When does the mind die?

According to google, the mind is defined as:

the element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought.

Based on the above definition, the mind dies when the abovementioned element ceases.

I’ve heard Ajahn Chah explain in one of his Dhamma talks that the mind is actually separate to thoughts. Thoughts, memories etc. are the ‘things’ that ‘pop in’ and ‘pop out’ in the mind.

The thought is not the mind, and the mind is not the thought. They are separate, as I understand. So it’s actually the ‘thoughts’ or ‘mental formations’ are the ones that ‘come to be’ and ‘dissolve’ with rapidity that you are perhaps referring to, not so much the mind. :pray:

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I think the mind (or consciousness) never dies in the sense of ‘non-existence’ (which is one extreme; SN 12.15) at physical death and is reborn, or every second/moment. However, the mind is empty of self or of anything belonging to self; but the mind is not absent or non-existence, according to SN 35.85 and SA 232. See p. 94:
Pages 93-94 from the-fundamental-teachings-of-early-buddhism_Choong Mun-keat 2000.pdf (138.3 KB)

And p. 16:
Pages 14-16 from The Notion of Emptiness in Early Buddhism Choong Mun-keat 1999.pdf (2.1 MB)

The five aggregates emphasise psychological analysis; the sense-faculties emphasise physiological analysis (notes 99 and 100 in The Notion of Emptiness in Early Buddhism).

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He’s probably referring to the consciousness without surface. See this part of Sati the fisherman sutta and footnotes:

“Exactly so, lord. As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, it is just this consciousness that runs and wanders on, not another.”

"Which consciousness, Sāti, is that?" [1]

“This speaker, this knower, lord, that is sensitive here & there to the ripening of good & evil actions.”

“And to whom, worthless man, do you understand me to have taught the Dhamma like that? Haven’t I, in many ways, said of dependently co-arisen consciousness, ‘Apart from a requisite condition, there is no coming-into-play of consciousness’? [2] But you, through your own poor grasp, not only slander us but also dig yourself up [by the root] and produce much demerit for yourself. That will lead to your long-term harm & suffering.”

footnote:

The Buddha, knowing that there are two types of consciousness — the consciousness aggregate (viññāṇakkhandha), which is experienced in conjunction with the six sense media, and consciousness without surface (viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ), which is experienced independently of the six sense media (MN 49) — is here giving Sāti the chance to identify which of the two types he has interpreted as running and wandering on. Sāti’s answer shows that he is talking about the first type. The remaining discussion of consciousness throughout this sutta is thus directed at this first type. It would have been interesting to see how the Buddha would have attacked Sāti’s misunderstanding had Sāti stated that he was talking about the second.

On the topic of consciousness without surface, see DN 11, note 1, and MN 49, note 9.

What I consider “mind” is consciousness (vinnana), perception (sanna), volitional activity (sankhara), intention (cetana), attention (manasikara), and contact (phassa).

But really, these are all features of the mind. What I consider the core mind is consciousness (vinnana). So yes, like you said, thoughts aren’t really the mind… which is why I consider them features, and thoughts are born from perception (sanna). So the features start with intention, attention, and perception, which obviously requires contact to come to completion.

So the question is, is the consciousness without surface (viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ) impermanent?

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It seems this term or idea, viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ, is not found in the SN/SA suttas?

Out of interest, is there a reason why you dismiss suttas with parallels from the MN, AN and DN? Even if we accept Choong Mun-keat’s premise that those Nikayas/Agamas were formed at the 1st council that still puts them roughly 100 years after the Master’s final Nibbana. That would mean disciples of Ananda etc would have been present. Are we too believe that they would have grossly distorted the Dhamma by then? If their disciples got it wrong 100 years after his death then I can’t see any reason to practice Dhamma now, 2500 years later. What’s the point if it can’t even be preserved for 100 years, by 2nd generation monks and nuns? Personally, even if I accept Choong Mun-keat’s argument that still puts MN/AN and DN in good stead with me, as I have confidence in the Sangha to pass on the Dhamma. So, I’m interested in hearing your point of view?

All the best :slight_smile:

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so the phrase originates where?

No it isn’t, but it is indirectly referenced in SN 12.64

“Just as if there were a roofed house or a roofed hall having windows on the north, the south, or the east. When the sun rises, and a ray has entered by way of the window, where does it land?”

“On the western wall, lord.”

“And if there is no western wall, where does it land?”

“On the ground, lord.”

“And if there is no ground, where does it land?”

“On the water, lord.”

“And if there is no water, where does it land?”

“It does not land, lord.”

“In the same way, where there is no passion for the nutriment of physical food… contact… intellectual intention… consciousness, where there is no delight, no craving, then consciousness does not land there or increase. Where consciousness does not land or increase, there is no alighting of name-&-form. Where there is no alighting of name-&-form, there is no growth of fabrications. Where there is no growth of fabrications, there is no production of renewed becoming in the future. Where there is no production of renewed becoming in the future, there is no future birth, aging, & death. That, I tell you, has no sorrow, affliction, or despair.”

Hence consciousness without surface

Consciousness without feature, without end, luminous all around: Here water, earth, fire, & wind have no footing. Here long & short coarse & fine fair & foul name & form are all brought to an end. With the cessation of [the activity of] consciousness each is here brought to an end.’"

