I was reading a comment on this answer and it mentioned the word mind being used in nine different ways.

Comment below :

If you learn to apply episteme, the way Foucault, Derrida, and Kant had used, in deconstructing the key Buddhist Pali words, you may find other deeper meaning to them that are of a supramundane nature. For example, you will find nine different ways the word ‘Mind’ is used

Specifically in what 9 ways is the word mind used? In only nine ways? Not more not less?

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    @hellyale. Good to see you back on the site.
    – user2424
    Jun 13, 2017 at 11:44

2 Answers 2


According to my experience, there are two main meanings of the term "mind" in Buddhist context. It's important to understand those meanings, in order to avoid confusion and misconceptions.

First meaning is "mind in general", which means limitless space where all the reality manifests.

It's related to notions of Buddha-mind, Dharmakaya, Universal Mind, Consciousness.

There are many kinds of consciousnesses. In the philosophical Buddhist tradition of Chittamatra (or Cittamatra), which means "Consciousness Only", there are eight consciousnesses. (Some schools count few more or less).

These eight consciousnesses are:

The five primary - the consciousnesses of:

  1. eye
  2. ear
  3. body
  4. nose
  5. tongue.

The sixth is the mental consciousness, which processes the data from the previous five. Our practice deals with this, the sixth consciousness. Sometimes it might be referred as "mind".

The seventh is manas. As I understand, it's like consciousness in post-freudian psychology: a part of the space centered on our personal perceptions.

The eight is alaya-vijnana, or Store Consciousness. I understand it as limitless ocean where our seventh consciousnesses floats like a crystal ball.

Alaya-vijnana stores our karmic seeds - imprints of past actions - kinetic energies of our intentions.

It is related to the notion of vijnana as the fifth group of phenomena (dharmas). (The fifth skandha).

Please don't feel overwhelmed with all these concepts. They are just pretty simple ways to describe our experiences. If you study them in practice, it all becomes not so complex.

Note that for the most part I spoke of consciousness rather than mind; I distinguish these terms.

So basically the first major meaning of "mind" is limitless space where dharmas appear.

Perhaps the most important and praised philosophical school of Buddhism, Madhyamaka ("Middle Way"), emphasizes emptiness of all phenomena, conditional nature of all notions and objects.

Even the mind - as that limitless space, or in any other meaning - is not really existent. (Though also not really non-existent).

In that sense, Buddhists speak of awakening as realization of No-Mind. As long as we cling to ideas of mind or self or whatever else, we rely on the level of ideas, production of the sixth consciousness, rather than the original reality.

Therefore, what is actual Buddha-mind? Nothing real. Not even that limitless space I mentioned before.

In awakening, we see all such things as mental generalizations, nothing more.

Now what is the second major meaning of "mind"?

When Zen teacher asks you, "What's your mind?" - what would you answer?

Maybe you would describe your experience you are living through, right now.

In that sense, "mind" is the experience now. It can be clouded, with vexations, or very clear and bright...

This meaning of "mind" relates somehow to the notion of consciousness from Twelve nidanas (links of dependent origination).

Consciousness from Twelve nidanas is depicted as monkey jumping among fruits on a tree. From one fruit to another. It's consciousness engaged in activities formed by samskaras (mental constructing).

Being limited by our mental creations, consciousness becomes entangled in samsara.

So liberation can be explained as dropping the limits of mental constructions, opening the mind to being unlimited, dropping even the notions of "mind" and "unlimited" and "awakening" and "liberation".

I'm not sure I answered the question completely - as you see, I have no idea what they meant by "nine meanings of the term mind".

Theories are endless. I hope I pointed at some key ideas which can help you in the practice.

Use the mind well, and through practice of exploration you will always find some useful understanding, eventually helping all beings in liberation.


To better understand the key words in the Sutta Pitaka – the first basket, one must look into the third basket - the Abhidhamma Pitaka of the Tipitaka, the Pali Canon. The sutta pitaka gives a synopsis - a summary of key terms. For each of the key concept, there is a Vibhanga – a detailed description, in the third basket.

The different levels what we generally refer to as the MIND is explained in the Vibhanga Prakaranaya. At one end is the radiant mind. Then the mind goes through the nine stages of contamination, and the other end is the defiled mind. These stages are:
Citta, Mano, Manasan (Manasa), Hadayan, Pandarung, Manayathan, Maneendriyan, Vinnana, Vinnanakkhanda. This classification is given in the Patisambhida-magga-prakarana section of the Vibhanga Prakaranaya.

The reason for the Pali Tripitaka has been wrongly translated to English and then to Sinhala, has very much to do with Buddhaghosa and Visuddhimagga. The Visuddhimagga (Path of Purification) written by Buddhaghosa has been a curse, that had misled almost every single one of us in the wrong path.

Only now we are beginning to see the true meaning of the words of the Magadhi language. Maghadi is language of sound. It is meant only to be spoken. To write down the lengthy discourses that were in Maghadi that Buddha took hours to preach, PALI was invented. Pali is a form of Precis writing. With Pali, the Arahants of yesteryear managed to describe as accurately and briefly as possible the substance or main ideas contained in the discourses that Buddha gave. As a result an hours long discourse was condenced into a couple of paragraphs.

The distortion of the True Dhamma happened when it was translated to Sanskrit. The people who translated the Dhamma did a word to word translation which caused the path to Nibbana be closed to all of us. Now the incorrect meanings have got so entrenched in our collective psyche, that it is a question whether the true meanings would ever come to light. If I am to briefly explain a couple of the forms that this ‘Mind’ of ours would take:

CITTA is the Mind in its most radiant, pure & pristine form. Its most contaminated form is called VINNANA. Our consciousness (vinnana) is not like that of an Arahant. Ours is contaminated by defilements. This awareness of ours is like looking though a foggy window. It is like a glass of water clouded from impurities. A pristine clear glass of water is on the other had the Citta - the “radiant mind”.

Vinnana is “Vi + Gnana”. The prefix “Vi” gives the meaning of distorted, biased, prejudiced, coloured, form of sanna. Sanna (perception) identifies the object according to one’s gathi. Thus vinnana changes from moment to moment from feelings of Sukha, Dukha, Somanassa, Domanassa, elation, fear, etc. etc.. Vinnana is forever adding things through the senses, further lengthening the samsara process. The Buddha has taught “uno loko atitto tanha daso” - The world is empty, insatiable a slave of craving” - That nothing can be maintained to ones liking. The more that one sees this the more that one comes toward the radiant mind.

  • This doesn't answer the question, i.e. "What are the nine different ways the word ‘Mind’ is used?"
    – ChrisW
    Jun 13, 2017 at 3:54
  • I wanted to, @ChrisW, but an unkind comment made to me changed that. (It is been taken down since). I then delayed answering the Q proper by a day or two, and replied to that comment made instead. Earlier I wanted to give a short answer, but now I will elaborate on 3 of the 9 ways that mind is used, when time permits. Jun 13, 2017 at 9:06
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    @SapthaVisuddhi I the asker did not leave the comment, but saw it, and disagree with it, and glad that it was taken down. A short answer would be preferred, concise and correct is always preferred by myself in these matters. To raise to the comment's taunt and be verbose to show you are not verbose just doesn't make sense to me, and seems to put me at a disadvantage due to someone else's speech. I am going to downvote for now but will switch it to up once the original question is answered in full.
    – hellyale
    Jun 13, 2017 at 14:01
  • Interesting ideas, about language distorting the intended meaning. I have not heard this applied in the case of Buddhism before, do you have a reference I could read? Thank you.
    – user2341
    Jun 14, 2017 at 12:20
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    Tried to read the edit…. Whoosh! "When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Kwan Yin comes to me, speaking words of wisdom: step away from the damn computer!" haw haw - Metta
    – user2341
    Jun 15, 2017 at 2:00

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