Thursday, 26 March 2015
Triune Mind in Buddhism
by Prof. Suwanda H J Sugunasiri
"How many minds do you think you have?
Whaddaya mean? Of course, I have one body, one mind – if you don’t mind.
Dead on. Dead wrong! Let’s ask the Buddha. He uses three terms for mind: Citta, Mano and Viññāõa. Says he in one place, Whatever it may indeed be, oh Bhikkhus, it is called Citta, it is called Mano, it is called Viññāõa”. Yet, elsewhere we find the terms used with distinctly different meanings. We have, e.g., samāhite citte ‘Citta stilled’, manopubbaügamā dhammā ‘Mind is of the nature of forerunning’ and cakkhuviññāõa ‘eye-consciousness’.
Any surprise that this has baffled scholars, East and West? Translations haven’t been helpful either. English, or any other Western language in particular, has no parallel concepts. So it was that I took up the challenge of finding out just what is going on. So there it is. My latest article, Triune Mind in Buddhism: A Textual Exploration” in the Canadian Journal of Buddhist Studies (2014), pp.7-48.
My first treading ground was the Abhidhamma in which we find a detailed analysis of the mind, meaning the five physical senses as also in Western Science – eye, ear, nose, tongue and body, but going beyond, the mind-sense. None of that ESP (extra-sensory perception) nonsense here! Each sense is called a door (dvāra).
The Abhidhamma shows a Stream of Consciousness (viññāṇasota), as it is called by the Buddha, in any given sense door, as having 17 mindmoments. With different functions.
So let’s then take a quick look at the ear sense, for example. You have a cell phone in your hand, and then suddenly, you feel a vibration (calana). This is what takes place when a sound (stimulus) sneaks up on you through the ear door. So you pick up the cell and keep it to the ear (would you not count two mindmoments, one for each action?). Now, still not knowing who the call is from, you listen. It’s me”, you hear the words. This is the receiving part, taking up to 6 mindmoments.
You’re now listening to your friend and chatting away. But you know what? Your mind has already decided whether the call is related to Passion, Hatred or Delusion (rāga, dosa, moha). Now careful there, will ya! This is where your this-life kamma is made, because it entails ‘intent’ and choice. ‘Intent I say is kamma’, says the Buddha. Decision made, the psychological message is sent on its way, taking about 9 mindmoments. All of this then is the judging part.
Next it is ‘registered’. Think of a hotel guest. You come in, look for a room, and then register. Taking 2 more mindmoments, the psychological message is now sent to a bank. I’m saying ‘psychological’ here because it is not just the verbal message you’re getting from your friend. It is also the psychological impact on you.
The threesome, then, I call the ‘Triune mind’ – i.e., three-in-one mind. Analyzed functionally, I label Mano as R-Mind (Receiving-Mind), Citta as J-Mind (Judging-Mind) with Viññāṇa getting the badge E-mind, registering being an executive function... read it all