The Spiritual roots of the mind: Understanding the Psychology of Buddhism, Jainism and Sufism


  • Buddhism, a religion developed from the teachings of Buddha
  • Non-theistic religion (no belief in god)
  • Originated in India in the 6th and 5th centuries Bc
  • Founded by Siddhartha Gautama

Factors of Personality

Buddha said no Atman

Personality is a compilation of 5 Skandhas

  • Form
  • Feeling
  • Conception
  • Volition
  • Consciousness

Form (Rupa and Skandha)

The material element ( the body, senses)

Feeling (Vedana Skandha)

Sensation, feeling, ( Pleasurable, painful, and indifferent)

Conception (Samjhana)

Conceptual knowledge is also known as perception

Volition (Sankara Skandha)

Coordination of mental states

Consciousness (Vijnana Skandha)

Based on Consciousness

Non-Existence of self

  • Buddhist do not believe in the existence of self
  • It is not possible to separate the self from its surroundings
  • There is no permanent individual self and this realization will contribute to the end of suffering and stress

Levels of Consciousness

According to Buddha consciousness is always continuing like a stream of water

4 Layer of consciousness

Mind consciousness

  • It uses most of the energy
  • “Working” consciousness makes judgments and plans

Sense Consciousness

  • Comes from our 5 senses sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell
  • Sense consciousness 3 elements
  • Sense organ, sense object, our experience

Store Consciousness (alaya)

  • It is also known as root consciousness
  • Keep and preserve
  • Seeds and information are preserved like a museum. Eg; a blanket during sleep if it is cold
  • Offers enlightenment and transformation

Adana Consciousness (manas)

  • Appropriation
  • Always operating
  • Born and rooted in store consciousness

Functions of Mind

  • No concept of manas apart from buddhi, Chitta, vijnana

Nature of Cognition

  1. Imagination
  2. Images
  3. Fancy
  4. After Images
  5. Appreciation
  6. Concentration
  7. Dreams
  8. Perception

Order of Cognition

  1. Presentation
  2. Reflection
  3. Apperception
  4. Examination
  5. Determination

2 Theory of Perception

  • Perception is cognition that is directly produced by the object
  • The pure sensation is so objective that it cannot be described in words

3 Momentary nature of perception

  • All perceptions are momentary, no length of duration
  • There is no continuous or uniform perception

4 Types of perception

  • Sense perception (from senses)
  • Mental perception (function of sense organ)
  • Self-consciousness (self-awareness from pain and pleasure)
  • Superconscious perception (yogic perception)

5 Determinate perception

Cognition of object as possessed of the same character (direct knowledge)

Intermediate perception

Knowledge is not gained directly related to the subject

6 Dream Perception

  4 theories

Physiological theory- Organic and muscular disturbance such as falling from the mountain

Psychological theory- Related to wish fulfillment

Superstitious theory- Spirits as a source, of telepathic dreams

Clairvoyant theory- a future prediction with the supernatural ability

7 Illusory perception

  • Perceptions and preconditions mislead to believe that one is separate from the material
  • External objects have a real existence

8 Nature of sense organ

Six senses are integral to Buddhist devotion sight, hearing, touch, taste, and mind

Goal: a deeper understanding of the nature and histories of objects used in Buddhist practice

9 Recognition

According to Buddhism, recognition is a presentative and representative process. Senses represent the present. Impression represents the past.

Psychology in Jainism


  • Doctrine of Karma
  • Follows the philosophy of Upanishad
  • Doctrine of soul
  • The doctrine of transmigration ( the act of passing into another body after death)
  • Doctrine of Karma
  • Doctrine of Liberation

The philosophical basis of Jain psychology

The five are many kinds

1)plants- touch

2)worms- touch and taste

3) Ants- touch, taste, smell

4) Bees- touch, taste, smell, vision

5)Vertebrae- all five senses

Theory of Karma ii Jain psychology

  • Karma is nothing but a series of acts and effects
  • Each karma is characterized by a special nature of duration, intensity, and quantity
  • The nature and quality of karma matter depend on the activity of the body, mind, speech

