Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Mind, The Mind

Ven. Nyanaponika Thera, The Book of the Ones (AN I) BPS, Wisdom Quarterly edit
New enormous golden Buddha in Ang Thong, Thailand (Woottamee/

The Numerical Discourses (Anguttara Nikaya, also called the Gradual Sayings) begin with "The Mind." The Buddha -- who knew many things, perhaps all that it is possible to know -- knew of nothing more beneficial than the well developed mind of a meditator:

The Mind I
No other thing do I know, O meditators,* that is so intractable as an undeveloped mind. An undeveloped mind is, indeed, an intractable thing.

No other thing do I know, O meditators, that is so tractable as a developed [by "meditation," bhavana] mind. A developed mind is, indeed, a tractable thing.

No other thing do I know, O meditators, that brings so much suffering as an undeveloped and uncultivated mind. An undeveloped and uncultivated mind indeed brings much suffering.

No other thing do I know, O meditators, that brings so much happiness as a developed and cultivated mind. A developed and cultivated mind indeed brings happiness (I, II, 1-10; selected).

"Mind" (citta), when seen in meditation, is in the area of the heart.

No other thing do I know, O meditators, that brings so much harm as a mind that is untamed, unguarded, unprotected, and uncontrolled. Such a mind indeed brings much harm.

No other thing do I know, O meditators, that brings so much benefit as a mind that is tamed, guarded, protected, and controlled. Such a mind indeed brings much benefit (I, Iv, 1-10; selected).

The Mind II
No other thing do I know, O meditators, that so quickly changes as the mind -- inasmuch that it is not easy to give an illustration for the mind's quick change [mind as cittas or "moments of consciousness" that rapidly arise and vanish] (I, v, 8).

Luminous, O meditators, is the mind. ["Luminous," or pabhassaram, meaning bright, pure; "mind," or citta, refers here, according to the commentary, to the subconscious mind (bhavanga-citta), namely the life-continuum, a term from the Abhidharma]. And it is defiled by adventitious defilements [greed, hatred, delusion, which arise, according to Buddhist psychology, during the part of the cognitive process called "impulsion," javana.]

Luminous, O meditators, is the mind. And it is free of adventitious defilements (I, v, 9-10). [The commentary explains that defilements do not arise simultaneously with the subconscious "life-continuum," or bhavanga, but they "arrive" later at the impulsion phase.**]

The heart, or the blood as it passes through it, appears to be the seat of mind (cittas).

Meditators, if for just the time of a finger snap a meditator produces a thought of loving-kindness, develops it [to the level of jhana, zen, ch'an, or "meditative absorption"], gives attention to it, such a person is (rightly) called a meditator. Not in vain does one meditate. One acts in accordance with the Buddha's dispensation. One follows his advice and eats deservedly of the donations of support made by others in the country. [Literally, it is "not in vain" that one practices and that the giver has given to someone worthy of gifts.]

Good and Bad
Meditators, whatsoever states [things, phenomena] are good [skillful, wholesome, profitable, wished for, beneficial, producing happiness when their results come to fruition], have a part in what is good, are on the side of the good -- all these have mind as their forerunner. Mind [namely, wholesome intention] arises as the first of them, followed by good states (I, vi, 7.9). [Bad -- or what is unskillful with fruits that are unwished for, painful, and difficult to bear -- results from "negligence," the absence of mindfulness, whereas good from "heedfulness" or appamada.]

Wisdom: the Highest Gain
Insignificant [by comparison], O meditators, is the loss of relatives, wealth, and fame. The loss of [liberating] wisdom is the greatest loss.

Insignificant, O meditators, is any increase of relatives, wealth, or fame. The increase of wisdom is the highest gain.

Therefore, O meditators, should you train yourselves thus: "We will grow in the increase of wisdom." O meditators, thus should you train yourselves (I, viii, 6-10).

*The word being translated is "monastics" (bhikkhus), but the Buddha is not speaking to them alone. The message he is imparting is to all practitioners -- nuns, devas, laypersons, and those in various stages of enlightenment. So we, preferring to move away from customary patriarchal and historically sexist language whenever the Buddha is not in any way limiting his comments to a specific gender, utilize "meditators." This indicates that this message was delivered to all who practice and seek to cultivate the teachings (Dharma).

**The subcommentary says that, strictly speaking, no defilement of a luminous mind takes place because the luminous subconsciousness and the defilements do not co-exist. The defilements arise at a later stage of the fully conscious process: The figurative expression of a "defiled mind" has been used in the text for indicating that reference is here to the same mental continuity (eka-santati).

The fact that this expression luminous mind does not signify any "eternal and pure mind-essence" is evident from the preceding paragraph of this text n which the mind is said to be something extremely fleeting and transitory.

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