Mind is made up of thought-moments... so what?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Mind is made up of thought-moments... so what?

Postby waterchan » Tue Feb 05, 2013 12:59 pm

I understand that according to the Dhamma the mind is not permanent, but quantized as a series of discrete thought-moments which constantly arise and cease.

My question is, what practical benefits does this knowledge bring during meditation and in lay life? Whether the mind is one long continuum or a series of discrete thought-moments, I still remember what I had for dinner last night all the same. So what is the practical benefit?

Thanks in advance.
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Re: Mind is made up of thought-moments... so what?

Postby Ben » Tue Feb 05, 2013 1:02 pm

Developing an awareness of the characteristic of anicca in all dhammas through vipassana bhavana.
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Re: Mind is made up of thought-moments... so what?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Feb 05, 2013 1:17 pm

On remembering what you had for dinner last night, if you're aware of that thought-process in detail, you will be able to stop the link between feeling and craving, that would otherwise make you feel hungry — although you're really not — and therefore waste money on buying more food that you do not need, and which only causes you health problems.

Of course, theoretical knowledge is not the same as practical insight, but nevertheless it may be a helpful tool to make you pay more careful attention to your own thought processes. Knowing that the volitional part of the thought process is called javana, is only of academic interest, but seeing how javana impels people to run around like a headless chicken to buy headless chickens, may be of great value.
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Re: Mind is made up of thought-moments... so what?

Postby Goofaholix » Tue Feb 05, 2013 6:21 pm

waterchan wrote:My question is, what practical benefits does this knowledge bring during meditation and in lay life? Whether the mind is one long continuum or a series of discrete thought-moments, I still remember what I had for dinner last night all the same. So what is the practical benefit?


This is where practice comes in, it's up to you to contemplate and observe over time, it changes your perspective on what you experience and normally consider to be your self.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Mind is made up of thought-moments... so what?

Postby lojong1 » Tue Feb 05, 2013 9:00 pm

waterchan wrote:I understand that according to the Dhamma the mind is not permanent, but quantized as a series of discrete thought-moments which constantly arise and cease.
My question is, what practical benefits does this knowledge bring during meditation and in lay life?

Which knowledge? Yours or others'?
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Re: Mind is made up of thought-moments... so what?

Postby Goob » Tue Feb 05, 2013 9:44 pm

This thread might also be of interest: viewtopic.php?f=16&t=10653
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Re: Mind is made up of thought-moments... so what?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Feb 05, 2013 9:51 pm

Greetings,

waterchan wrote:I understand that according to the Dhamma the mind is not permanent, but quantized as a series of discrete thought-moments which constantly arise and cease.

This "atomic" (or 'quantized'... I like that) understanding of discrete mind-moments only arose with the evolution of the Abhidhamma movement... so "according to the Dhamma" will depend here on precisely what you take the Dhamma to be.

waterchan wrote:So what is the practical benefit?

Good question - I don't see it and in fact I don't even believe in atomic mind-moments. Personally I think the early Abhidhamma did not attempt to reify or quantize dhammas as such, but simply used certain terminology (e.g. citta, cetasika) as expository devices in an attempt to discuss the nature of the mind and its attributes in greater detail. It was over time that thought-moments became central to Theravada scholasticism.

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Re: Mind is made up of thought-moments... so what?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:06 pm

Hi Waterchan,
waterchan wrote:I understand that according to the Dhamma the mind is not permanent, but quantized as a series of discrete thought-moments which constantly arise and cease.

My question is, what practical benefits does this knowledge bring during meditation and in lay life? Whether the mind is one long continuum or a series of discrete thought-moments, I still remember what I had for dinner last night all the same. So what is the practical benefit?

As Ben Bhikkhu Pesala, and Goofaholix have already said, the important point is not thinking about theoretical models, or believing something. It's practical experience. The insight into impermanence that comes from experiencing how rapidly the mind changes. This takes a bit of work...

As the Buddha says here:
SN12.61 wrote:“But, indeed, that which, monks, is called ‘mind’, or ‘thought’, or ‘consciousness’, that, by night and by day, as other, indeed, arises, as other ceases. Just as, monks, a monkey in the mountain-side forests, moving itself, grasps a branch, then releasing that, grasps another, then releasing that, grasps another; even so, indeed, monks, that which is called ‘mind’, or ‘thought’, or ‘consciousness’: that, by night and by day, as other, indeed, arises, as other ceases.
viewtopic.php?f=25&t=11987

AN 4.41 wrote:"And what is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to the ending of the effluents? There is the case where a monk remains focused on arising & falling away with reference to the five clinging-aggregates: 'Such is form, such its origination, such its passing away. Such is feeling, such its origination, such its passing away. Such is perception, such its origination, such its passing away. Such are fabrications, such their origination, such their passing away. Such is consciousness, such its origination, such its disappearance.' This is the development of concentration that, when developed & pursued, leads to the ending of the effluents.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

:anjali:
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Re: Mind is made up of thought-moments... so what?

