Monthly Archives: November 2011

From Monkey Mind to Luminous Mind

“Mind precedes all mental states.
Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought.
If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts suffering follows him
Like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox.
Mind precedes all mental states.
Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought.
If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts happiness follows him
like his never-departing shadow.”


Most of us are often times, if not on a daily basis, struggling with what is referred to as the monkey mind – that is, a mind which jumps from thought to thought like a monkey swinging through the branches of a tree. This is an inconstant mind, constantly engaging with each passing thought processes rather than being focused on the present moment.

The Buddha once said that mind itself is luminous – although it is often tainted by mental effluents such as sensuality, ignorance, becoming, etc. This is like the transparency of water. If you add dye to water, it will change its color accordingly. The water itself, however, will never lose it’s innate transparency. If the water is purified through a process of distillation, it will resume its natural state. Thus, for the mind to resume its natural state, it must also be “purified” with contemplative practice. It is only after such development that the mind will once again realize its luminosity – much like a smith refining gold, removing its impurities, until it is ready to be fashioned into a final object.

In Buddhism, the mind itself is usually distinguished by citta, manas, and vinnana. Citta refers to one’s mindset or intent – that is, the emotive state of consciousness. Manas is the intellect in the sense of what grasps mental objects – it is the general thinking faculty closely associated with volition. Vinnana is cognizance or discernment, or the act of taking note of sense data and ideas as they occur. There is also a type of consciousness which lies outside of the skandhas, not related to the six senses at all, called the “consciousness without feature” (vinnanam anidassanam) which I discussed in my previous post.


The Deathless: Consciousness Without Feature

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on this blog. Almost an entire year! I guess I’ll be trying to update this blog a lot more periodically. Feel free to also check out my website which seems to get updated a lot more than this blog.

Buddha often referred to Nirvana as the unconditioned, unbinding, undying and the “deathless state”. However, the deathless state is something that can be realized right here and now. In the Kodhavagga, the Buddha said, “Those sages who are inoffensive and ever restrained in body, go to the Deathless State, where, having gone, they grieve no more.” The property of the deathless state is that of exquisite peace as it is the resolution of all fabrications and the relinquishment of all acquisitions; it is the ending of craving; it is dispassion, cessation, and unbinding.

The “deathless state” of Nirvana is not defined in terms of time and space. There is no coming, going, here, there, past, present, etc. This is why the consciousness of the Deathless (or Nirvana) is said to be “without feature” or “without surface”, without end, and luminous all around. The “consciousness without feature” is not included in the five skandhas, because the consciousness-aggregate only covers the consciousness that is in connection with time and space. Therefore, “consciousness without feature” should not be confused with the formless stage of concentration called the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, which is fabricated and willed. Since “consciousness without feature” is not defined in terms of time and space, it can not be said to be eternal because eternity is still a function of time.

Buddha insisted that an awakened person, unlike us ordinary folk, can not be located or defined in any relation to the aggregates in this life. Therefore, after death (or “parinirvana”), a Buddha or Arahant can not be described as existing, not existing, neither, or both, because these descriptions can only apply to definable things