A few years ago, I listened to a dharma talk given by Ajahn Succito. In it, he said that we can think of the mind as having three aspects to it: awareness, feeling, and thinking (thinking includes memory ability). And I think that it was in the same talk where he casually threw out this statement: Thinking is basically just measuring and comparing.

It's a rather humbling statement, isn't it? He didn't expand on the statement, so it comes back to me every once in a while, and I wonder: Can it really be that simple? I don't know, but it does seem right to me for some reason.

Not sure it matters much, but I do think he included the word "basically", as I quoted above. What do you think? Is there anything important missing from his statement?

  • measuring the idea
    – blue_ego
    Jan 3, 2023 at 15:35

2 Answers 2


Not all thoughts can be categorised in that specific way. Ajahn Succito was a Theravada monk, so it is highly likely that he was referring to something called conceit, of which there are nine types, the theme of which revolves around measuring and comparing.

Conceit in Theravada terms has a very specific outline and very specific details that define that outline. In that typified Theravada view - where various movements of the mind are fragmented into a ridiculous procession of elements, units and items to be known, discerned or observed - one monitors how that phenomena arises, abides and wanes out of existence – in this case, the way in which conceit manifests.

If Ajhan Succito was indeed speaking about conceit, then please read Theravada’s – very detailed – description of conceit from another Theravada monk called Yuttadhammo here, who delivers its seeming complexity rather simply. He also includes two excellent excerpts by Mahasi Sayadaw to help drive the point home. That might clear things up, a little.

So, yes, in Theravada, there is always something missing in what they have to say! They paint a rich tapestry of mind movements for those who are inclined to observe in that particular way.

Now, in my typified manner, I can’t help but include the illogical logic of Zen. It is from the perspective of Zen that other interesting vistas will show themselves, perhaps sometimes reflected as if from a sphere whereupon one is presented with a 360 degree view of the once-famed dire situation we call samsara, which is actually heaven on earth.

On that note, Zen master Dogan said -

Although its light is wide and great, the Moon is reflected in a puddle one inch wide. The whole Moon and the entire sky is reflected in one dew drop on the grass.

Following on from your question, (which might be about conceit) Dogen he also said –

“To enter the Buddha Way is to stop discriminating between good and evil and to cast aside the mind that says this is good and that is bad.”

  • "Not all thoughts can be categorised in that specific way." Your opening sentence alludes to something being missing. What? Dec 30, 2022 at 14:07
  • @stick-in-hand - When you go to open a tin of beans, you select an implement called a tin-opener. The tin-opener performs a simple task: it helps you open the tin of beans. Once they are open, you put the tin-opener away. You don't believe in the tin-opener. It's there when it's needed, and gone when it's not. Thoughts are like this tin-opener. They serve only a very simple function. The issue arises when one believes the thoughts refer to something substantial, something in time. At best, thoughts only refer to what is currently needed in the immediate moment.
    – user17652
    Dec 30, 2022 at 14:17
  • 1
    Thanks for your thoughts on conceit. Dec 30, 2022 at 14:46
  • 1
    Liked “samsara is heaven on earth”
    – blue_ego
    Dec 30, 2022 at 19:47
  • 1
    i agree conceit is a form of expression, i.e. 'i am'
    – blue_ego
    Jan 2, 2023 at 13:41

I believe you can disprove that thinking is "measuring and comparing" with your own mind. "I'm running low on apples and milk. I need to get groceries. I'll go to the store tomorrow after work". That is an example of thinking without measuring or comparing. I'm simply planning when to go to the store.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .