What is "mind"?

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Lazy_eye
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What is "mind"?

Post by Lazy_eye » Mon Jul 03, 2017 12:01 am

Hello:

Today I was mulling over the famous opening line of the Dhammapada. I've seen it translated in various ways, e.g.:

"Mind precedes all mental states" (Acharya Buddharakkhita)
"Phenomena are preceded by the heart" (Thannisaro)
"Mind is the forerunner of all things" (a common formulation, not sure whose)

"Manas" is the Pali term being translated here as "mind" or "heart." So now I am curious: what is manas, exactly? The Dhammapada verses make it sound almost as though manas is an original cause, something that precedes conditioned phenomena, which would seemingly give it the status of being unconditioned. But that can't be right. Manas has to be conditioned like everything else. Presumably it is conditioned by greed, ignorance and delusion.

I'm hoping someone here could shed light on what this term signifies, and how it figures into dependent origination. If possible, a non-Abhidhammic explanation would be helpful (no slight against the Abhidhamma, but I'm more interested in how the term would have been understood at an earlier juncture). I have done some research but find I'm still not clear on it.

Thanks in advance!

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bodom
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Re: What is "mind"?

Post by bodom » Mon Jul 03, 2017 12:23 am

"What is the mind? The mind isn't 'is' anything."

— Ajaan Chah

"The mind is neither good nor evil, but it's what knows good and knows evil. It's what does good and does evil. And it's what lets go of good and lets go of evil."

— Ajaan Lee
I don't know what the mind "is" all I know is there is one and it needs to be trained. I hope someone else can give you a satisfactory answer.

:namaste:
To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo


With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasika Kee Nanayan

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khlawng
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Re: What is "mind"?

Post by khlawng » Mon Jul 03, 2017 12:50 am

here is a quote from LP Dune Atulo.
The mind sent outside is the origination of suffering.
The result of the mind sent outside is suffering.
The mind seeing the mind is the path.
The result of the mind seeing the mind is the cessation of suffering.
i find the issue with many people,
is this confusion between mental states and mind.
further treating the mind as a singular entity impedes progress.
most westerners equate the brain as the mind.
most followers of monotheistic religions believe the soul is the mind.

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aflatun
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Re: What is "mind"?

Post by aflatun » Mon Jul 03, 2017 1:31 am

Lazy_eye wrote:Hello:

Today I was mulling over the famous opening line of the Dhammapada. I've seen it translated in various ways, e.g.:

"Mind precedes all mental states" (Acharya Buddharakkhita)
"Phenomena are preceded by the heart" (Thannisaro)
"Mind is the forerunner of all things" (a common formulation, not sure whose)

"Manas" is the Pali term being translated here as "mind" or "heart." So now I am curious: what is manas, exactly? The Dhammapada verses make it sound almost as though manas is an original cause, something that precedes conditioned phenomena, which would seemingly give it the status of being unconditioned. But that can't be right. Manas has to be conditioned like everything else. Presumably it is conditioned by greed, ignorance and delusion.

I'm hoping someone here could shed light on what this term signifies, and how it figures into dependent origination. If possible, a non-Abhidhammic explanation would be helpful (no slight against the Abhidhamma, but I'm more interested in how the term would have been understood at an earlier juncture). I have done some research but find I'm still not clear on it.

Thanks in advance!
I think its going to depend on who you ask! I believe most interpret the verse ethically (for example Bhante Sujato), while rarely you'll see it interpreted more ontologically (Venerable Nanananda). Most all of these interpretations would grant that the mind is conditioned, whether its contaminated by hatred, greed, delusion (us) or not (Arahant).

Even rarer still would be the idea that in some sense the mind is inherently pure and unconditioned, which you might see in the Thai Forest tradition maybe (but this probably needs a ton of qualification), Mahayana, Vajrayana, etc.

As far as what the term signifies and its relation to DO, I believe we're just talking about the sixth "internal" sense base which follows on consciousness/nama-rupa

Hopefully that helps, a tiny little bit?
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

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Lazy_eye
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Re: What is "mind"?

Post by Lazy_eye » Mon Jul 03, 2017 1:41 am

aflatun wrote: I think its going to depend on who you ask! I believe most interpret the verse ethically (for example Bhante Sujato), while rarely you'll see it interpreted more ontologically (Venerable Nanananda). Most all of these interpretations would grant that the mind is conditioned, whether its contaminated by hatred, greed, delusion (us) or not (Arahant).

Even rarer still would be the idea that in some sense the mind is inherently pure and unconditioned, which you might see in the Thai Forest tradition maybe (but this probably needs a ton of qualification), Mahayana, Vajrayana, etc.

As far as what the term signifies and its relation to DO, I believe we're just talking about the sixth "internal" sense base which follows on consciousness/nama-rupa

Hopefully that helps, a tiny little bit?
Yes, it does -- thank you! One follow-up question I might have is: don't we need an ontology in order to have ethics? Would the ethics make sense without the ontological foundation? So are these approaches really separate?
khlawng wrote: i find the issue with many people,
is this confusion between mental states and mind.
further treating the mind as a singular entity impedes progress.
most westerners equate the brain as the mind.
most followers of monotheistic religions believe the soul is the mind.
I have to be up front here and mention that the topic interests me in part because I've been reading about the various Western models of mind/consciousness and thinking how these compare with the Buddhist view.
bodom wrote: I don't know what the mind "is" all I know is there is one and it needs to be trained. I hope someone else can give you a satisfactory answer.

:namaste:
Love the practicality of this answer. it's pretty much all I know too.

:namaste:

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aflatun
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Re: What is "mind"?

Post by aflatun » Mon Jul 03, 2017 2:22 am

Lazy_eye wrote:
aflatun wrote: I think its going to depend on who you ask! I believe most interpret the verse ethically (for example Bhante Sujato), while rarely you'll see it interpreted more ontologically (Venerable Nanananda). Most all of these interpretations would grant that the mind is conditioned, whether its contaminated by hatred, greed, delusion (us) or not (Arahant).

Even rarer still would be the idea that in some sense the mind is inherently pure and unconditioned, which you might see in the Thai Forest tradition maybe (but this probably needs a ton of qualification), Mahayana, Vajrayana, etc.

As far as what the term signifies and its relation to DO, I believe we're just talking about the sixth "internal" sense base which follows on consciousness/nama-rupa

Hopefully that helps, a tiny little bit?
Yes, it does -- thank you! One follow-up question I might have is: don't we need an ontology in order to have ethics? Would the ethics make sense without the ontological foundation? So are these approaches really separate?
Well that's probably a charged subject too, but I would say so yes they go together!

I didn't mean to imply that those who read it ethically are anti ontological (necessarily), I meant more, they read it as, the mind shapes our experience, so wholesome thoughts, intentions, etc should be cultivated as that's what's going to impact what you end up with. They wouldn't take this to be referring to rocks, tables and chairs (I don't think). And so the idea of a world in which the mind shapes our experience and birth certainly does imply a kind of ontology I believe, but here its not necessarily idealistic strictly speaking.

Whereas someone like Ven. Nanananda might appear to give it a stronger reading on which all phenomena are indeed mind made, products of ideation, which sounds to some like a hard ontological idealism. Including rocks, tables, chairs :tongue:
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: What is "mind"?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Jul 03, 2017 4:44 am

What is mind? No matter!
What is matter? Never mind!
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aflatun
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Re: What is "mind"?

Post by aflatun » Mon Jul 03, 2017 4:52 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:What is mind? No matter!
What is matter? Never mind!
Good one Bhante :rofl: Don't turn into a Berkeleyan on us, (or Homer Simpson)...we need some stability around here! :heart:
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

santa100
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Re: What is "mind"?

Post by santa100 » Mon Jul 03, 2017 5:11 am

Lazy_eye wrote:What is "mind"?
A broad term with various different context. The wiki page gives pretty decent description about its 3 separate usages in different context: vinnana, manas, and citta.

