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In learning how to manage the mind, it is important to understand the nature of the mind, otherwise known as consciousness, and how it arises.
The Buddha taught that consciousness is not something permanent that always exists. Consciousness is something that arises at each of the internal sense bases (ayatana) dependent on causes and conditions, and passes away when the causes and conditions cease.(The six internal sense bases are the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind.)
For example, eye consciousness arises dependent on the eyeand visual form. We can use a simple metaphor to illustrate this mechanism. Think of the eye as the head of a matchstick, form as the side of a matchbox. Eye-consciousness is like the flame that results when the head of the matchstick strikes the side of the matchbox, or when the eye and visual form strike each other. The meeting of the three – eye, form, and eye-consciousness – is what is known as “contact” (phassa). With contact as condition, feeling (vedana) arises. With feeling as condition, craving (tanha) arises. This is how suffering originates.
The key point to understand is that consciousness (vinnana or citta) and the mental factors or mental concomitants (cetasika) which arise with it, are the result of the meeting of internal sense bases and sensory stimuli or input(also known as external sense bases). Thus, it is possible to influence or “manage” the mind by managing the sensory input it receives.
Another essential principle to remember is that a wholesome mind, ie. a mind with wholesome mental factors, cannot arise at the same time as an unwholesome mind, that is, a mind with unwholesome metal factors. At any one time, the mind can either be wholesome or unwholesome.
It is thus important to create the causes for the wholesome mind to arise as often as possible because otherwise the unwholesome mind will arise.