What does viññāṇa exactly means?

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What does viññāṇa exactly means?

Postby Alex123 » Sat May 26, 2012 12:28 am

Hello all,

I used to interpret viññāṇa to mean consciousness as basic awareness of something. But I am not sure that the pali term is so basic.
In VsM it says that viññāṇa knows more than saññā, thus to me it is more complex than simply being aware:

Perception is like the child without discretion seeing the coin, because it apprehends the mere mode of appearance of the object as blue and so on. Consciousness is like the villager seeing the coin, because it apprehends, the mode of the object as blue, etc., and because it extends further, reaching the penetration of its characteristics. Understanding is like the money changer seeing the coin, because, after apprehending the mode of the object as blue, etc., and extending to the penetration of the characteristics, it extends still further, reaching the manifestation of the path. VsM XIV,5


Also viññāṇa seems to be made of two words vi + ñāṇa.
Vi can mean: special, separate, apart, free from, clear, different.
ñāṇa means knowledge.

Apparently one of the translations of viññāṇa is discernment

I've read somewhere that viññāṇa can mean something like (duality) separation between sense organ and sense objects.


Any comments?

Thanks
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Re: What does viññāṇa exactly means?

Postby vinasp » Sat May 26, 2012 1:43 am

Hi Alex123,

A very interesting topic. The early Nikaya teachings talk of the "stopping of
consciousness" or the "cessation of consciousness" as something which is
connected with enlightenment, in this life.

The later Nikaya teachings obscure this in various ways, but not completely.

Here are extracts from Sn 733, 734 and 735 [PTS, K.R.Norman.]:

733. "Whatever misery arises, all this is because of consciousness"
"Because of the complete ending and stopping of consciousness, there is
no arising of misery."

734. "Whatever misery arises, all (that) is because of consciousness. By the
stopping of consciousness, there is no arising of misery."

735. "Knowing this danger, that "misery is because of consciousness", by the
quiescence of consciousness a bhikkhu is without craving, quenched."

In MN 43.4 it is said that it is not possible to describe the difference
between consciousness and wisdom. I understand this to mean that they are both
forms of conceptual knowing or understanding. But there is a difference,
consciousness is a wrong kind of understanding, while wisdom is a correct
form of understanding. So wisdom should be developed, consciousness should
be eliminated.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: What does viññāṇa exactly means?

Postby Alex123 » Sat May 26, 2012 1:54 am

Hello Vincent,

vinasp wrote:I understand this to mean that they are both forms of conceptual knowing or understanding. But there is a difference, consciousness is a wrong kind of understanding, while wisdom is a correct form of understanding. So wisdom should be developed, consciousness should be eliminated.


Thank you for your answer. Is it possible that viññāṇa is a sort of making some sort of separation, a subject-object duality?
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Re: What does viññāṇa exactly means?

Postby vinasp » Sat May 26, 2012 2:46 am

Hi Alex123,

Alex said:"Is it possible that viññāṇa is a sort of making some sort of separation, a subject-object duality?"

One idea that I am working on is that consciousness is knowing in terms of "I" or
"self". If so, then it would give rise to a subject-object duality, at least in
one sense of the word "subject".

But there may be another explanation of why vinnana is a wrong kind of knowing.
I think I need a better understanding of nama-rupa, another difficult term.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: What does viññāṇa exactly means?

Postby Dmytro » Sat May 26, 2012 5:36 am

Hi Alex,

Viññāṇa by itself isn't wrong and does not imply duality. Very much depends on hiw the vinnana interacts with nama-rupa. The vinnana of the Arahant does not have a footing (arammana) in nama-rupa:

viewtopic.php?f=23&t=12515

You may find useful the article:

Two types of saving knowledge in the Paali suttas

By Donald K. Swearer

http://buddhism.lib.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT ... donald.htm
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Re: What does viññāṇa exactly means?

Postby Alex123 » Sat May 26, 2012 7:47 pm

Thank you very much, Dmytro.
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Re: What does viññāṇa exactly means?

Postby vinasp » Sat May 26, 2012 10:21 pm

Hi everyone,

There are also the statements made about consciousness in the context of the
five aggregates, for example, SN 22.9:

At Savatthi. "Bhikkhus, consciousness is impermanent, both of the past and
the future, not to speak of the present. Seeing thus, bhikkhus, the
instructed noble disciple is indifferent towards consciousness of the past;
he does not seek delight in consciousness of the future; and he is practising
for revulsion towards consciousness of the present, for its fading away and
cessation."

The same is said of: form, feeling, perception, and volitional-formations.

From: Connected Discourses, Bhikkhu Bodhi, page 867, SN 22.9

--------------------------------------------------------------

My comments on the above passage:

I take "impermanent" to mean that "it" can vanish or disappear, completely
and permanently.

I do not think that actual consciousness is meant, but what I call "objectified
consciousness", which is a conceptual representation of consciousness, either
past, present or future as an object of appropriation.

