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Discursive thinking

swaydamswaydam Veteran
edited June 2011 in Philosophy
I've been thinking of discursive thinking lately, and I wanted to get a better understanding of what it is.
So, I looked up 'discursive' and found

passing aimlessly from one subject to another; digressive; rambling.
proceeding by reasoning or argument rather than intuition.

To me, both definitions sound like obstacles to liberation. I kind of think of the second definition as referring to mechanical conditioned ways of thinking.

So, what is it then?


  • taiyakitaiyaki Veteran
    it's not an obstacle. only the mind itself asserts such view.
    be aware of the difference between thought and awareness. that is where you will find all your answers.

    the mind is simply a collection of ideas and concepts. they all are passing phenomena. what is that one thing which watches all this?

    this isn't much of a conceptual answer but it will force you to not eat off another plate. see for yourself.
  • WhoknowsWhoknows Australia Veteran
    Good question @swaydam,

    There is a quality of compulsiveness to discursive thinking. This compulsiveness is grounded on grasping and aversion to things that we want/like, or don't want/like respectively. This grasping and aversion causes emotional upheaval which results in more discursive thinking, hence closing the loop in a cyclic way. The cycle results in karmic formation and strengthening existing karmic conditioning.

    It doesn't really matter if it is reasoned or not, generally there will be an emotional overlay to the thinking process that keeps one stuck in a loop.

    Often we will think of quite logical reasons to do something selfish and because we have a reason for it then its OK. This is an example of how our discursive thinking leads us to take harmful actions, so the sphere of effect moves from the mind to speech or the body, increasing the potential harm.

    Buddhism has methods to break this cycle, on the small scale and on the larger (which is a different topic).

    Sometimes simple things can break the loop, like an unexpected loud noise. But generally we need to practise skills that allow our thoughts to settle. Then we need to find the root of the cause and address that to ease suffering.

    Cheers, WK
  • Saraha said ' I swear the mind is stubborn as a camel, if you tie it up it paws the ground and pulls and...but if you let it go it settles down to eating grass-or something like that.
    So long as the cause of discursive thinking is unchecked the mind will trail off on each new event. The cause of discursive thinking is self cherishing. When we lessen the grasping after self, we let the camel roam free and there appear gaps in the constant flow. As self cherishing dissipates, the discursive thought evaporates. As an above comment said, thought is not awareness. The function of thought is preservation and protection of the self which is connected to the body. That small self is not the you that can become enlightened. Pristine Cognition arises naturally when the grasping after self
    is not consuming our awareness. Seeking peace through self perfecting the wisdom of the perfect other is the way I prefer to approach the problem. This is found in the Paramitas. Best, Dennis
  • HamsakaHamsaka goosewhisperer Polishing the 'just so' Veteran
    I wondered about this too.

    In mulling it over, discursive thinking had been a vital necessity for staying alive, keeping our offspring alive, scanning the environment for dangers and opportunities. Nowadays, when we are relatively unthreatened, the discursive thinking just keeps rolling on as part of our conditioning as human beings.

    Yes, it is all about self cherishing. And self cherishing once had a much more important place in our daily lives when we relied upon it to keep ourselves and our little ones alive and well.

    Now that, as a species, we've arranged our environment into what it is, where's all that discursive energy (that served us so well) to go? It's become the 'monkey mind' and a source of great suffering.

    So rather than having aversion for the 'monkey mind', have some understanding compassion for it, like you would for the training wheels that have to come off the bike. When my son was three (blush!) I knew I had to take away his bottle. Gawd, was he that old???? Anyway, he had a bottle every morning, and I was in nursing school (yeah, that's the excuse!!) and realized that bottle must go.

    So we said 'goodbye' to the bottle, a kind of little game to turn his little mind away from the bottle's catastrophic loss. He got a brand new big boy bed, and that was what big boys had instead of bottles. He was so damn 'old' he barely noticed . . . but I just remembered that in terms of how we relate to the conditionings we are leaving behind to awaken. Hating and loathing them or being ashamed of them are just creating more suffering, not to mention even worse emotional complexes than we already have. Maybe it's more like letting go of a binky we no longer need?

    Gassho :)
  • The discursive mind in its higher form is intuitively discerning. In other words it roams but is focussed on the qualities that arise from discipline and the freedom it entails and leads to.

    Monkey mind wanders, no discernment between that leading up, down, sideways or every blind alley . . .
    Disciplined mind all focussed on enabling paramita

    Are you on the path? Is it narrow, wide, all encompassing?

    You decide whilst I ramble on . . . :wave:
  • Hello: I like your comment above. Thank you for the Wikipedia reference. I need to learn how to tag words-very nice. I read the wiki and it is what I learned of the Sanskrit meaning. However, I also learned that the going beyond is not beyond life but beyond the self to concern and consideration of the others in your life-the other side. This is in keeping with Bodhicitta. Now I would like to link that word-can you help me?
    Best, Dennis
  • Dennis1 said:

    Now I would like to link that word-can you help me?
    Best, Dennis

    Too late. You only have 15 minutes to edit text. Just as you only have a brief life to wake up to. In future:

    1. copy the link, so you have it in memory.
    2. highlight the text you wish to link
    3. above your text entry box is a chain link icon. Click on it.
    4. delete the 'http'
    5. paste your link

    Hope that is enlightening or at least helpful . . .
  • Helpful yes, thank you. Now I can use Buddhist terms without the concern that others won't grasp their specific meaning and also won't have an easy way to clear up the mess.
    You have helped me in my efforts at liberality and that is always enlightening for me.
    Best, Dennis
  • 5 Buddha energies:

    to know
    to have (it all)
    to feel
    to do
    to be

    these are transformed into the Buddha energies by our practice. Before then they have a few (or for some of us more) warts. Gotta love them warts and all because that's us.
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