Buddhist view of Mind and Body

By Panduka Mahanama
Courtesy : Vesak Lipi

All living beings according to the Buddha have a mind and body. The exceptions are those beings in the formless sphere – Arupa Loka. They have no body but only a mind. Those beings in the Asannasatta Brahma loka, have no mind but only a body. Theistic religions refer to an Atma or soul, which is permanent and has been gifted by an Almighty God who created this world and control the destiny of the human beings. Buddhism does not accept the existence of a soul. The mind controls human behaviour.

The body without the mind is a dead body. It cannot move even an inch or act without the mind. This shows the importance of the mind. Mind has been defined by the Buddha as a series of elements of thoughts, occurring only one at a time. Buddha has clearly shown that the mind is not something permanent but changes every moment. One element of thought has two major components, the Citta or consciousness and Cetasika, the associated mental factors. This is explained fully and clearly in the Abhidhamma, the most important and special teaching of The Buddha.

Most human beings spend much of their time in looking after the body. They spend time and energy in doing exercise, such as running, walking, swimming etc., to keep the body healthy. When sickness strikes, all go to the doctor and get advice and medicine to recover from that illness. Some illnesses like diabetes and heart conditions can be mind caused. Sick people often have to restrict their diet and take medication till they die. Most people are not aware that the mind is more important than the body and that the body is much influenced by the mind. The psychosomatic diseases are caused by an impure mind.

However much one cares for the body, it will decay with age and time. At time of death the mind leaves this body and gets reborn with another body, suitable for the place one is reborn. The place one is reborn depends on one’s kamma or kamma nimitta which is the object of the death proximate thought series, maranasana cilia veethi. At death the body goes to decay but the last mind thought does not stop. It continues as a Karmic energy looking for a suitable mother’s womb ie. to the next places of rebirth, until one becomes a non returner, an Arahat.

Fundamental Elements of Rupa
According to modern science the body is a collections of cells. The cells are not the final components of the body. The Buddha has explained that, matter in our bodies are formed of ‘rupa’, the fundamental elements of matter. They exists in groups called ‘kalapa. The smallest kalapa is known as pure-octad called sudastaka. It is formed of four primary cells mahabuta rupa and four of their derivatives which are vanna, ganda, rasa and oja, or colour smell, taste and nutrients. The four fundamental elements of rupa are patavi, apo, thejo and voyo. Patavi is the quality of hardness or softness. Apo is the quality fluidity. Tejo is quality of heat and cold, and vayo is the quality of the air element.

Rupa or matter Buddha states are formed of four causes – kamma, citta, utu, and ahara. Kamma is the cetana or intentions of past thoughts. Citta are present thoughts. Utu is the climate (heat) and Ahara is the nutrient in the food one takes.Outside matter is only caused of utuja or heat. Our bodies have matter formed of all four causes, out of which, two are mind based. Namely kammaja and cittaja. This indicates the importance of controlling developing the mind, to have a healthy body.

The mind of an ordinary being is usually defiled by kilesa or akusala or unwholesome thoughts. They are caused by urwholesome mental factors called akusala cetasika. The roots of evil thoughts and actions are three unwholesome mental factors. They are Lobha or attachment, Dosa or resentment and Moha, ignorance of reality. Most beings in the kamavacara or sensuous planes seek happiness by enjoyment through the five senses. That enjoyment Buddha has stated lasts only for that moment or is not permanent. Hence leads to sorrow. Further they create akusala thoughts based mostly on lobha or attachment. Lord Buddha has advised those who are on the path to happiness to have restraint on the senses. This is called Indriya-samvara-sila. It will prevent the proliferation of akusala thoughts through senses.

