Sensation, Feeling, Perception, Volition, Mental-Life, and Attention are the six essential mental elements. These elements perform the most essential and basic mental functions. They are always present in any mental activity. They are present in all types of consciousness. Without their presence, consciousness cannot perform the act of cognition. Without their presence, there is no mind, there is no consciousness, and there is no experience. Because of their essential nature, I like to call this group of elements, “The Universal Mind.”
Essential elements are not inherently wholesome or unwholesome, but, they acquire ethical quality of other prominent mental elements which arise with them. For example, Feeling is Feeling. It is just an essential mental element which performs the function of feeling an object. It is neither wholesome nor unwholesome by its own nature. However, it becomes unwholesome when it arises with mental element of Hatred and manifests as a hateful-unpleasant-feeling. When we see our enemy, we feel hatefully-unpleasant because the element of Hatred arises with the element of Feeling. When we see our child, we feel joyfully-pleasant because the element of Loving-Kindness (Non-Hatred) arises with the element of Feeling.
Perception is perception. It is just an essential mental element which performs the function of perceiving the quality of an object. It is neither wholesome nor unwholesome by its own nature. However, when it arises with the element of Greed, it becomes an unwholesome perception as in the case of cognizing someone’s lost wallet as a possible source of free money.
Now, let us see how these essential elements arise and function in a typical cognitive process. Let us go back to our example of seeing a flower. Let us say, when you see a flower, you cognize it as a beautiful red rose, and, then you either want to simply watch it or pluck it. In this cognitive process, the essential mental elements assist the consciousness as follows:
The moment you see the flower, at that very moment, Eye-Consciousness arises along with all the six essential mental elements. Sensation makes the Eye-Consciousness touch the object, because of which, the consciousness (the internal world) impinges upon the flower (the external world). The process of cognition thus begins through contact between the internal and the external world. Once this contact is established through Sensation, consequently, a Feeling arises and makes the consciousness feel the sensations, which results in an experience of a pleasant visual feeling. Perception then assists the consciousness in interpreting the object based on the sensations and feelings. The object is thus perceived as a flower, a beautiful red rose, based on its appearance (the sensation and the feeling). If it is not the first time, then the object is interpreted as a flower based on the memory of it. Volition then kicks in and decides to watch the flower and enjoy it or to pluck it. Volition determines further course of mental action about the flower through coordination among all other elements. Volition is either the mental action behind the desire to simply enjoy the flower or the mental action behind the desire to pluck it. Volition thus generates wholesome karma or unwholesome karma. Attention, which is present along with all other mental elements, bonds all the elements onto the flower so that consciousness remains in contact with the flower throughout the cognitive process. Attention also assists in turning the consciousness towards the flower to carry out the volition. The element of Mental-life vitalizes, maintains, and establishes the presence of all mental elements during the whole process of cognition. Thus, in brief, the element of
Sensation- Touches the object of the external world
Feeling- Feels the sensation or touch of the object
Perception- Perceives or interprets the object based on the generated sensation/feeling
Volition-Decides, determines, and coordinates the further action about the object.
Attention- Keeps all elements together and focused onto the object.
Mental-life- Provides vitality and maintenance for all elements during cognition.
In this example, Eye-Consciousness functions as the king. Elements of Sensation, Feeling, Perception, Volition, Attention, and Mental-life serve as ministers to perform various functions for this king. Thus, the mental elements (or mind) fulfill the function of kingship for the king. The function of kingship is the function of seeing the flower and identifying it as a beautiful red rose. Just as the king and his ministers rule the same kingdom, consciousness and mind experience the same object.
There are only six essential elements always present in all mental activities. Mental element of Concentration may also be present in a very mild form in all mental activities, however, for all practical purposes, it can be considered as a special element (as it will be discussed later).
Essential elements arise and pass away in extreme rapidity. There is no such thing as a timely or linear succession (one after the other) of elements in a cognitive process. Some elements only perform consequent to each other because they condition each others’ occurrence. For example, the element of Sensation conditions the occurrence of the element of Feeling. Therefore, feelings always occur as a result or consequent to sensations. This does not mean that the element of Feeing actually arises only after the element of Sensation has arisen and passed away.
It is also important to understand that only Eye-Consciousness does not arise in the above example of cognizing a rose. Many types of consciousness arise and pass away in extreme rapidity along with many mental elements as will be discussed later in detail. If, by mistake, one thinks that only a single consciousness and/or one single mind arises during the whole cognitive process, one will start developing delusional views of an individual-SOUL or a person observing the flower. Here, let us understand that there is no fixed entity performing any of the functions. Various cognitive functions are performed by various mental elements in relationship with each other.
One must also understand that there is no cognizer behind cognition. There is no knower behind knowing. There is no seer behind scenery. Cognition or knowing or seeing are simply phenomena of consciousness that are assisted by mental elements - the Mind.
The Special Mind
Special Mental Elements
Thinking, Thoughtfulness, Rapture, Concentration, Resolution, Vigor, and Bare-Desire are seven special mental elements. These elements perform extraordinary or special types of mental activities. They are not present in all types of consciousness like the essential elements do, but only occasionally present in special types of consciousness. Because of their special or extraordinary nature, I like to call this group of elements, “The Special Mind.”
Special elements are not inherently wholesome or unwholesome, but, they acquire ethical quality of other prominent mental elements which arise with them. For example, Thinking is thinking. It is just a special mental element which performs the function of the application of thought over an object. Thinking, in itself, is neither unwholesome nor wholesome. However, when it arises with mental element of Hatred, it becomes hateful- thinking as in the case of a conspirator planning to attack his enemy. Similarly, Concentration is concentration. It is just a special mental element which performs the function of focusing or unifying all mental phenomena. Concentration in itself is neither wholesome nor unwholesome. However, when it arises with the mental element of Greed, it becomes unwholesome concentration as in the case of a hunter concentrating to shoot a wild animal.
Now, let us see how these special elements arise and function in a typical cognitive process consisting of seeing a flower. Let us say, when you see a flower, you cognize it as a beautiful red rose, then you enjoy watching it for a long time and suddenly decide to pluck it. In this cognitive process, as we have already discussed, due to the presence of Attention, consciousness remains in contact with the flower throughout the cognitive process. Thinking, when present, builds on this Attention by actually directing and applying your Attention onto the flower to further unfold and unravel the flower. Now, you do not simply watch the flower and leave, but you watch it closer because there is thinking going on about the flower. Thinking then leads to Thoughtfulness. Now, you watch the flower not only closer but also for a longer period of time, because there is sustained application of thought on the flower. Now, you think deeper and in a sustained manner about the flower. You now think about it as a beautiful object. Thinking and Thoughtfulness then lead to Rapture. Now, there is delight or joyful interest in the flower, which leads to pervading of your consciousness with ecstasy. Ultimately, Rapture leads to happiness because, now, you are not just seeing a flower but also experiencing it as beautiful. When happiness is present, Concentration arises and functions initially to unify all mental phenomena. Now, there is only you, the flower, and the process of observation. Nothing else exists for you at the moments of concentration. Depending upon the degree of Concentration, you now experience the flower at higher and higher or subtler and subtler states of mental absorptions. You can experience its colors, its shape, its beauty, etc at deeper and deeper levels. Your mind is now completely let go on the flower. This happens due to the arising of Resolution which follows Concentration. Now, you confirm and decide that it is a beautiful flower. This confirmation is resolute. It is unshakable. It is decisive. Resolution liberates the mind from indecisiveness about the beauty and nature of flower. Now, you do not turn back. You are able to support and uphold the state of mind you are in. This happens due to Vigor which follows Resolution. It gives energy to you, reinforces the mind and does not allow it to collapse. Then what arises is a bare-desire to acquire the flower. There is just this bare-desire, meaning, a mental stretch towards the flower. If Greed arises along with this bare-desire, then you end up plucking the flower. The Bare-desire simply makes you look for an object. It does not make you grab the flower. It is Greed coupled with Bare-desire which results in the unwholesome action of plucking the flower. If Non-greed arises with bare-desire, then you do not pluck the flower. Thus, in brief, the element of
Thinking- Directs and applies the Attention to further unfold and unravel the object of Attention and leads to Thoughtfulness.
Thoughtfulness- Creates sustained application of thought onto the object and leads to delight and joyful interest in the object.
Rapture- Creates delight and joyful interest in the object and leads to Concentration through happy state of mind.
Concentration- Unifies all elements and creates focus on the object leading to complete letting go of mind onto the object.
Resolution- Confirms and decides about the object leading to not-turning-back from the object.
Vigor- Supports, upholds and reinforces the state of mind and does not allow it to move away from the object leading to an Inclination (bare desire) about the object.
Bare-desire- Stretches the mind, bends the mind towards the object generating a bare-desire which turns into an actual desire when it couples with other mental elements such as Greed. Bare desire is similar to just having an ‘inclination.’
When these special elements arise with wholesome elements of Non-greed, Non-hatred and Non-delusion, they generate extraordinarily wholesome and constructive mental powers. However, when these special elements arise with unwholesome mental elements of Greed, Hatred and Delusion, they generate extraordinarily unwholesome and destructive mental powers. For example, a greedy inclination (means a combination of elements of Greed and Bare-Desire) of profiting from a relationship ultimately results in pain and sorrow. A resolution to take revenge (means a combination of elements of Hatred and Resolution), or, vigor for achieving a materialistic goal (means a combination of elements of Greed and Vigor) generate special mental powers and mental sharpness, but, those mental powers and sharpness never produce real happiness. The human history is filled with episodes of human suffering resulting from unwholesome application of these special mental elements. Therefore, it is extremely important to understand these elements thoroughly so we can allow them to arise in our consciousness only in conjunction with wholesome elements.
What is Mind
When we look at a beautiful flower, we feel pleasant. Then we say, “That flower is so beeeauuutiful!
In this case, that which simply sees the flower is the consciousness, and, that which feels, perceives, thinks and qualifies it as pleasant and beautiful is the mind.
Feeling, perceiving, thinking, etc are the non-material phenomena or mental elements which assist the consciousness in the process of cognition, meaning, they make it possible to know the flower as pleasant and beautiful. These mental elements are collectively known as the mind.
So, principally, mind can be defined as, “a non-material phenomenon that is made up of various mental elements which assist the consciousness in the process of cognition by imparting their qualities to the consciousness.”
Mind always arises and ceases together with consciousness and experiences the same object as that of consciousness, and, assists consciousness in the act of cognition. Just as the king cannot rule his kingdom all by himself without his ministers, consciousness cannot rule its domain without the mind. Just as the king cannot perform the function of kingship without ministers, consciousness cannot perform the function of cognition without the mind.
The Ultimate Building Blocks of Mind
Just as material/chemical scientists have discovered a total of 118 elements of matter (as given in the Periodic Table), spiritual scientists have discovered a total of 52 elements of mind (see list on the right side and a slide). These spiritual scientists are the ancient enlightened masters whom I like to call “the perfect scientists.”
Mind is really nothing but a bundle of these mental elements.
Mental elements are distinct realities. It means, they exist in the universe having their own intrinsic nature just as earth element exists in the universe having its own intrinsic nature of hardness/softness, and just as fire element exists in nature having its own intrinsic nature of heat/cold. However, mental elements are not like elements of matter. They are not material things or energy modules or fields or anything like that. They are mental, i.e. they are non-material phenomena. They are without an identity, without a boundary. They are non-entities. They are impersonal. They do not belong to any individual or to any entity.
Mental elements are, in fact, ultimate realities that cannot be evaluated further than their own intrinsic nature. Because they are ultimate and impersonal, the word “element” is used to denote their phenomenal nature, and, because they are mental phenomena, they are called the elements of mind, or, simply “mental elements.”
Each mental element itself is a distinct mental phenomenon, a process, a flow, and not a fixed entity. Feeling itself is a distinct mental phenomenon, Perception itself is a distinct mental phenomenon, Thinking itself is a distinct mental phenomenon. Other examples of mental elements are: Attention, Greed, Hatred, Delusion, Faith, Compassion, Loving-kindness, etc.
Mental elements such as Feeling, Perception, and Attention assist the consciousness in feeling the object, perceiving it, and attending to it so it can be cognized. When mental elements such as Greed or Hatred arise together with elements of Feeling, Perception, and Attention, they make the process of cognition greedy or hateful. A mental element of Compassion, on the other hand, when arises together with elements of Feeling, Perception, and Attention, it assists consciousness in cognizing the object with compassion. In this way, mind conditions or colors the consciousness. Let us try to understand that by some real-life examples.
Let us say, you are in a flea market and you see a wallet on the ground. If greed arises at the moment you see the wallet, you will cognize the wallet as a source of money for yourself. Here, a simple act of seeing a wallet has been colored and conditioned into a desire for free money due to the arising of the mental element of Greed. Instead of greed, if compassion arises, then wallet does not become a source of free money but a cause for compassion for its owner who lost it. In an earlier case, the consciousness was conditioned into an unwholesome state due to the arising of Greed. In the latter case, consciousness was conditioned into a wholesome state due to the arising of Compassion.
When you see a dirty, weak, destitute Indian beggar at a railway station, you will cognize his appearance as disgusting if mental element of Hatred arises in your consciousness. Instead of Hatred, if mental elements of Loving-kindness and Compassion arise, your cognition will be totally different. Because of Loving-kindness and Compassion, you will most likely cognize the beggar as a lovable person in need of desperate help.
The above examples are a highly simplified version of what actually happens. In reality, whenever consciousness arises, numerous mental elements arise with it. In the wallet example, several mental elements arise with the Eye-Consciousness at the moment of seeing a wallet. Greed does not arise by itself but always arises with elements of Sensation, Feeling, Perception, Volition, Attention, Mental-life-faculty, Delusion, Restlessness, Shamelessness, Moral recklessness, etc. Out of these numerous mental elements, Greed and Delusion act as the most prominent elements. They function like the president and the prime minister while assisting the consciousness in the process of cognition. All other elements function like the cabinet ministers. In this way, in the process of cognition, all these ministers together (the mind), serve the king (the consciousness).
Just as consciousness has its own intrinsic nature of cognizing, it is considered as an ultimate reality. Similarly, because mental elements have their own intrinsic nature, they are considered as ultimate realities. What this means is, each mental element actually exist in nature as a distinct element. Therefore, through investigation, it is possible to discover and know them as distinct elements. It is somewhat like being able to discover and know the elements of Hydrogen, Oxygen, Carbon, Iron, etc of a periodic table, because these material/chemical elements actually exist in the universe having their own intrinsic nature.
Mental elements are mental and not material; therefore, the only way to know them directly and thoroughly is through experience and not through experiment or through external observation. That is why, meditation is absolutely necessary in order to thoroughly know and understand the mind. At its surficial level, mind may be known to some extent without meditation, however, at its elemental level, at its fundamental level, mind cannot be known without meditation. It is very important to understand and realize that.
Classification of Mental Elements
Mental elements are extremely subtle. Also, the differences between two elements can be hopelessly subtle. Therefore, spiritual scientists have delimited and classified them using the following four criteria:
•The most unique and prominent quality of the element
•The performance of a specific task by the element
•The way in which the element is actually experienced
(The Manifestation), and
•The main condition for the occurrence of the element
(The Proximate Cause).
Depending upon these four criteria, 52 mental elements can be classified into following seven categories or groups.
Group I- Essential Mental Elements (No. 1 through No.6) making up the Essential Mind
Group II-Special Mental Elements (No. 7 through No.13) making up the Special Mind
Group III-Unwholesome Mental Elements (No. 14 through No.27) making up the Bad Mind
Group IV-Wholesome Mental Elements (No. 28 through No.46) making up the Good Mind
Group V-Divine Mental Elements (No. 26, No. 46 through No. 48) making up Divine Mind
Group VI-Noble Mental Elements (No. 49 through No.51) making up the Noble Mind
Group VII-Wisdom Mental Element (No. 52) making up the Perfect Mind
In order to understand matter or chemistry, one has to understand the 118 material elements that form the material/chemical chart. Similarly, in order to understand mind, one has to understand 52 elements of the mind. In fact, it is utterly impossible to understand the mind without thoroughly and experientially understanding these 52 elements of the mind.
The Bad Mind
Unwholesome Mental Elements
Greed, Hatred, Envy, Pride, Conceit, Sloth and Torpor, Remorse, Suspicion, Superstitiousness, Shamelessness, Moral Recklessness, Restlessness and Delusion are the fourteen unwholesome mental elements. I call this group of elements, “The Bad Mind” because some or all of them are always present in all unwholesome or bad mental activities. In other words, these fourteen elements are inherently unwholesome. They are inherently bad and unprofitable. They impart their unwholesome quality to other elements and to the consciousness with which they arise.
Unwholesome Root Elements
Out of the fourteen unwholesome elements, Greed, Hatred, and Delusion are the most prominent ones because they serve as roots or reason for all unwholesome mental activities. That is why they are known as unwholesome root elements. They provide firmness to the unwholesome consciousness just as roots provide firmness to a tree.
Delusion is the subtlest of all unwholesome elements. It permeates and conditions all unwholesome mental activities. However, Delusion is more like a root cause and Greed and Hatred are like root conditions. Let us now see how the three unwholesome root elements function in the same cognitive process consisting of seeing a flower and plucking it.
When Greed arises along with the element of Bare-Desire (Inclination), it makes you cling to the flower. It does not allow you to let go of the flower. Instead, it attaches your mind to it and transforms inclination into a desire to acquire the flower. Because Greed is a very strong element, it does not allow you to think otherwise about the flower. In this way, Greed rules the entire mental phenomena which results in plucking the flower.
Now, let us say, while you are observing the flower and enjoying it, someone else plucks it. If this happens, the element of Hatred arises because your enjoyment is interrupted, which becomes a condition of aggravation or irritation. Hatred puts things on fire. You experience burning sensations and unpleasant feelings, which, eventually results in anger towards the person who plucked the flower. Because Hatred is a very strong element, it does not allow you to think otherwise about the person who plucked the flower. In this way, Hatred rules the entire mental phenomena at the time of its presence and makes you miserable.
Essential Unwholesome Elements
Greed, hatred or any other unwholesome element does not arise by itself but always arises in a group. This group always consists of four essential unwholesome elements of Shamelessness, Moral Recklessness, Restlessness, and Delusion. In other words, these four elements are essential for the occurrence of any unwholesome mental activity. Greed, for example, does not and cannot arise by itself. Along with Greed, there is always Delusion, Shamelessness, Moral Recklessness, and Restlessness. Now, let us see how these four elements function along with Greed in the same flower example.
Because of Delusion, you are blinded by the beauty of the flower. Because of Delusion, you no longer realize that the beauty is “in the eyes of the beholder” and not in the flower. Delusion hides this reality. Restlessness then kicks in and makes the mind unsteady. You become impatient and lose calmness, because, now, you want to own the flower and its beauty. Shamelessness and Moral Recklessness arise and make the mind apathetic towards other people who also deserve to enjoy the flower. You neither think about your own morality nor about others rights. You lose moral caution, self-respect, and respect for others. You become unruly and thus end up plucking the flower. In this way, your bad action of plucking the flower is governed by Greed, and supported by Delusion, Restlessness, Shamelessness, and Moral Recklessness.
Similarly, the element of Hatred does not and cannot arise by itself. Along with Hatred, there is always this group of four essential unwholesome elements. In the same flower example, if another person plucks the flower, here is what happens with respect to these elements: Because of Delusion, you are blinded and thus, you don’t realize that you are not the owner of the flower. Delusion hides this reality. Because of Shamelessness, there is lack of self-respect and respect for other people. Because of Moral recklessness, there is no moral caution or dread related to angry behavior. Because of Restlessness, there is impatience and mental unsteadiness. All these conditions combined, lead to you becoming angry at the person who plucks the flower. In this way, your angry action (or reaction) is governed by Hatred, and supported by Delusion, Restlessness, Shamelessness, and Moral Recklessness.
Let us now look at some other examples to understand the significance of how unwholesome root elements and four essential unwholesome elements function together: A corrupt government official takes a bribe or steals public funds even after knowing that the money is meant for improving road conditions. In this case, in addition to having Greed, the corrupt official also has to be deluded by the power of money in order to steal public funds. He has to be shameless due to lack of self-respect and respect for others. He has to be morally reckless due to lack of morality/ethics, and he has to be restless due to lack of satisfaction or due to mental confusion/instability. Same is true for all actions that are rooted in Greed. What I am trying to say is, greed cannot function by itself. It has to be supported by delusion, shamelessness, moral recklessness, and restlessness.
