Small Mind

Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Small Mind Mean?

Small mind is a term used in some Buddhist traditions, particularly Zen, to describe the location of the ego or the individual self. It is the everyday thinking mind filled with ordinary thoughts, chatter and emotions.

The small mind is a restless place of delusion that is colored by the wants, needs and impulses of the ego. It is sometimes referred to as “monkey mind,” a metaphor that reflects that this small mind is easily distracted and jumps from one thought to another, seeking satisfaction from the world outside itself.


Yogapedia Explains Small Mind

According to Shunryu Suzuki, a 20th century Buddhist teacher, a mind that relates to something beyond itself is a limited, small mind. It is a dualistic understanding of the mind. If your mind is related to something outside itself, that mind is a small mind, a limited mind.

In contrast, the big mind represents the Buddha nature, or higher Self. It is the mind of wisdom that is sometimes referred to as the natural mind. The big mind does not relate to the outside world but seeks satisfaction from within itself, letting go of ego and the need to control. It is clear, uncomplicated and peaceful.

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Monkey Mind

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