Citta, Sanskrit «that which can be seen or belonging to the consciousness, (See Cit) in Hinduism is the reflective and thus the conscious mind; whereas, in Buddhism it is the equivalent to manas, reflective mind, and vijnana, continuing consciousness.
It is possessed by all beings above plant life. The nature of citta received particular analysis and emphasis in the Vijhanavada (also known as the Yogacara)-so much so that the school became known as Cittamatra: Mind only.
In Abhidamma the analysis differentiates 121 types of citta, each of which may be combined with anyone of the fifty-two cetasikas, the accompanying qualities of experience, thus producing an enormous variety of mental events.
Citta, a Sanskrit term with rich meanings in various Indian spiritual and philosophical contexts, plays a central role in both Hinduism and Buddhism, albeit with some differences in interpretation.
- Meaning and Role: In Hindu philosophy, ‘Citta’ refers to the aspect of the mind that is involved in consciousness and reflection. It’s a part of the internal faculty (Antahkarana) that also includes Manas (the lower mind), Buddhi (intellect or wisdom), and Ahamkara (ego or sense of individuality).
- Reflective and Conscious Mind: Citta in Hinduism is seen as the reflective part of the mind that is conscious and aware. It’s the aspect of the mind responsible for processing thoughts, memories, and experiences.
- Cit: Citta is related to ‘Cit’, which signifies pure consciousness or awareness, the fundamental aspect of existence in many Hindu philosophies.
- Equivalent to Manas and Vijnana: In Buddhism, Citta is often equated with Manas (reflective mind) and Vijnana (continuing consciousness). It represents the part of the mind that is responsible for cognition and perception.
- Yogacara Philosophy: In the Yogacara school of Mahayana Buddhism, also known as Vijñanavada or Cittamatra («Mind Only»), Citta receives special emphasis. This school focuses on the nature of consciousness and perception, positing that what we perceive as «reality» is actually a projection of the mind.
- Abhidharma Analysis: In the Buddhist Abhidharma, particularly in the Theravada tradition, Citta is analyzed in great detail. The Abhidharma texts classify 121 types of Citta, each of which can be associated with any of the 52 cetasikas (mental factors), leading to a complex understanding of mental events and processes.
Commonalities and Differences
- Mind and Consciousness: In both Hinduism and Buddhism, Citta is fundamentally about the workings of the mind and consciousness, but its specific role and interpretation differ between the two.
- Mind Only School: The concept of Cittamatra in Buddhism is unique to that tradition, emphasizing the mind’s role in creating our experience of reality.
- Analysis of Mental States: Both traditions analyze Citta in depth, but the Buddhist Abhidharma’s classification of 121 types of Citta and their association with various mental factors is particularly detailed.
Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 225