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I'm wondering if pali has a specifically designated word for the view that the outer world is a reflection of one's own life state, not the other way around.

Additionally, I am wondering if there are any good recources that people know of online that acts as a pali dictionary for buddhist philosophical concepts.

  • The "view that the outer world is a reflection of one's own life state, not the other way around" -- can you reference this view (do you know of one or more Pali scriptures which describe and/or name this view)? – ChrisW Sep 1 '16 at 9:05
  • @ChrisW Hmm, I'm not exactly sure. It's something I've just heard talked about quite a bit. I think it comes from the Vimalakirti Sutra (which I know is a Mahayana Sutra). In there it says that there are no two worlds pure or impure; that the difference lies in our minds alone. I thought that it still would have a Pali word for it even if it wasn't directly a part of Tharavada philosophy. Is that statment correct? – Morella Almånd Sep 3 '16 at 11:24
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A Pali word for the view that the outer world is a reflection of one's own life state is 'namati', which means 'inclination' or 'bent'.

The Dependent Origination explains when ignorant sankhara arise & control the mental faculties (nama), the mind (nama) develops an inclination (nati) bent (namati) by those ignorant sankhara.

As a result, the mind will pursue & engage in sense contact (passa), in which it views the external world in an ignorant way, such as viewing evil as 'good', the ugly as 'beautiful', the undesirable as 'desirable', the impermanent as 'permanent', the unsatisfactory as 'satisfactory' & not-self things as 'self', etc.

Whatever a monk keeps pursuing with his thinking & pondering, that becomes the inclination (nati) of his mind. If a monk keeps pursuing thinking imbued with sensuality, abandoning thinking imbued with renunciation, his mind is bent (namati) by that thinking imbued with sensuality. If a monk keeps pursuing thinking imbued with ill will, abandoning thinking imbued with non-ill will, his mind is bent (namati) by that thinking imbued with ill will. If a monk keeps pursuing thinking imbued with harmfulness, abandoning thinking imbued with harmlessness, his mind is bent (namati) by that thinking imbued with harmfulness.

