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Big To-Do: incorporate material from Hamilton! ;-)

In Buddhism, mano or mana(s) (Pali; Skt.) is generally translated as "mind," "thought," or "intellect."[1] Technically, mano is the part of the mind associated with the integration of sensory experience and with the accessing of concepts.[2] In Buddhism, a corrupted mind leads to suffering while a purified mind leads to happiness and liberation. The mind is purified through the pursuit of the Buddha's noble path.

In early Buddhist literature, mano is distinguished from citta (also frequently translated as "mind"),[3] the latter being the basis for mental development and the source of liberation from suffering.

Discourse views[edit]

In the discourses of the Pali Canon's Sutta Pitaka, mano is described both in terms of its cognitive processing of lower level physical sense phenomena and its pivotal role in the perpetuation of suffering (dukkha) and the pursuit of happiness (sukha) and liberation (Pali: mokkha; Skt.: moka).

<font=3>Mano, citta, viññāa

While mano and citta are both generally translated into English as "mind," in the Sutta Pitaka, these two terms are often contextualized differently:[4]

  • mano refers to the sixth internal sense base (ayatana) or faculty (indriya),[5] that is, the "mind base," cognizing mind objects (dhammā) including sensory cognitions from the five physical sense bases.
  • citta includes the subjective center of our cognitive and affective experiences, a major focus of Buddhist mental development (see, bhava and anatta), the mechanism for release. This is also the "mind" that the discourses describe as being "luminous" (pabhassaramida citta) when free of defilements (upakkilesa).[6][7]

In the Nikayas, a third related concept of mind includes:

  • viññāa, often translated as "consciousness," this refers to awareness through a specific internal sense base (ajjhattikāni āyatanāni), that is, through the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body or "mind" (mano). Thus, there are six sense-specific "types" or "classes" of such consciousness (cha viññāa-kāyā). It is also the basis for personal continuity within and across lives.[8]

Cognitive aspect: mind & physical senses[edit]

The relationship between "mind" (mano) and "experience" or "states" (dhammā) is technically conceptualized in the Buddhist description of six sense bases. In this context, the "mind base" (manāyatana) or "mind faculty" (manindriya) is identified as the "sixth internal sense base" after the five physical internal sense bases of the eye, ear, nose, tongue and body. The objects sensed by the mind base are identified as dhammā, variously translated as "mental objects,"[9] "mind objects," "experience,"[10] "phenomena"[11] "states"[12] and "thoughts."

In the "Greater Set of Questions and Answers Discourse" (Mahāvedalla Sutta, MN 43), Ven. Sariputta identifies mano (here translated as "intellect") as an aggregator of the other sense bases:

"Friend, these five faculties — each with a separate range, a separate domain, not experiencing one another's range & domain: the eye-faculty, the ear-faculty, the nose-faculty, the tongue-faculty, & the body-faculty — have the intellect as their [common] arbitrator. The intellect is what experiences [all] their ranges & domains."[13]

In "The Brahmin Uṇṇābha Discourse" (SN 48.42), the Buddha provides a similar description of mano.[14]

Ethical aspect: mind & suffering[edit]

The famed opening lines of the Dhammapada are (in English and Pali):

All experience is preceded by mind,

Led by mind,
Made by mind.

Speak or act with a corrupted mind,

And suffering follows

As the wagon wheel follows the hoof of the ox.[15]

Manopubbagamā dhammā


Manasā ce paduṭṭhena bhāsati vā karoti vā

Tato na dukkhamanveti

cakka'va vahato padaṃ.[16]

Similarly, in the Anguttara Nikaya is found:

Monks, whatsoever states are unwholesome,
partake of the unwholesome, pertain to the unwholesome
– all these have mind as their forerunner.
Mind arises as the first of them,
followed by the unwholesome states.

Monks, whatsoever states are wholesome ....
Mind arises as the first of them,
followed by the wholesome states.[17]

Ye keci bhikkhave dhammā akusalā
akusalā akusalabhāgiyā akusalapakkhikā,
sabbe te manopubbaṅgamā.
Mano tesa dhammāna pahama uppajjati,
anvadeva akusalā dhammāti.

