Much mental activity (imagination) is to some extent reflexive (in a loose sense);[a] and reflexion brings to light not merely things (as does the unreflexive attitude) but also the nature of things (see DHAMMA). Thus dhammā, as the external counterpart of mano, can often be understood as 'universals'.[b] This does not mean, of course, that the mind will necessarily choose to attend to these universal things that appear; it may prefer to enjoy the images as the eye enjoys visible forms; nevertheless, it is reflexively withdrawn from the immediate world. See NĀMA [b].

  Note that just as the eye, as cakkhāyatana or cakkhudhātu, is that yena lokasmim lokasaññī hoti lokamānī ('[that] by which, in the world, one is a perceiver and conceiver of the world') (Salāyatana Samy. xii,3 <S.iv,95>), i.e. that thing in the world dependent upon which there is perceiving and conceiving of the world, namely a spherical lump of flesh set in my face; so the mind, as manāyatana or manodhātu, also is that yena lokasmim lokasaññī hoti lokamānī, i.e. that thing in the world dependent upon which there is perceiving and conceiving of the world, namely various ill-defined parts of my body, but principally a mass of grey matter contained in my head (physiological and neurological descriptions are strictly out of place—see PHASSA).[c] This is in agreement with the fact that all five khandhā arise in connexion with each of the six āyatanāni—see NĀMA & PHASSA [a]. For 'perceiving and conceiving' see MAMA [a].  

   More loosely, in other contexts, the mind (mano) is simply 'imagination' or 'reflexion', which, strictly, in the context of the foregoing paragraph, is manoviññāna, i.e. the presence of images. See NĀMA [c]. The Vibhanga (of the Abhidhamma Pitaka) introduces chaos by supposing that manodhātu and manoviññānadhatu are successive stages of awareness, differing only in intensity (and perhaps also, somehow, in kind). See CITTA.


[a] For reflexion in the stricter sense see DHAMMA [b]. Something of the distinction between these two senses of reflexion can be seen in the following two Sutta definitions of sati or 'mindfulness':

   (i)  Ariyasāvako satimā hoti paramena satinepakkena samannāgato cirakatam pi cirabhāsitam pi saritā anussaritā. ('The noble disciple is mindful, he is endowed with the highest mindfulness and discretion, he remembers and recalls what was done and what was said long ago.') E.g. Indriya Samy. v,10 <S.v,225>. This is more 'reflection' than 'reflexion'. Sati, here, is mindfulness (calling to mind) of the past, and therefore memory or recollection. 

   (ii)  Idha bhikkhave bhikkhu kāye kāyānupassī...vedanāsu vedanānupassī...citte cittānupassī...dhammesu dhammānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno satimā vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassam. Evam kho bhikkhave bhikkhu sato hoti. ('Here, monks, a monk dwells contemplating the body in the body...feelings in feelings...mind in the mind...ideas in ideas, ardent, aware, mindful, having put away worldly covetousness and grief. Thus, monks, is a monk mindful.') Vedanā Samy. i,7 <S.iv,211> In this context, sati is mindfulness of the present. Here we might be said to have both the present and its image together. [Back to text]

[b] A universal becomes an abstraction only in so far as an attempt is made to think it in isolation from all particular or concrete content—divorced, that is to say, from existence. The stricter the reflexion the less the abstraction.

   A distinction must be made between 'relative universals', where the content of a given experience is generalized ('this horse', 'this brown', appear as examples or instances of 'horse' and 'brown', i.e. as one of 'all possible horses', of 'all possible browns'), and 'absolute universals', where the characteristics of a given experience as such are generalized ('this matter', 'this feeling', &c., appear as examples of 'matter', 'feeling', &c., i.e. as one of the rūpakkhandhā, of the vedanākkhandhā, and so on: see Majjhima xi,9 <M.iii,16-7>)—cf. CETANĀ [a]. The former is partly a discursive withdrawal from the real into the imaginary (or from the imaginary into the imaginary imaginary, as when a particular imagined horse is generalized); the latter, more radical, is an intuitive withdrawal from the immediate (both real and imaginary) into the reflexive, in the stricter sense of note (a [ii]) above. Cf. Bradley, op. cit. (Logic), I,ii,§§24-27. Note: (i) That 'this horse' is 'one of all possible appearances or aspects of this horse' before it is 'one of all possible horses', and unique particulars (e.g. 'Socrates') will not reach the second stage. (ii) That the appearance of universals (of any kind) is due to reflexion and not to abstraction; and reflection is a combination of both: thus 'relative universals' do not cease to be universals as reflexion becomes stricter; they simply tend to be disregarded (or 'put in brackets'). (iii) That abstractions and ideas are the same thing; and, though they do not exist apart from images, they are not anchored to any one particular image; but, in the sense that they necessarily have one or another concrete (even if multiple) imaginary content, the abstraction is illusory: abstraction is a discursive escape from the singularity of the real to the plurality of the imaginary—it is not an escape from the concrete. (This shows the reason for Kierkegaard's paradox—see Preface [n] .) (iv) That it is a function of the practice of samādhi to reduce discursive thinking: mindfulness of breathing is particularly recommended—ānāpānasati bhāvetabbā vitakk'upacchedāya ('Mindfulness of breathing should be developed for the cutting-off of thoughts') (Udāna iv,1 <Ud.37>). (The fact that almost nothing is said in these Notes about samādhi is due simply to their exclusive concern with right and wrong ditthi, and is absolutely not to be taken as implying that the task of developing samādhi can be dispensed with.) [Back to text

[c] This account of mind (as manāyatana) is not entirely satisfactory. We should probably do better to envisage mind in this context as five imaginary ajjhattāyatanāni related to the five real ajjhattāyatanāni (eye, ear, and so on) as imaginary sights and sounds (and so on) are related to real sights and sounds. (See NĀMA [b].) The world, of course, includes both the real (or present) and the imaginary (or absent); and just as, to see real things, there must be a real eye (incarnating a real point of view) 'in the world', so, to see imaginary things, there must be an imaginary eye (incarnating an imaginary point of view) also 'in the world'. Cf. Majjhima v,3 <M.i,295>. [Back to text]