The Wisdom and the Mind—Believe in Yourself
Posted on January 20th, 2012

ArticleƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  No 12

Buddhism, the Religion of Wisdom:

Buddhism is a religion of wisdom, in which knowledge and self-reliance are predominantly emphasized.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Buddhists are taught to rely on themselves and not external powers, gods, or materialism for liberation and happiness.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Buddhism offers realities, explanations and a path, and practical strategies for life with great relevance to our lives.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  In addition to facilitating calming our minds and the body through meditation, Buddhist teachings give us specific, wellƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚­ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…”laid-out path of discipline and ways for the remediation of problematic or maladaptive behaviours and emotional responses.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  There are no limits in what the Buddha taught us to improve our lives and well-being; in fact, artificial limits are created by us within our minds.

Buddhism has evolved over 2,600 years into a highly refined tradition. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ It is based on analysis and investigation of the inner states of the mind to transform the mind into a healthier status and promote happiness.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Contrary to claims, Buddhism is not a pessimistic religion.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  People turn to a religion to looking for moral guidance based on metaphysics and psychology.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Most intelligent people wish to explore the meaning of life to gain peace and happiness.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Frequently, they raise questions about nature and the natural world, interpersonal interactions, and the environment and the large universe in which we live.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Overall, Buddhism provides simple and logical answers to these common questions.

What people look for is a philosophical system or religion that enables them to probe deeply into the mysteries of the mind and the universe while standing up to scientific scrutiny.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Wise people, those with open minds, want a religion that is based on observable and verifiable science and that has the logic and rationale to explain nature and the mind as they are without adhering to a belief system.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  They may require a religion that assists them in understanding themselves so that they can develop own psychology and spirituality.

Buddhist compassion

Many Westerners are familiar with modern applied psychology, psychoanalysis, and consequent behaviour modification.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  However, most of these methods are based on materialistic theories originating from different schools of thought. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ One major limitation in scientific and psychological investigations into the mind is attributable to ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-assumptions.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

Over the years, psychology has evolved and has been enriched by Buddhist teachings. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ However, psychology lacks a comprehensive system because of its worldly nature.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Psychologists and neuroscientists study and interpret symptoms and then try to interpret and treat such with psychotherapy and/or medicine, rather than addressing and treating the true root cause(s)ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚the fundamental issues.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Disciplines such as medicine and psychiatry focus primarily on pharmaceuticals and worldly treatments; these are designed for worldly problems.

As the Buddha stated ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-agngna labupanisa agngna nibbana gamini,ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ the path to nibbana is one, and the path to worldly gains is another.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  On the path to nibbana, many benefits are gained, but they are not the worldly or materialistic benefits.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  However, most ordinary people will continue to be attracted to synthetically established normalities that lead away from reality.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Buddhism takes a holistic approach and provides a comprehensive, practical, and profound philosophy for attaining lasting happiness.

The Wisdom:ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

Wisdom or realization (PagƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚£ƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚£na) is not equivalent to being knowledgeable or successful; it is far beyond acquiring knowledge, intellect, financial success, or social or political achievements.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Knowledge can be acquired merely by reading or listening to others or to presentations.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  However, PagƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚£ƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚£na is achieved following the Middle Path and a deep understanding of the Truth about oneself, leading to the alleviation of suffering.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  A more precise definition of PagƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚£ƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚£na is the penetrative insight and realization into the true nature of living things that one develops through the practice of morality (sila) and the right mental

Sorrow and the life cycle

development (Samadhi).

According to BuddhaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s teaching, one of the early requirements for developing PagƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚£ƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚£na is (a) listening with an open mind; (b) thinking about what is being heard and read; and (c) asking wise questions at suitable times.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  According to Buddhist interpretations, PagƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚£ƒÆ’†’ƒ”š‚£na is a combination of (1) wisdom from knowledge acquired from reading and listening to others (dsuthamaya pagnna); (2) wisdom from thinking (chintaamaya pagnna); and (3) wisdom from self-development (bavanamaya pagnna).

