Hello Pali friends,
Let's start from the suttas.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
defines six kinds of perception corresponding to six doors, and places this process between bare impression (phassa) and designation (vohaara) (this place is shown in the diagram http://dhamma.ru/lib/paticcas.htm ).
"Yathā yathā na.m sañjānāti, tathā tathā voharati eva.m saññi ahosinti."
"Saññā" as a noun corresponds to the verb "sa~njaanaati" (recognizes).
Phu.t.tho, bhikkhave, vedeti, phu.t.tho ceteti, phu.t.tho sa~njaanaati.
Phassena phussitvaa vedanaaya vedayati. Sa~n~naaya sa~njaanaati. Cetanaaya cetati. Tena vutta.m phu.t.tho bhikkhave vedeti, phu.t.tho sa~njaanaati, phu.t.tho cetetiiti.
Anudipanipatha Mya: .82
This is often not just a single mental act, but a kind of perceptual attunement, which can be changed in meditative practice:
Nekkhammadhaatu.m, bhikkhave, pa.ticca uppajjati nekkhammasa~n~naa, nekkhammasa~n~na.m pa.ticca uppajjati nekkhammasa"nkappo, nekkhammasa"nkappa.m pa.ticca uppajjati nekkhammacchando, nekkhammacchanda.m pa.ticca uppajjati nekkhammapari.laaho, nekkhammapari.laaha.m pa.ticca uppajjati nekkhammapariyesanaa; nekkhammapariyesana.m, bhikkhave, pariyesamaano sutavaa ariyasaavako tiihi .thaanehi sammaa pa.tipajjati– kaayena, vaacaaya, manasaa.
Kaamavitakka.m, byaapaadavitakka.m, vihi.msaavitakka.m, kaamasa~n~na.m, byaapaadasa~n~na.m, vihi.msaasa~n~na.m– ime kho, bhikkhave, cha dhamme appahaaya abhabbo pa.thama.m jhaana.m upasampajja viharitu.m
“Katha.m bhaavitaa ca, bhikkhave, aniccasa~n~naa katha.m bahuliikataa sabba.m kaamaraaga.m pariyaadiyati …pe… sabba.m asmimaana.m samuuhanati? ‘Iti ruupa.m, iti ruupassa samudayo, iti ruupassa attha"ngamo; iti vedanaa… iti sa~n~naa… iti sa"nkhaaraa… iti vi~n~naa.na.m, iti vi~n~naa.nassa samudayo, iti vi~n~naa.nassa attha"ngamo’ti– eva.m bhaavitaa kho, bhikkhave, aniccasa~n~naa eva.m bahuliikataa sabba.m kaamaraaga.m pariyaadiyati, sabba.m ruuparaaga.m pariyaadiyati, sabba.m bhavaraaga.m pariyaadiyati, sabba.m avijja.m pariyaadiyati, sabba.m asmimaana.m samuuhanatii”ti.
In Culasuññata sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/canon/ma ... mn121.html
and Potthapada sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
moving to higher levels of jhana as described as cessation of gross saññā and arising of more refined saññā.
According to Visuddhimagga XIV 130:
sabbaa va sa~njaanana-lakkha.naa, tad ev’etan ti puna sa~njaanana-paccaya-nimitta-kara.na-rasaa daaru-aadiisu tacchakaadayo viya, yathaa-gahita-nimitta-vasena abhinivesakara.na-paccupa.t.thaanaa hatthi-dassaka-andhaa (udaa. 54) viya, yathaa-upa.t.thita-visaya-pada-.t.thaanaa ti.na-purisakesu miga-potakaana.m purisaa ti uppanna-sa~n~naa viyaati.
All (saññā) has the characteristic of recognition (sa~njaanana); its property is the making of a perceptual image (nimitta) that is a condition of noting again, 'this is the very same thing' - as carpenters and so on do with wood, etc.; its manifestation is the producing of conviction by virtue of a perceptual image that has been accordingly learnt - like the blind perceiving the elephant (Ud 68-9); its basis is whatever object that has come near - like the saññā 'people' that arises for young animals in respect of scarecrows.
Abhidharmakosa 54 gives similar definition:
Sa.mj~naa sa.mjaana.m, vi.saya-nimitto-dgra.h.
Sa.mj~na is recognition, the taking up of the perceptual image of the object.
Venerable Ñanamoli Thera writes:
Saññā means simply recognition.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el017.html
Venerable Nyanaponika Thera writes:
"saññā is cognition as well as recognition both being by way of selected marks" ... "perception (saññā=sañjanana) being that kind of elementary cognition (janana) which proceeds by way of taking up, making and remembering (i.e. identifying) marks" ... "In this connection it is noteworthy that "mark" or "signal" is also one of the different meanings of the word saññā itself."
http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/abhistudy.pdf , chapter4, append. "The omission of memory in the list - On the nature of saññā"
Peter Harvey writes:
In the chapter on "The Saññākkhandha", Boisvert emphasises the role of saññā in helping vedanā lead on to craving. He prefers "recognition" as the translation of saññā as it "tends to imply that the subject imposes certain categories upon the percept in order to classify it" (p.78). Yet while the latter statement is an appropriate one on saññā, "recognition" has the unfortunate connotation that it is always a form of correct knowledge. In English, to say one "recognises" something or someone precludes any error in cognition. Saññā certainly is a form of classificatory, labelling, interpreting activity, but it includes both correct labelling ("recognition") and incorrect labelling (misinterpretation). For this reason, I prefer the more neutral "cognition". The more usual "perception" is certainly too broad, as it covers the combined activity of saññā and viññāṇa, and in any case hardly covers saññā of a mental object.
Luis O. Gomez writes:
In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, one still finds the term sa~n~na (sa.mj~naa being taken to mean "consciousness"(42) That the meaning of the term is close to some of the Western philosophical uses of "apperception" is clear from the scholastic literature and from scattered contextual evidence.(43) In the Sn, sa~n~na is the basis for conception and verbal distinctions (874), apperceptions are formed or fashioned (pakappitaa... sa~n~naa) (802), they can be the object of attachment (792, 847), and together with views they are the primary object of grasping (847) . It is also difficult to see how the term sa~n~naa could mean "perception" in the context of the Sn, where the sa~n~naa are found to be formed or fashioned by the mind, and where we are told that dualities arise from the apperception of permanence (886).
Rupert Gethin on page 41 of his book "The Buddhist Path to Awakening" translates this term as 'noting' and mentions a work by A. Weyman, 'Regarding the translation of the Buddhist technical terms saññā/sa.mjñā, viññā.na/vijñā.na' in 'Malalasekera Commemoration Volume', ed. O.H. de A. Wijesekera, Colombo, 1976, pp. 325-35 .
To consolidate the two aspects of saññā as a perceptual attunement and recognition, I propose the translation "selective recognition". For translation in psychological terms, there is "apperception".