Chapter 3: Thinking with the whole mind

[Definition mind seat of consciousness, thought, volition, and feeling.]

Perhaps one may entitle this chapter, 'Thinking with the heart', to emphasise the secondary role of the brain. Let me say straightaway that as far as this book is concerned I advise you to 'take everything to heart' and then decide. This may require a lot of effort, but then you don't get something for nothing. It is, in a way, an act of humility, and should clarify and deepen understanding. Conversely, I've found that if I say or do anything without sincerity from the very centre of my body, later I am aware of a cloudiness within me. Children have a distinct advantage here: being more spontaneous and not so constrained by rational mind, their actions are from the heart.

Having attained a humble and open heart at as deep a level as possible, now is the time to start emanating 'thought'. Imagine, if you like, a focus at the centre of your body as the starting point for all thoughts, which are subsequently transmitted through the whole body and surface in a split second at the brain. This is how I wish you to perceive the mind's process of thought; such an approach is a basis for spiritual contemplation and, for the moment, I call any experience of mind beyond cerebral confines 'spiritual'.

A description consistent with this is thinking with the body; and, taking things further, one may communicate in a similar vein, through body language. This has nothing to do with the posture or movement of limbs; it is not the physical body (or corporeality) which speaks, but non-corporeal mind. There is a wonderful exposition of reading scriptures with the 'body' in 'Zen and the Bible' by J.K.Kadowaki, S.J. (see references).

Mind encompasses all levels of consciousness: for instance, it is aware of sensations during your wakeful hours, generates the images of your dreams, and provides the creative sparks in home decorating. To realise spiritual truth requires understanding and utilisation of the whole mind 1. As the spiritual essence of mind lies beyond the brain, an adequate description of mind defies words.

The Western world's attempts to understand the mind - in the now fairly well established subject of psychology - in a deep spiritual way are in their infancy; on the other hand, in the East there has been several thousand years of research, mainly through contemplation and meditation. Approximately two thirds of a 48 volume Pali edition of the Tipitaka 2 ('Three Baskets') scriptures used by the Theravada school of Buddhism are devoted to Abhidhamma, which is psychology of this kind. Does this ring a few alarm bells? (It should!) I wonder where on Earth has the West been all these years?! However, don't panic or worry - just acknowledge the state of affairs; doing so may, in itself, be very worthwhile. In fact, all of this immense literature can, like this book, serve only as a guide.

I hope in the next chapter to show just a little of the Eastern view of mind.

Footnotes

  1. Thus, I already intimate that any religion which serves to lead to spiritual truth, must not consist of a 'blind faith' approach
  2. The Tipitaka consist of the Vinaya (Rules for Buddhists), the Abhidhamma (Philosophy cum Psychology) and the Sutta (Discourses).

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- Paul Trafford 1996,97 Paul's home page