Meanings of vitakka

From Jon abbott
https://groups.io/g/dsg/message/177706

In the General Introduction to his[ven. Bodhi] translation of the Saṃyutta Nikaya there is a useful note on the meaning of vitakka (and vicāra):

In common usage, vitakka corresponds so closely to our “thought” that no other rendering seems feasible; for example, in kāmavitakka, sensual thought, or its opposite, nekkhammavitakka, thought of renunciation.
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> When, however, vitakka and vicāra occur as constituents of the first jhāna, they do not exercise the function of discursive thinking characteristic of ordinary consciousness.
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> Here, rather, vitakka is the mental factor with the function of applying the mind to the object, and vicāra the factor with the function of examining the object non-discursively in order to anchor the mind in the object.
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> CDB General Introduction p52

So in common usage (in Pāli), vitakka means thought.

However, in the context of the mental factor of that name it means the mental factor with the function of applying the mind to the object.

Furthermore, there is a verbal form ‘vitakketi ’ which means to think, reflect or consider.

The following sutta is an instance of the use of vitakka as meaning thoughts and vitakketi as meaning thinks:

7 (7) Thoughts

“Bhikkhus, do not think evil unwholesome thoughts; that is, sensual thought, thought of ill will, thought of harming. For what reason? These thoughts, bhikkhus, are unbeneficial, irrelevant to the fundamentals of the holy life, [418] and do not lead to revulsion, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna.

“When you think, bhikkhus, you should think: ‘This is suffering’; you should think: ‘This is the origin of suffering’; you should think: ‘This is the cessation of suffering’; you should think: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’ For what reason? These thoughts, bhikkhus, are beneficial, relevant to the fundamentals of the holy life, and lead to revulsion, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna.

“Therefore, bhikkhus, an exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is suffering.’…An exertion should be made to understand: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’”

*SN 56:7 (CDB p1841)

Jon

Abbreviations:

CDB = Collected Discourses of the Buddha (a translation of the Saṃyutta Nikāya)

SN = Saṃyutta Nikāya

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