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The Mind in Early Buddhism
Bhikkhu Thich Minh Thanh
New Delhi, 2001
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To be more than a comprehensive coverage of what would be said about the Buddhist concept of mind (citta in Pāli) when sectarianism was not exertive yet in the Pāli Tipiṭaka this book is actually an attempt at a full-fledged understanding of the citta when Buddhism was in its pristine state as recorded in the early Buddhist literature.
The authoritativeness of the original texts is strongly appreciated and highlighted to such an extent that allows a full-scale survey of their date of composition. This should baffle any disregard to their authenticity position. Here authenticity is synonymous with originality and originality is synonymous with the precedence regarding the time of their composition and incorporation into the sacred texts. Consequently, I brief to some extent the dating and stratification of the canonical texts - especially the Sutta Piṭaka which is most substantial of the Buddhist canonical literature and best able to serve a sense of purity - in view that the earlier a particular text is, the more authentic it should be.
With the scientific and meticulous measures employed in the investigation the author of this book challenges any bias or prejudgment that readers may be previously conditioned with. As being suggestive rather than decisive the book, nevertheless, gives them ample space to put in their own conclusive remarks.
The citta that the author is dealing with in this book is worked upon as a technical term and a concept. Its lexical meanings in general and applied ones in the Buddhist canonical context are surveyed. How the fundamental and condensed shade of the concept citta figures in the Buddhist system as well as in the contemporary Brahmanic ones is sketched out. As the pivotal core of this book the citta is put into consideration with a view towards an exhaustive perspective. With the supplement of lexical elucidation, tabular illustration, doctrinal relevance the work should virtually exhaust all the cases of conceivable citta in the Sutta Piṭaka. It is supposed that all and every occurence of the term citta, no matter how slightly substantial it may be, is not spared. In spite of that the work is not to be cut and dried as a pure research work usually is, but rather readable with stories and episodes from the texts and thoughtful and sometimes humorous remarks by the author.
The issues inherent of psycho-philosophical interest, however, will be elaborated on with further analysis and deeper ideation. The author puts into the spotlight the interesting issues such as the citta of the Buddha at the eve of propagating the Dhamma and at the time of Nibbāna, the impressive power of mind-reading by the full cultivated mind, the double face and the feasibility of citta, the identity of soul or mind as well as the relationship between body and mind, the particular type of pīti that is able to transport the physical body of a female devotee through the air, the depth psychology's concern regarding various kinds of mental process. This concern is resulted in a survey in the last chapter of the different types of citta explicated in the Abhidhamma Piṭaka especially the Dhammasaṅgaṇi where cittas figure dominantly.
I afford myself this occasion to thank Prof. K. T. S. Sarao who helped me in avoiding many mistakes that I would have committed. The remaining ones are my own responsibility. I extend my thank to Prof. Mahesh Tiwari, Prof. K. K. Mittal, Prof. Sanghasen Singh whom I ever had a good time with, and benefited from.
My thanks are also due to the library staff of Delhi University Library System, Delhi 7, the Theosophical Library, Theosophical Society, Adya, Chennai, and the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala (H.P). The majority of my consultation materials were owed from their helping hands.
My heart reaches out to my teachers, brothers and sisters in Dhamma, my friends and loved ones, my failure to name them all just makes their memory to be engraved deeper in my soul.
Bh. Thích Minh Thành
Vietnam, located in Southeast Asia, adopted Buddhism from two main reservoirs India and China, but she was not in a position to do further transmission. The terminus of the stream of Buddhist thought which since its advent has been highly colored by the Chinese culture and faintly by Brahmanic one brings about a thirst for the pristine freshness that only the original source of thought can assuage. A sense of purity, therefore, is inspired and underlies my intent to do some study on the basis of the earliest Buddhist scriptures.
The knowledge about Buddhism thus conditioned has been spelled by the Buddhists of Northern tradition whereas the tradition of Theravāda bhikkhus and that of the Mendicant Bhikkhus who attempt to embrace impartially the optimal essentials of the preceding two [i] are of proportionable influence. Although at the conglomeration of such different trends of thoughts, what I understand about Buddhism especially about the concept of citta that is so important in all the three systems, however, is still neither complete nor satisfactory.
On resorting to the source of knowledge overseas as far as my hand can reach out to I has found so far that the Buddhist concept of citta is not been exclusively focused on by English writers yet. A quick review in this respect makes it known that citta along with other important concepts in Buddhist psychology are discussed proportionately in The Dynamic Psychology of Early Buddhism by Rune E. A. Johansson. Therefore, the psychological account of the concept of citta thereat is by no means comprehensive; let alone the fact that Rune E. A. Johansson chooses to confine to the Sutta Piṭaka for the basis on which his book is prepared. The concept of citta, on the other hand, is especially dealt with by Jan T. Edgardt in Buddhist and Western Psychology, who, however, prefers to base his account on the Majjhima Nikāya only.
Consideration of all that has been mentioned above makes me decide the proposed title of my thesis: A Study of the Concept of Citta as Depicted in the Pāli Tipiṭaka.
With an explorational and investigative mind I take pains to glean all the data about citta from the whole Tipiṭaka especially the Sutta Piṭaka, the most substantial of the literature. The data thus collected will be carefully studied and systematically processed into the main body of the research work the whole of which consists of 7 chapters.
The first chapter, as usual, is for the preliminary matters about citta as a technical term and as a concept. Its lexical meanings in general and applied ones in the Buddhist canonical context are presented. How the fundamental and condensed shade of the concept citta figures in the Buddhist system as well as in the contemporary Brahmanic ones is roughly sketched out. With keen interest in the authenticity of the primary source I spend the last portion of this chapter for the dating and stratification of the canonical texts in view that the earlier a particular text is, the more authentic it should be.
