'thought-conception and discursive thinking', (or 'applied and sustained thought') are verbal functions (vacī-sankhāra: s. sankhāra) of the mind, the so-called 'inner speech ('parole interieure'). They are constituents of the 1st absorption (s. jhāna), but absent in the higher absorptions.
(1) "Thought-conception (vitakka) is the laying hold of a thought, giving it attention. Its characteristic consists in fixing the consciousness to the object.
(2) "Discursive thinking (vicāra) is the roaming about and moving to and fro of the mind.... It manifests itself as continued activity of mind" (Vis.M. IV).
(1) is compared with the striking against a bell, (2) with its resounding; (1) with the seizing of a pot, (2) with wiping it. (Cf. Vis . IV.).