Triune Mind in Buddhism: A Textual Exploration
Posted February 12, 2015 9:53 PM
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There are three terms in the Canon that refer to the Mind1 , namely Citta, Mano and Viññaõa, to list them strictly in alpha order2 , but without suggesting a hierarchy or primacy at the moment, a matter we shall come to in the course of the discussion. A classical Canonical line captures a perceived invariant use of the three cognates: “Whatever it may indeed be, oh Bhikkhus, it is called Citta, it is called Mano...

There are three terms in the Canon that refer to the Mind1 , namely Citta, Mano and Viññaõa, to list them strictly in alpha order2 , but without suggesting a hierarchy or primacy at the moment, a matter we shall come to in the course of the discussion. A classical Canonical line captures a perceived invariant use of the three cognates: “Whatever it may indeed be, oh Bhikkhus, it is called Citta, it is called Mano, it is called Viññaõa”3 (yañca kho etaü bhikkhave, vuccati cittaü itipi mano itipi viññaõaü itipi) (SN 12.61)4 Implicit in the line is that all three terms constitute the Mind (nama) component of the totality called Mindbody (namarupa). The wording also suggests that they are semantically non-discriminative; that is to say, synonymous. That may be understood as pointing to the fact that the sentient mindbody draws upon, i.e., relies on, a certain phenomenon called the mind, but that each of the three labels is a mere convenient convention (vohara), and that any semantic distinction is irrelevant. There seems to be some confirmation of this when both Mano and Citta appear in the same context: santi, bhikkhave, manopadosika nama deva, te ativelaü aññamaññaü upanijjhayanti. te ativelaü aññama- ññaü upanijjhayanta aññamaññamhi cittani padusenti. te aññamaññaü paduññhacitta kilantakaya kilantacitta (bold added) (DN 1 7) 5. Here we have Mano in manopadosika ‘corrupted in Mano’ and Citta twice: in cittani padusenti and paduññhacitta ‘corrupted in Citta’. If that is not confusing enough, there is elsewhere the compound Manoviññaõa (DN 2.9)6 , combining two of the terms!

Contrary to such an initial impression of synonymity, however, is the fact that the terms do occur with clear differential meaning, in differential contexts. In relation to Citta, e.g., we have samahite citte (…so evaü samahite citte) (DN 1.31) ‘Citta stilled’, Viññaõa occurs in relation to a specific sense, such as, e.g., cakkhuviññaõa ‘eye-consciousness’7 . And then we have Mano in manopubbangama dhamma (Dhammapada 1) (KN 2.1), ‘Mind is of the nature of forerunning’. If indeed the terms were to be semantically non-variant as suggested by the classical line, then we should see in the Canon, e.g., *viññaõapadosaka, *samahite manasa, *cakkhucitta, each term marked by a star, as in the tradition of Linguistics, to suggest non-occurrence. But we don’t... 

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Blog Author: PROF. SUWANDA H. J. SUGUNASIRI, BA (London), MA (Pennsylvania), MA, MEd, PhD (Toronto)
Born Sri Lanka in 1936, and coming to the US on a Fulbright-Smith Mundt Scholarship in 1964, he has been in Canada since 1967, except for a brief stay of 2 years, on the faculty of Vidyodaya University, Sri Lanka. Earning his doctorate in Canada, he has taught at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at University of Toronto, the Faculty of Education of University of Toronto, Trinity College and in Continuing Education. Founder of Nalanda College of Buddhist Studies (Canada) (1999), and of the Canadian Journal of Buddhist Studies (2005), he has been a spokesperson for Buddhism in Canada.

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