All unwholesome thoughts, create akusala kamma which have the potency of making one suffer some time later as akusala vipaka. Akusala based on the root dosa or anger, make that person suffer even at the time it is present in one’s mind. Akusala thoughts based on lobha or attachment gives a temporary happiness

when they are present. Hence, most beings spend considerable time with lobha and moha based thoughts, not knowing that it is akusala.
Part of the kamma vipaka, approximately 1/71h may yield results during this birth itself as dittha-dhamma-vedaniya kamma. Some during the next birth as upapaccha vedaniya kamma and some any time in any future birth as aparapariya vedaniya kamma. The vipaka may come as patisandhi vipaka or rebirth consciousness. If the kamma has been completed it is a karnmapatha, and can decide where one is to be reborn or if not a completed kamma, it can give vipaka after one is born during the life period, as pravurti vipaka.

However it should be noted that wholesome thoughts – kusala kamma, with roots of Alobha or detachment, Adosa or metta and Amoha or wisdom are more powerful than akusala kamma. They can over ride the effects of akusa/a kamma, and make them ineffective as Ahosi kamma.

Moha or Ignorance of Realty is the main cause of all evil. It is common to all akusala thoughts. Buddha has stated that Moha can be gradually eliminated by developing wisdom in three stages.

1. By Sutamaya-panna – Listening and reading the Dhamma – the Buddha’s original teaching, found only in the Theravada Tipitaka and the commentaries – atuva and sub commentaries’ tika.
2. By Chintamaya-panna, by thinking and pondering over what one has read or heard.
3. By Bahavamaya-Panna, by developing the mind in vipassana meditation.

The easiest and quickest way to develop sutamaya nana, is to read and study the Abhidhamma which is the Buddha’s special teaching. A study of at least the Abhidhammatta-sangaha, which is a summary of the entire seven books of Abhidharnma Pitaka, will greatly help one in seeing reality. The Sutta Pitaka is a random collection of the summaries of the Buddha’s teachings, collected and codified at the first sangayana or Council. A knowledge of at least the basics of Abhidhamma will help one to understand the abstruse teachings recorded in the Sutta Pitaka correctly.

In Abhidhamma, Bhikkhu Bodhi has stated that there are only fourteen akusala cetasika or unwholesome menta factors operating in the mind. The three evil roots have been stated earlier. Some of the others stated in the Abhidhamma and which should be recognized and avoided are:

1. Uddhacca – agitation or restlessness of the mind, which causes the body also to be restless. This is common to a11 akusala thoughts.
2. Miccha ditthi – Wrong views such as not believing in Kamma and Vipaka, rebirth etc.
3. Mana – Inferiority or superiority complex
4. Issa or Jealousy over others doing well.
5. Macchariya – miserliness, not enjoying one’s wealth or allowing others to benefit by them.
6. Kukkuccha – repenting over the bad one has done and the good that could not be done.
7. Vicikiccha – doubting over facts that should not be doubted, such as the qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma and Ariya sanga, rebirth, kamma and vipaka, law of cause and effect – Paticcha samuppada, etc.

To lead a happy life one must care not only for the body but keep the mind healthy by not allowing the mind to be unwholesome. For this purpose, one must develop Sati or mindfulness, and recognize and avoid the evil mental factors stated earlier as they arise in the mind. This can be done by cultivating wholesome mental factors such as Alobha or detachment, Adosa or metta, karuna or compassion, mudita or appreciative joy, which is the opposite of jealousy, and upekkha or balance of mind. The most important mental factor that one should develop is insight wisdom or vipassana panna. It will make one see things as they are and not as they appear to be.

The mental factor mindfulness or Sati can be applied in daily life also to recognize the unwholesome mental factors as they arise in the mind to avoid much trouble and unpleasantness. Sati when developed according to the instructions in the Satipatthana Sutta can gradually eliminate all evil from the mind. Finally develop Insight Wisdom or Vipassananana and realize Nibbana the ultimate happiness. Arahats are such a persons, who are free from all defilements. They have realized Nibbana and live a contended life even though living under trees and caves in the forest. Let us also gradually avoid akusala conduct and lead a contended, happy life. May all beings be well and happy.