Many people take pride in being greedy. They think that it is not possible to achieve anything without greed. They think this way not knowing that it is impossible to be greedy without being deluded, shameless, morally reckless, and restless. If greedy people were to understand their minds in this way, they would realize how unwholesome their minds are. All the hidden filth about themselves will become obvious to them. Then, may be, they will think about removing greed from their minds.
An angry husband hurts his wife and generates fear in his children when his demands are not met, or when his wife or children argue with him, or when he does not have things his way. In this case, the husband is not only filled with Hatred but also with delusion, because, he is mentally blind and not able to face the truth. He is shameless because he neither has self-respect nor any respect for a woman. He is morally recklessness because he lacks moral caution/ethics, and he is restless because he shows agitation and irritation. Without the presence of all these conditions, he cannot hurt woman and children. Same is true for all actions that are rooted in Hatred. What I am trying to say is, hatred or anger cannot function by itself. It has to be supported by delusion, shamelessness, moral recklessness, and restlessness.
Many people think, it is necessary to become angry to achieve certain goals or to get things done. They think, without anger, it is not possible to discipline or lead in certain cases. They think this way, not knowing that, it is impossible to be hateful or angry without being deluded, shameless, morally reckless, and restless. If angry or hateful people were to understand their minds in this way, they would realize how unwholesome their minds are. All the hidden filth about themselves will become obvious to them. Then, may be, they will think about removing hatred from their minds.
If we meditate or contemplate further upon these examples, we will realize that the root cause of all unwholesome actions is the element of Delusion. In the above examples, if you were not blinded by the beauty of the flower, the desire to pluck it would not have sustained. If the public official was not blinded by the power of money, then the arisen Greed about public funds could not have sustained itself. Similarly, if the husband was not blinded by his own views or by his own way of doing things, his hatred towards wife and children could not sustain itself.
Delusion is also the underlying current, meaning the ultimate root cause of unwholesome actions illustrated in these examples. This ultimate root cause is none other than the ignorance about the real nature of the self. This ultimate root cause manifests as “I-ness: the ego.” This ego is protected and strengthened by elements of Greed and Hatred. In this way, the element of Delusion serves as the ultimate unwholesome root element, the elements of Greed and Hatred serve as the unwholesome root elements, and the elements of Shamelessness, Moral-recklessness, and Restlessness serve as supportive conditions behind all unwholesome mental activities.
Occasional Unwholesome Elements
Conceit, Envy, Remorse, Superstitiousness, Sloth and Torpor, Avarice and Suspicion are elements that arise occasionally in the unwholesome consciousness. Let us now see how these occasional unwholesome elements function in the same cognitive process of seeing and plucking the flower.
While you are plucking the flower out of Greed, if Conceit arises, then you start thinking about how you can glorify or advertise yourself by using the unique beauty of the flower. You start planning on how to grow the flowers in your backyard. You start dreaming about participating in a flower show or giving it to a girlfriend to win admiration from her or something that will basically bring praise to you. Conceit basically manifests as a desire to advertise oneself. Because Conceit leads to vanity, it makes your state of mind even more unwholesome.
If someone else plucks the flower, the element of Hatred arises in you (as discussed earlier) which results in burning sensation and unpleasant feelings. However, you cannot do anything about the situation. You don’t own the flower tree, so you cannot go after the other person for getting the flower. So, you become resentful. There is now Envy, which makes you feel unhappy and dissatisfied because someone else got the flower. You can not appreciate or like the fact that someone else got the flower. Envy further strengthens the element of Hatred and you continue to burn with anger.
As you sit there suffering, you try to reflect over what happened. Because you do not reflect wisely, the element of Remorse arises, and soon your resentment turns into sorrow. Because you did not reflect wisely, instead of letting go, you begin to mourn the fact that you were greedy about the flower. Instead of simply learning from the incidence, you begin to feel guilty about your unwholesome nature and you become even more miserable. Thus, Remorse makes things even worse.
Then, you start thinking, “May be it was not my lucky day; May be I don’t deserve the flower; May be my astrologer is right; He had told me that the current year was not beneficial to me; May be my spiritual guru is right; He had said that the red colored flowers are harmful to me.” In this way, you begin to presume, assume, suppose, believe and interpret wrongly and unjustifiably. This happens due to the arousal of the element of Superstitiousness. Because Remorse was not good enough to make you feel good, you take support of Superstitiousness to somehow make yourself comfortable. This happens due to lack of willingness to see the truth or to face the reality (of suffering) as it is. Superstitiousness, which is a monster of unwholesomeness, further strengthens the elements of Delusion and Conceit, and your sufferings continue to increase. Even though you try to somehow convince yourself using Superstitiousness, it does not help much in reducing unhappiness, since that is not the inherent nature of Superstitiousness. It only increases suffering.