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: What is "mind"?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Jul 03, 2017 5:35 am

aflatun wrote:Don't turn into a Berkeleyan on us, (or Homer Simpson)...we need some stability around here! :heart:
I think we need some pragmatism around here. All this hair-splitting does not help to remove suffering.

Buddhism is neither a religion, nor a philosophical system. It is a practical path leading to the removal of suffering.

The Dhammapada verses point to how mind creates either suffering or happiness. So, train the mind to avoid suffering and gain happiness. Be mindful of thoughts (citta) and mental states (cetasikā).

If you are trying to use it to define a Creationist theory, you missed the point of the teaching.
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SarathW
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Re: What is "mind"?

Post by SarathW » Mon Jul 03, 2017 8:54 am

The mind is like the fire.
It arises with the matter and perishes with it.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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BasementBuddhist
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Re: What is "mind"?

Post by BasementBuddhist » Mon Jul 03, 2017 6:30 pm

bodom wrote:
"What is the mind? The mind isn't 'is' anything."

— Ajaan Chah

"The mind is neither good nor evil, but it's what knows good and knows evil. It's what does good and does evil. And it's what lets go of good and lets go of evil."

— Ajaan Lee
I don't know what the mind "is" all I know is there is one and it needs to be trained. I hope someone else can give you a satisfactory answer.

:namaste:
:goodpost:

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WindDancer
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Re: What is "mind"?

Post by WindDancer » Tue Jul 04, 2017 8:58 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
aflatun wrote:Don't turn into a Berkeleyan on us, (or Homer Simpson)...we need some stability around here! :heart:
I think we need some pragmatism around here. All this hair-splitting does not help to remove suffering.

Buddhism is neither a religion, nor a philosophical system. It is a practical path leading to the removal of suffering.

The Dhammapada verses point to how mind creates either suffering or happiness. So, train the mind to avoid suffering and gain happiness. Be mindful of thoughts (citta) and mental states (cetasikā).

If you are trying to use it to define a Creationist theory, you missed the point of the teaching.
Thank you Bhante Pesala for your ongoing efforts and guidance to the group. Your posts help me to feel grounded and help me to find my way as I aspire to learn more. I really like your orientation that "Buddhism is not a religion or a philosophical system. It is a practical path leading to the removal of suffering."

I am new to Dhamma Wheel. Some of the discussions have seemed truly focused on the Path, and they have been quite helpful. Other discussions seem questionable, seemingly adding to confusion, delusion, conflict and agitation, not fostering learning, peace, unity or Liberation.

Thanks again for being our guide.

WindDancer
Live Gently....

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: What is "mind"?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Jul 04, 2017 9:04 am

WindDancer wrote:Some of the discussions have seemed truly focused on the Path, and they have been quite helpful. Other discussions seem questionable, seemingly adding to confusion, delusion, conflict and agitation, not fostering learning, peace, unity or Liberation.
Yes, for a long time I have been urging others to use this forum in the right way, but it's a losing battle. I have now set up my own forum where no such questionable discussions will be permitted.
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WindDancer
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Re: What is "mind"?

Post by WindDancer » Tue Jul 04, 2017 10:11 am

Bhante Pesala thank you for replying to the concern I shared. Is the forum that you have created open to lay practitioners? I am committed to the Path. In fact I seriously considered becoming ordained in my early 20's and again more recently; however, I have not had the health to do so. I guess I will have to be content with living alone and engaging primarily in solo practice. Though I started out in Zen practice, I have become inspired to learn and practice Theravada Buddhism over the past four years.

In addition to more formal sitting and walking meditation, I maintain an active daily life practice. I have studied hundreds of hours of Dhamma talks and multiple books on mindfulness/vipassana meditation. I have only made a beginning on Sutta study. Most of my Dhamma understanding has come from teachers' talks and writings created throughout the last 50-60 years or so.
Live Gently....

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