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date: 14 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

For more than two millennia, contemplative traditions across the Eurasian continent have seen spontaneous thought as a distraction that binds the devout to the phenomenal world, clogs the gateway to fundamental aspects of reality, and is used by demons to tempt the pious away from their prayer or meditation. At the same time, many traditions have believed the fruits of contemplative practice to come about spontaneously, rather than as a result of deliberate effort, and they have treated certain aspects of spontaneous thought as helping the process forward. Various traditions have recommended different approaches to spontaneous thought, including active suppression, mindful observation, harmonious regulation, reluctant or wholehearted acceptance, and either gently or forcefully turning one’s attention to the object of meditation or prayer. Specific antidotes have included the recital of sacred texts or mantras, as well as the performance of good deeds, ascetic exercises, or rituals of repentance and confession.

Keywords: contemplation, Eurasia, spontaneous thought, meditation, prayer, mantra

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