The Sutta Piṭaka is most substantial of the Buddhist canonical literature and best able to serve my sense of purity so that the second chapter is prepared in the direction, highlighting the besetting but interesting issue of its dates of composition that have been variously tabulated by the leading scholars.
Exploration into the Vinaya Piṭaka, basically the rules and regulations that conduct the activities of the Saṁgha, shows that the term citta appears is too scanty to state something substantial, therefore, skipped over.
All the data of citta throughout the Sutta Piṭaka will be objectively collected and classified under different headings, nine in number. With the supplement of lexical elucidation, tabular illustration, doctrinal relevance, the first four headings compose the third chapter; the remaining five, the fourth chapter. The two chapters should virtually exhaust all the cases of conceivable citta in the Sutta Piṭaka so long as its literary occurrence is concerned.
The fifth chapter that divers itself from the literary concern will deal with several selected matters inherent of psycho-philosophical interest. Some of them are inspired by the ideological relevance that falls out of the scope of the previous literary grounded chapters. This chapter in all will be prepared with further analysis and deeper ideation.
The sixth chapter is an account of citta in the Abhidhamma Piṭaka where, especially in the Dhammasaṇgaṇi, descriptions of different types of citta figure dominantly. Hence this chapter will be specified as classifications of citta and will be prepared with faithfulness to the original source.
The seventh and last chapter will conclude the research work by summing up all that has been previously accounted with the addition of some other afterthoughts more or less relating to the concept of citta.
I would like to take the occasion to express the gratefulness I feel for my parents who bore me, brought me up well with their characteristic love, spelling the first chapter of my life with the example of their hard-working and moral lives. The seeds of morality they implanted in my budding soul keeps on growing in the depth of my personality and is still guiding me in the present time. They both demised and I have badly felt indebted thenceforth.
I want to express grateful thanks to my spiritual masters: Most Venerable Thích Giác Nhiên, chairman, International Sangha of Bhikkhu Buddhist Association and Venerable Thích Giác Toàn, member, Executive Council of Vietnam Buddhist Sangha, from whom I was vested with the fully ordained monkhood. The compassion and wisdom underlying their indefatigable activities set up in me an example of devotional lives and a source of encouragement. It goes without saying that without their taking care of my spiritual and financial problems whenever I find myself at a low ebb, I would not have advanced up to the present extent.
I feel duly thankful to Dr. I. N. Singh, reader, Department of Buddhist Studies, Delhi University, whose supervision and guidance under which the research is done renders in me a sense of self-confidence. This is appreciated especially when I am groping for the way to prepare the thesis. His scientific open-mindedness actually helps in paving the smooth path for the thesis to come to the successful completion that I am enjoying now. I would like to extend thanks to other teachers when I was doing M. A. and M. Phil. courses, especially to:
Prof. Mahesh Tiwari, Prof. K. K. Mittal, Prof. Sanghasen Singh; the first one was demised, the latter two, retired. They all left in me a nice memory of their presence in the department. I really had a good time with, and benefited from, their lifelong experience of teaching.
Prof. K. T. S. Sarao whose academic record is admirable and under whose scientific supervision and guidance my M. Phil. dissertation was done successfully. This keeps on benefitting me for further academic career.
Dr. Bhikkhu Satyapala, Dr. H. P. Gangnegi, Dr. R. K. Rana, Dr. Subhra Pavagadhi and some others whose lectures characterized by their sweet personality contribute somehow to the successful completion of my thesis.
I would like to express thanks to the Government of Vietnam especially the Governmental Board for Religious Affairs for making my higher qualifications abroad affordable. This actually opened a bigger horizon to me. Among members of the Board are Uncle Lê Minh Thu and Mr. Bùi Đức Hải whom I have ever had some memorable days to be with, and now I would like to extend thanks to.
I want to express due gratitude and respect to the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha, especially Most Venerable Thích Trí Tịnh, Most Venerable Thích Minh Chu, Most Venerable Thích Thiện Hào, Most Venerable Thích Từ Hạnh, Most Venerable Thích Hiển Pháp, Most Venerable Thích Trí Quảng and other dignitaries, who helped me directly or indirectly but they all are good examples of Buddhist spirits of devotion, blessing me with their unique charisma that help in settling my view to the pleasant side of things.
My thanks are also due to:
- The library staff of Delhi University Library System, Delhi, who made accessible to me the large number of publications in 1993 when I arrived in India for the first time. It soon became my instant source of consultation during the time I was successfully doing M.A. and M.Phil. courses, Department of Buddhist Studies. When I started gathering materials for my thesis in late 1996, the majority of my consultation materials were owed from the staff's helping hands.
- The library staff of the Theosophical Library and the Administrative staff of the Headquarter, Theosophical Society, Adya, Chennai, who made it possible for me to spend thereat my memorable summer of 1997. The premise lingered with an antique and poetic air that I have ever experienced was quite in tune with a sense of antiquity I had when consulting the old books in their custody. Some of the books, that I have even been in touch with, witness the close of the nineteenth century.
- The library staff of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala (H.P) who, when I spent my enjoyable summer of 1998, helped in making it available for me a large collection of consultation materials about Buddhism especially Tibetan Buddhism.
Last but not least, my heart reaches out to my brothers and sisters in dhamma, my friends and loved ones, in different areas of the globe, who have hosted and supported me along the way. My failure to name them all, hundreds in number, just makes their memory to be engraved deeper in my soul. Without them this work would not have been possible.
May all be blessed with Ultimate Truth.
Delhi, January 2000.
[i] For more detail, see Minh Đăng Quang, CL: 5, 358-375.
Sincere thanks to Venerable Thich Minh-Thanh for giving the digital files (Binh Anson, 01-2004)
last updated: 10-02-2004