The Surangama Sutra: Chapter One – Section 2 – (1)

Is the Mind Inside or Outside the Body?

“Your Holiness,” Ānanda then said to the Buddha, “The ten classes of beings in all the worlds believe that the conscious mind dwells in the body; and the way I see it, the blue-lotus eyes in the Buddha’s face are also part of the Buddha’s body. Evidently, the physical organs which I use to perceive objects are part of my face too. Therefore, my conscious mind, too, must surely be in my body.”

The Buddha asked Ānanda, “Now as you sit in the Dharma Hall, can you see where Prince Jetri’s Grove is?”

“This great and sacred Dharma Hall, with its many stories, is in the Garden of the Benefactor of Orphans and the Childless, and Prince Jetri’s Grove is outside the hall.”

“Ānanda, what is the first thing you see from where you are sitting in the hall?”

“Here in the hall, I am looking first at the Buddha, then I see the great assembly, and as I gaze out, I see the grove in the park.”

“Why is it, Ānanda, that when you look out, you can see the grove in the park?”

“Your Holiness, the doors and windows of this great hall are wide open, that’s why I can be in the hall and yet see into the distance.”


The Buddha said to Ānanda, “You are right, someone in the hall can see far into the park when the doors and windows are wide open. Now, could that person not see the Buddha inside the hall and yet see the grove outside the hall?”

Ānanda answered, “It would not be possible to be in the hall and able to see the grove, and yet not be able to see the Buddha.”

“Ānanda, the same is true of you. You have the intelligence to understand everything clearly. If your mind, with its clear understanding, were inside your body, then the inside of your body would be what your mind would first come into contact with and have knowledge of. Are there beings that see the inside of their bodies first, before they can observe things outside? Even if they could not see their heart, liver, spleen, or stomach, they still would detect the growing of their nails and hair, the twisting of their sinews, and the throbbing of their pulse – but why can’t they see these things? And since your mind is not visually cognizant of what is inside your body, how can it have knowledge of what is outside? You must know that when you say the mind being inside the body, you are actually stating the impossible.”


Ānanda bowed to the Buddha, “Now I realize that my mind must be located outside my body instead. For if a lamp be lit in a room, it would certainly illuminate the inside of the room first, then its light would stream through the doorway and reach outside. Since beings do not see inside their bodies but only see outside, it is as though the lamp were placed outside the room, so that the room remains dark. This principle seems conform to the Buddha’s teaching — and so it can’t be wrong this time, can it?”


The Buddha said to Ānanda, “The monks who followed me to Śrāvastī to receive their alms have returned to Prince Jetri’s Grove, and they are now eating their food, while I have finished my meal. Now consider this: can all of them be full if one of them has eaten?”

Ānanda answered, “Of course not, Your Holiness. Although these monks are all Arhats, they still have their individual physical bodies. How could one person’s eating make everybody full?”

The Buddha said, “Then if your mind that sees and knows really were outside your body, your body and mind would be separate from each other. The body would not be aware of what the mind has knowledge of, and the mind would have no knowledge of what the body is aware of. Now as I hold up my cotton-soft hand, does your mind distinguish it when your eyes see it?”

Ānanda said, “It does, Your Holiness.”

The Buddha then told Ānanda, “Since your mind and eyes can work together to perceive my hand, how can the mind be outside? You must now know that when you say the mind being outside the body and yet knowing what happens inside, you are actually stating the impossible.”