Ye keci bhikkhave dhammā kusalā ....
Mano tesa dhammāna pahama uppajjati,
anvadeva kusalā dhammāti.[18]

Hence, the Buddhist objective is to live with a "mind well freed"[19] of corruptions. As the Buddha states in the brief "Reining in the Mind Discourse" (Mano-nivāraa Sutta, SN 1.24):

One need not reign in the mind from everything
When the mind has come under control.
From whatever it is that evil comes,
From this one should rein in the mind.[20]

Na sabbato mano nivāraye
Mano yatattamāgata,
Yato yato ca pāpaka
Tato tato mano nivāraye'ti.[21]

Soteriological aspect: mind & liberation[edit]

In the aforementioned "The Brahmin Uṇṇābha Discourse" (SN 48.42), the Buddha states that the mind's "protection"[22] or "recourse"[23] (paṭisaraṇa) is mindfulness (sati):

"The mind, brahmin, takes recourse in mindfulness...."
"Mindfulness, brahmin, takes recourse in liberation....
"Liberation, brahmin, takes recourse in Nibbāna."[24]

Manassa kho brāhmaṇa, sati paṭisaraṇanti....
Satiyā kho brāhmaṇa: vimutti paṭisaraṇanti....
Vimuttiyā kho brāhmaṇa, nibbānaṃ paṭisaraṇanti.

Abhidhammic and commentarial views[edit]

 The Five Aggregates (pañca khandha)
according to the Pali Canon.
form (rūpa)
  4 elements


  mental factors (cetasika)  



 Source: MN 109 (Thanissaro, 2001)  |  diagram details

According to Bodhi (2005), p. 310, based on the Sutta pitaka description of the six sense bases:

"... On this interpretation, 'mind' [mano] might be taken as the passive flow of consciousness from which active conceptual consciousness emerges, and 'phenomena' [dhammā] as purely mental objects such as those apprehended by introspection, imagination, and reflection. The Abhidhamma and the Pāli commentaries, however, interpret the two terms [mano and dhammā] differently. They hold that the mind base comprises all classes of consciousness. They also hold that all actual entities not comprised in the other sense bases constitute the phenomena base. The phenomena base, then, includes the other three mental aggregates [khandha] — feeling, perception, and volitional formations — as well as types of subtle material form not implicated in experiences through the physical senses. Whether this interpretation conforms to the meaning intended in the oldest Buddhist texts is an open question."