Achieving wisdom is facilitated by harnessing the purified mental energy through meditation.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  With regular practice of meditation, oneƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s mental status will become clearer and free of defilements (described as sunyata), non-attachment of the mind to the body.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Trained and disciplined minds have less greed, jealousy, and attachments, which facilitates the

development of compassion and effective ways of handling human problems without causing pain, anxiety, hatred, or worry.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Purified minds, together with wisdom, enable us to stay free from illusions, hatred, and hallucinations, and daydreaming, and eventually overcome worldly problems.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  This is one of the strongest messages about Buddhism.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Nothing is impossible; it is we who create our artificial limits and boundaries.

The Buddhist view of the mind:ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

The Buddhist view of how the human mind works is somewhat different from the traditional Western view.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Western psychology considers things such as attention and emotions as fixed and immutable.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Buddhism sees the mind as pliable and trainable. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ In recent years, this view has gathered increasing support from modern neuroscience and psychology, which continues to provide new evidence of the brainƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s capacity for change and growthƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚¢described as plasticity.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  In this regard, only recently have we begun to realize the positive effects of Buddhist meditative practices on brain coherence and remarkable

The mind and the brain

plasticity with a demonstrable ability of regular Buddhist meditation to positively shape the brain.

Buddhism uses self-intelligence and awareness to suppress negativity and enhance positive emotions.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Through meditative practices, faculties and awareness are sharpened, and are focused to observe real-time experiences.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  With progressive meditative practices, we learn to be more responsible to others as well as for ourselves. This leads to additional mental clarity and positive character transformation.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  These meditation techniques are of growing interest to Westerners, particularly to psychologists, who increasingly see disorders such as depression and psychosis as failures of emotional adaptation and self-management and thus are beginning to incorporate meditation into their therapies.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  With emotional overload and stressful situations our calmness and the attention is hijacked or overtaken by negative thoughts and events, which set off a negativity chain reaction presenting as harmful thoughts, emotions, and behaviour.

Traditional vs. Buddhist view of attention:

In the view of traditional psychologists, attention is an exhausting mental activity.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  In contrast, in Buddhist view, attention can be made into a highly relaxing and effortless activity.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Techniques of cultivating awareness through meditation improve self-control, whereas non-control, devoid of awareness, converts one into a robot.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Awareness also allows one to break the negative emotional chain reactions and avoid hopelessness and despair.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  By focusing oneƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s attention, it is possible to monitor oneƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s inner mental state, the environment, sharpen oneƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s mind allowing promptly recognizing incoming negative stimuli, and blocking such at the first awareness of their existence.

Attention: focussing the mind

When we habitually pressurize our minds, at a certain stage, we find that the process is exhausting and pass the resilience. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ When we are unable to identify or cope with this process, these maladaptive excessive stresses affect us negatively, both emotionally and physically.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  This can lead to psychological and psychiatric disorders, including mental breakdown.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  In looking for the Truth of life and peace of mind, we generally assume that they are something special.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  On the contrary, they are merely a relaxed awareness of the present moment.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Fortunately, the Truth is always around the corner; we need to learn to look for and recognize it.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Mindfulness can be explained as nonjudgmental attention to experiences in the present moment. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ And, it typically cultivates via practices such as sitting meditation, walking meditation, or mindful movements.

Investigating the mind:

The investigation of the mind encompasses all aspects relating to mindfulness, spirituality, and the objective basis of the mind.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  It also needs to address the concept that the mind influences the body.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Meanwhile, the religious approach to this question can contrast with the secularƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…”scientific approach.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  As with many scientific discoveries, the secularƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…”scientific approach poses a challenge to religions that rely on the mindƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…”heart relationship.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  It becomes difficult to justify traditional views that are now contradicted by scientific discoveries.

The mind is formless, structureless, and capable of grasping any object of knowledge, including facts about the mind itself.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Experiences such as the redness of red; individual experiences and appreciations of beauty, anger, volition, pain, happiness, boredom, depression, and intention; feelings about ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-thingsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚all of these are subjective and individualistic.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  No two people seem to have identical capabilities in all areas.