Because you still don’t feel comfortable, and because there is Superstitiousness, you start blaming the world. You start losing confidence about yourself. You become uncertain about things. You start losing trust in people’s sense of fairness. You start doubting whether you will ever be able to get such a flower. This happens because the element of Suspicion arises in your consciousness. Suspicion arises primarily because of your Superstitiousness and your lack of desire to think through. Instead of wisely investigating what is going inside you, you start doubting and continue to remain miserable.
Nothing seems to change your miserable situation. You now begin to feel bored and lonely. You start getting tired and drowsy. This leads to Sloth and Torpor. Sloth drains your remaining energy and Torpor chokes you up. You don’t want to think about anything now. You just feel lethargic about the whole thing. You mind becomes stiff and unwieldy. Instead of becoming aware of boredom and your sense of failure, instead of giving wise attention and arousing energy, instead of completely letting go, you simply give up. Your misery thus continues.
While being miserable, let us say, accidentally, you happen to see even more beautiful flowers on a nearby tree. Now, Greed arises with such force that you rush to the tree and pluck all the flowers instead of just plucking one. Now, supported by greed, there is Avarice, which makes sharing with others hard to bear. Because of Avarice, you not only pluck all the flowers but also hide them all. You become stingy and covetous. Now, even though you have so many flowers, you still don’t feel happy! You somehow still feel unpleasant! In fact, now, there is fear of losing the flowers! So, the misery just keeps on increasing. In this way, all unwholesome elements generate more and more misery. (See Figure 3.4). In brief, the element of
Greed- Makes the mind cling to the object and develops attachment
Hatred- Puts things on fire resulting in unpleasant sensations leading to harmful and dangerous emotions like anger
Delusion- Creates mental blindness and hides the true nature of the object
Restlessness- Makes the mind unsteady and impatient
Shamelessness- Makes the mind apathethetic
Moral-Recklessness- Allows for loss of moral caution, self-respect, and respect for others
Conceit- Allows for glorifying or advertising oneself and generating praise for self
Envy- Makes the mind resentful, unhappy, and dissatisfied
Remorse- Makes the mind feel guilty and mournful
Superstitiousness- Makes the mind presume, assume, believe, and interpret wrongly
Suspicion- Generates loss of confidence, loss of trust, and makes mind uncertain
Avarice- Makes sharing with others hard to bear; makes mind stingy, and covetous.
Sloth-Torpor- Sloth drains energy and Torpor chokes the mind up; makes one feel lethargic about everything; makes mind stiff and unwieldy.
These unwholesome mental elements are primarily responsible for all mental diseases, psychological disorders, and mental suffering. Therefore, the process of mental purification and SOUL realization rely heavily on the successful eradication of these elements. The spiritual process of purification actually means completely removing these elements from all states of consciousness. Mental purification is somewhat like the process of refining or purifying gold in which all impurities present in the gold-ore are removed.
It is important to understand and identify all the unwholesome elements correctly so they can be properly removed from the consciousness. It is like trying to know all impurities of gold thoroughly so that gold can be purified to the maximum extent.
The Good Mind
Wholesome Mental Elements
Mindfulness, Conscience and Shame, Faith, Equanimity, Skillfulness, Tranquility, Lightness, Flexibility, Wield-ness, Rectitude, Non-Hatred, and Non-Greed are the wholesome mental elements. These elements as a group are called the ‘Good Mind’ because all of them are always present in ‘goodness;’ in all wholesome mental activities. They are all inherently wholesome. They are profitable. They impart their wholesome quality to other mental elements and to the consciousness with which they arise. (See Figure 3.5).
The interesting aspect of wholesome elements is that they all arise together as a group and never as a separate element. In other words, wholesomeness means the presence of all wholesome elements in the consciousness. Having only Mindfulness or only Faith cannot make us wholesome. All thirteen elements have to be present together to generate wholesomeness. In other words, we can say that real Faith cannot arise without Mindfulness, Non-greed, Non-hatred, etc. Similarly, there is no such thing as just Mindfulness without the presence of Faith, Non-greed, Non-hatred, etc.
Wholesome Root Elements
The roots of all wholesome mental activities are the elements of Non-greed and Non-hatred. Therefore, Non-Greed and Non-Hatred are the most prominent of all wholesome elements. They are known as wholesome root elements because they serve as roots or reason for all wholesome mental activities. They provide firmness to the wholesome consciousness just as roots provide firmness to a tree. Now, let us see how these wholesome root elements function in the flower example.
When wholesome elements are present, the Inclination to acquire the flower itself does not arise, because, the root element of Non-Greed does not allow you to cling to the flower. It helps you to let go of the flower. It detaches your mind from it and transforms your experience into a ‘desireless’ appreciation of flower’s beauty. Because Non-Greed is a very strong element, it does not allow you to think otherwise about the flower. In this way, because of Non-Greed, you do not pluck the flower.
Let us say, while you are observing the flower and enjoying it, someone else plucks it. If this happens and if the element of Non-Hatred arises, it cools things down and forbids aggravation or irritation that could have arisen otherwise. When Non-Hatred is present, you do not experience burning sensations or unpleasant feelings. Anger does not arise towards the person who plucked the flower. Instead of anger, there is sociability and agreeableness. Because Non-Hatred is a very strong element, it does not allow you to think otherwise about the person who plucked the flower. In this way, because of Non-Hatred, you do not feel angry and you are saved from becoming miserable.
