Early Buddhism and Chan are unique within general context of Buddhism in their insistence on direct, unmediated insight occurring in the absence of conscious thought. This concept is grounded in a very specific set of ideas about the mind, cognition and consciousness. These ideas are, however, not presented in a systematic form and are often at odds with both traditional Buddhist mainstream views as well as with common-sense beliefs about human psychology. As a result, they have not received enough attention and still require proper reconstruction. The aim of this paper is to explore these concepts from the perspective of modern cognitive science. How do early Buddhist and Chan ideas agree with recent developments within philosophy of the mind? Particular focus will be on the issue of mediation of ordinary experience by conceptual and linguistic factors, the distinction between consciousness and the mind, the notion of the Self, possibility of direct insight in the absence of conscious thought and the issue of its content and effability.
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