The teachings and practice of Buddhism are aimed at the development and liberation of the mind from the shackles of mental suffering.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Abhidhamma, a collection of teachings and commentaries, describes the human mind, its characteristics, and related elements at a deeper and abstract level.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  For example, Abhidhamma describes Cetasikas as one of the four paramattha Dhamma.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Abhidhamma is not a subject of fleeting interest designed for the superficial reader.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  To the wise truth-seekers, Abhidhamma is an indispensable guide and an intellectual treat.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Here, there is food for thought to original thinkers and to earnest students who wish to increase their wisdom and lead an ideal Buddhist lifeƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚ Narada Maha Thera of Vajiraramaya Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Location of the mind:

Traditionally, the two contending locations for the mind are the heart and the brain.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The former has been the oldest one; several religions have been based on the notion that the heart is the basis for the mind.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The realization that the brain is the physical organ responsible for activity and processing was a consequence of the secularƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…”scientific revolution.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Today, this view is hardly contested, but the old view that the heart is the dominant organ of mind has not given way in some religious and spiritual thinking.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The way most religions have sought to rationalize it is to treat all references to the heart as being purely metaphorical, although this was not the case with the original religious views on the subject.

The mind and the brain

Buddhism does not describe a physical location to the mind.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Although the interface between mind and the body is considered the brain by current scientific thought, when the Buddha was asked to give a place to the location of the mind, he related the following: ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-A man went to a village and sounded a Walampuri (a large shell). ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Due to their ignorance, the villagers thought the Walampuri itself was producing the sound. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ They did various things to the Walampuri, including batting it to make sound, but nothing happened.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Therefore, they asked the person who had the Walampuri why the shell was not making a sound. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The person explained that sound comes as a result of air currents flowing through the shell when it is blown.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Similarly, our mind is a result of a CauseƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…”Effect process for which no specific location can be identified. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Wherever we focus, the mind is there until the focus shifts; then the mind also shifts.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  There is no specific location one can identify for the mind or its activity, and there is no reason to go looking for it.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Nevertheless, for processing the mind, the physical brain is required.

Metaphysical speculations of location of the mind:ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

The Buddha discouraged “metaphysical” speculations, such as the origin and end of the universe and idealism versus materialism, as being meaningless debates.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The location of the mind is one such metaphysical discussion, that however, is continue to be debated by both the scientific community and the lay public.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The Buddha did not talk about such metaphysical phenomena because they were irrelevant to his mission of teaching and educating people on how to alleviate suffering.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The mind does not exist on its own without the brain.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  However, the mind is an outcome of a ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-productƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ of brain activity.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Volitional activities in the mind and the consequent actions taken make us either good or bad.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The mind is the forerunner; it directs us and our activities to engage in good and bad actions.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Teachings of Buddhism include ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-mano pubbanga-ma Dhamma,ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ the mind is the forerunnerƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚mind is above everything.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Thus, controlling the mind as well as not accepting hearsay or myths is important.

The mind and consciousness:

The mind and consciousness are distinct but as per the knowledge to date, they are rooted in the physical brain.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Mind and its thoughts are constantly generated and disappear as a process of complex chemical reactions within the brain secondary to various sensory stimuli we get from five sense organs.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Smaller percentage of these processed information are stored in the brain facilitating their recall at a later time.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Although the consciousness is somewhat linked, it is independent of the mind.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The mind and the consciousness can travel independently to far distances in a fraction of a second.

Brain and conciousness

It is apparent that the mind can be changed markedly and quickly.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Internal and external environments can alter our minds.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  On one hand, the mind can be suppressed with force, imprisonment, medications, drugs, alcohol, etc., and on the other hand it can be developed with the mindfulness via meditation.

Consciousness always is in flux and seems to grow with our experiences in life.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  It is not clear what changes in our brains going through and what chemicals interact.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Such chemical landscape in the brain however, may include neurotransmitters and neuromodulators that are continuously changed according to our thinking process, moods, behaviour, and the information that we have at this point.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  There is ongoing controversy about what is causing rebirth.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  As per the traditional Brahmanic view, it is the consciousness (or the sole) that transmigrating into a foetus, alternative hypothesis is our desires (thanha), lusts, attachments and cravings that lead to the cycle of rebirth.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  We shall discuss this in a future article.

ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-If a man practices himself what he admonishes others to do, he himself, being well-controlled, will have control over others.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  It is difficult, indeed, to control oneselfƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚ Dhammapada.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

Note: Some of the material, pictures, poems, and stanzas in these writings may have been published previously, including on the Internet (such as and or obtained from various sources are modified with permission.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  The author sincerely thanks all contributors of such materials for their generosity. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ We anticipate that the brief articles on meditation, Buddhism, and Buddhist philosophy that appear in this column will initiate healthy and positive discussions.

