To attain jhana or samadhi, we need to stop our thoughts. But that doesn’t mean having no thoughts is enlightenment. The purpose of reaching a state of non-thoughts is to help us see the ultimate Truth. That is done through Vippassana meditation.
In the beginning, it is difficult for us to stop our thoughts. Our minds churn and churn thoughts. Our thoughts are like bubbles arising in a fermentation vat. These thoughts are triggered by our daily interactions with the world and some said, plus habitual residual imprints from past lives.
To get a grip on our minds, we practice mindfulness. Through mindfulness, we make an effort to stop wrong thoughts and encourage good thoughts. This process is about taking control and becoming a master of our own minds. To cultivate good and abandon evil is known as Right Effort. In that manner, external situations will exert lesser and lesser influences on our minds. Gradually, we will develop a positioning. We cherish the good and abandon evil. Our minds have Loving-kindness, Compassion, meditative bliss, and stability.
We should also have a good mental positioning in regard to karma. We have the correct view of rebirth. Thus, we acquire a mental positioning that accords with the “Middle Path”, we avoid having nihilist or eternalist views.
As we practice along, our views become more refined. the correctness of our views depends on having the right understanding. Right understanding comes from learning the Dharma.
As we meditate and examine our state of beings, wisdom will arise. The first goal is to realise the emptiness of self. (Aka Non-I) When we have the right view of emptiness; This view or mental positioning will change the way we perceive the world or interact with it.
It is important to note that uncontrollable thinking is a delusion. This happens as long as our minds are weak and undisciplined. Views or mental positioning is not attained by thinking. Otherwise, all the scholars would be enlightened.
When we talk about thoughts, views, and delusions, we need to make sure that we are not confused about them.
For a beginner, it is important for us to know that undisciplined thinking is a delusion. We get trapped in that process and are incapable of escaping random thoughts. It is a habitual tendency that we want to get rid of. These bubbling thoughts are the clouds (delusions) obscuring the moon (wisdom).
Is an enlightened person capable of thinking and planning? Such as, where to go for lunch ( beg for alms), what to say to people ( give a discourse), what to accept or reject, etc. According to the sutta and sutra, the answer is yes. But the thoughts are not random and uncontrollable like us (the unenlightened). It is a functional process that is supported by Right-views (non-I / emptiness) and according to some meditation masters, the mind becomes simply aware (aka knowing/knower)
So when we discuss thoughts, views, and delusions, it is very important that we know what we are talking about, the context in which we are discussing and forming our opinions, and the audience listening to us.
Since we are still unenlightened, it is best to stick to simple basics. Uncontrollable thoughts are bad. Fermenting thoughts are bad. They are delusions. We should stop living in the past or let our minds fantasize.
This is in accordance with various scriptural instructions and advice given by past masters. For example, in Pure Land Buddhism, we have to focus our minds on the name of Amitabha Buddha and refrain from discursive thoughts. In Theravada traditions, some practitioner focus on breath, and the repetition of “Buddho” is emphasised. Have fun with your practice.
May all be well and happy.