The Paleo-Buddhist Conception of Mind

By Ryan Smith

When talking about Buddhism, we must first ask: Which version of Buddhism? In this article, the answer is going to be ‘original Buddhism’: We are going to base our answer on the earliest Buddhist texts, that is, from the time when Buddhism was not yet a religion, but a matter of philosophy and existential consummation.

In original Buddhism (and Vedanta before that) the mind in its untrained state is a source of peril. According to the earliest Buddhist sources, without the proper and regular exercise of meditation, the mind will be of a constitution where it controls your mental processes, instead of you controlling them. Thus the Anguttara Nikaya says that there is “nothing which, when unbridled, uncontrolled, unwatched, untamed, brings such ruin as mental processes.” ...

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