May the Noble Triple Gem bless youƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

Sunil J. Wimalawansa

Professor of Medicine, Endocrinology, Physiology, & Integrative BiologyƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

11 Responses to “The Wisdom and the Mind—Believe in Yourself”

  1. Dham Says:

    have good read, Mr. Gon Silva and Mrs Radha Silva.
    May the Noble Triple Gem bless you

  2. jimmy Says:

    Thank you Professor
    Great article

  3. Bodhi Says:

    The author says:
    1. However, the mind is an outcome of a “product” of brain activity. Volitional activities in the mind and the consequent actions taken make us either good or bad. The mind is the forerunner; it directs us and our activities to engage in good and bad actions. Teachings of Buddhism include “mano pubbanga-ma Dhamma,” the mind is the forerunner—mind is above everything.
    If the mind is an outcome of a “product” of brain activity, how can mind be the forerunner and be above everything? The Author has to go back to Ven. Buddhaghosa or even Ven. Walpola Ruhla or Ven. Narada to read that Manesa is the fore-runner (i.e, plays the supreme role – what ever that is) in dealing with volitions’ – these are what determines the ethical or nonethical character of actions. So, the mind is indeed a result of brain activity. if there is no brain, there is io mind or consciousness. Once the mind is formed, its underlying neuron-net configuration determines a set of volitions at any given instant.

    2. The author says:
    Western psychology considers things such as attention and emotions as fixed and immutable. Buddhism sees the mind as pliable and trainable.
    Where does the author find this western psychology treating attention and emotions as ‘immutable’? Look at William James, the foremost 19th century pyschologist, who already explained in detail how learning and conditioning occurs. The work of behaviourists concetrated entirely on trainability and learning, going too far in that direction.

    So the author completely misrepresents “psychology”.
    In any case, modern science does not regard Freudian, Jungian and other “psychology” as being scientific, as they are not rooted in experimentation. On the other hand experimental psychology, as practiced by William James and others in the 19th century evolved into modern psychiatry based on physiology leading to neuroscience.
    These subjects explain in detail how the brain functions, and how consciousness arises from brain function when we have a sufficiently large number of neurons (exceeding a threshold) and able to form neural networks.
    How learning and memory are achieved at a molecular level (i.e., neuroplaticity) is explained via chemical processes that lead to modification of synapses and creation of new axon branches.

    Thus physiology provides as a complete explanation of all brain and consciouness-related phenomena.
    Not one experiment exists which demands some metaphysical principle not based on brain chemistry.

  4. Prof. Sunil J. Wimalawansa Says:

    It is notable that the above-mentioned critique is one of “many different opinions” on these subjects; and certainly individuals have the right to believe so. What we believe in science and medicine today will not be the same tomorrow. As new data accumulating, scientific opinions, interpretations and believes are constantly changing; that is the reality. In such dynamic fields, there are odd characters and exceptions one can extract and give as ‘glorious’ examples that may support his or her personal point of view, while ignoring other point of views and quoting information out of context of writing. Meanwhile, it is important to keep in mind that contradictory material is plenty in any field of literature. Moreover, in science and medicine, the same sets of data are interpreted and reported very differently, by different groups!

    These series of articles are written considering broader information providing for the public and to encourage healthy, positive and productive discussions; not to satisfy one group or another. While, healthy and balanced discussions are encouraged in this forum, as a writer I will not engage in discussions based on personal believes of anyone, or to discussions on who is write or wrong. With Metta

  5. radha Says:

    This is an interesting analysis coming from a scientist specialising in medicine and biology. I have no issues with the main theme of the article: the relationship between meditation and the development of human mind. However there are a few technical and other discussion points that I would like to raise, and I hope that Professor Wimalawansa could address them directly. I do have a research interest in the subject matter (i.e. Mind, but in relation to Human Error) and just hope the length of my commentary would not irritate other readers; if they do my sincere apologies upfront. I put them point by point:
    1. You state, “Western psychology considers things such as attention and emotions as fixed and immutable” (my italics). I cannot make sense of this statement. Everybody is aware that attention and emotions are constantly changing, so how can they be immutable? Immutable = fixed, permanent, final. [PS: I note Bodhi made the same point]