Nature of Consciousness


  • Particular modification of consciousness
  • There are 2 types, Darsana (interminate perception) and Jnana (determinate perception)
  • Indeterminate perception (IP)- The knowledge gained is not directly relatable to the subject
  • Determinate perception(DP)- When knowledge occurs through perception
  1. IP is introspective in character, Dp is observational
  2. IP is knowledge of generic character, Dp is knowledge of specific character
  3. IP is the first stage of cognition, Dp is the next stage of specific determination

DP is of 2 kinds

  • Sensory and mental
  • Super sensory or ESP (Extra sensory perception)


  • Direct and immediate knowledge of objects
  • The primary form of perception is independent of the mind and senses, in case of yogis

2. Sense Organs

Jaina follows the other philosophies as regards the number of sense organs

Physical- Organ itself, Protecting the environment

Psychic- Attainment, activity

3. Non-Verbal Comprehension

Comprehension- Verbal and non-verbal

Non-verbal comprehension 

  1. The sensation is vague cognition- the first result of sense-object contact
  2. Speculation knows it more clearly
  3. Perceptual judgment is the ascertainment of right and wrong
  4. Retention is the absence of forgetting
  5. Recollection is latent mental impressions
  6. Recognition combines perception and recollection
  7. Reasoning drawing conclusion

4 Verbal Comprehension

Cognition is based on words, read or heard from a trustworthy person 

2 functions:

  • Revealing the contents to the knower himself
  • And to others

The eight qualities necessary to give rise to it 

  1. The desire for hearing and reading
  2. Questioning
  3. Attention
  4. Grasping
  5. Inquiry
  6. Conviction
  7. Retention
  8. Right action

5 Extrasensory perception

Jainas admit 3 types of ESP

I) Clairvoyance- Confined to the material object

II)Telepathy- Cognition of states of mind of others. There are 2 types- Rjumathi(feeble), Vipulamathi(everlasting and strong)

III)Omniscience- the perfect manifestation of consciousness after all the karmic veils have been destroyed. It is the highest type of cognition.

6)Affection (emotion)

  • Mental excitement usually colored with pain and pleasure
  • There is no neutral or mixed feeling
  • Pleasure and pain are the basis of emotions which can be categorized into classes passion (strong, quasi or mild emotion)
  • The four major passions are
  1. Anger
  2. Pride
  3. Deceit
  4. Greed

Mild emotion 6


  1. Sorrow
  2. Lining
  3. Disliking
  4. Disgust
  5. Fear

Three sexual emotions

  • Male sexuality
  • Female sexuality
  • Mixed Sexuality  

7 Conation

There are 4 types of mental activity

I True- True activity corresponds and the object

II True and untrue- Some activities are partially true

III Untrue- Untrue activity does not

IV Neither true nor Untrue- Some activities like desires, and purpose are neither true nor untrue

8 Mental activity

  • Jaina holds that if mental activity is controlled
  • The means of control of mental activities are
  1. Self Regulation
  2. Moral Virtue
  3. Contemplation
  4. Conquest of affliction
  5. Auspicious conduct
  6. Austerity

Physical austerity- Non-attachment, lightness of body, the conquest of senses, self-discipline

Mental austerity- Dhyana. Samadhi, meditational process


  • Historical background and aim, basic concepts
  • Spirit, views of self and soul
  • Sufism and integration of man
  • Metaphysical concepts
  • Attributes of God, freedom of will, belief, and action
  • Reason and revelation

Historical background and aim, basic concepts of Sufi


  • During the era of and after the last khalifas, Muslim scholars have focused on preserving, various aspects of Islamic tradition
  • Originated after the death of Mohammed in 632, but it didn’t develop in orders until the 12th century
  • A distinct practice of piety associated with introspection, drawing from different practices and ideas, took form in Baghdad in the second half of the 19th century
  • Mystical movement within Islam that seeks to find divine love and knowledge through the direct personal experience of god.


Devotion to Muhammed is the strongest practice within Sufism. Sufis have historically revered Muhammed as the prime personality of spiritual greatness.


Sufism aims for communion with God through spiritual realization.

The soul is the agency of this communion and propounding God to be not only the cause of all existence but the only real existence.