Dvedhavitakka Sutta

~~~

Nati (f.) [Sk. nati of nam] bending, bent, inclination S ii.67; iv.59; M i.115.

Namati [Ved. namati, Idg. nem to bend; also to share out]

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You asked about,

the view that the outer world is a reflection of one's own life state, not the other way around

I'm not sure that that is a conventional/orthodox view from the Pali canon.

I mean, maybe there are views that are like that ... but maybe not exactly like that, or nothing phrased exactly like that?

If someone weren't familiar with Buddhism then their first/naive interpretation of that phrase might be, "if 'the outer world is a reflection of one's own life state', does that mean so one's own life state is true and real contrasted with the outer world being less true or unreal (i.e. merely a reflection or illusion)?"

But I think that (saying that the outer world is unreal) might be (or might be, if it's misunderstood or taken to a naughty extreme) a wrong view:

And what is wrong view? 'There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no contemplatives or brahmans who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is wrong view.

According to western philosophy/language there's a view called Solipsism.


Moving on from there, some people who know very little about Buddhism might think that "Buddhism teaches that the outside world is an illusion".

I wondered where that belief might come from and found Maya (illusion).

If "Maya" is more Indian or Vedic than Buddhist, the more-Buddhist counterparts to that might be Saṃsāra (which is Sankrit and Pali), or perhaps Vipallasa (distortions of the mind).

I think that (Vipallasa) is a more standard view in the Pali canon: it's a view/philosophy that we mis-see, that we mis-understand the (whole, outside and inside) world.


I'm not sure about phenomenology in Pali, which I think is a subject of the Abhidhamma. So far as I know, the Pali canon doesn't say that the "outer world" is more or less than some counterpart "inner world". If you read about Ayatana it says that there are "external" and "internal" sense objects, maybe without saying that one is a reflection of the other.

On the other hand, "Rupa" (which I understand as meaning "forms" or "external objects") shows up among the 5 aggregates and the 12 nidanas ... in context maybe we should understand as saying that Rupa has some existence (though not "self-existence") but it's important because of its effect on our consciousness.

While I'm mentioning "rupa" let me also mention "dhamma", since other answers here talk about it ... it's a word with many meanings, I think one of those meanings is that it means "idea" ... I think the Sabba Sutta implies that dhammas are perceived by the mind, in a way that's similar to (no more and no less important than) the way in which forms are perceived by the eye, etc.


In a comment you mentioned the Vimalakirti Sutra: which I haven't read.Wikipedia says,

The sutra teaches, among other subjects, the meaning of nondualism.

I think that "non-duality" as a teaching will be found more in scriptures that are later than the Pali canon, so maybe there isn't exactly a Pali word for that philosophy.

If there is such a word though then it might be advaya ... Dvaya means "two-fold" or "dual"; so advaya means "not two-fold", "non-dual", or "single".

Maybe the Vimalakirti Sutra de-emphasizes the "outside world" by talking about "emptiness" ... the Pali word for that is suññatā.

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Dhammapada: The Buddha’s Path of Wisdom Yamakavaggo.

  1. Manopubbaṅgamā dhammā manoseṭṭhā manomayā 1 Manasā ce paduṭṭhena bhāsati vā karoti vā Tato naṃ dukkhamanveti cakkaṃ'va vahato padaṃ.

  2. Manopubbaṅgamā dhammā manoseṭṭhā manomayā 2 Manasā ce pasannena bhāsati vā karoti vā Tato naṃ sukhamanveti chāyā'va anapāyinī.

1-2 Phenomena are preceded by the heart, ruled by the heart, made of the heart. If you speak or act with a corrupted heart, then suffering follows you — as the wheel of the cart, the track of the ox that pulls it.

Phenomena are preceded by the heart, ruled by the heart, made of the heart. If you speak or act with a calm, bright heart, then happiness follows you, like a shadow that never leaves.

In this context the pali term ‘Dhamma’ is translated as penomina. And ‘Mano’(=mind) as heart.

From these translation Dhamma is translated as mental states.

Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts suffering follows him like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox.

Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow.

In Buddhist philosophy the term Dhamma is used for everything belongs to outer and inner world.

  • 'Dhamma' is the word used as the sense objects in the sense sphere of mano (mind as sense organ), dhamme (mind objects) and mano-vinnana (mind consciousness). Therefore, 'dhamma' in the context of Dhammapada 1 appears to be internally generated 'mind objects' that result intentional kamma (rather than 'phenomena'). The mind does not create the external world. The mind only experiences or gives rise to awareness of the external world. Buddharakkhita's translation of 'mental states' is probably correct and Thanissaro's translation of 'phenomena' is probably incorrect. – Dhammadhatu Sep 2 '16 at 20:05
  • If Dhamma is an mind objects only, then how they create samsara(external world) or kamma vipaka? – Shrawaka Sep 3 '16 at 1:32
  • Dp1 appears to be about kamma (intention) & vipaka (result) rather than the conscious knowing of the external world because each verse states: "If with a....mind a person speaks or acts..." – Dhammadhatu Sep 3 '16 at 8:41
  • Some interpretations of Buddhism assert that external reality is an illusion, and sometimes this position is misunderstood as metaphysical solipsism. Buddhist philosophy, though, generally holds that the mind and external phenomena are both equally transient, and that they arise from each other. The mind cannot exist without external phenomena, nor can external phenomena exist without the mind. This relation is known as "dependent arising" (pratityasamutpada). – Shrawaka Sep 4 '16 at 4:01
  • maybe. but, imo, Dp1 is not referring to dependent arising. it is referring to how the mind creates pure & impure kamma & results. regards. – Dhammadhatu Sep 4 '16 at 4:55
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The Law of Attraction says “Like attracts like” and “Birds of feather flock together”. This is based upon the idea that people and their thoughts are both made from pure energy, and the belief that like energy attracts like energy. The scriptures too attest to this truth. In the Samyuktha Nikaya, Kamma Sutta 3 (S.ii.155) that was preached at Gijjhakūta, the Buddha tells the gathered bhikkhus:

“Do you see Ven. Sāriputta, walking with several other bhikkhus? All those bhikkhus have great wisdom.
“Do you see Ven. Moggallāna, walking with several other bhikkhus? All those bhikkhus have great spiritual powers.”
“Do you sees Mahā Kassapa ,walking with several other bhikkhus? All those bhikkhus are proponents of the Ascetic practices.”
“Do you see Ven. Anuruddha, walking with several other bhikkhus? All those bhikkhus possess the devine eye.”
“Do you see Ven. Punna Mantānīputta, walking with several other bhikkhus? All those bhikkhus are speakers on the Dhamma.”
“Do you see Ven. Upāli, walking with several other bhikkhus? All those bhikkhus are upholders of the discipline.”
“Do you see Ven. Ananda, walking with several other bhikkhus? All those bhikkhus are highly learned.”
“Do you see Devadatta, walking with several other bhikkhus? All those bhikkhus have evil wishes.

Buddha ends this discourse by saying that beings of similar disposition come together.

  • One of my favourite sutta teachings – Dhammadhatu Sep 3 '16 at 19:21
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    Translations of that Caṅkamana Sutta can be found here (linked from suttacentral) and here (with commentary). The latter translates the Pali word dhātu as meaning "personal disposition". – ChrisW Sep 3 '16 at 22:11
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    The answered mentioned "The Law of Attraction" -- there's a topic about that (that phrase) at What is the Buddhist point of view of the Law of Attraction?. Wikipedia on that subject says that particular "Law" is from a 19th century western philosophy -- so not really Buddhist probably. Do you know a Pali word for such a concept (or for any similar concept)? – ChrisW Sep 3 '16 at 22:18
  • Many thanks for the valuable feedback, and the links that you've provided @ChrisW. I do not know of the Pali word (as of now). I will try & look into it... – Saptha Visuddhi Sep 3 '16 at 22:45
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    You're welcome. I read a similar story but I forget where -- I think it was advice to the monk whose duty is to decide where other monks will be housed: and the advice was that monks who like to meditate in silence should be housed with other monks who like to meditate in silence; that monks who like to discuss should be housed with other monks who like to discuss; and there was at least one other category. – ChrisW Sep 3 '16 at 22:58

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