Ever stumbled upon the fascinating phrase “All things are created by the mind” from the Avatamsaka Sutra and wondered what it really means? This is believed to be one of Buddha’s profound teachings to his disciples.
It’s a phrase that’s both intriguing and a bit cryptic, right? Well, you’re not alone in your curiosity. At LotusBuddhas, we’re all about diving deep into such thought-provoking concepts. In this article, we’ve taken a closer look at this statement to bring you a clearer, more relatable understanding. We’ll break down its essence and explore how it can be applied to our daily lives.
What is ‘All Things are Created by The Mind’?
The saying “All things are created by the mind“, often found in Buddhist texts like the Avataṃsakasūtra, carries a deep and profound meaning. It suggests that everything we experience – every object, event, or phenomenon – is a creation of our minds. This isn’t just about what we think, but how our mind perceives and interprets the world around us.
In the context of the Avatamsaka Sutra, this concept becomes a cornerstone for practitioners. It’s a call to actively engage with and transform our minds. Through various meditation and mindfulness practices, adherents work towards shaping their minds in a positive direction. Why? Because by doing so, they can experience happiness and peace amidst the constant changes and challenges of life.
So, this phrase is not just a statement about the nature of reality, but also a practical guide. It encourages us to realize that our perception and mental state play a crucial role in how we experience life. By cultivating a positive, compassionate, and mindful state of mind, we can significantly influence our experience of the world, leading to a more fulfilling and peaceful life.
Video explaining the saying ‘All things are created by the mind’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZyvVTsEWSo
Is This Statement Materialistic or Idealistic?
“All things are created by the mind” is idealistic in the understanding of Marxism-Leninism.
The statement “All things are created by the mind” leans more towards an idealistic perspective rather than a materialistic one. In materialistic philosophy, like that found in Marxism-Leninism, there’s a belief that material conditions and the environment primarily shape our consciousness and perception. This viewpoint holds that our physical world, or the material reality, dictates our thoughts, feelings, and consciousness.
Mary Ann Bevan was a bad woman and everyone recognized it. So why do we say everything is created by the mind, ugliness or beauty, happiness or suffering are all created by the mind?
The nature of fire is hot and ice is cold. If anyone comes into contact with fire, they will experience pain and discomfort. So why do we say that the heat of fire and the pain when exposed to fire are only created by the mind?
“Material determines consciousness” and “All things are created by the mind” have a huge contradiction!
However, the phrase “All things are created by the mind” suggests a different approach. It implies that our perception, our consciousness, creates our reality. This idea aligns more closely with idealism, particularly in the context of Eastern philosophies and some interpretations of Buddhist thought. It proposes that the mind is not just a passive recipient of external stimuli but actively constructs or influences our experience of the world.
Every day when you come home from work, your beloved dog curls up at your feet and you are very happy about that. One afternoon, you return home and your beloved dog curls up at your feet. But in a tired mood due to work pressure, because you just had an argument with your lover, you angrily kicked the dog aside because it was bothering you. Why do we feel differently about the same action?
This notion is echoed in Eastern folklore and some interpretations of Zen Buddhism, where the state of one’s mind—whether it’s peaceful, troubled, happy, or sad—significantly impacts how one perceives and interacts with the world. For instance, when we’re in a state of distress, the world around us might appear more bleak or hostile.
The concept also ties in with the idea that we don’t experience the world as it is in its essence but through the filter of our current mental state and level of understanding. This perspective is supported by certain scientific views that suggest our perception of reality is shaped by our mental and cognitive capacities.
So, the statement “All things are created by the mind” reflects a more idealistic view, focusing on the mind’s role in shaping our experience and interpretation of reality, rather than asserting that external, material conditions are the primary determinants of our consciousness.
Is The Saying “All things are created by the mind” from Buddhism?
The saying “All things are created by the mind” is indeed from Buddhism, but it’s often misunderstood. This phrase doesn’t literally mean that everything is created by the mind. Instead, it suggests that everything we perceive through our senses – what we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch – becomes conceptualized in our consciousness.
Here’s a more relatable example: Consider how different people react to the spiciness of a chili pepper. One person might find it unbearably hot, while another might think it’s just moderately spicy. Or take a piece of music – one person might find it absolutely fantastic, while another might find it dull. It’s the same chili or the same music, but our individual experiences and perceptions shape how we interpret these things. This concept illustrates how our personal mental states and perceptions can drastically alter our experience of the same reality.
In Buddhism, this concept is about understanding that our perception of reality is shaped by our mind. For example, object A remains object A in reality, but it is perceived differently by each individual based on their unique mental conditioning and understanding. This is why it’s said that things are ‘created’ by the mind.
It’s crucial to note that natural elements like earth, water, fire, and air are not created by the mind. Rather, our understanding and subjective thoughts about these elements are shaped by our individual perceptions and mental constructs. Therefore, the same object or phenomenon can evoke different ideas and impressions in different people.
The real meaning behind “All things are created by the mind” is not to be interpreted as an endorsement of idealism, where everything is believed to be a creation of the mind. It’s more about recognizing how our perceptions and conceptions shape our understanding of the world.
