Units of matter and mind

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By 2017-10-08

By Chandra Tilake Edirisuriya

It would do well to dwell on the concept of units of matter and mind, to mark Vap Full Moon Poya Day. The essential prerequisite for the study of life and the universe, the Buddha stated, is a correct comprehension of the exact features of both matter and mind.

Our attention should, therefore, in the first instance, be directed towards acquiring knowledge about the basic features of matter and mind and the fundamental laws governing them. Sound analysis, undoubtedly, is the best method, but, whilst matter can easily be subjected to analysis, the mind does not easily respond. We are often confronted with the latter situation.

Physics and psychology
In our study of the mind, it is not possible to consider it divorced from matter. It is, therefore, necessary for us to study physics side by side with psychology. The mind, as we normally know it, is so interrelated and interlocked with matter that many people mistake mind also to be matter. A sound study of the science relating to both matter and mind only can help us to appreciate the distinction.

The Buddha declared that the primary factor of the universe is the mind and that the force of the mind is supreme. He had to prove this, and during the course of His explanations, in addition to describing and demonstrating the features of the mind in its most minute detail, He proved beyond all doubt the exact scientific construction of the material universe in the most technical manner.

Man in matter and mind
The method adopted by the Buddha was that of dissecting. He dissected man and proved that man is matter and mind. He dissected the universe and proved that the universe is matter and mind. He dissected matter to its final stages. He proved the atoms and dissected the atom to prove the elements. He took out the units of elements from the atom and displayed that they exist by repetition and that each unit of element is an action. It was demonstrated that a figure which is approximately 176,470,000,000 is the number of distinct motions of each unit of element during the course of the period of the duration of one flash of lightning.

The Buddha explained that each living being in the universe is a unit of mind and said that in features and performance a unit of mind resembles a unit of element, if not for the fact that in rapidity it is faster and in force it is immeasurably greater. The mind beats at the speed of about 3,000,000,000,000 as per the duration of a flash of lightning and thus the rate of repetition is regular and constant. The forces of the mind vary from being to being according to the weight of accumulations of defilements and purity each carries.

The chief difference between a unit of mind and a unit of matter is that whereas the mind never merges with any other unit of mind or matter, the units of one element always merge or mix freely with units of other elements. The units of elements by merging themselves form substances or matter and the units of elements are in the service of the units of the mind.

Mind's tremendous energy
Our physical constitution is the result of the forces in our minds. The single unit of mind, present in each of us, commands and controls the billions and trillions of units of elements that have united in the formation of the physical self that each carries. There is tremendous energy in each unit of mind but most of it is expended or wasted in the routine process of maintaining the elements of the body in a going condition. If the energy of the mind is conserved by eliminating wastage and also builds additional energy by methods of mind exercise, it is quite practicable for anyone to extend the region of influence of the mind beyond its normal habitation.

The Buddha taught that the mind of each human being is centred in the heart and that it extends into every live molecule in his body. Thus the unit of mind is present in every part of a person's physical system, but the intensity of its presence varies. The presence of the mind is the most intense in the six sense organs and it is the least intense in one's hair and nails. At every beat of the mind at the terrific speed, the physical system beats in every part. The energy it produces sustains the elements of the body in life.

Order of nuns established in Lanka
Princess Anula, the wife of one of King Devanampiya Tissa's brothers, who attained the first stage of Sainthood, on hearing the first discourse delivered in the capital city of Anuradhapura by Arahant Mahinda, had expressed a desire to become a Bhikkhuni. As it was not permissible for Arahant Mahinda to ordain a nun, envoys headed by the King's own nephew, Maha Arittha, were sent to Asoka, on Vap Full Moon Poya Day, requesting the Emperor to send Sanghamitta to Sri Lanka, with a branch of the Sacred Bo Tree at Buddha Gaya.

The second mission to Asoka was also entrusted to Arittha who extracted a promise from the King, before he undertook it, that he be permitted to join the Sangha on his return. Asoka was overjoyed to hear of the progress of the Buddhist activities in Sri Lanka, and in order to further facilitate it he agreed to send his daughter, Sanghamitta, to this island with a branch of the Sacred Tree. He himself visited Buddha Gaya in great state, and supervised the severance of a branch from the parent stem.

The transportation of the sacred object befittingly placed in a golden vase, to the capital, and thence to the sea port, was accompanied by brilliant pageantry and manifestations of religious fervour. Different classes of artisans to perform the various services necessary for the Bodhi Tree also accompanied it. Sanghamitta Therini and other nuns embarked at Tamralipthi, and with Arittha and his companions in attendance, performed the voyage to Sri Lanka and landed at Jambukola, in the present Jaffna Peninsula.

(Facts largely drawn from University of Ceylon: A Concise History of Ceylon by C.W. Nicholas and S. Paranavitana and from the treatise The Buddha's Explanation of the Universe by C.P. Ranasinghe, my teacher at my alma mater, Ananda College, Colombo.)

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