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 Post subject: Mind, its nature and function as described in Buddhism
 Post Posted: Wed Aug 10, 2005 10:09 am 
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Mind, its nature and function as described in Buddhism

by Shane Blok

Mind and its behaviour loom large in the Buddhist analysis of the individual. Cyclic existence which causes him to suffer now here and now there, until he gains release from it, is described in relation to the individual's mind and its improper function due to defiling unwholesome thoughts.

Until the bonds by which he is bound to the cycle of births and deaths are torn apart through the purification of his mind, he will ever be in the cycle being subjected to suffering in numerous states of births.

Hence, in the Buddhist scheme of morality leading to supreme Bliss, mind plays a prominent role and the entire teaching of the Buddha can be termed as a system of psychoanalysis. Because of the tendency of analysing the mind and its functions in minute details Buddhism's psychological and ethical nature is more real than apparent.

What is mind?
In the fundamental analysis of the individual into mind and form (namarupa), mind (nama) refers to mind and other mental factors.

The classification of the individual into five factors as form (rupa), sensation (vedana), perception (sanna), mental formations (samkhara) and consciousness (vinnana) is somewhat exhaustive and there the consciousness is mind while sensation, perception and mental formations are mental factors related to the functions of the mind. There is yet another classification where mental function are classified in accordance with the sense faculties.

In this classification of the individual into twelve faculties, eye (cakkhu), ear (sota), nose (ghana), tongue (jivha), body (kaya) and mind (mana), there are six kinds of consciousness by way of their relationship to sense faculties.

Hence mind becomes sixfold thus making the classification twelvefold together with eye consciousness, ear consciousness, nose consciousness, tongue consciousness, body consciousness and mind consciousness.

The nature and function of the mind
Very many functions of the mind are recorded in the Canon revealing its nature and function in different contexts. The mind's active and passive characteristics are brought to light in these references of the Cannon:

* It gives pleasure, propitiates and convinces (aradheti).

* It stretches forth, holds out, takes up,exerts, strains and vigorously applies in relation to its objects (pagganhati).

* It disposes, collects, brings together, heaps up, gathers, arranges, focuses and concentrates in numerous ways (upasambarati).

* It bends, directs and applies (namati).

* Its springs forward, jumps onto, takes to and rejoices in its object (pakkandati, pasidati, santitthati).

* It calms down and quietens (passambhati).

* It agitates, disturbs, crushes, harasses and upsets an individual (matheti).

* It shakes, unsettles, wavers and is in doubt (vikampate).

* It holds back, obstructs, restrains, forbids (nivareti).

* It can strike, kill, destroy and beat down (pahannati)

* It aspires, longs for, prays for and intends (panidahati).

* It clings to and gets bound up with its objects (sajjati, gayhati, bajjati)

* It defiles, corrupts and tarnishes (uyasincati).

* It is drawn to, feels attached to, is inclined towards and indulges in its object (adhimuccati)

According to the foregoing definitions of the multifaceted nature and function of the mind, it is quite clear that Buddhism recognizes three functions of it:

1. affective
2. conative
3. cognitive

The affective aspect of the mind refers to the function of feeling that mind engages in. The conative function of the mind is acting, willing striving and desiring and the cognitive aspect deals with the functions of knowing, believing, reasoning and perceiving.

As these functions of the mind are not separable and detectable individually due to simultaneous action and interaction, the mental process becomes complicated, involved and complex.

The words popularly used for mind are 'citta', 'mana', 'vinnana', 'manasa' and 'hadaya', out of these, in the pali canonical texts, the first three are often used to denote the mind. 'citta' is from cit - to think, 'mana' as well as 'manasa' is from man-to think and 'vinnana' is from na-to know. 'hadaya' is heart; as the heart is considered the seat of mind, consciousness or mind is also understood by the word 'hadaya'.

However, the three terms, 'citta', 'mana', and vinnana', are described as synonymous. Mind's functions of feeling, perceiving, conation and cognition are laid bare in many instances.

It includes all sensory, perceptive, rational and subjective aspects of mind. In early Buddhism, all the aspects of mind are discussed in psychological, moral and naturalistic perspective.

There is an attempt in pali to bring out different functions of it with a number of verbs coined from na-to know. Thus to denote the function of knowing many verbal forms have been used:

Janati knows
Vijanati knows with discrimination
Sanjanati recognizes
Pajanati knows with wisdom
Parijanati knows comprehensively
Abhijanati knows with extra sensory perception
Ajanati learns or grasps
Patijanati admits or approves


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