Special Topics

Fourth Impediment: Inability to Stop Unending Delusional Thoughts

After grasping the fundamentals of meditation, we may notice and wonder, "Why are there so many scattered thoughts?" whenever we sit down to practice. Many beginners will have the misperception that, prior to meditating, these thoughts do not exist, and that they must have been stirred up by the practice itself. This may lead one to mistrust the method, when in fact it is because our mind has been pacified that we are able to clearly perceive so many wandering thoughts.

Another situation that arises is when we are overwhelmed by so many delusional thoughts that we are unable able to focus on applying the method, and cannot settle the mind. In times like this, the solution is to "stop using the method"! Instead, simply practice observing how these wandering thoughts come and go in our mind. If, after giving ourselves room to simply observe, we still get disturbed by many thoughts, it is just fine to accept the situation as it is. During meditation, it is impossible to completely clear our mind of wandering thoughts; nor, conversely, can we constantly be bombarded with thoughts. Whenever we are unable to attain a peaceful mind, we shouldn't force ourselves to meditate; instead, we should try to do walking meditation or perform prostrations to the Buddha.

The basic attitude towards delusional thoughts is to neither reject nor entertain them. Regardless of wild conjectures or scattered thoughts, it is unnecessary to suppress them. Rather, we only need to be aware of the thoughts appearing and disappearing in the mind itself, without chasing them. How can we cease getting carried away by these delusional thoughts? Only through maintaining a clear and vigilant mind. Usually, when we become aware of our delusional thoughts, they have already drawn our mind away for some time; as the old adage goes, "don't be afraid of thoughts arising, be only afraid of becoming aware of it too late". Are you unable to detect delusional thoughts forming in your mind? How soon can you become aware of their existence? This requires practice. With gradual effort, problems won't arise as long as we don't become aware of the wandering thoughts too late.

Extended Reading:

Practice Chan Without Vexations

First Impediment: How to deal with leg pains, soreness, aches, itchiness, and numbness while meditating?

Second Impediment: Why do I feel drowsiness and leg pain when practicing in the Meditation Hall, even though everything feels fine during my meditation routine at home?

Third Impediment: Inability to Relax the Chronically Tense Body?

Fourth Impediment: Inability to Stop Unending Delusional Thoughts

Fifth Impediment: Meditation Makes Me Very Irritable, and Unable to Settle Down

Resource: Issue 383 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Photos: Issue 383 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Translation:  Bright Su 
Editing: Cheng-yu Chang (張振郁), Keith Brown