The rDzogs-chen distinction between mentation and excitatory intelligence
Johnson, Kent Gregory
The rDzogs-chen thinkers of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition are unique in presenting a highly developed account of mind and intelligence that remains grounded in experience while avoiding the pitfalls of reductionism. This study focuses on a distinction, important for understanding the rDzogs-chen contribution, between mentation (sems) and excitatory intelligence (rig-pa). Mentation refers to the non-optimal operations in which the experiential field becomes structured into the subjective grasping of projects that elicit interest. It is marked by the repetition of habitual patterns and by a dimming of the cognitive potential. Excitatory intelligence, on the other hand, involves an optimizing energy that restores the fluidity to experience. Here the dynamics of evolutionary change are accessed. To set the stage for a discussion of the rDzogs-chen contributions to the understanding of mind, an account of the philosophical debate amongst the Buddhist schools of philosophy is first presented.