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MIND-ONLY or the 3rd Turning of the Wheel of Dharma
October 2nd, 2012 (October 3rd, 2012)
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illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

MIND-ONLY or the 3rd Turning of the Wheel of Dharma

A verse of the Dhammapada states: "Mind is the forerunner of all mental states (dharma), all mental states are mind-made." But one may also translate 'dharma' as "factors in existence" and the verse will run like this: "Mind is the forerunner of all factors in existence. All factors in existence are mind-made."

When poorly or partially understood, Emptiness —the second Turning of the Wheel of Dharma— easily leads to nothingness (nihilism). Famous verses such as "Form is emptiness, emptiness is form" clearly state that emptiness is not nothingness. But overall, the second turning insists  that Emptiness is required for anything to arise, it does not explain so much how anything arises.

The Mind-Only —the third Turning— takes off from Emptiness to explain how something arises out of Emptiness; the doctrines touch on "if everything is empty, how come we experience bodies, objects, forces, etc? how comes 'things' appear?"
As the name suggests, Mind-Only schools, e.g. the Yogācāra, tend to state —based on e.g. the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra and the Daśabhūmika Sūtra— that consciousness is what makes everything possible, that everything is just creation of mind itself, and that the world we experience around us is simply the manifestation of mind. Unfortunately, this is often misunderstood, probably as badly as Emptiness itself…

The key mistake is to interpret "the world we experience around us is simply the manifestation of mind" as "the world (we experience) around us is simply the manifestation of mind."

Mind is the creator of the whole world; how exactly does this happen? How is the mind the creator? The mind is the creator through the function of 'discrimination' (or 'conceptualisation,' 'attribution,' 'division,' 'individuation'…). Basically our mind is the creator of our experience (by deciding what's foreground and what's background), not of the world itself.
Mind-Only is thus closer to Phenomenology than it is to Idealism. Mind-Only schools are far from stating that "nothing except the mind exists" or that "all is illusion." They only condition our experience of the world to our mind (i.e. "all our experience is illusion").

This is important because e.g. pliancy of the mind will not change causality (karmic or other), and e.g. freedom will not make all constraints miraculously vanish… Mind-Only schools are not contradictory with an external reality and the stubbornness of our experience (the fact that red stays red regardless of our progress toward detachment, freedom, nirvāna. Freedom does not turn the experience of red into the experience of yellow…).

Consciousness is not what creates reality, consciousness is what lights reality up, what creates our experience conditioned by reality (by making some conditions apparent and leaving others in the dark).


[image from http://www.japanpotterytools.com/howto.php?page=uOffHump ]
Idealism (philosophy): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idealism
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