4 Principles of Sufism

  • Repentance (reviewing one’s actions and feelings)
  • Sincerity
  • Remembrance
  • Love

Spirit in Sufi

  • In Sufism, ‘rub’ is a personal immortal, essential self-pneuma (i.e) “Spirit or soul
  • The Quran itself doesn’t describe ‘ruh’ as the immortal self
  • In some contexts, it animates the inanimate matter
  • Further, it appears to be a metaphorical being, as an angel

Views of self and soul in Sufi

  • Nafs ( Self or Ego) is the aspect of the psyche that can be viewed along a continuum and has the potential of functioning from the grossest to the highest level
  • The self at the lowest level- negative traits and tendencies, controlled by emotions, desire, and qualification
  • Sufic psychology identifies 7 levels of nafs, which have been identified in the Quran. They are  
    • Tyrannical self
    • Regretful self
    • Inspired self
    • Serene self
    • Pleased self
    • Pleasing self
    • Pure self

Soul in Sufi

In earlier Sufism, the human soul is traditionally divided into the lower soul (nafs), the spirit (fuh), the heart (qalb), and the innermost heart (sirr). One of the most important teachings of the Quran is the survival of the soul after the separation from the body and that death is not the end of human life but is an appendage to another’s life.

Sufism and integration of man

  • Asceticism is an essential feature of Sufism. 
  • In Sufism God has, the Sufi recognizes the formless aspect too
  • The Sufi language of ecstasy describes the divine experience in a variety of ways such as sweetness, intoxication, perfume, sleep, and death.
  • In Sufism, beauty leads to love and love to bliss
  • For Sufi, music is a means to ecstasy. Music plays a very important part in Sufi religious exercise. Sufi worship beauty.
  • ‘Nasut’- finite human qualification
  • ‘Lahut’- infinite qualities of god
  • Tasawwref (Sufism) combines ecstasy with the service of man
  • A Sufi wants to remain in the world and serve humanity but to be above worldliness

Metaphysical concept- Sufism

  • Sufism is an Islamic metaphysics in its most refined and eloquent format
  • The term Sufi stems from the Arabic word souf and which means wool
  • Metaphysics has a long tradition in monotheistic religions, various schools of philosophy, eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Chinese traditions
  • It is a branch of philosophy that deals with the actual or perceived potentialities that could be realized and become a reality.
  • In Greek, metaphysics means “after the physics” pertaining to the study of the nature of things
  • In Sufism metaphysics primarily deals with human consciousness and its nature and asks
  •     Who are we?
    • Where do we come from?
  • Sufism began with the Quran which states “verily we come from god and to him is our returning”

Attributes of God in Sufism

Sufism refers to the inner dimension of Islam which aims to attain mystical knowledge and love of God through meditative practices or djikr, ethical cultivation and purification of heart and the self

Freedom of will in Sufism

  • The belief in free will is essential in Islam
  • This is because, for Muslims, life tests from Allah
  • Therefore, all human beings must make their own decisions, on which they will be judged by Allah
  • It has been established that according to several verses of the Quran that “Human will and absolutely free from any kind of compulsion but is not free from the law of causation

Belief and action in Sufism

  • Sufism may be best described as Islamic mysticism or asceticism, which through belief and practice “help Muslims attain nearness to god by way of direct personal experience of god”
  • Sufism is a highly developed the system based on the process of thought and action, which demands passionate love towards God and sincere service to humanity”
  • Sufi attach much of importance to the love of the almighty, and their only concern is to be lost in the ocean of love.
  • ‘Action’ in Sufi tradition means ‘works’ tradition and refers to definable religious or spiritual praxes performed in definite mystical or moral contexts.
  • Sufi discipline is often described in terms of abab, which means etiquette, or Futuwwah, which means chivalry.
  • These indicate culture or correct ethical attitudes or etiquette.
  • The model for adab for Sufis, as for all Muslims is, Muhammed
  • For Sufi moral vision, proper adab also implies curtailing the passions and disciplining the body so as to cultivate its dignified nature, emphasizing the beautiful and shifting from a profane world

Reason and revelation in Sufism


Kashf in Sufism, the privileged inner knowledge that mystics acquire through personal experience and direct vision of God

The truths revealed through Kashf cannot be transmitted to those who have not shared with them the same experience

In Islamic belief revelations are God’s word delivered by his chosen individuals known as messenger prophets- to mankind


  • The distinct form of revelation is the mind’s ability to explore the world and to form abstract concepts and categorize the empirical data its collects
  • Reason employs logic and critical analysis
  • The truths gained through the means are universal

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