    2. You state, “By focusing one’s attention, it is possible to monitor one’s inner mental state, the environment, sharpen one’s mind allowing promptly recognizing incoming negative stimuli, and blocking such at the first awareness of their existence.” This idea of blocking negative emotions at the first awareness of their existence in Mind is just the opposite of what good meditation practitioners teach us. Usually, students of meditation are taught to be aware of the arising negative or positive stimulus, to watch it with detachment the way it develops in the mind and then gradually dissipates, mindful that it is a Mind Formation and therefore no need to react to it. How does the professor account for his contradictory statement about BLOCKING the stimulus? Blocking it would need a reaction to the stimulus and another blocking effort that stresses one’s mind, which altogether defeats the purpose of meditation.

    3. Location of the mind: Is it really necessary to view the Mind as an entity or an object for which there ought to be a defined space? Alternatively, some people might visualize the Mind as a stream (of energy modulated with coded information) for which there is a fountain somewhere (in the heart or the brain). It may be the reason that when the Mind is related to emotion, it is linked with the heart, whereas when related to reason it is linked with the head. I have read other explanations elsewhere that the Mind is omnipresent in the body like a moving entity, just as the way you are trying to explain as a shifting focus. But I prefer to visualize the Mind as an omnipresent uniform energy field that is selectively triggered on the concept of shifting focus, i.e. depending on if it is triggered by sensory organs or the subconscious.

    4. My own view is that the Mind is the intangible holistic SYSTEM (a system as understood by System Engineers) that holds together the synergistic process of the 5-aggregates: Rupa, Vedana, Sanna, Sankara, and Vigngnana. As you can see here, the scripture defines the human individual as the 5-aggregates, but it fails to mention the Mind there, where I would expect it to be defined, i.e. at the fundamental level of categorization of the aggregates. Why? Is the adept expected to figure out that there ought to be a system that holds all these aggregates together and to make them function, and if so then it could well be the Mind?

    5. Abhidhamma. Even in Abhidhamma, where the teaching is categorized into that of the Chitta, Chaitasika, Rupa, Nibbana, the Mind has not been adequately and explicitly defined in the section for Chitta. The teaching dwells much about the different states of the Mind and their qualities but not what the Mind is as an entity. The semi-sinusoidal pulsations of the Mind has been described as Uppada, Tithi, Bhangha of the thought process, how long these pulsations last, and how they are serially connected to generate a full thought leading to an action. Therefore, my question to the professor is this: What would prevent us from visualising the Mind as the abstract process that binds together and makes the five aggregates function as an entity?

    6. Furthermore, what happens when the five aggregates disperse at death? Is that the end of the Mind? Dust returns to dust, ashes to ashes and any electro-chemical and other associated energy of the body such as heat rejoins the greater universal accumulator. What happens to the Mind at that point? If the Mind functions cease at that point of death, then it is reasonable to assume that the MIND too ceases to exist at that point as far as the human individual of the mundane world is concerned. The point I am making is Mind could well be the system that holds the 5-aggregates together.

    7. On Mind Travel: Does the Mind really travel out of the Body? I am inclined to think, no, that it does not travel in physical sense as you tend to portray. Is there any evidence of its travelling? I cannot visualize how one could substantiate the concept of the Mind travelling when it is difficult enough to define what the Mind is. I would rather speculate that the Mind works within the body, and does not travel at all. It may not be an object or an energy beam that can be physically projected and pulled back like an octopus stretching or retracting its tentacles. Instead it may be the Mind Formations that are created within the body in relation to the limited knowledge that the person has acquired, stored in his memory, which he misinterpret as the travelling Mind. The Mind Formations come and go at the speed of flux within the body, relatively short distances, as the mental process pulls out and restores known memory of external and distant objects; it may be that through this process we get an illusion of the Mind travelling great distances.

    8. Furthermore, I say that these Mind Formations cannot travel beyond the limits of the stored knowledge or past memories. For instance a person who is knowledgeable about distance galaxies in the universe could believe that he has a Mind that is capable of travelling to those galaxies, and visualize its myriads of colours; but the same person’s Mind might not be able to travel to Brahma Loka or Heavens that Buddhists have read of, if he has no prior knowledge of them. However, everybody’s Minds might well be able to travel to fairly lands of different perceptions according to the way their parents had told them in their childhood, even when we know that such fairy lands only exist in our imaginations.

