How should one consider the impact or influence of the subconscious mind on one's conscious awareness and mental processes, especially during sitting meditation? My mind seems to often exhibit a proliferation of short-lived flashes of images "from nowhere". Is consideration of the relationship between the subconscious mind and the conscious mind a futile endeavor or a worthwhile endeavor? Some brief exposé of how Buddhism views the importance (or unimportance) of the subconscious mind would be appreciated.

5 Answers 5


There is an interesting section on Visions and Signs in the teachings of Ajaan Fuang. I quote my other answer here.

§ "Don't be amazed by people with visions. Visions are nothing else but dreams. There are true ones and false ones. You can't really trust them."

§ A Bangkok housewife who was practicing meditation with Ajaan Fuang heard some of his other students say that meditation without visions was the straight path. It so happened that she had frequent visions in her meditation, and so hearing this made her wonder why her path was so winding and convoluted. When she asked Ajaan Fuang about this, he told her: "Having visions in your meditation is like having lots of lush wild greens growing along the side of your path. You can gather them as you go along, so that you'll have something to eat along the way, and you'll reach the end of the path just like everyone else. As for other people, they might see the greens without gathering them, or may not even see them at all — because their path goes through arid land."

§ "Visions — or whatever things appear in the course of your meditation: It's not the case that you shouldn't pay any attention to them, for some kinds of visions have important messages. So when things like this appear, you have to look into how they're appearing, why they're appearing, and for what purpose."

§ "There are true visions and false visions. So whenever you see one, just sit still and watch it. Don't get pulled into following it."

§ "You should watch visions the same way you watch TV: Just watch it, without getting pulled inside the tube."

§ "If you can't let go of your visions, you'll never gain release."

§ One of Ajaan Fuang's students asked him, "When you see something in a vision, how can you know whether it's true or false?"

His answer: "Even when it's true, it's true only in terms of convention. You have to get your mind beyond both true and false."

§ "The purpose of the practice is to make the heart pure. All these other things are just games and entertainment."


If meditation is done properly, kamma starts to unwind. When kamma is unwinding, visions arise. When visions arise, let them arise. When you let them arise, experience them. When you experience them, don't cling on them or be afraid of them. If you won't cling on them or be afraid of them, visions will cease and awakening will not be far away.

Visions during sitting meditation are signs of being on the right path towards awakening and final liberation.


In Theravada Buddhism, there is no such thing as a sub-conscious mind. There is what is called "bhavanga-citta", but it is not active in the sense of contributing to conscious activity; it is just a state of mind that lies in wait, kind of like a pilot light.

According to the Mahapatthana, the seventh book in the abhidhamma pitaka, there are many causal relationships, one of which is where the physical is causally connected to the arising of the mental (i.e., the physical brain at least partially conditions a thought). This is where your flashes are coming from; it also works the other way of course, where the mental affects the physical.

It could be worth your while (if you are following the Theravada) to study at least Bhikkhu Bodhi's Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma, since it describes some of the building blocks of reality that are involved in this process.

Understanding causality, of course, is of great importance in Buddhism; it is the second stage of insight knowledge to understand how the physical and mental aspects of existence affect each other.

  • Please mention which tradition this is from ;-) Commented May 26, 2015 at 16:34
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    @SumindaSirinathSalpitikorala either you are being purposefully antagonistic, or you believe this answer to be biased... I do mention the tradition; all the information in this answer is based on Theravada Buddhist texts, and is held to be true by Theravada Buddhist scholars, as far as I know. Commented May 27, 2015 at 11:53

The subconscious mind in Buddhism is the Bhavanga, (mindstream, store-consciousness) where the results (vipaka)of past actions kamma is deposited. In the silence of the meditation practice sometimes they "bubble up". ruben2020 has outline what to do.


Deep rooted Sankara in the sub concious mind bubbles up during meditation (in your case thought a vision) there will always a sensation which follows (in your case when the image - frightful, lustful, etc. make contact with the mind sense door). Keeping you mind devoid of craving and aversion (with equanimity) towards this sensation, you are not creating any new Sankara for the future.

There are 3 types of sensation that arise:

  • Unpleasant - this is due to past Sankara of aversion. Reacting to this with aversion creates future Sankara giving again an unpleasant sensation.
  • Pleasant - this due to past Sankara of craving. Reacting to this with craving creates future Sankara of pleasant sensations.
  • Neutral - this is due to past Sankara of ignorance. Like wise this can create future Sankara of neutral sensation. Mainly in this case when effective there is a chance the Hindrances Sloth and Torpor and Restlessness will surface.

Being neutral or equanimous to all these sensation lead to eradicating the Sankara which bubbled up while not creating new Sankara.

Through meditation as your awareness increase your consciousness becomes stronger, thus reaching into the depths of what you call the sub conscious mind, and finally coming to the stage where you are fully aware. Phenomena which you were not previously aware comes into your consciousness more easily. Your conscious mind becomes dominant, and what was previously sub concious mind becomes dormant. Everything comes into your consciousness you are aware. For a normal person when you are a sleep and have mosquito bites when you wake up you might notice that un intentionally you have scratched certain spots. When your sub conscious mind is fully encompassed by your conscious mind though you may be sleeping to give rest to your body, but still you would be awake and aware all the times - nothing escapes your conscious mind (consciousness) while you now do not have any sub conscious mind or it has lost its function.

  • This is not an answer to the question. Commented May 27, 2015 at 11:55
  • This does not provide an answer to OP's question. Its mentioned that its an add to already posted answers by other users. This add-on-answer could have been a comment to another answer but not an individual answer. I have recommended it for deletion unless clarification or re-editing of the answer is made so that it answers OP's question.
    – user2424
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 14:56
  • How so Ven Sir? Please provide me an acceptable rationale. This provides more information thought it follows the same pattern of the other answers? How come commendation of other users answers (in this case with part agreement though I added a few more things) can not make this an answer? Commented May 27, 2015 at 16:21
  • Because you haven't discussed the relationship between conscious and subconscious mind - you haven't even discussed subconsciousness in your answer. Commented May 27, 2015 at 16:25
  • This is better, but the OP is asking about the relationship between the subconscious and the conscious mind. The form of the question, as I understand it, is: " What is the effect of A on B? Is it worth studying this effect, or the relationship between A and B in general?" Commented May 27, 2015 at 16:43

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