What is the mind?

Ma-tsu (709-788):

All phenomena are of the mind; all names are attached by the mind. All phenomena arise out of mind; mind is the root of all phenomena. A sutra says, “When you know mind and arrive at its root source, you may be called a devotee.” (Cleary)

Lester Levenson (1993):

The mind is Beingness that has assumed limitation. We are naturally unlimited until we assume a mind. Then the evolution begins of progressively limiting ourselves until we can no longer bear it. When life becomes altogether unbearable, we then start the devolution. We reverse the process by letting go of thoughts more and more until the complete peace and total freedom from thought is reestablished. (Session 10: “The Mind”)


In proportion as consciousness becomes definite and limited, and therefore unable to apprehend the absolute in its fulness, in the same proportion it becomes conscious of an inability, a limitation, a something hindering complete knowledge. As spiritual knowledge (gnosis) becomes fainter and less complete, this indefinite negation of knowledge becomes stronger and more intense, till at last the substance and the shadow, as it were, change places, and the mere limit to the consciousness of the spiritual assumes a definite existence as the material. (Henry Mansel, p. 188)

Jill Bolte Taylor:

So this is a real human brain. This is the front of the brain, the back of the brain with the spinal cord hanging down, and this is how it would be positioned inside of my head. And when you look at the brain, it’s obvious that the two cerebral cortices are completely separate from one another.

For those of you who understand computers, our right hemisphere functions like a parallel processor, while our left hemisphere functions like a serial processor. The two hemispheres do communicate with one another through the corpus callosum, which is made up of some 300 million axonal fibers. But other than that, the two hemispheres are completely separate. Because they process information differently, each of our hemispheres thinks about different things, they care about different things, and, dare I say, they have very different personalities.

Our right human hemisphere is all about this present moment. It’s all about “right here, right now.” Our right hemisphere, it thinks in pictures and it learns kinesthetically through the movement of our bodies. Information, in the form of energy, streams in simultaneously through all of our sensory systems and then it explodes into this enormous collage of what this present moment looks like, what this present moment smells like and tastes like, what it feels like and what it sounds like. I am an energy-being connected to the energy all around me through the consciousness of my right hemisphere. We are energy-beings connected to one another through the consciousness of our right hemispheres as one human family. And right here, right now, we are brothers and sisters on this planet, here to make the world a better place. And in this moment we are perfect, we are whole and we are beautiful.

My left hemisphere, our left hemisphere, is a very different place. Our left hemisphere thinks linearly and methodically. Our left hemisphere is all about the past and it’s all about the future. Our left hemisphere is designed to take that enormous collage of the present moment and start picking out details, and more details about those details. It then categorizes and organizes all that information, associates it with everything in the past we’ve ever learned, and projects into the future all of our possibilities. And our left hemisphere thinks in language. It’s that ongoing brain chatter that connects me and my internal world to my external world. It’s that little voice that says to me, “Hey, you’ve got to remember to pick up bananas on your way home: I need them in the morning.” It’s that calculating intelligence that reminds me when I have to do my laundry. But perhaps most important, it’s that little voice that says to me, “I am. I am.”

And as soon as my left hemisphere says to me “I am,” I become separate. I become a single solid individual, separate from the energy flow around me and separate from you. And this was the portion of my brain that I lost on the morning of my stroke.


“The universe came into being with us together; with us, all things are one.” — (Watts, p. 55)

The Lankavatara Sutra:

“The Citta dances like a dancer; Manas resembles a jester; Manovijnana creates an objective world, which is like a stage.” (Chapter VI)

Deepak Chopra:

“Be firmly rooted in the non-existence of your ego-self. It came into being through ignorance and delusion. When we lose this false identity, we will realize our essence as the Supreme Being, or Infinite Consciousness, and we will be freed from all conditioning and all limitations.” —  “The Secret of Healing”


LXII It is just as if there were a great rock in the front of the courtyard of your home, which you were accustomed to nap or sit upon. You did not feel apprehensive about it. Suddenly you decide to make it into a statue of the Buddha. The mind, interpreting it as being a Buddha, no longer dares to sit on it, fearing that to be a sin. It was originally a rock and it was through you mind that a statue was created. What sort of thing then is the mind? Everything is painted by the brush of your will (manovijnana). . . . In the stone there is no punishment or reward; it is all created by your own mind. . . . How can there be anything that is not created by your imagination? (Jorgensen, p. 223)

Lester Levenson: The Ultimate Truth (1998)


The world is an out-projecting of the mind. When we realize this, we can change the projected picture.

Every thought is causative. Whatever happens to us originates in the mind.

That which we think, we create. That which we hold in mind, we sustain. That which we let go of in the mind, we dissolve.

Thinking is rationalizing, usually our emotions and desires, and has its source in the ego.

Correct thinking is thinking that leads us to good conditions of health and well-being, then to mental traits of love and peace, and finally to Oneness, where, there being no other, thought is impossible and all is in harmony.

Taking it from the top, the most correct thinking is “no thoughts.” Truth is in the realm of knowingness. It is when all thoughts are stilled that we remove the blanket covering the omniscience that we all have now.

Pure Mind is mind with no thoughts. It is knowingness.

Pure Mind allows the omnipresent omniscience to flow through us.

Real knowledge lies just behind thought, which is relative knowledge.

Relative knowledge has nothing to do with wisdom.

The mind will never know God because the mind is a thing of limitation. The finite can never know the Infinite.

The only thing which blinds us from the Self is mind activity.

Mind gives rise to thoughts of desire, which lead to attachments and aversions, which cause bondage. Eliminate any link in this chain and be free!

Habit makes us believe that it is difficult to stop thinking. If the error is discovered by realizing one’s inner state of omniscience, one would not foolishly and unnecessarily burden oneself with the effort of thinking.

The mind never forgets: it just doesn’t recall at the moment.

Mind is about 90% subconscious. The 10% must be used to make it all conscious.

A concentrated mind is the secret of success in the realization of Truth.

A concentrated mind is one that can keep its attention on one thing at a time without other thoughts coming in.

The mind is like an electric light bulb radiating in all directions. When it is focused, it becomes like a powerful beam. A mind focused on itself will crack its secrets and reveal Truth.

Real solitude can be had only in the mind; not in location. Solitude is obtained through practice of non-attachment. A man in the city can be free of thought and alone in peace, while a hermit in the countryside can be plagued with the company of many miserable thoughts.

The master ascended the hall and said: One person is eternally on the road but has never left home; one person has left home but is not on the road. Which of these is worthy of the alms of humans and heavenly beings? (Watson, The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-chi, 1993)

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Cleary, Thomas. The Zen Teachings of Mazu. (https://terebess.hu/english/mazu.html)

Deepak Chopra and Adam Plack (2011). “The Secret of Healing: Meditations for Transformation and Higher Consciousness.”

Jorgensen, John A. (1979). The Earliest Text of Ch’an Buddhism: The Long Scroll. The Australian National University.

Levenson, Lester (1993). Keys to the Ultimate Freedom: Thoughts and Talks on Personal Transformation. Phoenix, Arizona: Sedona Institute. (http://www.freespiritualebooks.com/keys-to-the-ultimate-freedom.html)

Levenson, Lester. The Ultimate Truth. Sherman Oaks, CA, Lawrence Crane Enterprises, Inc., 1998.

Mansel, Henry Longueville, Dean of St. Paul’s (1875). The Gnostic Heresies of the First and Second Centuries. London: John Murray.

Watts, Alan (1957). The Way of Zen. New York: Vintage Books.