24. Mind in Theravāda Buddhism

  1. Steven M. Emmanuel
  1. Maria Heim

Published Online: 5 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118324004.ch24

A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy

A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy

How to Cite

Heim, M. (2013) Mind in Theravāda Buddhism, in A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy (ed S. M. Emmanuel), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118324004.ch24

Author Information

  1. Amherst College, Massachusetts, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 5 FEB 2013
  2. Published Print: 25 MAR 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470658772

Online ISBN: 9781118324004



  • cetasika;
  • Abhidhamma;
  • consciousness;
  • contact;
  • feeling;
  • intention;
  • matter;
  • mind;
  • perception;
  • Theravāda


The most precise and intricate model of mind from the tradition, the Theravāda, is developed in the Abhidhamma. Much of the first book of the canonical Abhidhamma, the Dhammasangani breaks down conscious awareness into its constitutive mental factors. The Dhammasangani goes on to supply a list of 56 mental factors (cetasika). The 56 factors that can occur in this moment of good conscious awareness are listed in the chapter, along with additional factors added by the commentary; in separate columns are lists of representative bad and neutral thoughts. First in each column are five factors present in every moment of conscious awareness, understood as a distinct grouping by the commentary: contact, feeling, perception, intention, and consciousness itself. An aim of the Abhidhamma method is to teach the distinctions between mind and matter, which are often paired in a single formulation: nāma-rūpa.