The meaning of Viññanam Anidassanam - Dhamma Wheel

The meaning of Viññanam Anidassanam

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The meaning of Viññanam Anidassanam

Postby Bakmoon » Wed May 23, 2012 4:40 am

To my (very limited) knowledge, the term Viññanam anidassanam only occurs in DN 11 and in MN 49. It seems to be a very mysterious term to me. Could someone tell me what the commentaries and sub-commentaries have to say about it please?

[Edit]: Just to clarify, I'm interested in the actual meaning of what it is, not just an etymological reason. Is it a form of consciousness that experiences Nibbana or something? It just seems to be very mystifying to me.
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.

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Re: The meaning of Viññanam Anidassanam

Postby cooran » Wed May 23, 2012 8:17 am

Hello Bakmoon,

Here is a little information, perhaps others can add more:

Consciousness without surface (viññanam anidassanam): This term appears to be related to the following image from SN 12.64:
"Just as if there were a roofed house or a roofed hall having windows on the north, the south, or the east. When the sun rises, and a ray has entered by way of the window, where does it land?"
"On the western wall, lord."
"And if there is no western wall, where does it land?"
"On the ground, lord."
"And if there is no ground, where does it land?"
"On the water, lord."
"And if there is no water, where does it land?"
"It does not land, lord."
"In the same way, where there is no passion for the nutriment of physical food ... contact ... intellectual intention ... consciousness, where there is no delight, no craving, then consciousness does not land there or grow. Where consciousness does not land or grow, name-&-form does not alight. Where name-&-form does not alight, there is no growth of fabrications. Where there is no growth of fabrications, there is no production of renewed becoming in the future. Where there is no production of renewed becoming in the future, there is no future birth, aging, & death. That, I tell you, has no sorrow, affliction, or despair."
In other words, normal sensory consciousness is experienced because it has a "surface" against which it lands: the sense organs and their objects, which constitute the "all." For instance, we experience visual consciousness because of the eye and forms of which we are conscious. Consciousness without surface, however, is directly known, without intermediary, free from any dependence on conditions at all.
This consciousness thus differs from the consciousness factor in dependent co-arising, which is defined in terms of the six sense media. Lying outside of time and space, it would also not come under the consciousness-aggregate, which covers all consciousness near and far; past, present, and future. And, as SN 35.23 notes, the word "all" in the Buddha's teaching covers only the six sense media, which is another reason for not including this consciousness under the aggregates. However, the fact that it is outside of time and space — in a dimension where there is no here, there, or in between (Ud I.10), no coming, no going, or staying (Ud VIII.1) — means that it cannot be described as permanent or omnipresent, terms that have meaning only within space and time.
Some have objected to the equation of this consciousness with nibbana, on the grounds that nibbana is no where else in the Canon described as a form of consciousness. Thus they have proposed that consciousness without surface be regarded as an arahant's consciousness of nibbana in meditative experience, and not nibbana itself. This argument, however, contains two flaws: (1) The term viññanam anidassanam also occurs in DN 11, where it is described as where name & form are brought to an end: surely a synonym for nibbana. (2) If nibbana is an object of mental consciousness (as a dhamma), it would come under the all, as an object of the intellect. There are passages in the Canon (such as AN 9.36) that describe meditators experiencing nibbana as a dhamma, but these passages seem to indicate that this description applies up through the level of non-returning. Other passages, however, describe nibbana as the ending of all dhammas. For instance, Sn V.6 quotes the Buddha as calling the attainment of the goal the transcending of all dhammas. Sn IV.6 and Sn IV.10 state that the arahant has transcended dispassion, said to be the highest dhamma. Thus, for the arahant, nibbana is not an object of consciousness. Instead it is directly known without mediation. Because consciousness without feature is directly known without mediation, there seems good reason to equate the two. ... .than.html

One form of consciousness apparently does not come under the aggregate of consciousness. This is termed viññanam anidassanam — consciousness without a surface, or consciousness without feature. MN 49 says specifically that this consciousness does not partake of the "allness of the all," the "all" being conterminous with the five aggregates. The standard definition of the aggregate of consciousness states that this aggregate includes all consciousness, "past, present, or future... near or far." However, because viññanam anidassanam stands outside of space and time it would not be covered by these terms. Similarly, where SN 22.97 says that no consciousness is eternal, "eternal" is a concept that applies only within the dimension of time, and thus would not apply to this form of consciousness. ... .than.html

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Re: The meaning of Viññanam Anidassanam

Postby mikenz66 » Wed May 23, 2012 8:24 am

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Re: The meaning of Viññanam Anidassanam

Postby mikenz66 » Wed May 23, 2012 8:31 am

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Re: The meaning of Viññanam Anidassanam

Postby mikenz66 » Wed May 23, 2012 9:01 am

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Re: The meaning of Viññanam Anidassanam

Postby vinasp » Wed May 23, 2012 5:27 pm

Hi Bakmoon,

The term "vinnana" means discriminative knowing, based on concepts.

There is another kind of knowing which is "holistic" or non-fragmentary.

The usual term for this other kind of knowing is wisdom (panna).

The term "vinnanam anidassanam" or non-manifestive consciousness, seems to
be an early attempt to distinguish these two kinds of knowing.

One could ask: "What does normal consciousness make manifest?"

The answer seems to be - name and form (nama-rupa).

This topic is a very difficult one. The enlightened mind does not lack
the ability to discriminate, or make such distinctions as may be required,
but it does this without "losing touch" with the "unified ground" or the
unbroken wholeness which is prior to all distinctions.

Regards, Vincent.

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Re: The meaning of Viññanam Anidassanam

Postby ancientbuddhism » Wed May 23, 2012 10:46 pm

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