CONTEMPLATION OF THE STATE OF MIND

With this foundation of mindfulness we turn from a particular mental factor, feeling, to the general state of mind to which that factor belongs. To understand what is entailed by this contemplation it is helpful to look at the Buddhist conception of the mind. Usually we think of the mind as an enduring faculty remaining identical with itself through the succession of experiences. Though experience changes, the mind which undergoes the changing experience seems to remain the same, perhaps modified in certain ways but still retaining its identity. 



However, in the Buddha's teaching the notion of a permanent mental organ is rejected. The mind is regarded, not as a lasting subject of thought, feeling, and volition, but as a sequence of momentary mental acts, each distinct and discrete, their connections with one another causal rather than substantial.

A single act of consciousness is called a citta, which we shall render "a state of mind." Each citta consists of many components, the chief of which is consciousness itself, the basic experiencing of the object; consciousness is also called citta, the name for the whole being given to its principal part. Along with consciousness every citta contains a set of concomitants called cetasikas, mental factors. These include feeling, perception, volition, the emotions, etc.; in short, all the mental functions except the primary knowing of the object, which is citta or consciousness.

Since consciousness in itself is just a bare experiencing of an object, it cannot be differentiated through its own nature but only by way of its associated factors, the cetasikas. The cetasikas colour the citta and give it its distinctive character; thus when we want to pinpoint the citta as an object of contemplation, we have to do so by using the cetasikas as indicators. In his exposition of the contemplation of the state of mind, the Buddha mentions, by reference to cetasikas, sixteen kinds of citta to be noted: the mind with lust, the mind without lust, the mind with aversion, the mind without aversion, the mind with delusion, the mind without delusion, the cramped mind, the scattered mind, the developed mind, the undeveloped mind, the surpassable mind, the unsurpassable mind, the concentrated mind, the unconcentrated mind, the freed mind, the unfreed mind. 

For practical purposes it is sufficient at the start to focus solely on the first six states, noting whether the mind is associated with any of the unwholesome roots or free from them. When a particular citta is present, it is contemplated merely as a citta, a state of mind. It is not identified with as "I" or "mine," not taken as a self or as something belonging to a self. Whether it is a pure state of mind or a defiled state, a lofty state or a low one, there should be no elation or dejection, only a clear recognition of the state. The state is simply noted, then allowed to pass without clinging to the desired ones or resenting the undesired ones.


As contemplation deepens, the contents of the mind become increasingly rarefied. Irrelevant flights of thought, imagination, and emotion subside, mindfulness becomes clearer, the mind remains intently aware, watching its own process of becoming. At times there might appear to be a persisting observer behind the process, but with continued practice even this apparent observer disappears. The mind itself -- the seemingly solid, stable mind -- dissolves into a stream of cittas flashing in and out of being moment by moment, coming from nowhere and going nowhere, yet continuing in sequence without pause.

BY BHIKKHU BODHI

Recent Stories