction for ease of memory's sake), it can often be difficult to get at what the Buddha was intending to say. So, I'm always looking to find an entry way for that intention
. Experience has shown that sometimes I'm right, and sometimes I'm wrong. But I'm always open to being shown something that makes sense.
At the section break in Mind Like Fire...
titled Habits & practices
(formerly titled Precepts & practices
; you see how Thanissaro messes around with even his own renderings! I prefer his first rendering because it seems more detailed and specific. A habit can be anything; but a precept is a particular something. But this is grist for a different mill.) there follows a description of how to enter absorption. It wasn't so much what he said or how he translated the suttas he was referring to that caught my mind's eye. It was a sudden realization as I was reading and thinking about the description that hit me. You use vitakka
(directed thought or initial application of the mind) and vicara
(evaluation or sustained application of the mind) to get to the second jhana. They are intended
actions, in other words. They are tools showing you how to allow
the absorption experience begin to take over for itself (within the mind) without having to intend
the directing of the mind toward attending to the breath and sustaining attention on the breath (in the case of using the breath as the object of observation).
So, from my perspective, the rendering "sustained application of the mind" or "sustained application of attention" or "sustained attention" fits very well for vicara
is what takes over from vitakka
, or the initial application of the mind, to keep the absorption going in what might be termed an artificial or perhaps manipulated manner. Artificial because it is being "intended" or "induced" so to speak. Once the mind hits the second level of jhana
, the inducement is no longer present or needed, and hence, vicara
drops away. At least, that is how I experience it. I hope that answers your question.
It will be interesting to see how many here can somewhat agree and relate to that explanation.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV