If I'm not mistaken, the Abhidhamma mainly explains the mind as mental factors. Modern psychology tends to see the mind as neuronal substrates.

Buddhism's time didn't have the neuroscientific modern view, but in many respects seems more advanced. What are the benefits specific to seeing the mind as mental states, rather than as a physical substrate?

For example, I think maybe mental states allows one to simulate and extend what they mean. A person may be angry, very angry, and we can imagine the causes of anger. However, just saying 'dopamine increases in such region' could mean a million things.

Are any other advantages linked to seeing the mind as mental factors?

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    Is there any use at all in talking about dopamine? Conversely if a mother says to a child, "I can see you're angry" -- for example -- then doesn't that affect labeling help teach emotional self-regulation?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 1:40
  • Or are you asking whether the Abhidhamma itself has an explanation for why it (seeing "the mind" as "mental factors") is useful?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 1:42
  • I guess I'm trying to ask if understanding the mind through mental states could be more suited to the mind and permits thought processes that learning neuroscience doesn't provide. Also, I'm asking what these are.
    – user7302
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 13:30
  • Modern psychology does not see the mind as neuronal correlates but just tries to reduce it to such. If mind actually were a neuronal correlate there would be no need to speak of mind. Minds are mental, correlates are physical. I cannot imagine how to see mind as anything other than mental factors. .
    – user14119
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 13:37
  • Related: Does it matter if the mind is neurologically originated or not?
    – ruben2020
    Commented Jul 5, 2020 at 7:21

3 Answers 3


What are the benefits specific to seeing the mind as mental states, rather than as a physical substrate?

I'm not convinced that buddhism sees the mind exclusively in terms of mental states, but rather taking both materialism and mental states into account. For instance, dependent origination details the relationship between physical properties and mental phenomena.

I guess it may seem that only mental states are relevant for buddhism while one reads those parts of abhidamma that deals with examining these things.

(On a side note, psychology is a field consisting of a great deal of different disciplines, besides neuroscience. Concepts like mental states are therefore also valid for psychological research).


Buddhism and the "neuroscientific modern view" emphasize different things... Buddhism has an ethical focus and the Abhidhamma classifies mental states as being "ethically-neutral", "unwholesome" or "beautiful". On the other hand, the "neuroscientific modern view" focuses on observables/measurables such as neurons and dopamine. If you want to develop yourself spiritually and escape samsara, the physical substrates model is not going to help.


Before the practitioner meditates insight meditation, he needs to meditate the concentration, mind-practice. People's views are bias and destroited by 5 hindrances and 7 anusaya, especially wrong views.

Understanding about Rūpa and Nāma processing can help the practitioner in concentration meditation.

Mainly, understanding about Rūpa and Nāma processing are base of Paticcasamuppada knowledge. And Paticcasamuppada knowledge is base of 3 characteristics. If the practitioner can't understand Abhidhamma (and can't attain Jhana), their Paticcasamuppada will be only conceptual, unrealistic. And their 3 characteristics will appear blur, conceptual. Many point of view of this practitioner still be the same although he meditates insight meditation.

Can you use first grade knowledge to build robot?

Insight meditation is not easy. It's harder than physic according to Patthana.

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