Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"Monkey Mind" in Meditation

Michael Carr; CC Liu, Pat Macpherson, Seth Auberon, Wisdom Quarterly (Wiki edit)
What's monkey mind? Hold on a second, I'll look on Wisdom Quarterly (Huffington Post).
Obsessed with sexy distractions (Uhohbro).
Monkey mind (or mind monkey) comes from the Chinese word xinyuan and the Sino-Japanese shin'en (心猿), literally, "heart-/mind-monkey").

It is a Buddhist term meaning "restless, unsettled, capricious, whimsical, fanciful, inconstant, confused, indecisive, uncontrollable." In addition to Buddhist writings -- including Chinese Chan and Japanese Zen (two Mahayana sects giving their pronunciations of the Pali term jhan'a and the Sanskrit dhyan'a), Consciousness-Only, Pure Land, and Shingon -- this "monkey mind" psychological metaphor was adopted in Taoism, Neo-Confucianism, poetry, drama, and literature.

"Mind-monkey" occurs in two reversible four-character idioms with yima or iba (意馬), literally, "thought-/will-horse," most frequently used in Chinese xinyuanyima (心猿意馬) and Japanese ibashin'en (意馬心猿).

The "Monkey King" Sun Wukong in the Journey to the West personifies the mind-monkey. Note that much of the following summarizes Michael Carr ("'Mind-Monkey' Metaphors in Chinese and Japanese Dictionaries," International Journal of Lexicography 1993, 6.3:149-180). 

Linguistic and cultural background
Mind monkey piggy backs on horse idea (Tang Dynasty)
"Mind-monkey" (心猿) is an animal metaphor. Some figures of speech are cross-linguistically common, verging upon being linguistic universals.

Many languages use "monkey" or "ape" words to mean "mimic," for instance, Italian scimmiottare "to mock, to mimic" and scimmia "monkey, ape," Japanese sarumane (猿真似), literally, "monkey imitation," "copycat, superficial imitation," and the English monkey see, monkey do or to ape. Other animal metaphors have culture-specific meanings. Compare English chickenhearted as "cowardly, timid," "easily frightened" and Chinese jixin (雞心), literally, "chicken heart," "heart-shaped, cordate."
The four morphological elements of Chinese xinyuanyima or Japanese shin'en'iba are xin or shin (心) "heart, mind", yi or i (意) "thought," yuan or en (猿) "monkey," and ma or ba (馬) "horse."

The 心 "heart, mind" and 意 "idea, will"
Mr. Simian! - No, I just meant a pony ride on the "will horse," not us horsing around!
The psychological components of the "mind-monkey will-horse" metaphor are Chinese xin or Sino-Japanese shin or kokoro () "heart, mind, feelings, affections, center" and yi or i () "thought, idea, opinion, sentiment, will, wish, meaning."

This Chinese character 心 was graphically simplified from an original pictogram of a heart and 意 "thought, think" is an ideogram combining 心 under yin () "sound, tone, voice" denoting "sound in the mind, thought, idea."
In Chinese Buddhism and Japanese Buddhism, xin/shin (心) "heart, mind" generally translates Sanskrit citta "mind, process of mind, state of mind, consciousness" and yi/i (意) translates Sanskrit manas "the mental organ, deliberation."
Some Buddhist authors have used 心 and 意 interchangeably for "mind, cognition, thought." Compare these Digital Dictionary of Buddhism glosses:
  • 心 "Spirit, motive, sense. The mind as the seat of intelligence, mentality, idea. (Sanskrit citta)... Thought, intellect, feeling (Sanskrit mānasa)"
  • 意 "Thought, intellect (Sanskrit manas, Tibetan yid), the mind, (Sanskrit citta, Tibetan sems)."
For example, take the Buddhist word Chinese xin-yi-shi or Japanese shin-i-shiki (心意識), literally, "mind, thought, and cognition" that compounds three near-synonyms.
The Abhidharma theory uses this word as a general term for "mind, mentality." But Yogacara's theory of Eight Consciousnesses distinguishes xin/shin (心) "store consciousness," yi/i (意) "manas consciousness," and shi/shiki (識) "six object-contingent consciousnesses."
Xinyuanyima (心猿意馬), literally, "mind-monkey idea-horse," "distracted, indecisive, restless" is comparable with some other Chinese collocations:
  • xinmanyizu (心滿意足) "heart-full mind-complete," "perfectly content, fully satisfied."
  • xinhuiyilan (心灰意懶) "heart-ashes mind-sluggish," "disheartened, discouraged, hopeless" (or xinhuiyileng (心灰意冷) with leng "cold, frosty."
  • xinhuangyiluan (心慌意亂) "heart-flustered mind-disordered," "alarmed and hysterical, perturbed."
  • xinfanyiluan (心煩意亂) "heart-vexed mind-disordered," "terribly upset, confused and worried"...
"Mind-monkey" in English
Prozac (fluoride) calcifies the pineal gland
Monkey mind and mind monkey both occur in English usage, originally as translations of xinyuan or shin'en and later as culturally-independent images. Carr concludes:
Xinyuan-yima (心猿意馬) "monkey of the heart/mind and horse of the ideas/will" has been a successful metaphor. What began 1500 years ago as a Buddhist import evolved into a standard Chinese and Japanese literary phrase.
Rosenthal (1989:361) says a proverb's success "'depends on certain imponderables," particularly rhythm and phrasing. Of the two animals in this metaphor, the "monkey" phrase was stronger than the "horse" because xinyuan "mind-monkey" was occasionally used alone (e.g., Wuzhenpian) and it had more viable variants (e.g., qingyuan 情猿 "emotion-monkey" in Ci'en zhuan).
The "mental-monkey" choice of words aptly reflects restlessness, curiosity, and mimicry associated with this animal. Dudbridge (1970:168) explains how "the random, uncontrollable movements of the monkey symbolise the waywardness of the naive human mind before it achieves a composure which only Buddhist discipline can effect" (1993:166). More

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