Non-Delusion is another root element; however, it is the undercurrent: the ultimate root (see pg.no. for more details). The elements of Non-Greed and Non-Hatred, which always arise together in all wholesome consciousness, function even more effectively if Non-Delusion arises with them.
Excluding Non-greed and Non-hatred, all the wholesome elements are labeled as beautiful elements because they bring grace, beauty, and radiance to the consciousness. In fact, even the root elements of Non-Greed, Non-Hatred, and Non-Delusion are also beautiful elements; however, they have been intentionally separated to enlighten their significance. Now, let us see how the wholesome root elements and all the beautiful elements arise together and function in the flower example.
As said earlier, Non-Greed does not allow clinging to the flower. It detaches the mind from it. Non-Hatred keeps things cool and forbids irritation due to any reason. When Non-greed and Non-hatred are present, all beautiful elements arise with them. Mindfulness generates and maintains presence of mind and a passive-receptive-deepening observation of the flower without getting carried away by its beauty. It stabilizes your attention on the flower by not letting it drift away. It keeps you in the present moment. Out of respect for self and others, Conscience and Shame make the mind not do an immoral or unethical act of plucking the flower. It manifests as shying away from uncultured act of plucking the flower out of greed. Faith maintains clarity of mind and confidence about rightfulness of your actions. Tranquility crushes and quiets down any disturbances while observing the flower. It does not allow restlessness and worry to arise. It destroys stress and brings stillness, coolness, peacefulness, quietness, and serenity to your experience. Due to tranquility, simple observation of flower becomes a heavenly delight. Lightness crushes mental heaviness that is caused by elements such as sloth and torpor. Lightness keeps the mind free from sleepiness and boredom which facilitates longer and sustained observation of flower with intensity. Flexibility crushes mental rigidity that might arise due to elements such as Superstitiousness and Conceit. It makes the mind supple/non-resistant like a tall bamboo tree and does not allow the mind to be influenced by the forces of confrontation or resistance. Wield-ness crushes and quiets down unwieldiness of mind in its application as a tool for experiencing the flower through observation. It brings success in making the flower as an object of mind. Skillfulness crushes mental unhealthiness or mental disability and supports the arising of all wholesome elements for observing the flower. It makes the mind proficient in removing mental disabilities and in making the mind able to observe the flower with the help of all the wholesome elements. Rectitude crushes mental indirectness and provides mental rectitude to the act of observing the flower so you can experience it as it is. Equanimity neutralizes the mind and completely liberates it from craving the flower. Thus, it manifests as balance of mind in the midst of incredible beauty of the flower. In brief, the element of
Non-Greed- Does not allow clinging and helps in letting go of the object. It detaches the mind from the object.
Non-Hatred- Cools things down, forbids irritation and brings sociability and agreeableness to the experience.
Mindfulness- Generates presence of mind, stabilizes attention on the object and keeps the mind in the present moment.
Conscience- Make the mind moral or ethical out of respect for self
Shame- Make the mind moral or ethical out of respect for others
Faith- Maintains clarity of mind and confidence about rightfulness of actions.
Tranquility- Crushes mental disturbances and does not allow restlessness and worry.
Lightness- Crushes mental heaviness that is caused by sloth and torpor and sustains the act of observation with intensity.
Flexibility- Crushes mental rigidity that might arise due to Superstitiousness and Conceit, makes the mind supple/non-resistant and does not allow the mind to be influenced by the forces of confrontation or resistance.
Wield-ness- Crushes and quiets down unwieldiness, applies mind as a tool for experiencing and making an object as the object of experience.
Skillfulness- Crushes mental unhealthiness, mental disability and supports the arising of all wholesome elements, makes the mind proficient in observing an object with the help of all the wholesome elements.
Rectitude- Crushes mental indirectness and provides mental straightness to the act of observing the object so the object can be experienced ‘as it is.’
Equanimity- Neutralizes the mind and completely liberates it from craving for the object, thus manifesting as the balance or purity of mind.
The above example is a very simple illustration of how wholesome elements arise together in a group and make any experience a wholesome one. In order to really understand these elements, it is necessary to contemplate and meditate on their defining criteria. It is also important to identify these elements correctly so they can be cultured into our consciousness. It is like giving importance to thoroughly knowing all properties of chemicals that make up a magic pill so that the pill will eradicate the disease as intended without causing side effects.
The Divine Mind
Divine Mental Elements
Loving-kindness, Compassion, Gladness, Equanimity, and Non-Delusion are divine mental elements. They are divine because they occur predominantly in divine consciousness of highly evolved beings. These elements when combine themselves with wholesome elements, they make up the Divine Mind.
The element of Loving-kindness is synonymous with the element of Non-Hatred which we have already discussed as a wholesome element. The element of Equanimity has also been discussed as a wholesome element. The element of Non-delusion is a divine element as well as a Wisdom element which we will discuss later (see pg. no.). So, in a way, two elements that are uniquely divine are Compassion and Gladness. Now, let us see how these divine elements arise in consciousness and function in the flower example.