We can also consider SN 22.50

"But, Sona, those ascetics and brahmins who understand consciousness, its
origin, its cessation, and the way leading to its cessation: these
I consider to be ascetics among ascetics and brahmins among brahmins,
and these venerable ones, by realizing it for themselves with direct
knowledge, in this very life enter and abide in the goal of asceticism
and the goal of brahminhood."

The same is said of: form, feeling, perception, and volitional formations.

[ Bhikkhu Bodhi, Connected Discourses, page 889, SN 22.50 - Sona (2) ]

The way that leads to the cessation of consciousness? Which path is this?

[Note: the noble eightfold path is NOT said to result in the cessation of
the five aggregates.]

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: What does viññāṇa exactly means?

Postby Dmytro » Sun May 27, 2012 5:59 am

Hi Vincent,

You mentioned some excellent suttas on Conditioned Arising. Indeed 'paticca-samuppada' is necessary to understand the role of 'viññāṇa':

http://dhamma.ru/lib/paticcas.htm

vinasp wrote:The way that leads to the cessation of consciousness? Which path is this?


This is explained in Sammaditthi sutta:

58. "And what is consciousness, what is the origin of consciousness, what is the cessation of consciousness, what is the way leading to the cessation of consciousness? There are these six classes of consciousness: eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness, mind-consciousness. With the arising of formations there is the arising of consciousness. With the cessation of formations there is the cessation of consciousness. The way leading to the cessation of consciousness is just this Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view... right concentration.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... ml#vinnana

With the cessation of formations in this life, consciousness, being unplugged from nama-rupa, won't re-arise after the end of life, and the rebirth will be finished.

As for 'vinnana', - see also the pages 58 ff. of the work by Sue Hamilton:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/93832351/Anat ... n-TMW-1995

pages 82 ff. of:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/89410771/Iden ... ilton-1996

and the work by Rune Johansson:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/91127477/Citt ... estigation

Regards, Dmytro
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Re: What does viññāṇa exactly means?

Postby vinasp » Sun May 27, 2012 10:00 pm

Hi everyone,

Here is an alternative interpretation of SN 22.9

At Savatthi. "Bhikkhus, consciousness is impermanent, both of the past and
the future, not to speak of the present. Seeing thus, bhikkhus, the
instructed noble disciple is indifferent towards consciousness of the past;
he does not seek delight in consciousness of the future; and he is practising
for revulsion towards consciousness of the present, for its fading away and
cessation." [SN 22.9 BB.]

In this interpretation the past consciousness is just memory, the future
consciousness is just imagination, but the present consciousness is the
actual knowing-in-terms-of-self in the ongoing present.

This is my re-working of the above passage:

Bhikkhus, knowing-in-terms-of-self can disappear, this was true in the past,
and will be true in the future, it is also true in the present. Seeing this,
bhikkhus, the instructed noble disciple is indifferent towards the past
knowing-in-terms-of-self; he does not seek delight in future knowing-in-terms-
of-self; and he is practising for revulsion towards the knowing-in-terms-of-
self of the present, for its fading away and cessation.

[Note: It should probably be "knowing-in-terms-of-I" for the five aggregates.]

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: What does viññāṇa exactly means?

Postby vinasp » Sun May 27, 2012 10:11 pm

Hi Dmytro,

Thank you for those excellent links, they are very helpful.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: What does viññāṇa exactly means?

Postby vinasp » Mon May 28, 2012 3:03 am

Hi everyone,

There was a very close association between vinnana and atta for those persons
who, at the time when the Buddha was teaching, had been brought up in a culture
influenced by Upanisadic thought.

From: Identity and Experience, by Sue Hamilton:

"Vinnana, however, has connotations which are both substantive and permanent.
Such connotations derive partly from the association in the Upanisads of the
Sanskrit term vijnana with Brahman. In the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad, for example,
Brahman is defined as consciousness and bliss. It is cardinal to Upanisadic
teaching both that Brahman is permanent and also that it is 'being', sat.

Because it is aso cardinal to Upanisadic teaching that there is a macrocosmic/
microcosmic correspondence between Brahman and atman, it follows that the
consciousness, vijnana, of the individual is also permanent and is 'being':
it is the essential stuff, both of the individual and the cosmos."[page 84.]

------------------------------ End Quote ------------------------------------

So, for those influenced by Upanisadic thought, atta (self) is closely
associated with vinnana (consciousness or knowing).

In MN 38.5 the monk Sati explains his (wrong) view as follows:

"As I understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, it is this same
consciousness that runs and wanders through the round of rebirths, not
another."
"What is that consciousness, Sati?"
"Venerable sir, it is that which speaks and feels and experiences here
and there the result of good and bad actions."

This view is given, in full, in MN 2.8 as follows:

"It is this self of mine that speaks and feels and experiences here and
there the result of good and bad actions: but this self of mine is
permanent, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change, and it will
endure as long as eternity."

Vinnana was taken to be the self because it was believed that the act of
knowing was performed by the self.
Such a knowing, which is assumed to be knowing by a self, will know everything
as being related to that assumed self.
This is not "knowing and seeing things as they really are."

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: What does viññāṇa exactly means?

