Mind, mind, and consciousness (or mind)

Nakamura Hajime 中村元 translates the famous first sentence of the Dhammapada like this:

Manopubbaṅgamā dhammā manoseṭṭhā manomayā
"Things are based on kokoro, have kokoro as their master, are made by kokoro." (My backtranslation of Nakamura)

He also has a note about his use of kokoro, which I shall translate:

Kokoro 心: mano (= Skrt. manas). Traditional theology inherited the longstanding practice of translating this word as 意, a restriction from which no Japanese translator has hitherto found escape, including myself. (If one did not abide by this tradition, one was criticized as "unacademic" 学問的でない.) However, in [...] the corresponding part in 法句経, the Ancient Chinese translation by Vighna et al 維祇難等, it is translated "心". This is easier to understand, so I adopted this translation [...]

I should point out that in his original, no pronunciation is provided for either 心 or 意; in fact, it's possible that many of the "traditional" translators who used 意 also pronounced this kokoro. But it is interesting and telling that the simpler spelling, the spelling tied more closely to the native vocabulary and with fewer technical associations, should be judged "unacademic."

Nakamura also uses 心 for citta, which may or may not be the same thing as mano. The Visuddhimagga sez yes, they are the same, and also the same as viññāṇa:

Viññāṇaṃ cittaṃ manoti atthato ekaṃ. (XIV)
Viññāṇa, citta, and mano are, in meaning, one.

But Bhikkhu Bodhi apparently sez sorta no, guys:

Spk [Sāratthappakāsini] says [viññāṇa, citta, and mano] are all names for the mind base (manāyatana). Normally I render both citta and mano as "mind," but since English has only two words of common usage to denote the faculty of cognition—"mind" and "consciousness"—here I am compelled to use "mentality" as a makeshift for mano. While technically the three terms have the same denotation, in the Nikāyas they are generally used in distinct contexts. As a rough generalization, viññāṇa signifies the particularizing awareness through a sense faculty [...] as well as the underlying stream of consciousness, which sustains personal continuity through a single life and threads together successive lives [...] Mano serves as the third door of action (along with body and speech) and as the sixth internal sense base (along with the five physical sense bases); as the mind base it coordinates the data of the other five senses and also cognizes mental phenomena (dhammā), its own special class of objects. Citta signifies mind as the centre of personal experience, as the subject of thought, volition, and emotion. It is citta that needs to be understood, trained, and liberated. For a more detailed discussion, see Hamilton, Identity and Experience, chap. 5.

So how does Nakamura translate viññāṇa? With 意識, the modern Sino-Japanese word for "consciousness":

Aciraṃ vatayaṃ kāyo paṭhaviṃ adhisessati/ Chuddho apetaviññāṇo niratthaṃ'va kaliṅgaraṃ.
Oh, this body will soon lie upon the ground, having lost its consciousness and been thrown away like a useless piece of wood. (My backtranslation of Nakamura)

Arguably this isn't a fair comparison, though, since it's a compound word: apeta-viññāṇa, "without viññāṇa." I don't know that "without 心" would mean quite the same thing.

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One thing I notice reading DT Suzuki was that in Japanese "subconscious" and "unconscious" are both 無意識. Usually Japanese has a richer philosophical vocabulary than English, so it was interesting to notice an exception.


Of course, I guess you could say the other BIG exception is こゝろ for both heart and mind.

Then again, do contemporary English language philosophers ever talk about the heart? It seems more like a folk psychology term.

Right now I'm translating an essay about Zhuangzi that contains わかる, 知る, 理解, and 認識. English doesn't have enough words for understanding and knowledge, so I'm stuck either using barbarisms like "cognize" or losing any distinctions the author may have been making.


<i>Then again, do contemporary English language philosophers ever talk about the heart? It seems more like a folk psychology term. </i>

You might even call it... 学問的でない.

I know I've encountered 意識下 and... (consults dictionary) 潜在意識 for "subconscious"-- is it possible that Suzuki was collapsing the distinction intentionally?

分かる and 知る are traditionally problematic for English learners of Japanese, too. Next time I'll definitely explain the difference with reference to "cognize".


by the way, not to be that guy, but it seems the "0 comments" bug has returned :)


Interesting article!

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