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Feb 07, 2013 2:57 pm

retrofuturist wrote:....I don't even believe in atomic mind-moments.


Me neither. The way it feels to me is that there are mental processes occuring at different levels, some change rapidly and some change more gradually. So an underlying mind-state or mood might persist for some time, while a perception, thought or feeling might be very transitory.
I think.... ;)
Well, oi dunno...
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Re: Mind is made up of thought-moments... so what?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Feb 07, 2013 6:32 pm

porpoise wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:....I don't even believe in atomic mind-moments.


Me neither.

This part of the forum is focussed practice, not beliefs...
porpoise wrote:The way it feels to me is that there are mental processes occuring at different levels, some change rapidly and some change more gradually. So an underlying mind-state or mood might persist for some time, while a perception, thought or feeling might be very transitory.
I think.... ;)

And that's the important point. It certainly seems like there are multiple processes going on concurrently, especially in busy everyday life.

But I think it's worth keeping an open mind and investigating whether one really experiences these phenomena concurrently, or whether there is a rapid switching. This takes some work...

That the underlying mind-state/mood appears to be persistent is one of the reasons for paying close attention to it. It's one of the more persistent things that builds a sense of self. I've read/heard this discussed in various places (perhaps in Ajahn Brahm's book, Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond) and I think it's an important point. One can easily build a sense of self around the "calm meditator mindstate".

:anjali:
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Re: Mind is made up of thought-moments... so what?

Postby reflection » Thu Feb 07, 2013 7:24 pm

It's not really about being practical or not. If you feel it is more practical to leave this aside for now, feel free to do so. Sometimes it's more useful to see things like that for a while.

But it's about how the world works. If the mind is made of moments, this means there is no thing that should really be called mind. It's even wrong to say it is made up of moments,because there is nothing made up. And if we see that, we can let go of this idea called a 'self'. That's not really about being practical or not. Same as asking, what's practical about the sky being blue? Nothing really, it just is.

With metta,
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Re: Mind is made up of thought-moments... so what?

Postby Digity » Fri Feb 08, 2013 3:16 am

waterchan wrote:I understand that according to the Dhamma the mind is not permanent, but quantized as a series of discrete thought-moments which constantly arise and cease.

My question is, what practical benefits does this knowledge bring during meditation and in lay life? Whether the mind is one long continuum or a series of discrete thought-moments, I still remember what I had for dinner last night all the same. So what is the practical benefit?

Thanks in advance.

I think it has a lot of usage when it comes to destructive emotions. I'm better at not clinging to negative emotions when they arise. When I was younger I would get really attached to these negative emotions and keep them going in my mind. Now, I'm better at just observing and remind myself that "this will pass". That doesn't mean I don't get sad, angry, depressed, mad, etc. I do, but it doesn't stay around nearly as long as it did before I was more mindful of these things.

Since nothing is permanent is anything really worth clinging to? I'd say no, but we don't act that way. When we go on a trip and experience joy we cling to it and feel sad to have to go back to work. These feelings are understandable, but when you really step back and look at things objectively it's silly that we get attached to these mind moments of pleasure when in reality they're just fleeting. Yet still, we chase after them time and time again. Even having this knowledge of impermanence in your mind still makes it difficult not to get caught up in pleasure seeking. That's what's so unfortunate about samsara. We keep chasing after mirages...and it's endless and ultimately leads no where.
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Re: Mind is made up of thought-moments... so what?

Postby pegembara » Fri Feb 08, 2013 3:43 am

You see a stream of water flowing from a tap and it appears as a solid constant stream; a solid, substantial thing.

You tighten the tap and the stream becomes drops of water. It loses its appearance as something solid. It's insubstantiality (anatta) nature becomes apparent.

Similarly with thoughts. By seeing the arising and passing of thoughts, one loses identification with ones thoughts. It is an automatic thing.
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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Re: Mind is made up of thought-moments... so what?

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Feb 08, 2013 10:47 am

pegembara wrote: By seeing the arising and passing of thoughts, one loses identification with ones thoughts. It is an automatic thing.


Very true. But this doesn't seem to rely on the idea of mind moments.
Well, oi dunno...
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Re: Mind is made up of thought-moments... so what?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Feb 08, 2013 6:44 pm

porpoise wrote:
pegembara wrote: By seeing the arising and passing of thoughts, one loses identification with ones thoughts. It is an automatic thing.


Very true. But this doesn't seem to rely on the idea of mind moments.

True but if you want to argue about whether or not the Buddha taught mind moments, etc, etc, then there are more appropriate areas of the forum.

In the context of this topic the suttas, other Theravada writings, and experience, suggest that the mind can be seen to be changing extremely rapidly. That's something worth investigating, since it gives a powerful message about the transient nature of phenomena.

:anjali:
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