Postby hanzze_ » Mon May 28, 2012 7:31 am

Alex123 wrote:
Also viññāṇa seems to be made of two words vi + ñāṇa.
Vi can mean: special, separate, apart, free from, clear, different.
ñāṇa means knowledge.

I guess that is a great observation while it seems to be a little in conflict with Dmytro statement of:

Dmytro wrote:Hi Alex,

Viññāṇa by itself isn't wrong and does not imply duality. Very much depends on how the vinnana interacts with nama-rupa. The vinnana of the Arahant does not have a footing (arammana) in nama-rupa:


As there is an interaction, there is duality. Wouldn't it not possible to that Viññāṇa loses it's vi in reaching Arahantship? As I have no understanding of pali, is the mentioned orignin of the word Viññāṇa like Alex thought?

How ever, there is maybe a important sutta in this regard:

It would be better for the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person to hold to the body composed of the four great elements, rather than the mind, as the self. Why is that? Because this body composed of the four great elements is seen standing for a year, two years, three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, a hundred years or more. But what's called 'mind,' 'intellect,' or 'consciousness' by day and by night arises as one thing and ceases as another. Just as a monkey, swinging through a forest wilderness, grabs a branch. Letting go of it, it grabs another branch. Letting go of that, it grabs another one. Letting go of that, it grabs another one. In the same way, what's called 'mind,' 'intellect,' or 'consciousness' by day and by night arises as one thing and ceases as another.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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Re: What does viññāṇa exactly means?

Postby Dmytro » Mon May 28, 2012 12:28 pm

Hi Hanzze,

Alex123 wrote:Also viññāṇa seems to be made of two words vi + ñāṇa.
Vi can mean: special, separate, apart, free from, clear, different.
ñāṇa means knowledge.


As there is an interaction, there is duality. Wouldn't it not possible to that Viññāṇa loses it's vi in reaching Arahantship? As I have no understanding of pali, is the mentioned orignin of the word Viññāṇa like Alex thought?


No, 'vi' here is like 'dis' in 'discern', 'distinguish'.

:namaste:
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Re: What does viññāṇa exactly means?

Postby hanzze_ » Mon May 28, 2012 1:26 pm

Thanks for your explaining. I am not sure if the "no" goes just to the question directly (pali translation) or also to the perception leading to the question.

It sill leaves the way open to request "Wouldn't it not possible to that Viññāṇa loses it's vi in reaching Arahantship?". On a deeper level, your translation and the idea of alex are not that different in its meaning.

Discriminating (dependent) knowledge (Viññāṇa) = no knowledge and just knowledge (ñāṇa)
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Re: What does viññāṇa exactly means?

Postby vinasp » Wed May 30, 2012 9:50 pm

Hi everyone,

We have seen that vinnana (consciousness) is said to cease in numerous passages.

But .... on the other hand we have many passages which appear to deny this,
For example, MN 22.36

"And when the devas, together with Indra, the Brahmas, & Pajapati, search for the monk whose mind is thus released, they cannot find that 'The consciousness of the one truly gone (tathagata) [11] is dependent on this.' Why is that? The one truly gone is untraceable even in the here & now."

Link: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

So, is there a contradiction in the teachings?

Perhaps not, but there are only a limited number of solutions.

#1. None of the passages which appear to say that vinnana ceases are
talking about actual vinnana.

#2. There are two kinds of vinnana - unliberated and liberated.

Solution #1

Most of the passages which speak of vinnana ceasing are in the context of
either the Aggregates or Dependent Origination. It is not clear that actual
vinnana is meant in these cases, it could be vinnana as a mental-object of
some kind. I prefer this interpretation.

Solution #2

We know that "mind" can be unliberated or liberated. Is the liberated mind of
a monk the same mind as before except that it is now liberated - or is it a
different mind? Vinnana is a synonym for mind (citta) in many places.
Is the liberated vinnana the same as before, or different?
It is the same in that it belongs to the same "stream" of the same individual.
It is different in that it functions in a different way.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: What does viññāṇa exactly means?

Postby danieLion » Fri Jun 01, 2012 2:42 am

Hi Alex123,
Sue Hamiltion argues (in Identity & Experience, viewtopic.php?f=29&t=3167&start=60#p190974) that viññāṇa is that which "collates" rūpa, vedanā, saññā and sankhāra for awareness.
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Re: What does viññāṇa exactly means?

Postby dreamov » Thu Oct 18, 2012 5:49 pm

Here is an alternative interpretation of SN 22.9

At Savatthi. "Bhikkhus, consciousness is impermanent, both of the past and
the future, not to speak of the present. Seeing thus, bhikkhus, the
instructed noble disciple is indifferent towards consciousness of the past;
he does not seek delight in consciousness of the future; and he is practising
for revulsion towards consciousness of the present, for its fading away and
cessation." [SN 22.9 BB.]

In this interpretation the past consciousness is just memory, the future
consciousness is just imagination, but the present consciousness is the
actual knowing-in-terms-of-self in the ongoing present.


That's exactly my interpretation, too.
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