In Buddhism, when the mind reaches a state of complete stillness and purity, free from all conceptualization and fabrication, it is said to be in a state of Nirvana. Nirvana is the cessation of all mental fabrications that create the Three Worlds (Desire Realm, Form Realm, and Formless Realm). These worlds are formed through consciousness, leading to the saying “Three Worlds are only mind; all phenomena are only consciousness.” This phrase is perhaps a clearer expression than “All things are created by the mind”, which can be mistakenly interpreted as a purely idealistic view.
Buddhism is Not an Idealistic Religion, But Why is Zen Buddhism Called Idealistic Buddhism?
Buddhism isn’t tied to any specific philosophical doctrine like idealism or materialism. It’s more about understanding the nature of phenomena – how things come into existence due to certain conditions and how they’re not inherently born from anything.
In Buddhism, there’s an interplay between the mind and matter, forming what’s known as dependent origination. This process involves psychological, physiological, and physical aspects, with no single element having the supremacy to create the others. Speaking of ‘creation’ in this context already introduces a duality that Buddhism aims to transcend.
Zen Buddhism sometimes gets labeled as ‘Idealistic Buddhism,’ but it’s important not to mistake this for the philosophical concept of idealism. In Zen, the focus is on the role of the mind in achieving enlightenment. However, this doesn’t mean it advocates that everything is a construct of the mind in the idealistic sense.
Zen practice emphasizes transcending the usual sensory perceptions and experiencing reality as it is, through what’s termed as the Pabhassara Citta – the luminous, clear, and pure mind. This approach is about seeing things in their true nature, not clouded by our usual conceptualizations or preconceptions of what they should be. Zen isn’t about the mind creating forms, but rather perceiving the true essence of forms without the distortions of thought and conceptualization.
In summary, while Zen Buddhism does place significant emphasis on the mind’s role in understanding and perceiving reality, it does not align with the Western philosophical notion of idealism, where everything is considered a mental construct. Instead, it’s about realizing and experiencing the true nature of things beyond our usual mental fabrications.
If When We Die Our Mind is Clear and Pure, We Will See Nirvana?
In Buddhist thought, reaching Nirvana isn’t necessarily about waiting until death with a clear and pure mind. Rather, Nirvana, just like hell or any other realm, is more about our current mental state and how we perceive and interact with life. It’s not about doing something specific to get to a physical place called Nirvana that exists somewhere else. Nirvana, or hell, or any other state of existence, can be right here and now, depending on our mindset.
- Right here, right now, if we have a completely selfless, altruistic mind, that is the mind of a Buddha or a Bodhisattva.
- If we are entirely pure and liberated, that is the mind of an Arahant.
- If we are fully in harmony with the Dharma, that’s the mind of one on the path of Stream-Entry (Sotāpatti Magga).
- If we are kind, joyous, and liberated, that is the mind of the heavenly realms.
- If we live a decent, reasonable life, that is the human realm.
- If we live only for basic pleasures like eating and sleeping, that’s akin to the animal realm.
- If we are constantly craving and desiring things, that is the mind of a hungry ghost.
- If we crave power, wanting to control others at home or outside, that is the mind of an Asura, quick to anger when not obeyed.
- If we live in hatred, deceit, and cruelty, that’s like being in hell.
Thus, our attitude towards reality shapes our experience of happiness or suffering. We have many choices, and it’s up to us to decide how we want to live and perceive our world. It’s about realizing that these states are not physical places we go to, but rather ways of being and perceiving that we can experience right here in the present, based on our mental and emotional states.
The saying “All things are created by the mind” encapsulates a powerful insight into the nature of our perception and experience. As Zen Master Thích Minh Niệm points out, our reality is significantly shaped by the state of our mind. When our mind is at peace, we perceive the world around us as harmonious and okay. Conversely, when our mind is troubled, chaotic, stressed, angry, doubtful, or fearful, we tend to view everything around us as problematic and unsettling.
Now, consider a tiger, a creature known for its danger. If we enter a tiger’s enclosure with a peaceful mind, will we remain undisturbed, or will fear inevitably arise? The concept of “All things are created by the mind” raises a question: if we believe the tiger poses no danger, does that change its inherent nature? Similarly, if we think of fire as something comforting, how does that affect our actual physical interaction with it?
However, you have to understand that this isn’t about the mind creating physical reality, but rather coloring our perception of it. The mind is always active, and if it falls into a state of unawareness or ignorance, we risk losing our conscious engagement with life. This is a pitfall in Zen practice, where becoming completely disengaged or indifferent (described as “cold ashes” or “rotten wood”) is seen as unproductive.
In navigating life, neither extreme of being overly engaged to the point of suffering nor complete disengagement is desirable. The life and teachings of the Buddha exemplify this balance. He didn’t sit under the Bodhi tree to become unaware or ignorant, nor did he immerse himself in worldly life to the point of distress.
The Buddha taught that things in themselves are not inherently fearful or detestable. Escaping from the world or seeking isolation as a way to avoid life’s challenges is a misunderstanding. Instead, “All things are created by the mind” is a method for training the mind, helping us avoid falling into negative states that cause suffering for ourselves and others.
A person who has achieved enlightenment sees the true nature of things as they are and acts in ways that are most beneficial for themselves and others. This understanding can transform our interaction with the world, leading us to a more positive and beneficial approach to life. The key lies in mastering our mind and perceptions, recognizing that our happiness and peace largely depend on how we choose to perceive and interact with the world around us.