    9. Mind and the Body Chemistry. There is an interesting state of Mind that some aviators experience when they suffer from hypoxia; they begin to see things in their Mind that are unreal such as UFO or strange lights in the sky; in fact most aircrew do not report such observations in case their superiors suspect that they might have tired brains, and risk taking out from flying. We also know of the imbalance of certain chemicals like serotonin that generate fear, depression and associated Mind Formations. Experts are aware that these mental projections are within the brain, yet the patients feel as if they were physically making the journey or if not their minds had left the bodies and gone elsewhere as if a journey.

    10. Mind and Miracles: So how do we reconcile what we know about mind activities as we understand it through modern science with what we read in scriptures? For example, we have read about powerful sages who used their Minds to remote control external activities. It is said that Lord Buddha forbade the use of “Irdhi Pratiharya” even though we have read that Lord Buddha himself demonstrated what he could do, once or twice; we have no idea if these are true or not, or if they are figments of the writers’ imaginations. If they are true, then I am more likely to think that it is a form of controlling the energy fields that surround us through the use of individuals’ power of concentration of energy within the body, just like a laser beam or a radio transmission.

    11. I am open-minded on this issues and welcome other opinions.

  6. Idealist Says:

    The article under discussion makes one realize that, one’s mind, is their solution to finding the answers or the wisdom one needs, to finding the ultimate purpose of life. No one is able to define “life” itself, even though we all live it. Life is an enigma, simply because the human mind is complex, to say the least. Everything in the Universe is created by our own mind. Therefore, our mind is the source of all phenomena. Form, sound, smell, taste, and tactile perception such as hot and cold, hard and soft – are all creations of our mind. They do not exist as we usually perceive them to exist. Our consciousness is like an artist, painting every phenomena into a state of being. When one realizes this, they will also realize that no phenomena exists, outside their mind.

    The human mind, according to Buddhism, can exist in the realm of “limitless space”, in which the mind becomes one with infinity, where all material and visual spectacles cease to arise, and space is viewed as the limitless source of all things. Such a realm is the same entity as one’s own mind. It is not an object of one’s awareness, but one’s very own awareness itself. However, dwelling in such a state of awareness, would make one “feel” the many hindrances that life masquerades. To overcome such, according to Buddhism, one must also live in a realm of “limitless consciousness”. After attaining such a state of being, one’s mind becomes present in every phenomena in the Universe, making one’s mind the greatest phenomena of all – thereby enabling the attainment of true wisdom!

  7. db Says:

    To get a better understanding of 5 aggregates and mind , read ‘Abhidharmaye Mulika Karunu’ by Ven. Rerukhane Chandawimala thero. (page 37) Chiththa,Sitha,Chetha,Mana,Vinganna,hardaya,Manasa all are Pali words for Chiththa.
    Also, chiththa is not ONLY formed in the brain. In fact chiththas are formed in these places – asa,kana,nasaya,divaya,kayaya,hardaya. So the mind cannot be the sole integrator of the 5 aggregates.
    Disperse at death, what happens to 5 aggregates? well, if we understand that all nama / ruphas themselves have rising & falling nature, every instant with uthpadha, sthithi , bangha phases, then when a being ceases to death, the nama and rupa seperates from each other but contiguously going through the uthpadha,sthithi,bangha cyclic arising and falling nature. The nama will continue to start from a different place. the last chiththa cycle before the nama seperates from the rupa is called ‘chuthi chiththaya’, where as the very first chiththa arises on the new nama+rupha combination is called ‘patisandhi chiththaya’. Ofcourse the mind ceases to death, but what we should understand is that the mind and matter all ceases to death continuously, irrespective of they (nama+rupa) form a being or that being ceases to death.

  8. Bodhi Says:

    prof. Wimalawansa, answering my query says:
    there are odd characters and exceptions one can extract and give as ‘glorious’ examples that may support his or her personal point of view, while ignoring other point of views and quoting information out of context of writing.
    Why doesn’t the Prof give one ‘glorious example’ from the wide psychological literature to establish that western psychology held ‘attentions and emotiins’ to be fixed and immutable?
    I have not quoted out of context. I ask him for some references to supprot his claim. None is given.

