The ability to believe in something is a function of the imagination. The power of belief is the power of the imagination. How does one differentiate between conceptualizing and using one's imagination ?

  • 2
    I don't find this question clear (don't understand the question). Might it help to add some examples? E.g. an example of "believing in something", an example of "imagination", and an example of "conceptualizing" ... and/or explain what real-life problem you're trying to solve by asking this question.
    – ChrisW
    Commented May 1, 2016 at 13:32
  • On perception, verballization arises, on verb. one acts. So most importand.
    – user11235
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 23:12

5 Answers 5


Imagination happens in one's mind (sixth sense in Buddha's teaching).

First, you have a "subject" to think.

Second, you memorize the "subject".

Third, you determine the "subject".

Forth, you decide the subject is good or bad.

Fifth, you like or dislike the "subject".

(For the above sentences, I am referring to Diga Nikaya. Silakkhanda Vagga, 9:416 but the reference text didn't directly answer your question) Imagination composes of one or more subjects (many impacts of subject and mind) above. Subjects could be related or non-related each other.

Conceptualization composes of many subjects (also many impacts of subject and mind) which are related and interact each other in a way to achieve the "Concept".

Belief is - making strong decision that imagination or concept is wright or wrong (or you take the concept in your heart that you like or dislike) but belief is more like on process/concept which is more concrete in sense than imagination (which is more abstract in sense). Imagination is cornerstone of belief (but in some cases there are many imaginations come and go in the mind without being mature to be a concept and to be a belief eventually).

There are many references in Tripitaka as far as I read in before, but for me it difficult to pinpoint the exact paragraph. So if anyone who frequent in these can comment or add more precise reference answer here


Hmmm... I would say, the ability to believe in something is a function of dhyana. The power of belief is the power of mindfulness matured to the power of visualization/concentration (samadhi).

Conceptualization (in context of Buddhism) is confusing abstractions/projections for reality.

When you think your abstraction/projection is reality you are a victim of your mind, you are not master of your mind. When you actively use your mindfulness/concentration to control your belief you are the master of your mind. That's the difference.


Superficially, imagination and conceptualization clearly have shared attributes and different connotations. Using philosophical analysis, a person (after a good deal of reflection) could come up with the rules that govern their application. The unconscious mental processes that contribute to experiencing them are beyond the grasp of modern psychology. Indeed, we can marvel at the unconscious sophistication and intelligence that goes into causing common experience. But these explorations are not relevant to the practice of Buddhist mindfulness meditation.

  • +1 "we can marvel at the unconscious sophistication and intelligence that goes into causing common experience"
    – Andriy Volkov
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 14:58
  • Every thought, feeling, and motive you experience is influenced by a multitude of relevant experiences acquired in previous lifetimes. This is the influence of the karma of past lifetimes. It is infinitely complex. Commented May 19, 2018 at 17:16

The ability to believe is a function of karma ( in your words - imagination). Conceptualising is the follow on activity based on one's karma.

Buddha thought the 12 dependant arisings. Good to understand 12 dependent arisings.


The ability to believe in something is a function of the imagination.

View are mental constructions as they break down under scrutiny at a lower level of abstraction.1 Since an average person cannot discern the realities at lower levels of abstraction develop confidence in these views as permanent, pleasant, self and beautiful.

See: Vipallasa Sutta

The power of belief is the power of the imagination.

Certain beliefs arise thought logical or imaginative thinking or attractiveness of a teaching or what has been imagined. Many wrong beliefs stem from imagination as discussed in the Brahmajala Sutta. But finally what you should believe is what you can verify at the experiential level.

How does one differentiate between conceptualizing and using one's imagination?

Conceptualisations are the result of imagination (or thinking) and discerning them is difficult as they are subjected perversion of thought (citta vipallāsa). When you start seeing the ultimate realities then you can see that certain concepts break down at a lower level of abstraction, then these are the conceptualisation of one's own imagination.

Also see: The Notion of Diṭṭhi by Piya Tan, The Dhamma Theory: Philosophical Cornerstone of the Abhidhamma by Y. Karunadasa for more on these areas.


But what is a chariot? Nagasena asked. Is it the wheels, or the axles, or the reigns, or the frame, or the seat, or the draught pole? Is it a combination of those elements? Or is it found outside those elements?

The King answered no to each question. Then there is no chariot! Nagasena said.

Now the King acknowledged the designation "chariot" depended on these constituent parts, but that "chariot" itself is a concept, or a mere name.

Just so, Nagasena said, "Nagasena" is a designation for something conceptual. It is a mere name. When the constituent parts are present we call it a chariot; When the Five Skandhas are present, we call it a being.


Another way to understand the chariot simile is to imagine the chariot being taken apart. At what point in the dis-assembly does the chariot cease to be a chariot? We can update the simile to make it an automobile. As we disassemble the car, at what point is it not a car? When we take off the wheels? When we remove the seats? When we pry off the cylinder head?

Any judgment we make is subjective. Perhaps you may argue that a pile of car parts is still a car, just not an assembled one. The point is, though, that "car" and "chariot" are concepts we project onto the constituent parts. But there is no "car" or "chariot" essence that somehow dwells within the parts.

O'Brien, Barbara. "King Milinda's Questions and the Chariot Simile." Learn Religions, Jun. 25, 2019, https://www.learnreligions.com/king-milindas-questions-450052.

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