As said earlier, Equanimity neutralizes the mind and completely liberates it from craving the flower. While appreciating the beauty of the flower with equanimity in this way, let us say, someone else comes along and plucks the flower away. While this is happening, if Compassion arises, it makes it possible to see the unwholesome action of plucking the flower as that person’s disease, as that person’s suffering. Not just that, but Compassion also arouses wholesome desire to promote the eradication of that person’s suffering. Due to the arising of Compassion, any trace of Hatred or anger cools down quickly before turning into a fire and you feel relaxed and calm in the midst of unwholesome or unfavorable conditions generated by others. So, instead of reacting to someone’s unwholesome action, you act with sympathy, empathy, consideration, or kindness towards the person who plucks away the flower. If the element of Gladness arises, it makes sure that there is no jealousy and envy towards the other person. Gladness makes sure that no trace of aversion is generated towards that person who plucked away the flower. Not only that, but Gladness also appreciates the fact that someone else is getting to enjoy the flower. Thus, due to Gladness, other’s success and happiness becomes a cause for your happiness. In brief, the element of
Compassion- Makes it possible to see suffering in others and
promotes the desire for eradicating that suffering.
Gladness- Eradicates jealousy and envy towards other’s success, assures the absence of aversion, and generates happiness out of other’s successes.
You can see that Compassion generally arises out of seeing others suffering and Gladness generally arises out of appreciating others successes. These two elements are thus diagonally opposite. They cannot arise at the same time. It is either Compassion or Gladness. Therefore, when we are dealing with enemies and unknown people, we need to arouse elements of Compassion along with Equanimity, and, when we are dealing with friends and family, we need to arouse elements of Loving-kindness and Gladness. This is the divine way of deal with other beings. In other words, this is the way to become “Divine.”
The Noble Mind
Noble Mental Elements
Purposeful abstinence from Wrong-speech, Wrong-action, and Wrong- occupation are the three noble mental elements which make up the Noble Mind. The main feature of noble elements is the purposeful abstinence which manifests as deliberately shying away from wrongdoing. It is not the mere non-occurrence of wrongdoing but the purposeful abstinence from wrongdoing. (See Figure 3.7)
Noble elements are said to have arisen only when we intentionally refrain from speech, bodily action, and occupations that are unwholesome. Because these abstinences are purposeful, they are considered as mental elements having their own intrinsic nature. I like to call them “Noble” because they represent the bravery and courage of purposeful abstinence from wrongdoing, and, because they are primarily behind the noble pursuit of enlightenment.
The bravery and courage required for purposeful abstinence from wrongdoing cannot be matched by any amount of bravery and courage required for worldly achievements. That is why noble elements arise only in the most powerful of all warriors: the saints, yogis, rishis, monks, and modern meditators who are consistently pursuing mental perfection by fighting the battle with imperfections. I like to call these warriors “The Noble Ones.” It is extremely difficult to become a Noble Man or a Noble Woman, because it requires tremendous faith, firm resolution, and a sense of urgency coupled with contentment and a distaste for wrongdoing. Now, let us see how these Noble elements arise in consciousness and function in the flower example.
While appreciating the beauty of the flower, let us say, a strong desire arises to pluck the flower. You get up and reach out for it, but, at that very moment, someone else comes along, literally pushes you aside, plucks the flower away and gives you an obscene finger-gesture. While this is happening, if you deliberately refrain from criticizing, condemning, belittling, ridiculing, slandering, shouting, or arguing with that person, then, you can say that you are a Noble Man. If you also deliberately refrain from fighting or physically hurting that person so that there is no harm done to both of you, then, you can say that you are a Noble Man. In this way, instead of reacting to someone’s unwholesome action, if you proactively minimize the generation of bad karmas, then, you can say that you are a Noble Man. In general, the three Noble elements of
Abstinence from wrong speech, Wrong Action, and Wrong Occupation- Makes it possible to shy away from generating bad karmas due to deliberately abstaining from wrong speech, wrong action, and wrong occupation.
The Perfect Mind
The reader should review the brief discussion on Wholesome Elements, Divine Elements and Noble elements first prior to studying The Perfect Mind.
The real happiness and spiritual bliss in the world arises due to the practice of Wholesome Elements, Divine Elements and Noble elements. Mental development reaches near-perfection with the successful development of these elements combined. Consequently, these elements lead to the awakening of the wisdom element - The Perfect Mind.
Non-Delusion is the wisdom element. It is called so because it removes the subtlest of all impurities: ignorance, ego, self, I-ness, etc, and thereby makes the mind perfect. It is the subtlest and the most powerful of all elements. It permeates and conditions all wholesome mental activities. It is the root cause of all that is profitable in the world. When it is present along with all wholesome elements, divine elements, and noble elements, it gives rise to the “Perfect Mind.” . (See Figure 3.8)
In the flower example, the elements of Non-Greed and Non-Hatred function effectively because Non-Delusion arises with them. Because of Non-delusion, you are not blinded by the beauty of the flower. Because of Non-Delusion, you know that the beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and not in the flower. Because of Non-delusion, you know that the flower is a bundle of matter and its beauty is in your perception. Thus, in brief,
Non-Delusion- Illuminates the totality of reality so that all the illusion is eradicated and no subject-object separation is left.