How Thoughts Change During Meditaton

In the ordinary mind, we perceive the stream of thoughts as continuous; but in reality this is not the case. We will discover for ourselves that there is a gap between each thought. When our awareness is strong, we can notice these gaps, and as a result, the thoughts also slow down. When the past thought is past and the future thought not yet arisen, you will always find a gap. When the past thought has passed and the future thought has not yet arisen, gradually we will feel the gap in between.

Our minds start to become boundless and spacious, and our thoughts become less and less, like coming to the ocean. The gaps between thoughts become wider and wider. The state when the previous thought has just stopped and the next thought has not yet arisen will gradually appear. Slowly, you will notice the gap between the past thought that has ceased and the future thought that has not yet arisen. Your awareness will notice it. It’s like a moving lamp. When its speed is extremely fast, it appears as a ribbon of light without any gaps. Only when its speed slows down can we see the gaps in between. Of course, “the past thought is past and the future thought not yet arisen” is still a state of ignorance. In order to penetrate this ignorance, we need a calmer mind and deeper concentration.

When coarse delusions are absent, you will notice coarse thoughts. When coarse thoughts are absent, you will notice subtle thoughts. As your concentration deepens, when subtle thoughts are absent, you will notice even subtler thoughts. When the subtlest thoughts are absent and all wandering thoughts are gone, the first five consciousnesses, as well as the sixth consciousness, all stop working, and the attachment to “self in person” in the seventh consciousness appears—the ignorance appears. If the attachment to “self in person” is penetrated, the attachment to “self in phenomena” in the seventh consciousness will appear, which is another layer of ignorance. If the attachment to “self in phenomena” is penetrated, the fundamental ignorance in the eighth consciousness will appear.

This is the process of meditation. In the past, practitioners in the Zen tradition engaged in this introspection, continuously watching and cutting off layers of thoughts. As your concentration deepens, you will see increasingly subtle scattered thoughts and even the gaps between the thoughts.

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