subtle mind

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subtle mind

Post by kristof » Wed Feb 27, 2013 7:29 pm

Dear Dharma Friends,

I'd like to understand more the concept of the subtle mind. Is subconsciousness part of it?

Thanks for any replies,

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Re: subtle mind

Post by takso » Thu Feb 28, 2013 7:12 am

The different conditions of the Mind

The mind comprises of two terms i.e. conscious and sub-conscious (subtle). Both of these terms would interact differently under the circumstances described as below: -


When one is asleep, the conscious mind would fall into slumber at the same time. Basically, the conscious mind is closely related to the physical body. This means there would be a biological clock being attached within it i.e. there would be duration for staying awake and for resting.

However, there is another term of mind i.e. the sub-conscious (subtle) mind that has no biological clock in it. The sub-conscious (subtle) mind is somehow independent from the physical body. This is because when the physical body is being ‘switch-off’ temporarily, the sub-conscious (subtle) mind still works unpretentiously. For example, we could still have visions in our dreams even with our physical eyes closed while asleep. And dreams are succession of images, thoughts, or emotions passing through the mind during sleep. In other words, we could say the sub-conscious (subtle) mind is like VCR – recording analog audio and analog video from broadcast television so that the images and sound can be played back at a more convenient time.

Near-death Experience (NDE)

During the circumstance of near-death, the two terms of the mind are separated from each other i.e. the conscious mind would be in a dormant condition but the sub-conscious (subtle) mind remains in an active condition. In other words, the sub-conscious (subtle) mind plays an active role in relating the out-of-body experience and the tunnel of light vision. The clear light is actually the Buddha nature within all beings.


As a living being, we have intact with both the conscious and the sub-conscious (subtle) mind within our physical body. When we perform concentration on an object or a matter, we engage with our conscious mind. When the mind is in roaming state as in daydreaming, we engage with the sub-conscious (subtle) aggregates. The conscious mind is like mind-in-command i.e. the mind that can lead and convey action. However, the sub-conscious (subtle) mind is like herd of wild horses - roaming in discrete directions and needed domestication.

In a departed being, the conscious mind that acts as a guarding chain to the ‘wild’ sub-conscious (subtle) mind would die out and one would notice a final burst of energy taking place before death. Subsequently, the sub-conscious (subtle) mind would liberate and roam freely in discrete directions. In other words, while being alive, we make use of our conscious mind to take charge, to lead, to make decision, to concentrate and to contain our sub-conscious (subtle) mind but not after the demise time period. By then, the sub-conscious (subtle) mind that remains as souls or spirits would continue with its wilderness characteristics. Only when one has progressed into a more awakening state while being alive could the wilderness be tamed i.e. less dispersion into more discrete directions or new individuals.

And it is the characteristics of the sub-conscious (subtle) aggregates that would determine the next plane of existence for the so-called souls or spirits. Therefore, one should not miss the chance of moulding the sub-conscious (subtle) mind in a correct manner before kicking the bucket! For instance, it is correct to say that good begets good, evil begets evil. When one pays to live a hell-like condition in the present life time, one would be repaid in the next phase of existence as in hell plane. Just as sow apple seeds, reap apple fruits; sow orange seeds, reap orange fruits or Action 1 conjures up Reaction 1; Action 2 conjures up Reaction 2. The sub-conscious (subtle) aggregates would retain the so-called ‘hellish’ information that would carry on; surpassing the demise time period. The ‘hellish’ retention could only be weakened through conscientious goodwill prayers or persuasions being performed by the third parties (transference of merit).

Therefore, if possible, it is beneficial to create a heaven-like ambience at all times; more importantly during the closing chapter of one’s present life. This is because where one would end up to in the next phase of existence is very much dependent on the retained information in one’s sub-conscious (subtle) mind, be it heaven-like or hell-like. In other words, the fate in one’s subsequent life is very much dependent on the characteristics of one’s sub-conscious (subtle) mind. It is the originator or architect for the heaven or hell realm. Mould it well at all times and if possible, one should achieve enlightenment to eradicate the suffering of it.


During the circumstance of enlightenment, the two terms of the mind would separate from each other - the conscious mind would play in a dominant role, whereas the sub-conscious (subtle) mind would remain in a submissive condition.

The role of conscious mind is like mind-in-command i.e. the mind that can lead, take charge, concentrate, make decision and convey action. An enlightened mind can be described as a conscious mind with liberation from the thoughts i.e. instead of being the thoughts; the perspective is shifted to watching the thoughts churned out by the sub-conscious (subtle) mind. In other words, it means the conscious mind would make observation without identifying with the thoughts – the sub-conscious (subtle) mind. This liberation from thought identification to thought observation is called the experience of the Buddha nature.

During the process of observation, the enlightened conscious mind could also discern with the so-called memory fragments of the previous lives subdued within the sub-conscious (subtle) mind. This is because within the sub-conscious aggregates, one would discover the sub-memory aggregates. Within the sub-memory aggregates, one would discover the sub-information aggregates. In other words, the enlightened conscious mind could see through ‘seed treasures’ of Kamma accumulated from the retained sub-information throughout the series of one’s past lives in crystal clear and without hesitation.

Besides seeing through the past life events, an enlightened mind could also foresee into the future events. In a layman term, it is named as a de-ja vu experience or some kind of time travelling to the future condition. This is because an enlightened mind is highly illuminated and vigilant to any development of circumstances; surpassing time. In Buddhism, it is mentioned that only a human can attain enlightenment as a fully enlightened Buddha. This is because humans are just one type of sentient being with both the conscious and the sub-conscious (subtle) mind stream that can find balance between happiness and suffering via the practices of concentration and mindfulness.

When one has gained enlightenment while sustaining with a living body, the mind would still exist but with a paradigm shift to seeing all things or happenings in the ultimate perspective without delusion or hesitation. The mind has not gained with a complete liberation yet and this circumstance is also known as cessation with remainder. The ultimate liberation or cessation without remainder can only be achieved without sustaining a living body i.e. the passing into parinibbana.

During one last time of disintegration process, the sub-conscious (subtle) mind would be absorbed into the black hole of emptiness and then followed by the conscious mind. In absence of the mind, the dependent phenomenon would die out concurrently. Ultimately, there is no mind remaining in the infinite, unchanging, permanent and unconditional state of Nibbana and this is the ambience for eternal bliss.
~ Ignorance triumphs when wise men do nothing ~

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