While the discourses do not ascribe a physical location to the mind base, the commentaries identify its physical anchor to be the heart.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), pp. 520-21, "Mano & Mana(s)" (retrieved 2008-03-05 from "U. of Chicago" at generally defines mano as "mind, thought." In the context of the six sense faculties (indriya), Ñāamoli & Bodhi (2001), p. 391 (MN 43) translate mano as "mind." Thanissaro generally translates "mano" as "intellect" (e.g., see Thanissaro, 2006).
  2. ^ One can find this notion of mano in Hinduism as well. For instance, the Monier-Williams (1964), p. 783 (retrieved 2008-03-06 from "Cologne University" at, accessed via and copied from [citation: manas]) defines "Mánas" as:
    mind (in its widest sense as applied to all the mental powers) , intellect , intelligence , understanding , perception , sense , conscience , will RV. &c &c (in phil. the internal organ or antaḥ-karaṇa of perception and cognition , the faculty or instrument through which thoughts enter or by which objects of sense affect the soul IW. 53 ; in this sense manas is always is always regarded as distinct from ātman and puruṣa , " spirit or soul " and belonging only to the body , like which it is - except in the nyāya - considered perishable ; as to its position in the various systems » for nyāya and vaiśeṣika IW. 63 ; 67 ; 76 , for sāṃkhya and vedā*nta ib. 84 ; 109 ; 117 ; in RV. it is sometimes joined with hṛd or hṛdaya , the heart Mn. vii , 6 with cakṣus , the eye).... thought , imagination , excogitation , invention , reflection , opinion , intention , inclination , affection , desire , mood , temper , spirit ....
  3. ^ See, for instance, Fronsdal (2006), "The Mind" (Cittavaggo, Dhp. III), pp. 9-11; as well as Bodhi (2000), pp. 769-70, n. 154.
  4. ^ See, for instance, Bodhi (2000), pp. 769-70, n. 154. Similarly, Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), p. 520, writes: "Mano represents the intellectual functioning of consciousness, while viñnāṇa represents the field of sense and sense-reaction ('perception'), and citta the subjective aspect of consciousness."
  5. ^ The first five sense bases or faculties are the eye, ear, nose, tongue and body (see Ayatana).
  6. ^ AN 1.6.1, AN 1.6.2 (Thanissaro, 1995; Nyanaponika & Bodhi, 1999, p. 36).
  7. ^ In the Pali Canon, the defilements (kilesa) are frequently associated with craving (taṇhā) and lust (rāga). See, e.g., Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-5), pp. 216-7, entry for "Kilesa" (retrieved 2008-02-09 from "U. of Chicago" at
  8. ^ See, for instance, DN 28, in which Ven. Sariputta states that, through the arduous development of concentration, one can know the uninterrupted "stream of consciousness" (viññāa-sota) that spans multiple lives; as well as, DN 15's description of Dependent Origination whereby consciousness descends into a pregnant woman's womb thus animating the embryonic body (nāmarūpa).
  9. ^ See, e.g., Ñāamoli & Bodhi (2001), pp. 1238-39 n. 443.
  10. ^ See, e.g., Fronsdal (2005), pp. 1, 115 note on verses "1-2."
  11. ^ See, e.g., Bodhi (2005), p. 310.
  12. ^ See, e.g., Nyanaponika & Bodhi (1999), p. 36.
  13. ^ Mahāvedalla Sutta (MN 43; trans. Thanissaro, 2006). Also see Ñāamoli & Bodhi (2001), p. 391.
  14. ^ See Bodhi (2000), p. 1687; and, Walshe (1985). Note that Bodhi translates the last phrase of the above block quote as: "... they take recourse in the mind, and the mind experiences their resort and domain."
  15. ^ "Dichotomies" (Dhp. I), v. 1, trans. Fronsdal (2005), p.1.
  16. ^ Yamakavaggo (Dhp. I), v. 1. Pali retrieved 2008-03-05 from "La Trobe U." Sri Lanka Tripitaka Project (SLTP) edition's KN BJT p. 26 at
  17. ^ AN 1.6.6 & AN 1.6.7, trans. Nyanaponika & Bodhi (1999), p. 36.
  18. ^ AN 1.6.6 & AN 1.6.7, retrieved 2008-03-05 from "La Trobe U." at
  19. ^ Dhp. 1, vv. 19-20 (Fronsdal, 2005, p. 5)
  20. ^ SN 1.24, trans. Bodhi (2000), pp. 101-2, v. 60.
  21. ^ SN 1.24, SLTP edition, retrieved 2008-03-06 from "La Trobe U." at
  22. ^ See, e.g., Walshe (1985), n. 4.
  23. ^ See, e.g., Bodhi (2000), pp. 1687-8.
  24. ^ SN 48.42, trans. Bodhi (2000), p. 1687. The elided phrases are simply the brahmin Uṇṇābha's questions (e.g., "But, Master Gotama, what is it that the mind takes recourse in?"), reiterated in the Buddha's identified responses (e.g., "The mind, brahmin, takes recourse in mindfulness").
  25. ^ SN 47.42, SLTP edition, retrieved 2008-11-16 from "Bodhgaya News" at Note that Bodhi SN vaggo 48 is the same as SLTP vaggo 47 (Indriya Sayutta).


  • Bodhi, Bhikkhu (trans.) (2000). The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Sayutta Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-331-1.
  • Bodhi, Bhikkhu (2005). In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon. Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-491-1.
  • Hamilton, Sue (2001). Identity and Experience: The Constitution of the Human Being according to Early Buddhism. Oxford: Luzac Oriental. ISBN 1-898942-23-4.
  • Ñāamoli, Bhikkhu (trans.) & Bodhi, Bhikkhu (ed.) (2001). The Middle-Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-072-X.
  • Nyanaponika Thera & Bhikkhu Bodhi (1999). Numerical Discourses of the Buddha: An Anthology of Suttas from the Aguttara Nikāya. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press. ISBN 0-7425-0405-0.