I consider, monks, there to be no other thing that turns as swiftly as the mind—so much so, monks, that it is difficult to illustrate how swift to turn it is. This mind, monks, is luminous, and it is stained by occasional stains. This mind, monks, is luminous, and it is freed from occasional stains.” — Aṅguttara-Nikāya, Ekakanipātapāḷi, Paṇihitācchavaggo 1.48-50)
The wisdom of The Luminous Mind comes from the Theravāda tradition of the Buddha’s teaching—perhaps the oldest, most authentic and accurate in the world. However, we will leave the historical and theological debates to the scholars and academics. Our concern here is to make the practical value of the Theravāda tradition directly accessible and immediately actionable for today’s intelligent general reader.
The purpose of the Buddha’s teaching is to attain the cessation of suffering (dukkha). It is not originally a religion, although religions certainly can be and have been made out of it. The main difference is that religions, including those based on the Buddha’s teaching, offer release from suffering in the future, often in some other world, where things are somehow different. The Buddha’s original teaching, on the other hand, offers release from suffering in the here-&-now, in this world just as it is.
For a monk rightly contemplating this duality in this way—heedful, ardent, & resolute—one of two fruits can be expected: either gnosis right here & now, or, if there be any remnant of clinging-sustenance, non-return. — Dvayatanupassana Sutta (Saṃyutta-Nikāya 3.12)
Buddha-Dhamma in its original form is more like an expert physician’s diagnosis and treatment of a serious but curable chronic ailment. The expert physician educates the patient, explains the nature of the disease and treatment, to obtain the patient’s cooperation. He prescribes certain foods, medicines and activities and prohibits others. He also admits the patient to a clinic or hospital for observation and treatment. However, the doctor does not tell the patient what to do when he recovers his health; that is the preference of the patient himself to decide.
Similarly, the Buddha educates the Puthujjana (unawakened human being) in the nature, cause and treatment of dukkha—chronic stress or mental suffering. He prescribes a certain diet, moral conduct and way of life, therapeutic views and meditations. If we are serious about a complete and permanent cure, he admits us to his Saṅgha where we can associate with his Order of dedicated monks. And when we are finally cured, he sends us on our way with his blessing—no strings attached.
The immediate aim of The Luminous Mind is to educate, and its goal is to help the reader attain the Eye of the Teaching—the Buddha calls it “the stainless Dhamma-eye”. This means a systematic understanding of his entire teaching, such that one can think through it from beginning to end and apply it effectively with one’s own intelligence and initiative. Once you are educated in the Four Noble Truths and attain the Eye of the Teaching for yourself, you will be able to administer the treatment for ending dukkha to yourself.
This site is designed for the intermediate student of the Buddha’s teaching. We know many Westerners who have read a number of simplified introductory works. But when they go to study the Suttas directly, they feel bewildered. The system of organization of the Sutta Piṭaka is fine for reference, but not very good for learning. So The Luminous Mind is a tutorial for more serious study and practice of the Suttas, topically organized according to the Four Noble Truths.