    The names mentioned by me, and the schools I implied, William James, Pavlov, B. F. Skinner etc, are not “one glorious” example, but the major trends in western psychology and psychiatry. Indeed, Skinner and his behaviourism are overthrown, but they all insited on the capacity to learn and platicity – not immutability as implied by the author.

    The 19th century discoverer of the neuron, and Nobel laureate Cajal already discussed the possibility of neuroplaticity. Eric Kendall, Nobel laureate in medicine and neuroscientist also discuses in detail how plasticity was a basic concept in pyschology as well as neuroscience right from the start (see his book “in search of memory’). So how can these be “one glorious example”?

    Secondly, the oft quoted “Mano Pubbam” from the Dhammapada does NOT mean that the mind is supreme in all spheres. As explained clearly by Ven. Buddhaghosha, Ven. Walpola Rahula and others, the mind is supreme in the volitional sphere and NOT in all generality. This is a matter which is often misrepresented, especially by Internet Buddhist writers like Bhikku Samahitha, Ajan Brahmo and others who are influenced by “new-age” modernist writings, Mahanyana Buddhist musings etc. They even wish to claim that the mind is ‘non-local’ and can exist outside the brain, and even move around spatially — matters for which there are no supportive statements in the Buddhist cannon. In fact, they have used the concept of consciousness to bring back the concept of a soul into their interpretation of Buddhism. It is this ‘soul’ which is supposed to go into a newly born foetus and generate the chain of ‘rebirth’, and fits in comfortably with the naive village upaasakamma’s view of rebirth, defended vigorously using ‘kithul pollu’ by the traditionalists.

    See my blog regarding Bhikku Samahita’s interventions on the Mind-Body problem:

    Finally, although the problem of mid-body-consciousness was metaphysical during the Buddha’s time, it is no longer metaphysical today as we have new research tools that did not exist then. The same applies to questions about the origin of the universe, where we now have tools that can look at the comic microwave background, the afterglow of the big bang, and compare astrophysical predictions with experimental data using modern probes. So, some questions that were metaphysical at one time, are no longer metaphysical today.

  9. Dham Says:

    “My own view is that the Mind is the intangible holistic SYSTEM (a system as understood by System Engineers) that holds together the synergistic process of the 5-aggregates: Rupa, Vedana, Sanna, Sankara, and Vigngnana. As you can see here, the scripture defines the human individual as the 5-aggregates, but it fails to mention the Mind there, where I would expect it to be defined, i.e. at the fundamental level of categorization of the aggregates. Why? Is the adept expected to figure out that there ought to be a system that holds all these aggregates together and to make them function, and if so then it could well be the Mind?” – unquote.
    But Vignnana is there. ( Read Dh’s comments).
    Have you read an understood Pattichcha Sumuppada ? Vinnana pachchaya Sankahra pachchaya namarupa. There also namapupa pachchaya vinnana. This is the continuing process of “Mind”. There is no such thing as “Mind”, but vinnana is present even in Arahant in the form of Anidassana Vinnana. This is why to call Nibbana=suicide is a FOOLISH act. Buddha lived for 50 years with Anidhassana Vinnana after seeing nibbana.
    Problem is how many normal Sinhala Buddhist will reach this supreme bliss to bring this into political arena by individuals like previous commntator? Only biggest fools will do that as it assumes majority of Sinhala Buddhists are Arahants seeking Nibbana. I acknoledge huge Ignorance of this writer and I am compassionate towards him even whilce calling him a FOOL ( becasue he is one).

  10. Ben_silva Says:

    It can now be said that one’s brain mediates everything one sense, feel, think, and do. So it does appear that it is the brain that is the master. How ever, I do not see any conflict with Buddhism.
    One may suspect that those that promote religion may be affected by the religion mind virus.
    I tend to agree with the comments made by Bodhi, which is based on ‘science’, rather than religion. Religion could be dangerous, if blindly followed, as happened to Nalanda Buddhists.

  11. Dham Says:

    The fool does not understand even the body.
    Who is this Bodhi ? Supreem scientist currently in the world ?

    Buddhism is a religion of wisdom. They why fools join this forum.

    A fool who knows his foolishness
    is wise at least to that extent,
    but a fool who thinks himself wise
    is a fool indeed.

    Dhammapada 5. – The Fool gatha no. 4.

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