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Mark Foote

Post title:  Consciousness and the Mind

(Apr 13 2016 at 11:39 AM)

 

 

Mendocino, CaliforniaIn the Pali teachings, there's a distinction between consciousness and the mind: consciousness is said to arise from contact between a sense organ and sense object, while the mind is simply considered to be one of the sense organs. Consciousness, said Gautama, is followed by impact and then by feeling, with regard to each of the six senses (1).

The senses fundamental to the experience of self were not a part of the vocabulary of Gautama's day, except for the eyes. Sometimes I think that is why he made such a distinction between the mind and consciousness, and why dependent causation begins with ignorance: the senses most involved in the experience of the lack of any abiding self in the activity of breath (and in the activity of perception and sensation) were not known to him by name.

Nevertheless, the descriptions he gave of the feelings associated with the initial states of concentration correspond exactly with these senses; for example, with regard to the first of the initial states:

"...(one) steeps and drenches and suffuses this body with a zest and ease, born of solitude, so that there is not one particle of the body that is not pervaded by this lone-born zest and ease. ...as a handy bathman or attendant might strew bath-powder in some copper basin and, gradually sprinkling water, knead it together so that the bath-ball gathered up the moisture, became enveloped in moisture and saturated both in and out, but did not ooze moisture; even so (one) steeps, drenches, fills and suffuses this body with zest and ease, born of solitude, so that there is not one particle of the body that is not pervaded by this lone-born zest and ease." (2)

Emphasis here is on equalibrioception (the "bath-ball"), and a combination of proprioception and graviception ("... steeps, drenches, fills, and suffuses... so that there is not one particle of the body that is not pervaded..."). In the experience of these senses, feelings similar to those Gautama described can be found, but it's the familiarity with these senses rather than any particular modality of feeling that allows for the cessation of habitual activity in connection with breath.


1) MN III 287-290, Pali Text Society Vol III pg 337-338
2) AN III 25-28, Pali Text Society Vol. III pg 18-19



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