  • DN 11

Viññanam anidassanam. This term is nowhere explained in the Canon, although MN 49 mentions that it “does not partake in the allness of the All” — the “All” meaning the six internal and six external sense media (see SN 35.23). In this it differs from the consciousness factor in dependent co-arising, which is defined in terms of the six sense media. Lying outside of time and space, it would also not come under the consciousness-aggregate, which covers all consciousness near and far; past, present, and future. However, the fact that it is outside of time and space — in a dimension where there is no here, there, or in between (Ud 1.10), no coming, no going, or staying (Ud 8.1) — means that it cannot be described as permanent or omnipresent, terms that have meaning only within space and time. The standard description of nibbana after death is, “All that is sensed, not being relished, will grow cold right here.” (See MN 140 and Iti 44.) Again, as “all” is defined as the sense media, this raises the question as to whether consciousness without feature is not covered by this “all.” However, AN 4.174 warns that any speculation as to whether anything does or doesn’t remain after the remainderless stopping of the six sense media is to “objectify non-objectification,” which gets in the way of attaining the non-objectified. Thus this is a question that is best put aside.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.11.0.than.html#fnt-1

As a side note, The 4 main nikayas generally reference the older books in the Khuddaka nikaya, hence the note above referencing Udana. SN has some “old” suttas that use Sutta Nipata pre-Dependent Origination structure, like SN 12.66 for example.

So to conclude the original question in this thread,

  • features of the mind die at life-force death
  • the Dependent Originated 6-sense-based consciousness dies at life force death
  • the consciousness without feature/surface perhaps doesn’t die, but that is unknown and perhaps unknowable
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Hi Radius. What we did in our workshop was to distinguish between life-to-life DO and teachings on the mental process within the same life. We tried to make the point, however, that it is only the former that is properly called DO, whereas the latter is an explanation of how the mind processes its input in a deluded fashion. The two are related, but not the same. The deluded perception of a self and the craving that follows are necessary conditions for DO. But DO, as explained in the suttas, always include rebirth, and as such go beyond the deluded perceptual processes of the mind.

When the suttas speak of death, they always mean death in the usual sense of the word, not the ending of mental phenomena. With mental content, the suttas invariably speak of arising and passing away, using a vocabulary that is quite distinct from bodily death.

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You might be interested in Bhante Sujato’s exploration of the origin of this term. :grinning:

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No, I never dismiss those texts. They are all part of EBTs. But note that they are just texts, some early compiled, some later. According to Ven. Yin Shun, SA/SN was the foundation of the four Agamas/Nikayas. See below information.

I think Choong Mun-keat does not say that “those Nikayas/Agamas were formed at the 1st council”. He in fact provides what Ven. Yin Shun’s studies indicates that SA/SN had its origin in the first council; not all Nikayas/Agamas were formed at the 1st council. That is, SA/SN (i.e. the synthesis of the three angas; the Sutra-anga was the earliest of the three angas) came into existence first, and that subsequent expansion of it yielded the other Agamas/Nikayas in the sequence MA/MN, DA/DN, EA/AN (originated at the second council); SA/SN was the foundation in the development of the four Agamas/Nikayas. See pp. 10, 11, and notes 34, 36:
Pages 7-11 from The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism Choong Mun-keat 2000.pdf (605.1 KB)

See also the following paper Choong Mun-keat provides further useful information on this topic/issue:

“Ācāriya Buddhaghosa and Master Yinshun 印順 on the Three-aṅga Structure of Early Buddhist Texts” in Research on the Saṃyukta-āgama (Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts, Research Series 8; edited by Dhammadinnā), Taiwan: Dharma Drum Corporation, August 2020, pp. 883-932.

Also, SA/SN was, at first, being called as the ‘Connected Discourses’ (相應教 saṃyukta-kathā) (see p. 899, note 21 in the above-mentioned paper 2020), according to the Sarvastivada tradition. It is likely that when the four basic Agamas/Nikayas were established at the period of the second council, then the term SA/SN began to use in the early Sangha.

I think this is about “consciousness nutriment” (vinnana-ahala). See pp. 203-4:
Pages 202-204 from The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism Choong Mun-keat 2000.pdf (221.5 KB)

Also, it seems this consciousness nutriment is closely connected with the notion of the “four abodes of consciousness” (catasso vinnana tthitiyo):
Pages 50-52 from the-fundamental-teachings-of-early-buddhism_Choong Mun-keat 2000.pdf (220.8 KB)

I made a mistake in my original post. I should have said 2nd council rather than first. Thanks for your detailed reply. So to summarise you do also accept certain suttas/Agamas in the other Nikayas? Seems I’ve misunderstood your approach all this time.

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Yes, I do, but, to say accept, I do not mean the earliest teachings of the Buddha/Early Buddhism.

Interesting. Why aren’t they classed as early? What is “early”? As I say, the MN etc coming from the 2nd council would mean they were approved of by 1st or 2nd generation disciples. That’s a good source of authority on what the Buddha taught, no?

Interesting question. To find out for yourself, I suggest you may consider: What are just “texts” (some compiled early, some later)?

Authority? No.

Interesting question. To find out for yourself, I suggest you may consider: What are just “texts” (some compiled early, some later)?

I don’t understand the question?

Authority? No.

Interesting. Why do you think 1st or 2nd generation disciples wouldn’t be an authority on what the Buddha taught?

The extant all EBTs are in fact “sectarian texts”. Also, the extant EBTs are not entirely based on oral tradition. The texts are also artificial creation in both structure and content after being written down, or during writing process. As Choong Mun-keat indicates in p. 11 in The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism: “one can seek an understanding of early Buddhist teachings by studying them comparatively”.

If you recall that Bhikkhu reference, I’d be interested; like the OP, I’m sure I heard the moment-to-moment flavor at one time. My understanding though is that…

(italics added by me for context)

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Will do, it was in the context of anicca.